The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Month: July 2014

Where Is God When We Need Him? (Part 1)

P.AllanThousands of Jewish prisoners stood in the Appelplatz, the concentration camp’s roll call grounds. SS with their machine guns surrounded them.  Before them stood three gallows, in their shadow three prisoners condemned to die–two men and one pale, sad-eyed boy.  The three were ordered to step onto the chair in front of them.  In unison, nooses were placed around their necks.  Somewhere among the crowd, a prisoner muttered, “Where is merciful God, where is He?”  At the signal, the three chairs were tipped.  Total silence.   Then the SS forced the prisoners to march past the victims, to see up close the cost of disobedience.  When Elie passed, he could see the two men were dead.  But the third rope still moved.  The child, too light, was still breathing.  For another half hour the boy lingered between life and death, writhing on the end of the rope.  Again came a voice from among the Jewish prisoners:  “For God’s sake, where is God?”  And from within Elie rose this silent answer:  “Where is He?  This is where–hanging here from this gallows . . . ”

Elie Weisel, authored Night, the story of his horrendous suffering in a Nazi concentration camp.  It’s a gripping, sickening, beyond-belief account of outright Evil.  (Available from Amazon.  Under $6 in paperback, under $4 on Kindle) It raises the bold-face question:  Where is God when we need him?

I’m raising the question because most of us have asked it though our suffering has been less.  Yet some of us have endured unbearable pain and permanent emotional scars.  We might call that “common” suffering, not because it’s minor but because it’s everywhere.  Yet Evil has risen up like a real-life horror movie at certain times and places in history, such as 80 years ago when a dozen or so Nazi leaders gathered around a dining room table in a palatial home and, while they ate and drank, planned the extermination of every Jew in Europe.  Where was God when whole neighborhoods were jammed into box cars and taken away to die in gas chambers?  When babies were thrown into the air to be shot like beer cans?  When men and boys on interminable forced marches through the snow fell exhausted and were trampled and froze to death?

History is littered with more atrocities than I can cite here.  But not only history.  Read or watch today’s news.  War in Gaza, in Syria, in the Ukraine, still in Iraq.  A “humanitarian crisis” on the U.S. southern border.  Ebola virus in Africa.  Terrorist threats in Europe and the U.S.  Not just stories or statistics, these are people like us going through a personal hell.   Imagine if we, like God, could view the whole earth’s suffering in one panoramic sweep!  I suspect we might feel as I did when I read Weisel’s book–shocked by Evil, sickened by suffering, wondering how God could have allowed such barbarism.

That brings us back to the question:  Where is God when we need him?  Skeptics and atheists point to the suffering world as evidence for no God.  Christians have wrestled for centuries with “the problem of suffering.”

Where is God when we need him?  We can’t placate questioners with platitudes.  Nor can we criticize people who honestly ask it–because we’ve asked it.  So did the psalmists . . .

  • “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.  My soul also is greatly troubled.  But you, O LORD–how long?” (Psalm 6:2,3).
  • “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).
  • “How long, O LORD?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).
  • “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1,2).

We need answers.  We need them when we are dragging through our own “dark night of the soul”.  We need them when family or fellow believer is suffering.  We need them to answer the unbeliever who honestly doubts how a good and powerful God could allow such a hurting world.

Next post I’ll try to suggest some answers.  Meanwhile, think about the question.  Remember some of your suffering and how you felt when you found yourself asking it.  We can’t brush it off or hide it with “positive thinking.”   We who believe in the God of the Bible have to acknowledge the question and find reasonable answers–for ourselves and for this world that hurts so much.  If we don’t, and if we can’t speak with acts of mercy, we’ll have nothing to say and no one to listen. 

 

 

 

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Encouraging

O PreacherI received a greeting card yesterday from a beautiful Christian lady in our church.  (Not the one with me in this photo.)  It encouraged me beyond words, and humbled me.

I have a progressively worsening physical disability.   Dark discouragement sometimes weighs heavily on me.  Yesterday was the worst.  So when her card arrived in the mail it was as if she was hiding in my house and peeking into my heart.  (Actually the Lord was!)

These words gleamed on the front of the card:  “THE LORD SHALL GUIDE THEE CONTINUALLY–Isaiah 58:11.  ”  Inside she wrote, ” . . . I just wanted to encourage you to remember that God is using you now in ways you may not see.  You may not realize how the picture of your steadfastness and endurance encourages the rest of us to keep pushing on.”  She enclosed part of a sermon from Charles Spurgeon . . .

“You look at the weather-beaten sailor, the man who is at home on the sea–he has a bronzed face and mahogany-colored flesh.  He looks as tough as an oak and as hardy as if he were made of iron . . . How did the man become so accustomed to hardship, so able to breast the storm, so that he does not care [from where the wind blows]? . . . how did he come to have such strength?  By doing business in great waters! . . . Now trial works in the saints that spiritual hardihood which cannot be learned in ease!  You may go to school forever, but you cannot learn endurance there! . . . Strong faith and brave patience come of trouble and a few men in the Church who have thus been prepared are worth anything in times of tempest . . .

“Moreover, our trials, when blessed of God to make us patient, ripen us . . . there is a sort of mellowness about Believers who have endured a great deal of affliction that you never see in other people . . . A certain measure of sunlight is needed to bring out the real flavor of fruits–and when a fruit has felt its measure of burning sun, it develops a lusciousness which we all delight in.  So is it in men and women–a certain amount of trouble appears to be necessary to create a certain sugar of graciousness in them . . . You must have known such men and such women, and have said to yourselves, ‘I wish I could be like they are–so calm so quiet, so self-contained, so happy–and when not happy, yet so content not to be happy, so mature in judgment, so spiritual in conversation, so truly ripe.’  This only comes to those in whom the proof of their faith works experience and then experience brings forth the fruits of the Spirit.”

Retirement from pastoral ministry driven by a progressively-worsening disability makes me often feel useless.  You see then why this dear lady’s card encouraged me.  (And even more so because she has long had to cope with physical pain of her own.)  It also humbled me, because I know often I feel anything but steadfast and enduring and fruitful and strong in faith and patience!  To God be the glory for the fruit he grows in us which often is seen only by others!

Our churches and neighborhoods are filled with discouraged people.  This is why we are told . . .

” . . . encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:13).

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

It’s why Paul and Barnabas returned to the new churches “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

And it’s why we can be assured that behind whatever little encouragement we feel we may have to give is the LORD who “[hears] the desire of the afflicted [ and encourages] them and [listens] to their cry” (Psalm 10:17).  Yesterday the Lord spoke through this dear lady to encourage me.  The Lord used her, at least in part, because she fills her mind with God’s Word and spends time praying in his presence–and because she herself bears the fruit of faith and patience grown only in weathering the storm of suffering.

So thank you, dear friend in Christ, for encouraging me with the truth of Christ.  May your example move us all to encourage one another so that the testing of our faith in suffering will produce endurance and character and hope until the day of Christ’s coming when death itself will be swallowed in victory!

 

 

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Abraham: Gospel Opening Act

P.AllanMusic concerts often start with an opening act.  That’s the band that gets your juices flowing  for the headliner to follow.  Abram (later renamed Abraham) was the Gospel’s opening act.  About 48 A.D. the apostle Paul wrote . . .

“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘ In you shall all the nations be blessed'” (Galatians 3:8).

“Beforehand” was 2000 B.C.  Abram was in Haran, a city in today’s Turkey, with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, when the LORD said to him . . .

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1).

The Gospel Beforehand. That’s “the Gospel beforehand”–“in you (Abram) all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  To be “blessed” is “to be granted happiness, health and prosperity”.  The Gospel (Good News!) is that God intends to bless people from among all the peoples on earth with happiness, health and prosperity” (see previous post, “Welfare for the World”).

Why Knowing The Gospel Beforehand Is Important.  The Bible can be a confusing book to read.  It helps to know one major theme (among several) runs through it from start to finish:  the Gospel.  With Abram it’s like a concert’s opening act.  It’s not what you came for.  It’s a taste of what’s to come, but not the headliner.  So–to change the metaphor–the gospel to Abram is a seed anticipating the flower, an appetizer looking forward to the main course.  The gospel to Abram doesn’t tell us how God will bless all the nations, or when, or why.  The LORD will reveal that progressively through the Old Testament to the New, from Abraham ultimately to Jesus.

Echoes of the Gospel Beforehand.  So later God said to Abram, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:4,5).

Still later, after Abraham obeyed the LORD and offered his only son Isaac as a sacrifice (only to be stopped by the LORD at the last moment, who then provided a substitute-sacrifice), the LORD promised Abraham, ” . . . in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:18).

Then the echo came to Abraham’s son Isaac:  ” . . . I will be with you and bless you, for to you and your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven  . . . And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed . . . ” (Genesis 26:3,4).

It echoed again to Abraham’s grandson Jacob:  “Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14).

The Gospel Beforehand in the New Testament.  After Jesus was crucified, resurrected and ascended, the apostle Peter preached this ringing echo to the Jews in Jerusalem, “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:25,26).  This echo tells us that the “gospel beforehand” was preached first to the Jews in Jerusalem.

But it would not be limited to the natural descendants of Abraham. The apostle Paul wrote a resounding echo to the church:  ” . . . Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness . . . Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7) . . . “Now the promises were made to his offspring.  It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16) . . . ” . . . so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).  This echo reveals Jesus Christ is the offspring of Abraham through whom God now blesses the nations. It reveals that the content of the blessing:  God the Holy Spirit comes to regenerate, indwell and transform people from among all nations.  And it reveals that this blessing comes to those who believe (who trust, who stake everything on Jesus).

Do You Hear the Gospel Beforehand?  For at least 4000 years God has been announcing this gospel, this good news.  With Abraham he announced it like an opening act, like a seed, like an appetizer.  Then he announced a little more here and there throughout the Old Testament.  Then “the Headliner” appeared –Jesus Christ.

Do you see what God has been doing?  Do you realize God started the concert with Abraham?  More importantly, do you hear the beautiful, stirring, climaxing music in Jesus?  Do you believe his gospel song so that you are part of the ongoing symphony?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welfare for the World

P.AllanWe humans have needed welfare since the start.

Reaction to Paradise. God created a paradise for our first parents, tacked a “Do Not Touch” sign on one tree, and they surrendered to the Satan-serpent, ate forbidden fruit, and got tossed from Eden.  Adam and Eve gave birth to two sons; one murdered the other.  Humans multiplied; so did their evil. The LORD regretted creating them, destroyed them all (except righteous Noah and his family) with a ferocious flood.  But flood waters didn’t wash away sin-nature.  As humans multiplied again, so did moral corruption.  This time evil united to build a tower for its own fame; the LORD shattered and scattered them throughout the earth.

“Welfare” according to Webster is  “the condition of health, prosperity and happiness.”  Humans, intent on welfare their way, provoked God’s wrath repeatedly.  We’ve needed welfare from the start.

A Stunning Promise.  What came next was startling.  Centuries passed.  People groups spread.  Then the LORD spoke this stunning promise to a man named Abram:  “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).  Blessed? 

“Blessed” means  “to be granted happiness, health or prosperity” (The World English Dictionary).  “Welfare” and “blessed” then are virtual synonyms.  When the LORD promised “blessing” to all the families of the earth” he was promising welfare for the world– just what the world desperately needed.

A little about Abram.  2000 B.C.  Abram’s father, Terah, a descendent of Shem, one of Noah’s sons (Genesis 11:10-26), was an idol-worshiper (Joshua 24:2).   Terah’s family lived in the city of Ur, a cultural center on the northwest corner of the Persian Gulf (today’s Iraq).

For reasons not explained, God appeared to one of Terah’s sons–Abram–with this message:  “Go out from your land and from you kindred and go into the land that I will show you” (Acts 7:2,3).  Consequently, “Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran  (Abram’s brother who had died). . . and Sarai his daughter-in-law . . . and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran (a caravan-route city about 600 miles to the northwest) they settled there . . . and Terah died” (Genesis 11:31,32).  

Some time later the LORD again spoke to Abram:  ” Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Without details,  the Scripture then says, “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him . . . And Abram took Sarai his wife . . . and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan” (Genesis 12:4,5).  How could Abram move again only on the basis of what he heard?  Faith.   “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance” (Hebrews 11:8).  We’re told that so we might be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit [God’s] promises” (Hebrews 6:12).  We’re told that so we might walk by faith, not by sight.  We’re told that so we might trust the promises of God whom we can’t see and don’t hear.   Seems risky.  Almost foolish.  Philip Yancey says, “Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

The Most Head-Scratching Wonder.  But the most head-scratching wonder of this narrative isn’t Abram’s faith.  The most head-scratching wonder of this narrative is God’s mercy.   Since he created Eden paradise for Adam and Eve, God had been disbelieved, disobeyed, discarded and dismissed by humans.  For the sake of his own name and the preservation of his creation, God had to expel, drown and scatter evil mankind.  Civilization may have culturally progressed, but humans morally regressed.  Yet the Lord made Abram this stunningly merciful promise:   ” . . . in you all the families of the earth will be given happiness, health and prosperity.”

Welfare for the world.  A glimpse of God’s heart.  He’s not out to hurt or destroy.  Not bent on causing pain and suffering, despite the troubles we all endure.  He’s not indifferent to disasters.   He wants people from among all peoples on earth to be happy, healthy and prosperous.  He’s not a harsh judge (though our sin before his holiness requires judgment).  He’s not a senile white-haired grandfather (though often he works in ways that seem senseless).  “The LORD [is] the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).  Here two thousand years before the offspring of Abraham (Jesus, the Christ) came to fulfill this wonderful promise (Galatians 3:16), we catch a glimpse of God’s merciful welfare for the world.

These days statistics show Americans increasingly depend on welfare from Washington. Do we realize that the ultimate welfare on which we all must depend is from the compassionate, gracious, slow-to-anger, abounding-in-love, faithful God who offers welfare to the world through the offspring of Abraham?  And this welfare comes, not by signing up, but by bowing down in faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Treasure Principle–FREE

Product DetailsHere’s an offer for a free book you may not want.

It’s about giving money away–joyfully.

Randy Alcorn is a bestselling author and founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.  He wrote this little book (4 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches, 95 pages) back in 2001.  My brother-in-law, praising it, gave me a copy.  I found it to be the best book I ever read on the subject.  Alcorn’s writing is clear, crisp, concise and challenging.  John Piper endorsed it like this:  “Supercharged with stunning, divine truth!  Lightning struck over and over as I read it.”

“You can’t take it with you–but you can send it on ahead.”  That’s the Treasure Principle.  Here are its keys:

  • God owns everything.  I’m his money manger.
  • My heart always goes where I put God’s money.
  • Heaven, not earth, is my home.
  • I should live, not for the dot, but for the line.
  • Giving is the only antidote to materialism.
  • God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.

I have only two copies.  So, if you’d like one, reply in the Comments section of this post with your name, how I can reach you and why you would like the book.  Be among the first two and it’s yours.

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Pure Worship and the Border Crisis

P.Allan“More than 52,000 children–unaccompanied by an adult–have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since October of last year.  About 75% of the children are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  The rest are from Mexico.  They travel by bus, train, car and raft to Mexico, often led by smugglers who charge up to $10,000 each, officials say.  They then walk across the border and into the custody of U.S. agents.  It’s a punishing journey that leaves the children and teens vulnerable to abuse or sex trafficking.  In June, the body of a 15-year-old Guatemalan boy was found in some brush at the border.

Families are sending their children to the U.S. to escape crime, gangs and poverty and to reunite with relatives who may already be on American soil.  The surge appears to be rooted in rumors that a change in U.S. immigration policies means any child who crosses the border can stay.  It’s a myth.  Children who arrived after 2007 are not eligible for deferred deportations or a proposed path to citizenship.

By law, unaccompanied children are transferred into the custody of the Department of Health and Family Services within 72 hours of their arrest.  The next stop is temporary shelters–a network of 100 around the country that are over capacity–until authorities can find family or foster homes to take them while their cases play out in immigration court, a process that can take years.  While Mexican adults are often sent right back across the border, the women with children who come from Central America are being kept in family detention centers or let go with orders to return for a court date.” (The preceding is from NBC News at http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/immigration-border-crisis/basics-border-crisis-how-did-we-get-here-n147601.)

The following is from God’s Word . . .

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to visit orphans and widows
in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 2:27).

” . . . I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.  I was a stranger
and you welcomed me” (Jesus–Matthew 25:35).

” . . . learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the
widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

Precise interpretation for each of those passages depends on context.  But even without delving into that it’s clear God cares about oppressed people and requires his people to care as well.  Isaiah warned of the Lord’s judgment if Israel didn’t.  Jesus explained that when we care for the needy we are caring for him.  And James said care for orphans and widows is the religion (the Greek word connotes the idea of worship-in-action) that God accepts as pure and undefiled.

So what should the church do?  What will the church do?

Finger-pointing at Washington won’t help, though this border mess is just another example of inept politicians (including the President–maybe especially the President) who have refused for years to sacrifice an inch of their political careers to close U.S. borders.  (Do you see why the world needs a King who will rule in justice and righteousness? [Isaiah 9:6,7])

“Not-in-my-town” protests won’t help, though the federal government “dumping” illegal immigrants on an unprepared city is unfair to the town and uncaring to the children and women and will only lead to more abuse.

Blaming sin won’t help, though this crisis (a culmination of multiple human evils in Central America, Mexico and Washington) is at root the result of human sin against our Creator and the consequences of rejecting our Savior who alone can change human hearts and a classic example of a fallen world ruled by fallen humans.

What will help?  Obviously closing the border.  (Every politician’s face in Washington should be red with shame for not getting this done–both to prevent such a crisis and protect the American people.)  Why doesn’t the President send the National Guard?  Just as obviously, passing legitimate immigration reform would help.  (I don’t know details and I’m afraid politicians will mess it up even if they could cooperate to get it done.  Is failing government a sign we are now a nation living God’s wrath? [Romans 1:18-32])

Neither of those things, though, will help these children now.  Besides, the church’s concern shouldn’t be first with Washington; the church’s first concern should be with the Kingdom.  What would our King do?  What would he have us do?  How would he have us be salt in this corrupt earth and light in this dark world for the Father’s glory  in this crises (Matthew 5:13-16)?

I’m not sure.  But I am sure of this:  according to Jesus, James and Isaiah, we can’t just turn off the TV and go to bed.

Pic 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bang (BIG)!

Where did the universe come from?  Why does it exist?

Don’t yawn!  The questions carry much greater significance than dorm students debating philosophy.

The Troublesome Consequences of “No Beginning.”  If science can prove the universe had no beginning, we should burn our Bibles and close down our church buildingsWe who trust our lives to Jesus Christ
” . . . are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).  Why?  Because the Gospel of God starts with this declaration:  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  If science can disprove that one statement, everything that follows all the way to Revelation 22:21 is a myth.  There is no God, no sin, no Savior, no heaven, no new creation.  Life is nothing more than a series of random events from birth to death.  The only meaning it holds is the meaning we give it.  The only hope we have lies in our own heads.

Old Greek philosophers to today’s atheists–including many “scientists”– have rejected the idea that the universe had a beginning.    Carl Sagan–astronomer, astrophysicist, and author who died in 1996–pop- ularized that rejection with this pronouncement:  “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”  No beginning.  No God.  No Gospel.

A Startling Discovery.  Then in 1929 Edwin Hubble (the telescope guy) discovered that  light from distant galaxies appears redder than it should.  His conclusion:  the redder light shows the universe is expanding.  William Lane Craig, analytical philosopher and Christian theologian, illustrates.  “[I]magine  a balloon with buttons glued on it.  As you blow up the balloon, the buttons get farther and farther apart, even though they are stuck in place.  These buttons are just like the galaxies in space.  As space itself expands, all the galaxies in the universe grow farther and farther apart” (Who Made God?, edited by Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler).

What’s the point?  If we’re going to fly to another galaxy we better go now while it’s closer?  No.  The point is  the farther back in time, the denser the universe until we reach a point of infinite density from which the universe began to expand.  This initial event is what scientists call the “Big Bang.”  Philosopher Quentin Smith says:  “[The Big Bang] belongs analytically to the concept of the cosmological singularity that is not the effect of prior physical events” (Who Made God?).  In other words (for us commoners who got lost in “cosmological singularity”), the Big Bang event could not have been caused naturally and physically.  Therefore, the universe had a beginning and seems to have been created from nothing !

A Reluctantly-Convinced Scientific Community.  Naturally, this idea disturbed some people.  In fact,
“The history of twentieth century cosmology has been the history of the repeated falsification of . . . nonstandard theories (of the universe) and the corroboration of the Big Bang theory” (Naturalism:  A Critical Appraisal, edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland).

This led J. M Wersinger, associate professor in physics and NASA Grant Fellow at Auburn University, to write“At first the scientific community was very reluctant to accept the idea of a birth of the universe.  Not only did the Big Bang model seem to give in to the Judeo-Christian idea of a beginning of the world, but it also seemed to call for an act of supernatural creation . . . It took time, observational evidence, and careful verification of predictions made by the Big Bang model to convince the scientific community to accept the idea of a cosmic genesis . . . the Big Bang is a very successful model that imposed itself on a reluctant scientific community” (“Genesis:  The Origin of the Universe,” National Forum, 1996).

Science has not disproved Genesis 1:1.  Quite the contrary:  the scientific community has (reluctantly) accepted the idea of a “cosmic genesis” that apparently surrenders to the idea of the universe’s beginning and supernatural creation.  Opponents remain.  But the scientific fact stands strong against naturalistic (atheistic) ideology.

The Bigness of the “Bang”.  Can a society that submits to “the final word” of science believe Genesis 1:1?  There’s no legitimate reason not to, since a reluctant scientific community has signed on to “the Big Bang”.  Faith in God’s Word isn’t limited to scientific nincompoops! Good science bears witness to the holy Scriptures.

But our reaction should be more than intellectual; it should be doxological.  That is, it should be glorious words of worship like those the apostle John heard the twenty-four elders sing before God’s throne . . .

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

When we put science’s Big Bang together with God’s Genesis 1:1 the outcome should be Big Worship!

 

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The Church and the 4th of July

O PreacherIt’s hard for me to believe that the U.S. government as it is today is from God.

But what Paul wrote in the days of the Roman Empire is true now:  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1,2).

So we subject ourselves to the government’s laws (even when as it appears these days some government “servants” themselves don’t!).  Still we must, because God commands it and, therefore, paying taxes (Romans 13:7) is worship.  (I’d rather sing.)

Nevertheless, we must remember our primary allegiance is to our God and his kingdom.  ” . . . our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).  We are a people who live with one foot in the U.S.A. and the other in the Kingdom of God.  We subject ourselves to this nation’s laws because we belong to a King who rules over all, because we believe the day comes soon when ” . . . at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10,11).  We bow to Jesus now by respecting those in governmental authority over us (Romans 13:7).

But if we don’t do more than that we’ve failed in our mission.  Because God’s kingdom in Christ is sovereign, because God’s kingdom in Christ will outlast all others, because God’s kingdom in Christ is our only hope for a truly righteous and just government, we must spread the news about it.  One way is by living and speaking prophetically–not prophetically as in “foretelling the future” but prophetically as in “calling people to the covenant laws of God.”

I don’t know the Hobby Lobby people personally.  I assume, though, they withstood the Obama care law that required them to provide abortion-causing contraceptives to their employees because they believed the higher law of the kingdom of God.  In other words, they took a prophetic stance.  They insisted they were accountable first to God.  It seems to me we will face more opportunities such as this in the future.  We need to be ready.

Meanwhile, we can point to “the High King of Heaven” by loving the unlovable, by nurturing strong marriages, by raising our children to live like children of the King, and by using the freedoms God has given us in this country to let it be known that we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” who “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13,16).

 

 

 

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Sunday Morning Before Worship

O Preacher7:31 Sunday morning.  Lois has worship music playing on a CD.  In a few hours our church will gather for worship.  I sit at my desk praying–thinking really about how I need that worship, how I long for it and love it.

I know worship is more than Sunday morning singing.  It’s living to and for God.  That’s what Paul called us to:  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).  So, the right response to God’s mercies in Christ is worshiping by loving my wife and teaching my (grown) children and grandchildren by word and example how to follow Jesus–and simply by seeking to do everything I do to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

I know I can worship in private.  At this ordinary desk in the aloneness of my room I can strum my guitar and sing to the Lord.  I can quietly read his holy Word and tell him my troubles or simply sit in his precious presence.  “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul . . . you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-3a,4b).

But there’s joy in meeting together that I don’t find in daily living for the Lord or in stealing away to be alone with him.  Partly it’s the encouragement the Hebrews’ writer spoke of:  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24,25).   I need that in-the-flesh reminder that I’m part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2 Peter 2:9).  I need that group reminder that we are a people “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).  And he’s coming soon.

Partly the joy of meeting together for worship is the preaching of God’s Word about which Paul wrote to Timothy:  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).  The risen Christ has given “shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13).  I need Christ’s gifted and given men to show me Christ in his Word in a way I can’t find alone.  I need to be nourished by that Word to be a living, contributing part of Christ’s body on earth.

But singing to the Lord–how I love that!  I certainly don’t put singing above the preaching.  But there’s nothing that engages the depth of my soul in worship to the Lord like singing to the Lord.  He is so much greater than mere speaking can express.  The difference between saying, “I love you, Lord”, and singing, “I love you Lord” is incalculable.  It catches up my heart, my emotions, my affections into heavenly places.  It seems to turn our ordinary church sanctuary into holy ground.  For it’s then that I–and we–enter into the very presence of our Father.  It’s then that I sing for joy or almost tremble in fear or bow down in reverence or sit silently overwhelmed by the nearness of God who loved me in my sin and gave his Son to live for my righteousness and die for my rescue from wrath.  He is there.  And I feel his presence.  I sense his presence.  He’s like a terrifying yet gentle sea wave rolling over us, embracing us, drenching us with his glory (at least as much of it as we can bear this side of heaven).

“One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that I will seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

“I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:2).

” . . . in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

So it’s Sunday morning before worship.  In my solitary silence I long to meet the Lord in our gathering.  Come with me . . .

 

(*Note:  This is a correction of the previous post.  Sorry!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday Morning Before Worship

O Preacher7:31 Sunday morning.  Lois has worship music playing on a CD.  In a few hours our church will gather for worship.  I sit at my desk praying–thinking really about how I need that worship, how I long for it and love it.

I know worship is more than Sunday morning singing.  It’s living to and for God.  That’s what Paul called us to:  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).  So, the right response to God’s mercies in Christ is worshiping by loving my wife and teaching my (grown) children and grandchildren by word and example how to follow Jesus–and simply by seeking to do everything I do to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

I know I can worship in private.  At this ordinary desk in the aloneness of my room I can strum my guitar and sing to the Lord.  I can quietly read his holy Word and tell him my troubles or simply sit in his precious presence.  “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul . . . you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-3a,4b).

But there’s joy in meeting together that I don’t find in daily living for the Lord or in stealing away to be alone with him.  Partly it’s the encouragement the Hebrews’ writer spoke of:  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24,25).   I need that in-the-flesh reminder that I’m part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2 Peter 2:9).  I need that group reminder that we are a people “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).  And he’s coming soon.

Partly the joy of meeting together for worship is the preaching of God’s Word about which Paul wrote to Timothy:  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).  The risen Christ has given “shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13).  I need Christ’s gifted and given men to show me Christ in his Word in a way I can’t find alone.  I need to be nourished by that Word to be a living, contributing part of Christ’s body on earth.

But singing to the Lord–how I love that!  I certainly don’t put singing above the preaching.  But there’s nothing that engages the depth of my soul in worship to the Lord like singing to the Lord.  He is so much greater than mere speaking can express.  The difference between saying, “I love you, Lord”, and singing, “I love you Lord” is incalculable.  It catches up my heart, my emotions, my affections into heavenly places.  It seems to turn our ordinary church sanctuary into holy ground.  For it’s then that I–and we–enter into the very presence of our Father.  It’s then that I sing for joy or almost tremble in fear or bow down in reverence or sit silently overwhelmed by the nearness of God who loved me in my sin and gave his Son to live for my righteousness and die for my rescue from wrath.  He is there.  And I feel his presence.  I sense his presence.  He’s like a terrifying yet gentle sea wave rolling over us, embracing us, drenching us with his glory (at least as much of it as we can bear this side of heaven).

“One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that I will seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

“I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:2).

” . . . in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

So it’s Sunday morning before worship.  In my solitary silence I long to meet the Lord in our gathering.  Come with me . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please like & share:

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