Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chick-Fil-A, Marriage, Homosexuality, Outrageous Politicians, Sin and God's Amazing Grace

I’ve got issues. 

Most of you know that I’m not a politically-charged kind of guy. FBC church-goers don’t hear politically-motivated messages. I’ve never preached on gun control laws. I’ve never addressed the President’s healthcare plan from the pulpit. I’ve never discussed Homeland Security or foreign aid policies during a Sunday morning sermon. Frankly, I’m willing to leave most of these issues to the talking heads and bloggers.

I am, however, a biblically-charged kind of guy.  And when biblical issues start becoming political hot buttons, it’s no time for silence. We are living in such uncertain, chaotic, confusing days that followers of Christ need to start speaking out in defense of the faith before we no longer have an opportunity to do so.

Case in point: the big controversy over Chick-fil-A. Have you heard about this?

Recently, company president Dan Cathy stated in an interview with Baptist Press, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit… We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families.” That was the most “controversial” part of the article I could find. You may read more at

I guess I fail to see the hatred and discrimination against gays in such statements that some others have found. Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno, for example, has gone ballistic. He’s exercising his aldermanic privileges to block Chick-fil-A from constructing a new store in his ward. The Chicago Tribune reported that Moreno referred to Cathy’s “bigoted, homophobic comments” in defending his actions.

Not surprisingly, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has completely affirmed the alderman’s decision, saying, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.” Hmmm. Any Chicagoans take issue with that?

Elsewhere, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told the Boston Herald that he would block any attempt for the franchise to open in his city.

Jim Henson Co., creator of Muppets films and TV shows, backed out of a deal to create characters for the chain’s kid’s meals. Instead they donated payments they had received from Chick-fil-A to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination.

What’s going on here? These self-appointed enlightenment police are saying that believing in God’s design for marriage – and being willing to state that publicly – makes you a bigoted hater disqualified for doing business in their land where they give approval and applause to those who are practicing what God says ought not to be done.

How long will it be before you’re asked to state your position on the subject, knowing your answer will determine whether or not you will have the right to buy or sell in the marketplace? Don’t think it could happen? Just watch. The acceptance of homosexual relationships and legalization of same-sex marriage is quickly becoming a defining issue in this land. Not to mention, divisive, explosive and dangerous.

And just for the record, God’s word could not be clearer in declaring it a sin. But like others sins, such as theft and lust and greed and lying and gossip, homosexual sin is not unforgivable. God can redeem anyone out of that, or any, lifestyle! His mercy is deep enough to forgive you and to save you. His power is strong enough to break the chains enslaving you and free you to live in righteousness. His grace is sufficient enough to strengthen you and transform you. He loves us so much that even while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us! The Good News is still good news!

Like I said, I’ve got issues. I can’t keep silent. There’s too much at stake. More than ever, we need the gospel of Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When a Nation No Longer Fears the Lord...

No matter how “tolerant” we become as a culture, there will still always be some things that are right and some things that are wrong. No matter how we spin the truth or redefine our values, there will still be good and bad, black and white, righteousness and wickedness, morality and immorality, noble and evil.

You can’t just walk into a movie theater or a classroom or an army base and start shooting people. That’s wrong. That’s wicked. That’s evil.

Our contemporary, progressive culture likes to think that what’s right for you may not be right for me, and what’s wrong for you may not be wrong for me. We enjoy making up our own rules and determining our own standards of morality. We like doing whatever is right in our own eyes. Whatever we want. We’re living out the psalmist’s word concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: “There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” (Psalm 36:1-2).

But it’s not working out well at all. 

Acts of violence like we witnessed in Colorado are happening way too often. Why? Because our culture no longer fears the Lord, nor are we teaching the next generation to fear God. And when we no longer look in reverence toward His majesty, when we no longer dread His displeasure, when we no longer have an obedient regard for His sovereign authority, then what’s stopping us from creating our own standards of right and wrong and doing whatever in the world we want? Even if it means killing others. 

Our culture glorifies violence. Look at video games sales. lists the top 10 selling games in June 2012 with titles such as Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Diablo III, Max Payne 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. In case you’re wondering, all these are rated M for combat, horror/suspense, shooting and the like. It’s not Pac-Man or Frogger or Mario. 

These are role-playing games where you shoot people dead. The more people you kill, the farther you advance. And when reports show that gamers spend an average of about eight hours a week playing, well, you do the math. Is it any wonder that some of these combat/killing fantasies get played out in real life?

I could go on talking about the frequency and intensity of aggressive behavior and violence in the movies, television and the internet. But it’s not just that the media and entertainment industry produces these things. The problem is that we’re buying it up.

And it’s not just violence. Our culture glorifies and craves sexual immorality, sensuality, greed and every kind of impurity. So it’s not surprising when all sorts of problems arise, such as pre-marital sex, adultery, divorce, homosexuality, sexual abuse and many others. It’s not surprising when out-of-control greed, gambling and obsession with money and stuff lead to financial ruin and all kinds of evil. It’s not surprising when alcohol and drugs and other addictions destroy families and individuals.

Why? Because we no longer fear the Lord. We have no regard for obedience to God and His holy Word. Instead, we’re writing our own rules as we go along, doing all our stubborn, foolish hearts desire. And we’re reaping the ruinous rewards for it.

Unless this nation begins to steer the ship back to the biblical standards from which we came, from which God shed His grace upon us, we will continue to drift with the current of popular opinion and it won’t be long before we crash upon the rocks.

May God grant comfort and peace to the people in Colorado. And may we the church get down on our knees and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. The Lord will hear from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land. Amen.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Come to VBS!

Did you know that our Vacation Bible School just two days away? Parents, grandparents – if you have children from the ages of going into Kindergarten through just finished 6th grade, we’d love to invite them to be a part of VBS. It’s from 6-9 p.m. starting Sunday, July 22. The First Baptist Church is located at 103 W. Sangamon Ave., just one block west of the stoplight.
If you grew up going to VBS then I hope you know how valuable this week can be in the lives of your own children or grandchildren. I’m 40 years old now, but I can still remember some of the songs we sang and some of the games we played and some of the crafts we made in VBS at Trimble Bible Church where I grew up. I remember some of my teachers and some of the great stories of the faith we learned about from the Bible.
In fact, one specific craft I made in VBS I have kept to this day. At least I think it’s still in a box somewhere in the house. We were learning about the 10 Commandments. They gave each of us a wood plaque, a bottle of glue, some lacquer wood finish, and a piece of paper with the commandments printed on it. Oh, and some matches. In hindsight, I struggle to see how somebody thought this was a good idea. You know, how boys like to play with glue, get it all over their hands, let it dry, then gross out the girls by peeling it off. And the matches.
I suppose the point was to give the document a more authentic look. We lit a match and burned away the edges, leaving the 10 Commandments surrounded in a singed frame as if the fire on Mt. Sinai was still smoldering. I don’t recall anybody getting hurt, and the finished product was quite nice. Maybe it would have been better if they spent more time teaching us to obey God’s commands instead of letting us play with fire. They probably did. I probably didn’t listen as well as I should have.
I can’t tell you what our craft leaders have prepared for your children this year. But I hope they won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t involve playing with matches. I do know we have teachers and workers who will love your children with the love of Jesus. Long after the snacks have settled and the songs have faded to memory, we’ll have done our job well if your children come home knowing that God is awesome and He loves them so much that He gave us Jesus. Let your children come to hear that message.
Let them come so that we can tell them about the wonders of God’s power. Let them come so that we can excite them to marvel at His greatness. Let them come so that we can show them a glimpse of God’s love. Let them come so that we can share about the gift of salvation. Let them come so that we can allow God to draw them to faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
And parents, the message is not just for children. We want your whole family to come to know Jesus personally. He gave His life on the cross for you, for the forgiveness of your sins – no matter what you’ve done, and to save you from the wages of those sins, which is death and hell. You may not be able to keep those 10 Commandments any better than I can. But Jesus rose from the grave to triumph over sin and death in a glorious display of His power and victory. And He is able to save us by His grace.

Why not call upon the name of the Lord right now? Turn away from sin and turn to Him in faith. Yield your life wholly to Him and experience His love, His joy, His peace and His power in a world that is filled with uncertainty, temptations, trials and pains. Receive the gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, and live in His power and victory. It sure beats playing with fire.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Simple Songs, Great Theology

Some of the greatest theology we learn comes from some of the simplest songs we sing. Perhaps the most well-known children’s song of all-time is “Jesus Loves Me.” It’s an easy tune with few words, but packs a powerful theological punch.

Jesus loves me! This I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong

We sang this at the nursing home last Sunday. Don’t you know that every one there knew it and sang along? Several even did the actions.

I’m telling you, if you ever feel unloved, ever feel lonely, ever feel like the whole world’s against you and nobody cares a thing for you, sing this little song. And believe it! Jesus does love you! You are loved with a love beyond measure, a love no words can express. The love of Christ is unfailing and unfathomable, sacrificial and supernatural.

How do we know this love? This Bible tells me so! Contrary to much current opinion, the Bible is the very God-breathed word that gives us knowledge and wisdom and salvation. The Bible is perfectly true and trustworthy. It instructs us in the way we should live and warns us of the consequences of sinful living. The Bible is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. It’s living and active and endures forever.

Most of all, the Bible reveals Jesus as the Savior of the world. From beginning to end, the Scriptures proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, who came from heaven to earth to save mankind from sin and death and give abundant and eternal life to all who believe in Him. That’s love! “For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That’s how I know Jesus loves me – the Bible tells me so!

This past Sunday at church we sang another simple song with some great theology. I think most knew it, but a few learned a new old song. It goes like this:

My God is so big, so strong and so mighty
There’s nothing my God cannot do
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty
There’s nothing my God cannot do
The mountains are His, the rivers are His
The stars are His handiwork, too
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty
There’s nothing my God cannot do (for you!)

And, of course, we learned the actions for this as well. Let me add that just about everybody was stretching out their arms and raising their hands to this song, which is not an easy feat for many Baptists! Maybe we’re on to something here!

Think about the truths in these lyrics for a moment. God is big. God is strong. God is mighty. There’s nothing that He cannot do. The mountains belong to Him. The rivers are His. The stars are the work of His hands.  

If you’re facing an impossible situation with no hope in sight, look to the One who is big enough and strong enough and mighty enough to come to your rescue. He is the One who spoke this universe into existence, the Creator of all things, the Maker of heaven and earth and all that is in it. He is the One who sustains all things by the word of His power. He is the One to whom none can compare. To Him there is no equal. 

What kind of situation is impossible for Him to handle? What problem is too big for Him to solve? What issue is too difficult for Him to deal with? You may be weak, but He is strong! The Lord is the everlasting God. His understanding is limitless. Why do we worry and fret and stress over such small trials in life when our God is so big, so strong and so mighty? There’s nothing my God cannot do!

That’s the simple, yet powerful, theology we aim to teach at VBS next week. It’s at the First Baptist Church, Sun., July 22 through Thurs., July 26, from 6-9 each night. Why not bring your children to come and learn about our amazing and awesome God?!