Three Miracles in One

Ours is a supernatural faith built around three personal miracles. Our faith commences with a miracle. We come into the kingdom by a miraculous new birth (John 3:3). Our salvation concludes with a miracle. At our Lord’s coming we will be made like him (1 John 3:2). What a transformation! But there is the continuing middle miracle that many seem to miss. This miracle is that we can reign in life right now with Kingdom Authority.

Christians are not just nice people. They are new creatures with spiritual royalty. They are not like a tadpole graduating into a frog but are more like a frog transformed by the kiss of grace to become a prince. “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

But what kind of a king can reign without authority? None! In the same way we cannot reign in the grace and power of our Lord without Kingdom Authority.

The life that God desires for us is to be one of divine Kingdom Authority. While the Bible admits the possibility of defeat for a Christian, it never assumes the necessity of it. We are already kings and priests meant to live in perpetual victory—not necessarily in ease, wealth, or health but victory. Kingdom Authority is not only for the “sweet by and by” but for the believer today. It is your birthright and legacy.

Satan will marshal all the forces of hell and the demons of darkness to keep you in ignorance about your Kingdom Authority. Satan wants to deceive you into thinking that victory is impossible—even if you are swimming in an ocean of potential blessing!

A friend told about an experiment he had seen in a film. A large walleye pike was taken alive and placed in a huge aquarium. The water temperature and surroundings were adjusted to match the lake he was taken from. Then, buckets of live minnows were dumped in. Mr. Pike thought he was in heaven. He began rapidly swallowing these minnows.

A short while later, the researchers played a trick on the fish. They placed a large glass cylinder of water into the tank, then filled it with minnows. Mr. Pike started for the minnows again, only to bump his snout against the invisible barrier. He tried again and again and again. Finally he gave up and settled on the bottom of his “heaven” that had gone awry.

The researchers then removed the cylinder, and the minnows swam freely in the tank. But Mr. Pike never made a move for one of them. They would swim right past his face, but he never moved. He was convinced that he would never have another minnow. He finally starved, surrounded by minnows.

Have you ever thought that you may be asking God for what you already have? It is time for you to open your eyes and possess your possessions. Are you saved? Have you repented of your sin, believed upon Jesus Christ to save you, and made him Lord of your life? Then you are a member of the royal family of God with Kingdom Authority!

Simon Peter tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:3-4). One of these days, we’re going to wake up and understand what God has already given his children and stop asking him for what we already have. Living victoriously isn’t your responsibility; it is rather your response to God’s ability.

We are conquerors through Christ. Romans 8:35-37 says: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” The key in this passage is the word “through.” How do we have Kingdom Authority? Through Christ. Behind every promise is a person. And his name is Jesus.

As believers, we should walk on conquered ground. Stake your claim of faith on the promises of God. And do as Winston Churchill once said: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never.”

The Problem with Humanity

The problem with humanity is sin—our natural propensity to love ourselves and live for our glory rather than to love God and seek his glory. But when we finally become convinced of our lost and sinful condition—with all its deadly consequences—then we cry out for the kind of help that only God can give, saying, “What must [we] do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

Divine Intervention

By now it should be clear that the answer cannot lie anywhere in us. If anything, human beings are only getting deeper in difficulty. What we need is for God to come and save us. And this is what God does, for “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Ps. 3:8; see also Jonah 2:9). Although nature can teach us about creation and the fall, it is only in the Bible that we learn the simple truth of redemption by grace: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). This faith-based approach to salvation stands in sharp contrast to religions that rely on human effort, including versions of Christianity that in any way make good works part of the basis for salvation.

Like creation, redemption is the work of the triune God. Together the Father, the Son, and the Spirit take the loving initiative to work their eternal plan for the redemption of our lost and fallen world. Yet the primary agent of our redemption is God the Son. The salvation appointed by the Father and applied by the Spirit is accomplished by the Son. This is the grand theme of Scripture: salvation in Jesus Christ. If Genesis 1 and 2 are primarily about creation, and Genesis 3 describes the fall, then the rest of the Bible chiefly is about the love and grace God has for sinners through the person and work of his Son. The compassion of God’s saving plan is perhaps most perfectly expressed in the words of Jesus himself: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17).

In order to do this saving work, Jesus first entered the world that he had made and suffered the misery of its fallen condition. The same Son of God who created and sustains the universe “ultimately and permanently joined that creation in order to redeem it.” In his incarnation, which began with his miraculous conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary and became public with his birth at Bethlehem, God the Son became fully human as well as fully divine and thus experienced our embodied existence. The perfect and permanent unity of humanity and deity in Jesus Christ places God’s imprimatur on physical life in a physical world. “When God in Jesus Christ claims space in the world,” explained Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “even space in a stable because ‘there was no other place in the inn’—God embraces the whole reality of the world in this narrow space and reveals its ultimate foundation.” Writing in the seventh century, John of Damascus described the attitude a follower of Christ should take toward God and toward his creation as a result:

I do not worship matter, I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take his abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter that wrought my salvation. I honor it, but not as God. . . . Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with his grace and power. Through it my salvation has come to me.

In his humanity, Jesus did what God demanded, perfectly obeying the law and thereby fulfilling the covenant that we had broken in Adam. Although Jesus himself was never a sinner, he nevertheless endured the sufferings and sorrows of life in a fallen world, including weakness, pain, grief, cruelty, persecution, abuse, torture, and finally death. Thus we have a God who fully understands what it is like for us to endure all the troubles and tribulations of our present existence in a world that is marred by sin.

More than that, Jesus actually did something to address our fallen condition. “It is this body of our suffering that Christ was born into,” wrote Wendell Berry, “to suffer it Himself and to fill it with light, so that beyond the suffering we can imagine Easter morning.” Jesus took on our life in order to take us into his life, achieving salvation through his crucifixion and bodily resurrection. When Jesus was crucified at Calvary, he took upon himself the punishment that we deserve, suffering God’s holy wrath and righteous curse against our sin. The manner of Christ’s death is significant. Under Jewish law, a crucified man was cursed by God (Deut. 21:22–23). This is perplexing, because as a sinless man Jesus did not deserve to be cursed. The New Testament resolves this conundrum by explaining that Jesus was cursed for our sin rather than his own. He died in our place. By his willing and perfect sacrifice, the full price for our sins was paid, and we no longer stand under the condemnation of God. With his blood, Jesus atoned for our sins and redeemed us for God.

Then on the third day Jesus was raised again, coming back from the dead with the splendor of an immortal body and the power of eternal life. The good news of salvation—the gospel of grace—is that Jesus died on the cross for sinners and rose again from the grave. This was a bodily resurrection, in which the physical corpse of Jesus returned from the dead in miraculous glory. This proved that his sacrifice for our sins was accepted by God and brought immortality to humanity.
Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition – Christian Worldview: A Student’s Guide.

Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, the DC Sniper, and the Importance of Fathers

Like many basketball junkies deprived of March Madness and the NBA playoffs, I devoured ESPN’s ten-part series “The Last Dance,” the definitive account of one of the NBA’s G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time), Michael Jordan. Anyone who watched the emergence of the Bulls in the 1990s knew that Jordan’s talent and athleticism were matched only by his drive, but I’m not sure any of us fully understood his unique ability to manufacture grudges for competitive advantage, or to either motivate or run off teammates.

In one area, however, Michael Jordan was just like the rest of us. The series dove deeply into his love and devotion for his dad. The greatest athlete of the 20th century, the international icon and billionaire, longed for his dad’s acceptance and love just like everyone else, from the time he was a boy until long after his dad was murdered in North Carolina in 1993. His dad was the reason for his first retirement. His dad was the reason behind the iconic photo of Jordan heaving tears, hugging the championship trophy, after returning to the game.

The film also covers the career of Dennis Rodman, perhaps the greatest rebounder in basketball history and an unexpected ingredient in the second half of the Bulls dynasty. Rodman grew up without a father but found one, after his unlikely journey to the NBA, in Chuck Daly, the coach of the Detroit Pistons. After being traded to Chicago, Rodman continued to perform well on the court, but without Daly’s guidance, went off the rails off the court. Today, he’s less known for basketball than he is for substance abuse, Vegas bingers, dating Madonna, getting arrested, wearing a wedding dress, and hanging out with Korean dictator Kim Jong un.

Another series I’ve binged during quarantine was the podcast “Monster: DC Sniper.” In October of 2002, John Allen Muhammad (aged 41) and Lee Boyd Malvo (aged 17) held Washington DC, northern Virginia, and Maryland hostage with fear during a three-week random shooting rampage.

A key factor behind the entire horrifying saga, at least according to the series, is Lee Boyd Malvo’s desperate need for a father. Malvo met John Allen Muhammad when he was 13, and Muhammad treated him like a son, trusting and affirming him. Muhammad even introduced Malvo to others as his son. So, Malvo followed him, back and forth across the country, and four years later, on a shooting spree that would kill at least eleven people in three states. 

A dominant narrative today is that fathers are expendable except for, perhaps, genetic and financial contributions. Either life goes on just fine without them, or they can be easily replaced by a “loving parent.” The stories of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and Lee Boyd Malvo, however, suggest that there is a dad-shaped hole in all us that only dads can fill.

Of course, many people have fared well without dads, and many haven’t fared so well with dads. Heroic single parents are everywhere, as are grandparents and extended family members, foster care parents, and others who step in to fill the gap left by absent dads. But still, the data could not be more clear: dads matter.

Back in 1992, Vice-President Dan Quayle was derided for saying as much in response to sitcom character Murphy Brown having a child outside of marriage and without the father involved. The whole saga likely cost him the presidency. (Either that, or it was because he couldn’t spell potato).

The following year, in an Atlantic article, Barbara Defoe Whitehead proclaimed “Dan Quayle was Right.” According to “a growing body of social-scientific evidence,” she wrote, “children in families disrupted by divorce and out-of-wedlock birth do worse than children in intact families on several measures of well-being.”

Today, nearly three decades later, we know that “do worse” is an understatement. “Children in single-parent families are six times as likely to be poor.” They are also more likely to stay poor. “Fatherless children also have more difficulties with social adjustment, and are more likely to report problems with friendships, and manifest behavior problems.”

As Chuck Colson would often point out, they are far more likely to be arrested and sent to prison. They “are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs in childhood and adulthood.” They are more likely to drop out of school and are much less likely to go to college even if they don’t. They are far more likely to run away from home, and they are much more likely to be physically and/or sexually abused.

Again, let me be clear: none of this means children from single-parent homes are doomed to fail. Heroic single parents, grandparents, adopted families, and mentors step in to fill huge gaps left when dads are absent. Yet, when it comes to dads, our culture changes the narrative instead of taking the data seriously.

Taking the data seriously would require sacrificing personal happiness for the sake of kids. Taking the data seriously requires not redefining institutions of marriage and “family.” Taking the data seriously means rethinking what a “life well-lived” really is.

Thankfully, almost none of the victims of our bad ideas about marriage or parenting or fathering wind up shooting random strangers around the Beltway, but the damage done is real and lasting. The narratives we invent won’t change that.

John Stonestreet

The First Declaration of Independence

In the late 18th century, a colonist began writing a manuscript that summarized the political unrest of his time. He produced a startling declaration read aloud in a political hall in Philadelphia:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Thomas Jefferson’s words expressed the overwhelming desire of the Colonial citizens: political freedom for those oppressed by England. Today, more than two centuries separate us from those discussions that summer of 1776. It is important that U.S. citizens ponder those words to remember the origins of this nation—a declaration for freedom for the politically bound. Every year, early in July, Americans remember the Declaration of Independence and the war that led to our political freedom.

In the late first century of the Christian age, a physician began writing a manuscript that summarized the ministry of Jesus. Luke recorded a startling declaration that Jesus spoke in a Jewish synagogue in the obscure town of Nazareth:

Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read” (Luke 4:16-21, New English Translation).

Luke’s document expressed the overwhelming desire of every person since the fall in the Garden: freedom for those oppressed by sin.

Today, nearly two millennia separate us from the events recorded in Luke’s Gospel. So, it is important for Christians to ponder those first-century words to remember the origins of our faith—the declaration of freedom for every person bound by sin. Jesus gave us an expression of worship to help us remember his declaration of independence and his war that led to our spiritual freedom.

Stuart Powell

Whatever Happened to Humor

If you’ve ever gotten into social justice discussions online, you’ve likely encountered a certain type of person, a person who seems almost incapable of expressing any emotion except grave concern. They could be progressives, or they could be conservatives, but their temperament unites them. They are very, very serious people.

Perhaps the first thing you notice in conversation with them is their confidence. They are sure, very sure that they’re right. Next, you might notice their earnestness. They are quite serious and mean every word they say.

Sooner or later, you notice something else, something a bit less wholesome. They are utterly joyless.

But aren’t we in grave times? Who has time for humor in an age like ours? How else will others know how serious we take our serious times if we’re not obsessively frowning at every chance? After all, if you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention!

I’m reminded of the way in which G.K. Chesterton answered those of this scowling sort in his day:

“Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do… For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.”

You see, while I understand the desire to take the issues being discussed seriously, I fear we’re in danger of taking ourselves too seriously. We’re in danger, as Chesterton said, of succumbing to the same force which brought Satan down – our own sense of gravitas.

But aren’t we in grave times? Who has time for humor in an age like ours? How else will others know how serious we take our serious times if we’re not obsessively frowning at every chance? After all, if you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention!

We ought to remember that weighty times should, and often do, bring about levity. In a recent interview, Jerry Seinfeld talked about his dad carrying a file around during his service in WWII — it was a catalog of all the jokes and funny stories he was hearing from his fellow soldiers. The great satirist P. J. O’Rourke says the hardest he’s ever laughed was when he was a war-correspondent.

What’s to account for such counterintuitive joviality? The cathartic release found in morbid jokes in hard times? Well, I think it’s something more than gallows humor.

It has to do with perspective. You see, a worthy cause humbles a man. As he takes the mission at hand more seriously, he stops taking himself so seriously.

Today, we lack a collective mission. We lack a cohesive project. We grope toward various causes — some quite noble, some rather less so — but our self-seriousness belies an ideological and personal insecurity.

It’s like we’re putting together a puzzle, but no one knows how it’s supposed to look in the end. Like in the Emperor’s New Clothes, we’re scared to admit our ignorance to others and, perhaps most of all, to ourselves. We scramble to find corner pieces so we can shout that they be placed “just so.” But our confidence is gilded deflection. We don’t know what to do with the other pieces. We can’t move on. We’re stuck. We’re lost.

What we need is the picture on the puzzle box. We need to see how the profound truths behind #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter and a host of other claims to justice relate to how we spend our money, where we vacation, what we eat, and with whom we sleep.

We need an animating vision of life. We need to be overcome with the bigness of God and His world. We don’t need to fit God into our missions; we need to fit ourselves into God’s mission.

We don’t just need causes; we need a cause. We need The Cause.

We need an animating vision of life. We need to be overcome with the bigness of God and His world. We don’t need to fit God into our missions; we need to fit ourselves into God’s mission.

Corrie ten Boom, who survived the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, said it best: Look at the world and be distressed. Look within and be depressed. Look at Jesus and be at rest.”

Until we recast our eyes, we’ll continue to muster up our energies to shout and demean strangers on the internet. Or maybe our earnestness will lead to exhaustion, which will lead to apathy, a moral indifference immune to any cry for justice or purpose. Who knows how this ends?

There are many paths to despair, but only one to joy.

“Come to me,” Jesus says, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the work of Christ, we find healing. In the person of Christ, we find rest. In the mission of Christ, we find meaning and purpose. And in the Spirit of Christ, we find the empowerment to go about that mission with joy. It is only when we’ve encountered the weight of His glory that we can begin to take ourselves less seriously.

Dustin Messer

Pray for Hong Kong Christians

This week, Beijing horrified millions of Hong Kongers with the enforcement of a new national security law that ushers in sweeping regulations criminalising secession, subversion, “terrorism” and collusion with foreign forces. Anyone accused of breaking this law faces extradition to China for trial and life in prison.

The wording is so vague that no one can be sure how the coming months are going to play out, but what is certain is that these laws pose a serious threat to the freedoms, including religious freedom, of all Hong Kongers, says Gina Goh, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia with International Christian Concern, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide.

Gina speaks to Christian Today about why Christians everywhere need to be worried about what’s happening in Hong Kong and what action they can take.

CT: What’s your take on the passing of this law?

Gina: We knew that it was coming but I think to many people’s surprise, it’s actually stricter than we were expecting and there’s a clause in there that effectively regulates anybody, not just Hong Kong citizens.

Even before it passed, some people were saying that this is the end of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. Sadly, it does seem so and I’m sure a lot of people will feel like Hong Kong as we knew it before is dead. They will continue to fight but it’s going to be a lot more difficult because if you say anything against China, that’s become criminalised.

Joshua Wong and other leaders of Demosisto have already stepped down because the struggle is going to be very difficult, and the push for human rights and democracy is going to have to be creative now. But even though they’ve stepped down, it’s possible that they could be arrested next week. It’s just so hard to predict what’s going to happen under these new laws.

CT: Do you think Christians in Hong Kong should be worried?

Gina: If you look at China, after President Xi Jinping came into power he started cracking down on churches. A Chinese friend told me that before Xi came into office, for Christians, it was like a yellow light – the authorities didn’t like Christians but they tolerated them and would sometime turn a blind eye to their gatherings. But after he came to power, the light turned red, especially for underground churches. The crackdown is increasing and they’re trying to get rid of house churches once and for all.

This is a concern for Hong Kong churches because they effectively qualify as ‘underground’ churches. We don’t know yet if China is going to come in and set up something like the Three Self Patriotic Church or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association to make sure they have all of these churches under their control. But they can only select so many pro-China priests and pastors. Hong Kong pastors have known freedom for a long time so it’s hard for them to suddenly yield to the control of the CCP.

Pastor Wang Yi
Pastor Wang Yi

If you look at the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan, Pastor Wang Yi spoke out about religious freedom and oppression, and for this he was charged with subversion of state power. So if you take the same standard and apply it to Hong Kong churches, a lot of pastors are going to be in trouble because they have been on the streets and spoken out against the Chinese government and Hong Kong government. People like Cardinal Zen, the Auxiliary Bishop of Hong Kong, and Christian scholar Ying Fuk-Tsang are likely big targets. They have not been afraid to speak out against the extradition laws.

But again, the laws are so broad we don’t yet know fully how things will be. Just this week, the Hong Kong police reportedly decided that stickers with a Bible verse that some girls had in their backpack were in violation of the national security law. So maybe even the Bible text itself, which talks about justice and mercy and rights, will violate this law. It’s so broad. So it’s definitely worrying for Christians there. Maybe their sermons or prayer vigils will be monitored by security agents; maybe they already have been and they just weren’t aware of it.

Another thing is that several years ago, a Hong Kong businessman was smuggling Bibles into China and China charged him with illegal business. With this new law now, China doesn’t even need to use trumped up charges to imprison you. They can just say you are violating the national security law and you can be in prison for up to 10 years. That’s definitely concerning for Hong Kong churches.

CT: Why does the CCP see Christians as such a great threat?

Gina: I would say it’s really more President Xi Jinping. His fear is firstly about the number of Christians. They have grown exponentially in the last 10 years. Although there is no official data, it’s believed they surpass the number of CCP members so they are afraid of this because they know that Christians’ allegiance is not to the party but to the Lord. If it’s a mass organisation, they feel threatened because they can’t control that, so that’s why they want to get rid of house churches.Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 5, 2018.REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

But also President Xi wants people to praise him and the CCP. That’s why in rural areas, churches were told to take down pictures of Jesus and replace them with his portrait, and give thanks to him and the party. China is increasingly becoming like North Korea where people have to worship the Kim regime.

Another thing is the blending of democratic values and Western values. With Christianity comes the pursuit of justice, freedom and human rights. There is still this notion that Christianity is a Western religion, and the CCP is anti-Western ideologies, especially in recent years. The CCP doesn’t want these ideas to spread around China because that becomes a threat to the regime. What if the people all decide to rise up and say we have had enough; that there’s no justice in this country and we don’t need you to rule us any longer?

CT: What would you like Christians everywhere to be doing or praying for when it comes to Hong Kong?

Gina: I think if people are not familiar with the issue, first learn about it and why Christians should care. We need to stand with democratic values, human rights and democracy, and as Christians we need to stand with those who are being oppressed. That’s what Jesus has commanded us to do.

In the last few months, the governments and media all over the world have been distracted by the coronavirus pandemic so the attention hasn’t been on Hong Kong but with this new measure, it needs to be back on Hong Kong again. On social media, Christians can tweet and help to keep the conversation alive. They can petition their government to take necessary measures, and tell their government that they care about this issue and want actions to be taken to help the people of Hong Kong.

And of course pray. Pray in your churches and hold prayer vigils. As Christians, we need to pray to show that we are standing in solidarity with Hong Kong Christians and churches because they are afraid; there is certainly a sense of fear.

Pray for the Christians in Hong Kong to stand strong because they need to be the salt and light there. It’s hard to imagine being in their shoes. Especially the church leaders must feel like they are being pressed from every side. The church leaders are shepherds of people but at the same they’re fearing for themselves as well. They could face arrest at any time so they need our prayers to stand strong.

A Glimpse of a Disciplined Life

One thing that always fascinates me when I read biographies is learning of other people’s habits. That’s especially true when the subject is extremely disciplined. Tim Chester’s Stott on the Christian Life is not quite a biography of John Stott, but it’s not far off. He gives an interesting glimpse of Stott’s normal, well-disciplined routines. Here is what his life looked like:

Commitment to discipline and to the disciplines was a feature of Stott’s own personal piety. “Fundamental to all Christian leadership and ministry,” he said, “is a humble, personal relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, devotion to him expressed in daily prayer, and love for him expressed in daily obedience.” Stott himself had a number of disciplines he adhered to resolutely. He did not impose them on others in a legalistic way, but they were the framework for his own walk with Christ. His normal pattern was to rise at 5:00 a.m.—a pattern of early rising he learned from [Charles] Simeon. Stott would greet each member of the Trinity in turn before offering a petition for the day ahead. It was also common for him to recite the ninefold fruit of the Spirit or, mindful of the call of Romans 12:1 to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, to offer each limb of his body in service to God. Then he would listen to the news on the radio while washing, before spending an hour reading his Bible and in prayer. All his adult life Stott followed the Bible reading plan developed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, which involved reading four chapters each day—three each morning, one of which he studied in more depth, and one at night.

Bible reading was followed by intercession, conducted with the aid of a leather notebook containing names and issues for prayer, and stuffed with letters and pamphlets. Not that prayer was straightforward for Stott—he often spoke of the need to win “the battle of the prayer threshold.” He would imagine God waiting within a walled garden. But in front of the door into the garden stands the devil with a drawn sword, who must be defeated in the name of Christ. “Many of us give up praying,” comments Stott, “before we have tried to fight this battle. The best way to win, in my experience, is to claim the promises of Scripture, which the devil cannot undo.”

Stott became rector of All Souls at the young age of twenty-nine “to everybody’s astonishment (especially mine),” he says, and he describes how the responsibilities soon got on top of him. “I guess that at the time I was not far from a nervous breakdown.” At this point he heard L. F. E. Wilkinson, the principal of Oak Hill Theological College, commending to a group of church leaders the practice of spending one day a month as a quiet day away from the parish. Stott immediately planned a “Q” day into his diary, a practice he continued throughout his ministry. “All I can say is that this little prudential arrangement saved my life and my ministry. . . . Although I was still challenged by the job, I was not overwhelmed by it.” In fact, as the busyness of ministry increased, so did the frequency of his Q days, from monthly to biweekly, and from biweekly to weekly. Every Thursday he would drive to a house in north London in which two elderly spinsters hosted him.

Stott would give up chocolate (one of the abiding passions of his life) and other treats during Lent. His friend John Wyatt recalls how Stott once told him that he was in the habit, when walking alone, “of remembering that every fresh breath, every heartbeat, was a gift from God which could be taken away at any time”—a good example of what John Calvin calls “the meditation on the future life.” Stott was once asked whether he had ever felt like giving up his ministry. He acknowledged that pastors are often subject to discouragements and that these can easily lead to burnout. But then he added: “I have never really been tempted to this because I have taken precautions. I have recognised that human beings are psychosomatic creatures, so that our bodily condition has a powerful influence on our spiritual life. I have tried to maintain a disciplined life, ensuring adequate sleep, food and exercise.”

He characteristically commends bird-watching, citing the physical recreation and mental relaxation it provides, along with the exposure to wilderness. “,” he adds, somewhat tongue in cheek. Finally, he concludes, “I found, however, that most important of all is a disciplined devotional life, with a determination to meet Christ every day.”

There is no doubt Stott was by temperament a disciplined person, a natural bent further reinforced by his social background and upbringing. But, although he commended discipline as part of the Christian life, he was slow to impose his own routines on other people.

Tim Challies

It’s Time to Shed Light on the Cult of Darwinism

As much as I despise the cancel culture, if there is any cultural icon who deserves to be cancelled for racist attitudes, it is Charles Darwin. Or were you not aware of how his ideas helped fuel the fires of eugenics?

tweeted a poll on June 23, asking, “Who said this? The ‘western nations of Europe … now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors and stand at the summit of civilization.’”

Of the four choices offered, 4.2 percent voted for David Duke, 10.5 percent for Robert E. Lee, 29.6 percent for Adolph Hitler, and 55.7 percent for Charles Darwin. The majority got it right!

But is this knowledge widely disseminated? Do the countless millions of fawning Darwinists know about Darwin’s racial theories? And if they do, do they simply a turn a blind eye to them?

The same day I did the poll, I sent the link of a disturbing article about Darwin to a friend of mine who is Black and a historian. The article, written by Austin Anderson and posted on the Philosophy for the Many site, was titled, “The Dark Side of Darwinism.”

I asked my friend, “I assume you knew this about Darwin?”

He replied, “What? That he was a racist? Sure. That’s race history 101.”

He added, “Racist philosophy, eugenics and white supremacy are the love-children of Darwin. Survival of the fittest is the core of European philosophy and its approaches to colonization and imperialism.”

Did we learn about this in our schools?

Anderson wrote, “Darwin’s defenders most often cited his abolitionist identity, notes from his diaries, or quotes from people who knew Darwin. His accusers, on the other hand, often directly cited text from The Descent of Man. Conclusions drawn from the authorial approach to the question, in which defenders focused on proving that Darwin himself was not a racist, starkly contradicted conclusions drawn from the approach of consulting Darwin’s text itself. I’m familiar with Darwin’s theories, but I had never actually read his books; I suspect the same is true for most of you. However, I found that to determine whether or not Darwin’s theories are racist, the text of his books is revealing and conclusive. Information outside the text of The Descent of Man can help us understand the man behind the pen, but it does nothing to soften the brutal racism and white supremacism found in the text of his theory.”

Which peoples does Darwin describe as “savages”? He is quite generous in his use of the term, including, Australians, Mongolians, Africans, Indians, South Americans, Polynesians, and Eskimos.

Darwin asks, “How little can the hard-worked wife of a degraded Australian savage, who uses hardly any abstract words and cannot count above four, exert her self-consciousness, or reflect on the nature of her own existence?”

This was virtually identical to the reasoning used by European and American slave traders, who viewed the Africans as intellectually inferior human beings, therefore deserving of servitude to the white man.

These savages, according to Darwin, also had lower morality, lack of ability to reason, and less self-control. And, quite naturally, given the survival of the fittest and the ruthlessness of the evolutionary process, the superior whites should conquer and colonize the savage’s lands.

As Anderson notes (while quoting Darwin), “As white Europeans ‘exterminate and replace’ the world’s ‘savage races,’ and as great apes go extinct, Darwin says that the gap between civilized man and his closest evolutionary ancestor will widen. The gap will eventually be between civilized man ‘and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla’.”

Yes, the illustrious Darwin wrote those very words.

Of course, Darwin should have been cancelled intellectually decades ago due to the abject scientific failure of Darwinian naturalism.

As atheist philosophy professor Thomas Nagel argued in his book Mind and Cosmos, “the modern scientific story of the origin of life through evolution is ‘ripe for displacement’ and it represents ‘a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense,’ which will be seen as ‘laughable’ in a couple of generations.” (The subtitle of Nagel’s book is, “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.”)

There is no viable, materialistic explanation for the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of human beings (as distinct from animals, with a conscience and a state of consciousness).

That too, however, is not something you are likely to hear in school.

As Nagel wrote, “I realize that such doubts will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program [about the origin of life] as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science.”

Can I give an amen to an atheist?

Unfortunately, the intellectual cult of Darwinism does not seem ready to collapse just yet, as it remains thoroughly entrenched in academia to this day. To oppose it is to be a heretic.

But perhaps, given the dark side of some of Darwin’s theories, theories that were intrinsic to his evolutionary views, Darwin can be questioned morally. Starting there, it will be easier to topple his intellectual house of cards.

Michael Brown

We Are Not Alone

The Christian Institute is backing calls from an MSP for places of worship in Scotland to open for collective worship sooner than 23 July.

Churches in Scotland are only permitted at present to open for private prayer and funerals.

Murdo Fraser, Tory MSP for Mid-Scotland & Fife, said it was “extraordinary” that pubs were allowed to open from 15 July while churches must wait longer to resume services, according to the Courier newspaper.

He challenged the Scottish Government to “explain why people will be able to gather in pubs but not in places of worship”.

“This seems a very strange set of priorities by the Scottish Government and gives the impression they are prioritising pints over prayers,” he said.

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, echoed his disappointment.

“It is simply wrong for the Scottish Government to block communal worship until at least 23 July when pubs, restaurants and cinemas are reopening on 15 July. Do our political leaders think that Christians cannot be trusted to meet together?” he said.

“To our knowledge, all churches in Scotland have fully complied with all government requests from the very beginning of lockdown.

“Christians are instructed to submit to rulers and authorities. In the midst of a clear public health crisis, they would want to do nothing to harm their neighbors.”

What Has Happened to Patriotism

“Obviously, as Christians we are to live as strangers, exiles, aliens, and pilgrims on this earth. Is there an appropriate place in the Christian life to be patriotic? If so, what is it? And at what point does our patriotism go too far?”

Yes, I think there is, and I think it’s right, or at least it can be right and good. It is true, and we need to stress it at the beginning and maybe stress it at the end: We are pilgrims here. We are exiles, refugees, sojourners. Peter says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). That’s number one. That’s foundational. That’s relativizing to all human allegiances.

Citizen of Heaven, Exile on Earth

So, the question is framed rightly: we are citizens of heaven; we are sojourners and pilgrims on the earth, but that’s owing to the fact that the world is fallen, not to the fact that the world is created. We are going to spend eternity in a created world — in fact, this created world renewed and cleansed. But Satan won’t be the god of that world anymore like the New Testament says he is now (2 Corinthians 4:4).

That’s what makes us feel so alien here: the god of this world is Satan. He holds such extensive sway. The world is permeated with sin. It makes us feel like we’re not at home‚ and we’re not, in a very real sense, while that kind of sinfulness permeates the world. We are just aching to be done with sin, mainly our sin, not just the grossness and godlessness that we see in the world. We long to be holy and to be in the presence of Holiness himself.

So, when I say we are aliens and exiles and sojourners and pilgrims, I don’t mean that the earth itself or everything in it is despised. I mean that the structures we find ourselves in — this rebellious body of John Piper, family, work, education, entertainment, politics, media, even church, all of it — are so permeated with sin that we long for something new and clean and pure and holy and Christ-exalting.

However, God means for us to be enmeshed in this world. We’re “not of the world,” Jesus says in John 17:16, but we are in the world, and we are supposed to be in it (John 17:18). I just read in my devotions yesterday 2 Corinthians 10:3: “Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.” That’s just another way of saying, “in the world, but not of the world.”

Love for the Fatherland

We may be in a city, a state, a country, and if I ask, “What is patriotism in this enmeshment?” my answer is that patriotism is a kind of love for fatherland — and I mean fatherland in a very general sense. It could be a city (Minneapolis), or a state (Minnesota), or a country (US, Brazil, China, Nigeria), or a tribe (Ojibwe, Navajo, Fulani, Kachin). And that love for these enmeshments, these belongings, is different from the general love that Christians have for everybody or for the whole earth.

The reason I think it’s good to have special affections for these particular attachments is that the Bible seems to point in that direction in several ways. For example, Paul says in Galatians 6:10, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” So, it’s as though there is this specialness about those who are close to you and like you. There is a kind of affection for them that’s different.

Or consider 1 Timothy 5:8: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So, it seems like it’s right not just to have a general love spread over the whole world for people, as if everybody will receive from us exactly the same affections. But rather, there is a specialness, a peculiarity, about the affections for certain affinity groups — not at the expense of others, but even for the sake of others.

Paul seems to point in this direction in Romans 9:3 when he says, “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” What’s that? There’s something about this “kinship according to the flesh.” He means Jewishness. It’s being bound together in a family way or a cultural way with a group that makes him have a special affection and longing for them that’s different from the love he has for everybody.

Affection for What Fits

As I was thinking about this, C.S. Lewis gave me some help, because in his book The Four Loves — which, by the way, Tony, 45 minutes ago I realized I’ve got this book on file in my computer in the voice of C.S. Lewis himself. I went there and listened to this section about 45 minutes ago. I’ve got Lewis talking in my mind about storgē. Okay, I wasn’t going to say that, but I did that this morning, and I’m so excited that I’ve been listening to C.S. Lewis in his own voice!

But anyway, he wrote this book The Four Loves, and he distinguishes philia, friendship; erōs, sex; agapē, the love of God; and the one that I think is relevant right here: storgē.

Now, storgē is a kind of affection. It’s what you feel for a pair of slippers that your wife thinks you should have thrown away a long time ago, but they fit just right; they feel just right. Storgē is the affection that a child feels for an old raggedy doll that everybody looks at and says, “That’s good for nothing.” Well, no, it’s really good for that child; that child has a very special affection for that doll.

Or I can think of a sweater. I just tossed a ten-year-old sweater away the other day, and I took a picture of it, sent it to my kids, and I put a text on it: “Rest in peace.” I should’ve said, “Rest in pieces” because it was so torn up and Noël was saying, “You don’t need to wear that anymore.” I said, “Well, I just like it.” So, it’s the sweater, it’s the tree where you carved your initials as a couple at Wheaton College (and they took that tree down, the rascals, just a few years ago). You love to be near that tree. That tree means more than other trees. Or it’s the lagoon where Noël and I were engaged. That’s a real special place that we can go back to.

Created for Culture

So, there is a kind of affection for a tree, a sweater, a city, a language, a culture, a fatherland. Why? Because it fits you. When you leave it, get on a plane to go to another country, there may be excitement and challenge and stimulation, and you get real worked up with new cultures. They might even be superior in some ways to your own culture. In other words, we’re not talking here, when we talk about special love for your own family or ethnicity or city or state or fatherland, about superiority and inferiority here anymore than your love for your husband or your wife is because they’re the smartest or the handsomest person in the world. That’s not what’s going on here. That’s not the point in this special kind of affection that we’re talking about.

The point is this: when you come home from those travels, even from so-called “superior” cultures, the fatherland fits like the slippers fit or the sweater or the smells or the sound; it’s just full of good associations, like the tree where you carved your initials.

So, it seems to me that this is good, and that the goodness is implied in the Bible, and God created us to be in skin, in languages, in families, in cultures. He doesn’t mean for us to despise our skin or our language or our culture, but rather to be at home in them, and to feel good about them — of course, we have to add — up to a point. They’re all sinful, and so we never give them absolute allegiance. We never cease to be exiles and sojourners, even in our families and tribes and ethnicities — indeed, in our own bodies.

Bound Together for Good

Now, Romans 13 seems to me to take this point of the special affection to the level of countries when it says that a state has the right to use the sword to maintain order and to defend itself against aggression. When it says that, it seems to me to be saying, in effect, that this fatherland has the right to exist. And if it has the right to exist, it would seem that the people who live there can be glad that it exists. They can say, “We’re glad that this fatherland exists. We like it here.”

They can say that without putting down other nations or cultures. You don’t have to be negative about another country because you love your own. That’s a lesson, by the way, we need to learn today at every level. In fact, I would argue that in globally connected nations, like we have today — this interdependent world of ours — you probably will fail to love your country if you fail to work for the good of other countries as well; we’re just too interdependent for that not to be true.

Now, let me end on this note for Christians especially: never feel — never feel — more attached to your fatherland or your tribe or your family or your ethnicity than you do to the people of Christ. Everyone who is in Christ is more closely and permanently united to others in Christ, no matter the other associations, than we are to our nearest fellow citizen or party member or brother or sister or spouse. Oh, how many horrible indignities, injustices, contradictions of Christianity have been perpetrated because believers have failed to realize this: we are more bound together with other believers — no matter their ethnicity or their political alignments or their nationality — than we are to anybody in our own fatherland.

In the end, Christ has relativized all human allegiances, all human loves. Keeping Christ supreme in our affections makes all our lesser loves better, not worse. Under his flag, it is right to be thankful to God that we have a fatherland, a tribe, a family, an old pair of slippers that just fit right.

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