Archives For February 2014

In celebration of Presidents’ Day, here is a prayer written by our first President:

“Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thought unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life…”

–George Washington

You can find more about the spiritual life of President Washington here – George Washington the Christian.

——

Notice the concern in this prayer about being “cast into a spiritual slumber -“ being inactive  and deadened toward the pursuit spiritual goals.  Consider the biblical support for the things Washington says can have this effect on us.

Terrors of conscience

What we’re talking about here is overwhelming feelings of guilt.  It’s one of the things that bring us to the cross, but too much dwelling on failure tends to destroy, not motivate.  It can actually lead us to spiritual lethargy.

Isaiah 6:5 – And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Would you say Isaiah was ready to act in that moment?  As he confronted his own sinfulness compared to the matchless sovereign God, he stood immobilized by his own unworthiness.  It was only after he experienced forgiveness and the removal of guilt in verse 7 that he was able to say, “Here am I! Send me,” in verse 8.

Luke 5:8 – “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Again with Peter, we see a man nearly undone as he realized that he was in the presence of the Lord.  His own sins and failures made him feel unworthy to be anywhere near Jesus, let alone work for him.

And again we see the comfort of the Lord as the catalyst – Luke 5:10 – “And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

What woke them up, spiritually?  Not condemnation – but the forgiveness and acceptance of God.

II Corinthians 5:11-6:2 – “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

Knowing the fear of the Lord.   Knowing the terror and despondency of a broken conscience contemplating the day of judgment, the message is to believe in, accept, and receive the grace of God (6:2).

Conscience is a wonderful thing.  It is given to us by God in order to cause us to seek Him.  But a full recognition of how deeply my conscience condemns me before God will knock me out of the race without an equal recognition and remembrance of the grace of God continually poured out for me (Hebrews 9:14)

Hebrews 10:22 – “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Loathing of holy duty

Malachi 1:13 – “But you say, “What a weariness this is, and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts.  You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering!  Shall I accept that from your hand? Says the Lord.”

I Corinthians 11:26-30 – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Whoever, therefore, eats the brad or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Is it a chore to pray?  To read/study the Bible?  Do look for occasions to do good?  To practice patience, kindness, gentleness, charity?  Can we make a decision to love the works of our Lord and pray for his help in that?

Love of sin

Hebrews 12:1 – let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Matthew 13:22 – As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

II Timothy 4:10 – Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.

Romans 1:32 – Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Ephesians 5:3-15

Fear of death

Luke 14:26 – If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Matthew 10:28 – Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Advertisements

A Bit of Nobility

February 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

When I went through Army basic training my eyes were opened to how much of an idealist I am.   My view of people in general is that we all want the best and do our best and have the best intentions for ourselves and for others.  Throughout my life I have started with that assumption until given a reason to think otherwise about an individual.  I still think that, as a rule, it’s a good way to approach things.

But in the military, especially in a basic training environment, people are under a lot of stress and one’s true character becomes apparent very quickly.   I learned fast that many of my comrades were self-centered, uncooperative, and swift to run towards evil.  And I know that much of the world is in the same place.

Isaiah says, “The fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink.  As for the scoundrel – his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.”  (Isaiah 32:6-7, ESV)

There have always been such people – only interested in themselves and willing to hurt and even destroy anyone else as long as they get what they want.

But Isaiah also says there is another kind of person:  “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.”  (Isaiah 32:8, ESV)

Those who consider themselves sophisticated are often filled with cynicism.  They believe that virtually everyone is like the fool and the scoundrel and that a truly noble person is rare almost beyond imagining.  Is there really anyone whose heart is pure?  One who plans good things, noble things?  And who builds his life only on that which is good?

The Bible shows us several, I think.   King David in II Samuel 7 had a noble plan.  He wanted to build a house for the Lord to be worshipped in.  He thought it was unfitting that a mere human being should dwell in a mansion, “a house of cedar”, while the house of God was a mere tent.   And even though God assigned the task of building the temple to David’s son,  David spent years of his life planning for, designing, and setting aside the resources to build the temple.  The house Solomon built was very much the result of David’s noble plan.

I think, too, of Joseph in Genesis 39.  Although he was a young man with the normal passions and desires of a young man, we see him able to steadfastly resist the advances of Potiphar’s wife, even when refusing her cost him dearly.  How was he able to do that?  So many, young and old, today claim that sexual urges are so powerful and uncontrollable that they just can’t help but give in to temptation when the moment comes.  Again, how did Joseph do it?  Well, he had a noble plan and was standing on nobler things than momentary physical pleasure.   I wish more of us were like Joseph – I wish that more of us thought more of ourselves and of our purpose in this world than to yield ourselves up to immorality.

Paul says, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…  … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrections, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.”  (Philippians 3:7-11)   What a noble plan!  What a noble deed!   Can we say that, honestly, to ourselves and one another?  Can we say that we will pay any price, lose any physical benefit, and throw away the pleasures and profits of this world, if only we can really know Jesus and be like Him?   Can we say to ourselves that there is nothing worth more than that to us?  Is it true that we will do anything it takes to attain eternal life, the resurrection of the dead?   And how much different would your life be if that were true?

He who is noble plans noble things.  And on noble things he stands.

Brad

Joseph’s Brothers

February 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’ve been reading again the story of Joseph and his family in the book of Genesis.  Here are a few quick notes:

The Brothers of Joseph:

Had a brother who robbed them of their father’s devotion – Genesis 37:3

Were humiliated by their brother’s dreams – Genesis 37:5-11

Were moved by envy to murderous anger – Genesis 37:11, 18-2

…and betrayed their brother and father

Yet received grace. – Genesis 45:1-11

Raised in a self-centered, undirected family.

Jacob was busy getting over on Laban – Genesis 30:25-43, 31:7-20

Rachel and Leah were busy getting over on each other – Genesis 29:31-30:24

-the children, and the servants of each, were pawns for getting at the heart of Jacob

Aside from that, Laban, the children’s grandfather, is trying to cheat their father Jacob, Jacob has already cheated his brother Esau, and Jacob is getting ready for a wrestling match with the angel of God! (Genesis 32:22-30)

Jacob is a striver with God and man – Genesis 32:28

Is it any wonder that by the time the family gets to Canaan the sons of Jacob are conniving, deceitful, and small hearted?  Genesis 34:13     – even when they’re in the right they lie!

But, for all that, God is with Jacob and in the midst of all this He reiterates the promise made previously to Abraham and Isaac – Genesis 35:1-15.  God’s promise stands, not because of righteousness of man, but because of God promised it.   And Jacob lived by faith – Hebrews 11:21.  But that doesn’t mean no mistakes were made.  And those mistakes are at the heart of the problem we see in Genesis 37 and 39

Genesis 37:18-36

Genesis 39:1-6

God can take all the bad and make it good, but look at all the misery, uncertainty, fear, and threat that filled these years.  Wouldn’t God have found a way to preserve them even if they hadn’t acted corruptly?

It is the same with us.  We all stumble often, James says, and God can make all things work together for good anyway.  If we endure the chastening, it will afterward yield peaceable fruit – Hebrews 12:11

But let us not sin that good may come!  Romans 3:8:.  There is a better way.

A few applications:

What becomes of our children when moms and dads are so focused on their own schemes that they neglect the welfare of their children?

Or when the parents act corruptly to get their way, what do the children learn?

When adults are self-centered, and the kids are left to themselves, are they inclined to good things, or mischievous things?  Proverbs 22:5

At church, when the parents are focused merely on their own edification, do we pay attention to whether our kids are paying attention?  Or when we let the kids sit with their friends – it makes church more fun for them and it makes it easier for us to focus on the service, right?  But are the kids worshiping then?  Or are they passing notes, joking around, and spacing out?  Can we be guilty of neglecting them right here in this good place?

And then, after worship – as the adults enjoy good fellowship and conversation and the kids are turned loose, is it just clean honest fun the kids are having?  I know I sometimes come home to angry kids with bad attitudes after 45 minutes left to themselves after church with their friends.

Proverbs 29:15

It’s worth acknowledging that no matter how good your child is, and mine, the influence they have on one another is not always good.  They are children and we are parents for a reason.   We need to be wise and be aware of what’s going on.  Or better yet, include our children with us.  Let them be where we are after church or, let us go where they are.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is the story of a family run amuck.  I have no doubt that Jacob was a faithful man – a well-intentioned man.  But his weaknesses carried consequences for his family.  As do ours.  May we strive to recognize them and overcome them.