Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snowball in Hell

Enough snow already. Seriously. I've heard from one person that there's $1000 in it for whoever can produce an autographed picture of Al Gore scrapping off his car. Read that sentence again if the humor was lost on you. But this is not a political blog. Actually, I have enjoyed the snow and the winter more this year than ever. Even have a snowman in my yard. I could explain that more, but this is not a personal blog either (sorry!).

John Piper said, "I don’t think you have a chance of a snowball in hell to be holy if you don’t meditate on the Word of God." True. Dat. I've found that you don't have a chance of much of anything without a centrality and consistent focus on the Bible for daily bread. Literally. Bread. Every day. A shame that even churches are shying away from this reality. What follows is a excerpt from a very old publication (1931), The Lutheran Hour, by Walter Maier, that hopefully drives this point home in a helpful way. In my opinion, life is too short to wonder whether the Bible is authoritative; the historical record of believing otherwise speaks for itself, and I personally would like to avoid the madhouse that could result.

"Men like to call Christianity and the Bible a failure. The fact of the matter is that, while everything else has failed, while all the processes which human ingenuity has advanced for the improvement of the world have turned out to be only pitiful and disappointing subterfuges, while educationalism, intellectualism, fraternalism, the study and application of the sciences, legislation, and theories of political economy as well as other similar methods and agencies have left the human heart unchanged and have done little or nothing to raise the moral tone of humanity, the invincible, everlasting victorious force of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the one transforming power in the history of the world that has tamed the wild passions of men, subdued their self-centered greed, and given them an outlook on life which has perpetuated the ideals of the Master in the practical forms of institutions of charity, enterprises for the alleviation of suffering, work for the restitution of the downtrodden multitudes that have fallen by the wayside and lie hopeless and helpless in the slimy gutter of life.

Babylonia, Greece, Rome, each in turn built up a civilization stupendous in proportions and lavish in wealth; but the fundamental conceptions of merciful charity and a sympathetic regard for the needs of one's fellow men - all this was quite foreign to their culture and quite unknown in their grandeur. And if you want to visualize the pervading power of the Gospel, picture to yourself the madhouse into which this country would degenerate if every trace of the influence of the Bible would be removed.

What was it that transformed some of the South Sea Islands and changed them from cesspools of cannibalism and heathen hideousness into garden spots of the world? What was it that wrought such a fundamental change on the life and habits of the people of Tierra del Fuego, who, when Charles Darwin visited them on his scientific journey around the world, were found to be so depraved and degenerate that they could hardly be classed as human beings, but who through the efforts of Christian missionaries became so utterly transformed that the so-called Father of Evolution gave the most eloquent possible tribute in the form of a subsidy to the Patagonian Mission? What is it that shook the stolid Eskimos of the frozen North, dwarfed in body and in soul, as they tried to kill their intrepid missionary, Hans Egede, poison his dogs, and destroy his food caches, but who learned to substitute truth and love and justice for falsehood and hatred and murder? How can these things be, we inquire? And once again plain common sense, without making any higher appeal, tells us that these twice-born men have not found this newness of life because of any delusion or fairy-tale, but because of the miracle-working truth of God. That is the power that our own America needs.

No truer word has ever been uttered by human lips than this warning of Daniel Webster, 'If we continue in the teachings of the Bible, our country will continue to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglects its teachings, then no one can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all of our profound glory in obscurity.'

But the greatest demonstration of the power of the Gospel, overshadowing all this, and the clearest proof of its divine nature is shown to us in its influence upon the souls of men. I challenge any system of human invention, any modern and enlightened conception of religion that sets the Bible aside, to give to mankind a definite and satisfying answer to the supreme issue of life, 'What must I do to be saved?' When the destiny of our immortal soul hangs in the balance; when a ruined life totters on and on, goaded ceaselessly by the ruthless demands of an aroused conscience; when a sin-born mortal stands before the yawning abyss which ultimately confronts every one of us, where is the truth, the light, and the hope that definitely gives him the power to face these veiled uncertainties confidently and unflinchingly? Death-bed confessions of unbelief and the moanings and cries of despair of infidels and skeptics in their dying hours reveal to us that this power cannot be found in any branch of human attainment, even in its highest form. It can not be found in the modernistic creed that is being proclaimed in Christ-denying churches, where the great questions of sin and salvation are answered with a suave question mark or with a polite denial of the Bible. But it can be found and will be found as long as men trustingly raise up their eyes to the hills of divine truth in God's word.

The power of this Word is operative whenever and wherever it is read and heard and believed. Let the host of modern infidels reject the Bible by rehashing the threadbare arguments advanced by unbelief since the Savior's day, we have evidence of its truth. If this Word has come down through the centuries, triumphing over organized opposition and mobilized wealth, then we can gain renewed assurance through the conviction that, if the treasuries of heathen expires, the tortures of royal friends, and the efforts of giants of human intellect have utterly failed in halting the march of progress of this deathless truth, so that today the Holy Scriptures are annually distributed in more than 36,000,000 copies, then the puny efforts of modern minds to revive this old opposition will be doomed to even more dismal failure. Let us not worry about the Bible. Its divine truth is amply able to safeguard its continued existence; for here is God's promise, 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall not pass away.'

So I ask you tonight to take this truth, to read it, to study it now, and you find between the covers of your Bible the divine cure-all for the ills and woes, the problems and anxieties, that may crowd themselves into your life. If you are out of work; if you have faced disappointment upon disappointment; if you have trouble and misunderstanding in your family; if you are weakened by sickness and disease; if you have not a friend in the world nor a penny in your pocket, find help and cheer by reading what this Book tells to those who believe it, 'All things work together for good to them that love God.' Hear the word of comfort Christ has given those who believe in Him for times of distress and tribulation: 'I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh away from you.' 'And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the ending of the world.'

If you look down deeper into the recesses of your heart and find enthroned there the idols of money and pleasure and impurity and selfishness and greed, and you hear the warning of the Judge of eternity, 'He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption,' and the terror of judgement strikes your heart, then, by the grace of God's Holy Spirit, come with a contrite heart to the truth of this priceless volume and learn to know that there is one - and only one - 'Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,' 'who gave Himself a ransom for all.' Hear His pledge, given through the mouth of His prophet, 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' Here, in this ageless, priceless, deathless volume, you have the answer to every question, to the solution to every problem that may arise in your life; for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still the 'power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.' Amen."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Changeless Christ in a Changing World

Happy New Year! I'm about a month late, and I promise, there is reason for that. But, here I am, and here you are (hopefully), so let's get back at it. A year ago, I wrote the following in a blog post titled, A New Year with New Eyes:

2008 is over. By many accounts, it was not a great year. There were definite highlights, as with any year, but the feeling seemed pretty universal that it was time to send the year into the history books. Personally, it was a year of loss and some confusion. Economically, it was chaotic and not profitable. Politically, it was divisive, exhausting and historic. Theologically, it was exceedingly unbiblical and culturally violent. And now we look with optimism and hope into 2009, and are confident it will be better. And it will be. But in many of these ways I just mentioned it will be much of the same, and even worse, and that is wonderfully and gloriously OK. Because the Gospel is all that matters, and the Gospel will continue to be true, and the person and work of Jesus Christ will continue to be our only hope, and come what may; loss, depression, persecution, chaos, war, compromise; that will never change. In fact, my great hope and prayer is that the Gospel will continue to become more relevant and compelling and glorious as our culture battles, our economy collapses, and our world manages the inevitable chaos of a race plagued with overwhelming sin. The Bible is true and Jesus is everything. Let me say that again: the Bible is true and Jesus is everything. Do you really believe that? If you do 2009 will be amazing no matter what.

I could write the exact same paragraph for 2010. Praise Jesus! Specifically, though, I wanted to flush out how I think this reality applies to a couple devastating, but ultimately God-glorifying, happenings.


Watch these clips, and you will get a small introduction into the person of Matt Chandler, pastor of Village Church in Dallas, Texas. He is special. God started using him in big ways in the contemporary evangelical church only a few short years ago. Now, He has seen him worthy to endure a heart-wrenching trial. Please; read this article in its entirety:

What do we do with that? We don't know him. We don't know his family. We can pray for them, but the tragic nature of such a thing is almost unbearable to us, and therefore easy to ignore. But if we do not ignore, we have the chance to be a part of something incredible. God can heal Matt Chandler. Do you believe that? He can take the cancer in his brain and make it disappear. But He might not. The way that Matt Chandler is responding, and can continue to respond, to the lack of certainty on which way God will answer his prayers, is the kind of thing that can transform lives and change the world. Because no one has as much credibility to speak into the sin and hurt in our lives with the unchanging message of the Gospel as someone who is experiencing suffering in a real way.

John Piper says it best: "God promises that his ultimate design in the degree of futility is hope for his children. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, IN HOPE... So whenever you feel overwhelmed by your own suffering, or the sufferings of the world as you look at it on television, always say there is design in this, this is not the final point of the universe. In this hope, you have been saved. But who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with perseverance, and groaning, and invincible JOY."

Matt Chandler, talking and living this way (which he is, right now) communicates this hope in a life transforming way. What a miracle.


I have been at such a loss for words, and thoughts, for that matter, about the devastation in Haiti. This article, Live With Haiti in Your Heart, better than any, has helped me. Here is an excerpt:

But perhaps most of all, live with Haiti in your heart. In a week, when the blogs and news cycles die down a bit, or in a month, when our lives consume us once more with other things, or in a year, when most of us will have long forgotten the day the earth broke under Haiti, another disaster will strike, and we will be awakened once more to the realization that we care far too much about the trivial and far too little about the eternal. We’ll be reminded that the bones of dead men testify that our lives are but a vapor. In that day, we will remember that living with Haiti in our hearts means living with a longing for the One who will bring renewal and restoration to a planet and a people who desperately need both.


Somehow, I think God is calling the Church through these tragic stories to stand up, and not get Him off the hook for the suffering experienced, but stand up and declare more than ever His sovereignty, His goodness, and His grace. And do so by loving and praying for and weeping with those who may always have a much more difficult time than us envisioning the hope that God subjected the world to futility because of, and the hope that saves. The question I am left with after these things is, how I do I, individually, and as community with others, process and experience the grace that God not only lavished on me in the death and resurrection of His son, but also that He continues to pour out day by day, and hour by hour, in such a way that communicates and transfers that same grace to others, specifically those who are suffering. I don't have an answer yet, but my asking the question alone encourages me that God has begun to show me.

"The great mystery tonight is not that the wicked would be condemned to an eternity that they have chosen for themselves by determining to deny God; the great mystery is that such a God would come, and seek out men and women to inhabit His heaven."