Sunday, April 28, 2019

Earth Day or God the Creator Day?



“All creation is meant to be a finger pointing us to ultimate glory, the only glory that can ever satisfy the human heart, the glory of God.”
                                                                                                Paul Tripp

  You have to admire commitment and creativity. After all, that’s how God designed us. Thirty-two-year-old Korey Nolan of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, spent seven months collecting hundreds of used Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cups to fashion a surfboard made out of 700 cups and more than 30 plastic straws along with other materials. Most of the cups came from family members who gave them to him, though some were picked up from the roadside. He placed 2nd out of 15 finalists in an innovation contest a competition put on by surf brand Vissla called the Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest. Nolan compressed the raw materials together and finished his board using bamboo, epoxy, fiberglass cloth, fiberboard and Masonite compression mold. He says it “rides great.” That’s creativity!
  As Bible-believers, we’re to obey God’s Creation Mandate first given to Adam and Eve in the Garden, “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).   
  Why do Christians often overlook a biblical commitment to creation? Last Monday was Earth Day. Many celebrating Earth Day “worship” the earth and creation living out Romans 1:25, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Such wrongheaded thinking prioritizes creation over the Creator or the pinnacle of God’s creation – Man. We are and should be repulsed by idolatry. It can result in a foolish approach to environmentalism with a lack of thinking and an overreaction. A.W. Tozer insightfully observed, “the modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world.” Yet, we are wrong to jettison a commitment to rightly manage God’s world that He’s entrusted to us because some prioritize the creation over the Creator.
  We must not allow those who are foolish to alienate us from our biblical responsibility. For example, some States and large cities, like San Francisco, have banned  plastic straws. Supposedly San Francisco uses a million plastic straws a day, but while the city bans straws, San Francisco hands out nearly 5 million hypodermic needles to drug addicts across the city. The claim that a straw policy is for the betterment of the environment, yet needles they distribute and also the lack of enforcement of not using streets as an open toilet go against that absurd thinking. Add to that, a straw ban hurts the disabled and can be a matter of life or death. Even a national ban won’t dent worldwide plastic output, and where is any serious research justifying a straw ban. The oft-cited figure that “Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day comes from a survey conducted by a 9-year-old.” It seems that a strawman is the basis of a straw ban.
  Another example would be Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent inane comment that “the world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change.” While it made headlines (and her look foolish), such “the sky is falling” thinking isn’t backed up by real science.  While we must be committed to taking care of creation, if it’s not accompanied by an international commitment, we’re only hamstringing our own economy. Unless China or India and a host of other countries agree, we could sanitize the air to nearly pure oxygen, yet it won’t make a difference if those nations are polluting what we’re seeking to purify. Wise solutions to environmental issues are complex and need much more than fads and knee jerk reactions. Bible-believers should be some of the most respectful and wise when it comes to creation. Why?
  We’re managers of God’s property. Because God is the Creator and since humanity is the pinnacle of His creation, He’s entrusted this world to us. We must take seriously what’s been termed “creation care” and care for God’s property that He’s entrusted to us wisely. Wanton pollution or wasted resources are disrespectful and disobedience of God.
  God’s primary posture toward creation is affection, not apathy. God cares when a sparrow dies, so shouldn’t we to some level? We must care about what God cares about if we’re going to have the heart of God. Noah could have built a much smaller boat if God didn’t care for His creation.
  God’s primary posture toward Creation is pleasure, not production. In Proverbs 8. wisdom is symbolized as a woman. Proverbs 8 reminds us that  God rejoices and delights in His creation (vss. 30 & 31). One of the funniest animals is the platypus. Study a platypus or a monkey and try to argue that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Have you ever made something just for fun? It doesn’t do anything. It’s just for sheer pleasure. God enjoys His creation and wants us to enjoy it, too.  
  God’s primary posture toward Creation is celebration, not consumption. Seven times in Genesis 1, we find this phrase, “God saw that it was good.” God celebrates His creation. What do we do with flowers? We admire their beauty and smell them. Painters paint them, photographers take pictures of them, but you don’t often eat flowers. Much of God’s creation is like that. We celebrate its beauty, admire and appreciate it.
  Christians and contemporary environmentalists share many common goals. Both oppose the abuse of nature. Yet, environmentalists often function from a worldview that condemns virtually all human activity as intrinsically evil. The child of God cares for creation for a greater reason – we are obeying our Heavenly Father’s mandate. Good management of His creation that He has given us dominion and responsibility over honors and pleases Him…after all, this is our Father’s world.


Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Jesus’ Resurrection: A Whale of a Tail?



“Without the resurrection, Jesus’ death becomes the heroic death of a noble martyr, the pathetic death of a madman,
or the execution of a fraud.” John MacArthur

  A South African photographer has a whale of a survival story — and the stunning photo to prove it. Rainer Schimpf, 51, had his own personal Jonah from the Bible moment when his head and torso were gobbled up by a whale while he was shooting footage of a sardine run off the coast of South Africa. “I held my breath and I was prepared, and that's the only thing I could do, I mean there was no other thing I could do. I mean, you can't fight a 15-ton animal,” said Schimpf. He found himself in the mouth of a Bryde’s whale, which can grow up to 55 feet long and weigh up to 30 tons. Thankfully, he was only trapped for about two seconds before the whale let him free. The incredible scene was captured by photographer Heinz Toperczer, who was in a nearby boat. A stunning photo shows the head and torso of Schimpf in the mouth of the whale off the coast of South Africa. 
  “I was just holding myself and bracing myself and calming myself down not to be panicked, and it worked out,” he said. “He spat me out and everybody’s happy.” His biggest fear was not being completely swallowed by the whale, but being pulled down into the deep ocean. A check of his body after the ordeal found that he didn’t even have a single bruise and was back in the water minutes later. Someone joked that Schimpf might be the first person since Jonah's biblical odyssey to enter the mouth of a whale and survive. “I showed (the photo) to my son, and he was impressed,” Schimpf said. “And you’ll never guess what his name is — Jonas.”
  In Matthew 12:39-41 Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” No one can read that without understanding at once that it’s a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. The sign of Jonah is what’s called a “typical” prophecy. The experience that Jonah went through is a “type” of what Jesus would go through.
  As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and nights and then was spit out, so the Son of Man – Jesus the Messiah – would be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights and then rise again. It was a prediction of Jesus’ coming death, burial, and resurrection. That would be the sign Jesus would give. But would they heed it? No. Jesus said in His account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, that if they would not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they still wouldn’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.
  It’s noteworthy that Jesus Himself affirms the veracity of the account of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish. If you have a problem believing the account about Jonah is true, you also have a problem with Jesus because He attested that it is true.
  When Jesus heard their request for a sign He must have been thinking, “How blind can you be? Haven’t you seen my miracles and heard my words?” He said, “You want a sign? Here’s your sign, the sign of Jonah.”
  What is the sign of Jonah? Just as Jonah spent three days in the dark, cold belly of a huge fish and was as good as dead, God miraculously delivered him after three days. The same thing happened to Jesus. He spent three days and three nights in a dark, cold tomb, but unlike Jonah, Jesus really died and God raised Jesus from the dead.
  Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus is a requirement for salvation. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Why doesn’t the Bible say, “Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus walked on water; or believe in your heart that He fed the 5,000”? Because the resurrection of Jesus proves He’s more than some great teacher or just a martyr. He was and is God. He rose from the dead and is alive forevermore. Your salvation rises and falls on whether or not you truly believe Jesus died and was raised to life again.
  Some people are looking for proof, but they’re making the same mistake the disciple Thomas made. They want a sign. On that first Easter night Jesus appeared to the disciples but Thomas was gone. Jesus vanished and when Thomas showed up they told him about Jesus. He refused to believe. He said, “I have to see a sign. Unless I see the nail prints in His hands and place my hand in the hole in His side I won’t believe.” It’s why he’s called Doubting Thomas. A week later Jesus appeared and knew exactly what Thomas had said because He said, “Here, Thomas put your finger in the nail scars in My hands.” Thomas fell to His knees and said, “My Lord and my God!” Then, Jesus said something to Thomas and He said something about believers today…Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29) Jesus was talking about Christians who believed in His resurrection by faith – blessed are those who have not seen, but believe.
  Do you recognize the sign of Jonah? Do you believe God raised Jesus from the dead? Jesus said that you’re blessed if you do. I hope that you’re not waiting on a sign from God. The sign that Jesus is the only Savior and our only hope is His empty tomb. It’s what we’re celebrating today – our Lord is alive! Is He your Savior? Is He alive in your heart and life?

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Who is Jesus?



“He became what we are that He might make us what He is.”
Athanasius

  C. S. Lewis, the famed author, was also a professor at Cambridge University and once an agnostic, wrote this about Jesus:  “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
  As we come into the Easter Season, more are thinking about and considering that vital question: Who is Jesus? There is no more critical question. The best way to find the answer is to read the biographies about Jesus found in the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It’s amazing how Jesus becomes real as we read about His life from those early biographies of His life. When you read the original writings, you will quickly discover that the Jesus of the Bible is very different from some of the common misconceptions about Jesus. Many believe in a Jesus that doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s you.
  For example, there’s the John Lennon Jesus? All you need is love, that’s all that really matters. Just love and peace and spirituality. We could call this Jesus the “why can’t we all just get along?” one. But that’s not Jesus.  
  There’s the Tony Robbins Jesus. You’ll see this Jesus in an infomercial. You were created to succeed! You’re a winner, so call yourself one. All you have to do is picture it, believe it, and achieve it. But that’s not Jesus.  
  A childhood favorite is the Mr. Rogers Jesus. We all need to be careful not to hurt anybody’s feelings, make sure we love everybody and treat everybody fairly. Don’t do anything to offend anyone because we’re all God’s children. But that’s not Jesus.  
  What about the Oprah Jesus? You’re doing a great job. You can do it, just believe in yourself. You’re beautiful! You’re strong! Everything you need to succeed is already inside of you. You don’t need anyone else. But that’s not Jesus.  
  Perhaps the American favorite is the Genie Jesus. Everyone loves Genie Jesus because He sits up in Heaven just waiting for us to ask for whatever we need and then we just have to say those three magic words, “In Jesus’s name.” It’s the ask and you shall receive Jesus. But that’s not Jesus.  
  All of these Jesuses and many more have two very important things in common. First, a lot of people believe in them. Second, and much more important – they’re all myths. They don’t exist. Essentially, they’re an adult version of an imaginary friend that we’ve given the name Jesus to.
  There’s only one Jesus – the Jesus revealed to us in the Bible. Without question, Jesus is the most dominating figure in history. Who was He? Or, in the words of Jesus Himself in a question to the leaders of the Jewish community, “What do you think of the Christ?” Every intellectually reflective person must come to grips with this engaging question.
The Jesus that the Bible describes is called the Son of God, the Christ. The Jesus of the Bible is described as Redeemer, King of Kings, Righteous Judge, Bread of Life, Good Shepherd, Great I Am, and the Resurrection and the Life. That’s the real Jesus. He’s not some karma Jesus, sports Jesus, vegan Jesus, career Jesus, racist Jesus, butler Jesus or some good man or good teacher Jesus. Who Jesus is isn’t some hypothetical question. It’s a life-changing one, an eternal destiny changing one. It’s imperative then that we have a right understanding of who Jesus is. Who is Jesus to you? It’s a question each of us must answer. When this question is personalized, it becomes the most important question one will ever be asked or will ever answer: Who is Jesus Christ to YOU? 
  Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10).  Who wouldn’t want to have a fulfilled and satisfying life? Then, in 1 John 5:11-13 we’re told that if we have the Son of God in our life we can know that we have eternal life. The bottom line is that Jesus is the only way for us to live an abundant life here on earth and receive eternal life in fellowship with God in eternity.
  Easter is about Jesus dying on the cross to take the punishment for our sins so we could be forgiven and justified with God. If we don’t receive the free gift of eternal life by experiencing the forgiveness achieved by Jesus, justice demands that we will receive the punishment we justly deserve.
  Jesus must become the Lord of our lives. Imagine your life as an automobile—Jesus must be behind the wheel of your life. Jesus doesn’t want us to clean up our acts, He wants us to surrender our mess to Him. He wants to revolutionize your life at this very moment.
  It begins with owning your mess – admitting your sin, repent of it before God, believing that Jesus died for your sin on the cross and receiving the gift of eternal life which Jesus died to freely give you. That’s the real Jesus. He wants to come into your life and give you new life now and eternity in heaven. Please don’t believe some contemporary fairy tale Jesus. Read one of the biographies about Jesus for yourself. Before you decide it’s a big hoax, check it out for yourself. What do you really have to lose?

Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Justice & Jussie Smollett



"When justice is divorced from morality, when rights of individuals are separated from right and wrong, the only definition you have left for justice is the right for every individual to do as he pleases. And the end of that road is anarchy and barbarism."  John Piper

  One of the most moving books that I’ve ever read was a high school English assignment, To Kill a Mockingbird. As a young man, it opened my eyes to injustice as nothing else had. Very few books have so strongly moved me. There’s a dated film version, yet I’d encourage you instead to read the book. It does have some racial language that was characteristic of the Deep South in the period that it describes, the 1930’s.  
  Sadly, injustice is not new. Worse, it shows no sign of going extinct. The recent case of Jussie Smollett, an actor on a TV show, Empire. Smollett claimed that he was attacked early one morning in Chicago by two people he couldn’t give descriptions of, not even as to their sex.  He claimed that they hurled racial and homophobic insults as they assaulted him and then poured some liquid on him before wrapping a thin rope around his neck. He then told police that he went to a friend’s apartment with the rope still around his neck and continued to wear it until police were dispatched 45 minutes later. Though it was a hoax, charges against Smollett for filing a false police report have been dropped.  
  Like most of the world I’d never heard of Jussie Smollett or seen Empire before this hoax unraveled. I have no feelings about the show, positive or negative. Yet, like most people with a moral compass, I despise injustice, falsehood, and duplicity. This case illustrates the true state of injustice.
  Injustice is often perpetuated by economics. That doesn’t fit the media rhetoric, yet the Smollett case in which he’s been given a free pass demonstrates that justice is often based more on economics than ethnicity. The O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Brock Turner or Robert H. Richards IV cases demonstrate that wealthy is the best Get out of jail free card. Spend a few days in criminal court in an urban area and you’ll discover that those given reduced charges, plea bargains or have charges completely dropped have one thing in common – a good lawyer. But it takes money to afford a good lawyer. The working poor, those in poverty and lower middle class can’t afford a high priced one. Please understand that I’m not denigrating lawyers or judges. They’re attempting to work within a broken system that often fails to protect the most vulnerable.
  Injustice is perpetuated by our preconceptions and prejudices. Lady Justice is to be blind. Our legal system is built on a critical foundation – innocent until proven guilty. We’re in a sad state of affairs when someone can be convicted in the court of public opinion before the case ever goes to trial. That was the injustice of To Kill a Mockingbird. Injustice prevailed because bigotry was crammed into the jury box.
  It’s noteworthy that the Smollett story came shortly after the Covington students news cycle. Journalists too frequently no longer report the news but editorialize. They’ve moved from objectivity to activism in an attempt to make stories fit their worldview. A na├»ve public hasn’t learned the media is driven by ratings, not truth-seeking.
  With Smollett reporters lack of questioning his claims with the skepticism that they deserved shows that they swallowed his fabrication because it fit their preconceptions. Shoddy journalism has become the norm and it’s not just a liberal media problem. Conservative media pundits are often as guilty of re-shaping stories to fit their bias. That’s because it’s hard to wait and withhold judgment, especially if the competition may scoop you.
  So, how can Christians encourage justice?
  Remember that God is a God of justice. Isaiah 30:18 says, “For the LORD is a God of justice.” Justice is one of God’s attributes. It flows out of His holiness. Justice and righteousness are often used synonymously in the Bible. Righteousness is the quality of being right or just and is another attribute of God. It incorporates both His justice and holiness.
  Justice requires objectively hearing both sides. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.” The pursuit of justice means hearing both sides of a story. If we pass judgment after only hearing one, we’re acting like fools and making a mockery of justice. It’s wrong to jump to conclusions. We’re often too quick to judge and then mock the process of justice. To be committed to justice, we must be more patient before we pass judgment.
  Justice requires blindness to who the individual is. Scripture warns us that it’s unjust to consider who someone is when deciding what’s true, right and just (Ex. 23:3; Lev. 19:15). Justice is perverted when judgment is pronounced based on someone being rich or poor; lowly or exalted; weak or powerful. Justice is about truth and righting wrongs, not about identity politics. Why? It’s central to the very character of God Who shows no partiality (Rom. 12:11). It’s wrong to favor any ethnic group or political persuasion when it comes to justice. That means that social justice isn’t justice. It’s evil to argue that justice can only be achieved by being partial to those who are “oppressed.” That’s opposed to the very character of God.
  Human justice will always be limited because it’s only human. We can’t right every wrong. Justice is impossible apart from moral absolutes. God laid out checks and balances in human justice because mankind apart from God can never practice justice fully. We’re contaminated by sin.
  God as Judge will ultimately bring about justice. No one gets away with anything. No evil will go unpunished. While we want the courts and governments to get it right, we know that sometimes they won’t. It’s why we need a perfect judge who executes perfect justice. This is only found in the God who is perfectly just. Before God all the world stands condemned. It’s only in the atoning sacrifice of Christ that we can be found just by the one who is the Justifier (Rom. 3:26). Ultimate justice will come in the end through God. Until then, we must rightly seek justice today, yet always keep an eye on the final coming judgment in the courts of heaven.


Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.