Category Archives: Worldview & Truth

Upstairs / Downstairs

One of the church’s most deadly distractions from the Kingdom is our silly “upstairs / downstairs” idea. From the early centuries of the church, Gnosticism and Greek philosophies began to seep into our thinking which separated God’s world into two levels of reality: the upstairs “spiritual” level, where God lives, and the downstairs “natural” level, where mortals live, work, and watch America’s Got Talent in the evening.

We live downstairs in the “natural” world while God lives upstairs
in the “heavenly” world.

This messed-up worldview has kept our lives as divided as whites and colors on laundry day. We imagine God almost like a reclusive old grandfather living on the second floor, while the rest of us are grinding away at life down below. Of course God loves it when we go upstairs to visit Him on Sundays, or when we need His advice. But he never, ever comes downstairs to get involved in our messy existence on the ground floor. He’s just not interested in our music, work, TV shows, or the sports car in the garage. (He’s way too religious for those sorts of “natural” things). So we mostly leave him alone in His upstairs apartment where he can watch TBN, The Gaithers, or his favorite series, The Chosen, in peace and quiet.

The Kingdom, of course, is exactly the opposite: God has moved right down into the midst of our stuff on the ground floor, and He moves throughout the house tinkering, laughing, helping out with our messes, or rolling up His sleeves to lend a hand with the science project. He also loves America’s Got Talent, and I think I even caught Him tapping his foot to one of my ragtime tunes on the piano.

There is NO Upstairs-Downstairs, but only one world where God and people live together!

This upstairs-downstairs idea has done immense damage to both the church and the world. At times it has kept me from reading good “non-religious” books, from expressing political opinions, and occasionally it even keeps me from enjoying too much laughter and good times with friends. But the saddest and most dangerous thing of all is in “partitioning” God off from the rest of life. The Kingdom means God has invaded all things with his presence. “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” There is no division; neither upstairs nor downstairs. He inhabits it all.

Conspiracy, or not?

Because it is the nature of darkness to hide, there are indeed
conspiracies afoot.

C.S. Lewis famously observed, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”  I think the same can be said of conspiracy theories. 

I see on one side those who mock reasonable questions about the origins of the Covid virus, the integrity of our elections, or the agenda of the World Economic Forum with, “Oh… that’s just a conspiracy.”  But equally disturbing are the ones on the other extreme who think EVERYTHING is a conspiracy.  They wear me out with their alarmism and suspicion. 

The reality is certainly somewhere in the middle, where the sound sensibility of the scriptures exhort us, “Do not believe every spirit…”  “Test everything; hold fast to what is good.”  “… Evil people and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” 

Lewis wisely points out a foolish and deadly denialism on one side, and an unhealthy fixation with darkness on the other.  Instead, let us walk in the sanctified center of wisdom: If the origins of the virus, or the outcome of the election seem suspicious, then by all means ask your questions, pray, and do your research.  Or if you can’t be bothered, then at least affirm your brother and the questions he may be asking.  Engage in reasonable conversations, and arrive at your own considered conclusions.  But don’t try to drag me into a rabbit hole that will divert the whole river away from the shores of truth and reason.  We are called to declare the good news of the Kingdom, while taking only a passing interest in the deeds of darkness.  (Indeed, enough interest so that we can pray intelligently). 

“If you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding… then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.”  May we live curious, questioning lives of healthy examination, while we keep our hope and our focus on the One who is the truth.   

True Education

John Wesley used to exhort the early Methodist circuit riders to “Read, or get out of the ministry.”  Severe?  Perhaps, but I’m convinced that reading is an absolute essential to discipleship.  We are called, after all, to be lifelong learners; disciples of the Kingdom never master the curriculum.  There will always be more. 

Francis Schaeffer says “True education requires thinking across the various disciplines, and not just being qualified in one particular field”. Evangelicals are the worst at this.  We are often “experts” in evangelicalism and ignorant of history, philosophy, art, culture and government. Thus, one of the greatest failures of today’s church is our abandonment of the Christian mind.  “My people are destroyed through lack of knowledge.”  (Hosea 4:6). Because we have abandoned the call to love God with our minds, we have stalled the advance of the Kingdom, and fallen into cultural damage-control.  We’ve become mental midgets facing the end of the world as we know it. 

The apostle Paul, with his sterling credentials asked Timothy to “bring the books” when he came.  (2 Timothy 4:13).  What books?  We don’t know, but we do know from reading his epistles that the apostle had a thorough grasp of history, law, culture, philosophy, and poetry.  “All things are Thy servants”, David wrote in Psalm 119.  “All things”.  If we have discerning hearts, we will see God’s truth embedded everywhere, from nature, mathematics, and beauty, to stories, literature, and poetry.

Saint Athanasius reminded the fourth century believers, “You will not see anyone who is truly striving after spiritual advancement who is not given to spiritual reading.”  If I could encourage young disciples of Jesus with one discipline, it would be to read! (Well… to read, and to PRAY!!)  We ought to read broadly, read critically, read with discernment, and read with humility. 

Here’s a link to a cross-section of books which have shaped my worldview and my walk with Jesus.    Perhaps you have your own favorites you could share in the comments section.  A good book recommendation can change a life and open a whole new world! 


While we were busy poking fun at the silliness of political correctness, it quietly grew into a Marxist monster called the “Woke” movement. We flirted with it for decades, rightfully eager to become more sensitive to people, movements, and minorities. But the more we fed it, the bigger it grew until it gathered a gang of political-corporate thugs and began terrorizing the playground. And even worse, the teachers and school principle have sided against the skinny kids.

“Woke-ness” divides. It’s a form of Marxism that focuses on race, gender, language and power. Energized by outrage, it separates neighbor from neighbor, blacks from whites, men from women, gays from straights, and natives from immigrants. It rewrites history, topples statues, bans books, cancels dissidence, redefines words, and crushes freedom. And it has been creeping into our churches for decades.

On Easter Sunday I rode past a church in East Texas which proudly declared “We are a Social Justice – Black Lives Matter Church”. It felt both ominous and odd. While most were celebrating the resurrection, our misguided brethren were declaring a political gospel and standing boldly against whiteness. To our well-intentioned friends, activism has replaced evangelism, conversion has given way to “woke-ness”, and the “Enemy” has become the person next door who refuses to play along with the game.

I’ve already experienced the rage of the mob, unfriended for my lack of outrage, condemned for my want of “nuance”, and shunned for refusing to denounce people based on their skin color, or the uniform they wear. Make no mistake, the woke movement is as far from the heart of Jesus as the Pharisees of old.

Please, my friends, hold fast to the beauty of the Gospel: Sin infects us all, the cure is in Christ, true power is expressed in humility, and hope is found in God’s Kingdom. “There is a way which seems right to a man, But it’s end is the way of death.” Proverbs 16:25

Live not by lies

We are living in times of dangerous upheaval; times which demand more from us than we have been used to giving. These are days for standing boldly for truth, and not giving in to intimidation, cultural pressure, and the ubiquitous deceit thrown at us by politicians and news anchors.

I’ve recently been reading some of the works of the Soviet Dissident, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who spent eight years imprisoned in the Russian Gulags for criticizing Josef Stalin in a private letter. The day he was arrested in 1974 he released “Live Not by Lies” to the Soviet people. The short essay seems especially appropriate for Christians in the 21st century. Below are a few teaser quotes from the piece, with a link to the entire article for further reading.

“Violence has nothing to cover itself with but lies, and lies can only persist through violence… And therein we find… the simplest and most accessible key to our liberation: a personal non-participation in lies. Even if all is covered by lies, even if all is under their rule… let their rule hold not through me… For when people renounce lies, lies simply cease to exist. Like parasites, they can only exist when attached to a person.”

“We are not called to step out into the square and shout out our truth; to say out loud what we think – this is scary, and we are not ready. But let us at least say what we do not think… Our way must be: Never support lies.”

“The more of us set out together, the thicker our ranks, the easier and shorter this path will be for all. If we become thousands, they will not cope, they will be unable to touch us. If we grow to tens of thousands – we will not recognize our country.”


Truth and love

Just about a month ago I posted a comment on Facebook, that my two greatest fears were that I might abandon love, or that I might abandon truth. “Either would be catastrophic”, I said. It seems to have resonated with a number of friends, and I received an unusual amount of feedback. I meant it, too, and I’m determined to stand by my commitment as long as grace enables me..

Love and truth are like the proverbial two sides of a coin. Just as you cannot have “up” without “down”, or “front” without “back”, you cannot have love without truth because they are both revealed to us in Jesus. If you have him, you will honor both:

Love without truth is not love.
And truth without love is not truth.

By extension, those who love most will see most, and understand the most. But the opposite is also true: Those who hate are blinded, and can never really know truth. “… anyone who hates his brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.” (1 John 2:11).

Christian author, Francis Schaeffer, taught that “true truth” is tantamount, and yet it is cold and cruel without love. “The local church or Christian group should be right, but it should also be beautiful.”

Here is my point in sharing this Kingdom principle: Serious disciples of Jesus ought to be deeply interested in knowing the truth about the events unfolding before us, from Covid, to politics to free speech. And though many seem ready to argue, accuse and offend, it seems few are interested in love, without which we can never begin to truly know truth.

Do you want to understand the truth about the world? Then looking through the lens of love will clear your heart and bring clear focus.

Judging a tree

“No one is so deceived as the person who believes
he has everything figured out.”

“Every tree will be known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33). Recounting his personal journey towards the end of his life, the brilliant British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton told of strolling through London as a young man in the turbulent sixties, and stumbling into an angry mob of demonstrators: “I saw a group of radicals destroying and throwing stones at policemen, and I said ‘Whatever these people are for, I am against.” That inflection point set Scruton on the path towards becoming one of England’s premier thinkers and cultural influencers. Sir Roger looked at a “tree” and judged it by its fruit.

Those who are serious about apprenticeship to Jesus take truth seriously; we want to stand squarely on the side of integrity. So it follows that faithful disciples will always live welcome correction, repentance and the opportunity to change our minds when necessary. (No one is so dangerous or deceived as the person who believes he has everything figured out). But when we live in a culture of contradicting narratives, censorship, disinformation, and media-shaming, it can sometimes be difficult to know which narrative is “truly” true.

I believe one reliable indicator of truth is the fruit test: Does this group, this news organization, or this ideology promote peace and order, or violence and chaos? Does it build-up, or tear-down? Does it produce anger and bitterness, or gentleness and love? Can I see in these people a humble hope in God, or the pride of arrogance? Even a child can tell good fruit from rotten.

Undeniably, two worldviews are locked in a brutal competition for the future of the world. It’s a terrifying sight. But the disciples of Jesus will remember that we are called to be a “tree of righteousness”, a tree whose fruit will be given for the healing of the nations.

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” -Galatians 5:22-23

(A good introduction to Sir Roger Scruton is his timeless documentary, “Why Beauty Matters”)

Worldview and the Coronavirus

Worldviews inevitably go astray when they depart from the middle way of truth: Materialists are half correct when they say the world is material. But it is more! Spiritualists are half correct when they say the world is spiritual. But it is not only spiritual. The world is a glorious mix of both spiritual and material. That is the truth and the natural order of creation.

As we followers of Jesus approach the coronavirus we stand in need of recognizing the middle way. Already I am hearing some friends say reckless things like, “I’m not concerned. God will protect me.” God does protect us. But that is only half of the truth. The other half is that God has given us an understanding of how viruses are spread, and we need to honor the natural component of the sickness as well.

One friend mentioned that it’s not “unbelief” to wash up, avoid crowds, and take precautions any more than it’s “unbelief” for a Christian surgeon to scrub-up and wear a mask for surgery. No one wants to be operated on by a surgeon who simply “trusts in the Lord” to keep infection away.

A Biblical worldview honors both the spiritual and the natural. Foolishness sees only one end of the equation. The Old Testament is full of laws about social distancing from lepers, avoiding unclean foods, and practicing proper sanitation. These are legitimate injunctions regarding the natural world. But at the same time, we are admonished to trust in the Lord with all our hearts. That is the spiritual end, and both sides are important. As we plot our way through the challenge of coronavirus I encourage you to keep social distance inasmuch as you are able and to practice good hygiene. But I also encourage you to trust in God. Do not be afraid! God’s Word is full of promises about these sorts of situations.

As you distance yourself and take wise precautions capitalize on the time to memorize Psalm 91, and the many other promises God has given to us. And don’t fall into the foolishness of half-truths! We are in this situation with God at our side.

Leftism and the Kingdom

Someone has said, “When the church does not disciple the world, the world disciples the church.”

For nearly two weeks now I’ve had a growing sadness and alarm in the depths of my spirit:  The news of the church shootings in Charleston was a well-placed punch in the gut for most of us.  And quickly on its heels came two Supreme Court decisions that severed America from Constitutional clarity and set it adrift in the tides of relativism, public opinion and political expediency.  Facebook and web forums predictably erupted into vicious denunciations and hostile invective.  And now we have entered a contentious new territory which – apart from a great turning – could explode into unimaginable destabilization and bloodshed.

Today I simply want to remind my friends of two things:

#1. People are never the problem.  I know it’s quite easy to feel that way, and in fact there is a large segment of America already practiced at maligning others as “evil”, “racist”, and “standing in the way of progress.”  Jesus followers must never allow themselves to descend into that mindless approach, for whenever a culture has demonized people, it inevitably falls into the blackness of genocide, gas chambers and “final solutions.”

The problem is not people, but the lies people believe.  Let me go a step further and say it’s the lies we believe, because whether we know it or not, there are always vestiges of deception lying around in our own thought processes, and that realization ought to keep each of us perpetually humble before God.  For this reason Kingdom-seekers ought to forever champion humility, understanding and Truth.

#2. There is still the great untried truth of the Kingdom.  Leftism has gained such staggering ground in America because the leftists have learned to articulate their story and sought out the places of cultural influence to tell it.  They preach from hollywood sound-studios, academic halls, and media outlets a story that offers a hope, (false as  it is), to the hungry masses.   Their story has been told well, it’s being tested at this moment, and it will ultimately usher us into a living hell on earth.

And meanwhile…  we stand before church congregations and preach a shriveled narrative of forgiveness and escape from this world of darkness – a story that cannot even be tested until we die!   This narrative of getting into heaven when we die has played itself out; It will NOT capture the minds and hearts of this confused generation.  But the story of the Kingdom will!  How do I know?  It’s the same story that has fueled our hearts from our earliest years, and it’s the very story the King himself told to invite the world into life and blessing.

Jesus and facts

I’m thinking today about how totally comfortable Jesus is with facts. Too many sincere Christians become skittish in the face of science and scrutiny.  We fret and worry that if the right yarn is pulled it might be the one that unravels the whole sweater.  The Son of God is not some fragile gift shop curio that needs to be kept under glass.  And the sooner we see it, the better off we’ll be.

The great missionary to India, E. Stanley Jones, wrote that he made the happy discovery in that continent of inquirers that he could put his faith in front of the world and say, Here he is, brothers.  Break him if you can.”  The difference between Jones and many in the church today is that He did his homework; He asked the difficult questions, and discovered a case robust enough to stand up under the critics.

The carpenter of Nazareth built more than tables and chairs.  He fashioned the world of reality from the ground up, and has nothing to fear under investigation.  The one who rebuked the storm is not intimidated by the facts of his own universe.  He owns the facts!  He invented them!  “All things were created by him, and apart from him nothing was created that has been created.”  When the evidence is torn apart and examined under the microscope, the telescope, or the petri dish, he will be standing right there behind it with a knowing glimmer in his eye.

“He was there before any of it came into existence, and he holds it all together right up until this very moment.”   – Colossians 1:17 (Msg)

There’s nothing fragile about this Christ.  Though the world may cave in upon itself and the stars be sucked into a wormhole, He will remain towering above the ruins.   Let’s do our homework and invite the neighbors to present their best questions!