Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Withstanding Tweetings

Are naive evangelicals trying to avoid the reproaches of Christ? According to David French at National Review,the Supreme Court ha ratified a new civic religion that is incompatible with Christianity ,
Especially among Evangelicals, there is a naïve belief that if only we were winsome enough, kind enough, and compassionate enough, the culture would welcome us with open arms. But now our love — expressed in the fullness of a Gospel that identifies homosexual conduct as sin but then provides eternal hope through justification and sanctification — is hate.
Christians who’ve not suffered for their faith often romanticize persecution. They imagine themselves willing to lose their jobs, their liberty, or even their lives for standing up for the Gospel. Yet when the moment comes, at least here in the United States, they often find that they simply can’t abide being called “hateful.” It creates a desperate, panicked response. “No, you don’t understand. I’m not like those people — the religious right.” Thus, at the end of the day, a church that descends from apostles who withstood beatings finds itself unable to withstand tweetings. Social scorn is worse than the lash.
This is the era of sexual liberty — the marriage of hedonism to meaning — and the establishment of a new civic religion. The black-robed priesthood has spoken. Will the church bow before their new masters?
What a statement! -"...a church that descends from apostles who withstood beatings finds itself unable to withstand tweetings."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Schaeffer Predicted It

Francis Schaeffer predicted what has come to pass this year The quote below is from a lecture given in 1982.
So, Humanism is the absolute certain result, if we choose this other final reality (instead of Christianity) and say that is what it is. You must realize that when we speak of man being the measure of all things under the Humanist label, the first thing is that man has only knowledge from himself. That he, being finite, limited, very faulty in his observation of many things, yet nevertheless, has no possible source of knowledge except what man, beginning from himself, can find out from his own observation. Specifically, in this view, there is no place for any knowledge from God.

But it is not only that man must start from himself in the area of knowledge and learning, but any value system must come arbitrarily from man himself by arbitrary choice. More frightening still, in our country, at our own moment of history, is the fact that any basis of law then becomes arbitrary -- merely certain people making decisions as to what is for the good of society at the given moment.

Now this is the real reason for the breakdown in morals in our country. It's the real reason for the breakdown in values in our country, and it is the reason that our Supreme Court now functions so thoroughly upon the fact of arbitrary law. They have no basis for law that is fixed, therefore, like the young person who decides to live hedonistically upon their own chosen arbitrary values, society is now doing the same thing legally. Certain few people come together and decide what they arbitrarily believe is for the good of society at the given moment, and that becomes law.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Trainspotting" Theology

Found this very good critique of cessation theology by Mark Rutland at Charisma
The arrogance of making experience into a theology that trumps Scripture is exceeded only by the arrogance of making lack of experience into a theology that trumps Scripture.
In Irvine Welsh's dark Scottish novel Trainspotting, a bum living in an abandoned train station tells others he is watching for trains. Of course it is useless. It is useless there, at least, in that abandoned station. Trains still run elsewhere in Scotland. Just not there.
Here is a simple truth: Just because trains don't run past your house doesn't mean there's no such thing as trains. Furthermore, if there are no trains where you are, why not check out other, more active train stations? Trainspotting for cave dwellers is dismally disappointing business, and train denial is absurdly arrogant.
I was in a remote village deep in the Peruvian rain forest when a jet coursed through the sky overhead. The chief asked if that is how I came to Peru, which launched a long, comic community discussion of air travel. The kibitzers around us joined in with ludicrous comments on how airplanes looked and worked, all of which were utterly absurd. Finally I paced off what I thought were the dimensions of a 707, which may have been as far off as their ideas were. When they realized what I was showing them could have held every person in their village, the arguments and denials went up in intensity. Finally the chief raised his hand and spoke what to this day seems like great wisdom:
"I have never seen an airplane except up there in the sky. I cannot imagine what something like that looks like on the ground. They look very small to me in the sky, but birds look smaller to me in the sky."
His own wife objected, "Why should we believe this man?"
He answered her with a question: "Why should we doubt him? He got here somehow. I hope someday to see an airplane on the ground. Until then I will just wait."
Remarkable and memorable wisdom from a man who lived in a hut.
Cessation theology, so-called, is, astonishingly enough, exactly what it denounces: completely nonbiblical. There is absolutely no clear biblical statement that the gifts of the Spirit have gone anywhere, especially away. How could they go away? What could that possibly even mean? The Holy Spirit has not taken the last train for the coast. The gifts are His gifts. They were not the possession of the apostles nor of the church in any time or location. Where the Spirit is, the gifts are.
Why those gifts are more or less visible in action at various periods of church history is a valid question—a profoundly convicting question. Why they are sometimes, perhaps even frequently, misused and abused is another valid question—an even more convicting question. Gatherings of concerned and loving believers should be held to sort through these painful questions and others.
Denouncing all who dare to believe in the validity of biblical gifts in this and every age is a cave-dweller's point of view: Because I have never seen a train, there are no trains. It also smacks of an incredible conceit. "If God were going to manifest His gifts anywhere in any time among any group, it would surely be now among me and my friends." Hmmmm....
Read the rest at the link.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Racism Is Sin

A necessary word for the current cultural environment - The Sin of Racism (From Trillia Newbell at Verge Network):
...Racism is a painful word. Nobody wants to be labeled as such. Many actually believe that because we are 50 years past the Civil Rights era, we are somehow magically past racism. Racism is painful because, by definition, it’s another human being who hates another human being based on the God-given color of their skin.
Yet, in God’s economy, we are all created equal. In the beginning, God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26). So why would fellow image bearers hate one another based on something like skin? Because after creation, sin entered the world and distorted our view of humanity (Genesis 3).
Racism is the result of sin. In order to fight it we have to find the root—we have to do some heart surgery and look for the real problem.
For many, I believe racism is rooted in pride. We can often believe that we are greater than others and think they are not worthy of existence. We can be partial and sinfully prefer those like us over those who are unlike ourselves (James 2: 1-13). And at times, the display of racism is not blatant—it doesn’t manifest itself through racial slurs. It can be hidden away in the heart.
The hard truth is that racism and the way it strips man of his dignity will be with us until the consummation of Christ’s kingdom. This is why the Church must be a safe place for difficult discussions about race. We must not only be unafraid to discuss it, but acknowledging that it still exists in many places in our country and can often be hidden away in our own hearts.
We cannot be passive. Just like all temptations, pride and arrogance toward others must be confronted and fought with the truth of God’s Word. Don’t make the assumption that it is something you or your friends or your congregations can ignore.
Tragedies like what we’ve seen in the Garner case are a reminder of the presence of injustice in the world. It’s a call to speak, listen and pray. Because we are the Body of Christ, we must learn to mourn with those who mourn.
So I ask you, are you ready to join arms with your fellow brothers and sisters to pursue true racial reconciliation that can only be achieved through the cross of Christ?
The Good News of the Gospel
If you’ve realized, as various news stories have unfolded, that you do struggle with racism, that is God’s kindness to you. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). If we confess our sin, He is faithful to forgive us and to purify us (1 John 1:9).
The good news is that our struggle with sin is not a fight we have to fight on our own. Like with all struggles, God provided a way of escape and a rescue from that sin. He provided His son, Jesus, who gave his life for the racist. God’s love is great for His children, and He does not withhold good things, including continued, transformational forgiveness. 
This is the good news for you and for all of us—God provides a way of escape through His son (1 Cor. 13:10). A beautiful aspect of the gospel is that it doesn’t stop giving with salvation. God continues to work in our hearts until we are glorified and with Christ.

We can ask the Lord to forgive those who have sinned against us through racist words as well. Can we pursue one another in love, and can we fight against racism? Yes, because we have the Spirit of God. Is racial reconciliation possible? Yes, and it’s a must because we are the Body of Christ. Let’s pursue it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We're All Vulnerable

This is a good piece from Darryl Dash. I found this very relevant this week. in light of the story that broke this week about another Christian leader (one of my heroes) caught in an adultery scandal.
Back in the day, I was a big fan of Gordon MacDonald, author of Ordering Your Private World. I still remember the day that I heard that he had resigned due to a moral failure. I think I believed that only the bad guys did that sort of thing. It was the first time that I truly realized the good guys are susceptible too.

Sadly, it’s not unusual to hear heartbreaking stories of moral failure. MacDonald’s book Rebuilding Your Broken World, written years after his moral failure, helped shape my understanding around this issue.
The whole book is worth reading, but it may be useful to summarize some of the important lessons I learned. Here are some that stick out to me:
Broken worlds are common. “The Bible abounds with examples of men and women whose worlds crashed from self-inflicted causes, and their responses range within great extremes,” writes MacDonald. We shouldn't be surprised.
We’re all vulnerable. We need to confront three lies that we tell ourselves: Broken worlds are the exception, not the rule; a broken-world experience can never happen to me; and if my world breaks, then I can handle the results. We are all vulnerable, and the potential damage is greater than we can imagine.

We’re especially vulnerable when we think we aren’t. A German teenager landed an airplane in Red Square because the Soviets hadn’t prepared for the threat of a small plane. When we leave our hearts unguarded, we’re in severe danger.
We are especially vulnerable in the areas of our strengths. “The Bible characters never fell on their weak points but on their strong ones; unguarded strength is double weakness,” writes Oswald Chambers.
Secrets lead to death; repentance and truth-telling leads to life.Cover-up and self-deception keeps us in bondage until we are ready to name the evil and move towards repentance and healing. Churches can help people move from secrecy to light.
Take preventative steps. Adopt a repentant lifestyle. Practice spiritual disciplines. Cultivate key relationships. Resist the applause that belongs to Christ. Take time to have fun. Hold things loosely. Be filled with the Spirit of God.
Restoration is possible. “Either you believe in the capacity of Christ’s atonement to make you a new person, or you don’t. If you do, then start living like a forgiven person should live. And how is that done? By being a lot more quiet, humble, thankful, sensitive, and anxious to serve than you ever were before. Forgiven people basically live like that,” MacDonald says.
Restoration follows a process. For starters: be silent and withdraw; refuse to defend yourself; assume the ministry of the interior; walk through the pain rather than avoiding it.
Restoration requires others. “Ultimately, rebuilding broken worlds can never happen alone. It is a team effort, and it has to be accomplished in concert with those who can give grace and affirm progress,” says MacDonald. “The grace that helps to rebuild a broken world is something given: never deserved, never demanded, never self-induced.”
The lessons from this book have stuck with me for years. I've appreciated rereading them again this week. I pray we'll learn them well as those who walk with others who fail, and face the danger (or reality) of our own sins and failures.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Preparing For Sexual Refuges

I encourage everyone to read this piece by Russell Moore on where our culture and laws are headed on marriage, gay marriage in particular, and how the church must respond. Let these three paragraphs just whet your appetite.
...What it will mean is that we will have to articulate things that we previously could assume. For a long time, especially in the Bible Belt, pastors could assume that most people understood what we meant by marriage, so we could speak about healthy marriages in shorthand. Now we have to define what we believe about marriage, why we believe about marriage. That's not a new situation for Christians -- that's what's happening in the context of the New Testament, defining Christian marriage over and against a Greco-Roman sexual culture. But it's a new situation for American evangelicals.
I think that the pro-life movement provides the model for the future. The pro-life movement is a long-term movement that is also multipronged, and that will be the case for the pro-marriage, pro-family movement as well -- to recognize that this isn’t simply about a presidential election or two. It's about working in the political arena, but also working in the cultural arena.
I believe the sexual revolution can’t keep its promises. I’m preparing our churches to receive the refugees from the sexual revolution. For those who ask 'What is there other than this?' I said this week at the meeting, there are two kinds of people who won't be able to minister to those refugees. One is the kind of person who has been screaming in anger at those who disagree with us. The other kind is the person who has given up the Gospel and the biblical view about marriage. So we have to stand with conviction and with kindness at the same time.
This is important. Please read the whole piece at the link. 

Growing In Holy Love

I don't like using the term "falling in love" with reference to God. Our culture has cheapened the term, and it seems to me to cheapen holy love. But other than the use of that term, this is a great post on loving God. 5 Ways To Fall Deeper In Love With God by Bill Meyers (Charisma Magazine)
As an author and filmmaker, I spend lots of time asking people questions. Of particular concern (and why I wrote the book The Jesus Experience), I've noticed the love of Jesus in older saints growing stale while many in the upcoming generation see Christianity as an outdated philosophy.
So how do we return to loving God as a Person as opposed to being followers of a dry and dusty religion? Here are five steps that have worked for me:
1. Get on the other side of the cross. The cross is not the end of our experience with God but the beginning. Instead of groveling at its foot, get over yourself (and your failures), embrace Christ's full forgiveness, and move forward. God is not mad at you. He got mad at Jesus for you. Now He delights and sings over you. Don't be shy, or snub Him by only accepting part of His gift. Drink His forgiveness to the dregs. And when you fail? Confess it, take another gulp, and get back to your feet. No time-outs and standing in the corner for bad behavior allowed. That only trivializes Christ's sacrifice by indicating you still have to suffer a little because His work wasn't quite enough.
2. Remember that God loves you more than you do. Christ's sacrifice for us is so complete that at least 18 times in the Bible we are referred in one way or another as His bride. Not even His wife, but His bride. He looks upon us with the same passion and ardor as a bridegroom does for his bride on their wedding day. Saint John of the Cross and other great mystics got this. So did the author of Song of Solomon. God is over the moon in love with us. The next time you attend a wedding, pay attention to the bride as she enters, but also sneak a peek back to the groom and remember ... that is exactly what the Lord feels for you every second of your life.
3. Choose whom you listen to. The devil is called the accuser of the brethren. In fact, the very term devil means "slanderer." So who believes the slanderer's accusations? God? Hardly. After Christ's great sacrifice, God no longer sees what's wrong with us. He only sees what's missing. So who is left to believe the slanderer? Just us. The accuser accuses us to us. Don't listen to the lies that hate and want to destroy. Listen to God's love that adores and wants to help.
4. Re-ignite your love. I fell in love with my wife by listening and talking deeply with her. She fell in love with me because she has no taste (but that's another matter). Falling in love with God, or re-falling in love, is the same principle. I talk to Him through prayer, praise and singing. I listen to Him mostly through His Word, but not quickly or superficially. I didn't fall in love with my wife that way. Instead of plowing through the Bible in a year, I'll spend time each morning reading just a few verses, chewing on them, meditating on them, sometimes discussing them with Him. In our hurried culture, this gives my soul time to hear, understand and adore Him.
5. The discipline of praise. As a closet Eeyore, praise does not come naturally for me. But over the years, I've developed it as a habit—singing, humming, quietly thanking God throughout the day. Why? Because it focuses me on the real Truth of who He is, and not the false truth of situations. But what if I don't feel like praising Him? Doesn't that make me a hypocrite? Not at all. It doesn't matter what my uninformed mind thinks or my fickle emotions feel; God's sovereignty and love are the real Truth. I love in the Psalms where David tells his troubled soul to sit down, be quiet and worship. When Christians were tortured and murdered, Paul, who endured more pain and disappointment than most (see 2 Cor. 11:24–33), wrote: "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:16-18). That's God's will for me: giving thanks in all circumstances (regardless of whether I understand or feel them).
It may take several minutes, but when I live in that obedience, my spirit opens up to experience God's greater love for me. And when I experience that greater love, I can't help but love Him back.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

In Praise of a Brood-less God

It is only we who brood over our sins. God does not brood over them; God dumps them at the bottom of the sea.

                     –Saint Benedict of Nursia









HT: The Anchoress

Monday, June 22, 2015

Heart Problem

Releasing Stress


From Ron Edmonston - A 4 Step, Simple Strategy to Have A Less Stressed-Filled Life. (Picture taken from original atricle)
Are you ever stressed?
Silly question, right?
We can never remove all the issues of our life that bring us stress. We have to somehow learn to navigate our lives through stress.
I have some easy suggestions. I have shared this strategy so many times. I hope you find it helpful.
Let me warn you, this isn’t some deep, researched system. These are simple. But, in my experience, they are powerful suggestions.
Here are 4 steps to a less stressed life:
Get a set of index cards. Write on each one what you are most concerned about in life right now. Only one concern per card, but use as many cards as necessary. Everything you’re concerned about — worried about if that’s your word — goes on a card. (You can grab a cup of coffee if you want — since that’s in the picture.)
There is something cleansing about writing out your concerns. It is a therapeutic exercise. (Insider information — you’ll find some of the things don’t merit a card once you have to write them.)
Place cards. After you’ve completed your cards, lay them face up on a table in front of you. This is a bare your soul moment. Now, share them with God. He knows them already — better than you — but do it anyway. It is freeing to give your recorded burdens to your Creator.
Pray. Pray something like this, “God, this is what I have before me which I can’t handle. I’m asking You as my Father, who loves me more than I can imagine, to give me direction, success, wisdom, patience and understanding in every area of my life. Lead me along the path you would have for me. I’m trusting completely in you. If this season is a success in my life it will depend on You. I love You Lord. In Jesus name, Amen”.
Do the best you know how to do. And, then leave the rest in God’s hands.
Please understand this is not a formula for success. I don’t believe those exist.
And, this isn’t simple. I used the word simple earlier, but that was just to keep you reading. There’s nothing simple about walking away from your right to control your outcome and leaving things in God’s hands. Even though we ultimately have very little control over the way things turn out in our life — we still naturally want to try. Worry often comes easier than faith.
Also, understand God is certainly not defined by our prayers. God will do what is best for us and His will — even when that disagrees with what we think we want.
This “system” is, however, Biblical — in my opinion. I based it on Hezekiah’s actions in response to receiving a letter that threatened his entire kingdom. (Talk about stress.) Read that story again in 2 Kings 19:14-19.
I have tried this numerous times and God always responds to my humble attempt to surrender my fears, stress, and concerns to Him.
Sometimes this response has relieved me of my stress. Most of the time, however, this process helps me refocus and feel a sense of calm among my circumstances knowing my God is ultimately in control.
Try this and see what happens.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Stopped Dead In Your Tracks

This is so good - God Commands the Impossible, and That’s Good by Donavon Riley
Some have built an entire theology on the false assumption that when God commands us to obey or believe, we have the ability to obey or believe. So then, what’s the point of all God’s commands? They show us what the power of sin has done to us, how it controls us, and how it controls our every decision and action. We are “under the power of sin” as the Apostle Paul writes (Romans 3:9). This is our condition. We are sold under sin. Sin rules us. We serve sin. We have no choice. Sin is going to kill us and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. This is why Paul cries out, “I am a wretched man! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)
God commands the impossible to stop us dead in our tracks. When he speaks a command, it shows us our inability to obey or believe as he commands us to obey and believe—with perfect obedience and trust from our heart. When God commands us, for example, to repent and believe the Gospel, he doesn’t want us to respond with, “Okay, I’ll get right on that. And, don’t worry, I’m gonna do my best, you’ll see.” What he wants is for us to say, “But… that’s impossible.” Only then, when God reveals to us that we have nothing to offer him, nothing we can do to meet his expectations of perfect obedience and faith, that there’s nothing lovable about us that would make him want to love us—only then when we’ve had the veil pulled back on our sin, are we ready to receive Christ. If we imagine we can obey God’s command, or trust him in perfect faith, then Christ’s perfect obedience and faith, which fulfilled all God’s demands, was for nothing.
For Martin Luther, this Scriptural understanding of God’s commands was vital for Christian faith. We are under the power of sin. Sold into slavery to sin, we’ve lost our ability to choose between God and the devil, faith and unbelief, grace and sin, promise and law, blessing and curse. We are compelled by the power of sin to always disobey and disbelieve God. And worse, when we assume we’re free to choose between good and bad, right and wrong, in obedience to God’s commands—we’re actually standing in the place of God, knowing good and evil. We’re not being obedient to God’s commands, we’re re-enacting the original sin.
That doesn’t mean what God commands is bad. No, “the commandments are not given inappropriately or pointlessly; but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded” (Luther, The Bondage of the Will, in Packer & Johnston, pg. 160).
Only when God exposes our sin as being wholly sinful and we are tempted to give up hope of ever being saved from our doom, can we receive his saving grace that comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ. When God speaks his commands they are not given “inappropriately or pointlessly,” Luther writes, “but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded.” (Packer, pg. 160)
That’s why Luther is of such help and encouragement for all of us who’ve ever been crushed by the responsibility we assume for living up to what God commands. He points out that, “man, before he is renewed into the new creation of the Spirit’s kingdom, does and strives for nothing to prepare himself for that new creation and kingdom, and when he is re-created he does and strives for nothing towards his perseverance in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone works both blessings in us, regenerating us, and preserving us when regenerate, without ourselves…” (Packer, p. 268)
Search your Bible cover to cover and highlight every “if,” underline every command, make a note of every “ought” and “should,” and you will discover that God’s word tells you what you are to do and not do. He tells you what is required of you. But nowhere does he say you have the power or ability to do anything about it. When God says, “If you are willing,” he doesn’t say you can or are willing. When God says, “If you are willing,” “if you hear,” “if you do,” he doesn’t then declare that you have the ability to do it, just that you’re obligated to do it. But we can’t, and that’s what finally kills us.
The command is good because God speaks it, and God is good. But as Paul writes, “sin, having been afforded an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me” (Romans 7:11) It’s not the command, but sin that deceives us, inspiring us to imagine we can do and not do what God commands. Sin stirs us up to believe we can be good and holy, because the command is good and holy, just as God is good and holy—and we can be like God, if we can only be more obedient and more faithful. Sin sells us on the lie that we have the ability, the freedom, to choose to obey God’s commands.
When this happens, we even imagine that grace is given to us for the purpose of obedience. That God’s grace is a spiritual steroid injected into us by the Spirit, to strengthen us for the Christian life, so we can perfectly obey and believe. All this serves to drive us away from God’s grace. It drives us away from Christ, and deeper into sin, deeper into “the body of this death.” And this is why we desperately need a Savior, one who will rescue us from our delusions of lawfulness. In fact, only through faith in Christ, without any effort or seeking on our part, do we fulfill all God’s demands and commands to obey and believe perfectly (Romans 3:31).
God demands we be do-ers of his commands, not try-ers. He doesn’t wink at sin either. His commands put us in an impossible position then, which is exactly where he wants us. He wants to expose the power of sin in our lives and our lawless ungodliness. Why? Because God loves to justify the ungodly! (Romans 4:5) It’s not what God commands, but what Christ has done to fulfill God’s commands in our place that finally matters. We are not expected to be doers of God’s command, but believers in God’s promise. The command turns us away from ourselves, and all our self-salvation projects, to hear what He promises us in Christ: forgiveness for our lawlessness, life rising up out of sin induced death, and salvation for those who’ve been shown they never had a chance at saving themselves by obeying God’s commands.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Faith Defined

The Basics of Christianity by Paul Tripp:
If you had to define your faith with one sentence, what would your definition include?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines faith as a "strong belief or trust in someone or something." The Bible defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)
Isn't it interesting how both of those definitions don't reference God in their initial description of what faith is or what faith does?
Now, ultimately, both of those sources end up associating faith with a belief in God. In its secondary definition, Merriam-Webster explains that faith is a "belief in the existence of God [or] strong religious feelings." Hebrews 11 goes on to reference God multiple times in the Bible's famous chapter on faith.
But here's the point I'm trying to make – every human being lives by faith, with or without God.
Christians believe, by faith, that there is a God and that eternity exists. Simultaneously, those who deny the existence of God and the reality of eternity do so by faith, too. Two totally contradicting messages, both derived from faith.
You may know atheists and agnostics, but you've never met a "faithless" person in your life. Every human being lives by a set of convictions and with a mentality of hope, despite a lack of factual and tangible evidence.
Regardless of religion profession, we all interpret what we see through the vehicle of the "unseen." It's impossible to exist in this life without faith of some capacity and variety.
THE BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
If every person lives by faith, what makes the Christian unique? Here it is: Christians are different, not because they live by faith, but because of the object of their faith.
Naturally, the next question becomes: who is the object of the Christian faith? The answer, of course, is God. Christians live by faith in the existence of God. But what does that mean, and what does that look like?
With this Article, I'm going to try to define the basics of the Christian faith with one sentence. I’m going to leave Hebrews 11, the quintessential definition of Biblical faith, and use Scripture to interpret Scripture. My definition comes from Acts 17:22-31, when the Apostle Paul addresses the Areopagus.
So, fasten your seat belts - here's my sentence-long definition: true, biblical faith believes in the existence of God as Creator, Sovereign, and Savior, and results in a lifestyle of worshipful obedience, confident peace, and humble repentance.
Let me break down those six elements for you:
Creator / Worshipful Obedience
"The God who made the world and everything in it…" (v. 24)
Our world operates under a very simple organizational chart - God is Creator, and we are creatures. That means we belong to God, and whatever created things we've been given also belong to him. We don't get to define how life operates, because he designed life from the beginning!
True, biblical faith believes that God is Creator, so true, biblical faith never allows us to take life in our own hands. Faith won't allow us to treat people and possessions as if they belong to us. Faith won't allow us to believe we're smarter than God. True, biblical faith recognizes the organizational structure of the universe and allows us to obediently rest within God's wise boundaries as his creatures.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Impossible Situations

Good stuff from Steve Brown - "What To Do In An Impossible Situation:"
Jesus just couldn’t get away from all the people who needed him. Jesus went away to a lonely place to rest and to pray in Mark 6, only to have a hungry crowd of five thousand meet him…with no fast food in sight. That is what I’d call an impossible situation.
It may look to you like everybody else has it all together except for you. Others look at you and think the very same thing. The fact is we’re all in this, facing an impossible situation. If you’re like the rest of us, you may find yourself facing pain, hurt, loneliness, worry, frustration and failure.
Recognize that there are some impossible situations you just can’t do anything about. The slogan, “the difficult we do immediately while the impossible takes a little longer,” sounds good…but it just isn’t true. For every problem, there isn’t always a solution.
Jesus and his disciples found themselves in an impossible situation with only five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand people. (It is one thing to add water to the soup to feed some extra people, but this is in another category altogether.) What Jesus did here is exactly the same thing he does in your impossible situation.
Compassion
Jesus met the impossible situation with compassion (“he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd,” Mark 6:34).
“Is there really a God?” is an irrelevant question. The important question is, “What kind of God?” If God cares and loves, then you can deal with impossibilities. Christ revealed a God of compassion: a God who knows when a sparrow dies and when you lose a single hair (he’s been thinking about me a lot). God cares about the lilies of the field and he’s especially concerned about his own, believers in the body of Christ. 
Jesus preached with his actions. Jesus came into the world, allowing us to see a God who really cares, a God who really reaches out. With God, you can deal with death, pain and impossibilities…as long as you know he cares for you.
Instruction
Jesus met the impossible situation with instruction (“and he began to teach them many things,” Mark 6:34).
In Psalm 119:9-16, the Psalmist wrote, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!...I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.”
Where does the Word become real in your life? It becomes real in your impossible situations. God doesn’t just leave you in the darkness, he teaches you in your impossible situation. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). In other words, “you’re going to learn them as you go through the bad times.” In the midst of an impossible situation ask, “God, what are you trying to teach me?” Pray that God’s Word becomes real in your impossible situation.
Every facet of your life—good and bad, every hurt you suffer and every impossible situation you face—is bathed in the teaching of God’s Word. That teaching gives understanding. And that understanding makes the impossible situation bearable.
Sufficiency
Jesus met the impossible situation with sufficiency. Only five loaves and two fish, but in the hand of Christ, it was sufficient.
2 Corinthians 3:5 teaches, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”
Are you a great sinner? His grace is sufficient for you. Are you unwanted? His love is sufficient for you. Are you afraid? His courage is sufficient for you. Are you dying? His promise is sufficient for you.
Jesus met an impossible situation with sufficiency. Whatever your impossible situation, he will be sufficient. He may not change it or erase it, but he will be sufficient in it.
Abundance
Jesus met the impossible situation with abundance.
The Father’s abundance is taught throughout Scripture: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The Father meets your impossible situation with abundance. At that point, there is a joy welling up that isn’t even related to circumstances. It is the abundance that God gives.
In your impossible situation, remember that the Father is with you. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

When Silence Is Good

“If I knew what God was going to do, I would be a better Christian.”
If I knew ahead of time what leading The Journey would be like, there is no way I would have started the church. You could’ve told me about all the people that would come to Christ. You could’ve told me about all the new churches we would start. But if I had known all the pain and heartache, I’m not sure I would have followed God’s call.
I love the church. But, I hate pain.
We like to think that knowing the pain ahead of time would soften the blow. We like to think we would be more prepared. But we can never really prepare for some storms.
Jesus knew the storm coming his way. His Father had prepared him.
Did knowing make it any easier? Absolutely not. Remember the garden of Gethsemane? Jesus was in agony! He was sweating blood! Not because he was unaware. Because he was completely aware!
I’m not Jesus. You’re not Jesus. We’re the disciples who can’t even stay awake to comfort our friend in his pain and suffering.
God’s lack of clarity can be merciful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Prayer Is Not the Center

"Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go. Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another. Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center."

            - A Praying Life by Paul Miller (Kindle Locations 378-382)

HT: Dash House



A Prayer For Bible Readers

Bede’s Prayer When Studying Scripture 

May Your Spirit, O Christ,
lead me in the right way,
keeping me safe from all forces of evil and destruction.
And, free from all malice,
may I search diligently in Your Holy Word
to discover with the eyes of my mind Your commandments.
Finally, give me the strength of will
to put those commandments into practice
through all the days of my life.
Bede, 673-735

Monday, June 15, 2015

Misuse of Armor


From The Sacred Sandwich

Without Ceasing


5 Battle Tested Ways to Pray Without Ceasing by Chris Russell, via Bible Study Tools:
....In verse 17, Paul says that we are to pray without ceasing. Those are just three simple words, and yet they carry a life-changing message—if we actually apply them.
What does it mean to “pray without ceasing,” then? Well, it does not mean that we spend the entire day on our knees praying without engaging in any other activity. If we did that, we would not be able to keep a job or pay our bills.
The directive to “pray without ceasing” means that we are ever present with God throughout the entire day. We are continually interacting with Him in prayer as we move from task to task. When we face a challenge, we ask for His assistance. As we experience a blessing, we thank Him for His favor.
It’s sort of like being on the phone, and we never hang up. We acknowledge His presence throughout every single day.
But we’re busy, right? And it’s easy to get distracted. So, we often forget to include Him in our day, and we often fail to pray without ceasing.
n light of this, let me offer several simple things you can do that will help you to pray without ceasing in your own life. 
1. Walk with God.
By “walk with God,” I mean that you should consider going on regular walks each week in which you pray while you are walking. Some people go for “prayer walks” around their neighborhood for the purpose of praying for their neighbors. I personally like to walk on the treadmill regularly, and I often spend that time praying while I’m walking. It’s a great way to go deeper with God while you’re getting a bit of exercise.
2. Run with God.
And if you are into fitness, you may even consider praying while you are running or working out. Focusing on your spiritual state while you are working on your physical growth is a beautiful blending of those two aspects of your wholeness. Some people listen to music while they work out. What if you used that time to listen to worship music and turned it into a worship/prayer encounter? This can be a great opportunity to grow spiritually as you develop physically.
3. Drive with God.
Most of us spend several hours driving each week. We drive to work. We drive to the store. We drive to various events and on various tasks. Wouldn’t it be great if we turned those solo drive times into a prayer event? It’s a pretty simple decision to make, and you can commit those drive times to prayer any time you want.
In order to help you remember to use this time for prayer, you may want to put a sticky note on your dashboard for a while that says, “Drive Time = Prayer Time,” or something like that. This will help you develop a new habit of praying while driving. And I think you’ll be amazed at how much less stress you experience when you get into heavy traffic. When you’re communing with God, that time will become precious for you.
4. Wait with God.
How much time did you spend waiting this past week? We all end up waiting every week on one thing or anther, but we don’t always have a plan in place to use that time for something important. I would encourage you to be proactive and set up a plan to be able to pray whenever you find yourself having to wait.
One thing I do is to keep prayer requests on the Evernote app on my smartphone. This app allows me to record prayer requests throughout the week, and then I can pull those out and spend time praying during times of waiting that hit me each week.
We wait on traffic, doctors, clients, bosses, family members, etc. every week. So, why not plan ahead so that you can spend that time with God? You’ll find yourself no longer dreading those times of waiting!
5. Hide out with God.
One of the most powerful experiences I’ve adopted in my Christian journey is to take time to get away to places of solitude where I can spend a few hours at a time in prayer with the Creator. Sometimes I’ll go to a community park, state park, or a national park. And I always have to schedule these get-aways. I block out time on my schedule and make sure there’s nothing that can interfere with this time with God.
In an age of technology and non-stop interruptions, the discipline of solitude is often sadly missing from our lives. So, plan to hide out with God soon so that you can go deeper with Him in prayer. If you’re looking for ideas on how to use this time, then check out this blog post I wrote a while back: “How to Have a Half Day of Prayer with God.”

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Feelings

Do not misuse Christ by asking Him to baptize your feelings; instead, ask Christ to fill up your heart and soul and thereby create your feelings...

                     - Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Still At Work In the Middle East

An amazing story - The God of dreams and visions is still at work! Will a new Saul of Tarsus come out from ISIS?
It has become a common occurrence over the years for Muslims in the Middle East who have converted to Christianity to claim to have been compelled to do so after dreaming of a person who they believe is Jesus Christ. Now, one militant belonging to the brutal Islamic State that has massacred Christians has converted to his victims' religion after dreaming of "a man in white" with a startling message, according to one missionary's account.
"One of our YWAM workers in the Middle East was contacted by a friend earlier this year and they met up and he was introduced to an ISIS fighter who had killed many Christians already. I mean that's a horrible situation, and admittedly, he was probably on guard," Gina Fadely, director of Youth With A Mission Frontier Missions, Inc. (YWAM), said during a recent appearance on The Voice of the Martyrs Radio Network.
YWAM, a nonprofit missionary organization active since 1960, describes itself as "a global movement of Christians from many cultures, age groups, and Christian traditions, dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world." 
The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is another nonprofit that draws attention to Christians facing persecution around the world.
Fadely, who appeared on the VOM radio program along with Kevin Sutter, another YWAM leader, went on to share that this Islamic State jihadi confessed not only to killing Christians but "that he had actually enjoyed doing so."
"He told this YWAM leader that he had begun having dreams of this man in white who came to him and said, 'You are killing my people.' And he started to feel really sick and uneasy about what he was doing," Fadely continued. "The fighter said just before he killed one Christian, the man said, 'I know you will kill me, but I give to you my Bible.' The Christian was killed and this ISIS fighter actually took the Bible and began to read it. In another dream, Jesus asked him to follow him and he was now asking to become a follower of Christ and to be discipled."

"So who knows. Perhaps this man will be like Saul in the Bible that persecuted Christians and he turned from that persecution of the early church to become the Apostle Paul who led it," Fadely added. "God can turn it around."

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Great Lifter

Your Proverbial Atlas Stone by Darrin Patrick. Good Stuff!
Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.
But we often read the proverb backwards: Commit your plans to the LORD, and your work will be established. We read it as if God promises to be our coach. As if we just need a pep talk and a few pointers.
That’s not it. The promise is so much more than that!
Compare Proverbs 16:3 with Psalm 37:5:
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
God is not just offering to coach us. He is offering to take our place.
The literal meaning of commit is to roll. So imagine your work, your way, as one of the Atlas stones from the World’s Strongest Man competitions. You’re not picking it up. All you can do is roll it towards the One who can lift it.
This promise is not for people who think they need help getting to the next level. It is for people who are so weighed down by their current responsibilities, mixed motives, and lack of discipline they can’t even get off the floor.
Nothing is too heavy or hard for him. Commit your life to his care. He can lift it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Between

"Unbelief puts circumstances between itself and Christ, so as not to see him. Faith puts Christ between itself and circumstances, so that it cannot see them."

              - F.B. Meyer, The Shepherds Psalm, page 17

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Abounding In Mercy

You, O Lord, Are the God of Those Who Repent 


O Lord and Ruler of the hosts of heaven,
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
and of all their righteous offspring:
You made the heavens and the earth,
with all their vast array.
All things quake with fear at your presence;
they tremble because of your power.
But your merciful promise is beyond all measure;
it surpasses all that our minds can fathom.
O Lord, you are full of compassion,
long-suffering, and abounding in mercy.
You hold back your hand;
you do not punish as we deserve.
In your great goodness, Lord,
you have promised forgiveness to sinners,
that they may repent of their sin and be saved.
And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart,
and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,
and I know my wickedness only too well.
Therefore I make this prayer to you:
Forgive me, Lord, forgive me.
Do not let me perish in my sin,
nor condemn me to the depths of the earth.
For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent,
and in me you will show forth your goodness.
Unworthy as I am, you will save me,
in accordance with your great mercy,
and I will praise you without ceasing all the days of my life.
For all the powers of heaven sing your praises,
and yours is the glory to ages of ages. Amen.

A Song of Penitence


Friday, June 5, 2015

Indiscriminate Love



From @DailyKeller

The Benefits and the Benefactor

"There is a center to the Bible and its message of grace. It is found in Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Grace, therefore, must be preached in a way that is centered and focused on Jesus Christ Himself. We must never offer the benefits of the gospel without the Benefactor Himself. For many preachers, however, it is much easier to deal with the pragmatic things, to answer “how to” questions, and even to expose and denounce sin than it is to give an adequate explanation of the source of the forgiveness, acceptance, and power we need.

It is a disheartening fact that evangelical Christians, who write vast numbers of Christian books, preach abundant sermons, sponsor numerous conferences and seminars, and broadcast myriad TV and radio programs actually write few books, preach few sermons, sponsor few conferences or seminars, and devote few programs to the theme of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We give our best and most creative energies to teaching God’s people almost everything except the person and work of our Lord and Savior. This should cause us considerable alarm, for there is reason to fear that our failure here has reached epidemic proportions.

We need to return to a true preaching to the heart, rooted in the principle of grace and focused on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then people will not say about our ministry merely, “He was an expository preacher,” or “That was practical,” or even “He cut open our consciences.” Instead, they will say: “He preached Christ to me, and his preaching was directed to my conscience. It was evident that he gave the best of his intellectual skills and the warmth of his compassion to thinking about, living for, and proclaiming his beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.” This is what will reach the heart! And when you have experienced such preaching, or seen its fruit, you will know what true preaching is. And you will agree that its fruit lasts for all eternity."

           - Sinclair Ferguson, in Feed My Sheep:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

His Brother

O gracious God,
I am fully aware that I am unworthy.
I deserve to be a brother of Satan and not of Christ.
But Christ, your dear Son died and rose for me.
I am his brother.
He earnestly desires that I should believe in him,
without doubt and fear.
I need no longer regard myself
as unworthy and full of sin.
For this I love and thank him from my heart.
Praise be to the faithful Savior,
for he is so gracious and merciful
as are you and the Holy Spirit in eternity.
Amen.
– Martin Luther, from Luther’s Prayers

Beware the Counterfeiters

6 Counterfeits that Lead Away From the Biblical Gospel by Trevin Wax
The best way to spot a counterfeit is to know the real thing.
When it comes to the gospel, the best way to spot a counterfeit gospel is to know the biblical gospel – not only to master it in a cerebral, objective sense, but to be captured by the beauty of what God has done for us in Christ.
In Counterfeit Gospels, I lay out three aspects of the biblical gospel:
  • There’s the Gospel Story – the grand narrative of Scripture (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration).
  • Within that overarching framework, we make the Gospel Announcement about Jesus Christ (His perfect life, substitutionary death, resurrection, exaltation).
  • The gospel announcement then births the Gospel Community: God’s church – the embodiment of the gospel, the manifestation of God’s kingdom.
Counterfeit gospels zero in on one of these three aspects. Below is a handy chart included in the book that lays out the six counterfeits we deal with in the book and how each counterfeit affects the gospel Story, gospel Announcement, and gospel Community.
Take a look at the chart below and let me know what you think.
Does your heart drift toward any of these counterfeits? Why or why not?
Which counterfeits do you see as particularly dangerous in our day and age?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Avoid Biblical Roulette

Great piece by Darrin Patrick - A Minimalist Guide to Applying Scripture:
It is a dangerous thing to read the Bible, specifically when we demand from it an answer to a pressing decision.
Sometimes we do things like Bible roulette. We close our eyes, “God, I need you to speak to me…(flipping pages)...Now!” Or we try to get a specific verse to answer a question it was never meant to answer. We try to apply it anyway, and it doesn’t work, so we get disappointed with God. I’ve done this so many times.

When it comes to discerning God’s will, I’ve found that people need to differentiate between these three categories of speech: (1) law, (2) promise, and (3) proverb.
Law is a command from God that I must always obey.
Promise is a guarantee from God that will always be true.
A proverb is a short description about the way things generally go in this world.
Notice the difference? Proverbs are situational. Bible scholar Tremper Longman writes, “Proverbs don’t teach a universally valid truth. Many proverbs are only true if stated at the right time and in the right circumstance.”
If you try to ignore God’s law because of your situation, you will be disobedient. If you doubt God’s promise, you will be discouraged. But if you misapply a proverb, you will be disappointed.

Eulogy Virtues

Two Sets of Virtues by Darryl Dash
"It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?" (David Brooks)


I’ll admit that I’m attracted to the résumé virtues. Who wouldn’t want to be known as a gifted communicator, a beloved pastor, a clear writer, and a successful church planter?
Then there are the eulogy virtues that will never make it onto a résumé. In fact, they may make my résumé less impressive: man of prayer, husband and father who made time for wife and kids, servant who didn’t chase limelight, good friend, man who cared.
A friend of mine was asked by a search committee what he desired if he came to their church. To his credit, he responded with a list that reflected mostly eulogy virtues. It would be great for the church to grow, but what he wanted most, he said, was to love the Lord more, to love his wife more, and so on. It wasn't the answer they expected.
The older I get, the more I recognize my desire for the résumé virtues, and the less I trust this desire. In the end, it’s the eulogy virtues that I really need. I’m praying instead for a character God can use rather than accomplishments others can admire.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Deeper Into Gratitude... and Sorrow

Found this in an interesting article/interview with musician Sandra McCracken on how reading the Psalms affected her song writing and prayer.
...Having an artistic personality type, I tend to have big feelings. Because I work within a creative vocation, I get to explore them fairly regularly in my writing and performing. But even with that vocational permission, I live most of my days on the surface of things. Most of us don’t have much time in the margins to reflect on what we are feeling or how we are acting out of those feelings and values. Often it takes painful life-disruption before we stop and reflect on what’s beneath the surface of the life we have built. We live with patterns of behavior and relate to others without being awake to our real fears or woundedness. In the past two years or so, I have practiced reading the Daily Office (a Christian tradition of reading through the Bible in three-year intervals), which includes a morning and evening psalm each day. I have been amazed at how the readings have faithfully brought perfectly timed perspective and sparked confession, awareness, wisdom, and healing.

I would often sit during these times of meditation with a journal, with my guitar, or at the piano and find that the Psalms gave particular voice to my emotion, my story, and my struggle. The Psalms gave me words when I didn’t have my own words. They prompted me to sing a new song when I couldn’t find my voice. They directed my heart toward God’s faithful, saving love. They have drawn me deeper into a life of gratitude, often by being willing to go deeper into honest sorrow. Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has guided my steps with truth and clarity. The Psalms teach me that I can be safe in his good providence even when everything around and within me feels like chaos. When we hear these ancient words, we are reminded that we are not alone. We are not the first to feel what we feel. There is perspective and humility and honor in joining together with those who have gone before us. And we are also reminded that we will not be defined by our present circumstances, but by the mercy of God who has committed himself to the full restoration of all things.

Is There Life After Birth?

My daughter-in-law sent me this story by Hungarian writer Útmutató a Léleknek:
In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”
The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
The second insisted, “Well I think there is something, and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”
The first replied, “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”
The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.” 

Monday, June 1, 2015

View From The Underside

My life is just a weaving
Between my Lord and me.
I cannot change the color
For He works most steadily.
Oft times He weaves the sorrow
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Until the loom is silent
And the shuttle cease to fly,
Will God roll back the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the skillful Weaver's Hand
As the golden threads of silver
He has patterned in His Plan.
"The Weaver" by Benjamin Malacia Franklin.

HT: George Wood in Charisma

Post-Christian?

This piece by Russell Moore has bee controversial in some circles. I think he is right, but, agree or disagree, his points are worth hearing, consideration and thought.
We hear a lot these days about America being “post-Christian.” This sort of language has accelerated in recent weeks, with the Pew Center survey demonstrating a spike in the numbers of Americans who claim no religious affiliation. I’ve discussed the survey elsewhere, and have addressed the larger trends for years, but what about this language of a post-Christian America? Is this true?
The language of a post-Christian America is used in two divergent circles, both of which are built on faulty assumptions. The first circle is progressive secularism, which sees supernatural religion as a throwback to less enlightened times. In this view of reality, human history is the slog from the swamps to the space age, and religion is superstition that a scientifically aware humanity needs less and less. The problems with such a viewpoint are many. The world is not getting less religious, as any global survey will demonstrate. The primary question is not whether America is post-Christian but whether Christianity is post-American.
More importantly, this sort of utopian millennialism, whether of the religious or secular sort, has a unanimously bad historical track record. As the self-proclaimed pagan Camille Paglia puts it, “History is littered with the remains of eternal empires.”
I’m more concerned, though, with the other circle using the frame of a “post-Christian” America, the circle identified with the church itself. In this reading, the “post-Christian” nature of America is not to be celebrated but lamented. The language used is one of decline and of loss. The same people who not long ago trumpeted “reclaiming America for Christ” are now some of the same who speak of America in dire “post-Christian” terms. This isn’t accurate either.
The decline and fall of Christian America trope requires several steps of us, all of which move us away from the gospel and from the Bible. To think of America as “post-Christian” means that we must think of America as “Christian” in the first place.
This is akin to my describing myself as “post-tall.” You would look at my five foot-seven inch frame and ask, “Were you tall before?” No. Truth is, were I to talk this way would mean that I just like “post-tall” better than “small” as an identifier. Or it would mean that I am in some sort of delusion. Or it would mean that I’ve been living in a land of pygmies where I have no concept of what “tall” actually is.
The idea of America as “Christian” requires a concept of the nation as in covenant with God. Usually, this entails applying the promises made to Israel to the United States, even if only the generic “heal your land” promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 as interpreted by God and country civil religion. And yet, Israel’s promises had a goal—and this goal is not the United States of America. The goal of Israel’s promises is the seed of Abraham, the son of David, Jesus of Nazareth (Rom. 9:4-5; Gal. 3:29). All the promises of God find their “yes” and “Amen” in him (2 Cor. 1:20).
Moreover, the idea of America as “Christian” means that we define “Christian” in ways that disconnect Christianity from the gospel. The mission of Christ never calls on us to use nominal Christianity as a means to acclimate people to Christian “values” as pre-evangelism. To the contrary, the Spirit works through the open proclamation of the truth, renouncing cunning tactics (2 Cor. 4:1-2). The gospel does not need idolatry to bridge our way to it, even if that idolatry is the sort of Christianity that is one birth short of redemption.
Nominal Christianity is not just a deficient form of Christianity. It is the opposite of gospel Christianity. This is because nominal Christianity doesn’t start where the gospel starts: with the sinner’s inability to come before God without a Mediator. This is not just inadequate; it is damning. Nominal Christianity can keep people from doing some of the things they want to do, but it sends them to hell as it does so.
The gospel does not come to the righteous, Jesus tells us, but to sinners. Søren Kierkegaard warned long ago that a nominal, civil form of Christianity is the greatest apostasy, in which pagans live thinking they are Christians. But since, he argued, the illusion that we are Christians in a Christian nation is so persistent, “it looks indeed as if introducing Christianity amounts to taking Christianity away.” He concluded: Nevertheless, this is precisely what must be done, for the illusion must go.”
The idea of America as “post-Christian” then calls the church to a sort of freaked-out nostalgia. We identify our focal point in some made-up past—whether the founding era, or the 1950s or the 1980s or whenever. That makes us all the more frantic when we see the moral chaos around us. We see it in terms of “moral decline” instead of seeing it the way the Bible does, in terms of not decline but of Fall.
We are not time-travelers from the past. We are pilgrims from the future. We have not come to reclaim something that was lost. We have come to proclaim Someone who has found us. So let’s stop our handwringing and our rage-venting. Let’s reclaim our mission, and reframe our perspective. We have the promises God has made to Christ. We have the Spirit a resurrected Christ has poured out on us. Jesus didn’t need traditional values or American civil religion at Pentecost, and he doesn’t need them now.
If we take the opportunity to be the church, we may find that America is not “post-Christian,” but is instead maybe “pre-Christian.” It may be that this land is filled with people who, though often Christ-haunted, have never known the power of the gospel, yet.
In any case, what’s important for the church is not so much whether the United States of America is post-Christian as whether Jesus of Nazareth is post-dead. And we know the answer to that.
_________________

For more on this, see Moore's new book Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gosp