Monday, February 29, 2016

Are we doing it for Daddy?

Thinking about the Right to Life vigil that was snowed out last month brought back memories of one that happened years ago. It was suppertime in the Fox den, and we were discussing making a trip to the Graham Courthouse that evening.

One of the children said, “It’s cool! You get to hold a candle.” Another added, “And we might get our picture in the paper.” I responded, “Hey, you guys, the reason we do this every year is not to hold candles or because we might get our picture in the paper. If that’s why you’re doing it, I’d rather you stay home.”

There was a slight pause, and the older children looked intently at their broccoli. My problem is that even when I say the right thing, which happens every now and then, I still have a tendency to say it the wrong way. Thankfully, my 5-year-old who was not offended by my brusqueness saved the evening. He flashed his big brown eyes at me and asked, “Are we doing it for you, Daddy?”

Cindy said, “Oh, how sweet,” and my eyes pooled with tears at my son’s innocence. And I thanked God for the high and holy privilege He has given us as parents, the privilege and the delight of leading children to faith and obedience.

As I think back to that event, I remember how that question made me examine my own motives for standing at the courthouse on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, or for doing anything else on behalf of the unborn. My heart whispered in prayer, “Am I doing it for You, Daddy?” Do I go to the courthouse to set an example for my children, so that they will see that the issue of the sanctity of life is more important than my temporary inconvenience? That is a good motive, but not the best. Do I speak out for the unborn because of the more than 60 million babies who have been aborted since 1973? To pray and work, as Job said, for the one “who had none to help him”? That is a good reason to go to the vigil, I decided, but not the best. My young son’s question rang in my heart: “Are we doing it for you, Daddy?”

That is really the issue for me. I pray and work on behalf of the ones who cannot speak up for themselves, because my Father is passionate for life, and I am His child. I add my little voice to the millions who are standing and praying and holding candles across the nation, hoping that the nation will come back to its right mind, because I believe God would have me do so. Is it a simple issue? No. I know the issue of abortion is volatile, with strong emotions on both sides. It divides political parties and raises blood pressure and motivates voters and even inspires poetry and song and film. Most life and death issues do.

I remember the day we lost our second born to miscarriage. The doctor explained, “We’ll never know what happened. But there was something wrong with the embryo, and God decided to end its life in the first trimester.” Cindy and I wept for the son or daughter that we would not get to raise, but were comforted by the assurance that our Father is in control. He is the One who gives life, and takes life; He is the One who IS life, and that is why I stand, and pray, and speak.

I am doing it for Daddy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Killer deal on the ESV Single Column Legacy Bible

Okay, so I don't do this much anymore, but today a great deal on a beautiful Bible came across my email and I just had to let you all know about it. The ESV Single Column Legacy Bible is based on the Renaissance ideal of the perfect page. (If you're like me and weren't quite clear what that was, then read on!)

I hope you'll quickly be as intrigued as I was. If you are, click on any of the images to be taken straight to the Westminster Bookstore. Oh, and happy national banana bread day!

To read this eNewsletter, click Load Images in your email client. Or visit this link to view a copy the way we intended it to look:
To read this eNewsletter, click Load Images in your email client. Or visit this link to view a copy the way we intended it to look:
To read this eNewsletter, click Load Images in your email client. Or visit this link to view a copy the way we intended it to look:

To read this eNewsletter, click Load Images in your email client. Or visit this link to view a copy the way we intended it to look:
To read this eNewsletter, click Load Images in your email client. Or visit this link to view a copy the way we intended it to look:
To read this eNewsletter, click Load Images in your email client. Or visit this link to view a copy the way we intended it to look:
To read this eNewsletter, click Load Images in your email client. Or visit this link to view a copy the way we intended it to look:
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Monday, February 22, 2016

You can be absolutely sure of this Truth

I approached the stoplight without a care in the world. After all, my truth told me that the light is always green, even when it is red. My truth told me that the light is never red, even when it is. My truth told me that I did not have to stop at stoplights, which are, after all, modern constructs that do not reflect my value system at all. I approached the red light, fully intent on going through without stopping. Until I saw the 18-wheeler barreling toward the intersection, on a collision course with my Yugo. I slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop, glowering at the red light and the truck that was violating my truth.

Of course that story is false. Or is it? Can anything really be “false” to the modern moral relativist? I don’t own a Yugo, and I certainly don’t believe that truth is relative. In fact, I challenge all the students who are reading this column to try something the next time the teacher in your class makes such a statement as “There is no absolute truth.” Raise your hand and say, “Are you sure?” If the teacher nods and says ‘Yes,” raise your hand again. When called upon, say, “Are you absolutely sure?”

The teacher cannot be intellectually honest and say he is absolutely sure that there are no absolutes. And truth be told, the teacher doesn’t really live in this house of cards called “moral relativism.” He stops at stoplights and accelerates when the light turns green. She expects to pay the price that is on the box of cereal when she gets to the register, not the price that the clerk decides is “his truth” at that moment. He applauds the capture of a serial killer and wants justice to be done. She does not pay her tax bill if the county decides to add a couple of extra zeroes. He fights City Hall and demands that his tax bill be “fair and just” (and true?).

When someone told the great British writer Dr. Samuel Johnson that one of his dinner guests believed that morality did not exist, Dr. Johnson replied, “Why, sir, if he really believes there is no distinction between virtue and vice, let us count our spoons before he leaves.” In other words, how can the moral relativist really be trusted?

Mark Ashton wrote in his booklet, “Absolute Truth?” about Robert Wengert, a philosophy professor at the University of Illinois. Wengert would ask his ethics class if his students thought truth was relative. The majority of students typically raised their hands. Then he would tell them that short students would get A’s and tall students would fail. When his students protested that his grading system was not fair and that he ought not or should not grade in that fashion, Wengert pointed out to his class that when they used words like “ought” or “should,” they betrayed a belief in an objective moral standard; they really did not believe that morality is relative.

Neither did Jesus Christ. He said to those who believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” And just in case there was any confusion over what “truth” is, Jesus said this: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

That sounds like an absolute truth to me. One you can be absolutely sure of.

Monday, February 15, 2016

We need a foundation that will stand

I heard about a little boy who was found by his father early one morning, just after the sun had risen, lying spread-eagled on a pile of all the best toys that he shared with his brothers. His father said, “Son, what in the world are you doing?” He looked up from his prone position and said, “Well, you always ask when we argue over toys, ‘Who had it first?’ Today, I have them ALL first!” 

When my son Judah was a toddler, he decided one day that he was not going to be separated from everything he loved, even for a moment. So he carefully placed all his toys and games and puzzles in a backpack. He then strapped on the backpack, and stood up … for about two seconds. The weight of all his possessions began to pull, and try as he might to stay upright, this little toddler began to toddle. He ended up flat on his backpack, looking for all the world like a turtle, flailing helplessly, trying to get back on his feet. 

Ravi Zacharias went to speak at Ohio State University several years ago, and the student who was giving him a tour of campus bragged about the first ‘post-modernist’ building that the students themselves had constructed. “What is a post-modernist building?” Ravi asked. “I understand that term as it relates to philosophy or to literature, but how does it relate to a building?” The student took him inside and showed him that there were stairways that led nowhere, and there were pillars that did not connect. The young Buckeye almost crowed in his delight in saying that this building was designed to be a postmodernist building, reflecting the absurdity of life and the meaninglessness of it. Ravi smiled and asked one simple question that confounded the young would-be philosopher. Dr. Zacharias asked, “Did the architect apply that design to the foundation, also?” The young student was flummoxed. He had no response, because there is no such thing as a post-modernist foundation. 

May I connect these three stories? The Bible teaches us that there are fundamental truths in the universe that cannot be violated, neither by little boys, toddlers, nor even by adult architects. Everything stands upon the foundation of truth. In fact, the Bible teaches us that all things were created through Jesus, who existed with God in the beginning. Not only did God through Jesus create everything that we can see and everything that we cannot see, but “in Him all things hold together.” I understand that it takes the eyes of faith to see that, but when we do, it changes everything. We only then begin to understand where we came from, why we are here and where we are going.

Even for those who don’t believe it, the foundation of God’s immutable truth still stands. If a building is constructed in such a way that it violates the laws of nature and nature’s God, that building will not stand. Even more serious, if the life of a human being consists of things to be accumulated, like so much ‘treasure’ in a rucksack, or of ideas that run contrary to the foundation of God’s Word, then the toddler, the little boy, the middle-aged banker, or the elderly professor who tries to live under such a load will fall over.

As the hymn writer said, “On Christ the solid rock, I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” No other foundation that will stand the test of time, much less the test of eternity.

Monday, February 8, 2016

God is more real than what we can see

It was a typical Sunday morning at Antioch Church, many years ago. We were singing hymns and praise songs to the Lord Jesus. Many people had their eyes closed, but not my son Jesse. He was four years old at the time and taking it all in, watching people sing, looking at the musicians, gazing at the ceiling. Suddenly he tugged on his mom’s dress and whispered in her ear when she leaned down, “Mom, God and his friends and the angels are here!”

“Where are they?” Cindy replied.

“They’re in this room, but you can’t see them,” Jesse assured her, his blue eyes as serious as they have ever been.

You know what? I believe Jesse was right. I was reminded of the story in Scripture about Elisha the prophet, when he was being hunted by a king. You see, the Syrians were at war with Israel, and every time they would make a move against the Israelites, Elisha would tell the king of Israel what the Syrians were going to do before they did it. This ticked off the Syrian king, so he sent an army to go get the prophet Elisha.

The Syrian army surrounded the city of Dothan where Elisha and his servant, Gehazi, were staying, and the next morning there they were, horses, chariots, and lots of Syrian soldiers. Gehazi was scared to death and cried out, “Master! What shall we do?” I imagine that Elisha was still sipping his first cup of coffee and eating a sweet roll as he read the Dothan Daily, and didn’t even bother to glance at the enemy. He said to Gehazi, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Huh? That’s what Gehazi’s face must have said. He had no idea what the prophet was talking about, so Elisha put his paper down and began to pray. He asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes so he could see, and I believe it was about then that Gehazi started shouting and pointing and maybe even dabbing, nearly spilling Elisha’s coffee in the process. The servant looked at the hills around Dothan, rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, and then looked again. It was still there, and what an awesome spectacle it was. The mountain was lit up with the glory of God as horses and chariots of fire surrounded the Syrian army. The Syrians did not see the army of angels, of course, and they began to move into the city, confident that this little prophet of God had finally met his match. Let’s just say that the prophet of God got the last laugh.

You will have to go to 2 Kings 6:18-23 to read the rest of the story, but it is amazing. It shows off God’s sense of humor, God’s compassion, and God’s power.

This story also confirms, I believe, what Jesse sensed in his spirit as a little boy. God is real, more real than anything that we can touch and hear and see. We are not alone in the universe, because the one who made us is here. He is not aloof or distant, but very much involved in his creation. He is more real than the life I live, and praise God, he is more real than the death I will pass through one day. Until that day, when I meet him face to face, I want to live with the wonder and the expectant hope that only child-like faith can produce.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Take A Step Toward Biblical Literacy

Several years ago, former “Saturday Night Live” star Julia Sweeney explained in an interview for the San Francisco Chronicle why she became an atheist at 38: “You know, like Jesus was angry a lot. When he turned all those people into pigs and made them run off a mountain, it was so hateful, not just to people, but to pigs. I felt so upset for the pigs!”

A reader responded, tongue firmly planted in cheek, “Reminds me of the time Jesus turned 5,000 people into fish and bread and ate them.”

One of the sad realities that becomes more obvious every day in America is our biblical illiteracy as a nation. Most people in this country have never studied the Bible. Some have read it but have never understood any of it. Others have read it but misunderstood most of it. Still others have read it, misinterpreted parts of it, and taught others to do the same.

A fundamental question we must ask as believers and followers of Jesus Christ is this: does each passage in the Bible have more than one interpretation? In other words, did the author mean more than one thing when he wrote the passage? Certainly there may be many applications to a passage, but can there be more than one meaning?

If each passage has a particular meaning that was intended for that audience, how do we find out what that meaning was? Hermeneutics, the science of interpretation, applies here. It involves looking at the author, his audience, the context, the word meanings, the culture, the reason for the letter or book, the situation that was being addressed, and much more. If we do not attempt to understand any of that, then at best we will misinterpret the Scriptures and be led astray. At worst, we will lead others astray.

Just consider context for a moment. It has everything to do with how we interpret something we read. If I read about a massacre on the front page of the newspaper, the context itself will tell me how to interpret that word. If I read about a massacre on the sports page, the context there will suggest something entirely different. If I read the sports headline, “Cowboys slaughter Redskins!” for example, I don’t need to fear that our relations with Native Americans has taken a turn for the worse.

One of the verses most often taken out of context is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” How do we interpret this verse and apply it to our lives? If we just blindly apply it, then we may decide to go helplessly into debt buying Powerball tickets, or we may believe it’s time to leave our spouse, or quit our job, or drop out of college, all the while claiming that God helps us do ALL things. Doing most of those things would be foolish and unbiblical, and none of them could be supported by this verse in question. Philippians 4:13 lives in a contentment context. In other words, Paul writes that he has learned to live in God’s strength when the cupboards are overflowing, and when they are bare.

And just for the record, Jesus did not turn people into pigs. Nor did he turn people into fish and bread. What he did was deliver the possessed and feed the hungry and teach us that only in Him can we find life everlasting. The true stories can be found in Luke 8 and John 6.

Check it out for yourself. Take a step today towards biblical literacy.