Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lost in Arminia

You did not choose me, but I chose you.... -John 15:16a

Have you chosen Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? Actually, no you haven't. Nor has anyone else in the history of the human race.

Is that offensive to you? Are you offended (I admit I was) to hear that the choosing rests in God alone (Romans 8:29) and not at all in sinful old us (Romans 8:7-8; 9:14-23)?

That's not fair, you say. Not fair that the Sovereign LORD of all creation does as He chooses among His creation (Daniel 4:35; Isaiah 43:13)? Are you sure you want to accuse God of unfairness?

To believe or not believe. It is said that the gospel is presented and sinners must choose. Entirely up to you. God is a gentleman. Hmm. Try selling that one to Saul (Paul) as he lay flat on his back on the road to Damascus.

The lie of fallen man's ability to desire God is an ancient one. It has been declared heresy at least twice (Pelagius at the Council of Carthage, 416 A.D.; Arminius at the Synod of Dordt, 1619 A.D.).

Here are the links:

Like a successful football coach, Satan runs the same old tried and true plays from the same dusty old playbook. Hey, if it works, why change it? Here in America, Charles Finney propagated the lie in spades and pastors across the land blindly follow his lead.

I'm nitpicking you say. A minor point of theology. Tell me, then, who should receive the glory for your salvation? The God who chose you, loved you, sent His Son to die for you and save you? Or yourself?

Here's the danger in believing the lie. If I believe I possess eternal salvation because of something I did; I walked the aisle and shook the preacher's hand; I raised my hand while every head was bowed and every eye closed; I was ducked in Phillips Bayou on the St. Francis River back in 1959, then I really don't owe God my all, do I?

In fact, if God ceased to be God while I made up my mind to choose Him, that doesn't make Him much of a God does it? I wonder if a god who can, even for a moment, be not God can be God at all.

That "gentleman" God who would bow to my choosing is not the same as the God who says, "I will not give my glory to another(Isaiah 42:8)." He is a figment of the fallen imagination; a false god.

Where is that god's salvation?

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. -John 6:44

Monday, August 19, 2013

You Get What You Need

You can't always get what you want. -Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

"You need a haircut."

How many times did I hear these words as a young hippie in Arkansas in the 60's?  I can only guess if I had a dollar every time I heard them, I would be writing this on a 24k gold-plated laptop.

My reply?

Ever the wordsmith (and the smart-aleck), I would point out that "to need" something indicated that it was required for one's continued existence. Haircuts did not (and do not) fit that definition.

Samson certainly never needed a haircut. In fact, haircuts were quite harmful to him. I couldn't take that chance could I?

I should have been kinder to my critics. For over fifty years I myself confused the meaning of "desire" with "need."

I won't give the devil any glory by going down that list. It is enough to say that Jesus introduced Himself to me and suddenly all my needs were met.

Is that to imply that I've never desired anything but Christ since I met him? We know better than that, right?

I am learning, bit-by-bit, to rely on Him only. Even the basics, like air to breathe, food and drink to sustain this body are provided by the One who made all that. How much more does He satisfy the longings of a heart He has re-made?

I've got to remember that.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled and strivings cease!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Treasures of the Heart

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. -Luke 2:19
And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. -Luke 2:51b

What treasures do you keep in your heart? What do you cherish? What do you cling to?

Some things, I know, remain in our hearts always. When did I first meet my beloved? When did I come to know Jesus? Life-shaping events.

Some of us have the ability to recall the minutest details. And to recall and relive them. When Jesus said that that our hearts will be where our treasures are, was he hinting that the condition of my heart might be discerned by that to which I cling?

Jesus also said that our mouths speak out of the overflow of our hearts. What sort of things do you suppose Mary spoke? Did she view life as a contest with score to be kept? Surely Joseph must have wounded her feelings at some point in their marriage. Did she cherish those wounds and drag them forth to flail him with them?

This is not the treasure Scripture indicates, is it?

Can the Holy Spirit co-exist side-by-side in my heart with its treasury of pain, bitterness, anger and resentment? This cannot be the source of love, joy and peace.

What treasures do you keep in your heart?

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed," Luke 10:41-42a

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Am I in the Place of God?

She said to Jacob, "Give me children or I shall die!" -Genesis 30:1b

So do you think Rachel was being overly dramatic?

We all know Jonah wanted to die from anger. Kind of childish, really. Been there, done that.

But Rachel. Was she planning on dying from shame? From frustration? From unfulfilled desire (hope deferred...Proverbs 13:12)? From envy of her rival(s)? All of the above?

Jacob's answer was dead on: "Am I in the place of God?"

Expressed in anger at her unreasonable expectations, maybe. Or sarcasm (the default setting, I'm afraid, for some of us). But you know, the more I ponder the situation, I wonder if a rebuke was intended. A theologically correct rebuke.

Who gives life anyway?

Could it be that Rachel was guilty of idolatry? Isn't that what happens when we pin our expectations, our hopes, our dreams on the creature and not the Creator?

Remember Hannah? In almost the exact same situation, did she rag on her poor, bewildered husband who was doing his best to comfort her? Or did she take her request to the One who could do something about it? 

Sisters in Christ, what are you dying from? Is there a lesson in the conclusions to these two stories. God was glorified, oh yes, and His purpose accomplished.

But in one family, there was disrespect, envy, hatred and heartache. In the other, there was a Christian mom's fondest hope fulfilled: a godly son, dedicated to the Lord.

Brothers, we don't get off the hook so easily. There's more to being a man than tromping through the house in muddy boots, scratching ourselves and spitting on the floor.

Sometimes you gotta be a man and say what needs saying. I admit that Jacob's reply might have gone down easier spoken in a gentle tone and a tender expression than with a growl and a scowl.

Still some things need to be said.

 Choose your words wisely.

Friday, August 9, 2013

By The Rivers of Babylon

...we sat and we wept.... Psalm 137:1

Have you ever wondered, could there ever be such a thing as a "Babylonian Captivity" of the American church?

Or has she already been captured? Does worship on Sunday rise upward to God, glorifying Him and Him alone? Or do his creatures take center-stage, seeking to share His glory? I have found in my own heart a desire for men's praise as I performed in front of the Sunday crowd.

One of the marks of the true church is the preaching of the Word.

As the prophecy of Jeremiah is read to him, in Jeremiah 36, the wicked king cuts up the scroll into pieces and tosses them into the fire.

Is this happening every Sabbath? Are verses are lifted from their context and "Peace, peace," proclaimed when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11)?

There is one TV "preacher" who delivers his "messages" with a smile but nary a passage from the Word, while the camera pans across the congregation, Bibles open in their laps.

What page are they turned to, all these open Bibles? Perhaps the Intertestamental Period when God's silence was deafening and the people perished for lack of knowledge.

The doors of the American church may never be closed by governmental fiat. It may be that, as the congregations slip away, one-by-one, the last one out turns the lock.

Yet God has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church and that He will preserve a remnant of the faithful.

God, preserve me from seeking your glory. Instead may Christ's kingdom grow until it fills the earth and all the kingdoms of the world are laid in the dust.

Be it so.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Suffer the Little Children

You shall teach them to your children,.... -Deuteronomy 11:19

I have long admired those who spend hours a day in classrooms with children, whose minds seem to be everywhere all at once, but rarely on the subject at hand. This can be the occasion for both frustration and hilarity. It calls for the application of all nine of the fruit of the Spirit. And a blend of coercion and personal charm?

I have been given the rare privilege and duty of teaching the catechism to three young people, ages 7-9.

I read somewhere that, at this age, the child's mind does not grasp the concept of morality for the sake of morality, but only the notion of consequences suffered for laws transgressed.

Is this sort of like our progress as Christians?

At any rate, we teach our children to love God, and out of love to obey His commandments. I have no doubt that loving instruction given me by my parents and others in the family of God have had great impact on my life as a Christian.

But only God can give us a heart to love Himself. This is a precious truth. Especially for one like myself who failed in his duty to teach his own children. I apologize, Kim, Nik, Kris and Sandy.

But God works through and around our failures. He overrules my sin. He accomplishes His purposes in the hearts and lives of those whom He has called.

This is not to excuse failure and sin. But to renew and strengthen dedication and determination.

Once again, I have been given a rare privilege and duty.

O LORD, fail me not, that I fail not.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

We all need a little tenderness, how can love survive in such a graceless age? -Don Henley

We dropped "Eureka" from our instant queue.

We love our Roku box. Netflix is our favorite channel. It is well worth the $7.99 a month to know that we will never watch a commercial about male or female personal products. Or see a semi-naked woman making love to her hamburger.

"Eureka" didn't have any of that stuff. Language was very mild. Just a quirky little show about quirky little people in a quirky little town.

But over the course of watching 17 episodes, a disturbing pattern emerged. More and more, the humor seemed based on what I would consider "hateful" behavior if I encountered it personally.

That is not to say that my friends don't rag on me pretty hard sometimes (and I on them). I can take it.

I'm sure you can distinguish between good-natured teasing and mean-spirited snarkiness.

The snarky (I'm pretty sure that's a word) thing began to predominate on "Eureka;" interspersed with generous helpings of selfish whining. Yuk.

Isn't humor supposed to be based on the observation of the absurd (ludicrous, ridiculous, eccentric, bizarre and yes, I'm balancing the thesaurus on one knee as I type, which is all the things mentioned above and hopefully therefore humorous)?

Maybe the there is a direct connection between the gracelessness Don Henley noticed and what passes for humor these days.

Not in my circle, however. All my friends are falling-down funny and possess offbeat, if not outright bizarre, senses of humor.

How could they put up with ME otherwise?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I Was Adopted

And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, "Live!" I said to you in your blood, "Live!" -Ezekiel 16:6

It is common practice for older brothers and sisters, when tormenting their younger siblings, to tell them, "You were adopted."

When Brother Billy preached his third sermon on the text Romans 8:7-12, I was astonished to hear him tell of how he was criticized at his former pastorate by those who objected to his teaching of  adoption, God's choosing of His children.

I came to the world in the usual way (thanks, Harry Chapin). My parents didn't choose me in particular. Oh, they wanted a baby alright. And hopefully a baby boy. I had to grow up and leave home to completely understand how much they loved me.

But for my friends who were adopted, it is a constant source of awe to them that they were particularly chosen. Sometimes out of a roomful of babies.

Why would it upset someone to hear that God picked them, out of all the people in the world, He chose that one especially. Wouldn't you want that to be you?

What about the ones He didn't choose? Did you ever think that God, like my friends' adoptive parents, didn't have to choose anyone? I'm pretty sure that God did not need me to become a complete being.

I like what Sproul says about this: God is the only Being in existence. The rest of us are becomings.

So thanks, God. I'm glad you chose me. I'm not at all offended by the thought. In fact, if You don't mind, I know a few people I wish You'd consider for adoption.