The News

Looking for reliable national and world news these days is like trying to buy meat in a third world country.  You don’t know where it came from or how old it is, and sometimes it smells.  The goal is apparently is to sell something that could be unhealthy and even dangerous.

It’s nothing new.  Benjamin Franklin was a publisher, and he had to deal with this.  From his autobiography of the late 1700’s:  “In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libeling and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our country.  Now many of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false accusations of the fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting animosity even to the producing of duels.  These things I mention as a caution to young printers, and that they may be encouraged not to pollute their presses and disgrace their profession by such infamous practices, as they may see by my example that such a course of conduct will not be injurious to their interests.”  So, back then they published false accusations that disgraced our country and produced violence?  Franklin thought so.  Yet he proved that a scrupulous publishing enterprise could be successful.

When I was a child, our family watched the evening news on TV and subscribed to the local paper.  It’s amazing that we survived without 24-hour cable news and internet!  Look, it’s important to be informed.  That’s part of Jesus’ warning when he said, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mat.10:16).  My point is, don’t let yourself become addicted to the mental crack cocaine of the never-ending headlines screaming, “You won’t believe what’s happened now!”  Why?  Because it crowds out the good things in life, it injects you with discouragement, and it solves none of the problems it pitches at you.

You can either be off-balance and off-focus, or you can embrace “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  What you dwell on can lift you up, but when the news drags you down, you have recourse.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-8).  Now there’s a way to find peace despite today’s news!


Jerusalem of the East

I hope the war of words between the U.S. and North Korea cools off.  Secretary of Defense Mattis said that a war would be catastrophic.  I assume he was thinking about all affected parties, including the oppressed people under the rule of Kim Jong-un.  That said, history reveals what the real battle is here.

Horace Underwood (of the typewriter family) began his work in 1885 as one example of many early Christian missionaries that worked in Korea.  In 1907, a revival in the country set off three decades of growth for Christianity despite Japanese influence in the country and their resistance to the faith.  Rejecting the Japanese demand to worship their emperor, many Koreans embraced faith in Jesus Christ instead.

By the 1930’s, Christians were the civic and intellectual leaders in Pyongyang, which had become known as the “Jerusalem of the East.”  (Ruth Bell Graham attended high school in Pyongyang while her parents worked in China.)  After WWII, the rise of communism drove Christians to the South.  Many stayed in the North where the Soviet Union installed Kim Il Sung as leader of communist party.  Diverging somewhat from the atheistic communism of the 20th C., he demanded nothing less than worship from the people, under pain of death.  His grandson now rules the country, having been taught all his life that he is a god to be adored.

The result?  North Korea tops watch lists for evil, repressive regimes.  Christians whose grandparents refused to worship the Japanese emperor now refuse to worship the “dear leader.”  They meet in underground churches or attempt escape at risk of beating, starvation, cold exposure, rape, exile to hard labor camp, and execution.  History repeats itself.  In ancient Babylon, three Jewish lads refused to worship the king.  Threatened with death, they replied, “Our God is able to deliver us, but even if He does not, we are not going to worship the golden image” (Dan. 3:17-18).  As faith views eternity, it says, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted Christians, reports how Kim Sang-Hwa as a child found her parents’ Bible.  She considered reporting them, but decided to ask about it.  They explained creation, sin, the Savior, and the second coming.  She observed her father lead a dying man to faith in Christ, even though he spied on the Christians.  She believed.  Kim later escaped to South Korea via China.  She still carries a burden for her fellow North Koreans since she knows the evil they face.

Kim represents a victory in the spiritual battle for the lives of a people brutalized by a totalitarian kingdom.  Let us pray the Lord send a new revival to Korea, to deliver them from evil and make Pyongyang once again the Jerusalem of the East.  That’s the real battle.



A once in a lifetime experience will descend upon our town on August 21.  We’re about to find out what it’s like to be in the full shadow of the moon for 2 minutes in the middle of the day.  The “path of totality” sounds ominous.

Every person here, including thousands of our friends from elsewhere (if predictions materialize), will be affected by this event.  So I would like to offer context somewhat more enlightened than this being just a marketing opportunity.

On that day we will set aside our daily routines and watch creation, specifically the sun, the moon, and light.  Consider two questions.  Life would not exist without the sun and its light and heat.  Where did it come from?  God created “ex nihilo” or out of nothing.  The non-theistic answers to that question depend on the pre-existence of material and energy.  We know that the universe normally operates along observable principles, or “laws of nature,” hence we can predict an eclipse.  Why is the universe ordered?  Either matter and energy are eternal and they organized themselves, or an eternal Creator is the source of the world as we know it.

It is the Christian worldview of a God who is reliable that set the context for western civilization’s scientific advances.  He is not like the unpredictable pantheon of the Greeks and Romans, nor is He like the innumerable and competing spiritual beings of animism.  So, why would a God like this create?  Thierry of Chartres, a 12th C. theologian said, “Because the Creator, rationally speaking, is in need of nothing, having perfection and sufficiency in Himself, it is necessary that He should create what he does create only through benevolence and love.”  Behind the eclipse is a Creator that cares for you.

Science can be an act of worship when it honors the Creator.  Science and faith have a common goal to embrace truth.  The more we understand about the universe, the more we know about God.  Astrophysicist Hugh Ross, PhD. observed, “Astronomers who do not draw theistic or deistic conclusions are becoming rare, and even the few dissenters hint that the tide is against them.”  It is difficult to stare at the stars or experience an eclipse without longing to know who is out there.

 And we do know.  “The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psa. 19:1).  We also know that “All things came into being through Him” i.e. Jesus in this context (John 1:3).  This eclipse will be a classic display of the creative power of the Savior God who loves you and inspires you to worship.  That’s not ominous, it’s enlightening.

Visible Faith

Seeing an opportunity, they acted decisively.  Four men, not intending to draw attention to themselves, were determined to get it done.  Somebody noticed.

 We don’t know if they were friends before this, nor how they knew the paraplegic.  What we do know is that these four men became aware that a powerful person was meeting nearby with influential people.  So they loaded up the paralyzed man and dropped in to the meeting.  We don’t know what they said, but what they wanted to happen was obvious.

 Perhaps you recognize this story as a historic encounter with Jesus.  The point of the story is that Jesus demonstrates his authority to forgive with a physical healing of the man.  But don’t miss a tiny phrase in the narrative.  Considering what the four had done, and “Seeing their faith” (Luke 5:20), Jesus responded.  Faith is not an invisible, internal concept for those who believe and follow Jesus.

 Jesus had already expressed this idea in his Sermon on the Mount.  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:16).  To Jesus, faith means you will have a light to shine, and its purpose is to glorify your heavenly Father.  That presumes there is darkness somewhere within your reach.

 Martin Luther famously called the Biblical book of James an “epistle of straw” for its emphasis on works.  But I see no difference between what Jesus said and “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?” (2:14).  To claim faith but live a complacent or compromised life is foreign to the mercy of God and the regeneration by the Holy Spirit poured out upon us richly through Jesus.  It is antithetical to the exchanged life expressed as, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

 The church has made itself visible in culture.  Consider the architecture that creates a sense of sacred space as an aid to worship.  Art through the ages expresses Christian themes of creation, fall, redemption, eternity.  Our language, the calendar, and our ceremonies bear evidence of Christianity.  Yet, as noticeable as this is, this is not the visible faith we are called to.  Upon us is the imprint of the nail-scarred hands that are generous and gentle.  Inside us is a new heart of compassion for the helpless and hurting.  Within our mouths are the true words of grace to heal the sin-sick soul.

 What animates a visible faith is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22), which you know as the fruit of the Spirit’s presence.  With this harvest of character, your faith will not be intangible.  It will be visible.  “Seeing their faith,” it says.