Category Archives: grace

God Did Not Create Another God


Would you take a moment and consider something?

When God created man, He didn’t create another God.

You might think that’s nothing new, but it is a very, very important truth – one that is rarely unpacked when discussing issues of sin and suffering.

There are people who wonder why God, if He exists and is so powerful and wise, created a free agent who could sin (break God’s law).

Others question why Scripture would suggest that Jesus was slain before the foundations of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20).

The answer to these questions and many more is that God did not create another God, only man.

God has certain characteristics that Man could never have simply because he was created. The most obvious are that he is not eternal, omnipotent, immutable, or omniscient. The most important is that Man, no matter how perfect he was at the moment of creation, was not holy as God is Holy.

If God were to create another like unto Himself, then God would not be God. If Man could be created, he couldn’t be eternal.

No matter what God created, His creation could never be Himself, and therefore not God.

God is eternally immutable, unchanging, therefore He cannot sin. On the other hand, Man is not eternal, nor immutable, so even from the beginning of creation, he had the potential, however remote, to sin. Therefore, even though God did not create sin, nor did He cause Adam to sin, sin was inevitable simply because God created a creature that was not Himself.

Why was it part of God’s plan that Jesus would be crucified, even before Adam even sinned? Because simply creating Man brought with it the inevitable possibility, the inevitable reality, that he would need to be redeemed – because he is Man, not God.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:9-10 KJV

Simply put, the only way sin could have been avoided would have been for God to never create any being capable of freely communing with Him. If he had created a robot, a machine, then sin would not have been inevitable. But since Adam was given the freedom to choose, a will, and since he was not God, the inevitable required an Emmanuel.

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Filed under Christianity, God, grace, Jesus, salvation

Not Just a Magnificent Double Rainbow

Taken with my iPhone 11 on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 in Chattanooga, TN.

How many things are more impressive than a huge end-to-end double rainbow after a major downpour?

Can’t think of many.

But how many even know what a rainbow is? It’s not simply a beautiful phenomenon or the symbol of a social advocacy movement.

It’s a PROMISE!
Genesis 9:12-17 (NLT) 12 Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. 16 When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” 17 Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.”

What if it’s a double rainbow? My guess is God needed a little extra reminding today.

 

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What Are the Five Solas, and Did Elvis Sing About Them?

‘O Sole Mio

When I am driving long distances, particularly when I’m alone (as far as I know), I sometimes sing aloud certain songs to keep me alert. Sometimes I sing songs I know well, and other times I make up lyrics to fill in the gaps for songs I know little of.

One particular song is “‘O Sole Mio,” or “It’s Now Or Never.” I will usually sing to myself and use the words interchangeably, adding in what I know of the chorus of “It’s Now Or Never,” then make up the rest from there. The whole idea is to sing loudly, operatically, in order to keep the blood and oxygen flowing, but sometimes my own lyrics crack me up, especially when I expand on the sexually predatory characteristics of Elvis’ version.

Credit: Wikipedia

Actually, the older (1898) Neapolitan song has nothing to do with the English-language hit recorded by Elvis Presley in 1960. ‘O sole mio actually translates into “my sunshine,” while It’s now or never translates into: “I’m so turned on by your looks that we should have a one-night-stand…I’m outa here come daylight.”

So why am I telling you this? I’m glad you asked.

Sole is the Italian word for “sun.” Luce del sole is Italian for “sunlight.” So, by way of a totally unrelated personal story, I want to segue into something that should be important to us all… I want to shine some luce del sole on the Solas 🙂

“It’s now or never . . .” (Elvis)

The Five Solas

Sola is the Latin word for “alone,” and for a practically 500 years non-Catholics (such as myself) have held five particular “solas” near and dear to our theological hearts.

1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”

What do they mean? Well, nothing Elvis Presley was singing about, that’s for sure. The following can be found on a great website whose link is already on my sidebar, GotQuestions.org.

Sola scriptura emphasizes the Bible alone as the source of authority for Christians. By saying, “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected both the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and confidence in sacred tradition. Only the Bible was “inspired by God” (2 Peter 1:20-21) and “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Anything taught by the Pope or in tradition that contradicted the Bible was to be rejected. Sola scriptura also fueled the translation of the Bible into German, French, English, and other languages, and prompted Bible teaching in the common languages of the day, rather than in Latin.

Sola fide emphasizes salvation as a free gift. The Roman Catholic Church of the time emphasized the use of indulgences (donating money) to buy status with God. Good works, including baptism, were seen as required for salvation. Sola fide stated that salvation is a free gift to all who accept it by faith (John 3:16). Salvation is not based on human effort or good deeds (Ephesians 2:9).

Sola gratia emphasizes grace as the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Solo Christo (sometimes listed as Solus Christus, “through Christ alone”) emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation. The Roman Catholic tradition had placed church leaders such as priests in the role of intercessor between the laity and God. Reformers emphasized Jesus’ role as our “high priest” who intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Hebrews 4:15 teaches, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is the One who offers access to God, not a human spiritual leader.

Soli Deo gloria emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life. Rather than striving to please church leaders, keep a list of rules, or guard our own interests, our goal is to glorify the Lord. The idea of soli Deo gloria is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The five solas of the Protestant Reformation offered a strong corrective to the faulty practices and beliefs of the time, and they remain relevant today. We are called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.  © Copyright 2002-2017 Got Questions Ministries

Never heard of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation before today? Well, I hope this shed some sunlight – luce del sole – on them for you 😉

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Filed under Christianity, God, grace, Martin Luther, Theology

Bedtime Prayer of the Saved by Grace

“Now I lay me down to sleep.

I KNOW the Lord my soul will keep.

And if I should die before I wake,

Then, HALLELUJAH! That would take the cake!

Thank you Jesus! Amen! Praise God!”

 

“Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” – Romans 15:33

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, grace, iPosts, Life/Death, salvation

Less Labels; More Grace (Are You A Racist?)

First, a Dog Story

George and I in Walmart. He’s the world’s best conversation starter 😉

I have the sweetest, cutest, snuggliest, smartest, dog in the world. His name is George.

Before George came into my life, I had in mind the type of dog I wanted, and it wasn’t a big one; I wanted a Chorkie. I thought that’s what I got when I drove 2 hours into South Carolina to purchase him. At least that’s what I was told.

But this morning I was curious and did a little research. From what it appears, despite what the papers said, George looks a whole lot more like a long hair Chihuahua than a little boy dog who had a Yorkie daddy.  I think I was deceived.

So, through the course of conversation, one of our daughters asked me, “Are you OK with that?” With words of consolation, she then texted, “He has Yorkie coloring.” I replied, “Well, it’s not like I’m going to return him for a refund.”

Seriously, I have had this dog since August and have watched him grow, watched him learn, and felt my heart swell with affection. Do I get rid of him now because he might be a different breed than what I originally thought? Do I keep him because he might be the right color?

No! I love George! He’s part of our family.

Preference vs Prejudice

Folks, we show preferences all the time, and not only when it comes to selecting a particular dog bread we feel best meets our needs and desires. Preference is not a dirty word, nor a crime.

For example, I knew in advance of getting George that I did not want a German shepherd. I like German shepherds, but there’s no way I could keep one where we live – it would destroy the refinished hardwood floors! My preference was for a small, loyal, thinks-he’s-bigger-than-he-is little buddy, one that could meet me at the door without chewing it off the hinges.

Now, had I been offered a long-haired Chihuahua, I would have said “no.” Because of their typical “yappy” nature, their incessant shivering, and the whole “legally blond” thing, I preferred something more like a Yorkie (but Chorkies cost less). However, my prejudice (a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience) against owning a long hair Chihuahua proved unfounded. He is nothing like what I thought a long hair Chihuahua would be like.

“Breedism” and Racism

A pit bull bears it's teeth in this photo taken in New York City. A similar animal attacked a Michigan couple Sunday night, leaving them hospitalized with severe injuries.Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images

Credit: WHIO TV

But there are dogs I do not like – never have, never will. I do not like Dobermans, Rottweilers, or pit bulls. Actually, I can’t stand pit bulls. Frankly, I wouldn’t get too upset if you told me the whole breed had become extinct.

Honestly, not all pit bulls are bad dogs; some are very sweet. But in my personal opinion, none can be trusted and each one is a potential killer waiting to snap. You could, quite literally, call me a “breedist.” I think any other dog breed is better, despite any statistic or evidence to the contrary.

Racists and breedists are very much alike: Both hold prejudiced opinions of entire groups; they believe one group is inherently better than another; and no amount of logic or evidence can change their opinions.

Let’s look at some examples of what could be considered racist or breedist statements:

  • Never leave your pit bull alone with your child, not unless you want your child to die.
  • Never let your white daughter date a black boy, not unless you want her to get raped.
  • All dogs may go to heaven, but let one of those Rottweilers come in my yard and I’ll send it there.
  • Yes, God made all men in His image and Jesus died so all men could be saved, but if you bring in those black kids, don’t be surprised when things wind up missing.
  • See that big Doberman with the studded collar? He’s probably mean as the devil.
  • See that colored boy in the hoodie? He’s probably up to no good.

But now let’s look at some examples of what is NOT racism or breedism:

  • Ms. Brown was bit by a friend’s German shepherd several years ago. So bad was the bite that she required stitches to close the wound. Now, anytime she sees a German shepherd, a cold chill runs down her spine as she fights the urge to panic.
  • While at the counter paying for gas, a young African-American male in a blue hoodie stormed through the door and hit Mr. Jones with a bat, then robbed the store clerk before shooting him. Now, anytime Mr. Jones is approached by a black man in a hoodie he feels threatened.
  • The neighbor’s dog, a brindle-colored bull dog mix, often comes to our front door begging to come in and play with George. He’s a sweet dog, and he means no harm, but he doesn’t belong to us – he’s not our dog – and it won’t be two minutes before he “marks his territory” on our furniture. So, we say, “No!”, you can’t come in!
  • We should require better security at our nation’s borders so that people from other homes don’t waltz in through our front door like it was their own. We like invited guests, not assuming ones.

I’m tired of everybody throwing around the word “racist” when racism is rarely at play. For example, I’m NOT a breedist because I wanted a small dog more than a big dog (even though I was originally prejudiced against long hair Chihuahuas).

Also, because I pastor a church that’s attended by white people, I’m no more a racist than the pastor down the road who leads a black congregation. Where and how we prefer to worship should not be a necessary indicator of anything.

For the record, I do not believe I’m superior to anyone for any reason, including my skin color, my nationality, my sex, or my faith. I’m not a racist.

Who’s to Blame?

Yet when it comes to the fears or misconceptions we may have of each other, it might be a good idea to determine where all those prejudices are getting their start! Who promotes the stereotypes? Maybe it used to be where we grew up, but America is much more diverse and cross-cultured than it was back in the 1860’s and 1960’s.

Who regularly portrays negative images to sell a product? How many movies have you seen with cuddly pit bulls or Dobermans?How many Hollywood films have you seen where an innocent victim is attacked in a dark alley by three white guys wearing pastel-colored Izod’s? Many of the stereotypes that perpetuate prejudice are actually fueled by the same Hollywood studios that preach to us about bigotry and racism.

Check out this report: “What Hollywood movies do to perpetuate racial stereotypes.”

There’s always going to be the one who thinks himself superior to others, whether consciously or subconsciously, and much of that is going to be due to ignorance, not hate. For example, many early European missionaries to Africa felt their race was inherently superior to the “descendants of Cain,” yet they lovingly gave their lives to reach them with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

But much of what is labeled as “racism” today is, I believe, a manufactured commodity of the media culture; they create the fear, keep people ignorant, and feed off the perpetual misconceptions. The rest is nothing more than name-calling in order to shame, silence, or intimidate one’s political or social opponent.

Racism is wrong. Racism is a sin! But calling something a sin that’s not, in order to bring about a desired response by shaming people into fitting your personal template, whatever that may be, is nothing less than manipulative, tyrannical, cultural legalism.

So, why don’t we forgo all the name-calling and honestly get to the root issues that generate fear, distrust, and division. I’ve got a strong feeling most of us care more about each other than the other knows.

Less labels; more Grace.

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Filed under animals, Culture Wars, grace, legalism

Apologize For What, Exactly?

He Won’t Apologize!

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing: CNN reported that Trump would not apologize after being acquitted. I literally laughed out loud and asked, “Why would he?!”

Seriously, if you think I’m joking, here’s a screen shot I took of the headline…

Say what you want, but if I was one who was accused of something I swore I didn’t do, why would I stand in front of the world after I was acquitted and say I’m sorry for doing what I previously swore I didn’t do? If they wanted to paint Trump as insane, that would have been a good time to do it, because that would have been crazy!

Accused and Reminded

But as soon as I heard about this story and the stupidity of it all, I couldn’t help but think of what Satan does to you and me: he accuses, then he reminds.

The name “Satan” means “accuser.” That’s what he does all the time; he accuses us of all kinds of things, maybe even things we’ve done. Thankfully, one day he will be “cast down” and won’t be able to keep up the accusations.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. – Revelation 12:10

But Satan not only accuses us before the Judge, he tries to make us feel guilty for things for which we’ve already been forgiven. He wakes us up in the middle of the night, or puts something in our paths that will trigger a flashback of some sin we did, and then he revels in making us feel guilty and dirty all over again.

“You call yourself a Christian?” he’ll ask. “Then why did you do that?” “What makes you think God would really forgive you? How do you even know you’ve been forgiven?” And then, like what you did was just yesterday, you feel sick, nasty, and afraid God might not love you as much as He promised.

Before long we find ourselves begging God to forgive us for something long forgiven, questioning His Word, or else we feel too ashamed to even believe we can be forgiven, then wind up doubting our salvation.

Justified!

Folks, if Trump doesn’t think he did anything wrong, why on earth would anyone expect him to get in front of the cameras of his accusers and apologize?

But for you and I, what a joy it is – or should be – to know full well that what we have been accused of, we were guilty! Yet, through faith in Jesus Christ and His substitutionary atonement, we are not only forgiven, but we are JUSTIFIED (acquitted) by grace!

  • Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: – Romans 3:24
  • Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: … Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. – Romans 5:1, 9

So, if the Devil’s CNN ever questions you about some sin you may have committed in the past, some sin that might get God to change His mind about acquitting you, remind them that whatever they are trying, it won’t work:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, – Romans 8:1 CSB

You’ve been acquitted!

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Filed under Christianity, current events, grace, politics

From a Suggested Reading: The Need to See Scars

As I was sitting here in my study and reading a book that a church member gave me, I came across something I had to share…because I totally agree.

In his book Take the Dimness of My Soul Away, William A Ritter shares several sermons he delivered over the years following the suicide of his son. At the beginning of the third chapter entitled “Making It,” Ritter wrote something that mirrors my own philosophy of pastoral ministry.

When I read it just a couple of minutes ago, I knew I had to share it with you.

“We who follow Jesus need not hide our hurts. Not all wounds need covering. Even in the pulpit. Especially in the pulpit. People need to know that even preachers have been through some wars and accumulated some scars. But they also need to know where and how healing is taking place.” p. 38

I hope you’ve realized I’m not perfect.

I hope you’ve realized I have scars.

But please know that Jesus is the Hope through which healing and thriving is possible. 

 

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Recommendations for Non-Calvinist Works

I’ve been pretty busy and unable to finish anything new to post today. However, I found something worthy of sharing, something I know many of you will appreciate.

Check out the information in the video I’m attaching and let Dr. Flowers know I sent you 🙂

Have a great Monday!

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, grace, salvation, Theology

Still Unashamed Of the Cross

This Sunday morning I will be taking a break from my regular sermon series and will preach from the following passage:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; – 1 Corinthians 1:23 

The key point of the sermon will be centered around the word “crucified.” Maybe I’ll, write about it in the future.

But below is something that came to mind as I was thinking of the Cross. It’s a post I wrote last year. And I’m STILL unashamed!


Back in 2014, during the semifinals of The Voice, “Team Blake” member Craig Wayne Boyd cranked out a fantastic rendition of the classic hymn “The Old Rugged Cross.” Many people – including those who call themselves “Christian” – were shocked. Why did a singer choose to sing this hymn on a national stage – in a competition? I mean, the cross? Really? What was this guy thinking?

Maybe, just maybe, Craig Boyd was letting the world know where he’d lay that crown, should he win it.

You see, it was on the cross of Calvary that the “Dearest and Best” was slain. It was on this cross that the “ordinances against us” were nailed (Col. 2:14). It was on this cross that our Savior promised that if He be lifted up, He would draw all men unto himself. It was on this cross where Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Without the cross, grace would be a non-issue and the Law would still be my master. Without the cross, Easter would be irrelevant. Without the cross, we’d never been able to witness the most powerful manifestation of love (1 John 4:9-10)the world would ever see.

It was on that old, rugged, blood-stained cross that Jesus paid the penalty for my sin. It was the crossroad of judgment and mercy where the Lamb of God humbled Himself (Phil. 2:8) and purchased my reconciliation with God (Eph. 2:16).

So, why cherish the cross? Because it was and is proof positive that even before I knew Him, even when I was steeped in sin, God loved me enough to die in my stead.

It’s shame and reproach I’ll gladly bear.

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A Reflection, Nonetheless

Real preachers can be distinguished from the rest of humanity by one almost-universal characteristic:

They are always on the lookout for illustrations.

In other words, when a normal, average citizen of earth sees something…anything…his or her immediate response is rarely to make a connection from that thing to some biblical truth. Such were the responses I got when I showed the attached picture to several non-preachers last night.

I’m going to show you a picture,” I said, “and I want you to tell me what you think when you see it.” The immediate responses were skeptical looks that assumed I was trying to trick them. But when they realized it was an honest question, they gave me honest answers.

“Uhhh, a star?” 

“Ummm, I don’t know. Is that a wheel?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Oh, that’s pretty. Interesting. What’s it supposed to be?” 

Their answers were typical, even though I’d hoped for better. But then again, they rarely alliterate points, read theology journals for fun, or know how to pronounce propitiation. They saw what was there, what was natural, what anybody other than a preacher would see.

But what did this preacher see?

Well, let’s start with what happened, first. I was getting ready to leave for a doctor’s appointment yesterday morning. As I stepped off the back porch and walked up to the door of our Sienna, I noticed the star-like reflection of morning sunlight on the asphalt. I had never seen a reflection like that before, so it captivated me.

No more than a second or two later, I considered how amazing it was that light from the sun was reflecting off that unwashed, brake dust-covered aluminum wheel. I mean, the van needs to be washed, and here there was such a beautiful reflection staring up at me. How could this be?

One would think the wheel would have needed to be perfectly clean, like an aluminum mirror, to reflect the light of the sun, right?

Wrong.

BOOM! I saw an illustration!

Name one of the Disciples/Apostles who were faultless. Go look at the the judges God used to deliver His people in the book of Judges…were they flawless? What about the book of Genesis? The Patriarchs were the poster children of dysfunctional human beings! Yet, simply because they were obedient to the call, God used them to project His glory to a darkened world.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got issues. I’m not perfectly polished and showroom quality. Yet, as long as I’m looking at the Son, allowing His light to shine upon me, then there’s going to be a reflection of His light.

I won’t be a perfect reflection…it might not be as bright or distinct as it could be…but it will be a reflection, nonetheless.

You see, it’s not about us; it’s about Jesus. Even when we are dusty from constantly driving through this world, God still wants to use us to reflect His light into the darkness, even if the light is dimmer and the image isn’t as distinct as it could be. All we need to do is be looking at Him.

I know this is true, because, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the wheel…

I saw the light. 

 

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Filed under General Observations, grace, Life Lessons, Preaching