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Graduation Day

DSC01030Today was kind of tough… for Momma anyway. We saw our little girl “walk the line” to graduate from Preschool. The theme was What A Wonderful World, which all nineteen graduates sang together. They actually played Pomp and Circumstance as they marched in. She got a diploma and an award for Developing the Most in Confidence throughout the year. We’re so proud!

Angie handles moments like these with a mothering sadness. Her little girl will never graduate from Preschool again. I, on the other hand, handle things a bit differently. While Mamma shed a few tears, I was frustrated that the camera wasn’t working quite right. For me, it’s just one more step toward adulthood, which is the goal. I know that the time will fly and I’ll be crying at her wedding far too soon. Nevertheless, I tend to look forward to each next occasion while Angie wants to hang on to her little girl.

One thing I know, I’m going to enjoy another graduation someday. I’m not referring to Ella’s High School graduation, though I know I’ll enjoy that too, but the day I “walk the line” at the judgment seat of Christ. On the one hand, I view that day with trepidation – there is so much more to be done here in this life. On the other hand, I can’t wait for the eternal reward God has promised to all who place their faith squarely in Him alone.

Our little baby is all grown up… or at least about to head for kindergarten, but I feel that we have so much work to do. If she’s out of the house by eighteen, then we only have fourteen more years to prepare her heart to be forever sensitive to the Savior’s voice. We want to pray her into the family of God, model a genuine love for Jesus, and watch as she surrenders herself to His will daily. May God so prepare us for our graduation day!

The Nightline Debate: Proving the Existence of God

Last night, millions watched the debate between Kelly and Brian Sabient (representing atheism) and Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron (attempting to prove God’s existence without using faith or the Bible). I have reviewed as much of the video as I can stand and have come to some interesting conclusions.

At first, I was disappointed in Ray’s use of Scripture in his opening comments. He had made a commitment to prove God’s existence without the Bible and then proceeded to use the Bible, handing ammunition to his enemies who took full advantage of the moment and exploited his mistake. After much thought and prayer about the matter, I’ve come to the conclusion that Ray had not choice but to use Scripture.

This was his chance to speak to millions of “on the fence” people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to hear the gospel. Further, Ray believes that the Word of God has the supernatural ability to pierce through the hardness of the human heart. And finally, Christianity has made the mistake before of attempting to prove God’s existence without the Bible and our attempts at doing so have failed to convert people or change our surroundings. A convincing argument for a Creator might be fabricated from the witness of nature, but a converting faith is only borne on the wings of God’s inspired revelation of Himself to mankind. What was Ray’s mistake? It was in agreeing not to refer to faith or the Bible to begin with.

The reason I could not stand to watch the entire debate online, stopping the stream early instead, was because of the knot that formed in my stomach as I listened to Kelly blaspheme God in such an extreme way. My heart breaks for her. It is apparent to all who watched that atheism leads to intellectual arrogance and belligerence toward Christians. This rebellious attitude is not only proof of the fall of mankind into sin, left unchecked it always leads to the ultimate end of a soul unable to repent because of the hardening of the heart through the deceitfulness of sin. Should Kelly continue choosing to blaspheme God, she will inevitably push her will beyond the point of ever humbling herself before her Creator. She expressed that she’d rather go to hell than to live in eternity with a God she perceives as unfairly violent toward sinners. I hope this isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy for her.

The thought that terrifies me the most is that they have become preachers of a false gospel. It isn’t that they question a Creator, it’s that they persuade others to purposely break the command not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit (a misinterpretation of Jesus’ intent, by the way). I’ve encountered the writings of Richard Dawkins and other such rationalists who purport that Christians are guilty of indoctrinating generations of people into believing in a warmonger-god. Yet the skeptics themselves are actively and intentionally recruiting followers to join them in their hate-filled, angry tirade against the very God who bought them with the price of His own dear Son.

At the end of the day, there will be millions who simply will not believe the gospel record. This is nothing new and we cannot naively assume that we’ll ever rid the world of atheism or agnosticism by simply arguing science or Scripture alone. What does seem to be new is the intensity with which atheism belittles people of faith. It is as though the battle lines are being drawn more clearly. The forces of light and darkness are engaged in a more intense form of warfare than at any other time in the recent past. Perhaps we’re moving toward a climax.

Perhaps it is that the day is soon coming when men will make their final choices concerning God and His Son. Should you accept the record of the Bible as inspired and inerrant, as I do, then you’ll discover that the Bible itself predicts the rising intensity of this debate toward the ultimate battle between Jesus and the forces of darkness. Thankfully, we who believe, already have the rest of the story laid out before us, and… Jesus wins!

What A Wonderful World

At our wedding, Angie and I chose to have Louie Armstrong’s song played… What a Wonderful World. In light of yesterday’s shootings, and so many other monumental tragedies in recent years, is it really a wonderful world? We were driving to Fort Smith yesterday for the annual meeting of the BMA of America and were reflecting on some of the tragedies that have taken place at this same time of the year such as the Oklahoma City bombing (April, 1995), the Waco compound burning (April, 1993), and Columbine (April, 1999). Each of these tragedies evoked emotions of fear and trepidation about living in this present world.

Our daughter begins kindergarten this fall. She’s nearly five years old and we’re already speculating about the nature of the world in which she will grow up and go through school. The news media tackles subjects like campus security and the psychological reasons behind such an awful rampage. But the secular media can never fully comprehend the nature of human depravity. Evil men will do evil things, no matter our level of security. If not on a campus, then in a restaurant, an airport, or a World Trade Center. Is this really a wonderful world?

There are natural and supernatural factors that can only be seen through a God-centered world view. The depravity of man runs deep in the heart. Evil abounds in humankind and murder, war, and bloodshed will continue as long as lost mankind has some dominion over this present realm. Further, Satan is labeled in Scripture as the “prince of the power of the air… the god of this world.” We who live on earth, live in a time and place where darkness has dominion. Is it really a wonderful world?

My answer, surprisingly, is yes. Why? Because it is in this present realm that God is actively working to extend His saving and healing grace to a lost and depraved people. It is here that God moves. It was into this humanity that Jesus, the light, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s glory was put on display through the life of Jesus Christ, through His atoning death, and through His miraculous resurrection. Do we live in a wonderful world? Only insomuch as Jesus makes the difference.

Last night, we were ministered to by a wonderful gospel singer who performed the old song Beulah Land. I love the lines… “Beulah land, I’m longing for thee, and someday on thee I’ll stand…” Our world, inundated with pain and loss and suffering, is merely a waiting room, a practice run, an incubation chamber for eternity. For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, heaven is our real home. Hell awaits those who reject His free offer of grace.

Amazingly, we cannot forget that it is this world which will someday be renovated by fire. This world will be redeemed. It currently groans with birth pains, waiting to be delivered from its depraved lostness. It’s a wonderful world, plagued by the inherent sinfulness of humankind. It’s wracked with pain and evil. Yet everything on God’s time line is moving toward a great and triumphant finality. Jesus will rule and reign.

Our hearts are gripped, in times like this, with uncertainty and fear. Then Scripture speaks on behalf of its divine author… “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Is this world your home, or do you seek a city to come, a home not made with human hands preserved in the eternities for you? Jesus Christ came to be the light and hope of a lost and dark world. He came to offer you peace, pardon, and eternal life if you’ll only trust fully in Him, even in the world’s darkest moments. More is to come. Scripture foretells that times will wax worse and worse. Yet Jesus’ hand is always extended toward you. Embrace Him who is ready to embrace you, and enjoy the unspeakable peace and confidence of God.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

It has taken me several days to sit and write my conclusions about the Discovery Channel documentary on The Lost Tomb of Jesus. I find it ironic how dramatic the title seems when the tomb is neither lost (they’ve found it), nor does it contain Jesus (“He is not here; He is risen…”). Kind of like those “lost books of the Bible” which are also not lost, nor are they in the Bible. Overall, this film is intriguing drama at best. It’s very entertaining and gives a glimpse into the world of modern biblical archaeology.

The makers of the film, particularly the Director Simcha Jacobovici, seem to begin with some very unfounded assumptions. In the first few minutes, the entire debate is framed by the rather strong suggestion that the disciples must have stolen the body of Jesus and relocated it to a family tomb. Not only does Matthew, an eyewitness of the risen Christ, deny this charge in his gospel, but it seems rather hard to accept in light of the military protection of the tomb during the days following Christ’s crucifixion.

Names are slowly collected from the various ossuaries excavated from the tomb in 1980. A mathemetician then determines the statistical probability of these names not belonging to the family of Jesus. He eliminates one name because of a lack of connection to Jesus’ family, rather than allowing the unexplained name to contradict the theory. He then divides his odds by four (a randomly and arbitrarily chosen number) to account for possible bias (in the “facts”??). He concludes that there is only a one in six hundred chance that the tomb does not belong to Jesus.

A genetics labratory in Canada examines DNA from the dusty remains of “Jesus” and some from the remains of “Mariamne” and determines that they were not brother and sister. Jacobovici then brazenly asserts that they must have been husband and wife. The geneticist later explained that there could have been many other possible relationships such as being paternal cousins. Jacobovici adds to the assumptions that Mariamne must have been Mary Magdalene, who must have been an early apostolic missionary. Further, they must have had a son, referenced by John as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This tall tale is given no credible evidence whatsoever.

Needless to say, the film proved nothing. It was well-presented, but what it presented was loosely pieced together conspiracy and cover-up theories concerning the resurrection, supposed marriage, lineage, and burial site of Jesus. In the end, Jacobovici, with little understanding of biblical Christianity, asserts that his findings pose no threat to the theology of Easter at all. Rather, he asserts, we simply need to see the ascension as a spiritual one as opposed to a bodily one.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus has been attacked before. Thus far, no credible evidence has ever been offered that has contradicted this central tenet of Christianity. Nonetheless, what bothers me most about films such as these is that they present romanticized pictures of the obscure possibilities of “what might have been.” Armchair theologians everywhere will utilize the information in negative ways, often questioning whether there are any important issues at stake or not.

The film? Well done. The theories supported by the film? Hogwash. The effects of the film? Unpredictable given our current biblically illiterate, culturally desensitized Christianity. We are well past the time to “study up” and prepare for the lies that will be circulated more and more concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as we approach the soon coming of Jesus.

The Lord Who Heals and the People Who Worship

I must confess, as a Baptist, it took me a rather long time to come to understand the healing nature of God. We Baptists, as Adrian Rogers put it, “believe in miracles, but trust in Jesus.” I still believe this is best. But I also freely admit that in our reaction to the extremism of “healing evangelists” like Binny Hinn and other obvious hucksters and false prophets, that we have a tendency to write off all supposed healings as a mere charade.

Scripture, however, clearly teaches that the Great Physician, through His miraculous touch, heals the bodies of many people. Such was the case for the entire camp of Israelites in the wilderness when they reached the bitter waters of Marah. I’m inclined to believe that these poisonous waters made many of the people quite ill. So God steps into the picture, sweetens the waters, and heals the people. So He reveals to them another title for Himself – Jehovah who heals you.

Fast-forward about fifteen hundred years to Matthew, chapter fifteen. A Gentile woman comes to Jesus and His disciples, begging for a demon to be cast out of her daughter. I am especially moved by her form of worship. First, the text declares that she “cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is demon-possessed.'” Amazingly, “He answered her not a word.” She chases God and He delights in the pursuit. She was apparently persistent for the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss her, saying, “for she cries out after us.”

Jesus continues to stonewall her by explaining that He was sent with Israel as His first priority, so why should He perform miracles for a Gentile woman? His remaining just beyond her reach is really an attempt to lead her on in her pursuit of the Almighty, and of course it works. “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!'”

Instead of responding to her cry, Jesus argues that He really shouldn’t be casting such great miracles before the dogs of the Gentiles. She wisely continues her pursuit, presenting a responding argument that as a dog, she’ll gladly take the crumbs that fall to her. What a great lesson she teaches us. Our worship must always have a heartfelt ring of “Whatever, whenever, however God, just bless me!” to it. So He gives in and heals her, thrilled at her great and faith-filled pursuit. Oh, for such demanding hunger that argues with God for His blessings!

In the next paragraph, Matthew records for us that multitudes came to Him and were healed, “so the multitude marveled when they say the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”

Jesus is the Great Physician, the mighty Healer of the children of men. I find it sad how we overlook the miraculous nature of God. We like to bring Him down to our level. “Well, you know I just think that in modern times, He heals through modern medicine…” Yes, He invented all of it and yes, He uses it, but let us never forget to look for the miraculous and to ask, to beg, to plead for His blessing.

I had a conversation a couple of years ago with a good friend who used to sit under my preaching every week, but who had moved to another town, gotten married, and attended a church of a different denomination. He related to me the story of a funeral that he attended. As he watched the mourners pass the casket to pay their last respects, his heart cried out within him, “Why did nobody ask God even once to heal her?”

Our answer, as good traditional Baptists, might be, “Well, it was just her time, it just wasn’t God’s will to heal her.” Though my friend and I may not agree on all things, I support his question. Why do we no think to ask, to beg, to plead with a worshipful heart to the Almighty Healer to perform miracles. I don’t believe He will always heal, for people do get sick and die, but shouldn’t we at least ask Him?

The theological argument that has arisen from this issue relates to the atonement, and whether or not physical healing for all of God’s people was purchased at the cross or not. I think it’s a moot point either way. The cross proves He heals in the ultimate way, spiritually and eternally. Healing didn’t necessarily have to be purchased, in the sense of a financial transaction, by His atoning death. He was already able to heal, but His atoning death was the ultimate picture of the great work of an Almighty Physician to heal the diseases of the spirit, the soul, and the body.

I think we have naturalized God and have forgotten that He’s a God of tremendous power, who is overwhelmed with compassion, and who desires to give unspeakable peace and joy to His children. He is just as alive and well today as He was in the days of Moses and Jesus. As the old song puts it, “He is able to deliver thee!” So ask, pray, beg, be an intercessor, anoint with oil, believe that He will work miracles, but ultimately trust His decisions no matter what.