Monday, June 14, 2021

Mount Rushmore and Creation

A recent trip to Mount Rushmore reminded me of something I had thought about a long time ago. No one in his right mind would ever say anything like the following:

"Look at those four faces. It is truly amazing how wind and rain erosion formed them over millions of years. It is even more amazing that they are the faces of four U.S. Presidents, and that they took those shapes long before any of them were even born. It just shows us the power of natural selection to create order out of disorder."

I believe it is safe to say that there is no one in the world who would make such a statement, because it is obviously absurd. Yet, some of the same people who would laugh at such an idea believe that the actual living men represented by those faces were brought to life by time, chance, and natural processes, as defined by the hypothesis of evolution. Real human life is infinitely more complex and infinitely less likely to be formed by natural processes than faces carved in rock on the side of a mountain, regardless of how big they are. Clearly, both ideas are ludicrous. 

It is obvious that both were formed by someone's hand. The faces on the mountain were formed by human hands using appropriate tools. We know that because there were pictures taken and historical records written. As difficult as the task was, taking fourteen years and hundreds of workers to complete, it is a small accomplishment when compared to the creation of life. We marvel at the works of man, yet so many ignore the works of God.

Living things were formed by the hand of God. We know that because God told us in His Word what He did. On top of taking God at His Word, we have our own common sense that tells us that life with all of its complexities could never have come into being without a Creator. I once heard a prominent atheist say that the odds are totally against our being here, and the fact that we are is truly a miracle. He, of course, credited that miracle to natural selection rather than God. His argument is summed up as follows:  "We are here even though we shouldn't be. God didn't create us because He doesn't exist. Therefore, we evolved." His second premise breaks down as nothing but speculation and an assumption with no evidence. This destroys his entire argument.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:1-3).

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

Saturday, October 31, 2020

How To Know How To Vote

The following is an excerpt from a longer post from 2012, "The Christian and Politics."

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34, NKJV). Righteousness as opposed to sinfulness on the part of candidates and issues must be considered. The questions to ask ourselves are "What is right?" and "Who will do right?" Of course, it would be most helpful to have more Bible-believing, born again, Godly candidates. Failing that, we need to select the candidates and issues that most reflect Biblical principles. There are certain issues, such as the murder of the unborn, that we must reject and work to eradicate, because it is as true today as it was when it was written, that "sin is a reproach to any people."

Some issues are not merely political. Issues that involve normalizing sin are not political issues. Rather, they are moral and Biblical issues, and ignoring them by saying that Christians and the church should stay out of politics is at best cowardly and at worst a denial of our convictions and a great detriment to our nation.

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan… Scoffers set a city aflame, but wise men turn away wrath (Proverbs 29:2, 8, NKJV). We ought to rejoice greatly that we still live in a free country where we are allowed to vote. Such is a great privilege and responsibility, and we owe it to God, ourselves, and our children not to take such a responsibility lightly. When evil individuals are in office, we ought to vote wisely so as to remove them, and when foolish, unbiblical laws are enacted, we ought to make every effort to see them repealed.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord… (Psalm 33:12, NKJV). We hear a great deal of foolishness today about our country not having been founded on Biblical principles and Christian ideals. Such nonsense will continue to be stated, but repeated statements of falsehood never make a lie into the truth. We need only look at some of the statements of the founders of our country to put that foolishness to rest. I offer only a few of the huge number that are readily available.

"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian" (George Washington, The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, Vol. XI, pp. 342-343, General Orders of May 2, 1778).

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here" (The Trumpet Voice of Freedom, Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. 3.)

"I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ" (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385).

There is no way to know how many of our founding fathers truly trusted Christ as Savior, but there can be no doubt that the vast majority had tremendous respect for God, the Bible, and Christianity, and that is sorely lacking today. Can we still say we are "a nation whose God is the Lord?"

The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me: "He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God" (2 Samuel 23:3, NKJV). God most certainly holds us all responsible. Citizens are responsible for obeying the laws put into place by their leaders. That is not to say that all laws are right and just, and it is also not to say that there is never a time to resist authority. The apostles certainly experienced that situation firsthand when they were ordered not to continue preaching the gospel, and they responded appropriately. But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29, NKJV). This really sums up where we ought to be. It is our responsibility to obey all laws that do not violate Biblical principles. If men's laws are in violation of God's laws, we must obey God first, always remembering that there may be consequences to such an action.

Not only are citizens responsible to obey the just and righteous laws their leaders enact, but also those leaders must be prepared to answer to God for the manner in which they lead. They "must be just, ruling in the fear of God." That is an awesome responsibility not to be taken lightly. Politicians who accept high office only to enrich themselves or feed their own egos are setting themselves up for the judgment of God. We need humble, godly leaders who will obey the Scriptures.

Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness (Proverbs 25:5, NKJV). Not only must rulers lead in a righteous, Godly manner, but those who advise them must not be evil individuals. When a potentially good leader listens to ungodly advice, the results can be disastrous. I think of King Rehoboam, who unwisely listened to the wrong counselors, and the result was that he, and ultimately the nation, did evil in the sight of the Lord. Such always leads to God's judgment. You can read about King Rehoboam here.

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.  (Proverbs 12:22, NKJV). During this political season as the presidential election approaches, it is certainly accurate to say that we have been told numerous lies. Some of them are so blatant that even the media is starting to challenge them on both sides, probably for fear that they themselves will be exposed for their lack of honesty as they fail to point out obvious lies. God honors truth. "...those who deal truthfully are his delight." We ought to seek to elect honest politicians (Is that an oxymoron? I hope not totally.) and support honest rather than deceitful laws. Those who would seek to gain office by dishonest means are inviting judgment, because "lying lips are an abomination to the Lord," and He is not asleep.

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens (Exodus 18:21,NKJV).

This Scripture makes it clear that good leaders are those who are capable of doing the job, who fear God, who are truthful and hate falsehood, and who are not greedy and cannot be bribed.

I encourage every Christian to fulfill the responsibility to vote based on Biblical convictions. We do not always get everything we want in a candidate, but if we stay home because we don't like one issue, or if we vote for a third party candidate who clearly has no chance, we may be unwittingly helping into office those who may stand for the opposite of what we believe. Some have said they cannot vote for "the lesser of two evils" because the lesser of two evils is still evil. However, "the lesser of two evils" is less evil, and we want the least amount of evil possible in our country. Failure to vote for the lesser of two evils is to help the greater of two evils to take control. That is surely not what we want.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Brief Summary of Biblical Theology, by Ralph M. Petersen

In a sermon, a couple years ago, my pastor summarized all of biblical theology in two statements:
1. GOD IS. That fact is declared in the first four words of the Bible (Genesis 1:1) “In the beginning GOD.”
2. HE HAS REVEALED HIMSELF. And that is the rest of the Bible in its entirety. It is all about Him. It is His revelation of and about Himself to His creation. Everything we need to know for faith and practice, He has revealed in His written Word.
If we can get these two statements firmly embedded in our minds, everything else falls into place.
And frankly, I think it is enough. Most of us have a hard enough time understanding, believing, and obeying what He has revealed. We don’t need more or new revelation; we just need to believe what He has already given us.
And He has given us all we need to know about Him. So when it comes to hard truths, that are beyond our human ability to understand, like the tri-unity of God, we don’t have the prerogative to decide, define, or explain it. According to God’s revelation, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit-- these three are co-equal and coexistent.
Churches and denominations divide over this doctrine because they try to explain it in terms that make sense in our own human dimension and with our finite understanding. It is possible that many (or all) of them can be WRONG but one thing is certain; THEY CAN'T ALL BE RIGHT.
And any foolish attempts to deny God’s triune nature or to explain it with stupid analogies (like water or eggs or…) are ludicrous; in fact, analogies are probably heretical, idolatrous, or blasphemous.
God’s ways are not our ways; His thoughts are higher than our thoughts; He is the creator and we are the creatures; He is eternal and we are finite; He is spirit and we are flesh, and He exists in dimensions that we cannot conceive. And He has not seen fit to reveal, to us, how that can be nor has He ordained that we should understand it. He has just declared it and our responsibility is to believe it. Apparently, that's all we need to know or He would have revealed more.
It is probably over-simplified to just state that the One True, Eternal, Living God coexists in three distinct persons. The Father is God. The Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is God. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, is God. And yet these three are co-equal in glory, and power. But that's about as reverently and Scripturally accurate as we can get when describing the Trinity.
Remember - God is and He has revealed Himself. As for me, I will just accept, as truth, what He has declared. To disbelieve His Word is to deny Him.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Man-Made Body Parts by Ron Livesay

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14, NASB).

It seems impossible that anyone could do even a cursory study of the human body and come away with the conclusion that there is no intelligence behind the design. We are quite obviously fearfully and wonderfully made, and no amount of conjecture, denial, and theorizing can change the fact that we are a special creation of God. What someone believes to be true has absolutely no impact on truth and reality. These things never change.

All of God’s creation was perfect in every way. That being the case, it could be concluded that all parts of our bodies are permanent and will never wear out. However, that logic breaks down when the fall of man into sin is factored in. There was no death, bloodshed, or suffering before Adam sinned. As it has been since then, we are all subject to death. This cannot be denied.

In 1973, I had a collision with another player in a basketball game, which resulted in torn ligaments in my left knee. I had surgery to repair the damage, and I was told that I would someday need knee replacement surgery. I decided not to worry about it and sort of dismissed it from my mind for many years. Eventually, my right knee became very painful and unstable. By this time, both of my knees were bad. I tried, with mixed results, a brace, cortisone injections, gel injections, etc., but eventually nothing helped. 

For a number of years, I struggled with simple activities, yet I steadfastly refused to consider knee replacement. One line I used when people would ask if I planned to get the surgery was, “Anything made by man is inferior to what God has created, so I’ll just keep the knees He gave me.” 

The first half to that statement is, of course, true. However, it fails to factor in the impact of sin on our human bodies. Because of Adam’s sin of disobedience, the human race inherited the sin nature from him, and therefore our bodies deteriorate from infancy through old age. I finally faced the reality that while God created the human body to be perfect for the function of living on this earth, the parts of our bodies do wear out. 

Thank the Lord that He has given many people the desire, strength, ability, and wisdom to make replacement parts. We ought to appreciate the work of such scientists and doctors, but even more so, we should be thankful to our Lord for giving them the ability to come up with such things. 

The Lord receives all the glory for these advancements. This is true in every area of life. Did the Wright brothers invent the principles of aerodynamics? Of course not – they merely took the principles they discovered to make (not “create”) the first heavier-than-air powered flying machine. Flying has gone from simple beginnings to where it is now. God knew the principles of aerodynamics long before the Wright brothers because He created them. God created the principles in the beginning, and humans, after several thousand years, made a flying machine. Whether humans choose to give God the glory or not, the fact remains that He gets the glory for every advance that has been made in human history. This could be illustrated in a myriad of ways.

I had my first knee replacement last Wednesday, and the second is tentatively scheduled for three months from now. This is in addition to the fact that last summer I had stent grafts placed in my iliac arteries and my aorta. I may soon be a bionic man.

This does not negate the fact that what God created in the first place is far superior to man-made devices. I have been told that my new knees should last 20 or 25 years. Obviously, this is not anything like the expected wear-out date for the parts of the human body. While I am very thankful for those who invented these things that potentially will give me a better quality of life, I am far more thankful for the Creator of all things, the One in whom …we live and move and exist…(Acts 17:28, NASB). 

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Trinity

By Ralph M. Petersen, 4/23/20

I don’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity. I cannot comprehend a triune God nor can I explain Him. But I do know that stupid analogies always fail and are heretical. God is NOT like an egg, water, a man, pie, a triangle, a three-leafed clover, or Pla-doh. Furthermore, there are lots of people who reject the doctrine of the Trinity simply because they think these analogies don't make sense. And they are right. There are no analogies that can explain the Trinity and we have no right to try to invent such nonsense.

Nor do we have the right to disbelieve the doctrine of a triune God; JUST BECAUSE WE DON'T UNDERSTAND THE TRINITY IS NO REASON TO DISBELIEVE IT.

Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.”

And this is one of those secret things. The tri-unity of God is a doctrine of special (biblical) revelation but He has NOT revealed how that can be or how we can understand it. Ours is just to take Him at His Word and believe it. No analogy can explain the Trinity because there is nothing in all of God's creation like Him. He is holy; there is none like Him.

“God Said It, I Believe It and That Settles It For Me,” was a song that was popularized in the 1970s. At first glance, it sounds good but the obvious error in the song is the phrase, “I believe it.” That seems to imply that the veracity of the declared Word of God is dependent on my belief. The better lyric would be, “God Said It and That Settles It Whether I Believe It Or Not.”

So, regarding the doctrine of the Trinity (and all other doctrines of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture), our belief (or even our understanding) is irrelevant. There are a lot of things about Him that I don't understand. I can't comprehend eternity apart from and unaffected by time. Nor can I understand how God can exist apart from His created universe and yet inhabit His creation. Nevertheless, God’s Word is true even if no one understands it or believes it. We are not privileged to a complete understanding. All we can know about Him is what He has revealed to us in His Word. That’s it! That settles it! That’s all! End of discussion!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Grace Bible Church Encouragement Email: Psalm 119, Part 2

We are back in Psalm 119 talking about God and His word. Let’s zero in on verses 33-40 and I trust this will encourage you as you are praying to God for your own spiritual growth. Let’s finish with part 2 today (verses 37-40). 

1. Turn my eyes – The psalmist speaks of the eyes (v. 37). His eyes see things that can be desired both good and evil. There are many things that would desire to take his time and attention and yet, he needs to direct his eyes and ultimately his thoughts to those things that are worthwhile. Covetousness is just another expression of the selfishness that is lurking inside of us. Instead of an attitude that treasures God first and then seeks to serve others, often the eyes seek for selfish things, attention, wealth, prestige, power, etc. Chasing these things is like chasing things that have no substance (mirages, rainbows) and instead results in the emptiness that comes with chasing things that are of no value. Turning our eyes is similar to an infection that we don’t want to have spread. Each time I’m visiting in the hospital, they have hand-disinfecting stations around the hospital and warnings and messages about using them to keep disease from spreading. If we are not cleansing ourselves from the “infection” of our eyes, it can spread to our heart and mind. This infection goes by many names but for today, let’s just call it covetousness. Ultimately it is an expression to God of our dissatisfaction with how He is meeting our needs or how He has made us.

2. Reassure me - The psalmist is asking for God’s word and his promises to be kept and brought to his mind (v. 38). The psalmist wants to fear and be in awe of God but desires to be reassured. Everyone needs reassurance from time to time. Even with our families, we express our love on a frequent basis. Very few of us practice the attitude of, “I told you once that I loved you and if that ever changes, I’ll let you know.” We need to be reminded and that reminder serves to bring hope and comfort to our lives. Is it any different with our God?  We want to be reminded of His care for us. Our hearts desire to see His promises fulfilled. Every time a promise is carried out, our fickle and insecure hearts are reassured. Our doubts are calmed for at least a little while.

3. Turn away the reproach – the psalmist is not being motivated by a selfish ambition to avoid embarrassment. He does not want to do that which would cause God’s name to suffer. There are those around David who are trying to destroy him. Consider Psalm 119:21-23. You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes (ESV). The psalmist commits his reputation to the Lord.

4. Give me life in your righteousness – the psalmist shows his desire for God’s word and asks for God’s help in following his righteousness. All of us need God’s help each day as we seek to follow Him. We need God’s help to face the challenges of right now. 

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Sent out to all who attend Grace Bible Church by Pastor Ted Bigelow, Pastor of Preaching and Development and Pastor Steve Ridge, Executive Pastor.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Grace Bible Church Encouragement Email: Psalm 119, Part 1

Most of you know that Psalm 119 is about God and His Word. Let’s zero in on verses 33-40 and I trust this will encourage you as you are praying to God for your own spiritual growth. Let’s start with part 1 today (verses 33-36). 

Look at all that David, the psalmist, is asking for God to help him with. Almost every verse contains the thought of “me” or “my” as he is asking God for help. Not in some selfish way but in his desire to please God, he is realizing his own shortcomings and where he needs improvement towards God. Let’s run down some of his list and see if some of these same things should be on our list as well.

1.  “Teach me” (submissive spirit) – He desires to be taught by God. He wants to know how God wants him to live. His understanding is that there is a way to walk and he desires to follow that way. His goal then is to live according to God’s statutes for the rest of his life (v. 33). What a wonderful thought for us today…God, teach us and once you do, we will be committed to your teachings as long as we are on this earth.

2.   “Give me understanding” – This implies that he was lacking something. The Psalmist needs understanding and he is not asking for knowledge for its own sake. There is also the comprehension that unless God was the one teaching him, his struggle to understand would be endless. Once he has gained this understanding from God, he will then respond in obedience to God’s Word. This obedience will go far beyond an outward compliance but will encompass his whole being. Even today, God gives us understanding and wisdom as we read, hear, and obey His word (v. 34). God desires believers who are more than just shopkeepers’ bright window dressings. He desires an obedience that completely envelopes the believer.

3.   “Lead me” – Consider that the psalmist is asking for help to walk the correct path. When a person asks for a guide, he/she is giving up some of their own liberty/authority. This person will now go where the guide points to rather than following his own path. The psalmist wants to walk in the right way and more than that, he wants to want to walk in God’s ways. His delight is to walk in the way of God’s commands. He does not express it as a heartless duty (v. 35). What a blessed path that a believer can walk as he treads in the way that God desires of him!  Am I willing to give up control of my own life and truly rely on God’s direction to lead me?

4.   “Incline my heart” – The psalmist identifies that his heart can go two different directions. He is asking for God to keep his heart focused on the things of God. The psalmist understands that his human heart, if left to itself, does not desire the things of God, so he needs God’s help. The other direction is one of “selfish gain” or dishonest profit. This type of attitude is condemned in passages such as Isaiah 56:11, “The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all” (ESV). Also Jeremiah 6:13, “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely” (ESV). During this time in history, is your heart being drawn towards God?  Ask God for His help to refocus you.

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Sent out to all who attend Grace Bible Church by Pastor Ted Bigelow, Pastor of Preaching and Development and Pastor Steve Ridge, Executive Pastor.