Is Peace with the World a Reasonable Goal?
Prince of Peace

By now you may have heard about Christian celebrities who have either renounced their faith or are in the process of losing their faith.

The most recent celebrity to do so is Marty Sampson, a lyricist long associated with Hillsong and whose songs many of us have sung in our churches. Sampson wrote:

“I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.”

He has since deleted the comment and qualified it by saying he was “struggling with many parts of the belief system that seem so incoherent with common human morality” and his faith is on “incredibly shaky ground.”

Struggling with doubts and questions is not unusual. Of course, few Christians have the kind of public platforms that people such as Marty Sampson and Josh Harris have.

But as Sampson tries to figure out how to get his spiritual life back on solid ground, it’s worth asking about his goal. Is his goal peace with the world, as he mentioned? Because if it is, then Christianity will never give him what he’s seeking, as these Bible verses attest:

  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
    ~ Romans 12:2 ESV
  • “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” ~ James 4:4 ESV
  •  “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
    ~ I John 3:13 ESV

With growing animosity, our culture has set itself against the God of the Bible. Yes, to the point of hatred, including hatred of those who identify as Christ-followers. Even so, Christians are not to respond with hate in return. We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

But loving our enemies is not the same as being at peace with the world. For the foundation of a Christian’s faith will always put us at odds with a world system that has declared itself too wise to need God and too independent to be accountable to Him. A world which, at best, mocks our faith and, at worst, kills Christians who profess to belief in the God who sent His Son to die for those who hate Him.

Is Sampson, along with others, willing to obtain peace with the world at the cost of compromising or renouncing his Christian beliefs? Does he understand it’s those beliefs that engendered the hostility to begin with?

What about you and me?

  • Is peace with the world worth losing peace with God (Romans 5:1)?
  • Is acceptance by our culture worth giving up the acceptance we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:6)?
  • And is the temporary approval of the world worth losing our eternal identity in Christ (Galatians 1:10)?

Peace—real peace—is found in a relationship with the Prince of Peace. A relationship with the world apart from Jesus Christ can only provide a poor imitation.

The Christian life is the sum of more than just singing emotional songs and quoting Bible verses. It includes a willingness to endure suffering and the loss of the approval of others. Jesus Christ showed us what that looks like:

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Easier said than done? Yes. But not impossible, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Still, the choice is ours to make.

What will you choose?


 
Absolute Truth…or Not?

Is there such a thing as absolute truth?

If you answered yes, you share a traditional world view that is quickly falling out of favor in our culture.

If you said no, you’ve just contradicted yourself. Saying there’s no such thing as absolute truth is actually making an absolute truth statement!

Absolute truths are accepted in almost every meaningful discipline of life: mathematics, chemistry, biology. Two plus two equals four. Not three or five. It’s an accepted absolute.

So why, in a world where absolute truth exists in most disciplines of life, does it not apply to morality and spirituality? Who decided these two areas are an exception?

We’re living in a time when things are true until we don’t want them to be. Think about it.

  • By the world’s standards, a baby in the womb is a baby only if the mother wants the baby. Otherwise, it’s a “clump of cells.”
  • Our culture has decided binary gender—male and female—are now two of many options that are no longer exclusively male or female, despite physical biological evidence to the contrary. Gender is now “fluid” depending on the individual’s changing feelings.
  • Right and wrong are no longer absolutes, either. Now, what’s wrong for you may be right for me. And who are you to judge?
  • A recent Netflix documentary, Liberated, was created to “present the sexual landscape of our culture as it is rather than preach about it.” But critics were furious to learn it “showed the emptiness in hook-up culture and one-night-stands.” Apparently, it’s no longer acceptable to speak the truth.
  • Our culture decries control of the nation’s borders to stem illegal immigration in the name of children’s best interests, yet celebrates the legality of killing babies minutes before their birth.

It’s difficult to justify such contradictions in the name of logic and rationality.

We can call evil good and good evil, and claim truth is relative, but that doesn’t make it so.

We live in a world that demands hard evidence, yet refuses to believe in a Creator because they won’t recognize the evidence that’s there. This delicately balanced universe could not have accidentally evolved any more than a Rolex watch just happened to evolve into a sophisticated time piece.

People who deny the evidence of their own bodies in favor of gender-bending claims are basing those claims on feelings and faulty thinking, rather than biological evidence.

We follow scientists who teach the universe began with a “big bang,” but they can’t produce evidence or explain the source of the gasses that supposedly exploded.

So what’s a Christian to do? How can we respond in a way that engages the culture? How can we present evidence based on a biblical world view instead of simply arguing with those who disagree with us?

Follow the ABCs!

Ask questions:

  • Before sharing what you believe, ask what the other person believes and why.
  • Have they researched the topic for themselves?
  • What are their personal experiences related to the subject?

Be respectful:

  • Don’t demonize those who disagree with you.
  • Really listen to what they say…and what they don’t say.
  • Try to understand why they believe what they do. Are their beliefs influenced by past emotional wounds?
  • Be willing to “plant seeds” rather than “go in for the kill.”

Communicate compassion:

  • Care about the person more than you care about winning an argument. Be willing to build a relationship with them.
  • Leave the door open for further discussion. Most serious disagreements are not resolved in one conversation.

As Christians, we find ourselves living right-side-up in an upside-down world. But nobody promised it would be easy. Ask the Holy Spirit for the perseverance to stay true to the Person of Truth, Jesus Christ. Then speak the truth in love and live it out, regardless of others’ responses.

I suspect some of those who disagree with us may be secretly cheering us on. Because if we can live for the One who said, “I am the Truth,” it gives others hope. Hope that their shallow world, built on shifting contradictions, is not all there is to life.

And that can be the best truth of all.


 
Unplanned

I watch movies to be entertained. To smile and laugh and cheer at happy endings. I don’t watch movies to be disturbed…until now.

And I’m about to encourage you to watch a movie that will disturb you greatly.

Unless you’ve recently returned from a lengthy stay on an isolated desert island, by now you’ve heard of the movie, Unplanned. Reactions have generally been along expected lines. Most Christians support it and the secular culture abhors it.

Despite an initial limited run (1000 theaters nationwide), the movie came in at #4 in box office receipts for its opening weekend. That’s despite a virtual media blackout and proactive actions by social media gatekeepers to squelch any word of support. Twitter inactivated the official movie account. Television stations are refusing to sell advertising slots.

But the reaction that concerns me most is the one from pro-life Christians who say, “I’m already pro-life, so I don’t need to see it.” Or, “I won’t see the movie because the R rating proves it’s too upsetting.” Or, “I don’t get to the movies much. I’ll wait until the DVD is released.”

This is my response especially for Christians who don’t plan to see Unplanned.

Yes, this movie is rated R for several emotional scenes. But unlike the gore of fantasy movies, this is real. And I find it especially difficult to understand why a teen girl must be protected from seeing the reality of abortion via the R rating when they are legally able to have an abortion performed on them without their parents’ consent. Thousands upon thousands of young girls are marching blindly into Planned Parenthood to subject themselves to this very act of violence. They walk out more broken than they could ever imagine. Oh. My. Aching. Heart!

Let me get this straight: they can do it, but they shouldn’t see it?

This is, indeed, a disturbing movie. But that’s why every Christian needs to see it. Many will not, yet I believe that’s exactly what Satan wants: for us to stay sheltered in our protected Christian bubbles. He couldn’t stop the movie from being made, so he’ll do all he can to stop Christians from wanting to see it.

Too many Christians say they are pro-life, but the reality is many of us don’t really understand the horror of abortion. If we stay in our sheltered worlds, we won’t be as passionately heartbroken about the horror of abortion as we should be. And the enemy will continue winning the hearts and minds of this nation.

Unplanned depicts the level of lies and evil the enemy is wielding in our culture—the very thing Satan does not want us to know.

Sadly, many Christians will not see this movie because they don’t want to come face to face with just how horrible abortion is. Of course, we don’t want to know. Who in their right mind would ever want those images seared into their memory?

Still, how can we take an effective stand unless we know what we are really standing for?

If every Christian truly understood this, organizations and ministries such as Care Net and other crisis pregnancy centers would never lack for volunteers, financial support, and prayer warriors. Support they require to provide services to women and families who desperately need to know about available alternatives.

And these are not just women outside the church. According to a 2015 study, “more than four in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended the pregnancy.”

Seeing Unplanned may not be a movie Christians want to see. But it is a movie we need to see. And it’s a movie pro-choice supporters need to see, as well. Do we all have the courage of our convictions to watch the unpleasant even when it makes us uncomfortable?

See Unplanned. Better yet, take as many people as possible with you. Do it for yourself. Do it for the girls and women who will have abortions without understanding the long-term consequences. Do it for the myriad unborn children awaiting an advocate who will speak up on their behalf.

Do it because it’s the right thing to do.


 
Hard Truths Relevant to Today’s Headlines
Hard Truths

I’ve heard it over and over again. “The Bible is an ancient, mythological book irrelevant to modern culture.”

Is it? The Christian community would disagree. Those who do not follow Christ are not convinced.

We could lock horns and argue about this until Jesus returns.

But our local headlines recently exploded with the results of a months-long investigation into sex trafficking. An investigation that began in our own county and stretched across state and international boundaries.

And as I watched developments unfold—and they’re still unfolding even now—I couldn’t help but think of a hard truth from that “ancient, mythological book.”

“Be sure your sin will find you out.” ~ Numbers 32:23 (ESV)

This was a true statement when it was written several thousand years ago and it is true today. We have only to listen to the news to confirm its accuracy.

Celebrities. Corporate giants. Philanthropic role models. And of course, “regular guys.” Upstanding members of the community. Husbands, fathers, and sons. They all learned the hard way that while we may hide our sin for a season, the darkness of all sin will someday be revealed.

So what can we learn from their failures…and our own, too?

We can start with some hard truths from the Bible:

1. Start with a new nature.

“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out….Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Romans 7:18. 24-25 (ESV)

Relying on our own strength will doom us before we begin. But when we surrender our life to Jesus Christ, His Spirit dwells within us to guide, convict, and empower us to do what’s right.

2. Don’t believe your own press.

“The heart is deceitful above all things.” ~ Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

No one is immune to temptation. The more we try to convince ourselves that we’re stronger and better than the next person is the moment we’ll stumble and fall. And if people say enough nice things about us, after a while we start to believe what they say.

But an accurate assessment of who we are does not come from what people say about us. Rather, it is found in measuring ourselves against the plumb line of God’s Word.

3. Be accountable to at least one other person—find your “Nathan.”

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” ~ Proverbs 27:6 (ESV)

King David needed the prophet Nathan to speak truth into his life (“You are the man!” ~ II Samuel 12:7) after he sinned with Bathsheba. We also need people who will courageously speak the truth in love, regardless of how we might initially receive it.

4. Choose your friends wisely.        

 “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
~ I Corinthians 15:33 (ESV)

Sad words that describe a downward spiral of sin and defeat. A spiral that might have been halted with the right friends to encourage us in righteousness.

5. Start small and go long.

“My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” ~ Proverbs 6:20 (ESV)

People rarely wake up one morning and decide, “Today I will schedule a moral failure.” It happens as we distance ourselves from God instead of surrendering to Him and immersing ourselves in His Word.

Think about a dirt road. If the road is not graded regularly, two ruts will appear from the repeated path of the car tires. By nurturing a habit of obedience in seemingly inconsequential areas, we create ruts or paths of obedience. This builds our self-control little by little until we’re able to withstand bigger temptations.

The Bible was relevant when it was written, and it’s relevant now.
What will you do with the hard truths of God’s Word today?


 
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