For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Is It Bigger Than A Dead Jesus?

(This is a re-post from August 4, 2008. Just thought someone might need the encouragement)

For years I was caught up in the “entertainment” of preaching. I wanted to grab people’s attention, make them laugh, and hope they learned something along the way. After awhile, though, I realized that people were remembering the jokes and the gimmicks, but not the actual messages.

Now, I haven’t given up on the occasional joke altogether, but I have concentrated more on the content of the sermon than going for the comments on the sermon. I’m hoping we’ve moved from milk to meat.

I thought of that as I was looking back over my notes from the AiG Family Conference in Branson. I especially thought of it as I reflected on my notes on Voddie Baucham’s messages. Because while I took good notes and gained some very insightful truths, the things that stick out in my mind without checking those notes are the one-liners.

Things like his reference to a new Christian friend as “a new brother from another mother.” Or the admonition to “suck it up…don’t tell me about the pain, just show me the baby.” And my favorite, speaking of children and original sin: “No matter how cute that thing is, it’s still a viper in a diaper.”

Now, this isn’t to comment on the use of humor in preaching. After all, Charles Spurgeon wrote that “I must confess that I would rather hear people: laugh than I would see them asleep in the house of God . . . I do believe, in my heart, that there may be as much holiness in a laugh as in a cry.” And Baucham’s use is appropriate and minor in comparison to the amount of “meat” he offers. I guess it’s just human nature to focus on those zingers.

The point, I guess, is that sometimes the little one liners sticking in your brain can be more “meaty” than we might realize. The one line that keeps coming back to me was in a message Voddie brought on “The Person of Christ.” It was a wonderful exposition of 1 Corinthians 15 and Paul’s defense of the resurrection. And I do remember the solid meat of that message: Paul’s arguments from Authority, Evidence and Logic. I especially enjoyed bringing to the forefront the often overlooked truth that we have more written evidence for Christ’s resurrection than we do for the existence of Socrates, but no one ever calls the latter in to question.

But the one line that jumps out is this: Is It Bigger Than a Dead Jesus? After spending the bulk of the message defending the reality of the resurrection, the application was then made that regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, it can’t possible be a more “difficult” situation than a dead Christ. And if God can raise Christ, what are you afraid of? Could your problem possibly be bigger than a dead Jesus? Catchy phrase; powerful truth.

I have a tendency toward anxiety. I know it’s sinful. I know it’s a lack of faith. I know it’s outright disobedience. But I still struggle. I memorize verses like Philippians 4:6-7 which commands me outright to not be anxious about anything. I memorize helpful, encouraging words like Isaiah 41:13 which promises God’s upholding hand, along with another command not to fear. And God is working on this problem in me.

And please don’t hear me saying that a one liner from Voddie Baucham is more powerful, effective, etc. than the Word of God. After all, he’s just summarizing the truth of God’s Word, pointing to its promises and power. But I’ve found that line helpful: Is it Bigger Than A Dead Jesus? Obviously the answer is “no.”

So I say all that to say this. I just want to encourage anyone who might stop by out of boredom and read this. No matter what you might be facing, it’s certainly not bigger than a dead Christ. If Christ is raised, then what are you afraid of? If God can handle that situation, well…

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


(Warning: Another Turkey Story Follows)

What is it with kids these days? Where’s the respect and “honor your father” stuff? For two years I’ve had to listen to my oldest son brag about shooting a big tom the first time out (as I mentioned in my previous post). Two years.

On Monday, (also in my previous post) I finally caught up to him: almost. My first turkey harvest was only a “jake” not a fully mature gobbler. But still. We were even at one. That lasted two whole days.

This morning I take the boy out before the sun again. We’re enjoying listening to God awake His creation to another day. Things get exciting when we start calling to no less than four gobblers. The sun comes up, and several hens fly off the roost at the other end of the field we’re staring at; about 120 yards away.

Very soon after, a big ‘ol tom joins the party. They're calling, he’s strutting, we’re calling, he’s answering. But six hens on his end of the field beats the one plastic hen on our side, so he’s not interested in coming over.

We watch ‘em for a couple hours. The hens meander around. Tom just stays and struts. We’re amazed and entertained by about a dozen deer who come out and literally “frolic” in the field right alongside the turkey. What a wonderful scene. We’ve given up on getting tom’s attention, but we’re enjoying the show.

Suddenly, my son whispers, “Don’t Move!” Marching into the field, right next to our blind, is three young gobblers all in a row. It’s almost cartoonish. Three turkey soldiers marching in line, and even in step right across the front of the blind.

Well, Nathanael has pretty much given up on that old boy on the other side of the field, so…Bang! One less fowl marcher in the band. And even though it’s “only a jake,” my loving son is quick to point out that his jake is one pound heavier with spurs over ¼ inch longer than mine.

Not only are we no longer close to even, he’s way out front. I repeat: What is it with kids these days? Where’s the respect and “honor your father” stuff? Have I raised just another “one-upper” for the world?

Seriously, I’m extremely proud of the boy. We had a great time this year. God blessed us with some amazing scenes in the woods; two wonderful birds to put on the table; and some of the best father-son time a guy could ask for.

Of course, next time, I’m not letting him even take a gun!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Success...At Last!

Ok, so enough of politics and theology for a minute. Let’s talk turkey. Two years ago, one of our deacons took me and my oldest son out on youth weekend to turkey hunt for the first time. First day out, bang, one dead tom. Hey, this is easy, says I.

For a week that Spring, and one full week last year, I went out every morning. Saw lot’s of birds. Had lots of fun. Got nothing to show for it. In fact, it even inspired this little piece I posted on our family blog site:

Turkey Season Day One

Out in the woods long before dawn
Me and my son with the camouflage on

Gobblers Gobblers all around
Making that wonderful gobbling sound

I see them, I see them even in the fog
But the silly things won’t come near me on my log

Stupid birds!

Suffice it to say I was becoming quite frustrated. This morning, once again as another Spring Turkey Season begins, we got up long before the sun to head out into the woods for some more outdoor fun and adventure. Actually, it is quite fun; as well as edifying in many ways. I posted on that last year as well (read here).

About a dozen hens are moseying across the field first thing this morning. As they get closer, my son whispers, “Dad, I think that one has a beard.” Now for the non-turkey hunters out there, a legal spring turkey is an adult male gobbler, or tom; or his unloved little brother, the “jake.” The rule book actually says, any turkey with a visible beard (which means mainly a juvenile male, because let’s face it, do we really want to add injury to insult for the poor bearded lady?). Actually, the beard is just a tuft of hair protruding from the chest of the male, and as it gets closer, we notice that yes, indeed, this hen is no lady after all.

Now, an experienced bird hunter will probably sit back and wait for the big ole tom to show up. Waitin’ for the man’s man’s trophy. But this desperately pathetic novice is glad for anything to shoot at! So I wait until I can get a clear shot of the young male without hitting any of the surrounding hens…and BANG, one down and eleven hens hit the breeze.

OK, truthfully, once we get him home and weigh him, he’s actually only a really big chicken. But, hey. I finally got my first turkey. Even manned up and strung him up in the back yard and cleaned him myself. And though he’s nothing really to brag about, my son and I had great fun harvesting this wonderful part of God’s creation. Now, we’re really looking forward to a good turkey dinner, as well as heading back out for Nathanael to see if he can get another one this year.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hello, Constitution Party

Two years ago I posted an article which I titled, “Goodbye, GOP.” I was voicing my frustration that the Republican Party was shoving John McCain down our throats as the presidential nominee, ignoring the truly conservative base of the party.

I said there that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I simply could not support a candidate without a pro-life and pro-family record. I know that the official party platform speaks to those issues, but the actions by the powers that be to push a non-conservative like McCain speaks louder than those printed words.

For two years I’ve felt in limbo. I’ve wanted to support the GOP. I still believe in many of the things they have stood for over the years. Reagan is still one of my heroes. But the longer things go on, the more it seems as if the answer to our nation’s political woes are not to be found in the GOP. So now what?

Enter the Constitution Party. Now, before I go on, let me say that this is still just another political party in many ways. And political parties come with an inherent set of weaknesses, the largest of which is that there will always be some within the party that we will not agree with.

That being said, have you read the party platform? This is how it begins:


The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.

This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

The Constitution of these United States provides that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The Constitution Party supports the original intent of this language. Therefore, the Constitution Party calls on all those who love liberty and value their inherent rights to join with us in the pursuit of these goals and in the restoration of these founding principles.

The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law, administered by representatives who are Constitutionally elected by the citizens. In such a Republic all Life, Liberty and Property are protected because law rules.

We affirm the principles of inherent individual rights upon which these United States of America were founded:

• That each individual is endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are the rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness;

• That the freedom to own, use, exchange, control, protect, and freely dispose of property is a natural, necessary and inseparable extension of the individual's unalienable rights;

• That the legitimate function of government is to secure these rights through the preservation of domestic tranquility, the maintenance of a strong national defense, and the promotion of equal justice for all;

• That history makes clear that left unchecked, it is the nature of government to usurp the liberty of its citizens and eventually become a major violator of the people's rights; and

• That, therefore, it is essential to bind government with the chains of the Constitution and carefully divide and jealously limit government powers to those assigned by the consent of the governed.

As someone devoted to Biblical principles; and as a pastor with a concern for keeping ourselves faithful to our “founding documents” (Scripture), these words speak to my heart. In addition, the unashamed mention of the name of Christ thrills my soul.

From there the platform goes on the be boldly pro-life, pro-family, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-state’s rights, and anti-large federal government. All things I agree with in the strongest of terms.

Again, I know these are just words. The men and women behind them will have to live them out. But in this day and time when it’s obvious that too many Democrats do live out their platform, and not enough Republicans adhere to theirs, I think maybe it’s time for a change; a change for the better, not like we’ve seen in the last year or so. And I think the Constitution Party may just be the kind of change we need.

Besides, after reading all three party platforms, I think I’m convinced that the CP is the party even our founding fathers would have approved. I think I’m in, and I’d invite you to join me. Do the research. Then search your heart. It’s time to stop worrying about “electability,” a word our forefathers never would have uttered, and take our stand as they did; on conviction and principles; the kind found in the document they produced: the U. S. Constitution.

Monday, April 12, 2010

On Warm Fuzzies and Weak Faith

Recently a very dear friend sent me a link to a video clip called “An Interview With God.” It’s apparently pretty popular. You may have seen it yourself. In fact, I may be the last person to see it (I’m usually a little slow catching up to these kinds of things).

I have since found out that it comes from a website committed completely to this video and its message. Of course, the content is a bit older than the video. It seems this little poetic piece has been around for quite some time. But the packaging here is well done, with beautiful pictures and soft music, etc. My issue here is not with the quality of the production, but the message itself.

It begins saying that “I dreamt I had an interview with God.” Of course God is gracious as always to grant the interview. And the first question is: "What surprises you most about mankind?” That’s as far as I got the first time.

My first thought was: What surprises God? Absolutely nothing. He is the creator and sustainer of all life. He makes known the end from the beginning. He knows the hairs on our heads. Nothing surprises Him. He is God.

Ok, maybe I’m just being a little oversensitive about some things. I can at times be overly critical of things like this, while in true hypocritical fashion, I gladly repeat equally ridiculous ideas for creative purposes. So I decided to go ahead a move on in the presentation. God answers:

"That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to grow up, and then long to be children again. That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health. That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live neither for the present nor the future. That they live as if they will never die, and they die as if they had never lived…"

Again, I stopped. Sure there are some good points here; pretty good criticism of the way we live sometimes. But do we really think these are the primary things that God would be concerned about? Would He not be more concerned about the way we claim to be Christians, but fail to live like Christ? Or that our churches are filled with people who are more concerned about meeting their own felt needs, making themselves happy; than they are concerned about faithfulness to the Word of God and proclaiming that Word to a lost and dying world? See His letters to the seven churches in Revelation. Is this really what would take top billing?

Calm down, Scott. It’s just a video. I know that. I keep telling myself that. But then it goes on to ask God, “As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons you want your children to learn?” God has given us 66 books worth of life lessons to learn: It’s called the Bible. It includes lessons of faith and conviction of sin; obedience and service; seeking the glory of God above all things.

But this God just wants us to know that “they cannot make anyone love them. What they can do is to let themselves be loved. . . To learn that it is not good to compare themselves to others. . .To learn that it is not always enough that they be forgiven by others, but that they have to forgive themselves.”

There were some other things in there. And, again, it’s sometimes some helpful thoughts. But if it were truly God telling us the most significant things we need to know, I’m relatively sure that the Gospel message of sin and Christ’s sacrifice for sin would be in there somewhere.

One more time, I know this is just a video. I know it’s just a little cutesy thing to give us that little chill up our spine we like to get sometimes. But what bothers me is that this is the sort of thing that passes for profound in today’s church. Unfortunately, it seems a little too much like the attitude I spoke of in my last post where we can be “spiritual without being religious.” Or where we can always meet God “or whatever higher power that name brings to mind.”

Michael Horton wrote a book about a year ago called Christless Christianity. In it, he suggested that the American Church is moving to a place where our Gospel sounds more like the American Dream than the Gospel of Christ. He quoted Donald Grey Barnhouse’s illustration of what things would look like if Satan really took control of a city:

“All of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, ma’am,’ and the churches would be full every Sunday…where no Christ is preached.”

It short, spirituality and morality without religion, or without true Christian doctrine; an attempt to find God apart from the cross. I apologize if I’m overreacting (I probably am). This to me just seems symptomatic of a church culture in which there is little discernment, where there is more concern about warm fuzzies and felt needs, where my happiness is at the center of the service, and where we are more focused on ourselves and our emotional chills than we are about worshipping a Mighty God in the Splendor of His Holiness.

This is the result of a society where the majority would claim to be Christian, and yet many of those have no idea who Christ is, what His sacrifice is about, what true regeneration and salvation is all about. The church needs to return to faithfully preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and stop settling for emotional appeals that simply tug at the heart strings and make people feel good about themselves, while still leaving them in their sin. There’s nothing wrong with an emotional response. But let’s not mistake that moving tingle up our spine for the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Is The World Coming To?!

My jaw hurts. Now, that could be from eating too much pizza, which I do have a tendency to do; but I don’t think that’s the case this time. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the number of times it has hit the ground in the last two days. Let me explain.

It started while I was relaxing at home after a wonderful Easter service at church, just reading the Sunday paper like I always do: funnies first, sports second, the rest a distant third. Two items in particular caught my attention in “the rest” category.

First was USA Weekend insert cover story about spirituality. Obviously, that’s going to catch my eye, so I dove in. Now I don’t expect the secular media to do an apologetic for the Christian faith, but this was disgusting. It was touting the whole “being spiritual without being religious” mentality, saying that you could just be going about your day when you suddenly “experience the ineffable love and power of God or the higher power that name signifies to you.” God, “or the higher power that name signifies?” On Easter weekend? Really?

Worse yet is that they chose to quote the ravings of one of the nation’s ten “most influential protestant” leaders, who happens to be a hyper-liberal Episcopal priest. And this is who we get to represent Christianity for us? My jaw hit the ground in amazement and disgust.

Then I read an article about a New Jersey teenager who went to a party, sold herself for sex with several men present, and then sold her 7-year-old stepsister for these men to touch as well. That touching led to forced sex where as many as 7 men raped this poor little girl. Hence, the second trip to the floor my jaw made. This one complete with the accompanying nausea that this kind of thing could even be imagined, let alone acted out.

(Jaw dropping side note: The article from the Associated Press ended with a description of the housing complex where the event occurred. They say it is “fronted by a well-manicured lawn and features a colorful playground and a basketball court. An American flag hangs from a pole to the right of the front door.” What does that mean? Why is that included? What does the American flag flying have to do with all this? Are we suggesting that patriotic people are all corrupt at heart; or simply that this happens in the heart of Americana? Just struck me as an odd way to end the article)

Then I wake up this morning to the truly jaw dropping story of a Maine March for equal rights. Nothing so unusual, you say; marching for equal rights? Well the “right” we’re talking about here is the right for women to walk about in public bare-chested the way their male counterparts do. Seriously? Are we so ignorant that we see no difference at all between shirtless men and women?

To add insult to my already injured jaw, the organizer of this little march had the nerve to complain about the passer-bys who stopped and stared and even took pictures. Really? She was offended that men would dare ogle her bare chest that she was flaunting in public? Sorry, I can’t speak any longer with my jaw dragging the floor.

Folks, I know this isn’t truly a Christian nation. We may have been founded on Biblical principles, but as much as I would love to see us return to those foundations, we haven’t been a “Christian nation” for quite some time. Still, do we have to be Christian to have common sense or common decency? I guess the answer is, apparently, yes.

From a theological perspective this is a good reminder that the human heart is truly wicked and sick; and apart from the saving work of Christ, will act on that depravity and wickedness to its full ability. (I believe I wrote about that recently)

From a patriotic perspective, this is a reminder of what one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan once said: “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

Here’s praying that the church in America will wake up and stop playing games by trying to “accommodate the culture” and focus again on seeing men, women and children transformed by the power of the Gospel. And let’s hope the nation can hold its breath long enough in the meantime, lest we finally “go under” for good.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Christ's Love For Us - by Thomas Brooks

As we reflect on the Death and Resurrection of Christ this weekend, may it move us to worship, adoration and love for our grace giving God. Here are some fine words from Puritan pastor Thomas Brooks from his short piece, Christ's Love For Us:

See that you love the Lord Jesus Christ with a superlative love, with an overtopping love. There are none have suffered so much for you as Christ; there are none that can suffer so much for you as Christ. The least measure of that wrath that Christ has sustained for you, would have broke the hearts, necks, and backs of all created beings.

O my friends! There is no love but a superlative love that is any ways suitable to the transcendent sufferings of dear Jesus. Oh, love him above your lusts, love him above your relations, love him above the world, love him above all your outward contentments and enjoyments; yes, love him above your very lives; for thus the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, saints, primitive Christians, and the martyrs of old, have loved our Lord Jesus Christ with an overtopping love: Rev. 12:11, 'They loved not their lives unto the death;' that is, they slighted, contemned, yes, despised their lives, exposing them to hazard and loss, out of love to the Lamb, 'who had washed them in his blood.' I have read of one Kilian, a Dutch schoolmaster, who being asked whether he did not love his wife and children, answered, Were all the world a lump of gold, and in my hands to dispose of, I would leave it at my enemies feet to live with them in a prison; but my soul and my Savior are dearer to me than all. If my father, says Jerome, should stand before me, and my mother hang upon, and my brethren should press about me, I would break through my brethren, throw down my father, and tread underfoot my mother, to cleave to Jesus Christ.

Certainly the more Christ has suffered for us, the more dear Christ should be unto us; the more bitter his sufferings have been for us, the more sweet his love should be to us, and the more eminent should be our love to him. Oh, let a suffering Christ lie nearest your hearts; let him be your manna, your tree of life, your morning star. It is better to part with all than with this pearl of price. Christ is that golden pipe through which the golden oil of salvation runs; and oh. how should this inflame our love to Christ! Oh that our hearts were more affected with the sufferings of Christ! Who can tread upon these hot coals, and his heart not burn in love to Christ, and cry out with Ignatius, Christ my love is crucified? Cant. 8:7,8. If a friend should die for us, how would our hearts be affected with his kindness! and shall the God of glory lay down his life for us, and shall we not be affected with his goodness 1 John 10:17, 18. Shall Saul be affected with David's kindness in sparing his life, 1 Sam. 24:16, and shall not we be affected with Christ's kindness, who, to save our life, lost his own? Oh, the infinite love of Christ, that he should leave his Father's bosom, John 1:18, and come down from heaven, that he might carry you up to heaven, John 14:1-4; that he that was a Son should take upon him the form of a servant, Phil. 2:5-8; that you of slaves should be made sons, of enemies should be made friends, of heirs of wrath should be made heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, Rom. 8:17; that to save us from everlasting ruin, Christ should stick at nothing, but be willing to be made flesh, to lie in a manger, to be tempted, deserted, persecuted, and to die upon a cross!

Oh, what flames of love should these things kindle in all our hearts to Christ! Love is compared to fire; in heaping love upon our enemy, we heap coals of fire upon his head, Rom. 12:19, 20; Prov. 26:21. Now the property of fire is to turn all it meets with into its own nature: fire makes all things fire; the coal makes burning coals; and is it not a wonder then that Christ, having heaped abundance of the fiery coals of his love upon our heads, we should yet be as cold as corpses in our love to him. Ah! what sad metal are we made of, that Christ's fiery love cannot inflame our love to Christ! Moses wondered why the bush consumed not, when he sees it all on fire, Exod. 3:3; but if you please but to look into your own hearts, you shall see a greater wonder; for you shall see that, though you walk like those three children in the fiery furnace, Dan. 3, even in the midst of Christ's fiery love flaming round about you; yet there is but little, very little, true smell of that sweet fire of love to be felt or found upon you or in you. Oh, when shall the sufferings of a dear and tenderhearted Savior kindle such a flame of love in all our hearts, as shall still be abreaking forth in our lips and lives, in our words and ways, to the praise and glory of free grace? Oh that the sufferings of a loving Jesus might at last make us all sick of love! Cant. 2:5. Oh let him forever lie between our breasts, Cant. 1:13, who has left his Father's bosom for a time, that he might be embosomed by us forever.