THE SECOND LAW OF SPIRITUAL THERMODYNAMICS

THE SECOND LAW  OF SPIRITUAL THERMODYNAMICS

Physics recognizes the second law of thermodynamics. Everything is winding down.  Everything atrophies. Everything decays unless it’s maintained.

Do you have a car? The clutches and seals in the transmission will wear out. Own a home? The siding will rot. The mortar in the bricks will need touching up. The porch will sag. The plumbing will stop up. Have a computer? Its CPU will crash if you don’t maintain it.

What most of us don’t realize is that there is a spiritual version of that law.  It’s called “the law (or doctrine) of total depravity”.  It means that the whole person is affected by something that destroys us, something that causes problems in our relationships and our communities. The mind, the will, the emotions and the body of every human being is infected with a condition known as sin. It doesn’t mean that everyone is as bad as he can possibly be. It means that left to ourselves, without something to keep us in line, we will tend toward selfish, greedy and destructive behavior.

The second law of thermodynamics means we must work at maintaining physical things. The law of total depravity means that we must work at maintaining spiritual things. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its saltiness it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it on under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and so it gives light to all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-16).

How to pull that off? Well, it can be costly. The late Howard Hendricks told this story:

Recently, I was walking the streets in San Mateo, California. I met an attorney I knew from a local evangelical church. I said to him, “What are you doing?”

He said, “I’m looking for a job.”

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

He said, “No, last week I walked out the front door of that corporation and told them, ‘You can hang it on your beak. I’m no longer going to write contracts that you and I both know are illegal and illegitimate.'”

That man is regarded as one of the top five corporate lawyers in America, and he’s unwilling to sell his value system for a mess of pottage. We need a larger core of lawyers like that.[1]

I can hear you thinking, “Yeah, we need more lawyers like that!” But to be honest we need more mechanics, more doctors, more contractors and more everybody to be like that. That’s what it means to be salt.

Without something to preserve it, the world will suffer ethical decay. Without something to light the way, the world will recede into darkness. God put his church into the world to be that something.  God put you and me here to do something for the world that the world cannot do for itself. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

[1] Citation: Howard Hendricks, “Beyond the Bottom Line,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 101

 

STRAIGHT LINES WITH CROOKED STICKS An Evangelical Response to the State of the Union Speech

STRAIGHT LINES WITH CROOKED STICKS    An Evangelical Response to the State of the Union Speech

Parents of young children need eight hands, I thought as the mom and dad juggled tiny baby, luggage, diaper bag, car-seat, boarding passes, and ID while shepherding their toddler through Phoenix Sky Harbor security. I wish they’d hurry up. Then the agent slowed things down even more by starting a conversation with the little guy.

“Is this your daddy? Uh huh. No, you don’t have to take off your shoes. Is this your mommy? Uh huh, you can hold your bear. Is that your baby sister?”

C’mon dude! Any idiot can see he’s their son! Stop harassing these people and let us in so we can all go home! If TSA agents could read minds I’d be in jail.

Then I remembered a recent news report: Human-trafficking is everywhere all the time and it is not all about sex. The Hispanic, and Romanian house-keepers in my hotels, the Moroccan Uber driver in Austin, the Russian donut shop clerk in Williamsburg, the Asian and Latino cooks who work seven-days-a-week in local restaurants. All might be in a form of slavery, working themselves to death to pay off enormous immigration debt to ruthless traffickers. Some surely are.[1]

Then there are the so-called “sex-workers”: Children, even infants, stolen, smuggled, sold into the sex trade to grow up—if they live that long—with no identity, no power, no voice, no skills and no hope. People who want to do immoral things often plan to do them on vacation. Susie Harville, who fights trafficking in Biloxi, Mississippi casino culture, told World Radio: “We had a person come down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on a convention and um, while he was here he actually ordered a 12 year-old and a 16 year-old. One was a boy and one was a girl. What we found out was this Montana man was a deacon in his church, was married and had two children at home.”[2]

Twenty years after NAFTA—which George H. W. Bush negotiated and was ratified under Bill Clinton—killed our local textile economy, our still-struggling region is considering Casino gambling to create jobs. Really.[3]

My gut clinches in anger and grief at such stories. Doesn’t yours? But that’s not all. Scripture commands more than sympathy. “Welcome the stranger,” said Jesus. “Provide for the poor and the sojourner,” wrote Moses. Protect the immigrant, the fatherless, and the widow,” preached Jeremiah.[4]

All these ideas and one more simmered in my mind as I read the State of the Union Speech. (I no longer watch. The circus takes too long). God draws straight lines with crooked sticks. Trump the former casino owner advocates for a border solution that will choke entry points for traffickers. Who isn’t for that? Trump, who said “They have to go …” during the campaign argues for fair treatment of the dreamers while fixing our decades old immigration problems. Trump the thrice-married adulterer who has feasted on the fruits of the sexual revolution advocates for that revolution’s greatest victims—the unborn—because we are made “in the image of a holy God.”

Presidents “learn as they go” on the job, said the Arizona sheriff who called Trump’s campaign concrete wall idea a medieval solution to a 21st Century problem. “I support his current position.”[5]

Whether his policies indicate a shift in his personal morality—and I pray they do—is irrelevant. Franklin Roosevelt broke the law by providing covert support for Great Britain from 1936 to 1939 and died in the presence of his paramour in Georgia.[6] Serial adulterer John F. Kennedy[7] solved the Cuban missile crisis, preventing World War III. Rabid anti-communist “Tricky Dick” Nixon ended the Vietnam war and normalized relations with Red China, stifling communism and laying the foundation for global trade which brought billions of Chinese out of poverty and made Dollar General possible.

God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.

That’s why evangelicals like me voted for Donald Trump. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We pray for his soul while we pull for his policies. If he succeeds in choking the flow of human trafficking and building a barrier wall against abortion, we will rejoice. Hillary Clinton would have done the opposite. It’s that simple.

I’ll try to remember that the next time TSA grills a toddler and Trump tries to privatize air traffic control, which I think is insane. Will you?

[1] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/01/listening-in-raleigh-sadler/

[2] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/02/protecting-children-on-the-gulf-coast-part-1/

[3] https://www.wsls.com/news/virginia/southside/a-casino-in-danville-it-could-happen

[4] Matthew 25:32-40; Leviticus 19:33-34; Jeremiah 7:5-7.

[5] https://worldandeverything.org/2019/01/washington-wednesday-border-security-2/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Mercer_Rutherfurd

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/reliable-source/post/jfk-intern-mimi-alford-shares-story-of-her-affair-with-kennedy-in-new-book-relevant-historian-robert-dallek-says-yes/2012/02/06/gIQAFgF1uQ_blog.html?utm_term=.d3b02518f54c

DISCERNING GOD’S GUIDANCE

How do you make important decisions? Do you know how to listen for the leadership of God, how to discern his direction for your life? Now I’m not talking about those puzzling grocery store conundrums like, “Which should it be, dark chocolate mint chips or classic Klondike bars?” I’m talking about expensive, long term, even life changing decisions like: where to go to college, what to major in, which house to buy, which job to take, which person to marry. These and many more decisions affect us for the long term, contributing either to personal happiness and effectiveness in life or to dissatisfaction, distress and even misery.

Jesus promised us that God loved us and was listening to our requests, that “if we asked him for a piece of bread he would not give us a stone.” He encouraged us to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking and the answers we need would be given to us. So what does that process look like? How are followers of Jesus Christ to discern his directions?

There are at least three steps to discerning God’s direction today. And like a three-legged stool, or finding your position using three points on a map, each one is important. The three legs are:

  1. The Word of God speaking to our minds, teaching us many, many things that give us clear directions in areas like money, work, marriage, authority, charity, mercy, and managing conflict.
  2. The Gifts to the Church – We also have, according to Paul’s list in Ephesians, gifts to the Church – “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:11-13 NIV). Every member of the Church is gifted or experienced in some area of knowledge. We make our best decisions when we seek the wisdom of other members of the body of Christ.
  3. The Spirit of God. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.(John 14: 16-17 NIV). As we develop the discipline of quietness before God we learn to perceive the direction of the Spirit much as we would a gentle breeze blowing on our face.

Are you faced with a serious, life changing decision? Consult the Word. It will teach you to think Biblically about your values and priorities. Consult the Body of Christ, your gifted brothers and sisters for their wisdom. And ask the Spirit of God to show you which path to take. Then make the decision and act on it, step out in faith and don’t second guess yourself. Trust God to provide one day at a time. I have seen him do so, over and over again. He will do no less for you.

BEYOND CLINTON AND TRUMP

Thirty-six years ago tonight I met with half a dozen college friends, as I had for weeks, to pray that God would make Jimmy Carter a one-term president and give us Ronald Reagan for two. I have been thinking theologically about and actively involved in the political process ever since and I have never been so disgusted with its results. Yet three-plus decades do provide perspective.

It is no sin to advocate for any policy in American life derived from the biblical worldview. But it is a sin to make an idol of political parties or individual politicians, be they liberal or conservative. If Christians are guilty of that then God has been very gracious to disillusion us with the two golden calves now running for president. The catalog of each candidate’s crimes is too long and oft repeated to list. Their policy positions and governing philosophies are just as problematic, if not downright terrifying. Neither is fit to hold the office, but barring a miracle one of them will.

What to make of it then, and how best to move forward with hope? I offer the following.

First, maybe it’s good that the masks have come off. Feckless evil used to hide behind press-filtered layers of sophistication in our political process. Now we are seeing the porn culture that began in the 1950’s, and the death culture born in 1973, and all of their progeny in the open at the top. Now we are seeing the shear lust for power without the polite veils. Perhaps we will grow sick enough of them to consider real change.

Second, maybe we will finally come to understand that politics is downstream of and politicians draw their power from culture. When the spring is filthy the river is foul.

Government is at best a blunt instrument enforcing the values already approved by the many. We will not reduce the rot at the top of our country until we change the hearts of our countrymen. That will take much more than a change at the White House. It means changing the culture from the bottom up. It means creating culture that is better, more attractive, and life giving than the sick stuff now being sucked up by the masses.

Third, pray for politicians, but put no hope in them. God’s specific instruction for us is to pray for all who are in leadership so that we can live godly lives in peace and quiet. But our hope is in Christ and Christ alone, in the gospel that alone can change the hearts of men and women.

Finally, take the long view. Understand, as Robert E. Lee did near the end of his life, that, “The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

WELCOME TO THE MAD HATTER’S TEA PARTY

Andrée Seu Peterson, commenting in the April 30 edition of World Magazine on the Strange Sympathies of voters who supported Donald Trump over Ted Cruz because Cruz was “pompous,” wrote, “If Cruz is rejected and Trump accepted on the grounds of pompousness, then we are truly living at the Mad Hatter’s tea party.”

Well, welcome to the Mad Hatter’s. Cruz is out, Trump is in, and there is no one left to keep him from winning the Republican presidential nomination.

No one predicted this, and no one can predict the outcome of the November elections, but some veteran reporters are beginning to believe that Trump can, in spite of polls to the contrary, beat Clinton in a national referendum. Ben Carson believes that 2016 is, “the year of the outsider,” and if the anger in the electorate over healthcare, immigration, the economy, homeland security, and the political status quo is what I think it is he, and they, are right.

I’ve been carefully watching, and actively participating in our nation’s politics for thirty-six years, and I’ve never been so disappointed with our options. But they tell us more about ourselves than anything else. We have repeatedly chosen style over substance, corruption over character, provocation over peacemaking, and the tyranny of the few over the freedom of the many. We have become a nation so obsessed with sexual license that we rip up religious freedom with spiritual fervor, and snooze through sales of aborted baby parts. We are such committed materialists that we care not about national bankruptcy as long as cheap dollars keep coming.

We used to be a Christian culture. We are a Casino culture now.

How are Christ’s followers to respond? I’m not about to suggest who you should vote for, but I will remind you of one thing: all politics is downstream of culture. If we want to improve our political leadership we have to improve ourselves. No earthly king can achieve through policy or force what Christ can accomplish in the hearts of men and women if his people will obey him. He is our King and his agenda has always been the same: “Love your neighbor as yourself and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

American culture has been in an historic slide ever since I was born. We were never perfect. There will never be a perfect culture outside of Eden. But if we measure ourselves by the stability of two-parent families, by educational achievement, by economic opportunity, by crime rates and imprisonment, by drug abuse and sexually transmitted disease, by the number of children born to unwed mothers, and by many other metrics, we are a culture in decline.

Some of us have been politically opposing that slide for 30-40 years. It hasn’t helped. But we’ve learned something. Oppose the dominant culture, criticize and critique it, and you may be crushed. You certainly won’t fix anything. Build a better culture and, “the world will beat a path to your door.”

It is time for the followers of Christ to stop complaining and start building. We need to concentrate on being the Church, the pillar and support of the truth, in the world, and on creating good culture.

WILL THE REAL LEADERS PLEASE SIT DOWN?

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35.

John Kasich, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all have credible Christian testimonies. All four take their faith seriously and care deeply about this country. It is time for three of them to sit down. The question is: who among them will accept the responsibility to lead by serving? Who among them will volunteer to be the very last?

Neither alternative to one of these men is desirable for anyone who thinks from the Biblical Worldview. One is a serial liar whose career of corruption reaches back to the seventies and who stands a very good chance of coming under FBI indictment before the show is over. The second is a ruthless business man, bully, and political opportunist whose positions change depending on which microphone he’s speaking into. And the distant third is a Socialist Pied-Piper whose major policy positions would make America Greece again. All three of them could be counted on to continue to strip Americans of their religious freedom and second amendment rights, promote Planned Parenthood’s death-mills, double-down on the disaster ironically named The Affordable Care Act, and fertilize geo-political destabilization.

Yet that is what we will get if Messieurs Kasich, Carson, Cruz and Rubio continue to put winning ahead of leading. All four of them have enough of the right principles to lead this country well. All four of them claim to follow Christ. All four know what is at stake if they continue to split the vote of Constitutional conservatives. Three of them need to sit down now and throw their support behind the fourth in order have enough nominating delegates to stop this train wreck.

What can you do? Pray, of course. But do more than that. If you are a conservative, write the candidate you support, as I have already done for mine. Be honest and straightforward about the situation. Tell him, if you’ve sent money, that you are sending no more. Ask him to put the country ahead of his pride and his personal prospects, to listen to the Lord instead of his advisors, to put leading ahead of winning, and to please sit down.

If we do that perhaps, in the providence of God, the nation will be treated to something it hasn’t seen in a long time: men who lead by serving.

 

REAL HEAD SCRATCHERS

Things that make us scratch our heads:

Christians line up by the thousands to vote for an arrogant, rude, reckless, serial adulterer. Huh?

Once staunchly-biblical denominations line up to support blatantly anti-biblical forms of marriage. Wha?

Liberals of all stripes line up to support the right of Islamists to impose Sharia law in European democracies and American Universities. Really?

What’s up with that? How did we arrive at this state of confusion? The answer, in one word, is tolerance. Tolerance is the virtue most exalted in the last thirty years of Western Civilization. The thoughtless embrace of it has led us to this point.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “How can you say that? Tolerance is a good thing.” And I agree with you. But the late John R.W. Stott, in his book Contemporary Christian, outlined three kinds of tolerance. Christians ought to support the first two to the hilt and oppose the last kind to the last man.

Legal Tolerance
You and I should be committed to everyone’s right to think or say or preach anything he believes. It is the basic ‘freedom of religion’ that this country was founded upon. If someone wants to say that the rapture will happen next week he should have the freedom to do that. If someone wants to say that gender-dysphoric people should have the right to use the restroom of their choice, he or she should have the freedom to say that. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should run up our credit cards because Jesus is coming back on Friday, or that we should allow biologically male teens to use the girl’s restroom at the high school with our daughters. The freedom to believe and say something does not imply the obligation of everyone else to agree with us.

Social Tolerance
You and I should be equally careful to protect social tolerance. Social tolerance means respect for all people, regardless of the views they may hold.

I think gambling is a bad idea. I can argue against its legalization and preach against its corruptive power. I am not at liberty however to label every person who gambles as a supporter of the Mafia. Social tolerance means I try to understand the values and convictions of others without passing judgment on them.

Christians believe that all humans are made in the image of God and that He wants us to live together in harmony. “As much as it lies with you, be at peace with everyone,” said the Apostle Paul to the Romans. That’s social tolerance.

Intellectual Tolerance
Intellectual tolerance is something we should beware of and oppose. Intellectual tolerance means that we’re supposed to accept every idea and philosophy and doctrine uncritically as equal in value and virtue with every other idea.

Stott said it this way, “To cultivate a mind so broad that it can accommodate every opinion, however false or evil, without ever detecting anything to reject, is not a virtue; it is the vice of the feebleminded and amoral. It ends up in an unprincipled confusion of truth with error and goodness with evil.”

It leads to Evangelicals supporting an ungodly, unprincipled opportunist; to pastors and parishioners supporting same-sex marriage; to intellectual liberals supporting a political ideology dressed up as religion that oppresses minorities, abuses women, sponsors terrorism, and murders gays.

That confusion of truth with error and goodness with evil is why so many of us are scratching our heads. Intellectual tolerance is a subtle but powerful cultural current and it is easy to go with the flow. We who stake our lives on biblical truth are swimming upstream against it. But swim we must, trusting God that as we do truth will prevail.