Author Archives: glkauffman77

Abortion and the Christian: Given the Mood of the Country, We’ll be Called on to Defend What We Believe

With President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice, we’ll soon be hearing a lot more about abortion, the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 and when life begins in the womb.

As Christians, we’ll be in the thick of things, whether we speak up or are merely linked by association. So here are a few key things to know as the debate about Kavanaugh heats up.

A Brief History of Birth and Abortion

First, let’s look backwards. Throughout most of the world’s known history, abortion has either been illegal or so rare as to go unmentioned. Even though abortions took place in clandestine areas, they were mostly sought by prostitutes or by those attempting to hide illicit affairs.

Child birth itself killed a fair share of babies and mothers.

A few historical societies have allowed abortion, but before modern scientific breakthroughs, the goal was to keep as many kids alive as possible. Child birth itself killed a fair share of babies and mothers, and childhood diseases that are now eradicated or easily treatable killed many other children in their first few years of life. Just 100 years ago, a flu epidemic swept the nation – and most of world – decimating the population. In one family I personally know of, three children died in a single week.

In agrarian societies, more children meant more workers for the farm, so there was no incentive to limit the number of children being born. If you had 10 and six or seven lived to adulthood it was great news.

So killing babies through abortion was a ridiculous idea for most of history.

The Roe v. Wade Decision

It wasn’t until the Free Sex Era of the 1960s and ‘70s that the easy access to abortion became a growing concern. In 1970, a Texas woman named Norma McCorvey – who became infamous under the pseudonym Jane Roe – became pregnant and sought to end her pregnancy. But the illegal abortion center she went to had been shut down. She then falsely claimed she’d been raped, thinking that would get her access to a legal abortion. It didn’t.

McCorvey sought the help of two female lawyers, who filed a lawsuit to declare the Texas law prohibiting legal abortions to be unconstitutional. It eventually reached the Supreme Court, and after being argued and reargued over more than a year, the Texas law was declared unconstitutional on Jan. 22, 1973.

While the Left makes this seem like purely a women’s issue, the ruling was a relief to many men at the time.

That ruling, in effect, struck down any state laws prohibiting abortions. The ruling was based on a somewhat liberal and convoluted interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (That amendment deals primarily with voting rights and the selection and removal of state senators, but it does have a clause that says states cannot infringe on people’s individual rights. Because of this, Roe v. Wade is often cited as granting the right to abortion. While the Left makes this seem like purely a women’s issue, the ruling was a relief to many men at the time who no longer had to face either marrying the women they got pregnant or paying 18 years of child support.)

Roe v. Wade did allow states to prohibit abortions after a fetus is deemed to be “viable,” meaning that it can survive after birth. At the time this was considered to be the third trimester, meaning states could stop abortions only after the first two trimesters, at about 26 weeks or so.

A subsequent 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, acknowledged that modern science has pushed the viability date back, meaning that babies in the second trimester could be viable, but the decision left a rather vague guideline to follow in determining an exact date. Most states, to avoid drawn-out court battles, dropped most abortion laws for many years, although recently some conservative states have again brought them into play.

While people on the Left have raised the specter of Kavanaugh’s appointment leading to making abortion illegal in the United States, at best all it could mean is a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision. If that happened it would leave it up to individual states to decide on the legality of abortion. Probably even the most conservative states would allow some form of early abortion while liberal states like California could build a Planned Parenthood abortion facility on every block if they chose to.

Planned Parenthood and the Rise of the Abortion Industry

Which brings up the next part of our look backward: The prominent role of Planned Parenthood in the abortion debate.

The group’s name sounds like it’s a nice organization, helping parents make wise decisions about parenting. In reality, it is primarily an abortion facility with some very dark beginnings.

The roots of the organization are generally traced to Margaret Sanger, who was a birth control advocate in the early part of the 20th century. Her stated goal was to liberate women from the “slavery” of motherhood. But she was also in league with leaders of the eugenics movement.

Eugenics was the basis for Adolph Hitler’s belief in a superior Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jews.

Eugenics was a pseudo-scientific belief that some races – those primarily from Northern Europe – were superior to other races. Those “feeble-minded” inferior races, as Sanger called them, included Negroes and undesirable immigrants, especially South European Catholics. (Eugenics was the basis for Adolph Hitler’s belief in a superior Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jews.) Sanger was also said to have had ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

At least a part of the early idea behind eugenics was that undesirables like the black population could be controlled or even eliminated by birth control, abortion and forced sterilization. Although Sanger later disavowed her prejudice against people of color, it was from these roots that Planned Parenthood began.

Currently, Planned Parenthood claims it offers women a range of contraceptive services and even mammograms. But we know from former Planned Parenthood employees and pro-life research that most clinics only offer abortion services. A few offer contraceptives, but few if any offer more than that.

Medical Research and the Beginning of Life

Bringing things into the present, we can look at the medical research regarding a baby’s development in the womb. As the Supreme Court acknowledged in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the age of viability keeps changing as medical technology and research has increased the ability to keep babies alive at a younger age. Doctors now even have the ability to do surgery on babies in the womb.

The age that life begins varies depending on who you talk to. Those on the farthest conservative side say that it begins at fertilization, since everything is in place for the formation of a human at that point the sperm hits the egg. Those on the farthest liberal side generally believe that life doesn’t start until the baby is fully delivered (allowing for the controversial partial-birth abortion).

Even a definition that life begins with a heartbeat or brain function places the beginning of life within the first month and a half.

A baby’s heartbeat can be detected by about day 22 or 23 after fertilization. Brain waves can be detected at 40-43 days. So even a definition that life begins with a heartbeat or brain function places the beginning of life within the first month and a half. It is hard at that point to call it simply a mass of tissue or a part of a woman’s body, as pro-abortion advocates describe it.

The Question of Murder

The question then arises, is abortion murder? The answer is yes, no, maybe – again depending on who you ask. The pro-abortionist will say that it isn’t, that it’s simply removing an unwanted growth, as you would a wart. They claim it won’t be a baby until it is birthed.

For those advocating for abortion, the deciding factor to call something murder or not depends on the woman’s choice.

Ah, but what happens if someone kills the mother and the baby dies in the womb? Or hurts the mother in a way that causes the baby to die inside the womb? Then it is considered murder, or in the first case, double murder. So it seems that for those advocating for abortion, the deciding factor to call something murder or not depends on the woman’s choice. If she chooses to end the life of the child, it’s not murder. If someone else ends the life of the child at the same stage of pregnancy, then it is murder.

Staunch pro-lifers will say that killing the baby, whether by making a choice of abortion or at someone else’s hand, is always murder. But there are also the maybes – those who believe abortion is murder, except if the baby was conceived through rape or incest, or the mother’s life is in danger.

Statistics show (depending on the wording of the question on surveys) that the number of Americans who think abortion is wrong is growing, and is now more than 50 percent of the population.

The Christian Perspective on the Value of Life

So what does the Bible say about abortion? Surprisingly, the answer is: nothing.

But this hardly means the Bible condones it. As I mentioned at the beginning, in earlier times abortion was at such odds with the goal of keeping children alive that it hardly warranted a prohibition against it.

The Bible does, though, make frequent mention of the value of life, even in the womb. All life is created by God even when human means of conception are used (Jer. 1:5, Ps. 139:13-16).

Murder is almost always defined in the Bible as the taking of innocent life.

Murder is wrong by God’s standards, which He stated in the Ten Commandments and which Jesus re-emphasized. Murder is almost always defined in the Bible as the taking of innocent life. Nothing could be much more innocent than a baby in the womb.

Children are considered a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3-5, John 16:21). All human life is considered valuable and made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26).

Given the value of human life, in the womb and beyond, there hardly needs to be a specific prohibition on abortion to see that it is not part of God’s will. In other words, there is no doubt that abortion is wrong.

As Christians we must stand strong on this – in love, of course, not in condemnation (if you have had an abortion, please read this message of hope). When confronting other Christians who believe that a woman’s right to choose trumps the life of the baby, we can use the life-giving message of the Bible as our God.

Non-Christians, though, will put little trust in what the Bible says. Then we will get better traction by speaking of the medical science.

We mustn’t be afraid to speak up.

Many times, we as Christians try to avoid controversial subjects such as these. But when something is clearly so wrong as abortion, then we mustn’t be afraid to speak up. And, given the current emotional state of our country, Christians will become part of this narrative, whether we want to or not. Knowing the facts, and what we believe, is an important part of standing up for what we believe.

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Jesus’ Promise to be Hated is Coming True – Here’s How He Tells us to Respond

The Bible is full of promises for those who honor God and follow Christ. Christians are urged to cling to those promises – eternal life, an abundant life, peace, love and forgiveness are among the favorites.

Yet there is one promise that is now being fulfilled that few of us are eager to cling to – being hated.

All four Gospels record Jesus’ promise that the world will hate us for following him. Here are a few examples:

Matt. 24:9: “Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name.”

Mark 13:13: “And you will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.”

John 15:19: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.”

We don’t cling to those promises because no one wants to be hated. It’s human nature to want to be loved and admired. And until the past few years, we as American Christians didn’t worry much about that.

For most of our country’s history, strong adherence to Christian beliefs was admired and pointed to as a positive example.

Sure, we knew hate and persecution were taking place in other countries – China, for example. Muslim nations. Most recently in Nigeria. But here in the USA, we could count on indifference as the worst consequence. In fact, for most of our country’s history, strong adherence to Christian beliefs was admired and pointed to as a positive example.

All that is changing, though. Hate has been the common theme of those on the left of the political spectrum the past two years, primarily directed at President Trump and those associated with him. But increasingly in the past year, Christians are becoming the targets.

Evangelical Christians (the world’s definition of evangelical is a bit murky, but generally means those who believe the Bible is true and that God is a part of daily life) are castigated if they voted for Trump, accused of lacking compassion if they support only legal immigration and vilified if they believe that killing unborn babies is wrong. We are accused of being a hate group when we don’t agree with and support ideologies that go against our beliefs.

It looks as if Jesus’ promise of 2,000 years ago is finally coming true here.

John, in 1 John 3:13, says we shouldn’t be surprised that the world hates us. As true followers of Christ, we shine light and the world loves darkness to hide its deeds.

So how are we to respond to all this hate? The knee-jerk reaction is first a vigorous defense or to give back as good as we get. After all, it’s easy to recognize the hypocrisy in the hateful actions and hateful words in those accusing us of hate.

Yes, the world’s hate is a blessing.

First of all, we need to recognize the blessing we’re receiving in the hate. Yes, I said the world’s hate is a blessing. I say that because Jesus said it first. At the end of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus utters this line: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

So our first response is to be glad and rejoice in this persecution because we’ll receive great heavenly rewards.

A bit later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus adds this about those who persecute us. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44)

So our second response is to pray for those who are saying all these awful lies about us. While we’d much rather call for their destruction, as David frequently did in Psalms, Jesus calls on us to respond in love to them and pray for their salvation.

We don’t compromise our beliefs just to escape the persecution.

And thirdly, we endure. When Jesus said in Mark 13:13 and other places that the world would hate us, he also told us to endure to the end. That means we don’t compromise our beliefs just to escape the persecution.

Some Christian groups and denominations are already doing this. They are changing the gender of God, allowing gays and transsexuals to lead the congregation and even joining in on the hateful speech against those who don’t compromise their values.

Enduring the hate is harder than rejoicing in it or praying for our enemies. The hate wears us down emotionally and physically, and eventually spiritually. It not only doesn’t stop, it often gets worse. But Jesus promises deliverance and, in Revelation 2 and 3, promises great eternal rewards for those who endure to the end.

Fortunately, Jesus gives us another promise that we can cling to in these hate-filled times: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

This is how we rejoice, how we pray and how we endure – resting in the peace that Jesus has already conquered the world. Enduring the world’s hate cannot compare to the abundance of Christ’s love for us, a love so great that he endured the horrible fate of our sins so that we can have eternal life and eternal peace.

The world hates us and will express that hate even more strenuously in the days to come. But for those who follow Christ that only means more blessing and peace. Those are promises worth clinging to.

Jesus’ Promotional “Brochure” Includes Phrases We’d Like to Rewrite

If you were creating a brochure to attract people to your church, which of the following phrases would you include?

“Join our church and …

… you will endure suffering.”

… people will hate you.”

… your family may become your enemy.”

… gruesome death is a real possibility.”

… your life will no longer be your own.”

It’s doubtful that you’d include any of those phrases in a church brochure, and even more doubtful that you’d visit a church that featured any of those sentences on their brochure. It would seem like an awful place to attend.

This, you may think, is why you leave the advertising to the professionals. What you want to emphasize when following Jesus is the cool worship music (an amazing lead singer, a killer drummer and two bass guitars), the amazing children’s department (filled with crafts, games and a tender, loving staff), the amazing facilities (complete with shuttle service from the parking lot and a coffee bar that would make Starbucks envious) and, of course, a dynamic preacher (when he’s not out speaking at some event with exciting names like Catalyst or Passion or Momentum). Above all, we love everyone – everyone is welcome to come and be whoever they are.

That’s what a church brochure should be about, not crazy phrases like suffering and hate and enemies. Certainly nothing about giving up your life or dying a gruesome death.

You might be thinking, that’s not the brochure I read. That’s not the Jesus I signed up for.

It’s true that Jesus didn’t use one of those phrases as an advertisement for following him – he used all of them!

Surely that can’t be true, can it? You might be thinking, that’s not the brochure I read. That’s not the Jesus I signed up for.

Let’s take a look at just a few examples of what Jesus told his disciples and followers.

Matt. 10:34-36:  “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

Mark 10:34-35: “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.

John 15:19: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.”

John 16:33: “You will have suffering in the world.”

Matt. 5:11-12: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.”

In all likelihood, if you’re part a large nondenominational evangelical church or a denominational mainstream church, the only time you’ve ever heard words like hate, suffering, enemies, persecution and gruesome death were during Easter services – and they only applied to what Jesus went through.

Those just aren’t good selling points for a church, so why would Jesus include them in his “brochure?”

Well, for starters, Jesus told the truth and he knew this would happen. And he knew that people who truly followed him, who chose to live in the kingdom of God, would no longer be subject to the whims and desires of the world – the world run by the Prince of Darkness. Satan will do whatever he can to stop Christ followers in their tracks, and suffering, persecution and the threat of a horrible death are good ways to do that.

He wants people who are totally sold out to his way of doing things.

And finally, Jesus isn’t messing around. He wants people who are totally sold out to his way of doing things, who will follow him no matter where he takes them, who love him above everything – and everyone – else in the world.

Fortunately, Jesus also added plenty of positive phrases to his brochure for those who repent and follow him. He says we’ll be blessed when we endure these things. In John 16:33 he tells us, “Take courage! I have overcome the world.” He says that no one can snatch us out of his hands. He promises us eternal life, starting now. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” he said in John 10:10. He promises that his Holy Spirit will live in us, to guide and comfort us. We will have 24/7 instant access to the Father.

The negative and positive thoughts meet up in Jesus’ illustration of the kingdom of God being like a priceless treasure in a field, or a priceless pearl in the market. The kingdom of God, he said, is a treasure worth giving up everything we own, including our lives, to obtain.

Priceless treasure. Peace. Abundant life. Comfort and guidance. Now that sounds more like it.

But we can’t separate those words from the others. Christ promises that we’ll have both.

The question for most of us is, Am I willing to endure the negatives in order to gain the positives?

Watch What You ‘Drink’: You Can’t Trust Everything That’s Preached, Even When it’s by Famous Megachurch Pastors

Suppose you’re at your favorite health food café to grab a healthy yet delicious smoothie. You watch as they toss in some kale, some acai berries, pineapple and mango chunks, maybe a few chia seeds – and half-a-dozen rat droppings. Then they turn on the blender and whip up your smoothie.

Do you still drink it? I mean, most of that stuff is still really healthy, right? Or do those six rat droppings pretty much ruin the whole thing?

I thought of this illustration after watching a recent three-part sermon series called Aftermath by megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Stanley, the son of renowned preacher Charles Stanley, leads North Point Church near Atlanta. With about 30,000 attending weekly services, it is one of the largest churches in the country.

As a person with the gift of teaching, I know that teaching God’s word is a weighty responsibility. In his epistle, James tells us that teachers will receive a stricter judgment – Jesus’ principle that to whom much is given much is expected. So I don’t take it lightly when I find myself in disagreement with someone eminently more famous than myself, especially when much of what Stanley says in the series is very healthy and needs to be taught in the church. It just feels like a few twisted bits of thinking could ruin the whole drink.

I don’t believe that Stanley is deliberately trying to mislead people. In fact, his intention is to bring more people to Jesus. But some of things he says don’t match up with scripture. This could be a case of “what I meant to say is not what I said, and what you heard is not what I thought I said.” Communication is difficult. Still, I think some of these issues need to be addressed.

So let me dissect.

The healthy components

New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant – Stanley’s main point is that as Christians, we are now under the New Covenant of Jesus’ resurrection rather than the Old Covenant – the Sinai Covenant, the Law of Moses. This is absolutely correct. Jesus said he came to fulfill the Old Covenant, which means we no longer have to try to do so. Paul tells us often, but especially in Romans, that we are no longer under the Law.

The Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled and that we are no longer under.

Goodbye Ten Commandments – Like kale, the least appealing ingredient here may be the healthiest. I have said for years that the debate about whether the Ten Commandments should be in schools or government buildings is silly. The Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled and that we are no longer under. I’ve referred to them as the preface to the Law; Stanley calls them the table of contents to the Law.

By that I don’t mean that it is suddenly OK to murder people and commit adultery. It’s that we are under a New Covenant that more succinctly sums up what the Law said – Love God with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor like you love yourself.

No mixing and matching – Stanley correctly says that we can’t try to keep part of the Old Covenant, like the Ten Commandments, and meld it into the New Covenant. Nor can you “fix” the Old Covenant by adding pieces of the New Covenant – this was the point of Jesus’ illustration of cutting a piece out of a new garment to patch up an old garment. We must leave the Old Covenant behind and begin living by the New Covenant.

Our faith is not based on the Bible – This one may be a little trickier to digest, like chia seeds. This doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the Bible. It means that our faith is based on God, not a thing. However, the Bible is vital. It is our means of discovering God and deepening our faith.

Chocolate chips or rat droppings?

There are a few murky areas in his sermon series that make me a bit unsure whether he’s saying what it sounds like he’s saying.

Old Covenant = Old Testament – At times, Stanley seems to equate the Old Covenant with the Old Testament writings. He states that we need to spend more time reading the New Testament and less reading the Old Testament – although in my experience, most Christians already spend little time in the Old. In fact, if you moved Psalms and Proverbs to the New Testament, many Christians would never read anything to the left of Matthew.

I would go so far as to say that it’s impossible to fully understand and appreciate Jesus’ redeeming work without reading and understanding the Old Testament.

The entire Old Covenant is contained in the Old Testament, but the Old Testament contains far more than the Old Covenant. All 39 books, in some way, point to the coming savior. I would go so far as to say that it’s impossible to fully understand and appreciate Jesus’ redeeming work without reading and understanding the Old Testament. In fact, without the Old Testament, we wouldn’t know about our need for a Messiah, and would have no way to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

Angry God vs. Loving God – Stanley seems to resurrect the old idea that the God of the Old Testament was different from the one in the New Testament. That was the old, angry God who didn’t offer any grace so we want the new God who loves everybody.

What I believe he was saying is that God had a different agenda in the Old Testament – establishing the Jewish nation above others in His love and care, while in the New Testament, his love and grace is for all the nations. But I think it’s easy for someone to hear in his message that the Old Testament God was different – angry, vindictive, morally imperfect – than the all-loving New Testament God.

And now, the rat droppings

Grace didn’t exist in the Old Testament – Stanley, while pointing to the word Grace on a video screen, said, “See, when you read the Old Testament, when you read the Old covenant, when you read the story of Israel, when you read the prophets of Israel, you don’t see much of this. It’s ‘I will if you will,’ that’s God’s contract with the nation.”

If you don’t see God’s grace and unfailing love oozing from the Old Testament pages, you’re not trying. Starting when He made clothes for Adam and Eve right after they sinned and ruined His creation to His repeated rescuing of Israel from the hands of their enemies to the promise of a Messiah, God’s grace has been at work since the beginning of time and up to the start of the New Testament. The grace found in the New Testament isn’t something new, it’s a continuation of His grace, just now extended to everyone.

The first century Christians didn’t have a Bible – Stanley says, repeatedly, “The first century believers didn’t have a Bible and couldn’t have read it because most of them couldn’t read, and they couldn’t have because there was no Bible as we know it until the fourth century.” He goes so far as to say that the first century Christians were just making up things as they went along because they didn’t have any Scripture or writings.

Yes, it’s true that the biblical canon, containing the books we know today as the Bible, wasn’t created until after Constantine’s conversion in 312 A.D. But the Old Testament books were already in place by the time of Jesus. And it’s true the disciples couldn’t order a Bible and have it delivered the next day through Amazon Prime. But the Scriptures were well known to them, read in the synagogues and repeated frequently.

About 10 percent of the words in the New Testament are quotes from the Old Testament.

Scripture certainly was important to all of the New Testament writers – about 10 percent of the words in the New Testament are quotes from the Old Testament. When Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 that all Scripture is inspired by God and equips everyone, he was referring to the Old Testament. Jesus frequently quoted Old Testament Scriptures.

In fact, one of Stanley’s examples of why we can focus on the New Testament instead of the Old Testament is Peter’s first two sermons in Acts 2 and 3. He completely ignores the parts of those sermons where Peter quotes extensively from the prophet Joel, David and Moses. He never mentions Stephen’s lengthy sermon on his deathbed in Acts 7 that tells the Old Testament story with many verbatim quotes from the Old Testament.

So to say that the first century believers didn’t have scriptural backing is wrong. They knew Scripture and relied heavily on it.

The Old Testament is not infallible – Stanley calls this the Achilles heel of our faith that will make us vulnerable to the attacks of atheists. With one click on the computer, he says, we can find those attacks on whether the Old Testament is true and whether it is moral. And it’ll be our children and grandchildren who will discover this horrible secret and quit believing.

“As Bible goes, so goes our faith. And if all of it’s not true then none of it can be trusted. It’s a house of cards.”

He states that the new atheists “have attacked persuasively and effectively the credibility and the morality of our Bibles,” then adds later, “If the foundation for your faith is an absolutely true book, good luck with that against this kind of onslaught.” And then he adds, “But I have some great news: The foundation of our faith is not a cleverly cobbled together group of manuscripts.”

He implies that it isn’t important to believe in the Old Testament stories because all that’s important is the resurrection of Jesus.

While he never quite comes out and says that he thinks parts of the Old Testament aren’t true or credible, he doesn’t offer one argument in favor of it all being true. He doesn’t refute any of the arguments of the atheists. This isn’t just in this sermon series, either; he has hedged against this in a number of other sermons and interviews. He implies that it isn’t important to believe in the Old Testament stories because all that’s important is the resurrection of Jesus.

Ironically, he then goes on to say that the reason we can base our faith on the resurrection of Jesus is because of Jesus’ own words and the eyewitness accounts – which, of course, are found in the Bible. But if the Old Testament isn’t to be believed, why would we believe the New Testament?

No more requirements – Stanley argues, correctly, that circumcision is no longer a requirement among males to belong in the Christian church. This was decided almost 2,000 years ago, so that’s hardly new news. But he then goes on to say that basically God requires nothing from us anymore except to just believe in Him.

“Your covenant (the New Covenant) is practically irresistible because it’s this simple: God loves you so much that he spent hundreds and hundreds of years getting the world ready to send one person into this world that could pay for your sins. And all he requires from you, it’s not even ten things, it’s one thing, that you would acknowledge what he’s done for you and that you would live this out.”

True, God no longer requires a foreskin to show our faith – but now He wants much more. He wants our whole life. In Mark 8:34-35, Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.”

Jesus sounds like it requires much more than just acknowledging what he’s done.

Everything is easy – By far the most troubling part of Stanley’s message is this: That he wants “to make it easier and easier for people to embrace faith.” He repeatedly says things like this, even says that this is painted on his church’s walls. His contention is we shouldn’t make it difficult to follow Christ.

But you know who said it is difficult to follow Christ? Jesus.

Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” The easy road? That leads to destruction.

Jesus said, in Matt. 24:9, “Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.” Doesn’t sound too easy, does it?

Jesus said, in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

His faithful followers in the early church were beaten and killed in horrible ways. In many countries even today his followers are beaten and killed in horrible ways.

Is it easy to follow Christ? Not at all. And we should quit trying to make it easy.

Difficult? Absolutely. Easy? Not at all. But Jesus, Peter and Paul all said the response we should have to all of this difficulty is to rejoice. It is in and through these difficulties that we truly begin to live in God’s power.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was killed by Adolph Hitler because of his faith in Christ, warned that we must never settle for cheap grace – a grace that costs us very little. Cheap grace doesn’t change people’s lives. Instead, he said, we must strive for costly grace.

Bonhoeffer wrote, “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has….Costly grace is the gospel that must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Is it simple to become a Christian? Absolutely. It is a free gift of grace. But is it easy to follow Christ? Not at all. And we should quit trying to make it easy. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s wrong and just because something is easy doesn’t make it right. Quitting school is easy, finishing a degree is difficult. Living on welfare is easy, working for a living is difficult. Getting a girl pregnant is easy, being a real father is difficult.

Yes, as Stanley says, we need to quit trying to make people live by Old Covenant Law. Yes, we should stop judging non-Christians by Christian standards. Yes, we should reach out in love to everyone. Yes, we should stop imposing man-made traditions and regulations on believers. And yes, we should stop trying to live the Christian life on our own strength.

But we cannot fall for the heresy that the Christian life is easy because Jesus said it won’t be. Easy never changed the world. Only people who commit their whole lives to Christ, as the apostles and early believers did – and many others throughout history did – have and will change the world.

To believe anything else, no matter how healthy the rest of the ingredients, is rat droppings that poison the whole drink.

Time for Men and Women to Return to Their God-Designed Roles

Since the beginning of time, the devil has been trying to disrupt God’s plan for men and women.

A long time ago, in a beautiful land, a man and woman both had clearly defined jobs to do. Both failed in their roles, and chaos resulted.

This isn’t the beginning of some tale told by Aesop or the Brothers Grimm, or even Marvel, but the story of Adam and Eve. And a retelling of the tale seems to be taking place in America today.

Back in the beginning of the world, God had created both man and woman with clearly defined roles to play in His creation – Adam was to be the caretaker and leader, Eve was to be his helper. Neither was designed to be independent of the other. Adam may have been the engine but Eve was the gasoline that kept the engine running.

One day, though, those roles broke down. A slick-talking snake (Disney didn’t invent talking animals; the Bible had them from the beginning) sidled up to Eve and hissed, “Did God really tell you that you can’t eat from any tree in the garden?” What ensued was everybody twisting God’s words to suit themselves, Eve ate from the forbidden tree, gave Adam some and he ate, and everyone has suffered from sin nature ever since.

Both Adam and Eve failed in their God-defined roles.

One of the most significant parts of the story, though, is how both Adam and Eve failed in their God-defined roles.

Eve, instead of calling on Adam to deal with the snake (as she should have, since God had given the instructions about the forbidden tree to him before Eve was created), decided to take the leadership in the situation.

Well, perhaps Adam was out of town on a business trip and she had to. But no. The scriptures say that after Eve took a bite, she handed the fruit to her husband who was with her.

Adam stood there and heard both the devil and Eve twist God’s words without saying anything, without stepping into his leadership and caretaker/protector role, and killing the snake. He didn’t even take on Eve’s role – he simply didn’t take any role.

So how does that relate to today?

For the past 30 or more years, American culture has been bent on making men superfluous – not only can women do everything a man can do and probably better, they don’t even need men to live happy, successful lives. Thanks to sperm donors, they don’t even need more than a miniscule bit of maleness in their lives, ever.

And for the past decade or more, that attitude has been increasingly creeping into the church. While not as overt a takeover as is seen in culture, there is still a shift in thinking about the roles of men and women.

Husbands are being told to “man up” and take the leadership-caretaker role that he was created for.

Thankfully, there are some Christian leaders who have recognized this and are pushing back in trying to return to the roles God created. Husbands are being told to “man up” and take the leadership-caretaker role that he was created for, especially in the home.

This is indeed an important role. Research shows that the greatest predictor of a child’s success in America has nothing to do with skin color or financial resources, but having an intact two-parent (male and female) family. Other research shows that the biggest predictor of children following Christ and being involved in the church is whether they saw their father’s involvement in the church.

In light of today’s American culture, though, many men have found it is far easier to sit back and do nothing. Leading is a hard task, one that requires constant vigilance and assessment. When criticized for doing that, as culture often does, it becomes hard to stay motivated to continue in that role. But since it so important, and a role that God clearly expects Christian men to hold, then it is vital that Christian men “man up.”

It is also important for Christian women to “woman up.”

At the same time, though, it is also important for Christian women to “woman up” (doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but the idea is the same). But too often women’s ministries focus on “empowering” women with instruction on how to be bold, dynamic and to be all they can be. There is nothing wrong with this in itself – all Christians, male and female, should be bold and strive to be everything God desires of them – but this empowerment can sometimes degenerate into little more than Christianese for some of the world’s principles.

Within a marriage, God’s role for husbands and wives is clear – the husband is to take leadership and be a caretaker/protector and the wife is to protect the integrity of his leadership with support, encouragement and prayer. Culture has falsely declared the wife’s role as inferior or not valuable, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

As the husband seeks to discern and follow God’s will, it is critical that the wife support and pray for him in that pursuit. It is the fuel for the engine – an engine can’t do anything without fuel; it is an absolutely essential ingredient. The wife’s role requires boldness and is dynamic.

As both husband and wife work together symbiotically in their roles, they will discover God’s direction for their lives. When the husband leads according to God’s will, then it will be the will of God for the wife, too. If that isn’t true then why is the devil working so hard to reverse it? He’s wanted to do this since the beginning of time because his express purpose is to turn people away from following God’s plan. Using culture to disrupt the roles of men and women is a key piece of his strategy.

The design of God cannot be changed because of the whims of the culture. The Bible is consistent on these roles from Genesis to Revelation. They were created by God for a purpose – His purpose. To change them in any way can have devastating results. Just ask Adam and Eve.

Salvation is More Than After-Life Insurance; God Created Us for Good Works

When my wife and I decided to purchase life insurance policies, we filled out the basic paperwork and had some bloodwork done to prove that we didn’t already have one foot in the grave. After a few days of waiting, we were approved to have insurance policies.

Since then, we’ve given it little thought: The policies renew automatically and the premiums are deducted electronically from our bank account. We know we’re covered if we die and nothing else is required of us.

Unfortunately, many Christians live this way in regard to their salvation. They made a salvation commitment to God. Now, they’re covered when they die and nothing else is required of them.

Except God does require more from them – much more. He expects them to do the work he created them for.

Oh no, you might protest, grace is free. We don’t have to earn it. Works are dead. And you’d be absolutely right. There is indeed absolutely nothing we can do to earn salvation. The grace that saves us is only a free gift from God. Eph. 2:8-9 makes this very clear:  “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” (HCSB)

But the discourse about this salvation doesn’t end at verse 9. We also have to read verse 10.

“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (HCSB)

Salvation isn’t only to keep us out of the flames of hell.

God has extended His grace to us for more than just after-life insurance. Salvation isn’t only to keep us out of the flames of hell. God’s grace is for a purpose, and that is for us to do good works. As Paul says, God prepared these good works ahead of time for us. We have been saved for a purpose.

The good works, then, aren’t to achieve salvation, but come as a result of salvation. And they aren’t our works – God prepared them for us, so we are only fulfilling the works He wants us to accomplish.

The “grace is free, works are dead” mantra of the past several decades has had the unfortunate effect of allowing many Christians to lead uneventful, unfulfilling Christian lives. They aren’t lazy, and they aren’t intentionally disobeying God’s word. They’ve just been allowed to live under the false assumption that salvation is basically in the same category as my life insurance policy – it renews automatically and the premiums are withdrawn in the form of church attendance. Nothing else is required.

The good news is that God has created so much more for the Christian life and desires so much more from us. The works he has created for us aren’t contained in a do’s and don’ts rulebook and aren’t grim tasks that can only be accomplished through gritted teeth. Instead, since he created you specifically for the works, you will be uniquely equipped to not only accomplish those works, but to do so with a joyful heart.

The vital thing is that it’s the work God created for you.

This doesn’t mean you’ll land your dream job, or that the work will be something grandiose. In fact, it may be something small and almost unnoticeable. It’s not the type of work or the size of that’s important; the vital thing is that it’s the work God created for you.

It’s also not work to be undertaken grudgingly, with an “I guess if I have to” attitude. Remember, when you were dating and fell in love, how you did the things your loved one liked – even if it inconvenienced you – with an attitude of joy because of your love for them? That’s the attitude we approach our appointed work – with an attitude of pure joy and pure love for God.

One of the great benefits of our salvation is that we have a fantastic after-life insurance policy with an eternal renewal. But it is also a great benefit that our eternal life doesn’t start when we die – it begins at the moment of salvation and allows us to do great things for God.

GQ Magazine Says the Bible is Irrelevant, but in Practice are Christians Saying the Same Thing?

As my personal style rather obviously attests, I pay no attention to what GQ magazine has to say. So when it released a list of 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read, and included the Bible as one of those, it made little difference to me.

But some Christians have been in an uproar about the Bible’s inclusion on this list because, of course, it is vital to our faith. They are angry with GQ’s advice that you don’t have to read the Bible to have a successful life. My question, though, is, Why have so many Christians seemed to follow this advice for years?

It isn’t so much that these Christians don’t think the Bible is important as that they live as if most of it is irrelevant to their lives.

“Bible illiteracy” is a phrase used with increasing frequency by pastors to describe their congregants’ lack of knowledge about the book they supposedly revere. It isn’t so much that these Christians don’t think the Bible is important as that they live as if most of it is irrelevant to their lives.

Of course, they’d never say so. Most of them have Bible apps on their phones and can quickly pull up any verse. Some of them get the daily push notification for the Verse of the Day, which they take time to look at several days a week. On Sundays, some of them read the verse along with the pastor when it pops up on the big screen for a minute or two.

But, unfortunately, that is the extent of Bible reading for all too many Christians, even those who take exception to GQ’s list.

Why is this? I think there are several reasons, and with chagrin, I admit that those of us in church leadership may be sabotaging the very thing we desire to see in our congregations. Here are a few thoughts on why Bible reading has become so lax among so many Christians.

Reading has become irrelevant. Society as a whole has placed decreasing value on reading anything longer than 140 characters. Many people tell me that they seldom read a book, often less than one per year – and some tell me this with a measure of pride in their voices. Perhaps it’s our decreasing attention spans that cause this problem, or we’re so inundated by information from so many sources that reading seems like an overwhelming endeavor.

If people aren’t going to read the latest action thriller, they probably aren’t going to read through 1 Chronicles.

Whatever the reason, it has spilled over into our Bible reading. If people aren’t going to read the latest action thriller, they probably aren’t going to read through 1 Chronicles. Reading starts by example. If parents aren’t reading the Bible, it’s unlikely the kids will start on their own – and if church leaders aren’t reading the Bible, the congregants won’t see it as a priority, either.

Bible studies don’t live up to their names. Often today’s Bible study consists of watching a video and answering questions from a book by an author who quotes Bible passages to illustrate his point. There is nothing wrong in this in itself, because many authors have valuable points to make about Christian life. But they are studies that often mean the participants don’t have to open the Bible, or even bring one along.

A Bible study should have the Bible as its center point, and should consist of entire passages to include context. Otherwise it becomes a study about pieces of the Bible instead of a Bible study.

The Big Screen. When was the last time you heard a pastor asking you to turn to a passage in your Bible? Most churches today, even those of relatively small size, have at least one big screen at the front that flashes the pastor’s next point and the verses to illustrate that point. It’s also popular to have “talk notes” that list out the verses.

Again, nothing wrong with this, and it can often be helpful to have everyone looking at the same translation. But I’ve noticed that few people even bother bringing a Bible to church, and those that do seldom turn to a passage to follow along. The problem is that this makes actually reading the Bible, placing a passage in context, seem irrelevant. On many occasions, when reading the verses before and after, I’ve gained new insight or even noticed additional information. Pastors are often limited to 30-40 minutes in their sermons, which frequently means they can’t bring out all the nuances and information about a passage that you can pick up by seeing a verse in context.

The Little Screen. Many people have switched to doing most of their reading from a tablet or smartphone, including their Bible reading. Because I often read more than one book at a time, this is great for me – except for Bible reading. I’ve switched back to reading a paper Bible.

One reason is that it does help me better place things in context, when I can see an entire page, or even two pages at a time. There’s also a certain weight that words on paper have that doesn’t seem present in electronic versions.

But probably the main reason I chose to go back to paper is to avoid the distractions. When reading on my tablet, I saw the various notifications pop up from email, text, Twitter, news feeds and Facebook. Even when I chose to ignore them, they were a distraction. Reading in paper avoids those notifications and the temptation to “just for a second” look at those other things.

Why should we read about how to treat slaves or how to get along with our multiple wives in an era when neither of those are part of our culture?

Lack of relevance I. The Bible is a book that began being written 4,000 years ago, and was last added to 2,000 years ago. Many of the customs, histories and even language feel old and out of place, hard to relate to in modern times. Why should we read about how to treat slaves or how to get along with our multiple wives in an era when neither of those are part of our culture? And not boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk – is that even a thing?

Lack of relevance II. The Bible is a book that calls us to live differently than the world. But living different from the world seems to mean little more than going to church on a fairly regular basis and not cussing quite as much. Other than that, we justify things like pursuing money and the things money can buy as a top priority, leaving a spouse because we want something “more,” and planning for the ultimate, retirement. After all, we don’t want to turn off the world from Christianity, right? So we’d better make it acceptable to them or they’ll think we’re weird and won’t want to join us.

Of course, with both relevance I and II, it’s very easy to justify leaving the Bible on the shelf. After all, the verses we get on our daily app are so much more encouraging. (Today’s was, “For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” Very encouraging as long as I don’t have to think about it too long, and it only took seconds out of my day to read it!)

I’ve already written about the importance of Bible reading, and will add more in the future. But for now, I think it is important that before we criticize GQ for making the Bible sound irrelevant, we’d be best served to spend more time making it relevant for ourselves.

 

Gary Kauffman is a Christian life coach, freelance writer and part-time church staff member in Augusta, Ga. No, he cannot get you tickets for The Masters.

In God’s Economy, Sometimes Less is More

Photo By Visitor7, wikimedia.

You’ve heard the old saying that less is more. Sometimes that applies to God’s provision for us as well.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus acknowledged our physical needs as humans for food, clothing and shelter with the promise that God will provide those things when we seek Him above all else.

“But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matt. 6:33 (HCSB)

Mostly, I’ve taken this to mean that sometimes I’ll have some unexpected extra money, or a bonus in the paycheck, something extra somewhere to take care of unexpected expenses. And that is often the case. But, as I’ve come to discover, sometimes God provides by taking away costs.

My wife and I recently moved to a new home and, if you’ve ever moved, you know that involves myriad unexpected costs that can crimp the budget. The move also put some extra grime on our vehicles. So when I pulled into a car wash that had just opened, I planned on the cheapest wash available.

But even before I could debate how much to spend on the wash, the attendant informed me that the company was offering free $20 washes that day as a promotion. Well, count me in on that. I called my wife, who was planning to wash her car, so she could get in on the promotional freebie.

Then later that night, we saved another $20 because one store accepted a competitor’s coupon. So in one eight-hour period, we managed to save $60! That was a much-welcome savings for our move-challenged budget.

After a while I realized that this was part of God’s provision for us. If someone had handed me three twenties, or my wife or I had received an unexpected $60 bonus, I would have immediately thought of it as God’s provision because, like most Christians, I consider God’s provision to be when He gives us more.

But sometimes God provides by giving us less – or in the case of the car washes, nothing. And sometimes that’s better than receiving the money because it removes the temptation to spend it on things we don’t need.

“When you thank God for all the things you have, remember to thank Him for all the things you don’t have that you don’t want.”

The whole less-is-more concept reminds me of the words I received many years ago from a wise older woman at my church (she was in her 90s then and lived to age 100), who dispensed wisdom in Yoda-like fashion. She told me, “When you thank God for all the things you have, remember to thank Him for all the things you don’t have that you don’t want.”

It took a few moments for that to soak in but then I got it – by the things we don’t have that we don’t want she meant diseases, accidents, pain, heartache, sorrow, hunger and all the other things we don’t want in our lives.

I know I’m guilty far too often for thanking God for His provision when He gives me stuff I need or want but forgetting to thank Him for the stuff I don’t have – I don’t suffer from hunger, I don’t have any major illnesses, I don’t have kids in jail, I don’t have any addictions and, thanks to God’s provision, I don’t have a dirty car.

Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways. So while my imagination is limited to solving issues with more, sometimes God provides by giving less – which results in more.

The Most Important Christian Holiday is at Hand

What is the most important Christian holiday? Based on the amount of time and money spent on it, you would think the answer is Christmas. But according the Bible, it’s Easter.

While the Christmas story is mentioned briefly in two Gospels, the resurrection is referenced dozens of times, in all four Gospels and in most the epistles. Paul makes it the central theme of his writings. He insists that if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, then our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:17).

Even Good Friday, which celebrates the death of Jesus on the cross, is meaningless without the resurrection.

Why should the resurrection mean so much to Christians? Here are a few reasons.

It validates everything Jesus said and did. The son of God came to earth to show us how to live a completely new life. But if he had simply taught a new moral code and then died he would have been no better than any other religious leader. It was only by his rising from the dead – conquering death – that everything he said and did took on significance. Otherwise, as Paul says, we have no foundation for our faith.

“If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith.” (1 Cor. 15:14, HCSB)

Through his resurrection we begin living a brand new life through his power.

It gives us new life. When we commit to following Jesus, he doesn’t just make our lives better. We die to the old life we had and through his resurrection we begin living a brand new life through his power.

“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead….” (1 Peter 1:3, HCSB)

It sealed God’s plan to send the Holy Spirit to all humanity. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit came only to a few people who God selected. But the plan all along had been to send him to all people. The resurrection made it possible to fulfill that plan. Jesus revealed this at the Last Supper.

“’Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.’” (John 16:17, HCSB)

It gives us eternal life. Jesus’ death on the cross meant the punishment for our sins had been fulfilled. His resurrection meant that he had conquered death, and through him, believers have also been granted freedom from eternal death. While our mortal bodies will die, our souls will live on in eternity in God’s presence.

In John 14:19, Jesus himself proclaimed this. “’In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too.’”

Knowing the power of the resurrection should be our goal.

It is our source of power. The Christian life should be lived with great power through God (2 Tim. 1:7). Paul speaks repeatedly of the power of the Gospel, and the point of the Gospel is Jesus’ resurrection. It is by God’s power that Jesus lives. Knowing the power of the resurrection should be our goal, as it was Paul’s.

“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection….” (Phil. 3:10, HCSB)

It is our source of joy. The resurrection is a historical fact; nothing can take that away. When we find our joy in that fact, we will always be able to experience joy, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. That is how Jesus approached the cross because he knew what was to come afterward.

“Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” (Heb. 12:1-2, HCSB)

As People Seek Relevance, Will They See it in Our Christian Lives?

Marchers gathered this past weekend across the country to protest gun violence, but many of them are unknowingly seeking relevance. By Tristan Loper – 20180324-0038.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67654323

This past Saturday, groups of young people gathered in various cities around the country for the March for Our Lives movement, a protest against gun violence. This follows a Women’s March, Antifa protests against the election of President Trump and Black Lives Matter marches.

It can be easy, as Christians, to either deem these activities as irrelevant to our lives or to respond in a sort of “Get off my lawn, punks” attitude. After all, most of the people in these marches are young, often pampered and usually fed an unrealistic view of the world by the media, Hollywood and our education system.

But underlying all of these protests is a hunger for relevance. These people want lives that matter, that are relevant, that are bigger than themselves. None of those protests and marches will give them that. They’re would-be Indiana Joneses who find that the treasure they’re seeking has already been moved or didn’t shine nearly as brightly as they thought it would.

But as Christians, we have the relevance – the actual treasure – they’re seeking. Or at least we should.

So the question is, are we as Christians living lives that are relevant?

Jesus said in John 10:10 that he came so we could have an abundant life. Or, as The Message translation puts it, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

So the question is, are we as Christians living lives that are relevant? By that, I don’t mean whether our pastor wears skinny jeans and spikes his hair, or whether we have a dynamic children’s ministry. I don’t mean whether we know the difference between Instagram and Snapchat. By relevant I mean, are we living lives that are bigger than ourselves, lives that matter? Are we displaying our treasure so that those seeking it will come to us to find it?

Too often, it seems, that as Christians we try to tell the world, “See, you can be a Christian and still have everything the world has, just without as many four-letter words.” But that’s not what Jesus had in mind when he talked of an abundant life. His emphasis was, “See, you can have much more than what the world offers.”

Well, sure, we’ll have more when we get to heaven. But the New Testament writers say that our “more” will be now, here on earth; that living lives that are different will result in great joy that we can’t know as part of the world.

Not only that but living lives that are different will get noticed by those around us. Sure, some of that will result in persecution, which Jesus predicted, but we should rejoice in that (Matt. 5:11-12). Others, though,  will be attracted to us when we live the way Jesus intended.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Pet. 2:12, HCSB)

People want to know that there is hope that their lives will make a difference.

When people are seeking relevance, as so many young people are today, whether your praise band has a smoke machine or you know how to use hashtags matters far less – far, far less – than the message you present with both your words and your deeds. People want to know that there is hope that their lives will make a difference. And nothing can make a bigger difference than being a follower of Christ.

But that requires those of us who are already Christ followers to step up our game, to make sure that we offer them the relevance they desire. That doesn’t mean being thoroughly modern but to be solidly based in the past, like these words Peter wrote almost 2,000 years ago:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pet. 3:15, HCSB)

Revering Christ as Lord – making him your reason for living, your treasure – gives us far more power and makes us much more relevant than any marches or protests ever will. In the end, it is the only thing that will ever make a difference in this world.