Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Crowd is Still Wrong

The crowd in Jesus' day was wrong. They followed him everywhere, and benefited from his miracles. Their sick were healed, the lame walked, the dead were raised. Demons came out in terror at the sound of his command. And Jesus accumulated a large group of followers.
Until the day he started talking about the Cross.
I guess people are like that. They go in for crazes and bandwagons. Then, after a while, the celebrated one wears out his welcome. He becomes unpopular--even hated.
The same thing will happen to Obama.
He is inheriting a HUGE slew of problems in this country. And soon he will discover--if he has not already--that leadership is about backbone for what is right, and not about fashion shows, pomp and ceremony, and popularity polls. Count on it.
I mentioned the story about Jesus at the beginning to illustrate that the Word is true once again
in its characterization of the crowd. They whip themselves into a frenzy about whatever, without even really analyzing why to any serious degree, and then when the goods are not delivered in the manner they expect, they hate the one they loved.
This is also a timely reminder to us all who are leaders in any capacity. We are not about popularity. We are about teaching and inspiring others to believe and do what is right. As a father, I am a leader. And so this is for me too.
Note the emphasis on right. Among mere mortals, the best leaders do not postulate themselves as the solution to all the world's problems, but point their constituents to the timeless principles
by which they may enjoy the best life possible.
So leadership is about timeless principles and sources of hope outside of man's ingenuity.
I have not seen this at all in the incoming administration. Or in the would-be administration of the opposing party.
So we are back to the old old story of Jesus and his love. Without that, no hope.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Presence Without Dominance

Regarding the most recent blog, I think there are enough philosphical traps in the Christian life to warrant a name for them: Puppet Dictator Dogmas.
PDDs are beliefs and ideas which eclipse the major feature of teachings when they should not do so. Classic example is the whole works vs. faith thing. Just because we say works are a necessary part of salvation does not mean that they are the instrumental cause or that they are the dominant feature in the whole plan of salvation. When, in the name of Calvinism, or whatever you want to call it, we get all worked up about works and worry if we have performed enough, we are falling into this trap. Clearly, the work of God is central. More specifically, the glory and character of God are central. I think this is where Roman Catholicism errs.

Showing The Love Of God Part 2

Recently my wife came to me in despair because she doubts that she is one of the elect. Here are my meditations on that subject. (By the way, I fight this too sometimes--more then than now).
I guess Dr. Piper has laid a pretty good groundwork for this discussion. He says we should tell the despondent one that we love them and will not let them go. That may convey a sense of the keeping love of God, and draw them to him. Additionally, stress, hard times, our sins, etc. complicate matters so that our thinking and conclusions are skewed. We should distrust our emotions at this point. Let God be true, and every man a liar.
I think she has fallen foul of a kind of Western, logical progression-oriented way of dealing with feelings of assurance and the love of God. She frequently cites pastors and preachers of the Reformed tradition who tend to shake assurance. John MacArthur, John Piper, Alistair Begg, et. al. (Kent Hughes?) are examples of this type of orientation to faith. Rather than immediately assuring the person who prayed to receive Christ, they insist that fruit be produced to evidence salvation.

The logical progression syndrome goes like this: If I must persevere in faith and obedience to be saved, then salvation is not really by faith alone. We cannot believe the simple Gospel of "Believe and Live," nor can we teach it to our children. They may not be one of the elect. And wouldn't you know it--those who believe in a salvation like this get barraged with trial after trial, setback after setback, temptation, sinful reactions ad nauseam. She gets completely discombobulated and assumes that God has not chosen her, as she senses no grace, no love, no peace, etc.

The Good News is both easy and profoundly difficult at the same time. God requires us to be righteous--but knows we can't do it. That is what the Cross is all about. The easy part is--like a little child (please do not miss this!!!) trust God to forgive you based on his Word. The hard part--is keeping yourself close to that forgiveness and grace. There is a gang of thugs out there--and in our hearts--that mitigates against this sometimes with incredible violence. Sin, disappointmemt, hard times,--all of them are thugs. How much attention, though, do we pay to the good resources. God's grace in letting us live and move and have our being. The Church. Songs, prayer, Scripture, meeting together. Good teachers. Thinking, journaling, learning. Meditation, evidence of his power and love in nature, human relationships, government. All of these are our friends.

Reader, God really does love you. Never let anyone convince you otherwise. As for Jacob and Esau, remember that Esau never gave a thought to his sinfulness and earthliness. He became angry at Jacob rather than letting the incident with the blessing make him see that he was a sinner in need of God. He "wasted his porridge." So to speak. God did not intervene in Esau's life because there was no room in Esau's life for God. This explains how God hated Esau. He just let Esau get what he wanted temporarily, but without the God he did not value.
But you have a chance to prove Esau wrong eternally. Value eternity. Value God. Come to him. Show that he did not lavish his temporary graces on you for nothing. And again, I love you and I am not letting you go.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Recent Pictures

Fall dress-up. Joe the Boxer, Princess Lu, and Daddy-o

(Middle) Home education rolling along (Top) Joe helps keep Dave in line. Dave is not memorizing anything now by the way. I still try to see if he knows some of the chapters we worked on, and occasionally he gets it right. I wish he would do that again through whole chapters!

Post-election reflections

OK. SO Barack Obama was elected. The "will of the American people" has been expressed.
The bottom biblical line is. GOD somehow, some way, decreed that this would happen, and it fits his purpose perfectly. We can't deny that.
Without question, I can say I have never seen a presidential candidate as arrogant, self-aggrandizing, and yet, so wrongheaded as our President-elect. At the same time, though, he will be the supreme commander of this nation in about 70 days. And he must be respected, prayed for, and obeyed in all matters not contrary to the Word of God.
Yes, I will not enjoy this particularly. But I think the same thing applies to national life as well as employment when the Bible says "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward," (Colossians 3:23-24a). Also check out Jeremiah 29: "Seek the peace and prosperity of the land to which I have carried you." Do that as a rule. Preaching to myself as well as the choir here.
There are a couple of alternative ways one could philosophically address this in a public forum (should one be given us) from this point. I suppose you could take the "Judgment of God" interpretive tack, envisioning that Mr. Obama is God's judgment on this nation for its crimes and indifference. From that, you could go two ways. You can call on people to repent, or you can assume God is completely finished with the USA, and the "wrath of abandonment" is now upon us--that there is no road out. One problem with that is that it assumes a direct biblical parallel to Israel or to a hardened unbelieving person. We don't know what God is specifically up to right now as far as the nation is concerned. There may yet be hope for a national revival. But we can't assume all is well either. Terrorists are poised to strike us at any moment. Russia still has thousands of ICBMs pointed at us with high alert status. Iran, China, North Korea, Venezuela--all menaces bent on our demise. And all the while, Israel--the prize of the earth--is the target of all the world's mindless hatred. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PLO, etc. are all committed to Israel's destruction. And we are a major ally of Israel--at least historically.
We have to understand the times and know what to do. Begin with that. Do not assume all is lost. Do not assume all is well either. Let us, with fresh force, get to praying for our country and all its leaders, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise. Its the wisest thing to do when you don't know what God is doing. People are going to think we are nuts. Some Christians are going to think we are nuts. But keep it up. I believe--with increasing personal conviction--that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. You might have to wait until the world to come, but He will.