Tag Archives: Christianity

Celebrity Christians Do Not Replace Christ

There is plenty of excitement among secular thinkers because of apparent defections from Christian faith by celebrity musicians. This reaction to stories about George Perdikis and Dan Haseltine grows out of a principle of secularism: if someone is rich and famous, then he must be right. These two stories sound good to secularists because to secularists, it appears that both celebrity musicians are defecting from orthodox Christian teaching.

George Perdikis was one of the founding musicians in the News Boys band. In his own words Perdikis describes how the band came together, and also how it came to be characterized as a Christian band. The part I found interesting was the missing part. Nowhere in the story did George or anyone else in the band express any sense that Christ had led them to their success. Their “starving artist” story just happened to turn into a band considered to be Christian, because it was a Christian band that brought them out of the background. Neither George nor anyone else set out to serve Christ by using the gift of music. They all set out to become self-supporting, if not actually famous, with their music.

George explained his own position very well:

I always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules imposed by Christianity. All I wanted to do was create and play rock and roll… and yet most of the attention I received was focused on how well I maintained the impossible standards of religion. I wanted my life to be measured by my music, not by my ability to resist temptation.

In his own words, he considered Christianity a religion with impossible standards, and he is completely correct. Christianity does hold up standards no human being can meet. What he does not say is that Christ is the answer to those impossible standards, and he does not say that he trusted Christ to take him through the temptations. In his own words, he was always trying to deal with the standards and the temptations by his own strength.

Christians will recognize that George Perdikis has not “defected” from the faith, because he has never yet experienced grace. George Perdikis clearly never received the Good News that we human beings do not have to meet those standards, because God already knows we cannot do it. George Perdikis clearly never did receive the forgiveness and grace Christ purchases for every human being on the cross, because he always thought and still thinks that it is up to him to resist temptation in his own power. I have Good News for George Perdikis: George, you were never anything but an atheist, because you clearly never belonged to Christ. That is okay. Jesus loves you anyway, and if you decide to receive his forgiveness and grace, that gift is already waiting for you.

Dan Haseltine is a founding member of Jars of Clay, another band famous among Christians for exciting, innovative expression of Christian values. However, when he tweeted, “I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage,” Christians committed to an orthodox interpretation of the Bible were understandably disturbed.

Orthodox Christian teaching looks to the Bible for definitions of marriage and family, and there they find that the consistent model for marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and they further find that this model for marriage is rooted in the model of Christ’s union with his bride, the Church. There is nothing in the Bible that even hints that same-sex unions can be called marriages, and there are many admonitions against the sexual behavior that underlies a same-sex union. The Bible is a Christian’s guide for faith and life, and the Bible teaches only one definition of marriage: the union of a man and a woman. There are certainly other models portrayed in Bible stories, but only the union of one man and one woman union meets the standard of following the model of Christ’s union with his church.

Haseltine did not shore up his case for gay marriage by a later tweet in which he said, “I don’t particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.’” He later took the road political charlatans often take, telling the fans that they don’t understand the context of his thought or that it was a “poor choice of words.” Being a celebrity means that Haseltine has at his fingertips professional wordsmiths and masters of marketing mantras who will glibly help him talk himself out of this faux pas.

Haseltine is busily working his feet in his swamp of words on the subject of gay marriage. My mother always said, “When you are in a swamp, keep your feet still.” Her point was that stirring up the mud of a swamp would result in sinking, and the time would come when your head would sink below the surface of the muck. Haseltine is in danger of reaching that point, not because he “defected” from the faith, but rather, because there is no evidence that he had any faith to defect from. If he valued the Bible, he would not try to diminish its value as a guide for faith and life, acting as if he could pick and choose the parts that he liked the way a child might push peas to the side of his plate and eat only the mac and cheese. Haseltine defected from the image his band wants to project, and it happened, because that image is inconsistent with Haseltine’s personal values. To secular minds, it therefore appears that he has demonstrated that Christian teaching does not satisfy the loftier moral conclusions that arise from being one’s own god.

Fans of Jars of Clay who love the band for its rock style and pay little, if any, attention to the words of the songs or the words of the performers will forgive and forget this little faux pas. Fans can do that, because the Bible is not necessarily the guide for faith of life of fans of rock bands, Christian or otherwise. Christians cannot, however, casually dismiss the words of someone whose music has been injected into worship settings to honor God Most High. Worshipers who raise their hands in prayer and praise to the Resurrected Son, will not readily forget that the singer leading them in worship has said that he doesn’t care what Scripture says.

And they should not.

Probably someone will tell me I am a wet blanket or an old curmudgeon, but stories like this remind me how deeply I reject the place celebrity bands have won in Christian worship settings around the world. I am of the confirmed opinion that local people should worship the Lord with local talent. It may not sound or look like the professionals, but as you can see in the lives of George Perdekis and Dan Haseltine, there is some question about the likely validity of considering these bands to be “leaders” in Christian worship. I would rather sing a capella in a house church or be accompanied by a one-finger pianist who loves Christ and does her best than be led in worship music by a professional musician whose god is himself.

Beyond that, I also reject the idea that Satan won some big battle and has showed Christians a thing or two by his work in the lives of these two celebrity musicians. Hemant Mehta was thrilled to publish a post by George Perdikis, because he believes atheism has snatched a Christian out of the church, but he is, of course, mistaken. Some LGBTQ social and political activists are thrilled that Dan Haseltine has “exposed” the “hypocrisy” of Christianity. They have good noses for a cover-up, and they see the self-serving game Haseltine is playing in order to appear simply to have made an error in diction. They can see the truth of his pretended “slip of the tongue,” so they pretend to themselves that they have increased their demographic statistic of people who do not consider the Bible to be reliably true in all its teachings.

The Church is truly engaged in a battle with “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). That is why we put our faith in Christ, not in pastors or in famous evangelists or in celebrity musicians. George Perdikis and Dan Haseltine are merely today’s features in Satan’s never-ending quest to separate us from Christ. The “spiritual forces of evil” are constantly pounding Christians in their attempt to pull us out of the arms of Jesus, our Rock, our Fortress, our Savior, but Paul comforts us with these words:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.              Romans 8:35-39

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the summer of 2016


An Atheist Discovers Sinful Human Nature

In a recent article in the Guardian, Ijeoma Oluo wrote on behalf of her fellow atheists that, “our belief that we are right while everyone else is wrong; our belief that our atheism is more moral; our belief that others are lost: none of it is original. Perhaps this is not religion, but human nature.” Later in the article, she referred to the “atrocities we commit as human beings,” and pointed out that atheists and people of faith are alike in the need to “free ourselves from the racist, sexist, classist, homophobic tendencies of society.”

Ms. Oluo has discovered sinful human nature. It is the most fundamental truth about human beings. She looks around, examines the behavior and attitudes of atheists, people not corrupted by believing that some god actually exists and cares about them, and she observes, “Look through new atheist websites and twitter feeds. You’ll see the same hatred and bigotry that theists have been spouting against other theists for millennia.” Her conclusion that belief in a god (theism) necessarily produces hateful, venomous rhetoric may be questionable, but there is no question that human beings, both theists and atheists, are born with sinful human nature.

The word sin is anathema in contemporary cultural conversations, or in any other context, for that matter. There is widespread cultural scorn for the Christian teaching that everyone is a sinner. Film critics love a film that makes fun of Christian abhorrence of sin. Hardened atheists tell stories of how the hypocrisy of church members drove them out of the church their parents forced them to attend as children Social workers accuse parents of child abuse for telling their children that they are born sinful. Yet Ijeoma Oluo has discovered the fact that being an atheist does not keep that person from a congenital propensity for greed, selfishness and hatred.

Ms. Oluo is fully convinced that her discovery is a truth hidden from others. Whenever we human beings discover truth, it feels so good and seems so unlike the world around us that we are sure we have found something others have missed. I applaud her intellectual honesty, but Ms. Oluo needs to recognize that this truth about human beings has been known for thousands of years. Jeremiah, who lived about 2500 years ago, said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

Atheists often reject the Bible as a source of truth, because they reject the whole notion of any spirit realm. Some atheists do recognize biblical truth in an abstract way and set the Bible on a level equal with the Tao Te Ching or a Hindu Veda. Perhaps Ijeoma Oluo could accept Jeremiah’s statement as truth if she could see it presented in parallel with her own observation. Yet Ms. Oluo still needs to see this truth in the revelation of God’s whole truth. Unfortunately, the isolated observation that human beings are inherently evil could drive anyone, including Ms. Oluo, to utter despair. If everyone is bad and nobody is good, where do we find any hope for the human race?

Christians answer that concern by first accepting the truth about human beings and then pointing to the answer: the risen Christ. The truth about humans is well documented in an ancient letter to Roman Christians written by the apostle Paul. He said, “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23). Fortunately, Paul’s statement does not really end that way, mired in the fall. It continues seamless to the solution–“and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Christians know the solution; people are sinful, and they need to be redeemed. Paul wrote the coherent explanation, “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24).

Ijeoma Oluo believes that human beings need to do something to fix the broken elements of human nature that result in evil behavior. In her view, if people start thinking more about themselves, they can evolve into better human beings by willful choice, and she suggests some choices for people—things like service to others and kindness to all. While Ms. Oluo recognizes the universality of sinful human nature, she does not recognize the futility of any attempt to improve on human beings by an act of will. That particular fallacy was revealed as an utter failure during the same era in which the apostle Paul lived. In fact, the apostle Paul subscribed to that theory himself before he became a Christian. He writes about his own experience at length in the book of Romans, saying,

Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin [or sinful human nature] that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For 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. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? –Romans 7:16-24

Paul could see the good things he ought to do, and he could want to do the good things he ought to do, but he was fundamentally incapable of doing every one of those things every time he needed to do it.

The hypothesis that human beings can improve themselves by simply practicing good moral behavior was the entire underlying thesis of Pharisaism. The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism in the first century AD, and they believed that a person could become perfect if he could obey a set of more than 600 individual laws. The fact that Pharisees took their laws from the ancient Hebrew Scriptures does not invalidate a comparison between Pharisaism and Ijeoma Oluo’s suggestion. God himself was actually no more real to them than he is to Ijeoma Oluo, and Jesus pointed out that fact more than once. One day during a teaching moment on the subject of prayer, Jesus compared the prayers of a Pharisee and a tax collector:

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:10-13)

Jesus praised the tax collector, because the tax collector prayed to God, but Jesus said that God would not even hear the Pharisee’s prayer, because he was praying to himself. Read the Pharisee’s prayer closely, and you will see that he believes he is perfect. He believes he has done every possible good deed, and he believes that he never does anything bad. He is not praying to God; he is telling God that he does not need God. The Pharisee may not have chosen the good deeds Ms. Oluo proposes, but the Pharisee and Ms. Oluo both believe that human beings can perfect themselves.

The whole Bible is evidence that human beings cannot perfect themselves. They are born with sinful human nature, just as Ijeoma Oluo says, but the message of the Bible is that no human being can perfect himself and overcome sinful human nature by simply deciding to do so. Every human who tries it will quickly discover that it is impossible. Promise yourself that, like the Pharisee, you will fast twice a week, and then see how quickly your mind excuses a bite of someone else’s donut—just one bite!

Ijeoma Oluo is a brilliant writer, much to be admired for her skill. She is a deep thinker, willing to face hard truth. Ms. Oluo is admirable in every way, and God loves her very much. He is pleased that she uses his gift of intelligence with such power. There is just one thing she needs to do. Ijeoma Oluo needs to do the same thing Jesus asked the rich young ruler to do: she needs to stop being her own God. Ms. Oluo needs to understand that Jesus Christ died precisely because of her sinful human nature, and she needs to accept his forgiveness. She must recognize that the power that raised Christ from the dead is powerful enough to save her from the evil that is sinful human nature. Then she will discover exactly what she is looking for—the redemption of human beings.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter of 2016.

What do Twenty-first Century Christians Believe?

In his book We Cannot Be Silent, R. Albert Mohler summarizes some research by Christian Smith into the elements of faith that are most prominently exhibited in the lives of teen and young adult Christians in the first decade of the twenty-first century. I would love to read the books in which Smith details his research, and I will read these books, but the summary reported by Mohler is so consistent with my own observations that I will dare to say that Smith’s research is disturbingly accurate. Smith uses the term moralistic therapeutic deism to describe what passes for orthodox Christianity in the lives of many young people.

As soon as you look at the term, you see why it fits. First, these young people have a fervent commitment to what they believe is morality, but the core of their morality is nothing like the moral code of the Bible. In fact, their morality is not an expression of God-fearing faith, but rather it is an expression of human-fearing despair. Their morality suggests that murdering unborn babies and shutting down vital industries because polar bears are alleged to be starving are essential expressions of compassion and responsibility. Nevertheless, they knit this moral code into a general sense that God must want them to do right.

Second, they aspire to decisions and actions that make them feel better; the outworking of their morality is therapy for their vague but persistent feeling that the existence of humans is a cosmic threat. Because of this attitude, they enter into a consensus that all sorts of things that cannot be proved threaten humans and the whole earth but the threats must be believed because the threat is so dire. They don’t believe in sin, and certainly not in original sin, but they are sure that humans as a species are responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened.

Finally, they worship a God who has no image, and they feel most in tune with their spirituality if everybody is mouthing the same words, even when the words have no legitimate meaning. The deity to which they consistently turn is government, and in the words of government, as laws and regulations, they find the outworking of their penance and absolution.

According to Christian Smith, the adherents of moralistic therapeutic deism have a simple creed:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

The worldview of people who subscribe to this creed is about saving polar bears, curing cancer, and dividing everything equally. Safe, consensual sex in any combination of humans renders marriage an obsolete concept, an unborn baby is protoplasmic waste whose only value is as a vehicle for research, and it is immoral to eat broccoli, because vegetables have feelings, too.

This worldview is in serious conflict with the biblical worldview that starts with a commitment to Jesus Christ and works out as follows:

  1. I put my trust in the triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. I center my life in Christ.
  3. Christ is first, and I am last.
  4. I willingly die rather than give up Christ. The cross is Christ’s glory and my greatest aspiration is to be like him.
  5. Instead of self-actualization, I aspire to be obedient to God’s will.
  6. My weakness is a gift that allows God’s power to triumph.
  7. In contrast to the culture, I always stand out rather than blend in, living by God’s absolute revealed values.
  8. I do not evolve, and my values do not evolve.
  9. I am first to take on the dirty jobs, serving others rather than promoting self.

It is inevitable that God’s worldview will be in direct conflict with feel-good deism. This is not a bad thing. What is unfortunate is that for so long, moralistic therapeutic deism has held sway in the culture as if it were Christianity. It is actually quite a beneficial development that Christianity is now clearly differentiated from all other ways of living.

The real challenge ahead for confessing Christians is the inevitable conflict when confessing Christians exercise their right to free exercise of religion while moralistic therapeutic deists look askance at behavior they disapprove as surely as any atheist does. Why can’t Kim Davis just do her job and hand out marriage licenses to same-sex couples? Why doesn’t football coach Joe Kennedy go silently into a room and pray behind closed doors instead of “making a scene” on the fifty-yard line? Why must those rabid pro-lifers pray and sing on the sidewalk in front of the local Planned Parenthood clinic? For the twenty-first century deists, secular definitions of marriage, prayer and abortion just make sense, and they cannot understand why the quaint language of some ancient book has any bearing on life and death in the contemporary world.

Confessing Christians, Christians who can state their faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed, have been standing out from the general culture for about two thousand years. It will always be so. This is our destiny.

 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.     —John 15:18-19 ESV








A Book for our Times



I am very pleased to have the opportunity to interview Angelique Cooper McGlotten whose recently released book Living Backward: The Gift of Hindsight in Building A Truly Significant Life inspires me to persevere and stand strong in the cultural winds of the twenty-first century. After you get to know Angelique, I am sure you will want to read this book.

  1. Please share with my readers what it means to “live backward.” How did you arrive at the insight that inspired your book by the same name?

We all know that GPS works backward to get us from where we are to where we want to be. To live backward is to apply this reverse principle to our lives: imagine the kind of life you want to build and then work backward, wisely redeeming the time in order to create that life.

Two realities are intrinsic to the idea of living backward. First, time is fleeting. Second, this earthly existence is our one and only opportunity to make our mark on eternity, a truth we all too easily overlook. The concept of living backward is meant to counter the mind-set that we have time on our hands, which leads to a subtle but grave pitfall: it predisposes us to put off leading purposeful lives precisely because we assume we have time on our side.

Living Backward challenges us to reorient our minds and view time as elapsing. With each passing year we haven’t just gained more time—we’ve also lost more of the precious, irretrievable time that we have been allotted to create significance in our lives. I came up with the title Living Backward because I wanted to capture the idea that what will matter in eternity is what should matter to us now. By leveraging the gift of future-oriented hindsight, we’ll be able to look back on the sum total of our earthly lives and realize that our reasons to rejoice are far greater than our regrets.

  1. Your first chapter title is “In Pursuit of What Matters Most.” If people learn what that might be, will it be of any help to them personally when they face a culture that utterly scorns Christians? Will knowing what matters most help them explain themselves to a secular culture?

Great question, Katherine. Absolutely! When we understand and pursue what matters most, we come to view life through a different lens. This lens or eternal perspective shapes our entire outlook on life, including the way we engage the dark and corrupt culture all around us.

According to my Christian worldview, God is the beginning and the end. Because He is sovereignly in control of all things, we can trust that nothing enters our lives outside of His will. In addition, we also know that all things we experience—including trials and difficulties—are working together both for our good and God’s glory (see Romans 8:28). This knowledge enables us to stand firm when we are scorned for our faith.

We also trust Jesus’s own words, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Moreover, this eternal perspective changes what we seek after and how we live. For example, it shapes our values, ideals, goals, plans, use of time and money, etc. We do not settle for the brass of this world when we know that a life lived in pursuit of God’s glory means that in losing our lives we will save them and in the end get the gold (see Matthew 16:24-27)!  Hence, knowing what matters most enables us to not only explain our worldview—why we believe what we believe—but most importantly, to walk out those beliefs in the midst of a secular culture. It enables us to live as true ambassadors of God’s kingdom–to be the living epistles or walking advertisements that God has called us to be (See Ephesians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 3:2).

  1. Contemporary culture utterly rejects the concept of a personal, authoritative God. When Christians face moral choices, the culture will look askance at their sense that they should talk with God about the decision. How does the concept of “living backward” shape the way they view their options?

Essentially, to live backward is to live our fleeting lives for the glory of God, our Creator and Sustainer. It is to live according to the precepts, instructions, and commands found in the Bible—God’s user manual for the people He created for His good pleasure. Therefore, everything we do and every choice we make should be shaped by and predicated upon Scripture (God’s revealed will for our lives), not what we or others think is right. Any option we pursue must be God-sanctioned.

  1. In one chapter you talk about “pursuing our God-given dreams and aspirations.” Secularists say, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” What is the real difference between those two concepts?

Secularists tell us to rely on human wisdom and reasoning to determine what is best for our lives. This includes the dreams and goals that we pursue. If we apply ourselves, do the right things, and work hard enough (and long enough), then we can self-actualize and become anything that we desire. On the contrary, Scripture teaches us to seek God’s pre-ordained plans for our lives, plans He has prepared for us even before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 2:10). When we are surrendered to God’s will and seek His unique purpose for our lives, the dreams and goals we pursue are God-breathed or initiated. We will succeed in these plans because they have already been blessed by God (see Philippians 4:13).

  1. In one chapter, you write extensively about the importance of Bible study. Secular thinkers, and even secular Christians, say that the Bible is just one of many sacred books that document ways to connect with the sacred. Why are you so adamant about the Bible? Don’t you respect the other sacred books? What would you recommend to someone who said she had really found herself after she read the Tao te Ching?

I would ask her if there is anything in her life that she knows for sure to be true. For example, I’d ask her if she believes that stealing is wrong. Assuming she says, “Yes,” I’d then ask if she’s ever experienced anything that she knows without a doubt to be real. For example, touching an actual flower.

Assuming that she again answers in the affirmative, I’d proceed to ask her the following hypothetical situation: if you saw a child on a street who couldn’t see or hear a truck that was coming toward him, would you warn the child to get out of the way? Probably, she’ll say yes. I’d then go on to explain, for example, that while Taoism embraces nature and appreciates its beauty, the natural world did not create itself. God created it and He created you.

And just like all appliances come with instructions from the manufacturer, our manufacturer has given us a user manual—the Bible. It is there that we discover the meaning of life, not in any other manual. Although there are many sources that provide good information and can even help us know how to live, they can never equate to or take precedence over the Bible. I’d then tell her that outside a relationship with God, life is meaningless. He created all humans in His image because He desires an intimate relationship with each of us. If we choose to reject rather than accept His love, after death we’ll end up in a place of unimaginable suffering and torment, eternally separated from His presence. That place, called Hell, is like the truck I mentioned in the example above. I know it exists even though you can’t see it (don’t know of it or perhaps deny its existence). I desperately want to warn you before it’s too late.

  1. When Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, because she wanted to be obedient to God, some people accused her of trying to “push her beliefs on others.” Would you say that Kim Davis is “living backward?” Why? Or why not?

I would say that Kim Davis is living backward. As I mentioned above, living backward is to live in such a way that our thoughts, choices, actions, and decisions bring glory and honor to God. If a man-made rule is opposed to God’s desires, then we must obey God rather than man (see Acts 5:29).

  1. Secular thinkers contend that the only way to know if something is right is to determine if it makes you, the individual, feel good. Therefore, they say, what’s right for you may not be what’s right for me. If you are going to “live backward”, how will you decide what is right?

Similar to the above response, you will decide what is right by living your life according to the precepts of Scripture. Followers of Christ are not called to live by the standards of this fallen world. To the contrary, the Bible commands us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Yet the things of this world continually beckon to us, constantly enticing us to live for ourselves and to find our pleasure in temporal allurements. Much like we have to continually adjust a misaligned grocery cart to keep it from taking us in a different direction, we must purposefully choose to go countercurrent to the patterns of this world in order to not be conformed by it (see Romans 12:2). Unlike the secular world, our choices and decisions must always be rooted in God’s Word.

  1. One of your chapters is titled, “Life is but a Vapor.” Secularists say that this life is all there is, and that is why we must make the most of it. On what basis do you deal with the transient nature of life?

Picture the steam coming from a kettle of boiling water. It rises into the air, but in a matter of seconds you no longer see it: this is the sheer brevity of our lives. I take this truth to heart. I’ve also heard eternity described as a line extending forever with no end; relative to eternity our lives are but a teeny, tiny dot on that line. Yet we focus on and live for the dot, forgetting that it’s the endless line that really matters. So I engage life, being ever cognizant that not only is life brief, but it’s also fragile and uncertain. The next breath is not promised to any of us. In a sense, our “real” life begins when this one ends. I want to redeem the time wisely so that what I do here endures beyond my earthly years.

  1. How do you explain yourself when secular thinkers challenge you on this point? I’ve heard it said, “Life is a dress rehearsal.” If this means that this life is preparation for what comes after, then there’s much wisdom in this maxim. However, it would be false and very misleading if we interpreted this saying to mean that we get a second chance to do an actual (or another) performance here on earth. According to the Bible, we get only one shot at this temporal life. That’s it—this life is our one and only opportunity to impinge on all eternity. There’s absolutely no second chance after we take our final breath. There’s no purgatory, no reincarnation, or anything else of the sort. If this were not true—if we were allowed another chance to “do it again” in “another performance”—then there’s no incentive for us to maximize our time and live according to God’s Word in the here and now. Living backward would be meaningless. Because of its finality, it might be even better to think of this life as both the dress rehearsal and the actual performance all wrapped up into one. Each of us is on center stage with a specific part to play, and our “performance” is incredibly brief—far briefer than we tend to think.

Although Living Backward posits that we must live ever mindful of the end of our temporal lives, I, nevertheless, emphasize that this does not preclude us from wholeheartedly embracing the journey. In fact, the very idea of living backward encompasses both the process and the result.

  1. One last question: the world is a big mess right now. Why would a Christian benefit from reading your book?

The world is indeed in a mess. But more importantly, there’s coming a day when the things of this world will be no more. Many of us are basing our limited earthly time on the Fleeting Success (FS) factor—living for or amassing things, titles, and wealth—rather than the Eternal Value (EV) factor—living as though how I’ve lived in this life will absolutely determine everything about my eternity. The truth is, there’s a world of difference between a successful life and a significant life. We must all take to heart that in eternity only what God deems significant will matter. Unequivocally, any significance that we find in the brass of what the world considers important will not matter to God.

In light of these certainties, we cannot compromise on the truths in God’s Word if we expect our aggregate choices during our brief life to be counted significant in God’s forever kingdom, or to meet His criteria for a life that has truly counted for His glory. Instead, we must take God at His Word and cultivate the mindset that what will matter to Him then is what should matter to us now. If we desire true significance—wherein our earthly achievements last beyond this world—we must live with a backward orientation of time as we seek to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. Besides laying a solid foundation, cultivating the five principles in Living Backward provide the brick and mortar for us to build and uphold the edifice of a truly significant life—one that ultimately counts in God’s estimation. Deep down, you desire nothing less.

Living Backward: The Gift of Hindsight in Building A Truly Significant Life is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and Hastings. To watch the book trailer, learn more about the author, read a free sample chapter, as well as get a free e-book, visit www.livingbackward.com. Angelique would also love to connect with you here.



Don’t be a Kamikaze Kristian

Secular thinking drives the culture to something that reminds me of what was called “Kamikaze Kool-Aid” in my childhood. Whenever there was a party for children, it was common to offer two or three flavors of Kool-Aid, and each child could pick the color/flavor he liked best. Some children, however, preferred not to choose. They demanded some of every flavor/color, and the resulting drink looked a lot like the muddy water of the Mississippi River that bordered my home state, Missouri. We called that disgusting brown drink “Kamikaze Kool-Aid” in remembrance of the suicide planes our fathers had faced during World War II. It appears that contemporary secular culture activists want that same outcome in the culture–a muddy sameness, the end to any different viewpoints or practices. It reminds me of the movie The Wall, produced as a video exegesis of the Pink Floyd album by the same name. In that movie, cookie cutter children are conveyed in grey sameness to the end of a conveyor belt where they drop into a great void, all to the accompaniment of the song “We Don’t Need No Education.” I believe this is what secularists regard as their ultimate objective. When I think about it, it is amazing that this expose’ of the emptiness of secularism should have been produced by some of the culture’s leading proponents.

Kamikaze Kulture is a culture where are the external representations of an ethnicity may still remain evident, but each unique element loses its connections and identity in a social construct where the word equality is used to batter people into beings not much different from those grey, faceless children on the conveyor belt in The Wall. At a high level, the US government is attempting to force a cultural mix on neighborhoods, a blend as colorful as Kamikaze Koolaid , using the regulations labeled Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing to eliminate neighborhood covenants that protect the culture of the residents. On another promontory at that high level, the US government sponsors what is called “interfaith dialogue,” a fraudulent project designed to smudge the unique principles and practices of all religions into a Kamikaze Spirituality that makes no demands and gives no blessings but furthers a notion that the government is “accommodating” religion. This concept will ultimately erase the notion of religious liberty from the cultural memory. In the Kamikaze Kulture, religious liberty will not be necessary, because everybody knows that all ways lead to the same god who loves everybody and hands out Kool-Aid and cookies to all.

Running in powerful contradiction to the Kamikaze Kulture promoted by secular thinkers is the teaching of Christ, the second person of the triune God worshiped and served by Christians. Jesus, 100% God and 100% human, came to earth for the salvation of all humankind, but he is not one of the ways to God; he is the only way to God. In Christ’s teaching, people who live in relationship with him live in the context of eternal life while they are alive in time and space. Consequently their loyalty to Christ transcends their loyalty to any other being. They cannot give any “respect” to any other god, nor can they allow any human power to usurp their obedience to God. (They love and respect adherents of other gods, but they give no respect or honor to the other gods.) Christians love and serve their neighbors in complete obedience to the one true God revealed for our salvation in Jesus Christ, who now indwells every Christian in the powerful person of the Holy Spirit. This relationship does not permit mixed loyalties. It does not permit accommodation of lies or worship of any being except the one true God. The Bible is the revealed Word of God, given by God himself to his people as their guide for faith and life. A Christian obeys government and its laws, because God commands submission to and prayer for government, but when government attempts to usurp God’s place by making laws contradictory to God’s law, submission to God transcends the responsibility to submit to government.

There are people who self-identify as Christians who accept and promote that Kamikaze Kulture along with secular thinkers. These “Kamikaze Kristians” say that Christ is one of many good people who show us all how to live. They say that God is one of many ways to understand the same great god over the universe who loves everyone and wants people to be nice to each other. Kamikaze Kristians say that the Bible is a lovely but dusty old sacred book with some great poetry and exciting stories, but in their version of Kristianity, the Bible is no more special than the Baghavad Gita or The Sayings of Chairman Mao.

Christians who believe that Christian faith is exclusive, consuming, and pre-emptive are pitted not only against a government that wants religion to be neutered, but also against self-identified Christians who claim Christ’s name while working non-stop to dissolve him and his teachings into the spiritual goo of Kamikaze Kristianity. When someone like Kim Davis says that her faith teaches her not to participate in the sin of the government’s redefinition of marriage, the government that changed its definition of marriage and put her in this position can point to numerous Kamikaze Kristians who agree with the government that Kim Davis should “do her job” or else resign. These individuals claim the name “Christian,” but they don’t believe that the Bible is the final guide for faith and life, as Kim does. These Kamikaze Kristians say God would never be so unfair as to claim Jesus is the only way to him, and in that spirit, they allege that all religions lead to the same place. Kamikaze Kristians adopt the secular notion that humans have evolved past the words of ancient scribes who did not know nearly as much about human sexual relationships as we know today. Such a concept, of course, declares that they do not believe the Bible originated in the heart of God at all. The combination of secular thinking and Kamikaze Kristians results in very powerful forces arrayed against Christians who recognize in the Bible God’s revelation of himself and understand the Bible in the plain meaning of its words.

The precepts of interfaith dialogue similarly work to muddy any honest understanding of Islam and its threat to both Christians and the US government. Kamikaze Islam would be a religion of peace, love and getting along, not a religion of conversion at the point of a sword. Despite the determination of the Kamikaze Kulture to deny the real origins of the USA, historical documents make it clear that the people who founded the nation were people who believed the Bible and lived in relationship to Christ. There were certainly unbelievers in the mix, but the dominant cultural force was exerted by Christians, and their ideas about good government were rooted in their biblical understanding of what people need. They wrote a governing document, the Constitution, that showed respect for people’s right to choose what they believe while asserting government’s God-given authority to preserve peace and good order. Secular thinkers fail to notice that respect for a person’s right to choose and live by his own faith is a principle of biblical teaching, and they don’t see this right as the blessing of liberty; secular thinkers pretend to see Kim Davis abusing religious liberty, because in their view she is using religious liberty as the power to force her views on others. They do not see that protection of the “free exercise” of her faith protects her right to do what her faith compels her to do.

No governing document before the Constitution had ever expressed so powerfully the respect God shows for the right of the human beings he creates to choose what to believe and what principles to live by. The Constitution built a strong structure on the foundation of the rights documented in the Declaration of Independence. Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution tried to say that the writers of the documents were granting those rights; both of those documents relied on God as the source of those rights. The Constitution was always intended to establish a government as powerful as it needed to be for the areas in which it functioned while restraining that government to the smallest possible size to cover only the authority granted to it. That model set up an environment in which liberty, religious and otherwise was protected, the states could work together as necessary for promotion of internal and external commerce and the people could be protected from threats to the whole body of the states.

That model was designed by Christians inspired to limit people’s freedom only as much as absolutely necessary for the good of the states. They looked at the possibility that less freedom might mean more security. People whose ancestors had come to a wilderness along the Atlantic with no safety net whatsoever chose to come down on the side of more freedom, not less, believing that citizens would value the freedom and accept its risks gladly rather than live under tyranny. Contemporary secular thinkers apparently prefer tyranny, where nobody could be allowed to speak of or live by his religion, where nobody is allowed to choose his neighbors, where nobody is allowed to read all the research on any topic and decide for himself the way forward.

In the Constitutional model, religion was not regarded as the aberration of the ignorant, one aberration being no more desirable than another. The Constitution’s writers viewed religious faith as the source of a moral compass the culture needed. They encouraged people to inject moral and ethical questions into public discourse. They would be appalled at a debate among candidates for the powerful office of President of the United States that focused on questions such as, “Person A said this about you yesterday. What is your response?” They would have expected the questions in the debate to cover fiscal responsibility, commitment to federalism, and defense against international aggression. The Framers would have expected questions about the morality of the nation’s involvement in or withdrawal from the disintegration of the Middle East. They would have expected a candidate to be clear about his moral values and their source.

The Constitution’s model has now been abandoned in the interest of reducing every religion to a muddled flavor component of the Kamikaze blend of all religions as viewed by secular thinkers. Since even Kamikaze Kristians want people to keep their religion to themselves. the idea that anyone would reject the redefinition of marriage on moral grounds rooted in religious teaching is anathema. Kim Davis is not only on the wrong side of history in her moral views, but in their eyes, her words and deeds are an affront to all citizens, because in the view of secularists, nobody wants to hear anyone speak of religion in public, and certainly not in public office. If reporters in Lincoln’s day had operated by the same worldview as reporters today, we would not likely even know the words of many of Lincoln’s speeches, seasoned as they were with his faith convictions.

In today’s culture wars, someone who claims to be a Christian has a choice: be a Kamikaze Kristian and blend in, or be a faithful follower of Christ and stand out. It is actually the very same choice Joshua gave the people at Shechem at the end of his life. Israel had invaded a country where there were wide varieties of local gods and a few gods that were more broadly worshiped. Despite forty years of wandering in the wilderness where Moses and Aaron taught the people how to worship the God who provided blessing, security and provision for them every day, there were still Israelites who worshiped the Egyptian gods and even the ancient gods of the land Abraham had left behind. Israelites who trusted God to lead them to triumph over the political and religious power in Canaan faced battles not dissimilar to the culture wars in the US today.

Joshua called the tribes to meet at Schechem where the distribution of the land among the tribes was recorded. It is an interesting choice of location, because Schechem is the first location in Canaan where Abraham is recorded to have stopped and built an altar to the Lord. There, the Lord confirmed to Abraham that he had arrived at the land promised in Genesis 12:1, “the land that I will show you.”

Joshua gathered the tribes to this same place–Schechem. After documenting the final division of land among the tribes, Joshua stepped down from leadership in order to go to a place he would call home where he would conquer his assigned parcel and live in peace. Before he left, he made an important speech, and he said, “If it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

It is much easier to be a Kamikaze Kristian than to be a faithful follower of Jesus. The culture will always tell you what to do, what to say, and what to think if you choose the route of blending in. You can throw your colorful, unique flavor as a disciple of the living Christ into the muck of all the religions of the world and become anonymous in the mix if that is your choice. I don’t recommend it. When Jesus revealed himself to the apostle John, a vision John recorded in the book of Revelation, the dominant message of that whole vision was to Christians who might be tempted to quit making such a big deal of their beliefs. Jesus had a message for people tempted to blend into the sludge. Jesus spoke to Christians who might be tired of the insults every time they encouraged women to choose life rather than abortion. Jesus spoke to county officials who might be tempted to go along to get along since the federal government had declared an ungodly union to be a legal marriage. Jesus spoke to senators and representatives who would be bludgeoned for conducting hearings to reveal the truth about public officials who had lost their integrity. Jesus spoke to teachers who would be threatened with loss of their jobs if they allowed children to see a Bible on their desks. All these people and many more are tempted, pressured, battered daily to stop trying to “force their religion on other people” when they simply try to live their faith with integrity.

Jesus said, “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:26). “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life” (Revelation 3:5). “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11). “The  one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne” (Revelation 3:21). Don’t let go of Jesus. Be the real thing. Trust Christ. Believe his revelation in the Bible. Live in faithful relationship with him and be strong when the Kamikaze Kulture pressures you to do otherwise. Hold out for the big prizes. Do not become a Kamikaze Kristian.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter 2016