Thursday, December 19, 2013

At the heart of Christmas--

The heart of Christmas is about waiting.  Whether in the physical realm or the spiritual one, if Christmas teaches us anything, it is to wait.

Do you remember when you were a child?  The universal question: “Is it Christmas yet?” plagued our parents just as much as we’ve been plagued.  It gets asked ten times a day since the day after thanksgiving.  That’s roughly 27 days before it actually arrives.  That’s about 270 times each season.  Factoring in that a child begins speaking fluently around 3 and doesn’t lose the luster of Christmas about around 13, that’s 10 years of asking…or roughly an average of 2,700 times per child.

And how about those traffic jams caused by holiday shoppers?  Weren’t cars designed to move?  If I want to sit in one I’ll go to an antique car show.  We just don’t have a chance these days.  Either we’re cut off by some dare devil road hog who nearly smashes our front fender or we get behind the most cautious driver the roadways have ever known.  You know the kind—the one who backs off the accelerator two blocks from the stop sign coasting to a complete stop; allowing seconds to elapse; then turning with deliberate intent to the right, perusing oncoming traffic.  Seeing none, they gaze to the left, scoping out the statistical possibility of a traffic skirmish.  Seeing none, what do they do?  They turn back to the right to see if the situation has changed.  And suddenly they see it—an approaching car.  It’s one and a half miles away, but it’s approaching and they’re not about to interfere with oncoming traffic.  About that time I’m hoping, just hoping and praying that they are a Christian.  Because maybe, just maybe, if they’re a Christian, they’ll have a “Honk, if you love Jesus” bumper sticker and I’ll have an excuses for blasting down on my horn!

And speaking of holiday shopping, have you ever seen all 32 cashiers at Walmart working at the same time?  The customers don’t help matters any.   There’s the one who never starts unloading their cart until the person in front of them is totally done.  Then they roll up to the cashier and start unloading their 427 items.  Or the other kind of customer starts unloading their 427 items on 4 inches of conveyor belt space.  Their stuff flowing over the bar separator, covering my own merchandise.  And why don’t people sign their checks before the clerk tells them their cost?  Do they think they’re going to get it free?

Ah, yes, the angst of waiting!

Of course there are far more serious weights of waiting.  An out-of-work father waiting for a job offer.  Or a barren couple that have invested much in fertility drugs, waiting to have a baby.  Or a wife waiting to hear a word of praise, instead of foul criticism from her husband.  Some parents wait to hear from a wayward child—not even knowing if they are alive or healthy.  Some wait for a spouse—someone to call your own and to love on.  They’d probably even settle for a date but the phone never rings and the invitations never come. 

Oh!  The weight of waiting.  But that’s one of the many beautiful things about Christmas.  It teaches us about waiting and helps us handle the weight of it with more grace and trust.

King Ahaz of Judah had to wait.  Around 735 B.C. things weren’t going too well for him.  Assyria was the regional super-power and had subjugated area countries several years earlier.  But now, Assyria’s military attention was elsewhere and countries around Palestine started to form an alliance to rebel against Assyria.  The kings of Aram and Israel were pressuring Ahaz to join their alliance.  In fact, they threatened military invasion if he would not join them.  But Ahaz was inclined to keep paying tribute to Assyria and not rebel.  This did not endear him to the super-patriots of his country.  They were ready to be free and wanted war with Assyria; thus they were more than willing to see Ahaz ousted from power.  Faced with these pressures, God gave Ahaz a promise through his prophet Isaiah: “the virgin will conceive and bear a son and will call his name Immanuel, God with us.”

This promise really went beyond Ahaz.  God was speaking to him, but in a larger sense, God was speaking to all of Judah and, in fact, to all the world.  He was telling us that the day would come when we wouldn’t have to worry about this world’s pressures—that someday there would be a good ruler that we could completely trust.  Immanuel would come and God would be with us!

At that moment, God reaffirmed the promise He made thousands of years earlier in the garden of Eden.  God promised the Serpent, our adversary the Devil that:
·          One was coming who would crush his head. 
·          One was coming who would destroy his kingdom.
·          One would render evil powerless and sin ineffective.
·          One would help rulers make wise and good decisions.
·          One who become like we are so that we can become like He is.

So Ahaz, hang in there!  Face your pressures!  Wait and hold on.  Immanuel is coming!
·          God will not turn his back on our fickleness—He will be with us!
·          God will not ignore us—He will be with us!
·          God will not be standoffish or aloof—but with us!
·          God will not be callous to our pain—He’ll come and feel it with us!
·          God will not abandon us—He will save us!

And so the wait was on.  Messiah didn’t come after the eviction from Eden and Adam and Eve didn’t see deliverance from the curse.  He didn’t come Himself to pull Israel out of their bondage, hurts and oppressions from Egypt—but sent an ex-murderer prone often to lose his temper—to be His instrument.

And Ahaz himself, the one to whom this promise was given, died before seeing the virgin conceive.  In fact, God didn’t show up in the flesh until over 700 years later.  Now there’s a thought.  The problem ripping your heart and shredding your soul will get fixed 700 years from now.  Can you hold on?

The people who believed God’s promise waited and waited and waited.

One such man who waited was named Simeon.  He waited and hoped and trusted and believed and waited some more for God to show up on the scene of human history.  He waited as powerful Romans harassed his friends and perverted justice.  He waited as wealthy and disloyal countrymen exploited common, working-class families.  And one day, his wait was over.  A young couple named Mary and Joseph brought their newborn son into the Temple to be circumcised and the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon exactly who he was holding.  “Now let me die in peace” he said, “for my eyes have seen Your salvation!”

That’s one message of Christmas!  That God makes good on His promise!  And while people had to wait—and wait and wait—for our Savior to come—come He did!  Through His cross, sin has been paid for and our enemy’s power broken.  I can now be the husband my wife deserves, and the father my children need and the pastor God intends me to be—not because I have achieved some degree of enlightenment; not because of my own effort—I am flawed and often selfish.  I can be those things because I am saved—because Immanuel has come and God is with me!

So hang on to your promise.  Hold on to that hope!  Lean on the God who always delivers on His promises.  Your arduous circumstances will soon change.  Your pain will soon be gone.  Not today, and probably not tomorrow; and maybe not even next week.  In the meantime, let Immanuel love on you.  Let Him embrace you.  Hear Him whisper in your ear, “It will be alright—let’s face it together.”  Let His strength sustain your weakness.  Hang on to that Christmas promise—He makes all things beautiful in His time.

And because God made good on His promise in sending His Son Jesus, I can wait for Him to make good on His promise that He’ll be back.  Don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t say I like waiting or that it’s easy, I just said I can do it.  With His help and by His strength I can wait.

What I want you to see today is that while life is pretty messed up, there is a God who isn’t.  While others hurt me, there’s a God who heals me.  Life can frustrate you—God can fulfill you.

I don’t like greedy, evil abortionists exploiting vulnerable young women and maiming and torturing and killing precious children.  I get tired of the setbacks and wacko judicial rulings. I’ll work hard against those evils but I’m waiting for my King to come back and make His ruling.  Oh, it’s hard to wait, but He’s coming and children will soon be safe!



Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Postal Christmas Stamp

Having recently exhorted my son NOT to play some Christmas music he had recently checked out from the library and to wait until after Thanksgiving, I suppose I risk some degree of hypocrisy on this blog post. I believe we shouldn’t rush into the Christmas season just yet. Merchants go from orange and black to red and green overnight. And while I’m more than happy to see the witches and black cats disappear from the shelves, I wish we’d see more pilgrims and fewer Santas in November. I definitely think it wise to linger over Thanksgiving and give praise and thanks to God.

But upon opening my mail today, I noticed a flyer from the United States Postal Service advertising their domestic Priority Mail Flat Rate holiday delivery. Scanning through the little pamphlet, I noticed a section "Don’t forget your holiday stamps!" Yes, I caught the more benign "holiday" as opposed to "Christmas". But what really irked me was the picture of the three stamps they promoted.
With news of the recent Harry Potter stamps and the 2005 misunderstanding still in my mind (the USPS, for the first time in its history didn’t print a new ‘Madonna & Child’ design, but used the previous year’s design), I feared something amiss. Fortunately, a visit over to allayed my concerns. While there are more choices for non-Christian stamps than Christian ones, patrons can purchase ‘the Holy Family’ stamp or choose between two different designs of the ‘Mary & Child’ motif.

Still, that the Postal System promotes Hanukkah and Kwanzaa in their ‘holiday’ section of this pamphlet at the expense of Christmas was disturbing. My computer is running too slowly for me to research how many stamps of each the USPS sells; or how many Americans celebrate each of those holidays. But I think common sense tells us more Americans observe Christmas than the other two combined.

We are approaching Christmas. CHRISTmas. Yes, it’s all about Jesus. A Savior who was born, died and saved us from our sins. Perhaps my son can start playing his Christmas music after all.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Gettysburg Address

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

When Robert E. Lee decided to invade the North in July of 1863, luring the Army of the Potomac out of Virginia, he had no idea that he would lay the foundation of the Conferacy's defeat and set up one of the most ephocal moments in American history.  Within the span of three days, names like Devil's Den, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, Culp's Hill, Peach Orchard and Pickett's Charge would forever be engrained into every American history book.  And within those same three days, nearly 8,000 soldiers died and another 28,000 injured.

During that summer, the town of Gettysburg tried to recover from the massive death toll.  Judge David Wills wrote to Pennsylvania's governor about corpses that lined the streets and other unseemly situations.  “In many instances, arms and legs and sometimes heads protrude. And my attention has been called to several places, where the hogs were actually rooting out the bodies and devouring them.”

Within a few months, Wills had devised a plan for a national cemetary and invited several dignitaries to speak at a dedicatory event.  Edward Everett was the keynote speaker, with President Lincoln giving a brief remark afterwards.  In fact, his Gettysburg Address was just 272 words in length, consuming only 180 seconds of history. 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln believed "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here" but he could not have been more wrong.  Those 272 words have become the best known words of American history.  Future President Teddy Roosevelt called one of the "great classics of human eloquence--of that eloquence which shows forth its human soul."  In the view of historian James McPherson, it stands as "the world's foremost statement of freedom and democracy and the sacrifices required to achieve and defend them."

At the time, many were unimpressed.  Harrisburg's Patriot & Union declared Lincoln "the jester" and stated that "whatever may be the President's virtues, he does not possess sense."

Today, President Obama created yet another stir.  Film-maker and master story-teller Kens Burns, doing a project called Learn the Address, filmed some 61 high profile Americans reading Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  President Obama omitted "under God" when reading "the nation...shall have a new birth of freedom."  Supposedly, Mr. Burns provided the White House with this version, called the Nicolay version.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Subtle Erosion of Liberties

I am always amazed that the voices of our Founders, now some 240 years distant, remain as relevant in our day as when they were first spoken.  One of the firebrands of liberty was Samuel Adams, who stated:
The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.

 Adams’ last statement, “to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men” is the telling one for our generation.  We often romanticize the struggle for liberty.  If faced with a tyrant like King George and his marshaled forces of the British Empire invading New York, Boston and Philadelphia, then we think we would resist.  Or if, like me, you grew up during the Cold War and participated in bomb shelter drills of the 1980s or the “Duck and Cover” drills of the 1950s, you (at least in your mind) were ready to defend America against a Soviet invasion.  So liberties “wrested” from us Americans would, no doubt, be met with a struggle.
But what of liberties “cheated” from us from “false and designing men”.  What of subtle changes that appear benign enough, but that nevertheless strip us of liberties, perhaps something as simple as choosing one’s own healthcare plan?  With the NSA spying on our telephone conversations, it is perhaps safer to blog about these things than to speak of them to one’s friend.  But it is difficult for a thinking person to reach any other conclusion than that we are, in fact, being cheated out of our liberties.

What then should we do?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Presidential Incredulity

Does President Obama seriously believe he can unilaterally disobey the Obamacare law he and his cronies worked so hard to foist upon the American people? I think so. I believe our President has very little knowledge of the Constitution, much less respect for it. After all, American history was hardly the focus of the foreign schools where Obama grew up. Now, he is telling America that he is going to let insurance companies extend their policies to distraught Americans for one year.  The President recently spoke, outlining his new edict.

We’re also requiring insurers who extend current plans to inform their customers about two things: One, what protections these renewed plans don’t include. Number two, that the (Obamacare) marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost. So if you received one of these letters, I encourage you to take a look at the marketplace. Even if the website isn’t working as smoothly as it should be for everybody yet, the plan comparison tool that lets you browse costs for new plans near you is working just fine… It is important to understand, though, that the old individual market was not working well. And it’s important that we don’t pretend that somehow that’s a place that we’re going back to.”

Civics 101…the President doesn’t get to violate the law; well, unless of course you are Barry Soetoro (a.k.a Barak Hussein Obama).  Hopefully, enough Democrats in the Senate will feel the heat of American's fury to break their blind allegiance and fix this mess (yes, Congress is the only legal fix available).

And speaking of violating the law, the House of Representatives seems to be seriously considering articles of impeachment against Erik Holder, our nation’s chief law breaker…I mean, law enforcer. As Attorney General, he continues to ignore Congressional subpoenas relating to his actions on Fast and Furious. He refuses to enforces our nation’s Defense of Marriage Act, involved himself in the Fox News/James Rosen scandal and a dozen other serious offenses that leave our heads spinning.

I doubt however, the calculating Republican leadership will allow such. What was it James Russell Lowell wrote? "Truth forever on the scaffold. Wrong forever on the throne."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Those Angry Days

I just finished reading the very excellent book by Lynne Olson, Those Angry Days.  This book was very insightful as the author tracked the two major movements of pre-WW2 America—the isolationists and the interventionists—focusing on the two major figures of each: Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Roosevelt, while thoroughly interweaving the lives of other significant players of that era.

Interestingly, the two were remarkably different, ideologies notwithstanding.  Lindbergh was conviction driven, caring little where popular opinion was on the topic of America’s involvement with the European conflict.  Roosevelt was at the other extreme.  Paralyzed even by a minority of public opinion against him.

I won’t review the book in a traditional way, but will offer some personal insights I gleaned, which may not make a lot of sense unless you’ve read the book.

Lesson 1—overcome past defeats

Franklin Roosevelt, frustrated by Congress blocking many of his policies in the late 1930s and by the Supreme Court’s adverse decisions to him regarding many lawsuits arising from his New Deal policies, set out to change the nature of the Court by expanding its number to 15 and consequently getting to appoint the new judges—favorable to him and his policies.  Roosevelt (fortunately) was soundly defeated in this attempt and it cost him politically.  This setback caused him to behave timidly in the future, when the country, did in fact, need his leadership in European involvement. 

While we need to learn from our defeats and failures, we should never be paralyzed by them.  Roosevelt was.  Even when public opinion was overwhelmingly on this side on such issues as Lend-Lease, transport escort, or even direct aid to England, he refused to act.  Our passivity can cause as much harm as over aggressive reaching.  Olson gave me a different, heretofore unknown, view of Roosevelt--that off a timid, sheepish, poll-driven leader.

Lesson 2 – listen to others, especially your spouse

Charles Lindbergh increasingly gave speeches in which his isolationist viewpoints were trumped and overshadowed by certain provocative statements, which were highlighted and recommended to be deleted by his wife Anne.   He ignored her insights, only to be haunted by them.  While his view was the wrong one, in my opinion, and would ultimately lose in 1941, he did cause Americans to think through various issues.  It was unfortunate that many of his valid objections were overshadowed by unwise and unnecessary statements.

Lesson 3 – Americans were bitterly and deeply divided over the issue of involvement in the European crisis.

Still reeling from the effects of World War 1, most Americans opposed involvement at the outset of Hitler’s expansion.  One of the reasons I enjoy history so much is that it puts the present in a context.  And while we may believe that only now are we so bitterly partisan, such is not the case.  While the issue of isolation/intervention was not strictly along party lines (though close), the two camps were bitter opposed to each other. 

Lesson 4 – the fight to persuade America was brutal

I was especially intrigued to learn about Britain’s spying and propaganda machine inside America.  Smearing, bribing, etc.  The role of the media was paramount in the struggle to sway America.  In the squabbling of today, we think we’ve descended to a new level of conflict.  Perhaps.  But the descent couldn’t be as steep as some would have us think.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Praising the Lord, Especially on Sunday

"From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the Lord's name is to be praised."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Chiefs Rant -- Get It Right Campbell

The struggling Cleveland Browns are benching their second starting QB of this season--Brandon Weeden--and going with Jason Campbell in this Sunday's game against the Chiefs. I'll resist railing on the struggling Browns, because, hey...the Chiefs were there last season.  Here's a blurp from an interview Campbell gave about the Chiefs. '

'They are No. 1 in third down, No. 1 in the red zone and No. 1 in points allowed, so it is definitely a challenge,'' said Campbell, who signed with the Browns as a free agent in March. ''Arrowhead is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, and that means even more we need to be on the same page.''    

A-hem...note to Campbell.  Arrowhead is the loudest stadium IN THE WORLD!!!  I hope fans will give Campbell a thorough education about this in this week's game as we go for 8-0 and continue our well deserved #1 in the NFL.   Go Chiefs!!!

But I do wish I'd hear less from KC's fans of "the Chiefs kingdom" and "the sacred acre" around here.  There is one kingdom and it belongs to Christ Jesus.  The gridiron at Arrowhead is far from 'sacred'.  That word is reserved for those things relating to God.  Hopefully, Christian fans of the Chiefs will, to paraphrase Kipling, "keep their heads when all around them are losing theirs".  Hoop and holler...cheer and shout!  But slam on the breaks when secular excitement trespasses onto our holy realm.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

J.C. Ryle on the Sabbath

You can read Bishop Ryle's entire treaty here.  I've listed his section on Profaning the Sabbath below.

The last thing I propose to do, is to expose some of the ways in which the Sabbath is profaned.

There are two kinds of Sabbath desecration which require to be noticed. One is that more private kind of which thousands are continually guilty, and which can only be checked by awakening men’s consciences. The other is that more public kind, which can only be remedied by the pressure of public opinion, and the strong arm of the law.

When I speak of private Sabbath desecration, I mean that reckless, thoughtless, secular way of spending Sunday, which everyone who looks round him must know is common. How many make the Lord’s Day a day for giving dinner parties — a day for looking over their accounts and making up their books — a day for going unnecessary journeys and quietly transacting worldly business — a day for reading newspapers or novels — a day for talking politics and idle gossip — a day, in short, for anything rather than the things of God.

Now all this sort of thing is wrong, decidedly wrong. Thousands, I firmly believe, never give the subject a thought: they sin from ignorance and inconsideration. They only do as others; they only spend Sunday as their fathers and grandfathers did before them: but this does not alter the case. It is utterly impossible to say that to spend Sunday as I have described is to “keep the day holy”: it is a plain breach of the Fourth Commandment, both in the letter and in the spirit. It is impossible to plead necessity or mercy in one instance of a thousand. And small and trifling as these breaches of the Sabbath may seem to be, they are exactly the sort of things that prevent men communing with God and getting good from His Day.

When I speak of public desecration of the Sabbath, I mean those many open, unblushing practices, which meet the eye on Sundays in the neighbourhood of large towns. I refer to the practice of keeping shops open, and buying and selling on Sundays. I refer especially to Sunday pleasure excursions by public transport and the opening of places of public amusement; and to the daring efforts which many are making in the present day to desecrate the Lord’s Day, regardless of its Divine authority. “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”

On all these points I feel not the smallest doubt in my own mind. These ways of spending the Sabbath are all wrong, decidedly wrong. So long as the Bible is the Bible, and the Fourth Commandment the Fourth Commandment, I dare not come to any other conclusion. They are all wrong. These ways of spending Sunday are none of them works of necessity or works of mercy. There is not the slightest likeness between them and any of the things which the Lord Jesus explains to be lawful on the Sabbath Day. To heal a sick person, or pull an ox or ass out of a pit, is one thing: to travel in excursion trains, or go to concerts, theatres, dances and cinemas, is quite another. The difference is as great as between light and darkness. These ways of spending Sunday are none of them of u holy tendency, or calculated to help us heavenward. No, indeed! all experience teaches that it needs something . more than the beauties of art and nature to teach man the way to heaven.

These ways of spending Sunday have never yet conferred moral or spiritual good in any place where they have been tried. They have been tried for hundreds of years in Italy, in Germany and in France. Sunday amusements and sport have been long tried in Continental cities. But what benefiit have they derived that we should wish to imitate them? What advantages have we to gain by making a London Sunday like a Sunday in Paris or other continental cities. It would be a change for the worse, and not for the better.

Last, but not least, these ways of spending Sunday inflict a cruel injury on the souls of multitudes of people, Public transport cannot be run on Sundays without employing thousands of persons if people will make Sunday a day for travelling and excursions. Entertainments cannot be opened on Sundays without the employment of many to cater for those who patronise them. And have not all these unfortunate persons immortal souls? Do they not all need a, day of rest as much as anyone else? Beyond doubt they do. But Sunday is no Sunday to them, so long as these public desecrations of the Sabbath are permitted. Their life becomes a long unbroken chain of work, work, unceasing work: in short, what is play to others becomes death to them. Away with the idea that a pleasure-seeking, Continental Sabbath is mercy to anyone! It is nothing less than an enormous fallacy to call it so. Such a Sabbath is real mercy to nobody, and is positive sacrifice to some.

I write these things with sorrow. I know well, to how many of my fellow-countrymen they apply. I have spent many a Sunday in large towns. I have seen with my own eyes how the day of the Lord is made by multitudes a day of wordliness, a day of ungodliness, a day of carnal mirth, and too often a day of sin. But the extent of the disease must not prevent us exposing it: the truth must be told.
There is one general conclusion to be drawn from the conduct of those who publicly desecrate the Sabbath in the way I have described. They show plainly that they are at present “without God” in the world. They are like those of old who said, “When will the Sabbath be gone?” — “What a weariness it is!” (Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13). It is an awful conclusion, but it is impossible to avoid it. Scripture, history, and experience all combine to teach us, that delight in the Lord’s Word, the Lord’s service, the Lord’s people, and the Lord’s Day, will always go together. Sunday pleasure-seekers are their own witnesses. They are every week practically declaring, “We do not like God — we do not want Him to reign over us.

It is not the slightest argument, in reply to what I have said, that many great and learned men see no harm in Sunday entertainment, sport and pleasure. It matters nothing in religious questions, who does a thing:” the only point to be ascertained is, “whether it be right.”

Let us take our stand on the Bible, and hold fast its teaching. Whatever others may think lawful, let our sentence ever be that one day in seven, and one whole day, ought to be kept holy to God.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thomas Watson...Concerning the Lord's Day

We must on this day rest from all the works of our calling. As Abraham, when he went to sacrifice, left his servant and ass at the bottom of the hill, Gen. xxii. 5: so when we are to worship God this day, we must leave all secular business behind. — And as Joseph, when he would speak with his brethren, thrust out the Egyptians: so when we would have converse with God this day, we must thrust out all earthly employments. Though works of necessity may be done and works of charity, (for God will have mercy, and not sacrifice) yet in other cases we must cease from all worldly negotiations. It is observable concerning Mary Magdalene, that she refused to anoint Christ’s dead body on the Sabbath day, Luke xxiii. 56. She had before prepared her ointment, but came not come to the sepulcher till the Sabbath was past. She rested that day from all work, though it were a commendable and glorius work; the anointing of Christ’s dead body.

When this blessed day approacheth, we must lift up our heart in thankfulness to God, that he has put another price into our hands for gaining heavenly wisdom. These are our spiritual-harvest days; now the wind of God’s Spirit blows upon the sails of our affections, and we may be much further on in our heavenly voyage. Christian, lift up thy heart to God in thankfulness, that he hath given thee another golden season, and be sure you improve it; it may be the last. Seasons of grace are not like the tide; if a man misseth one tide, he may have another.

This day approaching, we must in the morning dress and fit our souls for the receiving of the Word. The people of Israel must wash their garments before the law was delivered to them.Our hearts must be washed by prayer and repentance, the oracles of God being to be delivered to us.

And being met together, we must set ourselves, as in the presence of God, with seriousness and delight to hear God’s sacred Word. Take heed of distractions which fly-blow our duties.

We must labor to be bettered by every Sabbath: where the Lord lays out cost, he looks for fruit. Fresh anointings of God are to be thirsted after; and new cubits are to be added to our spiritual stature. We must not be like the Salamander, which lives in the fire but never becomes hotter. Christians should on these days aspire after communion with God, and endeavor to have the illapses of his Spirit, and clearer discoveries of his love in Christ. In short, we should do on a Sabbath as Moses: he ascended the Mount that he might have a sight of God.

You can read his entire chapter here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Christian-based Education

My wife and I are beginning our 11th year of formal education of our children (nearly 16 years of total education...but that's another discussion).  If you know me personally, you know we have elected to home educate our children.   So, that I am finding time to publish a blog post means that a) my wife totes the lion’s share of this responsibility and b) I am highly motivated to produce something at least quasi-intelligent of my own. If not intelligent, then at least nostalgic.

Writing on education is always delicate because I have family and many friends who have chosen a secular course and I always fear I’ll be misunderstood and perceived as being haughty, self-righteous, insensitive and/or unloving.   But as I continue to meditate on a sermon I preached last night (Proverbs 3:5-6) I have become even more convinced that secular education is disobedient to God.
I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of God's word becomes corrupt….I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young students, are wide gates to hell.                      
Martin Luther, 1520
The reference that suddenly became clear this morning from last night’s sermon was "in all thy ways acknowledge Him." I didn’t even realize one of its applications. I am usually much more focused on ways I am NOT applying Scripture rather than on areas where I am seeing victory. But an educational choice is a decision where God will either be acknowledged or not. There is only one model where He is supreme and honored. Secular based education ignores God at best or ridicules Him at worst. In either case, neither myself nor my family will have any association with a system that does not acknowledge God.

God and His Word are the focus of our children’s education. We talk of Him when we rise up, when we walk along the way and when we lie down. In math, science, history, grammar and every other subject, we strive to find ways of bringing God and His Word into my sons lives. Luther also said:
Christendom must have people who can beat down their adversaries and opponents and tear off the devil’s equipment and armor that he may be brought into disgrace. But for this work, powerful warriors are needed, who are thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures and can contradict all false interpretations and take the sword from false teachers—that is, those very verses which false teachers use and turn them round upon them so that they fall back defeated
I am hopeful my sons will become such warriors.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The War Inevitable, 1775 by Patrick Henry

Here is one of my favorite speeches of American history.  It contains one of the most famous lines of our history by a great patriot.  But my favorite is "we shall not fight our battles alone."  To every Christian patriotic, remember Henry's faith in God.  Though outnumbered, though weak in our influence, we do not fight our battles alone.

March 23, 1775.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not [Jer. 5:21], the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss [Matt. 26:48]. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us [2Chron. 32:8]. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone [Eccl. 9:11]; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace [Jer. 6:14]. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle [Matt. 20:6]? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!



Friday, June 28, 2013

Kennedy, the Supreme Court and DOMA

By now, you’ve heard that the Supreme Court of the United States, in its last day of session, dealt a strong blow to our nation’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  While only a one vote majority (the court was virtually split 5-4), the decision has far reaching implications.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote moderate, sided with the liberals and wrote the majority opinion.

The majority opinion, like so many liberal decisions, is full of opinionated pontifications, grounded neither in logic nor the constitution.  The opinion basically trumpeted state rights over federalism…that is, that DOMA cannot deny federal benefits to homosexual couples legally married in states where such unions are permitted (there are 16).  Then, the decision went on to trumpet federalism—no discrimination against gay married persons.

Kennedy and Co, basically argued against the 1996 morality…saying it unjustly targeted homosexuals.  Such morality, Kennedy argues, is not acceptable.  Of course, that itself is a moral claim.  Kennedy attacks Congress’ morality, while advancing his own.

So whose morality shall prevail?

This, of course, is the Christian’s foundation.  Neither mine nor yours is sufficient to chart the course for our nation.  Only the true God, who has revealed Himself in His Word is sufficient.  The Bible contains objective morality, not subject to the changes of the ages or the whims of a monarch, be he an 18th century British king or a 21st century American Supreme Court Justice.

I remembered the words of John Witherspoon, the only clergyman who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  In one of his sermons, he stated:

"He is the best friend of American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down on profanity and immorality of every kind.  Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple [hesitate] not to call him an enemy to his country."

The majority opinion prevented the United States from bearing “down on…immorality” (in this case, homosexual marriage) and in so doing, declared themselves enemies of God.  Witherspoon and patriots like him, know they are enemies of their country.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

God Hears Our Prayers

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was
in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
Psalm 4:1
We must have faith, as David did, that God hears us.  Christians depend upon God for much, mostly through our prayers we throw ourselves at His mercy.  We trust Him to answer our prayers, to give us relief from distress and to show us mercy.  It is a simple verse with simple truths with profound implications.  I think, for the most part, we have lost the sense of such dependence.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Shea--He has Jesus Now

One of the giants of American Christian music, George Beverly Shea passed into heaven this past Thursday at the age of 104. Shea, a member of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team, has not only shared the gospel message in song all across the world, but he has helped strengthen American churches.

Many Christians may not know it, but Shea introduced "How Great Thou Art" to America.  The song was written in 1885 but remained in obscurity until Shea, having bumped into a friend on Oxford Street in London who handed him a copy, started singing the song with his rich bass voice.  The song is now a staple of American Christianity. 

I grew up hearing Shea.  Mom's old stereo console cabinet had many records, some of which where those of Shea and Cliff Barrows.
Shea was given a poem by his mother in 1922.  He set the words to music and gave us the following song:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.

Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out of the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.

Well, Mr. Shea.  Thank you for your service to the King.  You have Jesus now in a way you've never known. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cotton Mather and teaching children

I don't think that Cotton Mather, a puritan preacher from the very late 1600s, had 21st century Sunday School teachers in mind when he wrote a brief article entitled "The Education of Children."  But I couldn't help thinking on the dozens upon dozens of people who have helped shape my spirituality and understanding of the Bible.  So bravo Sunday School teachers of children!  May God use you greatly tomorrow as you pour a piece of your life into children.

Here's in the ending of Mather's article.

But the Freedom with which this Address is made unto you, is not so great as the Fervour that has animated it. My Fathers and Brethren, If you have any Love to God and Christ and Posterity; let [Godly] Schools be more Encouraged.
If you would not betray your Posterity into the very Circumstances of Savages, let Schools have more Encouragement. But in the Anguish, the Despair of Success to be otherwise found by this Address, I will Turn it from you unto the Almighty Hearer of Prayer.
And, O thou Saviour, and Shepherd of Thy New-English Israel: Be Entreated Mercifully to look down upon they Flocks in the Wilderness. Oh, give us not up to the Blindness and Madness of neglecting the Lambs in the Flocks. Inspire thy People, and all Orders of men among thy People with a just care for the Education of Posterity. Let Well-Ordered and well-instructed and well-maintained Schools, be the Honour and the Defence of our Land. Let Learning, and all the Helps and Means of it, be precious in our Esteem and by Learning, let the Interests of thy Gospel so prevail, that we may be made wise unto Salvation. Save us, O our Lord JESUS CHRIST. Save us from the Mischiefs and Scandals of an Uncultivated Offspring; Let this be a Land of Light, unto Thou, O Sun of Righteousness, do Thyself arise unto the World with Healing in thy Wings. Amen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Today, I praise and worship my Savior because of His sacrifice for me.  Without His love, His commitment to His Father's will in redeeming sinners, I would have remained in my sin and alienated from Him.

One hymn comes to mind.  It was written in 1945 by a man named Norman Clayton, so in terms of hymns, its pretty new.  It says powefully:

My hope is in the Lord Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.
For me He died, For me He lives,

And everlasting life and light He freely gives
No merit of my own His anger to suppress.

My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.
For me He died, For me He lives,

And everlasting life and light He freely gives
And now for me He stands Before the Father’s throne.

He shows His wounded hands and names me as His own.
For me He died, For me He lives,

And everlasting life and light He freely gives
His grace has planned it all, ‘Tis mine but to believe,

And recognize His work of love and Christ receive.
For me He died, For me He lives,

And everlasting life and light He freely gives.

Hymn by Norman Clayton (1945)

Two of the greatest pastors from church history speak to the death of Jesus, commemorated today by many Christians.

for us he was unto thee both the Victor and the Victim,
and therefore Victor, because he was the Victim
for us he was unto thee both the Priest and the Sacrifice,
and therefore the Priest, because he was the Sacrifice
...I meditate upon the price of my redemption

Confessions X, xliii

Charles Spurgeon
The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God. We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even today? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect.

Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the Passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. …

The memorial of Christ’s death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts and go away from it with praises, for "after supper they sang a hymn"


Sunday, March 03, 2013

John Bunyan on the Lord's Day


"Have a special care to sanctify the Lord's Day; for as thou keepest it, so it will be with thee all the weeklong. Make the Lord s day the market for thy soul; let the whole day be spent in prayer, repetitions, or meditations; lay aside the affairs of the other part of the week; let thy sermon thou hast heard be converted into prayer. Shall God allow thee six days, and wilt thou not afford him one? In the church be careful to serve God, for thou art in his eyes, and not in man's."

Psalm 95

1 O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.

5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.

6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.

7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Boy Scouts Cater to America's Homosexual Culture

Later today, the governing board of the Boy Scouts of America will vote whether to include homosexuals in their scouting program.  The past decade BSA has been stalwart in their repudiation of the Gay Agenda.  They have faced criticism, defunding and many court battles.

Now, they are poised to surrender.  The path they are taking sounds very American.  They are thinking about rescinding their "national" policy and leaving the decisions whether to include homosexuals to the "local" level.  But the reality is that local chapters will be unable to fund lawsuits that will inevitably flood the courts, alleging discrimination.  Gays want access to young men and any local chapter denying them will be hit with well-funded pro-homosexuals.  A decsion by the board to change its national policy will have the effect of changing the entire program.

Please pray that the leaders will not change their position and that they will retain a national policy reflecting their traditional, God-based values that have been at the heart of the scouting program for over 100 years.

And pray for America.  Pray for our repentance over this national sin.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Jesus our Mediator

Hebrews 9:15

And for this cause He [Jesus] is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior is our mediator. Not Mary His mother, or any early priest or prelate. Only Jesus can bridge the gap between you and God...a gap that your sin has caused. A gap that will remain constant and eternal unless you put your faith in Him. Often, we read about 'mediation' in the sporting world when the players union is threatening a strike. But spiritual, we have sinned against God and have alienated Him from us. We've created a rift by not following our contract.

We can rely on our own defense whatever it may be. We can rely on our church membership or on a religious family member and a philanthropic affiliation. But the Bible says that Jesus, not those things previously mentioned, is the mediator.

And He mediates by means of death. His death. His blood. His sacrifice. That is the way of redemption. Not through His healing, or His teaching or His moral life. Only through His death are we redeemed and forgiven.

John Gill wrote “What he bore were 'sins'; all kind of sin, every act of sin, and all that belongs to it; its filth, guilt, and punishment, even the iniquity of all his people; which must be a prodigious weight, and than which nothing could be more nauseous: his bearing them supposes they were upon him, though not in him, imputed, though not inherent; that he did not sink under them; that he made an entire satisfaction for them, and bore them wholly away, both from the persons of his people, and from the sight of justice.”

Trust in Jesus, dear friend. He is the only way you can be reconciled to God.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

America and 40 years of Abortion

Our nation has observed yet another anniversary (the 40th) of the notorious Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton United States Supreme Court decisions.  Abortion is barely on the nation's radar, proving the old adage of Christians--more thermometer (measuring the climate) than thermostat (determining the climate). 

Tragically, we (the church) are not setting the agenda.  There are far too few prophetic voices reminding this nation of its sins and its most notable sin--the legal killing of developing babies within the womb of their mothers.

This horror must end.  It will end when King Jesus returns.  It may end by prayer, fasting, and determined advocacy of His bride.

As long as it doesn't end, America will forfeit God's blessings of peace, protection and prosperity.