Thursday, March 28, 2013

Finding True Knowledge...

The writer of the Proverbs early on in his book tells us that true knowledge starts with a reverence and respect of God. Conversely, he adds that the way of destruction and futileness is initiated when one ignores God. He basically then uses the remainder of his book to expound on results of listening to God's wisdom and the folly of choosing ones own way.

I realized last night listening to a debate on television between a young man wanting to hold up the traditional idea of marriage and family with a popular TV host and his guest who were ridiculing him for his outdated beliefs that what I was witnessing was not a clash of moral values but rather basic world views. Both sides were passionate about their particular points of view (traditional marriage versus same-sex marriage) and both passionately were arguing their case. The debate became more and more heated by the minute.

The more I watched, the more I realized that there could be no amicable resolution, no middle ground where the two could meet. For they were coming from two completely different world views. They had each started their journey of their view of the world from two divergent vantage points and on those paths, there was no common ground or even a place where those two ways of thinking would ever cross paths.

You see, the young man started from the vantage point/world view that God, as Creator, has a plan and a purpose for a husband and wife (male/female) marriage and the children that result from that union. Furthermore, His plan and their union is to be mirror and even foreshadowing of the relationship that He desires to have with us and will one day at the culmination of the ages.

On the other hand, the popular TV host and his guest started from the vantage point that there are no such things as God's law, God's plans or God-ordained models for the family and that people, who are pretty much the pinnacle of everything we know, should be able to choose whatever they want as long as it makes them happy.

A voice began nagging at me...

"There is a way that seems right to man..."

I do not condemn any person for their view on things such as same-sex marriage. I don't want to and I don't have to. I do, as the young man in last night's debate did, proudly stand and recognize God's authority, His plan and His purpose for things such as a man and woman and the family. What I choose to believe and follow is what I think to be true in God's Word. Nothing more. What others choose to think and follow is their own decision. But I do know one thing...

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline..."

If you don't start with a Biblical world view, a "God" view of things, there's no telling where one can wind up.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The God of Unseen Footprints...

I often talk about seeing the "fingerprints" or "footprints" of God in our world. We see them in nature when we behold an indescribable sunset. We see them in that moment we hold a newborn child, especially our own, for the very first time. We even see them in the midst of poverty and suffering in the smiling face of a child or empty stare of an older person. But this morning, I ran across an interesting verse in the book of Psalms regarding unseen footprints...

In the seventy-seventh Psalms, the Psalmist urges the reader to have confidence in God even in a time of crisis. He recounts all of the good things that God has done for Israel. He urges the reader to remember the Lord's work and His provisions. He extols the holiness of and greatness of God. He then tells how God always went before Israel and how the waters saw Him and His thunder was in the whirlwind while His lighting lit up the world. But then he makes a short and almost over-lookable comment (Psalm 77:19) when he says...

"...but your footprints were unseen."

Even when God's footprints are unseen, He is still leading and caring for His people. Even when we turn our eyes off of Him and to our own ways, He continues to go before us and desires to lead us like a flock. Definitely there are consequences when we rebel or stray to the right of left, but nevertheless, He is still there before us, beckoning us back into His way.

An old prayer says, "I believe in God even when the sun isn't shining..."

Maybe a new paraphrased one should be, "I believe in God even when I don't see His footprints..."


Monday, March 18, 2013

"The Vacation from Hades" or "God's Amazing Provisions..."

Last week about this time, we were so excited! We were getting ready to go on a short vacation. Our last child at home was having his high school senior break. It would be the last family outing with children at home. I booked us a few days in Florida at the beach and my wife got a couple of days off from work. We were set and anticipating long relaxing strolls on the beach...

From the get go, things began to unravel. My wife's father got sick on the front end and we spent the couple of days before heading out in the hospital with him and the family. We almost cancelled but he showed signs of improvement and we pressed on. On the day of leaving, as we were getting in the car, I noticed a flat on my son's car. "Oh well", I'll fix it when I get back.

On the way down (we drove halfway the first evening), my wife began feeling poorly. When we stopped for the night in mid-Alabama, she was full blown sick. Nausea, vomiting, etc. She made it through the first night and felt good enough to continue the next day but slept all the way and went straight to bed when we got to our destination.

As we arrived, I noticed the car that I was driving was beginning to have some problems. The engine was skipping some beats. No worries at this point. I needed to care for my ailing wife. By the second day, she was worse (fever and other symptoms not to be mentioned here) and the car was worse. I was getting a bit cross with my teenaged son (whom the vacation was to be for) and eventually, after a second sleepless night, I took my wife to the emergency room. We feared a bacterial infection (maybe picked up from her staying overnight in the hospital with her sick father before we started the vacation).

As I took her to the local hospital, the car began to act up more and more. The doctor's visit turned out to be a good one and it seemed to be that she was dealing with a bad virus and on the downhill side of things. The car got worse but through the advice of a good friend over the phone, he directed me to a local servicing area and I spent the rest of the day (into the evening) having the car repaired and sitting in a small waiting room until it was done. By the time this was all and done, we had one day left of "vacation". :)

I was a bit put out (to say the least). I tried not to show it. I talked to the Lord about my feelings and attitudes. We were all tired. We needed the time off and the rest and refreshment of a vacation. I was looking forward to reading, meditating and spending time with my family and the Lord and then we experienced what I call, "the vacation from Hades."

But during all of these happenings, I was reading and praying through some Psalms and rediscovered the simple Psalm of King David that said...

"God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble..." (Psalm 46:1)

There is a lot more to that Psalms, that basic statement, "...a helper who is always found in times of trouble"...jumped out at me.

I really don't have much true trouble in my life. More like minor inconveniences. But they seem big when they happen to me. And the good news is that no matter how big or how small the troubles in life, God can always be found in the midst of them if we will look to Him.

On Saturday, the last day of our time off, everyone was healthy and we enjoyed a full day together. We even got the car repaired (for a fairly good price). As we enjoyed the last day of our vacation from Hades, it turned out that we were able to rejoice at all the good things that God had brought our way and it truly was a great ending to an interesting couple of days.

God is good. His mercies are never ceasing.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Judging with justice...

In 2 Chronicles chapter 19, King Jehoshaphat begins to implement reforms throughout Judah. He has been a fairly successful king up to this point in his life. He has made a few mistakes but he has a good heart and his heart is for God.

Towards the latter years of his reign, he appoints judges in all the fortified cities of Judah. They are to help administer justice, settle disputes and also keep pointing the people to God. He gives them the following charge,...

"Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the matter of judgment. And now, may the terror of the Lord be on you. Watch what you do, for there is no injustice or partiality or taking bribes with the Lord our God."

Yesterday, in our small group study, we focused on the Proverbs where Solomon declares that the fear (or terror) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

We live in a culture and a generation that is passionate about justice. However, we still seem to see so little of it. We look at our current government and while we respect and pray for our leaders, we shake our heads at the in-fighting and inability to even make seemingly simple decisions. Most of us who are followers of Jesus see signs of deteriorating morals and consistent bad decisions and wonder where all this is leading.

Here is the remedy. We need decision makers and leaders who first and foremost fear God. If there is no fear of God, there is no moral compass, no solid base from which to administer justice. We need leaders who consider what they are doing is not for man but for the Lord. How can we expect those leading us to make good, moral, God-inspired choices if they aren't under His Lordship?

I think it was Timothy Keller who said, "justice is not an equality of outcome but rather an equal treatment under a fair law." Too often our culture equates every thing and every one having to be equal as the litmus test for justice.

I think I go back to the writer of Ecclesiates and say, that in the end, what really matters is...

"...fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity."

Justice and any interpretation of it always has to begin and end in God.


Friday, March 1, 2013

How Precious is God's Word?...

In the 22nd and 23rd chapters of 2 Kings, there is a story of a young King of Judah named Josiah. He is only eight years old when he comes to the throne and is wisely guided by some older men namely Hilkiah, the high priest and Shaphan, the court secretary.

It is early during Josiah's reign, while they were repairing the Lord's temple, that the book of the law - God's Law - was rediscovered. Imagine a country wholly built upon the their relationship with God and the Law given by God...and they had lost their book! That they lost it is a story in itself but the story I want to focus on is what the young king Josiah did when he discovered what Hilkiah had found.

When Josiah learned that God's long-lost Law had been recovered,...

1. He tore his clothes (in repentance)
2. He ordered his officials to inquire of the Lord regarding all in the book
3. He discovered that God's impending judgement was coming on Judah
4. He gathered the leaders/elders of the city together
5. He had everyone go to the Lord's house (temple)
6. He publicly read all the scriptures so that everyone could hear God's Law
7. He publicly confessed his sins and the sins of Judah
8. He made a public covenant/renewal of covenant with God
9. He led all the people to agree/join in the renewal

I wonder how precious is God's Word to us today? Do we cherish it and fear it the way that young King Josiah did in his days? Or do we let it sit on the shelf of our studies or bedside tables only to occasionally pick it up and take it to church with us?

The Psalmist says that God's Word is to be more precious than jewels and sweeter than any honey could ever be. It should be a lamp for our feet, a light for our paths. It should be hidden in our heart that we would not sin against Him.

The Jewish faith has a celebration called the Simchat Torah. It occurs once a year at the end of the annual reading cycle of the Torah. They read the Torah publicly each Sabbath all throughout the year and then on the last day, when they complete the reading, there is celebration and dancing and singing for joy over the fact that they have completed reading God's Word. In many places the Torah scrolls are taken down from their place of honor, held closely to the breasts of the celebrants, as they dance and sing for joy over the reading of God's Word.

Oh for us to have that same love of God's Word today! How precious it is and how little we realize that fact...