A POST ELECTION PRAYER FOR ALL BELIEVERS

A POST ELECTION PRAYER FOR ALL BELIEVERS

I woke this morning and found about what I expected, an undecided election fraught with the potential for significant conflict in our country. As one commentator said last week, “This is going to make Florida’s hanging chads in 2000 look like a cake-walk.” Thankfully, as a result of that debacle, the Supreme Court rendered a decision that all ballots must be counted and turned in by December 8, six days before the electoral college meets. So, we should have a decision, if no less conflict, by then.

I grieve for our country and pray for it daily, but my chief concern is for the Church of Jesus Christ. We are “the support and pillar of the truth”[1] and cannot stop speaking it even when the world would rather not hear it. But we are also required by our Lord to be peacemakers in this world.[2] We are also commanded to “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” within the Church.[3]

With those three tasks in mind, I offer the following prayer, adapted from 1 Peter chapter 1, and I ask you to pray it with me for ourselves and for all who bow the knee to Jesus Christ over the next month.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade—kept in heaven for us, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Though we have not seen him, we love him; and even though we do not see him now, we believe in him, and are filled with inexpressible joy, for we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

Therefore, Father, we ask that you help us prepare our minds for action, be self-controlled, and fully set our hope on the grace to be given us when Jesus Christ is revealed. Please help us, Father, as obedient children, not conform to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance of you and your Son. Please help us, Father, to be holy because you are holy.

Since we call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, help us live our lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For, we were not redeemed with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Finally, because we have been purified by obeying the truth, help us to love one another deeply, from the heart, recognizing that we have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

For, all men are like grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.

Amen.


[1] 1 Timothy 3:15

[2] Matthew 5:9; James 3:18

[3] Ephesians 4:3

VELVET COVERED TYRANNY The Virginia Values Act

VELVET COVERED TYRANNY The Virginia Values Act

Stacy & Lynn (pseudonyms) visited our church for a few weeks in 2003. The two young women had hardened faces, ‘butch’ haircuts, and dressed like men. Lynn walked with a noticeable limp, like something congenital. It was evident to me (it’s a pastor thing, I can’t explain it) that both women were in deep emotional pain. They asked to meet with me. Sensing what this might be about, I asked two of our elders to join us.

Both women told incredibly sad stories of abuse, sexual and otherwise, from fathers, ex-husbands, and relatives. They asked me to officiate a wedding for them.

The elders and I carefully and gently explained the gospel. We explained God’s plan for marriage from the Gospels. We welcomed them to worship with us at any time. I explained that we often try to get our needs met and our injuries healed in sinful ways, that the path to healing begins with repentance and walking with Jesus.

When I finished, Lynn said, “So, will you perform a ceremony for us?”  

“No, I can’t, I’m sorry. It would be wrong.” I said.

“Ok. Well, we’ll be going now.”

I want to say that Lynn and Stacy gave their lives to Jesus that day. But they didn’t. They did have an encounter with gentle, respectful, loving men who were free to share the gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus’ name with them. We planted the seed, and I believe it will yet bear fruit.

I told that story in June 2004, in a sermon based on Matthew 19:1-6 on the gospel and public policy. I concluded by saying, “If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, what we shared that day may well become illegal and punishable by law.”

In Virginia, that day has come. The Virginia Values Act became law on July 1. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, the law “poses severe threats to churches, Christian schools, and other religious ministries that operate consistently with their beliefs on marriage and human sexuality. Under the law, they face a choice: abandon their biblical beliefs or face investigations, lawsuits, fines of up to $100,000 per violation, unlimited legal fees, and court orders forcing them to violate their convictions.” 

The law also “prevents religious schools from limiting admittance to those students and families who share their religious beliefs. And ministries that offer sex-specific accommodations—such as an overnight women’s shelter—must allow males who identify as women access to female-only areas.”

Further, the law makes it illegal for any pastor or church to explain our beliefs even on our website. For example, under current Virginia law, my essay, I’M NOT GAY AND YOU PROBABLY AREN’T EITHER, written to help young men with same-sex attraction sort through their confusion and find God’s best path, is now illegal.

LGBTQ and same-sex marriage advocates argue that we are just trying to force our religion on everyone else. So, as an evangelical pastor, I want to make something clear. Bad things have come from the malpractice of Biblical Christianity in this country. Christians mistreated some people with same-sex attraction. In large part due to the outcry of people in the LGBTQ community, many of us who consider ourselves to be Biblical Christians have become aware of this. We have had some “come to Jesus moments” about how we treat homosexual people. I am glad that they spoke out, and I apologize for the pain we have caused. Many Christians are now attempting to build bridges of understanding to the LGBTQ community. We will never fully agree on everything, but we agree that belittling and bullying one another isn’t helpful.

But none of that negates the fact that same-sex marriage is not only contrary to God’s design but also and unsurprisingly, bad for civilization. The landmark study on this topic by Sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, Austin, titled, The New Family Structure Study (NFSS), was praised for its rigorous adherence to the scientific method and its sampling size.

A summary of its key findings:

Compared with offspring from married, intact mother/father homes, children raised in same-sex homes are markedly more likely to:

  • Experience poor educational attainment
  • Report overall lower levels of happiness, mental and physical health.
  • Have impulsive behavior
  • Be in counseling or mental health therapy (2xs)
  • Suffer from depression (by large margins)
  • Have recently thought of suicide (significantly)
  • Identify as bisexual, lesbian, or gay
  • Have male on male or female on female sex partners (dramatically higher)
  • Currently, be in a same-sex romantic relationship (2x to 3x more likely) 
  • Be asexual (females with lesbian parents)
  • As adults, be unmarried; much more likely to cohabit
  • As adults, more likely to be unfaithful in married or cohabiting relationships
  • Have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Be sexually molested (both inappropriate touching and forced sexual act)
  • Feel relationally isolated from bio-mother and -father (Although lesbian-parented children do feel close to their bio-mom – not surprisingly – they are not as close as children with a bio-mom married to father)
  • Be unemployed or part-time employed as young adults
  • As adults, currently, be on public assistance or sometime in their childhood
  • Live in homes with lower income levels
  • Drink to get drunk
  • To smoke tobacco and marijuana
  • Spend more time watching TV
  • Have frequency of arrests
  • Have pled guilty to minor legal offense

With this law, Governor Northam and his allies are usurping Virginians’ Constitutional rights with earnest talk of equal housing and anti-discrimination. But the governor and the LGBTQ lobby know that isn’t happening. They’ve already won the cultural battle. Now they are seeking to punish people—specifically religious people—who disagree with them. The Virginia Values Act is nothing less than velvet-covered tyranny.   

The good news is that the law is unconstitutional on several levels. ADF, on behalf of Calvary Road Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church, Community Christian Academy, and Care Net filed a preemptive suit challenging the law. Hopefully, this will work out in the courts.

But that lawsuit would not be necessary if Virginia’s Christians had been paying attention and voting their values in the 2017 election. Our negligence gave us a one-party rule, and the Virginia Values Acts is one of many bad results. Our local delegate, James Edmunds, said, “They have undone in one session what took us twenty years to build.”  Too many stayed home. I hope that doesn’t happen this go around.  

MAX ANDERS: Biblical Clarity on the Current Crisis

MAX ANDERS: Biblical Clarity on the Current Crisis

Every pastor needs a few brilliant friends and advisers. Max Anders is one of mine. He is the author of over 25 books, including the bestselling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, and his most recent work, Brave New Discipleship. He is also the creator and general editor of the 32 volume Holman Bible Commentary. His September 8 blog, AN HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA, caught my attention because I’ve never seen Max write on politics.

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17

AN HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA

By Max Anders

This blog post is a little long, but it’s very important, and I hope you will read through to the end.

The cultural and political upheaval we are currently experiencing in our nation is not an accident.  It is not a spontaneous uprising by sincere Americans who only want to bring about more “just” treatment for blacks by police. That may have been the motivation of some when it all started, but it has gone way beyond that now.

This is a full-throated uprising against American democracy and rule by law.  It is a premeditated campaign that is satanic and demonic in origin, infecting willing human servants (socialists and Marxists).

Spiritual/political attack on America

The uprising is now being carried out by those intent on destroying our American way of government and life.  They want to replace it with socialism/Marxism, which is violently anti-Christian and which has failed spectacularly everywhere it has ever been tried (Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba, Venezuela).

Why in the world are people championing something that so clearly doesn’t work?  Well, Scripture tells us that Satan has the ability to deceive and blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4), causing them to be unable to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-26), generating wisdom that is earthly, natural and demonic, producing disorder and every evil thing (James 3:14-16).  Their blindness is spiritual blindness, a consequence of spiritual warfare.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violent civil rights movement was governed by biblical/Christian principles and was historically effective. Two organizations, Black Lives Matter and Antifa, that are highly visible in recent riots, use violence to further their agendas and are deeply anti-Christian and anti-American.

It is helpful to understand that most riots have three types of people involved:

  1. Peaceful protestors who gathered legally with no intent to riot.
  2. Thugs and criminals who simply want to loot and destroy.
  3. Committed Marxists and Antifa members who organize and energize riots.

Mainstream Democrats do not necessarily agree with far-left socialists, but they have joined forces with them because they cannot get elected without them, and they are willing to pay nearly any price to defeat President Trump. As a result, the Democrats have been pushed so far to the left during campaigning that they have made promises they will have to keep. They are feeding the beast that will destroy them.

Where did this upheaval come from?

One might be excused for thinking that this has all come about suddenly.  But such is not the case.  Things have been deteriorating below the radar for decades, and just now have gotten to the point that they have broken out into the open.

In the 19th century, Karl Marx tried to conquer England with Marxism in his lifetime, but it didn’t work.  Author and freelance columnist Larry Taunton explained that the church was too strong, had too much cultural influence.

Later, Italian Antonio Gramsci concluded that for Marxism to succeed, a culture must first be softened up from within.

Socialism will triumph,” he wrote, “by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”

Socialism/Cultural Marxism is a Trojan Horse designed to:

  1. Subvert families, traditional morality, and the symbols of national identity.
  2. Infiltrate educational institutions, the church and the legal system.
  3. Watch the country fall like a ripe fruit.

To accomplish this, Saul Alinsky wrote the Marxist playbook, Rules for Radicals, which Larry Taunton summarized here:

  1. Divide and conquer: drive wedges between as many different groups as you can (rich/poor, black/white, conservative/liberal, laborers/professionals, etc.)
  2. Create scapegoats: Your problems are never your fault.  They are someone else’s fault.
  3. Create chaos: Riots, strikes, controversies (kneeling during anthem, etc.).
  4. Trash talk: Use outrageous language, verbally bully others.
  5. Spread disinformation: Tell strategic lies, repeat incessantly, accuse the other side of what you are doing.
  6. Exploit morality: Use others’ moral principles against them. Attack them when they try to be reasonable and gracious.  Use their morals as a weapon against them.  Do to them things they would never do to you because of their moral standards.
  7. Ridicule/attack common values: religion, patriotism, traditional values.

The playbook is working spectacularly well in the United States.  Our schools have been infiltrated (with Marxism openly taught in our universities for decades), our churches have been infiltrated, and our legal system has been infiltrated with Marxist values and sympathizers, and we are well on the way to Gramsci’s goal of softening us up so that we fall, like a ripe fruit, into the hands of Marxists.

Among other things, this is how we are seeing this worked out:

  1. Identity politics in which individual minority groups promote self-interest rather than the interest of the whole (Divide and conquer).
  2. The assertion that the problems of all minorities are the fault of white privilege and racism (Create scapegoats).
  3. Riots and destruction in cities (Create chaos).
  4. False charges and accusing others of the same thing you are doing (Trash talk).
  5. The rise of opinion journalism and fake news (Spread disinformation).
  6. Rioting in streets, destroying family businesses, patrolling suburbs (exploit morality).
  7. Destruction of statues, memorials, Marxist Black Lives Matter rallies (Ridicule/attack common values).

If this movement is successful, it will change America as we have known it.

What should the Christian response be?

Christians must rise up to stop this godless assault on our country and the church.  There are so many of us that we can do it. We have the votes. All we have to do is act… and vote our values.  Not to do so is to bring on our nation, and on the church, calamities I have listed here.

There are some Christians who are too unaware to get involved.  They are not naturally interested in political things, and they spend their lives occupied with “spiritual” things, assuming that everything is going to work out fine. I’m not criticizing these Christians. I used to be one of them. I just didn’t fully realize what was going on. Plus, more is going on now than ever before.

There are other Christians who think they shouldn’t get involved. In one article I read, a pastor said one reason he did not get involved is that “God is in control.”  He said he is working for the heavenly kingdom and doesn’t want to get distracted by the earthly kingdom.

But how would that perspective play itself out in other areas of life if lived consistently?

  • If someone broke into your house to harm you and your family, would you stand by idly and say, “God is in control?”
  • Would you turn the other cheek for the malicious intruder?
  • Would you let the invader have his way and say, “God causes all things to work together for good?”

Of course not! You’d try to protect those God has given you!

I see this as the same situation. Evil people are breaking into our national home. How can we, who have the ability to stop them, not stop them? Even Jesus said, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed” (Luke 11:21).  There are so many evangelical Christians that if we would simply “guard our house,” we could avert disaster.

More than America is at stake

This is not just about our comfort and safety. It is about having the knowledge, technology, and money to…

  • finish Bible translations around the world,
  • help start churches in emerging nations,
  • help advance the gospel around the world,
  • help reduce the pain of poverty,
  • help bring medical supplies and advances to those who need them,
  • help reduce the profound discrimination and suffering of Christians around the world.

Never before in the history of the Church has there been so much potential to take the Great Commission to the entire planet. There is a world of good to be done, but if the U.S. falls to socialism, it will deal a grave blow to all that potential.

James 4:17 says, “To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” My goal in writing this blog post is to help convince you that to vote Christian values for the sake of stopping anti-Christian socialism is the right thing to do.

As I see it, the choice is very clear: Christians must vote, and we must vote Republican if we do not want the United States to be overtaken by socialism/Marxism.  The traditional understanding of Republicans and Democrats is out the window in this election because Democrats have sold out to socialism. Today’s Democrat Party is not the same party of yester-years. If you vote Democrat because you or your family has “always voted” Democrat, please understand that today’s Democrat Party is not your parents’ party and please take the time to investigate their platform and policies before casting your vote. If you don’t want socialism, you don’t want a Democrat party platform.

It is a stewardship responsibility.  How can we neglect this gift the Lord has given us?  We have the power – God has given us the power through prayer and the privilege of informed voting – to prevent this calamity. We should be praying! But if we pray without also exercising our responsibility of voting, we have only done half the job. 

This is an historic moment for Christians in America. Help keep the Church in America strong so that we can use our knowledge, technology, and money to energize the Great Commission on a level we have never seen before.

Let’s rise to the challenge! Let’s pray and vote!

Max Anders is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and has taught on the college and seminary level. He was an original team member with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries and the author of over twenty-five books. He has pastored small, medium and large churches spanning over 25 years, including currently serving as Senior Pastor at Geist Chapel in Indianapolis, IN.

READING THE TIMES: Separating Fact from Ideological Cheerleading

READING THE TIMES: Separating Fact from Ideological Cheerleading

If you enjoy Fixer-Upper as we do, you know that there is a formula for the popular TV show. A family-friendly couple is looking for an all-American home in Waco, Texas. They view three houses Chip & Jo have selected for them. Joanna wants to open the floor plan and remodel the kitchen, add crown molding, and of course, shiplap. Chip cuts up for Joanna’s entertainment. Demo Day! Half-way there and, oh no, there’s a problem! Last day and Joanna has to work late. Chip drops by with the kids. The big reveal!

It is enjoyable if you like that sort of thing, but it is not real. It’s scripted. It follows a specific narrative arc or storyline every time. Viewers know what is going to happen; we just enjoy watching it unfold. Entertainment is the mission.

Entertainment is not, or should not be, the mission of a news organization. Still less propaganda: information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.[1] Reliable reporting follows the facts wherever they lead. Propaganda follows a predetermined narrative.

Discerning the difference between infotainment (entertainment masquerading as news), propaganda, and reliable reporting is a critical skill for every citizen, but especially Christians. God is the God of truth. His children are responsible for discerning it as well as spreading it, for making decisions based on it in the marketplace, on social media, and especially in the voting booth.

Here’s a brief how-to.

Watch for predictable storylines. All reporters begin with a theme, a unifying idea that guides their questions and structures their stories. But when facts fail to support it, the theme must change. Truth-telling reporters will do that. But dishonest reporters force the facts to fit the theme, magnifying those that do and minimizing or else ignoring those that do not.

Example: When every weather story somehow supports man-made Climate Change theory, you may be seeing propaganda. When every review of a press conference makes your favorite politician out to be a genius, you may be hearing propaganda. When every story you see about unwanted pregnancy centers on women’s health, ignoring the rights of the child, you are watching a narrative as predictable as Fixer Upper, but with reliably deadly consequences.

Watch for generalities, the glossing over of inconvenient facts. Reliable reporting uses concrete detail, specific examples, and defining quotations from qualified experts willing to go on the record. When you read, “some experts say,” or “studies show,” you are reading generalities. If the topic interests you, dig deeper before you share it online.

Watch for something for sale. Most magazine reporting, especially in special interest mags and online sites, is just long-form advertising. Much Christian magazine reporting does the same thing, except that instead of selling a product, it is selling a ministry. Ministry Watch Magazine and World Magazine are exceptions. Search their archives on a ministry before you buy-in.

Watch for alternate worldviews. Journalists striving for objectivity should cite several different sources to support a theme. But if those experts share the same worldview, they are only “balancing subjectivities.”[2] Reliable reporting seeks out several perspectives.

Watch for commentary masquerading as journalism. Conservative commentator Cal Thomas got it right in his January 24, 2019 analysis of media coverage of women newly elected to Congress:

“Especially in the Trump era, media have displayed increasingly naked ideological cheerleading. Any fair examination of major newspapers—from the front page, to the editorial and op-ed pages—proves the point.

If there’s any hope of getting out of the political mess we’re in, journalism must return to a focus on facts, not fanfare.”

And Christians must learn how to discern the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Dictionary.com

[2] Marvin Olasky’s term.

 

 

THIS IS OUR TIME

THIS IS OUR TIME

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, hobbit hero Frodo Baggins carries a ring of great power and evil, a ring that he and he alone can destroy in the fires of Mount Doom. Depressed by the burden he carries and the evil times, he confides to his wizard friend, Gandalf:

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

Tolkien was a veteran of WWI that killed 20 million and wounded 21 million, as well as the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that killed 50 million worldwide, as well as the Great Depression, and the polio epidemic that paralyzed tens of thousands. He knew a thing or two about bad times and wove what he knew about how to endure them into his stories.

The Lord of the Rings is full of perseverance and faith against all the odds.

In August of 1940, 25-30 divisions of crack Wehrmacht infantry (over 300,000 soldiers) stood poised along the coast of France. They were waiting for Reich Marshal Herman Goering’s vaunted Luftwaffe to wipe the Royal Air Force from the sky and open the English Channel for Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Great Britain, to launch. The Germans had a three-to-one advantage in warplanes when the Battle of Britain began that July and had subdued all Western Europe in less than a year. Everyone expected them to win. Everyone that is, except Winston Churchill and the millions of British who believed him when he said, “We shall never surrender!” Londoner’s sheltered in basements, bunkers, and the subway, as the Blitz rained bombs on their city. Nazi planes indiscriminately wrecked churches, hospitals, and businesses destroyed 60% of London’s homes, wounded 87,000, and killed 32,000 people. Victims overwhelmed the hospitals, and no one knew who would “get it” next.

But by the end of October, Hitler was withdrawing his invasion force from the French coast, and canceling Operation Sea Lion.

The story of Great Britain’s ultimate victory overflows with perseverance and faith.

I take great courage from these stories of our collective past because the ultimate source of their strength was the same hope we share in a good God. He loves us no less than our ancestors and, if we ask him, will give us the strength and bravery to “keep calm and carry on,” as Londoners’ did during the Blitz, and as all God’s people are called to do in a crisis.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4.

Every generation faces tests. The Corona virus is our time to meet the fury of a fallen planet with faith and perseverance.

So, look out for your loved ones. Ignore the fear mongers. Follow the instructions of our healthcare professionals. Trust God. “Keep calm and carry on.”  And if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a great time to watch The Lord of the Rings

OF PANDEMICS AND THE PEOPLE OF GOD

OF PANDEMICS AND THE PEOPLE OF GOD

We are not the first to deal with a global pandemic and if God wills, we will not be the last. The only real question is: will we face it with faith in God and sacrificial love for our fellow man, or pull a Y2K kind of American Christian panic and hunker down in fear of the world outside?

Down the centuries, Christians were known to put aside personal safety in service to others during epidemics and other kinds of disasters. Are we ready to do the same today? If so, it will look a little different than it did in the past. Today it means putting aside our preference to meet together for worship, prayer, and preaching, and practicing social distancing.

Wikipedia reports that the 1918 influenza pandemic (January 1918 – December 1920; also known as the Spanish flu) … infected 500 million people around the world,[2] or about 27% of the world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million[3] to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest epidemics in human history.[4][5]

The Black Plague or Bubonic Plague of Medieval times was worse. Wikipedia reports that it was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.[1][2][3] …The plague created a number of religious, social and economic upheavals, with profound effects on the course of European history.

The plague was still a threat 200 years later during the Reformation, which gave Martin Luther and John Calvin, two of the greatest theological minds in history, the opportunity to comment. Both advised prudence in the face of such disasters.

John Calvin (1509 – 1564): ““For he who has set the limits to our life has at the same time entrusted to us its care; He has provided means and helps to preserve it, he has also made us able to foresee dangers; that they may not overwhelm us unaware, he has offered precautions and remedies. Now it is very clear what our debt is: Thus if the Lord had committed to us the protection of our life, our duty is to protect it; if he offers helps, to use them; if he forewarns us of dangers, not to plunge headlong; if he makes remedies available, not to neglect them…Thus “folly & prudence are instruments of the divine dispensation.” Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Ch. 17.

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Luther’s Works Volume 43 pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess.

Churches in Washington D.C., responding to the 1918 flu pandemic, closed from October 5 through the 31st. The most Christian thing to do in the current crisis is follow their example.

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

 

MEN ARE FORMED, NOT BORN

The news of men has not been good of late. My friend Tommy died last week. The last I heard he was in the Roanoke Rescue Mission. But in the end, he was homeless, doing crack, meth, and heroin. The drugs took him at 52.

There’s the porn epidemic. As Catholic writer, Benjamin Wiker, has said, “Our sexual environment is about as polluted as China’s air, and the harm caused by such pollution is just as scientifically demonstrable.”[1]

Then there’s the swelling cohort of insecure, indecisive, incompetent young men whose directionless energies are squandered in endless pursuits of, well, that’s just it, nothing special. As Auguste Meyrat recently wrote, they are “hapless chumps” who can “make observations, crack jokes, ask questions…but they cannot make theses and support them.” Women may “friend-zone” these guys, but they won’t marry and have children with them.[2]

And its common knowledge that one of the greatest common denominators for mass shooters (not counting jihadis) is that they are young, alienated men, with absent, abusive, or just irrelevant fathers.

Males are born, but men are formed. And our culture is failing to form them.

Cultural trends for the last forty years mitigate against it. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” founding feminist Gloria Steinem said, and a whole generation of women believed her and did without. That movement, along with constant media mockery of men as sleazy sex addicts or buffoonish oafs, removed much of the motivation men had to become something other than overgrown boys.

Healthy masculinity, the kind that gets tough when the going gets rough and tender when it doesn’t, has also been undermined by hypocrites like Bill Cosby and pedophile priests. But they are only the most famous of a multitude of men who hide predatory natures behind a faith and family friendly mask.

What’s to be done? Specifically, what can the church do? The most important thing we can do is buy into my thesis: Men are formed, not born.

There are definite attributes and specific disciplines that separate the men from the boys that can be passed down from one generation to the next. They have nothing to do with physical or sexual prowess and everything to do with character formation. We can work out the details of how to do that later, but we must buy in first. We must believe that positive masculinity can and should be formed in young men by older men.

Too many fathers and too many church men assume that “boys will be boys” and just let them raise themselves or worse, “let their Momma do it.” That’s not meant as a slam on moms who sacrifice endlessly for their children. But the truth is that young men do not respond the same way to women as they do men they respect. As a result, we have a generation of “feral children,” who—wishing they were real men—have mistaken real masculinity with owning powerful weapons and hyped-up pick-up trucks. Or else mistaken it for feminine virtues that, while admirable, aren’t masculine and therefore do not satisfy the innate need of a male to achieve manhood among other men.

My friend Tommy grew up a feral child. His father abandoned him early in life and rarely offered anything other than criticism for his son’s failings. Like all of us, Tommy made choices for which he alone was responsible. He had multiple opportunities to turn his life around. But I can’t help wonder how his life might have turned out if the right set of men had taken him in and committed to train him how to be a man.

[1] https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/08/04/sexual-pollution-is-a-scientific-and-destructive-fact/

[2] https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/ts-eliot-poem-describes-modern-males-perfectly

EL PASO, DAYTON, & GILROY

EL PASO, DAYTON, & GILROY

Editor’s Note: The most shocking thing about the three mass murders that happened last week is that they are no longer shocking. Heart-breaking, yes, but not shocking. Of the comments and opinions I’ve read on these events, John Stonestreet’s, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, were the most coherent. I’m reprinting them here for your edification. Links to the podcast, the response by Marvin Olasky, of World News Group, and an article I wrote on the topic last year follow. DS

El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy

The Heart of the Matter

John Stonestreet, Breakpoint, August 6, 2019

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.”

Of course, there are evil people. We know that far too well, especially after this past weekend. In fact, that there are evil people out there is the one thing, maybe the only thing, everyone still agrees on. We disagree on who the people are: The evil shooter. The evil racist president. The evil progressives who want to take our guns. So we go on and on, identifying who the evil people are—always them—and we go on and on missing the real problem right in front of our face.

Solzhenitsyn’s point wasn’t, as some argue, that people aren’t really evil. Far from it. His point was that to assume evil exists only in them (whoever our “them” is) and not in us, is just plain wrong. Rather, as he continued: “… the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

The finger pointing that immediately followed the mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton started before any facts were known, and came even quicker than usual. (Let’s pause there… “than usual.” What a tragic way to talk about mass murders.) The finger pointers had already decided who the bad guys were, and many of us joined in on the chorus. So, we tweeted and reported and assumed the evil ones belonged to the other side while hoping they did not belong to ours. If it’s discovered the evildoer does belong to us, we know how to twist and contort and accuse in order to explain any connection away. But, if he belongs to them, we also know how to leverage the tragedy to indict the entire lot.

I say this as a 2nd Amendment guy. I fully agree that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Read the online manifestos of these young men and tell me that they wouldn’t eventually find some other way to carry out their violent fantasies. Even if gun control were the answer, how would we ever go about implementing it? Does anyone really think someone so radicalized to that degree of hatred would trade in their weapons for a gift card?

At the same time, the idea that “the best way to stop bad guys with guns is with good guys with guns” needs to be reconsidered. At face value, I fully agree. What I fear, however, is that those who repeat this idea are working off of old math. When bad guys are willing to target innocents, even children, at schools, movie theaters, churches, festivals, and Wal-Marts… what then? In Dayton, the good guys showed up in one minute, one minute, and the bad guy still killed nine people. Facing that sort of evil, how many good guys with guns will we need to protect us? Where exactly will we need them? Everywhere? That’s called a “police state,” and it’s the inevitable end of any society that sinks so deeply into moral chaos.

If that is our fate, make no mistake, we’ll have brought it on ourselves. And by “we,” I mean us and them. As the progressive left finds new ways to deconstruct the family, reconstruct morality, and scandalize the innocence of children at every level and in every area of culture while demonizing their evil other by state force and financial leveraging, the libertarian right demands unfettered license to say whatever and think whatever and post whatever on 8chan while demonizing its own evil other as the cause for all so-called ills.  All this while the church faces scandal after scandal of its own making.

Yet, we wonder how lonely young men without meaning or moral formation or fathers, who have no way to fulfill their pornographic-fueled fantasies but have access to plenty of self-medication options, could be driven to white-supremacist or progressive extremism.  We need to ask what it is about our culture that’s producing these young men bent on killing and chaos. And we need to ask: Where is the church?

Do we really think we are immune to the historically repetitive realities that have marked every crumbling civilization since the dawn of time? Do we really think we can keep our freedom in a society not only without virtue, but without any of the “little platoons” that form virtue?

Can freedom be sustained where virtue is not flourishing? Chuck Colson asked this every time he spoke the last few years of his life. The answer to Chuck’s question is still, of course, no.

As Chuck said, it’s either the conscience or the constable. Unless we are willing to look at us, to as Solzhenitsyn said, “destroy a piece of our own heart,” our future is increasingly obvious.

Only Christ can restore this mess. We must be about His work of restoration.

Breakpoint Podcast; Marvin Olasky, World News Group Editor in Chief; Is Your Son the Next School Shooter?

 

AN ALIEN IN YOUR DRIVEWAY

AN ALIEN IN YOUR DRIVEWAY

If an alien from outer space landed in your driveway and asked, “What are all those buildings in your town with pointy spires and crosses on top? What is that about?” Could you answer accurately?

That’s the question C.S. Lewis—author of the Chronicles of Narnia—and Oxford College Chaplain, Walter Hooper, knocked around one day. “We wondered how many people, (who did not flee) apart from voicing their prejudices about the Church, could supply them with much in the way of accurate information. On the whole, we doubted whether the aliens would take back to their world much that is worth having.”

Hooper and Lewis were speculating because at that time, in the mid-twentieth century, several autobiographies of former bishops and preachers had flooded the market explaining why they could no longer accept the faith. Lewis believed that much of the ignorance of true Christianity was due to the flood of “liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel.”

Nothing much has changed. Today, many people reject Christianity because of prejudice. They’ve been disillusioned by a bad Christian or injured by a fraudulent one and rejected the faith out of anger. And a spate of recent statements and books by former evangelicals such as the late Rachel Held Evans, and former pastors Rob Bell, and Joshua Harris contributes to confusion. “If professionals can’t follow it, how can I?”

But as Hooper writes in his preface to God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics by C.S. Lewis, “…it is impossible to decide whether Christianity is true or false if you do not know what it is about.” Spiritually hungry skeptics must ask themselves, “Am I rejecting something I fully understand? Or am I using negative examples as an excuse not to investigate it?”

If you are ready to learn what Christianity is about, Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity, is a good place to start, as is Lee Strobel’s, The Case for Faith. But if you prefer talking it out among friends you would enjoy the Alpha Course. It’s a ten-week introduction to basic Christianity that’s designed to encourage questions and build friendships with others on the same journey. Our church is hosting its ninth Alpha Course this year. If you come, we promise to feed you well, treat your questions with respect, and above all, not treat you like an alien from outer space.