Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Law or Opinion

A few weeks ago I heard a preacher say that “within a few weeks, homosexual marriage will be the law of the land.” Very likely that same preacher is now saying that it “is the law of the land.” He is wrong.

The constitution is the law of this land. The opinion of five judges is not the law. It will indeed pass for the law but it is not the law. The Dred Scott decision and the fugitive slave law once passed for the law of this land, but there was a higher law that overruled those so-called laws, and there is a higher law that overrules the recent perverted opinion of a dishonest court.

The tide may not turn soon, but it will turn. People got sick of the court falsifying the constitution on the subject of slavery in the 1800s. Judge Taney appeared triumphant in his day, but is now held a false and dishonest interpreter of the constitution. Someday these judges will share his fate.

But all of this is rather beside the point for us. Even if the court had followed proper procedure and ordered that the constitution would have to be amended to allow homosexual unions to be called marriage, and even if that had then happened, it still would change nothing for us. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Just because Judge Taney ruled that slaves had to be returned to slavery even when they had escaped to free states, did not mean that Christians in Ohio had to honor Judge Taney’s opinion. They didn’t honor that dishonest opinion and we will not honor this one.

No such thing as same-sex marriage ever has existed. No such thing as same-sex marriage currently exists. No such thing as same-sex marriage ever will exist.

Remember Lincoln’s question, “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Five, you say? No. A dog has four legs. Calling a tail a leg does not make it one.”

Self-focus

Sometimes even the best of us can be too self-focused. Of course we recognize pride as sin. But self-focus can take other forms. It may also be sinful to be down on ourselves. Time taken up with self-accusation is time that could have been spent praising God or helping others. Consider these words from J.C. Ryle.

"Be taken up with your inward conflicts if you will. Go on anatomizing your own feelings, and poring over your own corruptions, if you are so determined. But remember all this time souls are going to hell, and you might do something to save them by working, by giving, by writing, by begging, and by prayer. Oh, awake! be zealous, and repent!"

Earlier in his life, the Apostle Paul had persecuted Christians (Acts 22:4), he may even have been guilty of resorting to torture in his efforts to stamp out the church (Acts 26:11). There was plenty of wrong on his conscience.

But Paul did not dwell on these things. He learned to forget what was behind him and to strain his efforts toward what was ahead. The upward call of Christ, rather than his own sin, was uppermost in his mind (Phil 3:13-14). Let us learn to do the same.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

All On The Altar

“Trust and Obey” was one of Dad’s favorite songs. Growing up, I rarely heard the fourth verse sung. But it is now my favorite verse from this song.

“But we never can prove the delights of his love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor he shows, and joy he bestows,
Are for those who will trust and obey.”

Forty years ago I heard a story that illustrates the same point.

A little girl was helping her mother in the garden when she noticed a particularly beautiful flower. She thought that the flower would cheer her father, who was at work in his office nearby, so she asked permission to cut the flower and take it to her father. But on the way she began to desire the flower for herself. So, instead of taking the whole flower to her father she plucked off a few petals for him and laid the rest aside for herself. After giving the petals to her father she returned to enjoy the flower for herself. But she found that she had ruined its beauty.

Had she taken the whole flower to her father, she would have lost nothing in doing so. They could have enjoyed its beauty together. But in trying to keep back part of it, she destroyed all -- both for her father and for herself.

Is that what we are doing with our lives? Are we trying to give God one petal at a time when we ought to give all?

There is little happiness, joy, or beauty in halfhearted commitment to the Lord. Give him all and we can enjoy all with him. Give him part and we lose the part we gave as well as spoiling the beauty of the rest.

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33, ESV)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Paradoxical Reality

More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you
. (Psalm 69:4-5, ESV)

These are the words of an honest man.

He feels that those who hate him do so without a cause. He believes that he is being forced to restore what he has not stolen. He is not guilty of the crime with which he is charged (4).

Yet he knows that he is not totally innocent. While those who are persecuting him are doing so unjustly, he knows that he is indeed guilty in God’s sight. He has been guilty of folly and of wrong (5).

All too often, when we are wronged we become unable to see that we may also be in the wrong. Indeed, others may be treating us unfairly, but should our focus be on their actions or on our own actions? There is little, if anything, that we can do to change others. It is our own sins that should most concern us -- even if our folly and wrong seem small compared to the injustice being committed by others.

Life in this sinful world is rarely fair. We may be falsely accused. We can focus on the injustice of this and be miserable, or we can look past the injustice and deal with something that might be within our control -- our own folly and wrong.

Better yet, maybe we should just take it all (the wrong done to us & the wrong we know that we have done), lay it before the Lord and leave it there.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Awaiting the Power

"I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49, ESV)

Jesus was sending the Spirit to direct them and enable them in their ministry. The eleven were to wait in Jerusalem until they received that divine power. These words were spoken to them, not to us, but surely the words were recorded for our benefit. What are we to learn from them?

We must learn to rely on the Lord's power, not on our own. The task was too great for the Apostles. The task is certainly too great for us. But it is not too great for the Lord. All too often, we (and I speak here as much to myself as to you) look to our own abilities, and despair. Let us look for his enabling power and work in hope.

We must also learn that, as we await the Lord's enabling power, we are to wait together. The Apostles were not to scatter, they were not to go about their own business, they were not to become entangled in worldly affairs. They were to wait in the city of Jerusalem, the center of their nation's religious life. This would keep them together as they awaited the Lord's power.

We seek the Lord's power better when we do it together, and together we are less likely to be led astray by a Satanic deception. A walk in the woods is calming to the nerves. An hour alone at the old fishing hole is often refreshing to the spirit. But the Lord wants his people gathered together frequently. He wants them to fervently seek him in company with fellow believers.

Let us look to the Lord's strength, not our own. Let us do so within the church; the environment he established for our spiritual nurture.