Wise Up About Alcohol

by James MacDonald

Monday, September 19, 2005

Category: Problems

I will not be brought under the power of anything.”  1 Corinthians 6:12

I grew up in a very conservative, somewhat legalistic church, and I heard a lot of red-faced pulpit pounding about the awfulness of alcohol.

That attitude in the pulpit quickly translated into a lot of judging in the pews. Well-meaning Christians would say, “The first thing you gotta do now that you’re following Jesus is to stop drinking.”  And, “You’re not as spiritual as I am if you don’t see this issue the way that I do.”  Even then I knew that wasn’t Jesus’ heart on the matter at all.

So as I look back now, I think I overreacted. Not wanting to be legalistic, I left the subject alone.  But I have to say to my own shame that in trying to avoid legalism on the subject of alcohol, I believe that we as a generation of believers have come dangerously close to promoting license.  So we’re going to solve that right now.

The way I see it, all of us fall into one of three categories:

Group 1: You’ve got a drinking problem.  It’s way beyond, “I like Kool Aid, I like Diet Coke, I like Budweiser.”  You have a problem.  You drink because you need to and that’s not taking you in a good direction.
Group 2: You drink for amusement. “Drinking’s not a problem for me.  I really enjoy my alcohol here and there.”
Group 3: You completely abstain from alcohol.  “I don’t drink at all and I don’t allow it in our home.”

I don’t know which of those three groups you’re in, but my goal both here and in the broadcast message, “Wise Up about Alcohol” is to try as best as I know how to lead you toward what I believe is the highest and best choice for the followers of Jesus.

In the complete message you can catch six reasons why I believe in total abstinence from alcohol. Notice, six reasons why I believe this.  I promise you at the outset, if you come to a different conviction, I’m not going to judge you about it but I will challenge you to defend your conviction from God’s Word.  If alcohol has in any way affected your life or the life of your family, I encourage you to listen to the complete message.  Here’s a summary: I believe in total abstinence because . . .

#1  drunkenness is a sin, not a disease.
#2  alcohol impairs wisdom.
#3  alcohol is an unnecessary drug.
#4  alcohol is destructive.
#5  alcohol is addictive.

#6  Finally, I believe in total abstinence because wisdom calls me to set it aside.  The Bible does not require total abstinence, but it recommends it as the highest and best course, filled with the greatest wisdom.  I believe it is a choice which you can be most proud of when you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a wise choice. Proverbs 20:1 says “Wine is a mocker, and strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”  You say, “But I’m not being led astray.”  No, but you’re on that path.

It is a loving choice. As you grow in your faith, you discern that you make choices not because of what is best for you, but by what is best for others.  The Christian life is not all about you—what you can handle, what you can control, what’s nice for you.  The Christian life is for others.  We don’t live to ourselves. Romans 14:15 says, “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love.  Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be evil spoken of; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

You would never want to defend what you’re doing on the basis of what’s best for you.  You would always want to make a loving choice and realize that though I might not stumble into a sinful use of this commodity, it might destroy someone else. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Kids embrace what parents tolerate.”  That should concern you. Any youth pastor will tell you that the primary place where kids begin to experiment with drinking is from their parent’s supply. Total abstinence is a loving choice.

Abstinence is also an edifying choice.  Romans 14:19 challenges us, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things with which one may edify another.”  The application of this is: “I’m going to do the things with my life that will help you be a better follower of Jesus.”

Lastly, it’s a supportive choice.  Romans 14:21 says, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine, nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”

You say, “Well, James, you’ve put me in a position where I’m not totally sure that I can go ahead drinking.”  Look closely at Romans 14:23, “But he who doubts is condemned . . . whatever is not from faith is sin.”  Now I’ve really wrecked you.  As a follower of Jesus, if you’re not sure it’s right for you to drink alcohol, then it’s wrong for you to do it even if it isn’t wrong.

The Bible does not require abstinence, but I believe it recommends it as the wiser choice.  “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”  1 Thessalonians 5:22 “I will not be brought under the power of anything.”  1 Corinthians 6:12 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:32. You say, “Free from what?”—free from addictive patterns of sinfulness that don’t lead to the righteousness which can be found in Christ alone.

So, lovingly and imperfect as I am, I commend to you total abstinence as the wisest course for your life. I challenge you to lay it down at the cross and get 100 percent free of its power and allure for the higher and better influence of others.  Take the biblical foundation laid out in this message and be an influence for this righteous choice within the body of Christ

Young Men — Is This You?

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Need” is a strong word. But I use it intentionally and I use it passionately. Yes, I use it urgently. Our culture desperately needs men. Not boys! We have plenty of boys. The church needs men, real men, godly men, holy men, biblical men. As a minister of the gospel, as a student of Scripture, as a biblical counselor, and as a man after God’s own heart, I will list 8 traits that should characterize men. So — young men: is this you?

Young men — you need…

1) Truth — Jesus described Himself as being “the Truth.” God is the God of truth and truthfulness. You are made by Him and designed to emulate Him. Speak truth in your heart and have no fear of what you’ll say. Fill your mind and heart with truthful things and flee from deceptive, hidden, devious, manipulative ways. Young men, at all costs, be men of truth!

2) Integrity — The biblical concept of integrity speaks of wholeness, blamelessness. That is, to live a life of integrity demands a person who refuses double-mindedness and double-living. What you say you’ll do, do it at all costs. Be faithful, true to your word, and honest in all things.

3) Gentleness — The boldest and manliest person to ever walk this world was God in human flesh. And this Lord Jesus Christ was full of gentleness. Be strong! Be courageous! Be self-controlled and be sober-minded. Control your heart, mind, words, and actions. Be gentle!

4) Convictions — Be willing to die for things! These are your convictions. Men hold opinions but convictions hold the man. Believe God, His Word, the gospel and in the eternality of the soul, and live and die for Him. Shape your convictions by Scripture and stand up for them.

5) Perseverance — When life thrashes you against the rocks remember one thing: when suffering comes it comes because God wants you there. God grows His people as they endure hardships. Don’t despise the clouds that God brings. The Sun of Righteousness grows you in it.

6) Punctuality — Young men have this tragic reputation of being late (and lazy). And shamefully, it’s often true. Manhood demands responsibility. Rise early. Prepare your body and heart. Warm your soul with Christ each day. Leave early. Arrive early. Pray, prepare, be punctual. To arrive 5 minutes early is to arrive on time. Remember that.

7) Submission — Never be to prideful to submit. Godly men submit. Christ Himself — God come in the flesh — submitted Himself constantly and perfectly to the will of His Father. Submit to your parents. Submit to your authorities. Submit to the police. Submit to your church shepherd-elders. Find joy in obeying Christ in worshipful submission.

8) Discipline — Own your body. Don’t be mastered by it. You need to discipline yourself. No one wins a gold metal by coasting. No one wins the race with laziness. Discipline your soul, your mind, your body. Engage daily with Christ. Pray humbly before Him. Speak much of Him. Ponder His beauties. Discipline yourself, O man.

Should Christians Cremate Their Loved Ones? A Modest Proposal


Should Christians Cremate Their Loved Ones?

My proposal in this article is that Christian churches be willing to help families financially with simple Christ-exalting funerals and burials, so that no Christian is drawn to cremation because it’s cheaper. I’m not thinking mainly of a line-item in the budget, but of a segregated compassion-fund that church members may give to regularly or as the need arises. Grieving families could quietly approach the overseer of that fund and make it known that they have a need, and all could be handled quietly and carefully between the family and the funeral home.

At the same time, I do believe that pastors should discourage expensive funerals. In a Bible-saturated, counter-cultural church, made up of kingdom-minded sojourners and exiles (1 Peter 2:11), no one should be pressured into the mindset that the more expensive the coffin, the more loved the deceased. Pastors should lead the way in cultivating a church ethos where expensive funerals (and weddings!) are not the norm. God-centered, gospel-rooted, Christ-exalting simplicity should be the norm.

How many evangelicals would choose cremation if it cost as much or more than a simple, traditional service of burial? Very few. There has been a skyrocketing preference for cremation over the past decades in the United States (1960—3.5%; 1999—24.8%; 2014—46.7%; in some states it is over 75%). There are various causes, but the greatest, by far, is the combination of secularization and economics. Fewer people test the practice with biblical criteria, and more people want the cheapest solution.

So my aim here is to touch on both of those causes. First, I am proposing that churches cultivate a Christian counter-culture where people expect simple, less expensive funerals, and where we all pitch in so that every church member can afford such a funeral. Second, I want to give biblical pointers for why burial is preferable to cremation. I say preferable, not commanded, in the hope that the culture created would not condemn or ostracize a person who chose differently. I encourage those who choose cremation not to equate our disapproval with ostracism. Otherwise, real disagreements are not possible among friends.

The Dignity of the Human Body

Two focuses of Scripture lead away from burning toward burying. One is the focus on the meaning and importance of the human body, now and in the life to come. The other is the meaning of fire as it relates to the human body, now and in the life to come.

First, biblical faith, unlike Greek religion, does not view the body as theprison of the soul. So the afterlife has never been viewed as the “immortality of the soul” finally liberated from its physical prison. Rather, Christianity has always viewed the body as essential to full humanity so that the life to come has primarily been seen as the resurrection of the body in glorious eternal life. Paul did not consider the intermediate bodiless state, between death and resurrection, as ideal (2 Corinthians 5:4).

The greatest thing that can be said about the human body is that the eternal Son of God was incarnate in a human body and will have one forever. He “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). Today in heaven, Jesus has the body he had on earth, glorified. When he comes he will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). This was an immeasurable elevation in history of the dignity and glory of the human body.

In this life Paul says, “The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13). He goes on to say even more amazing things about the body.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

Note four stunning facts: 1) Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. 2) Christ died to purchase us, including the purchase of our bodies, for himself. 3) Therefore our bodies do not belong to us to use as we please, but rather as he pleases. 4) Therefore, we should use our bodies to put the glory of God on display.

  • Our body, God’s dwelling.
  • Our body, God’s purchase.
  • Our body, God’s possession.
  • Our body, God’s glory.

Paul said he hoped to magnify Christ “in my body whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). Glorifying God is what the body is for — in life and in death.

This blood-bought, God-owned temple of the Spirit is not destined for final destruction, but for resurrection glory. It is precisely the continuity between the Spirit-indwelt-body now and the Spirit-work at the last day which guarantees our resurrection:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)

The body will never be discarded. It has been bought by the blood of Jesus!

All of this leads to a view of burial controlled by symbols which are true to the glory of the human body. Paul’s understanding of burial is that this was a picture of being “sown” in the ground like a seed that will sprout with wildly superior beauty at the resurrection, when the graves are opened at the coming of Christ.

What you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. . . . So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:37, 42–44)

Burial — sowing the seed of the body — is the biblical picture of belief in the resurrection of the body.

Christians also have seen burial as the laying to rest of the body as though it is sleeping waiting for the waking of the resurrection. “We who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51). Early “Christian gravesites were called coemeteria (cemeteries), which literally means ‘sleeping places,’ reflecting belief in a future resurrection” (Timothy George).

One of the reasons putting the body in the ground, as if in sleep, was important was that no one knew when the Lord Jesus would come back. Therefore, it was possible that the trumpet could sound not long after the burial, and the dead would be raised very much as if he had only taken a nap.

But the main issue was the message of the symbolism about the preciousness of the body now, and the glory of the body at the resurrection. The double symbolism of sowing seed, as though ready to sprout, and laying to rest, as though ready to waken, was the main reason Christians have buried their dead and provided burial for those who could not afford it.

The Dreadfulness of Fire

The other focus of Scripture that leads away from burning toward burying (besides the importance of the human body) is the meaning of fire as it relates to the human body now and in the life to come.

The use of fire to consume the human body on earth was seen as a sign of contempt. It was not a glorious treatment of the body but a contemptuous one. This is the meaning of Achan’s cremation. He had betrayed Israel and so was not only stoned with his family, but deprived of an ordinary burial by being burned.

Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. (Joshua 7:25)

To be sure, fire is a great gift from God. It warms, and brightens, and guides, and cooks, and refines. But in relation to the human body, it is a dreadful thing. It wounds and tortures and kills and destroys.

This is most prominent in relation to the body after death. As a Christian who believes in the judgment of God after death (Hebrews 9:27), the last symbol we want to use, in connection with death, is fire! Hell (gehenna) is a place of fire (Matthew 5:22; James 3:6). This fire is meant to be felt by the body.

“It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:30)

“Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

“Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” (Luke 16:24)

In summary, then, the two biblical focuses that point away from burning to burying are 1) the preciousness of the human body as God’s purchase and possession, now and forever, and 2) the dreadfulness of fire as it relates to the human body especially after death.

Four Other Reasons to Bury

There are other reasons, besides these biblical pointers, that should give us pause before we decide to burn our loved ones. (Using the word “burn” instead of “cremate” is like using the phrase “dismember babies” instead of “abort fetuses” — it prevents us from hiding reality.) For example:

  1. Where Christians are a small minority, cremation is high. And where Christian influence is giving way to rapid secularization, cremation is rapidly increasing. “Almost everyone adhering to Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism cremate their dead. . . . Japan has one of the highest cremation rates in the world with the country reporting a cremation rate of 99.85% in 2008. . . . The cremation rate in the United Kingdom has been increasing steadily with the national average rate rising from 34.7% in 1960 to 73.44% in 2008. . . . [In Canada the cremation rate rose] from 5.89% in 1970 to 68.4% in 2009.” (Wikipedia) (Note: The Japanese cities ofTokyo and Osaka have ordinances requiring cremation “due to lack of cemetery space or for sanitary reasons.” I doubt that those two arguments would be decisive if there were not other worldview issues at stake. God will give wisdom to Christians living under this added legal constraint.)
  2. “The first cremation in America took place in 1876, accompanied by readings from Charles Darwin and the Hindu scriptures. For many years, relatively few persons (mostly liberals and freethinkers) chose cremation.” (George)
  3. The nature of the procedure of cremation makes dishonesty difficult to prevent and honesty hard to enforce. For example, how would you know if the crematorium actually cremates your loved one, rather than just disposing of the body? There have been scandals over this very issue. It may be cheaper for the crematorium to dispose of the body. And we all like cheaper.
  4. How would you have any assurance that the ashes they give you are the ashes of your deceased loved one? This is simply impossible to police. For all we know, a crematorium may have common bucket of ashes, and may give you your three pounds. There is no way you can know.

A Modest Proposal

I am encouraging churches to cultivate a Christian counter-culture where people expect simple, less expensive funerals and burials, and where we all pitch in so that a Christian burial is not a financial hardship on anyone. And because of the biblical pointers and the additional reasons above, I am arguing that God-centered, gospel-rooted burial is preferable to cremation. Preferable. Not commanded, but rich with Christian truth that will become a clearer and clearer witness as our society becomes less and less Christian.


More from Desiring God

  • Don’t Waste Death | One Saturday, we buried DeAndre — a father, brother, uncle, and cousin. He will be greatly missed. His death reminded me of a hard truth: Death shouldn’t be wasted.
  • Cremation or Burial? | In this episode of Ask Pastor John, he discusses the differences between cremation and burial, and why the differences should matter for Christians trying to make the decision for their loved ones.
  • You Will Never See Death | John Piper preaches a sermon onJohn 8:48–59. He explains how the life and death of Jesus Christ free us from the lifelong bondage of the fear of death.
Thumb author john piperJohn Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

Remembering Marshall Harrison Brown

Worthily Magnify

1A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my Wednesday night seminary class when I got a phone call that would change everything. It was my brother calling to say that my dad had been found unresponsive on his apartment floor, and I needed to get over there right away. I’ve never driven so fast in my life.

I arrived, and was able to see my dad still barely alive, before the paramedics arrived and attempted to stabilize him. They tried their hardest on the ambulance, and the doctors did their best at the hospital, but to no avail. My dad died of heart failure as a result of undiagnosed cardiomyopathy the evening of April 13th, 2016.

Marshall Harrison Brown was born in North Miami, Florida, in 1953, the only son of Jerry and Emma Brown. He met and married my mom at The Church of the Resurrection in Miami, and they…

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10 Guidelines for Christian Voters

Make God’s Word your primary voting guide. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 110:105).

Biblical Spirituality

  1. Make God’s Word your primary voting guide. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 110:105).
  1. Pray before casting your vote. Ask the Lord, first, for guidance as you vote. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him…” (Prov. 3:5-6). Pray also for the candidates even the ones whom you do not like. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  1. Vote for a candidate who upholds Christian principles. Are his/her views on important social and moral issues biblical? Religious freedom. Will the candidate hinder you from exercising your faith in Jesus Christ…

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An Open Letter to Target: Regarding your New Restroom Policy

Thank you for sharing

Mary From Martha

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a woman. I am a frequent shopper in your stores. I am first and foremost a mother. Your recent change in policy of who you allow to use each restroom concerns me. You stated in your blog post, “We believe that everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination and treated equally.” and “…you’ll always be accepted, respected, and welcomed at Target.” As a business owner, I do understand your right to make a stance as a company. As a parent, I will never understand why you would trade the safety of our women and children for the sake of not hurting  feelings.

I realize that everyone needs to feel accepted, loved, and wanted. I know the struggles of a person struggling to find their identity. I also know that as of September 2012, a Gallup poll showed that approximately 3.4% of Americans identify as

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Home Commentary Your Daughter Must Pee Next to a Man, and You Will Be Compelled to Agree

Your Daughter Must Pee Next to a Man, and You Will Be Compelled to Agree

April 20, 2016 at 6:51 am 8Commentary, Lead Stories

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The rules of bigotry according to the left represent a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of nonsense. This week, we learned that if you don’t want your small daughter peeing next to a giant man who thinks he is a woman, you are a bigot; if you are a woman who is uncomfortable with a man who thinks he is a woman whipping out his male genitalia to urinate in front of you, you are a bigot; if you are a religious person who doesn’t want to participate in an activity you consider sinful, you are a bigot.

Conversely, if you are a man who thinks he is a woman and you want to force a small girl to pee next to you, you are a freedom fighter; if you are a large man who thinks he is a woman and you want to be one of the girls, right down to hulking into a Macy’s ladies room, you are a hero; if you are a gay man and you want to force a religious person to serve you, you are a hero.

If all of this seems odd, that’s because it is.

It’s obviously logically incoherent, to begin with. The left insists that a man who believes he is a woman must be treated as one, even if his biology dictates that he is a male. However, if a man believes he is a man, he cannot discuss vital issues of national import (like abortion) since he lacks the vital prerequisite: a womb. Men cannot understand women, the logic seems to run, unless they are women. But men cannot be women, of course, except in the fevered imaginations of people on the left. Even the left doesn’t believe that: Leftists simultaneously want to enshrine unchangeable sexual differences (although, according to them, men and women are inherently and unchangingly different with regard to their abortion perspectives) and deny that these differences exist in the first place. (Caitlyn Jenner’s twig and berries are irrelevant to the issue of gender, they say).

“This is nonsense,” you say.

“Shut up,” they say.

In the end, leftists don’t have to be coherent — they just have to control the government gun.

The baseline definition of freedom in Western Civilization has been this: You do not get to force me to serve you, and you do not get to force me to think the way you want me to think. As follows, you cannot force me to think that you are a woman if you are a biological man. You cannot force me to spend my taxpayer dollars to pretend along with your mental illness. You cannot force me to run my business as you see fit because I have no affirmative duty to you.

But the left doesn’t believe in freedom — except the freedom to destroy the right. Thus, leftists believe that Bruce Springsteen has an absolute right to cancel concerts in North Carolina, but that bakers in North Carolina can’t stop baking wedding cakes for same-sex couples. The left believes that the government must compel elevated pay rates for women, but government should compel men to be treated as women based on their subjective feelings on the subject.

The kaleidoscope of leftist morality never stops shifting. But in the end, only one moral counts: the left’s ultimate insistence on use of government force to compel obedience to their kaleidoscopic morality.

Ben Shapiro, 32, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KRLA 870 Los Angeles and KTIE 590 Orange County, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com. He is the New York Times best-selling author of “Bullies.” He lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles. To find out more about Ben Shapiro and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at http://www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

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The Big Lie of the Presidential Campaign

Apparently millions of American voters believe the federal government should be required by law to provide things for the folks – education, healthcare, good jobs, financial security in old age, on and on.

That belief runs counter to how America was established in the late 18th century when our first-elected officials put their game plan into effect.

Basically their vision was a limited one.  Citizens would have basic freedoms to worship, vote, speak openly without being punished, assemble without interference, and pursue happiness within the framework of the law.

It was entirely up to the folks how they would use those freedoms.  No one was forced to go to the voting booth as they are in Australia, no one was forced to believe in God as they were in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Today the question of individual choice — the quest to succeed or fail on your own — has almost been obliterated by politicians and judges who don’t respect the concept of competition and the struggle to prosper.

In short, they are evolving away from how this country was established.

In addition, they are deceiving the American people into believing that their success and well-being will be almost assured by a giant federal nanny state, which is absolutely impossible in a nation of nearly 320 million people.

Politicians deceive because it is an easy way to seduce voters unhappy with their circumstance in life.

When Bernie Sanders tells Americans that the economic system is rigged against them, he destroys incentive.

Why work hard if the big banks will harm you no matter what?  If I am failing, it’s not my fault — the phantom billionaires are hurting me.

Sanders is correct that the feds need to stop fraud in the marketplace, but his message of wall-to-wall capitalist corruption is false and pernicious.

When a guy like Rand Paul tells Americans that they should be able to intoxicate themselves at will and public safety be dammed, he gives license to behavior that has destroyed untold billions of people the world over.  Not to mention the message that legalized drugs sends to children.

We don’t live in a vacuum here.  The condition of others can directly affect us, just look at the drunk-driving stats.

When Al Sharpton and his grievance lobby assert that black Americans are oppressed by a racist system bent on hurting them, he provides an excuse for a litany of apathetic and destructive behaviors.

The kid struggling in a bad school with parents who don’t care needs all the encouragement leadership can give him or her, not a list of historical atrocities that can cause even more bitterness.

The cold fact is very few powerful people are willing to address vexing problems by telling the truth to the folks.

Here’s what the government owes us:

Protection from foreign concerns who would harm us.

Protection from criminals who would harm us.

A secure border system whereby our immigration laws are enforced and respected.

An infrastructure of mass transportation that is safe and efficient.  What the U.S. airlines are doing to their passengers is a scandal and the fact that we don’t have a high-speed rail system is flat out irresponsible.

The government also has an obligation to protect our constitutional rights and to protect private property.

Seizing assets after an American dies is abhorrent.  Many Americans work hard all their lives to give their children a better situation than they had.

Finally, it is the duty of those in power to foster a system that allows every single American a truly fair shot at material and emotional success.

That means schools with strong educational and disciplinary standards; subsidized benefits for the poor and infirmed that are delivered responsibly with clear guidelines; also, protections in the workplace against companies that would violate labor laws and exploit powerless employees.

That’s the heart of what the government owes us and social engineering is not part of it, nor is free education, nor free health care, nor a free income if you choose to lay about.

Workers pay taxes to support the government, as well as for personal social security in old age, which the feds have mismanaged in the extreme.

We deserve honesty and responsible spending, not wasteful programs designed to secure votes.

Last week I spoke with Donald Trump about his promise to return jobs from overseas.

Mr. Trump, Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton all say they will punish American companies who move jobs abroad.

A president could certainly make life very difficult for corporations that ship jobs out, but the truth is that many of the lost jobs pay little and even if they do come back it’s a marginal play.

The big problem is that millions of Americans are so poorly educated and personally irresponsible they simply cannot compete in the free marketplace.

So what are the power-seekers going to do about that?

Blank stares.

When I asked Mr. Trump how he would combat a culture among some young African-Americans that scorns conventional behavior, he replied that job growth would take care of it.

TRUMP: “My message is bringing jobs back to the country and they’re going to have jobs.”

((EDIT))

O’REILLY: “But how are you going to get jobs for them?  Many of them are ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads and, you know, how are you going — and I hate to be generalized about it but it’s true.  If you look at all the educational statistics, how are you going to give jobs to people who aren’t qualified for jobs?”

TRUMP: “We’re going to bring jobs back.  We’re going to have Apple computers made in this country.  Not just –“

O’REILLY: “But you have to have skills to make Apple computers and the educational system –“

TRUMP: “We will get the skills.”

O’REILLY: “What?”

TRUMP: “We will get the skills.  We will develop the skills.”

Now the race hustlers, who apparently have not walked the streets of poor neighborhoods lately, immediately accused me of racism.

And that is why the acute problem of cultural deprivation among underclass children of all colors is never addressed.  The smear merchants hammer anyone who does so.

It is beyond disgraceful that powerful people look away from the real problem.

Mr. Trump is noble in his intent to create jobs and train Americans to do them.

But that will require much more than trade deals and rhetoric.

It will require a cultural change in many working class and poor precincts.  If you reject the conventional road to success — education and hard work — you will fail in our capitalistic system … no matter what kind of outlandish promises Bernie Sanders makes.

It is all about personal responsibility and motivation, and who is preaching that message?  Who?

The truth is that individual motivation is being destroyed by phony politicians seeking power by promising an endless series of entitlements to a population that is moving away from achievement and into the gimme zone … gimme, gimme, gimme.

Until that deep cultural flaw is exposed, until the phonies, race hustlers and corporate greed heads are called out, we will continue to see big lies spouted by deceivers and enabled by a gutless media.

God help America.

And that’s the memo

by Bill O’Reilly. Fox News

Jordan Lingle among 44 seniors honored

Forty-four Olivet seniors have been recognized by the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges® program for 2016. The students are part of a select group from more than 1,000 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Olivet’s campus nominating committee — made up of representatives from the faculty, administration and student body — selected and nominated students to be considered for this prestigious recognition. Selection criteria included grade point average, participation and leadership in school activities, community involvement, and leadership ability.

“These selected individuals exemplify the highest Christian ideals, strong academic achievement and a commitment to service,” said Woody Webb, vice president for student development. “In and out of the classroom, they embody hope for the future — for themselves and everyone they will encounter in their lives.”

Recipients from Olivet for 2016, their academic majors and their hometowns are:
• Lainee Abbott, nursing; Manito, Illinois
• Abigail Allen, nursing; Martinsville, Indiana
• Angelique Azouri, political science and psychology; Chicago, Illinois
• Madeline Bloom, music ministry and Spanish; Eden Prairie, Minnesota
• Ashley Borop, mathematics education; Chillicothe, Illinois
• Amy Brown, elementary education; Hillsboro, Indiana
• Annette Carr, communication studies and Christian education; Orangeville, Illinois
• Caleb Cornell, youth ministry; Lafayette, Indiana
• Zane Debeck, engineering with electrical and mechanical engineering concentrations; East Tawas, Michigan
• Jessica Dirkse, mathematics education; Downers Grove, Illinois
• Daniel Eccles, psychology; Plainfield, Indiana
• Addyson Emmons, psychology; Canton, Illinois
• Renee Enz, biology, pre-physical therapy; Wilmington, Illinois
• Megan Eylander, child development and family and consumer sciences with family studies concentration; Bourbonnais, Illinois
• Shelley Fellows, interior design; Lawton, Michigan
• Andrew Fischer, English; Graaff-Reinet, South Africa
• Tyler Ford, mathematics education; Flint, Michigan
• Laura Fosnaugh, social work; Kudjip, Papua New Guinea
• Lucas Fritch, psychology; Cedar Rapids, Iowa
• Jacob Gouge, youth ministry; Greenville, Illinois
• Laura Graven, social work; Bourbonnais, Illinois
• Kara Hewett, English; Canton, Michigan
• Austin Holton, sports fitness and recreation ; Nampa, Idaho
• Kyle Johnston, youth ministry; Anderson, Indiana
• Emily Kane, Christian education and intercultural studies; Decatur, Illinois
• Michael Krebill, religious studies; Jackson, Michigan
• Madalyn Lathrop, social work; Kankakee, Illinois
Jordan Lingle, Christian education; Fishers, Indiana
• Taylor Logan, fashion merchandising; Wheaton, Illinois
• Joelle Mannion, intercultural studies and Christian education; Sugar Grove, Illinois
• Joseph Mantarian, multimedia production; Bourbonnais, Illinois
• Brandon Maranion, Christian education and communication; South Elgin, Illinois
• Michaela Maris, Christian education; Atlanta, Illinois
• Megan McKinley, Christian education and intercultural studies; Sugar Grove, Illinois
• Garrett Muhlstadt, engineering major with mechanical engineering concentration plus pre-med concentration; Kankakee, Illinois
• Gwendolyn Payne, elementary education; Elgin, Illinois
• Calvin Price, zoology; Grahamstown, South Africa
• Catherine Reed, social work; Nairobi, Kenya
• Chelsea Risinger, nursing; Tremont, Illinois
• Clara Ruegsegger, social work; Greenfield, Indiana
• Emily Sauer, business administration with non-profit management concentration; Davison, Michigan
• Marie Sheets, biology; Peoria, Illinois
• Michael-Andrew Spalding, art with graphic design concentration; Cincinnati, Ohio
• Shelby Wegforth, early childhood education; Mokena, Illinois

For 80 years, Who’s Who Among Students has annually honored outstanding student leaders from institutions of higher learning across the country. It is one of the most highly regarded and long-standing honors programs, respected by college faculties and administrations.

“Gender Ideology Harms Children”

A new study is exposing the dangers of transgenderism.

A new American College of Pediatricians study is providing stark evidence that so-called “gender ideology” (a person’s decision to identify as a male or female) is very harmful.

So dangerous, in fact, that they called upon educators and legislators to take action:
“The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex.

Facts – not ideology – determine reality.”

The study also included several irrefutable facts, such as no one is born to “choose” if they identify with male or female chromosomes and persons who believe they are something they’re biologically not is a sign of confused thinking.

But the most disturbing statistic of the study is just how many deaths are related to transgenderism.

Rates of suicide skyrocket, shown to be twenty times greater among adults who used cross-sex hormones and underwent gender reassignment surgery.

Suicide rates are increasing at such an alarming rate, the renowned experts at Johns Hopkins Hospital have banned all sex-change operations at their facilities.

This proves no one is born this way.

And the study correctly points out the reality that most kids who believe they are transgender will grow out of that phase as teenagers.

With dangerous transgender bathroom battles looming large in several fights…

… it’s important to shed light on the radical Homosexual Lobby’s attempts to “normalize” transgenderism and the behaviors associated with it.

You see, the Homosexual Lobby would rather lie and ignore science fact than to address the dangerous implications of their agenda.

That’s because they care more about advancing their radical Agenda than the well-being of others.

And every time they fight to force transgenderism as a normal behavior in America, they’re further harming the very people they claim are being “discriminated” against.

Please pray we can stop this growing trend.

For the Family,
HON. EUGENE DELGAUDIO
President, Public Advocate of the United States

9 Things You Need to Know about Backpage.com and Sex Trafficking

by ​Gaye Clark

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was sitting in a beautician’s chair as news blared from a radio. An passenger plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Shortly after the first plane hit, patrons in the salon began theorizing about the cause. Plane malfunction? Pilot error? Not one suggested terrorist attack.

Because terrorism didn’t happen in America.

Within minutes, we watched in horror as a second plane plunged into the Twin Towers. In less than two hours, a wake-up call had come to the United States. Mass-scale terrorism had reached our shores. And we’d soon learn it had been alive and well long before 9/11, working its evil plans right under our noses.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Lightstock
Lightstock

Today another reality is hidden in plain view: human trafficking. While sound numbers of who, how many, and where are difficult to find, the carnage of this evil is leaking out of the shadows and into the headlines. Victims are filling safehouse beds. Many more are on waiting lists. Those caring for victims have been listening to stories for years and have started to spot trends.

Unlike an ounce of cocaine or an illegal weapon, a child can be sold repeatedly. Every. Single. Night. Most children enslaved in human trafficking, if not rescued, will die within seven years.

The Internet makes it easy for johns to order up a child as easily as a pizza.

Many assume sex trafficking is restricted to the darkest corners of the Internet. The online classified ad company “Backpage,” however, has become the Walmart of sex trafficking and prostitution. For a modest fee, traffickers can post sex ads of women and children they control with force or fraud.

What You Should Know About Backpage.com


As believers called to proclaim God’s blessings to the captive, here are nine things you need to know about Backpage.com.

1. Backpage is the world’s largest classified ad company, with sites in 431 U.S. cities and another 444 worldwide. According to Dawn Hawkins, executive director for theNational Center on Sexual Exploitation, Backpage posts one million sex ads a day.

Let that sink in.

2. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) told a recent Senate subcommittee that 71 percent of all suspected child sex trafficking cases have a link to Backpage. According to the Justice Department, more than half of known victims in the U.S. are younger than 17. Some are as young as 7.

3. Backpage is a profoundly lucrative sex-ad business. In 2010, after Craigslist ended their adult ad section in response to public pressure, Backpage’s adult ads and subsequent profit margins began to soar. As of 2014, Backpage had an EBITDA margin (measure of profitability) of 82 percent, compared with a 9.3 percent average for similar online service companies.  

4. Backpage has been accused by several advocacy groups—including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Shared Hope, and Polaris—of actively assisting pimps by editing ads to avoid detection from law enforcement while increasing their customer base.

5. On March 17, the Senate held Backpage in contempt for refusing to comply with their subpoena. Two other Backpage employees pled the fifth.

6. Backpage has prevailed in state courts repeatedly on the grounds that the Communications Decency Act protects them from prosecution for the criminal wrongdoing of their customers. Denying they are co-conspirators, Backpage maintains they merely provide a forum for free speech in the form of advertising. In December, Backpage sued the Department of Justice to prevent the enforcement of a new anti-trafficking law.

7. Backpage is the go-to site for law enforcement investigating sex trafficking. As law enforcement has often testified, though, Backpage frequently removes ads posted in connection with sting operations. Further, Backpage has encouraged their customers to use anonymous payment methods, making it virtually impossible to trace to traffickers.

8. Backpage often refuses to remove ads identified as “sex trafficking” by parents and the NCMEC. Parents who have identified their children in Backpage ads and requested the agency remove them are often greeted with an automated response stating ads won’t be removed until multiple users request a specific ad be removedmultiple times.

9. Last year, American Express, MasterCard and Visa all stopped processing Backpage payments, fearing the possibility of illegal transactions after Chicago Sheriff Thomas Dart wrote a letter requesting the companies remove the use of their cards on Backpage. Although Backpage successfully took the Sheriff to court, claiming he “threatened” the credit card companies, none have opted back in.

No Reason to Compromise

Many believe an easily accessible, public Backpage assists law enforcement in catching traffickers. In reality, though, Backpage enables law enforcement to rescue only a handful of victims compared to the thousands they place on a public auction block each day.

Some have argued for keeping Backpage adult ads in place, since if they close traffickers will “just go someplace else harder to find.” While that may happen, it doesn’t release us from the responsibility to speak and act against criminal wrongdoing.

Christ is not honored by compromise. When popular culture said teens will have sex anyway, so it’s better to give them condoms and “safe places” to have sex, believers challenged this faulty thinking, launched studies demonstrating the contrary, and led innovative programs to lower teen pregnancy and advance the gospel. Opposition to evil is a Christian duty.

Clear Danger Trumps Free Speech

Backpage says the issue is free speech, pointing to a small statement in the Communications Decency Act. Though free speech is a cherished basic right, it is not always ultimate. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes has observed, free speech has limits when it presents a “clear and present danger.”

Consider the clear and present danger for a young girl whose own missing child photo is used by her trafficker in a Backpage ad offering her for sex. “That poster had the child’s real name on it, real age, real picture, and date she went missing,” Senator Portman said on the Senate floor. “The other pictures in the ad included topless photos.”

Can you imagine her parents upon seeing that ad?

It’s time to hold Backpage accountable for its crimes, and to give voice to the rights of thousands of vulnerable children forced to give their bodies to strangers each day to pad both the pockets of traffickers and Backpage.com.

​Gaye Clark works as a cardiac nurse Augusta, Georgia, and a part time correspondent for WORLD magazine in the area of sex trafficking. She also volunteers with iCare, a local faith-based organization that provides assistance to trafficked victims. She writes in her free time. She has two adult children, Anna and Nathan. You can follow her on Twitter.

A prayer for healing for friends

Dear Lord Jesus,

you are a most wonderful, merciful Savior. We praise, bless and adore you for everything you are, and for everything you’ve done for us. By your life, death, and resurrection, you have completely secured our salvation and you guarantee a most complete salvation. Everything about us matters to you—spirit, soul, and body; and everything about us stands in need of your cleansing, healing, and liberating grace.

     In the Scriptures, we see your healing power at work; and by the gospel, we know one Day we will be totally healthy and whole—and we are grateful beyond measure. In light of that Day, Jesus, our cry in this day is simple, humble, and earnest. Lord Jesus, please bring your healing power to bear to those we love and cherish.

     For our friends:  Oh, for the Day of no more cancer and no more heart disease (of any kind); no more tumors or terrors; no more MS or ALS, no more addictions or even obsessions; no more mental maladies or emotional diseases; no more bodies that wear out, or death in any form. Jesus, there are so many situations for which we boldly ask you for supernatural healing, and/or supernatural sufficient grace.

     We know you don’t despise our asking. We know you do all things well. We know you are writing stories larger than our understanding. We know, and still we ask, Jesus please bring healing to our  friends, and to us. So very Amen we pray, in your worship-worthy and trustworthy name.

In other words, a Hillary victory, as much as I deplore the thought and could not under any circumstance vote for her, could be the final straw that breaks the back of American Christian complacency, leading to an awakening.

Dear Pastor Jeffress,

 

I have the utmost respect for your many years of faithful ministry, for your gracious and unflinching witness for the Lord, and for your devotion to His people over decades of service.

It is in that spirit of respect as brothers that I appeal to you to reconsider your position that “any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee [if it were Trump] … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle.”

Pastor Jeffress, is this really your carefully considered, prayerful position?

I fully understand your argument that, while many of us are not convinced that Donald Trump is a true pro-life conservative, we know that Hillary Clinton certainly is not, and so we have a chance of going in the right direction with Trump but the certainty of going in the wrong direction with Hillary.

That is why influential thinkers like Dennis Prager have stated that, as distasteful as the prospect is, he would vote for Trump rather than Hillary with the hope that Trump might appoint one or more good Supreme Court justices while Hillary would do her best to appoint as many radical liberals as possible.

I certainly understand these arguments, and they do carry weight.

But, my dear brother, do you honestly believe that those who could not in good conscience vote for Trump, should he be the Republican nominee, must be acting on pride rather than principle?

To the contrary, it is principle that drives many of those in the #NeverTrump camp.

Consider, for example, the words of Christian attorney (and Iraq Bronze Star veteran) David French.

He wrote, “I have spent my entire adult life advocating against abortion and working to protect the unborn. I didn’t endure the taunts and jeers of my law-school classmates, work countless days and nights away from home to protect the free-speech rights of pro-life protestors, and defend the freedoms of the unsung heroes in crisis-pregnancy centers only to vote for a man who’s a walking Planned Parenthood commercial.”

That, sir, is the voice of principle, not pride.

He adds, “There are those who say that the #NeverTrump crew should ‘get a life,’ but we are opposed to Trump because of our lives: our life’s work, to be precise. No, not our careers — they will go on — but rather the long and vital work of building a conservative movement that represents our nation’s best hope for the greatness Trump claims to crave.”

There are many other Christians who feel just as French does, who cannot imagine pushing the button or pulling the lever in support of Trump, a man who has managed to bring the Republican party to all-time lows and who has made a mockery of the campaign process.

Many of us have had it with politics as usual and have tremendous distrust for the political establishment, yet we would feel like we were selling our souls to help a man like Trump become the representative of our nation. And we feel this way not so much because of who Trump was in the past but because of who he is today.

Pastor Jeffress, do you have any regret for telling the Christian Post that, when it comes to Christians who will not vote for Trump, “I think the Bible has a word for people like that — it’s fools”?

You have frequently pointed to the 1980 presidential race between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, the former being a twice-married former Hollywood actor, the latter being a born-again, Sunday school teacher.

But Donald Trump is not Ronald Reagan and Ted Cruz (Trump’s leading competitor) is not Jimmy Carter, so the comparison is not only inapt, it is irrelevant.

You have also stated in speeches and TV commentaries that evangelical Christians have lost faith in Washington, so they are ready to elect a businessman to get the government in order while the Church focuses on moral and spiritual issues.

But is there no vital intersection between the government and society? And isn’t the very reason so many of us opposed Barack Obama and now oppose Hillary Clinton because of the national damage that bad government can bring about?

You stated that, “if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, we who are evangelical Christians are going to have a true friend in the White House. God bless Donald Trump!”

But how do you know this for sure? In the recent past, he has completely reversed major positions in the course of a week, while in the course of the last debate, he reversed a previous position on immigration, only to issue a different statement after the debate.

The same happened with his position on torture and killing the families of terrorists, which over a matter of days changed from: I will order the military to break all international laws, and you better believe they will obey me; to, of course I understand the rule of law and would not ask the military to break the law; to, if elected, I will expand the law.

How can you be so sure of what he will do if elected when he has vacillated so wildly already? This is the man who thundered at one debate, “Bush lied!” (about WMD’s in Iraq) – an ugly, unfounded accusation – only to mollify his statement within hours.

This is the man you want us to trust?

And what about potential damage could Trump cause as president? Could he lead us into a needless war? Could he alienate our allies? Could he provoke racial or ethnic strife (and even violence) in our nation by making inflammatory remarks?

Perhaps rather than saying, “God bless Donald Trump!” you should have said, “May God bring Donald Trump to repentance and salvation!”

When it comes to the issue of pragmatism, both Cruz and Rubio have consistently polled better against Hillary than Trump (Trump’s unlikability numbers are off the charts), so it could be argued that a vote for Trump today is a vote for Hillary tomorrow.

Even if Trump did secure the Republican nomination, some would still argue against voting for him based on both principle and pragmatism.

Principle, because they cannot do so in good conscience.

Pragmatism, because Christians would be forced into an all-out (non-violent) moral and cultural battle if Hillary were elected, because the Church would be forced to go after God with a greater desperation for our nation, and because the Republican leadership would be forced to take a stand.

In contrast, it could be that a President Trump (which is still hard for me to wrap my mind around) would be the ultimate compromiser and dealmaker, just adding to the current morass.

In other words, a Hillary victory, as much as I deplore the thought and could not under any circumstance vote for her, could be the final straw that breaks the back of American Christian complacency, leading to an awakening.

That being said, I have not yet made a final decision of what I would do if it came down to Hillary vs. Trump. I simply ask you to recognize that the issue for me and many others is one of principle, and we are wrestling with it in the fear of Almighty God.

You said in your interview with the Christian Post, “Every Christian has the right to choose a candidate he thinks is best. But no Christian has the right to make his preference a litmus test for somebody else’s Christianity or spirituality.”

I certainly concur with you on this and, despite my profound reservations concerning Donald Trump, I cannot judge your reasons for supporting him now.

In that same spirit, I encourage you to retract your comments that Christians who would not support Trump in the general election are fools who are acting on pride rather than principle.

God is bigger than my cancer

Learning Joy in the Darkness


God Is Bigger Than My Cancer

“There’s no doubt about the diagnosis,” the doctor said. Incurable cancer. A fatal disease. I had just celebrated my tenth anniversary with my wife, and we were busy raising our children, aged 1 and 3.

The next week, as I prepared for chemotherapy, my wife smiled and handed me a handmade card, colored bright with crayons and signed by a fifteen-year-old girl with Down syndrome in our congregation. My tears flowed as I read the top:

“Get well soon! Jesus loves you! God is bigger than cancer!”

My tears were a mingling of grief and joy. Yes, God is bigger than cancer, and bigger than my cancer! The girl in my church wasn’t denying that the path of my future seemed to be narrowing, hidden beneath the fog of a diagnosis. But she testified that God is greater: The God made known in Jesus Christ shows us that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

In my tears, I relished the fact that in the body of Christ theological truths are not a commodity trafficked and controlled by theology professors like myself. God is bigger than cancer, period.

Does God Owe Me 80 Years?

As I learned more details about my diagnosis, I realized that overnight my expected lifespan had been chopped by decades. This news reinforced my gratitude for each breath and the gift of every moment — the opportunity to hug my children, to cherish my wife, to labor in my vocation for God’s glory.

Cancer changes your perception of life. Each day comes to us as a gift from the gracious hand of God — whether it is the last day of a short life or the first day of a long and healthy life. But living into the reality that each day is a gift also involves coming to recognize a stark, biblical truth that is deeply countercultural: God is not our debtor.

Surely God is not capricious or untrustworthy. God has disclosed himself as gracious in his dealings with creation, with Israel, and most fully, in Jesus Christ. The Triune God binds himself to covenant promises that include, envelop, and hold us in a communion that sin and death cannot break. God is faithful to these promises, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

But this does not mean life is “fair,” or that we are shielded from all of the present consequences of sin and death. God is not our debtor. He does not “owe” us a certain number of requisite years of life.

God does not “owe” us a certain number of requisite years of life.

Christ promised to never leave us as orphans (John 14:18) — but Christ never promised us the American dream, a comfortable retirement, or that we will soak in all the expected blessings of what we think is “normal” life. Each day is a gift. Each year is a gift. Each decade, for each of us, is a gift that comes gratuitously from God’s hand, not from our entitlement to live a “normal” life or life span. The “abundant life” that Christ offers is not measured by the length of this life (John 10:10).

Groaning Before the Lord

Yet, even if God does not “owe” me a particular lifespan, the stinging questions are unavoidable: Why would God take away my children’s father in the middle of their childhood?

I have watched others die. I knew a cancer patient whose family prayed and prayed for healing. But his healing didn’t come — and death came before anyone expected. His path of suffering seemed senseless. Was that the path I was destined to walk?

Moreover, for years my wife and I prayed for children. And our prayers had been answered. But to what end? Was God toying with us? I join the psalmist in lament: “He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. ‘O my God,’ I say, ‘take me not away in the midst of my days — you whose years endure throughout all generations!’” (Psalm 102:23–24).

Through the Psalms, God gave me a means to bring my anger and confusion into his presence. Again and again, in communal and personal prayer, I began to see how my suffering is part of a much larger drama — for God is bigger than cancer.

Hoping Enough to Lament

I was not given a magical answer as to why God allowed my cancer to hit me. I still don’t know what the future holds. But the Psalms have paved a path for me to rest in the hands of the Almighty, delighting in his work, even when it is a strange work, a hard work on the road of suffering.

In the moments of darkest anguish, the psalmist shows us that God accepts our rawest laments: “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6). Do we feel alienated, angry, and confused? The psalmist has been there, too. And the depth of our anguish has been exhausted in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who joined with the psalmist in lament: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).

In the moments of darkest anguish, the psalmist shows us that God accepts our rawest laments.

But even in the darkness the Psalms are shot through with hope because God’s covenant promises are ever at the center. While some Psalms are songs of exuberant praise, jumping up and down in exultation that God is truly the God he promises to be, many other Psalms, like the one Jesus prays on the cross, are Psalms of lament.

Yet, even the darkness of this anguished cry of lament points to God’s promise: “My God, my God.” Even when he feels abandoned, the psalmist brings his burden before the Almighty. “Why have you forsaken me?” Only those who know they belong to God can press this question to God. God promises that he will notabandon or forsake his people (Psalm 94:14). Thus, it is an act of trust and hope to lament — to remind God of this promise when things seem desolate, when God’s promise seems to ring hollow.

In this way, lament is not just “venting” toward God, dumping our emotions upon him. It is bringing our confusion, anger, and even protest before the Almighty, allowing the Spirit to reshape our lives and affections into Christ’s image, and all in the security of God-centered hope.

A Joy Bigger Than Cancer

At the center of God’s revelation is not a secret about how to live a lengthy, self-sufficient and secure life. We’ve been united to Christ by the Spirit to follow the way of the crucified Lord. On this path, we do not seek out suffering for its own sake, but we do expect for the God of Jesus Christ to be active in the most unlikely places: on the path of suffering, on a path hidden from the light of worldly glory. We are a people who take up our crosses to follow Christ.

And this is not a joyless path.

Instead, when we follow the path of prayer with the psalmist, we shed tears of joy and celebration as well as tears of lament. Lamenting and hoping in God with the psalmist is a practice that runs counter to our consumer culture. Rather than soaking in self-satisfaction or self-pity, in these seasons of sorrow we find our affections reshaped by God — we delight in what delights God, we grieve over what grieves him. It is a joy that is bigger than cancer.

The Psalms are doing this for me, fixing my eyes upon God’s promises and God’s mighty acts — in the past, and in the incredible blessings of life and breath in each moment I have now. Indeed, even though we join the Spirit in grieving at the corruption of God’s creation through tragedies like cancer, we can hope that since our Lord is the crucified and risen one who broke the power of death, he can work even in the midst of what seems to be senseless suffering in our lives.

For now, joy and lament go together in our lives. For as we cry to God “out of the depths,” we also trust that “with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7)

And as we walk Christ’s cross-shaped path, we will continue to groan with the Spirit until Christ returns (Romans 8:23). We groan and we also rejoice with the psalmists in God’s faithful love. For God is bigger than cancer.


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Can’t Keep Jesus Down

Easter Sunday


Can’t Keep Jesus Down

Jesus was dead and buried, with a big stone rolled against the tomb, and the Pharisees came to Pilate to ask for permission to seal the stone and guard the tomb. Pilate responded, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can” (Matthew 27:65). So they did.

They gave it their best shot — in vain.

It was hopeless then, it is hopeless today, and it will always be hopeless. Try as they may, people can’t keep Jesus down. They can’t keep him buried. They may use physical force or academic scorn or media blackout or political harassment or religious caricature. For a season, they will think the tomb is finally sealed. But it never works. He breaks out.

No One Takes His Life

It’s not hard to figure out: He can break out because he wasn’t forced in. He lets himself be libeled and harassed and black-balled and scorned and shoved around and killed.

I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. (John 10:17–18)

No one can keep him down because no one ever knocked him down. He lay down when he was ready.

China may have been “closed” for forty years to Western missionaries, and it’s not because Jesus slipped and fell into the tomb. He stepped in. And when it was sealed over, he saved fifty million Chinese from inside — without Western missionaries. And when it was time, he pushed the stone away so we could see what he had done.

At Work in the Dark

When it looks like he is buried for good, Jesus is doing something awesome in the dark. “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how” (Mark 4:26–27).

The world thinks Jesus is done for — out of the way. They think his word is buried for good in the dust of irrelevant antiquity.

But Jesus is at work in the dark places: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). He let himself be buried — “no one takes my life from me” — and he will come out in power when and where he pleases — “I have authority to take it up again.” And his hands will be full of fruit made in the dark.

“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Jesus has his priesthood today “by the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16).

For twenty centuries, the world has given it their best shot — in vain. They can’t bury him. They can’t hold him in. They can’t silence him or limit him.

Jesus is alive and utterly free to go and come wherever he pleases. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). All things were made through him and for him, and he is absolutely supreme over all other powers (Colossians 1:16–17).

Trust him and go with him, no matter what. You cannot lose in the end.

Ten Gifts of the Resurrection

So, here on Resurrection Sunday, as an aid to Easter worship, celebrate with me these ten things we owe to the resurrection of Jesus. Each has an accompanying text.

1) A Savior who can never die again

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again. (Romans 6:9)

2) Repentance

“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:30–31)

3) New birth

According to his great mercy, [God the Father] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

4) Forgiveness of sin

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

5) The Holy Spirit

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:32–33)

6) No condemnation for the elect

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

7) The Lord’s personal fellowship and protection

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

8) Proof of coming judgment

“[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

9) Salvation from the future wrath of God

[We] wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; also Romans 5:10)

10) Our own resurrection from the dead

[We know] that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. (2 Corinthians 4:14; also Romans 6:4; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:20)

The Lord is risen indeed!

Hmm, Where Could All This Hatred Be Coming From?

Hmm, Where Could All This Hatred Be Coming From? Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray, March 20, 2016 (Haven’t they blamed Trump yet? — DM) ♦ As with the Labour party students at Oxford,…

Source: Hmm, Where Could All This Hatred Be Coming From?

Donald Trump is NOT the devil or Hitler

Hello, have ave you forgotten who caused our problems, Donald Trump did not steal your money. Donald Trump did not raise your taxes. Donald Trump did not quadruple the price of food. Trump is not stirring a race war. Trump did not leave any US soldiers in Benghazi to be slaughtered and desecrated by Muslims. Trump did not send the US Navy to fight for Syrian ,Al-Qaeda. Trump did not arm ISIS and systematically exterminate Christians throughout the Middle East. Trump did not betray Israel. Trump did not provide financing, (150 billion of your tax dollars) and technology to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Trump did not give our military secrets to China. Trump did not remove our nuclear missile shield in Poland at the behest of Russia. Trump did not shrivel our military, and betray our veterans. Trump did not cripple our economy. Trump did not increase our debt to 20 trillion dollars. Trump did not ruin our credit, twice. Trump did not double African American unemployment. Trump will not allow Al Sharpton to promote race baiting. Trump did not increase welfare to a record level for eight years. Trump did not sign a law making it legal to execute, and imprison Americans. Trump did not set free all of terrorists in Guantanamo bay. Trump did not steal your rights, violate US Constitutional law with executive orders, or commit treason, hundreds of times.
Yet Trump is being ripped apart in the news, non stop.
Barrack Hussein Obama, Hillary Clinton and the criminals occupying our government, are responsible for ALL our problems-NOT Donald Trump.
95% of media votes for the Democrat politicians. They HATE Trump! Biased bunch of loons. If Trump is the nominee and you refuse to vote for him you are voting for 8 more years of Obama/Hillary corruption and FAILED policies. Our kids and G-kids deserve better.
Save our culture from the demonic policies of the Democrat politicians for the last 8 years.

The War Against Reason

by John MacArthur

True discernment has suffered a horrible setback in the past few decades because reason itself has been under attack within the church. As Francis Schaeffer warned nearly thirty years ago in The God Who Is There, the church is following the irrationality of secular philosophy. Consequently, reckless faith has overrun the evangelical community. Many are discarding doctrine in favor of personal experience. Others say they are willing to disregard crucial biblical distinctives in order to achieve external unity among all professing Christians. True Christianity marked by intelligent, biblical faith seems to be declining even among the most conservative evangelicals.

THE ABANDONMENT OF OBJECTIVE TRUTH

The visible church in our generation has become astonishingly tolerant of aberrant teaching and outlandish ideas—and frighteningly intolerant of sound teaching. The popular evangelical conception of “truth” has become almost completely subjective. Truth is viewed as fluid, always relative, never absolute. To suggest that any objective criterion might be used to distinguish truth from error is to be egregiously out of step with the spirit of the age. In some circles, Scripture itself has been ruled out as a reliable test of truth. After all, the Bible can be interpreted in so many different ways—who can say which interpretation is right? And many believe there is truth beyond the Bible.

All this relativity has had disastrous effects on the typical Christian’s ability to discern truth from error, right from wrong, good from evil. The plainest teachings of the Bible are being questioned among people who declare themselves believers in the Bible. For example, some Christians are no longer certain whether homosexuality should be classed as a sin. Others argue that the feminist agenda is compatible with biblical Christianity. “Christian” television, radio, books, and magazines serve up a preposterous smorgasbord of ideas from the merely capricious to the downright dangerous—and the average Christian is woefully ill-equipped to sort out the lies from the truth.

Even to suggest that a sorting between lies and truth is necessary is viewed by many as perilously intolerant. There is a notion abroad that any dispute over doctrine is inherently evil. Concern for orthodoxy is regarded as incompatible with Christian unity. Doctrine itself is labeled divisive and those who make doctrine an issue are branded uncharitable. No one is permitted to criticize anyone else’s beliefs, no matter how unbiblical those beliefs seem to be. A recent article in Christianity Todayexemplifies the trend. The article, titled “Hunting for Heresy,” profiled two well-known Christian leaders who had “come under withering attack for controversial writings.”1

One is a popular speaker on the college lecture circuit and a bestselling author. He wrote a book in which he encouraged homosexuals to establish permanent live-together relationships (albeit celibate ones). He suggests the evangelical community suffers from “homophobia.” He is convinced that permanent living arrangements between homosexuals are the only alternative to loneliness for people he believes are “born with a homosexual orientation.” This man’s wife has published an article in a homosexual magazine in which she enthusiastically affirms” monogamous sexual relationships between homosexuals. The speaker-author says he has a “very, very strong” disagreement with his wife’s approval of homosexual sex, but his own view seems to allow homosexuals to engage in other kinds of physical intimacy short of actual intercourse.

The other Christian leader profiled in the Christianity Today article is a woman who, with her husband, is a featured speaker for a popular, nationally-syndicated radio and television ministry. Their ministry is not a weird offshoot from some fringe cult, but an established, well-respected mainstay from the evangelical heartland. She also serves as chairperson of one of the largest evangelical student organizations in the world. This woman has written a book in which she chronicles some rather peculiar spiritual experiences. She dedicates the book to her male alter ego, an imaginary person named “Eddie Bishop” who romances her in her dreams. This woman says she also has visions of “the Christ child that is within” her. He appears to her as a drooling, emaciated, barefoot “idiot child” in a torn undershirt—”its head totally bald and lolled to one side.” The woman has engaged the services of a Catholic nun who serves as her “spiritual director,” helping to interpret her dreams and fantasies. The book mingles mysticism, Jungian psychology, out-of-body experiences, feminist ideas, subjective religious experience, and this woman’s romantic fantasies into an extraordinary amalgam. The book is frankly so bizarre that it is disturbing to read.

The remarkable thing about the Christianity Today article is that the story was not written to expose the aberrant ideas being taught by these two leading evangelicals. Instead, what the magazine’s editors deemed newsworthy was the fact that these people were under attack for their views.

In the world of modern evangelicalism, it is allowable to advocate the most unconventional, unbiblical doctrines—as long as you afford everyone else the same privilege. About the only thing that is taboo nowadays is the intolerance of those who dare to point out others’ errors. Anyone today who is bold enough to suggest that someone else’s ideas or doctrines are unsound or unbiblical is dismissed at once as contentious, divisive, unloving, or unchristian. It is all right to espouse any view you wish, but it is not all right to criticize another person’s views—no matter how patently unbiblical those views may be.

When tolerance is valued over truth, the cause of truth always suffers. Church history shows this to be so. Only when the people of God have mounted a hardy defense of truth and sound doctrine has the church flourished and grown strong. The Reformation, the Puritan era, and the Great Awakenings are all examples of this. The times of decline in the history of the church have always been marked by an undue emphasis on tolerance—which leads inevitably to carelessness, worldliness, doctrinal compromise, and great confusion in the church.

ADRIFT ON A SEA OF SUBJECTIVITY

That the church would lose her moorings in this particular age, however, poses greater dangers than ever. For in the past hundred years or so, the world has changed in a dramatic and very frightening way. People no longer look at truth the way they used to. In fact, we live under a prevailing philosophy that has become hostile to the very idea of absolute truth.

From the beginning of recorded history until late last century, virtually all human philosophy assumed the necessity of absolute truth. Truth was universally understood as that which is true, not false; factual, not erroneous; correct, not incorrect; moral, not immoral; just, not unjust; right, not wrong. Practically all philosophers since the time of Plato assumed the objectivity of truth. Philosophy itself was a quest for the highest understanding of truth. Such a pursuit was presumed to be possible, even necessary, because truth was understood to be the same for every person. This did not mean that everyone agreed what truth was, of course. But virtually all agreed that whatever was true was true for everyone.

That all changed in the nineteenth century with the birth of existentialism. Existentialism defies precise definition, but it includes the concept that the highest truth is subjective (having its source in the individual’s mind) rather than objective (something that actually exists outside the individual). Existentialism elevates individual experience and personal choice, minimizing or ruling out absolute standards of truth, goodness, morality, and such things. We might accurately characterize existentialism as the abandonment of objectivity. Existentialism is inherently anti-intellectual, against reason, irrational.

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard first used the term “existential.” Kierkegaard’s life and philosophy revolved around his experiences with Christianity. Christian ideas and biblical terminology reverberate in many of his writings. He wrote much about faith and certainly regarded himself as a Christian. Many of his ideas began as a legitimate reaction against the stale formalism of the Danish Lutheran state church. He was rightly offended at the barren ritualism of the church, properly outraged that people who had no love for God called themselves Christians just because they happened to be born in a “Christian” nation.

But in his reaction against the lifeless state church, Kierkegaard set up a false antithesis. He decided that objectivity and truth were incompatible. To counter the passionless ritualism and lifeless doctrinal formulas he saw in Danish Lutheranism, Kierkegaard devised an approach to religion that was pure passion, altogether subjective. Faith, he suggested, means the rejection of reason and the exaltation of feeling and personal experience. It was Kierkegaard who coined the expression “leap of faith.” Faith to him was an irrational experience, above all a personal choice. He recorded these words in his journal on August 1, 1835: “The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”2

Clearly, Kierkegaard had already rejected as inherently worthless the belief that truth is objective. His journal continues with these words:

What would be the use of discovering so-called objective truth …. What good would it do me if truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I recognized her or not, and producing in me a shudder of fear rather than a trusting devotion? … I am left standing like a man who has rented a house and gathered all the furniture and household things together, but has not yet found the beloved with whom to share the joys and sorrows of his life…. It is this divine side of man, his inward action, which means everything—not a mass of [objective] information.3

Having repudiated the objectivity of truth, Kierkegaard was left longing for an existential experience, which he believed would bring him a sense of personal fulfillment. He stood on the precipice, preparing to make his leap of faith. Ultimately, the idea he chose to live and die for was Christianity, but it was a characteristically subjective brand of Christianity that he embraced.

Though Kierkegaard was virtually unknown during his lifetime, his writings have endured and have deeply influenced all subsequent philosophy. His idea of “truth that is true for me” infiltrated popular thought and set the tone for our generations radical rejection of all objective standards.

Kierkegaard knew how to make irrationalism sound profound. “God does not exist; He is eternal,” he wrote. He believed Christianity was full of “existential paradoxes,” which he regarded as actual contradictions, proof that truth is irrational.

Using the example of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19), Kierkegaard suggested that God called Abraham to violate moral law in slaying his son. For Kierkegaard, Abraham’s willingness to “suspend” his ethical convictions epitomized the leap of faith that is demanded of everyone. Kierkegaard believed the incident proved that “the single individual [Abraham] is higher than the universal [moral law].”4 Building on that conclusion, the Danish philosopher offered this observation: “Abraham represents faith…. He acts by virtue of the absurd, for it is precisely [by virtue of] the absurd that he as the single individual is higher than the universal.”5 “[I] cannot understand Abraham,” Kierkegaard declared, “even though in a certain demented sense I admire him more than all others.”6

It is not difficult to see how such thinking thrusts all truth into the realm of pure subjectivity—even to the point of absurdity or dementia. Everything becomes relative. Absolutes dematerialize. The difference between truth and nonsense becomes meaningless. All that matters is personal experience.

And one person’s experience is as valid as another’s—even if everyone’s experiences lead to contradictory conceptions of truth. “Truth that is true for me” might be different from someone else’s truth. In fact, our beliefs might be obviously contradictory, yet another person’s “truth” in no way invalidates mine. Because “truth”

is authenticated by personal experience, its only relevance is for the individual who makes the leap of faith. That is existentialism.

Existentialism caught on in a big way in secular philosophy. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, also rejected reason and emphasized the will of the individual. Nietzsche probably knew nothing of Kierkegaard’s works, but their ideas paralleled at the key points. Unlike Kierkegaard, however, Nietzsche never made the leap of faith to Christianity. Instead, he leapt to the conclusion that God is dead. The truth that was “true for him,” it seems, turned out to be the opposite of the truth Kierkegaard chose. But their epistemology (the way they arrived at their ideas) was exactly the same.

Later existentialists, such as Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, refined Kierkegaard’s ideas while following the atheism of Nietzsche. Heidegger and Sartre both believed that reason is futile and life basically meaningless. Those ideas have been a powerful force in twentieth-century thought. As the world continues to grow more atheistic, more secular, and more irrational, it helps to understand that it is being propelled in that direction by strong existentialist influences.

EXISTENTIALISM INVADES THE CHURCH But don’t get the idea that existentialism’s influence is limited to the secular world. From the moment Kierkegaard wedded existentialist ideas with Christianity, neo-orthodox theology was the inevitable outcome.

Neo-orthodoxy is the term used to identify an existentialist variety of Christianity. Because it denies the essential objective basis of truth—the absolute truth and authority of Scripture—neo-orthodoxy must be understood as pseudo-Christianity. Its heyday came in the middle of the twentieth century with the writings of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Paul Tillich, and Reinhold Niebuhr. Those men echoed the language and the thinking of Kierkegaard, speaking of the primacy of “personal authenticity,” while downplaying or denying the significance of objective truth. Barth, the father of neo-orthodoxy, explicitly acknowledged his debt to Kierkegaard.7

Neo-orthodoxy’s attitude toward Scripture is a microcosm of the entire existentialist philosophy: the Bible itself is not objectively the Word of God, but it becomes the Word of God when it speaks to me individually. In neo-orthodoxy, that same subjectivism is imposed on all the doctrines of historic Christianity. Familiar terms are used, but are redefined or employed in a way that is purposely vague—not to convey objective meaning, but to communicate a subjective symbolism. After all, any “truth” theological terms convey is unique to the person who exercises faith. What the Bible means becomes unimportant. What it means to me is the relevant issue. All of this resoundingly echoes Kierkegaard’s concept of “truth that is true for me.”

Thus while neo-orthodox theologians often sound as if they are affirming traditional beliefs, their actual system differs radically from the historic understanding of the Christian faith. By denying the objectivity of truth, they relegate all theology to the realm of subjective relativism. It is a theology perfectly suited for the age in which we live.

And that is precisely why it is so deadly.

Francis Schaeffer’s 1968 work The God Who Is There included a perceptive analysis of Kierkegaard’s influence on modern thought and modern theology.8 Schaeffer named the boundary between rationality and irrationality “the line of despair.” He noted that existentialism pushed secular thought below the line of despair sometime in the nineteenth century. Religious neo-orthodoxy was simply a johnny-come-lately response of theologians who were jumping on the existentialist bandwagon, following secular art, music, and general culture: “Neo-orthodoxy gave no new answer. What existential philosophy had already said in secular language, it now said in theological language…. [With the advent of neo-orthodoxy,] theology too has gone below the line of despair.”9

Schaeffer went on to analyze how neo-orthodoxy ultimately gives way to radical mysticism:

Karl Barth opened the door to the existentialistic leap in theology… He has been followed by many more, men like Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Bishop John Robinson, Alan Richardson and all the new theologians. They may differ in details, but their struggle is still the same—it is the struggle of modern man who has given up [rationality]. As far as the theologians are concerned … their new system is not open to verification, it must simply be believed.10

Such a system, Schaeffer points out, has no integrity. Those who espouse it cannot live with the repercussions of their own illogic. “In practice a man cannot totally reject [rationality], however much his system leads him to it, unless he experiences … some form of mental breakdown.” Thus people have been forced to an even deeper level of despair: “a level of mysticism with nothing there.”11

MYSTICISM: IRRATIONALITY GONE TO SEED

Mysticism is the idea that spiritual reality is found by looking inward. Mysticism is perfectly suited for religious existentialism; indeed, it is its inevitable consequence. The mystic disdains rational understanding and seeks truth instead through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, private illumination, or other purely subjective means. Objective truth becomes practically superfluous. Mystical experiences are therefore self-authenticating; that is, they are not subject to any form of objective verification. They are unique to the person who experiences them. Since they do not arise from or depend upon any rational process, they are invulnerable to any refutation by rational means.

Arthur L. Johnson writes,

The experience convinces the mystic in such a way, and to such a degree, that lie simply cannot doubt its value and the correctness of what he believes it “says.”…In its crudest form this position says that believing something to be so makes it so. The idea is that ultimate reality is purely mental; therefore one is able to create whatever reality one wishes. Thus the mystic “creates” truth through his experience. In a less extreme form, the view seems to be that there are “alternate realities,” one as real as another, and that these “break in upon” the mystic in his experiences. Whatever form is taken, the criterion of truth is again a purely private and subjective experience that provides no means of verification and no safeguard against error. Nevertheless, it is seen by the mystic as being above question by others.

The practical result of all this is that it is nearly impossible to reason with any convinced mystic. Such people are generally beyond the reach of reason.12

Mysticism is therefore antithetical to discernment. It is an extreme form of reckless faith.

Mysticism is the great melting pot into which neo-orthodoxy, the charismatic movement, anti-intellectual evangelicals, and even some segments of Roman Catholicism have been synthesized. It has produced movements like the Third Wave (a neo-charismatic movement with excessive emphasis on signs, wonders, and personal prophecies); Renovaré (an organization that blends teachings from monasticism, ancient Catholic mysticism, Eastern religion, and other mystical traditions); the spiritual warfare movement (which seeks to engage demonic powers in direct confrontation); and the modern prophecy movement (which encourages believers to seek private, extrabiblical revelation directly ftom God). The influx of mysticism has also opened evangelicalism to New-Age concepts like subliminal thought- control, inner healing, communication with angels, channeling, dream analysis, positive confession, and a host of other therapies and

practices coming directly from occult and Eastern religions. The face of evangelicalism has changed so dramatically in the past twenty years that what is called evangelicalism today is beginning to resemble what used to be called neo-orthodoxy. If anything, some segments of contemporary evangelicalism are even more subjective in their approach to truth than neo-orthodoxy ever was.

It could be argued that evangelicalism never successfully resisted neo-orthodoxy. Twenty years ago evangelicals took a heroic stand against neo-orthodox influences on the issue of biblical inerrancy. But whatever victory was gained in that battle is now being sacrificed on the altar of mysticism. Mysticism renders biblical inerrancy irrelevant. After all, if the highest truth is subjective and comes from within us, then it doesn’t ultimately matter if the specifics of Scripture are true or not. If the content of faith is not the real issue, what does it really matter if the Bible has errors or not?

In other words, neo-orthodoxy attacked the objective inspiration of Scripture. Evangelical mysticism attacks the objective interpretation of Scripture. The practical effect is the same. By embracing existential relativism, evangelicals are forfeiting the very riches they fought so hard to protect. If we can gain meaningful guidance from characters who appear in our fantasies, why should we bother ourselves with what the Bible says? If we are going to disregard or even reject the biblical verdict against homosexuality, what difference does it make if the historical and factual matter revealed in Scripture is accurate or inaccurate? If personal prophecies, visions, dreams, and angelic beings are available to give us up-to-the-minute spiritual direction—”fresh revelation” as it is often called—who cares if Scripture is without error in the whole or in the parts?

Mysticism further nullifies Scripture by pointing people away from the sure Word of God as the only reliable object of faith. Warning of the dangers of mysticism, Schaeffer wrote,

Probably the best way to describe this concept of modern theology is to say that it is faith in faith, rather than faith directed to an object which is actually there…. A modern man cannot talk about the object of his faith, only about the faith itself. So he can discuss the existence of his faith and its “size” as it exists against all reason, but that is all. Modern man’s faith turns inward…. Faith is introverted, because it has no certain object … it is rationally not open to discussion. This position, I would suggest, is actually a greater despair and darkness than the position of those modern men who commit suicide.13

The faith of mysticism is an illusion. “Truth that is true for me” is irrelevant to anyone else, because it lacks any objective basis. Ultimately, therefore, existential faith is impotent to lift anyone above the level of despair. All it can do is seek more experiences and more feelings. Multitudes are trapped in the desperate cycle of feeding off one experience while zealously seeking the next. Such people have no real concept of truth; they just believe. Theirs is a reckless faith.

MEANWHILE, AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM…

Mysticism, however, is not the only form of reckless faith that threatens the contemporary church. A new movement has been gaining strength lately. Evangelicals are leaving the fold and moving into Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and liturgical high-church Protestantism. Rejecting the ever-changing subjectivism of a free- wheeling existential Protestantism, they seek a religion with historical roots. Turned off by the shallow silliness that has overrun the evangelical movement, they desire a more magisterial approach. Perhaps sensing the dangers of a religion that points people inward, they choose instead a religion that emphasizes external ceremonies and dogmatic hierarchical authority.

I listened to the taped testimony of one of these converts to Roman Catholicism, a former Protestant minister. He said he had graduated with highest honors from a leading Protestant seminary. He told his audience that as a student he was rabidly anti-Catholic and fully committed to Protestant Reformed doctrine (although he refuted this himself by admitting he had already rejected the crucial doctrine of justification by faith). After college he began to read Roman Catholic writings and found himself drawn to Catholic theology and liturgy. He described his initial resistance to the doctrines of purgatory, the perpetual virginity of Mary, transubstantiation, and prayers to Mary and the saints. All of those doctrines are easily disproved by the Bible.14 But this man—acknowledging that he could find no warrant anywhere in Scripture for praying to Mary—nevertheless completely changed his outlook on such matters after he tried praying the rosary and received an answer to a very specific prayer. He concluded that it must have been Mary who answered his prayer and immediately began praying regularly to her. Ultimately, he decided the Bible alone was not a sufficient rule of faith for believers, and he put his faith in papal authority and church tradition.

That man’s leap of faith may not have been of the existential variety, but it was a blind leap nonetheless. He chose the other extreme of reckless faith, the kind that makes extrabiblical religious tradition the object of one’s faith.

This kind of faith is reckless because it subjugates the written Word of God to oral tradition, church authority, or some other human criterion. It is an uncritical trust in an earthly religious authority—the pope, tradition, a self-styled prophet like David Koresh, or whatever. Such faith rarely jettisons Scripture altogether—but by forcing God’s Word into the mold of religious tradition, it invalidates the Word of God and renders it of no effect (cf. Matt. 15:6).

The man whose taped testimony I heard is now an apologist for the Roman Catholic Church. He speaks to Catholic congregations and tells them how to counter biblical arguments against Catholicism. At the end of his testimony tape, he deals briefly with the official Catholic attitude toward Scripture. He is eager to assure his listeners that the modern Roman Catholic Church has no objection if Catholic people want to read Scripture for themselves. Even personal Bible study is all right, he says—but then hastens to add that it is not necessary to go overboard. “A verse or two a day is enough.” This man, a seminary graduate, surely should be aware that a comment like that seriously understates the importance of the written Word of God. We are commanded to meditate on Scripture day and night (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2). We are to let it fill our hearts at all times (Deut. 6:6-9). We must study it diligently and handle it rightly (2 Tim. 2:15). The Bible alone is able to give us the wisdom that leads to salvation, then adequately equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

Discernment depends on a knowledge of Scripture. Those who are content to listen gullibly to some voice of human authority rather than hearing God’s Word and letting it speak for itself cannot be discerning. Theirs is a reckless, irrational faith.

We identified the inward-looking extreme of reckless faith as mysticism. We could call this other variety rote tradition. In Isaiah 29:13, that is precisely how God Himself characterized it: “This people their lip service, but draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote” (emphasis added).

Scripture has nothing but condemnation for rote tradition. Barren religious ritual, sacerdotal formalism, or liturgy out of a book are not the same as worship. Real worship, like faith, must engage the mind. Jesus said, “The true worshipers … worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23).

Did you realize that rote tradition was the very error for which Jesus condemned the Pharisees? He told them,

“Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me. teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (Mark 7:6-9).

Rote tradition is not unlike mysticism in that it also bypasses the mind. Paul said this of the Jews who were so absorbed in their empty religious traditions:

I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Rom. 10:2-4).

Their problem was not a lack of zeal. It was not that they were short on enthusiasm, emotionally flat, or slothful about religious observances. The issue was that the zeal they displayed was rote tradition, “not in accordance with knowledge.” They were not sufficiently discerning, and therefore their faith itself was deficient.

Paul is specific in stating that their ignorance lay in trying to establish their own righteousness rather than submitting to the righteousness of God. This passage comes at the culmination of Paul’s doctrinal discussion in Romans. In context it is very clear that he was talking about the doctrine ofjustification by faith. He had thoroughly expounded this subject beginning in chapter 3. He said we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (3:24). Justification is “by faith apart from works of the Law” (v.28). “God reckons righteousness apart from works” (Rom. 4:6).

But instead of seeking the perfect righteousness of Christ, which God reckons to those who believe, the unbelieving Jews had set out to try to establish a righteousness of their own through works. That is where rote tradition always leads. It is a religion of works. Thus the ritualistic, unbelieving Pharisees are an exact parallel to Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and most forms of ritual-laden Protestantism. All of them deny justification by faith.

If the Pharisees or their followers had used the Scriptures as their standard of truth rather than rabbinical tradition, they would have known that God justifies sinners by faith. Repeatedly, Jesus said things to them like “Did you never read in the Scriptures . . . ?” (Matt. 21:42); “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (22:29); and, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?” (John 3:10). What He continually chided them for was theirignorance of the Scriptures. They had set rote tradition in place of the written Word of God (Matt. 15:6), and they were condemned for it.

Contrast the way Luke commended the Bereans for their noblemindedness: “For they received the word [the New Testament gospel from the apostles] with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures [the Old Testament books] daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:1 1). What made the Bereans worthy of commendation? Their eagerness to be discerning. They rightly refused to blindly accept anyone’s teaching (even that of the apostles) without clear warrant from God’s Word.

Spiritual discernment is, I believe, the only antidote to the existentialism of our age. Until’Christians regain the will to test everything by the rule of Scripture, reject what is false, and hold fast to what is true, the church will struggle and falter, and our testimony to a world in sin will be impaired.

But if the church will rise up and stand for the truth of God’s Word against all the lies of this evil world, then we will begin to see the power of truth that sets people free (John 8:32).

Endnotes

1. John W. Kennedy, “Hunting for Heresy,” Christianity Today (16 May 1994).

2. Robert Bretall, cd., A Kierkegaard Anthology (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1946), 5 (emphasis in original).

3. Ibid.

4. Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, trans. (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1983), 55.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., 57.

7. Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, Edwyn C. Hoskyns, trans. (London: Oxford University Press, 1933). Barth cites Kierkegaard repeatedly in this, one of his earliest works.

8. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Volume I (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1982).

9. Ibid., 53.

10. Ibid., 55.

11. Ibid., 58.

12. Arthur L. Johnson, Faith Misguided: Exposing the Dangers of Mysticism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 31-32.

13. Schaeffer, 64-65, emphasis added.

14. Purgatory: Luke 23:42-43 and 2 Cor. 5:8 indicate that believers go immediately to be with Christ at death. Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Matt. 1:25 states that Joseph kept Mary a virgin only until Jesus’ birth, and John 2:12 and Acts 1:14 reveal that Jesus had brothers. Transubstantiation: Heb. 7:27 and 10:12 teach that Christ made one sacrifice for sins forever; there is no need for the daily sacrifice of the Mass. Prayers to Mary and the saints: prayers, adoration, and spiritual veneration offered to anyone but God is expressly forbidden by the first commandment and elsewhere throughout Scripture (Ex. 20:3; Matt. 4:10; Acts 10:25-26; Rev. 19:10; Rev. 22:8-9).


Taken from Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern, © 1994 by John MacArthur. Edited. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL. This excerpt may only be downloaded for personal use. It is only permissable to forward it with the credit line attached.

Further reading:
“Losing the Will to Discern” by John MacArthur
“The Rise of Reckless Faith” by John MacArthur

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Should voters cast a ballot for the lesser of two evils?

For years, I have urged Christians to take seriously their obligations as citizens, starting with exercising the right to vote. In the public square and at the ballot box, we must be more engaged, not less.

But what happens in a race where Christians are faced with two morally problematic choices? Should voters cast a ballot for the lesser of two evils? This unpredictable election cycle could go in any number of directions, and I keep getting asked this question.

For starters, unless Jesus of Nazareth is on the ballot, any election forces us to choose the lesser of evils. Across every party and platform, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Still, the question is a valid one. Believing in human depravity doesn’t negate our sense of responsibility. By the standard of God’s law, every person is a liar, but that doesn’t mean we should hire an employee we know has a pattern of lying. Jesus taught that all who have lust in their hearts are adulterers, but that doesn’t mean a woman should shrug her shoulders when she learns her potential new husband is a serial philanderer.

“When considering the question of choosing between the lesser of two evils, we must begin with voting is within our system of government.” In our system, citizenis an office; we too bear responsibility for the actions of the government. Just as the lordship of Christ made demands for public justice on office-holders in the New Testament (Luke 4:15), the same is true for those who rule as citizens.

The apostle Paul taught that the sword of Caesar is given by God to commend good and punish evil (Rom. 13:1-5). The Bible addresses the limits of this role, recounting those who use the sword in unjust ways and are held accountable to judgment (i.e., Revelation 13).

In a democratic republic, the authority over statecraft rests with the people themselves. In the voting booth, we delegate others to swing the sword of public justice on our behalf. If we think of a campaign like a job interview, we cannot ethically contract someone to do evil on our behalf.

Can a candidate make promises about issues then do something different in office? Yes. Can a candidate present a sense of good character in public then later be revealed to be a fraud? Sure. The same happens with pastors, spouses, employees, and in virtually every other relationship. But that sense of surprise and disappointment is not the same as knowingly delegating our authority to someone with poor character or wicked public stances. Doing so makes us as voters culpable. Saying, “the alternative would be worse” is no valid excuse.

Think of military service, another office of public responsibility, as an example. Members of the military don’t need to approve of everything a general decides to be faithful to their duty to the country. But if they’re commanded to either slaughter innocent non-combatants or desert and sign up with the enemies of one’s country, a Christian can’t merely choose the least bad of these options. He would have to conclude that both are wrong and he could not be implicated in either. If a Christian doctor were forced to choose between performing abortions or assisting suicides, she could not choose the lesser of these two evils but must conscientiously object.

That said all political issues are not equal. I’ve voted for candidates I disagreed with on issues like immigration reform or family medical leave because I’ve agreed with them on the sanctity of human life. I could not, though, vote for a “pro-life” candidate who is also for racial injustice or war crimes or any number of other first-level moral issues. There are some candidates I agree on issues like economic growth or national security for whom I could not vote for because they deny the personhood of the unborn or restrict religious freedom for all people.

Given these moral convictions, there have been times when I’ve faced two candidates, both of whom were morally disqualified. In one case, one candidate was pro-life but a race-baiter, running against a candidate who was pro-choice. I could not in good conscience put my name on either candidate. I wrote in the name of another leader. Other times, I’ve voted for a minor party candidate.

Candidates from outside the two major parties sometimes win. Abraham Lincoln ran as a Republican in an era when the major parties were the Whigs and Democrats. Even when third-party candidates don’t win the election, they can introduce issues and build a movement for the future. Write-in candidates have occasionally won; US Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska won her re-election as a write-in candidate in 2010.

In the cases when I’ve voted for an independent or written in a candidate, I didn’t necessarily expect that candidate to win—my main objective was to participate in the process without endorsing moral evil. As Christians, we are not responsible for the reality of our two-party system or for the way others exercise their citizenship, but we will give an account for how we delegate our authority. Our primary concern is not the election night victory party, but the Judgment Seat of Christ.

When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).

This side of the New Jerusalem, we will never have a perfect candidate. But we cannot vote for evil, even if it’s our only option.

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and author of Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.

This nation will not survive another third term of Barack Obama in the form of Hillary Sanders or Bernie Sanders.”

This is what Robert Jeffress, pastor of a Dallas megachurch, said when he introduced Trump to a crowd in Iowa before the caucuses there:
““Although as a pastor I cannot officially endorse a candidate, I want you to know I would not be here this morning if I were not absolutely convinced that Donald Trump would make a great president of the United States. … Most Americans know we are in a mess, and as they look at Donald Trump they believe he is the one leader who can reverse the downward death spiral of this nation we love so dearly … this nation will not survive another third term of Barack Obama in the form of Hillary Sanders or Bernie Sanders.”
So, I think that comports pretty well with what Domenich is saying, except that I would quibble with the notion that the support is primarily based on religious protection. It is more based on the (maybe desperate) notion that somehow Trump is going to magically bring good blue collar jobs back to this country and restore it to its right and proper place as leader of the free world.
It is a cry of desperation based on the poor economic plight of working class Americans, who no longer are greatly concerned about the social justice/morality issues that might have colored to a greater extent their past votes.

I’m a Christian–BUT ????

 

By now many of you have no doubt seen the viral video “I’m a Christian, but…” (click the image above to view it). Not only has the video been making the rounds, but the hashtag #IAmAChristianBut is ubiquitous on social media right now.After you watch the video, it’s obvious that this is a propaganda piece for a version of Christianity that is Christian in name only–a progressivist vision of the faith that has more to do with maintaining street-cred with Christianity’s cultured despisers than with the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It is what the apostle Paul called a “form of godliness” while “denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). It is gutless–literally, a hollowing out of everything essential to the faith.Far from being Christocentric, this display is Christo-absent. Not one of these “Christians” even mentions Jesus. Their definition of the faith displays no connection even implicitly to the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Even disinterested observers can tell that this is more than a glaring oversight. It is an attempt to label love for worldliness as love for Christ. It undermines any credible claim that these testimonials can be in any sense authentically Christian.And indeed, the substance of their testimony is this. “We are Christian, but are not like those other Christians who actually follow Christ’s teachings.” Nevermind the fact that Jesus taught that sex outside marriage is sin (Mark 7:21). Nevermind that Jesus defined marriage as fundamentally heterosexual in nature—the permanent union of one man and one woman until death parts them (Matthew 19:4-6). Nevermind that Jesus defines discipleship as being willing to follow Jesus even if it costs you your life (Matthew 16:24). These “Christians” have a version of Christianity that dispenses with all of that rubbish that Jesus taught.

The apostle John once warned against those who call themselves Christian but who don’t actually follow Jesus:

“The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” –1 John 2:4-6

In other words, the mark of authentic Christianity in a person’s life is the willingness to follow everything that Jesus calls us to. This obedience isn’t the cause of our salvation; it is the fruit of our salvation. It is the proof that our hearts truly have been renewed by the Holy Spirit when we love what Jesus loves—including his commands which are countercultural. Jesus himself said it this way:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” –John 14:21-24

The testimonials in this video are not demonstrating this kind of love. They demonstrate a love for the world and its values not a love for Christ and his Kingdom (1 John 2:15-17). And that is the problem.

Contrary to what this video indicates, Christianity is not a choose-your-own-adventure story in which you get to define the terms of your relationship to God. God has defined the terms of our redemption, and they are irreducibly Christocentric. God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus taught us that we receive this salvation by repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ to save us (Mark 1:15). That conversion issues forth in a life devoted to God and His purposes. To miss these truths is to miss Christianity altogether. And that omission is what is on display in this video.

I would say to every person in this video and to all who are sympathetic to what they are teaching. You really can be a Christian. You can know Christ and the power of his resurrection life. You can be saved and be made a part of his family. But you will have to come on his terms—by repentance and faith. And you will have to take up your cross and follow him. If you try to save your life—including your sexual freedom—you will lose your life for eternity. But if you are willing to lose your life—and all that entails—you will save it for eternity (Matthew 16:25-26).

That is real Christianity, and I hope you will join us.

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More Thoughts on Christians and Sex in Movies

There is no time in the entire history of Christianity when any Christian leader would approve of nudity and simulated sex as entertainment…ever!

Samuel D. James

Last week I jotted down some thoughts on why I’ve come to the conclusion that Christians are better off avoiding movies with sexual nudity. The majority of the feedback I’ve gotten from that article has been positive and affirming, and I’m grateful for any help its been able to give. But I’ve also gotten some thoughtful, friendly pushback and questions. Much of this has been helpful in clarifying my own thoughts, and I want to take a minute and address some of it.

The first thing I should clarify about my original blog is what I did, and did not, intend to communicate. My aim was to help Christians affirm their conscientious objections to watching simulated sexual acts by offering some substantive reasons why, in my opinion, violence and profanity are not similarly problematic. I was not trying to argue that all sexual content in movies demands the same response…

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Peyton Manning Shares the Shocking Reason Why He Loves Jesus, Drinks Beer, & Won’t Pray to Win

 

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Peyton Manning drinks Budweiser, doesn’t point to God after scoring a touchdown, and never prays to win a football game.

He’s also a Christian (stay with me here).

Manning accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of thirteen, and since then, his faith has been his number one priority. He grew up in a Bible-believing home, and he tries to be the best man he can be…but there’s an important reason why you don’t really hear much about that side of him.

He would rather his actions outshine his words.

Often times, we squish Christianity into this little box of do’s and don’t‘s, stuffing an infinite God into the puny confines of our own minds. We think we know what following Christ looks like, but in his book Manning that Peyton co-wrote with his dad Archie, Peyton reveals how his Christian walk may not look the same as anyone else’s—but it is no greater, and no lesser.

And this is exactly what he means…

Transcript via Minding the Truth:

“Like my dad, I make it a point when I speak to groups to talk about priorities, and when it’s schoolkids, I rank those priorities as: faith, family, and education, then football. For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. And I tell all of them that as important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: “If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you’d go to heaven?” Cooper was there and Eli [Peyton’s two brothers] but it didn’t hit them at the time the way it did me. It was a big church, and I felt very small, but my heart was pounding. The minister invited those who would like that assurance through Jesus Christ to raise their hands, and I did. Then he invited us to come forward, to take a stand, and my heart really started pounding. And from where we sat, it looked like a mile to the front.

But I got up and did it. And I committed my life to Christ, and that faith has been most important to me ever since. Some players get more vocal about it—the Reggie Whites, for example—and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it, and don’t think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism than I already am. Somebody sees you drinking a beer, which I do, and they think, “Hmmmm, Peyton says he’s this, that, or the other, and there he is drinking alcohol. What’s that all about?”

Christians drink beer. So do non-Christians. Christians also make mistakes, just as non-Christians do. My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago. I think God answered our prayers with Cooper, and that was a test of our faith. But I also think I’ve been blessed—having so little go wrong in my life, and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don’t talk about it or brag about it because that’s between God and me, and I’m no better than anybody else in God’s sight.

But I consider myself fortunate to be able to go to Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don’t do too many things that displease Him before I get to Heaven myself. I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you’re committed to God in that way. I find being with others whose faith is the same has made me stronger. J.C. Watts and Steve Largent, for example. They’re both in Congress now. We had voluntary pregame chapel at Tennessee, and I attend chapel every Sunday with players on the team in Indianapolis. I have spoken to church youth groups, and at Christian high schools. And then simply as a Christian, and not as good a one as I’d like to be.

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Have Mercy on me, Oh God,

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,

and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence,

and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,

O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;

you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;

build up the walls of Jerusalem;

then will you delight in right sacrifices,

in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;

then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Christians Should Vote for Good Governance over Good Theolog

Politicians pander. It’s what they do. But Christians seem especially susceptible to those claiming to be their spiritual brethren. It would be better if people of faith focused on candidates’ practical ability to perform the duties of what remains a secular office.

With the Iowa caucuses drawing near, it seems like every Republican tramping through the snow claims to be a Bible-believing, God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christian. A gaggle of church leaders are promoting their favorite presidential wannabe.

It’s a fruitless exercise. It’s rarely easy to judge whether a particular candidate’s faith claims are true. God told the prophet Samuel: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

For instance, Ted Cruz appears to have done the best this year in presenting himself as a committed Christian. His religious tale, including the conversion story of his pastor father, is contained in an 18-minute documentary. By all accounts, Cruz is doing well among the most theologically conservative Republicans in Iowa.

Yet McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed reported on doubts about Cruz’s faithfulness. Moreover, in late 2014, Cruz used a conference on persecuted Christians from the Middle East, among the most vulnerable people on the planet, as a campaign prop.

Cruz also gave less than one percent of his income to charity between 2006 and 2010. Opposing candidate Mike Huckabee observed: “It’s hard to say God is first in your life if he’s last in your budget.”

Donald Trump has been doing his best to pander without a carefully crafted story. Running casinos with strip clubs is unusual “fruit” from a Christian walk. His style of campaigning doesn’t exactly advance the Christian faith.

How about the rest of the GOP candidates? What do they really believe about God? Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus?

The best response is: who cares? One’s theological views just don’t tell much about a person’s competence to perform a civil office. Voters should care most about how a candidate would confront Washington’s virtual fiscal insolvency, end America’s constant warring in the Middle East, address dependency as well as poverty among the poor, and deal with other serious policy issues.

Indeed, by the most public measures of behavior, President Barack Obama appears to be a more faithful Christian than Donald Trump. Yet many political activists who loudly assert their Christian faith are trending toward the Donald. Indeed, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., gave a fulsome introduction to Trump, even comparing Trump to Jesus in expressing unpopular opinions.

It actually would have been more reassuring had Liberty University invited Trump to speak and The Donald done so, with neither pandering to the other. Trump ain’t my cup of tea, but the argument for his candidacy is entirely secular. Nevertheless, Christians should vote for him if they believe him to be the best candidate—and not because they believe him to be a faithful Christian like themselves.

As I wrote for American Spectator: “After years of being manipulated by ambitious politicos, believers should check their credulity at the polling place door. Christians shouldn’t cast their ballots based on their perceptions of the contenders’ religious faith. Martin Luther was right when he declared that he preferred to be governed by a smart Turk than a stupid Christian.”

Goodness and faithfulness are important, but no substitute for competence. Believers and nonbelievers alike should choose the best candidate, not the best Christian, for president.

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About the author, Ron DeHaas

Ron DeHaas

Ron DeHaas is the president and co-founder of Covenant Eyes. Ron has a BS and an MS in Geology from The Ohio State University and attended the University of Michigan as a PhD candidate. Ron pioneered the concept of Accountability Software, and founded Covenant Eyes in the spring of 2000, and today over 150,000 subscribers enjoy the Internet accountability Covenant Eyes provides. Ron also founded Nehemiah Ministries, a 160-acre retreat and counseling center in south-central Michigan for pastors and missionaries. (Photo from the Lansing State Journal, photographer Greg DeRuiter. Used with permission.)

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