Christianity: Still the Worlds Best Hope

Saturday Reflections

Christianity and CS LewisSome time ago a visitor to my BLOG said that Christians were among the most immoral people they know.  It got me thinking.

I asked the young interlocutor, “Do you really mean that? Or is this a piece of hyperbole thrown out in frustration?”

Personally, I don’t get it. Yes, I know so-called Christians that do not represent Christ well. (I’m sure that I don’t sometimes.) But does atheism produce Mother Teresa’s? Does atheism produce Rich Mullins’s (who though he could have been filthy rich, was living on $25,000 a year and poured all of his music royalties into an Indian reservation in Arizona and teaching music to children?) Does Atheism produce Amy Carmichael’s (started dozens of orphanages all over India and served the poor there without furlough for 58 years? Does atheism produce more admirable, altruistic citizens of the planet than theism and Christianity? I don’t think so.

We become what we worship and the preponderance of evidence is that atheism, with notable exceptions tends to produce less than safe citizens of the planet. My friend had mentioned the Crusades, an admitted black mark against the Church and Christianity, but I would argue that they happened precisely because the church had lost the Bible and was not being guided by the teachings of Christ. On the other hand, the atheistic societies of China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and North Korea killed millions and millions as a direct application of their godless worldview.

In A.D. 133 Aristides, a teacher of Philosophy presented a defense of Christianity to the Emperor Hadrian. Here’s his record of what the teaching of Christ was producing:

“Now the Christians, O King … have the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ himself engraven on their hearts, and they observe, looking fort he resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. They commit neither adultery nor fornication; nor do they bear false witness. They do not deny a deposit, nor covet other men’s goods; they honor father and mother, and love their neighbors; they give right judgment; and they do not worship idols in the form of man. They do not unto others that which they would not have done unto themselves. They comfort such as wrong them, and make friends of them. They labor to do good to their enemies … As for their servants or handmaids, or their children if any of them has any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love that they have towards them; and when they have become so, they call them without distinction ‘brethren.'”

They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hath distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof and rejoice over him as if it were their own brother; for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God. …

And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.”

cited in John Piper’s A Godward Life, page 303-304.

  • Does atheism produce such people?
  • Does atheism even aim to produce such people?

The church does. People who follow the example of Jesus do. Yes, the church fails, sometimes fails miserably. But the point is, she succeeds far more often than does atheism and atheism doesn’t even aim at the target. Christianity and every church that I have helped to plant over the last 20 years (well over 250 that I have worked with) aims to produce exactly what Aristides told Hadrain.  

So despite all the answers I don’t have, and all the things I can’t explain, I will hold on to Christ, because He and the church that He founded are the worlds greatest hope and the best thing that ever happened to the world.

Christianity has literally circled the globe with schools, shelters, hospitals, orphanages, AIDS clinics, and a hundred other benevolences and acts of love for those it seeks to win to Christ? Does atheism produce anything close to even an approximation of this? Again, I don’t think so.

Even atheist Matthew Paris has admitted that Africa needs God and Christianity. See this article from 2008:

The verdict of history is clear. Here is a short post from a couple of years ago that touched on the historical reality:

Be encourage saints of God. And keep pursuing Jesus. Pursue Him passionately so that you live not only for Him but like Him.

To Mourn Well: Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame

Original Musical Composition by Aubre Schoenleber to Accompany Poetry Project

Read Psalm 16

Suggested by a Reading of Psalm 16
Part of the Poetry Project

Lament (How Long O Lord)A Miktam.

Nobody knows what Miktam means. It only occurs in six places (Psalm 16, 56-60). One interesting note is that each of the psalms it appears in breathe an atmosphere of lamentation or urgent supplication. The psalmist is in pain and emotionally distraught. He is in agony because of the sin that he sees around him. And out of that profound agony, he cries out to God for relief. This particular psalm is a messianic psalm. Below I have re-cast its words as if Christ Himself is praying the psalm.

Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame
Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame

Christ knew he was to die for the sins of men. He mourned and cried out to the Father in the midst of His agony in the garden. But he knew also that He would rise. These mysteries are great but He is also our model.

We have much to lament, much to mourn in our age. But we don’t hear much lamentation in the church. We should.

On our watch,

  • abortion on demand became the law of the land
  • abortion has ended the lives of 57 million children
  • the corruption of our political system took place
  • divorce has become common place
  • marriage has been dishonored
  • marriage has been redefined
  • college students can’t tell you who we fought in the revolutionary war
  • college students can’t tell you who George Washington was
  • or what the civil war was fought over
  • sexuality has been redefined
  • Jesus and his word are dishonored
  • Church attendance is at its lowest point in the last 80 years
  • Christian giving averages only 2.5% of income
  • and younger generations replacing the old give even less
  • TV sells alternative lifestyles as normal in nearly every program
  • and with all of this, God’s people seem to have little interest in prayer

In short, there is much that we should be crying out to God about. And that is what lament is all about. Psalm 16 is a good place to begin.

Hope from Agony

 I am a refugee seeking protection.

 Declaring, “The LORD is My shepherd;
.        and all My wants are satisfied in You.”
All those invited to Your banquet hall

.        are My delightful friends.
The sorrows of those who turn their back on You shall increase;
.       But You are My guide, I will not follow their example
.        or proclaim their passions as My own;
 You are the one who fills My cup

.        and holds My future in Your hands.

 It may not look like it now;
.        but My inheritance is a promised and beautiful thing.
 My heart will delight in Your counsel;
.        and the sleep I lose will be spent in Your presence. 
 You will be before Me in every scary moment;
.        so nothing will shake Me.
 My heart has risen from the depths and My whole being rejoices;
.        because I dwell in security.
10  For there is no way that You will abandon Me.
.        You won’t let Your Son end in the grave.
11  You make the path of life crystal clear;
.        and in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
.        at Your right hand pleasures never end.

Go to Psalm 17

He Scares Them: The Reason Radical Atheists Won’t Take Jesus Seriously

Thursday is for Apologetics

Napoleon Bonaparte Emperor/King
Napoleon Bonaparte Emperor/King

They will philosophize. They will argue. They will throw sarcasm and scorn. They will seek to overwhelm you with volume, and anger, and vitriol, and stories about “how could a good God …” But the last thing any of them will do is open up a New Testament and read it honestly.

They might read it for proof texts. They might read it for alleged “discrepancies.” They might read it to scorn its miracles. But they will not read it for the objective picture it paints of its central character–Jesus. They won’t do that because He scares them.

His presence, and power, and beauty are so compelling that it would upset the strength of their a priori assumption that such a being cannot exist.

He scares them. Because if He lived the life He lived, and if He died the death He died, and rose on the third day “according to Scripture”, they would have to bow their knee and conform to His will rather than theirs. And that would mean giving up their rebellion. But, when by the power of God and through the word of your testimony, a New Testament is opened, and is read with honesty, even hardened hearts, are changed. Napoleon, in exile because of his crimes against Europe, was one such rebel who opened the Book. His conclusion?

“I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity. . . . Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth which he announces, his manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things . . . . The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me–everything remains grand, of a grandeur, which overpowers. His religion is a revelation from an intelligence which certainly is not that of man . . . One can absolutely find nowhere, but in him alone, the imitation or the example of his life. . . . I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.”1

  • 1Cited in McDowell, Josh, Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Vol. 1, (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1972), 111.

“Everything is extraordinary” about the Christ you love and serve.  “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).

Everything you do for our extraordinary Christ is worth all the ridicule and scorn you might endure. He has promised much to His children. Keep delighting in Him.

The Marvelous and Dangerous Love of God

Wednesday is for Thinking

Great quotes from classic texts.

JI Packer

“God’s love is an exercise of His goodness towards individual sinners whereby, having identified Himself with their welfare, He has given His Son to be their Saviour, and now brings them to know and enjoy Him in a covenant relation.”

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 111.

How wonderful and marvelous is it that we,

we sinners, we lost, we corrupt, and selfish, and petty, and unfaithful, liars, cheats, filled with anger, and bitterness, and resentment, slow to forgive, quick to speak, gossips, immoral, unethical, we unholy image bearers of God have been bought by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19) and made children of the living God?! (1 John 3:1)

We are a blessed people! 

“Seek God, Not Happiness”

Bonhoeffer Life TogetherRevised and reposted because Bonhoeffer is always relevant and he points us to the importance of the word of God in achieving any lasting happiness. Happiness is not achieved by seeking it but by seeking that which is the source of all happiness–God Himself.

For more see:  “Seek God, Not Happiness”.

N.T. Wright duels with John Piper and Piper Instructs on the Beauty of Heaven, plus

Weekend Links

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

.          I played my first 9 holes of golf in two years. Struck the ball well, putted horribly, scored about average. And in the end came to the realization that I will probably have to give up golf. My back simply can’t take the stress. Life moves on.

My back reminds me that I’m not 20 years old anymore. It also reminds me that I am closer to seeing Jesus face to face. With Paul, I delight and “count it as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil. 3:7-8)

Enjoy the links.

Bible and Doctrine

Dealing with an Epidemic of Biblical Illiteracy in both Church and Culture  (One of the startling things about this age is that people think they know what the Bible teaches and yet they rarely read their Bible. Huh? Our churches need to saturate their people with the Word of the Living God.)

Is the Hope of Heaven Beautiful or Boring?  ––John Piper  (Short video and worth every minute.)

N.T. Wright Continues to Plug for His New Perspective on Paul  (The interviewer is more than a little interested in fueling the debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright. Still it is helpful. Though I am unconvinced, I will continue to read. One question I have is, why should we pit the “old perspective” and “new perspective” against one another? Could they not be compatible and complementary?)

6 Principles of How Established Churches Grow  (If your church is plateaued or declining this is worth a read.)

Pop Culture

How Two Penniless Korean Immigrants Launched an Apparel Empire Worth Billions  (Success stories like this show that with a vision and a lot of hard work, it is still possible to accomplish great things.)

Sexual Abstinence and God’s Gift for Unmarried Lovers  —(Parents who raised their evangelical, church-going offspring have been broken to the core at the trend of sexual promiscuity of their children. Here’s real help and perspective on what to pray and say.)

Why Porno Shops Don’t Have Windows  —John Piper via Justin Taylor (Nature, outdoors, starry nights, and endless skies tell us something about God. Romans 1 and the Psalms declare it over and over.)