A Statement

The New Yorker magazine recently published an article in which they interviewed a prominent politician’s family.  One of them made an unusual statement that likely expresses a common thought, and is worth exploring.

Here it is:  Religion is the most important thing in our lives.  But we don’t take it seriously.  I don’t proselytize.  I suspect that more people hold this view than would admit it publicly.  It is a curious contradiction but a concise statement about a belief system and its implications.

Religion is built around truth, ostensibly as an aid to faith.  But it can obscure and subvert faith. The Bible warns of the dangers of man-made religion replacing truth.  “Not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3).  Pluralism adds to the confusion today, holding that all religions are valid despite the illogic that mutually exclusive claims can coexist.  Just how important should religion be, really?

If religion is a form of godliness that denies its power (2 Tim. 3:5), no wonder it can’t be taken seriously.  If it is willing to acknowledge God’s existence without embracing His righteousness, that is no different than demons (Jas. 2:19).  If religion prescribes belief without changing behavior, “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 1:26).  Right belief leads to righteous living, including obedience to God’s moral code and humble service to others.  Such service means offering the same hope that you have received, even if you are accused of proselytizing. 

“Proselytize” is freighted with negative baggage.  If it is a condescending, pushy argument to coerce a belief change, no wonder it is considered boorish and unwelcome.  But to conclude “I don’t proselytize” could be more about an inconsequential belief system than about politeness.  What if God has revealed something about you (a sinner) and Himself (willing to bear your sins on the cross) that is true and of consequence for this life and the next?  That is a gift important and serious enough to share by word and deed.

Jesus told a sobering story about a wedding feast with an imposter not dressed in wedding clothes.  Hanging out with the real guests didn’t make him one.  He was thrown out (Matt. 22:13).  Following a powerless religion makes you an imposter; following Jesus means you are robed in righteousness, ready for the feast. 

That leads me to offer a re-crafted version of the subject statement:  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the most important person in our lives.  We take forgiveness and the gift of a reborn life seriously.  We gladly and humbly share this truth with anyone who would hear it.  Better, I hope.  But I doubt you’ll read it in the New Yorker.



C. S. Lewis imagines the world of temptations and temptors in his book “Screwtape Letters.”  In it, he has an evil creature Screwtape writing letters to his nephew Wormwood, a demon in training.  Lewis hoped that the uninformed would be drawn to it as a sort of a joke, but indeed he was as serious as temptation really is.

 Much of the advice Screwtape gives Wormwood is intended to keep people from acknowledging the reality of God (the “Enemy”) by maintaining an unhealthy connection to the world around them.  Lewis’ world at the time was the Blitz of London in 1941. 

 His primary inspiration was the Bible which, for one example, records the temptation of Jesus.  The devil made efforts to connect Jesus to this world by using the human need for food and desire for possessions.  Jesus responded by reciting the Hebrew Scriptures which emphasized dependence on God and other-worldliness.  Much about resisting temptation is packed into the words, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4).

 Lewis portrays Screwtape writing, “Our best method of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics, or eugenics, or ‘science,’ or psychology, or what not.”  Indeed God made us stewards of the earth, but to the extent improving conditions on earth or the plight of people omit the Creator, they are in vain.  The temptation is to believe in human devices to fix everything that is wrong.  “The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God” (1 Cor. 3:19).

 Lewis addresses the longterm habit of godlessness.  The temptation is to think of life as a continuously running play rather than the final act before eternity’s curtain call.  Screwtape’s letter says, “The job of their Tempters was first, of course, to harden these choices of the Hellward roads into a habit by steady repetition.  Thus gradually there comes to exist at the center of the creature a hard, tight, settled core of resolution to go on being what it is, and even to resist moods that might tend to alter it.  Here at last is a real and deliverable, though not fully articulate, rejection of what the Enemy calls Grace.”

Rejection of God’s grace is the ultimate deception.  Was Jesus thinking that when He invited us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4)?  Fortunately for us, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).  By God’s grace we can resist temptation, and worship and serve Him only.


I have never heard an animal ask a question, except maybe “Where’s the food?”  But people have lots of questions.  We live in a world of beauty and beastliness.  The questions arise we as try to reconcile the two.

 The questions you hear after a mass shooting like Las Vegas are about motive and gun control but extend much further:  How can humans have such a wide variety of perspectives?  How is it that we’ve made it this far as a species and can still be so opposite?  How could one human do this to others?  Why does nothing make any sense?  Do any lives really matter?  Is life a riddle not meant to be solved?

 If life began with chance occurrences in the midst of chaos, then indeed life doesn’t matter.  We’re but a blip in the cosmic timeline, an honest conclusion from such a worldview.  If life has no purpose or value, why reform gun laws to protect what has no value?  If everyone can decide his or her own morality, why not allow that the Las Vegas shooter was right in his own way?  The rationalist answers that humans can collectively discern what has value, but as Ravi Zacharias points out, “How do you trust your reason and logic if it came about by chance and chaos?”  A worldview that excludes God does nothing for those who suffer, and removes all hope that anyone ultimately can.

 In the aftermath of WWI, the poet William Yeats penned these lines:  “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”  It’s fair to ask today, “How do we live with more conviction about what’s true, and less intensity about what’s not?” 

 The center wasn’t holding 2800 years ago, when the Falconer sent his prophet to call to repentance a nation destroying people with its brutal use of power.  But Jonah would rather die than see God forgive them.  God said, “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand?” (Jonah 4:11).  A God of compassion is reason for optimism.

 Considering the world today, John Lennox asks, “Is there evidence that there is a God we can trust with it?  The Cross answers: God does not remain indifferent but enters into it.”  We are not alone, and the answers to life’s questions are found in the God who endured the worst humans have to offer, yet still loves and values you. 


Most of us probably don’t think about Heaven as oft as we might.  Much about it, as a real place, is revealed to us in the Bible.  But if we only associate such thoughts with funerals, no wonder we don’t dwell on it much.

Playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Heaven, as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, so miserable, that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seashore.”  But here’s the thing: just as you might rather be at the seashore, heaven is a place where the troubles of life are left behind.  Conventional isn’t Biblical in this case.

Heaven seems much more interesting when you consider what is not there.  In fact much of what is absent in heaven are the things on earth that make life hard.  You have endured burying your loved ones and mourning with the grief of separation, but no death or mourning in heaven.  You have cried over hurt, betrayal, loss.  You’ve experience pain from sickness, injury, or distress, but no crying or pain in heaven (Rev. 21:4).  You have been wounded by lies, but no lying in heaven (Rev. 21:27).  Imagine life without those!

Some things that are not in heaven are a surprise.  God told King David that Solomon would build the Temple in Jerusalem, a place associated with worship of God.  Stephen was martyred when he claimed that God doesn’t need a temple (Acts 7:48-50).  In fact, there will be no temple in heaven, “for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).  That suggests worship is not limited to a place, and that no place in heaven is apart from God’s presence.  The Lamb is a reference to Jesus.

It also surprising that heaven “has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it.”  Our earthly lives are regulated by the 24-hour daily cycle, and we take for granted that the sun shines by day, and the moon by night.  Why does heaven need no sun?  “For the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:23).

Heaven is a place of excitement and adventure because “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:17), a most interesting person!  This hope is laid up for you in heaven (Col. 1:5) which Jesus said He would prepare for you (John 14:2).  He, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, made the way to heaven clear: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).  Believe it!

Unity in Diversity

The great American experiment is summarized on our currency as “E Pluribus Unum,” or out of many, one. The diversity America is experiencing these days is anything but unifying.

Diversity is a good thing when it means respect for others and love for neighbor. If you look closely that idea is really about bringing unity in the midst of diversity.

The area around our town was once the land of the Cherokee nation. We recently dedicated a statue to show respect and gratitude for them. At the ceremony, a choir of Native American women sang familiar worship songs in their native languages. Jerry Wolfe, who holds the Cherokee title “Beloved Man,” offered the invocation. The elderly WWII veteran stepped to the podium, and in his heart language Cherokee, prayed the words of Jesus. It was a unifying moment in more ways than one.

Unity is so important in the body of Christ that the Lord Jesus included it in his high priestly prayer. He looked down through the ages, even to us today as he prayed, “I do not ask on behalf of these (disciples) alone, but those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You.” He went on to declare the reason. “That they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

Once I was teaching on this passage and an elderly saint signaled for my attention. Though his body was weak, he mustered a firm voice and declared, “One thing is more important than unity – sound doctrine.” It is true that Christians should be respectful to people who deny that Jesus is God the Son, but no unity of faith exists there. Mortimer Adler, Jewish philosopher who believed Jesus is Messiah, said, “There will have to be majesty and mystery in God himself. To me the Trinity is a revelation of how God is complete in Himself in one being as They relate in love and in language.” The Trinity is the highest expression of unity in diversity, and we are invited into that divine community.

Jesus pointed out that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25). We humans have much in common, and much to accomplish in community with one another. Diversity is beautiful when we unite in our worship of the God who sent his Son into this world, and the Son who sent his Spirit to the faithful. Heaven is for people of all nations and tribes, and you experience it here on earth when you find unity, even in diversity.