Spiritual Truth You Can Depend On

Discipleship, Doctrine, Forgiveness, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

Dogma and Doctrine

I have been re-thinking the importance of dogmatic assertions concerning the genuine doctrines of the Christian faith and find myself caught between what seems to be opposing standpoints. I say, “seems to be,” because I am convinced that there is really only one correct interpretation of God’s Word; but to a mortal flawed human such as I am, there oftentimes seems to be areas that are not clear. We can know what we know and still not have answers to every situation, we can be firmly rooted in the faith and still not have the answers to some counterpoints raised by those outside the faith. Since I believe that there exists absolute truth in the Scriptures and since I believe that contradictions are impossible when the text is correctly understood; I am left with only my own ignorance to explain the difficulties I encounter.

What precipitated this latest round of head-scratching is the loss of a friend of mine. I didn’t know Billy all that long but he was the kind of a guy who left a lasting impression even after a short encounter. Billy was a salesman, and that was more of an extension of who he was rather than a vocation he worked to excel at. While there were people who he was less than fond of; he found no currency in disliking anyone. If you were an Eskimo you wouldn’t buy ice from him because he was able to sell so well as much as you would buy it because he just made you feel like doing something to thank him for being who he was. Billy isn’t a Christian – well, not what some would call Christian; he was a member of one of those fringe faiths who call on Jesus, but the Jesus they call on is theologically not the Christ of the Bible.

Now I have had the apologetic argument with his wife, (an acquaintance of many years), and have had a little too much fun in pointing out the shortcomings of the church she proclaims but when Billy had his stroke and passed; arguing the validity of religious doctrine didn’t seem like the role that needed to be played. Grief needs to be grieved and even the friends of Job sat silent for a week before offering anything by way of conversation. Not that I think that a quasi-faith is more sound today than I did a couple of weeks ago, but as Solomon teaches, “For everything there is a season.” I know that the last thing a grieving widow wants to hear, or even think about, is whether or not the faith she is depending on to hold it all together is biblically correct.

The Christian knows, if nothing else, that the determination of heaven or hell lies in the relationship between the heart of the believer and the nature of God. We cannot know the condition of another person’s eternal standing in the heavenly realm any more than we can understand the wantonness of our own wandering hearts. Who hasn’t at some point wondered whether or not they, themselves, were truly saved? How can we then stand on our soap boxes and point our pious fingers at others and condemn them to hell for having too little faith, or a flawed or non-existent faith in the one true God? We know that the only way to eternal life is by faith in the true Son of God, Jesus Christ, and we also know that there are many religions that are not truly Christian but we can never suppose that we are able to judge the hearts of those, in those religions.

So what are we to do? We must stand solidly on the biblical principles of the Christian faith and try to educate the non-believer or less mature, so that they can understand the basics of Christianity as well as the things that Christianity does not teach. The essentials are, after all, essential. We will not one day be Gods ourselves, we will not all make it to heaven, there are those among us who will never be given the right to be called children of God and there is no reason to believe that we create our own reality; these are things that arise from the world of the cults and those who seek to profit from an un-knowing public. One triune God, one path to salvation, the universal sinfulness of humankind and the desperate condition of the human race are all things which we need to have firmly rooted in our beings so that we can understand the reasons that God acts in the ways He does.

If we believe in Jesus as the only door to the Father then we are bound to listen to what He tells us. It’s not that we can ever be good enough to face God on our own merit by doing everything we are told, (none of us can do that anyway), but if we are truly ones who have been saved by grace, then we should desire to walk as closely as we can with the model of our destiny, Jesus. Since Jesus tells us that we can trust the Scriptures, we can, and since they were given so that we might know the God of creation we ought to try to get to know Him. God wants that relationship with us; rather, God wants us to form a relationship with Him through His only begotten Son; that can only be had by learning who God really is.

Even though we may know someone who has never seemed to embrace the true God of creation and accept Jesus as his means of salvation, we cannot know that the genuine relationship required for saving faith doesn’t exist within him. Romans 1:20 must be kept in the front of our minds: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” This being so, the reverse is equally valid: God’s grace through Jesus is possibly present in someone we might think of as a non-believer because of the natural evidence around him, the same natural evidence of that which has been made that leaves us being without excuse!

Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons or even the Roman Catholics any less saved than evangelical Christians simply because they believe in some things that we don’t? Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Who are we to decide whether or not someone has what’s required to enter heaven? I have concluded that while I am well within the pale of correctness to assert the fundamentals of the Christian faith, I need not try to determine the ultimate eternal state of anyone else. It is enough to stand for biblical truth and the farthest I should ever go in regard to the faith of others is to determine whether or not the tenets of a faith are indeed biblical.

I have no right to judge the heart of any man, especially when I barely know my own, but I can discern the biblical correctness of fringe theologies and I’m actually called to do such things. We are to test the spirits to see if they are of God, we are to contend for the faith and be on our guard against false doctrines but we are not sent to tell anyone that their loved ones went to hell because they conformed to doctrines like infant baptism, not eating certain foods on certain days, or any other ritual practice. The American Indian may be as heaven bound as anyone else, we cannot know. The Muslim, the Hindu, the monk in the temples of the Andes mountains may all have forged genuine saving faiths in the biblical Jesus without their faith’s doctrines being accurate.

This is when the Scripture that says to “judge-not” comes into play. Have we so mastered our own evil propensities that we have time enough to judge others? Are we such perfect lambs that we can help weed out the ones that God should ignore as goats? I say that if we have time enough for that, then we are simply wasting the time we have been given to do good, to edify the church, to be the likeness of the Son we are called to be. If we think so highly of ourselves that we can make unbiblical, doctrinally dogmatic judgments about others, how will we ever find time to do anything which is…


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Truth

140 in the 1st

Does it seem like we sit through sermons and think, “I hope THAT person is hearing what’s being said.” I sometimes find myself reading the Bible and thinking that God is really letting them have it; He’s speaking to the Jews and teaching them a lesson, or what fools they are for falling back into the same patterns time after time. We read the chastisements that Jesus hurled at the Pharisees and it seems right that they should receive such rebuke. Are we like the religious leader who prayed, “I’m glad that I am not like this beggar?”

I was reading Psalm 140 the other day and I started thinking that I was both of the people in the verses. Consider it: “Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man.” This may well be referring to the enemy of the writer but it occurred to me that it is just as likely that the evil man, the violent man is really just the man I was before I found faith. Verse 2, “Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.” My heart seems to be continually imagining mischiefs; the old man is always at war with the new creation I am supposed to be. “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah. Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings. The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah. I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD. O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. Selah.”

As I look at this I see myself warring against myself at every turn! It’s easy to read things like this and think about the adversaries of the kings and peoples of biblical times as the object of such fervent supplication but to think, even for a moment, that we, ourselves, are the ones we need protection from gives one pause. It should. My own hands are those of the wicked, my pride continually sets snares with which to catch me. “Grant not the desires of the wicked,” I think, who is more wicked than me? If others knew me the way I know me I would surely be in dire trouble.

Just as an untended field inevitably returns to weeds and thistles, so does every natural inclination of the saints try to drag us back to the people we were before the day of our salvation. It is only by the grace of God in Christ Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to take the next step on our walks of faith. When John the Baptist offended the Pharisees and Sadducees at the Jordan saying, “Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come,” (Matthew 3:7), we readily accept that those folks needed to be accosted in such harsh terms, but maybe we are reading the chastisement directed at the people our sinful selves are straining to return to.

I am, in reality, every bit as much the Cain I wish I weren’t as the Abel I wish I could pretend to be. When God unleashes the wrath of His Majesty on the sin of the world, it is the same sin that I am accosted by each day. The sin is the same and the nature of man is the same so the words of Scripture are as surely pointed directly at the mess I am as they are at any other person. Self-righteousness lives in me, I have more than enough shame to humble me for the rest of my life but I think, “I’m saved. I don’t have to worry so much about the slips along the way.” I’m a fool. While I can recognize the tip of the immensity of grace that has been given to cleanse me from the man I know myself to be, I don’t act in union with that understanding.

The tiny bit of the likeness of God which He has gifted to me is the saving grace of God by the power of the Holy Spirit and I neglect to nurture this, the most vital aspect of my life. At what point did the lessons in the Bible become lessons for other people? I don’t know. When did the sermon from the pulpit become a thing aimed at others while I cheered the message from the sidelines instead of being something God is saying directly to me? How does church change from a nurturing worship experience into something that I don’t need to be present at, in order that the ones who really need to hear it are able to benefit? The Bible is God’s word and as such we need to always remember that it is speaking to us; the readers. When the Proverb says that we should seek wisdom and that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, it is not saying it to someone who is not reading it; it’s speaking to the image of God in us.

I find myself being a Jonah more often that I care to admit. I know God is speaking to me and giving me direction but I don’t want to act on it. I want to hide from the responsibility that God has placed on me, the responsibility that Jesus died to allow me to have, so that I can do as I please knowing that I will eventually get to Heaven. But even when I finally go where I’m being sent, I want to sit in shared judgment and watch as God lets loose on those wicked sinners who so badly deserve what’s about to come. I even get displeased like Jonah when the same grace God extended to me is offered to others. If the story of Jonah wasn’t written for the benefit of sinners like me, then who could ever benefit from it?

I read the Bible on a pretty regular basis and I know intellectually the properties of grace and the miracle of salvation but I treat them with utter disregard. Then I read something that speaks to me and it snaps me out of it, and I’m amazed to find that I’m amazed! Not only is this speaking to me, but I am genuinely surprised to realize it. If we only read God’s word as third person disinterested, we miss everything. We are living in the first person and the words of Scripture are alive in the here and now to help us in the here and now. I wonder if the reason that the Bible seems to become a chore to read might not be because we stop reading something written to us and allow it to become something written about someone else.

If God treated us the way we treat Him he might well say, “I hear them praying but they aren’t talking to me, they are only muttering to someone else.” I want God to pay attention when I pray, not turn a deaf ear. God could get so tired of our incessant babbling and our disregard of the state of grace in which He has allowed us to live that He would be well within His rights to sit back, shake His head and say, “If only I would hear anything that was…”


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Truth

Merely Players

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” There may be good reason that this is touted as the most quoted Shakespeare line of all time. Taken from Act II of, “As You Like It,” there is a wealth of insight into the character of man that can be taken from this quote. Consider the parallel between the world as we see it and the characteristics of a stage production. A storyline is conceived by the playwright, put into a script, the stage is set and the players convey the intention of the writer. Imagine if there were no script and all the players, (all of humanity), simply chose to act as they pleased. Without a plan to follow, the end result would be the confusion of utter chaos. Now look at the world in which we live.

The world acts as though it were making its own subtext for a play it has never read. One group decides to play by one set of lines and another by another. Most of the world is little more than a cast of millions of walk-on players whose sole function is to simply be on stage. They have few, if any, lines to speak, they follow no stage direction and they end up being an obstacle to the players that are trying to follow the script. The problem may be that the bulk of the cast has never read the script in the first place. But what script? How are we to know the lines if we never got a copy of the play?

I have heard many times that, “Life doesn’t come with a set of instructions,” but it does. The thing is; we choose not to look at them. I know that men are not supposed to need help; we would happily drive in circles for hours before asking for direction and to admit that we were incapable in any regard is to show outwardly our deepest weaknesses. I can, in most cases, assemble a piece of Wal-Mart furniture intuitively but living life is far from building a Saunders bookcase! There are varying estimates, and an accurate number is most likely forever elusive, but about 7.5 Billion copies of the script have been printed and distributed. This is from a source that is estimating printed versions only, and only as of 2007. The Bible is without question the all-time best-seller, the most widely read book in the history of literature. Prior to the printing press, the Bible was copied by hand and related though oral tradition for centuries.

Am I saying that the Bible is the script for all the world’s players? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. If we had all of the Bibles ever printed in circulation today, we would have enough for every person on the planet to have a copy. Think of a world where everyone had, and trusted the same plan for humanity! The problem remains that not all of those copies still exist, many homes have more copies than the number of people in the home, (between my wife and I we have at least 10), and the worst problem is that in many of the homes that do have a “script” the players living there never bother to read it. There are a multitude of excuses for not looking into God’s word but none of them hold up.

Some people are afraid to surrender to the direction of the heavenly, “Director,” some think they can better their role through ad-lib. A lot of folks don’t want to surrender their own will to serve in a capacity which might better all of humanity and stick to their guns in foolish, ill-advised stubbornness. Many reason that if they read the Bible they will have to go to church, give up their Sunday mornings, stop… (fill in your favorite vice), start caring about people they can barely tolerate now and a whole host of other things that they, in their current condition, refuse to do. Many of these things do begin to happen but not as a loss to the person they are at present, it is more at the gain of the new person that the Spirit of God conforms them to be.

The caterpillar may be afraid of heights and adamantly refuse to climb a tree only to throw itself off for the sake of the sensation of flight, but the butterfly shuns the ground for the lofty heights above. The caterpillar did not lose or become forced into anything at all; the gift of flight was bestowed upon the butterfly as a result of its being changed. The life we led before our conversion is as distasteful to us as born again Christians as the prospect of the Christian life may be to unrepentant worldlings. Many things come and go in our lives without them being the result of loss or depravation. We take on the activities of adulthood and put away the favorites of our youth without feeling any loss whatever.

What might be a major deterrent to more players joining the script-reading people could be that they want to see the complete play on the printed sheet before they are willing to step into their role. This is where the faith and trust in the Playwright come in. The play of life is one that is a succession of seeming rewrites. Not that God ever changes the big picture but when we step out of line, things change so that the purposes of God get accomplished regardless of the missteps we might make. We cannot know the way our earthly lives will end but we can trust that the One directing this play we call life does know, and He wants the very best outcome for us. We try to live our lives by the script but when we step out of line we are handed a rewrite. Our lives may twist and turn in ways we find unexpected but nothing happens that can surprise God.

The actors in any Broadway production thrill to the applause of the audience but are really striving to do the best job they can to capture the direction of the story the writer has given them. In acting, as in our walks of faith, the more experienced players help the novices. We need to share whatever level of maturity we might have attained this far in our journey with the players that are just finding the stage. The junior actor may find a mentor who will guide their growth and point out the flaws in a constructive way: “Do you realize that you say, ‘Umm,’ a lot?” We need to be available to help the new Christian in their walk and be examples of the benefits available to those players that work continually toward following the script.

I can’t think of any endeavor in life, be it social, occupational, athletic or recreational where the participant actively strives to do things in the hardest, least effective way possible. Who wants to be a mediocre anything? We are told in Scripture that we are to do everything as one doing it unto the Lord, (Colossians 3); would God be pleased with a half-hearted performance? “God knows I’m not perfect and He knows that anything I do is going to be less than ideal so it’s OK.” This may be true to an extent, but we are not excused from doing the very best we can to fill the role God assigned us when He cast this play called life. Why should we accept, or resign ourselves to mediocrity? Sure, we will fail sometimes, we will see thousands of rewrites in our lifetimes but we are never to settle for a “B” quality performance.

With all the world as our stage, and we being merely players upon that stage; even though we might be sure we will never win the Oscar, let’s see if we can’t live lives determined to be nominated in the category of best actor. Let’s, by our performance, make those not on the stage wish to be actively engaged in accepting the role they were meant to fill, inspire the other players to give better performances, not just the performances of our lives but performances which are…


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Forgiveness, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

A Late-Season Frost

OK, here in Missouri, frost in May might not be all that unusual, but after several weeks of warmer temperatures a cold snap is a little shocking to the senses. Dad always told me that if I didn’t like the weather in Missouri, (I grew up in St. Louis), give it an hour and it would most likely be different. That’s even more likely during the change seasons of spring and autumn. When the temps bounce around it makes it difficult to know when to turn off the pilot light in the furnace and when to put air conditioners in the windows.

When I was a kid, we had a summer place north of St. Louis on the Mississippi river which we called, “The River.” On weekends, (and for two weeks in the summer), we would go to – the river. It was a great place for young boys, we learned to boat and fish and jacklight frogs on sticky summer nights, we could sneak a cigarette or a beer that someone swiped from a neighbor’s outdoor fridge and basically get away with all the Huckleberry Finn things that boys are wont to do. Bur I remember the mornings, even in the summertime, where the floors would be really cold and mom would bake something early for breakfast primarily to get some heat in the house.

Because the sun would bring the temperature up to just below sweltering by 2:00 in the afternoon, and because dad was, well… dad, he never thought it necessary to light the furnace in that little house that sat on stilts by the Mississippi riverside. Today reminds me of those mornings. The day will warm up as the afternoon comes on and the sun will heat the house as it begins to shine in the southern windows of the living room but a hot cup of coffee sure felt nice in my Renaud’s afflicted finger-tips this morning. As I’m having my cup of morning warmth I think about how God melts our hearts so that we might be brought to the knowledge of His saving grace while allowing us to have an occasional late-season frost to keep us mindful of from whence we came.

In Proverbs 16:18 we read, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (KJV). The late-season frost is a little like that; we get anxious to be right with God and forget how bad we really are, or at least can be if left to our own devices. We get saved by grace and then after a while we can begin to get haughty about our eternal security, forgetting that we are never too far from our last fall and closer than we might think to the next. The proof that we are haughty about it, is simply that we are surprised when we discover the warm heart we think we have, has exhibited the symptoms of a late-season frost. We start to think that we have it all figured out, only to discover that we really don’t.

We see the annuals in the garden department of the local store and can’t wait to plant our gardens even though the threat of frost is not past. We buy them, plant them, watch the frost kill them and start all over again. It’s like we think that by planting the delicate blooms of springtime, we can force the weather to bend to our will. That is no more possible than to force our goodness by proclaiming our faith. Anything good within us is something given by a loving God, a faithful Saviour, and we have no hand in forcing anything about it. We can hang a cross around our neck and wear the WWJD bracelet without ever affecting our natures. Yet, when the next bad thing happens, something WE think is unwarranted, we wonder why our cross and bracelet didn’t help us. Faith is not a thing that we can put on like a piece of jewelry, faith is something that has to grow within us and then only by the will of God and through the power of His Holy Spirit.

If we ever think that we have arrived, God will allow something into our lives to show us exactly how far we are from being the likeness of Christ. God will send a late-season frost into our lives to show us that we aren’t all that we might imagine ourselves to be. God is a gentleman though and the frost that reminds us of our own failings is not a hardened freeze that stops us in our tracks; it only gives us pause to consider the truth of the fallen and fallible beings we are. Unlike a flower, a late season frost doesn’t kill us, but is actually beneficial for our growth.

I have stated elsewhere that our growth occurs on the valleys of our lives and that the hill-top experiences are given as respites in our journey, similarly; we work harder to follow the pattern of Jesus whenever we realize how far from it we are. If we begin to think we’re right in line with everything we need to be, then God allows a late-season frost to whip in and wake us up to the reality that we are esteeming ourselves too highly. When we reach out for the Saviour it can be like wrapping our frosted fingers around a hot mug of coffee, we take warmth from the Giver of Life and renew the direction of our walk so that He may be glorified.

We can never forget that it took God to melt our hard and frozen hearts and we have to remember that we are never too far from the icy blast that can frost our hearts over again. We have been given the gift of warm renewal but we are responsible to make sure to consider just how close we stand to the door of the freezer that is all too ready to harden our hearts again. We read in Genesis 4:7b, “… sin is crouching at your door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Our hard and frozen hearts have been, by grace, thawed and given new purpose but the cold desires of the enemy wait for us to fall in our prideful confidence so we must be ever mindful that a late-season frost can be lurking around every next turn.

I have seen late-season frosts kill the blooms of the fruit trees and leave the branches bare for the entire season; we must guard ourselves so that we are not left without fruit because of a late-season frost in our lives. We cannot allow our hearts to be stricken with the freeze of a late-season frost so that we lose our fruit and become unable to show the world the good work that is being done in us thanks to the faith we have in the sacrifice of the Son of God at Calvary. Our witness is more than our own, it is the testimony of God in our lives; the story of redemption afforded us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, for our sake.

I believe that the reasons that we are given the occasional slips, the comeuppances, the late-season frosts, are to keep us vigilant in our walks with the Lord. We are to follow the steps of Jesus, not try to get ahead of the Master and mark out a path for Him. We must be mindful to keep ourselves in our proper places because if we forget and allow ourselves to think we are better than we are, God will surely show us our folly. God has a way of righting the ship, of correcting the course, of surprising us with a late-season frost just at the time when we need it most. But when the frost comes, it’s nice to consider that the same frost that stung our finger tips will quickly melt into the drops of water that will nurture our continued growth, bringing us closer to being a people who can better serve…


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Truth

For Us

One of my favorite things about reading my Bible is when the words seem to leap off the page. They don’t actually glow like the moon runes on the elven parchment in the movie, “The Hobbit,” but there are times when the Spirit illuminates a verse and it comes alive. I am currently in the Psalms, and as I read each day sometimes something stands out. Today it was Psalm 56:9b. “This I know, that God is for me.” I’ve read it before and it never seemed all that life-altering, but for some reason I was repeatedly drawn back to that verse today. I went on to read Psalm 57; then back to 56:9. I got half-way through 58 and was drawn back to 56:9. It seemed to me that there was something almost profound in the pronouncement that God should be for us.

What does it mean to say that God is, “for,” us? He is more than a fan. It isn’t as though He is cheering from the sidelines hoping that we will win the day. I think that God being for us means that He is actively involved in the game with us. He is setting things in position so that we can accomplish whatever we are called to do and He is taking an active role in helping us to succeed in meeting His will. It’s important to see that success in meeting His will is not always what we think success is. For most people, success is prospering financially, increasing in health, being more secure in family relations, gaining that new job or being accepted into the country club. God doesn’t care about those things. Sure, He may bring many of them to pass in the course of completing His will, but the human idea of success is far removed from God’s idea of success.

God sees success in our setbacks because oftentimes we have to be knocked down a couple of pegs before we can be useful to God. Maybe losing a job, (which seems like a failing to many of us), is only the beginning of something which we cannot imagine. Sometimes in order to make us look up, God has to knock us flat on our backs first. Oswald Chambers reminds us that, “It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us.” Being in the winepress is not always an enjoyable thing though. We tend to think that if God loves us, then He should be making things easier for us, He should me giving us what we think is best. But God is doing what He knows is best, and doing it in the most perfect way possible.

God does love us. John 3:16 makes it plain; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have life everlasting.” That’s a whole lotta love going on there! The Bible talks about love all the time and we use the word as though we understand love, but do we? How many of us really think about love? Can we explain what it is? We seem to know when we are in it, when we are giving it or receiving it but when we are asked, “What is love?” we choke. The cheating answer is to say that love is God. OK, that’s true but it goes much deeper than that. Love is an essence. Love has no place unless there is an object. No one says, “I love.” We say that we love something or someone. It isn’t a feeling, it’s a commitment. It’s intangible but able to be felt. Love cannot exist but that it is given away, because love held within benefits no one and withheld love is really no love at all.

God is for us and shows it by His love for us. We are the object of God’s love. Think about that for a moment; the infinite, perfect inconceivable love of God Almighty is directed at us; Christian believers. How is it that the insignificant, lowly worms that we are should garner the favor of the most perfect and beautiful essence in all existence? God’s favor toward us is evidenced all around us in ways that we allow to pass as coincidences or natural occurrences but when correctly seen, are supernatural gifts of affection to us from the One who is for us.

Just last night my day at work unexpectedly got dragged out an hour and a half longer than it was supposed to. I only get one day off a week so the day before my day off is one where I do everything possible to be out as early as possible; last night it didn’t happen that way. What’s more; I was planning on mowing the lawn when I got home so that it would be finished before the big storm hit today. Now when I say mowing the lawn you must realize that out here in the country, when you have acreage like we do, mowing is not the 45 minute thing that townies understand. I mow about 3 acres. That’s the immediate yard by the house, the lower pasture near the barn, another half-acre on the north side of the house and walking trails that extend to the far reaches of the property.

When I got home last night, in resignation, I accepted that I would only get to mow the immediate yard and the rest would have to wait until it reached the point where I would need a hay mower to get through it, but God is for us and there are no coincidences. This morning as I was reading my Bible and sticking on the verse that kept hammering that God was for me, I realized that even at 7am, with a storm forecast for later in the day, I could finish the work outside. You see, normally the dew makes mowing nearly impossible because the grass clogs the mower and overworks the engine with its excessive weight. But years ago an old Indian taught me that God doesn’t waste a dew-fall on a day when He is going to send rain so even at 7am, the grass was nice and dry this morning. God was for me this morning!

The trick is to see how the things that come to us are really for our benefit. God does not allow anything to reach one of His children without first filtering it through the lens of His divine providence. We can be like Daniel because there is nothing to fear when thrown into the lion’s den when we have a God who is for us. It’s been said that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and God wants us to be stronger. But the good thing is, even if we were to die, for the Christian, how bad is that? We are in a win – win situation, even though it sometimes seems like we are hard pressed. It’s our resistance to the pressure that is hard to bear. If we yield to the winepress then the sweetness flows easily from us, but if we resist the pressure builds until it seems as though we will explode.

We will ultimately give in to the pressure. God is the irresistible force and we are anything but immovable objects. If we could only accept that releasing our sweetness in the winepress of the Lord is actually good for us, then we might grow faster. Yielding to the pressure is not a loss for us, it’s allowing ourselves to be used as God sees fit and SINCE God loves us, and SINCE God is for us, and SINCE God allows whatever comes into our lives, our stubborn resistance is not only futile, but foolish as well. When we really understand that God is for us, we will begin to see that releasing the juices of our sweetness is something which God can use because it’s our sweetness that proves to be…

All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

Always Something There to Remind Me

A part of the problem of looking into philosophical concerns is that the questions they raise become questions that encompass areas of our lives that we hadn’t intended. The problem of the presence of evil becomes the personal failing of sin in my life. The question begins with the seeming paradox between a benevolent God and the evil we see in the world around us. Is God unable to prevent sin? How then can He be omnipotent? Is God unwilling to prevent evil? How then is He not malicious? If He is both able and willing; how can evil exist? With slight modification, this way of thinking seeps into my own private musings about the person I know myself to be.

Is there any sin in my life? Of course there is. I act in wrong ways; I think impure thoughts and plot the methods to gain the things I know are not in the light of glorification to God. But I am one who has been saved by the grace of God in the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth at the cross on Calvary; why do I still sin? Is God not able to remove the sinfulness from me? Does God not care? What’s the deal? I have to believe that there is a bigger picture than my limited philosophy can see; something else going on. We often make the mistake of thinking that the ways of God must make sense to us when we have not the capacity to understand the simplest things of God.

The problem I am describing is similar to the problem of quoting Scripture out of context, or incompletely. To have any chance of understanding the Word of God, His Bible, we must keep all of it in play at all times. We cannot hang on the parts of theology that teach mercy and forgiveness without also balancing those with God’s vengefulness and wrath. It is improper to look at the sin in our lives without the realization that there are bigger reasons for what is allowed in our lives than those which we may be able to comprehend in our short-sightedness. If I look at the sin in my life as though it were a closed system of study, then I miss the reality that there are other factors that must be considered.

By faith in Jesus I have been set free and am no longer a slave to sin; the Bible says so. Why then, doesn’t the propensity toward sin disappear? Our humanity predisposes us to err in judgment and to act in ways that are in anything but our own best self-interest. In thinking about this issue I have had shown to me a light, which while not excusing my part in my own problems, may illuminate a little of the bigger picture that I am but a small part of. The solution must begin with the sure knowledge that nothing reaches us but that it first is considered by the will of God. The next stop is in knowing that what God allows is ultimately for the benefit of His chosen people; so what next?

Consider the opposing ends of the spectrum when it comes to the enduring problem of sin in our lives. First, what if we were never saved in the first place? If we had never been convicted by the Holy Spirit and brought to the knowledge of the will of God in our lives, we would be sinning just as the world does, without regard for the offense it is toward God, or the desire to do anything about it. We would be mere cosmological accidents rushing headlong towards an oblivion which makes every action, thought and intension basically meaningless. It wouldn’t matter what we did because in the end we all return to the vacuous nothingness of the universe. Without a standard of moral rightness, any proper action we might stumble into would only be an accident. Just as a broken clock is afforded the opportunity to be correct twice a day, even the lost occasionally get it right.

It is only the law of God that teaches us that we are sinners. It is the moral standard that allows us to see how far we are from keeping to it. Without the law there is no sin. If we are only animals, doing what animals naturally do, why should we be judged for it? It is no more sensible that condemning water because it is wet, or gravity for making things fall to the earth. If we are natural beings only, then we should have a pass for doing the stupid things that natural beings do. But God has given us the law and He has explained that we are to act in certain ways, ways we name as moral. Why can’t we do the simple things we are told we are to do? It’s our nature.

Now consider Christians on their walk of salvation. Knowing the distinction between right and wrong we strive to do the right things and avoid the wrong. This is something that even the Apostle Paul had trouble maintaining, (Romans 7), and no sooner than we set out to do the right thing, evil is there to confuse even our best efforts. We have our good days, make no mistake about that, but then before we know it we are back in the mire from which we had been lifted. Since we were made clean in the blood of Jesus, why can’t we stay clean? Is God unable to keep us that way or doesn’t He care? There must be something going on that gets too easily overlooked.

The humble often turn into pious hypocrites and the devout become abusive in their righteous indignation. If we never were revisited by the sinfulness in our lives we might soon begin to think that anything we did, no matter how absurd it was, was God’s will in our lives because we would be operating under the deluded opinion that God had made sin impossible for us. Do we see churches that blaspheme the principles of Christianity for the sake of some misguided idea of piety? Are there quasi-religious factions compounding the grief of those who have lost loved ones because of the life-style choices of the departed? Does compassion get forced into submission for the sake of literal religiosity? Did Jesus say that He forgave sin for everyone except THAT guy?

We all tend to want to live on the hill-top but our growth only occurs in the valley. Our sin drives us to seek out the hill-top experiences and our folly takes us back down into the mire. If I live continually in my sin, then it becomes acceptably normal, if I never see my sin then I can get prideful and stumble. We must rely on God to set us on the hill-tops of our lives and to resist the forces that want to knock us off. Our descent into the mire proves our weakness, and the rise to the next hill-top proves God’s grace.

Every born-again Christian can look hopefully forward to the day when we can live in a sin-less world, the new heaven and earth; now we have to struggle in the fallen world God has graciously allowed us to be a part of. Our struggle with sin, with even repeated sin, is the chisel that is shaping the people of God into the people we need to be. The sculptor when asked how he makes a statue of a horse answers, “I start with a block of stone and then chip off everything that isn’t a horse;” God uses our sin, even our repeated sin, to chip off the parts of our stony heart that aren’t a part of the likeness of Christ that He is making us to be. We have to be patient, teachable and willing to be molded into the likeness God desires of us, a likeness which is intended to be…


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Doctrine, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

The Atheist’s Lullaby

I concede from the start that there is little possibility of defeating any argument concerning anything, in so short a space as this presents, but each attempt helps to chip away at the central problem. I cannot possibly eliminate all of the objections of the Atheist in 1400 words, but I can start to show that even their own contentions can cause their positions to be untenable. I am hopeful that this will be the case as I attempt to put one of the primary atheistic arguments to bed – hence, “Lullaby.”

One of the biggest obstacles faced by the theist in defending the God of the Bible is the presence of evil in the world. To the world it seems as though the existence of God and the existence of evil are incompatible propositions. The bulk of the riddle of Epicurus reads, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then – Whence Cometh Evil?” The Atheist, (and much of the agnostic world), sees this situation as a conundrum: either God must be a falsity, or if there is in fact a God, then they want nothing to do with a God who would allow such evil to occur. This is a very short sighted, prideful position to take.

We must consider, at the very least, the possibility that there are reasons within the will of God that we may not be able to perceive in our short sightedness. Isaiah 55:8 tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” So it is obvious that God has things in mind that we cannot begin to fathom. Just as a simple act of kindness may result in a grand benefit years later, though we could have no possible current knowledge of its future impact, the same could be said when we see something today as evil which may ultimately be useful to the purposes of God days, weeks, years or centuries in the future; a future that we cannot imagine today. This is not to say that God wills the evil in order to create a future benefit, but rather; God can, (and oftentimes does), use even the evil in the world; transforming it into something useful for His will.

The position is prideful because by saying that the evil we perceive is basically gratuitous, we place ourselves in the position of God and demand that anything that occurs, must make rational sense to us. We are not the final arbiter of good and bad. We are trapped within shells of mortal limitation and therefore cannot see the end game from our current positions on the field. There is an extreme difference between something which is genuinely evil and something which we happen not to prefer. In our arrogance we make demands on the supernatural aspects of God’s nature which He is under no obligation to meet, which we have no right to demand, or which we would be able to understand were He to fully explain them anyway!

The Christian readily accepts the fact that objective moral values exist and that they are actually divine statutes given by God. To the Christian, there is no objective moral good, unless it is given through the eternal goodness of God. The Atheist will usually agree that there are no objective moral values, regardless of their supposed source. So we have a basis of agreement of sorts at this point. We both affirm that there are no objective moral values: the Christian says, “Unless,” and the Atheist says, “Regardless of.” But then the logic of the non-theist starts to slip.

Another area where the Christian and the Atheist can reach agreement is in the realization that evil is, in fact, present in the world we see around us. Theft, murder, genocide and even the willful torture of children are seen as evil occurrences by all of us. Now if a person is going to espouse the philosophy that whatever is, is; how can evil exist? With no moral compass to define good and evil, there can be neither. Still, the Atheist will admit that evil is present so in that very judgment, the Atheist acknowledges a moral metric. The Atheist would wish to expunge God because of the presence of evil; an evil perceived by the very moral judgment that he claims cannot exist because there is no moral value standard, a standard which the Christian attributes to God.

It cannot be both ways. As soon as the Atheist admits evil, he has proven God; though he may not realize that he has done so. He may prefer to reject the authority of the restrictions imposed by a moral value system, but he cannot deny that a moral value system exists because in building his case, he is forced to use the components of the system he is desperately attempting to evade. I have a dislike for bread pudding. I prefer nearly any other dessert to bread pudding and I refuse to eat it by my own self-perceived right not to do so, BUT – I cannot deny that somewhere in the scheme of existence there exists a bowl of bread pudding. OK, it’s a weak metaphor but you get the idea. What sense does it make to deny something unless that something, in fact exists to be denied?

The Atheist will counter with some other defense to try to prove the non-existence of a supreme, holy God and there is no useful purpose in trying to defeat every wild imagining of a mind determined to reject the most likely reality. There is truth and there is fiction. We will never be able to study the fallacy of every fiction but if we embark on a life-long mission to learn and know the truth, then when the fictions of false religion and the deceit of those who would try to tear down the truth of the Christian faith appear before us, we would recognize them right away. Federal agents do not study counterfeit money to see the flaws; they study valid currency so that the imposters stick out like sore thumbs.

It may seem as though I would have each of us mount up and seek out the Atheist and agnostic segments of society so that we could tear them down. That is not what this is about. This is about encouraging fellow Christians to see that there are answers to the objections we face in maintaining our faith. The presence of pain and suffering, the existence of evil, in a world that we claim is created and sustained by a just, loving and benevolent God is something that is extremely difficult for a non-believing world to accept and it is to our benefit to learn to see how it can be presented in ways that show the truth of the claims we hold dear.

I have known people who were on the path to a genuine faith only to be tripped up by the nay-sayers who think they have discovered flaws in our theology. Defending our faith does not mean that we must go out and fight against the world for the things they wish were true. Defending the faith, Christian apologetics, is all about BEING ABLE to answer the objections raised by those who do not yet understand the doctrines we know to be the very truth of God. The art behind successful apologetics is to be able to do it in a way that brings the objector closer to the truth rather than pushing them farther from the goal we would hope for them to achieve than where they were before we started.

We are soldiers in a holy war but that war is not one between people here on earth. The war is in the heavenly realm and involves the spirits and demons and angels, the principalities of this dark world. We are to stand fast in our faith and to build on that faith with each new day the Lord gives us. We are not called to lead the charge to go and destroy anyone. We are to be about the business of building the kingdom and encouraging one another in the walks we have undertaken. We are the living testimonies of the living God, examples of the benefits of grace through the Lord Jesus walking in ways that share the truth of the knowledge of God. We are the lights of the world showing the lost the only path which is ultimately…


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Doctrine, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

Faith is for Real – How About You?

Living in a small town; the movies we get at the local theater are not always what you might call, “First Run.” Recently the film, “God is NOT Dead, He is Surely Alive,” was shown and it received raves from the local community but within the church circles it also spawned what seemed like a flurry of chatter about another upcoming movie, “Heaven is for Real.” Facebook posts have popped up about how this person or that, simply cannot wait to see the account of a 4 year old boy who supposedly entered Heaven and returned to tell the tale. I say, “Supposedly,” because these accounts always have me raising an eyebrow, questioning the validity of such claims.

I know that there are a multitude of folks who will tell you that they died for several minutes and saw the tunnel of white light, the past family members that were lost long ago and other details of their near-death experience, but I always greet such stories with more than a grain of salt. One has to wonder about the motives of those who claim to have seen within the heavenly realm. Some of you may be surprised to learn that I am skeptical of such goings on but I am. True, Lazarus was dead and Jesus commanded his life to return, Elijah stretched himself out on a child three times and prayed that God would send the boy’s soul back into his lifeless body – and it was done, in Mark 5 Jesus raised a little girl from her death sleep and even the apostle Paul, by the power of Christ, revived Eutychus after he had fallen from the third story window ledge. So we do, in fact, have accounts of the dead returning to life at the will of God, (not to mention the many godly people who came out of their graves after the resurrection of the Lord).

Why should I have trouble with someone claiming to have entered Heaven and then returned? First, I believe that Scripture plainly states that, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:29. So to all of those who say they died and came back, I say they were not really dead. They might have been close, but since it is appointed ONCE for men to die, they had not actually crossed over to death. Then there are other verses that tell us that no one has ever entered heaven except the One who came from heaven. Even Steven as he was about to breathe his last, or Jacob as he saw the heavens open with the angels ascending and descending, or the accounts to the Revelation given by John; I am not convinced that they ever entered heaven or experienced anything other than a vision from God.

Granted, such a vision would be beyond extraordinary, but the problem remains, why would God send such information through a 4 year old? I believe that the canon of Scripture was closed with the advent of the Son of God and the writings of the Apostles. What else is there for God to want us to receive than the words of Jesus and the accounts of the early church given through the inspired writers? Why would so many people clamor after the tale of a preacher’s child and believe, when the same information from the lips of the incarnate God left them unmoved?

In fairness, I have never read the book nor seen the film to know exactly what the message is – but then I have never read, “The DaVinci Code,” “The Shack” or, “The Satanic Bible,” either. I don’t need to read the entire content of a book to know it’s in conflict with Scripture. Since I take a fundamental view of the Bible as being the inerrant Word of God; if it conflicts with the Bible, it is immediately suspect, and not worth my time. “But Charlie, look at all the good it’s done. A lot of people have come to Jesus because of the testimony of this child.” Maybe so – but does not the Bible teach us that God can turn even the bad to His purposes if it suits Him? And how many people follow supposed accounts of the divine toward a Jesus who is not the Christ at all?

The first question that needs to be asked regarding these accounts is this; to whom is the glory given? It seems a lot more likely that some preacher who has filled his 4 year old with mental images of heaven is now exploiting that base of information to reap a reward similar to the way Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers and countless PTL charlatans have. Let me be clear – I AM NOT SAYING THAT THIS LITTLE BOY IS LYING. He may genuinely believe what he is saying, but the problem is that we can easily believe something with our whole being and still be wrong. I cannot say the family is intentionally practicing deceit, but it seems far more likely to me, from a fundamental, biblical vantage point, that they are espousing a mistaken notion.

Whether these films are frauds for profit, tricks of the devil being used by God for some small benefit, or something even more nefarious is up to each of us to decide for ourselves. If we have a biblical basis for our worldview and reason from the Scriptures, then we should find the truth in the vast array of theological and quasi-religious material presented for our consumption. We have a responsibility to guard our children from wild lunacy and bald-faced lies whenever possible, to ensure that the information we, and our children, use to form decisions and base our eternal destinies upon are the best source materials available. Just as I would rather have taken guitar lessons from Les Paul than the guy in the garage down the street who has a couple of three chord progressions under his belt, I would prefer to base the security of my eternal condition on the words from the lips of Jesus than I would the stories of little children.

If you want to go see films like this, go ahead. I’m fairly certain that you won’t end up in Hell for something so benign, but be aware of the potential for the deception of the biblical truths that really found a faith that is for real. For the Christian who is solidly grounded on the rock which is Jesus Christ, this movie will be little more than a sweet story of an adorable child in a very difficult position who comes through with an incredible story. To the non-believer it will mean less and may even point them in the wrong direction. Remember that incredible is the adverse of credible, un-credible would surely be the more proper word. It’s your money to throw around as you see fit so if you want to throw it at a theater; I guess it’s up to you.

Let’s say that you take a date to the movie, with a quick bite to eat and maybe a stop for a coffee after the show while you discuss what you have just seen; counting a box of popcorn and a soft drink at the show you might easily drop $60 or $70. Now think for a moment how that same amount of money could pay for the food, clothing, medical treatment and Christian education of a third-world child for two months and consider which would be the better use of your dollars. I’m glad that production companies are beginning to value the Christian viewpoint enough to make movies with a family-friendly message, a basis in faith, and how those efforts are attempting to fill a void that’s been too long neglected but I’d like to see better choices in material being produced. How about using a, “Star Wars,” budget to make of a full length feature of, “A Pilgrim’s Progress?” Now there’s something that I bet would be…


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Truth

Philosophic Imponderables

Here’s one: I can prove that you can never get anywhere although it seems that you can. 1) any distance can be divided in half, an infinite number of times – 2) Before you can travel any distance you must first travel one half that distance – 3) Since there are an infinite number of half-distances one must travel before a distance is traveled and since one can never travel an infinite number of distances, you can never reach your destination. I like these types of puzzles. I know that in the real world they may be time-killing nonsense, but as mental exercises I still enjoy them from time to time. But what if they were more than that? What if our entire concept of reality were being shaped by some similar nonsense?

I submit that the popularly held concepts of our origin, those held by the secular scientific big-wigs, is no more than a philosophical imponderable that caused someone to once say, “Enough! This is the starting point and we’ll take it from here – END OF DISCUSSION!” The Big Bangers are fine with the idea that something physical came forth without cause and from nothing at a specific time past. If this is accepted, then all sorts of rational work can be, and is being, done in the disciplines of science. I just find their logic faulty and their conclusions, while agreeably useful to our lives every day, are not based on objective evidence. But I can hear the outcry already, “Where’s your objective evidence for creation?”

I am not going to pretend that we will solve the debate over origins here in a few short minutes but I would like to posit a few notions that I feel deserve equal time when stacked against their secular counterparts. Causation: Everything that has been created had a creator. Regress: An infinite regress is impossible. Matter: Physicality cannot exist without prior potentiality. Now I have no doctorate in philosophy; I’m no theological laureate nor scientific scholar; why anyone should lend dignity to my views is beyond even me! But I am a thinking man and I feel as though there should exist, even in the higher disciplines, a modicum of common sense which cannot be thrown out simply because it seems to help an argument by disregarding the obvious.

The Big Bang theorists neglects to answer the fundamental questions of what caused the bang and upon what did the bang act. If one is sitting comfortably in their recliner in the living room and a crash is heard on the other side of the house, doesn’t one get up to see what caused the noise? Walking down the hall and finding the neighbor’s pick-up truck parked in the kitchen would explain the noise, right? But if the noise had no explanation then one would be left to wonder if it was anything more than an imagination which never really happened in the first place. The answers I want concerning the Big Bang have to do with what it was that exploded and what caused the explosion.

The Bible teaches that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We are not told how, (although it would not surprise me to find out that it made a lot of noise), but at the moment of creation physicality and time began. God showed Himself in millions of ways prior to the advent of Christ and if He now seems to remain in the shadows, as it were, the evidences of His workings still abound today. These evidences may require openness toward biblical faith, but they exist nonetheless. And the faith required to accept the biblical account of creation seems to be no less questionable than does that required of the secular theorists who would have us believe their unbelievable theories.

Suppose that you had a red ball. Everyone could see right away that the ball was red and suppose further that we disregard the question of whether the ball possessed redness on its own or if the redness was merely the interpretation of the mind’s awareness of the quality of light reflected off the ball as being red; the redness was the essential element of the character of the ball. Now we put the ball in our pocket and go into the deepest darkest cave we could find, where a race of blind people were to be found and pull out the red ball. Is it still red? Can it be proved? Those who may be with you who had seen the redness of the ball before you entered the cave would be able to attest to the redness that the ball possessed but the others would have to take it on faith. You may have first-hand evidence that the ball was red, but that must be conveyed to those who never had the chance to see it in the light of day.

I was not present at the dawn of creation, I never saw the Red Sea part, the Jordon River pile up its waters for Elijah, the sun stand still in the sky for a whole day, the dead return to life or any of the other miracles recorded in the Bible but I have a faith that holds them fast as accurate events caused by an immortal, supernatural God. In the scientific quest to explain away all things that are infinite and beyond the scope of man’s comprehension it seems like the secularist screamed, “STOP! My head hurts. The Big Bang is the scientific beginning of things and though it’s really no better explanation than what we were fighting against, it is what we are going to put forth as science and make everyone accept it.”

Science cannot be satisfied unless man’s intelligence is the final arbiter of all things. If man cannot understand; then it is not true. And the fact that the things man CAN understand need not necessarily be true doesn’t play into the equation at all. This is also apparent in other posited theories such as Darwinism. While survival of the fittest, natural selection and genetic mutation cannot adequately answer the problems of non-theistic propagation of species; it is plenty good enough to get us by: truth be damned! But Darwin is a whole other can of worms, for another day. The point is that we are being forced to swallow a set of theories that cannot close all the holes we encounter in our science as well as our prior theological models did and all for the sake of elevating man to a position he should never have aspired to in the first place.

We are not the creators of anything. Man has made marvelous advances in many areas and I do love the wonders of plastic and microwave technology but all we did was manipulate things that were created by a God we can never hope to understand. We can manipulate the genome of the foods we eat, (much to our greater harm I might argue), to make them yield greater harvests and resist some insects and diseases, we might alter the DNA to avoid defects or health conditions in the future but we cannot create a single gene. Everything we will ever do will start with something and become something else; Solomon was right when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” We may learn how things work but we cannot make them work.

Just because the imponderable philosophical facts that I am not in France, I’m not in Spain and I’m not in England infer that I must be somewhere else; and if I’m somewhere else I cannot possibly be here writing this; the facts that God is not parting oceans before our eyes today and explaining His supernatural abilities in natural ways that mere mortal men can understand does not mean that He does not exist, that He is not responsible for the creation of everything and that He is not the God we should be learning about from the pages of the Bible. We must remember that God did not do everything He did so much for us, as He did it…


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

One on One

2 Chronicles 29-32 describes the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah. This can also be found in the book of 2 Kings, but it made more of an impact for me reading it in Chronicles for some reason. It’s interesting to see that Hezekiah’s reign fell between his father Ahaz and his son Manasseh. It wasn’t unusual in the linage of the kings, the throne generally fell from father to son, to son etc… but what is remarkable is that both the one Hezekiah received the throne from, as well as the one to whom he passed it, both did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Yet, Hezekiah did that which was right. How does a good king fall between two bad ones? And the bigger question may be, why?

Does the son raised in an environment where the father does things which anger God not learn that these things are correct? Since Ahaz was a prideful and self-reliant man, what would make Hezekiah want to do anything differently than the example which was set for him by his father? The ability for a man to ignore his upbringing and choose to act in ways that violate the essence of his parentage must be the reason that God does not condemn a son for the acts of their father, nor a father for the acts of his son. The Law of Moses taught that each would die for their own sins and so there must be an opportunity for each generation, each individual person to choose the path they will follow regardless of the influence of the environment in which they were raised.

“For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9). Surely God was looking for one like Hezekiah, and He found him. Hezekiah did many things which must have astounded the people he reigned over. They would have known his father Ahaz and the way he acted, so to see the new king destroying the altars and high places that his father had revered must have been more than a little intriguing. Hezekiah repaired the temple and restored worship in Judah. He re-instituted the Passover and made offerings of immense proportion on the reclaimed altar of God. He stood by the promises of God when confronted by the Syrian armies and was shown right as they fled in defeat before a vengeful God who was able and willing to fight for His people.

Even after prayer and weeping before God to remember his life when he was on his bed suffering what should have been a fatal illness; God agreed to extend his life 15 years, and with his family seeing all this, his son Manasseh turns away from everything his father Hezekiah had done. Manasseh rebuilt the high places and led the people back into the evil that Hezekiah had worked so hard to turn Judah from. Why? I can’t imagine that the benefits of living a life pleasing to God was lost on the next generation or that the power of God in defeating Sennacherib was reduced to happenstance in so short time. Still, all through the accounts of the kings of Judah and Israel we find good kings succeeding bad ones and vice versa. We read the accounts and think, “How stupid can a people be?”

First; we are no better. Unless we are in serious trouble we oftentimes neglect the power and majesty due God in favor of our own abilities which we seem to think we achieved on our own. Maybe Manasseh thought that Hezekiah was weak because he bowed before an invisible God and decided that he was going to be strong on his own and that no one would dictate to him what he would do. I don’t know. But like a little child sledding in the winter snow, when we are at the top of the hill we don’t need any help. We are capable of guiding the sled down the course and enjoy the thrill of the ride but when we get to the bottom we want someone else to carry us back to the top again. Then no sooner than we get there, we want to be left alone again to enjoy the next ride down.

Another lesson that is clear from the account of Hezekiah’s reign, as well as the other kings of the era, is that the benefit, or destruction, resulting from the relationship each of us individually maintain, or fail to maintain, with God is between us and God. No one can forge that relationship for us, only we can draw near for the sakes of our own eternal security. Each of us decides the path we will travel; whether it be to eternal torment, or glory in the presence of the Saviour, and just as our parent cannot secure eternity for us, neither can we do the hard work for our children. There must be something more that we can be doing to ensure a godly legacy for the generations that are to follow, there has to be value in a virtuous life well lived for the glory of Christ.

But if one thing is clear in the accounts contained in the books of Kings and Chronicles, it’s that not even good example is enough to ensure that righteousness is passed down to the next generation. Even if it were the case, don’t imagine that a good example carries the same weight as a bad one. People are a funny lot and it is amazing that a bad example is readily followed whereas the good example of a life of virtue is so easily discarded. We are not only to live a life as God would have us live, but we are to TEACH OUR CHILDREN the ways of God and show them how to form good opinions and to make good choices; choices that God would find pleasing. I am not saying that we need to thump our Bibles in their faces evey night after supper, (though a little more exposure to the Word of God could surely not hurt), but we need to go deeper than that. We need to teach our children WHY the choices we make are firmly grounded on principles that come from God.

It is pointless to tell our kids to think before they act if they don’t know how to apply reason to their situation. If we don’t teach our children the reasons why we do the things we do, the moral bedrock upon which our life’s choices stem from, then the choices our children see us making will seem like foolishness based on foundations of clouds. It may be a part of my, “Show-Me,” Missouri upbringing, but I don’t want to be told to do something as much as I want to be able to understand the reason for choosing to do something in the way I am being told to do it! If I can understand the reason for something, then I am far more likely to turn that information into a reason for acting in a proper manner that doing so, “…because I told you to, THAT’S WHY!”

This is similar to one of my biggest complaints with the public education system, they want you to learn all this stuff that is supposed to benefit you someday, (though I’m still pretty sure that Algebra hasn’t done much for me to this day), but they don’t teach you HOW to learn. I know that advanced math skills make connections in the brain that are useful for non-math decision making later in life, but it isn’t presented that way. I cannot get behind the idea of learning how to read by sight, recognizing a pattern of letters and recalling that it is supposed to sound a certain way, but I get the structure when I know what the sound of each letter is and how they link together to form words, sentences, and , (gasp!), even logical strings of thoughts.

When we teach our children the reasons why Christianity is valid instead of just saying that it’s so, we give them the ability to understand and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, one on one, in a sensible way. When we tell them to believe in Jesus or else they will end up in Hell, we only scare them into something that looks like faith when it really has no root in the child’s heart. You have heard the adage, “Give a man a fish and he will eat today; teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime,” well – Tell a child to believe and he will think he does until he finds himself at the gates of Hell with nowhere to turn, Help a child to understand Christianity and he will make it safely to Heaven and may take scores of others with him as well. But there is still a problem, one that many do not want to take on.

To teach a child the reasons for believing, to help them learn to think responsibly about this, the most important decision in their lives, we have to know what we’re talking about. We cannot teach something we, ourselves, do not know. So the challenge is to open our Bibles, get into study groups, find mentors to teach us the very things that we have thought we knew all this time and then pass that information to the next generations, and not just the information – but the method of being able to teach it. Even if we are today’s Hezekiahs, we cannot imagine that our children will follow us to Heaven without help. Help the children! Teach them to think and THEN teach them what they need to be thinking about. If we show our faith and teach the reasons why we believe what we believe, then others will follow; follow to a kingdom built by, and…


All for the Glory of Christ


Share
A Cup?

Older Entries »