Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Nobel Prize and the value of explanation

There is a memory that I have that still conjures a sense of magic in my mind. Forty-seven years ago, I accompanied my grandmother into a men's clothing store in Claremont, NH. This was the big city, filled with shops and stores and fancy dressed shop keepers who greeted customers with broad smiles. This particular men's clothing store, however, had something no other store in the area could boast; as you approached the entrance a small black circle at the top of a shiny silver post saw our arrival and an invisible doorman opened the door for us. Obviously the rest of the store was incredibly boring to a four year old but this 'magic eye' captured and held my attention. What did it see when it looked at me? Did it know I was four years old? Did it see both me and my grandmother? Did it remember me from my last trip to the city?

Jump ahead nearly twenty years and my curiosity about God's creation had led me to books on astronomy, theoretical physics and astrophysics. I enjoyed reading the biography of one of my heroes and Nobel prize winner, Dr. Einstein and of his many contributions to physics on both an atomic and galactic scale. I was shocked to discover that Dr. Einstein did not win his Nobel prize for the General or Special Theories of Relativity as one might assume. Amazingly, he was awarded the coveted prize for explaining the photo-electric effect. That's right, Dr. Einstein knew how and what the magic eye from the men's clothing store saw and was able to explain it. Please understand, Dr. Einstein did not invent the photo-electric effect, that was done by other scientists, but he was able to explain the effect and the explanation was of such value that it won the highest recognition of a grateful world.

I was reminded of these events just this week as the winners of this years Nobel prizes were announced. Picking winners is a daunting task for the Nobel committee because the winners must be folks whose contributions have historical significance BUT they must be alive. The Nobel is never awarded to a dead person. The latest winner, as of this writing, is Gerhard Ertl of Germany. He has won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for being able to explain chemical processes on solid surfaces.

Dr. Ertl can explain how catalysts in automobiles work, how fuel cells function and why iron rusts. Let me point out again that Dr. Ertl did not invent the catalytic converter or fuel cells or rust. His gift to science is his ability to explain the process. This is a pattern you will find over and over amongst the winners picked by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The Nobel prize is really a measure of mankind's value on explanation. This value tells us something about how conventional knowledge is accepted and perpetuated. If we would reward a man with 1.5 million dollars because he can explain why rust happens, imagine what an explanation of the beginning of life would be worth. How valuable would an explanation of evil be, or of man's inhumanity toward man?

The reason that explanation is so valuable is because apart from the explanation science is merely trial and error. That's right, the photo-electric effect was discovered through trial and error. Chemical processes on solid surfaces were discovered through trial and error as were MOST of the great discoveries of science. What is of greater value than the discovery is the explanation of the mechanics involved and the significance of the event. Until the explanation is revealed the event remains an ACCIDENT and no scientist can ever be content with an accident, or can he?

If ones worldview is a rejection of theism, a rebellion against the Sovereign God of Scripture than not only will the accidental be tolerated but it will be advanced and protected politically. Never mind that the mechanism for evolution, natural selection and mutation, cannot be demonstrated and it's irrational. Science is strangely content to avoid a Biblical explanation for life and it's non material aspects even in theory; in the case of evolution science is at BLISS with accident.

The Bible is rejected, why? The Bible is a book of revelation, a book of information and most significantly to the scientist, a book of explanation. Why will these doctors who place so much value on the explanation of an invisible doorman reject the explanation of invisible good and invisible evil, of non-corporal information and the invisible workings of providence? The reason is clear, if God is in the equation then all mankind is responsible to Him. If God is the explanation then all have sinned and fall short of his glory. If God is creator, then man is a creature and must step down from his throne built on trial and error.

When the evolutionist turns his back on explanation in favor of accident, he proves that his only motivation is a rejection of the Creator.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Law and Love (Part 3 of 3)

In the final segment of this series we look at our response to God's love expressed through the giving of His law.

The Law as an Instrument of Love

We began with the understanding that God gave us his commandments out of love but we sinned against him by breaking his commandments. We brought a curse upon ourselves, but God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, God sent his son to pay the penalty for our sins and remove the curse.

Jesus Christ was the perfect image of God because he kept the law perfectly. He never sinned. His righteousness made him the only possible representative to stand in the place of sinners and receive the full wrath of God in our place. If we realize that Jesus Christ took the penalty for your sins, died and rose again in victory then how can we possibly express our gratitude for giving us new life?

Jesus didn’t make it complicated, he said, “If you love me, then keep my commandments.” God loves us by giving us his commandments and we love him by keeping them. When we behave like we belong to His family then we exalt him before a fallen world.

But not only are the commandments given in love and obeyed in love but Jesus said that love and obedience are the same thing. When our Lord was asked, what is the greatest commandment, he answered:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:37-40

Bishop Augustine condensed it even more, he said, “Love God and do as you please.” The apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 5: 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

The love of Christ controls us, the commandments and our love for Christ cause us to no longer live for ourselves.

I want to leave you with a picture of a kite.
My family went to fly kites over in the park. My three year old son and six year old daughter had some pretty generic delta wing kites which worked fine and they brought them joy. My twelve year old daughter had this great nylon kite that looked like an Iguana. It was a beautiful piece of artwork. It had an enormous tail and perfectly balanced to ride the wind.

It flew amazingly high and it danced and responded effortlessly to each gust of wind that moved it. It expressed such freedom and grace as it beautifully lived up to its expectations.

Suddenly we heard my daughter cry, “Oh no!” I looked up and the kite seemed to be fine but now I noticed that the string in her hand was no longer pointing skyward toward the kite. The string had broke. The kite danced gracefully only a moment longer and then began to tumble and flip and flop and then fall.

You see, even the finest built kite is useless without a string to constrain and control it.

We are so much like that kite. We are designed for greatness. We, like our heavenly father, are able to reason, to make choices, to love, to work, to build, to lead and create. We love freedom but for many we get confused about what freedom should look like.

Only the blood of Jesus Christ sets us free from sin and the penalty of death. After that, he gives us the freedom not to sin and to live an abundant life. Now that life includes struggle, that’s true, for in this world there will be troubles, but be of good cheer for Christ has overcome the world and the penalty for your sin. When we fail to be obedient, we confess our sin and rely on Christ’s perfect obedience to the law.

Jesus said, you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. God’s commandments and our loving obedience to them form the string on the kite. Without it, we can never live as the true children of God.

Prayer: We pray with the sweet psalmist of old that you would this day open our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of your law.

The Law and Love (Part 2 of 3)

We continue with a three part series on The Law and Love. This portion takes an overview of the Ten Commandments to glean what the Decalogue tells us of God's character and our nature.


“You shall have no other Gods before me.” What does that reveal about God?

He is One, he is the only God, there are no other so-called 'gods'.
He is the Creator
There is no authority higher than God
There is no judge above God
God alone is worthy of our worship

What does it say about us?
If God is the only God then we are NOT God.
We as creatures owe everything to the Creator.
We owe God our love and obedience.
Our sin deserves just punishment from a just God.
We owe God our worship.

“You shall not make for yourself any image and bow down to worship it.”
The first commandment tells us to worship God ALONE.
The second commandment tells us how to worship God.

Let me tell you about idolatry. You probably have a definition in your mind that idolatry is worshipping false gods and you are correct. The first commandment deals with that aspect of idolatry.
The second command warns us against worshipping the TRUE God falsely.

When Moses came down from the mountain with the tables of the law, he found the Israelites worshiping a golden calf. The golden calf did not represent a false God, it represented Yahweh. Now, do you know where in scripture that God said to make a golden calf to symbolize Him? NOWHERE!!!

Now this is important because we see this commandment broken everywhere. The Israelites wanted to express worship to Yahweh; they wanted to LOOK on Him and BOW to Him and GIVE themselves to Him, but God is Spirit, God is invisible. The people wanted a visible, touchable POINT OF CONTACT.

Idolatry is seeking a point of contact with God that is not prescribed in His Word. There is only one point of contact that is acceptable - the Word of God itself.

The living Word of God is where we are to meet God, it is where He reveals himself, it is where we learn of our fallen nature and His atonement for our sins. We are to be a people of the BOOK. The Word of God sets us apart from the worldlings. We are to worship God in spirit and in TRUTH! God’s Word is the TRUTH!

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
The third commandment is a warning not to use God’s name except in an honoring and respectful way.

Wow! How do you swim against a tidal wave of a polluted culture slapping you in the face daily. You all know that it is wrong to use God’s name or the name of Jesus as a curse, a swear word. Try and find a popular movie today that doesn’t do that.

A person doesn’t have to be angry to break this commandment. People all over America over use the word ‘like’
You know, like, it’s everyones favorite, like, adjective for, like, for adding emphasis, it’s like, crazy.

After “like” it’s “Oh my god.” In excitement, in joy, in surprise, in wonder, litlle kids to the elderly respond with “Oh my god.” THAT is vanity, that trivializes the name that is above all names, the name by which we are saved, the name of the Creator and sustainer of life.

It doesn’t stop with words. If you call your self a Christian then you have taken the name of Christ. In other words, if you have a fish on your car, don’t drive as if God placed you above the law and gave you ownership of the road. “Look at me, I’m a jerk! Oh, and I’m a Christian too.!” “I’m a jerk for Jesus.” Don’t stain the family name. I’ll tell you what, when we repeat the Lord’s Prayer and say, “Hallowed by thy name”, “may your name be kept holy”. That means you’re praying that his name will be honored in everything YOU do and everything that YOU say. That should cause you to pause and consider your ways.

“Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.”
Six days you should work but don’t ever complain that you haven’t time to spend with God in His Word or fellowship with the saints. You need to hear the Gospel every week. God has given us a day to break away from our work and school routine to seek Him as families and hear His Word. The sabbath is a gift.

“Honor your father and mother.”
The fifth commandment is about authority. God has established order in the universe. The sun, the moon, the earth and the stars all move in an orderly manner.

God has authority over all things. God has established elders over his local, visible church. They are responsible for the spiritual growth, protection and discipline of the church family according to the Word and the church’s confession.

God has made husbands responsible for the spiritual growth, protection and purity of their wives. God has made dads and moms responsible for growing their children in the faith. Everyone here is a child and most of you are parents. God works through families and he established an order so give honor where honor is due.

“You shall not murder.”
Never take the life of another person without just cause. Why?

The abortion debate back in the 70s required those who wanted to kill the pre-born to invent new language and new definitions. Some decided that for life and personhood to exist there had to be a quality present they called ‘viability’. Life is not life until it can live outside the womb, that’s viability. Outside the womb it’s a baby, inside the womb it’s a ‘tissue mass’.

As long as the head is still in the womb, it’s not a person. Partial birth abortion demonstrates the incredible absurdity of this kind of languge and the horrific implications of man defining personhood. God defines PERSONHOOD! Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

A person is one who bears the image of God. Personhood has nothing to do with viability or quality of life, it is about the image of God. Every human, believer and rebel, carries the image of God. It’s stamped on us; we can’t escape it. It is that stamp, that image, that gives man worth and dignity - every man, woman and child. That’s regardless of skin shade, regardless of income, regardless of IQ. Everyone is an image bearer and to attack the one who bears God’s image is to attack God himself.

The sixth commandment is about how pro-life God is and how pro-life we are not. You haven’t murdered, good! But have you insulted someone this week? Are you holding a grudge against a brother or sister in Christ? If so, you’re not as pro-life as you think you are.

Jesus said that if you insult your brother then you have broken with the family resemblance. Love you neighbor as yourself and love your brothers and sisters in Christ MORE. Don’t hold back from doing good for your neighbor, for that is sin as well. The sixth commandment is about recoginizing and acknowledging the image of God in every man. We summarize it by saying, “You shall not murder.”

“You shall not commit adultery.”

I could write for pages on this one. Marriage is holy. The family is the fundamental unit within the kingdom of God on earth. Marriage is modelled after the covenant between God and His people. To break a marriage covenant is to mock God’s covenant, for what God has brought together let no man tear apart.

The family is where we learn of God and his Word and his purpose. The family is God’s model for too many biblical principles to try and mention here. The level of attack that the family is under today is the proof of the immense importance and value that God has placed on the family. Fathers and mothers, you have no greater priority than the strength and well being of your family. If you don’t recognize this and get your friends to recognize it then we will lose America.

Children, if you do not see the strategic importance of honoring your father and mother then we, the church, will lose our place as salt and light.

The seventh commandment is “You shall not commit adultery” but it is about protecting and strengthening family.

“You shall not steal.”

Isn’t it something, God values the private and personal property of his children. He wants us to value other peoples property as well. I won’t run down the many ways we steal - on the job, at tax time and so on. Stealing violates our role as God’s stewards and it is a sin against God because it is a sin against our neighbor.
You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Inititially this command applied to the court room. But where would we be without the truth. We, as believers, rely on the truth to spread the gospel. We have the source of Truth, the Bible. God values the truth. We worship in truth. Jesus is the way and the truth. Our Father does not lie, his children should follow His example.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet.”
We musn’t covet the possessions of others. Why? Because it questions God’s sovereignty. God tells us he will take care of us. We are so much more valuable than a sparrow that sells for two cents and God takes care of them. He has given you everything you need to live a righteous life, honoring to him. He has given your neighbor everything your neighbor needs for the same purpose.

To crave what God has given your neighbor is to question his love and care for you - you question God’s plan and his promises - you cast doubt on His Word.

In the final segment of this series we will consider what is to be our response to God's law.Go to Part Three

The Law and Love (Part 1 of 3)

This is the beginning of a three part series on The Law and Love. We will look at how God gave us His law out of love, how His character and our nature are revealed in the Ten Commandments, and the importance of our loving response to His law.

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, that’s everything; then he created man and a woman and there was a relationship between the Creator and his creatures. Was the man and woman the first family? Not in the strictest sense. It was in that a family is one husband and one wife - male and female.

The family is also one union made up of two or more persons. John 1:1 sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1, it says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

And of course the “Word” here expressed is the second person of the Trinity - Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God. Gen. 1:2 tells us that the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. So before man was created there was, pre-eternally, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit - three persons making up one union. So in a general sense we may say that family life existed within the Godhead. God counseled within himself to create and manifest his Glory.

In the course of creating, God made mankind in His image. God’s plan was that man, in a reflective way, would be like God. Man would function from a family base. Man would have dominion over the earth - an under-king. Man would reflect the character and values of God. In other words, man would carry the family resemblance. Exodus 6:7 shows us the picture of an intimate covenanting God who says to his chosen, 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God...

God is establishing his family, his covenant people. Now to enable man to reflect the character of God, the Creator did an amazing thing that he didn’t do with any other creature. We read about it in Romans 2:14-16:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness

Some scholars today get this confused, they think that God gave the law to Moses and that’s the first we see of it. The law that God gave to Moses was actually a re-publication of the law that God had hardwired into us at creation. Why did God do this?

God so loved the world that he gave us his law. God as Father was sharing his family values with his children so that we could reflect His character. What parent doesn’t understand that? To guide and protect our children we teach them our values and give them limits and if they go beyond those limits we discipline. Why? Because we love them.

God gave us the law out of love, to assure us that we were his own, that we would reflect his values, that we would have dignity, that we would be in a unique intimate relationship with Him. God wrote the law on our hearts and what a beautiful thing that was to do. But something went terribly wrong in the garden didn’t it?

Man was supposed to be like God. Satan must have understood that much because he offered Eve a shortcut. He offered Jesus the same shortcut. “Use your God powers Jesus. You’re hungry, turn these stones into bread. If you are indeed God, act like him.” Instead, the one who never sinned gave the answer that Eve should have given. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

God’s words are the words of life! To seek meaning and purpose from any source that is not compatible with the Word of God is sin. So what happened to us in the garden. Adam sinned and all in Adam sinned.

Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. You’ve all heard that verse. It’s a well known verse. Romans 3:23 is saying two different things:

1. “All have sinned” is a judicial declaration of guilt. We went against God’s Word, we broke the law and now we carry a curse.
2. We fell short of the greatness we were made for. We did not act like our Holy Father. We acted like rebellious Satan. Instead of displaying the greatness of our family we acted as if Satan himself was our father. Where did our greatness go? Where did our dignity go?

So God re-published the law, not to give us a way to earn salvation, but to show us what His character is like and how far we had fallen from our family image. So the law is good for it tells us of the character of God and what he values. He values relationships. Yet, because the law contains the image of our original dignity it demonstrates our falling short and condemns us.

We must study the law to learn about ourselves, our relationships and about the character of God. Even a brief overview of the Ten Commandments reveals much about our great God and about ourselves. In the next installment, we shall do just that.

Go to Part Two

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Grand Riddle

in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2
To ask a holy and just God to show mercy to sinners who deserve punishment is to ask God to be less than God. How could Habakkuk do this? How can mercy and wrath be reconciled. This is the core and mystery of the Gospel, this is the Grand Riddle of scripture.

We've just come out of the Good Friday/Resurection Day season and every year these dates seem to activate the usual cast of skeptics: the sensationalists in media, the sad and desperate of atheism and the sophists of liberal theology.

This year a movie hit the theaters about a black Jesus who was crucified because he was black and the Jews were white racists:
"Although this ethnic discrimination angle might be factually inaccurate, since if Jesus was a black Jew, his accusers must’ve mostly been black Jews, too, the best thing about Color of the Cross is that it finally furnishes us with a reason for the Crucifixion." (Review from

Frustrated and deluded atheist Richard Dawkins continues to display the epistemological receptive bias that Paul warns about in Romans 1:21 "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Dawkins writes:
"Submitting to such a monstrous scheme is to condone its immorality, to sacrifice our morals too, along with our dignity. We are granted knowledge between good and evil... and I know an evil scheme when I see one! If I am a selfish person, I will do anything to attain heaven... but if I am a moral person, I cannot accept God's scheme. I do not believe that this is the way it is... either God is immoral, or the Crucifixion was not part of God's plan, or of course the more sensible alternative is that there is no God at all." (The God Delusion" by Prof. Richard Dawkins, p253)

Then there are those who profess to be 'in the fold' - teachers who go about "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power." (2 Tim. 3:5) Some of these false teachers proclaim that the crucifixion was merely Christ, our moral exemplar, giving us the ultimate example of sacrifice for our fellow man. Others of these liberals teach that Jesus never really died; that Jesus survived the crucifixion and the later Gospels edited the story to make it look as if Jesus died on the cross.

I have given these people more time and more acknowledgment than they deserve but I list these delusions as a small example of a very large body of information being promulgated against the crucifixion of Christ.

The Grand Riddle
The prophet Habakkuk, in the midst of a vision of impending doom and wrath, offers up a prayer of intercession to the Lord. It begins:

O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2

The prayer continues but my mind was arrested by that last simple request, just four words in english - in wrath remember mercy. If this were a supplication made before a great king then this request would make sense. "Please great King, you know what it's like to make a mistake. Please overlook the wrong doing of these people enough to spare them what they in fact deserve." We might make such an appeal to an earthly King or president.

This request is not made to an earthly king, however, but to the Holy and Righteous Sovereign of the Universe whose perfections and power are without boundary. God's righteousness cannot tolerate any sin. God's justice must dispense retribution for every sin. Can we ask God to overlook that which dishonors his very name? Of course not!

So how can Habakkuk, a mere creature, ask the Holy Sovereign to withhold the punishment that the people had earned. Remember, grace is giving to someone a gift which HAS NOT been earned; mercy is withholding the punishment which someone HAS earned. Habakkuk has asked that God be less than just; to violate his holiness. What is more puzzling is that Habakkuk is praying in and under the supervision of the Holy Spirit. How can wrath and mercy be brought together? This is the grand riddle.

This is not the first time we see the grand riddle appear in scripture. It is expanded but not explained in Exodus 34:6-7.

Ex. 34:6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Just prior to this amazing proclamation Moses had asked God to show him His glory. (Ex. 33:18) What a bold prayer, what a dangerous prayer. God agreed to show Moses a portion of his glory. Glory is the 'weightiness' of God, the embodiment of his perfections and power in such an awesome display, that the full weight of the truth and expression of these attributes would quickly overrun and overload our perception. We would be undone, we would be ruined. But God is merciful in His revelation of himself and he has created us with the ability to understand 'packets' of his Glory.

In scripture, God's Glory is always composed of a visible element and a proclamation. We see these two components in Luke 2:8-14, the announcement of Christ's birth. The visible element shown all around and the proclamation of the birth of the Christ was heard.

In the Exodus passage, there was again the great brilliance of the visible Glory and then the proclamation. Did you see the the great riddle within that proclamation? It's an impossible situation that God expresses. God proclaims to Moses that he punishes EVERY sin. Not only does he tell Moses that no infraction goes unnoticed and unpunished, but that the sinner will receive a penalty so severe that the sinner's great-great-grandchildren will feel it. And yet, in this same sobering proclamation God says that he forgives iniquity, keeps a steadfast love and is faithful to the faithless. How can this be? Could Moses possibly have understood this proclamation or was the truth of this as numbing to his mind as the brilliant glow was as blinding to his eyes?

Justice Deferred
The riddle stood for centuries, wrath and mercy, two conflicting attributes standing in irreconcilable contrast to one another and begging the skeptic, and the Accuser, to ask: Is God really just? Many when asked why Jesus died on the cross will answer, "He did it out of love for his people" and these folks are not wrong, but they are only partly right. Jesus died on the cross to demonstrate the righteousness and justice of God the Father.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The grand riddle, 'in wrath remember mercy' is answered only in the cross of Christ. The crucifixion was not the unfortunate end of a good but misunderstood teacher. The crucifixion is the only solution to the riddle of God's Glory. The cross is the revelation of the great mystery of the Gospel. In the Cross we witness the mercy of God in it's utter fullness "abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin". Simultaneously we witness, in the cross, the fullness of God's wrath poured out until the divine cup is empty, the long deferred anger of God exhausted in one place on one person, the justice of God fully satisfied at last.

Christ in his righteous keeping of the law proved himself the only worthy substitute for our sin filled race. In his divinity, only Christ, could withstand the wrath of God earned by every sin and sinner since Adam. The cross and the doctrine of penal substitution is far from an embarrassment to Christians; it is the core of the good news of the Gospel. Without the cross the grand riddle of scripture would remain unsolvable for in the cross we witness the fullest revelation of all of God's perfections and powers. In the cross alone, I will boast.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Suffering Within the Sovereignty of God

Understanding the purpose of our lives is the foundation to understanding the events in our lives. The catechism begins by asking, 'what is the chief end of man'. The answer of course is 'to glorify God and enjoy him forever'. Glorifying God is to acknowledge the weightiness of God's being; to apprehend his attributes in such a way that it transforms our thinking and actions. Enjoying God cannot happen unless our thinking is radically transformed because we are, by nature, God haters.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

To know God is why we are here. This is why, after all was said and measured, the apostle Paul said,

Phil 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Remarkably Paul connects knowledge of God and suffering is this passage. Nobody can have any depth of intimacy with God unless they have suffered. Not just running short on cash or having your car break down, I'm speaking of the suffering in which you lose everything. You lose assurance in your wallet, your family, your friends, your health and you have no where to hope or even fall except into the arms of the Father. I repeat, nobody can claim an intimacy with God the Father who has not suffered. Suffering is the means to transformation - suffering is applied theology.

We must not avoid suffering or think that when we suffer that life has spun out of control. Suffering is discipline, not punishment, discipline. Scripture is very clear that the Father disciplines those whom he loves. The soldier, the athlete and the scholar will all tell you that discipline is the tool of transformation.

But God is also revealing himself to us. This is amazing that the Creator of the universe is personal and loving and is willing to reveal himself to us. The believer has been given the ability to surrender to God's Word as the ultimate source of truth and knowledge - in it we learn of God's attributes.

God is good and merciful, God is love, wise and holy. Because of the infinity of God, when we name his attributes we are naming characteristics that have no limit. They are the standards by which human attributes are measured. In other words, there is no standard of good that is outside of God. There is no standard of justice outside of God. Wisdom is the best end arrived at by the best means. God's wisdom means that there is no such thing as a plan 'B'. God's plan, as painful as it may seem, is always the perfect and wise plan. This truth is rarely understood by reading it on a page, it's truth becomes real in the fires of proving.

We are being transformed into the image of Christ. That image is 'pure gold'. In regeneration, Christ's purity is imputed to us but in our sanctification God will help us to work out what he has worked in. When Gold is purified it is burned to removed the 'dross' (impurities). We call this 'proving' the gold. If more impurity is found then it must be 'proved' again, or 'reproved'. God 'proves' us, not to be mean but to transform us into a person that loves what he loves, thinks his thoughts after him and enjoys the abundant life he has created us for.

Another item that God is revealing to us is the UGLINESS of sin. We, by nature, don't find sin ugly. We like it. We treat our sins like pets. We play with them, we cuddle them, we keep them close and protect them. In the horrible face of human tragedy we begin to see the ugliness of sin. Sin always destroys. A baby with cancer is the result of sin. Mudslides, earthquakes, deadly fires are the results of sin. A husband abusing and abandoning his family is the result of sin and specifically the result of that husbands sin. It is ugly, it destroys, it's effects are far reaching. God does not cause the sin nor is God responsible for the sin in any way.

But God ordains sin. God causes sin, demons and the devil himself to act as agents to accomplish his purpose. His purpose may be wrath (punishment) but in the case of his elect the purpose is always transformation (discipline) and a display of his glory (revelation). We will understand more and more of God's ways as we become more like Christ but we must also leave room for the mystery of God. As much as we know about God and his ways there will always be MORE that we will never know about our incomprehensible Creator.

Nevertheless, we will know that He is good. The cross is irrefutable evidence of God's goodness and that he loves his elect. Dr. Douglas F. Kelly has rightly said, "Remember this, eternal, sovereign power is weilded by one, and through one, that has nail prints in his hands."

Jer. 3:19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Scientia Semper Reformanda

"Everything we thought we knew about X-ray images of the Sun is now out of date," says Leon Golub from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. "We've seen many new and unexpected things. For that reason alone, the mission is already a success."

I love these stories of how scientists will discover that everything they believe has to be dumped and revised. It's what makes being a scientist exciting. This is the dynamic nature of science and it is found across the whole spectrum of what we call 'science' EXCEPT when it comes to EVOLUTION.

Somehow Charles Darwin and his faithful followers spoke the truth the first time and have never had to revise or reform. We don't call that science though, do we? We call that 'papal infallibility'.

Here is the whole 'scientific' article for you astronomy fans.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

James Cameron Is A Godsend! I mean it.

Driving to work this morning I had one of those eye opening epiphanies. It's all so obvious now, why didn't we see it?

If you listen to the church at large defend the faith or give a witness, what do you hear?

You hear of personal experiences. I was a jerk but Jesus saved me and he can help you stop being a jerk.

You hear moralism. Jesus taught us how to treat others and set an example for how we ought to behave.

You hear doctrinal debate. If you believe in the RWP then you will be saved, you and your household.

You hear end times madness. Jesus is coming back soon. I now because Barach Obama is obviously the anti-christ. You'd better get saved while you can.

These represent examples that form the cacophonic scree the public is asked to accept as the 'message of christianity'.

Rick Warren points to global warming, Jack Van Impe points to apocalyptic headlines, James Dobson points to the break down of family values and Benny Hinn points to himself.

If only a miracle would take place and the church would turn it's focus to the point where Christianity makes a difference. The one distinction that sets Christianity apart from all other religions, in fact, from religion itself.

What kind of miracle could break through post-modern skepticism and demand the attention of the world to turn and face the true heart of the gospel?

God in full view of the world has pointed his finger to the historical ressurection of Jesus. This is where the battle is fought if faith is to change hearts. This is the message, and no other, that effectively leads to revival. What the lazy, self-absorbed, spoiled and irrelevant church could not and would not do, God has done through a God-hater, James Cameron.

1 Cor. 15:12

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
God has given us the opportunity to learn, refine, practice and preach the historical resurrection apologetic. He has shifted the debates from the irrelevant to the supreme, the fulcrum of saving faith itself.

God used the evil of Joseph's brothers to save Israel from starving. God used Satan, Judas and the Pharisees to bring about the Cross. God used the Cross to bring about propitiation, justification, sanctification and glorification.

God uses preaching to bring faith but it all hinges on one historical, defendable fact - THE TOMB IS EMPTY.