A Trustworthy Statement

Who can you trust these days?  What lies behind that question is the basic human need to rely on people and information.  Without trust, things fall apart.

It is a delight to have people you can trust in your life.  They are honest, dependable, and consistent.  They keep confidences and act with integrity.  The problem is that people can fail and every time you experience a betrayal, your trustworthy bar is raised. It’s a lonely life when that bar is too high for anyone to clear.  And if you’re honest, sometimes you can’t even trust yourself.  Rash thinking, unchecked emotions, and bad habits betray your best intentions.

We would like to trust the institutions that make society work, like the legal system.  But what do we make of FISA court abuses resulting in unwarranted surveillance of American citizens?  Or the district attorney failing to act in the Ahmaud Arbery case, requiring the state investigators to step in?  Or the IRS seizing a citizen’s assets with no criminal charges filed and no verdict pronounced?

Surely we can trust science!  Yet we hear rumors that scientists initiated the current pandemic by creating a COVID virus in a lab.  In 2018, a scientist used CRISPR technology to edit the genes of twin girls without knowing the unintended consequences of those edits.  Are scientists constrained by ethics, free from biases of their own thinking and influence by the governments and mega-companies that fund them?  Can we trust scientists and their followers who treat the profession as the sole arbiter of truth?  That’s not science but scientism, a religion.

Despite human imperfection, you can still find examples of trustworthiness.  Couples celebrate 50 years of marriage.  Schoolteachers instruct children with care.  Pastors stay true to their message.  Business managers keep their word.  Employees are honest and dedicated.  You can even walk out of your own valley of disloyalty, though it can be a long and scrutinized journey back to trustworthiness.

In a world where betrayal, dishonesty, and incompetence can appear without warning, your best hope is to trust this:  “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement” (Titus 3:3-8).

Value People

I long to hear just one politician begin a sentence with, “My honorable opponent and I disagree…” Political discourse rarely rises above acrimony and invective. But it helps me show you something.

The usual political topics are crime (riots, mandatory sentencing), the pandemic (initial response, shutdowns, vaccine), the economy (trade deals, unemployment) and injustice (race issues, police reform). These topics are weaponized to wound political opponents. But notice that all of these issues are about people. People need safety, health, income, and justice. Politicians may be after a vote, but their appeal is based on this: People are valuable.

You know people have intrinsic value beyond their vote. You react in horror when a person is killed, but not when the exterminator arrives at your house. Could a mindless, valueless, material universe produce beings with minds that understand value? Indeed, the logical outcome of that belief system is to deny that any universal reason exists to consider people any more valuable than a cockroach. If the universe created itself, you are free to choose your morality and values. Yet somehow you still value human life.

Ravi Zacharias once told of sharing breakfast with a man who declared that no evidence of God exists, so life is only material. The man also shared that his wife battled a disease that could end her life. He clearly loved and valued his wife of many years. Zacharias tenderly challenged him, “How can she have such value, if all life is nothing more than chemicals?” The man realized the power of that logic and left encouraged.

How is it that human life is valuable, and we know it? It is embedded within us by our Creator, who is apart from the material universe. “In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). The only creature God values enough to make in His image is a human. That’s why “He loved us and sent His Son to be the (payment) for our sins.” Our challenge is, “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). Our capacity to love and value one another is from God.

God values you and knows you by name. That chases away loneliness because “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Psa. 34:18). It offers you purpose, to love and serve the One who values you. You have an eternal destiny which is yours to claim, by faith in the One who loves you.

So, instead of reacting in angst to today’s cultural and political invective, let it remind you of the underlying assumption: People have value because God exists. Let it move you to a divine expression of your humanity: Be like your Creator and value people, even those on the other side of the political aisle.

 

Naming Wisdom

Let’s talk politics.  Sorta.  The people in elected offices and we electors who put them there need wisdom in a huge way, and soon.

Here are some vexing topics of late.  #MeToo. Kneeling for the flag. Injustice. Racial unrest. Antifa.  Murders.  American cities looking like war zones.  COVID.  Economic shutdown.  Immigration. Impeachment. North Korean nuclear bombs.  China’s ambition for world dominance and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities. Russian meddling. Hurricanes. Concurrent with all of this disturbance is the runup to the next U.S. election, with each side warning of cheating and apocalyptic outcomes.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” as Dickens opens “A Tale of Two Cities,” set during the French Revolution.  He adds, “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”  He could have been describing our current cultural upheaval, which some would like to be a kind of revolution.  If so, I pray it’s more about the best of times and the age of wisdom than the alternatives.

We need leaders wise about the long term and unintended consequences of ideas.  John Stonestreet likes to say, “Ideas have consequences; bad ideas have victims.” If we are wise, we will seek leaders with good ideas, and thereby love our neighbors and fellow citizens by not making victims of them with bad ideas.

Make no mistake.  Wisdom is from God.  Ideas that seem wise at the time can turn out to be otherwise.  Such ideas are “worldly” wisdom.  “Where is the wise man?  Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20).  The world offers so much to deceive you into believing a lie.  That leads to confirmation bias, only considering evidence that furthers the lie.  “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind” (Prov. 18:2).

The Bible explains wisdom.  By contrast: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).  By relationship: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).  And by Name: “You are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

I recently had the privilege of chatting with author Os Guiness about his recent book, Last Call for Liberty.  In it he writes, “America, America.  Do you know what time it is?  Do you understand the meaning of this moment?  Freedom is at stake.”  I asked, “Is there a tipping point when America can no longer return to its founding ideal of liberty?” He hesitated then offered, “Yes. When America’s leaders tolerate evil.”

God help us. Seek His Wisdom. By name.

The Reveal

Drew Brees (NFL quarterback) appeared on television earlier this year, but people didn’t know who he was.  Until the reveal.

He filmed an episode of “Undercover Boss” as an owner of Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux.  In disguise, he worked as a dishwasher.  After experiencing stories of hard work and loyalty among the employees, he and co-owner Brandon Landry surprised them with college scholarships for their kids.  The climax of the show is the reveal and generosity of the owners.

The sad truth is that many people are yet unaware of the greatest reveal in history, and it wasn’t made for TV.  Every two years, Lifeway Research conducts a “State of Theology” poll, asking people to respond to survey statements.  This year’s poll finds that 52% of Americans and 30% of evangelicals believe “Jesus was a good teacher, but he was not God.”  Also, 65% of evangelicals believe “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.”  God has revealed Himself quite differently than those two statements.

The Bible portrays a scene in heaven in which the “Ancient of Days” treated the “Son of Man” as God (Dan. 7).  Jesus frequently identified Himself as that Son of Man.  The Messiah is “Mighty God” who would be born as a child (Isa. 9).  Jesus “was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him” (John 1:2-3). Jesus is “before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).  Jesus told naysayers, “Before Abraham was born, I Am” (John 8:58), staking his claim to the given name of God.  Jesus is God the Son, not a created being.

The grand reveal of all time happened when the eternal Creator took on a created body and walked amidst His creation. The early church confronted the Arian heresy that denied that fact.  In his day, C. S. Lewis tried “to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ ”

Please take this kindly.  If you don’t know that Jesus is God the Son, your Creator, it means you don’t know that the need of your soul is so great that it requires God Himself to be your Savior.  It means you don’t understand Christmas – God appearing in the flesh.  It means you can’t appreciate the cross – God atoning for your sins, and Easter – God conquering death for you.  It means you haven’t experienced the depths of God’s love and desire for you to be with Him forever.

Imagine knowing a generous and influential person who never revealed himself.  I’m not talking about Drew Brees, but Jesus.  And the question is not “Who was He?” but “Who is He?”  The reveal is quite good news!