Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Spiritual Fog

“Spiritually, we are all good at producing fogs.” – Oswald Chambers

Whatever one may think of Oswald Chambers, he certainly had a picturesque way of describing spiritual realities. Chambers lived much of his life in England, in an era when nearly everything was coal powered and the natural fogginess of the British climate was supplemented by human produced smog. Chambers’ writings are nearly all aimed at those who claimed to be Christians, but who often clouded the spiritual realities rather than clarifying them.

Undoubtedly, there are mysteries involved in the faith; there are scriptures that are difficult to understand. The Bible admits this (2 Peter 3:15-16). But much of it is quite clear. The fundamentals of the faith are simple enough for us to understand. His word is not too high for us (Dt 30:11-12; Rom 10:6-8). Much of the spiritual fog that exists for us exists because we have created it.

We do not want to obey, so we pretend that we do not understand. Sometimes we pretend so well and for so long that we start to believe our own pretending. Honesty in confessing our sins and facing our responsibilities is what it takes to clear this fog.

Sometimes we simply do not think about the things that matter often enough. No subject can be mastered in an hour or two per week. Yet this is all most people devote to understanding God. A regular habit of Bible study is needed to clear this kind of fog.

The Lord is not unclear, he is light (Jn 8:12). The fog that we perceive is fog we have created because deep down we fear to know him as he wishes to be known. Let’s be honest. Let’s be diligent. Let’s stop producing fog.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Neglected Means of Protection

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you
(Psalm 5:11, ESV).

In Hebrew poetry, the second line of a verse normally restates or expands on what was said in the first line. In the verse cited above, to “rejoice” and to “sing for joy” are different ways of expressing the same idea. This thought is expanded on when the writer adds a third line, “and spread your protection over them.” He then restates it yet again in the fourth line.

Let us focus for a moment on that third line. How do we spread the protection of God over ourselves? There are a number of sound biblical answers to this question. We might seek to spread his protection over us in prayer (Mt 6:13). We might seek his protection by means of memorizing his word (Ps 119:11). We certainly should seek his protection by means of close association with his people (Eccl 4:9-12). This psalm seems to suggest that we do so by means of rejoicing, singing, exulting.

The person who rejoices in what God has done thereby continues to protect himself in the Lord. In acknowledging the Lord’s past deeds, we admit our neediness. In admitting our neediness, we avoid the temptation to trust in ourselves. Not trusting in ourselves, we cling more closely to him, and in this we are protected from future danger.

Sing! Sing in the shower. Sing in the car. Sing at home with your family. Sing mentally even when you cannot sing aloud. Let us sing for joy at what the Lord has done for us, and thus spread his protection over us for the days ahead.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

People Need People

According to a recent headline, “Loneliness is deadlier than obesity.” I did not take time to read the full story. I did not feel a need for the details of the research. God himself said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).

We need each other. It is not that we need to always be in a crowd. That can be the loneliest place of all. But we do need genuine human friendship. Unfortunately, so many people today have lost touch with that need. Watching television is about as close as they come to human interaction. Many are waiting at home, hoping that the phone will ring, that someone will come to the door, or that the mail carrier will bring a letter.

If you are one of those people,
• Reach out to someone. Think of others who might also be lonely. Give them a call, write them a note, or (if you are able to) get together with them for a cup of coffee or a walk in the park.
• Engage in some useful activity. We need WBS teachers. We need more people in our Bible classes. There are small tasks that need to be done around the building. Doing these would bring you together with others. For example, as I am writing this, two brothers are working on the floor of the fellowship hall. They are enjoying some fellowship in useful labor (which is always the best kind of fellowship).
• Do not think too narrowly. A person does not have to be your same age to benefit from your company. There is great value in cross-generational contact.

The church’s primary task is to glorify God, but we do that best when we do that together. Thus, while seeking to honor him, we help each other with our loneliness.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Commandment Is Not Hard

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.” (Deuteronomy 30:11, ESV)

We often find the ways of God difficult, and Jesus even tells us that it will be so (Matthew 7:14). But the ways of God are not inherently difficult. God did not design them to be difficult. We find them difficult because of our nature. The commandments themselves are not hard. They are hard because we have placed ourselves in difficult circumstances. We make it hard for ourselves (Proverbs 13:15).

When we first begin to walk with God, the way seems difficult, the commandments seem hard. But if we are faithful to his commands, we find that they are not a burden (1 John 5:3). “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18, ESV).

The Lord’s commandment is not inherently difficult. We make it difficult by our attitude.

The choice is ours. We can willingly submit ourselves to the Lord, in which case we will generally find the way growing easier and the commands lighter as we go along. Or we may attempt to grudgingly follow Jesus, in which case the way will always seem hard and the commandments will always be a burden.