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

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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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Creating Babies, But at What Cost?

images-1According to several news outlets, the world’s first “healthy” baby has been born as a result of a new procedure that uses DNA from three people.  Read more here:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/27/worlds-first-baby-born-using-dna-from-three-parents?utm_source=email+marketing+Mailigen&utm_campaign=News+10.4.16&utm_medium=email

For many decades now, conservative Christians and pro-life organizations have been warning the medical community that they are simply going too far in these reproductive technologies.  Wading through the myriad ethical issues raised by this particular procedure is like trying to sprint in the shallow end of a swimming pool with weights tied to your ankles!

First, I find it very ironic that the Doctor who performed this procedure did so in Mexico where it’s no holds barred, and gave his reasoning as “To save lives is the ethical thing to do.”

Wait, what?  How did this procedure save a life?  A bit later in the news article referenced above, we discover that Dr. Zhang actually created five embryos with this procedure, only one of which “developed normally.”  So what happened to the other four babies?  What was done to save their lives?  I’m confused.

I would never make light of the pain experienced by the couple receiving this procedure.  They have experienced miscarriages and even lost young children to a congenital disease passed down by the mother.  My heart goes out to them.  But who’s to say that if the couple would have tried five more times to get pregnant the normal way that one of the babies would have “developed normally” without this crazy procedure?   And who’s to say this newly born baby will not develop a disease or condition of his or her own, completely apart from the mother’s DNA influence?

I’m all for couples being fruitful and multiplying!  But couples must count the cost.  It appears this couple was completely OK with destroying the life of four of their babies just to get that one “healthy” baby.  And couples all over the world (especially the western world) have decided that keeping some of their babies frozen indefinitely never to see the light of day is OK if it helps them get that one “healthy” baby.

And who decided that the be-all-end-all standard for having babies was “a healthy baby” anyway?  A good friend of mine in North Carolina who has a Down Syndrome child often corrects people when they tell expecting mothers, “Well, as long as your baby is healthy that’s all that matters.”  So a DS child doesn’t matter?  Autistic children don’t matter?  My friend would often quip, “Or even if the baby is not healthy, the child is still a precious gift from God.”

Amen.  Preach on.

God help us.  We are digging ourselves a very, very deep hole.  I totally get the desire to have biological children.  It’s a desire derived from our Divine design.  But to allow that desire to become Lord is dangerous idolatry.  I wonder if anyone directed this Jordanian couple to the thousands of orphans in their neighboring, war-torn countries waiting and longing for adoption?  If they could afford this procedure, they surely could have afforded to adopt.

If someone does not step in and stop this medical insanity, the devaluing of life will expand to the point that anyone deemed “unhealthy” will easily be dispatched.  And the irony of it is that this is all done under the guise of valuing life.  That’s always how sin works, friends.  Trickery and rationalization are sin’s favorite mediums.  And no medical procedure yet invented has been able to produce a sin-free baby.  That’s one universal genetic defect that can never be cured except by the Blood of Jesus.

Be careful my brothers and sisters in Christ.  “Children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3).  But making them at all costs will turn out to be too costly in the end.  For it turns out, as exhilarating as procreation is, and as precious as babies are, they both make very poor saviors.

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If You Can Keep It

images-1Back in the summer of 1787, on the narrow streets of Philadelphia in what is now called Independence Hall, god-fearing men were sequestered for 100 days in the hot summer sun.  Laboring.  Debating.  And finally, in the end and only by the miraculous grace of God, crafting the US Constitution.

On the way home on that final day, having just produced the most politically unique document in human history, Ben Franklin was approached by a neighborly lady outside Independence Hall.  She got right to the point, asking, “Well doctor, what have we got?  A republic or a monarchy?”  Franklin’s reply was legendary:

“A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”

That one line – if you can keep it – contains the very philosophy and hopes of our nation’s founders.  And it is the title of Eric Metaxas’ latest book.  Having just finished the book, I commend it to every American.  But in particular, I urge every Christian in America to read it.  And even more especially, I urge the precious members of the church I pastor to take the time to read this book before you go vote in November.

Unlike most every political book I’ve ever read, this one grounds the very promise of self-government in the spiritual condition of the colonists.  You see, the writers of our Constitution dared to form a government of “We the People” only because they truly believed their fellow Americans possessed a common morality to enable them to do so.  And that common morality was undeniably impacted and formed by the First Great Awakening.

That Awakening was a sovereign move of God’s Spirit on the American people’s hearts whereby He swept many into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and made them new creatures in Christ.  The preaching of men like Jonathon Edwards and George Whitfield and John and Charles Wesley was the instrument God Almighty used to light this spiritual fuse in the new nation.  Our Founders wrote extensively on their faith in the Christian Bible and the Christian religion.  I scarcely need to even argue the point that they leaned heavily on the Bible and the values and ethics contained therein to structure our Republic.  Even the least godly and spiritual of our Founders, such as Franklin, wrote things that made them sound like ministers of the Gospel.  It was the “non-Christian” Franklin, after many weeks of absolute deadlock within the Constitutional Convention that led the men to began crying out in daily prayers together for God’s aid to bring them to unity!

Alexis de Tocqueville came from France in the mid-1800s to study the wonder of American culture and political success.  He wrote in his book Democracy in America:

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

That quote has been used by many Presidents, including Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton.  And Tocqueville went on to conclude, “Liberty cannot be established without morality.”  That’s precisely what our Founders believed! Regarding the various Christian denominations (which he called sects) in 19th century America, de Tocqueville wrote:

The sects that exist in the United States are innumerable.  They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man.  Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God . . . Moreover, all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same.  

Friends, are you starting to see the very fabric that made our Nation powerful and unique for so many decades?  Looking to Divine Revelation in the Bible for our morality bound us together as a people.  It is why our Founders believed we might actually be able to “keep” the Republic they gave us.  I distinctly remember my Dad telling me that when he was growing up, even the pagan neighbors held to a common ethical and moral code as the church-going neighbors!  Now we have churches calling themselves Christian who endorse the very behaviors God so clearly calls sin in His Word.  America no longer even has a shared moral code among Christianity, much less among Hollywood and Wall Street.  God help us.  How can we ever govern ourselves like this?

This is not to say past generations of Americans were less sinful, or less in need of the forgiveness that comes only by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  It is rather to say that this very gospel truth being proclaimed from pulpits and street corners and even the Halls of Congress is what created our Republic and gave hope to people that they just might be able to “keep it.”  Our Nation needs a revival of God coming through the Gospel once again!  And that must needs begin with us, dear Christians and churches.

Today, extremes are becoming fashionable.  To hate America.  Or to idolize America.  Neither is good.  Of course we have national sins in our past, present, and surely in our future.  We need to keep repenting of them and asking God in Christ to forgive us and heal us.  On the other hand, we have some reasons to think we just might still be unconquerable.  After all, we’ve produced the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Billy Graham.  Yes, I realize those two people are universes apart theologically.  But my point is – would those two have arisen from any other nation in the world?  America worked for them!  Why don’t we see democratic republics in China, or southeast Asia, or the Middle Eastern countries, or Northern Africa?  Why doesn’t it work when we try to export democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan?

Spiritual truth and realities drive all others.  People whose hearts have not been radically transformed by the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ do not typically thrive in a system of self-government.  They almost require some form of tyranny or monarchy or dictatorship.  It’s the only way to keep law and order.  

Now consider what is happening every day across America.  And maybe you’ll see why I believe with every fiber of my being that our one and only hope for somehow “keeping it” is a Sovereign move of God to give us another Great Awakening.  No political ruler or party can possibly rescue America from herself.  Law and order will continue to disintegrate unless and until the King of Kings either revives His people and sends us out once again a people on fire for telling everyone of Him, or He returns in glory to literally reign over all in majesty and grace.  I’m praying God will once again make America good, by applying the blood of Jesus to more and more hearts as we share the gospel widely.  I’m praying we’ll then be able to once again massively export true goodness – the righteousness of Christ applied by grace through faith – to the nations of the world.

Interested in this line of thinking?  Read If You Can Keep It.  But mostly, keep reading your Bibles.

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