The Race

Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson made quite a splash in some circles recently.  They are both religious influencers who announced in writing that they are stepping away from the Christian faith.  That’s disappointing, but should we be surprised?  Probably not.

In recent years, Pew Research Center studies have documented the increase of the “nones” (religiously unaffiliated) in the U.S.  The most oft-cited reasons for people categorizing themselves this way is that they disagree with teachings on religious and social issues.  To unpack that, they find more truth in culture than in Christianity.  Statements made by Harris and Sampson reflect that trend, and raise a question.  Must authentic, Biblical faith pass a cultural litmus test?

Jesus was a bit counter-cultural.  A lot, actually.  Those who considered him a revolutionary used that as the proximate cause of his execution, which he willingly endured for His eternal cause.  He knew His followers would face the risks of cultural pushback and even apostasy, so He warned about it in parables (Matt. 13).  The seeds fell on rocky and thorny places, and they didn’t endure.  The weeds grew with the wheat, at least until they didn’t.

The New Testament book of Hebrews uses some version of the word “endure” eight times in chapters 10 – 12.  The context of that exhortation is faith, and reasons to believe.  It becomes apparent that endurance is the fruit of a well-grounded faith, not the cause of it.  Don’t miss that.  Such faith might make you a public spectacle because of your view of eternity (10:32-34).  But by faith you endure and do the will of God, not of the cultural influencers of the day (10:35-36).  Your time on earth is finite, but by faith your soul endures (10:39).

Hebrews 11, the “hall of faith,” describes the deeds of men and women who had an assurance, a conviction about eternal truth.  They actively resisted the incoherent truth claims of their day, and they are our examples.  They proved the world was not worthy of them.  You do the same when you resist our culture’s confusions such as, when people believe something it becomes their truth; faith is worthless because it doesn’t stop bad things from happening; and, if you don’t celebrate all facets of this cultural moment, you’re a hater and your religion is evil.

So, you’re in a race to the finish line of faith.  The goal is to get there, not to be first.  With all the encumbrances and entanglements around you, how do you endure?  How do you make sure you don’t become a “none” writing an awkward note to those who thought otherwise?  By “fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).  Believe, and endure.




Why am I here? Does life have purpose? These are questions probed by philosophers, but they are also very personal, freighted with implications.

Someone with no good answer is more likely to succumb to the modern suicide epidemic. “Psychology Today” magazine reports that the suicide rate now exceeds highway fatalities, and is higher than it has been since 1950. A pointless life is unbearable and lonely.

Author Thomas Wolfe concluded that loneliness is inevitable. In his essay, “God’s Lonely Man,” he expressed a certain meaningless. “All this hideous doubt, despair, and dark confusion of the soul a lonely person must know, for he is united to no image save that which he creates himself. He has no faith in him except his own and often that faith deserts him leaving him shaken and filled with impotence. Then it seems to him that his life has come to nothing.”

Contributing to the problem is scientism, the belief that science can answer all questions. Zoology professor and Nobel Prize winner Peter Medawar warned young scientists about that. “I have in mind such questions as: “How did everything begin?” “What are we all here for?” “What is the point of living?” These questions become incoherent if you accept evolution as settled science. Why should you, a collection of molecules arranged by a meaningless, random process, expect to find transcendent meaning?

The Bible has answers that are coherent and reasonable. Its explanations correspond to what we observe and deduce. Scientists regularly observe evidence of design quite beyond the reach of Darwinism. We deduce that since nothing material causes itself, logic demands a First Cause, a Creator. So, to what end would God create your soul to reside in an earthly body? Abraham left hearth and home for unknown places because “he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). Paul counted “all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8). These men lived with purpose!

John Piper summarizes that your purpose is to magnify God. He compares that to a telescope by which the unimaginably vast universe can become visible to the human eye. “You are on planet earth to put a telescope to the eye of the world. That’s why you exist. By your behavior, your parenting, the way you do your job, the way your worship, and the way you handle your life, everyone should read, ‘God is great.’ ”

A transformed life of faith reflects the greatness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Seek and know your Creator, Savior, and Counselor! You will find no higher meaning.

Home Forever

A young woman paced the sidewalk outside the pastor’s home. He and his wife were preparing for a picnic in the park.  They noticed woman’s tentative attempts to approach their door.

F.W. Boreham wrote about his experience that day. Realizing that the woman needed something, he invited her inside.  She poured out the heart-rending tragedy of her baby’s sudden death.  She needed help with the burial.  She confided that the baby was born out of wedlock, and was deformed.  That changed nothing for the pastor.  The next day he, his wife, and the woman laid the baby to rest during a driving rainstorm in a barren place.

The woman found a home with Boreham’s church because they treated her with love, care, and respect. She must have known that the cemetery was not her baby’s home.  Ravi Zacharias comments, “The respect shown in a cemetery comes not because it is home, but because it is where we bid believing loved ones a temporary good-bye.  Jesus came from the Father and returned to the Father to prepare a place for you and for me.  That’s home.”  That’s your destiny when you believe Jesus.

He refers to Jesus’ words, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).  Jesus did not just speak of life after death philosophically, but he demonstrated it physically.  He assured Martha that her brother would live again saying, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:26).  Then he raised Lazarus.  Later he raised Himself from the dead.

This life beyond, in a prepared place, is where community, reunions, and love happen. Isn’t that what a home is?  This place is not just for being with loved ones again, but being with the One who loves us.  Jesus wants you to be with Him.

Stuart Hine was a pre-WWII missionary to the Russian people. They sang a hymn that he translated to English.  After the war, a displaced man told how he despaired of finding his wife, and longed to meet her again in heaven.  That inspired Hine to pen another verse to the hymn.  When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

You worship a great God who rescues you from the bounds of time and decay! You can travel lightly on this earthly journey with the confirmation that you have a place to call home, forever.



Taste the Salt

Journalist Mindy Belz spoke truth to power at the 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom sponsored by the U.S. State Department.  She argued that a culture will miss the Christian community when it’s gone.

Belz has a deep resume of reporting from war-torn areas while embedded with affected communities.  She said, “In Iraq, Christians formed the backbone of the middle class.  They were the shopkeepers and professionals.  Without them, Iraq is poorer.  The ‘victims,’ then, aren’t only those who are targeted.”  A society that pushes Christians to the margins writes itself into a groundless, exploitative pulp fiction.  It ignores the true stories of the past and present that tell of Christians seasoning cultures with compassion, dignity, and charity.

In ancient Rome, we rescued babies left to die, tended people sick with plagues, and fed the hungry including non-Christians.  In the Middle Ages we founded universities and advanced science and medicine.  Today we have organizations like these 2019 Hope Awards for Effective Compassion recipients: Scarlet Hope in Louisville, that rescues exploited women; Little Light Christian School in Oklahoma City that educates children of prisoners; 20schemes in Scotland that lifts people from poverty, crime, and addiction; Watered Gardens in Joplin, MO, that helps jobless and homeless men; and Purposeful Design in Indianapolis that provides woodworking jobs to former prisoners.

In his book, Unimaginable, Jeremiah Johnston describes how Christians benefit humanity, and why.  It’s because believers past and present have seen by this light: “God is loving; human life (that is, all life – old, young, sick, healthy, disabled, afflicted) is sacred to God; and…believing the kingdom of God was coming and yet in their midst, they prepared by caring for the sick, marginalized, and hurting, immediately.”  Indeed, that is what Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount, considered a magnum opus of ethics for His followers (Matt. 5-7).  And did He not elevate love of God and neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40) as the greatest commands?  Even if an individual or culture does not accept Jesus’ teachings, they will benefit from having people around who take them seriously.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?” (Matt. 5:13).  Make no mistake.  It’s not just about a grain of salt.  It takes many shakes of the shaker to bend the flavor curve, even as each grain does its part.  Simply said, you are part of something far larger than yourself when you participate in what the Father is doing in the world.  Jesus said He did only what the Father directed (John 5:19), and He’s our example.  God is glorified, and your life, family, and culture are more savory when your life of faith is lived so that people taste the salt.