Is it Okay for Christians to Smoke Weed?

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I was just a 7th grader when I first saw some.  My best friend and I were hanging out on his back porch when he grabbed a Ziploc bag out of his backpack.  “You wanna try some of this?”  It felt like a scene right out of an after-school TV special.  The dry leaves inside that bag might as well have been spinach because I was not the least bit tempted.  I was a rule-follower and besides, if my dad found out, I would have never made it to the 8th grade.  But for the first time in my life, I had access to marijuana.  Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to ‘just say no.’

And now, for the first time in our state, we have easier access to marijuana thanks to the new medical marijuana law.  Based on the majority of voters that passed the law, it wasn’t hard for us to just say yes.  If social trends continue, recreational use will be next to pass at the ballot box.  Rather than debate the wisdom of such legislation, it’s now time for us Christians to have a candid discussion about the wisdom of using pot.

Is it okay for Christians to smoke weed?

Truthfully, a decent case can be made in the secular world for marijuana.  That defense often includes a comparison between alcohol and cannabis to justify legalization.  For the Christian, these secular sentiments should hold no weight though.  We respect the law of the land but within the family of God, we are ambassadors for another land, a different kingdom.  Our laws aren’t derived from an amended constitution but from a timeless sacred text.  With that said, I will appeal to one verse in the Bible to advocate for complete abstinence for the Christian when it comes to pot.

 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”

– Ephesians 5:18

Alcohol is okay, why not weed?

Though many of my Baptist brethren would disagree with me, I cannot find texts in the Bible demanding total abstinence from alcohol.  It seems that God gave alcohol for a host of purposes, one of which might be to simply consume.  But the Bible is crystal clear about one thing.  Drunkenness is a sin.  I don’t drink and it’s not because I hate the taste but because I know my heart.  Something inside me longs to escape the me that I deal with every day.  Something in me craves a mental buzz that would allow me to float above my insecurities if only for a few moments.  If I allowed it, alcohol could become that deadly escape hatch for me.  But for many Christians, they don’t drink to get that drunken buzz.  They drink because they honestly enjoy the oaky texture of the wine (insert puke emoji) or the relaxing sensation of a beer at dinner.

What does this have to do with marijuana?  The purpose of puffing on a joint is not to enjoy the oaky flavor of the smoke.  Let’s be real.  People smoke to get high.  Any enjoyment of the joint itself is only secondary to the mental effects it has on the user.  Studies show that “significant THC concentrations are noted following even a single puff or hit of a marijuana cigarette.”  And after just four puffs, the user can be considered significantly intoxicated.  For a follower of Christ to refrain from this kind of intoxication (ie. drunkenness), that person would need to stop using after two or three puffs at most.

Why we want to get high

People smoke because they want to get high.  The real question we should be asking ourselves is why.  Why do we want to get high?  The desire to be high should give us a clue. Dear Christian, we were made to enjoy something higher and you know it.  But lasting joy isn’t found at the end of a joint.  Its found in fellowship with God through his Holy Spirit.  So beware of Paul’s brutally honest words in Ephesians, you can’t smoke pot and enjoy the Holy Spirit.  When you put it like that, it’s much easier to just say no.

 

For a more complete discussion of this topic, I recommend this article.

A New Year for The Spiritual Struggler

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Last January, while getting dressed in a crowded gym locker room, one of those insanely ripped veiny guys with the muscle shirts mocked those of us who were trying to live up to our new year’s resolutions.  He quipped, “Thankfully, most of you guys will be gone by February.”  I was annoyed and I would’ve said something to him if not for the fact that he was right (and he was ripped).  Like many people, the month of January is when I conjure up the willpower to walk into the gym again for the first time in a while.  And like a lot of people, it’s a struggle to keep walking back into that same gym.

So what determines whether a person sticks with a workout regimen or falls victim to the February fitness fade?  The answer isn’t a matter of willpower.  Believe or not, it’s actually a matter of belief.  What you believe determines what you will do.  Don’t believe me?  Let me show you.

The Physical Struggle

As I sit on my La-Z-Boy, there are two competing desires waging a battle within me.  On one side, there is the desire to get into shape along with its long-term benefits.  And on the other side, there is the desire to avoid the short-term pain and discomfort that comes with moving heavy objects.  At that moment of decision, what I believe determines what I will do.  When I choose to skip the gym and drive to Taco Bell instead, there has been an unspoken conversation that has occurred within me:

“I should really go to the gym because I want to get into shape.  But I hate the grueling pain of weight-lifting and Taco Bell tastes so good.”

And there you have it.  For a brief moment, I believed the lie that the long-term pleasure of a gym-fit body was not as gratifying as the short-term pleasure of sloth.  My belief determined my actions.  In life, it’s not until a person is fully convinced that the long-term pleasure of a fit physique is worth the pain that they ever conquer the fleeting pleasure of a comfortable chair.

The Spiritual Struggle

If it’s true that belief determines actions at a physical level, this is most certainly true at a spiritual level as well.  How many times have we resolved to pray more, read more, and seek God more?  How many times have we promised God to never commit that secret sin again?  But by the time February comes around, we are still the same slothful sinner with the same lazy spiritual habits, gorging our souls on a steady diet of TV or social media.  Do not believe the lie that your problem is one of weak willpower.  It most certainly is not.  Your problem and mine is our unbelief.

Belief in the Pleasures of God

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. – Psalm 107:9

The Bible is full of promises that fellowship with God is the maximum pleasure we can experience on earth.  Jesus goes as far as to say that he Himself is all-satisfying to our pleasure-hungry souls (John 6:35).

Ultimately, the actions we take in 2017 regarding our relationship with God (like reading and praying more) will hinge on whether we believe in the promises of the pleasures of God or whether we believe in the short-term and soul-destroying pleasures of the flesh.

Come to think of it, I’ve never heard any of those gym-fit people say, “I wish I had never achieved the discipline to work out, it would have been much better to relax.”  They don’t say that because they have become convinced that real pleasure can’t be found in a La-Z-Boy lifestyle.  Likewise, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st 2017, you most certainly will not be saying, “I wish I had binged on more TV, Sports and Facebook rather than grow in relationship with Christ.”  You will have realized the pleasure of knowing Him who has had made you for Himself.

Parenting a Bad Kid with the Gospel

AngryDad

I had reached the point of exhaustion that every parent of a disobedient child eventually reaches.  I was utterly exasperated from having to explain to my 5-year old son for the hundredth time why it’s not okay to smack, hit, scratch, or spit on other children.  But day after day, my wife would discover in his backpack another red-inked note from his teacher revealing the sin of the day.  And day after day, I would recite the same speech to my little boy with the same set of warnings only to be further disillusioned by another teacher’s note.

Around that time, my wife and I started reading a book titled Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick.  The truth Fitzpatrick communicates through scripture forever changed the way we parent our children.  It’s a ridiculously simple concept and should have been obvious to a dad like me who grew up in the church.  Here’s the gist of the book:

Raise your children to know and love the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

It’s that simple.  Fitzpatrick encourages parents to be strategic with their kids in generating daily encounters with the message and implications of the gospel.  As the frustrated parent of an unruly little boy, I was looking for clever techniques to get my kid to behave better.  Yet Fitzpatrick begs her readers to take the long term approach and focus their efforts on teaching children to depend on God’s grace rather than a parent’s approval.

To even the most bible-based parents, the truth of the gospel seems about as useful as a plastic hammer when trying to chisel your child from a statue of sinful rebellion to a model of loving obedience.  It wasn’t until my son uttered a few tender words one night that this gospel-centered approach began to take shape in our home.

Redrawing the Battle Lines

One evening, I was berating my boy yet again for another behavior blowup.  Unwilling to show the least bit of clemency, I furiously recited a list of consequences that he would bear as a result of that day’s transgressions.  Then through exasperated and tear-filled eyes, my little boy looked up to me and said “Dad, I can’t stop.  I want to stop but I can’t.”

My heart sunk as the sincere sadness in my boy’s voice reminded me of me.  My boy was telling his dad what I had prayed a thousand times before to God.  I want to stop sinning but I can’t.

That evening, my parenting tone forever changed.  My loud boisterous threats gave way to a restrained and determined demeanor.  I was no longer trying to convince my son to behave better, I was now determined to show him his need for Jesus.  While it takes many people a lifetime to understand their need for grace, my boy had discovered his corruption at an early age.  For this little 5-year old, Total Depravity was not just some theological topic to ponder, it was a quiet war that he had been waging in his mind.

From that point on, each time he came home with a teacher’s note I would sit with him to pray and confess sins.  Granted, I still delivered a similar set of consequences which occasionally included a spanking but it never ended with that.  We’d talk about our desperate need for Jesus to change us from the inside out and ask for His supernatural power over temptation.  The battle lines in our home were completely redrawn.  No longer was it Parent versus Child.  It was God versus Sin, and we were co-warriors in this battle.

Eventually my son’s behavior improved.  LetterOnCross1It’s likely that he would have eventually just matured out of that phase regardless of our parenting style or he would have found more socially-acceptable ways to harbor sin.  Yet without those red-inked teacher’s notes declaring my boy to be a rebel, my son might only understand the cross of Christ as an historical fact to be learned and not a soul-sustaining truth to be treasured.

I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:18-19,24-25 (ESV)

Open Letter To Christians Celebrating Same Sex Couples

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Dear Christian friend,

You’re a gracious believer in Christ faithfully serving in your local church.  But based on our conversations, it’s clear that you agree with the cultural refrain that Christians should shed the label of being “narrow-minded haters” by finally embracing same-sex relationships.  Here was our last conversation:

YOU:  How can it be wrong for two committed gay people to be in a loving relationship?

ME:  The Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin.

YOU:  We can’t expect everyone to believe what our Bible says.

ME:  True, but it’s the standard that Christians use to judge right from wrong.

YOU:  The Bible also says you should stone a homosexual to death.  I don’t see you advocating for that.

ME:  Well, no.  That was the civil law God gave to Israel through the old covenant.  We live under the new covenant in Christ and we hold to the moral law seen throughout scripture.

YOU:  Sounds like you’re picking and choosing what you want to believe.  Gay people were born with those feelings and God loves them.  I think our church needs to get past the condemnation and show God’s love.

You and I could rehash this conversation again and again but what’s the point, right?   Instead, I just want to get at the root of our disagreement instead of endlessly arguing biblical semantics.

In my hand is a leather Bible with two words etched on the front cover that read “Holy Bible”. You have that same Bible in your hand.  But here’s the difference between you and me; you have a second bible in your hand.  You can’t see it because its invisible but it’s just as real as the leather-bound Bible you’re holding.  That other bible is titled “Values of the Current Culture”.  In that book is a list of all the latest trends in cultural thinking highlighted by the ever popular spin on the verse “judge not lest you be judged.”

Our culture despises the fact that when the Holy Bible calls homosexuality a sin against God, many Christians simply accept it as truth.  The world considers us narrow-minded haters because we embrace the teachings of an ancient text that place sex within the confines of heterosexual marriage.  It now seems that you agree with the culture.

But don’t you see?  You’re narrow-minded, too.  You narrowly interpret truth through the prism of present-day culture using your invisible bible.  You crack open that bible to find your moral bearings while disregarding your leather-bound Bible as too outdated or obscure to provide the same.  When our culture commands that we celebrate all consensual sexual practices, you blindly accept it as gospel truth.  When your Holy Bible commands we turn from those same practices, you boldly deny it as expired dogma.

As receivers of God’s grace, we don’t stand on a soapbox of moral authority on the subject of human sexuality.  We pray on bended knee from a posture of mutual brokenness.  While you and I might not appear to be desperately broken to outsiders, our secret thoughts and actions betray our clean exterior.  We are broken and we were born that way.  While your gay neighbor may appear perfectly normal, most assuredly he is just as broken as you and me.  He was born that way which is why Christ commands that he be born again.

So dear Christian friend, please put aside the invisible bible that denies the brokenness and refutes the repentance.  I trust that you sincerely believe you’re loving your gay neighbor by side-stepping the Bible’s claims on sexuality, but you aren’t loving anyone.  You’re my brother in Christ and I love you but it seems to me that you are being the narrow-minded hater.  

Top 5 Really Bad Christian Songs of the 90’s

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Aaahhhh, the 90’s…

It seems like only yesterday we were in youth group singing out the chorus of Shout to the Lord with a WWJD bracelet on our wrist and a True Love Waits card in our wallet. Despite the fond memories that decade brings, we must admit that some of the Christian songs we played in our youth halls and tape players were just plain bad.

As the product of a 90’s evangelical upbringing and the former co-manager of a Christian bookstore, I’ve deemed myself specially qualified to offer up this list of the Top 5 Really Bad Christian Songs of the 90’s.

Let the countdown begin…

#5  The Devil is Bad – by The W’s

Unbeknownst to parents in the 90s, the approval rating of the devil was skyrocketing among young people thanks to secretly back-masked secular songs.  Luckily, a ska group named The W’s rescued us with a timely reminder that the devil, as suspected, is bad.  Fun fact:  This was the first and last Christian song to have ever been sung to Satan himself.

#4  Lean On Me –  by DC Talk

A staple song of the youth hall, this DC Talk remake cracks the top 5 in honor of loners like me who didn’t have a partner to rub shoulders with during the big Lean On Me verse.  Reminiscing over this song brings up a past that comes back in my darkest of dreams.  Hey youth pastor!  While your Jesus freaks are having fun with this cheesy song, there ain’t no disguising the truth that I’m sitting alone.

#3  Breakfast – by Newsboys

Have you ever wondered what hell is like?  Wonder no more because according to the Newsboys number 1 hit in 1996, we can know for certain that “they don’t serve breakfast in hell.”  That might be true but I’m pretty sure they loop that song.   Fun fact: This song was so bad that DC Talk wrote a response to it entitled What Have We Become.

#2  Who’s In The House – by Carman

What do you get when you combine the flair of David Copperfield with the rapping skills of 90’s sitcom nerd Carlton Banks?  That’s right.  Its best-selling Christian artist Carman rapping his way to the Dove Awards with this really bad attempt at being relevant.  Fun fact:  The name Carman was adopted when it was learned that our non-Christian friends kept begging us to  “stop playing this song in your car, man!”

[you must watch the video for this one]

#1  Big House – by Audio Adrenaline

It was the anthem of youth group night in the 90s and if you’re not careful, you’ll be singing it to yourself for the rest of the day.  It’s a big big song with lots and lots of problems.  Namely, that it’s a song about heaven.  If heaven was designed by college frat guys.  Though not quite as cheesy as our number 2 song, the corny and semi-sacrilegious lyrics of this Christian megahit along with the compulsory kindergarten hand motions put this really bad Christian song solidly at number one.

 

Honorable Mention

Home Run – by Geoff Moore and The Distance

R.I.O.T – by Carman

The Brother Who Rescued His Brother

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In Need of Rescue

It’s a heartbreaking image and yet beautiful at the same time.  A little boy hooked up to an IV, with his body stretched out on a hospital bed as his pure and healthy marrow is extracted from the core of his bones.  Without those precious few ounces of genetically-matched marrow cells, the brother of this little innocent boy, seven-year old Seth, would face a scary and uncertain prognosis as Seth’s body battles a very high risk form of leukemia.

Before the doctors could proceed with the transplant, they had to be certain that any trace of Seth’s original and defective cells had been eradicated.  His system would be completely annihilated through a heavy combination of chemo and radiation.  In other words, before Seth could receive his brother’s healthy marrow, his own cells had to die.

By God’s grace through prayer and an amazing medical team, Seth made it through the risky procedure and recovery phase successfully.  After more than three weeks in the hospital, he and his parents are packing up their bags right now to go home tomorrow.

It was this moving image of one brother giving life to another that brought to mind another heart-wrenching and soul-sustaining picture.  It’s the picture of our brother.

Jesus, The Brother Who Rescued Us

“It was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.  So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.”  – Hebrews 2:10-11

Scripture tells us that our souls are dead even before we’re born.  In our core, we are unable to respond and relate to our Creator because the cancer of damaged desires has ruined all hope of a life-giving relationship with God.  But then a brother came along.  Jesus1This brother willingly stretched out his innocent body on a Roman cross to allow his holy lifeblood to be extracted.  Though it cost Him everything to save his sin-stricken siblings, Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to call us his brothers and sisters.

Being Made Pure

It must be a strange thing to be able to look into the eyes of your brother and know that his very existence became your own source of rescue.  Yet in reality, that is the single event that all believers will one day experience as we see Jesus face to face.  The Bible tells us that when we see Him, we will be like Him.  Though it took chemo and radiation to annihilate stubborn cancer cells in Seth, it will only take one look at our Savior to purify us and completely eradicate the sin that would have brought eternal death otherwise.  Praise God, our brother is our Savior!

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”  – 1 John 3:2-3

 

AFFLICT THE COMFORTABLE AND COMFORT THE AFFLICTED

A pastor once told me that he considers it his personal calling to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted”.  Those words became more than just a clever catchphrase after a recent business trip to Ohio.

Afflicting the Comfortable Takes Guts
Last Monday, I boarded one of those cramped regional jets that have just enough leg room for a newborn baby. With a pair of headphones covering my ears, I made it clear to the passenger pressing into my left shoulder that I was not a talker.

Apparently, the man was unfamiliar with the unwritten code of air travel conduct because he struck up a conversation with me. Legroom1As it turns out, he was a small business owner returning from a luxurious vacation in Amelia Island. With only two years remaining before retirement, this man seemingly had it all. He was part of “the comfortable” despite the stingy 17-inch wide seat.

Then in the quiet of my conscience, the Holy Spirit said, “Tell him about Me.” Our conversation continued into politics, vocations and vacations. Then God said it again, “Tell that guy about Me” and yet I continued to resist. My inexcusable lack of obedience was rooted in one assumption; this man had it all together. Surely he wasn’t ripe to respond to the afflicting message that Jesus Christ is Lord and rightfully demands that we abandon the idols of the American dream. The plane landed, I untangled my legs, then said goodbye to the businessman I’ll likely never meet again.

Comforting the Afflicted Takes Compassion
A few days later, I was sitting in the lobby of a posh downtown Cincinnati hotel with my laptop open. As a natural introvert, I kept my head low and smiled at other guests sitting near me if for no other reason than to avoid looking creepy.

One of the hotel guests eventually moved closer to my seat. She was smiling, energetic and clearly seeking conversation. I was none of these. The young lady claimed that she had been stood up by a blind date that never showed. Her next comment made it clear to me why she was loitering in that downtown hotel lobby. Her self-proclaimed goal for that evening was to seek out a “sugar daddy”. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, a sugar daddy is a wealthy man willing to provide money to a younger woman for certain services. You get my drift.

My stomach sunk at the sight of an intelligent young lady willing to give herself over to the next man with enough money in his wallet. I made it clear that I would be no source of income to her and then began to close up my laptop to call it a night. Before I walked away, I asked if I could try to talk her out of this way of life. To my surprise, she agreed to have the chat.

Over the next hour, I discovered that this 22-year old college graduate named Kelly had been beaten down by an abusive father, an overwhelming student debt load, and a badly broken world. Her once confident and casual demeanor surrendered to the weight of raw emotion; the sorrow of her soul evidenced by the tears and mucus she wiped from her face.

Sitting in front of me was the personification of “the afflicted”. I gladly offered her the comforting news of the gospel, telling her that she was uniquely created by God but that sin had tarnished everything. Through blood-shot eyes, she avowed her intention to seek God through prayer when she arrived home that night. Whether she ever did, I’ll probably never know.

Our Mission
That pastor wasn’t exactly right though. It’s not just his personal calling to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. It’s the mission of every follower of Christ to inject gospel truth as poison to the pride of human comfort or as a panacea to the pain of the human heart. The first takes guts. The second demands compassion. Both require love.

Human Sorrow as a Clue to the Cross

By now, you’ve heard about the Malaysia Airlines tragedy that killed all 298 people on board.  Quick question, has your heart been heavy with grief since hearing the news?  Probably not.  You saw the headline, felt some combination of sadness and anger but then life moved on for you.  Meanwhile, the family members of the victims have undoubtedly not stopped lamenting their loss.  The disparity between our reaction to the news and the family’s reaction has an obvious explanation.  The amount of inner anguish a person experiences when someone dies is proportional to the degree of relational connection to that person.  The level of sorrow rises exponentially with the closeness of the relational bond.

CrossImage1This seemingly self-evident fact reveals one particular truth about the most evil, magnificent, and mysterious event in human history; the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

The lyricist for the song Here I am To Worship was spot on when he wrote “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross”.  We will never know exactly what happened in that period between the garden and the grave when Jesus suffered and died.

So how exactly does that mystery relate to our own suffering here?

When a husband and wife are so closely knitted together that they are said to be as one, we intuitively understand what that means.  When death breaks that bonded tie, the resulting anguish of the one left behind is all but unbearable.  But what if two persons existed that were so thoroughly connected in relationship that they were not simply “as one”, they were truly actually one in essence?

Or what if a son was so intimately united to his father that He was not just a beloved extension of his father, he was actually one with him?  To see one person was to see the other.  Isn’t that precisely the language Jesus used to describe His relationship with God the Father?  In the book of John, Jesus says “I and the Father are One” and “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

A severing of that kind of relationship would unquestionably impart the most potent form of sorrow ever experienced by one person on planet earth.

It’s with that understanding that we might begin to plumb the depths of the anguish Jesus experienced on that Roman cross when the Father “made Him who knew no sin become sin.”  Exactly how the eternal pre-existent Christ processed those 6 hours of suffering is beyond us.  Whatever He experienced was of such cosmic proportion that its work holds the capacity to bridge the infinite chasm between man’s rebellious heart and the holy God of the universe.

So why does this need to drive your thoughts today, tomorrow, and the next time you are weeping over the casket of a loved one?  Two reasons.

First, we must never forget that Jesus’ payment on the cross cost Him everything.  The God of the Bible is worthy to receive every thought, prayer, and deed because He gave up everything to have us as His own.  Jesus’ physical pain at Calvary, while unquestionably excruciating, was not the entirety of His suffering.  Isaiah rightly prophesied that it was the “anguish of His soul” that brought us peace with God.

Second, it’s only when we understand this important aspect of the cross that it can serve as a warm blanket in times of grief.  These truths won’t make the pain go away, but they do serve to direct our hope to the God who willfully experienced the crushing sorrow of severed intimacy.  If anything, God has experienced the sorrow of loss more than we ever have.  That’s what makes Him so deserving of our worship in times of joy and so worthy of our trust in times of pain.

Last Tuesday

Last Tuesday, I drove solo down I-95 on my way back home from a vacation in North Carolina with my wife’s family.  To make the most of a long and lonely trip, I popped in an audio book of CS Lewis’ classic The Great Divorce.   It’s the story of a man who had just entered the afterlife.  The main character narrates his journey through an imaginary eternal realm that CS Lewis employs to communicate spiritual truths about the human condition and our final destination.   As the story progresses, the narrator discovers that eternal torment and eternal joy hinge upon a man’s willingness to relinquish his rights and embrace the promise of eternal joy in Christ.

Characters on their way to ever-increasing torment HeavenHellwere those individuals who willingly chose to cling to their rights.  Their right to be appreciated.  Their right to be heard.  Their right to exact revenge.  Their right to use their own money as they saw fit.  Their right to hold a grudge.  Their right to control their child’s life.  Their right to be respected among their peers.   Each of these characters clung to something that prevented them from making the journey to everlasting joy that Christ was promising.

As for those individuals who were experiencing the ever-increasing joy of heaven, they had long since abandoned those formerly sacred yet now seemingly silly and self-righteous notions of personal rights.  The one telling trait of those heaven-bound characters in Lewis’ story was humility.  The abandonment of the self had freed them to interact with others without needing to be heard, affirmed, respected, validated, or even acknowledged.  These characters were free to give without needing anything in return and in doing so, grew closer to eternal joy in Christ.

I finished the audio book and arrived back home at 6:00pm that Tuesday evening.  Before I could drop my bags, my phone rang with the news that my wife’s Uncle Steve had tragically and unexpectedly died while jogging through the woods near his Michigan home.  At the age of 51, Steve’s journey into the afterlife began during my trip down I-95.

There are a handful of men who I’ve encountered over the years that seemed to possess such a degree of humility that my own insecurities vanished when I was around them.  Steve was one of these men.  Now that Steve has passed and his life story is being recounted, I’ve realized that I was just one of so many who recognized the peculiar goodness of a great man even as it was cloaked by a simple and soft-spoken demeanor.

With an unyielding identity in Christ, Steve was not unlike some of those Lewis’ characters who had been freed from the need to gain the approval or affirmation of man.  When you spent time with Steve, you would never know that you were speaking to a man who was so cherished by an entire community, that his death would spur a string of news articles and pack a church.  Steve never saw fit to tell me or anyone just how big a deal he really was.  Probably because he didn’t know.  Humble people never do.  Steve was content to be known by Christ alone.  In one of CS Lewis’ other masterpieces, Mere Christianity, Lewis says this about men like Steve:

“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.  Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.  He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

Last Tuesday was Steve’s last Tuesday.  SteveYet because of Christ, we know it was really the end of his beginning and the beginning of his eternal joy.  Men like Steve aren’t perfect but Jesus didn’t ask for perfection.  He’s asked that we just forget ourselves and fix our eyes on him.   In doing so, we begin to enjoy the freedom that comes with ceding our silly rights to a Sovereign Savior.

 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”. – Matthew 23:12

Brad Pitt’s Big Problem

I have a lot in common with Brad Pitt. For one thing, Pitt and I were both raised as Southern Baptists. Okay, unfortunately for my face that’s where the similarities end.

Unlike me, Pitt rejected the faith of his parents and eventually embraced a hybrid of atheism and agnosticism. So as I watched the Oscar-winning film 12 Days a Slave, I was more than a little surprised at the series of scenes where Pitt’s character made a simple yet indisputable case for the existence of God.

Pitt plays a fervently anti-slavery field hand that goes by the name Samuel Bass. In one scene, Bass voices his opposition to the unjust institution of slavery as he confronts the cruel slave owner of a Louisiana plantation:

  • Bass: It is horrid. It’s all wrong. The law says you have the right to hold a negro, but begging the law’s pardon, it lies. Is everything right because the law allows it? Suppose they’d pass a law taking away your liberty and making you a slave?
  • Slave-owner: That ain’t a supposable case.
  • Bass: Because the law states that your liberties are undeniable? Because society deems it so? Laws change. Social systems crumble. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact, it is a plain fact that what is true and right is true and right for all. White and black alike.

Did you catch it? Pitt’s character asserts that manmade laws are not the final word for “what is true and right”.  As with all claims of moral truth, the case against slavery depended on the existence of a higher moral law that eclipsed man’s established laws.

In order for Bass’s higher moral law to exist, there must exist a higher moral law giver. Otherwise, any appeal against slavery is argued in front of an empty bench where no final judge is seated.

Therein lies Brad Pitt’s big problem.  An intellectually-honest atheist or agnostic has no answer to this simple question: Slavery is wrong? Says who?

Like every unbeliever I’ve ever met, we all inherently recognize that man’s laws are not the final determination of what is right and true. Like it or not, there is a Judge who has written His higher moral law on our hearts

Romans 2:15-16 – They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.