Saturday, January 29, 2011

Having No pleasure in unrighteousness. Really?

I will ask this in the outset, and then again at the end of this short blog: Do you have pleasure in unrighteousness? Honestly? I bet, like me, you said, “No way!”

Music videos, Hollywood films, graphic novels, soaps and sitcoms all abound with adultery, fornication, murders and the like. When we feast upon those and relish the scenes before us, how can we say we are “like Christ?”

Is our soul “vexed” like righteous lot, or is our passion stirred? When a man’s soul is vexed he is sickened, tormented, troubled with what he sees, and does not like it. Yet we go back to the trough of the world waiting for more slop to be poured in so we can indulge our passions like hungry animals. Waiting for the next episode, the next new song, the next release of the sensual movie. What has happened to our senses, we who say we are of Christ?

Listen to Paul as he warns about those who are lost; the sign of it is certain: (2Th 2:12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Now, I ask again, “Do you have pleasure in unrighteousness?” In other words, does it please you to hear the next episode is coming up that is filled with sensual pleasures, the new music video with words that dishonor Christ and His church? Do you want to stand in line to get the first seat at the theater, or purchase that first release CD?

Have no pleasure in unrighteousness.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The gate

Gen. 19:1 "and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom"
There are so many thoughts that come to my mind as I consider Lot sitting at the gate of Sodom:

I wonder how he ended up there.

I wonder how he felt the first time he walked through the gate he was sitting at that day.

I wonder how he could have left the comfort of the country side, the fresh smells, the clean air and what lie he told himself that convinced him he needed to move into the city of Sodom itself.

I am of the opinion that it was not overnight.

In fact, for me the progression into sin is not that one day I am fine and the next I am sitting in the gate of Sodom wondering how I got there. Rather, it is slow, calculated, laden with excuses and reasons that all seem harmless and innocuous at first.

A man in our family Sunday school class pointed out that when we sin we have made provisions for it. Like a man getting ready for a trip, he packs all the things he needs, all the things he will want, and all the things for a "just in case" emergency. In other words, he "provides" all the things he might have occasion to use.

Making provision for the flesh is no different, only dangerous. Instead of providing for good and for right, we start putting things into our nap-sack that will hinder us, and cause us to stumble, and then occasion our fall.

He went on to say, we subscribe to things that do not direct our passion toward Christ but toward the flesh.

I think Lot hardly ever expected to lose his family as a result of moving to Sodom. I don't think that the day he pitched his tent "toward" Sodom that he thought, "Hey, this is great, soon my wife will fall in love with the wicked generation of Sodom, and my daughters will want to commit incest!"

That is hardly the way we find ourselves sitting in the gate. Rather it is so subtle, so slow and progressive that we actually think good is coming from it.

Pointing our tent toward Sodom gives us the opportunity to see the trade routes in and out of the town. We can see how often the flow of wool and produce move in and out as well. That will help us to know when to better time our deliveries.

We don't know the progression that Lot took to get to Sodom, but we know in Genesis 13 he pitched his tent toward it. Then just a couple of chapters later, with no word as to what happened, we see him living in Sodom, and the next time he is apparently an Elder, sitting in the Gates of the City.

Often I ask people when they are in counsel with me, "What happened?" Wanting to know how they came to the sad position they were in. Their answer many time is, "I don't know what happened, just all of a sudden..." And they are right. We don't plan for our marriages to fail, we just don't plan for them to succeed. We don't plan for our lives to become absorbed with sports, hobbies, excess, but then, we don't plan to avoid the snares that those things by nature are prone toward.

The afternoon sermon was from 2 Chronicles and Brother Joshua Miller pointed out that several people purposed in their heart to follow the Lord. But there were many who did not. The result of each persons decision was directly related to what they purposed to do, what they set their heart to do.

Let us plan NOT to sin. Let us plan to obey the Word of God and be found somewhere other than the gates of Sodom, unless it is to rescue the perishing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The dung pile of my life...

The fact that our back porch is covered did little to prevent almost 8 inches of snow from blanketing the entire area. Rarely, and thankfully, do we ever get such snow falls here in the south. Some of our neighbors live on dirt roads and were snow-locked for a week. With only a handful of snowplows in our town there was no way they could cover all the back roads in our rather large county.
With all that said, in spite of the inconvenience, fender benders and missed days of work, it was a most dazzling display of God's power. While man had all his plans laid out for the week, 8 inches of billowy white stopped him dead in his tracks!
It brought to mind a quote from Martin Luther I heard once, and don't have any real validation for its authenticity, but went something like this, "Our sins are like dung piles, and God's justification is like the first snow that blankets the land. The dung pile is still there, but it is hidden under the snow. It no longer is even noticed." Thus the declaration that we are forgiven covers our sins and brings great peace.

Someone made argument that if I could not cite the quote he made, I should not make it. One writer went on to say, "
Funny thing about that quote—despite years of Lutheran seminary education, and experience as a pastor, and the reading of umpteen volumes of Luther's Works, I have never come across that quote in print, nor have I ever heard it from the mouth of a Lutheran. Yet it is a favorite of Luther's critics. I asked renowned Luther scholar Eric Gritsch about this, and he replied that it does exist somewhere in one of the "Table Talks" (after dinner ramblings written down by Luther's students—not reliable sources for Luther's thought), but even he couldn't give me a reference.

I guess that makes for a good point, but honestly, the truth of the quote is what I am after. When I looked across our yard and into the woods, it looked like a completely different place, one I hardly knew. Isn't that what we hope fore when our sins are forgiven and washed away? That all those who look upon the landscape of our life might say, "That is not the same man I once knew."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Honor, Sobriety, and Fear, and Shockers

Mal 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
Shock Society.
That is where we live. We love to shock people. We love to be shocked. We need a jolt to keep us focused. In fact, some energy drinks have played on those names to let people know what they are in for if they drink one.
The radio hosts "shock jocks" that tell dangerously profane stories that cause the FCC to study close what they have said to insure it can be broadcast for the public ear. The host's know, it sells. People clamor for it.
The pulpit, I am afraid is not immune to this type of marketing. Preachers all over this country are adopting a "shock jock" mentality and it draws crowds. I don't know if it draws more sheep or goats. But it draws a crowd.
Many have lost the ability to blush because they have become so innundated with worldliness and crudeness. So, preachers move to more "shocking" words and statements to titillate the crowd.
Jer 6:15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush:
A.W. Tozer said “We should and must learn that we cannot handle holy things carelessly without suffering serious consequences.
The text from Malachi declares that if God is a father, then where is the honor due fathers? That falls limp on our modern ears, because fatherhood is not honored as it should be. Mocking dad, ignoring his counsel, and pretty much relegating him to just another voice in the crowd is the common thing in society. He is just another person you can choose to agree with or disagree with and do so without any honor. God teaches us that it will NOT be well with the person who does this.
Deu 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
But Malachi even draws the illustration further by God comparing himself to a master, that deserves fear. Again, modern society cringes at the term of "fear" equating it to some poor oppressed person, groveling before a task master bent on whipping the person into obedience.
This is far from the biblical picture of godly fear toward those in authority over us, but we know when something is said long enough and loud enough, it is believed.
May the preachers that mount the pulpit remember, the holy thing that we deal with is to be taken with sobriety: not a comedy night production attitude.
The holy thing we do is godly edification and instruction: not a whipping post for my latest soapbox.
The holy thing we do is for the glory of God: not the promotion of ourselves, our ministries, or favor of men.
May I remember this when I preach this Lord's day.
To God alone be glory.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

But I have a right...

"To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it."

G.K. Chesterton

I suppose for most of us, we view everything we do through the lens of "freedom." As Americans we hold to our "rights" very tightly. While we enjoy liberty and freedom, often times we forget that we are not free to abuse liberty, or to use our liberty to injure others. Chesterton spoke rightly to the idea of proper liberty.

To have a right to do a thing is fundamental in our thinking. As long as it is legal, we rally to the call of freedom and demand the right to do it. For example, we recoil at the thought of not being allowed to vote, but many American's simply don't vote. According to the Census Bureau, in 2008, 64% of Americans that were voting age actually went to the polls. Now, it is their right to vote, but not all did it; it is also their right NOT to vote. Whether that bothers you or not, is really not the issue.

What bothers me is the fact that we have liberty for so many good things that we do not do, that would only aid in helping others. Yet the liberties that we have that are an aid to no one but ourselves is often times used to the damage of others. That is a challenge for me almost daily.

In an attempt to "not offend" often times we should put legal liberties to the side. All too often, we think because it is our "right" to do something, others should understand our "liberty" and "get over it." When in actuality we should get over our demand to exercise a right, that will injure a brother in the process.

Yes, no matter how hard we try, we shall offend. Jesus reminded us of that. Surely offenses shall come He said. So we say, "see, there is just nothing we can do, we are going to offend no matter what!" But we forget that He went on to say, "Woe to him that causes the offense." (Matt. 18:7)

Discernment in our actions, coupled with genuine love for our brethren will cause us to make careful decisions about our liberty. What ever liberty you are certain is lawful, remember there are times for all things. ( Ecc. 3:1) And there are times that restraint is best. Discretion, it is said, is the better part of valor. Often, valor is lost in the midst of our practice of lawful liberty.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A new year, a new resolution

I don't suppose the word resolution is found anywhere in the bible. At least I cannot find it. Resolve is used in one parable in Luke, where an unfaithful steward is striving to correct his wrongs. But to suggest that making a resolution is wrong would be quite incorrect. The word itself is an encouraging word. It simply means, "determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure."
We should all make resolutions. Every time we sin, it should already be resolved that we will repent and correct the errors of our way. Each time we have opportunity to do our neighbor good, it should already be resolved that we will not try to take honor to ourselves, but that we will give glory to God, from whom all good things flow.
I think also, it is good to set personal resolutions, and work toward them. A man never hits a target unless he aims at it. A resolution is like a fellow taking aim at a bulls eye and pulling the trigger on his gun. He may miss the bulls eye, but now he can see where his correction needs to be, and he can take aim again, and again until he finally achieves his goal.
Be careful that foolish resolutions do not make you look foolish. If you resolve to go to the moon this year, I am afraid you may be sorely displeased at the end of the year. Set realistic, God honoring goals that will not just help you, but be a blessing to all those around you as well.
I know one person resolved to lose 25 pounds. That is good not only for him, but for his family, who will benefit by having a healthy husband and father, his company will benefit, by not having a sluggish employee. So even small resolutions have big implications.
Think through today, what you can resolve to do that will better aid you in achieving godly goals for the future, and push toward them with fervor.
Remember, if you never aim at the target, don't expect to hit the bulls eye...ever!