FLABBY-BRAINED BELIEVERS?

The bathroom scales hounded me back to my Nordic Trak last week with the words: “You are a middle-aged blob who eats too much and exercises too little!”

OK, it didn’t actually say that because it can’t talk. And no, I’m not going to tell you what it read either (I am vain that way). Let it suffice that I sweated through my first thirty-minutes in about a month on the twentieth-century torture tool and I’m headed back there today.

I wonder, however, if there was a scale for the Christian mind that could talk, what it would be saying to the people of God? I’m afraid it would report that many of us have flabby brains.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body,” said Joseph Addison, but far too many of us read nothing at all.

If you’re ready to get your mind back in action here’s a list of recommended reading that will equip you to think Christianly about life.

Suffering

SUFFERING AND THE HEART OF GOD: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores, by Diane Langberg, PhD. Langberg, who has worked with Rwandan genocide victims, is a globally recognized expert on trauma, particularly that special evil suffered by sexual abuse victims. She is theologically solid, clinically expert, and personally compassionate. I’ve heard her speak and read her previous book, On the Threshold of Hope. I guarantee that if you do not already know a sexual abuse victim, you will and you will want to know how to help. Her books will help.

Marriage

SAVING YOUR MARRIAGE BEFORE IT STARTS: Seven Questions to Ask Before (and After) You Marry, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. The Parrotts are co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University. I’ve been offering per-marital counseling since 1995 and I’ve yet to find a better resource.

RECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES: Healing for Troubled Marriages, by marriage and family therapist Dr. Jim Talley. Talley’s work became my go-to for counseling couples in crisis many years ago and remains so today. It is simple, clear, and concise. Read it five years into your first marriage and you probably won’t have a second. Find him at drtalley.com.

Giving Wisely

TOXIC CHARITY: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (and how to reverse it), by Robert D. Lupton. Bob, the founder of FCS Urban Ministries, moved his young family into inner-city Atlanta in the late seventies and stayed. He “has developed two mixed-income subdivisions, organized a multiracial congregation, started a number of businesses, created housing for hundreds of families,”[1] and is a friend of our family. He is also an excellent writer and teacher of the ideas he promotes. The book is an easy and useful read.

Biblical Worldview Thinking

HOW NOW SHALL WE LIVE, is the late Chuck Colson’s and Nancy Pearcy’s magnum opus on biblical worldview thinking. If you have no exposure to the genre and five hundred pages doesn’t frighten you, begin here. It is compelling and easy to follow.

THE GOOD LIFE, also by Colson with Harold Fickett, is much shorter and more about answers to the questions we all have, like: Why am I here; how can I find significance? But all of Colson’s works are infused with the worldview rubric and this one will challenge you to choose carefully.

Culture War

CULTURE MAKING: Recovering Our Creative Calling, by Andy Crouch. Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, makes an excellent case that it is not enough to condemn culture, nor to stand aloof and critique it or naively copy it, still less to unconsciously consume it. If Christians want to return to the cultural influence that helped build Western Civilization, we have to create better culture. CULTURE MAKING is the best book yet on how to do that.

ONWARD: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, by Russell Moore. Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a man who, like Albert Mohler, is an energetic, entertaining, and articulate defender of the faith. ONWARD is a quick, compelling read that roots our cultural engagement squarely in the Gospel and never strays from it.

Perhaps you are thinking, “I don’t have time to read serious books.” If so remember World Magazine and World Radio, both of which will keep you up-to-date with the latest biblical worldview thinking in a highly portable format. Go to getworldnow.com for a free three month trial. The daily worldview update, Breakpoint, with John Stonestreet and Eric Metaxas is also excellent.

Brains, like bodies, get flabby without exercise. What would our imaginary mental scales say about yours? Time to get to work!

[1] From the book cover.

OF SHIPWRECKS AND SCRIPTURE: Worldview and You

G. K. Chesterton, the famous British author of the early 20th century, was once invited to a gathering of intellectuals where a question was posed: “If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what one book would you wish to have?”

Knowing his commitment to orthodox Christianity, most assumed Chesterton would answer, “The Bible.” Instead he replied, “Thomas’s Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.”

Many Christians today wouldn’t have been half as clever, because even if we know our bibles well, we do not know how to think biblically about life. We do not know how to answer non-biblical questions from the biblical worldview.

Everyone has a worldview, whether they realize it or not. Your worldview is the system of thought that helps you answer life’s four great questions: Where did we come from? What’s wrong with us? How can we solve life’s problems? What’s the ultimate purpose and meaning of life? Your worldview is the way you think the world works and how you fit in it.

The biblical worldview represents reality. It sees the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. It answers the four questions this way: We are created beings, made in the image of God, not random accidents of biology. We were created good with marvelous potential, but became broken and prone to evil when we rejected God, bringing all of creation under the curse when we did so. From that moment on, the cosmic Murphy’s Law applied: if something can go wrong, it will.

The solution to man’s problems is the work of redemption, recovering what was lost by the sacrifice of Christ for our sins, and the ongoing work of his people in restoring God’s order of things, healing the brokenness of the world wherever we find it with whatever works best. Thus Chesterton’s reply: Stranded sailors need books on shipbuilding. Stranded sinners, on the other hand, need the scriptures.

Ultimate meaning comes from glorifying God by fulfilling our purpose, knowing that, on the day Christ returns to renew all things, we will give an account to him for all that we have been given, and be rewarded for our faithfulness. Thomas’s redemptive purpose was to write that shipbuilding book; Chesterton’s was to build it.

The short version is: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration and Judgment. When we learn to sift every life situation, every opportunity, and every problem to be solved through that grid we will know how to respond with biblical wisdom, and even wit, to questions which cannot be answered with chapter and verse.

The Bible does not specifically address many things in life, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to say about them. The trick is learning to think from a biblical worldview.

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.

 

YOU CAN MAKE THE CASE FOR LIFE

Do we believe the case for life is really true? Are we willing to share it with others? Do we believe that our voice can make a difference?

Megan confidently took the stage and presented her case. This was no easy audience: 500 young men and women at a New England Catholic high school. Many of these students were Ivy League bound, and already skeptical that a case for life could even be made.

Later, Megan got this email from Alex, president of the student philosophy club:

“I want to thank you again for speaking. I’ve gone to Catholic school my whole life, and I as well as my classmates have been fed the same argument against abortion for years: that God and the Bible say that it’s wrong, so it’s wrong. As a result of this, discussion on abortion became almost binary. Most regarded it as simply opinion, and never bothered trying to make a case of their own or debate the other side.

I’d like you to know that you changed that. This was the first case against abortion I’ve heard that does not require a leap of faith. You proved your points with science and philosophy.

I’ve checked out prolifetraining.com, and I look forward to listening to the podcasts and reading the resources that are provided there. Thank you for your time, and thank you for changing the way the students see the battlefield of moral dilemmas.”

Do we believe the case for life is really true? Are we willing to share it with others? Your voice can make a difference!

How To Pray for Life:
You may never be asked to speak to a group of cynical teenagers like Megan, but you may be asked to have a conversation with a friend, neighbor, or family member who is not pro-life. Pray that you will have courage when that time comes.

Many people, like Alex did before Megan’s presentation, think that the question of abortion is one of opinion, not fact. Pray that pro-lifers will learn to thoughtfully and lovingly present a compelling case for life that changes hearts and minds.

The truth is on the side of life. Pray that God will provide opportunities for the message to spread person-to-person. Pray that God would raise up more pro-life apologists like Megan, and grant them opportunities to persuade audiences.

This post, along with the previous two weeks, was provided by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Posted by permission. I’ll be back next week. DS.

PRO LIFE SUMMARY

“The Bible never mentions abortion, so how can Christians be opposed to it?”

“Abortion simply rids a woman’s body of an unwanted collection of cells, like cancer, right?”

Ever heard those questions and wondered how to answer them? Then read on.

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. (http://www.numberofabortions.com/)

The numbers are staggering, but the cultural ignorance of reasons to stop abortion is even greater. Most assume it is religion against politics and turn away from the arguments altogether. Many Christians who are pro-life by conviction lack sound reasoning for those convictions and so fail to make the effort to persuade friends and family.

In the following summary, reproduced by permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, John Stonestreet, and Scot Klusendorf have done a marvelous job of arguing the prolife position not only from the Bible, but also from science, logic, and America’s founding documents. I’ve broken it into two sections, one for this week and one next, but you can find the link to the whole document, titled 21 DAYS OF PRAYER FOR LIFE, here at http://www.colsoncenter.org.

I urge you to read this, think about how you might put it in your own words, talk about it with your friends, and share it on all of your media platforms. DS.

WHY PRO LIFE? A SUMMARY part 1
By Scott Klusendorf and John Stonestreet

Reason #1:The Bible Affirms Life
Scripture is clear that all humans have value because they are made in the image of God, the imago dei (Genesis 1:26-28; James 3:9). In other words, humans are valuable by virtue of who they are, not because of what they can do. Humans have value simply because they are human.

Because humans bear the image of God, the shedding of innocent blood is strictly forbidden (Exodus 23:7; Proverbs 6:16-19; Matthew 5:21). The Bible is not saying it’s always wrong to kill human beings, a position only a strict pacifist would hold. Its meaning is more specific: We are never to intentionally kill innocent human beings.

Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being. Thus, the same passages in Scripture that forbid the shedding of innocent blood apply to the unborn. Some are puzzled that the Bible never mentions abortion. Are we to conclude abortion is morally permitted? No! The Bible’s alleged silence on abortion does not mean that its authors condoned the practice, but that prohibitions against it were largely unnecessary. The Hebrews of the Old Testament and the Christians of the New Testament were not likely
to kill their offspring before birth. To understand why, let’s step into their world. First, children were seen as a blessing, while barrenness was a curse—the worst
curse for a woman (Psalm 137:3-5; 1 Samuel 1:6, Genesis. 20:17-18, 30:1, 22-23).

Second, immortality was expressed through one’s descendants. God promises Abraham to make of him a great nation and that promise is passed on to Isaac, Jacob, etc. “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him,” writes the Psalmist (127:3. See also Gen. 48:16).

Third, among a people surrounded by hostile nations, continuing one’s family line was vital for national security. Fourth, having children was a sacred responsibility: God’s promise to bless all nations through Israel was predicated on replenishing the land with offspring. Fifth, the early Christians of the New Testament were Jewish believers who inherited Jewish morality, including the commands against shedding innocent blood. Therefore, the Bible’s silence on abortion does not suggest permission, but that prohibitions were largely unnecessary.

Reason #2: Science Affirms Life
The science of embryology is clear that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. True, they have yet to grow and mature, but they are whole human beings nonetheless. Leading embryology textbooks affirm this.

Embryos differ from mere bodily cells, though abortion-choice advocates often claim they’re the same. This is bad biology because it mistakes parts with wholes. The human embryo is already a whole human entity. It makes no sense to say that you were once a sperm or somatic cell. Dr. Maureen Condic, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah, explains the important distinction between individual body parts and whole human embryos overlooked by many abortion-choice advocates: “The critical difference between a collection of cells and a living organism is the ability of an organism to act in a coordinated manner for the continued health and maintenance of the body as a whole. It is precisely this ability that breaks down at the moment of death, however death might occur. Dead bodies may have plenty of live cells, but their cells no longer function together in a coordinated manner.”

From conception forward, human embryos clearly function as organisms. “Embryos are not merely collections of human cells, but living creatures with all the properties that define any organism as distinct from a group of cells; embryos are capable of growing, maturing, maintaining a physiologic balance between various organ systems, adapting to changing circumstances, and repairing injury. Mere groups of human cells do nothing like this under any circumstances.” (end part 1)

TWO TAKEAWAY TRUTHS:
The Bible’s silence on abortion does not suggest permission, but that prohibitions were largely unnecessary.
The science of embryology is clear that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings.

WORLD RADIO: NPR FOR CONSERVATIVES

OK, I admit it, I enjoy National Public Radio (NPR) and I’ve listened to it for decades. I’ve listened to it for so long that I know who Bob Simon is and what happened to him. I’ll just stand here for a minute so my conservative friends can lob their rotten tomatoes …

Feel better? Good, now let me tell you why NPR scratches my information-junkie-itch and what I’ve found to replace it.

NPR does a lot of things very well. From Morning Edition to All Things Considered, Car Talk to The People’s Pharmacy and This American Life, among others, NPR succeeds with its breadth of topics, in depth reporting, and its literate reporting staff. But more than anything else I appreciate its tone. Unlike its commercial, conservative competitors, it isn’t bombastic, crude, repetitive, personality-driven or sensationalism, but rational, reasonable, and somewhat understated. The problem, and it is a deep one, is that you can’t listen to NPR without noticing its Darwinian, post-modern, secular-humanist point of view. (Did I leave any out?). I am increasingly sickened by its total commitment to the politically correct party line and pretty much anything contrary to the biblical world view. It’s reporting on the Planned Parenthood videos sounds like public relations work by the priestesses of this modern Molech. As Juan Williams said in 2010, when he was unceremoniously fired from NPR for mentioning his reasonable fear of Muslims on airplanes, “To say the least this is a chilling assault on free speech. The critical importance of honest journalism and a free flowing, respectful national conversation needs to be had in our country. But it is being buried as collateral damage in a war whose battles include political correctness and ideological orthodoxy.”

Enter WORLD RADIO and its daily program, The World and Everything In It, a thirty-minute daily broadcast available to download on your smartphone or listen online. The World and Everything In It takes the best of NPR, its tone, its breadth, and its intelligence, and presents its news and commentary from a biblical world view. It is refreshingly honest about this, unlike NPR, which pretends objectivity as it promotes the PC party line. Its contributors and regular guests include Cal Thomas and John Stonestreet, along with weekly interviews with thinkers and policy makers from all walks of life. WORLD RADIO is also committed to journalistic integrity. They do the hard work of chasing down the facts, verifying them, and reporting them without gloss. Like the magazine from which it grew, WORLD RADIO doesn’t shy away from difficult stories. It will report corruption and failure within Christianity as well as without, yet without the rancor and insensitivity found in some other publications.

WORLD RADIO is part of World News Group, which also produces the monthly World Magazine and GOD’S BIG WORLD for kids. They also sponsor the Hope Awards for effective charity. Like NPR, it is a non-profit, which works in its favor. It doesn’t let its advertisers shape its content. Yet unlike NPR, which slurps at the tax-payer-money-trough to fund its budget, WORLD doesn’t whine. They do offer an opportunity for forward thinking Christians to contribute to the further development of world class journalism from a biblical point of view. I urge you to check them out, and become a regular reader and supporter.

Q&A ON “IF I HAVE GAY CHILDREN” Part 1 Where Gayness Comes From

Last weekend a twenty-something college friend sent a link to a blog by a pastor in the Raleigh, North Carolina area titled IF I HAVE GAY CHILDREN: Four Promises From a Christian Pastor, by John Pavlovitz. My friend asked: I am really wrestling over this. I was just wondering what your thoughts were on the content of this pastor’s words? As the Pavlovitz blog seems to be going viral, (I’ve already seen it lauded on facebook), I thought it would be helpful to share part of my reply with you. Mr. Pavlovitz has made the same mistake about human nature, specifically where so-called “gayness” comes from, that most of the culture is making. The two most significant statements in the post are quoted here.

“I won’t pray for them to be made “normal”. I’ve lived long enough to know that if my children are gay, that is their normal.”

“If my kids are going to be gay, well they pretty much already are… They are today, simply a younger version of who they will be…”

Mr. Pavlovitz has adopted the widely promoted yet unprovable theory that the attractions and behaviors associated with homosexuality are hard-wired into the personality from birth. That makes God responsible for a person’s sexual orientation. Thus they can claim: “It’s not my fault. I’m just being what God made me to be.” That theory not only confuses the dignity of being made in the image of God with Darwinian predestination, but also fails to comprehend the complexity of human personality development and just how mold-able we humans really are. Our personalities, including our attractions and affections toward one or the other sex, are highly complex and can develop along a number of lines. Anyone can be homosexual, or heterosexual, given the right conditions and choices. In the Biblical world-view, there is no such thing as gay or straight. There are male and female, created for each other in the image of God. This is what Jesus taught (see Matthew 19:4-6). Men and women behave in ways that either reflect or reject the Designer’s intent. Either way, they are still men and women designed for each other in the image of God with the ability to choose who and what they will become. “Gayness,” “Straightness,” and all other such definitions of human relations are artificial, post-modern philosophical constructs, imposed upon us by the homosexual movement in the last four decades. They remove us from the pinnacle of creation as creatures with the God-like ability to choose, and reduce us to nothing more than victims of our biology, slaves of our impulses. In other words, homosexuality (“gay,” “questioning” and “transgender” issues) is a developmental disorder generated by the combination of a number of factors including but not limited to: personality type; parental role modeling and behavior within the home of origin; childhood stresses and trauma; peer pressure and peer reference groups; early sexual exposure, experimentation (either in person or vicariously through pornography) and often abuse; parental guidance and disciplinary practices along with cultural acceptance or “normalization,” (Mr. Pavlovitz is now participating in that in the lives of his children and readers) and of course the spiritual dimension. Take all of that – and all of it must be taken into account – mix it together with our sin nature (see Romans 7:7-25) and the successful media onslaught of the last four decades and the potential for gender role and sexual identity confusion is pretty high. What grieves me is that very few people, including pastors, are offering confused young people a well-reasoned and believable alternative approach to the feelings and experiences with which they are struggling. That is what I’ve attempted to do in my previous post titled, I’M NOT GAY and you probably aren’t either. Mr. Pavlovitz also commented on how he, as a Christian pastor, would react to his children if they decided they were gay. I’ll respond to that part of his comments next week.