Sweet CakesWhat do the Little Sisters of the Poor, Sweetcakes by Melissa, and Hobby Lobby have in common? They are stories in the news and cases in the courts about Christians who have taken courageous stands to avoid violating their consciences.  Whether you agree with them or not, you need to know they have not voiced some baseless preference.  It’s about worldview.

Our country is not a theocracy, but our founders believed that democracy works and provides a common peace and freedom only for a moral people. Christians consider recent changes in culture and law a direct challenge to a God-given morality that values human life and respects the design of the family.

Critics consider such Christian objections old-fashioned and out-of-step with the times. In making the counter-argument, some politicians give assurances about “freedom to worship.”  This term has appeared for years on the civics test required for an immigrant to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.  But it can also be used to imply that the freedom of religion enshrined in the First Amendment is safe only when expressed inside the walls of a house of worship, thus allowing public space for other newfound freedoms.

The reason Christianity finds itself in conflict with culture and law is its worldview. Our understanding of what is real and true about our world requires a response that can’t be contained by a building or Sunday meeting.  In “How Now Shall We Live?” Chuck Colson declared that Christianity is not just about personal salvation, that “it is a comprehensive life system that answers all of humanity’s age-old questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here?  Where am I going?  Does life have any meaning and purpose?”

Life-changing answers begin with the Biblical revelation that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God,” that “by Him all things were created,” and “in Him all things hold together.” The Father chose to “reconcile all things to himself” through the Son. (Col. 1).  So either God is Creator, or man is.  If God is, then how can believers contradict Him by redefining or revaluing what God created?  If “all things” includes culture and the world He created, should we not seek ways to join in that divine reconciliation?  Our example is Jesus, a friend to sinners.  Our challenge is to love people and work to reconcile a fallen world with its Creator.  Here we stand; we can do no other.

Christianity is a coherent worldview unlike any other. It is believed privately, but lived publically.  The church house doesn’t contain it and the courthouse doesn’t frighten it.  C. S. Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Such a worldview offers plausible answers to ultimate questions and, as we have seen in the news, it inspires courage to stand for what is true.

Christ Our Life

roman-holiday-audrey-hepburn-gregory-peck-1953Gregory Peck made more than one movie about an assumed identity. That plot device is probably popular because it appeals to our curiosity about being somebody different, or how we would act if we were.  Many yearnings including this one, can be traced to some profoundly spiritual truth.

Peck and Audrey Hepburn star in “Roman Holiday,” (1953) a movie about a princess weary of her official duties and expectations. She assumes the identity of an ordinary tourist, but Peck, playing the reporter, figures it out.  In “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” (1947) Peck again plays a journalist.  This time he accepts the challenge of writing hard-hitting articles to expose anti-Semitism.  So he poses as a Jew for an insider perspective.

The intriguing idea of being someone else hints at the Christian life that many encounter only after years of trying to live it. Who wouldn’t want to be in touch with your “better angels” or to “be all that you can be”?  So we try, but sense something is still missing.  Do the phrases “I need more of God in my life” or “I’m going to live for God” really express the most profound meaning of the gospel of Christ?

Authentic Christianity means assuming a new identity. Some of your personality may remain but you have exchanged your life.  It’s not a life that has only “turned over a new leaf.”  These words express something quite different:  “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.”  “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 6:11, Col. 3:4).  The profound spiritual truth is that Christ is your life.  In Him, you assume a new identity!  It is not just that you can be better, but that you can share in the divine, eternal life.

Major W. Ian Thomas served in the British Expeditionary Forces in Belgium in WWII, and died just a few years ago.  After the War and for decades he effectively promoted Christian education and personal spiritual growth.  But in his early life he was ineffective.  One evening, he sensed the Lord saying, “For seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.  You cannot have My life for your program.  You can only have My life for My program!”  And so he finally understood the exchanged life.

Living the life of Christ means rest (Heb. 4:10), such as rest from trying to do what only God can. This is amazing grace, that God would work in and through you, so you can live the life of Christ!


vietnam-memorial1The Vietnam Moving Wall came to our town. My generation’s war ended before I was old enough to be a soldier, but not before I realized that if it didn’t, I would be.  My earliest recollection of it was from church prayer meetings when the adults requested prayers “for the boys in Vietnam.”  We may never learn the lessons from the 58,000 American lives listed on that Wall, but I would like to describe a lesson from the life of one little girl that isn’t.

In 1972, the iconic photo of the Vietnamese girl with burned skin fleeing a napalm attack won a Pulitzer Prize, and changed the minds of many about the war. It also changed the life of the little girl herself, Kim Phuc.

Journalists on the scene found medical treatment for massive third-degree burns on her back and arms. She left the hospital after 14 months of treatment, about the same time the U.S. military left in 1973.  In 1980, while Kim was in medical school in Saigon, the fifth anniversary of the war’s end brought questions about “the girl in the picture.”  The communists saw an opportunity for propaganda, so they moved her to a government job in her home province so she could greet visiting dignitaries and even display her scars.  But it was the emotional scars and hatred that made her increasingly depressed.

In her free time, Kim visited the library and found a New Testament. She was attracted to the first-hand account of the Christian gospel unfiltered by what she had been taught.  She began attending a church and after experiencing a convincing answer to prayer, she became a joyful follower of Jesus!  In her words, “It was the fire of the bomb that burned my body, and it was the skill of the doctor that mended my skin, but it took the power of God to heal my heart.”

In 1992, Kim and her husband defected to Canada and she later became a citizen.  With her newfound freedom and motivated by faith, Kim established a foundation to provide aid to child victims of war.  Her biography, “The Girl in the Picture,” was published in 1999.  Speaking with NPR in 2008, Kim said, “Forgiveness made me free from hatred.  I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed.  Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful…If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?”  Witness a life of peace and freedom despite horrible suffering!

I do not know the hurt of an exploited woman scarred for life, nor wounded and neglected soldiers returning from war, nor families whose loss is carved in stone on the Wall. I do know that with forgiveness comes freedom, and the power to forgive comes from God.  As Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).


bloodmoonA lunar eclipse when the moon is nearest the earth takes on shades of red. Such a “blood moon” happened last month and we’re still here to tell about it, if you’re reading this! Anyway, I’m not sure what to make of some of the speculative interpretations of Biblical prophecy linked to this phenomenon, but I wouldn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Prophetic writings in the Bible are instructive.

The Hebrew prophet Joel wrote, and it’s repeated in Revelations, that the moon becomes like blood before the Day of the Lord comes. If this refers to a lunar tetrad, the world has experienced eight since New Testament times. Peter preached that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost. I tend to think these celestial sightings are more like Noah’s rainbow, a reminder of a promise of more fulfillment to come. “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years” (2 Pet. 3:8) implies that God is biding his time, but not in silence.

With the perspective of history, we can witness the veracity of Biblical prophecies. Isaiah wrote (700 BC) that the Messiah would be from Galilee, and would be God Himself. He added that the Messiah would be a suffering servant, smitten and pierced for our sin. Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, claimed that the eternal ruler in Israel would be from Bethlehem. Daniel prophesied (530 BC) that the Messiah would be “cut off” and then the sanctuary would be destroyed. David (1000 BC) predicted that the Messiah would not stay dead.

These and over 300 detailed, ancient, Hebrew prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Born in Bethlehem and raised in Galilee, He was smitten, pierced, and killed. His resurrection from the dead proves his claim to be God. A few years later in 70 AD, history records the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Given that astounding accuracy, it is tantalizing to use the Bible to interpret current events. For example, Ezekiel (580 BC) describes an apocalyptic scene where God delivers Israel from an attack from surrounding lands which some correlate to today’s growing alliance between Russia, Iran, and Iraq. We could occupy ourselves trying to connect the dots here, but I find more peace in looking at prophecy through the lens Jesus provided us. He listed plenty of end times signs to observe, many happening even now. But He was not dropping clues so we could sleuth the day or hour, but to urge us to prepare as though His return is imminent (Mat. 24:44).

Maybe recent, unproven claims about ‘blood moons’ and Russia seem outlandish, but beware the temptation to mock the end times prophecies themselves. If fulfillment of the first advent prophecies was 1000 years in the making, well, I’ll let you look up the reason it might be taking so long for the second (2 Pet. 3:9). It might have something to do with you!