Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Supremacy of Christ in the Midst of Sorrow

Wednesday night at 5:30, Steven Curtis Chapman’s 5 year old daughter died tragically in an accident on their driveway. It took no time for the tragic news to spread; Christians all over the world have been grieving with and praying for the family of one of their favorite musicians. Maria Sue Chapman was adopted from China along with two other of his six children.

Many of you may not know this, but Steven’s family is probably the reason that I have two adopted sisters of my own. The Chapman’s love of adoption and vision for other Christians in adoption is used by God everyday. Maria was loved as much as any daughter could be, and having an adopted 5 year old sister, I couldn’t begin to imagine that magnitude of pain felt by Steven, Mary Beth, and the other children. It is a truly horrible tragedy and everyone should keep their family in their prayers.

Even in the midst of such overwhelming sorrow, something must be stood up for, something that I know the Chapmans and their wonderful church in Nashville hold to. The undeniable truth, even through the pain of such an event, is that God is completely sovereign. God is entirely in control and is not the least bit surprised or confused by this.

It seems hard to grasp, and it is. To think that a good God could have his hand in such a catastrophic thing seems impossible to justify. How could a loving God who is in control let such a terrible thing happen? It would seem that either God’s omnipotence or goodness were in question.

Here is the answer, and I stand by it till death. God is completely, entirely in control. Hard as it is to grasp, this is God’s purpose for the Chapman family, and for His glory. It is ultimately good, in ways that we will never understand. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things for good, and he is. I know that the Chapmans believe this, and I pray that even in the midst of unbearable pain, we would give God the glory and honor that he is due! The Chapmans, in the midst of the greatest pain any of them have ever felt, have a chance to REALLY MAKE GOD LOOK GLORIOUS!

It is completely understandable to struggle with this. Even Jonathan Edwards said that the supreme sovereignty of God seemed at once to be a “Horrible Doctrine”, but once he saw both in God’s word and in his own experiences that God’s sovereignty gives us a God who is in control of the situation, and working it towards a greater good, rather than a God who is at the mercy of fate, it changed both his ministry and his life.

Do you see the comfort associated with God’s sovereignty? Rather than letting Theodicy lead you to a God who is not in control, and doesn’t even know what will happen, let God’s Sovereignty answer the problem of evil! Are we to be more satisfied if we keep God good in our minds by letting him be distant and uninvolved in our problems, or constantly with us and the author of our lives and faith who will work all things for his Glory and our joy?

Nothing could be more comforting than a God who is in control, and conversely, I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than a God who is at the mercy of men and fate.

Samuel Rodigast spoke of both the difficulty in accepting, and comfort of knowing these truths in his hymn “Whate’er My God Ordains is Right”

"Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart."

Though it seems bitter at the time, knowing that God is sovereign and has his hand in the situation, we need to realize that our finite minds can only see the moment and that God sees the whole picture and is working everything out for his glory and our joy.

It is a horrible thing to see all this. To listen to “Cinderella” is close to impossible, but in the midst of this unspeakable pain, the Chapmans know, and I know, that God is just as in control now as he ever was. Our Sovereign Father was in the same place Wednesday night, that he was when he watched his own son hang on the cross. He was there, involved, completely in control. What could be more comforting?

All Glory in heaven and on earth be to our God
He is enough
He is good
He will take care of us


Monday, May 19, 2008


I'm cross posting this from my own blog, because it fits, and I've not posted here in too long.


The little book of Zephaniah is, sadly, probably overlooked a great deal in modern Christian circles. (Indeed, we could say much the same for most of the Old Testament, but that is another post for another evening.)

For the last 16 months I have been slowly working my way through the Old Testament in chronological order. I've read all these books before. And I've taken side trips along the way - the foundations of a word-study on glory (before I realized that I would continue to gain in that as I continued to study through the Old Testament, and that the latter would more thoroughly inform the former than a simple word study), diversions through a few brief book studies in the New Testament. I keep coming back to this slow progression through history, though.

Why? Because it is incredible. The character of God is revealed in unique ways in the historical narrative - sometimes surprising ways. His broken heart for the dying world is so evident. His sorrow at the sins and rebellion of men is beyond mere words to describe. His mercy and love are on display in ways that are surpassed only by the incarnation, cross, and resurrection.

As I read Zephaniah one evening last week, two verses struck me forcefully, both from the final chapter. The book, like the other minor prophets, is a broken-hearted tirade against the foolish sins of Israel, with the hope and promise of God's eventually redeeming her to Himself - by wiping out those sins, not only forgiving them but making Israel truly righteous: a promise which began to see its fulfillment in the nations and will someday be completed when Israel herself returns to Christ.

In Zephaniah 3:5 we read:
The Lord in her midst is righteous;
He does no injustice.
Every morning he shows forth his justice;
Each dawn he does not fail.
But the unjust knows no shame.

This is an incredible verse. We see highlighted and sharply contrasted - as in many of the surrounding verses - God and the sinner. God's injustice is on clear display: He is in the midst of Jerusalem and Judah (the context referenced here). The unjust ones to whom the book is directed in call for repentance, however, knows no shame. Even with the perfect example of what he is not, still he blithely walks on his way, content in his sinfulness.

How easy it is to smirk at the folly of it all. But how frequently is it you or me that, despite the clear evidences of the character of God that we ought to be reflecting, walk unconcernedly along in stubborn pride and rebellion? And this after we have been reborn, redeemed, given a heart of flesh instead of stone! How great should be our sorrow when we see our own sinfulness and the depravity from which are gradually but oh-so-certainly being redeemed!

The other text which stood out to me was the oft-quoted Zephaniah 3:17:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a Mighty One who will save.
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

I have heard the passage referenced frequently. Yet I have not stopped to truly consider all its implications until that evening last week. So much is buried in this single verse: so much of who God Himself is, so much of His nature and character, so much of the way He interacts with us - and will in the glory of Heaven.

First, He will be in our midst. Right in the middle of us, with us wherever we are. Incredible!

Second, He is not merely the Lord God, He is the Lord our God. That's worth pondering. He is not merely some abstract deity: He is not merely the God of all creation (though to lead that latter phrase with "merely" is a misnomer all its own) - He is personally each of our God as individuals and He is our God as a community of redeemed ones. How remarkable!

Third, He is a Mighty One who will save. Two things worth noting here - first, He is Mighty, which means He is able to save: the promise is not made vainly; second, He is absolutely going to save: the verb is will, not may.

And then we come to the oft-quoted (but perhaps not oft-pondered) part. He will rejoice over us with gladness. Wait: the God of all will rejoice of us with gladness? And it's such a great rejoicing - in which gladness is automatically implied - that it must be reinforced by saying "with gladness"? What kind of rejoicing is this? Indeed, it is the kind of rejoicing that only God, with His infinite capacity for joy can do.

He will quiet us with His love. The image is of a child falling silent in their parent's loving arms: secure, completely at peace, because the trust is so complete. And why is the trust so complete? Because there is utter assurance of the parent's love. And so it is here with God: we will be quieted by His love, as we trust Him perfectly. Interestingly, while this is a future promise, I think this part of the verse has perhaps the most immediate application for our daily lives now: when our hearts, troubled by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, are loud and complaining, we may see them quieted when we turn back to Christ and recognize His love.

And last but not least - as if to reinforce the image of rejoicing and then step again farther - He will exult over us with singing. To exult: to revel, to be so completely filled with joy that it exceeds words' capability to convey. And out of this is born singing. But not just any singing: loud singing, like the shout that bursts from your chest when your wildest aspirations are birthed before your eyes. God will do that over us.

And again, as I did the other night, I find myself with tears in my eyes as I ponder this. It is beyond belief: and yet we believe it because He Himself promises that it is true. We who are so unworthy will, in our glorification (which will so perfectly glorify God Himself as all finally see just how great His goodness, mercy, lovingkindness, justice, righteousness, and holiness are), He will rejoice over us.

I do not understand.

I am humbled, broken before this.

And I find in myself awe and reverence.

As it should be: for we are to bring to God an acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.

He is a consuming fire, as Israel learned well in her disobedience - as you and I have learned well in our idolatries. Yet He is, now that we are His redeemed ones, a fire that consumes all the dross and destroys the chaff that is not of Him.

Glory to God in the highest! Glory!

- Chris

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Truth and the Supremacy of Christ

Early this semester I watched a few videos put out by Focus on the Family called “The Truth Project.” It was a very biblical, logical, and interesting approach to discover the truth of the Gospel and who God is. The very first week, the speaker made a very good point that I would bet most of you don’t know, so before you read on, see if you can dig through the scripture in your brain and find the answer.

Why did Christ come into the world?
There is only one time that Jesus said “This is why I have come into the world…” When was it? What was his answer? It seems like a pretty important question right? Well lets look at the scripture.

Jesus is before Pilate who asks him “So are you King?” to which Jesus gives a remarkable response (well of course he does, he’s Jesus!) “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37)

Wow! I bet that isn’t what some of you expected. Do you see that truth as it relates to Christ is obviously fundamental to the Christian faith? There’s no going around it, Christ came into the world to testify to the truth.

The point I am trying to make is that a biblical definition of truth, and what it meant to Jesus is paramount in understanding and even believing in the Supremacy of Christ.


Here’s the dictionary definition:
Any of a number of trends or movements in the arts and literature developing in the 1970s in reaction to or rejection of the dogma, principles, or practices of established modernism.

Postmodernism is a blatant rejection of the logical principles of truth and an embrace of a relativistic philosophy centered around the acceptance of uncertainty. It is the current secular humanistic view of life, and says that truth is relative and is different from person to person.

Now if you are anything like me that last sentence just confuses you to death! I mean at least pick a different word; truth could be defined as what exists outside of our minds and what doesn’t change from person to person. Naturally, truth and relativism are near antonyms. I mean, this doesn’t seem like rocket science to me (not that there is anything wrong with rocket science Eric ). Aristotle figured it out! He was not a child of God, but he through what I think is quite simple logic came to a very basic and elementary conclusion.

“'to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true

This almost needs a “duh” at the end. With the understanding that the lost will never be able to fully understand what we know is true, lets move on to the real, frankly disturbing issue at hand.

Post Modernism and the Church

Ouch. I hope it hurts you to read that as much as it made me cringe to type it. Nevertheless, it is true. The heresy of postmodernism has infiltrated church walls and is being accepted and taught by many of today’s rising figures in Christianity, including a man that is called by many “the next Billy Graham.” Yikes!

It seems contradictory from the start. How could a religion based completely on the fundamentals of what “is,” be accepted and followed by people who’s cultural worldview says “Truth is relative and can’t be known for sure?” Here’s how the Emergent (postmodern) church justifies this.

In Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, he uses the metaphor of a trampoline. He says that the Christian life is like jumping on a trampoline, and the doctrines of the faith are like springs. Bells says that all we should focus on is jumping on the trampoline, that we spend too much time checking the springs. And what if one of these strings pops? Are we OK? Of course! The trampoline keeps propelling us upward towards God. This appealing example says that Doctrine is flexible, indefinite and not entirely important.

Now let me make something VERY clear before I explain the danger and heresy that is brought about by this picture. These springs are not “Calvinism” or “Armenianism” or “views on baptism” or “when to take communion” or ”dispensationalism.”
The book uses things such as the virgin birth, or divinity of Christ to define these springs. I’m not at all saying we should spend all day bickering over the picky things of complex doctrine that both sides of the issues have questions and concerns. That is not his analogy. On the contrary, the Emergent Church seems bent on marginalizing the essential unarguable doctrines of Christianity.

Postmodernism in the church says that like a brick wall, Christianity is solid and unmovable, but also like a brick wall, you can remove on theological brick and have the wall perfectly unmoved. This disturbs and puzzles me.

Take Barry Bonds for example. He set the all time homerun record right? 672 homeruns... I think it is safe to say that he is a fantastic baseball player, very possibly the best. He has meaning, reason, standard in the world of baseball and in the culture of America. But wait, I’m forgetting something huh... the steroids.
Barry Bonds cheated. Broke the law and the rules of baseball, and lied in court about it. I know he’s still a great baseball player, but to me, that record means nothing. I don’t care if he his 600 more, he cheated, he was fake.

Now in the exact same way, how could you EVER tell me that we can still trust and cherish the Bible as the Inspired, Inerrant, Infallible, and Authoritative Word, if it isn’t what it itself claims to be. Perfect. Again, I’m not talking little controversial issues that aren’t addressed completely in scripture; I am talking about the fundamental essential doctrines of our faith. If the Bible has lied, how can we accept it? If it has lied, we as Christians could be logically torn to bits; the bible would immediately contradict itself in so many places.
We must stand up against this uprising of heresy. Christ came to testify to the truth, and in response, we much be entirely apposed to this cowardly cave-in of Christian meaning and understanding.

How Postmodernism seeks to destroy the Supremacy of Christ

Here are 3 simple reasons why what these new theological thinkers bring to the table is completely contradictory to what we know about who God is and what he has given us and done for us.

1. It seeks to belittle and marginalize the authority and inerrancy of scripture.

To expound on what I discussed earlier, lets look at a section of Bell’s Velvet Elvis that I pulled from a pro-Emergent Church Blog.

“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?
What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?”

If you have a biblical truth-seeking understanding of scripture this should absolutely infuriate you. What a mockery of Truth! Essentially, what is being asked here is “what if the Bible was proven completely and irreversibly false? Then do we have a legitimate faith?” To which the answer is a resounding NO! Not only is this a complete butchering of the divinity of Christ (which sounds awful Gnostic to me) but it’s just downright disgusting. It reeks of disrespect for Gods holy word. Read the passage again keeping in mind the fact that God through the writers of the Gospels has told us about the complete divinity and humanity of Christ through the glory of the virgin birth. I hate it.

2. It seeks to destroy Biblical doctrine and discourage the studying of God’s word.

The Emergent Church, rather than encouraging believers to study to know who God is, encourages a hatred of theology and an embrace of the uncertain, making very clear its postmodern roots.

These leaders often promote what sounds good and happy about God above the glorious picture which the Bible paints. If God’s sovereignty means that he was in control over my friends death, let’s redefine sovereignty so we can like God more. If God’s just nature means people will go to hell, we do as Brian McLaren has and call hell “false advertising” from God, belittling his justice and making light of the rich stores of grace on the other end of the spectrum. Oh, and did you catch that? according to Emergent theology, not only is God not an author of absolute truth, but he has tricked us with falsehood.

The lack of focus on our sin, and the absence of emphasis on the Biblical nature of God fling us into a jungle of confusion and uncertainty. It’s really no wonder these leaders say that you can’t know truth; it’s impossible to match the false standards, based out of how they want God to be, to the truth of who the Glorious God of the Bible is.

Lastly and most tragically
3. It seeks to destroy the power and importance of the Gospel

This doesn’t take much explaining. I will let Brian McLaren do it for me.

“In this light, although I don't hope all Buddhists will become (cultural) Christians, I do hope all who feel so called will become Buddhist followers of Jesus; I believe they should be given that opportunity and invitation. I don't hope all Jews or Hindus will become members of the Christian religion. But I do hope all who feel so called will become Jewish or Hindu followers of Jesus...
"Ultimately, I hope that Jesus will save Buddhism, Islam, and every other religion, including the Christian religion, which often seems to need saving about as much as any other religion does. (In this context, I do wish all Christians would become followers of Jesus, but perhaps that is too much to ask. After all, I'm not doing such a hot job of it myself."

What a horrible distortion of the gospel. We all know John 14:6

‘Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ’

What is the truth? That Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that through repentance in faith we are saved through grace by the Glorious work of Jesus, who took our sins upon himself and paid our debt. This is the truth! We can stop guessing or saying that we can’t find it. There is no other name by which men are saved!

How can we not know truth? God gave us truth! He invented truth, and gave us the capacity to know it. We can rest assured in the promises of scripture and know that God is God, and he is a God of truth.

Praise God that he has created a way for us and revealed it to us!