All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

We’ve sung it for years. Now we’ve seen it!

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name was demonstrated two Sundays in a row, and it wasn’t in church. It was on the church!

Yes, we’re getting a new roof. The adjuster has been on top of it, literally, and a couple of contractors are awaiting our decision once we get the go-ahead.

Obviously I’m having a little fun with the hymn. The word “hail” can be used in a number of ways. It can be used to greet someone with enthusiastic approval, or to hail a cab. And it can refer to the balls of ice we saw and how they descend upon the earth, or even to a hail of rifle fire. But the thing the hymn and the hail have in common is that they both focus on the power of God.

When God confronted Job with his assumptions about being in control of things, He asked if he had seen the storehouses of hail that He had reserved for a time of distress and the day of war and battle. And more did die from hail- stones than the sword after the sun stood still and the moon stopped while Joshua was fighting against the Amorites.

When the first trumpet was sounded in the book of Revelation, hail and fire fell upon the earth and destroyed a third of it. And when the seventh bowl was poured out, huge hailstones weighing a hundred pounds came down from heaven upon men.

Destructive hail from heaven is always a timely reminder that God is in control and we are not, but it’s not always an act of specific judgment from God. Sometimes its just a consequence of nature being cursed along with mankind after the first sin.

The good news is that God can take whatever happens, and turn it into something good if we love Him and are called according to His purposes. He can even use it to provide a new roof for the church.

God Bless, Rick

Tongues, Demons, and Dinosaurs

Tongues, demons, and dinosaurs; what do they have in common? They were all topics for discussion around our table on Easter. And it’s probably not as weird as it might seem. Questions about all three tend to come up as those new to the faith begin digging in a little deeper.

Zach Marcopulos, Grace’s boyfriend, became a Christian shortly after coming to ISU, and is now serving as an intern with Encounter, the campus ministry. His relationship with Grace brought him to our table, and he often shares questions that have come up working with students and in his personal study. I’m honored that he comes to me with questions, and delight in trying to answer them.

To answer the question about tongues I took him to Pentecost and the gift given to the apostles that enabled them to preach in native languages to those who had gathered. We then discussed the confusion that arose in Corinth about gifts of the Spirit, and the variety of gifts available today, and their purpose.

I affirmed the existence of demons in the Bible, and how Jesus and the apostles did indeed cast them out. We talked about the nature of spiritual warfare today, and I expressed my doubts about current attempts at exorcism due to no biblical instruction on how to do it.

Dinosaurs took us back to creation and various ways the word “day” was used. Great sea monsters were created on the fifth “day” and creatures that sound like dinosaurs are mentioned in Job. Their former existence on earth can’t be denied. The question is simply when.

The next day he texted with a question about predestination. I told him that foreknowledge plays a role in who God predestines to become like His Son, but the offer of salvation is open to all.

We obviously went beyond what I have written here, but I share this to encourage you to ask me anything. In fact, I’ll even join you around your table, if you ask.

God Bless, Rick

Why Society Has No Hope

The Apostle Paul summarized the gospel message by which we are saved by stating that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

On Easter Sunday morning millions around the world will celebrate the fact that Jesus saved us from our sins, but sadly the societal benefit of what He did by going to the cross and rising from the tomb has been lost in identity politics.

You probably didn’t see that coming. But neither did I.

Matt and I were sitting in a lecture on “The Heresy of Identity Politics” at the Touchstone Conference last October when Easter and politics unexpectedly came together for me.

Joshua Miller had been explaining how in identity politics the traditional division between liberal and conservative has been replaced by transgressors and those who are innocent. And while liberals and conservatives can often work together for the good of society through cooperation and compromise, there can be no discourse between transgressors and those who insist they are at least innocent, if not actually victims of current or even historical transgressions.

At the conference I picked up Joshua’s book, American Awakening, and came to a better understanding of identity politics, and, more importantly, the only solution. The bottom line is that we have totally abandoned a biblical understanding of human nature, and are looking for a scapegoat to blame for all the ills of our society.

Until we recognize that none of us are innocent, and that we are all sinners, the dividing line will remain. And until we come to understand that the price has been paid for our sin, and forgiveness for everything is possible through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, there is no hope for a much needed American awakening.

God Bless, Rick

Sympathy or Empathy?

What’s the difference between sympathy and empathy, and which is better? I recently read an article that insisted that sympathy was better, but my research indicates that empathy is held in higher regard by most today.

Sympathy is a much older term, and comes from words that mean “together” and “suffer” or “feel”. Empathy is more recent, coming from psychology, and is a combination of words for “in” and “feeling”. Sympathy acknowledges someone’s pain, and empathy identifies with it.

At first glance it would appear that empathy is better because it goes deeper, but going deeper has some drawbacks. It’s possible to so identify with someone’s pain that you get emotionally overwhelmed by it, and there’s a tendency to refuse to even consider the cause of someone’s pain for fear of being too judgmental.

I know it may sound strange, but pain is often a gift of God. Without pain we don’t know anything is wrong, and if we don’t know something is wrong we can’t fix it. If there’s no fixing what’s causing the pain, the pain is obviously no longer a gift, and it does become a curse. But if there is a cure, the pain is truly a gift.

So what does that have to do with sympathy and empathy? Sympathy allows you to remain far enough removed from someone’s pain to be able to look for a cause, and hopefully help them address it. Empathy refuses to judge, and in an attempt to totally embrace someone’s pain you often end up embracing their sin, and that keeps them from seeking the cure.

The Apostle Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. But in the same passage he tells us to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:15-21)

Perhaps the best road for us to travel is the path of compassion. Compassion is an emotional response that causes us to take action to relieve someone’s pain. Jesus was often moved by compassion, and it led Him to do whatever needed to be done.

May we care enough to do what needs to be done, even if it doesn’t feel like we’re being empathetic, or even sympathetic.

God Bless, Rick

Why Baptize?

Why was Evalise baptized? The most obvious reason is that she is being raised by faithful Christian parents, attends a Bible-believing church, and has a basic understanding of what Jesus did for her, and why. Perhaps a better question is why should anyone be baptized, and how.

Many would admit that baptism is a good thing, and that every believer should do it. They may not think it’s essential for salvation, but do think it’s a good way to demonstrate your faith. And they seldom think the way you are baptized is all that important. Obviously I disagree.

After being confronted with their sin, and asking what they should do about it, the hearers of the first gospel sermon were told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. (Acts 2:38) After being blinded on the road to Damascus, Saul was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. (Acts 22:16) And after Philip was sent by an angel to tell an Ethiopian about Jesus, he was baptized along the road in a pool of water. When they came out of the water, he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts8:39)

The bottom line reason for baptism is found in Peter’s first letter. After making it clear that Christ died for everyone’s sin, he focused on the flood and how Noah’s family was brought safely through the water. How they were the only people on earth to obey God and get on the ark built according to God’s instructions.

He also noted that Jesus went to those who had been disobedient in Noah’s day. What He declared to them we’re not told, but I assume it dealt with their refusal to believe what Noah had told them, and their refusal to get on the boat God designed.

I guess it’s possible that when they saw what Noah was building, they thought they ought to make a boat of their own. If they did, it didn’t float. I’ll let you make the connection between that supposition and alternate forms of baptism.

Peter did make it clear that baptism has nothing to do with physical cleansing, but is an appeal to God for a good conscience. And he explicitly stated that baptism saves us. That’s why we do it, and why we do it as instructed.

God Bless, Rick