Confessions of a Churchgoer

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Introducing Jill to Almond Green Milk Tea with Boba (or bubble tea, as they say in Atlanta)

Hey TD!

The old maxim says, confession is good for the soul.  As I was reading today’s A Slice of Infinity by my friend, Jill Carattini, I must confess that I too share the same shortcomings that she references in her Slice. Read on, fellow churchgoer, and see if you do too. If so, let’s confess, repent, believe, and let God continue His redeeming work in our lives, so we can share the greatest confession of all:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

– Arthur

Confessions of a Churchgoer

In a world of finger-pointing, Tetsuya Ishikawa paused instead to confess guilt. After seven years at the forefront of the credit markets, he took the idea of a friend to write a book called How I Caused the Credit Crunch because, in the friend’s analysis, “it sounds like you did.”(1) In the form of a novel that discredits the notion of the financial sector as a collaboration of remote, unthinking forces, he admits in flesh and blood that he believes he is guilty, too. Though reviewers note Ishikawa does not remain long with his admission of responsibility, he succeeds in showing the financial markets as a reflection of human choices with moral dimensions and, ultimately, the futility of our ongoing attempts at finding a better scapegoat.

Whenever the subject of blame or fault comes about in any sector of life, whether economic, societal, or individual, scapegoating is a far more common reaction than confessing. Most of us are most comfortable when blame is placed as far away from us as possible. Even the word “confession,” the definition of which is concerned with owning a fault or belief, is now often associated with the sins of others, which an outspoken soul just happens to be willing to share with the world. We are interested in those confessions of a former investment banker/warlord/baseball wife because the “owning up” has nothing to do with owning anything.

Perhaps like many of us in our own confessing, Charles Templeton’s 1996 book, Farwell to God, and the confessions of a former Christian leader, is filled with moments of confession in both senses of the word—honest commentary and easy scapegoating. In his thoughts that deal with the Christian church, it is particularly apparent. Pointing near and far and wide, Templeton observes that the church indeed has a speckled past: “Across the centuries and on every continent, Christians—the followers of the Prince of Peace—have been the cause of and involved in strife. The church during the Middle Ages was like a terrorist organization.”(2) He admits that some good has come from Christian belief, but that there is altogether too much bad that has come from it. He then cites the church’s declining numbers as evidence that the world is in agreement; people are losing interest because the church is failing to be relevant. Pews are empty; denominations oppose one another; the church is floundering, its influence waning—except perhaps its negative influence, according to this confessor.

Paul Klee, City of Churches, pen, pencil, watercolor, paper, 1918.

Of course, many of these confessions regarding the church are indeed riddled with difficult truths that someone somewhere must indeed own. Other assertions are not only difficult to posit as relevant, but are simply dishonest attempts to point blame and escape the more personal, consistent answer. As Templeton determinedly points out the steady decline of attendance in the church as reason to disbelieve, it is unclear how this supports his personal confession that Christian beliefs are untrue. Does the claim of the church’s decline (the veracity of which is debated) say anything about whether Christianity is based on lies, lunacy, or fact? Jesus spoke of those who would turn away, churches that would grow cold, faith that would be abandoned. Moreover, if one is truly convinced that Christianity is an outlandish hoax, isn’t it odd that so much energy is taken in criticizing the church in the first place—as if one had a vision of what the people of God should look like?

Of course, responding to Templeton’s darker admissions regarding the church, I am at times tempted to make a scapegoating confession of my own. Specifically, if I could reasonably judge God by some of God’s followers, I would surely say farewell as well. Like Templeton, I have seen so many lives badly wounded by the pulpit, people trampled by those who call themselves Christians. I have been more disillusioned within the church than I ever have outside of it. Templeton confesses in his book that the church “has seldom been at its best,” and on this point, I couldn’t agree more.(3) But I would also have to add a critical addendum; namely, that I am rarely at my best. I am a part of this church who fails to love well, who says things that hurt, and falls short of its best on a regular basis. But if the church is truly meant to be the place where followers learn to become more like Christ, then I also can’t imagine a better place to be holding such a confession. Failings and all, it is the community that communes with the one who longs most for our human flourishing, who embodies God’s hope for humans at our best. Of the one who meets us in this human place, it was once confessed: “The righteous one shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:12).

It was with such a conviction that G.K. Chesterton responded to a newspaper seeking opinions on the question “What’s wrong with the world?” in one sentence. “Dear Sirs,” he replied, “I am.” In confessions of dark or disappointing realities, can our own hearts really be excluded? It was with visions of war and brokenness around him that David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”(4) It was before the cross scarred body of the human Christ that Thomas confessed, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” This, I believe, is humanity’s best confession.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Sathnam Sanghera, “Confessions of the Man Who Caused the Credit Crunch,” The Times Online, April 20, 2009, http://timesonline.co.uk, accessed April 21, 2009.
(2) Charles Templeton, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996), 129.
(3) Ibid., 127.
(4) Psalm 51:10.

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The Key to Living Well?

Hey TD!

What is the key to living well? I believe it is abiding in Christ.  John 15 speaks quite a bit on this:

4“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Our friend, Margaret Manning Shull, from Ravi Zacharias Int’l Ministries, recently posted a very valuable article in RZIM’s A Slice of Infinity.  Please read the article below and grow your acumen in abiding in Christ, not only for your sake, but for the sake of all those around you! – Arthur

The Art of Abiding by Margaret Manning Shull

When it comes to exercise many of us ask: “How long will it take?” or “How much do I have to do?” The shorter the duration the better, we hope. Scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have researched the benefits of shorter-duration, high-intensity workouts. They found that the aerobic benefits were just as high as those who had worked out for much longer periods of time.(1) As one professor noted, “If you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.”(2) This is good news for all who feel there are not enough hours in a day.

Yet, as good as this news may be for some, I am increasingly nervous about all the schemes and strategies to make one’s life more efficient. From the One Minute Manager to the One Minute Workout the short-cutting of our lives appears endemic. If one needs a quicker, faster, shorter version, there is an app for that. But I worry about what happens to our aptitude for endurance in the elevation of the efficient?

Edgar Degas, Musicians in the Orchestra, oil on canvas, 1872.

By contrast, author Malcolm Gladwell argued in his book Outliers that ten thousand hours of deliberate practice are needed before one can become good at some things. He cites Mozart, Bill Gates, and the Beatles as examples of brilliant artists and inventors whose patient practice and discipline began at an early age.(3) In fact, many artists suggest that their creative expression is something that must be practiced—exercised, as it were, just like any muscle. Significant achievement—in any area—is realized when bounded by discipline, and a tireless commitment to practice, routine, and structure. The painter, Wayne Thiebaud, once said that “an artist has to train his responses more than other people do. He has to be as disciplined as a mathematician. Discipline is not a restriction but an aid to freedom.”(4) Sadly, Thiebaud’s and Gladwell’s views are often the minority report in our hurried age.

Assumptions about growth in the spiritual life often parallel these assumptions about efficiency. Often, the drive to see measurable results creates unrealistic expectations. We often want a One Minute Spiritual Life that still yields unbounded growth and instant transformation. We expect the constant flow of “good feelings” surging through us. If we do not experience these things, or if we don’t perpetually experience something novel and instant from the rhythm of worship, prayer, or study, then we believe that something isn’t right. Sadly, we eschew the repetitive nature of discipline and routine.

Ritual, discipline, commitment, and structure seem impediments to growth, rather than the soil in which spiritual growth is nourished and fed. The drive for efficiency lures us into wanting a spiritual life more like osmosis—a process over which we have little control or responsibility.

There are not three easy steps to a vital spiritual life, nor an efficiency guide to greater transformation. And in his life and ministry, Jesus makes this connection between growth and discipline. In the gospel of John he exhorts his followers to “abide” in him—literally to rest and to take nourishment from the life Jesus offers.(5) Rest is the opposite of the efficient. In addition, he describes abiding in terms of love and obedience. “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”(6) Jesus insists that joy flows from a life of discipline and obedience that includes keeping his commands. They are not separate endeavors, but intimately enjoined to produce abundant life.

How ironic this statement seems when most of us do not associate joy with discipline or endurance! Our daily living often feels like monotonous routine. We can understand the desire to find a short-cut that brings excitement or instant results. But joy cannot be reduced to a feeling, nor is it dependent on the whims of our personalities. Joy is the result of a life lived in the rhythm of rest, routine, and discipline. Following in the way of Jesus can sometimes feel both tedious and difficult, as surely it is both tedious and difficult at times. But disciplined obedience is not a blockade to fullness of joy, but rather a doorway that opens into the abiding presence of God. There, we encounter one who produces something beautiful that remains.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Gretchen Reynolds, “One Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion,” The New York Times Blog, April 27, 2016, Accessed 20 May 2016.
(2) Ibid.
(3) As cited by Timothy Egan in “The One Minute Life,” The New York Times, May 13, 2016, Accessed 20 May 2016.
(4) As cited in Clint Brown, Artist to Artist: Inspiration & Advice from Artists Past & Present (Corvalis, OR: Jackson Creek Publishers, 1998), 87.
(5) John 15:4-5.
(6) John 15:9-11.

 

3 R’s – Rebuild (Fri.), Ravi, Reminder

ravi-blackberry

Hey TD!

My family and I had an incredible time in Colorado Springs last weekend with the world’s leading Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and the rest of his incredible team.  RZIM’s team of evangelists/apologists is unparalleled in the world today in their range and scope of ministry.  The more you familiarize yourself with their ministry, the sharper and more effective you’ll be … and … the more compassionate and sensitive you’ll be.  Go visit www.rzim.org and spend lots of time there!

This picture is for all you Blackberry haters who always give me a hard time for using a Blackberry!  As you can see, Ravi and I both use the same Blackberry 🙂 and have texted each other jokingly because both of us get smirked at for using it.  But we both still prefer their physical keyboard for writing!  So, as you can see, my friends, I’m in good company! Long live the Blackberry!

Anyway, this Friday, we’ll continue delving deeper into our year’s theme, Rebuild: Rehabituating Our Life in Christ.  I will lead us in a key study that will get right to the core of our lives in Christ.  This will be an essential message for those of you needing to rebuild your lives in Christ.  The message is entitled, “Rebuilding Our Infrastructure,” and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

And a quick reminder: Don’t forget the TD Pre-Party at 7:15 p.m.!

See you Friday! – Arthur

“A Christmas Meditation” by Ravi

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas, TD!

Yesterday, I shared a Christmas “Slice” with you by Ravi.  Today, I’d like to share “A Christmas Meditation” that my family read together this Christmas morning, also by Ravi.  It’s a pretty powerful reading.  Enjoy and be challenged to better appreciate Christ this Christmas day.  It’s a little longer than usual, but is so worth it. – Arthur

“A Christmas Meditation” by Ravi Zacharias

One of my favorite authors, F.W. Boreham, tells a fascinating story, told to him by his mother while they sat around the fireplace one evening. As a young woman of seventeen, she had set up an appointment to meet her cousin in Canterbury, near the Cathedral. She went as planned but her cousin was not there. Somewhat “dejected and disgusted” about this broken appointment, she was not in the happiest disposition. A man with a very intellectual countenance but a gentle presence who had seen her walk up and down offered to show her around while she waited and explain some of the Cathedral’s features and its history. He had a wealth of information with incredible insights. As they parted, he gave her his card and without looking at it, she slipped it into her purse. In the end, it turned out that her cousin had become ill and hence, never showed.

On her way home in the train, she finally took out the card. It simply said, “Charles Dickens.” She gasped at the thought that she had been face to face with one of the greatest story tellers of all time and regretted her lost opportunity of knowing through whose eyes she was seeing the great Cathedral…one who was so in tune with the stones and personages that intersected where they had met. But preoccupation had pre-empted that inspiration.

Seeing through the eyes of one who knows the stories behind an edifice is a privileged glimpse for anyone. Imagine how it must have felt to the disciples on the Emmaus Road when they realized who it was that had just explained to them not a building or a song, but all of history as it pointed to the Messiah. When they met him, He asked why they were so despondent and not knowing who He was, they answered, “Are you the only one in Israel who doesn’t know what has happened in the last few days?” He must have smiled on the inside because the irony was that He was the only one in Israel who actually did know what had happened. Even as they listened to Him open history before them they had no idea who it was that was doing the explaining, except that their hearts burned within them as they saw a panorama of redemption. When it dawned on them that He was the risen Christ, they must have dug deep inside to wonder how they had missed it.

But at least they listened. Poor Pontius Pilate asked the greatest question he could have asked—“What is truth?”—of the only one who perfectly embodied it, but he did not even have the presence of mind to wait for the answer. He also missed the moment. History repeats itself and regrets of that nature have a long reach.

On that quiet night so long ago, lying in the manger was the answer to all of life’s successes, struggles, disappointments, and regrets. The hopes and fears of all the years had met in Him that night in a makeshift crib in the little town of Bethlehem. A carpenter, a humble maid, a band of shepherds, and ordinary folks responded in awe at the blessing of his arrival. As always, there were those who were busy about their business and had no time to pause and ask, “Who is He in yonder stall?” What a loss! They missed a divine appointment with mankind.

Then there were those in power that felt threatened by Him and wished to silence Him permanently. Malcolm Muggeridge said it well:  All new news is old news happening to new people. Just as the Garden of Eden is lived out every day in somebody’s life, the Christmas message is lived out every day in all of our lives. Today in our schools and even businesses and government in America the message of Jesus is shamelessly silenced or mocked, and should anyone speak up, some “figures in robes” somewhere with the power of Caesar will wreak havoc in their lives. This is not new. There are still Caesars who think they are gods. There are still those who elevate the mundane to the exalted and miss the marvel of the ultimate. This has ever been so, as truth and grace are traded away for the artificial and the momentary. Intellectual hubris silences the bells of heaven and they cannot hear for whom the bell now tolls as a nation self-destructs. How self-indicting it is, that we can be so close and yet so distant from having our eyes opened.

But there was another one that first Christmas, the one who was the closest of all to the story but didn’t quite know what the journey was all about for a completely different reason. When she was told that a sword would pierce through her heart Mary must have shuddered under the weight of the unknown. She had no idea of the horror she would one day experience, seeing her son go to the cross. What a horrific pronouncement! Yet, the prophecy brought enough of a jolt to one day bring those words to mind, though she could not anticipate the specifics. Uncertainty once again, with hope but fear.  It is understandable.

We have the unique privilege of being able to look back and read the whole story. There was a Cross that loomed in a fearful symmetry with the manger. Emmanuel, God was with us. Born to be lifted up, “to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Bethlehem portended the magnitude of the need and the supremacy of God’s answer.

Our world is broken. Many a family will have a vacant chair this Christmas because a life has been snatched from their circle. Humankind is wounded and hollow speeches bereft of wisdom are the landmarks along the way. We look into the future a little bit like Mary, knowing we have the Saviour but not knowing what swords will pierce through our hearts. Hopes and fears intersect as we journey.

But let us draw strength this Christmas. Prophecy is unfolding before our eyes in giant strides, just as He said it would. The scriptures are full of it. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

I have a friend who lives in Norwalk, Ohio, a doctor. He told me some years ago that as a very young teen, his daughter had gone to the Caribbean on a youth mission trip. She returned with her group to Miami to make her way back home. Her parents were concerned about this last leg of the journey by herself; she would be separate from the group, travelling alone for the first time. As she was looking for her flight information on the marquee at the airport, an older man also viewing the list of flights asked if he could help her. Uncomfortable, but not wanting to reveal her unease, she let him know she was checking for her flight information to Detroit. He said, “Oh, I’m going to Detroit, too!” That sent tremors into this young girl’s heart. Again, she tried to mask it. “Is that your destination,” he asked? “No, actually I’m heading to Norwalk, Ohio, and my dad is picking me up in Detroit.” To her utter surprise, he said, “You know what? I’m going to Norwalk too and I’ll be happy to take you there and save your dad the drive.” Now fear really began to grip her. Then there was a pause. The gentleman detected the hint of fear. “Are you Stacey,” he asked, giving her full name? Stunned, she answered that she was. He smiled. “I’m the doctor who delivered you when you were born, Stacey. I know your folks very well.” An irrepressible smile lit her face now and she felt a huge sigh of relief. She knew that her parents knew the doctor very well. The phone connection was made and the journey home was both providential and safe.

I ask you, what more poetic a story than to be worried about your daughter only to learn that the first one to have ever held her in his arms was the same one who would guide her home on her first journey alone from a distant city!

We are pilgrims, journeying through life. The story of Bethlehem is the most beautiful and the greatest story ever told, the story of God’s visitation. Imagine the shepherds who tried to raise perfect lambs looking at the Lamb of God. Imagine the kings who studied the stars coming to the One who made them and was the King of kings. Imagine Simeon, who had waited all his life for the Messiah, holding in his arms He who would soon be carrying Simeon in His own. Imagine Mary, fearing the sword that would pierce through her heart, finding out that the child in her arms was the redeemer of every heart that came to Him, the great I AM. Imagine Joseph the carpenter, who “saved” him from Herod’s slaughter, finding the very designer of the universe saving him from his sin.

Missing Dickens and being fearful of who is offering you a ride back home are legitimate regrets or fears in a world of unknowns. But finding the Saviour and having Him explain all and take you to your destination is what Christmas is all about: hope within and hope for the future. He is the One and only Prince of Peace.

As the world debates who should be armed to wage war and who shouldn’t be, the message of Christmas is that God Incarnate came to this same world as a babe to ultimately carry us in His everlasting arms. This world would be a different place if we understood what that meant. Thank you for helping us carry His message for another year.

A Blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year to you.

Ravi Zacharias

Where God Was Homeless

Merry Christmas, TD!

I read this “Slice of Infinity” (RZIM’s daily readings) by Ravi and was nearly as convicted as he was, as I could see myself reacting the exact same way he did.  Perhaps you could too.  May this reading remind you of how to live not only on Christmas, but year round. – Arthur

Where God Was Homeless by Ravi Zacharias

Some years ago, we were spending Christmas in the home of my wife’s parents. It was not a happy day in the household. Much had gone wrong during the preceding weeks, and a weight of sadness hung over the home. Yet, in the midst of all that, my mother-in-law kept her routine habit of asking people who would likely have no place to go at Christmas to share Christmas dinner with us.

That year she invited a man who was, by everyone’s estimate, somewhat of an odd person, quite eccentric in his demeanor. Not much was known about him at the church except that he came regularly, sat alone, and left without much conversation. He obviously lived alone and was quite a sorry-looking, solitary figure. He was our Christmas guest.

Because of other happenings in the house (including one daughter being taken to the hospital for the birth of her first child), everything was in confusion. All of our emotions were on edge. It fell upon me, in turn, to entertain this gentleman. I must confess that I did not appreciate it. Owing to a heavy life of travel year-round, I have jealously guarded my Christmases as time to be with my family. This was not going to be such a privilege, and I was not happy. As I sat in the living room, entertaining him while others were busy, I thought to myself, “This is going to go down as one of the most miserable Christmases of my life.”

But somehow we got through the evening. He evidently loved the meal, the fire crackling in the background, the snow outside, the Christmas carols playing, and a rather weighty theological discussion in which he and I were engaged—at his instigation, I might add. He was a very well-read man and, as I found out, loved to grapple with heavy theological themes. I do too, but frankly, not during an evening that has been set aside to enjoy life’s quiet moments.

At the end of the night when he bade us all good-bye, he reached out and took the hand of each of us, one by one, and said, “Thank you for the best Christmas of my life. I will never forget it.” He walked out into the dark, snowy night, back into his solitary existence.

My heart sank in self-indictment at those tender words of his. I had to draw on every nerve in my being to keep from breaking down with tears. Just a few short years later, relatively young, and therefore to our surprise, he passed away. I have relived that Christmas many times in my memory. That year God taught me a lesson. A home can reflect and distribute the love of Christ.

The first time I walked through the noisy streets of Bethlehem and endured its smells, I gained a whole new sense of the difference between our Christmas carols, glamorizing the sweetness of the “little town of Bethlehem,” and the harsh reality of God becoming flesh and making a home among us. G.K. Chesterton captures the wonder of such a thought:

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where he was homeless
Are you and I at home:
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.(1)

Jesus’s earthly address changes our own. Christ comes this Christmas, and shows us what it means to live.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

(1) G.K. Chesterton, “The House of Christmas,” from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1985), 304-5.

“Is Paris Burning?” (a must read by Ravi)

Hi TD’ers,

As I have been sharing at TD, we Christians cannot merely be purveyors of content anymore.  That may have been plausible in yesteryear, when certain assumptions about human life, morals, and dignity were unquestioned; but now we live in an age where those values once presumed must now be defended and proven.

That has sent many a Christian reeling, leaving them uncertain in what they believe anymore, and ineffective and unpersuasive with respect to contending for Truth.   One reason for this is the modern Christian’s inability to see, understand, and describe the core tenets and ideologies of issues, slogans, and movements in our world and culture.  We can handle gadgets and social media like nobody’s business, but we cannot handle real life.  Alas, it seems in reality that smarter phones are in the hands of dumber people.

This is one reason why I appreciate Ravi Zacharias so much.  He looks past the symptoms and heads to the source of the issues; and he does it biblically.  What happened in Paris last week may well occur on our shores very soon (at least that’s what ISIS is promising).  How are Christians to think upon this?  Ravi’s article isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a great start for us.  Please fight your urge to stop reading mid-way through, because you can no longer read more than 3 paragraphs without zoning out, and begin rebuilding the mind God entrusted to you; and do it biblically. – Arthur

Is Paris Burning? by Ravi Zacharias

The layers that obscure the truth are burying humanity in large numbers. Yes, Paris was burning again and those flames and the dead bodies may well be a grim foreshadowing of what the future holds. I was in neighboring England the night the massacre scattered across Paris took place, as people going out to enjoy a dinner or concert or a football game were the targets of hate-filled and ruthless killers. The newspapers the next day had similar words: “Carnage”; “massacre”; “assassination”; “murder”; “blood”; “death”; “screams”; “terror,” and so on. Television programming was preempted and viewers were cautioned that some of the scenes of the slaughter were graphic. It was real. A few hours later, names and pictures of the dead were shown. It was like we had heard this before. But it was new and real: the victims’ lives cut short in the peak of their careers. Children who weren’t going to come home. People looking for their loved ones. Marriages suddenly broken by death. A young graduate with life ahead of her. And so on. One doesn’t have to know the individuals to feel helplessness and pain. This is twenty-first century murderous man. War in small increments can be deadlier than large scale war because it doesn’t just desensitize the killers; it desensitizes all of humanity.

Killers who do not represent a country and whose belief is debated ad nauseam as to whether it is a version or a perversion are truly sinister and are the cancerous cells of our time. They are protected by having no roots either in country or belief. The West is being taken down in small portions till one day the lie of the murderers being protected by smooth-talking power brokers with a bodyguard of lies will be seen for the terrifying belief that it is. No contrary view will be allowed then. For now, the layers of distortion cover the graves of the murdered. The whole world has become a courtroom where clever lawyers make truth unattainable. Whether it be 9/11 or the carnage at the Boston Marathon or blown-up planes or Paris, we will not find answers because to ask the question is either to receive a lie from some politicians or many in the media, or to invoke the wrath of hate-filled killers.

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So we ask! What is the belief behind all this that kills with such callousness? We do not get any answers. We are told by some that it’s a religion of peace. Others call it a political theory at its core covered with the garb of religion to give it maximum protection as it invokes the laws of blasphemy. What is the answer? We had dare not unpack the truth. In one sense, strangely, one feels almost pity for these murderers. The possessor of hate loses the essence of life much more than the victim does. Living with a heart so deceived breeds a decimating misery within and spreads the venom globally. There must be scores of young men within the belief who do not wish to inflict such pain but who now live with the pall of suspicion over them. Such is the contagion of a poisoned soul.

But the quest for answers still haunts. In one Middle Eastern country, an awful thing happened. Two young Muslims turned atheists were on a program. They argued for the reality that blood had been spilled across the centuries and that there was no denying that from its earliest days to the present, this was the same blood-letting in the name of the belief as originally given and carried out. Then one of them asked the cleric a question that was as pointed as could be. It was a powerful question with an irrefutable fact within the question. The question laid bare a reality that was deemed blasphemous. The next day that man and his family were murdered, just for asking a fact-laden question that was unanswerable without conceding the truth. For that, he and his family paid with their lives.

That’s the depravity of our age. It is death to ask the pointed question because the answer, if true, betrays the real truth. The masquerade is on and it is deadly. We watch hundreds die. We hear speeches full of distortions; we tolerate deceit and even reward it. Some in power and in the public eye whitewash the reality while the blood of the murdered cries out from the ground. Our children and grandchildren will inherit the whirlwind because our media pundits and misguided speech-makers have sown to the wind by trading in lives for their power.

It would be easy to lose heart and become cynical. But No! There is One who sees all things, knows all things, and will ultimately triumph over all things. There is only one message that addresses the truth as the truth. The Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, came to this earth and was also the victim of hate. Lies sent him to the cross. Power overruled reality, as politics and religious demagogues once again made the lie seem noble. But the Lord who sees the beginning from the end amazingly conquered not in spite of the dark mystery of evil, rather, He conquered through it. James Stewart of Scotland, pointing to the cross, said it in the most powerful terms I have read. Commenting on the verse from Psalm 68:18, “He led captivity captive,”‎ he said,

It is a glorious phrase—“He led captivity captive.” The very triumphs of his foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to subserve his ends not theirs. They nailed him to a tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet. They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne. They flung him outside the city gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up the gates of the universe, to let the king come in. They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy. They thought they had God with his back to the wall, pinned helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conqueredthrough it.

The lie has a shelf life. The truth abides forever. God can even conquer through our perversion.

One more thing. I would be remiss if I left the guilt and darkness out there. That is the seduction of a fake righteousness. We all have to look at our own hearts and see the evil that is within each one of us. Only then can we find the answer from which all other answers flow. Some time ago, I was in Romania. A sculptor had some of his works on display. One was a horrific, fierce-looking, long nail. When you picked it up, as rusty and jagged as the nail was, the head was polished and shiny. ‎And when you looked at that polished head, you saw a reflection of yourself. It is sobering. Very sobering.

You see, the nails that cause hurt and pain and death ultimately point to our own hearts. Only when we as individuals see the evil that is within will we find an answer for the evil that is around us. Maybe, just maybe, someday a carnage will take place that might cause everyone in power to see their own hearts as God sees them and tell us the truth of what these killings are all about. Only then will truth triumph and we find real answers. Until then, the flames will gain ground and not just Paris will burn, but the next story of scorched lives in another city will make us forget this one… or possibly, awaken us to the cost of a lie. More than ever we need the Savior. Lord have mercy! ‎

Posted on http://www.rzim.org on 11/18/15

Last Call! reThink Conference/Ravi & The Afters

Hey TD!

There are two great opportunities this week for you to sharpen your mind and to be inspired by some of the finest Christian apologists on the planet:

1.  reThink Apologetics Student Conference this weekend, 9/25 – 9/26.  Yes, we will still give you the TD discount!  Let your small group leader know if you’d like to go ASAP.  We are registering our group tomorrow.

reThink Student Apologetics Conference web site

2.  Ravi Zacharias is in Pasadena this Thursday, along with Christian music artists, The Afters.  Admission is free (!), but you must register online to enter:

Ravi in Pasadena

Ok, take care, TD!

– Arthur