Monday, July 6, 2015
In today's devotional post, we are going to see something which seems to be everywhere in the Old Testament.
God returns to His people, to keep covenant and mercy. Despite all the sinfulness of the people, He is always ready to bless His people.
It's in the book of Nehemiah, Esther, even the book of Ruth, the point always seems to be that even when it doesn't seem like it, God is working things out for His people. Maybe that doesn't mean the best of circumstances. But it always means that we have something to be excited about.
So maybe it's that God really does care about His people. Crazy thing, right?
So don't give up on Him whatever your life may look like.
Friday, July 3, 2015
So today is July 3. The day that sirens really started needing things up on Independence Day.
What? You had more serious thoughts about today. Fine.
So as of tomorrow, America had been free from Britain and its heavy tax on breakfast beverage for 239 years. That is quite a lot!
And on that day, there was an underlying principle at place in what we thought about our actions- freedom, and more specifically representation.
As Abraham Lincoln would explain four score and seven years later, it was too create a government, "of the people, for the people, and by the people."
And that's pretty special. We have a republic, if we can keep it.
This week's devotional post will be seen on Monday. Thanks for your patience.
Also I apologize for Monday's delayed post. I guess it didn't post as I scheduled it to. #imnotgoodwithtechnology
Monday, June 29, 2015
Don't get me wrong - homosexuality is a sin. But I don't see that the Supreme Court decision is that big of a deal from the standpoint of Christian ethics. From the way people are talking, this signifies that Christians have lost the battle on marriage and that this redefinition will corrupt society.
While marriage is incredibly important, and its redefinition
The reason why this decision is no big deal is that Christians lost the battle on marriage back some, I don't know, years and years ago when it was still shameful in our culture to be homosexual. We lost the battle on marriage when it was redefined to only mean a union based on the love of two people, and their desire for commitment.
Marriage has never been solely about people. It's been about God. It's been a covenant before God that reflects God's relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, that meant the Israelites; in the New Testament and now, that means the church. At the point where we lost that in heterosexual relationships, the battle on marriage was already lost.
Once marriage is redefined as only the celebration of love between two people (we are not talking about sex here), can you really argue with homosexual marriage? I mean, it certainly seems offensive and nonsensical to say that heterosexual love is somehow more worthy to be celebrated than homosexual love.
But once marriage was redefined by the way our culture framed it, that's what we would be left arguing. But in the grand scheme of things, this court decision matters little from the standpoint of the sanctity of marriage because marriage had already been corrupted long ago. This is simply a manifestation of that.
From a political standpoint, things do prove to be a bit more interesting. It would seem to me that this whole homosexual marriage decision should never have been made by a court. The Supreme Court's role is to interpret the Constitution, and the way that they managed to work that into this decision is a little questionable.
To say that the right to marriage is included under the fourteenth amendment's protection is just flat out ridiculous. There is very little referenced in the text about the dignity that Justice Kennedy sees as paramount to this position. Additionally, you could question, why marriage ever had anything to do with the government in the first place? Oh, right, taxes.
But why even on a broader level is this a federal issue? The fourteenth amendment is the catch-all for applying the Constitution to the states and those claims are very dubious indeed.
Determining what marriage should look like in each state is something that should probably be decided by people in that state, not bureaucrats in robes sitting behind a bench. But I have shown a little too much of my libertarianism in this post.
I guess we should look at the other important Supreme Court decision now. I haven't heard as many opinions on this that I disagree with, so I won't spend as much time on it. But I wonder how many of you immediately know what I'm talking about when I mention the other decision.
The Affordable Care Act was being challenged, but not so as if to repeal it or take it off the books. No, this challenge said that the text of the law did not allow federal power where the federal government wanted power.
The question was about in places where states do not want to establish exchanges. The federal government does not have the authority to force states to comply with this part of the law, and that the Court did not contest. Instead, in these places, the federal government simply runs the exchange.
The question before the court was if the federal government, by the text of the law, would be able to enforce subsidies themselves in this situation. As Dr. Marc Clauson reports,
"The issue in this case is whether the Act’s tax credits are available in States that have a Federal Exchange rather than a State Exchange. The Act initially provides that tax credits 'shall be allowed' for any 'applicable taxpayer.' 26 U. S. C. §36B(a). The Act then provides that the amount of the tax credit depends in part on whether the taxpayer has enrolled in an insurance plan through 'an Exchange established by the State under section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.'"
It would seem rather problematic for the law that can be stifled by a state who does not want to set up an exchange. In that situation, there seems to be no reason to assume that the subsidy program of Affordable Care Act can apply, unless you take the meaning of state to mean government, rather than one of the 50 states.
Which I suppose is possible, but making that clarification of a vague law is hardly the role of the Supreme Court. Clarifying the law in this way is the spot of the legislative branch itself. Allowing the Court to do this is an open door for them "clarifying" many laws now and in the future.
But the clarification even now still doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As Dr. Clauson wrote,
"The Court apparently wanted to save Obamacare. So it said essentially that the term “state” the language above meant either a state or the Federal government. This meant that it had to interpret the word state as “the state,” some government, any government, to get to the point of including the Federal government. Roberts seemed to realize this, since he said it was not a natural interpretation. But that didn’t stop him or the majority."Thus, the Court saves Obamacare instead of letting it go through the normal legislative procedures. And you know, that is a scary precedent to set.
So, from the standpoint of the Court doing what it's supposed to do, it was a pretty bad week in both of these cases as both represent overreach.
Friday, June 26, 2015
But yes, that book which I and every one else loves to discuss and share truths from is exactly where we'll be going once more. Hopefully, you haven't grown bored of a wonderful part of the Word of God yet!
So we all are pretty familiar with the events of the book. The Israelites are in bad shape - they are poor because of a famine, their rulers are exploiting their poverty, simply making it worse, they are selling their children into slavery because things are just that bad. And then just to top it off, their wall's been torn down.
Now the wall wouldn't have just looked cool for the Israelites! Rather, it would have been protection from outside forces. Thus, the Israelites were vulnerable to attacks from Sanballat and Tobiah and the lesser-known Geshem the Arabian.
But we know that Nehemiah enters the story and suddenly all else is good in the world. Nehemiah's life can teach us many great lessons, like how to properly handle burdens, how to be a good leader, and how to keep from getting ambushed in the wilderness (the answer is of course, don't go because you are too involved in the work of the Lord).
But you know what in all of these things we seem to be missing one largely important thing - why was the book written in the first place? Why did Nehemiah pen these words? Better yet, why did the Holy Spirit direct Nehemiah to write this book?
Pulling in all our lessons are not necessarily wrong, but we should dig a little deeper to find out why it was written.
And of course, to do that, it would be necessary to take ourselves back to the time in which it was written.
The time is after the 70 years predicted by Jeremiah that the captivity would last. The Temple has been rebuilt, and the people have returned to Jerusalem. At that time, everyone thought that this was it. That Zerubbabel, the son of David, would rise to the throne, and Israel would be restored.
But no throne for poor Zerubbabel, and David's line had still not returned to the throne of Israel. God didn't seem to be keeping His promises anymore. Indeed, the fact that there was a famine and that everything seemed stacked against the Israelites might have led many to wonder - does God even care?
Then comes Nehemiah. When he hears of the destruction of the wall, he is distraught, but he does one thing at the very beginning of the book. He prays. And in that prayer, he confirms that God is not the kind of being that turns His back on His people. Instead in Nehemiah 1:5, we read,
"And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:"
God keeps covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments. Hmmm... I guess that means God still cares for His people right?
Further, it is seen that this word for mercy, is the covenantal word hּׅesed which could be translated loyal love or lovingkindness, but actually means a lot more. It is a word linked to the covenants of God. The covenant this one seems to link to would be the conditional mosaic covenant. If the Israelites hold up their end of the bargain, God will hold up His.
Thus, Nehemiah seeks to show that God still cares for His people and those that love Him. It signifies this theme by showing God's provision through the person of Nehemiah, as well as showing the Israelites grow to observe more of God's commandments.
So, does God still care, according to Nehemiah, it's against his nature not to. And where do we find this proclamation? Well, right at the beginning, where you would expect to find a thesis statement!
And that's not all. If you were writing story, you'd want your theme to be explicit from the start, but you would also want to repeat it from time to time. Observe, how this operates in the book of Nehemiah,
"Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people." ~Nehemiah 5:19
"My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear." ~Nehemiah 6:14
"And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good." ~Nehemiah 13:31
It's easy to just read past these words, but when you examine this based on the purpose behind the book itself, you notice that these are actually super important textual clues that point to a unified part of the book.
And you should pay special attention to what shows up in Nehemiah 13:32.
For those of you who actually follow all my Bible links, I'm sorry. There is not Nehemiah 13:32, and there isn't a Nehemiah 14 either. The book ends with Nehemiah asking the Lord, "Remember me, O my God, for good."
That is not a coincidence. Because when you are writing anything, you try to make sure your point is near the beginning of the book, near the end of the book, and interspersed throughout the book, and that's exactly what Nehemiah has done here.
So what does it all mean? It means that God does not abandon His people. He didn't abandon Israel, and He won't abandon us. Indeed, if it seems that you are having difficulty in your relationship with the Lord, it can only be because you have sin that is driving you away from the Lord.
The good news, the Lord will still extend care and provision and His unconditional promises, like salvation to those who have accepted Him no matter what. Also, He is always willing to restore fellowship with those who want to love Him and observe His commandments once more.
Read within this light, those stories certainly do hold a lot more weight than some moral we apply to them, don't they?
Monday, June 22, 2015
And such is Father's Day as well, another holiday where we celebrate and honor our mothers - of course, an obligation that we as Christians should always hold. But maybe we forget sometimes, and maybe the day serves as a reminder of what all fathers do.
(Yes, I just copied and pasted from my Mother's Day post, and switched out a few words. Don't hate me.)
I mean, they work, support a household, raise kids, provide spiritual leadership, manage finances (at least in some families), and do anything else that their family requires in order to function as a cohesive unit.
So, fathers are an integral part of the ideal family unit, and we should honor those people who fill that role 365 days a year. But if nothing else, I hope that you gave your father due respect yesterday. That's what the day was meant for.
(Don't judge me for borrowing my brilliant wording from Mother's Day for this post. I thought it was so good that I would use it all again!)
Friday, June 19, 2015
And I had one of those days and will likely have one tomorrow. Now, don't tell me my mentor at my internship, but I dozed off in the back seat of his car twice today. After three days of getting up at 5:30 AM and then returning at 10 or 10:30 PM, while listening to people pretend they have power to make the decisions that don't actually mean anything to begin with (Southern Baptist Convention) is just a little tiring.
So I am physically and in some ways spiritually exhausted right now. Which leads me to question, how does one best handle this type of exhaustion in a way that serves God well.
First, it seems obvious to say that one must stay focused and in communion and presence of the Lord. One cannot expect to get recharged away from their power source. And in case, you had forgotten - the Christian's power source is God.
Second, you should feel free to sleep. You are a human who does have certain needs and weaknesses. One of those is that you must have sleep in order to survive and be able to do anything productive.
Third, caffeine is a great thing because sometimes you don't have the opportunity to sleep before going to work on things. Like me, I went straight from the convention to hospital visits and other pastoral things from my internship, and caffeine probably would have greatly helped.
Fourth, did I mention sleep?
Fifth, enjoy good fellowship with others and try not to complain too heavily in their face about how tired you are. It is just a bit awkward.
Sixth, run a children's program. The energy required will not allow you to fall asleep on the job. Of course, you'll probably have difficulty still when it's over.
Finally, you should probably sleep. Because your body demands it.
Monday, June 15, 2015
But seeing as how it is that time of year, and people have received Yearbooks with all those fun awards in them, and it also just happens to be the 200th post of this blog (!!!), I thought we would see which one of my blog posts would win which Yearbook Awards!
So here are your Yearbook Awards for the Class of 200!
Date: June 23, 2014
Message: Glorifying God is a lifestyle, not a catchphrase.
What it means to glorify God. Yes, that's a really easy topic to discuss in a short 900 word blog post. I'm sure that you covered it very deeply.
Ok, so yes, maybe deciding to answer the nebulous question - what does it mean to glorify God? outside of a simple Sunday School answer was a bad idea for such a short post, but hey, it doesn't seem like I did THAT bad! And what can I say? I really am an overachiever.
Date: September 1, 2014
Message: I have no idea
The short description of message probably details all you need to know about this post. I just sort of put pen to paper...um...finger to keyboard, and the result was a satirical, sarcastic, random, and apparently well-appreciated blog post about the most ironic holiday of them all. I guess the closest thing to a point in this blog post is that Labor Day doesn't fulfill its purpose.
Date: September 26, 2014
Message: We are all vulnerable to sinful temptations.
Why the Mighty Have Fallen: A Sequel
Date: February 20, 2015
Message: We must serve God for the right reason - enjoying Him.
These two blog posts have been together since Dr. Miller's lectures on Job clarified a little bit about what I was trying to discover in the book of Job in the following September. Together, they inform us that serving God does not make us invulnerable to temptation and that the best way, to withstand that temptation is to be serving God for His sake, and not our own. With that kind of attitude, this relationship could last for a while!
Date: November 20, 2013
Message: Truth exists because to say otherwise is contradictory.
Re-Examining Absolute Truth: A Deeper Look at the Contradiction of Relativism
Category: Apologetics, Ethics
Date: November 3, 2014
Message: Truth exists because to say otherwise is contradictory.
Along with his 6 brothers and sisters, "Apologetics Series 1: Absolute Truth" was one of the first blog posts to enter this blog. It seemed as if he would never find the perfect match, but then she came along. "Re-Examining Absolute Truth" made "Absolute Truth" a better logical argument, and for that, we are all grateful.
So, I need to get out of my fun roleplay because it is a little difficult to explain why the second of these blog posts came to be. Simply, my first stab at showing absolute truth was a little flat and shallow. When I was assigned a paper to show the reality of objective knowledge, I found the added depth in that paper to be worthy of another blog post.
And now, it seems impossible to imagine that anything could ever come between the two of them!
Most liked by Parents
Most Likely to Make Pop Culture References
Most Likely to Show up Late for their Own Wedding
Date: April 24, 2015 (just barely)
Message: You should show gratitude to God by telling others about what He has done.
Ultimately, what this blog post has said has completely escaped my mind most times. Instead, what I remember about it is that I forgot to write it until I was just about to go to bed on Friday night. You know, when it was supposed to have been published on Friday Morning. Yeah, sot that's not the most shining moment of this blog, and this here post will forever be memorialized as the one that just couldn't stay on time.
Most Likely to Step on Toes
Date: February 2, 2015 (Groundhog Day) February 2, 2015 (Groundhog Day) February 2, 2015...
Message: Public altar calls are more emotional manipulation than offering an opportunity to respond to the Holy Spirit.
Motivated by events seen within very close parameters of this post, he made a stand against the idea of a public altar call. Having no mind for the fact that his wonderful Cedarville colleagues may have found the instances of these invitations to be refreshing, he took solace in the hope that people usually don't read his blog anyway. But now he is really stepping on toes as it is republished within this list for all his friends to see!
Most Likely to Succeed
Date: November 18, 2013
Message: Christians have a duty to stay informed as to the current political landscape.
The easiest decision for this yearbook committee of one. Entering as one of the very first posts, this articles has never ceased from being the most popular entry. With 421 pageviews, this post is more popular than the next 7 most popular posts on this blog combined!
The reason for such popularity is unknown. Perhaps it is because the message resonates with those in the Christian community. More likely, the quotation from an amazing sci-fi television series was probably something often googled because what in the world is Clara talking about when she says that ignorance is Carlisle? (The answer is in the blog, if you want to know. ;))
Friday, June 12, 2015
"Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not their's. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves."
Oh, right, that little nation the size of Puerto Rico that is more wicked and evil than us is going to bring us into captivity. I shouldn't have brought this us, Lord; is there any other way?
It is within Habakkuk's attempt at talking God out of it, or maybe just again wondering why God seemed to be turning a blind eye to evil where we get one of my absolute favorite verses of the Bible - Habakkuk 1:13,
"Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?"
So the Lord responds by saying that yes, Habakkuk, the Chaldeans do deserve judgment for their evil deeds, and they will receive... but only after they have taken the Israelites captive.
This seeming neglect for the Israelites on behalf of God leaves Habakkuk worried and distraught. We pick up on his emotions in Habakkuk 3:1-2,
"A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy."
Now obviously, Habakkuk is asking the Lord to remember His mercies in the midst of pouring out punishments because quite frankly he is just a tad concerned of what's going on. But Habakkuk answers his own concern by relaying a short history of the Israelite people.
It takes more time than I have here to break down every single bit of his references, but here are a few: the crossing of the Red Sea, the Sun standing still at Gibeon, the acts of Joshua and the conquest, and the defense of the Lord most generally.
Habakkuk's point is perhaps best summarized by New Testament verse Philippians 1:6,
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:"
The book of Habakkuk capstones with the last three verses,
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments."
Here we see that circumstances may not be great. Indeed, there seems to be as many different bad things going on as Habakkuk could fathom. Yet he is rejoicing in the Lord. Yet he believes that his enjoyment of God will outdo all of that.
And how? "The Lord God is my strength." Habakkuk acknowledges that the Lord will not turn His back on Israel, and will indeed strengthen him to do that which he would not be able to do in the first place.
In fact, Habakkuk uses the image of a goat's foot. It is quite impressive where goats are able to find themselves with their little feet. Thus, Habakkuk is convinced that the Lord is able to strengthen him to do what is extraordinary - show joy in any and all circumstances.
And that reminds me of another often misused verse from the book of Philippians - 4:11-13,
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Monday, June 8, 2015
Friday, June 5, 2015
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
Now I'm sure that you guys have read me use this (or heard someone else use this) to indicate that even the good works we do are like filthy rags in the eyes of God. Of course, no one likes to touch filthy rags, so the Lord won't touch sin.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this interpretation; God's view of sin is being touched on in these words, but the two-chapter context is super important.
Isaiah is asking the Lord in chapter 64 how long He will continue to torment the Israelites. In so doing, he acknowledges the sin of the Israelites, explaining that even the good things they do are as filthy rags.
But when the Lord answers that He will not keep silent and MUST torment the Jews because of their sin, he explains that this is because their sin is actually a little worse than an uncomfortable dirty rag. Indeed, their sin is like smoke in His nose. Yup. In Isaiah 65:2-5, the Lord says,
"I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day."
That kinda explains a little bit better why God cannot tolerate sin, and almost makes you wonder why He tolerated sin for so long in the first place, but alas, that is what He did for the Israelites in delaying the captivity, and what He does for us today as He gives a time for redemption.
All while dealing with the smoke in His nose that is our sinfulness.