30 Seconds On Justice and Truth


Without God, morals are just preferences.

If you deny that there is a God, you have no philosophical grounding to be outraged by anything, from murder to racial hatred to poverty.  Without God, it’s all just opinion.  And you have no solid basis for indignance over an opinion.  Without God, racial hatred being evil is an opinion.  It may be a popular opinion, but without a higher appeal court than human judgment, an opinion is all it is.  

This is a lesson I want my country to learn.  A society cannot have long-lasting justice without upholding objective moral truth.  A society cannot have long-lasting justice without acknowledging God.  If you refuse to bring the question “But what does God say is right?” into any public discourse, you will not be able to administer justice for very long.  Because the only definition of “justice” you’ll be able to have will be a human one.  It’ll be subject to mob rule, or politicking, or purchase.  Justice is doing what is right, and if you don’t have an objective, non-debatable standard for what is right, then when you are just it will be by accident, not by design.  

You cannot have long-lasting justice without truth.  

And I want my nation to be just.  

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 

Isaiah 59:14-15

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A Tyrant and Jesus


In Daniel 8, the angel Gabriel explains to God’s prophet Daniel the nature of a specific evil pagan king who is coming down history’s chute.  Daniel, about 500 years before Jesus will be born, has been allowed to see a vision representing the next few colossal kingdom shifts in the world, and in particular given special insight into one future king.  

By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 

Daniel 8:25

I just want to take a quick minute point out that it is the nature of bad rulers to be proud.  From Pharaoh in Exodus to the beast in Revelation, Belshazzar in Daniel to Herod in the Gospels, from Nero to Stalin Kim Jong Un, bad kings want to set themselves up as gods.  They want to be worshiped.  They want to be feared.  They want to be adored.  They want your hearts and your money and your very selves.  And they will react violently when they don’t get them.

Contrast that with the King of Kings.  

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:3-5

Two very different pictures, Daniel 8 and John 13.  

The Bible does a good job of our preparing our eyes for tyrants, and preparing our hearts for the true King.  

The One whose hand will break all the unbreakable tyrants.  

We Need A Better Scapegoat Than Matt Lauer


There is a fairly common human impulse to find a scapegoat.  

We will put forth a person who has done some evil deed, and our righteous anger at him is supposed to absolve us of any of our own moral guilt.  And his punishment is supposed to be enough to lower the cosmic justice deficit so that our punishment just gets graciously overlooked, like a first time $40 overdraft fee (he said with experience).  

We collectively put forward someone we all agree did something truly hideous to be our divine judgment-bearer (because even those who don’t believe in god believe in God).  

“This one.  Take him as our offering.  He has _________.  We are all outraged (and secretly grateful it wasn’t us who was put forth for our sins).  We have banished him from the good graces of our society.  Please look away from us, now.”

But even righteous outrage won’t make a man righteous.  And another person who deserves punishment getting punished doesn’t make me any less deserving of mine.  I need more than just a pointed finger and another sinner getting his just desserts.  

I need a truly righteous man to give me his righteousness.  And then I need him to take my punishment for me.  

Now, there was actually a time in the reign of King David when God punished the land for the sin of a man long dead, but allowed for an imperfect human scapegoat to bring a temporary end to His judgment.  

Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year.  And David sought the face of the Lord.  And the Lord said, ‘There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.’  So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them.  Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites.  Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah.  And David said to the Gibeonites, ‘What shall I do for you?  And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the Lord?’  The Gibeonites said to him, ‘It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.’  And he said, ‘What do you say that I shall do for you?’  They said to the king, ‘The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.’  And the king said, ‘I will give them.’  But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Saul’s son Jonathan, because of the oath of the Lord that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.  The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the Lord, and the seven of them perished together.  They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest.

2 Samuel 21:1-9

God allowed the deaths of these men, with their bodies hung up for all to see, to be His people’s scapegoat.  He allowed them to be put forth as the people’s representatives.  

But this was all foreshadowing the Great Scapegoat to come once and for all 1,000 years later.  His body, hung for all to see on another mount (but before the same Lord), would appease a far more terrifying judgment.  And it would bring a far greater healing than an end to a famine.  

If I may repeat myself:  This is a very basic human impulse, this desire to put someone else forward as the evil one.  After all, we each know we’ve sinned, and we know what the penalty for sin is.  So what hope is there but a scapegoat?  But being outraged about Matt Lauer or Russell Simmons won’t save you.  And they cannot be your scapegoat (or mine).  We should hate sin, both our own and that of others, but we cannot expiate our own individual guilt by trying to put forward a famous person with his own deviant sexual sins to answer for.  He won’t do.  

We need a better scapegoat.  We need, in fact, the best one.  

We need the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the reconciliation of His Cross.  

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

2 Corinthians 5:21

She Must Not Be Silent


It seems to me that 21st century Western culture says that the church may be fine, but should stay in its own sphere and not really effect public life.  By contrast, God says that the church is His instrument of salvation and reconciliation in the world, and that, however much Hell would like to triumph over her, she will stand forever.  

Two very different views.  

Our day and place seem to view the Christian church with ambivalence mixed with a smidgen of scorn.  I argue that the Bible paints her as a blemished but divine sword, being forged (and slowly refined) in a fire to cut through Hell and sin and death and damnation.  She is an imperfect instrument being used perfectly.  She is a flawed body whose Head (Jesus Christ) knows exactly what He is doing.  The church is not a joke.  She is not irrelevant.  She should not stay in her Sunday school room and leave the world to do what it thinks best.  

She has the only message of freedom to an enslaved world, and she should not stay silent, no matter what the world says.  

“But we don’t want you speaking about that sin.”

You mean that thing over there, the one that will kill you and those around you?  That evil that promises God’s wrath on you and will afflict our fellow human beings and will bring judgment on our nation?  That’s the one you want us to pipe down about?  Well then I dare say our finger is actually on a very important nerve there, I’m afraid.  For I venture to say there is a reason you want us to stay quiet about that sin, as opposed to others.  

“But you must not carry that into work or public life.”

You mean I should check my Savior at the door, then?  I’m sorry, but that’s the very thing I must not do.  Both for your good and for mine.

“But you churches don’t even agree amongst yourselves.”

In some ways and in some things we don’t, it’s true.  But if we believe and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are a part of His massive body, His Church.  And He is faithful to help us speak His Word, albeit imperfectly, for the salvation of souls and the blessing of the world, even though each of our individual churches or denominations is almost certainly honestly wrong about some things.  The beautiful thing is that His Word is clearest where it is most crucial, and so Gospel-preaching churches will always be able to agree where it matters most:  The sinfulness of man, the perfectness of Christ, His death and resurrection as God and God’s Son to save those who will believe in Him, and His future return to make all things right.  

The church of Jesus Christ should not seek to be as harmless and quiet as our present culture would like her to be.  True, she is not a belligerent Bride, but she absolutely shares the convictions and the mission of her Husband:  The rescue and repentance of sinners to the glory of God.  

Christian churches, we are not to stay in a corner and do our best to not to bother anybody.  Read the book of Acts.  We have a grand mission.  And though it will frustrate many who are hardhearted (like our Savior frustrated many who were hardhearted), it will transform the lives of many others forever.   

We have a calling that only we can perform.  

And we cannot perform it by being silent. 

60 Seconds Exhorting You Not to Complain


Ultimately, complaining is you indicting God. 

And that is neither a safe nor a wise thing to do.  

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.  Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity?  Curse God and die.’  But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 

Job 2:7-10

When you complain, at least 2 sinful assumptions in your heart are being revealed.  

  1. You believe you deserve better than the thing you’re complaining about.  This is sinful because you are denying God’s pronouncement that you have sinned gravely against Him, and the only thing that you truly deserve is His eternal wrath.  You are indicting God’s goodness.  
  2. You believe you know better than God.  After all, you certainly would not have chosen this thing that happened, which is of course why you are huffing and puffing about the fact that it did.  This is sinful because you are placing your own wisdom above God’s.  You are indicting God’s wisdom.  

For a complainer, the chief problem is not the thing he is complaining about.  The biggest issue at hand is the sin in his heart that his complaining is revealing.  

To complain is to indict God for not being good enough and not being wise enough.  And the fact that we are not right this moment in His Hell, the place our wickedness and selfishness merits, is proof that He is plenty good.  And His rocksteady Word and the fact that in contrast to Him I am a fickle, petty, shortsighted man remind me He darn sure is wise

So the answer to the bitterness and anger and fear and rage that swirl around your complaint is not merely to fix what ticked you off.  That won’t fix the underlying cause.  That’s just treating the symptom.  

Ultimately, the solution you need in the midst of your complaint is repentance, followed by wholeheartedly casting yourself on the mercy and wisdom of the God of Jesus Christ.  You must call your sin sin and then entrust yourself to the undeserved love of Jesus Christ.  

But don’t ever think that getting rid of the annoying or frustrating thing will be the ultimate answer.  

Complaining is the symptom.  

Sin is the disease.  

Politics Is Too Small A Story


So this past weekend the New York Times published an editorial that I think was pretty revealing about a pulse I sense in the current American bloodstream.  If I can put a name to that pulse:  A lot of Americans currently see themselves primarily as actors in a political play.  Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, one of the most interesting parts of life to them is this political narrative.  They are willing to make major life choices (like, ahem, who they will be friends with) based on political storylines.  

Now, I think some of this is due to the fact that the secular west that America is a part of has largely removed at least three major components from the center of human life:  Worship of a deity (whether a false one or the one true God of Jesus Christ), marriage, and bearing and raising children.  But it has to put something at the center of its people’s lives, because human beings inherently live for things.  So since deity, marriage, and raising children are pushed to the cultural side, the secular West places a cosmic political battle at the heart of life.  It says that this is what we live for.  By contrast, I don’t think the political landscape is central to the average Nigerian, who is plugged into a church and has six children.

But more than talking about the cause, I wanted to take a second and simply highlight a better story (and, thankfully, a truer story) than the one that cradles mindsets like this editorialist’s.  

Human beings need to see themselves in story.  We are made this way by the Author of the grand Autobiography around us.  This editorialist’s posture makes sense if you see yourself in a story where every human being is either an oppressor or oppressed (or an instrument of oppression).   But that is not the story the Bible tells.  And hence it is not the story we are in.  

The Bible places us in a much grander story, a cosmic narrative in which a spiritual rebel against the good Creating King has seduced humanity to follow him.  And this rebellion has scarred the universe by bringing upon it the curse of death and suffering.  But in this shadowed and groaning world, that good King has entered the drama as chief groaner, and all to take into His own heart and flesh the pain and agony and judgment and death that our sin makes us deserve.  

Through that sacrifice that He willingly and passionately made, and because of the victory He won by coming back from the other side of death, this King is ransoming for Himsef a people out of this wicked rebellion.  He is winning them back.  And He will one day plant them on a remade world, a new creation that is everything that should have been and everything that once was.  

That is the story we are in.  Not one of merely political schema or of America versus North Korea.  Not one of Good People Group A against Malevolent People Group B.  Not one of one humanly constructed ideaology triumphing over another.  (Not even one of how far I can rise at the office or how many people I can get to admire me on Facebook.)  This current American narrative of one political group heroically fighting against a villainous counterpart is too small to live for and too fragile to hope in.  

And that is the heartbeat, an all too common one, that I see revealed in this editorial.  And it’s a sad one.  A person who believes the greatest struggle is politics has no greater demon to fight than the other party.  He has no greater worship song to sing than the voices of his favorite pundits.  He has no stronger altar to kneel at than the one engraved with his favorite political issue.  

We have a greater story to live for than Barack Obama versus Donald Trump.  We have a better hope than either house of Congress can provide.  There is a King on the throne, and He has done something remarkable.  

And it’s not done yet.  

He is returning to finish what He started.  

Your Life As A House


I was thinking this morning during a conversation with my wife.  That happens a lot on Saturday mornings, because we both drink coffee and the kids quiet down as we drive around our side of town and sight see.  The thoughts were about people we know who claim to be Christians, and think they are going to Heaven, but who I doubt very much ever talk about, think about, pray to, delight in, or want to obey Jesus.  

I don’t know if such people have ever been taught what Christianity really is.   

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish.  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’

Luke 14:25-33

Christianity must, by definition, change and even govern a man’s life.  

Let’s try a mental exercise.  

Picture your life as a house.  

Doesn’t matter what kind of a house.  Bungalow, cape cod, ranch, I don’t care.  Throw a swimming pool in the back if you want.  But picture your life, all of it, as a house right now for me.  

Got it in your mind?  Okay.  

Now, ask yourself, if you are a Christian:  What is your Christianity in that house?  

And be honest.  I can’t hear your answer.  And just as good for me is the fact that you can’t hear mine.  

Is it a trophy on a shelf, sitting there decorating the place and making it slightly more presentable?  

Or is it a lovely picture on the living room wall, commemorating a happy time, but a silent picture, not having any voice at the dinner table or any sway in the discussions of the household budget?  

Is your Christianity the front porch, laced with Christmas lights so that passersby admire and point and even envy what your house must be like on the inside?  

Or is it a bookshelf, filled with knowledge and ideas, kind of the brain center of your house, but not exactly the place you go to when you’re desperate and scared or to celebrate a happy occasion?   

Or maybe it’s the security system, set up around your house to keep you safe from what scary, unknown things might be out there in the world.  But definitely not something you really have to think about daily or interact with or, you know, enjoy.  

Maybe it’s a whole room in your house, a room with a sign over the door that says “My Christian Faith,” and you go in that room every day.  I mean every day.  The hinges on the door need to be replaced because of the sum total of times you go in and out of there to be a Christian for a few minutes or even a few hours.   

What is Christianity in this house that is your life (tucked away in the cul-de-sac at the end of Metaphor Avenue)?

Christianity, true Christianity, demands to be the house itself and the souls inside of it.  It permeates everything that takes place inside that home.  It is not just the same color paint that’s on every room’s walls, it is the foundation and the walls themselves and the plot of land, it is everything that encompasses the living going on inside that address.  It never stops being the very atmosphere in which all the decisions are made, the loving is done, the fights are had, the sins are committed and repented of, the joys are laughed over, the deaths are mourned, the television shows are watched, the lessons are learned, and the prayers are prayed.  Christianity is not a part of a man’s life.  It is his life.  Everything else occurs within it.  

Tonight I will watch some TV with my wife. We’ll take the kids to the grocery store.  We’ll worship as a family.  I’ll sin in anger or fear at some point.  Each of the kids will sin at some point.  I’ll read some Bible.  I’ll pray.  I’ll sin again.  

All of these things are done within my being a disciple of Jesus.  This whole life He’s purchased for me is under His Lordship, His providence, and His love.  I feed my soul healthy food when I think of my life as being totally enveloped by Christ, because that is the beautiful truth.  

That is what being a Christian is.  It is to have a new life, one different from the old, one that He built, then bought, and then paid for.   

It is His.  All of it.  

This life I live has no mortgage.  But it’s His name on the deed.