Nate, Nick and the Truth

Last week the nation was shocked and a bit amused to discover a boy that sunk a promotional hockey shot (he squeezed the puck through a 3 inch slit) was not the boy who actually was drawn for the chance.

The boy, Nick, who was drawn for the opportunity to make the shot and win 50 grand was outside, oblivious to the fact that he won this chance at “fame and fortune.”  So, in stepped his twin brother, Nate, sent to stand in for his twin Bro by his Dad.

And he did the impossible! 

But that night, one can only imagine the nagging nuisance in Dad’s gut.  That pesky conscience still haunts us, just as it was designed to do by our Creator (Rom 2:14-16).  The next morning, Dad and twin brothers were making the morning talk show scene, confessing their “crime” before the nation.

Most folks were incredibly stunned by this show of repentance and this commitment to integrity.  After all, is it really that big a deal?  Who cares which twin made the goal?  Take the cash and run!

Well, apparently the Dad cared.  He said he ‘fessed up to teach his sons that integrity and truth-telling are important in life.  Living life as a liar is no way to be, and he wanted to show his sons that when they do wrong, they should try to  make it right.

Let me just pause and say, “Bravo, Dad!  Bravo!”  God give us a few more Dads like this man.

Granted, the lesson seemed to be lost on the twins, because when asked by a morning talk show host, they said they would still do it the same way again if given the opportunity.  So, this Dad clearly has more work to do to infuse integrity into the lifeblood of his boys.  But, at least he is trying to set the example of confession and ownership of wrongdoing. 

You see, the fact is, this Dad is risking losing the prize money by simply telling the truth.  But, in the end, prize money is not worth anything if one dishonors God, violates the trust of his fellow-man, and loses his good name.  God has said through Solomon’s pen, “A good name is to be desired more than great riches.” 

God cares about integrity.  “Thou shalt not lie” is pretty clear, isn’t it? 

And therein lies our problem as humans.  We are all liars.  Even if we confess later and try to make things right, we are still liars to the core.  We tell lies and do dishonest deeds because our hearts (inner lives) are corrupted.   This is exactly what Jesus said in Mark 7:14-23.  We are, simply put, unable to “please God” because we cannot in and of ourselves keep His holy law (Rom 8:8). 

Who among us has not lied?  Used deception?  It is a lack of integrity that is ruining our country from the top down, dear friends!  Do not think for a second this is not a big deal.  We are a nation of liars!

Thank God, however, that there is One of whom it can truthfully be said, “No deceipt was found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).  His Name is Jesus.  He came from heaven, took on human flesh, and lived among us.  He told no lies.  He never dishonored God.  Yet, He bore the wrath of God as if He were the worst liar the world has ever known (2 Cor 5:21).  Why?

So that Nate, Nick, and their Dad through a total trust in Him as Savior might be spared the wrath of God they so deserve and have earned.  And all who are “kindred spirits” with Nate and Nick and their Dad should also fall on the mercy of Christ, confess themselves unworthy sinners and cling to Jesus as the One and Only Savior and hope of salvation. 

No amount of trying to gain integrity will do.  Only those with “clean hands and pure hearts” can climb God’s holy mountain.  We need Jesus to stand in our place.  We need His clean hands and His pure heart credited to our account. 

For we hold that a man is justified (made right with God) by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28).   

That’s good news for all us liars!    

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Remembering John Stott

On July 27th the church lost one of its warriors for Christ.  John R. W. Stott left this sin-stained world at the ripe age of 90 to
behold the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Stott struggled with the doctrine of hell back in the 90s, espousing what is known as Annihilationism (the false teaching
that hell will not be forever).  Some say he later simply became agnostic on the whole doctrine of hell, which may be
even worse than denying that it is everlasting (Mark 9:42-48; 2 Thess 1:3-10).  At any rate, the evangelical world was
stunned to see such a brilliant Bible mind stray in this matter.

This stumble notwithstanding, John Stott was a blessing to thousands of believers around the world.  Through his pulpit ministry at All Souls Church in London, through his books, and through his life of service to the last, least and left-out, Stott was a channel of blessing.  It is a real shame, in my mind, that most Baptists I know really have no clue who John Stott is, having never read or heard him.

Personally, I was introduced to Stott at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Spring Semester of
2005.  One of the required texts for Dr. Albert Mohler’s Systematic Theology course was The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott.  That book catapulted me into far deeper thinking on the work of Jesus the Christ than anything I had ever encountered.  Since then, I have enjoyed and been challenged by Stott’s commentary on John’s Epistles, as well as his classic preaching text Between Two Worlds.

Rather than continue to type my own words, I would simply like to let Stott have the last word on this blog post.  May the readers of this blog take up the challenge to go buy some books authored by Stott and read them.  They will drive you deeper into the Book of books – The Holy Bible.

 We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its centre the principle of ‘satisfaction through substitution’, indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution.  The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him; nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement
of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator.  Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin, and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character.  The theological words ‘satisfaction’ and ‘substitution’ need to carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstances be given up.  The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us
(The Cross of Christ, IVP, 1986, pp. 159-60).

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My Favorite SuperHero

I did something totally out of the ordinary yesterday – I went to an actual theater to see an actual movie.  To be exact, my awesome wife planned a special lunch date for me yesterday followed by a matinee.  She took me to see Captain America.

Captain America is the first Superhero I remember as a young boy.  The first coloring books I remember were Captain America.  I used to love getting the red, white and blue colors placed precisely on his uniform and shield. 

Born out of World War II, Captain America represented sacrifical service to one’s nation.  Unlike more modern Superhero’s, Captain America seemed to stand for all that was right and good and wholesome.  I don’t think we’ll ever see a movie titled Captain America: The Dark Years.  

And on this account, the move did not disappoint.  Now, I am no movie reviewer, so I’ll spare you the details of the flic.  What I found very interesting, however, is how at the end of the movie (yes I’m about to give it away), Captain America woke up in the 21st century.  (He was frozen since WWII under polar ice – go see the movie to make sense of it all.) 

Doubtless, this lets us know there will be a sequel.  But, awaking Captain America for the current generation was also highly symbolicI don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we Americans could really use a hero right about now!  We need a rescuer.

Friends, we need a Superhero who can rescue us from ourselves.  We are self-destructing – morally and financially and politically and spiritually.  Like Rome of old, we are rotting from the inside out.  A healthy dose of the self-sacrifice Captain America represents would do us well. 

But, as much as I like Captain America, not even he’s up to the task before us in 2011.  What we need, especially and particularly in the Church, is a “Pre-Jericho Experience.”

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked and behold, a man was standing before him with his sword drawn in his hand.  And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our enemies?”  And he said, “No, but I am the commander of the army of the Lord.  Now I have come.”  And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped and said to him, “What does my Lord say to his servant?”  And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.”  And Joshua did so (Josh 5:13-15). 

While we could debate the identity of this “Captain of the Lord’s Army,” there is really not much need, is there?  Joshua worshipped Him and the Captain accepted his worship.  That rules out angels and mere mortal men.  And, the words the Captain spoke to Joshua were almost identical to the words of Almighty God spoken to Moses from the burning bush.  And, Joshua responded with worshipful submission and an eagerness to obey, much like Paul on Damascus Road, “Lord, what would you have me do?” 

Here’s the Superhero we need – The Captain of the Lord’s Army His Name is Jesus.  He is a Warrior par excellence who fights for His people by laying down His life for them, and then taking His life up again to vindicate His name and secure their right standing before Holy God (John 10:14-18; Rom 1:1-4; 4: 24-25). 

Only Captain Jesus will suffice to rescue us self-indulgent, disobedient Americans.  Are you crying out to Him to rescue you from your sin and filth?  Are you crying out to Him to rescue your children from materialism and secular humanism?  Are you crying out to Him to revive His people and His work in this adulterous age?  Are you crying out to Him to enthrone Himself on your heart and kick out all other competitors for your affections? 

What captain(s) are you proclaiming to your children?  Your co-workers?  Your neighbors?  Your enemies?

There is only one Captain, one Rescuer, worth giving up everything to gain.  “Come Lord Jesus!  Amen” (Rev 22:20).

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Miley Cyrus’ Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is the study of proper Bible interpretation.  Fancy word, simple definition. 

Miley Cyrus fans have seen her go from a “Jesus rocks” little girl to a rebellious liberal-minded faux believer.  The Hollywood brand of Christianity, touted by the likes of Cyrus and Beyonce, looks nothing like what Jesus Christ said it meant to follow Him. 

Please do not, I repeat, do not look to Miley for theology, doctrine or Bible interpretation.  Apparently she has been having a spat with a fan on FB over a “gay rights” tatoo she now has on her finger.  It is an “equals” sign and Miley posted something to the effect of “All Love is equal” on her fan page. 

One fan decided to take her on, and he has been ostracized and lambasted.  Miley of course used the most well-known (and most mis-interpreted) verse in the Bible – “Judge not lest you be judged.”  That’s Matthew 7:1 for all you Bible students.  Of course, interpreted in context (which is a hard and fast rule of hermeneutics that Miley obviously never learned), Jesus is actually teaching His followers how to properly assist a fellow believer fight sin in his or her life.  Jesus is actually telling us in Matthew 7:1-5 to judge according to the right standard (God’s Word), and to fight sin and pursue purity in our own lives FIRST, so that we can then effectively help others identify and fight sin in their lives.  So, it’s funny so many throw this verse around like it’s the way to end all discussions of sin.  Even funnier that in context the passage is not at all addressing a pronouncement concerning sin among non-believers.

At any rate, Miley goes on to say “God is love.”  So, that’s her argument.  “Don’t judge.  All love is equal.  God is love”.  Tidy.  Neat.  Trite.  And a total distortion of everything the Bible teaches about judgment, God, and love

Precisely because God is love (1 John 4:7-11), any action posing as “love” that runs counter to His holy character is most decidedly not love.  By Miley’s reasoning, pedophilia is also “equal love.”  So, too, is “doggie love,” called bestiality.  Friends, love is fixed forever.  Because God is its very source and definition, and He never changes, so true love never changes.  It is not open to Miley’s whims!  God is love and showed us what love is by sending His Son in the flesh to bleed out for homosexual sinners and heterosexual sinners.  Jesus is love in the flesh!  His love penetrates all sin, breaks down all barriers, and is a settled act of His will that always acts sacrificially for God’s glory and the good of the beloved.  This is the definition of love.  Sexual perversions which God has condemned have no claim upon “love.”  Rather, they fall under “lust of the flesh.”  They are the very wickedness that put True Love on the cross!

And, Miley should rest assured that it matters not whether she thinks it’s “judging” someone to tell them their actions are sinful.  God is the Holy Judge of all the earth and every person will give account to Him.  Even if Christians never said another word about homosexuality being a sin, God will still judge it as such on the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord

Friends, to warn sinners to “flee from the wrath to come” is the most loving thing to do.  If God has spoken in and through the words of the Bible (and He has), then whether sexual perversions are sinful or not is not up for debate.  The Bible is crystal clear on those accounts.  It is not an act of judgment for me to simply tell people what God the Judge has said.  No, it is an act of mercy and love and compassion.

The Lord told the Prophet Ezekiel that if he did not warn the  people of his day, their blood would be on his hands.  That sounds pretty serious to me.

Miley, stop playing Hollywood games.  Repent and trust Jesus as Lord of all, rather than treat Him as your psychological feel-good guru.  Jesus never missed a single opportunity to warn sinners to fear the Holy Judge (and He even claimed to be that Judge in John 5).  Follow His example and use the platform He has granted you to “speak the truth in love.”  Making sinners of any sexual persuasion “at ease” in their filth is sure to put their blood on your hands.  I advise against it.

And, please, Miley, go take a good Hermeneutics course.  They offer them at Boyce Bible College in your home state of Kentucky!  And while you’re at it, interpret Psalm 5:5 for me.

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Today Norway, Tomorrow America?

You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Norway has experienced the carnage of anti-terror terrorism.  My heart goes out to all those suffering, and I pray those who truly belong to King Jesus in Norway rise above this anti-gospel insanity.

While I do not want Sharia Law to influence the American political and justice systems in any shape, form or fashion, I do want Muslims who are devoted to our Constitutional Republic to be free to worship here.  I am a Baptist, and it strikes me that my Baptist forebears moved here to escape religious oppression, only to face it at the hands of Catholics and other Protestants yet again in New England.  This was why Rhode Island became a colony, and the Baptists were instrumental in the early framing of our freedom of religion.  

There must be a balance here somewhere, right?  I mean, personally, I understand the Koran at times endorses violence against non-Muslims.  But, only the truly “text-driven” followers of Islam embrace this doctrine.  Many Muslim Americans simply do not endorse terror or acts of violence against their non-Muslim neighbors.  Those who do, we should treat as criminals, like any other murderers among us.

[Oddly, there is correlation in the Christian realm here, as many people who worship as “Christians” are not text-driven either.  If they were, they could never endorse the homosexual lifestyle, multiple divorces and remarriages, never teaching the Bible to their own children in their homes, and so on.  But I digress.]

What has happened in Norway, however, should cause all of us Americans to pause and seriously ponder our future.  It remains to be seen whether this nation can actually continue to be a place where freedom-loving Muslims and Christians live side-by-side in peace.  

For the most part, the history of Islam and Christianity has been bloody, with plenty of shame and blame on both sides.  But America until recently has been a refuge for all who are weary of the religious blood-letting.  But now, we have scores of people protesting mosques being built, and even burning mosques to the ground.  (To be sure, I do think certain locales are not suitable for mosques, such as Ground Zero). 

For decades we American Christians have been horrified by Muslims burning churches down in South Sudan.  But now, where are the Christian voices speaking out for the Muslims who have had their places of worship burned?  Where are the Christians who will actually give aid to suffering Muslims in America?

Do not misunderstand me, I do not think churches should raise funds to build mosques!  We do not want to endorse or support their false religion or teachings.  But, as Americans we surely do want to protect their right to worship freely and peaceably, don’t we?

More importantly, we as Christians are commanded by our Lord and Master to love Muslims.  And, we must love them in word and deed.  To pray for Muslims.  To speak the gospel to Muslims.  The way of the Master will help us find the balance we so need.  The way of Christ is our only hope of finding our way forward in these trying matters.  Fighting fire with fire is not the way of Christ among our neighbors, co-workers, and schoolmates.  We are called to leave the fire-bombing to God alone:

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vegeance is Mine, I will repay says the Lord.’  To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, given him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:17-21).

This is the way forward, but we shall never find it if we do not stay on our faces before God, crying out for enabling grace, a gospel heart full of the love of Jesus, and an undying passion to reflect His holiness and goodness to our lost and dying neighbors, including Muslims.  

And as of now, in America, we still have a form of government that actually provides us a grand opportunity to live out the way of Jesus, and to offer Living Water to every thirsty soul.  May God keep us free, but even if He does not, may He give us grace to show ourselves true “sons of the Father.”                      

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