Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quality Materials

Those who build large structures know that they must concern themselves with the quality of the materials they use. The Empire State Building, for example, has stood the test of time because it was carefully designed, skillfully constructed, and because quality materials were used. No matter how well designed a building may be, the materials must be quality materials. If one uses cement, beams, and blocks of inferior quality, even a building with truly superior design will fail.

We make a mistake when we think that we can improve our society by changing society's structures. Some of the structures certainly need improvement, but there is an even greater need to give attention to the basic building blocks of society. The best system of checks and balances in government is of little use if the people serving in government are dishonest. The best designed schools will not provide a superior education if large numbers of the staff are morally lacking. The finest of city planners cannot design a city that will be a pleasant and prosperous place if the families living in that city are lazy, dishonest, or cruel.

We like to blame our problems on the actions of big government or big business. But government and business have become what they are because of the people that run these enterprises. And these people failed to learn proper morals not because of the failings of big government or big business but because of the breakdown of basic teaching that should have begun at home, and that should have been reinforced by the church and the community.

It is impossible to build a superior society with inferior materials. Individual people are the materials. They are fashioned by means of proper homes, churches, and local communities -- or they are not fashioned at all. Unless we learn to devote more time to the proper raising of children -- primarily by means of the institutions God authorized for this purpose (the home and the church) -- the future will be bleak no matter how much we tinker with the structures.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Overcoming Spiritual Paralysis

Through most of human history people were only aware of local events. After the invention of the printing press, newspapers made us aware of national and international events, but in a non-immediate manner. Even the invention of television did not immediately give us the ability to take visual trips to refugee camps around the world. That came only with the invention of lightweight cameras and the connection of the whole world via satellites.

What have we gained by being made instantly aware of disasters around the world?

Crisis giving is up. Humanitarian organizations raise tremendous amounts of money in the weeks following a major disaster. Lots of help is given to remove the rubble. Then the donors tend to move on to the next disaster, often leaving the victims of the earlier disaster to rebuild as best they can.

At some point, as we are made aware of more and more of the world's problems, some people just give up, withdraw into their own lives, and ignore others. The attitude becomes, "I cannot do it all, I cannot even think about it all, so I just won't." Consequently, involvement in local service organizations, like local churches for instance, is down. People go to worship, but not as many volunteer to help in the work as in the past. Many factors contribute to this, but one is certainly this feeling of being overwhelmed by so many needs.

My advice is simple. Pick a couple of projects and stick with them, devote yourself to them. Indeed, you cannot do it all. But you could do something. 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. Here for all your talent you may surely find a need, Here reflect the bright and Morning Star; Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed, Brighten the corner where you are."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Strangers Who Meet Once Per Week

Someone has described the modern American family as strangers who happen to have the same last name and the same address. In many cases that description is not far from wrong. Families spend too little time together and know far too little about one another. Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9) is answered with a resounding "No" by most people today. Most also add, "And my brother better not try to be my keeper, either."

Something similar has happened in the church. Biblically speaking, the men we call elders are also called overseers and shepherds. But in modern church practice, the idea of these men actually protecting, feeding, and caring for church members, the way a shepherd cares for his flock, is forgotten. I have often heard it said that most church elders are unwilling to do these things. My experience is that most church members are unwilling to allow enough access to their lives so that the elders (or anyone else) could serve them in these ways.

A Christian who takes seriously the idea of the church as the family of God would never make a major life changing decision without asking other Christians to join him in prayer. Yet it happens all the time. Many Christians make all the major decisions of life without seeking the prayers of fellow Christians. Some work hard to keep their affairs secret. How can we be the family of God with people acting like that?

Of course you cannot trust everyone in the church. Some might gossip about you if you told them of the situations you face. Not everything that needs to be confessed, not everything that warrants a prayer request, ought to go in the bulletin. Immature Christians are not helped by knowing everything, nor are they able to help. But there are mature members. The church has elders, who are supposed to keep watch over the members (Heb 13:17). But if members choose to keep their real life secret God's plan breaks down.

We are not to be strangers who meet once per week. We are to be "members one of another" (Eph 4:25). That may not be the way the world looks at the church, but it is how God designed the church.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

That Settles It!

Perhaps you have seen the bumper stickers that read, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." Those who post such stickers may mean well, but that sticker is not really accurate. The fact is, if God says it, it does not matter if you or I or the Supreme Court or anyone agrees. If God said it, the matter is settled.

God has spoken on the matter of homosexual marriage. There is no such thing. There never has been. There never will be. Those who engage in such perverted activities, and those who support them, will answer to God for their sin. That is not my idea. God said so, and that settles it.

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:22-24, ESV

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:21-27, ESV