Tag Archives: God

Divine Irreconcilabilty

The doctrine of divine irreconcilability is the point where the sovereignty of God and the free will of man meet in the light of the glory of the Gospel.  – A. Baker

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Filed under Christian Unity, God, Theology

Is It Enough to be God-Centered?

The Prayer

A while back I asked the Lord to make me a “characteristic example of a life centered on God.” But as soon as I prayed that prayer, another thought came into my mind…

Maybe being “God-centered” is not enough.

God-Centered Living

You may be asking, “What is wrong with that?” Well, there is nothing wrong with living a God-centered life, generally speaking. On the other hand, there is more to being a Christian than being “God-centered.”

“Outrageous!” “That’s blasphemy,” you say. Well, is it? Stop and think about it for just a moment. Start with thinking about what being “God-centered” actually means.

Does someone have to be a true Christian in order to live a God-centered life? You may think so, at first, but there may be a few church folk fooling themselves. Don’t believe me? Read what Paul wrote to the Church…

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” – 2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV

Why would the Apostle tell church people to “examine” and “prove” whether or not they were in the faith? Could it be that there were some who were going through all the motions, but were never converted, never born anew? Could it have been possible that there were some doing all the right things, for the right reasons, but not right with God? He says that the answer to the test will be whether or not “Jesus Christ is in you.”

Can people live God-centered lives and still be lost? To help answer this question, consider the following people (names are fictitious). Do their actions guarantee salvation?

  • Bob goes to church every day the doors are open, including every other function on every other day
  • Henry gives 20% of his income and 10% of his time to the church. If there is a need, ask Henry for help.
  • Margaret goes to a Fundamental church, has the right translation of the Bible, and never wears pants – ever.
  • Mary would never say a dirty word, tell an off-color joke, or even permit foul language in her presence.
  • Sharon put aside marriage and gave her life to helping orphans on the streets of Mumbai, India.
  • Scott and Karen have Bible studies in their home, take the kids to Sunday School, and even have gold crosses in every room of their home, not to mention on their necks.
  • A rich young ruler keeps all the commandments (not just the Big 10) from his youth.

If these people were to examine themselves, as Paul asked, what might be missing? Colossians 3:23 says, “And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Is it not possible that someone could do everything for God’s glory (live a God-centered life), but still die without Christ?

What are your thoughts?

Have you “proven” whether you “be in the faith?”

Do you know of Scripture that supports a “God-centered” life being proof of salvation?

The Realization

When contemplated what I had asked of God (to make me characterized by a God-centered life), the mental picture of a wheel came to mind. It was the picture of a wheel with a center hub and spokes, much like a bicycle or wagon wheel. As I thought about this, however, something seemed wrong. Something seemed almost selfish.

You see, when you look at a wheel, especially the kind with spokes and a hub, it may not be obvious at first, but there are parts. In such a wheel I can distinguish the spokes from the hub, and the rim from the spokes. I can even see that there are spaces in between the spokes that are empty and not attatched or filled with anything – just empty. If God is supposed to be represented by the hub, the center of the wheel, then the wheel is not really all about the hub, but the wheel itself.

It’s about Jesus

The Apostle Paul told the Athenians (Acts 17:28) that in Jesus we “live, and move, and have our being.” In a letter to the Galatians he said “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). It would seem to me that Jesus should be more than our “hub.” He should be our “ALL.”

That is when I thought of a different picture. This time I imagined a solid circle – a disk. Unlike the other picture where God was the center of everything, yet separate, here was a picture of wholeness. In this picture, if my life is this type of wheel, people won’t notice anything about me, just Christ.

All of the spokes (my life, my dreams, my habits and hobbies, my talents, and my desires); the empty spaces (the areas of my life that seem irrelevant); and the rim (the total expanse of who I am – my identity, my sphere of influence); each part is now inseparable from the life and power of Christ who lives within me.

May they see Jesus

So, I no longer want to be characterized as a man with a God-centered life. I want to be a man characterized by the life of Christ. When people look at me, I don’t want them to say, “Hey, that guy really knows how to serve God,” or “Hey, that guy really loves the Lord.” Even though there is nothing wrong with those things, how much better would it be if they could say, “Hey, I met this guy… at first I thought he was that man they call Jesus.

Remember, it was to the Church at Corinth that Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” There must have been some hearing this letter read who were deceived. Don’t be like them. Make sure your life is in Christ, and He is in you.

May your activities be “God-centered;” but your life “Christ-filled.” May the world see Jesus in you.

For Discussion:

Can you distinguish between a God-centered and a Christ-filled life? What characteristics would you expect to see?

Do you think someone could live a God-centered life and still be unsaved?

Your comments would be appreciated. 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, God, Jesus, Theology

If Footprints Could Talk

Footprint 1: Hey! You look just like me! 

Footprint 2: Yeah. So?

F1: I just think it’s cool, because we must have been made by the same Walker.

F2: Excuse me? You believe in a Walker? Are you an idiot?

F1: Uh, well, it would seem logical to assume that since we are both footprints, there must be a Walker who made us…at least Someone with feet. 

F2: You’re full of fungus, you uneducated, illiterate, mind-numbed hole in the ground! Show me the proof! Go ahead, I’m waiting. Where’s your proof there’s a Walker? 

F1: You’re being serious, aren’t you? 

F2: Of course! You come aroun here bothering me with all this talk of a Walker who made me, but where is he? Where’s your proof he exists? 

F1: You. Me. 

F2: Jesus Christ! Oh my god!! Is that the best you’ve got? You simpleton! I could give you a thousand reasons why we are here, why we look like footprints, without having to resort to such superstitious hypotheticals like a Walker. 

F1: OK, Dr. Shoal, tickle me. 

F2: Oh, you’re boring me! Look, we only look like footprints because you want there to be a Walker. You can’t be happy just being here; you have to think you were made for a reason. In reality, you are just a hole in the sand that happens to look like what might have been made should a Walker exist. But you have no proof he exists. Show me the evidence! You can’t! 

F1: You are the evidence. I am the evidence. 

F2: I don’t accept your evidence. Actually, I would rather believe you and I are the result of higher life forms from outer space. Runners. Possibly Joggers. 

F1: But believing there’s a Walker is crazy?

F2: Of course! You’re just a nut, that’s all. 

F1: I still say there’s a Walker. 

F2: Show me the evidence. 

F1: Good grief! 

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Filed under Apologetics, God

“Let God be True, and Luther a Liar”

The following post (and it’s a long one) was written 6 years ago in 2011, shortly after returning from Florida where I officiated a beach wedding.

Being that it was just Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, I thought this piece might be a nice reminder that racism, regardless of the race, is sin. Dr. King knew that in order to change things, men’s hearts had to change. Unfortunately, the best we can do is still going to be flawed. Our only hope is found in God, our Mighty Fortress and Strength.

St. Petersburg, FL

Forgive me, but I am not a big fan of St. Petersburg, especially in the winter when it is 45 degrees. To me, Florida is supposed to be HOT. The warmest it got last week was in the low 70’s. The water on both coasts was terribly cold; therefore, sightseeing was more appropriate than sunbathing on the beach (which I don’t prefer, anyway). But aside from all of that, I still don’t think I would have liked St. Petersburg, even if it had been in the dead of summer.

However, they did have a few nice museums.

From books to iPhones

One museum we (Katie and I) enjoyed was the Museum of Fine Arts (http://www.fine-arts.org/). Believe it or not, it was the first time that I ever had the chance to stand in a room full of paintings by Monet. It was impressive, especially when you consider how close a teenager could stand next to objects worth multiple millions of dollars. Fortunately for the paintings, teenagers have touch-screen phones to keep their fingers occupied.

Another place we went, at my insistence, was the Florida Holocaust Museum (http://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/). I felt that it was important for the girls to see with their own eyes what true hatred and bigotry, even false religion can do. Not as big, nor as impressive as the museum in Washington, D.C., this museum still told the story well and featured an original cattle car that once carried Jews to the concentration camps.

Amelia Island, FL

When we left St. Petersburg, in order to find another beach to help Haley with her science project, at the advice of my brother-in-law, we went to Amelia Island in Fernandina, Florida. Now THAT was a change from St. Petersburg. Through priceline.com we even got a 3-star hotel for $52 a night! Not bad for a place with a huge, clean beach and a small-town feel.

“Big Guns on the Wall”

The highlight to the trip, for me, was when we got to visit Fort Clinch on Amelia Island. The fort was built back in the 1800’s and served both the Conferderate (1861) and the Union troops. It was a massive, red brick fortress overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and was meant to protect the Cumberland Sound. Fully restored, with reenactors playing the part, it was meant to give you the feel of stepping back in time to 1864.

I was really impressed with the fort. Even my wife was amazed. As I stood on its walls with huge canons, or on its proud bastions, I could not help but remember the words to the famous hymn by Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress.”

 

“A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.”

A Painful Thought

But while at Fort Clinch a painful thought crossed my mind. Just the day before, my girls were able to read other words from Martin Luther in the Florida Holocaust Museum. You see, even though Luther has been regarded as the father of the Reformation, he was a rabid anti-semite. In one display chronicling centuries of hatred toward the Jewish people, the words from Luther’s book, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” was written in bold for every Christian to see. Here are some quotes from that book:

“He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away.”

“If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country.”

“Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.”

“My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.”

What a contrast! One moment I am being inspired by a fortress that reminds me of the greatness of God, the next I am being reminded of the painful truth that men are sinners – all with the same song. How could the words of one man inspire both the Church and the Nazi party at the same time?

Martin Luther

Martin Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress” based on Psalm 46:11, “The LORD of hosts [is] with us; the God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah.” God is our refuge and our hope in time of trouble. The Psalmist also said, agreeing with Luther,

I will say of the LORD, [He is] my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. – Psa 91:2 KJV

What are we to make of this, then? Is my hope in God supposed to be dashed all because of the actions of some (or all) of his followers? Are we to assume the truth of God is a lie because of the hateful words of Luther, as opposed to his hymns and 95 theses? Martin Luther was terribly wrong in his observations of the Jews. For that matter, David wasn’t perfect, either. No, God is God. Man is man. That is why it is so important to keep in mind the following words from the Apostle Paul:

…[Let] God be true, and every man a liar…” – Romans 3:4 KJV

When Peter got it right, Jesus called him “blessed” and praised the fact that the Father gave him the words (Matthew 16:17). However, when Peter spoke in the flesh, out of his own selfish desires, Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (verse 23). When we speak out of hand about God, that does not change the truth about God.  Luther got some things right.  Luther also got some things wrong in a very bad way.

My God IS a mighty fortress…and He loves the people of Israel.  He has made that abundantly clear, despite the ramblings and false doctrines of men. God said, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – Gen 12:3 KJV  Nothing has changed.  Let God be true, and Luther be a liar. Let God be true, and Peter a liar. Let God be true, and every one of us a liar. God is Who He is, whether we get it right or not. But because of Luther’s mistaken words, may we be ever more diligent to heed these words:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. – 2Ti 2:15 KJV

Why? Because Jesus said it right, and He ALWAYS got it right, when He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – Jhn 17:17 KJV

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. – Pro 30:5-6 ESV

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Filed under God, Martin Luther, salvation, Uncategorized, World View

A “Perfect” Role Model

Sermon Prep

Not long ago I was doing some research for a sermon on Jonah. In the process I came across a Muslim website that made an interesting observation (and I will paraphrase), “The Bible proves it is not true because God would not allow the prophets’ reputations to be smeared.”

It went on to say (paraphrasing, again), “What kind of role model would a prophet be if we read of him making mistakes?”

What kind of role model? That’s a good question! Was the Muslim author trying to say that role models had to be perfect in order to be real? Here’s a shocker – in one way or another, everybody is a role model.

If the defining characteristic of a role model is “perfection,” that would rule out King David, Solomon, Moses, Joshua, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter, Paul, Sarah, Mary (all of them), the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and many, many others…

…especially Jonah.

Jonah

Now, Jonah wasn’t exactly the type of person after which I would want to pattern my life, but he was a prophet of God. He had some serious character flaws, though. He was angry, disobedient, and was a racist who constantly talked suicide. He even spouted off to the Lord for being too forgiving!

No, Jonah was not the type of person I would want to emulate. But hold the whale puke! I am more like him than I thought!

  • I have run from God.
  • I have harbored racism at times, as much as I am ashamed to admit.
  • I have been angry and disobedient.
  • I have wondered if life was worth living.
  • I have even wanted to see whole cities destroyed, innocent people and all, after September 11, 2001.

I have been more like Jonah more than I care to admit.

The Encouraging Part

The fact is that the Bible is not only full of role models, but models of the people we already are. Flawed, broken, and human. But here is the encouraging part: even when we are not perfect, God can still use us – and change us.

  • Jonah ran from God, but God pursued.
  • Jonah disobeyed God, but it didn’t derail God’s plan.
  • Jonah got angry with God, but God responded to him with the understanding kindness of a wise Father.
  • Jonah even wanted to die, but God never belittled him. He only focused Jonah’s attention on the bigger picture: 120,000 souls, not to mention animals, whose lives were spared (Jonah 4).

I thank God that the Bible doesn’t white-wash humanity. There are so many examples of how people, just like me, can find hope, even when we’re not perfect.

The Perfect One

It is not hard to come to the conclusion that there were some really dysfunctional people in the Bible. But you know what? That’s what adds to the authenticity of Scripture. There are no “perfect” role models in the Bible, except for one – Jesus.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” – 1 Peter 2:21-22 ESV

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV

I want to be more like HIM!

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, God, Life Lessons, Preaching, Struggles and Trials

Let’s End the Election vs Free Will Debate

The years and years of debate between the seemingly polar-opposite doctrines of election and free will can now come to an end. Free coffee and donuts for all. 

I submit to you two words:

Divine Ireconcilibility

You’re welcome. 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Unity, Christianity, God, Theology, Uncategorized

How Badly Do You Want to Be Loved?

Jingles (not the bell kind)

Do you ever catch yourself singing commercial jingles for no apparent reason? Well, when I am driving, bored, and a little (or a lot) sleepy, I tend to start singing songs I learned as a child. In particular, one song is tops on my repertoire

The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song.

Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / That is what I’d truly like to be ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / Everyone would be in love with me.

First appearing in 1965, this song has become boiled, grilled, steamed, fried, and even micro-waved into our memories. But recently it struck me…what in the world am I saying? Am I so desperate for the attention of others that I would be willing to become an unhealthy food source?

The Need for Love

There are many hurting people in the world who would wish for nothing more than someone to love them. They go to great lengths to be prettier, richer, more popular, or even more “available” – all to find love. But do you really think it’s a good idea to wish you were a hot dog?

What most people don’t know is that there was a second verse to the Oscar Mayer wiener song. In the 1965 commercial a truly intelligent boy quickly understood the true ramifications of the song’s wish and sang the following:

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener / That is what I’d never want to be/ ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / There would soon be nothing left of me.

Sing it, brother! You tell ’em! Why would anyone want to be a hot dog? Do you really want to be loved so badly that you would sacrifice your humanity and allow yourself to be eaten? It’s not worth it, people…believe me!

The lyrics to this song could be re-written to expose what people are really saying. “Oh I wish I was something else instead of human / A tube of meat is what I want to be / I’d gladly die alone in boiling water / If you would only say that you loved me.

in potLook, there is no reason to want to become a hot dog (you might get eaten by one). Really, there is nothing to be gained by having your body boiled or grilled on an open flame; covered in chili, relish, mustard, and onions; then chewed repeatedly until you’re swallowed by someone who will forget you an hour later (unless the chili upsets them). Stay human. It’s better that way! 

You ARE Loved!

Ironically, someone did become something He was not in order to die for love. The big difference is that He was God and became Human, not a hot dog. And what’s more, He didn’t die to be loved – He died because He loved. His name is Jesus, and He died for you.

“For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16 KJV

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 NIV

You are VERY loved!

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Filed under Food, General Observations, salvation, Uncategorized, Witnessing