How to Pray for the ‘Hobby Lobby’ Case

US Supreme CourtOn March 25, 2014 the United States Supreme Court hears the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood case against the Obamacare requirement that employers provide abortion-inducing drugs as part of their health insurance, in spite of religious objections of company owners. The results of this case will have far reaching effects on all business owners of faith, and is more than just about health care. If business owners are forced to violate their conscience on this issue, then the legal argument WILL be extended to every other area of the business.

You’ve probably been reminded to pray on the day of the Supreme Court hearing for the case, but I would urge you to pray over the next three months. While the arguments before the court are heard on one day, the justices actually vote on and write the court’s decision and reasoning later on. It is these parts of the process where Christians really need to petition the Lord for favor.

  • Pray for the Lord to soften the hearts of justices toward religious liberty.
  • Pray that the fundamental right to freedom of conscience to tip the balance against the right to free birth control or abortifacients.
  • Pray for the religious liberty of all Americans, including business owners.

Celebrating Image Bearers with Down Syndrome

Today, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day. While our family has no member with Down Syndrome, over the last few years we have become advocates for orphans with the condition internationally. Specifically, we strongly support the efforts of Reece’s Rainbow, an agency with a mission to raise money for children abroad who are waiting for adoption and adopting families. My wife and daughters fundraise for these children in an entrepreneurial spirit through handmade crafts, my wife’s Etsy Store and Lilla Rose franchise, which she started so we could increase the amount we give without further taxing our family’s budget.

Our motivation is loving compassion born out of awareness that people with Down Syndrome are also created in the image of God, as you and I are (Gen 1:27-28). Therefore they are worthy of respect and dignity. We also are encouraged by the many passages of scripture in which orphan care is praised and commended to us as part of living out our faith (e.g., James 1:27, Psalm 82:3, Psalm 146:9). Moreover, since we have also been adopted by our heavenly Father:

when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Ephesians 4:4-5)

when we adopt or support those who do, we are living out God’s image stamped on our spirits, and are working out our salvation (Eph 2:10).

Today, on World Down Syndrome Day, consider what you can do.

1. Encourage families with members who have Down Syndrome. This video is an encouraging reminder that even those among us with cognitive disabilities have tremendous potential for, and therefore deserve happy lives.

Here is another touching video along the same lines. // And another one.

2. Consider supporting families who have a mission and calling to adopt special needs children. In most areas of the world, these young ones are thrown away or abandoned due to social stigmas or superstition, even if their parents are still living. Moreover, many orphanages around the world are simply horrific, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. We can help! Check out this before and after shot of a beautiful girl rescued from an Eastern European country in February of this year!  

JoJo 1 month homeReece’s Rainbow  is a great organization that targets and collects money toward children’s adoption grants; when a family comes forward and commits to adopting a child they can be reimbursed from the child’s account.

Friends who have adopted or are adopting can be found here and here and here. (If I missed your page, email me and I’ll add you to the list!)

The opportunities are not international only. In the United States people with Down Syndrome also need support, and sometimes adoption. On the other hand, the US Government’s expansion of prenatal testing coverage, which with the medical community’s negative attitude toward DS is sure to reduce the rate of Down Syndrome in the population through the only way it can occur medically: abortion. (State prenatal programs even had the goal of reducing the DS population!) So even though less “enlightened” countries deal with special needs children by committing them to orphanages and mental institutions, in the “civilized” USA  we simply kill them—at a rate of 90%!

3. Learn about Down Syndrome and educate the people around you. Teach your children or the kids in your sphere of influence that people with cognitive disabilities are children of God, too. Recently the medical community agreed to eliminate the phrase “retarded” and “mentally retarded” from their diagnostic manuals; let’s eliminate those and the word “retard” when we’re talking about people, shall we?

4. Encourage your church leaders consider how they can come alongside their church families that have members with cognitive disabilities. Many of these families feel rejected by their churches, even though churches should be where they find support. Growing up in Connecticut, our church was involved with a group home a block away, in which several young women with Down Syndrome lived, and they attended worship services and many church events. Is your church a welcoming place for “the least of these” and the family members who care for them?

Me with our friend Daisy

Me with our friend Daisy

My family has been blessed by our interactions with children and young men and women who have Down Syndrome. I pray that you will take this day to seek out this blessing as well. You’ll be glad you did!


Three (More) Reasons Worldview Matters

In a recent blog, Trevin Wax points out three reasons that our worldview (the way we understand how the world works, what God is like, and what our purpose is) matters, and his reasons are worth re-posting.

Some Christians shrug off any effort to study philosophies and “isms.” They say things like, “I don’t worry myself with what other people think about the world. I just read my Bible and try to do what it says.”

This line of thinking sounds humble and restrained, but it is far from the mentality of a missionary. If we are to be biblical Christians, we must read the Bible in order to read the culture.

He points out that a Christian worldview matters

Because it sets us apart from the world…

Because it aids our spiritual transformation…[and]

Because it helps us know how to live.

He’s exactly on-point here. Jesus’ Great Commission sends us out in to the world in order to build His Father’s kingdom.At the same time, we’re not supposed to be exactly like the world–there is supposed to be something unique and special and attractive about the way we live and think.

Executing our mission also means that we also have to understand those around us. There are at least three points critical to understanding why our worldview is important for our mission.

First, we have to know what we believe, and why. How does a “biblical” worldview understand the world, its nature, and why people have the problems they do? Bumper-sticker theology like “God said it, I believe it, That settles it” only makes us look like ignorant rubes. In reality, we have a reasonable, rational set of reasons for our faith, based on different kinds of evidence and experience. If we don’t understand it well, we won’t be able to explain it.

Second, we have to understand other people’s perspectives. Not because all viewpoints are equally true, but so that we can understand how others view themselves. For example, if I know that a friend thinks the Bible is just a book of myths, constantly quoting scripture to “sell” Christianity to him or her just won’t fly. If another friend doesn’t believe in God, then saying God directed the selection of the books for the New Testament won’t make them any more satisfied with the exclusion of the apocryphal books or gnostic gospels.

Third, we have be able to communicate with them in a winsome but intelligent way. If we are rude or coarse while we’re trying to explain the gospel or some other point related to Christianity, our credibility suffers. As a teacher, I have to understand how my students see the world in order to explain it to them in terms they can relate to.

This is why seminars like my Worldview & Apologetics Seminar (as well as others that are out there) are important–they’re designed to help Christians see how the various parts of the world in which we live make sense, transform our lives, matter for our day-to-day living, and have eternal consequences.

 

Where is your citizenship?

US-Green-CardAs a student of politics I’ve been thinking about my citizenship. I love the United States, and I love our history, our diversity, and our shared values. At the same time, as a Christian I get frustrated by what I see in our nation’s evolving culture. While some changes have been good, many cultural changes have not been good, in the sense of being objectively good the way God sees things. If the US ever was a “Christian Nation,” we certainly aren’t anymore (even back in the 1970s Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer labeled the US as “Post-Christian.”).

It’s useful, then for me to return periodically to a biblical definition of where my loyalties actually ought to lay. That is, when I look at the culture of death that is growing in our nation, the intractability of human trafficking, the passing away of our society’s moral standards and fabric that for so long supported our culture, and the growing antagonism toward traditional Christianity in the public square, I wonder whether being American is all it’s cracked up to be. If I travel abroad and meet up with other brothers and sisters in the Lord, would I be proud to say I’m an American?

As usual, scripture must guide my thinking, so what does the Bible say about being an American? Nothing directly, of course. The British colonies were just a twinkle in Europe’s eye when the canon of scripture closed. But the apostles Peter and Paul both address citizenship in interesting ways. In Phillipians 3:20, Paul writes that “our citizenship is in Heaven,” which enables us to bear earthly problems with a heavenly mindset. But Peter provides a more thorough teaching.

Nestled between the metaphor of The Church being a building of “living stones” with Christ as the cornerstone and instructions on submission to governing authorities, such as the king or one’s employer, Peter writes,

But you are a CHOSEN RACE, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a HOLY NATION, aA PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:9-12, NAS)

The capitalized letters tell us that these phrases are quotations, and these are from the Old Testament—phrases that were used to describe the nation of Israel (e.g., Exodus 19:16, Deut 7:6; Deut 14:2; Hosea 1:10, 2:23). This is consistent with other New Testament passages demonstrating that Christianity is an extension of Judaism, Israel’s spiritual heritage and co-heir to the promises God made to Abraham (this is a major theme of Galatians and Romans, for example).

Our National Identity. But in the context of Peter’s first century letter the phrases suggest that Christians have a distinct national identity, just as Israel did…now Christians are the chosen race, the royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession. The identifying mark of our national identity is that we once weren’t unified (we “were not a people”) but now we are unified as “the people of God.” Our nationhood is based on the mercy we have received through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. We now have received mercy—the undeserved forgiveness for our sins—and that is what distinguishes us from other people groups, not circumcision, skin color, sex, socioeconomic status, or nation-of-origin.

Our National Mission. Peter provides a mission statement for this nation: “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This means the purpose for our existence is to proclaim the truth of God’s excellence to those around us, and the most excellent thing we could proclaim is the gospel message. Thus, we are to be about acting out Jesus’  Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). By definition, this means we ought to be known by our unusual message, wherever we are. If we are going out and making disciples our values are going to conflict with the culture where we find ourselves. This is likely to be uncomfortable and it will sometimes get us killed. (Just this week the North Korean government executed 13 Christians for obeying Christ in this way.) If we compromise this message and the teachings of the Lord out of some sense that we don’t want to be offensive to others or “old-fashioned” or intolerant (the values of a certain nation in which I happen to reside), we will be soon be off-track in obediently pursuing our true mission.

Our Immigration Status. Peter then uses two interesting words to describe us: “aliens and strangers.” These actually are two legal terms in the Greek.  The word translated “alien” is paroikos, “a stranger, a foreigner, one who lives in a place without the right of citizenship,” while “stranger” is parepidēmos, “one who comes from a foreign country into a city or land to reside there by the side of the natives” or “sojourning in a strange place, a foreigner.”

Did you catch that? Christians are foreigners wherever we live. We have come from our home country into a place that is not our home to live side-by-side with the natives. Our loyalty must not be displaced: we are Christians who happen to be living in a foreign land called the United States, China, Nigeria, or [insert where you reside]. This helps us make sense of our mission, because we don’t have to proclaim the excellencies of God to our countrymen, because we already know about them. It’s the citizens of the nation where we temporarily reside that need our message, so they will want to acquire naturalized citizenship and we can help our King grow our nation.

Our testimony in a foreign culture. We serve a different king than whoever is in charge of the country where we happen to reside, and we therefore represent Him where we live.  In the same way that we observe foreigners and make judgments about their people group or nation, our behavior reflects on our King and the rest of our nation. Thus, Peter instructs his countrymen to “abstain from fleshly lusts” and “keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles.”  Why? Because when we speak and act just like the people who belong to the country where we live, there won’t be anything special about us. If we’re thinking and acting just like the Gentiles around us, adapting the teachings of our true nation to the values of our temporary lodging, why would any of them see the need to change their citizenship?

Our good deeds are supposed be evidence to counteract what our opponents will say about us. Imagine living in a country where your motives are questioned, your language is defined as “hate,” you’re accused of being a threat, and your values are so unusual that people will trash you and say bad things about your home country. They’ll slander you because of your foreign ways and values; you won’t talk like them, act like them, you’ll disapprove of things they tolerate, and this will earn you their ire. UNLESS your good deeds outweigh your weirdness. It will be our good deeds that testify to why we sojourners are good to have around, why our King is righteous, and why it’s worth renouncing one citizenship for a better one. As Jesus put it, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

Fellow Christian, you are part of a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, diverse, chosen, redeemed, holy nation of priests, who are temporarily residing in a foreign country. If you’re pursuing the mission our King has assigned us, expect to be rejected and hated, because His ways will contradict the ways of this land. Nevertheless, live uprightly and do good in this land so that your King and citizenship in His Kingdom will be attractive to others. In the same way that the United States was for two centuries the destination of choice for people around the world because of its freedom and opportunities, let us make citizenship in our true Kingdom a desirable thing.

Parents Need to Keep Learning, too!

"teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deut 6:7).

Deuteronomy 6:7

Over at christianmomthoughts.com Natasha Crain provides a great list of  65 questions that Christian parents should learn to answer. These questions cover the major topics of having and living out a Christian worldview. Parents–pay attention: most churches will not teach you these topics in Sunday School or in a Sunday morning sermon! And your kids’ public schools won’t teach them either!

These are big questions of life, and you probably have to learn it on your own. Fortunately, the internet provides access to many Christian websites that enable you to study these topics. (I’m working on a page compiling those links.) We also have more books than ever (hard copy and eBooks) that address these issues.

I guarantee you that the opposition has plenty of advocates and apologists out there pushing their perspectives–often through the public schools, colleges and universities, and the media. Are you prepared to un-indoctrinate your children?

Deuteronomy 6:7 instructs parents to talk about the things of God all day long…”You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

My Worldview and Apologetics Seminar is specifically designed to address some of these questions, and to point attendees to some of the best resources out there for getting equipped in these areas. You don’t have to be an expert in everything (the Lord knows I’m not!), but you ought to have a foundation for answering these questions.

God and Our Tragedies

girl cryingBackground: On December 3, 2013 two Kalamazoo teens were killed in a car crash, and another took his own life. Many of my students knew these young people, and it was an emotionally wrenching time for the Kalamazoo-area home school community. I wrote this open letter, first and foremost for my students, but then someone suggested that I post it more broadly; I did, and the response to the letter was more than I ever expected. In it, I try to help those who have experienced a tragedy begin the process of grieving and dealing with the hard questions of why God allows such suffering and bad things to occur. This week another young person was in a serious crash and people are asking again, “Why?” In another post I’ll address some of the “why’s” we can explain, but for now I’ve been asked to re-post the original open letter, with only slight edits. I hope and pray you find it healing and helpful.

Many dear friends are grieving tonight…for three young lives ended today. Among many in our community hearts are broken or are breaking, and people we love are crying their eyes out. Parents all around us are hugging their kids a little tighter, as many of our teens are experiencing, for the first time, the death of a peer, a friend, a classmate, a Prom Queen. Worst of all, two families have lost beloved children.

What are we to make of this? How can it make sense? What purpose could there be in these tragedies? These are the situations when, as we sit in puddles of tears, we just can’t see the way clear to a rational reason for any of it.

Just two weeks ago, in my worldview class (which includes several friends of those who passed on), we discussed the nature of suffering. Why do we suffer? Why does tragedy occur? What could God possibly accomplish in horrible circumstances?  I told my dear students that, if they hadn’t experienced tragedy yet, they would.

I promised.

Because that is what happens in a world that was created good, but not perfect, and which is falling apart around us. Creation groans in its fallen state, and tonight we groan along with it.

But our groaning and grieving and weeping is not everything, and need not be the end of the story.

I told my students that when you’re in the weeds—in the middle of a horrible situation, like a sibling or a parent dying, like a typhoon wiping out your home, like a cancer diagnosis, like an assault—that in those close quarters of desperation and grief we can’t understand it at all. We can’t see what any of it means, where God could be, or what God could be doing by letting our world fall apart around us. But, as Corrie ten Boom (who lived through horrors most of us will never face) wrote, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Even the pit in which you may now find yourself, you are not alone.

I told my students that because your world is so dark when you are in that pit, that you must decide ahead of time to understand something about God and cling to it, desperately, as if your life depended on it, when you don’t have any answers:

God intends all of our human experiences to direct us to Himself.

Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Paul, James, and Peter all told their readers that God is accomplishing purposes through our suffering and tribulations, even when we can’t discern the designs of his handiwork or the tragedies He permits (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 5:8-11). And then there is that familiar promise, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And we’ll hear this a lot over the coming days and weeks, about how not everything is good, but that God works things together for good. And in the short term, it will sound trite and maybe even a little pathetic. But wait.

Let’s not forget how Paul introduces that promise: He writes a couple of verses earlier (Rom 8:26-27),

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Paul is saying that when we are in a pit of grief so deep that we don’t even know what to say, the Holy Spirit groans before God on our behalf. My children, you do not walk this painful path alone, and you have not been abandoned.

My point to my students was that we must intellectually grasp the principle that the purposes of God—yes, even His unknown and unknowable purposes—are somehow, inexplicably, being accomplished. And we must understand this before tragedy strikes, so that in our grief we do not curse God or abandon him in what seems like a hopeless, pointless, and purpose-less situation.

Young people, gather together with your friends and loved ones and grieve for a time, for this is right and necessary and healthy. But also gather with older people, those gray-headed elders of The Church who have already walked this path more times than they care to remember. Talk with them about those times that the Lord used tragedies—including deaths of people taken from them much too soon—to do something in their lives. (I can tell you that some of the most important times in my Christian walk occurred among fellow-worshippers in ICU waiting rooms or funeral parlors.) Allow them to speak this evidence into your life, to testify about the Lord’s work. Perhaps there are things they don’t yet understand, and that’s okay, too.

 Older people, seek out opportunities to share your experiences with young people in your circle of friends or in your church. Tell them that you understand what they’re going through. Share with them how the Lord has grown you and those around you through life’s tragedies. This day is one of the reasons you lived through that day…to minister to the broken-hearted around you, and testify to God’s goodness.

Love one another, comfort one another, care for each other, treasure the moments you had with your friends who have gone home ahead of you. And if you can’t talk to God quite yet, or you don’t know what to say, let the Holy Spirit groan on your behalf until you can. Grieve, and in time, you will move forward. Your life will be better for having known them. And then, after a little while, bit by bit, let the Lord show you how He wants to use these friendships and relationships, the loss of your friends, and what you are experiencing now to draw you nearer to him, and to grow you ever more into the likeness of His Son.

May the peace of God the father, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the love of Jesus surround you, enfold you, and comfort you.

Peter

50 people in the Bible confirmed by Archaelogy

Sargon II

Sargon II, King of Assyria (Isaiah 20:1)

One of the most common criticisms of The Bible that emerged a couple of hundred years ago is that it does not hold up historically. That is, it mentions people, groups, and events not found elsewhere in human history. In this article, we are introduced to 50 people who are mentioned in the Bible whose lives are confirmed by archeology. This kind of historical evidence is used in apologetics to demonstrate that The Bible is a reliable historical record. If it’s reliable with regard to human history, it is also credible for spiritual matters as well.

See the list of names here.

(The list is public, but to get to the full article you have to subscribe to the website.)

“Get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.”

For all of the women I know who struggle with their appearance, this speech gets to the point of true beauty: “Get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.” Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o speaks of her childhood in which she knew she wasn’t beautiful because her skin was too dark. But true beauty is what we find on the inside. This is a truly biblical message: “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

[I found this clip at http://www.upworthy.com/oscar-winner-lupita-nyongos-speech-on-beauty-that-left-an-entire-audience-speechless]

A Response to “How to debate a Christian apologist”

Last week atheist physicist Victor Stenger blogged on Huffington Post a series of principles and counterattacks for atheists who are going to debate Christian apologists. His hope is to provide instructions for how to effectively debate common Christian arguments on such topics as the existence of God, creation versus evolution, and the historical existence of Jesus. Nick Peters has provided a (mostly) point-by-point response to Stenger here.

In Stenger’s own words (the whole post is here):

During their opening statements and throughout the debate, apologists are likely to make arguments with which atheists may not be so well versed. So, when the time comes for rebuttals, atheists often cannot provide cogent responses, or any responses at all, and so lose debating points….

In what follows I will provide a primer on the most common arguments made by apologists and suggest canned responses. By memorizing or bringing notes containing these responses to the debate, the atheist can be just as smooth as the preacher.

Thus the key is seen early on. Rather than engage with Christian arguments, which Stenger thinks “have been refuted many times,” Stenger’s “suggestions are meant to be short, punchy statements to use during your rebuttals.”

The essence of Stenger’s complaint is that the Christian apologists get to spend more time preparing for debates than atheists do, and so have a systematic advantage. (This reminds me of a public school teacher friend who complained about home schoolers “cheating” in spelling bees by spending so much time preparing for them.) For Christians, however, this preparation is a central element of explaining the reasons for our faith: “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). And his response is “short, punchy statements.”

 

Welcome Back, Legacy Academic!

Dear friends, I’ve been away from this blog for too long! I am re-casting this website and blog to emphasize the role of worldview and apologetics training, for Christian parents who want to raise their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Stay tuned for more blog posts and content updates!

Peter