Thanks to all who have been a part of this thing since 2009. It was fun. I hope you were as blessed as I was.
Monday, August 11, 2014
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."
To read elements of the Christmas story near the end of the summer seems a shock to the "traditional" ecclesiastical calendar. I'm so used to not giving the account much thought until at least after Thanksgiving in November! But this is much more than a holiday tradition! The story of Jesus is the central truth of Christianity.
I am reminded of the humanity of Jesus, particularly in the telling of Joseph's story. He was a good man. He had an excellent reputation. He was a working man, engaged to a young woman who is caught up without warning in history's greatest invasion... God coming to earth to set this place in order.
His reaction at the news of Mary's pregnancy is a convincing detail of the veracity of the story. He had not had sex with her. She should not be with child. His options were to ignore this and go on with the marriage, knowingly taking responsibility for raising another man's child, or privately getting out of the arrangements. God's intervention helped Joseph accept that it was the righteous thing to marry her after all.
Joseph believes God after the angelic dream. He marries his betrothed and with her names Mary's child Jesus, believing a Savior has come. That working man's faith is still what it takes to accept Who Jesus is even today.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31, the boon or bane of every Christian women's conference of the last half century (depending upon your viewpoint), has a lot more to it than just the "virtuous wife" litany. I've never spent much time looking at the first nine verses. In my haste to jump on the bandwagon of biblical feminity theology, I missed some really important truth.
This last chapter of Proverbs is the record of the sayings taught by "King Lemuel's" mother. It's mom's advice. And it is really, really good. She warns her son the king not to abuse his power or waste his position in personal excesses. It's pretty good stuff. And one firm warning is to be sure to apply royal power to help meet the needs of the lowest of his subjects. His justice would be real only if it extended to the rights of the impoverished, the neediest of his citizens. She seems to insist that a king is only as good as his mercy and power will help the poor.
This strong note of social justice ties wisdom to practical impact and societal change. Real wisdom, when applied to my life, will seek to use my efforts and my influence to make life better for others. Wisdom is not consumed with personal enrichment. Wisdom that honors God also loves people made in God's image. And it will seek to frame a society in that truth and mercy.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
There are no kind words here for people who chooses to disrespect the authority placed over them by a sovereign God. This initial placement of authority begins in the home. Parents are worthy of respect by God's design, not always by their own character. But what should one do when sin warps this design? What if a parent is evil to a child? Is disappointment the same as disrespect? I think the situation being described here is a truism, assuming the parents are not abusing the children.
The words of this rare "curse" in Proverbs provide some insight and understanding. What we have here is mocking and scorn from a child. This is more than typical teenage tantrums. This is a hate-filled rebellion that seeks to justify itself through the belittling of parents. It is not the same as the kind of feelings or behavior that emerge from abuse. These are a father and mother worthy of respect who are being deliberately and systematically scorned.
Every parent will navigate a time where respect is challenged. But to do so in a Christlike way means maintaining a relationship where respect is still possible. Turning against a struggling child, mocking them in their confusion and fall into sin, is a sin itself against the child and only compounds a complicated situation. I think Jesus gave us a glimpse of God's "father" heart in the tale of the prodigal son. The mocking son eventually returns to a patient, loving, and eager father worthy of his respect. And that is the heart that I pray God works in me as I deal with my kids through rough times and good times.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
So a recipe for a free-for-all society in moral free fall is this simple? Just minimize the influence of the Word of God and people will be free to do anything they want. Sounds all too familiar, doesn't it? Welcome to the 21st century.
The key to healthy spiritual values and moral living is the revelation of God in His holiness. And this can only come from the Word of God. If the Bible is ignored as a source of life-sustaining direction, then there really is no standard. It is all arbitrary. If I don't need God's Law, I am free to make up my own rules as I go. This is why the church must preach and teach and respect and love and proclaim the entire counsel of God as we proclaim the gospel.
The current unrestrained nature of Western culture is directly traceable to the rise of secularism and rejection of Judeo-Christian influence and ethics. This is most vividly seen in our view of sexuality with all restraints being lifted... in the pornification of our entertainment... in parades celebrating "no restraints" on any sexual behavior. Interestingly, it is no aberration that as morals cease to be influenced by God's truth, our society's respect for human life has fallen at the same time. Abortion is now a medical care mandate. I don't think euthanization of the elderly, the mentally infirm, or the severely depressed will be far behind. God help us! We have cast off prophetic vision, and it is literally killing our most vulnerable people!
Monday, August 4, 2014
A little respected result of letting God's direction set you on a path of right living and wisdom is confidence. When God supports you and backs you, you are a lion! You don't need to be tentative. You can be confident that He will do as He has promised.
Righteousness has its own rewards. The strength it brings is one that is seldom mentioned but ought to be celebrated. It is sin that makes a coward. It is guilt from sin that makes hide in miserable fig leaves. Godliness and wisdom have no such trepidations.
Wise God and Father,
Fill me with the confidence of your truth and love. You will make me bold as a lion where strength is needed. You will work Your power and strength in me. I confess my own sin is my worst weakness. May your righteous strength move me and use me in Your power!
Friday, August 1, 2014
To consistently measure up to the things that people praise you for is something of a test of your character. We are tested by praise. Will what others think about us really be who we are?
This is not normally a way we see the compliments of others. We tend to see them as well-deserved recognition and honors. We expect the respect. We may find ourselves fearing man more than God because of this expectation. That is one way in which we are tested by the praise we receive.
Another real test of praise is where we direct it once we receive it. Do we shine the spotlight of praise back upon the God Who made us? Or do we continue to instead bask in attention? Praise is a test of our character every bit as important as trial or difficulty. It is easy to see our critics as such, but we are warned that our fans will direct us the think about who we really are as well.