Thoughts on SCOTUS Ruling on Marriage

5 solasThere is probably a lot that needs to be said about yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage. It is a ruling that has many far reaching effects beyond the actual ruling that was made.  In one sense it is a narrow ruling only on a few facts and most of them technical ones that the average citizen will not understand (I know it is somewhat strange and foreign to me!).

I will have a lot more to say about it in the days to come, no doubt. It is a bad ruling for our culture, our nation, because it just shows how far we are adrift from God and His plans and purposes we truly are. The basic building block of society is marriage. It was before the law, before government, and before the church ever came into existence. As I say when I stand before a couple to do their wedding (I said it just last Saturday):

“We are not gathered here today in order to observe a social convention devised by human wisdom for the mutual comfort and happiness of men and women. Nor do we assemble here to participate in a mere tradition which has come down to us from ages past and which we have deemed worthy of preserving among ourselves.

We are gathered in this place in order to acknowledge, celebrate, and solemnize the divine institution of marriage, which is ordained by the Creator and Savior of the world, sealed and governed by His authority, and entered into by His people with humble obedience and heartfelt rejoicing for the wondrous provision of the Lord for their mutual happiness and completion.”

However, this can, and prayerfully will be good for the church, if it causes us to wake up and realize that we are failing in our mission to take the gospel to the nation and nations! An acquaintance of mine wrote this (and correctly I believe) after the ruling by SCOTUS.  These threats may bring about in the church a much-needed change of mindset. It’s time we recognized we are no longer the “moral majority” and embrace our identity as the “missional minority.”

The SCOTUS may rule, legislatures may pass laws, people may live in utter disregard to our Lord . . . but some things never change: His word, His truth, and His reign.  I cannot wait to worship again this Sunday, as we exalt the power and authority of King Jesus!!

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So? Whom Do We Really Worship?

One of my major concerns about evangelical Christianity in the 21st Century is that worship is not that . . . at least not toward the proper object of worship, the True and Living God.  In many churches man is exalted, recognized, applauded, and congratulated, but God is less and less the main focus.  God’s word is not read all that much . . . prayers are brief . . . being silent before God (Psalm 46:10) is feared . . . songs don’t reflect doctrinal truth, but rather emotional syrupy sentimentality.   In other words man is catered to rather than being pointed to the Sovereign Creator and Redeemer.

This was brought to my mind when I read the following in a blog that I frequent.  The writer is recounting a recent vacation where he visited a local (I’m sad to say) Southern Baptist Church:

Away on vacation in North Carolina at the OBX last week. We attended worship at a Southern Baptist church. First they introduced all the visitors. Then they honored all the fathers. Then we sang happy birthday to all the birthdays. Then we sang Happy anniversary to all the anniversaries. Then the pastor called the kids up front and played with a ventriloquist doll, and the point was to come to VBS next week.

I wondered when we’d get to God, you know, worshipping God as part of a worship service?

My hopes were raised by the call to confess a Creed.

But the Creed was, and I am not kidding, the following.

I’m too anointed to be disappointed.
I’m too blessed to be depressed.
I’m too chosen to be frozen.
I’m too elected to be rejected.
And I’ve got more to shout about than to pout about in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

I don’t think God showed in the service at all.

We had three choices on the Island, Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist.

We made the wrong choice……… (from The Boar’s Head Tavern)

The first part of this man’s statement describes much of what I observe as I visit churches around the SBC (and that is my demonination).  As for the creed?  I think I’ll stick with The Apostles Creed !!

A friend of mine, Tom Ascol, posed this question in the Founders Journal in 2004:

What if I had to choose between a liberal church that does not believe in the full authority of Scripture yet thinks highly enough of it to read it publicly in worship, and a fundamentalist church that loudly affirms Scripture’s inerrancy but feels no compulsion to read it or be governed by it in worship?

We will prove our belief about the Scriptures and about worship, more by what we do than what we say.  Our worship services should include multiple readings of God’s word.

We must remember that “worship” means focusing on some(One) who is worthy of great worth.  It is not us (Psalm 115:1 — Not to us O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory) but it is God, through Jesus Christ, that is to command our attention.

Let’s work hard to keep the focus as it should be . . . on the Sovereign Creator and Redeemer.  Gazing upon Him will change us into His image!!  Programs, and entertainment, and man-centered activity will not. Let’s keep that out of “worship” so that it will really be that!!

Blaspheming God!!

The very words should strike fear in our hearts. But do we ever stop and consider if that might be a problem? I remember in 1998 hearing John Piper preach the annual preaching lectures at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. One of his sermons that week was, How Not to Blaspheme God in the Pulpit.” (Click the link to listen)  It was one of the most penetrating sermons I have ever heard and I listen to it at least once a year.

Being a preacher myself, this is a question I ask myself regularly. My greatest fear is to not declare the glory of God in all its beauty and majesty when I preach.

I fear that a trend in our country today is to “dumb-down” God, to bring Him down to our level and to make Him dependent on us rather than us on Him. Mega-churches with their desire to reach great numbers and offend the least amount of people’s sensitivities (read that sins) dare not speak of God ‘s sovereignty and Christ’s Lordship, but paint Him as a buddy who only exists to make us happy. That is blasphemy!!

I remember reading something that Richard John Neuhaus wrote in First Things back in December of 1991 that dealt with this very issue. He was relating something he had read in The New York Review of Books about Albert Einstein’s view of organized religion. Here is what Neuhaus wrote:

• Discussing a number of books on cosmology in The New York Review of Books, Daniel Kevles quotes Charles Misner, a specialist in general relativity theory: “I do see the design of the universe as essentially a religious question. That is, one should have some kind of respect and awe for the whole business. . . . It’s very magnificent and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In fact, I believe that is why Einstein had so little use for organized religion, although he strikes me as a basically very religious man. He must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt that they were blaspheming. He had seen much more majesty than they had ever imagined, and they were just not talking about the real thing. My guess is that he simply felt the religions he’d run across did not have proper respect . . . for the Author of the universe.” You might want to pass that on to your preacher. If you’re the preacher, you might want to give some thought to repenting. As might we all.” (Emphasis mine)

May we forever exalt the true nature of our Sovereign, Holy, Magnificent God. Sola Deo Gloria!! To God alone be the glory!!

Fear Not the Attacks at Christmas

Have you noticed in the news how it seems that more and more people are getting forceful in their attack on Christianity? I don’t just mean not hanging signs that say “Merry Christmas” and substituting “Happy Holidays.” I mean out and out pointed attacks on not just the holiday but on Christianity itself. Indeed, a frontal attack on God.

For instance, in our nation’s capital this Christmas season the American Humanist Association has initiated a campaign to putatheist-signs-in-dc signs on city buses and the Metro system that say, “Why Believe in God? Just be good for goodness’ sake”. In 2007 the Pew Research Center found out, in a survey, that the majority of Americans believe that it is not possible to be good apart from a belief in God.. This may very well be so, but I believe that the pulpits in our churches have contributed to this sad state of affairs. Too many times each week sermons concentrate on “being good” or “trying your best” and the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ is never proclaimed. The Christianity of the 21st Century has become both Christ-less and Gospel-less in many instances. There are many sermons preached over the airways and in the pulpits of our nation that would support the atheists in their claim that we need to “just be good for goodness’ sake.” But that is not the Gospel. We must pray this Christmas season that we will return to a Christ-filled, and Gospel-filled Christmas, and way of life as the church in America.

Another example is taking place on the other side of the country in the state of Washington. Each year a nativity scene is set up in the atheist-sign-in-wash-state2state capitol. This year the Governor of Washington allowed an atheists group to put up a sign right next to the nativity scene — it simply proclaims that “there are no gods” among other things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that the atheists have a right under our constitution, to free speech. They can and should be able to speak freely their foolishness without any fear. However it seems to me to be simply in “bad taste” to allow a vicious attack placed alongside the nativity of our Lord. In fact under some situations, with a few words changed this would be classified as “hate speech” and punishable by law.

My friend, Walter Price, in California, sent me a quote today from G.K. Chesterton written in 1922. Chesterton said, “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” Think about that! He’s right, you know.

We should not fear the atheists’ attack on the faith. We must not change one thing in light of their signs and statements. We simply must, in this Christmas season, be certain that we are proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness and clarity.

I love this season . . . Not because of the gifts and parties and decorations. I love it because it gives us a major opening to talk about Jesus . . . who came as a baby, but didn’t stay in the manger. He grew up and spoke with authority as no one had ever heard . . . He did miracles like no one had ever seen . . . But this was not the important part in a real sense. He voluntarily went to the cross at Calvary to atone for sin . . . To become the Savior of the world. This is why I love this season!!!

Trivializing the Gospel

It always amazes me that men who are called to simply proclaim God’s Gospel through the exposition of God’s word trivialize their calling by gimmicks and tying to make something of nothing. A good example of that appeared in our local newspaper. Rather than finding his sermon material in the Bible he found it on a pizza box. And then went on to basically preach a works-righteousness sermon that brought great gain — not spiritual gain, but weight gain no doubt.

Donatos pizza box pledge inspires sermon

Special to the CJ

Some may say that pizza and church are foods for the soul. The two came together recently when one local minister stumbled onto the promise of one pizza chain and thought it would become a key ingredient for a great sermon.

Ed Bialon, minister of the Cumberland Church of Christ, was about to throw his Donatos Pizza box away one evening when he noticed the company’s pledge printed on the box top.

It reads: “We believe in great pizza, which means we believe in only the finest and the freshest toppings used in abundance. And, we believe in getting those toppings in every bite. We believe in pizza making without shortcuts. Because great pizza is a passion, and we believe that passion is contagious. In turn, we believe great pizza can change the world. Yes, we believe in absolutely everything pizza should be. And we invite you to believe the same.”

Those well-crafted words left an impression. “I didn’t want to be outdone by a pizza company,” quipped Bialon, who is well known for injecting every-day life into his Sunday sermons. “When I read those words I just knew I could incorporate them into a great sermon.”

And he did, dishing out a heaping helping of pizza anecdotes in a sermon about Acts of Random Kindness to a congregation of more than 120 in early June. The sermon in its entirety can be seen at the church’s Web site, http://www.cumber-landchurchofchrist.com.

Meanwhile, local Donatos franchisor Chuck Coldiron learned of the sermon and immediately delivered a copy of it to company founder Jim Grote in Columbus, Ohio.

“I was blown away,” exclaimed Coldiron, who opened the Somerset restaurant in March 1998. “Our principles are not just words, and I believe Ed (Bialon) absolutely shared the essence of our principles. It’s humbling that our values can be used for such a higher cause.”

When Coldiron heard about the Acts of Random Kindness sermon at the Cumberland Church of Christ and the parallels the preacher shared about Donatos’ mission, he was moved to act. Coldiron decided to serve Donatos Pizza to more than 150 churchgoers following Sunday morning worship service July 13.

Also there to help serve was company founder Grote and his daughter and current Donatos President and COO Jane Grote Abell. Both have a passion for their pizza principles but stop short of comparing it to Bialon’s higher cause.

“We listened to his sermon,” said the elder Grote. “He said he has a better product; and he does.”

Donatos Pizza was founded in 1963 by a 19-year-old Grote on a promise “to make the best pizza and make your day a little better.” Today, Donatos and its franchise partners operate nearly 175 stores throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama and North and South Carolina.

http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/archivesearch/local_story_201212758.html

When Baptists Deny God’s Truth

I remember during the days of the “Conservative Resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention being told that there was no such thing as a “liberal” in the SBC.  Some were “moderate,” whatever that means, but no one denied the basic tenets of the Christian faith.  A group developed in protest and/or opposition to the conservatives and called themselves the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).  They said that they were still committed to Baptist doctrine but didn’t like the new leadership of the SBC.  Many churches developed a dual alliance with both the SBC and the CBF, given a little to SBC causes and channeling most of their giving through the CBF.  It may be that the lines between the two are getting more clearly drawn.  And it may be a line, not between liberal and conservative, but a line between believer and nonbeliever in God’s truth.

The CBF meeting this year may give many people who do believe in Baptist doctrine, and the Bible for that matter, reason to give pause and rethink who the CBF really is.  One of the key speakers and workshop leaders was John Killinger.  In his seminar  on  “The Changing Shape of Our Salvation” Killinger made this statement:  “Now we are reevaluating and we’re approaching everything with a humbler perspective and seeing God’s hand working in Christ, but not necessarily as the incarnate God in our midst.”  For starters this denies the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.  Of course for him that is not problematic because he believes that “doctrine is a thing of the past now religiously.”  Killinger encouraged pastors in attendance to “follow this cultural shift by preaching about Jesus’ human side rather than insisting that He was God and that He always existed.”  I don’t have space here to refute these heretical statements, but suffice it to say this flies in the face of all that the Scriptures teach.

To be fair, the CBF’s General Assembly Guide says that “the opinions presented in the General Assembly ministry workshops are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of . . . the Fellowship or its members.”  But that begs the question, why would you invite someone who has beliefs that are in no way Biblical to come and teach, not one, but three, workshops at your meeting?  Killinger has been, and evidently continues to be, a darling of the CBF crowd.  He is a rebel, but a rebel with a cause – to deny all of God’s Word that he possibly can.

May God help us as we seek to remain faithful to God’s Word, not the “cultural shift” that some seem to think is a good thing.