These little morsels might trigger something in you - a thought, a sermon or a smile of recognition. If you have a tidbit of your own, feel free to send it in; if it "fits our bits", then we'll add it with your name.
Imagine a man who really, truly believes in evolution: That he is the product of blind, random, purposeless, mechanical chance. His life was meaningless before it began, will be meaningless after it ends, and thus is meaningless now. Now imagine him thinking that he is important.
Imagine a man who really, truly believes in God - the God of Christianity; the God of the Bible. An infinite God created the vast expanse of the universe; the constellations are the works of His fingers. All that ever was, is or will be is beheld and ordered by Him. Now imagine him thinking that he is important!
No matter what your beliefs, be they atheist or agnostic, mono- or pan- theist, it is absurd to think ourselves important. If humans are to derive any sense of actual worth in their existence, it must be the Christian alone who has a hope in this sense, for it is only the Christian who can claim that men have value and importance to that Creator. That value was proved when He came to earth as one of us and died for us in a cruel and barbaric execution. That is the only way we can fancy ourselves important, for indeed we must be for Him to have done that for us.
Raising our Kids
Eph 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.
As I taught this in Sunday School not too long ago, I asked the class, "Does anybody see the implication of this sentence?" Blank eyes. "The implication is", I continued, "that the chastening and admonition of the Lord should not provoke our children to wrath." Aaahh. The lights come on. Memories of unfair discipline; of flat statements and inflexible demands (made under the claims of the preceding three verses!) come rushing into their minds - I can see it happening.
Parents! We have a solemn obligation to raise our children in such a way that God does not take on our own flaws in the eyes of our children. When we exasperate our children, we are going directly against the scriptures. That is not nurturing them. In fact, it turns them away from God. Their is a place for discipline which does not bend. However, that is not the normal way. Our children are individuals, and each one of their needs must be ministered to, just as God ministers to us as His children. Where would I be if He did not know me? How could I have grown into the "me" He wants me to be if the Father hadn't ministered to me in love and patience?
Even in the worst of times I knew that He was with me - encouraging me and bringing me peace in the midst of adversity and training we must all go through. So, Paul obviously didn't mean that we didn't chastise, and that we didn't insist on excellence. He meant that it ought not bring our kids to the point of despair with no hope.
God, grant me the patience and wisdom to raise my children in such a manner.
Imagine how silent the churches would be if we could only sing those songs we had actually experienced.
I was leading a youth praise team, and asked them about that first line (from a popular praise song). "Have you ever actually done that? Have you ever been driven to your knees by the power of the Holy Spirit as you worshipped God?"
"No", almost all of them replied, and the incongruity didn't even touch them, I don't believe. It was so far from their worship experience that they didn't realize that it was even possible. The words were just words; another formula in a world full of formulas, another tagline in a world filled with taglines.
I'm not suggesting that we stop singing, of course, rather that we attempt to lead the congregation into that state where the songs become reality instead of merely words. That moment will signal the revival of a church. No amount of changing the schedule or modernizing the dress and ritual of the service is a replacement for the invasion of the sanctuary by the Holy Spirit. This was what got people's attention on that first, Christian Pentecost, and this is what will do it in the church of the 21st century, because it is the way the Father intended it to be. There is no administrative way to lead the congregation into the presence of God; there is only the way of the heart.
When you don't have morality, all you have left is politics.
This is mirrored almost perfectly by the adversarial politics practiced in America today. Sophistry and casuistry reign, with no middle ground apparent in the discourse of the parties. With almost no common ethic to guide their actions, politicians are reduced to parroting the phrase of the day mindlessly and repeatedly: "BRRRAWWWK - guns are bad! guns are bad!", "BRRRAWWWK - tax cuts! tax cuts!". Every question is turned back to the point that the majority or minority wishes to pound home in the mind of the public.
Once we grant that there is no true morality; that everything is relative, we condemn ourselves to constant war in the political realm. No compromises can be made when there is nothing against which to weigh the results of our actions. So, we find ourselves witnessing "violence by other means" - the political struggle to get what I want at your expense - rather than a true attempt at molding the society into something with which we all agree. This is the inevitable result of not being able to agree on a standard of morality and then legislating against that standard.
Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's...
When Jesus said this, note that He didn't even intimate that Caesar got to determine which was which! There is only one body on the face of the earth which has been given this privilege, and that is the body of Christ. We alone have the right and obligation to stand up and tell the body politic when they transgress those lines. The more we let them get blurred, the more Caesar will take.
Pilate, even though he found no wrong in Jesus, nevertheless exercised the ultimate authority over Him because the church of the time asked him to! Think about it: How has the church of today given over the "things of God" to Caesar? Those who stand up and fight are branded as radicals - not only by Caesar, but by the church! Our allegiance to America and the Constitution should never be questioned, until, as Peter did, we have to say, "I must obey the laws of God and not of men." And once we do, the church should stand up for its own.
These instances are, I believe, rare today. Unlike China, nobody forces our wives to have abortions - it is legal but not mandatory. Nobody forces us to commit adultery; nobody forces us to engage in homosexual behavior. These are legal but not mandatory. If they become so, we are then free to say "No". Until that happens, we are obliged (by God, not man) to continue to point out that they may be legal but they are wrong. Once the church stops doing that as a body, we accelerate the encroachment which Caesar will inevitably attempt on territory which belongs solely to God.
A political Messiah?
Do you get the feeling that the "religious right" is still holding the belief that a righteous man in office will bring holiness back to politics? I find this to be in direct contradiction to the scriptures.
For instance, in 1 Samuel 8, God tells us what will happen when we choose a "king" over Him as ruler and political Lord. In Daniel 4:17, He gives us an explicit description of the men who will lead us:
"The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the lowest of men. "
Some versions read "the basest of men". How true; how true. Like so many other examples, we pay today the price of bad decisions made long ago by others. I see nothing in the Bible which indicates that we can create a government of men which will not, in the long run, be exactly what God said it would be.
Jesus didn't care much for what we cling to on this earth. He couldn't wait to get back home, where He could get on with His life.
In Matthew 18:8-9, He tells us that we should "enter life crippled or lame". That presupposes a life where being physically disabled isn't going to matter! It means that Jesus saw a life where having only one eye isn't going to be a hindrance!
What a place! I really want to go there.
"They were laying the sick in the marketplaces, and entreating Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being healed". Mark 6:56.
This may sound silly, but can't we assume that Jesus was wearing His cloak when these people touched it? Can't we assume that He did not just take the cloak off and allow it to be passed around the marketplaces while He took a well-deserved nap? Of course we read this and, knowing Jesus, we can be certain that the cloak was around His body. We know that He was present during all of His healing sessions.
My point is this: Giving is nice, but Christianity has a very physical side to it. A large part of Christianity is "being there". It is making the healing power of Christ available through your physical presence where it is needed. God uses your money, yes, but only to place a human where there is a need.
Don't put your check into the offering basket and then go home content to let others don the cloak. You are meant to take your turn in the "marketplace".
Revival will come when the church as a whole repents to society for having abandoned the culture. Jesus said to be "in the world but not of it". The church of today is "of the world but not in it".