Thursday, July 28, 2016

Testing Truth

Truth is not easy to come by. In our current political silly season- the barbs and half cocked charges are enough to melt my brain!

I have seen more pitiful posts this season than ever before. Part of it is a media that has no boundaries of journalism and rabid partisans who throw out raw meat without any rational evaluation of source or evidence.

But..hey.. that's politics. And if you think our mess is going to be solved by political persuasion......

So let's take a truth test this morning...shall we?

It isn't hard... but it is also impossible! Take it as a dare... as a challenge... as a quest for hope!

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!  (2 Cor. 13:5)

Here is a starter question. 

How do I know I have saving faith? 

And the answer is strange. Part of the initial evidence is that you and I even dare to  ask the question!  I believe a big key in sorting out true faith is that true believer wrestles with whether or not he has it in the first place. If you aren't willing to put it on the table for inspection, you might be face to face with reality of knowing it is not there.

So ask God to give you  (and I) Holy Spirit eyes and place what faith you think you have, as weak and small as you think it may be- and do some comparison and investigation.


Before you enter this exercise- you need to make a declaration: "I am going to use God's Inspired Word as my only rule of faith." If any part of this analysis is conjecture based on my feelings or flawed logic, I pray that may be put away. This is not what I think, or how I feel- what does God's Word say? I will not be quoting exhaustive Scripture in this blog post (but I should)- but my hope is that it reflects the entire scope of Biblical counsel.


I need to run through my list of faiths that are not true, Biblical saving faith. I need to be willing to look at my heart/mind/will/emotions/experience/memory/word/deed and see if I fall into some of these categories.


This is a big one. We live in a highly post everything culture where we shish-kabob our lives according to our fancies and whims. We have to understand that a multi-cultural, relativistic American society corrupts our understanding of 'saving faith'. Add to that American roots of rugged individualism and powerful autonomy and we have a recipe for what the Bible labels "holding to a form of godliness, but denying the power within (2 Timothy 3:5)".

No- we have to fight this one. Saving faith is taken as a whole. As Paul Helseth powerfully defended  in his book,Right Reason and the Princeton Mind:

 "They (Princeton Reformers) recognized that the operation of the intellect involves the 'whole soul'- mind,will, and emotions-rather than the rational faculty alone, and as a consequence they insisted the ability to reason 'rightly' i.e., the ability to see revealed truth more or less for what it objectively is, namely glorious- presupposes the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit on the 'whole soul' of a moral agent."

How we compartmentalize faith:  I tend to do it by making it merely a mental exercise. I can get fooled into believing if I learn more facts, I am increasing in saving faith. So my personal  compartment is AN EDUCATIONAL FAITH- but others can trend into non-attached FORMS as well. I believe other 'compartments' include:  'EMOTIONAL FAITH', getting revved up for Jesus and worked into a frenzy. There is a 'DO GOOD' faith- where maybe the service or mission trip is the feel good event of the summer.

No- we need to guard ourselves from staying detached in these things. Saving faith connects ALL of the areas. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Shema, Deut. 6:5)".


 One of the icons of our 'post-everything' culture is the sloganeering of causes. Sometimes called the "Disneyfication of America" sociologists have written in mass about how mass communication technology has created a 'world of simulation' where high culture and low culture are combined and any sort of grand narrative is lost. I have always thought that Grant Lyon's book, Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times, captured this idea very poignantly.

The overarching image that Lyon's attaches to is a Harvest Day Crusade day that was hosted by Disneyland in Anaheim, CA in 2000. This Christian festival seemed innocuous enough. One of the event organizers had a great quote: "We saw Disneyland as an opportunity to bring God's kingdom to the Magic Kingdom. We felt that, as they opened the door to us to share Christ, we wouldn't turn down the opportunity just because other things take place there. Jesus is the example for this."

I am not being critical of this at all. Christ needs to be going EVERYWHERE. But the symbolic image of Christian marketing in the Mecca of consumer marketing could not be ignored by Lyons.

"A bizarre sounding ancient, premodern religion is found... interacting with the epitome of post modern culture- the artificial, simulated, virtual, fantasy world of Disney."

I need to be careful here- there were huge parts of Lyon's book that were instructive and thought provoking. I do think the biggest flaw of Lyon's approach is confusing the visible and invisible Church.

The bigger point here is what the Disney culture influence has done to 'virtualize and simulate' faith by transforming it into slogans and fancy logos. Spy magazine defined it this way: "Disneyfication is the act of assuming, through the process of assimilation, the traits and characteristics more familiarly associated with a theme park....than with real life.
So what does this mean? Here is how Disney has impacted church ministry and caused some to hold to a faith more characterized with logos and slogans than saving faith.

Theming: Everything relates to an overall 'theme'. The problem is that the theme is always a sanitized  and organized abstraction and not reality. In themes, everything fits. But we all know that real life carries conundrums and problems.

Merchandizing and Consumption: It doesn't take long to realize that the theme can sell. I still get shudders sometimes when I walk through Christian bookstores. What are we selling? Why are we selling? I am not against selling books and books have ministered to me in so many amazing ways- but the packaging and theming should make us wary of what is missing.

Prescriptive Empathy: This is a tough one to define. Disney employees are taught to smile and interact in such a way that park attendees think they are having fun and not working. A logo faith teaches us all the proper terms of endearment- but it is an act. I say, "I will pray for you"... do I actually do it?

Self-adulation: The toughest consequence of a logo faith is that I buy into the ultimate consumer mindset- all of this is for ME and my pleasure.

So here are my questions about LOGO faith. Do I just recite the Jesus answers? Have I learned all the themes, present a clean put together life of faith, but in the end.... there is little or no connection to the Holy God of the Universe. Do I measure my growth in how I feel? Do I evaluate worship based on what I get?


It is hard to separate a LOGO faith from an INSTITUTIONAL faith because they are bred in the same petri-dish. An institutional faith is where I have allowed my daily work in a Christian environment to substitute for personal, saving faith. Do I read my Bible? Yes, in faculty devotions, writing blogs, teaching Sunday School, preparing lessons. Do I pray? Yes, weekly prayer meetings. Staff meetings. Opening and closing events. Do I worship? Yes. We have a chapel every week.

This is one I have to fight. And when I leave the institution for vacation or the weekend. Does my faith follow me? Do I have a personal pryer life, Bible study, or worship? Do I share my faith?


 Oh boy! Another tough impostor!  This is one where we are all good people and acknowledge the good Lord. We attend church and don't rob banks. We give money and sing Amazing grace. But there is no real spiritual recognition of our depravity. There is no real hatred of sin. There is no felt desperation of the reality of hell. God is warm and furry, a cosmic Santa Claus ready to dish out good gifts but absent in times of distress. It will all just work out, let it be.

There are other types of false faiths: religion, liberalism, status, in fact all idols are held to by a type of 'faith'.



I JOHN 5:11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

1) SIMPLE TRUST: It is so important to remember that faith has an object- faith is not a work. The power of our faith is not faith- the power of our faith is the power in what our faith is in. In Matthew 17 Jesus says:
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I have always applied this as it is not the amount of faith applied- but the source. A great comfort in your fight of faith is a quiet voice that says, 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus- just to take Him at His word."

2) A FAITHFUL FIGHT OF PURPOSE: Jacob wrestled with God until daybreak. We must be willing to engage Him the same way. God, I will not let you go until you show me. I think He enjoys that. A willingness to wrestle with God is actually evidence of the Spirit.

3) DEEP ROOTED DOCTRINE: If you want to dissect whether you have a saving faith versus a merely speculative one- you have to be willing to dive into the roots of God's Word. If you haven't done so in a while- you may need to freshen up on Romans or find balance in I John. You may need to let Jesus's commands in the gospels hurt and heal.

Again, I turn to Helseth here:

The Princeton theologians approached the task of theology not as arrogant rationalists would have done, but as Biblically faithful Christians have always done. Indeed, they sought to discern the difference between truth and error not by appealing to magisterial conclusions of the rational faculty alone, but by hearing the text with 'right reason', which for them was a biblically informed kind of theological aesthetic that presupposes the work of the Spirit on the whole soul of the believing theologian.

Finally, saving faith is a gift that we receive by a miracle... saving faith is a gracious gift!
Heb 12:12 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Want to be blessed?

Here you are, presented once again with the Christ.. Even as other opportunities past have slipped by..... here is that offer once again.

You and I have messed it up again and again- over and over- falling short of all that God intends us to be. 

Even as you feel your pride wanting to justify and excuse away- even as you feel the deadness of rejecting it- please review these beautiful doctrines of salvation by God's grace.

Reach out to Him right now- Your sins have been cancelled and removed. Do you trust that?

Simply trust. "God I cannot do this. You have to do this. I am a rebel and you have not been my King. Is it too late to come home?" You know the answer.

Fight for it. There are those who will tell you you are too bad. You think in your heart you are too good. Don't let it go. Capture the childlike magic of new birth! Don't let Him go!

Dig Deep. Spend time this weekend searching the Scriptures.

Thank God for the gift of saving faith.
Tell someone else what you have done.
It will be the best gift they get this year as well!

John 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me,

I originally wrote about this in 2012 after some intensive reading from the Old Princetonians.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Two Front Battle and One Way Out

Like most of the country, I was burdened by the accumulation of tragic events this week that seemed to build into an avalanche of pain and despair. Between racial unrest, violence, and all too common terror attacks, we seem to be limping in distress.

And often when I write, I have this cynical voice in my head that mocks me as I type each letter.."Oh, and who are you to add to the noise?!"

But I feel the burden to share...  not that I am anyone special to do so... but I do have a conviction of truth.

America always has been called 'An Experiment'. Indeed, from the very beginning... the early pronouncements in the Declaration of Independence and the earliest drafts of our Constitution, men were persuaded to build a nation around the ideals of liberty.

As I have written over and over, and will say again and again until my last heart beat.. HOWEVER, as precious as liberty is... it was NEVER intended to be the ULTIMATE virtue.

Unfettered liberty only results in chaos. It is like having our busy Hwy 280 without traffic lights, directional streets, driving rules, and road markings. Can you imagine what rush hour traffic would look like if every car could drive in ANY WAY they pleased.

Freedom must always fit within a form or construct that allows for it to remain beneficial. In a generic way, that has always been the rule of law. We have freedom, but our freedom can be restrained by the boundaries of law.

But there is a higher authority than law or liberty- there HAS to be. There has to be, ultimately, an authority that defines law, liberty, charity, and prosperity. The framers of our country knew this and their assent to it is written in ALL of our founding documents.


The CHURCH- battles a false theology like sharia with proclamations of gospel truth. It must always authenticate word with actions.

This is what is meant by Paul:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.(2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV)
It is important though to also recognize the way the STATE battles the actions of evil:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:3-4 ESV) 
Working together, these are two powerful and effective bulwarks against any evil perpetrated on humanity.

Sadly, though- both entities seem to be lacking the passion, plan, or will to fight at the level best.


I tweeted why we are losing the battle vs fundamental Islamic terrorism recently:


When the Supreme Court outlawed the 10 Commandments and Prayer in the 1960's, it was an attempt to wrestle with what the framers intended regarding the 'establishment clause' within the first amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
The mistake, I believe,  is that what the framers were intending was not to have the government select or establish an official denomination of the Christian church. It was not to publicly wipe away  Christian was to protect them. There was already a Judeo-Christian assent to the importance of Theism (or Deism) in society and especially the moral code of the 10 commandments.

Ironically, the government actually violated the establishment clause in their actions. It replaced one religion for another. It removed Theism and established another religion, in its place: Secularism.

In America, we do have an official religion- and that is Secular Humanism and any other religious ideal was relegated to a private use only status.

Fruit of our Choices....

In the late 1980's, I was finishing up and education major at the University of Alabama when I first began to be concerned that the traditional and major constructs of our union were being unleashed from their moorings.

I was in a large lecture hall where we were in a discussion about a 'values free' or 'values neutral' approach to the classroom. Most in attendance were in wholehearted agreement that this was the way to go. We were being instructed by our professors that content had to be stripped away from any personal values to not hinder or offend others in their personal beliefs.

I was one of a few dissenting voices regarding concern that, though this sounded reasonable, the effect over time could be dangerous.

One of the professors became agitated at my polite disagreement.

She challenged me...

"Well then, if you think values need to be included in the curriculum, whose values do we chose?"

I responded, 'We have the tradition of being a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles and on those I believe it is reasonable to promote those as American values." 

You would have thought I had advocated killing baby seals or blowing kilo-tons of carbon dioxide into the ozone!

An entire room jeered, mocked, and responded in several minutes of intense rebuttal.

Most of these were comments about Supreme Court decisions, the history of Christian atrocities, the arrogance of Christians, the hypocrisy of the Church., etc.

It felt like, even back then, that we were losing the cultural debate.

But my appeal and plea has not changed.... the history of Israel has proven to be a parallel prophecy of what happens to any nation who refuses to acknowledge God as sovereign.

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:11-13 ESV)


I want to declare one more time why it is important for us to have a national repentance, beginning with the church herself, if we are to see ANY hope of escaping the narrative of most nations.

And most people, when I write these things, really do not understand what that even looks like. It is not a hard thing to do and also it is impossible at the same time. And the craziest thing is this... there is no need to fear the virtues and values of Christianity. In fact, they are the grandest and highest ideals that humans can aspire to. Have they been used improperly in the past to dark and horrible ends? YES! But in all of those cases, those who press toward the truth of those values were able to subdue and correct those atrocities. There is a built in 'self-correction' of this value system.

Jesus never taught violence on any human being. Christianity is the true religion of peace. When the church has opposed this they are being disobedient to the Founder. When other faith traditions carry out violence, they are not in disobedience.


When Thomas Paine sent a copy of his book, The Age of Reason, to Ben Franklin. Franklin wrote him back and said, "Do NOT publish this book. If men be bad with religion think how much worse they will be without it."

Nietzsche understood this as well. In his parable, The Madman:

What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction: -- for even Gods putrefy? God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife,-- who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? 

I believe we can trace ALL of our societal ills to a national refusal to submit or acknowledge the importance of the moral laws of God.

Steve Turner captured our current chaos in chilling detail:

Here is the creed for the modern thinker. We believe in Marx, Freud and Darwin. We believe everything is okay, as long as you don’t hurt anyone to the best of your definition of hurt and to your best definition of knowledge. We believe in sex before, during and after marriage. We believe in the therapy of sin. We believe that adultery is fun. We believe that sodomy is okay. We believe that taboos are taboo. We believe that everything is getting better despite evidence to the contrary. The evidence must be investigated and you can prove anything with evidence. We believe there is something in horoscopes, UFO’s, and bent spoons. Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammad and ourselves. He was a good moral teacher, although we think basically his good morals were really bad. We believe that all religions are the basically the same, at least the ones we read were. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God and salvation. We believe that after death comes nothing because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing. If death is not the end, and if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsively heaven for all except perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Chingis Khan. We believe in Masters and Johnson. What is selected is average, what’s average is normal, and what’s normal is good. We believe in total disarmament. We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed. Americans should beat their guns into tractors and the Russians would be sure to follow. We believe that man is essentially good-it’s only his behavior that lets him down. This is the fault of society; society’s the fault of condition; and conditions are the fault of society. We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him and reality will adapt accordingly; the universe will readjust and history will alter. We believe that there is no absolute truth, except the truth that there is no absolute truth. We believe in the rejection of creeds and the flowering of individual thought.
If Chance be the Father of all flesh, disaster is His rainbow in the sky. And when you hear: “State of Emergency,” “Sniper Kills Ten,” “Troops on Rampage,” “Youths go Looting,” “Bomb Blasts School,” it is but the sound man worshiping his maker.
Modern Thinker's Creed

Steve Turner, English journalist 


This would never happen- and I'm sure it would receive charges of 'Theocracy" .... but the following responses would begin a national cure for national ills.


We, the duly appointed representatives of all the people of these United States, declare today that we have violated the moral code of God and declare a return of our constitution under the sovereign protection and provision of our Creator.

In dong so, none of our American liberties are removed from us, they are enhanced. The benefits of the moral law of God include love, hope, forgiveness, service, temperance, equality, honesty, and honor.

However, we also recognize that there are restraints against evil and a recognition that men follow a natural course of moral inability. The moral law of God requires a collective commitment to restrain evil including murder, violence, immorality, theft, discrimination, dishonesty, and greed. These will be restrained through a just application of law and with a national intent to teach and correct our behavior, not out of anger... but out of love.

The model for our national discourse will be the humble and loving example of Jesus Christ, a friend to sinners and the savior of the world.

His greatest encouragement to all U.S. citizens is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and is an application of His command to "love your neighbor as yourself".

We have behaved selfishly out of personal agendas- please, Lord of heaven grant us the eyes to see the needs of others and to serve.


The Presbyterian Church in America has posted a powerful statement regarding our response to God in light of Biblical truth and the gospel of Christ.

Turn to God. In the OT, God commands people to turn or return to Him, and so be saved (e.g., Isa. 6:10; Jer. 18:8). In the NT, Christ preached that people should turn to God, and Paul summarized his account of his preaching with that phrase: “that they [everyone] should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20; cf. Acts 26:18). Thus, as Paul said earlier, he preached “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). To repent means to turn. And the turning that we are called to do in order to be saved is fundamentally a turning to God. James could refer to the Gentiles who “turn to God” (Acts 15:19). To “turn to,” in this sense in the Bible, is to orient your life toward someone. As God’s people—those who are being saved—we are to play the part of the Prodigal Son who, though conscious of sin, guilt, and folly, flees to the Father (Luke 15:20). Paul at Lystra calls the people to turn to the living God (Acts 14:15). Paul refers to the Galatian Christians as those who had come to “know God” (Gal. 4:9); this is what we do in repentance: we repent to, we turn to God,and henceforth know Him as the God who forgives our sins and accepts us for Christ’s sake. 
Turn away from sin. Turning to God necessarily implies our turning away from sin. The whole Bible—OT and NT—clearly teaches that to repent is to “acknowledge [God’s] name and turn from [our] sins” (1 Kings 8:35; cf. 2 Chron. 7:14; Jer. 36:3; Ezek. 14:6; 18:30; Acts 3:19; 8:22; 26:18; Rev. 2:21-22; 9:20-21; 16:11). We cannot start to pursue God and sin at the same time. First John makes it clear that our basic way of life will either be oriented toward God and his light, or toward the darkness of sin. Christians in this life still sin, but against our deepest desires and better judgment; our lives are not guided and directed by sin as before. We are no longer enslaved to sin. Though we still struggle with it (Gal. 5:17), God has given us the gift of repentance (Acts 11:18), and we have been freed from sin’s dominating power.
Believe and trust. Put another way, our response is to believe and trust God’s promises in Christ, and to commit ourselves to Christ, the living Lord, as his disciples. Among Jesus’ first words in Mark’s Gospel are “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The obedience that typifies God’s people, beginning with repentance, is to result from the faith and trust we have in Him and His Word (e.g., Josh. 22:16; Acts 27:25). Thus sins are sometimes called “breaking faith with God” (e.g., Ezra 10:2, 10). Having faith in Christ, which seals our union with Him through the Holy Spirit, is the means by which God accounts Christ’s righteousness as our own (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:17-21; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 3:9). Paul could refer to “salvation through faith in Christ” (2 Tim. 3:15). Frequently this initial repentance and faith can be simply expressed to God Himself in prayer.
Grow in godliness and battle for holiness. Such saving faith is something that we exercise, but even so it is a gift from God. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). At the same time, Paul explained that Christians know an internal battle: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17). God’s gift of salvation has been given to Christians, but the evidence of that salvation is lived out in the continual work of God’s Spirit. We can deceive ourselves, and so Paul encourages his readers to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5). Peter encourages Christians to grow in godliness and so become more confident of their election (2 Peter 1). We don’t create our own salvation by our actions, but we reflect and express it and so grow in our certainty of it. Because we Christians are liable to deceive ourselves, we should give ourselves to the study of God’s Word to be instructed and encouraged in our salvation, and to learn what is inconsistent with it. Jesus’ descriptions of His followers (see Matthew 5-7), or Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit’s work in us (see Gal. 5:22-23), act as spiritual maps that help us locate ourselves to see if we are on the path of salvation.
source: The Administrative Committee of the PCA 

If there was a church and state repentance... there would be freedom and tolerance like we do not have right now.

As unlikely as this will EVER be... does this cause you to FEAR? I would say no- even to those who do not believe.


There would be many offended... but the goal is not to eliminate offense, the goal is to press toward the highest ideals that allow patience and tolerance in the midst of disagreement. The churches would have to lead the way in showing that those of opposing religious tenants and value systems should be loved and protected. Only Christianity allows for such.


As unlikely as a national repentance and revival seems, it is still Ok for me to pray and press for such an event.

And I am OK with whatever the Lord allows... and eagerly await His return.

Some non-believers have suggested that this focus on the world to come has made Christians lax in improving this current world.

I have to disagree with that sentiment.

This is how C.S. Lewis said it:

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. 

I will never give in to despair .... God Bless America, Land that I love!