If That Isn’t Love

February.  The month for lovers.  

Fat cupid babies shooting arrows not-withstanding, Valentine’s Day can actually be a great opportunity to share the meaning of true love with someone.  If we can get our minds off chocolates and exciting date nights just long enough, we might just find creative ways to talk about Jesus with lost friends, neighbors and co-workers this month.

While creativity has never been my strong suit, I’ll still venture to offer a few ideas.

  • Type or write a letter to a family member expressing your gratitude for their love over the years.  And take the opportunity to explain a few ways their love mirrors the greatest love of all – the sacrificial, condescending love of God in Christ.
  • Make sweet treats for neighbors and include a card with an evangelistic Scripture on it.  On the back side of the card, put something like “Jesus is the sweetest person I know.  Ask me why!”
  • At a lunch with co-workers ask everyone to define “love.”  Use the opportunity not to poke fun at their definitions, but rather to offer your own using 1 John 4:7-11.  (I recommend memorizing this passage and a brief two minute explanation of it.)
  • Text John 3:16 to friends and family and remind them that there is no greater love than that of God’s Son laying down His life for us, even though we are “sinners condemned unclean.”
  • Go visit someone in a nursing home, or an elderly shut-in or a widow.  Be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer. Go love the lonely, hurting, and sick.

One of my fond childhood memories is of my Mom singing a song written by Dottie Rambo titled “If That Isn’t Love.” Soak up these lyrics and then go share this amazing love with others this month.

He left the splendor of heaven
Knowing His destiny
Was the lonely hill of Golgotha
There to lay down His life for me
(Chorus)
And if that isn’t love
Then the ocean is dry
There’s no stars in the sky
And the little sparrows can’t fly
Yeah if that isn’t love
Then heaven’s a myth
There’s no feeling like this
If that isn’t love
Even in death He remembered
The thief hanging by His side
Then he spoke of love and compassion
And He took him to paradise

(Repeat Chorus)

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When Pro-Lifers are Only Mostly Pro-life

abortion“Abortion Stops a Beating Heart!”

We’ve seen this bumper sticker on cars for decades now.  I’m not sure where the slogan came from, but it’s certainly true.  Medical research is now showing an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected at 12 weeks from conception, and sometimes even weeks earlier.  That means the brain has already developed enough to be “telling” the heart to beat!

One would think that someone who claims to be pro-life would unequivocally support the notion that “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.”  And one would think a pro-lifer would then desire to do whatever he or she could to keep as many of those little hearts beating as possible.  It makes so much common sense.

But not if you’re Governor John Kasich.

Last week he vetoed the “Heartbeat Bill” which would have banned abortions in Ohio once a heartbeat was detected. And what’s worse, the Ohio Right to Life supported his spineless decision!  The Ohio RTL cited potential difficulties getting such a bill to stand before the Supreme Court.

I think we can call that “fear of man.”  Since when do we pro-lifers allow judicial viability to drive our decisions?  I thought we stood to defend the right to life!  Period.

And the Governor himself had the pathetic audacity to mention his concern about the cost of defending the Heartbeat Bill in the courts.  Did I just hear you correctly, Mr. Governor?  Saving babies is a great goal, but only if it doesn’t cost too much?  Well, because of your cowardice and moral depravity, rest assured thousands of unborn boys and girls will continue to pay the ultimate price.  Your evil will cost them their lives.

While I was quite public in my lack of support for President-elect Donald Trump, I can now say, “Thank you Lord that John Kasich did not win the nomination.”  I am hoping and praying Mr. Trump will demonstrate a true moral and ethical spine in the matter of the pro-life cause.  God make it so.  O Lord, remove this scourge from our culture.  How can we ever hope to glorify You as Creator and Sustainer of life when we continue to snuff it out in its most innocent and harmless form?

At this time of year, Christmastime, it is worth remembering and celebrating that our Mighty God did not ask Mary her opinion.  God did not give Mary the “right to do what she wanted with her own body.”  Rather, He declared what would be!  He would use her to bring Himself great glory and to bless the peoples of the earth with His salvation in Jesus Christ.  With His sovereign, almighty Spirit, He simply “overshadowed” her and “therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Thank You God for being a Rock of Life.  Forgive our national cowardice.  And replace our yellow-bellied leaders with men and women of genuine, biblical convictions.  For the sake of Christ’s fame among the nations.  Amen.            

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If I Only Had a Brain!

jesus_creator_in_creationMy latest edition of Vanderbilt magazine just arrived.  (Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine I managed to graduate from Vandy, but God’s grace works miracles!)  As usual, I turned quickly to the Science section.  I always find amusement there somehow.

On page 22, an article titled “Brain Food” appears.  It details the research of Suzana Herculano-Houzel, associate professor of psychology and biological sciences.  Others were engaged in the research, but Professor Houzel is the primary author.

Anyway, Professor Houzel has been busy studying.  Using her brain.  Her brain that’s not exceptional.

I mean no personal insult or injury to her!  This is her own assertion!  Not mine.  While she admits the human brain is “unparalleled in the animal kingdom” this in no way makes it exceptional, she claims.  In her way of thinking, our brain is just a primate brain.  On steroids.  The major difference in human brains and brains of various primates is merely the number of cortical neurons.  16 billion in humans, compared to 9 billion in gorillas and 7 billion in chimps.

Ho-hum.  Makes us humans seem so insignificant.  So very ordinary.  But please note that apparently those extra 7 billion neurons make quite a difference.  I’m not aware of any gorillas doing research on their own brains!  And then publishing scientific journals on their findings!

Professor Houzel claims to know why our brains are bigger and better, too.  Her answer?

Cooking.

That’s right.  You read it correctly.  Somehow, she posits, in our primate past, we learned how to slice, dice and boil.  That singular skill gave our mostly-monkey-soon-to-be-almost-human ancestors vastly more nutrition.  A cooked carrot, for example, is far more easily digested and nutrients extracted than if we eat said carrot raw.  The increased nutrition caused our brains to grow.  And voila!  Here we all are, some of us with titles like “Professor of Biological Sciences.”

Now, let me get this straight.  Even though we had monkey brains, in that state of monkey-headedness we somehow figured out how to cut up, smash, whip, stir and prepare food, build a fire, find cooking utensils that conducted heat, and fry that piece of fish?

But how did we figure that out if our brains were still only firing a mere 7-9 billion neurons?  Present day gorillas are still firing 9 billion neurons, but for some reason known only to Darwin, not a single one of them knows how to cook! Oh, if only naturalistic evolutionists could find that colony of baboons tucked away in the jungle that is conducting cooking classes!

Pardon me, Professor Houzel.  I mean no personal offense.  But this hypothesis is fit for only monkeys.  How is it that we humans can be so smart and so stupid all at the same time?  

Our Creator God answers:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Rom 1:18-23).

Professor Houzel has the same problem we all have.  A spiritual deadness and dumbness that blinds us to God’s truth and reality.  Here’s praying that God reaches down to her and transforms her mind, gives her a new heart, and turns her gaze upward to the Christ of Calvary who came and died for the sins of humans.  Not glorified monkeys.

To which of the primates has God said:

Come now and let us reason together says the Lord.  Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool (Isa 1:18).

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them.  Male and female He created them (Gen 1:27).

 

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Blow the “Trump”et: The American Church After the Dust Settles

images-1Well, the most disgusting presidential campaign in my voting lifetime is over.  For that I thank God.  Let’s take a really big breath.  In through the nose.  Hold it.  Out through the mouth.  There.  Feel better?

No?  I didn’t think so.

At the risk of simply causing more angst, I want to help my few readers reflect a bit.  Hopefully, this will help and not hurt.  And I especially want to focus our church on what matters most now, in the aftermath.

  • To those of my well-meaning brothers and sisters who chided me for “voting my conscience” (which for me meant a write-in vote for Tom Hoefling), I want to ask that you realize what a gift God gave me.  He allowed me a legitimate write-in option that did not force me to wrestle my conscience to the ground, crawl over it, and vote for a candidate with horribly immoral character.  The Christian conscience matters greatly.  If we believe it is being sanctified by the Holy Spirit and formed into the image of Christ, if we believe we “have the mind of Christ” then conscience is a big deal!  We are told to live out our faith with a clear conscience (1 Peter 3:16; see also Acts 24:16; 1 Tim 3:9).  We do not want to become “seared in our conscience” (1 Tim 4:2).  So, while our inner thought life might not be a completely infallible guide (1 John 3:21), it is a dangerous practice for Christians to ignore, suppress, or just plain beat back their consciences.  If you justified such a thing too easily, I gently urge you to humbly pray Psalm 139:23-24.  Only God can speak to your conscience.  Only God can change you at that level.  Seek Him.  Our consciences should always be only beholden to God and His Word.
  • To those who voted differently than me, and who cast their vote for Trump with a clean conscience before God, I confess I am grateful that Clinton did not win.  I do think she would have been even worse than Trump in the matter of critical moral issues such as abortion, as well as other issues such as national defense.  I stick to my guns, though, that a President Trump is still an act of Divine judgment on the United States.  I hope the next four years prove me wrong!  And I am thankful our Lord is so good that He is still sprinkling mercy even in the midst of His acts of judgment against our nation.  His mercies are seen especially in some of the congressional and state and local elections across the land.  Why is God still even allowing us to remain a mostly free people, with glimmers of hope?  It’s all of His mercy!  Praise the Lord!  His judgments are righteous.  His mercies are sweet.  Praise the Lord!
  • To the Republican Party, are you listening?  An unprecedented number of us did not vote for either major party candidate.  I realize the bureaucrats may ignore my voice, but for me this election changed a lot of things.  I used to settle for “the lesser of two evils.”  After all, the Gospel tells me I am always voting for a sinner in need of grace.  But this is the first election where neither front-runner even had a modicum of upright character.  In the past, the “lesser” candidates still had decent moral character.  Reagan / Carter.  Both President’s Bush.  Romney.  McCain.  And though I have not agreed with much of anything he has done, President Obama has at least not womanized in office, or if he has we have somehow been kept in the dark about it.  So to the Republican Party I say, “If you want my vote in the future presidential races, you had better give me a candidate of character.  Character matters!  
  • On a totally political note, am I the only one who struggles with the whole “electoral college” thing?  I think it was a great idea back in the day.  But in the 21st century, can’t we just let the candidate who garners the most votes win?  Period?  I mean think of it. There is always a distinct possibility that your vote actually will not count for squat!  This is what some of my critics warned me of when I announced my intention to write in Tom Hoefling.  “You’re wasting your vote.”  Well, first I say the highest purpose of a vote is not to pick only someone you think can actually win.  But secondly, I say if Trump had won Indiana, but lost nationally, your vote would have been wasted too!  In fact, my votes for the last two presidential races accomplished precisely that – a whole bunch of nothing.  It can get depressing.  If we truly want every American to believe “every vote counts,” then maybe we should rethink the electoral college.  And no, I am not smart enough to say much more than that.

Now, on to much more significant things.  Dear Church of the Living God, let me address you for a moment.  As believers in post-Christian America, we had better start to get a handle on these things right quick:

  • God is sovereign.  To say things like “if people in the 90s had not voted for a third party candidate we would have never had President Bill Clinton” as a way to warn others not to vote their conscience, is just false.  The world may argue with that logic, but Bible believers should not.  There is absolutely no way we could have had anyone other than President Bill Clinton!  And there is absolutely no way we could have had any winner yesterday other than Donald Trump.  Sure, God uses human means to accomplish His will, but make no mistake, there is only one vote that really counts when it comes to world rulers (1 Sam 2; Psalm 75:5; 103:19; Dan 2:21; 4:17; Luke 1:52; Rom 13:1-7).  Friends, when the Holy Spirit says through Paul that God “works all things after the counsel of His will” He means it.  And as Christians we must take great comfort in it.  There is only and ever One King.
  • Related to the above, evangelical believers are going to have to learn to rest in God’s control of all things.  This would stop all our fear-mongering and anxiety.  To hear some of the Christians I know talk prior to this election, my vote was going to throw the entire nation into an irreversible tail spin (as if we’ve not been in that death spiral for decades already now).  Don’t get me wrong, I take voting seriously.  It’s not that it doesn’t matter, it’s just that it doesn’t ultimately matter.  I know God may allow America to last until Christ returns, but He also may not.  I know every nation is headed to the feet of King Jesus.  All peoples will acknowledge Him as Lord (Phil 2).  I went to sleep well before the results were in last night.  I slept well.  No anxiety, by God’s grace.  Why?  Because I knew when I awoke this morning King Jesus would still be at His Father’s right hand, interceding for His blood-bought people and waiting until His enemies be made His footstool.  Rest easy Church.  Rest easy.  This world is not our home.  We’re living for an eternal kingdom.  A fearful, anxious Church diminishes the glory of Christ in this world.  
  • Moral authority.  The Church has been steadily losing it for 30-50 years.  When we try to speak to cultural issues of our day, we’re basically ignored.  And no, I do not think for a second electing Donald Trump has changed that reality.  Our voice is mocked and ignored.  Why?  Perhaps because we’re morally inconsistent.  We cry out for former President Clinton’s head on a platter when he proves unfaithful to his wife, and then turn around and throw our full weight behind a candidate whose womanizing ways probably make Mr. Clinton blush.  And perhaps our moral authority is gone because those calling themselves Christians support the democratic party platform, which calls evil good and good evil.  Think on it Church.  Think on it.  “Judgment must begin in the household of God”(1 Peter 4:17).  We need to repent and return to our First Love.  And we had better get used to the idea of being the lone prophetic voice denouncing the evil and corruption of our nation and her peoples, where ever it is found.  And yes, that includes the logs in our own eyes (Matt 7:1-5).
  • Mission.  It has not changed.  O Church arise!  This election did not even remotely impact our mission from our Savior to go make Him known to our neighbors and to the peoples of the world.  Be grateful we have freedom still to preach Jesus on the street corners (at least on most streets).  Ask God to help us leverage our wealth and our freedom to get the Gospel to more people in more places!  Stay on mission.  Stay on point.  Don’t lose focus on lesser things.  Unite around the flag stained with the blood of our Savior, slain in place of sinners, risen for our justification!
  • Gospel.  This is what Christians are supposed to be most about, whether in China or Corydon.  What kind of nation gives us Trump and Clinton as our two primary representatives?  The kind of nation that is lost and dying and walking in darkness under demonic domination.  The kind of nation that needs the Gospel.  The darker the American night gets, the brighter the Light of the World shines!  If we were all as passionate about promoting Jesus as we have been about promoting our favorite candidates this year, our churches would have probably doubled in size over the last 11 months!  God make us gospel people through and through.
  • Pray.  We must now pray for President-elect Trump.  Like never before.  He needs to be humbled and he needs to, for the first time in his life, ask God to forgive him of his sins.  Imagine this happening in the White House!  Our God is able.  Let’s cry out to Him on behalf of all our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-8) that we might continue to live in peace and have the ability to freely spread the Gospel.
  • Confession and Forgiveness.  Last but in no way least, if you or I have said things that other believers in Christ may have found offensive or personally hurtful during this crazy election cycle, let’s seek grace from God to humble ourselves, confess our sins to one another, pray for one another and be healed (James 5:16).  The Savior who unites us is far bigger than any political differences or personality quirks.  Let’s not dishonor His name by refusing to ask for forgiveness where needed.  Let’s display that radical love by which all men may know that we are His disciples (John 13:35).  Let’s link arms to take His love and message into the culture of death and darkness.  We need each other beloved.  More now than ever.  Don’t forget it.

 

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Keith McWhorter - OK, so apparently my legions of readers are asleep at the wheel. I cannot believe my remark about the electoral college garnered not one response! While I have struggled with the pros and cons of this system, I have a deep appreciation for how the electoral college preserves some measure of State authority and rights, while also ensuring New York, California, Texas and Florida do not get to solely elect our President simply b/c they have massive population centers. Just wanted to clarify for the one or two readers of this blog. ha ha

CALVIN’S CROWNING OF CHRIST

christ-has-set-us-free-from-the-power-of-sin102412

We in the Evangelical Church love the Hymn “Crown Him Lord of All.”  And rightly so!

But who do you crown?  Really?  Of whom do you think of most often?  Of whom or what do you sing of most frequently?  Is you shower stall an echo chamber of secularism, or a praise chamber for Christ the King?  Who really has your utmost affection and attention day by day?  Who is your real Lord?

O how we need a bigger view of Jesus the Christ!

Last Sunday, I preached on the Reformation Doctrine of solus christus – Christ Alone.  We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  I thought it good to quote John Calvin at length to help us continue to gush about our Savior.  In his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (II.16.19), Calvin wrote:

When we see the whole sum of our salvation, and every single part of it, are comprehended in Christ, we must beware of deriving even the minutest portion of it from any other quarter.  If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that he possesses it; if we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, we shall find them in his unction; strength in his government; purity in his conception; indulgence in his nativity, in which he was made like us in all respects, in order that he might learn to sympathize with us: if we seek redemption, we shall find it in his passion; acquittal in his condemnation; remission of the curse in his cross; satisfaction in his sacrifice; purification in his blood; reconciliation in his descent to Hades; mortification of the flesh in his sepulcher; newness of life in his resurrection; immortality also in his resurrection; the inheritance of a celestial kingdom in his entrance into heaven; protection, security and the abundant supply of all blessings, in his kingdom; secure anticipation of judgment in the power of judging committed to him.  In fine, since in him all kinds of blessings are treasured up, let us draw a full supply of him, and none from any other quarter.  Those who, not satisfied with him alone, entertain various hopes from others, though they continue to look to him chiefly, deviate from the right path by the simple fact, that some portion of their thought takes a different direction.  No distrust of this description can arise when once the abundance of his blessings is properly known.

Amen!  Hallelujah!  Happy Reformation Day!      

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