Make Up Your Mind! – May 20, 2022

As I was reprocessing last Sunday’s sermon on 1 Peter 4:7-11 (Peter’s instructions to the church to pray, love, host, and serve because the last days are upon us), my mind was drawn to a verse from Daniel, Chapter 1.  Israel’s Cadet (future officers) Class was brought to Nebuchadnezzer’s palace and enrolled in a program to make them good servants of Babylon.  As part of the program they were to eat like the nobles, food that YHWH had forbidden.  It was undoubtedly a high pressure situation and a HUGE temptation to “go along.”  But verse 8 sets the course for Daniel and his friend’s lives.  “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.”  My guess is that had Daniel waited to make that decision a year into his training, it might have been much harder to implement!

How does this apply to Peter’s “last days” pleas?  Here in the states life is still pretty chill.  Yes, we can see the writing on the wall, but it’s been up there since, at least, the 60’s and we’re doing fine.   A fiery trial, however, could easily be right around the corner.  “Purposing” to pray, love, host, and serve while our house is on fire may be too much for anyone.  Get in the habit now!  Individually, we need to choose now to each be the church we want around us in the fire!  

The following isn’t an end-of days (1 Peter 4:7) kind of illustration, but Schuller does tell a good story about the wrong time to make decisions!

I remember one winter my dad needed firewood, and he found a dead tree and sawed it down. In the spring, to his dismay, new shoots sprouted around the trunk. He said, “I thought sure it was dead. The leaves had all dropped in the wintertime. It was so cold that twigs snapped as if there were no life left in the old tree. But now I see that there was still life at the taproot.” He looked at me and said, “Bob, don’t forget this important lesson. Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst mood. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” 

Robert H. Schuller, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!, Thomas Nelson.

Blessings on you and yours,

Pastor Scott

Laying Isaac Down

In preparation for Communion on Mother’s day, I had planned to use Genesis 22 – the sacrifice of Isaac – and this was one of the articles I had tagged. It’s a great article but in posting it I am not carte blanche endorsing the Gospel Coalition – they write well, but think differently about some NT doctrines. Hope this one blesses you! ~Pastor Scott

‘Kill Me a Son’: The Beautiful Scandal of Abraham’s Sacrifice

As Abraham lifts the knife above Isaac, many Christians reach for the scissors, at least mentally. We want to pull a Thomas Jefferson and snip out the story from our Bibles.

In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son. Many conclude that this, surely, is an embarrassment to modern sensibilities, an affront to our common humanity. It’s an unbridgeable barrier to faith for any right-minded enquirer, isn’t it?

Bob Dylan retells the story like this:

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?” (“Highway 61 Revisited“)

“What?” isn’t Abraham’s response in the Bible, but Dylan is putting words to our alarm: You must be puttin’ me on! Child sacrifice? In a holy book? What should we make of such a story?

I love Genesis 22. It is perhaps my favorite chapter in all the Bible. I don’t want to get out the scissors; I want to get out the magnifying glass. Because if we train our eyes to see what’s there, this chapter becomes not a barrier to faith but an almighty boost.

But we need to begin with some basics.

What Is the Bible?

Sometimes Christians are the worst at answering that question. Some will reply, “The Maker’s Instruction Manual,” or “God’s Road Map.” Creative types have even given us an acronym: BIBLE stands for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” Most often people, whether Christian or not, see it essentially as a moral guidebook.

But if we read Genesis 22 through that lens, we’re in for a shock. When God says, “Sacrifice your son,” how should we react? Go and do likewise? No. If we copied or endorsed each practice in the Bible, we’d be in a terrible mess (not to mention jail).

Genesis 22 should be read the way the whole Bible should be read. 

 

Genesis 22 should be read the way the whole Bible should be read. First and foremost it’s a biography—the Spirit’s testimony to the Son. And when we see it this way, the entirety of Scripture comes into focus.

Testimony to Jesus

The key to the passage is to ask this question: Who is Isaac? Answer: Abraham’s offspring. He’s the immediate fulfillment of the cosmic promises God has been making since Genesis 12. The offspring of Abraham will save and bless the world (Gen. 12:2–3, 7; 15:5; 17:4–8). In the meantime, the “offspring” of Abraham will be the nation of Israel. In the long run, the “offspring” is Christ (Gal. 3:16). But in the first instance—before the Abrahamic people and before their Messiah—we get Isaac.

Picture baby Isaac lying in Abraham’s arms. What do you have? You have the hope of the world. No Isaac, no Israel. No Israel, no Christ. No Christ, no salvation. So whatever you do, Abraham, don’t drop him!

And then we read Genesis 22: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Everyone is shocked by this verse, but to the attentive reader it’s actually more shocking, not less, because we know who Isaac is. He’s the offspring of Abraham, the hope of the world! Through Isaac will come all God’s blessings to the nations. And now God wants him slain as a burnt offering (i.e., a sacrifice of atonement, Lev. 1:4). Apparently this is the way God will save the world—through the beloved son offered up on a mountain.

Notice that this mountain is in “the region of Moriah.” Mount Moriah will become temple mount in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 3:1). At some point the penny may just drop.

Getting It

I was once teaching this story to teenagers, sketching the picture layer by layer: “Isaac is the only beloved son, the hope of the world, the source of all blessing. He’s trudging up the hill with wood on his back (Gen. 22:6); remind you of anything? It’s a hill near Jerusalem; ring any bells?” Suddenly, it was as if someone electrocuted a girl in the front row. In a good way. She started thumping her friend next to her—really thumping her—with the kind of violence born of pure joy: “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. It’s Jesus! It’s Jesus! It’s totally Jesus!”

Instead of Genesis 22 being an insurmountable barrier to faith, with Jesus at the center it becomes an incredible boost to faith. 

 

That, essentially, is why the Bible was written. It was written to make us say, “It’s Jesus, it’s Jesus, it’s totally Jesus!” When we read the Scriptures like this, they start to make sense. Instead of Genesis 22 being an insurmountable barrier to faith, with Jesus at the center it becomes an incredible boost to faith. Remember that Genesis 22 records an event two millennia before Christ was crucified. But from the beginning, the Bible has always been testifying to history’s central event.

He Will Provide

Abraham’s faith shines through the chapter. He reassures Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” (v. 8). Somehow a substitute will be provided. Somehow God will offer a lamb and everything will be okay. Abraham knows that Isaac is the promised one, the hope of the world. So whatever happens, Isaac will make it through—Abraham has this resurrection-shaped faith (Heb. 11:17–19).

On this occasion a ram is provided. Which means the “lamb” is yet future. So the whole episode concludes: “Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” (Gen. 22:14).

Notice the future tense. God will provide. What will he provide? The Lamb of God, the Offspring of Abraham, the Beloved Son, the Hope of the World.

One day, on that very mountain, God would provide the ultimate atonement. And many knew it. For centuries afterward they would point to that hill and say: “The true sacrifice is coming, and that’s where he’ll be provided.”

What’s It All About?

God didn’t ask Abraham to go through with the sacrifice. But one dark Friday, God would provide. The beloved Son of the Father would walk willingly up that hill, carrying the wood on his back. And there he would be slain to save and bless the world.

If we attempt to read the Bible primarily as a rulebook, it crumbles between our fingers. With such a mindset, Genesis 22 is a scandal and a barrier to faith. Yet when Scripture is read as intended, we see it as a testimony to Christ. Suddenly we realize that all the Bible, and all believers in every age, are fixed on the one truth that towers above all others: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

NOVEMBER 27, 2018  |  GLEN SCRIVENER
Editors’ note: 
This article is adapted from chapter 3 of Long Story Short: The Bible in 12 Phrases (Christian Focus, 2018)

Back to Basics  – May 6, 2022

Saw a headline that read, “Christians are getting their lunch handed to them!”  On the national stage every victory seems to lead to a string of setbacks.  So what do we do?  Well, when your team is getting beat.  When you’ve fallen into bad habits or even despair.  It’s time to return to “the basics.’  Consider David’s words in the first 6 verses of Psalm 37.  Meditate on these verses today and get your heart thinking with God’s heart – despite what your eyes may be seeing! Blessings, PS

A Psalm of David.

Do not fret because of evildoers,

Be not envious toward wrongdoers.

For they will wither quickly like the grass

And fade like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord and do good;

Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the Lord;

And He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord,

Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light

And your judgment as the noonday.

Digging Deeper – April 29, 2022

We at Word of Grace affirm both ancient creeds – with a clarification or two.  🙂  Sunday May 1, we are going to address one of the “problems” we have with the Apostles Creed.   Did Christ really descend to hell before the Resurrection?   Miss a Sunday, miss a lot! 

The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.)

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the begotten of God the Father, the Only-begotten, that is of the substance of the Father.

God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten and not made; of the very same nature of the Father, by Whom all things came into being, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.

Who for us humanity and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate, became human, was born perfectly of the holy virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.

By whom He took body, soul, and mind, and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance.

He suffered, was crucified, was buried, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven with the same body, [and] sat at the right hand of the Father.

He is to come with the same body and with the glory of the Father, to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there is no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the uncreate and the perfect; Who spoke through the Law, the prophets, and the Gospels; Who came down upon the Jordan, preached through the apostles, and lived in the saints.

We believe also in only One, Universal, Apostolic, and [Holy] Church; in one baptism with repentance for the remission and forgiveness of sins; and in the resurrection of the dead, in the everlasting judgment of souls and bodies, in the Kingdom of Heaven and in the everlasting life.

The Apostles’ Creed (5th Century) 

I believe in God,

the Father almighty,

Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and was buried;

he descended into hell;

on the third day he rose again from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;

from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and life everlasting.

Amen.

Interdependence – April 22, 2022

On Sunday April 24, we will be looking a Peter’s instruction to live harmoniously, fifteen minutes after that, then we are looking at Spiritual gifts (“if the whole body was an eye, where would the hearing be?”) in the Theology Class at 11am.  The illustration below serves both passages, hope it blesses your heart and illumines your mind!

Several years ago, two students graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The highest-ranking student in the class was a blind man named Overton and, when he received his honor, he insisted that half the credit should go to his friend, Kaspryzak. They had met one another in school when the armless Mr. Kaspryzak had guided the blind Mr. Overton down a flight of stairs. This acquaintance ripened into friendship and a beautiful example of interdependence. The blind man carried the books which the armless man read aloud in their common study, and thus the individual deficiency of each was compensated for by the other. After their graduation, they planned to practice law together.

Gary Inrig, “Life in His Body.”

See you Sunday!

Pastor Scott

Good Friday – Apr 15, 2022

… Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble, tremble

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

… Were you there when they nailed Him to the cross?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the cross?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble, tremble

Were you there when they nailed Him to the cross?

… Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble, tremble

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

… Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble, tremble

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were You There? lyrics © Bluewater Music Corp., BMG Rights Management, Songtrust Ave, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc

I was there (1 Peter 2:24)!  Were you?

~Pastor Scott

Sovereignty – Apr 8, 2022

I am approaching this Sunday with fear and trembling because we have progressed through Peter’s first epistle to Chapter 3:1-7; aka  “For better or worse.”  

Given that a marriage sermon sorta’ leaves out a segment of the congregation I planned to write this blog about “Singleness.”  I grabbed one of my trusty sermon illustration books looking for inspiration about the topic.  This book is arranged by subject and lists them alphabetically…I got to “sinfulness” and knew I was close, but the illustrations skipped right over “Singleness” and went to “Sovereignty.”   Now I’m not a big signs and wonders guy, but I’d have to be blind and deaf not to see that one! 🙂

R.B. Kuiper once used the following illustration of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility:

I liken them to two ropes going through two holes in the ceiling and over a pulley above.  If I wish to support myself by them, I must cling to them both.  If I cling only to one and not the other, I go down.

I read the many teachings of the Bible regarding God’s election, predestination, his chosen, and so on.  I read also the many teachings regarding “whosoever will may come” and urging people to exercise their responsibility as human beings.  These seeming contradictions cannot be reconciled by the puny human mind.  With childlike faith, I cling to both ropes, fully confident that in eternity I will see that both strands of truth are, after all, of one piece.  

I don’t know if my readers have never married or are widowed; I know many are married and I’m hoping they read this too.  If any of us are saddened or worried by our state, or if any of us have anger or regret rise up because of something that isn’t,” this is a great reminder.  Even as we pull on our rope (doing all that we can), we hang on to His rope knowing and believing that He knows best!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding; 

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths. 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Your Fellow Sojourner,

Pastor Scott 

Men’s Ministry Choices – Apr 1, 2022

No fooling!  We really are offering two options starting tomorrow morning at 8am.  The first option is the one you have heard about if you stay awake during the announcements. 🙂  Men’s Alliance is geared toward getting men into an “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17) fellowship of guys who learn to have each other’s backs (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) as they seek to serve God, their families, and their community.  I love the concept, but there are already two leaders; one of whom I’ve worked with for two decades who knows me well enough to know that a boot camp environment is not what I’m suited for.

Therefore, Pastor’s Bible Study will begin this Saturday as a second option for men to take part.  This desire was also expressed at one of the formational meetings this winter.  So if you aren’t suited to sweat, but still want to fellowship with fellow men, join me in the Fellowship Hall Saturday morning as we start a 30+ week study of Proverbs.  I’ll make sure the coffee is strong!

Hope to see all the men, regardless of age, at 8am tomorrow, whether you drive through the gate to join Men’s Alliance out back or come in through the front doors to join Pastor’s Bible Study in comfortable chairs.

Your Brother in Christ,

Pastor Scott

Teaching Songs – March 4, 2020

The silhouette of a young Christian father is guiding his young child by the hand as they walk outside at sunset.

I never met Don Francisco  – but his music was very formative to the thinking of a much younger Scott.   Take a read:

I’ll Never Let Go of Your Hand 

by Don Francisco 

I know what you’ve been hearing 

I’ve seen you hide your fear 

Embarrassed by your weaknesses 

Afraid to let Me near 

I wish you knew how much I long 

For you to understand 

No matter what may happen, child 

I’ll never let go of your hand 

I know you’ve been forsaken 

By all you’ve known before 

When you’ve failed their expectations 

They frown and close the door 

But even though your heart itself 

Should lose the will to stand 

No matter what may happen, child 

I’ll never let go of your hand 

The life that I have given you 

No one can take away 

I’ve sealed it with My Spirit, blood and word 

The everlasting Father has made His covenant with you 

And He’s stronger than the world you’ve seen and heard 

So don’t you fear to show them 

All the love I have for you 

I’ll be with you everywhere 

In everything you do 

And even if you do it wrong 

And miss the joy I planned 

I’ll never, never let go of your hand 

The life that I have given you 

No one can take away 

I’ve sealed it with My Spirit, blood and word 

The everlasting Father has made His covenant with you 

And He’s stronger than the world you’ve seen and heard 

So don’t you fear to show them 

All the love I have for you 

I’ll be with you everywhere 

In everything you do 

And even if you do it wrong 

And miss the joy I planned 

I’ll never, never let go of your hand 

I’ll never let go of your hand 

Source: Musixmatch 

God’s Not Dead – February 25, 2022

GOD / THEISM

Why Consciousness Is Best Explained By The Existence Of God

ByJimmy Wallace

Published42 mins ago

Why Consciousness is Best Explained By the Existence of God

Image Credit: Liza Summer from Pexels

Despite the progress of science, fundamental questions remain related to the issue of consciousness. Philosopher Michael Ruse opined, “Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write now, be able to reflect on what I am doing…there is no scientific answer.” [1] Such a question is indeed difficult to answer for those adhering to a strictly materialistic worldview; human consciousness and the ability to comprehend the universe are more reasonably explained by an appeal to the supernatural.

A number of views exist with regard to human consciousness. Those who hold a view of “reductive physicalism” believe human beings to be “reducible to their physical properties… [so that] the mind or the mental is simple brain chemistry.” [2]  In such a view, the human brain and mind are identical. [3] As a result, “free will” is illusory and human behavior is the result of a series of purely physical responses (much like the falling of a very complex series of dominoes. However, there are several problems with this approach.

First, it flies in the face of human experience; each person experiences the world as though they are a distinct individual making distinct choices. Secondly, there is no known naturalistic mechanism which would explain how the experience of consciousness could arise from the material composition of the human brain alone. [4] Further, if each human being is simply going through the motion of inevitable behavior, concepts related to morality and ethics cease to have meaning. There is no human good nor evil by definition if human beings are essentially organic automatons. Yet, morally good and evil actions appear to exist (which themselves cannot in principle be explained by science [5]), indicating human free will and consciousness truly exist.

But if human consciousness exists as something more than simply illusion, it is difficult to understand how it could have arised from unguided, purely naturalistic evolutionary processes. Atheist Colin McGinn makes a striking admission with regard to the miraculous appearance of human consciousness when he asks, “How did evolution convert the water of biological tissue into the wine of consciousness?” [6] So unanswerable is this question in the world of science that many have resorted to simply asserting consciousness “is just something that happens as a natural byproduct of our brain’s complexity.” [7] Perhaps this is why some ascribe to physicalism to begin with, so as to deny the existence of the mind as a distinct entity and thus not have to account for its appearance.

Not only does humanity appear to have consciousness minds, but humanity is able to comprehend the universe around them with their minds. Human consciousness has allowed for the discovery of “mathematical reality.” [8] Not only do mathematical concepts exist in such a way that they could be discovered by conscious minds, but these mathematics allow for human understanding of the universe with surprising effectiveness. Physicist Eugene Wigner notes, “The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious… there is no rational explanation for it.” [9] It is on this basis that Christian mathematician Johannes Kepler argues God “intentionally ordered the universe in a way that could be comprehended by the human intellect.” [10]The most reasonable conclusion to draw is that human beings have rational minds which exist apart from the brainCLICK TO TWEET

The most reasonable conclusion to draw from available evidence is that human beings have consciousness in the form of minds which allows for the ability to comprehend the world around them, and that these minds exist as something “beyond the brain.” [11] Theism enjoys a greater explanatory power when it comes to this issue. The myriad problems facing a naturalistic explanation are erased in a theistic worldview. Therefore, the most reasonable conclusion to draw is that human beings have rational minds which exist apart from the brain (called souls in Christian theology) given to them by a Creator who designed the universe for humanity’s study and comprehension.

[1] Michael Ruse, Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2001), 73, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 247.
[2] Melissa Cain Travis, Science and the Mind of the Maker (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2018), 179.
[3] Sharon Dirckx, Am I Just My Brain? (Epsom: The Good Book Company, 2019), 24-26.
[4] J.P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 151.
[5] Moreland, Scientism and Secularism, 155-157.
[6] Colin McGinn, quoted by J.P. Moreland, himself quoted in Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 263.
[7] Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 264.
[8] G.H. Hardy, A Mathematicians Apology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 123-124, quoted in Travis, Science and the Mind of the Maker, 157.
[9] Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” in The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics, ed. Timothy Ferris (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1991), 527, quoted in Travis, Science and the Mind of the Maker, 161.
[10] Melissa Cain Travis, “A Grand Cosmic Resonance: How the Structure and Comprehensibility of the Universe Reveal a Mindful Maker,” CRI, last modified August 19, 2019. https://www.equip.org/article/a-grand-cosmic-resonance/.
[11] Dirckx, Am I Just My Brain?, 24-26.