CULTURE IN CHAOS: LIVING IN A POST-TRUTH WORLD

post truth imageThis afternoon I came across this video on an NBC news site, and although not shocking it did greatly grieve my heart. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfzL8BrNSLQ) A similar story of Drag Queen Story Hour at a New York City is equally disturbing. (https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/drag-queen-story-hour-at-nyc-library) It is sad. It is foolish. And even though it seems utopic, it is destructive. I truly do feel sad for these children, and the parents of these kids. Sadly, we don’t need to wait to determine how this will turn out. Time will tell the same tale of those who have suppressed the truth because they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened: it will be chaotic, not utopic.

A person’s worth and identity is not determined by the acceptance of others. All who are seeking gender neutrality so as to find common ground, equality, and dignity are creating a false reality. Our bodies attest to this, which is why some are choosing not to reveal their biological gender to their children because to do so would be an admission of that which is absolutely true. To deny who we are by God’s sovereign design is to reject true dignity, worth, value and identity. Because we are a fallen humanity, marred by sin, there will never be a place where everyone is fully accepted, with no stereotypes or prejudices this side of heaven. That sounds so insensitive and fatalistic, but thus is the result of the curse of sin; which all the more makes the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ so incredibly life-giving and full of grace and hope.

In Romans 1:18, the apostle Paul mentions those who “suppress the truth.” A people who suppress the truth will become a people who are unbridled in their sin. By suppressing truth, Paul is referring to those who refuse to acknowledge God and His ways. When a person refuses to acknowledge God, it is to numb the conscience of their mind and ignore the longing of their soul so that they might live as if there is no God. To live as if there is no God, is to live with no sense of accountability to the truth of God. Regardless, a person’s choice to not believe in God or to not follow the ways of God does not negate the truth that God does exist and His ways are true. The truth does not hinge on our opinion.

But again, it is no surprise that truth has become relative. In 2016, Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year was “post-truth.” It is defined as this: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, regardless of the facts, biological realities, common sense, or anything else that may be empirically evident, our culture would say truth is determined by how a person feels or what a person wants to believe. Incidentally, there are some who profess to be Christians who are walking lock-step with culture regarding this flawed definition of truth, as opposed to clinging to the timeless truth of Scripture as the reference point from which our worldview should be shaped.

So what is our response as followers of Jesus? How should the Church respond to a “post-truth” culture?

As the Church, our desire should be that we become a people who, transformed by the grace and hope of the gospel in Christ Jesus, love all people regardless of their choices. It does not mean we condone or celebrate their choices. As the apostle Paul would say, “May it never be!” Rosaria Butterfield said it well when she wrote in her book “The Gospel Comes with A House Key,” that as believers we are called to sit with sinners but not sin with sinners. What that means is that we are willing to step into uncomfortable situations and engage in meaningful conversations for the purpose of making much of Jesus and the hope that is found in Him. If we as the body of Christ, those who are true believers and not “cultural Christians,” do not press into what is taking place in our culture, we will be like those who pave roads over a treacherous cliff. Our burden for those who reject the truth of God should be as heavy as that described by Charles Spurgeon: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

May we, as followers of Jesus, pray instead of criticize; speak words of truth in love and immersed in grace; be uncompromising, yet engaging. And may all we do point to Christ and the hope of His gospel. It is our only hope, and the only hope for this world.

OF CATHEDRALS AND TEMPLES

IMG_8281Yesterday, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago (Metropolitan Cathedral) in the Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile. It is a beautiful cathedral that went under construction in 1748, and was completed by 1800. Like most cathedrals I’ve visited, it was impressive to say the least. The ornate and detailed beauty portrays a craftsmanship that is both skillful and thoughtful. It has been said that great cathedrals were built so as to proclaim the glory of God; meant to point to something greater and to leave those who enter its doors humbled at the bigness of God and the smallness of man. In medieval times, grand cathedrals that seemingly reached to the heavens and dwarfed even royal castles, spoke of the dominant role of religion. Although religion was prominent, it seemed that the manifest presence of God wasn’t. During what is often called “The Dark Ages,” a common language Bible was suppressed, yet as in every period of history, God’s truth and those who proclaimed it continued in their faithful witness of Christ and the hope of the gospel. God’s presence was still active and moving in the lives of those who faithfully sought after God, men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale. There is much more I could say about this time in history, but maybe for another day and another entry.IMG_8290

As I stood in the midst of Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago, appreciating the grandeur and beauty, God brought to mind a couple of passages of Scripture: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is My footstool; what is the house that you would build for Me, and what is the place of My rest? All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word.’” Isaiah 66:1-2

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man . . .” Acts 17:24

This cathedral, as inspiring and beautiful as it was, was just a building. Looking around at the tourists who were more often looking through the screen of their camera phone than they were with their eyes (I at times being one of them), I saw others who were there to pray to the saints; statues that, to many, seemed to offer hope and life. Sadly, the truth is they do not. There is only one, Jesus Christ, who offers hope, and life, and the forgiveness of sin so that we might truly be saved, and He does not live in temples made by man.

IMG_8309A building with no life inside is just an empty shell. It is just as true for churches in America, or anywhere else for that matter, as it is for the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago. And, truthfully, a person’s life is no different. What matters more than beautiful edifices and ornate decor of cathedrals or even the lives of those who pursue and hide behind the edifice and decor of all that our culture exalts, yet is empty, is the wonder, and mystery, and beauty of God’s glorious presence in the temple of we who are created in and bear the image of God.

What a humbling thought that cathedrals, churches, and temples don’t even measure up to footstool status. The God who created all things makes heaven His throne, and the earth is just the place He rests His feet. Yet this same God, who is unequal and unrivaled, because of His unfathomable love for us and His IMG_8317overwhelming grace towards us, came to us so that we might be saved and enter into a relationship with God. And if that were not enough, He has placed within us the fullness of His presence by His Spirit so that we might display the glory of Christ.

Cathedrals are beautiful and church buildings are important, but the majesty and presence of the exalted King Jesus resides in all who have placed their faith in Him. May our lives proclaim the glory of God.  May the ancient truths of God’s word be reflected in our daily lives.  And may the world will be in awe of the Christ who dwells in us.

 

 

 

 

 

The Progress of Man and the Majesty of God

SantiagoAndes“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wondrous works, I will meditate.”  Psalm 145:5

From the balcony of where we are staying in Santiago, Chile, I can see the beautiful snow-capped Andes mountains.  I’ve always loved the mountains.  There is something that is truly majestic and awe-inspiring about God’s creative work.  It makes sense that they would be, though, because a majestic and awe-inspiring God creates nothing less than what is reflective of His glory and greatness.

As I was reading Psalm 145, and looking at the Andes Mountains this morning, I noticed something ironic.  There were two cranes in the foreground, against the backdrop of the mountain range, and they were hoisting beams to a building being constructed.  Two stories of “creation,” yet one declares the creative majesty of God and the other of man’s progress.

Don’t get me wrong, God certainly uses the work of humanity to display the glory of His divinity.  But it seems to me, in the culture in which we live, that often the progress of mankind is seen as superior, and much more majestic, than the work of God.  It reminds me of the people of Babel in Genesis 11, who sought to construct a tower that reached the heavens so that they might make a name for themselves.  As God often does, however, He reminded them that the One who reigns in heaven is the One who reigns over all the earth as well.

It would be good for us to remember that all we do, as good as it may be, pales in comparison to the wondrous works of God.  What God has spoken into existence, man cannot even come close to constructing with his hands.  But what God has skilled us to do with our hands should always point to the majesty and glory of God.

 

 

Mister Rogers and Bob Ross: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Bob Ross and Mister RogersFair warning: you might not want to waste you’re time reading this.

The other night my sons went and saw the new movie/documentary about the life of Fred Rogers, most notably known as Mister Rogers. For about 30 minutes they proceeded to tell me about the movie and how good it was. It obviously left an impression on them, so much that one of my sons decided to order a Mister Rogers t-shirt. I may or may not have done the same.

And then we watched an episode on YouTube. It was a wild night at the Barnard household. But it didn’t end there.

I HAD A DREAM . . .
Somewhere between my head hitting the pillow and my 6am alarm going off, the Trolley apparently took me to the Land of Make Believe. For those of you who were, and may still be, Mister Rogers fans, you’re tracking with me. Somehow I found myself on the simple set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watching the filming of a show. But this was no ordinary episode. The special neighbor who came knocking on the door that day was Bob Ross, the painter who made Phthalo Blue and Titanium white common vocabulary. He was moving to the neighborhood. (On a personal side note, it doesn’t get any better than having Bob Ross and Mister Rogers in the same neighborhood. If you got tired of cardigans and canvas shoes you could just go over to Bob’s house and paint happy little trees and beat the devil out of paint brushes.)

BACK TO THE DREAM . . .
The show focused on Bob Ross coming over, as a new neighbor in the neighborhood, to teach Mister Rogers how to paint. But something went terribly wrong. Mister Rogers kindly asked Bob not to paint without a drop cloth, which he did not have with him. Bob told Mister Rogers that he didn’t bring one with him but that he was very good at what he did and would be very careful, to which Mister Rogers insisted that he not paint. And I’m watching this unfold before my eyes.

THEN IT GOT TENSE . . .
Bob started making fun of Mister Rogers’s cardigan and canvas shoes. I gasped. You just can’t do that. To my surprise, and not to be outdone, Mister Rogers pointed out that Bob Ross had a fro that you could see through. You could’ve heard a pin drop. They locked eyes and stared at each other.

THEN IT GOT WORSE . . .
Bob took his 2-inch paint brush and threw it at Mister Rogers. Fortunately he missed Mister Rogers but did hit King Friday who had shown up after hearing all the commotion. Mister Rogers took off one of his canvas shoes and threw it at Bob Ross who was quick enough with his paint palette to block the sneaker, but ended up mixing Phthalo Blue with Van Dyke brown and Yellow Ochre, thus making a hideous new color. It was sheer madness. How in the world could two of the nicest guys, who were PBS legends, who lived in a quiet neighborhood, and who had an affinity for cardigans and happy little trees, end up at odds with one another?

THEN I WOKE UP . . .
And realized it was just a dream. I am hoping though, that somewhere in this dream world, there is reconciliation and a show of good will in Mister Rogers wearing a Cadmium Yellow Hue cardigan and Bob Ross wearing canvas shoes while riding in the Trolley and singing “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.” One can hope.

THE MEANING OF THIS . . .
Some of you, after reading this post, are thinking, “What’s the point of this?” and “That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” And my answer is this: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Don’t fight over paint, and cardigans, and see-through fros. And, without exception, don’t throw paintbrushes and canvas shoes because the world is watching.

You’re welcome.