Archive | September, 2011
Growing in the Word podcast: 9-25-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 9-25-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from September 25th, 2011.

Growing in the Word podcast: 9-18-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 9-18-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from September 18th, 2011.

Tough to Tackle Tuesday: Why a Christian Worldview Matters

Tough to Tackle Tuesday: Why a Christian Worldview Matters

Last Sunday I was preaching from Mark 9:14-29 about the demon possessed boy the disciples encounter at the foot of the mountain just after the Transfiguration.  I explained that the boy, in his pathetic state of being cast into the fire by the demon and rolling in the dirt, was a picture of what Satan loves to do: distort the image of God in man.  The contrast in Mark 9 is obvious- the glory of the Mount of Transfiguration and the pain of life in the valley below.  What God created was perfect.  Adam and Eve enjoyed utopia in the Garden of Eden and were not separated from God.  However, one act of disobedience distorted that perfection.  The purpose of a Christian worldview is to see past the deception and distortion of Satan masking God’s truth and to view all of life through a “divine grid” whereby faith is the means in which we interpret and interact with everything in life.

Sometimes we see this distortion graphically, as with the case of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9, or Anders Breivik killing 85 teenagers at a youth camp in Norway, or terrorists flying planes into buildings.  Satan longs to distort the image of God in man- making us killers and haters, rather than compassionately caring for our fellow man.  Satan also longs to distort the reflection of God in many other areas of life.  This is where worldview comes into play.  I understand that many people reading this will scoff at any notion that the great foundation stones of society owe their founding and thanks to Christianity and should be interpreted through faith.  But consider the following areas as just a sampling of the impact belief in God has on society in general. (I credit Charles Colson for his excellent work on worldview in much of the material discussed below).

Business/economics: The great writer Michael Novak, writing on the brilliance of Western liberal democracy that we enjoy in our country, said it is like a stool with three legs.  The three legs are: political freedom, economic freedom, and moral restraint.  Novak argued that if just one of these legs is removed, the stool topples over.  When we fail to see business/economics through a biblical worldview, we attempt to remove the leg of moral restraint.  Capitalism is a terrific economic model.  Why? Because of the economic models out there, it best reflects the principle of freedom found in Christianity.  I know capitalism takes a hit from many, including a growing number of young Christians today, but it is the model that reflects a bedrock principle of faith in God.  If you don’t like capitalism, have you tried communism?

That said, the problems we do have with capitalism is when we fail to view it through the lens of a biblical worldview.  Capitalism without the moral restraint of Christianity becomes nothing more than greed.  In the past, CEO’s would pay themselves a multiple of what the worker on the floor was making.  Business owners would be committed to making a good product that benefitted the community, provided jobs, and gave them the satisfaction of being industrious.  That is the beauty of capitalism.  However, remove the moral restraint and we have CEO’s paying themselves $40 million a year while their workers pensions are being cut.  In short, business/economics owes its health to a Christian worldview.

Law/government: Originally, laws were a reflection of a higher law- God’s Law.  Many of the laws we have today are traced back to the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament.  For example, it is illegal in our country to kill someone or steal from someone.  If you want to see how law and government are actually an extension or reflection of God’s Law, read Martin Luther King’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail– a must read for everyone.  Correspondingly, the New Testament teaches that the role of government is essentially twofold: to provide order/peace and to administer justice.  When government fulfills these two roles, it allows people to follow the law and to follow God.  Let me insert here that in no way do I advocate a theocracy.  We don’t want a theocracy because that inhibits freedom.  No one who follows Christ today does so because it is forced upon them.  They exercise their free will to live as Christians because they want to.

Today we have moved away from a biblical worldview when it comes to law/government.  When God is removed from the equation and law is no longer seen as a reflection of higher law, we see the source of law as man and not God.  Now, law loses its authority.  Many people today do not see God as the source of law, but rather as Colson puts it, “the nine people in black robes who sit on Mt. Olympus.”  If man is the origin of law the response of the people is no longer respect, but “so what?”  Why should we obey or enforce the law?  If we wonder why there seems to be an undertow of anarchy, I think this is the reason.

The reality is that Western liberal democracy is a product of Christianity.  It’s hard to honestly deny this.  Go back to the days of the reformation.  The Scottish minister Samuel Rutherford wrote Lex Rex during the time of the divine right of kings.  His book essentially makes one major point: it used to be that the law was king (when we viewed it through a biblical/faith perspective), but now the king is the law.  If the law is not viewed as being a reflection of God’s truth, but rather the product of man, and the people rebel, then dictatorial rule is the remaining option.  You may want to argue with me here and ask how that is so given what we see in Islamic countries?  Their law is from “God” and yet the leaders are dictators.  My response is that their God is not the God of the Bible, the one true God, and thus the law they espouse is not truth.

We also see the leaders of the Reformation writing about the spheres of responsibility that basically led to the balance of powers seen in our government.  The founding fathers did not create a theocracy, and rightfully so.  Yet, they did view their world and the birth of a nation through a biblical worldview.  The inclusion of the balance of powers in our Constitution is evidence of this.  They knew man is a sinner.  No one man could be trusted with all of the power.  Law and government work best when seen through a biblical worldview.

Science: Science is the product of Christianity.  I am positive many will laugh out loud after reading that statement.  Yet, the evidence is there.  Science in the ancient world was centered on the Greek presupposition of one main principle: the universe is eternal.  Any observation, question, or research that violated that principle was summarily dismissed.  Interestingly, the men who began to challenge this notion- men such as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Mendel, and Newton were all Christians. Viewing life through a biblical worldview led them to believe that the universe was created in an orderly fashion.  It was Christians who moved away from the Greek presupposition and gave things a clean slate for exploration and research.  As a result, the scientific method was born.  Oddly, the “science” coming from those espousing naturalistic evolution isn’t very scientific.  Like the Greeks of old, modern science has abandoned the scientific method when it comes to evolution.  Most scientists abide by one foundational presupposition by which all things are either considered or ignored: there is no God and naturalistic evolution is a fact.  Any evidence of intelligent design, and the evidence is in general more credible than that for naturalistic evolution, is roundly rejected.  Even science owes a great deal to a biblical worldview.

As you can see, a biblical worldview matters because it helps us see through the distortion and deception Satan, sin, and humanism have cast on everything.  Christianity is much more than just “being saved.”  It should not be compartmentalized or pigeon holed in our personal lives or society.  It needs to be the lens through which we view everything in our world.

 

Reflecting on 9/11: Struggling With the Question of Why Bad Things Happen

Reflecting on 9/11: Struggling With the Question of Why Bad Things Happen

Ten years ago this Sunday our nation was thrust into one of the greatest crises and tragedies it ever faced- the infamous events of 9/11/01. Words will never describe the grief and heartache that hit so many on that terrible day.  9/11 changed so many things for all of us.  As we look back at the scenes of planes flying into buildings, explosions and plumes of smoke, people wounded and covered in dust, and others desperately looking for their loved ones we ponder one of the oldest questions man has asked: If there is a God who is good and loving, why do things like this happen?  9/11 was a storm that shook us to the core and one we will never forget.  How do we make sense of horrific storms such as 9/11 that hit our nation? Our lives?  Our families?          

All of us have experienced storms in life, and not just the ones that have wind, rain, thunder, and lightning.  We have experienced the storms of death, sickness, pain, loneliness, hopelessness, and temptation.  We have been assaulted by family troubles, troubles at work, troubles in our marriage, troubles with friends, and troubles with our finances.  We have all experienced great disappointment, heartache, and loss.  And some of these storms, at least to us, seem like they will wipe us out.  Like the disciples in the boat during the storm we cry out, “We are perishing!”           

Some storms we experience in life are the result of the fact that we live in a world that is fallen and under the curse of sin.  Bad things happen in this world because, let’s face it, as sinners we are bad people.  What comes natural to us is violence, lust, lying and greed.  As a result we see a lot of bad things in the world.  The headlines are full of examples that show our proclivity to sin.  Sometimes we get caught up in the middle of those bad things.  A storm comes our way and we did nothing wrong- nothing to deserve it.  It just happens.  Why?  That’s a tough question that I don’t think we’ll ever be really able to answer.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why doesn’t God stop it?  Can God stop it?  We could philosophize and theologize all day on this topic. A brief blog post does it absolutely no justice, but understand just a few things:

One, not everything that happens in the world is God’s will.  I sat with a family enduring the pain of a loved one committing suicide.  One of the people in the room looked at the grieving family and said, “Well, you know this was God’s will.”  No, I don’t think it was.  It’s not God’s will for a child to be abducted.  It’s not God’s will for terrorists to fly planes into buildings.  Can God bring about positive things from tragedy? Absolutely! But recall that this world and the people God first created were perfect.  Yet, we were the ones to mess it up.  Let’s be careful about blaming God for bad things that happen.

Two, could God stop all of the evil in the world?  Yes, but if he did, what would the evidence be that we are all sinners.  Furthermore, God could stop every murderer and terrorist but he would have to deny them their free will.  And if he did that for them he would have to do that for us.  Bad things happen because people choose to use their free will to follow their sinful indulgences.  Free will is a beautiful gift from God, but because of our sin we have turned it into a terrible curse as well.

Three, the fact that evil things happen does not undermine the fact that God is good, loves you, and is all-powerful.  Why does God allow what he does?  We’re never going to fully know.  We just need to know that in all things he is present in the storm and desires for us to trust him to help us through it.

Why didn’t God stop those planes on 9/11?  We’re not going to know.  But in times of tragedy, we should focus on what we do know about God rather than what we do not know about Him.  I do know he is all-powerful and all-knowing.  I do know He loves me so much He sent His Son to die for me.  And there’s one more thing I know for sure: I’m not God.  My wife and I were thrilled beyond description when she became pregnant for the first time.  We started planning and focusing on the arrival of the baby.  But then her pregnancy ended in miscarriage.  We were crushed.  I will never forget sitting in the office of her doctor, a kind and older Christian gentleman, as he struggled with something to say to try and comfort us.  I was surprised when he broke the silence by saying, “Have you ever seen the movie Rudy?”  What did that football movie have to do with my grief over losing the baby?  He continued, “Remember that scene when Rudy is talking to the priest after he was denied entrance to Notre Dame?”  I nodded through my tears.  “And do you remember what the priest said to Rudy?  He said, ‘Rudy, there are two things that are certain in this world: One, there is a God. Two, I’m not Him.’”

I must admit at the moment I found little comfort in the doctor’s words.  However, as I look back, it’s good advice in the midst of tragedy.  None of us are remotely close to being God.  We will never know fully why He does what He does.  He truly sees from a perspective that we will never possess.  What’s left is for me to trust Him, regardless of the pain, knowing that God loves me and weeps with me and will one day make all things new for those who love Him.

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 9-4-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 9-4-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from September 4th, 2011.

Who Gets the Best of Me? Lessons I Learned from a College Student

Who Gets the Best of Me? Lessons I Learned from a College Student

The other day I was running on the indoor track at the Wellness Center on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University.  This is a small track in which 10 laps make 1 mile.  On one end of the track, there is an area with several exercise machines and workout mats.  On this particular day, I happened to notice a young man standing in the exercise area doing absolutely nothing.  Typically, people are stretching, using the machines, or doing some other form of exercise.   However, he was just standing there.  After the second or third time I passed him, I noticed him looking a little nervous.  He was looking around and wringing his hands.  I started to get a little concerned for the young man, but then when I passed him the next time he had positioned himself to see the front door to the building.  Each time I passed him, his gaze was fixed on the door.  It was at this moment that it dawned on me- this guy was waiting for a girl!

I have to admit, running on that small track for any length of distance can make you lose your mind.  So, I was glad for the distraction of watching this drama unfold.  Obviously, the girl was late and the guy was getting nervous.  Each time I passed him, I could see the mixture of panic and heartbreak on his face.  I was starting to feel sorry for him.  One thing was for sure, whoever this girl was had his total attention!  His gaze never moved from the door.  On the next lap, I noticed he wasn’t standing in the exercise area.  Had he given up?  No, she showed up!  I looked ahead of me and there they were walking on the track.  For the next several laps, I subtly observed them as I ran past them.  He was looking carefully into her eyes when she spoke.  He had a smile on his face that no one could have wiped off.  I could tell he was giving perfect attention to the situation to let this young lady know of his interest in her!  From an outsider’s casual observation- this boy was in loooove!  I smiled to myself happy for this guy.

It was then that I had one of those moments, while still running on the track, that you feel the Lord slap you upside the head.  As if God was saying to me, “Hey, did you see that guy? Learn a lesson!”  I realized that day that I need to be like the guy waiting on the girl.  God taught me about the importance of devotion.  Pastoring a thriving church, teaching classes, speaking at events, and training for a marathon have my schedule entirely too busy.  Unfortunately, there are days when God and my wife and kids only get the leftovers of me.  My focus and attention is scattered in a million places.  But I was reminded that day while running that I must be devoted to what matters most.  For the young man, that girl was of utmost importance.  She had his undivided attention.  Nothing was going to distract him from focusing on her.

And so it should be for me and us on the relationships that are most important in our lives.  God first and foremost deserves my full and complete attention.  He deserves my full devotion and the best part of me.  After Him, comes my wife.  As I went round and round on that track I reflected on the need I have to give my wife my full devotion.  Like the young man, do I focus on her every word and am I careful with every word I say to her?  Does she have my undivided attention?  We always make time for the things we consider most important.  And the most important things get our full attention and devotion.  In our lives, we need to always monitor what is getting the best of who we are.  Is it stuff that in the end really doesn’t matter?  Or is it the most important relationships in our life?