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?


 
Is the Problem Guns, Sin, or a Worldview?

worldview

I’ve listened to the arguments.

The problem is access to guns.

No, the problem begins in the heart—specifically, hearts corrupted by sin.

The more I hear the debate, the more I think both arguments are missing the point.

Guns have always been available. And sin has always been around, at least since the Garden of Eden.

So really, what changed?

If we’re honest with ourselves, the only thing that changed in the past 50 years is our worldview.

Our western culture no longer even pretends to espouse a biblical worldview. What I mean by that is we no longer base our philosophy of life and our values on a biblical foundation.

  • Morality is relative. Right and wrong depend solely on your perspective rather than absolute standards.
  • Truth is relative. What’s true for me may not be true for you.
  • The determination of the beginning of life depends on whether the mother wants the baby growing inside her.
  • We teach children that they are a biological accident, rather than a person of eternal value created in the image of God.

When we divorce ourselves from the understanding that humanity is accountable to its Creator, what we have left is a diminished value of life and a corrupted view of sin. After all, your “truth” doesn’t have to be “my” truth anymore.

Our culture no longer views character development and discipline as useful. Just ask any teacher who’s had to explain to an angry parent why little Johnny experienced the consequence of failure for not completing his term paper. Excuses abound…from little Johnny and Johnny’s parents.

A cultivated sense of entitlement demands that we get our own way, regardless of someone else’s standards—regardless of any standards.

So our morality is relative, our view of life is that it’s an accident with no eternal purpose, and our understanding of sin is quickly becoming non-existent. And then we’re surprised when teens and young adults respond to their despair by killing anyone they perceive offended them?

We stripped life of its eternal value, and we’re surprised at the result?

Want more proof? A video game which was to be released in June would have provided players with the opportunity to play the role of a school shooter, scoring points for kills. The distribution company justified the game by saying the player also has the option of choosing to play the role of a SWAT team member instead of a shooter. And they had included the following disclaimer:

“Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else. If you feel like hurting someone or people around you please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911 (or applicable). Thank you.”

Don’t take killing seriously? Really?

Due to a major outcry, “Active Shooter” was pulled from release. Interestingly enough, they pulled it, not because of the content, but because the creator had a bad reputation.

The solutions I’ve heard put forth to restore safety in our schools and workplaces seem to focus on symptoms instead of the cause.

If our culture persists in refusing to acknowledge the God who created us as well as the eternal value of life (whether a baby in the womb or a student in a classroom), we will continue to experience the horror of life violently snuffed out.

What shapes your worldview?


 
Refrigerator Magnet Theology

refrigerator magnet
How many magnets grace the front of your refrigerator? One? Five? Twelve?

Refrigerator magnets can be silly, serious, or snarky. They can be cute, corny, or classy.

Refrigerator magnets have also generated much theology that sounds good…but isn’t.

Consider these catchy quotes:

  • God never gives us more than we can handle.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • We’re all God’s children.

Phrases passed down from generation to generation. Easily remembered sound bites with a whisper of biblical wisdom and a hint of Christianity…and a bucketful of error.

Let’s look at these four examples:

God never gives us more than we can handle.

This probably originated with II Corinthians 10:13:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (NIV).

As you can see, the context of this verse is temptation. God always provides a way for us to stand against temptation. But what about other life experiences? Let’s face it, most of us have experienced situations way beyond what we can handle on our own. The key in that last sentence is the phrase “on our own.”

We live in a fallen, sin-sick world. Tragedy strikes. Suffering happens. Betrayal blindsides us. Most of the time, it is indeed more than we can handle on our own.

But Christians are never “on our own.” We have the presence of the Holy Spirit in us to strengthen, guide, and give wisdom. When God allows us to experience more than we can handle ourselves, it’s an invitation to run to the One who provides what we need when we depend on Him.

 

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

This phrase probably developed in response to all the Bible verses that reference being cleansed—verses such as:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 NASB).

and

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3 NASB).

But once again, if we examine the context, we’ll see these verses are talking about being cleansed from sin, not from physical dirt. (Although my mother may disagree!)

 

God helps those who help themselves.

This phrase does not appear anywhere in Scripture.

One of the biggest traps we can fall into spiritually is thinking that we must help ourselves before God will help us. The difference between Christianity and every other religion is that we cannot help ourselves into heaven. God has accomplished all that we need for our salvation. Consider Romans 5:6:

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (NASB).

God helps the helpless!

 

We’re all God’s children.

This phrase is more wishful thinking than anything else, because John 1:12 tells us:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (NASB).

Becoming a child of God does not happen by physical birth, it happens when we receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. At that moment, we are adopted into God’s family. In case you think this verse is the only way that teaches this, consider Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (NASB).

We are all created by God for He is the One who gives physical life. Becoming a child of  God—being adopted into His family—comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s guard against believing a statement because it sounds good or because it has been passed down from generation to generation. A refrigerator magnet is not the best source for sound theology. Check it against God’s Word to know, beyond any doubt, what is truly true.


 
Christians, Please Stop Saying That

Last week another hurricane hit Florida. But it wasn’t just another hurricane. Irma is the most powerful storm to ever come out of the Atlantic. So large, it covered the whole state, coast to coast.

The. Whole. State.

We endured Category 1 winds on the east coast. Dangerous and damaging, but not the Category 4 and 5 originally expected. We boarded up and hunkered down, and escaped with relatively minor damage compared to the Keys, Miami, and the west coast of Florida. Still, Irma did leave problems in her wake. No power, no phones, some flooding. But all in all, most of us emerged fairly intact.

Christian conversations

In a recent conversation, another Christian and I were sharing our respective post-Irma experiences. Both of us were immensely grateful we came through with minimal damage. Both of us have neighbors affected more severely than us.

And then he said it. The phrase that motivated this blog post: “We were spared because God hears the cries of His children.”

I cringed.

Not a Magic Formula

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, God hears the cries of His children. And of course, I had prayed for protection as the hurricane bore down on us. And I am ever so grateful for the protection the Lord provided.

But, as Christians, perhaps it’s time to reconsider saying “we were spared because God hears the cries of His children,” as if it’s a magic formula for protection. Because, while God always hears His children’s cries, He sovereignly answers according to His perfect will and His perfect timing. And how He answers is not always in line with our immediate desires.

Consider the Christians on Islamorada devastated by this storm of storms. Or the Christians in the Caribbean who lost their homes. What about the Christians on Florida’s east and west coasts who experienced flooding and injury? Of course, let’s not forget the Christians in Houston, still reeling from Harvey’s destruction.

Didn’t they all cry out to their heavenly Father for protection? Didn’t He hear the cries of those children?

In a recent post, “Hurricanes, Trust, and the Sovereignty of God,” I noted that the natural consequences of living in a broken world include storms: physical, emotional, and yes, hurricanes. And whether God physically protects us in every storm or not, our relationship with Him remains the same. We are still His children.

Bottom line, He sees the big picture and we do not. He knows the intimacy we will experience with Him in our suffering. He knows the blessing we will be to others in the midst of the worst trials.

Enter Faith

We don’t need faith when life is pleasant and God fulfills all our requests. Faith is the muscle we exercise when our circumstances lure us to despair. Will we say with Job, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15 NAS)? Or will we grumble at God for not responding to our requests for protection, as if He’s a genie in a bottle obligated to meet our demands?

Even worse, to those who don’t share our beliefs we sound like children taunting each other on a playground: “Nyeh, nyeh, God protected us because we’re His children and you’re not.” Yet the Bible tells us, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt. 5:45 NAS).

God is SovereignSo, as children of God, by all means pray for protection. Let’s thank Him when we receive it, and continue trusting Him if we don’t.

Share the joy and the intimacy that results from a relationship with the Creator of the universe who tells us to call Him Abba (Papa). Be as salt to increase the thirst of others for that same relationship. Do it when God protects us as we asked and when He allows circumstances we pleaded for Him to prevent.

He may be using those painful circumstances for something better. Drawing us to Him in deeper intimacy. Molding us to be more like Jesus. Making us a bright light in a world that is becoming darker with each passing day.

Still, if He allows those situations, He promises to be with us in them. Will we choose to be content in these undesired circumstances, resting in the assurance that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)?

And for those not in a restored relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, please don’t hesitate another moment to begin this relationship. Believe Christ died for your sins to restore you to your heavenly Father. Not because He will protect you from every difficult situation. But because this relationship grants a protected eternal future, regardless of what happens in this temporary life.

For now please remember, Christians: God does, indeed, hear the cries of His children. In His sovereignty, He may choose to spare us from some of the consequences of this broken world…or not. But if He doesn’t, it’s because He is fulfilling His best plan for our ultimate good and for His eternal glory.

Have I touched a nerve with this post?
What are your thoughts?


 
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