Thursday, November 29, 2012

Do you know what a "Creche" is?

Do you know what a "Creche" is? I've only learned that word in the last 15 years or so. I always called it a Nativity scene! But a creche is not a painting but a 3 dimensional representation of the birth scene of Jesus Christ.
"Creche" is a French word and I'll tell you it's original meaning in a moment. But first, Creche also has a couple meanings besides the nativity. It can refer to a day care center or a "foundling hospital" where children are taken care of by someone other than their parents. 
In Zoology it refers to the practice of some animals to care for the young ones of another in the colony. For instance, lions often do this for defensive purposes. one or two lionesses will care for several young that aren't theirs so other lionesses can be involved in hunting or protection of the pride of lions. (A "Pride" is a lion colony.)
There are also some birds, including penguins, who do this, and a breed of crocodile called the Spectacled Caiman. (I don't think it actually wears spectacles.) So its like a "day care" for animals. The operative idea is one of certain beings taking care of the children of another. Interesting how that fits in with Joseph and Father God.
But back to the word "Creche." It is french for manger, or feeding trough. It has nothing to do with the care of babies or children, except of course that Mary laid the Son of God, the Messiah, in a manger.
Some say it was St. Francis of Assisi who first put together a Creche. It was a living representation of the manger scene formed to promote the worship of Christ and celebrate his humble birth.
Unfortunately there is that little often overlooked command of God that says in Ex 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or beneath the earth , or in the water... And to shed light on that: Lev 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. 
So what do we do about pictures of Jesus? Or carvings of Jesus on the cross, or in a manger? After all "Graven" would include a carving, or and image stamped in metal, and by extension, even a painting. (I was going to include photo, but alas, there are no photos of Jesus.)
First, we need to be careful with them. I wouldn't have them in a room intended for Christian worship. Now the carving of a baby in a manger maybe so small as to be unseeable at a distance, and if that's the case I'm not going to be legalistic about this. But one reason I prefer an empty cross to one with a body attached is I don't want us to ever confuse who we are worshiping. There are other reasons for the empty cross to be sure, but the words, "No graven image" tend to resound in my brain.
I have seen a number of paintings depicting Jesus as a shepherd, healer, teacher, or hanging on a cross, that were very moving, beautiful! But I wouldn't have one at the front of the room - as a point of focus- dedicated to worship of God, because its not God, it's just a picture. And God wants us to be very careful about this.
So, we'll have a "Creche" in our church during this season. And hopefully it will stir up gratefulness in our hearts for the one who left the splendor of heaven and came to a dirty fallen wicked world, to die on a cross for us. And as much as I appreciate a nativity scene, I also appreciate the simplicity of a Cradle, a Cross, and a Crown.
Merry Christmas y'all! Clark

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Vote and the Christ-Follower: 2012

The Vote and the Christ-Follower: 2012

November 6th, a very important day in the life of our country. The whole country is thinking and talking politics during this election season. What does God have to say about politics? Does God’s Word give us instructions on how we should vote or respond to the outcome of the vote? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding “YES”!  There is something the Cross has to say about Washington. That doesn't mean we mix politics and religion. When that happens usually all that’s left is politics. But we are to be Salt and Light in our nation.
1) Vote. It’s estimated that between 17 and 30 million evangelicals did not vote in 2008. While it’s true that you will not find a verse that says “Thou shalt vote,” biblical principles clearly lead us to the conclusion that Christians bear a unique responsibility to “speak the truth” in the public square. Voting is an important means of doing just that!
2) Vote the Bible. Politics is like a football game. The two teams are the parties, and usually, they’re trying to tackle each other to the ground!  The church is much like the third group of individuals on the field; we’re the ones wearing stripes, the referees.  As Christians we’re not beholden to a political party, no matter what our voting card may say. Like football refs, we are bound to the Rule-book and our role is to consistently remind the two teams of the rules. As Christ-followers, we are called to stand on the authority of God’s Word and vote in accordance with what God has already said! This means we vote for candidates whose views are most in keeping with the Bible. When clear biblical issues are on the ballot we vote for what God has said even if it’s unpopular in our society.
What kind of issues? I can name a few: There’s concern for the poor and concern for justice; the life of the unborn and the sanctity of marriage between men and women; there is our stewardship of creation and involvement in war; not to mention economic, religious, and civil freedoms for all citizens.
3) Remember, voting is only one way we bring the truth of scripture to bear on society. We talk to our neighbors. We act in volunteer opportunities, give money to those working in areas we support, and even the old fashioned way of writing letters to our representatives in government.
4) Trust that God is on His Throne! Ultimately we can’t control the outcome of elections. We control our vote. We can pray and ask God for His mercy and grace on our nation, to give us leaders after His heart. We can’t control elections but, we serve a God who is in complete control!
When we wake up on November 7th, whether the candidates we like have won or lost, God is still on His throne! Vote, but don’t fix your hope on Romney or Obama— fix your hope on Jesus Christ!

No Matter Who is Elected,
It won’t change what Christ did on the cross.
It won’t change who wins in the end.
It should not change who we are as God’s people,
speaking out for truth, righteousness and
the Good News of Jesus Christ!

We don’t know how end times will unfold or what America’s role will be, but we know God will do it His way. At the end of all things, there will be Christ, and a blood-covered people gathered around His throne from every nation.

That’s where history is headed, so let’s be at peace in the church! Mar 9:50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
Be encouraged by Scriptures like Dan 4:35, Isa 40:17, and Rom 13:1. God’s Kingdom is marching on!

Adapted and edited from an article by Scott Wilson (which I liked and used but tweaked, edited, and rewrote) @ By Clark Dunlap.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The 5 Solas: For Reformation Day 2012

The Prinicipal beliefs of the Reformation still ground believers in basic truth and communicate the gospel!

In a few days, on Oct 31, it will be the 495th anniversary of Luther’s nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Chapel. It was a watershed event that some say began the journey through the Reformation. But what was the hallmark of the Reformation? It might be the 5 Solas.
There’s an old saying, “God can hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.” Look how he used David, who was far from perfect, Paul persecuted the church, Peter denied Jesus. I say that to point out, while men like Martin Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Beza or one of my favorites, anabaptist Bathasar Hubmaier (I just like saying his name) were far from perfect, and sometimes did bad things, God still used them in a mighty way. Some have said church history is the story of how the gospel was lost in the dark ages and found again. 1400’s Christianity didn’t look very much like we know it today. What’s worse, it didn’t look like anything the apostles would recognize! Here’s a few things they believed in the 1400s:
·      Jesus wasn’t the only redeemer – Mary was the co-redeemer.
·   Jesus’ death on the cross was not all the sacrifice you need – you also need the mass performed by priests.
·   The traditions of the church were higher than the Scriptures.
·   While the death of Jesus made grace available, you had to perform good works to earn salvation.
·   Giving money or Viewing the relics were among the good works.
·   And since the church was the body of Christ the church should be honored and glorified like God.
These are just a few of the strange things people believed. Now this coming Wednesday is the 495th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. You probably know, that’s when Martin Luther is supposed to have nailed his 95 proposals or Theses to the door of Wittenburg chapel. He didn’t say it was time to start a new church. He didn’t say the church was wrong about everything. He just said, here’s 95 things that need to be fixed.
Now there are many things we can learn from the reformation. The writings of Luther and Calvin are not perfect, but they were brilliant men who desired to serve God. And from this time there arose what are called the 5 Solas. These 5 things still ring true today, because they’re true to the Bible! Sola is a Latin word for Alone or Only.
Sola Fide means Faith Alone. Sola Gratia- Grace Alone. Solus Christus means Christ alone. Sola Scriptura- Scripture alone. And Soli Deo Gloria means Glory to God Alone!
You might wonder: Why are these things important? Are there other Solas besides the 5? And Do I have to remember the Latin?
Those are important questions. I‘ll start with the last one:
NO- you don’t need to remember the Latin.
And YES- there are other Solas. For instance only by being justified will we see God. Only by being born again will we see His kingdom.
The list could go on and on but we’ll just look at the 5 famous ones. They are important because they reset Christianity but are still being challenged today!

1.      First, Faith Alone. One criticism of the 5 Solas is they aren’t in the Bible and the Reformers probably never said them, but they were phrases that were coined later.  First what does the Bible say? James in Jas_2:23 the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness... AND, Paul in Rom 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  The Bible only speaks of two ways to be saved or justified before God. There is works and Faith. Now the only way works can justify is if you keep Every letter and comma of the law. No one but Jesus ever did that! So the ONLY WAY left to us is Faith in Jesus Christ!
Did the reformers ever teach this? One of the main scripture translations they used was called the Latin Vulgate. It was the Bible translated into Latin around 400 AD. With the translation came Jeromes commentary. And he wrote on comment on Romans 10:3 that says: “Deus ex sola fide justificat: “God justifies by faith alone.” There’s no doubt the reformers read these words as they studied Romans, and right their were the words Sola Fide.
It was important because the church was not teaching Faith Alone! They were teaching some kind of mixture of believing and working. Believe but you have to attend Mass. Believe but give your money. The Reformers said, that’s NOT in the Bible and they were right!
Its important today because some people are still teaching Faith AND something else. Faith and good deeds. Faith and baptism.
But the Bible says Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. And Rom 4:5 But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. We are Saved Through Faith Alone!

2. But we are also saved by Grace Alone. Sola Gratia! Is this a biblical doctrine? You decide:  Ac 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, …
Ro 4:16  Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; …
Ro 5:2 By whom we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand
Ro 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be works, then is it no more grace:
Ep 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: Ti 2:11 the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
Ti 3:7 being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs …
Faith is how we receive Salvation, But GRACE is how its offered to us! The church in the 1400s said it was offered by grace, But they kept mixing Grace with Works making salvation something you earned. And if you earned it, its Not Grace! (ro 11:6)
Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but the officersaid he had to appear in court.The judge asked, "Guilty, or not guilty?" Graham pleaded guilty, and the judge replied, "That'll be 100 dollars -- ten for every mile you went over the limit."THEN  the judge recognized Billy Graham. "You violated the law,The fine must be paid--but I am going to pay it for you." He took a 100 bucks from his wallet, attached it to the ticket, then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner! "And That," said Billy Graham, "is how God treats sinners!"

3. And Its Only By Christ we are Saved! Solus Christus! 
If Mary is the Mother of God- which they taught – and if she was the co-redeemer, then Mary helped save us! But not only Mary. Because the Blood of Christ of 2000 years ago wasn’t enough, the Priests offered the Mass everyday so that you could go and have your sins cleansed again and again! They believed the bread and the wine actually became the body and blood of Christ when the priest said the Latin words: Hoc est Corpus Meum! This is my body! So the people depended on the priests for salvation, not on the Once for all death of Christ! But what does scripture say?  Ac 4:12 neither is salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven… whereby we must be saved.  1Ti2:5 there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;  He 12:24 to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling.   It wasn’t Mary on the cross. It wasn’t the Priests who offered the sacrifice.
In Christ alone, who took on flesh, Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness, Scorned by the ones He came to save. 'Til on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied, For every sin on Him was laid, Here in the death of Christ I live.

4 How do we know all this? Scripture Alone- Sola scriptura!
In the 1400s the tradition of the church was as important as the Bible. And traditions could change if the pope wanted to. Listen to what Martin Luther said on trial: "Since Your Majesty and lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason - I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is held captive by the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand! I can do no other. God help me!
Why did he say that? 2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: Jesus told the Pharisees: Ma 7:13 you Make the word of God of no effect through your tradition…  
But even today, people want to add to scripture. Whether it’s the Book of Mormon or people adding their own legalism to the Bible. Don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t you dare play games of chance!
It’s NOT that the Bibles the ONLY authority. That’s not what Sola means here. Parents are authorities. The government has authority. The police have authority. But the ONLY Foundation for All authority is in the words of Scripture and in the Word- Jesus Christ!

5. And Lastly- To God alone be Glory! Soli Deo Gloria! Bach & Handel wrote SDG on their music. The church taught, since it was the body of Christ, it also was worthy of honor and glory. But the reformers said, No, that’s not what Scripture teaches. Listen to 1Ti 1:17 in Latin "soli Deo honor et gloria". To God alone be the Glory. The glory is not for Popes or priests. It’s not for great preachers or singers. God’s glory is not for believers. All that we do should be for the Glory of God! 1Co 10:31 Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Ph 2:11 every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 1Ti 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Christian Nation

This is NOT about Politics! Aren't you glad? This is about our culture. I just want to comment on a few things.

First, 92% of America believes in God! And people say we aren't a Christian Nation! Well OK, just cause people believe in God doesn't amke them Christian, but still, 92% thats something isn't it?
Well we're down 6% from 1967, does that mean we are backsliding?
But in 1947 it was only 94%. Wow, and I thought the post-WWII era was very religious!

Going back just a few years to 2007 we find that only 86% were "Sure" there was a God. But maybe some of the "unsure" if pressed would say probably so.
Still less than 90% say there's a heaven! What is that about? Surely heaven is the main product that Christianity is selling. And less that 80% believe in a Hell! Well there goes the motivation for 20% of the population to check out the claims of Christianity!
2007 May 10-13
(sorted by "believe in")
Believe in
Not sure about
Don't believe in
The Devil

But again, we're talking about a basic belief in a deity. Not neccesarily YHWH, or Jehovah God, or even a basic Christian view of God. Just God. Some of these people maybe graduates of a 12 step program that allows you to pick anything for your "Higher power." Some of these may believe in the Great Omelet in the Sky! Or the Great Pumpkin!  So how do we calculate how many folks believe in God in a way similar to Jews, Christians, or even Muslims? (Muslims are only about 8 in every thousand but a case can be made that their god is somewhat similar to the Jewish understanding.)
Maybe the next Questions will shed some light:

   How often do you attend church or synagogue -- At least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom, or never?

a week
once a
2007 Mar 26-29

Only 55% ever attend church more than "seldom". Oh wait that's church OR synagogue. So the Jews (God love 'em) are not part of this Christian Nation (except of course, they LIVE here.)
 And as for churches that would include Catholic churches which do not teach the more evangelical view of salvation and is therefore errant. Then there are the Mormon, Jehovah's witnesses and other Christian-like cults that are even more errant than the Catholics. 
Maybe the next Question helps:

Would you describe yourself as a "born again"
 or evangelical?



2005 Nov 17-20

2004 Dec 5-8

2003 Nov 10-12

2002 Dec 9-10

2002 Mar 18-20

2001 Feb 19-21

2000 Aug 24-27

1998 Jun 22-23
1997 Aug 12-13
1997 Mar 24-26
1996 Sep 3-5
1995 May 11-14

But what does Barna mean by Born Again and Evangelical?
So now we're down to 40% who call themselves "Born again"
 or "evangelical." Wow, less than half. Hmmm.  This doesn't
 bode well for the "We are a Christian Nation" crowd.  And
gee, Evangelicals? Really? I mean those are those nominal
Lutherans and Methodists that don't really believe much of 
anything. Certainly not in the exclusive claims of Christ,
and salvation by Grace through Faith, occuring in a
 miraculous work by the Holy Spirit! So whats left? 
How many Christians are there for crying out loud?

Well maybe Gallup can't get us where we want to go, so
let's try Barna. According to him:
While more than eight out of ten (84%) view themselves 
as Christian, a lesser but significant majority label them
selves as a "committed Christian" (60%). Within that 
framework,people’s self-identity includes 45% who 
call themselves "born again Christian," 42% who claim
 to be an "evangelical Christian..."
“Born again Christians" are defined as people who 
said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus 
Christ - that is still important in their life today - 
who ... believe when they die they will go to Heaven 
because they had confessed their sins and had 
accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not 
asked to describe themselves as "born again." 
Well, gosh, I know of unsaved baptists that would attest
 to that!

“Evangelicals" meet the born again 
criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. 
Those include saying their faith is very important in their 
life today; believing they have a personal responsibility
 to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-
Christians; believing that Satan exists;
 believing that eternal salvation is possible only through
 grace, not works;
 believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth;
 asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; 
and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful,
perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it 
Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon 
church attendance or the denominational affiliation of 
the church attended. Respondents were not asked to 
describe themselves as "evangelical."
Well, OK, I guess this sounds pretty Christian to me, 
and that's 42%. But Gallup said only 40% describe 
themselves as 'born again' or evangelical. And when you 
read Gallup's data closer you would find that some of 
that 40% didn't even believe in Jesus! They defined 
"born again" in their own private terms.
  So, there appears to be some polling discrepancy here. 
(Sounds a lot like a presidential election poll doesn't it? 
BUT I'm not going there.) Taking Barna's numbers
 though, we have the description of 42% of americans 
who might be considered True believers. Problem is, 
when I view what Jesus said,that number looks WAY
 too big.
Jesus said;  Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is 
the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to 
destruction,and many there be which go in there: 
 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, 
which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.
 (Mat 7:13-14)
"Few there be that find it." Hmmm, 42% sounds like
 more than a few!
Jesus also said;  So the last shall be first, and the 
first last: for many be called, but few chosen. 
For many are called, but few are chosen. 
What am I trying to say here? I guess I'm trying to say
the USA is a shining city on a hill! It was founded by
really sharp guys, many of whom did seem to be 
Many were deists, and various other of primarily God-
believing groups.It was founded as a Republic. Where
 laws could protect the disenfranchised from mob rule. 
Or sometimes it did anyway, that was their goal.
It was founded with representative government rather
 than the divine right of Kings or despots to rule and 
seize power from the people. 
It was founded with an 
open and free commerce system. The government may
 have owned property but it wasn't actively competing 
with or crippling the shopkeepers, farmers, tradespeople,
 homeowners, local elected officals or churches. 
It allowed ideas, even government and religious ideas,
 to compete in a free market place as well as goods 
and services. 
It was also founded with an eye towards 
common law and Biblical law. It recognized Biblical
principles in commerce, philosophy, and government.
It did not do all of these things perfectly because a 
nation is only as good as it's people and we are not 
a perfect people. These are wonderful things, however,
 to be proud of. They have helped us excel beyond 
many other nations on earth.
(Now some would say thats a very naive opinion. They would 
point to our greed and domineering attitude. To the corrupt
 usage of raw materials and human resources. All of which 
I would have to say we have been guilty of to some degree. 
But are we so different as humans? Did not Europe, Canada, 
China, Australia, etc. have raw materials and the possibility 
of cheap labor? I would say yes they did. But our laws
 helped us rise above using people in a demeaning way.)
But, we are not a Christian Nation. And that's OK.

Our constitution does not say we are Christian. It 
defends the rights of all people to believe according to
 their own consciences.
Our laws are not all Biblical laws.
Our people are not even Christian in the majority.
And, there is only one Christian Nation: 

The Redeemed of God, for whom Christ died, who have 
been regenerated, saved, born again, and justified by the
 blood of Christ. Some are here on earth. Some have 
gone to be with the Lord. But it is them and them alone 
who are a "chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an
 holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew 
forth the praises of him who hath called you out of 
darkness into his marvellous light:"
And that's not the USA! And that's OK.

 In fact, its great to know!