Know What You Believe; Believe What You Know: Does it Matter?

 

 

 

 

 

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse,” Romans 1:20

“It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.”

Can that really be true? Does it matter what you and I believe? And what are we supposed to believe? How do we sort out all the different beliefs that come at us from the world? How do we determine which ones to grab hold of and which ones to let go? Those are a lot of heavy questions, and it’s really hard to understand why all this matters when we are working, raising families, doing chores, going to church, being involved in community activities, being responsible citizens. I don’t know about you, but at the end of a long day I’m too tired to think that hard.

But it does matter. It matters a great deal. Because what you believe translates into who you are and how you live. It determines your thoughts and affects every choice you make. It matters today and tomorrow. What you believe has eternal consequences. So I pose to you two questions: Do you know what you believe? And do you believe what you know? That sounds like double-speak, but I assure you these are the most important questions you’ll ever consider. In the coming weeks at Deeper Roots, we’re going to look into our core beliefs—what is known as our “worldview.”

A worldview is the basis from which we determine all things related to God, the universe, life and man. It is an overarching theme that sets our beliefs in some semblance of order. It answers important questions about the creation of the universe, the origins of all life, morality, individuality, the future of humanity and what follows after this life.

Worldviews often shift from generation to generation and culture to culture. The changes in the world because of advances in education, science, medicine, and a variety of other aspects, while beneficial in so many ways, have also caused modern man to turn away from a worldview that embraces God, creation, salvation and morality. Even the modern church has backed away from many of the foundational beliefs of her ancestors. They don’t ask these important questions and they no longer teach these core issues. This is why the unbelieving world judges the Bible as archaic and Christians as “out of touch” and even “dangerous.”  But a worldview that is founded on the timeless truths and principles of the Bible is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago for two very important reasons.

1) God has not changed. His character, His truth, His promises and His Word stand just true as they did in the days of Adam, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul and on through the ages.

2) Human nature has not changed. We are still creatures steeped in a sin nature and in desperate need of redemption. We are still self-centered and rebellious and foolish and we still demand to be our own authority.

The Christian worldview of Paul’s day remains the true Christian worldview of our day, because the foundation – Jesus Christ – “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). In a world of shifting ideologies and ever-changing “truth” it is more important than ever to Know What You Believe and Believe What you Know.

I encourage you – no I challenge you to join me in the coming weeks as we ask some very important questions and search for answers that are true and timeless. Share these posts with your family and friends – let’s start a conversation about what really matters in this life.

Mighty God – we want to fill our minds with something more substantial than the latest celebrity gossip and the thoughts of men. We want truth. We want to build our lives on what is solid and eternal. Open our eyes and ears to the deeper things of life. Open our minds to receive and believe Your eternal wisdom and truth

 

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Christians vs. America?

bible-american-flag“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

There is a war raging against Christians throughout the world, as it has been for more than two thousand years. From the moment of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, Christians have been in the bulls-eye of unbelieving sharpshooters. The history of the church flows with the blood of the martyrs of the faith. From Stephen and James, the first to die because of the name of Jesus to today’s faithful believers around the world, being a Christian is at the very least “unpopular” and at its worst, deadly. The writer of Hebrews outlined some of the persecution that believers in Christ endured in the first century: torture, jeers, flogging, chains and prison, stoning, dismemberment, and destitution (Hebrews 11:35-37). The techniques may have changed, but the end result is the same. Terrorism and oppressive atheistic world leaders have murdered thousands of believers around the world. Christians can expect oppression, persecution and trouble in this world.

There is a war against Christians in America – though some would deny it. It is far more subtle than the battles that are being faced by believers in the Middle East, but it is there nonetheless. In the United States it is not persecution by terrorists, but by the legal system that is being swayed by society.   Christians are facing legal repercussions for taking a moral stand. And though recent events seem to have taken the church by surprise, the crumbling of morality in America began long before. Here are just two of many reasons.

The Scopes Trial in 1925 served as the hinge on which the United States began to turn from being a godly nation to a secular nation.   The trial centered on a law passed in Tennessee forbidding the teaching of any theory that denies the biblical account of creation – of course the theory in question was evolution. Scopes was the teacher who dared (upon the urging of the ACLU) to teach Darwin’s theory. Scopes was found guilty, but from that pivotal case, many of the moral standards of this country began to fall like dominoes.

Take the issue of school prayer. “School Prayer was removed from the U.S. public education system by slowly changing the meaning of the First Amendment through a number of court cases over several decades.” First in 1962 in the case of Engel v. Vitale, then in the 1963 case of Murray v. Curlett brought by militant left wing atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair. This case was heard around the same time as Abington Township School District v. Schempp. It is interesting to note that in the Murry v. Curlett caseNot a single Christian organization filed a brief in support of school prayer. The Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in favor of abolishing school prayer and Bible reading in the public schools.” In the Abington Township School District v. Schempp “the court’s ruling stated that School Prayer and Bible reading were violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”[1]

By the way, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of” was written for 2 purposes: to prevent the establishment of a government sanctioned church (as England had done) and to ensure the right of every American to freely hold to whatever religious beliefs they chose and to freely practice those beliefs.   The first portion provides for the “separation of church and state” – not to demand that religion be stricken from all areas of government and public life, but to prevent the state’s restriction and control of religious practice.

In the ensuing years, America has taken its moral cues from a culture and society largely dominated by non-Christians and deeply influenced by the entertainment and finance industries. Challenges to every moral stance have been mounted and have sent traditional moral values crumbling to the ground. Many churches, in an effort to not lose footing in the modern culture began to turn away from solid biblical teaching and turn to immoral tolerance of every sort.

In recent years challenges have been brought on two fronts; the approval and legalizing of immorality and the criminalizing of moral conviction.   Business are being forced to close because their owners refused to offer services for certain activities that compromise their moral convictions. Laws are literally being passed to punish business owners who place their moral values ahead of profit-making.

So what are Christians to do? How do we fight in such an unfair battle? Does this spell the end of Christianity in America? Before we push the panic button, let’s see what God’s Word has to say.

We are not the first generation to face legal and political oppression for our faith. One excellent example is Daniel, a Hebrew brought by captivity to Babylon when he was only a teenager. If you know any of the Bible stories, you probably know the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den – but there is so much more to the story than we learned in Sunday School. Daniel was put in the Lion’s Den for disobeying a law of the land, a law that was intended to trap him. The full story is in Daniel 6. Daniel is a well-respected, high-ranking government official in what was then Median controlled Babylon, he is a man of integrity which is a direct result of his devotion to his Hebrew faith. Some of the other officials are very jealous and want to get rid of Daniel, but can find no fault in his work or character. However, they think if they put Daniel in a position of having to choose between his faith and his life, he will either abandon the one or lose the other. So they coerce the foolish King Darius to pass a law that if anyone prays to any god or man other than himself, they will be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel knows the law and the consequences, but he continues to follow his habit of praying to God three times a day. He was thrown into the lion’s den, but, as you probably know, survived the night unscathed. Daniel placed the commands of God ahead of the law of the king, and God protected him. A similar scenario plays out for Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar’s image and were thrown into a fiery furnace, where Jesus came to protect them and bring them through with “no smell of fire on them” (Dan. 3:27). The whole account is in Daniel 3.

The Apostles of Jesus Christ are perfect models for us as well. Peter and John were arrested and jailed by the Jewish religious leaders for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ. They were commanded not to speak in Jesus’ name any longer, by they answered by saying, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts 4:19). Arrested again they replied “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). They were beaten for their “crimes” and rejoiced in sharing in Christ’s suffering.’

In these examples we see men of God standing strong in their convictions regardless of the mandates of the law. Don’t misunderstand me, we are told in the Bible to obey the law of our nation – however when the law is evil, God’s people must stand up against it. Daniel, his friends, Peter and John and the Apostles didn’t launch huge protests, circulate petitions or gather a legal team to defend them. They simply went about the business of being faithful to God. They obeyed the law until the law directed them to disobey God.   They knew that obeying God has far greater and more lasting benefits than eschewing God’s moral laws for man’s laws.

Again, I reiterate, I’m not advocating a Christian revolution against the government – but I am suggesting that when God’s people are confronted with laws that counter the Word of God, they are first subjects of Christ before they are subjects of a nation or ruler.

Is Christianity dying? Is the Christian church going to survive? Christianity is by no means dying and the church will survive because her Head is Jesus Christ, the ultimate and eternal Victor. But the church and her children will take some difficult blows. God protected Daniel and his friends, but the first generation of believers suffered great persecution and the centuries that followed were not kind to Christians for the most part. Jesus warned His followers that the world would hate those who love Him, He said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). But He also said “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11). When we become Christians, and live like Christians, we become offensive to the world, for no other reason than our identification with Christ.

So how do we fight the culture in which we live? By simply being faithful to God, walking in His Truth, refusing to compromise our faith and our message, and trusting Him to stand in our defense or stand to receive us into heaven.

Lord Jesus, You understand how deeply the world hates Your people, we offend them just because we are yours. Lord, help us to stop fighting and to simply live faithful lives trusting you with the outcome. You are our Victor, the Head of Your church, and You rule and reign over the affairs of man. May we be found faithful. Amen.

[1] “School Prayer” from All About History, http://www.allabouthistory.org/school-prayer.htm, (Accessed May 14, 2015)

To the One Who Seeks

“You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell, when once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgment day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God!  Not enough evidence!'”[1]

I recently completed a seminary course in Christian Apologetics – which is not “apologizing for being a Christian” – but rather the defense of the Christian faith. It was a very difficult course because I had to read and listen to messages that rejected the truth of God and of Jesus Christ. Their words in no way diminished my beliefs; if anything they strengthened my faith because I was forced to address these statements of disbelief and find reasonable and true answers I could embrace. As I confronted these counter-claims, the truths of the Bible and of the doctrines of Christianity began to take a firmer root in my heart. And as I found more and more evidences and reasons to believe with confidence, I began to “own” my faith like never before. I no longer believe just because of what I’ve heard all my life. I believe because, in seeking out the truth, I found it.

We so often hear the complaint that Christianity is just “blind faith,” and many simply refuse to believe without “proof.” Even in the church we are taught that we must never ask questions of God. But that is not what the Bible indicates. God invites us to step into faith with our eyes wide open. He issued the invitation many, many years ago, when the Israelites had fled Egypt – “If . . . you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him, if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). God does not require mindless devotion to an unseen, unproven entity. He has gone to great lengths to make Himself known.

On the night of Jesus’ birth, God announced the way for those who would accept it and seek this blessed Child. Luke’s account includes the chorus of heavenly hosts who appeared to the shepherds in the fields – and they told them exactly where to find this Baby – “in the town of David” (Luke 2:11) and how they would recognize Him – “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (v. 12). I love the angels’ words in our key verse – You will find a baby . . .” (emphasis added). And they responded to God’s revelation – “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see . . .” (v. 15). Let’s follow the evidence that God has given to us. Let’s seek Him whom the angel said we would find.

Matthew records another visible and powerful proof of Jesus’ birth as the Magi from the East declared “We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2), and he continues: “The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was” (v. 9). God not only gave directions, He led the way with a star in the sky. They were overjoyed – they sought the King with a desire to find Him, and their search was rewarded.

There is another path that God has clearly provided for man to find his Creator. That path leads up a hill in Jerusalem, to Calvary and to the Cross. God made this way clear and unmistakable when He covered that path with the blood of His one and only Son, Jesus. He has declared that this is the way to find Him – the only way. To all who will accept it, God has promised not only to reveal Himself but to claim the seeking soul as His own.

We all have questions, whether we want to admit it or not, and God does not resist our questions; but He does resist our motivations for asking them. He has provided the evidence and the way that we might find and know Him, but Mr. Russell and others like him demand proof on their own terms. God is not obligated to meet man’s demands for proof. He expects us to seek Him by following the way He has provided. He is not playing some cosmic “hide-and-seek game” with us. You see, the difference between Bertrand Russell and those who have chosen to believe is that Mr. Russell posed his questions with an arrogant and unbelieving heart trying to disprove God; for those who receive Christ, their questions flow from seeking hearts that want to find Him. God receives those who seek Him with a heart to believe. Remember what He said – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).

Holy God, on this Christmas Eve, I am so grateful that You showed me the way to the manger and the cross and You let me find You. “He has said to my heart, ‘Seek My face!’ Your face Lord, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8).

[1] William Lane Craig, “The Evidence for Christianity” be thinking, http://www.bethinking.org/is-christianity-true/the-evidence-for-christianity (accessed December 24, 2014).

A Fresh New Day!

The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.    Lamentations 3:22-23

This morning I woke up to a new day – and an old attitude.  The frustrations of the day before hung heavy on my spirit and before my first cup of coffee, I was chewing on them all over again.  I bet you can relate.  Yesterday’s argument with your spouse rolls around in your head this morning.  Your child’s disobedience last night stirs those gnawing thoughts about what kind of parent you are. And as you turn on the shower you draw a deep sigh, knowing that you will spend another day with that irritating co-worker.  If only we could greet the new day without the frustrations and irritations of the day before.

God does you know.  This verse reminds us that as we greet each new day, we do so with the full measure of God’s compassion and mercy.  No “leftover” thoughts of our attitudes and actions from the day before.  You and I often drag yesterday’s problems into today.  But God doesn’t    Because we cannot wrap our finite minds around who God truly is, we tend to think of Him in human terms, assigning Him human characteristics and  human limitations.   We get irritated with others, and they sometimes “get on our last nerve.”  But God has a limitless supply of understanding and compassion toward us.  In other words, God’s doesn’t have “a last nerve.”  Our frustrations mount up with people and we find ourselves dreading the next encounter with them.  Not so with God. As He calls for the sunrise each morning, He has a sense of overwhelming delight toward us.  Psalm 139: 17 says, “How precious [toward] me are Your thoughts, O God!”  We simply cannot conceive of the immense love, tenderness and compassion of God towards His beloved children.

Aren’t you glad to know that God doesn’t hold grudges?  He doesn’t weigh us today based on our actions yesterday.  He doesn’t hold the mistakes of the past over our heads.  And He doesn’t expect us to either.  Because Jesus Christ paid the price for all of our sins, because He took all of our shame to the cross – we can face each day knowing that God’s love, mercy and goodness toward us is fully stocked and there is a never-ending supply.  Greet the morning with the Lord, and step out into a fresh new day!

Wonderful Father – Thank you for a new morning, for new mercies and the promise of Your presence with me all through the day.  This is the day that You have made; I will rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)  Amen

Waiting…

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;”            Psalm 37:7

“Wait a little longer,”                              Revelation 6:11

How good are you at waiting? I think in our “hurry up” society, waiting is a lost art.  We have instant conversation, instant information, and an instant meal, all at our fingertips.  Have you ever found yourself wishing the microwave would hurry up?

Waiting was a constant for the people of the Bible.

Genesis 7-8 tells us Noah, his family and all those smelly animals spent a little over a year shut up in the ark, from the first raindrop until God allowed them to come out.  According to Genesis 12:4 and 17:1; Abraham, the Father of the Hebrew faith, waited 25 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise, the birth of his son, Isaac.  Joseph waited 13 years – through mistreatment, false accusation, imprisonment and estrangement from his family until the fulfillment of God’s purpose. (Genesis 37 – 50)

What was the key to their ability to wait?  In a word – FAITH.

They had faith in God. Notice I didn’t say they had faith that God would work everything out in their favor.  They had faith in God, in His character, in who He is, not just in what He could do.  They had faith that whatever God did, in whatever way He did it, and however long it took, it would be the right thing.  In forty plus years of following Him, God has never done anything the way I expected.  But what He did was always right and good.  Because He is always right and good, and His purpose is always right and good.

Waiting on the Lord, according to Charles Stanley, “is not hopeless resignation, but firm faith in His good purpose.”

The question we need to ask ourselves is “What are we waiting for?”

Are we waiting for the answer we want, the spouse to come to church, the kid to straighten up, the funds to turn around, the tests to come back clear? Or are we waiting with our eyes fixed on God, trusting that He, in His goodness, faithfulness and love, will do what will ultimately be for our best; whatever, however, and whenever that may be?

The secret to patiently waiting is trusting, and the secret to trusting comes in knowing the One you trust.

Holy Father, I want to know You by heart so I will trust you by faith.  Amen.