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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And the Home of the Brave?

imagesQuite a stir in the NFL right now.  Players and entire teams are now trying to make political statements during the playing of the National Anthem.  And, as expected, since kids all over America look up to those spoiled-rotten, millionaire boys-in-men’s bodies, the “kneel down” protest has spread to middle and high schools.  It’s all enough to to make this US Marine Corps Veteran want to strap an M-16 to their backs and drop them all in the middle of Iraq or Afghanistan so they can experience what it takes to provide such immense freedom that even enables them to protest while uniformed men and women hold the flag right in front of them in stadiums, standing at attention and saluting from the first note to the last.

While some have claimed they, as Americans, have this “right” or “freedom” to protest during the anthem, it is worth noting that 36 US Code 301, passed by Congress, states regarding civilians: “During a rendition of the National Anthem . . . all other persons present should face the flag, and stand at attention with their right hand over their heart, and men . . . should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.”

We used to be a Nation of Laws.  Now, we are lawless.  We celebrate lawlessness.  Sure, if a law violates God’s Word, as a Christian, I am obligated to obey God and “protest” or “disobey” my government.  But friends, there’s nothing in the Bible forbidding us to obey our nation’s laws and protocols during national anthems.  So, believers in the Church who are defending the actions of these lawless millionaires might want to rethink in light of Romans 13.

While I support the 1st Amendment doggedly, I do not think it wise to use the National Anthem as the “platform” for protest or redressing grievances.  Imagine our Olympic athletes doing so during a medal ceremony!  Do you think the men and women in the military always agree with everything happening in our nation?  Yet they stand at attention and salute every single time.  Why?  Because they have been trained in the doctrine of law and order!  I mean, where will this end?  Should we allow people to burn the flag during the anthem?  Go spit in the faces of the sergeant holding the flag on the field?  Go punch a police officer trying to direct traffic in the parking lot?  Lawlessness leads to these very things, and no doubt someone somewhere is already planning it or maybe has done it.

And just what are these athletes protesting?  Racism.  Injustice in the law enforcement and/or court systems.  That’s what they are claiming.  And I agree those things exist.  And I agree they are sinful and wrong.  And I agree we as a nation and especially we Christians in the Church ought to be fighting hard against them.

But I disagree that this platform is an acceptable means.  And I disagree that these millionaire boys are the right bearers of this banner of protest.  After all, they have “made it.”  Many of them may have come “from the hood” but let’s face it, they ain’t there anymore!  America worked for them!

But, maybe just maybe some of them desire to use their privileged status to fight for the under-privileged.  If that is so, it’s noble.  And yet again, I want to strongly protest the method and manner of their protest.  It is actually a lawless and senseless way to go about fighting for justice for all.  A better way would be for them to sacrifice their lavish lifestyles and don a police uniform.  Start walking the beat in the hood.  Or give up your millions, like your colleague Pat Tilman, to enlist in the Army.  Or at bare minimum use your star power to establish organizations that get police officers and citizens and judges all enjoying picnics together in their towns, talking to one another, listening to one another, loving one another.  

Kneeling during the anthem accomplishes nothing.  Sacrificial love conquers all injustices, though.  And this really has been and continues to be the purview of the Church.  Right?  Of all people, we followers of Christ should know the solution to injustices can never be merely political.  And the NFL has absolutely no real power to change men’s hearts.  “Lawless” is an accurate description of every person.  And only the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross can remove the penalty of God against our lawlessness.  Only a new heart given by God’s Spirit as we trust in the life, death and resurrection of Christ in our place will destroy bigotry and racism and injustice in our hearts.  We must remember, dear Christians, we were once the ones refusing to kneel before the Lord.  We once refused to salute His banner of love.  But He came to us in great mercy and gave us life and set us free to love Him and His Law (John 8:36; Eph 2:1-10).

Church, we can belly-ache all we want about these protests and the lawless condition of our culture.  And we can even disagree on the politics behind some of it.  And we can choose to turn off our TV sets, too, when the NFL games are on!  But we must never forget that this whole “freedom” and self-rule project called the United States of America rested on the spiritual values the Colonists once shared in the mid-1700s. This has been chronicled so well by Eric Metaxas in his book If You Can Keep It.  I’ll turn my attention to that in future posts.  But for now, let us renew our commitment to proclaiming true justice and freedom only through the cross of our Lord and Savior.  What these football players are protesting is real.  And the fix for it is something only the Church possesses.  So go tell the millionaires and the hourly workers, the rich and poor – only Jesus saves, and only His kingdom will know no end.  All other flags will be furled eventually.  

Until then, work for continued political freedom and law and order, for sure.  But never misplace your ultimate allegiance.  If you’ve spent hours on social media arguing about the NFL protests, why not vow to spend even more hours speaking about true righteousness, and true justice, and the solution God gives in Christ for our unrighteous, lawless hearts?

And every created thing which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever'” (Revelation 5:13).

As Russell Moore says in his book Onward, we are Americans best when we are not Americans first.               

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So, This is Science?

KIC-8462852-480In the recent edition (Summer 2016) of Vanderbilt magazine, there’s an article titled “Dim Chance.”  It briefly details how a PhD Student at Vanderbilt debunked some claims of researchers at Penn State and LSU regarding KIC 8462852.  Oh, that’s “Tabby’s star” for all you astrology nuts.

This star is some 1480 light years away, and is nestled in the constellation called Cygnus.  Interest among some in the scientific community rose up when the star’s namesake, Yale astronomer Tabby Boyajian, reported that some “planet hunters” had noticed fluctuations in the star’s light.

Now, I have no idea why this excites some people, but if you’re so far bored to tears, just listen to the conclusion of these so-called “planet hunters.”  They noticed over 100 days, dozens of uneven light fluctuations which they hypothesized must have been caused by large objects passing across its face.  So far, still fairly ho-hum.  Right?

Not so fast.  In come astronomers from Penn State to release a study which said this “bizarre light curve” was “consistent with a swarm of alien-constructed megastructures.”

I can’t make this stuff up, folks!

So this is serious science?  Or Sci-Fi?  These are the “experts” educating future leaders of America and the world.  This is what has become of “science.”  It’s been reduced to a ridiculous religion that relies upon totally unsubstantiated and un-provable beliefs.  Ironically, this is what so many scientists accuse Christians of doing!  (Even though our beliefs rest on the most historically reliable Book of antiquity, with many verified evidences.)  I wonder how many government dollars went into that research study at Penn State?

Well, thankfully, Michael Lund from Vanderbilt rescued these scientists from their own stupidity by his research showing the light changes “were caused by changes in the instrumentation – not by changes in the star’s brightness.” In other words, the instruments used to measure the brightness were not consistent over time.

Turns out, the whole hypothesis owes to human error.  Ha!  Go figure.

Oh how far science has fallen.  From men like Kepler, Pascal, Bacon, Newton, and Samuel Morse who did science because they knew a Sovereign Creator God had infused His creation with His own order and glory.  Now that’s a motivator to do science!  But with scientists like we have these days, is it any wonder kids are losing interest?

Whatever we can know or not know about KIC 8462852, our Father God knows its real number, and He calls it by its real name (Psalm 147:4).

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