Tag Archives: 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

Perfection Not Required

Jesus Said…

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

The Perfect Candidate

Imagine that instead of the temple, a Pharisee and a publican walked into a pastoral search committee meeting.  They walk in, introduce themselves, and compare resumes.

pharisee and publicanWhich one do you think would be offered the position? I believe it would be the one who meets the average preconception of what every Christian fit for service should be. I believe the Pharisee, the one with the perfect resume and appearance, would be the first considered.

But God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Unfortunately, there are many men and women in the church who feel inferior and useless because of their sinful and broken pasts. They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed in the past, but want to be forgiven and start new.  

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, “Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?

Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 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.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family – with all their problems – to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!


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Filed under Abortion, abuse, Christian Living, Do not judge, Faith, General Observations, legalism, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, World View

An Impromptu Invocaton

Last night (Monday night) I went to a political fundraiser, which was also a campaign kickoff meeting. It was for a local mayoral candidate and current Chattanooga City Councilman, Larry Grohn. I went because I was invited by a Facebook friend whom I wanted to meet in person, and also because I wanted to hear what the candidate had to say.

Here in my city we are fortunate to have some good leadership. No matter what political party, most of the people in leadership are decent people with the good of our city at heart. Are they perfect? No. But none are Clinton or Trump, either (thank God!). Nevertheless, I wanted to hear good reasons why I should vote for Mr. Grohn, not for the incumbent.

Upon entering the meeting hall downtown I was greeted by the candidate’s wife. Once I told her who I was and why I was there, she said to me, “The person you need to be speaking to is my husband…let me introduce you to him.” She did, and that led to a very interesting conversation which must have lasted around 5 minutes. Thankfully, some of my questions were answered.

After speaking with Councilman Grohn, I went to the food bar and filled my little paper plate with chicken nuggets, celery, a few little tomatoes, and a cookie. After that I got my glass of unsweetened iced tea, found a seat at a table, and began a nice theological/political conversation with some very intelligent college students.

Shortly before 7 pm, the time when the speaking part of this meeting was to begin, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Someone whispered in my ear, “Pastor Baker,” so I turned around.

“Pastor,” the candidate himself said, “would you be willing to give the invocation tonight?” I don’t know if I looked surprised, or not, but my eyebrows must have raised as I was asked this question. I mean, seriously, who was I that he should come to me and ask me to open up his campaign’s inaugural event with prayer? Yet, what was I supposed to do, say “no”?

“Sure,” I replied. “I’d be happy to.”

“Thank you, Pastor,” he then said. “We want to start things off right, you know?”

“Absolutely,” I said with a nod.

Next, as I stood up, from behind me came the campaign manager. He thanked me for being willing to give the invocation at such short notice, then proceeded to tell me the order in which I was to do what. Then he said, “Say whatever you want to say…if you want to say anything…then pray…it’s up to you, just say whatever you want. Thank you for doing this.”

Yes, I was asked to pray at a political event and was given complete freedom to say whatever I wanted to say. And they didn’t know me from the man in the moon! Unbelievable!

So, when the time came I walked up to the microphone set up in the meeting hall full of people and cameras and introduced myself. The next thing I did was remind everyone of how and why Benjamin Franklin called the continental congress to stop what they were doing and pray to the Almighty for His help. I then said (to paraphrase myself):

“We are just men and women, and none of us are perfect. And just like those men back then at the founding of our nation, we have our flaws, and we need help – we need outside Help. So, let us now call upon Almighty God.”

I then prayed, beginning with a quote from Proverbs 29:2, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice…” I didn’t pray a prayer of blessing for the candidate, nor did I attempt to give the impression that my prayer was a form of support. Actually, the prayer that came out of me felt like it was not even me speaking, for it was full of authority and “otherness.” I felt like I was in the presence of the One who did not take sides, but was the One before whom all knees must bow. Therefore I said:

“If this man for whom these people have gathered here to honor be a righteous man…may all things done here tonight not be for our aggrandizement, but for Your glory…in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Sunday night some dear folk at another church, Mt. Carmel Baptist, had me come forward, after I spoke, and laid hands on me and prayed. They prayed, among other things, that God’s hand of blessing would be upon me, and that His calling upon my life would be evident – a “man of God.” Then, last night, something about me caused a political candidate to trust a total stranger to give the opening invocation at such an important event.

That, my friends, was a God thing.

 

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Filed under America, God, politics, Prayer

The Better Question

When looking for answers to our problems, many times we ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”

A better question might be, “What did Jesus do?”

“But we preach Christ crucified…” – 1 Corinthians 1:23

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