THE OLD MAN’S EGGS: Three Worldview Questions for 2017

An old man with a cane is struggling to get his groceries out of the buggy and into his car. One bag drops to the ground, breaking most of the eggs inside. What should you do: Ignore him and walk on by? Stop, help him pick up the bag, and maybe give him your eggs? Push him down and take his wallet?

I’m willing to bet nobody chose option three.

The way we answer such questions tells us not only about our character, but what we believe about the existence of objective moral truths. No one believes option three is morally right, even the thugs who might take the money and run. It is testimony to the biblical idea that the requirements of the law are written on our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness.

In other words, whether we admit it, or not, whether we want to believe it, or not, we do believe in objective moral truth every bit as much as we believe in scientific truth, like gravity.

The problem, the thing that creates so much confusion for so many of us as we try to sort through answers for today’s difficult questions on things like social justice, abortion, and same sex marriage, is that we are attempting to live with competing and conflicting worldviews. We wouldn’t take the old man’s wallet, but we can’t explain why someone else shouldn’t.

What’s a worldview? Your worldview is the grid through which you understand and interpret all of life. It answers four questions that are basic to everything else: Where did we come from? What’s wrong with us? How are the problems of life best addressed? Where is life headed in the end?

The reason we can’t offer anything more than an exasperated, “It’s just wrong!” to taking the old man’s wallet is that we are attempting to blend traditional morality with pluralism and post-modernism.

Traditional morality is based, more or less, on the biblical worldview (think: creation, fall, redemption, restoration) and agrees that there is such a thing as objective moral truth. Pluralism says that there are many possible worldviews and many possible truths, each with equal validity. Post-modernism says there is no such thing as truth, that meaning is completely subjective. A thing only means what the individual observer says it means. It’s like the old joke about the three umpires. The first one says, “I calls ‘em as they is.” The second says, “I call’s ‘em as I see’s ‘em.” And the third says, “They ain’t nothin’ till I calls ‘em.”

So here’s a three-part challenge for 2017:

First, what is your worldview? Is it consistently biblical? Pluralistic? Post-modern? Or some combination thereof?

Second, ask yourself if it actually fits observed reality. Is someone helping the old man with his eggs, or is someone robbing him, and if so, why?

Third, ask yourself which worldview your life is conforming to, the one you say you believe, or one of the others, or some amalgamation thereof?

My hope and conviction is that as we answer these questions the fog of confusion will clear and uncertainty will give way to confidence.

 

WHOM GOD SEEKS: The Missing Key to Meeting God

I will never forget Promise Keepers (PK) ’96. I was in the Georgia Dome with ten or twelve men from my church, fifty yard line, on the mezzanine level. The Saturday evening worship session was in full swing; sixty-thousand men in full-throated song. In those days, PK would end with founder, Coach McCartney, calling all the pastors down front to be affirmed and prayed over by the whole stadium.  I had participated in this before, in Colorado in ’94 and it was electric.  We felt like soldiers on parade being consecrated for battle; deeply moving.

But we were an hour or two away from that; just worshiping with full abandon for twenty or thirty minutes, pausing for prayer, and singing again. All of my attention was focused on Jesus, giving him praise and glory, as if I could see him, riding high, seated on his throne up high in the middle of the Dome.

Suddenly, I could see him, not with physical eyes, but spiritual sight. As surely as I saw the men in the stadium I knew Jesus was standing before me, speaking to me.

I cannot tell you what this was about, but in that moment my Master Jesus spoke five simple words that comforted, healed, and touched me in such a deep and powerful way that my knees buckled and I sat down utterly stunned, weeping with gratitude. It was as if I had been walking around with a sword deep in my soul and in one motion he removed the sword and healed the wound. What I did not understand at the time, but would later on, was that those words were also preparation for a battle on the horizon.

I share that story because many who seek a deeper experience of God ask, “How can I have an encounter with God? I hear about, and read about, people experiencing his presence and hearing his voice, but that has never happened to me, and I want to know God that way.”

By sharing my story I am not intending to portray God as a spiritual vending machine. We do not put in a certain coin and push a certain button and get God in a bottle. Further, following God’s guidance in our day-to-day, learning to discern his will and the nudges of the Holy Spirit, is as much a matter of using our heads as we engage with him through Scripture as it is anything overtly mystical. Many sermons and books are available on the subject.

Still, one thing stands out that is often missing in such sermons and books: the place of pure, uncomplicated, intensive worship; complete abandon of one’s inhibitions to the adoration of God. Moses’ most powerful encounter with God came when, in the middle of his regular prayer time he said, “Show me your glory.” Jesus explained that the kind of person God seeks is the kind that “worships in spirit and in truth,” nothing held back, no agenda other than complete adoration of and abandon to God for whom and what he is.

Looking back on PK ’96 nothing else the rest of the night mattered. When it came time for pastors to go forward and be affirmed my friends would not let up.  They insisted I go.  I did not have the heart to tell them that they could have torn the building down around me and it would not have mattered. I had been in the presence of God.

Two cautions for those who’ve read this far: Worship with abandon is always the right thing to do, but these moments, these encounters, are the exception, not the rule. That pattern is clear enough in Scripture as is the second warning: often, as it was with me, they are precursors to difficult times, moments of gracious preparation by a loving Lord before the battle begins.

Still, if meeting with God is your highest aim learn to praise, honor, and adore him, in the quiet of your room or with a congregation, with no other agenda than his glory. That is the kind of worshiper God seeks, and what he seeks, he finds.

HAVE GREAT FAITH

Every day we face situations that call for great faith.

A loved one is sick, our marriage is on the rocks, or a job is downsized out of existence. There’s something new we want to do, some ministry we want to start, some new venture we feel called to pursue. But we’re afraid. We know the outcomes we seek are beyond our individual ability to achieve. We need great faith. How do we get it?

The Bible only records two times when Jesus was “amazed, astonished, or taken aback” by someone’s behavior. One is in Mark 6:6 when Jesus was “amazed at their lack of faith.” The other is in Matthew 8:10, where it says he was “astonished” at the great faith of the Centurion. So what is it about the faith of that Centurion that was so great? And how can we imitate it?

Great Faith Apprehends His Authority
A Centurion was the commander of one hundred men. He represented imperial Roman power in its most immediate form. He commanded and others obeyed. He also recognized authority when he saw it in Jesus, saying to him, “I am a man under authority and I know how it is used. All you need to do is say the word.”

Great faith begins by recognizing the authority of Jesus.

Great Faith Submits to His Authority
By Roman law the Centurion could tap Jesus on the shoulder and force him to carry his pack for a mile. The world told him he had absolute authority over these rag-tag, conquered people. But his conscience told him something different. So instead of tapping Jesus on the shoulder and demanding his servant be healed, he humbled himself by saying, “I’m not worthy for you to come to my house.”

Much of faith teaching today is presumptuous. As the late Ray Stedman said, “Some people think the prayer of faith is crawling out on a limb and then begging God to keep someone from sawing it off. But that is not real prayer, that is presumption. If God makes it clear that he wants you out on a limb, fine–you will be perfectly safe there. If not, it is presumptuous to crawl out on that limb, expecting God to keep you there.”

Great faith looks to Christ in humility, submitting to his authority, asking for his help.

Great Faith is Confident in His Authority
Americans, having seen its abuses, have great distrust of authority. So it might help to think of authority in terms of orderliness. When you think of authority, think of order. Order the parts of a generator according to the laws of electromagnetism and we have the “authority” to produce power. Order the parts of the human genome correctly and we have the “authority” to defeat disease, to reorder a disordered system.

When the Centurion said, “You do not need to come to my house,” he was saying that as part of the system of order imposed by Rome he understood how things got done. It enabled him to recognize a higher order of things flowing from the ultimate orderliness of God, and to have confidence in it. When we depend on that authority it brings stability, and power, and blessing into our lives. “You don’t need to come to my house. Just say the word. I know it will be done.” Great faith is confident in Christ’s authority.

People often mistake faith for something it is not. Great faith is measured not by the depth of our ignorance, or the height of our presumptions, or the extent of our emotions. Great faith is measured by our apprehension, and submission to, and total confidence in the authority of Jesus Christ.

THE PORN PANDEMIC And How to Escape

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NIV).

If you are a man or if you are married to or dating one who has learned the truth of that statement the hard way please read on, I have good news for you.

Decades before the Ashley Madison website hack and the very public falls of Josh Duggar and Jared Fogle we were hearing from men, Christian men, and their wives, about the havoc their pornography addictions were wreaking. But never have the words of Scripture been so thoroughly validated by a non-religious source as they have now been by the April 11, 2016 cover story in TIME.

First, a note to the men who are struggling with this: I do not condemn you and you are not alone. This post is not about making you feel bad. I’ve counseled enough of you to know that many of you feel terribly ashamed, and isolated, and helpless. I’m offering hope.

Let’s start by being real about the problem.

A few, a very few, of the statistics TIME reports are: 46% of men and 16% of women ages 18-39 intentionally view pornography in any given week. From February of 2006 to January 2016 monthly visits by U.S. citizens to porn websites increased from 58 million to 107 million, according to one web-tracking company. Yes, that’s 107 million visits per month.

Christians are not immune. Covenant Eyes website reports that about 64% of Christian men and 15% of women access porn every month. And as the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians, it’s damaging their bodies.

TIME confirms that, citing a 2014 fMRI study from the Max Planck Institute which revealed that habitual porn use may have an effect on the brain. Repeated exposure to porn appeared to cause the brain’s reward center, called the striatum, to be less and less responsive. In other words, the brain becomes desensitized, requiring more and more stimulation to achieve the same level of pleasure. This is somewhat like the way cocaine and other drugs effect the brain. It’s no surprise then that porn addicts often progress from plain vanilla porn to harder, more violent, or simply more bizarre forms. Many also end up frequenting prostitutes and some become predators.

Scientists have long known that the brain is our primary sex organ, but it isn’t the only one suffering from the effects of porn. Young men, Christian and non-Christian alike, are increasingly reporting PIED, porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Their bodies have been so desensitized by porn that they cannot respond to normal sexual stimuli.

Enough of the bad news, I’ll provide links to more information at the end if you’re interested. Let’s talk about redeeming what’s been lost.

The Bible teaches that we are three-part beings, body, soul, and spirit. Dealing effectively with this or any other addiction requires addressing all three. Some of you who aren’t Christians, and even some who are, don’t have any problem with sex outside of marriage. But the Bible calls that sin and I encourage you to do the same. The first step to freedom is calling slavery what it is. Even if you can’t yet see it as a sin against God or your own body, an honest look at the underbelly of the porn industry will reveal that the whole thing is one massive assault on the dignity of women. That’s why businesses like Hilton Hotels have eliminated pornography channels in their hotel rooms in 85 countries. They have a company policy against participating in sexual exploitation and recognized the link between sex trafficking, prostitution and porn. Christ died to free us from slavery to sin. Agreeing with God that pornography is sin frees the Holy Spirit to help you do away with it.

Second, understand that your mind, will, and emotions, what we know as the soul, have been damaged by porn. You were created to be a thinking, choosing, feeling and relating being. Porn addiction, like others, pulls your soul into a spiral of sickness. Your thinking is clouded, your will is weakened, your feelings are misleading, and your ability to relate in healthy ways to other human beings, especially women, is damaged. You’re going to need some help sorting out your feelings, strengthening your will, straightening out your thinking, and reshaping the way you relate to others. Happily, there are many different kinds of help out there for this, from books to websites, to support groups. I’ll list some at the end.

Finally, your body is going to need rewiring. One of the most fascinating and hopeful things I’ve learned from counseling men with pornography addictions is the power of simple behavior-modification techniques. Pastors and counseling psychologists often assume that all problems stem from within the soul and can be effectively addressed by talking, teaching and prayer; correcting the wrongs of the psyche. I’m not discounting any of those, but the fact is that not everyone becomes addicted because they have issues with their upbringing. The neurology of our sexuality is incredibly important. Repeated exposure to porn trains the brain and the body to react a certain way by burning deep neural pathways. Think of it as a kind of sexual muscle memory that won’t go away just because you wish it would. The good news is that it is possible to burn new pathways and let the old ones die off. It takes time and training, but it is possible.

If you find yourself or a loved one a victim of the porn pandemic there is hope. Christ died to set you free from sin and give you full access to the redemptive power of his Spirit. God in his mercy has provided all kinds of aids, secular and spiritual, to help you break free. I’ve listed all the ones I’m aware of at the end of this post. May God bless you as you pursue freedom, forgiveness, and healing.

Resources for Recovery from Sexual Addiction.
Christian
https://www.faithfulandtrue.com/About-Us.aspx
http://restoringthesoul.com/we-specialize-in-healing-addictions-to-porn-and-sex/
http://www.purelifeministries.org/about#leadership
http://www.fredstoeker.com/book/everymansbattle.shtml
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/dealing-with-pornography/maier-on-pornography-recovery
http://www.covenanteyes.com/
https://www.shelleylubben.com/home

Non-Christian
http://www.nofap.com/
http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/

 

RISEN: Something Good Out of Hollywood

Based on Bible stories made into movies of late, the Nathaniel’s among us would be justified in paraphrasing the dubious disciple’s first question about Jesus: “Can anything good come out of Hollywood?”

Noah, in spite of my initial enthusiasm about it, turned out to be a theological mish-mash and a box office disappointment. The trailers for Exodus: God’s and Kings, revealed such an obvious hack job on the original story that I, along with many others, didn’t waste my time or money on it. Roma Downey and Mark Burnette’s 2015 television hit, AD, also left me disappointed by the middle of the series.

Not so with Risen, the Sony Pictures release now playing in local theaters. Instead of trying to make something more or something different than the original Easter story, Risen follows the tradition of The Robe and Ben Hur by inserting a fictitious historical character into the Biblical narrative as an eyewitness to events. And while it doesn’t aspire to the epic proportions of those classics it is a good story well told.

Joseph Fiennes (Luther 2003) turns in a phenomenal performance as Clavius, the Roman Tribune charged by Pilate (Peter Firth) with insuring that Jesus stays dead, the Sanhedrin remains mollified, the mob remains pacified, and Caesar stays in the dark about all of it. The cinematography is good. The plot is believable, the film is well paced, and even though it’s obvious that special effects were relegated to the shallow end of the budget pool, the script and the acting more than made up for it. Pilate’s cynicism is palpable, but not overdone, as he and Clavius play a high-stakes game of political chess with the equally cynical High Priest. We come away reminded of how quickly truth goes by the boards as the players manipulate the message in a never-ending battle to shape public opinion.

Risen does have a few weaknesses. One actor is glaringly amateurish in the two short scenes he inhabits. It wouldn’t matter if they weren’t so strategically placed. And those of us concerned with fidelity to the biblical text will note a glaring omission in the words of Jesus just prior to the ascension. But these things are minor and offset by biblical faithfulness throughout the rest of the script and an otherwise excellent supporting cast. Watch especially for the drunken guard’s testimony in the bar. That actor should win an Oscar.

Far more important however and ultimately more moving than any of these things is Fiennes’ Clavius. He is utterly convincing as a man’s man intimately acquainted with the brutal parts of life on a fallen planet. Every man who feels the cynicism of Pilate creeping up on him in mid-life will identify with Clavius’ quest for truth. And everyone who watches will struggle with him to reconcile two irreconcilable things: “A man dead without question, and that same man alive again.”

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.

 

PRO LIFE SUMMARY 2

“A woman has the right to determine what happens to her own body.”

“The pro-life view is religiously based, and religion shouldn’t have anything to do with public policy.”

Ever heard those statements and wondered how to respond?

This Friday, January 22nd marks the 43rd anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Since then over 58 million babies have been killed by abortionists in America alone.

This scourge can be stopped, but not by staying silent about it. The tech-savvy millennial generation is already inclined to think outside the box of pro-abortion arguments handed down to them from 1970’s liberals. We need to continue to feed their skepticism with truth. The more confident we are as we talk with friends and family, especially the millennial generation, the more likely they will be to end it.

Here then is part 2 of the article Why Pro Life? by Stonestreet and Klusendorf. Find the link to the whole document, titled 21 DAYS OF PRAYER FOR LIFE, here at http://www.colsoncenter.org.

Watch for the summary TAKE AWAY TRUTHS at the end. DS.

WHY PRO LIFE? A SUMMARY part 2
By Scott Klusendorf and John Stonestreet

Reason #3: Logic Affirms Life
Either you believe that each and every human being has an equal right to life or you don’t.

Pro-life Christians contend that although humans differ in their respective degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature that bears the image of their Creator. Humans have value simply because they are human.

Secular critics like David Boonin provide a radically different perspective: Although you are identical to the embryo you once were, it does not follow you had the same right to life then as you do now. For Boonin, being human is nothing special:

On my desk in my office where most of this book was written and revised, there are several pictures of my son, Eli. In one, he is gleefully dancing on the sand along the Gulf of Mexico, the cool ocean breeze wreaking havoc with his wispy hair. In a second, he is tentatively seated in the grass in his grandparents’ backyard, still working to master the feat of sitting up on his own. In a third, he is only a few weeks old, clinging firmly to the arms that are holding him and still wearing the tiny hat for preserving body heat that he wore home from the hospital. Though all of the remarkable changes that these pictures preserve, he remains unmistakably the same little boy. In the top drawer of my desk, I keep another picture of Eli. This picture was taken…24 weeks before he was born.

The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clearly enough a small head titled back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows the same little boy at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point.

But here’s Boonin’s problem: If humans only have value because of some characteristic they possess in varying degrees, those with more of it have greater rights than those with less. Human equality is a myth.

Pro-life Christians have a better explanation for human equality. Our value is grounded in our common human nature, not a degreed property like self-awareness that none of us share equally and may come and go in the course of our lifetimes. When did you get that human nature? You got it the moment you began to exist—conception.

Reason #4: Our Founding Documents Affirm Life
Pro-lifers are often told the pro-life view is “religious,” and religious ideas should not determine public policy. But this is merely a dismissal rather than a refutation.

As Francis J. Beckwith points out, arguments are true or false, valid or invalid. Calling an argument “religious” is a category mistake on a par with asking, “How tall is the number five?”

Also, nowhere in the constitution does it say that believers are prohibited from bringing their ideas to the public square and arguing for them like everyone else. It’s one thing to say the state should not establish a church. It’s quite another to disenfranchise believers from participating in their own government. Some of our country’s most important documents – like The Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” – have their roots in the biblical concept of the imago dei. If prolifers are irrational and unconstitutional for grounding basic human rights in the concept of a transcendent creator, these important historical documents—all of which advanced our national understanding of equality—are irrational and unconstitutional as well. If God doesn’t exist, where do human rights come from? If they come only from the State, the same government that grants rights can take them away. If human rights are to be absolute, they must come from a source higher than the State. That’s what the authors of our founding documents believed: that every human being is “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The first of these rights is the right to life.

TWO TAKEAWAY TRUTHS:
“A woman has the right to determine what happens to her own body.”
“True. But she doesn’t have the right to determine what happens to someone else’s body. I am the same genetic person I was in my mother’s womb, and so are you. Should you have the right to end my life because I’m inconvenient to you? Should I have the right to end yours?”

“The pro-life view is religiously based, and religion shouldn’t have anything to do with public policy.”
“False. Calling an argument “religious” is a category mistake on a par with asking, “How tall is the number five?” Some of our country’s most important documents – like The Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” – have their roots in the biblical concept of the imago dei.