What is Truth?

You’ve probably heard the parable of the blind men and the elephant. I used a picture book version called Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young to talk about Truth recently. This is a lesson that can be as simple or deep as your audience can handle.

In the story, seven blind mice investigate a strange SOMETHING that is by the pond. Each of them has a different experience with the Thing and each draws a different conclusion about what it is. “A snake!” “A rope!” “A fan!” They argue. (If you’re familiar with the book, I skipped the seventh mouse, and I’ll tell you why in a moment).

The final page is a big reveal. We see the full picture for the first time. It’s an elephant. The mouse who touched the trunk thought it was a snake. The mouse who touched the tail thought it was a rope, etc. But the reader can see the truth: it is an elephant.

I explained that this story is mostly used in two ways. First,  people may use it to say it shows how everyone is right. They’re just having different experiences, but it’s all really pointing to the same Truth.

So, I tested that theory. I played a little game of “true/not true” with the children. I would name a part, and they would tell me if what I said was true or not.

“This is a snake” (pointing to the trunk). Not True!
“This is an elephant’s trunk.” True!

With that simple game, we can easily see that people’s different experiences can lead them to conclusions that are not true. Not everyone can be right if truth claims are not in agreement.

But the second way people use the story is one we must grapple with. The claim is that we humans are all like those blind mice. We lack the perspective needed to understand Truth. Truth is ultimately unknowable and if you claim you know it, you’re arrogant and fooling yourself.

This is why I skipped the seventh mouse in the story. The seventh mouse runs around the whole elephant and perceives the truth that it’s an elephant. But what if what she thought was an elephant is really just an elephant-shaped mole on a giant’s face? The seventh blind mouse is no more equipped to perceive Truth than any of the others.

But the conclusion that noone can know Truth leaves out an important element: Revelation. The one who can see can know the truth. And that is exactly the claim of Christianity. We would be like blind mice, except God has REVEALED Truth to us.

Revelation

God’s revelation comes in several forms. One is nature:

  • nature is powerful beyond anything humans can create
  • life is only able to exist because of a balance in the universe that is not possible to explain statistically
  • the details in nature seem to come from a mind, like DNA strands, which look like computer code
  • gravity and procreation are two (among several) things referred to as universal ‘laws,’ which leads to the question ‘who is the law giver?’

God also reveals Himself through our conscience. We all have a sense of right and wrong. We cannot deny that we believe there is a way people should and should not act, even if we don’t agree on what those rules are supposed to be. Who is the rule maker?

God also has revealed Himself by intervening in history. People wrote it down and the writings were preserved. That’s the Bible. Skeptics may doubt the supernatural claims in the Bible, but archeological findings keep verifying the historical claims. It’s difficult to explain the Bible’s profound impact on culture if it is a mere human invention. And the prophesies that have been fulfilled are compellingly specific. Those who study the Bible deeply begin to see the entire account points to one thing: Jesus.

Jesus is the full Revelation of God to us. Listen to what He said about Himself when He was having a discussion with a religious leader:

 "I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony." John 3:11

And later He says this to the crowds who were following Him:

"I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

And He said this to one of His close disciples:

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." John 14:6

Jesus is the One who sees and knows Truth; He gives us revelation. As the light of the world, He is able and willing to make us able to perceive Truth as well. Any understanding of God must come through Jesus and will not contradict Jesus.

Accusations of arrogance

This is not popular teaching in our culture. Claims to know Truth are viewed as arrogant. But Christians don’t need to feel apologetic about it because we aren’t pridefully claiming that we figured it out on our own (like the seventh mouse in the story). We’re simply sharing what has been revealed to us through Jesus. And that knowledge is available to everyone who is willing to receive it.

But receiving Truth means receiving ALL of it. You can’t keep the elephant’s trunk and get rid of the foot because you don’t like it. Jesus designed all of creation:

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16

The big issue of our day is biological design – does it reveal something True about a person, or is it merely something that can and should be manipulated at will? Christians who understand the revelation of Jesus know His design is part of Truth. Knowing Jesus as the Author of creation leads to honoring His design, no matter how we feel about it.

That may sound harsh, but listen to what else Jesus reveals to us:

"God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him." (John 3:16-18a)

God cares about us. He is not harsh. He is generous and desires relationship with us. He doesn’t want us to die.

But we cannot ignore the consequences of rejecting Truth:

"But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” (John 3:18b-21)

Anyone with eyes to see should read this and understand.

Oh Holy Night – A Tale of Two Kings

Over 2000 years ago, a child was born who would go on to become a King. After his death, supernatural stories surrounding the circumstances of his birth would emerge: his mother had been impregnated by a god.[1]

His adoptive father trained him for his future. He would go on to be one of the most celebrated leaders in history, ushering in peace that would allow an expansion of his kingdom. He would be known as the Son of God and High Priest for the people.[2]

That child’s name was Gaius Octavius. He was born in 63BC. He was adopted by Julius Caesar and would eventually be known as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (Augustus Caesar). He reigned over what would become the Roman Empire from 27BC-14AD. The peace he achieved, called the pax romana (Roman peace), was only peace for some. It was peace enforced with a sword for any who would rebel against the supreme rule of the government (as we will see), and the idea of human dignity for all – no matter our race, gender, social status, or age – was laughable.

Change Scenes

Over 2000 years ago in a far-flung province of the Roman Empire, a young woman gave birth to a baby boy in a cave among the animals. Her pregnancy was of a miraculous origin – or so she claimed. She said the Spirit of God himself caused her to conceive.[3] Her soon-to-be-husband believed her because he had dreams declaring the same thing. Signs and wonders appeared in the sky announcing the birth of a King. To assure no one would be born who could challenge Roman authority, all the baby boys were killed in the vicinity of the child’s prophesied birthplace.[4]

The child was protected, grew up, and claimed to be the Son of God.[5] He claimed he was ushering in a new kingdom[6], a kingdom where humble people would be honored and people who long for peace and comfort will find it. This kingdom would be full of peacemakers and pure hearted people. All people were invited into this kingdom, but no one would be forced to accept it.[7] This child’s name was Jesus, later to be known as the Messiah, or Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ claims were too subversive to tolerate. The Jewish leaders, jealous of his popularity and angry over his claims, decided to accuse him of rebellion against the Roman government. But no evidence could substantiate their claims.[8] Instead, they incited a rebellion until they got what they wanted – the crucifixion of Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of God.

Claims of divine lineage were not uncommon forms of propaganda for military and political leaders in Jesus’ day. That would have made Jesus’ claims all the more audacious. But among those who claimed divinity, none could back it up but Jesus.

Augustus Caesar achieved a lot of mighty deeds during his life. Rome was first considered an empire under his rule. He organized a lot of impressive construction projects we can still visit today. The month of August is named for him. He died and was cremated in AD14.

Jesus, by contrast, didn’t leave a huge physical mark where he lived for 36 years. When he was crucified in 36AD, there was no reason to believe anyone would know about him a century later.

But he didn’t stay dead.[9]

He was resurrected and appeared first to women, then to his closest followers, then to over 500 other people. His resurrection was his stamp of true divinity. His resurrection made the kingdom he was teaching about fall into focus. He was never being subversive to the Roman Empire; He was completely overriding it!

His resurrection compelled his followers to spread the news about him. Most of them were killed for insurrection themselves. They had to tell others who Jesus was and the about the kingdom he promised to all who believe in him. They had to write what they saw him do and heard him teach.

Against strong empire opposition, they doggedly taught and travelled and wrote letters to spread the good news of Jesus the Christ. The Roman government, as powerful as it was, could not stamp out the message of the Son of God.

Based on what the Bible teaches about Satan, it is no surprise that there would be false claimants to divine sonship. Satan is the king of almost-true. But time and pressure always show truth.

The resurrection is the proof of Jesus’ true divinity, and the impact the Church has had throughout history is proof of the truth of Jesus’ promise that He will physically return again and in the meantime he will never leave or forsake us. Empires have risen and fallen, yet the Church survives and awaits the fulfillment of the return of her King.

I hope knowing these things causes you to rejoice even more this Christmas as you celebrate the birth of Jesus, the true Son of God.


[1] https://thehistorianshut.com/2018/12/09/augustus-was-rumored-to-be-the-son-of-apollo/

[2] https://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/augustus_religion.html

[3] https://biblehub.com/niv/luke/1.htm

[4] https://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/2.htm

[5] https://biblehub.com/john/5-25.htm

[6] https://biblehub.com/luke/22-18.htm

[7] https://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/5.htm

[8] https://biblehub.com/luke/23-14.htm

[9] https://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/28.htm

Image credit: Nick Kenrick

Compassion That Transforms

During the Advent season, I’m taking time to focus on what it means that God entered this world as human. God’s compassionate nature was on full display through Jesus, God made flesh.

God’s highest aim when He created us was to have a relationship with us. We are most fully what we are created to be when we are in relationship with God. By contrast, we suffer a lot of sorrow, pain, and death when our relationship with God is broken. The physical life of Jesus shows that our pain and death break God’s heart, and He wants nothing to stand in the way of our restoration.

The Problem

Many times, as humans, we get confused between felt needs and true needs. We feel we need more money or possessions, when we really need contentment with what we have. We feel we need an apology, when we really need to learn to forgive from the heart. We naturally feel a need to be something different than we are – more patient, less selfish, more generous, less greedy, more of this, less of that. We live our lives playing whack-a-mole with our character flaws. We compare ourselves with others, which always leads down a bad road and alienates us from joyful relationship. We work so hard but make very little progress.

We also have a felt need to have purpose. We work even harder to satisfy that need. We work to bring justice into the world, clean up the environment, teach our children to be good people. We work to help the poor and sick. We want to leave the world a better place than we found it. Our felt need for purpose can be the driving force for most of our lives. But in the end, we die, and world goes on not much different than before. We may be remembered for a short time, but only the most extraordinary lives leave an impression for more than about two generations.

God’s Compassion

What does all this have to do with the incarnation of Jesus?

God sees how hard we work, and He has great compassion for us. He knows the needs we feel. He created us, so He knows all our inner workings. By entering creation as a human, Jesus fully identified with all our emotions and limitations. But since Jesus was fully God, he did not confuse felt needs with true need. We see it play out in His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4):

Satan tempted Him with the felt need of hunger (turn these stones into bread).

Jesus responded with the true need to trust God for our provision.

Satan tempted Him with the felt need for immortality.

Jesus responded with the true need to trust God for our ultimate protection.

Satan tempted Him with the felt need for power and adoration.

Jesus responded with the true need to worship God and serve Him only.

God is too compassionate to let us waste our lives chasing after felt needs. He knows our true need is to know Him and be in relationship with Him. He knows we aren’t able to equip ourselves to live in relationship with Him. He knows we have a very REAL need to be transformed.

Our game of whack-a-mole with our character flaws is really a response to our true need to have a transformed heart. Jesus is the answer to our true need. His death on the cross was a specific death offered for the forgiveness of our sins.

Our felt need to create purpose in our lives is a response to our true need to prepare ourselves for eternity. Jesus’ resurrection points to eternal life offered through faith in Him.

The Holy Spirit is the force that transforms and equips us. We receive the Spirit as a gift through Jesus.

It goes without saying that Jesus’ physical body could never have been offered as a sacrifice for our sins or resurrected as hope for our future if no physical body ever existed. As we await the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we can reflect on how God’s compassion through Jesus offers to fill our deepest needs. We only need to accept the gift.

Happy Advent Season!

Photo credit: Lex McKee

Hanukkah

Did you know Jesus celebrated Hanukkah? John 10:22 talks about the Festival of Dedication that happened in the winter.

About 170 years before Jesus was born, the Jews in Jerusalem were being overpowered by a horrible ruler, Antiochus Epiphanies (“The Madman”). He forbid the reading of the Torah, forced Jews to bow to idols, and sacrificed a pig on God’s altar, which defiled the temple.

A group of men called The Maccabbees (named after their leader) banded together and fought for three years to defeat the oppressive power. They cleansed the Temple of all the unholy objects and brought back the proper furnishings. When all was ready, it was time to light the lampstand. It was supposed to remain lit all night and day (Leviticus 24:1-4). But there was only enough purified oil to keep it lit one day. It would take eight days to make more purified oil. Miraculously, the lampstand stayed lit eight days! God allowed the Temple to be rededicated and God’s people could properly worship again.

That’s the Temple Jesus walked around and taught in. He celebrated the rededication along with all His fellow Israelites, knowing that He would soon offer purification for all unrighteousness for all time.

A few months later the six-inch thick curtain of that Temple would tear from top to bottom when Jesus declared “It is finished!” The Temple itself would be destroyed within 50 years and had still not been rebuilt over 2000 years later.

Jesus, resurrected, fulfills all the purposes the Temple once served. He is the light of the world – no more lampstand needed. He is the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He is the bread of life, and He offers open access to God – no more most holy place separating us from Him. God’s miracle made it happen for the Temple Jesus walked in, and God’s miracle made it happen for us when Jesus was raised from the dead.

Happy Hanukkah!

Photo by Yair Aronshtam

God Became Human

Advent begins tomorrow. For about 1500 years this season has been used by Christians around the world as a time to reflect on the physical life of Jesus, as well as His return.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Why does it matter that Jesus became flesh? This is probably the oddest claim of Christianity – that God became a human. I’ve thought of four implications that I will flesh out (see what is did there?) over the next four weeks.

Week 1 – EXAMPLE
When God created humans, He created us in his image. We were created – male and female – to be relational with one another as God is relational, not distant. We were to bring beauty and order to the physical world and expand our relationships through family units that would grow into societies and culture.

We made a terrible mess of it. We made such a mess, in fact, that we can’t even imagine what that sort of life would look like plunked into the middle of this world.

So, one reason it matters that Jesus became human is to serve as an example for us. He was full of grace and truth in the middle of a society that was much more harsh, unjust and uncaring than what we experience in America. But it is very similar to what many around the world still experience today.

If you want to see how to handle political division, read how Jesus handled questions about taxes (Mark 12). If you want to see how to respond to personal attacks, he shows how to be direct without becoming like the accusers (John 10). If you want to see how to hold people accountable for sin without coming off as judgemental, Jesus is full of examples (John 5, 8, 15). His examples regarding honoring his parents are beautiful (Luke 2, John 19).

We couldn’t have had this model for our own behavior without an in-flesh God. They say lessons are better caught than taught. Jesus did both. He is a master teacher. And He is our perfect example.

Next week, I’ll be talking about compassion.

Holding Hands with a Newborn Baby photo by Bridget Coila

Forgiveness

Forgiveness: it’s like eating well and exercising. People universally acknowledge it’s a good thing. We talk about it a lot in secular as well as religious settings. Yet we struggle to practice it consistently. Instead, we look for shortcuts or substitutions. Or we just let ourselves off the hook completely and give ourselves over to living how we want.

But we need to figure this out. It’s vital – in the literal sense of the word. Forgiveness is necessary for Life. An argument can be made that the eternal life offered through Jesus Christ is contingent upon our forgiveness of others. For example, in the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to say, “forgive us our sins as we forgive others.” If we don’t forgive others, what does that mean God will do with our sins?

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a story of a servant who begged for leniency when his debt was called in by the King. The King was compassionate and did more than offer leniency; He canceled the debt. But the servant went on to choke a fellow servant who owed him money and had his debtor thrown in jail. The audacious behavior was reported to the King, who had the wicked servant thrown in jail and tortured until he paid back what he owed. Jesus concludes the story with this statement: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Why so radical, God? Is it really that important?

Apparently, it is.

Jesus’ shocking ending was designed to force self-examination. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Am I “choking” someone who owes me? Do I have them in relational jail? Rather than forgiving a debt, am I still holding a grudge, withholding good or actively wishing bad on another person? Is there someone I haven’t forgiven from my heart?

Let’s deal with this. Here are some wonderful things we can learn in the process:

God Sees the Difficulty

God does not tell us “Don’t cry it doesn’t hurt.” A cheap substitute for forgiveness is pretending something doesn’t bother you. Jesus’ incarnation proves that God is willing to enter our pain with us. He experienced every temptation known to man (Heb 4:15). He knows what it feels like to be misunderstood and mocked by family (Mark 3:21, John 7:5). His loved ones were murdered (John the Baptist). He was falsely accused, betrayed, and finally beaten and murdered. There’s no type of pain that you can’t bring to Him. Learn how to go to God and lay it all out. The Psalms are excellent primers on how to pray your sorrows (look up Psalms of lament).

God Leans in to Forgive YOU

I know some amazing people who have been able to take their pain to God, receive God’s comfort, and that is all they need to forgive from the heart. But my heart has been harder than that. My slippery heart would build walls against my offender rather than healthy boundaries. That’s one of those shortcuts to true forgiveness: we say we’ve forgiven someone, but really we’re cutting them out of our life and moving on. Oh, how I wanted to do that! But that’s a bit like throwing someone in jail for the debt they owe you. YES to healthy boundaries: We see Jesus removed Himself from the area when people were intending to stone Him (John 8:59) or throw Him over a cliff (Luke 4:29) or kill Him (John 7:1). But NO to relational walls. Jesus never stopped trying to reach even the most hard-hearted people. He was willing to absorb the cost of our sin in order to reconcile with us.

I could intellectually understand all that, but my heart wouldn’t follow. I was incapable of forgiving from the heart, as Jesus says in his parable. The hardness would come back day after day. I was stuck. And that’s when God showed Himself to me.

My Vision of God’s Heart

God gave me a vision of myself snorkeling. It was just me in the ocean with a snorkel in my mouth, and I tried to dive. I couldn’t go very far because I couldn’t hold my breath very long or kick very deep.

Then the vision reset itself. I was snorkeling in the ocean again, but this time I had an oxygen tank and ballast. I dove, and I went deep! God caused me to understand as I dove that this is how deep I am able to go with the power of His Spirit in me. And it was DEEP! I was getting down to where the waters were very dark. I understood that this power would make me able to forgive. Finally!

But then the vision zoomed out, and I was snorkeling over the Marianas Trench! The Marianas Trench is the deepest known place on earth – almost seven miles deep (Mt. Everest is about 5.5 miles high). My little snorkeling dive was at the tippy top of a vast ocean. God caused me to understand that THIS IS HIS GRACE. His grace covers every sin of every person over all time! The worst thing you can think of – He’s offered forgiveness for it.

It still makes me emotional to remember it! But what happened in that moment was something supernatural. God softened my heart. I was overwhelmed by Him – as the scriptures say, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). I was filled, in that moment, with the knowledge of His glory and it changed me. Understanding more of His glory (which is beyond understanding) made me able to forgive from my heart. It made me not only able but desiring to forgive! That’s what I had been struggling with all along.

AND THAT’S THE POINT

We can’t forgive on our own. God doesn’t even expect us to. When you look at the process of forgiveness, it pushes you straight into Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection stand as witness to our need for forgiveness and God’s willingness to give it. It shows us our hearts and God’s heart.

We can’t squirm out of our need for forgiveness without denying Jesus (1 John 1:8).

We must understand God as a forgiving Father when we see Jesus (John 3:16).

We see both grace and truth realized through Jesus (John 1:14).

A future judgement is coming through Jesus (John 5:26-27; 12:47-48) which satisfies our need for justice.

So, God’s command to forgive is not an act of obedience that must be checked off in order to avoid punishment. It’s an invitation to experience the heart of God. In the process, we also learn to be persistent, and we learn humility. And we begin to experience freedom.

Freedom

God knows that unforgiveness enslaves us. When we are unwilling to forgive, we begin seeing ourselves as victims. We will be full of anger and bitterness that will either leak out of us in little acidic remarks or blow out of us in fits of rage. We may isolate ourselves from the community in order to put a stopper on it. But Jesus came that we may have abundant life (John 10:10). God made us to have abundant life, and He hates anything that steals that from us. No wonder He’s uncompromising about our need to forgive from the heart! We miss out on so much if we refuse. We end up in jail, tortured.

So, if you have unforgiveness in your heart, bring it before God. Be persistent. Keep pressing into this problem until God shows His heart to you, because He will. And that knowledge will bring you into a joyous freedom that will make the process worth it.

Answering Confusion

What difference does it make who you love? And who cares who uses which bathroom?

Several years ago, the topic of same sex marriage was floating in the air. I thought legalizing same sex marriage was a bad thing. A coworker asked me why I felt that way, and the best answer I could give at the time was that I want our nation’s laws to honor God.

But I couldn’t specify why. What, exactly would be better if we didn’t legislate same sex marriage or worse if we did? Now I have watched the chain reaction of gender legislation, and I have a more robust answer.

Humans, unlike animals, are created in the image of God. We are physical, mental  and spiritual beings. Those parts of us are designed to be integrated with one another. Integrity: the state of being whole or undivided. When someone actually is what he seems to be and claims to be, he has integrity. If we live lives that align our physical, mental and spiritual self, we are living lives of integrity. We are integrated beings.

BUT, if we attempt to sever any part from the whole, we become dis-integrated. Disintegrate: to break into small parts, weaken, decay.

The line of thinking that supports same sex marriage leads to disintegration. Rather than looking at the biological reality of sex, and taking our cues from it, we sever the physical reality of human gender and render it irrelevant. Essentially, we are saying the human body doesn’t matter.

Lately, we are seeing the effects of this thought process: the physical reality of our being has been ignored, and now gender has no meaning.

Until recent years, no one tried to separate sex from humanity. We were either male or female. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The amendment recognized the reality of biological sex and protected people from discrimination based on that reality.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Again, the antidiscrimination ammendment recognized the reality of sex.

However, since 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all states must recognize same-sex marriage, the understanding of biological sex has been torn apart (disintegrated). Supreme Court nominees cannot even define what “woman” means anymore. All this in seven short years.

Consider the wide reaching social impact. Female athletes are having to compete against biological males. School-age boys are being forced to use the same locker room as a female who identifies as male.
Biologically male prisoners are  being allowed to live in female prisons, and female inmates are at risk of harm. Ironically, feminists find themselves dividing on this issue because some recognize that the dissolution of gender is the beginning of the end of women’s rights.

In an attempt to re-integrate people who don’t identify with their biological gender, the medical community offers radical, expensive pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures. Children as young as ten are treated with puberty blockers. Transitioning procedures are rushed, unregulated and untested. Studies claim prematurely that all is safe, yet if people regret their decisions, their stories are often suppressed.

The path we are on is not good for anyone. It is not compassionate or true. We are not reaching the root of pain for hurting individuals, and we are attempting to dismantle gender as a reality.

Most likely, Christians won’t be able to reverse the legal trends in our society.  But as society becomes more and more disintegrated, the Church will become more important than ever.

So, what are we to do?

First, live an integrated life yourself. Jesus says it like this: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30.

Do you see in that scripture that God is fully integrated? He is one. We are created in His image and designed to be one. The desires of our heart will be turned on pleasing God. Our thoughts will honor God, and everything we do physically will honor God.

Part of loving God is recognizing and honoring His purposeful design for our bodies. We can do that and teach others to do the same.

Second, love people. Jesus continues: “The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31.

Equally important to how we honor God is how we love other people. There is no room for greed, pride, pornography, racism, or anything else that dishonors God or people in those commands. There is no room for hatred of people – any people.

We will love people by treating them with compassion and kindness, no matter their sexual orientation. And we should be particularly mindful that those who identify as LGBTQ+ are often in emotional turmoil. We will be a trauma center for those who have been hurt by our society.

We will also love people by telling them the truth. We will not pretend that their body is not designed with purpose. We will not lie to people by supporting laws and social structures that ignore the physical reality of gender.

Third, where you have failed to live with integrity, confess and repent. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

The forgiveness we receive through Jesus is the most loving and healing thing we can offer to other people. We can be reconciled to God, our creator. We can learn to live as new creations. We can begin to know the love of God through Christ Jesus. That is a free gift offered to all who will confess and repent. There is no sinful act or desire that can keep us or anyone else from God’s love if we receive it.

Fourth, don’t be embarrassed to agree with God, even if you can’t fully explain all the reasons. “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” I Peter 3:14-16

I couldn’t have foreseen all of the chaos that would ensue following the legalization of same-sex marriage, but I didn’t have to know everything to know it wasn’t honoring God’s design. I may have sounded like a simpleton when I said I wanted our laws to honor God, but that is o.k. Jesus said “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15

Other issues will come up. Be prepared to stick to what Jesus has shown us, and do it gently and with respect. God wants what’s best for us, and the most loving thing we can do is share that with people who are willing to listen.

Finally, persevere! “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” I Timothy 4:16 We depend on each other to stay strong, so let’s stay strong together. Gather with other believers. Give and receive encouragement. Use your gifts to strengthen the Church. You will be blessed, and so will those who listen to you.

Picture adapted from original by Samir Luther

Culture Wars on Facebook

Have you ever been under attack on social media?

My youngest child recently graduated from high school. The school district was trying to schedule five graduations in an outdoor stadium. They scheduled one per evening for five consecutive evenings with a rainout plan scheduled for the next morning. Our graduation was scheduled for Saturday night, which placed the rainout for Sunday morning.

This gave me pause. Why did the school district decide to schedule things – even plan B things – Sunday morning as if it’s like any other morning? It would not have been difficult to schedule differently. Does that bother anybody else? I emailed the school and got no reply. I also posted my concern in my local Facebook group. If other parents speak up, perhaps this wouldn’t be a choice future families would have to make.

Now, I did get a little chippy at the end of my post. I said I was going to be praying for no rain on Saturday, but if it did rain on Saturday, I’d be praying for it to pour on Sunday morning. I thought I was pretty funny. A few people laughed; a few people hearted the post; most gave a thumbs up, one clicked the angry face.

But the comments were very antagonistic and angry. People seemed to regard keeping Sunday separate as being born out of fear (you really think God won’t understand if you celebrate your child on a day of worship), small minded (what about other religions), or legalistic (g-d forbid you miss one day of going to church).

What to do with this attention I had accidentally generated? Obviously, returning hate and anger is not God’s way. But Jesus and His followers were very bold, so how was I supposed to be?

I thought about what Jesus and His disciples did every time they were the center of attention. They spoke the gospel. So, this is what I shared:

“Since this post is getting some attention, I’ll share more about the idea of Sunday morning.

God created everything. He gives us life and breath. He gave you the ability to read and process these words. He created the children who are graduating this weekend. God is the source of all right-ness and justice. He has done marvelous things.

He is worthy of praise and worship.

And although each one of us is guilty of rejecting Him – refusing to give thanks, refusing to do right – He has provided a way to repair the relationship through Jesus Christ. God not only forgives our sins through Jesus, but He invites us into His family.

He is worthy of praise and worship.

This year – 2021 – is the year of our children’s graduation because Jesus was born. Who knows how we would number the years otherwise. And we wouldn’t care about Jesus if He had been crucified and stayed dead. Sunday is the day Jesus rose from the dead – the miracle that has changed history. Everywhere around the world where there is freedom to worship, you will find Christians gathering on Sundays to worship – not out of compulsion or fear, but because He is worthy of praise.

It is good to set aside one morning out of each week to do that – and guard that time.
I hope GRHS graduation goes off without a hitch tonight, but if it’s raining tomorrow I hope that will bring these words to your mind and you will consider them.”

The post was quickly removed because it violated the rules against religious content. Thus, this blog post.

Fellow Christians, let’s not forsake the assembly. We need each other to stand strong in a world full of hostility and empty ambition. It is too easy to grow discouraged or angry if we don’t recenter ourselves in worship with the family of believers.

Parents of young ones: set your family’s priority now in the middle of your busy schedules. You will be glad you did. You will be grounding your family in the only foundation that stands, and you will be preparing your children by example to be different in this generation.

The world needs us to be different. The world needs us to be brave enough to say publically why we care about guarding our time of worship. The world needs to hear the gospel so they, too can build their lives on a solid foundation.

Where the Light Fell

I will be pondering this book for many days. Philip Yancey calls this a prequel to his other books. The formative years he describes explain an adult lifetime of writing about pain and grace.

His family, like all families, has a generational legacy of dysfunction. But Yancy’s family dysfunction is combined with legalistic religiosity, the social dysfunction of the 1950’s South, and the profound personal tragedy of losing a father.

Yet a thread of grace runs through the story. Yancey’s relationship with his brother, his kind grandparents, the gifts of intelligence and musicality all contribute goodness and hope. There is no tidy ending. Knowing the grace of God does not explain life. But it does allow a person to accept the messiness of it with that same grace – or at least a version of it.

Yancey’s writing is brave and I’m glad he has shared it.

I was provided an advance copy through #NetGalley #WheretheLightFell

Easter Sunday

He has RISEN!! And that means eveything!

He didn’t die just a horrible, unjust death; he died a particular kind of death.  He says it substitutes for the punishment I deserve.

So THAT’S what he meant by “I am the gate,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the way and no one comes to the Father except through me.”

He said this would happen. He said he would be flogged and whipped and killed and rise again on the third day. He was being literal!

He promised eternal life for us as well, if we really believe what He’s done for us.

I truly believe.

I love Him for doing this for me.

He said those who love Him will obey His commands, so I’m going to spend the rest of my life learning to do just that.

He is RISEN!

Jesus’ seven I AM statements:
John 6:35, 41, 48, 51
John 8:12
John 10:7,9
John 10:11, 14
John 11:25
John 14:6
John 15:1, 5

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