Have you heard about the “red pill” phenomenon? A growing number of people are announcing on social media their rejection of the political correctness, identity politics, and victimhood of their past. They don’t buy it anymore. In the movie “The Matrix,” the hero could take a blue pill and remain in the artificial world, or the red pill where he comes to reality.

That people can experience a paradigm shift is not new. The ancient Greek language has a word, “metanoia,” that means to rethink something, change your mind, and turn away. Os Guinness in his book “Fool’s Talk,” explains that for the Christian “it signifies the complete about-face of heart, mind, thought and life that triggers conversion and initiates the migration from one reality to another – from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.”

The Hebrew Scripture has the salacious story of King David taking Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. He tried to cover it up, then had Uriah killed. The prophet Nathan knew it, and came to David explaining that a rich man stole a poor man’s sole lamb. Outraged, David ruled that the culprit must die. Nathan cut him with, “You are the man!” On the spot, David admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12). Jesus told a story about a wealthy man whose son demanded his inheritance. The son squandered it all with loose living. After he took a lowly job feeding swine, he came to his senses. He re-thought his situation and returned to his father, who welcomed him back with open arms. David and the prodigal son experienced “metanoia.”

Repentance is one of those mysterious places where the love of God and the will of man intersect. On the one hand it is a gift: “God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25); “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance to life” (Acts 11:18). On the other, it is a command: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). To grasp this, you must know that repentance is not just trying to live right. Billy Graham said, “It is a simple recognition of what we are. We see ourselves as God sees us, and we say “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Steve McVey explains, “Repentance is nothing more than changing our minds about Him and what He has already done to deal with sin. Do you want to be sure you have fully repented of all your sins? Then see them as having been taken away by His finished work.”

By grace through faith in the Lord Jesus you enjoy a new life, and see reality as God does. To receive that, are you willing to experience “metanoia”?


Faith in Suffering

What does your faith offer when life doesn’t turn out the way you want?  Does it withstand the hurricane, the sickness, the tragedy?  If your faith demands nothing less than a nice life, then it is a house of cards. 

 Last year I introduced you to Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, a young man who embraced faith in Christ, leaving behind the religion of his family.  Last year, he released his latest book, No God But One – Allah or Jesus.  The same month, he announced that he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  The critics and cynics cry that his faith has done him no good, or that he is being punished for converting to Christ.  Last week in a video message from his bed at MD Anderson in Houston, he said if a miracle is coming, “it needs to happen in the next few days.”  He prayed, “If it shouldn’t be Your will, then I trust You. And I love you anyway.” 

 His colleagues Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale published a book, Why Suffering? in which they explore many Christian responses to the question.  They suggest that what is behind the question is the belief that if indeed a good and powerful God allows suffering, we deserve to know the reasons.  Yet we don’t, and can’t because we cannot see what God does, at least for now.  “Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

 Have you ever known someone angry at God because He didn’t preserve their nice life? Pastor Tim Keller said, “If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know.”  It makes no sense to blame the God who is, by treating Him as though He is not.  Is it not more reasonable to trust the God who Himself endured the human condition even to the point of death, yet lives to give us hope?  The eternal perspective is that one day, Faithful and True will put an end to this fallen world.  The invitations will be issued to the great marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19).  Then your suffering will either make sense or won’t matter anymore. 

 The 19th C. poet George Wade Robinson wrote, “Things that once were wild alarms cannot now disturb my rest, closed in everlasting arms, pillowed on the loving breast.  Oh, to lie forever here, doubt and care and self resign while He whispers in my ear, I am His, and He is mine.”  By faith in the Lord Jesus, it is so.

Paired Purposes

In case you missed it, within the span of a week in August, nature had something to say. From the ecstasy of the eclipse and the horrors of the hurricane, creation repeated an ancient truth.

For those fortunate enough to witness the eclipse, it was a moving moment, a spiritual experience. For that day, our thoughts were not on angry mobs, sparring politicians, or nuclear-armed despots. Our eyes were heavenward as though to see God Himself as the moon made the sun blink. We experienced it together.

The flooding in Texas would not be a disaster if it happened on a deserted island. It happened to people. Uniformed public servants doing their jobs and volunteers with their boats and trucks became neighbors with those who might differ by race, politics, culture, language or income. We are attracted to such heart-warming stories because we know what is good. Our eyes are drawn to people as we try to imagine if we lost our house, possessions, job, or family. We respond together.

Being created in God’s image means we yearn for the sublime and the compassionate. We want to be moved and to care. Don’t the eclipse and the hurricane reveal that? We are humbled and awestruck by the power of that message. God said, “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, or fix their rule over the earth? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that an abundance of water will cover you?” (Job 38:33-34). In the aftermath of these natural events, our hearts soar upward at the majesty of God and our hands reach outward to the victims in Texas. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mat. 22:36-38). God and fellow man are our priorities.

A pastor friend says, “On this earth only two things are eternal, the Word of God and the souls of people.” Well said. What matters on this fallen, dangerous, and strife-filled earth is God and what He has said, and people whom He loves. Our fellow human beings matter to us because they matter to God, and we are created in his image.

A pair of natural events a week apart remind us of the two great commandments, to love God and neighbor. Look not upon the things that distract and divide, but those that focus and unite. Find beauty and healing in the world as you pursue the paired purposes of loving God and neighbor. And may God bless the victims of this hurricane season through us, their neighbors.


Did you hear about the flap over the chapel at East Central University in Oklahoma?  They were going to remove all crosses and Bibles from the building.  Then they weren’t.  I reckon they will eventually answer the broadside from the iconoclasts in court. 

 You may be familiar with the work of some advocacy groups that want to liberate the public from anything Christian, with their legal strategy to move the line between establishment and free exercise.  At times it seems this may ultimately be successful, if removing Bibles and prayers from where they once were is any indication of where we are headed.  Dr. Robert Wilken of the University of Virginia wrote in 2004, “The unhappy fact is that the society in which we live is no longer neutral about Christianity.” 

 What if we live in a society that tears down Christian symbols, and liberates the public discourse of anything but Orwellian newspeak?  The struggle against that should continue.  But as the Hebrew prophet said, “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places” (Hab. 3:17-19).

 Despite the chilling cultural climate, believers walk the high road because we are the Lord’s visible presence, His body.  Yes we can (and should) argue about a university chapel, but even if symbols and freedoms disappear, we are still here.  In “The Benedict Option,” Rod Dreher writes, “The first Christians gained converts not because their arguments were better than those of the pagans but because people saw in them and their communities something good and beautiful – and they wanted it.  This led them to the Truth.”  People are attracted to love, not argument.

 Here’s why it matters.  I borrow from Andrew Young who told NPR, “These (BLM activists) grew up free, but they don’t realize what still enslaves them, and it’s not those (civil war) monuments.”  Those in our culture who are no longer neutral about Christianity do not realize they are enslaved by something other than what they are trying to eradicate.  Jesus’ church stands ready to receive in love those cultural refugees who have had enough of the misplaced outrage.  Jesus Christ is not an enemy to resist, He’s a Liberator to embrace!