Tag Archives: Popular Opinion

Hard Truths from Jesus

This is not going to be a popular post because it has little to do with the junk that is filling social media, but everything to do with things that are of lasting importance. As I’ve Sunday Truth: Hope In The Hard Days - Julie Lefeburestudied the Scriptures and the life of Jesus, I find that he rarely mentions what is going on with the Roman governors. He had no comment on the horrific way they treated people or the good things they did. Those issues were not why He came to this world. He came to this world to help us see God and to provide a way for us to receive the gift of salvation.

I believe that there are believers with a variety of perspectives because of the environments in which we were raised. Still, God’s word is faithful and true. If we could only press ourselves to pursue God’s perspective in all aspects of life we would not be swayed by this pastor or that pastor who are so easily led by public opinion. He tells us to love our neighbors and our enemies. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:44-45) Our goal in life is not only to have faith that secures eternal life for ourselves but to live in such a way as to give light to others who are also looking for that relationship with the One True God.

Jesus talks about the anger that is being expressed in our world this way, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt 5:22) To be sure, Jesus got exasperated with people who were desecrating His Father’s house by selling trinkets in the temple courtyard. He was so angry that He overturned the tables containing their merchandise and threw them out of the temple. (Matt 21:12-16) That was an anger that was righteously motivated and proved that God, Himself, does get angry.

The anger we are experiencing in our world is far from such a holy anger. We tend to get angry over things with which we disagree. We need to learn to contain and reserve our anger for those things that matter to God. We should be constantly seeking to avoid the judgment of an angry God. In our colloquialisms, we sometimes infer that we have put the “fear of God” into someone. Our society would do well to have a healthy dose of the fear of the God they have banished from our schools and are banishing from our government. The kind of fear that is a reverent respect and awe for His sovereign power and righteous holiness.

The apostle Peter penned these straightforward words as given to him by the Holy Spirit, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

This gives me pause as I reflect on the rhetoric of today by some of our Christian leaders who want so desperately to be relevant. In so doing they never have the opportunity to share, what John wrote about in the book of Revelation as, the eternal gospel. (Rev 14:6) This gospel is of utmost importance to every man, woman, and child and contains the Truth all men are seeking.

Some may scoff at this simplified perspective but, as Christians, we have to learn to keep the main thing the main thing. We have to remember that our purpose here on this earth is to spread the eternal gospel in such a way that it is magnetic and facilitates rather than hinders God’s work of drawing all men to Himself.

Just a few thoughts for the day.

Learn to Discern: Knowing When to Speak Up

At times there are items from other bloggers that are great pieces. This morning I found such a piece at Growing 4 Life which is written by a right thinking woman named Leslie.

Discernment and wisdom are critical to successful living and in living out the Christian life. The apostle Paul wrote “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make the most of every opportunity.” (Col 4:5). Today’s blog in a series Leslie is doing on discernment provides some practical advice in choosing our battles. Her blog follows:

was mindlessly moving a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. My mind was on other things and I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing. Without thinking, I grabbed a dime that was laying near the dryer’s lint trap and tossed it in the trash.

Oops!

I looked at the trash and I pondered the worth of the dime. And then I turned back to my task. I simply did not find the dime to be valuable enough to warrant digging through the trash can. This made me wonder about what amount of money I would consider worth digging in the trash? A quarter? A dollar? At what point would I deem the amount valuable enough that it would propel me to work to get it back?

I think we need to consider this same principle when we are looking at discernment. Recently, there was a huge “to-do” in the discernment world (if you aren’t familiar with what’s going on, I am not going to fill you in. I have no desire to give it any more attention than it has already received). But what I saw happening there was someone who was making a huge deal over a “dime”. While I did agree with this person’s point of view on the subject matter at hand, I did not see that it was worth a fight. A few other Christian leaders had the same opinion as me and ended up being maligned by this other man who thought everyone else should be making as big a deal over this “dime” as he was!

One of the hardest things we must learn to do as we grow in discernment is know when something is worth a confrontation. Romans 12:18 teaches us that we are to be at peace with all men, as much as it is up to us. This is an important verse, giving us a framework in which we are to live all of life. Unfortunately, this is not going to always be possible. We know from scripture that we are going to be hated by the world and that there will be many false teachers. This naturally means that we will have some run-ins, as we try to stand for the truth.

So, how exactly do we know if something is important enough to speak up about in our families, churches, or anywhere else?

Here are a few guidelines to follow–

1. The situation at hand is about God, His Word, and His reputation. This is by far the most important key to discerning when something is important enough to stand up for. It should never be about our pride, our reputation, our importance, our need to prove ourselves. Something that is worth standing up for will always be about God’s glory and about protecting the truth of God’s Word.

It is never about ME. 

But this is oh, so tempting, isn’t it? Sometimes it is hard to discern if we are standing for God or for our own pride. We have this need to prove ourselves or to be “right” and we can get all entangled in our own selfish agenda–sometimes even when are standing up for the true and right thing! We must have humble hearts that are on the constant look-out for sins like pride, selfishness, and anger. And let’s regularly ask the Lord for a right heart and attitude and that He will fill us with His love and grace as we fight the good fight.

2. It is morally wrong. There are an abundance of verses expounding on the things that are an offense to our Holy God. We know that sexual sins, lying, sorcery, anger, pride etc. are always wrong and therefore should be something that those who claim to be Christians should avoid. (Check out these passages for more clarity and detail on the sins that God hates: Exodus 20:1-17Colossians 3:5-6Galatians 5:19-212 Timothy 3:1-7.)

If we know God hates these things, then this should be our guideline of things we want to avoid in all aspects of our lives. This would include our entertainment, which is something that believers mostly ignore now and, for some reason, practice a strange “disconnect”–as if somehow this is irrelevant from the rest of their spiritual health.

We should–we must–stand for pure and holy living. God’s Word clearly teaches that, as regenerated souls, we are to live pure and holy lives that are clearly different and separated from the world (I Peter 1:15-16Jude 1:20Philippians 1:9-102 Timothy 2:22Romans 12:1-2I Peter 2:9Romans 13:14-15Colossians 3:10).

This is not a wildly popular thing to stand for. In fact, it is not even marginally popular. But we need to speak up because God’s glory and reputation are damaged by those who live worldly, sinful lives while claiming to belong to Him.

3. Scripture is misinterpreted and twisted2 Thessalonians 2:15 tells us this: So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Since scripture was written there has been an accepted interpretation. Oh, there have been councils and meetings to discuss things, but God has miraculously protected the integrity of scripture throughout the years. However, Satan is always trying to mess with it just enough that he will mislead people. He has done this through the ages, but I highly doubt it has ever been so much as right now.

When someone gives some wild, out-of-context interpretation of scripture it is time to stand up! When someone tries to rationalize worldliness, homosexuality, evolution, or any other ungodly sin or philosophy, it is time to stand for the truth of God’s Word. We cannot let our enemy win this battle –for this is the battle’s core. Is scripture 100% true, inerrant, and inspired, or isn’t it? Because we know it is, we must speak up when it’s maligned.

Of course, the problem with this is that most of us do not have enough biblical knowledge to really provide a biblical defense. This is really why I write. I want to encourage you to know the Word so that you can live godly lives and contend for the faith.

Josh Buice writes thisThe absolute best method of testing a theology or a popular catch phrase is by Scripture. If any teaching will stand the intense scrutiny of Scripture, it proves itself to be a trustworthy doctrine. This is true on all matters of theology—from bumper stickers to historic creeds and confessions. The question that we must be asking ourselves as we build our positions is, “What does the Bible say?”

Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly right. You see, the Bible isn’t all that hard to understand. If we accept the Bible as it is written, literally, it all makes so much sense. And, even more amazing, the facts presented in science (I am talking about facts and not theories) and the historical record supports it all! You will find it incredible and even miraculous when you give yourself to serious study of this amazing book. But we don’t know because we don’t study. And– if I may be so bold–we don’t study because we don’t care. Oh, if this blog accomplishes one things –I hope it is that you would start to care about growing in your knowledge of the Word of God!

4. Christ’s role is diminished. Oh, how many false teachers diminish the role of Christ. If you are deciding whether something is worth the fight, ask yourself this: How do they treat Christ? Do they turn His sacrifice on the cross into a mere event? Do they teach that Christ is one of many ways to be reconciled to God? Do they teach that man is basically good and that Jesus is just a good example to follow? Do they teach that Christ is there to do one’s bidding? Do they teach that Christ is simply a good teacher? You will be surprised how even the most mainstream teachers and authors are teaching error in regards to Christ. And this is worth the fight! While Jesus Christ is the theme of the whole Bible (yes, even the Old Testament!), you can start by reading the Gospels. This is a great place to get started in knowing your Savior and will help you to defend Him!

5. Primary Christian Doctrines are compromised. As believers, we do need to know doctrine (contrary to what you have probably been told). Being unfamiliar with words like justification, sanctification, and glorification leaves you vulnerable to false teachers. Having at least a basic understanding of what the Bible teaches about (to name a few) the Trinity, God’s Sovereignty, salvation, God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and about the Church strengthen and prepare you for the vicious and unrelenting attacks that Satan wages against these doctrines. (Understanding what the Bible teaches us about the the last days and about Israel are secondary issues but are still beneficial–and interesting!– to study.) Find a good resource, such as Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue and start increasing your knowledge. If you’d rather have something a little less intimidating and not quite as deep, try Fundamentals of the Faith by MacArthur, which is a 13-week guided study of basic Christian doctrines.

6. Be socially wise. Now, with the final two items on this list, we are moving from biblical compromise to having social discernment. If someone you barely knows starts sharing about how much they love The Shack or Jesus Calling, don’t start off on a long monologue on why they are not doctrinally sound books. Go ahead and say something casually and if they express interest, then, by all means, have a conversation. But don’t confront acquaintances and strangers. They have absolutely no reason to listen to you. Gauge their interest and be wise. And, most importantly, pray for them.

7. Consider the spirit of the person you are confronting.  We must evaluate the person we are speaking to and ask ourselves: Is this person humble or proud? You see, if you are dealing with someone who thinks they know everything, who won’t bend, who doesn’t listen, then feel free to bring up your concern, but don’t argue or debate with them. Only the Holy Spirit can remove that blind pride. You could talk for forever and not move them an inch. So allow the Lord to use you to plant His seeds and to challenge them with some thoughts but do not become a thorn in their side that pricks at every opportunity. This is not how we practice discernment.

This is not an exhaustive list. Practicing biblical discernment is no picnic and I can honestly tell you that there is little personal reward for speaking up. I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again–most people do not want to hear. And because they do not want to hear, they will view you as (and call you) all kinds of negative things. But don’t let this stop you because we know that the truth of the Bible has the power to save! We know that the souls of those who are deceived and lost are going to hell! We know how this all ends! We know what is coming in the future! Let’s keep our eyes focused on what is important and not get embroiled in our hurt feelings and relational skirmishes here on earth. Study the Word and don’t be afraid to speak up when you must!

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

Have a blessed day!

Subtle Influences

C.S. Lewis wrote in the Screwtape Letters, “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Letter XII

Most of us have heard the term “slippery slope.” We hear it and, in today’s world, we Image result for discerningallow ourselves to become distracted because we know whatever follows is someone’s projection of imminent disaster at some future point in time. There are voices from all aspects of the political and sociological spectrum forecasting the demise of society as we know it resulting from an initial tiny step being approved today by some arm of our government. The fact that God is in control gives us great comfort, but we must also deal with the reality that He gives us great latitude in determining our own, and society’s, pace of ethical and moral decline. Refusal to acknowledge the broader and long term implications in favor of a short-term pain point or vocal minority viewpoint, has, over the years, led us to depart from God’s perspective in making our decisions.

Because of many of these decisions, the new reality of our world is that we live in a very different world than the one in which many of us grew up. Just yesterday, I was talking with family members about how life was when our daughters were growing up. And, yet, we wonder how we have arrived at the place in our world in which we now live. Why do we feel so much more insecure? We have just purchased cameras for the security of our home? Why are we becoming increasingly concerned about the worldview of our society? Our institutions of higher learning were once paragons of free speech and places where various worldviews could be openly discussed. Today, public speech on our campuses is limited to those who agree only with a narrow band of worldviews. Opinions arising from other worldviews are not given a voice.

During the days of the Revolutionary War, battles took place in an open field with opposing forces marching toward each other. Everyone knew who and where the enemy was. The Vietnam War was notable for the guerilla warfare that made the enemy less visibly identifiable. The enemy was not always uniformed military. During this war, the enemy took on the appearance of common citizens. More recently, wars are being waged against invisible networks of people inspired by ideologies that are spread transparently across the internet.

I was reading a pre-release copy of a book by Dr. Jeff Myers, “The Secret Battle of Ideas About God.” In his book, Dr. Myers compares the ideological battles of today to that of fighting a virus. Rather than debating specific ideologies, i.e., Islam, Mormonism, post-Christian society, et al, Christians today, must focus on being grounded in a system of truth against which to test all the random values and ideas that are surfaced by today’s various communications media.  These inputs can come in the form of commercials, news analysis, headlines, social media, and pronouncements made by high profile personalities. These are just a few. At least part of the danger lies in repeated intake of messages. Being constantly barraged with bad thinking based on invalid worldviews does have an effect.

These messages seep into the church. Our Christian friends repeat things they have heard, a pastor says something that sounds right but doesn’t really align with Scripture, a Bible Study leader offers an opinion that is counter to Scriptural truth, a church leans on its own tradition rather than what the Bible says, and down the road we go. Just because something goes viral in social media, doesn’t make it the truth. The slippery slope has begun. I was reading an interview with a former pastor who has been given a credible voice because he wrote a book containing a restatement of an old line of thinking that suggests all will go to heaven because God loves everyone. This interview focused on this man’s perspective on Scripture. He indeed has taken the next steps in the slippery slope created by his new truth system. His view of the Bible is that it is a collection of ideas that have been put together by several human writers, that lead us to think divine thoughts. Rubbish!

This is how we stray from the truth. When we declare that truth, as handed down by God Himself, is simply a collection of human ideas that leads us to think of God, we have no truth at all. We’ve begun to slide down the slippery slope. The virus gains a foothold into our immune systems. How can we reverse the slide or stop the viral infection? Is there an antidote?

Scripture attests to itself that “all scripture is God-breathed.” The Bible is a trustworthy foundation for our worldview. The antidote is to become familiar with its words and its teachings. If its teachings come from God, then nothing can overrule it. The Psalmist wrote, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

We need to store God’s words in our hearts so that we can fight off the infection of false teaching by recognizing it when it comes to our ears. False teachers will infiltrate even the most Christian environments. After listening to the Apostle Paul, the Bereans would go home and search the scriptures to see if what he said was true. We need to do the same so that we are able to fight off infectious viruses that make us spiritually sick.

Perhaps it is time for a good helping of spiritual food that will help us ward off viruses. Psalm 119:11 says “I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you.” A good place to start.

Be well, friends.

Breaking the Code v. 1

In the community of Christ followers, there is a language that can be confusing and for Image result for Christianthe most part misunderstood. Just as there is a culture in any organization, there are acronyms, phrases, and words for which insiders can have differing definitions and leave outsiders bewildered, to say the least. To further the confusion, Christianity has conceded labels that are core to defining who we are to those who have distorted the truth and the heart of Christ.

I have friends who are apologists and who would write lengthy papers on defining some of these words and phrases. Still, I think there is value to putting a stake in the ground for our purposes and our discussions. These definitions are not intended to be all-encompassing but rather, what I hope will be, a biblical place to begin our thinking on such matters.

Let’s start with the word Christian. The word Christian was first recorded in the book of Acts of the Apostles chapter 26 verse 28 when King Agrippa tells Paul that he is almost persuaded to become a Christian. The term Christian was used to describe people who were committed to following Christ in the days of the early church. Included with this label was the concept of those who adhered to the teachings of the Scriptures and accepting Christ as part of the triune God. Jesus claimed to be God. He said I and the Father are one. Either He was who He said He was or He was a liar and not God. So the word Christian in its original context defined a devoted Christ follower.

In Romans 12:9-21 Paul challenges the Roman church to Christian lifestyle and virtues. The ESV Bible titles this section, “Marks of the True Christian.”

Today we ascribe the label of Christian to anyone who is not Jewish or atheist. If you are not opposed to the idea of God you have earned the label of Christian. Adherence to the teachings of the Bible is no longer a part of the definition. Jude wrote in his letter addressed to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ these words, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The world is influencing the church through various means, without us even noticing, to redefine and pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, they have redefined, in the public square, the real meaning of Christianity. Many churches that once held to a biblical standard, have abandoned the truths of Scripture, for the logic of the “intellectual elites.” Indeed, the Scriptures are no longer held to be God’s words for mankind. This gives the world credibility as they continue to further pervert and erode the gospel and grace of God.

We have now chosen to call ourselves “Christ followers.” But make no mistake about it, I still identify with the Christians spoken of by the New Testament writers. One final word on this topic …

Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As Christians who love and follow Jesus, we need to know and keep His commands rather than distorting and perverting those commands to meet our own desires.

Preparing our Kids on Faith and Science

We live in a world that we can no longer ignore and pretend to live separate lives. No matter how we try to protect our children from the disinformation, outright lies, and conflict in our world, our children and grandchildren will face questions many of us never confronted, either in school or in the public square.

One of my favorite bloggers is a thoughtful mom, Natasha Crain. She has written on why we aren’t succeeding at preparing our young people to engage thoughtfully in faith vs. science dialog. I offer this today as food for thought for those of us who have children and even for those of us who have grandchildren. Let’s not be afraid to train up our children in the way they should go!

5 Ways Christian Parents Fail to Prepare Their Kids to Engage with Questions of Faith and Science

5 Ways Christian Parents Fail to Prepare Their Kids to Engage with Questions of Faith and Science

I’m coming down to the final six weeks of writing my next book and am very much looking forward to being on the other side of that deadline! I’ve missed being able to blog regularly during this intense writing time, so I had to take a break today and share a new post inspired by some of the topics my next book will address. (On a side note, watch for a new post very soon to reveal the cover and title of the book!)

My favorite section to write has been on Science and God, because I know so many parents are looking for help in talking about this subject with their kids. While writing the chapters in that section, I thought a lot about how we, as Christian parents, are collectively failing to adequately prepare our kids to engage with questions of faith and science. Today, I want to share 5 ways I believe that’s happening, and encourage all of us to consider what we can do better in our own homes.

1. We don’t talk about the relationship between faith and science at all.

This is, without a doubt, the number one way we fail our kids in this area—we fail to say anything at all. Not only do we need to say something, we need to say quite a lot. Over and over again, researchers have found that a leading reason why so many young people walk away from faith is that they believe they have to choose between Christianity and science. Meanwhile, other research has shown that only ONE percent of youth pastors address any issue related to science in a given year.

This is a giant disconnect.

Regardless of the fact that churches need to do a much better job in this area, parents need to take the reins. This is our responsibility, and there is absolutely no doubt that questions of faith and science will challenge our kids in some way…whether this is an area we feel equipped to discuss or not. If you do feel equipped, great—get started. If you don’t, that’s OK—start learning. Those are really the only two options.

2. We boil all “science versus faith” conversations down to one (or two) issues.

I find in talking with parents that when you say the words “science and faith,” most people quickly launch into a conversation about evolution. There’s no doubt that evolution is one of the most important topics in this category, if not the most important topic. But there are many other questions our kids need to understand, especially at the more philosophical level. For example, people throw out broad statements like “science disproves God” all the time. Kids need to know what to make of those kinds of assertions just as much as they need to know what to make of the subject of evolution.

The second section of my next book will address six of these broader questions:

  • Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?
  • Do science and religion contradict one another?
  • Do science and religion complement one another?
  • Is God just an explanation for what science doesn’t yet know?
  • Can science explain why people believe in God?
  • What do scientists believe about God?

3. We teach overly simplistic answers that ignore important nuances.

I understand that science is not a “user-friendly” topic for many people. The only C grade I ever received in my life was in high school chemistry and I’m still bitter about it.

Unfortunately, this leads many parents to either 1) ignore the science-versus-faith dialogue completely (see my first point) or 2) teach overly simplistic answers that can inadvertently do major damage to their kids’ faith later.

One of the most important ways we can avoid this is by taking the time to define key words. For example, consider the question, “Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?” If someone asked me that, I couldn’t even answer their question unless I first asked them: What do you mean by science? What do you mean by prove or disprove? And what do you mean by God? People use those words in many different senses today and you simply can’t have a meaningful discussion without understanding their more nuanced underlying question. They may be asking:

 Can a specific branch of science provide evidence that strongly challenges a specific historical claim of a given religion? (Answer: Yes.)

Or, they may be asking:

Can the field of science, when defined as the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the natural world, say anything about the existence of God, when defined simply as a supernatural being who may or may not have created the world? (Answer: No—and even most atheists would agree.)

While we may wish we could simply teach our kids easy answers like, “Of course science doesn’t disprove God!”, we fail to adequately prepare them for this challenging secular world when we do.

4. We teach only one of several Christian views on origins (age of the Earth and evolution).

If you’ve read my first book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, you know how strongly I feel about this. There are eight chapters written to explain why Christians have varied views on how and when God created the world—based on both scriptural and scientific considerations. While many parents don’t teach their kids anything at all on this subject, many of the remaining parents only teach their kids one specific view (for example, young-Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism, or theistic evolution). Whatever view you teach, your kids will hear challenges from both other Christians and from atheists—a very confusing position for them to be in if you’ve never explained the issues at stake.

Note that I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t tell our kids what we believe. There’s no problem at all with explaining our own convictions. The problem lies in teaching them our views in a silo rather than taking the time to explain why fellow believers and skeptics interpret science and/or the Bible differently than we do.

5. We’re overly fearful of suggesting there’s a conflict between Christianity and science.

One of the things I found most interesting when preparing to write on whether or not science and religion contradict one another was just how quick Christians are to lay out a case for why Christianity and science are not in conflict. Much of the time, Christians jump straight to showing 1) how science can’t say anything about a Being outside of nature and/or 2) how there’s no reason to expect that science could even be done if there weren’t a God to rationally design the universe. Those things are true. But much of the time when skeptics talk about the conflict of science and Christianity, they’re talking specifically about the conflict between mainstream scientific consensus and a specific claim of the Bible that intersects with the natural world—for example, the age of the Earth (based on the young-Earth interpretation of Scripture) and direct creation (versus evolution). If we just keep insisting “there’s no conflict,” when there actually are apparent conflicts in some areas, we miss some very important discussion opportunities with our kids. Again, we have to define terms clearly.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the accurate interpretation of scientific data and the accurate interpretation of the Bible will never be in true conflict. If apparent conflicts arise, (at least) one interpretation is wrong. When we’re convicted of the accuracy of our interpretation of Scripture, we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge when the Bible conflicts with scientific consensus; Scientists can be wrong. On the other hand, when there is an apparent conflict, we should be willing to thoughtfully consider the scientific data; Our biblical interpretation can also be wrong.

Rather than sweep apparent conflicts under the carpet, we can help our kids significantly by 1) confidently explaining why apparent conflicts may arise and 2) studying the scientific and scriptural considerations together.

What questions about science and faith do you most have trouble discussing with your kids? If you don’t currently have these discussions, what’s your biggest barrier?

Christmas Eve 1968

Do you know what was happening on Christmas Eve, 1968? I can tell you what I was doing. In addition to trying to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, I was celebrating the birth of our oldest daughter, Debbie, the day before. She was born on December 23rd, 1968. Last night we celebrated her birthday with all the family together. As we were reflecting on what her presence in our family meant to each of us, there were ten mini celebrations of her impact in our lives.

That was indeed a life changing event for us all in so many ways. Her arrival in this world meant that I would be exempted from being drafted into the service of our country. Those were the days of the height of the Vietnam War. Being drafted was certain to have a battlefield assignment in guerrilla warfare. Those were the days of flower children, draft dodgers and when flag burning started. It was tumultuous time in our country. Lest you think the days we are in currently are uncharted territory, let me just assure you that the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes was so right when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

There was another significant event taking place that Christmas Eve. On December 24, 1968, three American astronauts were circling the moon. Many of you were not even born yet. Some were too young to remember, but many of us remember the day very well. What a historic moment! They sent back pictures of the earth and read the first 10 verses of the book of Genesis to an audience rapt in wonder and awe.

Seven months later, the United States landed men on the moon! As with so many major events, there is a back story. Eric Metaxas, who heads up the Colson Center shared one part of the back story in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Rather than restating the story, I’m providing a link to the op-ed Christmas Eve in Space and Communion on the Moon. The story shows that our battle against the powers of the air are not new. Satan, the prince of the power of the air, has been working to suppress the good news of the gospel since the Garden of Eden.

Mr. Metaxas shares the story of how that momentous arrival of men on the moon was celebrated by Buzz Aldrin with the taking of communion as the most appropriate thing he could do. He read portions of the book of John where Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches …” In light of the public pressure, even in those days, NASA advised that these actions and readings not be broadcast back to earth. Well known atheist, Madelyn O’Hair had filed suit for the Christmas Eve event. It is no wonder this story has been suppressed.

But on this Christmas Eve, I feel it is important that we hear the story of Buzz Aldrin. As so many in our country are giving their all to deny the truth of God’s word and the real story of Christmas, we should take encouragement from Buzz Aldrin’s story and his strength of faith.

Let’s be men and women who know who we are and Whose we are. Buzz knew Whose he was and could not let that moment pass without acknowledging the God of the universe. Let us take courage in our hearts to give thanks for the greatest gift EVER, the Christ child coming to earth for one purpose only. That purpose was to provide a way for us to have a relationship with the God who created the moon and the earth, not to mention thousands of galaxies that have yet to be discovered. We discover knew expanses of our universe every year, and our God created it all.

Blessings to you and your families this Christmas season. May Christ be your source of joy and peace as we give each other gifts to celebrate His birth, God’s gift to us.

Can’t We Just Get Along?

Many people are really getting tired of all the verbal dart throwing that is dominating our news feeds on social media and the news feeds from the so called news media. Several in Image result for loving vs judgingmy circle of friends have recently posted in social media that they just want us all to get along with each other. During the Christmas season we are longing for the promise of the angels, “peace on earth, good will to all men.”

As much as our world wants to believe that mankind is inherently good and that our world is improving and will continue to improve, reality is not showing that to be true. Instead, tensions seem to be increasing and our respective views are being used for division rather than building unity. Forgiveness and understanding seem to be in short supply. Many seem to be wandering into their own peculiar world of isolationism alienating those who disagree and even casting doubt on the intelligence, integrity and even the character and faith of “those people.”

I have come to believe that as much as many of us really do want to get along with the rest of the world, somehow the world of dialog has been reconfigured for us. It seems that it is socially acceptable to love our neighbor so long as they agree with us. Love is a choice, therefore, the prevailing patterns show that we will love those who agree with us and castigate and eviscerate all who disagree, or at the very least avoid interactions with them. It is as though there are other forces at work in our world. As many as there are that say they just want to get along, it seems that lines are being drawn for us that are beyond our control or at least at work in our subconscious. Those lines tell us that as long as you agree with me, we can get along. It is not even alignment of truth systems that matter. If you can’t support my train of thought or behavior, we can’t have rational discussion or cordial relationship, and I may even take you to court. Even though we profess to value congeniality, we seem to have lost our ability to disagree with civility.

I am going to suggest that we need to be careful about discerning what is going on in our world. As much as we claim to be in control of ourselves and our destinies, the Bible tells us that there are other forces at work. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We need to keep in mind at all times, who and what we’re really fighting against.

It is not “those guys.” There is a spiritual battle that is being waged and, if we allow it, we will be pawns in the battle between good and evil. The end result that until Christ returns to this earth, the purposes of evil will sway heavily in our world. The Apostle Paul wrote that we once lived following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. What Paul is saying here is that the world is and has been following the lead of Satan (the prince of the power of the air) and that pursuit takes us in a downward spiral. We need to acknowledge that.

Our current mindset and behavior does not line up with the teachings of Jesus, nor should it be representative of Christians or evangelicals, Catholics or whatever brand a person of faith has these days. How can I say this? Jesus was criticized by the Jewish leaders for having dinner and socializing with those who didn’t live up to the standards the leaders of the faith had interpreted from the Scriptures. To be sure, some of them had made up a lot of rules that were not part of God’s word, and they replaced the relationship that God desires to have with us with a code of rules upon which man would be able to assess our true spirituality. When asked which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:34-40) Think relationship, not works, not rules.

In another scene, the Jewish leaders challenged the disciples because Jesus was dining with “tax collectors and sinners.” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:9-13) How would Christ hope to draw sinners to himself if he disassociated himself from any who sinned? The reality is that he would not have come to this world because we are all sinners. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He paid the ultimate sacrifice of love before we believed and while we were still sinners. The self-righteous condemnation of others has no place in Christian circles. It only plays into the hands of the forces of evil engaged in the heavenly battle. It destroys the message of love that Christ brought into this world when he came as a baby, and died on the cross, out of love, for our sins. We are the sick and the sinners that Jesus came to call, and continues to call.

So why can’t we all get along? There is a very real battle being waged for the minds and souls of mankind. In his first letter to the early church, the apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him …” (1 Peter 5:8) It is a battle of good and evil that was set before this world was created when Lucifer, now known as Satan, rebelled against God and led a group of angels to challenge God. This battle is ongoing and is being waged over the souls of mankind. It is interesting to note that God could have obviated this battle over the souls of men by creating us to be automatically obedient to him. But he loved us so much that he created the human species to be unique among all of creation as the only beings capable of making choices of love, hate, indifference, conscious obedience, or rejection. He wanted us to have the ability to love him in return and that ability also required giving us a choice for obedience or rejection of our Creator.

We need to discern and acknowledge which battle we are fighting. It is not against “those guys.” People who make different choices than some of us have made, have ultimately been directly or indirectly influenced by the rulers and powers playing in the heavenly battle over our souls. When all is said and done, we are all human beings put here on this earth for a purpose. Those of us who love God (the first great commandment) need to learn how to pass along the love with which God has loved us to love our neighbors as he has loved us. Does this mean that all of our behaviors are in keeping with his commandments? No, but it means that we still need to love each other so that we aren’t inhibiting others from seeing the God who loves us all, and gave himself up for us.

Would I like to see us all get along? Absolutely. Do I acknowledge that there are forces at work dividing us as people? Yes, for sure. Are there behavior patterns that go against God’s design for us? Yes, there are. Is it my job to poke a finger in your eye to point out those behaviors? No. It is God’s job to judge. It is my job to love the person next to me so that they can see God through me. It is God’s truth that brings light to our path. Don’t take the toothpick out of your brother’s eye before you have taken the log out of your own eye.

Yes, many, if not most, will not accept the truth of God’s word. But let’s not put ourselves in the position of being the arbiters of who has and who has found grace under his truths. Scripture tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is taking the log out of your own eye before worrying about the speck in your neighbor’s eye. I have many logs to remove. Perhaps you do as well. Let’s learn how to love one another and be distributors of God’s grace in generous amounts as has been given to us. Let’s help our neighbors see who God really is.