X Marks the Spot

X marks the spot. And, my oh my, are there lots of spots about! There are Xes on the floors at Walmart. There are Xes at Target. There are Xes at Ingles, Kroger, Costco, QT, Dollar General, etc. When you approach a cashier to pay for goods and services, if you look down near your feet, you are probably going to see tape, paint, or another marker indicating the following: X marks the spot. I don’t know about you, but it gives me what my grandfather used to call the heebie-jeebies. In short, the creeps. The times are a-changin’, Dylan wrote. But this time it is a different kind of cultural revolution. It is not the Vietnam War now; it is not LSD and the hippies now; it is not feminism now. It is a cultural revolution in which the foundation is being dismantled and destroyed. Statue by statue, church by church, zip code by zip code, mayor by mayor, governor by governor, carnage fills the headlines. And one of the great questions to be settled is, What will the new foundation be?

To state what many believe, the West is undergoing a transformation. We are now in a place where an organization like Black Lives Matter has the world’s attention. And the buzzwords and catchphrases en vogue in today’s post-Christian, post-everything culture pervade their website. Here is a section direct from BLM’s website:

We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.

We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be      disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.

We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.

We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.

We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.

We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).[1]

Race, gender, “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity” and Communism comprise the majority of BLM’s worldview. As I have read through their website’s resources, it is filled with language of “oppression.”

Individuality is absent; what fills their writing is emphasis upon the group, upon the collective. You are valuable insofar as you are black. Race is key. And if you add certain sexual proclivities, then you receive bonus points, i.e., more value. To simplify it for those who will not do the reading on their own, the worst thing a person can be is white, male, heterosexual, Christian, married, monogamous, and politically conservative. Those are indicators of your status as “oppressor.”

To say that BLM illustrates “identity politics” is supreme understatement. In the absence of the transcendent worldview that teaches that all lives matter (from conception until natural death) because they are created in the image of the infinite-personal creator God, now we live in a world where pigmentation determines people’s worth.

Remember Rev. MLK’s words about the dream that all people would be valued by the “content of their character” rather than the color of their skin? Well, that is rejected by BLM. For BLM, color is what matters.

I wonder why the statistics of the millions of black babies murdered each year don’t find space on their website. Did those black lives not matter? What about the lives snuffed out by black on black crime in Los Angeles, in Chicago, in Oakland, in Detroit, in New York, in Philadelphia, in D.C., and other cities controlled by Leftists? Did those black lives not matter?

My wife and I lost a couple of children several years back. For those of you who have been through the same thing, you know the pain. It is almost indescribable. My wife’s pain through those seasons was horrible to watch. And all I could do was watch, cry, and pray. They remain terrible experiences that scarred us both. Our children’s lives mattered.

But why doesn’t the logic cut both ways for BLM? Where is the outrage at Planned Parenthood facilities being overwhelmingly in neighborhoods where most American blacks live, and aborting generations of black lives? Don’t those lives matter?

Again, look at the numbers: “Since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, abortion has killed an estimated 20 million black babies — more than the entire black population of 1960.”[2]

What will replace the foundation that is being torn down statue by statue? What will replace the foundation that tells people they are valuable because they are created in the image of God who redeems their fallenness through the gospel? What will replace the heretofore self-discipline and Judeo-Christian worldview that informed the Founding Fathers’ worldviews, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence? What will replace the traditional family where moms and dads raised children to honor their parents, to respect all people, to wrestle against their own sin, to think critically, and to honor those to whom honor is due?

Will the moniker be, X marks the spot? Will it be that the West destroys itself from casting off all moral restraint? Will the West degenerate to such a level that the arguments that carry the culture into judgment revolve around “gender identity,” “oppression,” and “identity politics”?

I do not claim to speak for others but I, for one, am long past being weary of wearing facemasks and using hand sanitizer while watching thugs vandalize private and federal property and wreak havoc—and yet, I am somehow the bad guy if I don’t don a mask and stand six feet from my neighbor?

In the biblical worldview, we are to love our neighbors and respect their property, not shame them for something they’re not guilty of. In the biblical worldview, we are to love the Lord with heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves. But in the godless Communist world of BLM and Leftism, you see paint being splattered across the nation, riots disrupting civilized life, intimidation, violence, defunding of police, “cancel culture,” and unleashed madness.

The foundations are being dismantled block after block across our land by mobs in black shirts, fattened on vitriol and talking points, but malnourished with regard to self-discipline, love for God, or love of neighbor.

X marks the spot used to mean, at least when I was young, the place signifying you’d landed upon the spot for treasure. This was where the goods were to be found. Now the Xes keep us “distanced,” and suspicious of one another, looking askance at each other, sizing one another up. Really? Has it really come to this—skin colors, critical race theories, gender identities, identity politics, and language of oppressors vs. oppressed? I hope not, folks.

There is a better way. It is not utopian. It is not “progressive.” It tells us that we are all (all!) created in the image of God, but that we have fallen through sin. Yet grace has come in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And glory comes on his terms because of him, to all who respond in repentance and faith. Creation, fall, grace, and glory. How is that for X making the spot? You can stand there and if you do, you will find the foundation whose builder is God, and you will finally be home.

[1] https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/

[2] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/since-roe-abortion-has-killed-more-black-babies-than-the-entire-black-population-of-the-u-s-in-1960



Ever taken a personality test? In the military chaplain corps we have access to many curricula that use personality tests as part of their programs. Some tests make use of animals as symbols for personality types. Beavers are structured types who appreciate regimens and rules. Otters are those who frolic and want as much of life as possible to be a festival. Other tests use shapes. Circle types seek harmony and collaboration whereas triangle types are charismatic leaders asking, “How can I accomplish this?” Still other tests use colors wherein yellow types are adrenaline junkies who often tend to be self-centered, whereas blues are known for their loyalty in relationships and their careful self-discipline. I appreciate these tests in so far as they go. However, people are more complicated than just a dominant personality type. We all have peculiar personality traits wherein we trend towards certain behaviors more often. But we have shades of more than one color. We are not just one type/shape/color vis-à-vis our personalities. Different stressors elicit different parts of ourselves. How important is it, therefore, that we consider our ways? Personality tests are helpful as a possible starting point for understanding people. But might there be more value in considering our ways?

Recently a teacher in the church my family and I attend was leading our Sunday school class through a study of Haggai 1 and Ezra 5, two passages that dovetail in their description of Israel’s plight in the 520s B.C. and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem under Zerubbabel. In Haggai (ESV) 1:5, Scripture records this admonition from the Lord delivered via Haggai the prophet: “Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.”

Danger lurks when we gloss over commands so fundamental as simply to consider our ways. What did God mean? Just what he said. To consider, to give thought to, to reflect upon the ways in which we spend our time. God commanded what was good for the people—namely, that they consider their ways.

Then the Sunday school teacher asked a powerful question: “How many of us are spending our days traveling the road of life, simply turning up the volume on the radio?” Rather than dealing with the big questions of life, we spend ourselves on trivia, entertainment, and distraction. English poet William Wordsworth wrote the following in “The World Is Too Much with Us,” addressing the same issues:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

The prophet Haggai did not let his hearers off the hook. Listen to his words: “You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways” (1:6). Again the Lord says through his prophet, “Consider your ways.”

Ever since the Sunday school hour I have kept hearing that refrain—consider your ways. My mind went to a Braves game several days ago. My family and I had gone as part of a group to enjoy another game with some friends. The game ended up being postponed due to rain. But before that happened, we did have time for the “Star Spangled Banner” to be played. I’m an officer in the U.S. military. I am moved each time I hear the tune and recite the words. Bravery, sacrifice, and brotherhood are not just talking points to me. I know heroes and work alongside many each day. But what I noticed when the flag was displayed on the massive electronic billboard inside the stadium was that many (particularly youngish) people in the stadium did not remove their hats. No respect for the national anthem. Nor did many of them even stop talking. They kept eating their peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Why do I bring this up? It’s not just to suggest that respect for America’s exceptionalism has been emasculated. It’s not even just to suggest that a coarsening has taken place among many of America’s Millennials. And it is certainly not to suggest American patriotism is salvific or in any way the gospel of Christianity.

But as an American, as a military officer, as a husband and father, I grieved inside. I was saddened that young men would not take thirty seconds to remove their ball caps, hush their talking, and at least honor the nation that allows us all to enjoy America’s pastime.

I wonder how many of us in the stadium were considering our ways. I know at least one person who was convicted. I see him daily … in the mirror, when I rise early to shave. Haggai spoke powerful prophetic words: let us consider our ways.




Is That All?

Physicist Stephen Hawking died this week. He was well known for his 1988 book A Brief History of Time. He also had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and spoke via sophisticated electronic circuitry designed to enable him to communicate. Hawking tapped into a larger popular audience than academia normally affords. His voice is even heard on the Pink Floyd song, “Keep Talking,” on their 1994 The Division Bell album. I remember reading Hawking’s book a few years back. Though my academic background is in philosophy/theology and literature, I read Hawking’s book because of the theological and philosophical assertions he made. He wrote about design in the universe. He wrote about morality. He wrote about purpose. Yet he was a committed materialist. He rejected the idea of a transcendent God who created the universe, the laws of nature, and the laws of logic. He rejected the one who sustains the creation by the word of his power.

In a 1988 interview with Der Spiegel, Hawking said, “We are a just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special.”

Interesting how a man who spent his life studying the cosmos, the origin of the universe, the complexity of information in the universe, the existence of mind and matter, etc. rejected the author of all this. An “advanced breed of monkeys” does not encourage me to place credibility in your “thought.”

It reminds me of Richard Dawkins in his 1996 book River Out of Eden. Dawkins wrote, “DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” Dawkins, too, is referenced in popular music, but this time it is via the Eagles, not Pink Floyd. In the song, “Long Road Out of Eden,” from their 2007 album of the same name:

Silent stars blinking the blackness of an endless sky

Gold, silver satellites, ghostly caravans passing by

Galaxies unfolding and new worlds being born

Pilgrims and prodigals creeping toward the dawn

And it’s a long road out of Eden

Hawking and Dawkins both taught we’re random collocations of atoms, here by chance, for nothing, going to nothing, and our values are subjective and foundationless, ones we choose. What else could values be if there’s no God? As Dostoyevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov, if God doesn’t exist, everything is permitted.

But is that all? Is it possible that Hawking and Dawkins stepped out of their lanes as physicist and biologist respectively?

What if God has spoken? What if “the heavens declare the glory of God,” as Scripture says in Psalm 19:1?

What if human life is created in the image of a loving and sovereign God (Psalm 139), who knows the very hairs of our heads (Matthew 10:30)?

What if there is a sovereign superintending creator who has “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of [our] dwelling place, that [we] should seek God, in the hope that [we] might feel [our] way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27)?

Ask yourself: Is that (the world described by Hawking and Dawkins) all there is?

If we are intellectually honest, I would argue there is much evidence for God—not against him.

Materialists (like Hawking and Dawkins) chose to suppress that evidence by attributing it to natural law while denying the cause of those laws. They caricatured God.

Rather than admitting all of the evidence for him, they created red herrings and used non sequitirs. The universe itself, our consciences, objective moral values, mind, language, laws of logic, etc. bear witness to God.

An empty tomb in Israel does, too—so powerfully, in fact, that even stones cry out to the reality of the God who is (Luke 19:40).




What Exactly Do You Mean by That?

A spoonful of this and a dash of that make for good soup but bad theology.

imgresRecently another gentleman and I shared an elevator. I recognized him as one who worked around the same location as I. As we waited for the elevator to arrive, I joked with him that it was forgivable if I took the elevator, since I’d exercised at the gym earlier in the day. He laughed and we began to chat about the day’s events. Casual conversation. The elevator arrived and we entered.

As we entered the elevator, we had several floors to go up. There was that pregnant pause we’ve all endured when we’re in elevators during interstices of our workday, when we’re unsure whether we should speak. Is it worth it? Will I be thought rude if I remain silent? Will it be banal if we speak of the weather? Should I ask him if he’s following the Olympics in Rio?

As it turned out, he spoke first. Upon seeing the cross upon my uniform, he asked, “So what are you working on, chaplain?” I told him about one of the ministries I was working on, and about where I was driving later that day as part of that ministry. He said, “Well, we need some spirituality around here.”

I said, “Sir, we witness the structure crumbling but fail to acknowledge we’ve erased the foundation.” Then the elevator bell sounded, and we both exited onto the same floor, but headed in opposite directions.

I hope I did not come across as rude, but a spoonful of this and a dash of that make for good soup but bad theology. What do I mean? Well, my little conversation in the elevator is symptomatic of a larger issue.

Much of the world wants spirituality, but then falls short of specifying what that means. What type of spirituality? Whose spirituality? What does that term—spirituality–even mean? Does the Islamist have the same idea of spirituality that I have as a Christian? What about the atheist? Does he want spirituality in his world? Mormon spirituality? Jehovah’s Witnesses’ spirituality?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not taking issue what I think my elevator friend intended—namely, that we are eroding due to a loss of spiritual moorings.

But we are living in a time of syncretism. Syncretism is comprised of syn meaning “with” or “together.” If you search for synonyms, you search for words meaning the same, or nearly the same, thing. A synagogue, for example, is where people of the same faith gather together. If you synchronize watches, you set it to the same time as another’s time (chronos).

But we are living in a culture that is turning to everything except that which is eternal, fixed, and sure. We’re witnessing an overt blending of worldviews that teach opposite doctrines. There may be superficial similarities but fundamentally they are different systems, and they teach different doctrines.

Syncretism in the culture is seeking to harmonize mutually exclusive ideas, often under the moniker of spirituality, and then to often relativize ideas, as if ideas are equal. They’re not. All ideas are not equal. There is such a thing as being wrong. The fact that we even have to say that indicates how juvenile many have become in their thinking. And thus, the cauldron of ideas that is supposedly going to synchronize itself into spirituality is boiling over.

Bits of one theology are blended into others, doing violence to each idea.

My elevator conversationalist phrased it as “spirituality.” This spirituality is so nebulous, vague, and unclear that it’s impossible to say what it even means. If we are not clear, we’re wasting time.

I agree with my elevator conversationalist that we’re in need of spirituality, but we must clarify that. What does that term mean? Whose spirituality? After all, different worldviews teach mutually exclusive concepts regarding spirituality.

We must have the courage to ask people what they mean by their terms. And we ourselves must be clear. There are many ways that may seem right, yet end in horror (cf. Proverbs 14:12).

A spoonful of this and a dash of that make for good soup but bad theology. I hope to continue the conversation with him again soon, in an elevator or another place, and hear how we might go deeper into the spirituality question, because I have some good news for him.

No Lasting City

Again last night it happened—I couldn’t sleep. So I did what I’ve not done in a few days, I read the news. I came to my La-Z-Boy chair, opened my MacBook, and perused the headlines. More of the same: $400 million U.S. dollars given to Iran as ransom; Obama allows upwards of 10,000 Muslims into America; president commutes prisoners’ sentences, releasing convicted felons into the American population; and of course, Donald and Hillary continue their antics. If we’re at all similar, I get one recurring attitude after reading it all: wimgreseariness. Weary of it all. Perhaps that’s part of the goal—to wear down the public so much that they (those vying for political power) accumulate yet more power.

After reading the headlining muck, I returned to writing out my to-do list for the next few days. Then I laid my journal down beside my chair and returned to reading where I’d left off yesterday: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). No lasting city.

Context is crucial. To whom was the letter of Hebrews written? Most likely it was written to Jewish Christians in the 1st century, probably before A.D. 70, when Roman forces in particular, destroyed much of Jerusalem, Israel, and the Jerusalem temple. The author of Hebrews had one main thesis: to remind Christians that Christ is superior to anyone else, superior to any competing leader, superior to any politics, superior to any other covenant.

Why is Christ superior? Because here—in this world—Christians have no lasting city. Yes, we are to tend this world. Yes, we are to live godly lives in this present darkness. Yes, we are to be salt and light in a world that is rotting in depravity and spiritually dark. The body of Christ is to be marked by its difference, its set-apartness. Why? Because in this world system, we have no lasting city.

We all have our quirks, I suppose. I enjoy being in the yard, cutting grass, watering trees, and digging in the dirt. Without a doubt, one of my favorite smells is of freshly cut grass. Especially during the summer months in the South, we can smell the thunderstorms moving in during hot afternoons. When lawns have been mowed recently, the chemical interactions between the humidity and the winds from the storm fronts create rich smells in the air. I drink them in.

I have a fellow teacher friend who scintillates when she speaks of the smells of freshly dug peanuts. (Urbanites, forgive us if you don’t understand.) As much as I delight in those simple pleasures, I know that in this world, I still have no lasting city. Therefore, wisdom calls me in the Scriptures to look to Christ, to be found in him, because he’s superior to anything in his creation. We so easily settle for too little.

Psalm 49 says what I’m trying to remind myself of—namely, that here we have no lasting city; that politics and government officials will go on being characterized by evil; that those with seared consciences will go on erecting idols of self-worship; that my words will last no longer than the summer-saturated smells I imbibe when I celebrate the simple beauties of country life, so much so that it almost embarrasses to speak of such things. But just ask yourself, do you not remember the power of smells of, say, a farm, or of the first time you rubbed a sweaty horse and felt his nostrils’ heat upon your forearms and face, or sat upon a tractor where soil is being plowed and held arrowheads between your fingertips? And yet, no lasting city.


Psalm 49 contains this motif:

This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;

yet after them people approve of their boasts.

Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;

Death shall be their shepherd;

And the upright shall rule over them in the morning.

Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,

for he will receive me (vv.13-15).

Those words are so clear I don’t understand how much explanation is even necessary. If our confidence is in ourselves, in this world system, the grave is our home, and all these pleasures are entertainments on a tragic journey that came from nothing and is going nowhere. No purpose, no overarching metanarrative, just a “tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing.”

But the Scriptures give very different news for believers in Christ and his gospel. The writer of Hebrews reminds believers that, though in this world we have no lasting city “we seek the city that is to come” (v.14b).

I plan to go outside again today, to cut grass, to imbibe the rich smells of the hot August days, to swat at the gnats that buzz around my sweaty brow, but I will remind myself, too, that this is no lasting city, that there is a city that is to come, where righteousness dwells. And I’m confident that the God who does all things well will finally reveal to me how his beauties of country life shaped this pilgrim soul.










The Big Picture

imgresThe big picture. We ruin ourselves by neglecting it. Information is important. Facts are even more important. More important than both, however, is understanding the big picture.

Stated another way, it refers to the crucial role of understanding worldviews. Not only ought we to understand our own worldview, but the worldviews of others, too. Why? Because life is explainable when we understand that life is a battlefield of ideas/worldviews.

Worldviews collide. And there’s no shortage of evidence for how those collisions make history.

Worldview is a grid of interpretation. We all impose on reality a grid for making sense of experience. In theology/philosophy, the term is Weltanschauung. It’s one’s philosophy of life. It allows for the interpretation of ideas. It enables one to grasp the big picture.

 One’s worldview is evidenced in how we answer some fundamental questions:

*Does God exist? If so, what is his nature? That is, his attributes?

*If God does not exist, how do we explain the cosmos?

*How is non-existence a thing? That is, how can no-thing be referred to as something?

*How would non-intelligence create intelligence? That is, how does nothing give rise to something?

*How do you explain the irreducible complexity we see in life? By chance? Really?

*If God does not exist, why trust our own “knowledge”?

*If God exists, what does he require?

*What is man?

*Where does meaning come from?

*Where did man come from?

*How do we come to know things (epistemology)?

*What is ultimate reality (matter only, as naturalists claim?)?

*How are ethics and morals determined? Who determines right and wrong? Who sets the rules?

*What happens after death?

*Is it possible that God exists, and that he has spoken by way of general and special revelation?

How you answer these questions reveals your worldview. These questions are not exhaustive, but they serve as a primer, a foundation for thinking. Just knowing how we answer these questions goes a long way in determining how we think and behave.

Think with me about how worldviews are being played out in our politics, in our culture, in our wars, in our neighborhoods, in our families.

Filter them through your worldview:

*Is gender a fluid category? If so, in what worldview? (Witness the transgender movement.)

*Is it possible that God created human beings as either male or female, and pronounced it good?

*Is a baby a person inside the womb or not? If not, how does worldview play out in the remainder of said life? If it is a baby in the womb (the lengths to which some people go to deny this reality strains credulity and intellectual honesty), on what basis is the boy or girl denied human rights?

*If naturalism/atheism/secularism are true, then why complain when those worldviews produce violence and “evil” acts? Example: If there’s no God, how can anything be objectively good or evil?

*Why do some academies teach situational ethics but then demand “justice” when defrauded?

*What does it say that in many organizations we have to teach “sensitivity” and heretofore common courtesy? What worldview has been marginalized? What worldview dominates today’s discourse?

The big picture. To use a biblical analogy, we know trees by the fruit they bear.

How our representatives vote and lead; whether we remain free to worship in accordance with our constitutional rights; whether life inside the womb is viewed as a baby or detritus; whether it’s right to enforce current border laws or to sanction libertinism, etc. are all issues that are being fought over based upon the worldviews held by the combatants.

Having a worldview is inescapable for a thinking person. The question is, which one? If you want to see the results of where worldviews lead, look no further than the culture on display.


Whose Way?

If I asked you to list a few current events that are splashed across our headlines, you could probably do it with ease. How about presidential politics? How about BLM? How about Blue Lives Matter, or is it just black lives? If black lives matter, why are blacks assassinating fellothw blacks who serve as our police? How about the 60 million abortions in the U.S. since 1973’s Roe v. Wade? Do their lives matter? 29,000 babies, just in America, will be aborted this year, after 16 weeks of gestation. Do their lives matter? And let us not forget illegal immigration. Should a nation not have borders? If not, why not? Can you name a nation that has lasted that doesn’t have borders? What does the word nationhood even mean if it’s denuded of its written laws and borders? Or how about the tone of our country’s public discourse? What does it reveal about current American public discourse? Current discussions resemble MTV’s pubescent crassness more than substantive debate.

This morning after coffee, I checked the headlines from my computer at work for just some of our current events:

  1. When nonstop terror bleeds into our media and political culture
  2. Baton Rouge killer carefully plotted attack against police, brought 3 guns, investigators say
  3. Erdogan’s appeal to Islamists in wake of failed coup spurs fear for Turkey’s future
  4. Terror strikes again: ISIS claims responsibility for German train attack
  5. White House won’t be lit in blue

Is there a unifying theme through all of these headlines? Some might say the theme is unraveling. Others might say the theme is lack of courageous leadership. Others might say we’re witnessing the triumph of evil. Others might say we’re seeing that the enemy is inside the wire–that is, that current events are being orchestrated by folks who are ostensibly on America’s side, but who, in reality, are vehemently opposed to America, our freedoms, our constitution, and our other founding documents. I don’t speak as one with no view. Presumably like you, I’m a legal citizen, and am concerned, but I speak from a biblical worldview.

Is this the first time that world events have seemed out of control? Is this the first time that culture seems to be unraveling? Is this the first time that people have rejected God, Christ, the Bible, Christian input, etc? Did Noah’s generation repent when he was called to pronounce judgment and warn of a worldwide flood? Did vast numbers of folks repent and turn to hear the preaching of the word? Did the masses repent and turn to God? Listen to Gen 6:11-12:

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Sound familiar? Yet God did not leave Noah with just a diagnosis of disaster. He made a way: “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” (v.18) God made the way, but it was just that—God’s way, not man’s way.

Or think of another OT prophet, Jeremiah, in the 600s B.C. in Israel, a man called by God to warn the people to repent and turn to God. But did the culture listen to the word of the Lord through his servant Jeremiah?

Listen to Jeremiah’s word of the Lord: “violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me. Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust, lest I make you a desolation, an uninhabited land.” (Jer 6:7b-8)

That was in the 600s B.C. Was that the first time the nation was unraveling? Was that the first time that God spoke through one of his prophets, pleading with people to listen and obey the word from the Lord? Was that even the first time that God’s people were persecuted for telling the truth?

But did God leave Jeremiah there, in the pit (later in his ministry), suffering alone? Israel and Judah both fell, of course, as judgments. And many were deported to Babylon (present day Iraq) in 597, 586, and 582 B.C.

But did God just diagnose the people’s situation and leave them there? No. But deliverance was to be God’s way, not man’s way. Listen to Jer 31:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their heart. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (vv.31-33)

It had to be, then as now, God’s way, not man’s way. The greatest example in history of God speaking is found in God’s incarnation in Jesus–his supernatural birth, life, death as substitutionary atonement, and his resurrection. Christ requires an either/or ultimatum.

Will we turn to him in repentance and faith, or remain in our evil deeds and darkness? As another writer phrased it, it’s Christ or chaos. And what do our headlines indicate most people choose?

Did Jesus not warn the people to repent and turn to the one true and living God? And what sort of reception did Jesus receive? “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (Jn 1:11)

Why did his own people not receive him? The Scripture says that their works, like ours, are evil: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (Jn 3:19)

But did God leave them/us there? Did he only condemn us and abandon us? Are we like the characters in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot? Or is man, as Sartre wrote, a useless passion? Is there no hope?

Probably you’ve heard, “If only God would show up, then I would believe.” May I say this as kindly as possible? He has, and his name is Jesus. God in the flesh not only showed up, but he lived the only life worthy of God’s requirements. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17) He was born of Mary who’d been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. He lived a sinless life. Yet he became sin for us, for those who’d believe upon him: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

What’s more, God raised him from the dead (Mt 28; Mk 15; Lk 24; Jn 20; 1 Cor 15). The theme remains the same: deliverance only comes God’s way, not man’s way.

If you want to witness the bloody contrast between the two ways, witness our daily headlines. What will it take? Will we look, in repentance and faith, to God incarnate who came for sinners? Whose way? There is only one way, but there is, in fact, a way, and his name is Jesus.

One Thing is Missing

Conviction and clarity do not equal courage, but both are necessary ingredients of it. What’s missing is righteousness. After all, evil is undergirded by strong convictions. ISIS murderers have strong convictions. The Boko Haram Islamists butchering civilians in Nigeria and Kenya have strong convictions. The Islamic terrorists who murdered 200 civilian men, women, and upwards of 20 children last week in the public markets of Baghdad, by blowing themselves up (along with scores of others), have strong convictions. So, it’s not conviction alone that equals courage. What’s missing is righteousness.

Moreover, these groups have clarity. They’re clear in their belief that they want non-Islamists to submit. (Islam means submission.) Our headlines are filled with pictures of decapitated men and women who’d not submit to Islam’s demands, of girls raped and mauled by Islamists, of villages blown apart by car bombs and improvised explosive devices planted in public marketplaces by some followers of Islam. So, it’s not clarity alone that equals courage. What’s missing is righteousness.

But we’re living in a climate in the U.S. where our most visible representatives will not act with courage. Few will even speak with courage. What do they do instead? They evade courage by being neither clear nor convictional. They proclaim, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14).

Remember when (MAJ) Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 13 people and wounded 32 others at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009? Guess what our elected representatives termed the event? “Workplace violence.” Does that accurately reflect what happened or Hasan’s Islamic worldview? Workplace violence. Really? Are you awake yet? Yet Hasan had strong convictions. And he was crystal clear. What’s missing is righteousness.

Remember last month? On June 13, 2016 another Islamist murdered 49 civilians at a nightclub filled mostly with homosexuals. And another 53 people were maimed or injured. Are you awake yet? Was the murderer clear in his thinking, and did he have plenty of conviction? So, clarity of thought and conviction of mind are insufficient in this time that calls for courage. We need those things, yes, but we need righteousness, too.

Remember December of 2015, just 6 and a half months ago, a husband and wife murdered 14 civilians at a Christmas party? They had clarity and conviction of their Islamic faith. But what did we hear? Crafted vanilla speech read by politicians…the words typed for them on a teleprompter. Where was the courage to call a spade a spade? Are we awake yet? What will it take? We, too, need clarity of thought. And we, too, need conviction. But at least as important is our desperate need of righteousness.

How does one attain that? Is it endemic to people? Do your headlines indicate that people are basically good? I hear it all the time–that people are “basically good.” According to Scripture, there is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10).

But does the Christian worldview leave us there? That is, does the Christian worldview only indict the human race as godless and then abandon us? No. The Christian worldview demands righteousness, but then offers us what the Islamic worldview, or any other worldview, does not—righteousness through Christ (Romans 3:21-26).

We need clarity of thought. We need conviction to act. As a friend of mine says, we’re in desperate need of being both definitional and convictional in our thinking. Why? Because we’re amidst a mushy and sentimental age that values sentimentality and artifice. This is the age of selfies and Facebook. Millions of people may “tweet” but very few think deeply.

In the Islamic worldview, they’re not lacking conviction. I suggest that many are not even lacking clarity. But what Islam, or any other worldview, cannot offer is righteousness from God. That, according to the Bible, comes one way—by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Islamic worldview seeks to conquer through forced submission, and our headlines continue to record a bloody history. Are we really awake yet in this generation? What will it take? Not just conviction, not just clarity, but righteousness alongside those things. And that righteousness will not come by militarism, but by God’s work through Christ.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7). We sinners will not stop slaying one another until we see that God incarnate was slain for us.

When the heart is circumcised by God the Holy Spirit, righteousness is imputed—“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).



It’s a Grave Matter

Today I went to a funeral. Perhaps I’m odd, but I find funerals, whether I’m the presiding minister or not, to engender pensiveness. Perhaps more accurately stated, I find that funethrals lead me into contemplation of life’s meaning, of life’s value, of what’s most important, and of the basis for importance. Funerals punctuate the transient nature of some matters and the eternality of others. What follows is an abbreviated summary of today’s funeral, some reflections that the confrontation of death elicits, and some questions for consideration.

The mother of one of my coworkers died recently. Her body had been transported back to Atlanta from Illinois for the memorial service and a graveside service. She had been born in Atlanta in the late 1940s, but grew up in Illinois, where she earned her education, became a nurse, married, raised her family, and prospered in her nursing career. However, her spiritual hometown had remained Atlanta. And, geographically speaking, she came full circle. She was buried just miles from where she had been born.

When we entered the church, the scene was just as one might imagine. Men wore dark suits; women wore dark dresses, many donning hats; a couple of grandchildren with quizzical eyes, trying to come to terms with what it means to lose their grandmother, sat on the front pews with their mother. A family friend sang the hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer.”

Then, the presiding minister read from Psalm 24:

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not life up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

Then the minister led the congregation in prayer and several people spoke briefly of the life of the deceased. And then the minister read from Revelation 7, where John writes of the multitude extolling God and the Lamb, and of how the creation bursts forth in doxology: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Rev 7:12 ESV)

One never knows, I suppose, what others are thinking, but this is what I thought: Psalm 24 teaches that the whole of creation is God’s. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” And David teaches that there is one who does ascend that hill of the Lord, the Lord of hosts. And the apostle John, a millennium after David chronologically, writes of the Lord Jesus as the Lord of hosts, mighty in battle, who conquered. And because of that Lamb, multitudes now stand in white robes, more than conquerors.

Is that what the minister was trying to teach us, his hearers? Did we all see the connections between Psalm 24 and Revelation 7? Did we all understand how conquering death is only possible if hidden in Christ, the Lord of hosts?

Some questions came to mind as I sat there in the church, as I listened and thought, and scanned the demeanors of the others:

1) What hope does an atheist have at a funeral? Is nature/material all there is? If so, why do we speak of thoughts, love, ideas, truth, sacrifice, et cetera? Those ideas, so seminal to life, are senseless if materialism is true.

2) Why is it that when obituaries are read, we remember and laud (rightly, in my view) the non-material things in the person’s life—her sacrifices, her love for her family, her compassion, her honor, her faith, et cetera, not the material things?

3) Why does it sometimes take a funeral to teach me to keep short accounts with God?

Is it not easy to fritter one’s time? Is it not easy to gain the world and lose one’s soul? It’s possible, I suppose, to even attend a funeral and not be confronted with ultimate questions.

But it’s a grave matter how one answers these questions. If Christianity is true, then death does not have the final say. Its sting has been removed for the believer. If materialism is true, we’re only dust, and it’s perhaps best to eat, drink, and be merry, as Solomon did, but later regretted.

But if Christianity is true, then we, though made of dust, have been breathed into by God himself, and are souls of infinite worth, and are called to honor him, in life and in our death. That call to think on the Christian claims, therefore, is too important to eschew. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”



The Secular or the Savior?

Are you old enough to remember when government schools released students for Christmas holidays and Easter holidays? Those terms have now been replaced with winter break and spring break. And Thanksgiving is being replaced by fall break. Do you think those replacements are accidental? They are indicators of the secular worldview and of paganism being the all-but-declared religion of the West.

What will be the endgame of a culture given over to the secular worldview? Is there reason for hope in the secular worldview? Does paganism deliver on its promises of progress?

Do not be deceived; we are incurably religious. We will worship someone or something(s). The question is whether we will worship the Creator, the one true and living God, or if we will worship ourselves (creatures)–that is, the earth (the creation).

Recently I heard a fine sermon on Psalm 19. Called by C.S. Lewis the finest poem in literature, Psalm 19 is typically divided into two major parts. The first part describes God’s general revelation of himself through his created order (cosmos). The second part describes God’s special revelation of himself through his Word.

David wrote that God reveals himself to us, his creatures, through creation:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world (Psalm 19:1-4a, ESV)

What is that poetic language teaching? It’s straightforward—namely, that the firmament, the heavens, trumpet and herald this message: God is. The stars, the planets, the galaxies, etc. fill the mind and soul with wonder and cause us creatures to declare in response, “This has to be of God.” Randomness, chance, accident, billions of years, etc. cannot begin to explain the glory of what we behold.

And yet the slide into the secular pit continues. Why? Is it because God has not given enough evidence? Is it possible that it’s not lack of evidence for God’s existence that has led to the larger culture’s embrace of secularism and paganism? Is it possible that it’s much simpler—that, in fact, it’s a moral issue? What if it came down, in fact, to suppression of the overwhelming evidence of God’s existence?

According to Scripture, our consciences bear witness to God’s law written on our hearts. Our consciences either accuse or excuse our behavior: “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15, ESV).

And yet the slide into the secular pit continues. Yet we have general revelation (the cosmos), and we have special revelation (Scripture). Moreover, we have consciences that accuse and/or excuse our behavior.

But ultimately we have God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, who, according to one of Christianity’s greatest creeds, was “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.”

And yet the slide into the secular pit continues. Despite the heavens declaring the glory of God; despite the millions of Bibles on dashboards of vehicles or on coffee tables in homes; despite our consciences that prick us when we know we’ve violated the moral code; and even despite the Lord Jesus, whom the secular pagan world hates, but cannot get rid of. Where’s hope or salvation in secularism and/or paganism?

Despite the Dan Brown novels; despite Richard Dawkins’ tirades; despite Sam Harris’ vitriol—somehow this Jesus resurrects and outlives his enemies. And somehow the Christian church, so maligned by the increasingly secular and hostile culture, gathers across continents regularly, as a ransomed bride, and professes the faith of the gospel of grace–that Christ has died, that Christ has risen, and that Christ will come again.