Does Science have all the Answers?

Science is working very hard at making our lives easier, and along the way, has come up with some profound insights about our origins, and perhaps even our future. Science has helped saved countless lives through medicine. Science has given us better homes, the internet, the ability to talk to people on the other side of the world. We owe much of our standard of living to science. But when science starts to tell us about where we came from, or tests those things that we call “miracles,” the science begins to break down. Let me tell you why.

True Science is based purely and simply on the scientific method, developed by Rene Descartes about 500 years ago. The Method is as follows: 1) Develop a theory about how the world works, 2) test that theory through experimentation and observation to see if it holds true (generally), 3) either confirm your theory with your observations, or revise your theory in light of them. Note that the theory, once confirmed, can become a Law (of nature) like gravity, but only in a general sense. If you can apply 50,000 lbs of rocket thrust, you can refute gravity in near-earth orbit. These Laws, once confirmed describe what “normally” occurs, under normal circumstances.

Science requires observable phenomena. Science cannot occur if you cannot measure the results of your experiments or observations. For example, I could theorize that Green Men live on Pluto. I have no way of discovering this, and thus no way to observe or experiment. Thus, it remains a theory. This is also why experiments always have a “control,” one part of the experiment that represents normal, in order to measure the effects of the abnormal. If you were testing a new drug, you would have one lab rat that would be given no drug whatsoever (the control) in order to test the effects the drug has on other rats (the experiments). In any case, in order for your results to be valid, they must be observable. Any scientist who said to the FDA, I “believe” all the rats lived from taking this new drug, rather than presenting physical evidence, would be rejected. Fantasy evidence or imagined results (how things should have done or ought to be) is no substitute for real evidence in science. And any scientist that pretends or imagines evidence for his theory will be laughed out of the lab, except in one special case.

There is one theory that has been around since the 1800’s that still plagues us today. Its implications are so appealing that it probably will not die. That Theory is Evolution. It tries to explain everything from the origin of the universe to the origin of man, and yet, there is no evidence, no experiments, not even the lab rats themselves that can tell us whether it’s true. Why? Because you cannot repeat it. All attempts to repeat it in the lab have fallen short. And those scientists that have declared their proof cannot repeat their experiments. Evolution is a Theory without evidence, and yet, it is branded as Law. Why? Because of the numbers of scientists who “believe” it. Science is not determined by majority vote, but by majority experiment and observation (the evidence). If 1000 of your neighbors believed you smoked marijuana in your home, would that be enough to convict you? Or would rather let the evidence decide? If the majority believes in something that has not been proven true by the evidence, does that make it true anyway? This isn’t science. This is faith.

And what about faith? Science makes statements about miracles (they couldn’t happen) that science simply cannot address, because by definition, miracles are not repeating events. They are SUPERnatural. Science can neither prove nor disprove miracles, including the miracles of Jesus, the Creation of the Universe, or the Resurrection of Christ. But there is a secondary source of evidence often relied upon in the courtroom to determine truth, eye-witness testimony. Science cannot invalidate what a person witnessed, nor can it validate it. It is a completely different kind of evidence, but trustworthy nevertheless.

Therefore, if science makes truth claims about miracles, especially the origin of the universe, or the resurrection of Christ, they are lying to you, making a statement from their own brand of faith, because science simply cannot make statements about non-repeatable events, whether they were true or false.

We believe in Christ based on eye-witness testimony of the Apostles. We believe in Creation based on the testimony of Genesis. We believe in Miracles because the Bible records them, and we have no reason to doubt the truth of the Bible. Science has some of the answers, but true science never contradicts the Scriptures. That may sound like a brainwashed cult, but rather than a cult, we believe because of the EVIDENCE, not in spite of it.

Does Religion Matter?

One of the first objections to Church and organized religion is this question; does religion really matter? Does it really matter what you believe? Does it make a difference? This question stems from our modern sensibilities regarding faith and tolerance. Tolerance simply means to allow others to practice as they please, without interference. But more recently, acceptance has been masquerading as tolerance. Now tolerance means that you accept, if not embrace, the beliefs of another person, because to resist such acceptance labels you as “intolerant” and a “bigot.” Take for example the homosexual agenda. The Homosexuals, their associations of political groups and so on, demand tolerance of their lifestyle, when in reality they demand acceptance. They don’t want straight people merely to tolerate their behavior, but to accept them as equals, with as much right to practice their brand of affection in the public square as heterosexuals. They demand celebration by those that don’t share their “beliefs” in allowing them to celebrate their “weddings” and their victory over the traditional family and decency.

But let me step back to the position of one who would just as soon have nothing to do with religion, thinking that all religions are bunk and worthless, if not dangerous. Remember 9/11? That wasn’t an inside job, it was a religious job. Remember Waco? That was a religious nut making trouble, and an angry government response. Remember 12/31/1999? A lot of people were afraid because they thought that was going to be the end of the world! Why? Because of their religion. How can religion be so dangerous? Because religion is about beliefs, and beliefs matter.

Organized religion is defined as a system of beliefs organized for the practice of its believers. Every religion has one. And anyone who tells you that he doesn’t do organized religion, but goes off to a mountaintop or hillside to pray is lying to you. If a person doesn’t buy in to a “organized” religion, he will make up one of his own. Religions inherently follow rules. It is built in to them. Even a person that says his religion doesn’t have rules just made a rule. “No rules!” is a rule unto itself. Why does the person who eschews organized religion have to go to the hillside to pray? Hmmm? Sounds like a rule to me. And it sounds like an organized religion.

Back to our original question: does religion matter? Using our above definition, let me re-ask the question. Do beliefs matter? Does what you believe about how the world works and how people act and react matter? A belief is anything that cannot be proven absolutely with evidence. I believe that the chair I’m sitting on will not collapse from under me. I can’t prove it, despite all the evidence of sitting down, because I know all things wear out (2nd law of thermodynamics), and one day, this chair will collapse. Therefore, I believe that this chair will not collapse as I am sitting on it.

I believe the world will always spin, that I will always be held to the earth, that my wife and my children love me, and that the sun will come up in the morning. Is that religion? You can make a religion out of anything. All religion requires is someone to put it all together into an organized structure. Atheism is a religion, just as any other system of beliefs is. But there’s one element I forgot that make the real difference between mere beliefs, and religion, and that is Faith. Faith is a devotion to your beliefs that is so strong, you cannot be shaken from them. And Faith usually finds the strongest belief and clings to it.

For the most part, when a person says, religion doesn’t matter, what they are really saying is, “I refuse to believe in Christianity” because Christianity demands change. Why is Christianity always the one that stands in everybody’s way? Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He makes the difference between mere beliefs, an organized philosophy, and Truth.

Religion does too matter. Don’t kid yourself. We define ourselves by our beliefs. We are who we because of our beliefs. If you choose to ground your self in loose and broken beliefs, that’s your own business, I suppose. But if you choose to ground your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will not be disappointed.

Whose Afraid Of The Big, Good God?

“For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.” Job 31:23

Have you ever been afraid? I know I have. Fear is something that grips us when we are caught in something we don’t understand and presents itself as a threat, like Medicare part B, or overdue mortgage payments, or high gas prices. Our safety is threatened, our life is threatened, and we are powerless to do anything about it. Fear can paralyze us, its icy chill freezing our blood in its veins. But it also makes a powerful impression, and motivation for action. If I am afraid of losing my house, I will put in longer hours at work, or if I am scared of Medicare, I will pour more time into studying it.

Job’s words are interesting, if not ironic. Job says these words as he is sitting in an ash heap, covered in painful sores. Job has received the business end of destruction, with all of his children killed by a whirlwind (1:18, 19), his wife scorning him for being faithful to God (2:9), his property destroyed, raided, or carried off by invaders. If you or I were sitting there with Job, we might say, “hey, uh, Job? Do you think you’ve seen destruction yet?”

Job is confessing to his fear. He dreaded, or as some translations read, was terrified. Job felt real terror when he thought about the destruction that God could wreak upon him. Why? Because Job had a healthy understanding of who God is. God spoke the world and the universe into existence (Genesis 1) and upholds it still, that is, keeps it together, by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Scientists have yet to discover everything about the universe, but they have discovered one important thing. At the level of the sub-atomic, the atoms are held together by an unknown force, which they call a “strong force” which counteracts the “weak force” which threatens atoms’ flying apart. Scientists can’t explain how each force works, but they know that they do. Job knew what that force was: “the word of his power.” Job knew that in God’s word, power and strength, the very atoms he was composed of held together, the very atoms that composed all of his great wealth, his family, his possessions were held together by the Creator. Thus the great Creator could also wreak untold havoc upon him if He so chose. Jesus put it this way, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) There is a place for fear, a healthy fear of God, a terror perhaps, but a motivating fear. What did this fear motivate Job to do?

If you read the rest of Job 31, you find a man who has committed himself to a path of righteousness. He knows what the alternative is. He swears off lust (vs. 1), lies (5), dishonesty (6), adultery (9-10), injustice (13), closing his ears to the poor (16-20), greed (24-25), idolatry (26-27), gloating (29), cursing (30), inhospitableness (31-32), and overworking his soil (38-40). Job is sensitive to what God requires of him, and has been very careful to be obedient. This was motivated in part, by his fear.

Despite his innocence, Job realizes that the destruction has come upon him anyway. “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded had happened to me.” (3:25) But Job was not hopeless, for he knew that his integrity would ultimately triumph, despite his dark circumstances, for he says , “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (19:25-26) Does this sound like a man in utter despair and hopelessness? It should, but it doesn’t. Though what he had feared had come to pass, he has found that destruction isn’t the worst thing that could happen to him. The worst thing is to have his soul cast into hell. He knows his Redeemer will not allow it, and one day he will see God in his flesh. Job learned that his fear wasn’t sufficient as a motivation to serve God. Fear alone will service a tyrant, fear without love will lead to rebellion. Thankfully the Bible doesn’t leave us in fear.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15, 16) God’s children? This isn’t fear (though I will confess I’ve been afraid of my Dad on more than one occasion). This is love. If you are a Christian, you are not motivated so much by abject fear of what God would do to you, so much as what God has done for you through His Son Jesus Christ. God has expressed such love for us that He has sent His Son Jesus to die for us, cleanse us from our sins, and bring us into sonship with God. We are no longer strangers and aliens but children. What Job says in faith we repeat with full assurance, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” We have been bought back from sin and brought into God’s love as His children.

The invitation is to you, your household, and all who are afar off. Choose this day whether you will serve God in love, or be afraid of Him and of His judgment for the rest of your life. The invitation is open. Get to know your Father.

Tangled Webs

“What a tangled web we weave . . .”

Children are a blessing from God, in their proper context. “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5a) Especially grandchildren, for “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” (Proverbs 17:6) Now that the Mrs. and I are expecting our fourth child, I see the worth of this little passage. Our prayer is that the next one, a boy if the SONAR is right, is born healthy like his brother and sisters.

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought kids were to follow marriage, not precede it. (I can hear you thinking, “here he goes again”) Now if anyone is keeping track, no one yet has taken me up on my offer to marry for free. Although, I have heard rumors that I’ve been pretty mean to unmarried couples. I’ll admit, my bark is worse than my bite. But have you stopped to consider that maybe we’ve been too easy on these kids having kids?

That’s really the shame of our permissive society, when the words “I’m pregnant” are not given in joy, but as a threat. When are children a threat? When free-living and irresponsibility comes to a screeching halt. Children are the end of fun, the end of happy-go-lucky. They are the beginning of responsibility: midnight feedings, trips to the doctor and the teacher, more groceries, more bills, more heartache when they stray.

We’ve already had three, so it’s not like we don’t know what to expect. Babies cry, smell, spit-up, and my personal favorite, the single-most eye-opening sound they make, bleegch! I have been sound asleep, but when the little one makes the “Bleegch” sound in the middle of the night, I have been known to instantly spring into action. I’ve seen a lot of stuff, but having upset stomach spill out over the sheets wakes you up faster than a pot of coffee.

The adults who spawn a child have to make hard choices. It used to be when the girl got pregnant the man responsible was obligated to marry her, so that that child would grow up in a two-parent family. Sometimes I long for those days, for those and for the days when a man established himself, by getting a job and a house, before he proposed to his fiancé. These are standards people used to grow up with, because then, the focus was on stability, security, and having a strong family for a strong nation. Nowadays, kids are often passed off to grandma, or to friends, so that the fun and the parties and the sex never stops. Shame on anyone who treats his child like yesterday’s newspaper. And the Bible warns that that kind of attitude will come back to you ten-fold. A child who is rejected by his parents can’t cope with it. They seek anyone who will listen to them, and often find the wrong friends. End result? They become more foolish than their parents. And this is where the real heartache begins. The Bible says:

“To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool. . . . A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.” (Proverbs 17:21, 25)

“A foolish son is his father’s ruin.” (Proverbs 19:13)

“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Proverbs 19:18)

This proverb is a reply in a way to God’s Law – “Anyone who curses his father and mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.” (Leviticus 20:9) It may sound harsh, but God knows that the stability of any society relies wholly on the ability of parents to teach their children respect for their authority, and thus for all authorities. Any child who curses his father or mother will be a threat to the whole, and must be dealt with severely, as both example and as prevention. Children may seem like an inconvenience now, but someday they will be a doctor, or a lawyer, making policy and law while you are sick, old, and frail. Is it any wonder that the current generation in power is considering euthanasia as a possible way to “dispose” of the elderly? Where do you suppose that attitude came from? From the parents who were too busy to play with their kids because they had to make all the money to buy the big house and fancy car. They “disposed” of their kids with the Daycare, or somesuch. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? If your kids are a “burden” to you, just remember, someday they will make the decision whether or not to pull the plug. Someday they will be president, or they will be making the car you drive. Do you want to drive a car built by a kid who has no respect for his boss?

Children are the wealth of a home, and the Bible clearly teaches this. A man with many children can count himself blessed. We are breaking down our society with every child born out of wedlock. God bless those men and women who marry into families with children and make it work. We witness the destruction of our nation when children don’t know who their fathers are. For what ties do they have to the past, to patriotism, to anything, if they have no ties to their own fathers? Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

If you know a young man or young woman who is lost, without a father or a mother, then can I ask you to step in and take some responsibility for that child? Your future depends on them, whether they are yours or not. They need you, because they need a godly man or woman to show them what God is like. Consider it a mission to bring that person to the Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Christ, but be the living example for them too. Show them the love that they are desperate for.

Dream Church, Dream!

What could a church do if they limited themselves only to what God could do?

What would a church be capable of if they believed God worked through them?

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

I noticed in reading these Scriptures that nowhere does it say, “except for Christians in my church.” There is no asterisk, no little holy footnote to make us an exception. There is also no footnote or explanatory note making an exception for small churches, churches with little money or resources, or even churches in small towns. In fact, there is no exception whatsoever in this text. This power is available to any Christian, and for that matter, any church.

I have heard more often than I can count these words, “we’re just a small church. We are a small town church.” That merely identifies our starting point. It does not define who we are. Scripture defines who we are. We made “in the image of God.” We are God’s children. We are the Bride of Christ. As long we consider ourselves “just a small church,” we will think small. But inherent in the idea is weakness. I’ve seen the financial and attendance reports from 2007. They aren’t stellar. They are weak. So what. They tell us where we’ve been. God knows where we are going.

In 1951, J.B. Phillips introduced us to our common failing, Your God is Too Small. It might be worth your time to read, because he challenges the concept of God you picked up in Sunday School and makes you think about what kind of idol you have in your heart representing God. Is your God a kindly old man (the man upstairs), a judge (dishing out reward and punishment), a meek and mild savior (too weak to save himself from the cross), or is He the Creator (Father), the Redeemer (Jesus Christ), and the Provider (Holy Spirit)? Is your God big enough to create the stars and the atoms? Is your God big enough to handle your problems? Is He big enough to handle ours? Because only when God is understood as who He is, will you understand who you are. When God is the Infinite, the Creator, the Power and Authority over all, only then do you understand what it is to be created in His Image, His Child, and His Bride. Is your God too small? Is your God only big enough to fit into your church building? Or is your God only as big as your wallet?

In our country, we elect men and women to the highest offices in our land, and the Presidency. We elect them based on a number of factors, which appeal to the widest majority of people. Only rarely are we concerned what his or her spouse looks like, speaks like, or even what she or he thinks. We don’t elect their spouse. We elect the President. Now imagine that that potential first lady believed she was the most important part of the election campaign. Imagine that she believed it was because of her that people elected her husband to the Presidency. This is the trap that the Church gets into, because she believes that it is how dynamic and persuasive she is that people come to believe in her husband, God. She believes it is because of her power and resources that people come to Christ. The power of the president doesn’t come from the first lady. But the power of the first lady comes from the president. The first lady can be short, fat, ugly, and completely clueless, but she will still be First Lady. Likewise, the Church can be small, ordinary, weak, and inept, but she is still the Church because God is God, and she is His Bride.

If we truly believe that this church is weak, powerless, and of little importance, then NOW IS THE TIME to trust in God beyond all we can imagine and beyond our ability to PAY FOR. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) God is glorified in our weaknesses because it proves that the power doesn’t come from us, but from Him. Because of this, it is time now to take on a project that will stretch our faith, and push through beyond it. We need a goal and a project so HUGE that only God can make it happen. What program, what project, what staff decision, what building program, what IDEA is so big, and yet vital and aligned with God’s redemptive purpose, that this Church be poised to do right now? Don’t be afraid to dream. Don’t be afraid of the Board. Be afraid of the God who gave you the idea that you didn’t follow up on. Do you have faith to get out of the comfortable boat and follow Jesus upon the waves? Anything is possible as long we don’t look away? As long as we keep the first goal, to the glory of God the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ, anything is possible! Anything. Dream Church, dream! And then tell us what you’ve got in mind. No idea is too big!

It’s time to get rid of the “small church” moniker. It’s only a paraphrase of “small-minded.” As the Cable Guy says, “GIT-R-DONE!”

Keeping Your Oath

I was listening to the news the other day and heard a very interesting question. Should a person’s faithfulness in marriage be counted toward or against their ability to serve the public? We’ve seen how infidelity in the oval office has been explained away as a “private matter.” But is it really private? I remember a Saturday about years ago when I stood before a body of witnesses, and publicly confessed my faithfulness to a woman that I am still married to. That day really frightened me because I had to confess to private feelings and make public, lasting commitments in front about 200 of my closest family and friends, and before God. It sure didn’t feel like a “private matter” at the time.

Marriages are not private affairs. They are licensed by the state, and performed by a state representative, whether it be the justice of the peace, or a minister permitted to do so by law. If a man makes a public commitment to a woman before the state and a body of witnesses, doesn’t that have some effect when that man then swears an oath to office? If a man will not be faithful to a woman in marriage which he has sworn “till death do us part” before the state, how can he be trusted when he swears an oath to a public office.

In a marriage, it is much harder to be faithful than as a public servant. A marriage is built upon the thousand tiny decisions to be faithful; not to look after other women, not to imagine being with them, and so on. Marriages require far more diligence, more work to communicate, tolerate, and even love one another. Marriage doesn’t happen by chance, but by the thousand careful decisions to make it work that take place everyday. Stopping by to pick up a flower, just to say, “I love you.” Picking up the dirty laundry and doing it without being asked. Offering to take the kids out for a while so your wife can get some time alone. Marriage is built on selflessness, the thousand little decisions like these to make it work and be successful. It is much easier to be unfaithful in marriage than in public office. It is much easier to make a mess of a marriage than it is the governor’s office, because no one is watching, and few people care if a marriage breaks up. It happens all the time.

Public Service on the other hand is constantly monitored by the media and those after your job. It calls for greater scrutiny and accountability. You pay much closer attention to it because you have to make it work, or you lose your job. If marriages had that much scrutiny, there would probably be less divorces. If Marriage called for that much accountability, like some celebrity marriages have, then they would last longer.

Most importantly, the commitment you make in your marriage is made not just before the state, but before God. The commitment to public office may require a Bible to make the oath, but it is not made before God, but before Men. If a man can’t be trusted to honor his commitment he made to one human being, his wife, how on earth can he be expected to honor his commitment to a thousand, or three-hundred million? Can I trust a man to honor his commitment to me if he’s been unfaithful to his wife? In the end, we are measured not by our great decisions, but by our small ones.

You know what the secret to success is, in anything? It is embodied in Matthew 25:21, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” The one who gets the brass ring in God’s eyes is the one who has been faithful and a good steward of the things he has already been given.

Do you want to be successful in the new year? Faithfulness is its key. What commitments and responsibilities have you been given already that you need to work on? How can you demonstrate that you are “faithful with a few things”? When God sees He can count on you to manage a few things, he will give you more responsibility, and if you are faithful, more success.

Something to think about for your voting decisions.

Keeping the Law

IMG20006I received across my desk last month a little book entitled, TEN COMMANDMENTS – TWICE REMOVED. If you have received a copy of this book too and read it, you are a better man than I am. I got through the first 30 pages and decided it was a waste of time. The book, in short, is about how the Church both upholds the public display of the Ten Commandments, yet fails to keep them. Some have asked me what my position on the Ten Commandments is, and I’ve tried to give a simplistic answer. Such an answer is insufficient in response to this book, since the authors attempt to reinstate the Ten as binding upon Christians. Here goes . . .

First off, as Christians, we should not be opposed to the public posting of the TEN. It is after all, the WORD of the LORD. That said, let us also acknowledge that it is not the government’s job to evangelize. The Government was given the task to uphold justice, not spread the gospel. “He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:4b) Therefore our support should never encroach on the actual purpose of government. The American government, however, is unique, in that it is the only government in the world designed to function around Christian principles. This is no accident. Since the Pilgrims, American government has always assumed a personal relationship with God and the Church. Ben Franklin is to have said at one point that the Government of the United States would only function if its people were Christians. (This has significant bearing in Iraq, don’t you think? Why don’t democracies established in Islamic countries take off?) As such, the Ten Commandments has a rightful place in the public forum, both historically and ethically. In fact, the TEN have an historical place where the Five Pillars of Islam or various other religious icons do not.

Some object that the Ten Commandments is promoting a particular religion, and thus violating the “law” of the separation of Church and State. The Constitution says that Congress shall make no law establishing a religion. But this was written in a context when nearly everyone attended Church, invoked the God of the Bible at all public proceedings, and depended on that God to sustain their country. The establishment clause wasn’t about religion as we would define it, but was about Christian denomination. They didn’t want a particular denomination (i.e., Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, etc.) to be the “official” church of the US. That everyone was going to worship God was a foregone conclusion. Freedom involved how you were going to worship that God.

The critics are right. Posting the TEN does promote religion. By their posting, government declares that they are not the absolute authority, and that government stands under that final authority. This should be a comforting reminder for all of us. Yet to go by only the TEN is to observe only a very generic God. You have to read the Bible to learn about him. Objections to posting the TEN are only going to be offered up by those who intend to ignore them anyway.

If we were a nation founded upon any other religion, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Do you think that the average Iranian objects publicly that he is called to prayer five times a day, through government-run public address systems? Do you think he would sue the state to take down the PA speakers so that he could pray on his own time? Not a chance.

The Ten Commandments deserve a place in our public forum, both historically and ethically. The Church should resist efforts to remove them, but it should also work doubly hard on bring Christ into the hearts of minds of every person involved. Let us not fight displacing the TEN because we are too lazy to post them ourselves, but to remind government who is the final authority.

Second, should Christians be worried they might be breaking the Ten Commandments?

Since the Ten Commandment Law of God is a packaged proposal, and breaking one commandment makes us guilty of breaking all, then we must conclude the Ten Commandments have been twice removed – not only from our government, but from most of our churches as well. (from Ten Commandments – Twice Removed, 20)

The authors make an old argument. The Sabbath-Day is the fourth commandment. Of the Ten, only the Sabbath-Day (i.e., Saturday) gives Christians trouble. This argument has been around since the days of Paul. Should Christians observe Jewish Law in order to be “real” Christians? “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the Law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:2-3) The answer of course is no. Why? Because in point of fact, it is much easier to be Jewish than Christian.

To be fair, the authors (Danny Shelton and Shelley Quinn) posit that there are two different laws, one from God and another from Moses. But it’s not clear from their text how they make that distinction. The say that the TEN are from God and everything else is from Moses, and thus Christians are only responsible for the TEN. This is disingenuous, since the Lord delivers all the Law to Moses, not just the ten. And it’s difficult to argue that the whole law was not also written on the stone tablets. Read through Exodus again and see what you think.

For the Jew, the Law (all of it, including the TEN), meant what God expected them to DO. It was all about what they were to be doing so as not to sin against God. Anyone who reads the Old Testament knows they failed consistently even in this. In New Testament times, a different attitude is reflected by the Pharisees, who applied human tradition to the Law to make its external nature even more prevalent. For the Jew, to be Jewish required doing the right things that please God, offering sacrifices, making offerings, loving your neighbor, loving God, etc. But this was easy, since the Law said little about the heart nature. A person could be a Jew outwardly, yet on the inside be very evil. Hence Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, “you white-washed sepulchers!” (Matthew 23:27) They were clean on the outside, but inside they were completely dead to God.

For the Christian, we have something completely different. It was against the law to commit adultery, but Jesus said that to even look on a woman with lust in your heart was to commit adultery with her, and thus break the law. It was against the law to murder someone, but Jesus said to even be angry at your brother, wanting to kill him, was tantamount to very act. Jesus said that the law which spoke to the outward man applied to the inward man as well.

In point of fact, no one can keep the Law, whether it’s the TEN or the whole of the 613 commandments of the Mosaic system. “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) Why would anyone think that emphasizing the Sabbath Law is going to improve the situation? Rather, “now a righteousness from God, apart from the Law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22a) Righteousness only comes from Faith in Jesus Christ, which is about the everyday, the common, the familiar. Faith impacts in all areas of our life, not just the ones we set apart for God.

Thus when this principle is applied to the TEN, and especially to the fourth, you see it is easy to designate one day in seven to rest. It is harder to make every day devoted to God. God isn’t just looking for an outward demonstration of your love for Him on one day. He is looking for that same attitude to follow you throughout the week. Every day is holy to the Lord, not just the Sabbath. As Christians, we are called to the higher standard. One day in seven? No, but every day, every hour, every moment is the Lord’s, and worthy of His remembrance.

Christians, don’t get mired in this argument. Those that argue for a Sabbath-day observance (Seventh-Day Adventists, for example, who also argue against the Trinity) love the Lord too. They just got off the track somewhere and need to be taught the way of Christ more accurately. That is best done when the truth is spoken in love.

Calling a Spade a Spade

Several years ago, I used to listen faithfully to Dr. Laura Schlesinger on the radio, who had a unique way of describing the situation of a couple who chose to “live together.” What a nice and sanitized way to put it, “live together.” Taken on its own, it lends itself to an understanding of two individuals who have chosen to “live” only to do it “together.” There is an implied bond of mutual respect and admiration. We are “living together,” as two oxen might be “yoked together,” or two co-workers “working together.” There is no longer any moral sting with “living together.” Dr. Laura had it right. There is nothing holy or sacred or even special about “living together.” Call it what she called it, “shackin’ up.” Or call it what the Bible calls it, “fornication,” or worse, “adultery.”

You shall not commit adultery. (Ex. 20:14)

If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. (Ex 22:16)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality [in some trans., “fornication”], that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God. (1 Th 4:3)

Sexual immorality (defined simply as any sexually pleasurable activity outside the context of marriage, Clinton was no exception) is not the will of God and earmarked for certain judgment (Jude 1:7). I am aghast at the number of people who feel no shame, and even feel comfortable taking this particular fire into their bosom, imagining it will not burn them. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal 6:7) What is the deception? That they know better than God. Did God, as a cosmic killjoy, decide one day that he wanted to take away fun and made it a rule to only have sex with one woman for a lifetime, and only then when you have made a formal commitment to one another? Do you honestly think God is like that? This from the same God who made the sunsets, the starlight, sex, and a host of other fun things. Can God be both the maker of fun things and the cosmic killjoy?

Oh I know the arguments. There’s the “let’s see if we like each other well enough to get married” argument. What a load of bull****. If you didn’t like each other, you wouldn’t have decided to fornicate in the first place. And the question isn’t, “Can I live with her the rest of my life?”, but “Can I live without her the rest of my life?” Couples who fornicate are statistically much more likely to split up or divorce than a couple that first marries and then lives together because marriage is the safety net. It is the commitment that is the fall-back position. When people get to a point where they can’t stand each other, marriage says, “work it out.” People who are not married don’t “work it out,” or at the least don’t feel compelled to, and kids or not, they will split. Married people do, and they draw deeper together for their labor. Marriage is work, don’t let anyone fool you. But the work is what makes marriage stronger, and it will always be stronger than fornication. In marriage, you don’t have to pretend, so the other person “won’t leave.” Marriage allows for openness and honesty in a way fornication never can for its nature. Fornication just can’t compete with real marriage.

Then there is argument that “Mom and Dad never got along. I don’t want to live like that” argument. Live like what? If your parent’s marriage was so poor, answer the following questions: Did you ever see them in love? Did you ever see them spend time together just talking? Did you ever see them struggle together, rather than apart? Did your parents solve their problems together, or use things like alcohol to get them through? Your parents’ marriage broke down because of them, not because of you. Your marriage will work because you will avoid their mistakes. You will work on marriage, because you will have a church in your community that will support you. You will have a God that promises to support you and uphold you when times are tough. You will have a great marriage if you care for your spouse like you say you do.

Then some might say, “I just want to have sex, (sow my wild oats) before I settle down.” Those oats have a way of sprouting inconveniently. Sex without responsibility? Yeah right! People who just want to “have sex” end up being parents. You have to ask yourself the question, is the person I want to have sex with the same person I want to look across the courtroom at when we are in a custody hearing? TV and Movies depict sex without consequences. That’s a lie. Even married people will tell you that. Sex always has consequences. It brings children into a world that is either not prepared for them (unwed mother) or doesn’t want them (ending in either abortion (child murder), or regular child abuse). Unmarried sex does hurt other people. God weeps for those children. These precious innocents that by His miraculous power have been brought into the world enter a world of heartache, of grandparents fighting over custody, or parents who pass off their kids to anyone who wants them (even child molesters). Drug-addicted moms selling their five-year olds over the internet for drug money???!!! THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!!!!!

This isn’t a problem of other people. Our neighbors have this problem. There are households in our community of people dwelling in the same house without the benefit of marriage. I place the offer before you, since I am empowered to do something about it. Stop the fornication. Stop the Sin. I will happily perform a ceremony of marriage for any unmarried couple in this community, and I will even do it for FREE if money is the problem. But you must have the marriage license in hand. Either that, or MOVE OUT!

Let us end this problem in our community. Let us return the stigma to fornication that it deserves. “Living together” is not acceptable in decent society. “Living together” is fornication. It is sexual immorality. It is certain pain and confusion for the innocents born into them and the grandparents who must stand by and watch, like watching a train wreck. It is a challenge against God and His Word, and God will not stand for it. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked.”

A Ready Defense

“Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Christian, do you know why you believe what you believe? It is easy to take for granted that the things I learned in Sunday School are true. But if I am confronted on the street or in the classroom about my faith, must I confess, “I don’t know why I believe it?” or can I say, “I know why I must believe it”? People who are not Christians don’t have to struggle with these questions. They can go on and believe whatever they want to. Usually people who do not go to church give one of the following four answers about religion in general.

  1. I don’t really think religion matters anymore. It’s old news. Give me something new.

  2. Religion is irrelevant, because Science has really proven all I really need to know anyway.

  3. There are so many different religions, really, who can know what’s right?

  4. I am going to practice my own faith my way. I don’t need the church or organized religion.

Dear reader, I am not going to try to persuade you to become a Christian in the few short paragraphs I have here available to me. If you are not a Christian, then there’s nothing I can say that you probably haven’t heard before. If you aren’t a Christian in America, you’ve probably been approached by countless preachers and Christians to try and convince you otherwise. But you’ve demonstrated you just aren’t going to bow to that kind of pressure. You’ve got all the answers, right? You’ve got it all figured out, right? Why do you need religion? Aren’t you living happily and joyfully on your own without God? Well, perhaps you might give this author another opportunity, not to convince you of God, but to ask you some honest questions.

  1. Doesn’t religion matter?

  2. Is it possible for science to have all the answers?

  3. Can all religions be true?

  4. What is your faith apart from the Church?

Religion has become an issue in the issue of national security. The people who piloted airplanes into the twin towers on 9/11 were motivated by religion. The men who took young girls from their parents in order to marry them in Texas were motivated by religion. When David Koresh and his band at Waco were burned to death, they did so because of religion. Even if you don’t have a religion, your life is affected by those that do. That doesn’t mean that any of those religions were right, but because religion matters to some people, it impacts us all. On the other hand, the Sisters of St. Francis built St. Elizabeth hospital, which saves thousands of lives from ill health was established because of a religion. The women’s shelter in Frankfort, Rainbow Haven, was established because of religion. Thousands of men and women, even some of your neighbors, spend their Sunday mornings in this Church, because of their religion. Religion, even if it doesn’t matter to you, matters to people you know. It has contributed in saving the lives of people you know. Does religion matter?

Many put their faith in Science as the answerer of all questions. If anything is worth knowing, then science will be able to establish it as fact. Yet anyone that has a passing knowledge of science will tell you that science is limited in its scope. Science can only theorize a general truth based on visible, tactile evidence. This evidence comes from multitudes of experiments. For any “truth” to come from science must be the result of a repeatable series of experiments. It is based on probable chances, approaching virtual zero, to establish such truth. For example, a certain model of car will be tested for its ability to survive a crash. A number of experiments will be performed, involving different kinds of impacts, to test the car for survivability. When you finally buy that car, you will never be able to buy a car that has been tested, but a car that was built the same way. Even if every experiment “proves” that that car is safe, it is merely a good chance that the car you drive will protect you in an accident. You don’t know if your particular car is the exception to “rule.” So it is with all “truth” obtained from science. It is a probability of truth, rather than absolute truth. Can science have all the answers?

Some religions are better than others. Certainly, no one would advocate Naziism is better than Buddhism. Yet all religions have something to say about where we came from and where we are going. The reason there are so many religions is because they all differ on one or both of those two points. No two religions can both be true, because in some point or another, they are mutually exclusive. In essence, the one who examines religion must make a judgment call between two religions, whether he believe one or the other. He cannot possible believe both, unless he doesn’t believe in any of them. Can all religions be true?

One who takes his religion out of the church perhaps does the most damage to himself. Some religions would encourage self-awareness and personal discovery, including Christianity. Yet, self-awareness and personal discovery will only take you so far, since you are limited in your perspective and ability. You will eventually run out of things to talk to yourself about. You need interaction with someone else. You need other people, at least to give you an objective opinion. You need other people to practice things like, oh, say, love and kindness and helpfulness and so forth. What is your faith apart from others, like the Church?

I ask you to consider these questions. Feel free to write in some answers, your own answers, to these questions. Please, carefully consider your responses. Your eternity depends on it, because you have to be right.

Jesus Christ is like a Pan of Brownies

How, you may ask, is that news? Why it is the single greatest news story in the history of the world. All of us, whether young or old, have been victims of an insidious conspiracy. We have been led to believe a lie! We have been told that if we do enough good things in our lives, that the balance sheet at the end will show us to be good people. We hear it everywhere, from TV, Movies, Radio and the like that our eternity can be earned. “Just do enough good deeds to get by,” and then our eternity is secured in a Heaven filled with all the things we want, like gold, good food, and so forth.

While there is always time to do good, and good people should do good deeds, we’ve been lied to. How do I know this? Because of Jesus.

Rather than think of our lives as a balance sheet, think of it as a pan of brownies (Mmmm). A balance sheet has two columns, for good deeds and bad deeds, which we’ll call sins for short. A pan of brownies on the other hand is everything mixed together. Now I could probably eat a pan of brownies if the only ingredients were good, like flour, salt, cocoa, sugar, milk, eggs, and so forth. But when you put not so good ingredients in there, like coffee grounds, egg shells, kitty litter, and such, the brownies don’t smell, or even taste very good at all.

All of our lives we’ve been laboring under the delusion that our good deeds erase the bad ones, but in reality, our lives are the sum of both our good deeds, and our sins. There is no amount of good that we can do to erase the bad. It’s just not in our power. We can’t do it. No one can. This is why the Bible says, “No one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3) The more I think about it, the more I wonder what God wants with us at all.

This is why I have such good news! Jesus Christ is Lord! Remember the events of just a few weeks ago we remembered at Easter? Jesus, the Jew of first-century Palestine, died on a Roman cross at the hands of sinful men, only to rise from the dead three days later. While that information may seem merely remarkable on the surface, and interesting tidbit of history, it has profound implications for you.

The New Testament (which is proven true every time it is tried) says that that cross was God’s instrument to solve our sin problem. When Jesus died, he wasn’t just anyone, He was God’s Son. As such, he was perfect, and sin-less. Jesus’ pan of brownies smelled wonderful. He was absolutely pure. And it was his death on that cross which was a vicarious (vocabulary word meaning, “instead of me”) sacrifice. He died for you, so that when you put your faith in Him, His death covers your sin. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death.” Jesus had no sin to die for, so he died for yours. Only his death (and his blood) can erase your sins.

There are consequences for this of course, which is why you may have put off putting your trust in him. I don’t blame you, because everyone needs to make this decision with their eyes wide open. Putting your faith in Christ means you will now need to live like Him. His death can save your life, but only if you become like Him, in faith, in confession, in repentance (from your sin), and in immersion. Only then does He guarantee eternal life with Him.

The down side of trusting Jesus, if you consider a down side, is that you give up your effort to earn your salvation by good works, and give in to Him. I think it’s a really good trade off, since you don’t have to wonder anymore if you will go to Heaven when you die; you know you will. That’s good news too.

Jesus Christ is Lord! Not that he was, or will be, but is. He is Lord now! He wants you, not to use you, or make you do stuff, but to love you, more purely, more lovingly, and more wholly that anyone person ever could. Do you feel unloved? Do you need a friend? Or are you just tired of trying to live life by your rules? Turn whatever you’ve got over to God. Let Him work with your ingredients, so that your brownies will smell GOOD!