The Supernatural Word

On the book of Job, chapters 1-2…

From award-winning author, Philip Yancey’s, book, The Bible Jesus Read:

“Nowhere else in the Bible are we more clearly informed of a realm beyond our own – one we cannot see but, nonetheless, exists.

“Like Job, we live in ignorance of what is going on ‘behind the curtains.’ Job reminds us that the small history of mankind on this earth takes place within the large drama of the history of the universe. We are foot-soldiers in a spiritual battle with cosmic significance.

“In the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘There is no neutral ground in the universe – every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” (Philip Yancey)

nw

 

The Old Rugged Cross

NOTE: I wrote this four months after finding my 19 year old son after he’d taken his own life…

There have been moments these past months that I’ve wanted to give up on God.

I’m simply being honest.

As one who grew up in a violent, alcoholic home, I witnessed more violence as a child than I care to remember.

As a full-time pastor now for 30+ years, I’ve had, on occasion, the unfortunate opportunity to see the very ugly side of what some have otherwise called “Christianity.”

But those pale in comparison to the events of May 13th, 2013, when my world caved in around me.

In light of the pain we suffer on planet earth, what proof is there that there is a God? More than that, what proof is there that that God really loves me?

From their outstanding work, “Name Above All Names,” Alistair Begg & Sinclair Ferguson write,

It is the cross alone that ultimately proves the love of God to us – not the circumstances of our lives.

We must not allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking that if things are going well with us, Then we can be sure of God’s love. For life can often seem dark and painful. Things do not always go well for us.

Rather, we look to the sacrifice of the cross and the proof God gave there of His love. ‘God [demonstrated proof of] His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8)

This is the proof I need. This is the truth I need to hear. This dispels the lies of the enemy.”

This is the unstoppable, indefensible, indisputable love of God in Christ Jesus.

I love you, Nick

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Bewitched

“O foolish Galatians,” Paul lamented. “Who has bewitched you?”

Through Christ, all 613 Levitcal laws given to Israel were fulfilled. Yet Satan – and our human nature – still tell us, “The only way to please God is through human effort.” i.e. living a “good” life, making sure that – at the end of the day – my “good” deeds outweigh my “bad” deeds so that the proverbial scale tips in my favor.

There’s only one problem with this school of thought: it’s completely unbiblical and diametrically opposite of the gospel.

The whole reason Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians was to counter the lies of the false teachers who had slithered into the Galatians’ midst and began filling their heads with works-based righteousness. In other words, the false teachers were preaching, “To be loved and accepted by God, you must keep a list of good deeds and check it off as you go. If you finish the list, you’re good to go – until tomorrow; and then you get to start over. If you fail, just keep on trying. For all your life.” (By the way, righteousness = right standing before a holy God).

Paul’s frustration was that the Galatian believers so quickly bought into the lies of the false teachers. But modern culture isn’t any different. Our default is to swallow the same lies the Galatians entertained 20 centuries ago. (Satan is consistent in his strategies – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.)

As usual, Paul pulls no punches. He writes, “If righteousness could be obtained by the law (human effort), Christ died for no purpose.” (cf. Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10)

Wow. Put it in park and think about that for a minute.

“Wait,” you counter. “You’re telling me that Jesus loves me regardless of how much I fail and mess up? I don’t have to keep score of my good vs. bad actions or thoughts??”

If you’ve placed your faith in what Christ has done for you on the cross, the Bible’s answer to that question is an emphatic: “yes.”

From his throne, Christ proclaims,

“I have purchased you with an everlasting love, with my very own blood. I have washed you clean! You are 100% holy and righteous! When you stand before God for judgment, you will receive the verdict: Not guilty! This has absolutely nothing to do with your good deeds and human effort. You have zero capacity to be good enough to stand innocent of sin in my Father’s presence.  I was good enough on your behalf. I absorbed God’s wrath – the wrath you deserved – when I was brutally and publicly executed outside of Jerusalem. Your salvation has nothing to do with your feeble attempts to earn salvation. Rather, it has everything to do with my accomplishing that for you, culminating with the Cross and the Empty Tomb, my resurrection.”

“If this is true, Jesus, why would you do such a thing?”

And the King tenderly replies, “Because I love you.”

Are you, as Paul describes, “held captive” and “imprisoned” by the lie that you must somehow be “good enough” for God to love and accept you?

Lay down your burden. Put your faith in Christ today. And come home. Peace awaits.

In the Roman Catholic medieval church, Satan had spread this same lie (if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.) People we’re spending their whole lives trying to be good enough for God to love and accept them, all the while never knowing if what they had done was good enough. This is an exhausting and frightening existence i.e. “What if I die and I haven’t finished checking off the list??”

In response, the Reformers (Martin Luther, John Knox, etc.), on a mission (a “mission from God” – Blues Brothers 🙂) to counter this false teaching, began proclaiming and circulating phrases that summed up the true and eternal gospel. Among those phrases (the Five Solas) were:

Sola Gratia; Sola Fide, Solus Christus.

“By grace alone; through faith alone; in Christ alone.”

As my friend, Micah Wilder, says, “Jesus is enough.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

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This Is What’s On My Mind…

When I open my Facebook app there is a space at the top where I can post something. In that space is the question, “What’s on your mind?”

My friends, on my mind is my desire to visit with skeptics and non-believers about the Christian faith.

The musician who had the greatest life-impact on me growing up was a hippy piano-player named Keith Green. Raised in Southern California, he spent most of his younger days playing gigs on Sunset Strip before coming to faith in Christ as an adult.

In his biography he wrote,

[Before professing my faith in Christ], “The thing that kept me from Christ was Christians.” I couldn’t agree more. We often are horrible representations of Christ.

That’s why my conversation with anyone interested will center not around Christians, but on Christ. Who was this man? Is there solid evidence for his existence? His miracles? His death and resurrection?  Is there evidence to support his outlandish claims?

And what about the hard questions of life here on planet earth? The problem of pain, “How could a good and loving God possibly allow such evil and pain?”, is the No. 1 argument for atheism. And for good reason. I lost my dad to alcoholism, my sister to drug abuse, and my son to suicide. I know pain on this earth. And my heart breaks for those who are hurting. So I have no problem discussing this painfully difficult question.

And, then there’s the Bible. Didn’t the medieval church tamper with the text? Isn’t it full of contradictions and hokey stories? If you wish, we can talk about that as well.

Many people tend to think that professing faith in Christ means we have to somehow “measure up” and begin living a form of a perfect life. That’s a lie. It’s precisely because we can’t measure up or live a perfect life that God sent a Savior. We profess faith in *his* perfect life. And somehow Christ’s perfection and right standing before a holy, terrifying God is imputed to us putting us in right standing before God. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21) I love the phrase, “I love Jesus but I cuss a little.” Bottom line, we’re all a mess. But, in Christ, we’re a perfect mess.

My friends, the Bible – which I believe, after careful scrutiny and investigation, to be true – says a Day is coming when Christ busts the sky open and returns to this fallen, corrupt earth to turn everything right-side-up again.  (cf. Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).  What will matter at that moment is the condition of our soul. John, the disciple and eye-witness of Jesus, warned,

“And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

The former atheist, C.S. Lewis, said,

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance; if true, of infinite importance; but the one thing it can never be is of moderate importance.”

If you are interested in having friendly, intelligent dialogue about the Christian faith please look me up on Facebook and PM (private message) me. This allows us time and “peace and quiet” to talk as long as we want.

Oh, last thing – you will receive absolutely no pressure from me to change your mind, repent or “get saved.” That’s a very personal decision between you and Christ (should you come to believe in him.) Nor will you encounter any disrespect, or judgmental, pharisaical attitude. (Obviously, I expect the same in return.). Christ never treated people that way and neither will I. My role will simply be to, hopefully, provide some food-for-thought based on what I strongly believe to be true.

And…, we can end up agreeing to disagree. Jesus always allowed people to believe what they preferred to believe. I won’t be any different.

The most powerful force in existence is the life-changing, liberating love of Christ. (cf. Romans 8: 38-39)

Wanna talk? PM me. 🙂) – I may not be able to reply immediately. But, I promise, I will as soon as possible.

The Lord’s love for you is beyond comprehension.

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Love to you all, Nick

For Those Who Laugh at the Thought of a Real Devil

The Bible is clear: Satan exists,

He is introduced to us in Genesis 3. And, Jesus refers to him repeatedly in the gospels.

Yet, many people – including believers – forget about his relentless pursuit to make us lose our faith or, better yet, prevent us from coming to faith in Christ altogether.

In Matthew 4 and Luke 4, Jesus confronts Satan head-on in the Judean wilderness.

Satan was forced to flee. But he never gave up.

Never.

In his book, When the Enemy Strikes, Charles Stanley asserts,

He showed up again in Nazareth.

He showed up again in the demonically possessed.

He showed up again in public attacks used to assault Jesus’ credibility and authority.

He showed up again in the Garden of Gethsemane.

He showed up again and again pursuing his ultimate goal of enticing Jesus to say no to the Cross.

But Satan failed.  Every time.

So now his fury is directed toward us.

The devil has attacked every person who has ever lived. You and I are no exceptions.

For those who have placed their faith in the risen Christ, the Bible tells us, despite Satan’s relentless attempts to tempt us to live in a discouraged, defeated and worldly state of mind, “we have overwhelming conquered through [Christ] who loves us.”

But for those who laugh at the thought of a real devil…

…he’s laughing at you.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

You are a Saint (and you don’t even have to live in New Orleans)

I’ve sat and listened to some preachers drone on, “We are wicked. We are sinners. We are unworthy.”  The news never gets any better.  It’s usually at that point I stop listening. Why? I already know that. God pulls no punches: “the human heart is deceitfully wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23; emphasis mine)

But, that’s only half the story. (There’s a reason the gospel is called the “Good News.”)

Our sin is why we desperately needed a Savior.

It’s why “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and the angel proclaimed to the shepherds, “I bring you Good News of great joy!” (John 1:14; Luke 2:10; emphasis mine)

It’s why Christ, on the cross, took upon himself our sin, absorbing ever last one of them, making it possible for sinful mankind to enjoy peace with a terrifyingly Holy & Righteous God. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:13; Romans 5:1)

And, by putting our faith in that saving work of Christ on the Cross, we become “children of God.” (John 1:12)

Or – another way Paul describes us – “saints” (cf. Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1) – a word Paul uses to reference everyone who, by placing their faith in Christ, has been set apart from the eternal death sentence of sin. (1 Corinthians 1:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 6:23)

You are loved, valued, of infinite worth – worthy to the point of God willingly giving his only begotten Son. (John 3:16)

Someone once said, “If God had a refrigerator he would have your picture on it.”

You are one of his beloved saints.

Much love, Saint Nick

The Intolerable Intolerance of the Dallas Mayor

As a lead-in to the July 4th holiday season, First Baptist Church, Dallas, paid a company to display on a DFW billboard, “America is a Christian Nation.”

The response from the “offended” was akin to Wyatt Earp’s famous line from the movie, Tombstone,” “Tell’em I’m comin’.  And hell’s comin’ with me!”  (You can read about all the drama from Dallas’ own local newspaper here.)  In short, the hatefully biased editorial might as well have said, “How dare you proclaim a religious worldview different from mine!”

Let’s slow this down, think critically, and have some civil discourse, shall we?

There are two critical issues at play here.

First:  Is America a Christian nation?

This answer is tricky because of how the question is presented.

For instance, if the question were asked, “Is Christianity the state religion of the United States?”  The answer is an indisputable “no.”

I sat in an intriguing lecture given by sociologist, Tony Campolo, once.  He rightly stated,

“America is not a Christian nation – but it is most certainly ‘spiritual.”

But, if the question was presented, “Was the United States created based on the principles of the Christian faith?”  The answer is an indisputable “yes.”

Before those who are thinking, “How dare you question that America is a Christian nation??” google my address and remove the American flag that is proudly displayed outside my house, read on…

What, exactly, were the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers? 

They were diverse.

Some of our Founding Fathers were professed believers in Christ.

Historians tend to believe, based on what he wrote, that George Washington was a professed Christian, having strongly believed not merely in a Creator/God, but that salvation was found by putting one’s faith in Christ alone.

Some Founding Fathers were Deists. (Including some of the most famous.)

“Deism” can be described as strongly believing in a Creator/God without believing that said Creator can be personally known and experienced through God the Son, Jesus Christ.  This is why “Creator” was used in our Declaration of Independence rather than God or Christ.

For example, holding to deism, Thomas Jefferson fastidiously removed from his Bible all gospel accounts pertaining to miracles, including the resurrection of Christ because he didn’t believe in it.  (See photo below.  Read more about Thomas Jefferson and his religious beliefs here from the Smithsonian.)

Benjamin Franklin was asked point-blank about his religious beliefs.  His wrote,

“Here is my Creed, I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we render to him, is doing Good to his other Children.”

But Franklin’s religious convictions require a delicate dance of interpretation.  In the quote cited above, Franklin’s conviction is in perfect harmony with the gospel.  But, in reference to Jesus Christ, he goes on to write,

As for Jesus of Nazareth … I think the system of Morals and Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw … but I have … some Doubts to his Divinity.”

Translation:  Franklin had serious doubts as to whether Jesus was the Son of God.

My point?  As I stated earlier, the religious convictions of the Founding Fathers were diverse.

Now, before the Anti-Christian-Nation folks raise the “I told you so” banner, be aware that, despite the Founding Fathers’ diverse convictions regarding the person of Jesus Christ, the following axioms are well founded and documented:

1) They believed in a transcendent God – a Creator who was not created, outside of time and space, existing outside of nature.

2) They believed in an afterlife where both good and bad behavior was either rewarded or punished.  Ben Franklin affirmed,

“The soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this.”

3) They believed in objective morality as put forth in scripture (killing, stealing, lying, adultery, etc. is inherently wrong).

So, what you’re telling me is that, although the Founding Fathers differed on beliefs about the Bible, the United States was still created based on Christian principles like the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ “sermon on the mount”?  Yes.  This is precisely why, to the consternation of many, some city court houses still display the Ten Commandments.

While some may work feverishly to deny the Founding Fathers’ respect for and use of biblical truth, the fact is that the Bible was clearly the foundation for their worldview.  For example, John Adams professed to be Christian but did not believe in the divinity of Jesus (that Jesus is God – which is a central tenet of the Christian faith).  Nonetheless, conveying his conviction regarding the wisdom and authority of the Bible, he wrote,

“Those general principles of Christianity are as external and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”  He went on to write, “The Bible is the best book in the world.  It contains more of my… philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.”

Perhaps FBC, Dallas, wanted to employ “shock value” in their billboard to create interest (that certainly worked.)  But, regardless of their rationale for choosing the particular wording,  they have the constitutional right and freedom to convey their religious beliefs – regardless of how much the local mayor may not like it.

Which leads me to the second critical issue at play here…

The Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawlings, has demonstrated absolutely zero knowledge and/or understanding of the First Amendment to our Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson was passionate in his conviction for the ratification of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

According to our own Constitution, the Dallas Mayor is completely free to believe what he wants to believe.

And so is FBC, Dallas (and the rest of us, as well.) 

The billboard was paid for by private funds and can say whatever the client wants it to say.  (Obviously, nudity, profanity, etc., are legitimate grounds for an advertisement’s removal.  But not religious views.)

Clearly, the grandstanding by the Dallas Mayor is nothing but an attack on Christianity, free speech, and the freedom of religion.

The Mayor has employed his own, personal, subjective religious/political filter as to what ought – and ought not -to be displayed publicly, which is representative more of bigotry and hate than respect and tolerance.

Just last year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the American Atheist Organization purchased and displayed huge billboards claiming the biblical story of Christ’s birth is “Fake News”. 

Where were some of the billboards displayed?  Dallas.

Sure, some Christians hollered and complained.  Did the billboards result in a Dallas city government uproar?  Nope.

I have absolutely no problem with the American Atheists posting the billboards.  It’s their constitutional right.  And I am thankful for that right.   In fact, it offered wonderful opportunities to dialogue with people, allowing me to express why I personally believe the biblical Christian faith is logical, intelligent, and makes the best sense of the world around us.

In sum – and I can’t emphasize my conviction enough:  the American Atheist Organization has every right to display whatever worldview they want.  Although I don’t agree with their views, I celebrate their right to publicly share what they believe just as much as I celebrate mine.

Finally, not only does the Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawlings, demonstrate an embarrassing understanding of the First Amendment, but, referencing FBC, Dallas’ “America is a Christian Nation” billboard, he demonstrates an equally embarrassing understanding of the Bible, making the following claim:

“That is not the Christ I follow. It’s not the Dallas I want to be – to say things that do not unite us but divide us. I never heard those words – that voice come out of Christ. Just the opposite. I was brought up to believe: Be proud of yours, but do not diminish mine.”

Dear.  God.  Come on, Mike.  Where did you find in the Bible, “Be proud of yours, but do not diminish mine?”  Can you quote me a chapter & verse for that one?

If Rawlings’ own comments weren’t so divisive, incendiary and biblically ignorant they would be laughable.  (The gospels are replete with Jesus warning his listeners that following him will offend others, divide their families, and potentially even cost them their lives.”)

In short: the sad irony is that the Mayor is doing the exact same thing he is accusing FBC, Dallas, of doing.  At its root, his words are nothing more than myopic bigotry.

So much for tolerance.

FBC, Dallas, could’ve done better in the original wording of their billboard.

AND THEY TRIED…

…by agreeing to change it to: “Is America a Christian Nation?”  But, by that time, the politics, bigotry and intolerance had done its desired damage, pressuring the billboard company to back out altogether.  No worries, though.  Another billboard company has offered to display FBC’s message on twenty billboards.  (Thank you, un-hateful billboard company, for possessing at least an elementary understanding of the U.S. Constitution.)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick