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What We Believe (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air date 04/29/1998

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Gifted author Frank Peretti brings the foundational truths of Scripture to life, illustrating how the Christian worldview stands apart in a world of moral confusion. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript


John: On today's "Focus on the Family," we're going to hear from a dynamic guest.


Frank: There's a lot of kids out there, grown-ups, anybody, the question's going to come up. Whenever some kind of rule or authority or constraint or moral standard is presented to them, the question's always gonna come up, "Oh, yeah! Who says?"

End of Excerpt

John: That's author Frank Peretti and today we're going to answer that question. When it comes down to right and wrong, who says? And our host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller..

Jim: John, what a question! I mean, we all, I think, come to that point where we have to ask that question. If you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as a teenager, as a 20-something, you had to ask yourself that question. Do I believe that this is the authority that I need to listen to?

We live in an extremely relativistic culture. You have your truth and I have mine. All the research says that. We don't want to tread on each other. And every once in a while, I think it's important to remind ourselves that we serve a God of absolute truth, not halfway truth.

And if you don't believe that, you've got to hear today's message from Frank Peretti. Frank is a gifted and prolific author, starting with his book, This Present Darkness that Jean and I love. In fact, we were moving from Northern California to Southern California in the late '80s and somebody mentioned his book. We read that book on the drive down, reading to each other as the other one drove. And when it got dark, we got the flashlight out--

John: Oh!

Jim: --and even read by flashlight, 'cause the story is so gripping.

John: Yeah, you really can't stop once you start one of Frank's books. I mean, he just writes in such a compelling way.

Jim: It keeps comin' at ya. And altogether, I think he's written 19 books, including books for children. Not many people know, he's also an extremely energetic and entertaining speaker--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --as we're gonna hear today.

John: Well, and the clip we played a moment ago really does give a little bit of a hint of the energy he does bring to his speaking engagements. I think it'd be impossible to doze off if you're (Laughter) at one of his presentations.

Jim: He speaks like he writes.

John: He does, yeah. And now there's a scene here I want to describe to you as we get going. Franks is speaking at a Christian worldview conference called Steeling the Mind of America. It was a number of years ago and he came onto an otherwise empty stage with just a chair there, a single wooden chair. And so, with that as the backdrop, let's go ahead and listen to Frank Peretti on today's "Focus on the Family."


Frank: Ohh, what in the world is this chair all about? Some of you probably know, when I teach and talk about things, I usually have to do, you know, diagrams. I have to act things out. It's kind of what I call in Italian "overhead." You know, instead of drawing (Laughter), I just kind of draw things in space and everything. And I decided I would use this chair, because that's a real nice illustration.

What I'm trying to explain to you tonight is what I call the "fixed point of reference"--the fixed point of reference. Well, what in the world is it? Well, okay, let's imagine. It won't be too hard. You just imagine that I'm in a big, humongous dark room. It's a featureless room. It doesn't even have corners in it. It has round walls, you know. And the whole point of that is, I don't know where I am.

And I'm feeling my way around in this room and trying to figure out, you know. The first thing anybody does when they get somewhere is, they want to know where they are. (Laughter) I have to get a map to find out, is the way to get to Vail? I finally found out where, but I'm groping around, trying to find my way around and where I am. I say, "Aaahhh! Hee! Aha! Oh, what is this!? It's a chair! Yes! Ah! Oh, boy, yes! It has legs and it has braces and it has a back. It's a chair. Ah! Good! Ah! Now I can sit here. At least I know where I am. Heh heh. I'm in the chair. (Laughter) Yeah. Ah, it's a good feeling!"

You know, now I got this chair. It's a home base, yeah, home base. I can navigate from this chair. (Laughter) I can just kind of (ding ding, ding ding, ding ding). I can, you know, let's kind of send out some feelers. (Voo voo, voo voo, voo voo.) (Laughter)

Why are you people laughing? I'll tell you why you're laughing. (Laughter) You realize, just naturally, automatically, you realize that no fixed point of reference is gonna do you any good unless it has two factors. No. 1, it has to be separate from you. No. 2, it can't move. (Laughter) As soon as I pick it up and make it a part of my life, make it a part of my consciousness, make it a part of my mobility, it ain't [sic] a fixed point of reference anymore!

I'll never know where I am, because the stupid thing moves. Now, as long as it stays right there, pppffftthhhht! Ah! Now that's security. That's one of the prime factors of navigation, you know. When you're out on a sailboat, right? You're out on the vast, featureless expanse of ocean out there and you have no idea where you are. Well, one way, "Bllluuuu." You hear your sexton out there and you shoot to the stars. You measure from the stars.

And the reason you can measure from the stars to figure out where you are is, because the stars don't move. They're fixed in space. Now, the earth moves and it makes look like the stars move, but we know all that stuff. (Laughter) But they don't move, if the stars are ... (dum, dum, dum dum), you wouldn't know where you are. That's a fixed point of reference.

Let's go to Acts chapter 17, for those of you who have your Bibles. This is that passage in the book of Acts where Paul the Apostle goes to Greece, goes to Athens and he's gonna talk to all these philosophers and all these thinkers and all these discussers and debaters there on Mars Hill.

And now, I gotta kinda set the stage for you. In Greece, that was one of the ancient fountainheads of modern humanism and modern rationalism, the idea that, "Well, man, by himself, with his own reason, can discover truth, truth, truth, truth. They alone will have it." And the Bible says there, "These guys spent their time in nothing other than hearing or learning a new thing." They were after knowledge. They were after truth. They figured they could do it all with their heads.

And so, they're getting together and you've got "Diabetes" here and you've got "Laryngitis" here and you've got all these other Greeks all standing around and there's "Coca Bottle" and they're all talking and they're saying, "Well, what do you think?" "What have you heard?" "Well, I really believe …" "Oh, it's my opinion ... " "I've always felt that … ". "Well, I don't know. I used to think that …" "Whhhrrrr!" And uh ... (Laughter)

So, in the middle of all this, in comes this Jew (Chuckling), Paul the Apostle. He says, "I have an idea!" "Hey! Let's hear what he has to say." So, they stand up and they say, "Speak!" Now this is where we come into it, where Paul is trying to, (he-ha) there's a challenge for ya, for him. It's easy when you're kind of an apostle, and you're traveling around and you want to kinda share the Gospel and prove that Jesus is the Messiah, he goes … he would always first would go into a Jewish Synagogue, okay? And he'd begin to argue from the Scriptures that the Jews already had, that Jesus was the Messiah or is the Messiah. And he had to get some place to start, because all the Jews who were sittin' in that synagogue, basically, they'd all been to Sunday school. You know, they knew the language, they could kinda relate.

But the thing I wanna underline for ya, this is somethin' we all need to be thinking about is, there's a whole world out there that hasn't been to Sunday school. We have kind of a unique culture, among ourselves, a unique language, you know--Praise the Lord! He's Good! Hallelujah! The Body of Christ–all these phrases we just throw around so easily. You go up to someone on the street, you know, and "Pardon me, are you born again?" "Oh yes, I have lived many lives." (Laughter) No, what I meant was, are you washed in the blood? "I hope not; what are you talking about?" Well, Paul comes up against that very thing; he can't speak Christianese to them, he can't even speak good ol' fashioned Jewish.

Now, there's a whole lot in there, but I'm gonna skip right down to verse 24 of Acts chapter 17, because I want to give you what I would like to define as the Christian's "fixed point of reference." These are the foundation stones of the Christian worldview. Verse 24, he says, "God, who made the world and everything in it." Eh! Okay, we'll stop right there. We'll leave Paul. (Laughter) Put him in freeze-frame. He'll be fine. (Laughter)

The very first thing that Paul addresses is the big question of origin--origin. Where did we come from? How did we get here? Why are we here? Isn't it funny that people wonder about those things? The Greeks didn't believe in the God of Israel, but they still wondered about those things. They were still looking for the answers and they were looking for meaning and they were looking, you know …

Let me tell you something. I used to raise chickens. I like chickens. (Laughter) They're funny. God had a sense of humor when He made chickens. (Laughter) Yeah. They're the dumbest animal on the face of the earth. (Laughter) I shouldn't say that, though because, you know, I used to wonder, when I'm not there, I wonder what they talk about? (Laughter)

You know, maybe it's all an act or something, you know. (Laughter) I'd sneak down there with their food, sneak up behind the fence, you know and I always wondered if maybe, just maybe, one day I'd hear them in there, you know, "Aaaawck! What does it mean to be a chicken? (Laughter) What is the purpose of being a chicken? (Laughter) What is the destiny of all chickens?" (Laughter)

Of course, some of them found out about that (Laughter), but they couldn't go back and tell the others. (Laughter) But the point I'm making is, those creatures out there, be they chickens or even be they apes or be they porpoises, I don't care how intelligent they are, they are not--are you ready for the word?--"self-aware." There is something unique about the human species. He asks all these tough questions, "Why are we here?" Chicken's never worried about why are they here? (Laughter)

I've got a dog at home. His name is Reuben. He doesn't even have a brain. It's just one big drool gland in his head. (Laughter) So, I don't expect a lot of deep thoughts (Laughter) from Reuben. He never wonders, "Why am I here?" You know, all he wonders is, "Am I gonna get pet? Am I gonna get food? Woof, I got to bark at the coyotes." That's about it.

A man has very simple needs, you know. Man is self-aware. He is a unique creature. He is a "person." He is a person and because he is a person, he asks the big questions. Now, of course, you know I'm saying "he" generically. Paul answers that first big question of origin. Ah, but now, now it gets sticky, you know? Even if you want to agree that God is the source of all things, here is where it gets sticky.

Verse 20, "amyeymimimimimi," verse 24, we haven't even gotten through verse 24 yet. All right. Here we go. "God, Who made the world and everything in it," here it comes, "since He is," ooh" ... since He is," whoa… "since He is Lord, Lord of heaven and earth." That's one thing that rubs man the wrong way, whenever you present an authority higher than he is. But Paul presents this idea, that there is a moral standard in our universe transcendent and above all of us and by that fixed moral standard, we can determine the right way to live.

Now these are like foundation stones. "Vhew, vhewoowoowoowoo, prgh!" No. 1, God's the origin of all things. "Bbvvvhhh, bvoom, boom." No. 2, He is the Lord of all things. Now, okay. It's easy at this point to say, "Yeah! Hey! Amen! I agree with that! I believe that!" But I'm tryin' to point out to you tonight, it is that basic foundational assumption about reality that guides the way you think. It guides the way you work at your job. It definitely guides the way you raise your children. There's a lot of kids out there--kids, grown-ups, anybody-- the question's going to come up. Whenever some kind of rule or authority or constraint or moral standard is presented to them, the question's always gonna come up, "Oh, yeah! Who says?" You better have an answer.

And through the generations we've kind of missed that a little bit. It used to be that a family was raised on godly principles and even the kids would see that even mom and dad were subject to a higher authority. Of course, after a while, maybe the kid grows up and he has kids of his own and he's saying, "Well, you should do what I tell you and you should be good, because that's how I was raised."

So, now he's kind of appealing to some moral value system that's been torn loose from its moorings. And then those kids grow up and they say, "Well, son, daughter, you should do what I tell you!" And the kid says, "Oh yeah? Who says?" "Well, I say! And you have to do what I tell ya!" "Well, that's your truth. I have my own reality." (Laughter)

It's real nice if you can say, "Son, daughter, God has placed me in authority over you to raise you according to His standards of moral behavior. Now I want to tell you something. The authority chain doesn't stop here. I have to answer to Him, as well, for how I raise you. So the ultimate authority in the universe has passed the authority down to me, He's passed His laws and His precepts and His principles down to me. I have to pass them down to you, because you and I are both accountable to Him. Now, take out the garbage." (Laughter) Okay? That's the way that works. (Laughter and Applause)

Program Note:

John: Oh, what a wonderfully humorous and insightful message from Frank Peretti on today's "Focus on the Family." We're about halfway through for today and I wanted to tell you that you can find out more at about the audio or a DVD of this presentation. And if you're joining us late, picture Frank standing alone on a large stage with just a chair. And he uses that chair to illustrate our need for a fixed point of reference in life. And he's quoting from the Apostle Paul, a speech about the foundation stones of the Christian worldview--our fixed points of reference. And the first two were that, God is the origin of all things and then, God provides our moral standard. Let's go ahead and return now to this outstanding message by Frank Peretti on today's "Focus on the Family."

End of Program Note:

Frank: Let's move on. We've got two foundation stones. Here we come up on the next one. Ooh, I like this one, too, okay. "He made the world and everything in it. He's Lord of heaven and earth." Okay, look at this. Ha! "He does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is He worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath and all things. This God, who is the origin of all things, who is the moral authority over all things," I like this part, "this God is self-existent and self-defining."

In other words, He's up there because of Himself. He is the great "I Am that I Am." And Paul is trying to point out to these Greeks; these Greeks have a way of working from the ground up, you know. "Oh, we're gonna create our own God today. (Laughter) They go out and they get a big old hunk of rock, you know. And they bring it in their forklift or something. They set it there.

Then they decide, "Okay, what kind of a God do we want?" "Well, I want a God who's real fierce." So, they go, tink, tink, tink, tink. They put big muscles on him. "Now I want a God who can know all things," So tink, tink, tink, tink, they put eyeballs all over it. (Laughter) They stand that thing up there, and they go, "Oh, good," [and] bow down and worship it and everything.

I got a little question for you. Between the two of them, who created whom? (Laughter) They created their God. What does that mean? Well, who's really God between the two of them? They are. And so, what are they really worshipping? They are worshipping themselves--a projection of their own personality, which is humanism all over again.

But Paul is pointing out, "This God, Whom I serve, doesn't need you to form Him." Now, I want to tell you something else very important. If God were not self-existing and self-defining, He would not serve as a fixed point of reference, because He would be changing as often as you do.

It's kind of like somebody said, "If you're looking for truth, don't search within yourself. You're the one who's confused." (Laughter and Applause) (Chuckling) (Laughter and Applause)

Oh! God is self-existing. God is self-defining and He doesn't need you to define Him to figure what He is. Well, let's go on. This is where we really get into the heavy stuff in terms of your personal view of yourself. "Since He gives to all life, breath and all things," verse 26, "He has made from one blood every nation of man to dwell on all the face of the earth and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings." What Paul is saying here is, "This God, Who is the origin of all things, Who is the moral authority over all things, Who exists in and of Himself and is self-defining, this God created you. He knew when you'd be born, why you'd be born, where you'd be born. He knew everything about you. He created you for a purpose. He gave you a destiny. He has a plan for your life."

What does that mean for you? That means a lot. It is that basic--vroooom! boom!--foundation stone that gives Christians the weird idea that human life is sacred, that every life is sacred, that every life is important. "Kids, welcome to Biology 101. We're gonna learn lots of fun things in this class. We're gonna cut up frogs and we're gonna pick flowers and we're gonna learn about pistols and stamens and all kinds of fun things."

"But the first thing you need to know, boys and girls, above all else, is that you are an accident! (Laughter) You have absolutely no reason for being here. (Laughter) There is no meaning, no purpose to your life. You're nothing but a meaningless conglomeration of molecules that came together purely by chance billions and billions of years ago." (Laughter)

All the dust and the gas in the galaxy floated around for who knows how long and they bumped into each other and they said, "I know, let's be organic." So, they became organic. (Laughter) And they became little gooey, slimy things, you know, swimming around in the primordial soup. And then they finally grew little feet and then they crawled up on the land and they grew fur and feathers and they became higher forms of life and they finally became, you know, a monkey and that monkey developed into an ape. And then the ape decided to shave, so he shaved (Laughter) and became what you are today. It's, you know, from goo to you by way of the zoo. (Laughter and Applause)

Now as such, you don't really have any reason for being here. (Laughter) Your existence is pointless and the universe won't mind a bit when you die. (Laughter) And when you die, you just become so much compost. (Sound effects), "Oh, okay, class dismissed. Head on down the hall now, kids, down to that new class they're starting this week on self-esteem." (Laughter and Applause)

The foundation of a Christian's self-esteem-- oh, listen to me, because so many of us have heard the lie and we've believed the lie--the foundation of a Christian's self-esteem is not in what you can do or how good you look or how athletic you are or anything else or how you can wow the girls or whatever. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that you are here for a reason, that God created you for a purpose. He has a plan for your life. You are worth the life of His Son.

Audience: Whoa! Amen!

Frank: He loves you. (Applause) This is what builds the Christian's worldview. This is what keeps a human life from becoming a mere product, a mere machine part in a Christian's thinking. You see, if God did not create us, if we are not His unique creation put here for a purpose, then I suppose abortion is okay, because imagine, society is like a big engine. That's what the socialists would tell you, you know. We're all just part of the collective.

Imagine I'm a piston and I just go up and down. (Laughter) I'm doing my part in the collective machine. What happens if suddenly I break my connecting rod and I don't work too well anymore? (Laughter) Well, what do you do with an auto part when it breaks down? You take it out. You throw it away. You get another one. Our society is beginning to treat human life that way. If a particular life doesn't fit into the machine, we kick it out. We get rid of it. Sometimes we cancel the order before it gets there.

Audience: (Groans)

Frank: Last part of this, verse 27: "So that they should seek the Lord in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He's not far from each one of us." (Sigh.) This God, Who is the origin of all things, Who is the moral standard and authority over all things, this God Who is self-existent and self-defining, this God Who created each and every one of us for a purpose, this God is not just a God who created us and then, you know, wound up the world and (Brrrr) set it spinning and then went out for coffee or something, left His answering machine on, you know. You try to call Him, "Hi. This is God. (Laughter) I hope you like yourself today. (Laughter) I'll be back in a millennium." (Laughter) You know. "If you've got problems, hey, the answers are within you. Go for it, Baby." (Laughter) You know. (Laughter)

This is a God who desires day-by-day, moment-by-moment intimate fellowship with you. That's the kind of God I'm glad to know. That's the kind of God I'm glad to serve and I'm glad that, that God is unchanging. Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus Christ is the same. That chair is fixed in space. You can always navigate by it. It's always there.


John: And that chair was Frank Peretti's visual aid for our "Focus on the Family" broadcast today and we're going to hear the conclusion of his message next time.

Jim: We do have a sense of security in our unchanging God. He's our firm foundation that as Frank said, we can navigate life by. I wish there was a way to communicate that effectively, even more effectively to the non-believing world, because it helps define who we are and what we believe in. We know who we are, because we know Whose we are. That's a profound feeling in your heart. And in this world of confusion, on all kinds of fronts, human sexuality, marriage, isn't it nice to know that God isn't going to change the rules on us halfway through the game. He knows the design. He's the Designer. And somehow we have to continue to communicate that with compassion, with straightforward boldness, with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And John because these fundamental truths of the Gospel are so important, we at Focus on the Family have been very intentional about speaking up in the public square and promoting a Christian worldview, something Frank was talking about. We're tryin' to do that in a friendly and engaging way, I think in the way that the Lord's heart requires of us. The Truth Project, which is aimed at helping adults understand a Christian worldview--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --TrueU, which is aimed at high school students, trying to get them ready for what they're gonna face at university and in their vocations. All of these things help Christians of all ages to learn what it is we believe and how to defend it effectively. And together, we can make a tremendous difference. If you could consider helping us in these efforts to educate the next generation of believers, could I ask you, yeah, let me say it. Can I beg you to consider helping Focus on the Family financially? We have the tools here. We're just trying to put them in the hands of people who desperately need them and it takes resources to do it. So, if you could consider helping us, I would truly appreciate it.

John: When you send a gift of $100 or more to support our work here at Focus on the Family as we share the Gospel with millions, we'll send you The Truth Project, 7-DVD set as a way of saying thank you for investing in the work. Just call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or stop by for details.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time for more from Frank Peretti, as we offer more trusted advice to help you and your family thrive.

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Frank Peretti

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Best-selling Christian novelist Frank Peretti has more than 15 million books in print spanning nearly three decades. His 1986 debut novel, This Present Darkness, launched him into the public eye two years after it first hit shelves, paving the way for his future writing success. Frank and his wife, Barbara, make their home in rural Idaho.