Sermon: Psalm For An Election Year

Choose any day to look at Facebook or social media and you will find people engaged in conversation about the upcoming election.  It is evident by the newsfeed that people are anxious about who will be elected to the highest office of the land.  Mud slinging, conspiracy theories and scare tactics reveal a tangible fear in the home of the brave.  There are rightful things for any citizen to look at and be aware of when it comes to this political season.  Stir in passion and fear and things get ugly.  I have not been above the fray in my concern for the future of our country.  There are times that I have just shook my head in disbelief over the current state of things.  Really America? Is this the best that we can do?

As I read through Psalm 146, it spoke to my heart and God used it to direct my attention back to the ultimate reality.  It reminds me of where real authority lies.  It points me to the king of the universe and how there are no exceptions to his sovereign rule.  As we look at Scripture we see how God uses even poor leaders for his purpose.  Things may not be as comfortable as we would like, but we are never outside of the mighty hands of God.  In a time of great passion, anxiety and people “unfriending” one another for their views, may Psalm 146 serve as an important bulwark to your soul in a swirling political climate.

Below is a sermon I gave on this very topic preaching to my own heart.

A Few Thoughts on the Creation Debate

This week was the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate. I’m jumping into the waters a little late, but I had a few thoughts. I’m not sure what the debate did as far as changing anyone’s mind from their respective position. Most likely if you went into the debate with a certain view point, you came out of it with the sense that your side “won”. I hope, of course, that God did use it in some way, even if in the life of one person, to open their heart and mind to him.

One of the responses I repeatedly saw on Twitter afterwards was quoting the following question from the debate:

“What can change your mind?”
Ken Ham – “Nothing”
Bill Nye – “Evidence”

This was the slam dunk for those that were Team Nye. However, it is really? The criticism, of course, is that creationists or Christians are just close minded and ignorant. Anyone that is not willing to change their mind is operating out of an oppressive and even dangerous world view. Bill Nye’s belief is that teaching creationism is holding society back and even pleads with parents not to pass it on to their children.

Scientific conclusions are based on observation and interpretation of patterns. Those patterns are used to determine how things function and how they will most likely function in the future. It is that closed system of being able to rely on repeated systems that make scientific discovery and conclusions possible.

In order to make conclusive claims, one must have a clear sense of the correct answers. Bill Nye in his response to the question is ultimately stating that there is something out there that could sway his mind. Granted, he hasn’t found it, but his admittance of this fact is important. Which answer better reflects the strength of their position? If a system were completely open, how could one concretely declare anything with confidence? How do we know a dog won’t give birth to a cat? This is also reflective on Stephen Hawking’s latest claim that there are no black holes, something that has been consistently taught for years. It seems like every few years there is some product that once claimed to be good for you actually causes problems. We need something more consistent than the theories and claims of fallible people, bound by their own limitations.

Ken Ham can answer is such a way because of confidence the system is closed. It is not simply stubborn thinking. It is based on something far more extraordinary than scientific analytics. Revelation changes the paradigm. That doesn’t mean observation and deductions are meaningless, but rather that they operate within the boundaries set by the Creator. It is what gives meaning and wonder to each new discovery, as each is to reflect the majesty and glory of the one who designed it.

Creation reflects a God who made it and is over it. He made it to operate in a particular way. He set the boundaries for land and water, day and night. He made creatures that find their homes on land or in sea. He did it all with a simple declaration, “Let there be.” It wasn’t a matter of a concoction of chemicals or processes. It was simply and marvelously divine power. People looking to find God’s signature on the universe are simply missing it, because his hand is on everything that is. Signatures are meant to identify a particular work of the artist so that it stands out from others. There is no one else who does or can do what God does. As Andrew Kuyper has said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'”

In saying that nothing can change his mind, Ham is appealing to the ultimate truth. Ultimate in the sense that no power, no person, no circumstance can change or alter it. Culture does not like to think of something being so concrete, so sure. Yet, there is incredible freedom within the boundaries that God has set. There is much to explore, much to understand and experience. Instead of stifling confinement, God’s order brings about an incredible joy in this ongoing dependence. It is a reflection of his faithfulness.

The law of gravity sets limits upon us, but within it we experience the joy of all of life. I’m reminded as I watched the first night of the Olympics, that even when gravity is tested with magnificent athletic abilities, it is gravity that makes these feats possible. Life without gravity would bring about terrible consequences. We need not come up with a “Plan B” in the chance that gravity will cease to be.

There is contentment in knowing the ultimate truth, that God is creator and Lord. Don’t be swayed. It’s not intellectual suicide. It is life giving freedom. Scientific discovery grounded in creationism leads not simply to wonder, but to worship. Faith that is pleasing to God is based upon the unseen. That is the nature of faith (John 20:29, Hebrews 11:1), yet it is faith grounded in a historical context. Christian, there is not a magic bullet pulled from science that will make people believe. Even if someone were to rise from the dead (John 16:31). To know the one who made all that is, means that there is no discovery that can deter from a firm belief in the one who made it. Slam dunk.

As You Wish

“As you wish.”

Words made popular in the classic tale, “The Princess Bride“. A boy is sick and his loving grandfather stops by to read him the tale of love, adventure, giants and swordsmen. It is a tale that has been passed on for generations. Initially, the boy is hesitant to listen to the story, for what good can come from books? Interruptions and frustrations abound as the grandfather attempts to read. The grandson doesn’t want to simply listen, he desires the story to follow his own plot lines meaning mushy parts are skipped and the antagonist should meet a deadly demise. His impatience and frustration nearly cost him the telling of the entire tale.

I can see glimpses of myself in that character. I want to see the plot lines follow the path that make sense to me. How many of us believing in the happy ending expect every moment of the story to be treated as the end? In actuality, the telling of the tale holds many more twists and turns than just a comfortable solution. When things take a twist, our knee jerk reaction is to say, “You’re telling it wrong.”

At times we believe that if we are praying and have the right motivations, our prayers will be answered according to our desires. However, God is not bound by the good intentions of his people, anymore than an author is bound to the expectations of his readers. That is a good thing.  We see in the Scriptures, great prayers, good motivations that went unmet according to the desire of the person. Paul earnestly desired to see the Romans (Romans 1:9-11) as well as for the thorn in his flesh, his physical ailment, to be taken away (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Jesus prayed that if possible the cup of God’s wrath would be taken away from him (Luke 22:42).  Each of these situations brought about a greater good through prayers answered differently than requested.

It’s not that our motivations or desires are bad, it’s that they are limited. Our sense of good cannot see the greatest good. We are limited in scope. What we can be sure of is that God is good (Psalm 34:8), that he gives good things to his people (Matthew 7:11) and that he promises good in all things for those that love him and called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). The good God has for us is far greater than our best intentions and motivations. Sometimes experiencing the greatest good comes through suffering. The very act of suffering makes us better receptors of the grace and goodness of God.  The good God has for us benefits not only us, it also benefits and strengthens the faith of God’s people.

Sometimes the chapters in our lives our enjoyable and fast paced. Other times they are drawn out and difficult. Heartbreakingly difficult. Don’t lose hope. The page will turn. It is all part of the story. We do not have the option of skipping chapters, as much as we may plead to at times. Each page develops the story and shows the incredible plan of the divine author.

Just like the sick grandson, the one who humbly engages finds themselves appreciating the tale being told. The long parts teach us humility. Trusting in the sovereignty of God helps us to endure even those inconceivable moments. The story is not done, but we know how it ends.

Therefore, God, keep the pages coming. Help us to be active listeners. You know the end from the beginning. You have it perfectly worked out. May we not rush the story, but learn from what each moment divinely brings. Help us to trust. Help us to see your hand in each page of our lives and may each day bring about a heart that proclaims, “As you wish.”