Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Born of Adversity

Judges, Jeremiah, 1 Corinthians, Colossians, what do these biblical books have in common? These four, like many of the biblical books, were born of adversity. Had Israel not descended into chaos after the death of Joshua, we would not have the book of Judges. Had Judah not rebelled against the Lord in the days following the death of Josiah, we would not have Jeremiah. Had the church in Corinth been peaceful, united and holy, we would not have either First or Second Corinthians. Had Paul not been imprisoned and unable to visit the church at Colossi, or if they had not been tempted to embrace a dangerous false teaching, we would not have the book of Colossians.

So, what is the moral of the story? Does that make the chaos of the Judges era good? Does that make the sin of Josiah’s sons positive? Does that make the disunity at Corinth or the false teaching at Colossae desirable? No, of course not.

But it does remind us that the troubles and frustrations we face are not new. As God has used troubles in the past in a positive and helpful way, so he can today. The Bible will never contain a book called The Letter to Toledo. But what happens here, even though it be frustrating and often negative, will be used by God for good.

Try to remember that. I will try to remember it too.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Would It Prove?

The claims started long ago. The claims were meaningless, and turned out to be false. Yet, some people let them shake their faith. I was just a youngster, and Lyndon Johnson was President, when a couple of scientists claimed that they had created life. Further investigation proved their claim to be so exaggerated that one might have been tempted to call it an outright lie. They had managed to blast some soup they had mixed up with enough electricity to form a few random amino acids. That was all. But to hear the atheists crow you would have thought that they had produced a human baby without the use of either egg or sperm.

Last week a few papers again carried the claim that life had been created in a laboratory. Reading further, it turns out that a single cell form of life, brewer’s yeast, was coaxed into becoming a multicelled form of life. So, once again, the supposed great proof of the general theory of evolution, turns out to be so exaggerated as to be nearly a bold faced lie.

Suppose that someday they do it, what will it prove? If after a hundred years of trying, with trillions of our tax dollars spent, some scientist really does manage to produce life from non-life, what will it prove? Perhaps all they will have proven, if they ever do it, is that it takes intelligence and effort to do it. They will have proven, in fact their efforts already have proven, that it could not have happened on its own. Left to itself, non-living things do not become living things. We know that. But those who are desperate to disbelieve refuse to face the fact.

If they ever do it, they will have proven nothing we did not already know. But perhaps, as Aaron Dicus, professor of physics at Tennessee Tech, predicted, "Secure is life from mortal mind; God holds the germ within his hand. Though men may search they cannot find, for God alone does understand."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Those Who Give Approval

"Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." (Romans 1:32)

When I was a boy it was believed that Christians did not dance. But every election year I find Christians dancing. They are not literally dancing; but they are dancing all kinds of rhetorical jigs trying to justify the unjustifiable. Whether we choose to face the fact or not, the person who gives consent to wrongdoing is as guilty as the person who does the wrong.

The person who knows that murder is wrong is guilty if he gives someone else permission to carry out a murder. Although no blood has literally stained his hand, he may be even more guilty than the person who did the deed. While the one who plunged the knife may have been confused and thought that he was doing right, the one who stands back and says, "I would not do it myself, but I will allow him to do it" knows that murder is wrong and will be held fully guilty. This is the plain teaching of passages like Romans 1:32 and Luke 12:47-48.

Those who vote for pro-abortion candidates are as guilty of sin as any woman who seeks an abortion, any doctor who performs an abortion, or any politician who justifies abortion.

I would not want to stand before God guilty of shedding innocent blood. If I vote for those who justify it, I am as guilty as if I had done it myself. You can dance if you wish. I will stand firm on that plain and rather obvious fact.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Knowing God

The most critical matter in a church, or in the lives of individual Christians, is not what they do or how they worship but what they think of the Lord. Right ideas about God will lead us to correct errors in our lives and worship. Wrong ideas about our Lord will lead us into errors in life and worship. So, even if we are in the wrong in some of our actions, where there is a right understanding of God, there is every hope that improvement will come over time. But where we have wrong ideas about the Lord, even if we are good moral people and worship according to the biblical pattern, there is a good chance that we will be led astray.

A.W. Tozer said, "We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God." Those who believe God to be unjust are likely to become unjust in their dealings with others. Those who believe God to be undisciplined and undisciplining tend to become overly permissive with those they are called upon to supervise.

There are nearly as many false ideas about God as there are people on this planet. In the beginning, he made us in his image; but, ever since the fall, we have been trying to make him in our image. In our thinking we lower him to our level (Ps 50:21), instead of seeking to know him as he really is.

People say that they want eternal life. But they are not interested in knowing the God of the Bible. They prefer to cling to the God of their imagination. We cannot have eternal life without knowing God, the real God, not the God of our imagination. Jesus said, "this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3).
Live right, worship right, but most of all, know God! Knowing God through his word, this is what will sanctify our lives (John 17:4-17).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Illusion of Sudden Change

An earthquake seems to be a sudden event, but, in reality the forces that bring about an earthquake have been building slowly for months, years, decades, even centuries. What seems to us a sudden event is the culmination of a long process.

The same is true spiritually. There are times when we seem to make sudden progress in our spiritual life. There are times when someone seems, quite suddenly, to fall away from the Lord. But in both cases there was an unseen preparation for that moment. A long period of prayer and consistent Bible study is capped with a seemingly sudden enlightenment. Or a long period of neglect ends in a catastrophe that seems sudden, but which is, in reality, the natural result of our failure to feed the spiritual life.

A crisis may bring the strength or weakness of the soul to light; but the strength or weakness is the result of our daily walk with the Lord. When a crisis forces a decision upon us, we appear to make a decision in that moment. But, in reality, our preparation or failure to prepare will have already made the decision. The crisis reveals our character, it does not create our character. Our spiritual character is formed by our daily practice, not by those rare moments of crisis.

What will your daily practice be in 2012? The crisis that will prove the nature of your character may not come this year, but the moments that will produce your character will come. They will come every week, every day, every hour. How will you use this year?