Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why Cry Now?

The British government is outraged that China executed a British subject for drug smuggling. The news reports quoted officials of the British government, and the man’s daughter, saying that he should not have been executed because he was mentally ill, and therefore not responsible for his actions.

Perhaps the government was not aware, but clearly the daughter was aware of her father’s mental condition. Where was she when the government issued his passport? Where was she when he planned this trip? Why, if he was so mentally ill, did she not take action to protect him from himself? If you knew he was mentally ill, what was he doing in China? Why cry now?

Families have responsibilities -- parents to children (Dt. 6; Eph 6), and children to parents (1 Tim 5). Those who have neglected their duty to a family member have no right to blame others for the result of their own neglect.

I hurt for that family, and I hate to write this for fear that they might see it and that it might add to their distress. But, for the sake of those tempted to make the same mistake, I must not be silent.

The family is the first and the best protection against this kind of tragedy. Families must learn to shoulder that responsibility, and governments must acknowledge the family’s primary role in matters like this.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tell of His Salvation

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day
. Psalm 96:1-2

We have not all been equipped to preach. We are not all suited to serve as missionaries. We have not all been gifted with the ability to lead the congregation in song. But everyone of us can fulfill this scripture in some way. We can all bless his name and tell of his salvation in some form or fashion; and we ought to do so.

We need to learn the attitude expressed so well in the words of Ina Ogdan,
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

May this be our attitude in 2010. Let us dedicate ourselves to the task at hand. Let us face each day with the determination to use it to God’s glory. Let us each, in our own humble way, as God gives us opportunity from day to day, tell of his salvation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Search Me, O God

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting
! Psalm 139:23-24

There are people who object to the idea, but the Bible clearly indicates that we must invite the Lord to examine our hearts.

He knows what is in our hearts, of course; whether we invite him to examine our hearts or not. But it is healthy and right that we should invite him to examine our hearts.

Self-examination may be good, but God-examination will always be more complete, more reliable, and -- I would suggest -- more encouraging.
If the Lord examines me, he will, doubtless, bring more evil to light than I would find without his aid. But evil brought to light by his loving examination will have been brought to light in hope. I sometimes get depressed when I examine myself, for I often find errors that I cannot correct, ills that I cannot heal. He finds much more than I find, but he never finds any fault that he is not more than equal to correcting.

Rather than engaging in hopeless self-examination, we are better off to pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart."

Surrender your heart to the Lord. Allow him to examine and to heal it.

Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.
I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.
Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
James E. Orr

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good Tidings of Great Joy

The incarnation of Jesus is one of the most important events in history. He could have redeemed us without walking on water, without feeding 5000, without raising Lazarus, but he could not redeem us without coming in human form. Without the baby in the manger there could be no Calvary, and no salvation. What happened at Bethlehem is not on par with everything else. It is one of a small number of events of which we can say, “without that, there would be no Gospel, and no hope for us.”

Remembering the incarnation could be done without a special day, although many people find the special day helpful. There is nothing wrong with having special days, provided they do not become an excuse for neglecting duties on other days (Rom 14:5). Most of us take some note of our wedding anniversary. This is good, so long as we do not then forget our marriage vows the rest of the year. In November we set aside one day to give thanks. Most find this helpful, but it does not excuse us from giving thanks at other times. The coming of Christ also should be remembered all year. Either observe a special day, or do not do so, based on what helps you remember best.

Criticizing others for giving thanks on the fourth Thursday of November might not be the ideal way to get others to give thanks the other 364 days. Criticizing our neighbors or fellow Christians for remembering Jesus on December 25 may not be the best way to get them to think about him on the other 364 days. If we remember best without a special day, that is fine for us, but we should not put down those who remember by means of a special day. If we think a special day helps us remember, that is fine, provided we do not insist that others honor the day the same way we do.

The bottom line is pretty clear. He came as a baby, but he came for a cross. May we always remember his coming and the purpose for which he came. May we give glory to him December 25 and every other day as well.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Making the Best of Difficulty

In the early days of television advertising, it was popular to demonstrate the durability of a product. One early commercial involved strapping a watch to the propeller of an outboard motor. The motor was lowered into a drum of water and run for a few seconds. At that point the camera was supposed to show the watch “still ticking.” Unfortunately the commercial, which was shown live, did not turn out as intended. The camera zoomed in to show a watch badly in need of repair.

Quick thinking by the announcer prevented disaster for the watchmaker. The announcer took this as a opportunity to picture them as an honest company that did not make unreasonable claims. It worked. Their sales went up.

Some try to pretend that storms never descend on good people, that Christians never have difficulties. This is unbiblical and just plain wrong. God sends his rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt 5:45). The peace that Jesus promises (Jn 14:27) is not an absence of difficulty (Matt 10:34ff) but a sense of purpose and faith which brings peace in the midst of difficulties (Matt 10:19). Suffering will sometimes be the lot of the follower of Christ (1 Pet 2:18-24).

If Christians respond to difficulty with complaint, especially if we become whiners, we bring reproach on the name of Christ. But if we respond to adversity as Christ responded, we “adorn the doctrine of God” (Titus 2:10).

The life of Christ was far from trouble free. It is unreasonable to expect that we, as his followers, will have trouble free lives. Honesty demands that we admit this.

Let’s be honest in how we advertise Christianity. Some of us, like that watch, have taken a beating and are badly in need of repair. We cannot always hide that fact from others; but we can respond in a Christ-like manner.

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Climate Change Solutions

I have a problem with what is going on in Copenhagen (Washington, and East Anglia). It is not that I am opposed to measures to reduce the amount of fossil fuel being consumed. I am very much in favor of reducing the use of fossil fuels; I just wonder why certain obvious measures are never discussed, while other, more questionable ones, are vigorously promoted.

In many parts of the United States it is illegal to hang your clothes out to dry. Vegetable gardens are also forbidden in some communities. If we really want to reduce the emission of 'greenhouse gasses’ does it make sense to allow such ordinances? If the climate change alarmists are right, and we urgently need to take action, why not start with the simple action of federal or state laws that encourage clotheslines and gardens?

Clotheslines would save a lot of fuel (and a lot of emissions). Clothes dried on a clothesline are not dried in a dryer, and that is a significant savings. Our vegetable garden means that we can pick our own lettuce; no need to truck it in from California or Mexico. Again, we are saving fuel and emissions.

But no one in Washington is interested in such simple solutions. The only solutions they are interested in are solutions that increase their power over citizens. They do not want solutions that involve decreasing the regulation of our lives. They want solutions that increase regulation.

Pardon me, but I am getting rather cynical. I get the feeling that climate change is not their real concern. It is little wonder that so many are quick to believe that the whole climate change ‘science’ was just made up.


I hope that you are disappointed by this posting, so far. I hope that you are understanding my point, but that you are disappointed that I seem to have taken off on a political issue. If you wanted politics, you could get that elsewhere. This blog is supposed to help us spiritually, so I really ought to leave the politics out of it.

Good, glad we agree.

There is a spiritual point to all of this, I am just slow getting to it.

The political leaders are overlooking the simple straightforward solutions (for some reason). Are we not often guilty of the same error in our daily lives?

We sin and, instead of confessing, we try to talk ourselves out of it. We justify ourselves. Why not just go to our Father and say, "I have sinned"?

We say that we want to be near God, but instead of approaching him as he has instructed, we develop our own theories of his nature and our own means of approaching him. He gives us his word, but we want to know him by means of our own feelings and experiences, instead of buckling down to studying (and practicing) the message he gave us.

Maybe Copenhagen is not a conspiracy. Maybe it is just human nature to look for a complicated solution and ignore the obvious one. Looking at our lives, I am inclined to suspect it is just our fallen human nature.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Personal Salvation or God’s Glory

Romans 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

This is a passage that amazes most Christians. As far as most Christians are concerned, THE reason for being a Christian is personal salvation. So how can Paul say that he would be willing to be lost for the sake of saving others?

The goal of personal salvation is nearly always prominent in conversion, and there is nothing wrong with that (Acts 2:37-40). But Paul has reached a point, and every Christian should reach a point, where the glory of God is more important to them than their own salvation. Paul being lost would not cause his nation to be saved, but if it were possible, and if their being saved would honor God more than Paul’s personal salvation, then Paul is willing to be lost for the sake of this greater good. Of course, Paul wants to be saved, and expects to be saved, but his personal salvation is not the most important thing to him.

It does not disturb me that a new born baby is self-focused. For the sake of survival they must be, and there is nothing they can do to serve others anyway. But when a child of eight or ten is still fully self-focused, I get concerned. When a teenager is still fully self-focused, it is alarming. When an adult is self-focused, it is depressing.

It does not disturb me that a new convert is focused on personal salvation. But it alarms me when I meet Christians who ought to have grown beyond that point who are still totally preoccupied with their own salvation. It alarms me because they ought to have enough confidence in Christ that they would not be doubting their salvation; and because they ought to have grown to the point of being more focused on helping others and glorifying God.

Yes, we want to be saved, that is appropriate. But it is not all about us, it is about the glory of God (Isa 43:21; Phil 1:10-11; 1 Peter 2:9; 4:1-11).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Half of Christ

I have long been concerned about those who speak of “accepting Jesus as your personal Savior.” There is great danger in asking Christ to be our Savior, instead of admitting him to be Lord of our lives. If we accept the Lordship of Jesus, he will certainly save us. But if we ask him to be Savior, while refusing his Lordship, we are insulting him. We must not expect salvation while willfully continuing in sin.

The problem is not a new one.

In a letter to James Lindsey (7 Sept 1637), Samuel Rutherford wrote of our tendency to divide Christ and take only half of him. We desire him as savior, “but ‘Lord’ is a cumbersome word; and to obey ... is the cumbersome and stormy northside of Christ....” Later he adds, “ rely on Christ, and not to be weary of sin, is presumption, not faith. Faith is ever neighbour to a broken and contrite spirit; and it is impossible that faith can be where there is not a cast-down and contrite heart, in some measure, for sin. Now it is certain that God commandeth no man to presume.”

John tells us, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 Jn 1:6). And “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (2:4). John also tells us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15). And “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” (3:6).

Jesus himself has said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).The whole Christ, that is what we need. He is first and foremost Lord, then he is Savior. It is presumption to speak of him as Savior while not obeying him as Lord.