Friday, February 15, 2013
But parents should read scripts before auditions. Dramatic story-telling is a great art form. And it has more value than just for entertainment. I personally learned many life lessons via radio drama growing up, as we didn't have a television until my early teen years. The best stories are those which reflect real truth. Often, the stories which stand the test of time do so because of their success in exemplifying some particular truth(s). Messing with these stories in significant ways changes the message and seriously runs the risk of propagating a lie. When our children are told that big bad wolves, dragons, and ogres aren't really bad, then they're subtly told that evil, if it really exists, is simply in the imaginations of your old-fashioned simple-minded parents since they are probably the ones who first told you that dragons, big wolves, and self-centered step-mothers are bad.
I'd much rather my child play a bad guy in a good story than a good guy in a bad story. The stories that people like (and we prove it with our dollars) are those in which the heroes and heroines most closely resemble the lovers of the Song of Solomon. The Hero in that story is, of course, the Lord and Redeemer of the universe, Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
God's Word is full of promises. God cannot break His promises. They are guarantees -- set in stone -- "you can take 'em to the bank" -- they will not, cannot fail. But, of course, in order to know what God's promises are, in order to become familiar with them, in order to be able to hold God to His Word when you're praying to Him, you have to be in His Word, reading His Word, memorizing His Word, studying His Word, daily, regularly.
"Heaven and earth may pass away, but God's Word endures forever." (Matthew 24:35)
Now ... Be encouraged ... in the LORD and in His Word!
Thursday, April 05, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
So if you truly desire to change (to repent), then ask God to give you a new heart. He promises new life, forgiveness of sins, abundant life, mercy that endures forever, peace that passes understanding, eternal life – and more – to those who believe His promises. (To believe does not mean to simply think something in your head but to actually live it out in your actions.)
So if you truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He came to earth as God in the flesh, that He lived a sinless life, that He took your sins to the cross and to the grave (in His crucifixion and death), that He came back to life again 3 days later, and that He sits at God’s right hand as King of the world, then God will give you a brand new heart. God’s Spirit will move into your body to become one with your spirit. His Spirit will put to death your old way of living, thinking, desiring, behaving, and He will give you a brand new life, with brand new perspectives, brand new desires, and brand new behaviors. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Then what God has worked into you, you must work out. As He has done inwardly, you must do outwardly. When He puts a new (clean, pure, wholesome) heart within you, you must put out new (clean, pure, wholesome) actions and behaviors.
That is repentance.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
More specifically, think of this in terms of the free will argument. If I choose Christ -- if I'M the one doing the choosing, if I exercise MY free will to follow Christ, -- then I get the credit for that, right? But doesn't that immediately rub you the wrong way? (like, Wait a minute. God doesn't get credit for something good that happens? How can that be?)
Please know that I don't deny the existence or the exercise of free will; but neither do I think it is quite what many Christians make it out to be. I believe God sovereignly works through the means of my free will to accomplish His own will and purposes.
Saturday, November 05, 2011
by Ben Merkle:
In Hosea 6, God rebukes Israel, saying, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Jesus quotes this passage twice in Matthew. First, in Matthew 9, when the Pharisees are upset about the fact that Jesus has sat down at the same table as tax collectors and sinners to eat with them, Jesus tells them, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And then again in Matthew 12, the Pharisees became upset at Jesus’ disciples because they had plucked heads of grain and eaten them as they walked on the Sabbath, thus breaking the Pharisees’ understanding of Sabbath keeping. Jesus responded by quoting Hosea 6: “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”
There are a couple of things that we should notice here. First, food is mercy. If all of this world speaks to us about God and his nature, if all of creation declares the character of God, and it does, then the purpose of food is to testify to us of God’s free mercy. "Here you go," He says to us, "eat up. Let me nourish you. Let me fill that cavernous emptiness inside of you. Let me serve you something hot to warm you up and make you feel better." Food is mercy.
Second, mercy terrifies the pharisaical mind. When grace is served up, free of charge, the pharisaical mind gets nervous and rushes in to tidy things up, to make some basic rules to reign the thing in, lest that mercy get out of control. Since food is God’s mercy, it should be no surprise to us that food and eating inspire a disproportionate amount of pharisaism in our flesh. It was at the dinner table that the Pharisees got uppity about the fact that Jesus was surrounding himself with tax collectors and sinners. And it was about on the subject of how the disciples ate that the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of having broken the Sabbath. But both times, Jesus corrected them, telling them that God delighted in mercy over sacrifice.
God prefers his people to be enjoying his nourishment with gratitude rather than heaping up man-made rules and pharisaical scruples. This is true with food in general, and this is particularly true at this table, the Lord’s Supper. This table is at the center of all of our eating. It makes sense that of all the rituals God could have chosen for us to celebrate Jesus’ death, God chose a meal. Here is the heart of mercy, the gift of the Son. And here we celebrate it by eating.
However, if all the man-made scruples about what can and can’t be done at the Lord’s Supper, which Christians have imagined up over the past two millennia, were to be published, the world itself could not support the pile of books produced. Here, at the heart of mercy, we are prone to become the most pharisaical. But you need to know one thing to come to this table. God desires mercy and not sacrifice. God wants you to know Him more than the burnt offering. So come to this table. God wants to fill you up.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Okay, so I've already known how to whistle for a long time; and I think that I can whistle rather nicely. I always enjoyed my Dad's whistling. It seems to me that he was quite talented (as far as talented whistlers go) -- very sharp, distinct, but not shrill. And I like to think that I can whistle a lot like my Dad.
But there's that extra whistle talent: you know that kind of whistle when, as a child, you're three houses down playing at the neighbor's for a few hours, and Dad steps out on the front porch and whistles for you to come home. I've seen some people put their pinky fingers in the corners of their mouth and let 'er rip; but again, my Dad was so talented, he didn't need to use his fingers, ... and boy, could he let 'er rip.
I've always wanted to be able to do that. And I've always told people that I've always wanted to be able to do that. I was telling my children about it again just last evening. But then the thought struck me: while I have tried before, I've never really tried that long and hard. If my Dad could do it, and I'm like my Dad, then I should be able to do it. Isn't it like ... learning to ride a bike? Or is it more like trying to add one cubit to your stature?
So today as I looked out my window and saw my wife getting into the van, I decided to try it. I tried it ten, fifteen, maybe twenty times, reshaping my mouth each time for finetuning. As my wife drove away and I turned back toward my desk, I gave one last attempt, and ... out she ripped!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I’ve heard Ravi Zacharias (perhaps quoting another) say, “Intent is prior to content.” This is not necessarily to say that intent is more important than content, but it does affect how we perceive what another says. For example, if my wife makes a joke about my German nose, I can laugh with her and enjoy the joke, but if a stranger tries the same joke, I probably won’t take it so well. Nevertheless, content should not be totally disregarded just because of the delivery: I dare you to refuse to pay a bill just because the mailman threw it in the mud. – At this point, it would not be wise for me to surmise Dr. Steinke’s intentions for his doctoral dissertation; but please give heed as I share some of the background reasons for my holding the views that I do.
I grew up in the wonderful home of a Church of God minister, his wife, and my three siblings. My father’s visions for our local church led him to do things which brought him under criticism from others within our fellowship. One such thing was the Christian school that was a ministry of our church for nine years. Ten years following our church’s beginnings enjoyed growth and apparent good health. God blessed our church such that we became known within our fellowship for our youth group.
But well into my teen years, I began making observations that were of great concern to me. As they began to come of age, my friends, who had grown up with me in the church and Christian school, were beginning to leave the Christian school, the church, and even the faith. Why? At the same time that my personal relationship with God began to blossom in more exciting and more intimate ways and opportunities to serve the church became more abundant, my friends who’d grown up in Christian homes were becoming less interested.
The next few stages of my life allowed me to observe a general ignorance of the Bible among all ages of the church folk. It was disappointing that the little children were not as familiar with the basic Bible stories as was I at their age, but who could blame them when their parents also seemed challenged with similar Bible quiz questions? Then as I was a candidate for the pastorate at various Churches of God, I saw many churches whose demographic consisted mainly of those just-past to way-past middle age. Of course, there were likely many healthy churches still around who wouldn’t have considered me as a viable candidate, given my youth and lack of experience. But the question still remains: Where are the youth who’ve undoubtedly had some start in these same churches where their parents still attend to this day?
For over twenty years now, I’ve been studying what I believe to be the cause of this problem. Of course, when answering any important question, statistical, philosophical, and psychological approaches should take a back seat to the Holy Spirit and His inspired Word. So what does Holy Scripture have to say about multigenerational faithfulness throughout church history? Indeed, this was a common problem throughout the history of Old Testament Israel, from which we gain insight for the New Testament church.
In Deuteronomy 5 and 6, the Holy Spirit inspires Moses, when speaking to the second generation rescued from Egypt, to remind them of that which their fathers who perished in the wilderness had failed to honor. Moses declares again the Ten Commandments and then “the first and greatest commandment.” Then he immediately follows that up with the command to “teach them diligently unto thy children,” and he adds some detail about how to do such. Then he immediately follows that up with a warning that they not forget God once He has blessed them with many good things in the new promised land. He assumes, if they are faithful to God’s laws and ways, that the children will ask, “Why do we do these things?” They are then to take advantage of such opportunities to teach their children about God, His Word, His will, and His ways.
But upon the death of Joshua’s generation, “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). How could this be? Except that Israel apparently hadn’t done as they were commanded (in Deuteronomy 6) just before entering the promised land. Israel then goes through seven cycles of disobedience, oppression, repentance, and deliverance throughout the period of the judges, ending with the High Priest Eli being cursed for not restraining his sons in their wickedness. Such a cycle is what we might expect if one generation is failing to pass on the faith to the next generation. And this cycle seems to have continued throughout history.
But what does all this have to do with marriage, which is what Dr. Steinke’s article addresses, correct? Well, the last record of Old Testament Israel before the Messiah takes center stage includes these words regarding the oneness shared by the married man and woman: “Did not He make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That He might seek a Godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” (Malachi 2:15) So reasoning backward: If a Godly seed is lacking, there is apparently a problem at the marriage level. A moment later, the Holy Spirit inspires these very last words of the Old Testament as a final promise regarding the coming Messiah: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
Are you following this? It is very obvious that the spiritual training of children is the responsibility first and foremost of the parents (much more so than the Sunday School teacher, the Christian school teacher, the youth leader, or even just the pastor). The environment of good teaching and preaching during one’s youth will most often not make up for the significant failures within the home.
So then is it enough to say that God has ordained the teaching and training of children to their parents and then leave it at that? Does the Holy Spirit gives us any further specifics? I’ll remind you of a couple: “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: …” (Hebrews 12:9). – Now that sounds to me like male spiritual leadership.
I’m just getting started ...
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I think one of the ways this works is that Godly behavior raises the standard for society. In a town with a high percentage of faithful Christians, even the nominal unbeliever probably feels compelled to behave himself. I.e., if the unbeliever’s Christian neighbors treat their wives splendidly, don’t yell at their children, put in a good day’s work, and celebrate their Sabbaths, then the unbeliever will be afraid of the scandal that would result if he cheats on his wife, abuses his children, or steals from his boss.
I have often been disappointed to discover the split-ups of Martin & Lewis, Lucy & Desi, Sonny & Cher, Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson & his wife of 20+ years. I’m glad Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello didn’t split up, until I learn that Laurel & his wife did divorce and Costello was conceited enough to think that he could comedy routines just as effectively with a cardboard cutout for a partner. Elizabeth Taylor & Mickey Rooney had multiple spouses. – Okay, so what’s new? But there’s a great irony worth realizing that still comes from even the best Hollywood productions.
The popular hero is still the one who is honorable, a man of his word, dependable, courageous, persistent, and faithful to his one girl. He doesn’t flirt with other girls along his journey to rescue his damsel in distress. Our favorite heroine, though she desperately longs for the day that her desire for love will be fulfilled, holds on to the promises of her lover to return to her. She does not put her body up for sale until the Mr. Right comes along. She’s a one-man woman for her one-woman man.
We like (and we prove it with our dollars) the heroes & heroines who most closely resemble the lovers of the Song of Solomon. The hero is Charles Ingalls (Little House on the Praire) but not Michael Landon, William Wallace (Braveheart) but not Mel Gibson, “Cinderella” (EverAfter) but not Drew Barrymore, ….
The characters played by these actors tell us that being faithful to your spouse is good and right. The plot becomes complicated if the main male character kisses another woman besides the one that we all know he is supposed to love. The main female character becomes jealously offended, rightly so, and we sympathize with her. So why doesn’t it bother us that Mel Gibson has kissed Madeleine Stowe, Helen Hunt, Joely Richardson, Catherine McCormack, Isabel Glasser, Jodie Foster, and how many more? Or that any particular actress has been kissed by numerous actors, most if not all of whom are not, haven’t been, nor will ever be her husband in real life. –- Where are the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans of today? Go, Kirk Cameron!
I look forward to the day when we can highly regard not only the character played but also the player.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Psalm 100:1-2 – “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing.” Psalm 98:4-6 – “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.” Psalm 98 speaks of the playing of instruments and singing “before the LORD, the King.” Verse 2 of Psalm 100 says to “come before His presence with singing.” We of Christ's church hope to be ever reforming in all areas of life and worship. This must certainly include our offering of music during our worship on the Lord’s Day. We believe Christ calls us to further mature in the way we sing for the Lord, to “make His praise glorious.”
So what if you show up to church some Sunday morning and one of the congregational song selections is a new one to you, one with which you are unfamiliar? Or what if, the opposite happens – you show up to church and one of the congregational song selections is an old one to you, one which we sang last week … and the week before that … and maybe even the week before that? What if you don’t enjoy singing too much? What if you can’t sing, at least according to your own observation and that of those around you? To all these questions, the Holy Spirit’s response is the same: “Make a joyful noise …, make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” And we are to offer this “before the LORD, the King,” “before His presence.” If we are going to bring an offering before the LORD, including a musical one, we should do so with all our heart and with all our strength.
“Make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise” with all your strength. So if we’re singing a new song and you make a mistake, make it loudly. If we’re singing an old song … again …, sing it loudly. If you don’t enjoy singing, tough – you’re commanded to sing and do so loudly. If you can’t sing, then make a noise and make it loudly.
When the priests of Malachi 1 ask the LORD how they have despised the LORD’s name and polluted Him, He answers by saying (v. 7-8), “Ye say, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.” They were bringing offerings before the LORD which they would not have brought before the governor.
One has to occasionally wonder, or certainly ought to periodically wonder, “If I were preparing a musical presentation for a dinner at the governor’s mansion tomorrow, would I do it the same way that I prepare and present my musical offering at church on the Lord’s Day?” Would I sing such that neither my wife beside me nor the guy in front of me can hear me? Would I refrain from singing because this song just doesn’t excite me anymore? Would my moment of practicing and my moment of actually presenting be one and the same?
The Psalmist makes clear that our singing is “before the LORD, the King” (Ps. 98:6). “Come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). We are not just singing with one another; we are not just singing to one another about the Lord. We are singing before the LORD, in front of Him. He is the Audience. So “whatsoever ye do,” including singing at church, “do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).
Combining I John 4:19 with the first and greatest commandment (Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27), we might say, “We love [the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength,] because He first loved us” with His all. He initiated this covenant relationship. He loved us first.
Knowing that love is first and foremost an action before it’s an emotion, then loving God with all we’ve got means that our actions of obedience before the Lord is a response to His actions of grace toward us. So for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, loving Him with all we’ve got means that we wear our “Sunday best,” present our tithes and offerings, and sing with all our might, not because we are trying to impress Him, as if we hope to present Him with something He’s never before seen or heard. He knows our thoughts afar off (Ps. 139:2), so how can we surprise or impress Him?
We are to “come before [the Lord’s] presence with thanksgiving” (Ps. 95:2); we are to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving” (Ps. 100:4); we are to “sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving” (Ps. 147:7). What are we giving thanks for? Well, what has the Lord done for you lately? We don’t have time to share all that God has done for even the youngest single covenant member here right now. But those things we have scheduled to do, the songs we have scheduled to sing, we can and must offer unto “the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength,” … not because we can impress God; but we responsively offer our best with hearts of thankfulness to Him for giving us His best. Psalm 103:1-2 – “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
When you vote "the lesser of two evils," you're already admitting that the one receiving your vote is evil. You're admitting that the candidate is not balanced (morally, politically, whatever). The candidate you did not vote for is far left of center. The candidate you did vote for is not nearly as far left of center, but he is still left of center. So even when the winning candidate is the one voted for by you and all the other "lesser-of-two-evils" voters, the center has just shifted. That lesser-of-two-evils position is now the new center.
So the next time you vote the lesser of two evils, you move the center a little more to the left again. You make small compromises.
"Take 3 baby steps toward the cliff."
"Mother, may I?"
"Yes, you may."
Just one baby step every 4 minutes (or every 4 years as the case may be) toward the cliff still gets you to the cliff. Perhaps it gets you there slower than taking giant leaps (by voting the greater of two evils), but you are still moving toward the cliff rather than away from the cliff.