If God Revealed Himself It Doesn’t Mean People Would Like Him

A recent issue of New Scientist (08-08-15) features a cover article entitled “Ten Discoveries That Would Transform What It Means To Be Human”. The article speculates as to what would be the ten discoveries that would affect the greatest change to our understanding of reality. New scientist Each possible discovery is posited as a “What if”: What if we discover intelligent life on other planets? What if we discover that free will is an illusion? What if the universe is an illusion? And so on.

The last “What if” caught my attention–“What if we discover God?” Here’s a snippet:

“The equations are checked and rechecked. Finally, physicists throw up their hands and declare that the big bang must have had a cause–a prime mover that created the universe. Or perhaps God simply shows up on earth in full supernatural glory. As shocks to the system go, it couldn’t get much bigger….There’s no denying we have a God-shaped void in our heads. What if it were filled? Would our increasingly secular world see a mass conversion? Perhaps, but it is far from clear what people would convert to….We might also think that proof of God would be egg on the face of atheists. Perhaps–but for many, the idea of God is not only unbelievable, but also distasteful. The writer Christopher Hitchens, who called himself an ‘anti-theist’, detested the idea of a cosmic chaperone watching our every move. If this being did present itself to us, we could see atheists start a revolution against God.”

Interesting comments from a decidedly secular magazine. Did you catch the last sentence? “If this being did present itself to us, we could see atheists start a revolution against God.” I don’t think this is mere speculation. I would argue that this is a fair description of the present situation. God did present himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, and the unbelieving world continues in its revolt against him.

Cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

On the 10th Anniversary of Katrina

Ten years ago this week my world was upended by Hurricane Katrina. Over 1,800 people lost their lives and more than $100 billion worth of property was lost. Katrina was a disaster for the record books, and one for the Keathley family as well. I was just entering my sixth year serving on faculty at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in August 2005 when Katrina blew in and changed our lives.

I remember the moment we learned that Katrina posed a danger. Penny and I were recent empty-nesters and we were out for a quiet evening. We were leaving a restaurant on our way to see a movie when we saw some other NOBTS people eating there. They were headed home, with plans to spend the evening boarding up windows. Katrina, they informed us, had changed course. She was now headed for New Orleans.

We left the city the next day. Katrina hit the Gulf Coast like perdition with a 26-foot surge, and the levees surrounding the city gave way. Like most of the homes on the seminary campus, our house was flooded. Four feet of water remained in it for over a month.

Our home the day we returned. The water-soaked Bible on the floor belong to Penny's grandmother.

Our home the day we returned. The water-soaked Bible on the floor belong to Penny’s grandmother.

Everyone was shell-shocked. NOBTS opened temporary quarters in Atlanta and we joined the school there. The seminary returned to the New Orleans campus the next spring, and at that time I received and accepted a call to teach at Southeastern.

When a catastrophe of this magnitude hits, it consumes one’s life for a while. What will we do? Where we will go? How will we recover? What’s next? These are some of the questions that filled our thoughts day and night for weeks and months. We were counseled to expect to experience the five stages of grief (we did); to share our story with others and to write about our experiences as a way of coping (we did). A forever bond formed between those of us who went through that crisis together. We cried with each other, encouraged and supported each other, and prayed for each other through one of the most difficult times in our lives. Though we would never have wanted or asked for this experience…God used it for good. Now – we thank him for it.

This week seems like a good time to share a few lessons we learned through that crisis.

1. Travel light – we can get by with much less “stuff”. We left New Orleans with just a change of clothes. It is weird to wake up one morning and realize you have basically no material possessions but what is on your back – it was sobering.

Note the mold on the walls.

Note the mold on the walls.

But in a way, it was also freeing. God’s word tells us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Losing our material possessions reminded us how little we actually need and to put our “things” in proper perspective.

2. The hope and comfort of the Gospel shines even more brightly when the outlook is dark. So many people lost everything. Not just homes, but businesses and careers were washed away. But the citizens of New Orleans were amazed when thousands of Southern Baptists arrived with food, chain saws, and work gloves. The teams from Baptist churches and associations didn’t just come to help during the immediate days and weeks after Katrina. They continued to work and serve for months and even years afterwards.

So many helped us during the recovery

So many helped us during the recovery

New Orleans, a city that was at that time 93% non-Baptist, took notice. The opportunities for Gospel witness during those days were phenomenal.

3. God’s grace is sufficient and also humbling. God met our needs and He did so primarily through His people. Penny and I will always be grateful to the many Christians who responded with love, financial support, and a lot of hard work. He even used strangers to bless and encourage us. It was a humbling experience to accept charity from others. But God used that humbling experience to grow our character and teach us to depend on Him more fully.

Hurricane Katrina serves as a marker in our lives; a reminder of God’s sustaining grace and mercy through calamity. Whatever the future holds, we know our Sovereign God holds the future in His good and trustworthy hands. “I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.” Is 43:2

Cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Same-Sex Marriage: Five “But What About?”s

For the last two weeks, Larry Trotter, lead pastor at North Wake Church, has preached a series on same-sex marriage. Last week’s message covered five “contras” of same-sex marriage. LarryTrotter This week (08-16-15) addressed five “but what about?”s–objections and lingering questions about the biblical teaching concerning same-sex attraction. The five “but what about?”s are:

1. But what about Leviticus? Leviticus clearly prohibits same-sex relationships (Lev. 20:13). But it also prohibits eating shellfish and getting tattoos. Are same-sex opponents guilty of cherry-picking the book? We don’t follow its commands about diet, dress, and the like. Pastor Larry points out there is a distinct difference between the ceremonial, civil, and moral components of the Mosaic Law. He notes that the New Testament repeats the moral prohibitions of Leviticus (including those about homosexuality) but not the civil or ceremonial edicts.

2. But what about all the other sins that Christians tolerate? For example, what about divorce? Or what about gluttony (a particularly Baptist sin)? Larry acknowledges that the Church has failed to stand consistently about certain sins. But the argument based upon the Church’s failure itself fails. In effect it is an admission that same-sex activity is also sinful.

3. But what about those in a same-sex relationship that is faithful, monogamous, and stable? Pointing to 1 Cor 5:1-2, Larry replies that faithfulness in a biblically forbidden behavior does not make the behavior less sinful.

4. But what about Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction? Larry appeals to Sam Williams in his answer. Dr. Williams serves on Southeastern’s faculty as professor of biblical counseling and as an elder at North Wake Church. He makes the distinction between same-sex attraction (SSA), same-sex orientation (SSO), and “Gay or Lesbian Identity”. The first two (SSA) and (SSO) are involuntary, but the decision about identity is a choice. We all struggle with a variety of attractions that are outside the will of God. Deciding to act on those inclinations, and deciding to find our identity in those inclinations, are moral choices.

5. But what about my family and friends who are involved in a same-sex lifestyle? Larry cautions that we cannot justify homosexuality. We are to tell them that in the Gospel there is hope for all, and that Jesus is worth it. And we are always to engage others with grace, humility, and love.

As I listened to Larry’s message I was struck by the pastoral sensitivity and care with which he preached. He pointed the entire congregation to grace and forgiveness of the Gospel (Rom 8:1). The audio of the entire message can be found here.

Cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com