Friday, December 30, 2016

The Things That Matter

James McCosh said, “The barometer has not been yet constructed which will measure the weight of a poet’s or philosopher’s thought; nor has there yet been invented a thermometer which will measure the intensity of a mother’s love for her infant son.” Bill Gaither taught us to sing, “The things that matter the most in this world, they can never be held in our hands.” I trust that we all agree, in theory, with those statements. But do we agree in practice?

When it is time for an election, what matters most to us, the spiritual and moral truths that cannot be measured, or the economic ‘issues’ that can be reduced to statistics? When we are making choices about our children’s education what matters most? Should schooling be mostly about earning a living or mostly about instilling the principles that make life worth living? Where do the ‘things that matter most’ really rank in our day-to-day activities?

Several years ago I was advised that, if I did not allow my son to play sports on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, he would never win a college scholarship. I thought this advice might be right; but I still did not let him play (and he never asked, by the way). As it turned out, he had plenty of scholarship offers; but even if he had not received offers, it was the right decision. The things that matter the most cannot be measured economically.

The path to instilling a right sense of priorities in our children may be difficult to walk but it is not difficult to discern. Spiritual things come first, material things do not and pleasures certainly do not.

There was a time when that was understood in our land, and then it was (relatively speaking) easier to put first things first. Today, everyone around us puts everything tangible ahead of the spiritual things that matter most.

Buck the trend. Put worship ahead of treasure and pleasure. In time you will find that worship will become the greatest of pleasures and that it will lead you to the only lasting treasure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Multi-faceted Mission

Luke tells us that Jesus came to both "do" and "teach" (Acts 1:1). Jesus came proclaiming the gospel (Mk 1:14), but he came not only to preach the gospel but to do what must be done so that there would be a gospel to preach. In preaching he called us to repentance. He also came to give his life a ransom (Mt 20:28) so that repentance would be worthwhile.

There are many aspects to sin, but the Lord came to deal with all of them. Sin involves guilt, and so the death of Christ was a sacrifice to cover our guilt (Eph 5:2). Sin invites the righteous wrath of God, so the death of Christ was a propitiation to appease the wrath (Rom 3:25). Sin alienates us from God, but in the death of Christ we have reconciliation (Rom 5:11). Sin enslaves, but Christ redeems us from the slavery in which we have placed ourselves (Titus 2:14).

Jesus had a multi-faceted mission. Our mission is to carry on his mission. It is through the church that his work is brought to fullness (Eph 1:22-23). He came to both do and teach, so must we. The church that only teaches is not following the example of Jesus. The church that is busy doing but does not proclaim the gospel is not following the pattern set by Jesus.

We will not all be equally involved in every aspect of the work, but we all ought to be involved in some way in both doing and teaching. Some may never teach a class, but they can be ready to explain the gospel in simple terms to those who ask (1 Pet 3:15). Some may not be able to move about freely to visit in homes, but they can show their concern for others by supporting our benevolent ministries or perhaps by means of cards, letters or phone calls.

Jesus had a multi-faceted mission. So should we.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Facing the Wind

I walked west from the house Tuesday morning. I did not notice the wind. There did not seem to be a wind at all. If I had thought about it, I might have noticed a gentle breeze on my back. But once I reached the point where my walk turned north, I began to notice. Once I turned back to the east on my homeward journey, I really noticed the wind. The wind in my face was cold. I wished that I had dressed more warmly.

When we are drifting along with the wind, the wind is hardly noticed. It is only when we set our course against the wind that we realize how powerful of a force it is.

I was reminded of the words of Samuel Rutherford, “God hath called you to Christ’s side, and the wind is now in Christ’s face in this land; and seeing ye are with him, ye cannot expect the lee-side or the sunny side of the brae.”

Are we with Christ? Are we facing the wind with him? Or are we among the irresolute, faithless ones being carried along by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14)?

Most often, those who are drifting with the wind do not realize it. They think that they are pursuing a steady course, although they are often being gently but surely led away from the Lord. Faith in the word of God is the anchor that will prevent drift (Heb 6:13-18). But the word provides this stability only to those who both know the word and intentionally order their lives thereby.

I never would have reached home Tuesday morning if I had refused to face the wind. We never will reach our heavenly home if we are not willing to face the spiritual winds that are steadily pushing us the other way.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Skipping the Hard Stuff

One of the things wrong with our country is that too many people have chosen to skip the hard stuff.

Most of us no longer grow any of our own food. We leave the hard work of planting, harvesting, and preparing our food to others. In fact, I am told that nearly half of all meals are now eaten in restaurants. Some people cannot be bothered to do the work involved in procuring and preparing food. Some hardly even want to chew it.

When most moms do not cook (unless you call warming something in the microwave “cooking”) and most dads insists that they must have a riding mower for the 1/8 acre yard, is it any wonder that the kids refuse to study any subject that they find difficult?

But I digress. My real purpose is not to critique our society but to point out how this “everything must be easy” approach has infiltrated our spiritual lives. How hard do we work at Bible study? How much effort do we put into our prayer life? Is it not the case that most of those who want any religion at all want an extremely easy brand?

The saying “no pain, no gain” is as true in the spiritual realm as in any other aspect of life. Yes, the New Testament teaches salvation by grace, not by works (Eph 2:1-8). But it does not teach spiritual growth without effort (Eph 2:10). It teaches that there is struggle involved (Col 1:29; 2:1; 4:12; Heb 10:32; 12:4).

We cannot skip the hard tasks and expect progress. There are certain spiritual ‘disciplines’ that are essential to a close walk with the Lord – worship, prayer, Bible study, Christian service…. If we are not regularly involved in these we will not make spiritual progress (in fact it is likely that we will regress).