For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Value of The Word

The Associated Press recently carried a story about a synagogue in Miami which came up with a rather unique fund raiser. In exchange for a sizeable donation, they are allowing congregants to host Judaism's sacred text in their homes. They call it a Torah time-share.

The article says:

For a one-time gift of $1,800, members of Temple Israel can sponsor a section of the scroll. Each year, during the week before that section is read at Shabbat services, donors can keep the Torah in their home — an event that has prompted families to host scripture studies, parades and dinner parties.
I had two immediate reactions to that story which came to mind almost simultaneously. First was: how pagan to treat God’s Word as a fund raising tool. This particular Torah scroll was about 160 years old, so I can understand some of the value placed on it in that regard. Also, knowing Judaism’s focus on the scroll itself, which borders on idolatry, is a whole other issue. (The rabbi even suggested that the Torah’s presence in the home made that home a more holy place!) But the bottom line was that it was simply used as a fund-raising tool. I was offended.

But the second, again nearly simultaneous reaction was this: I wish our people valued God’s Word that much. Once more, I know there are differences between Jews and Christians in how we view these things. And I certainly don’t want to return to a Pagan/Catholic reverence of the Book as an object of divine worship itself. Yet, still, there is something to be said for valuing the Word of God so highly.

I wonder how many of our church folks would fork over any money at all to “host a copy” of God’s Word in their homes. While I certainly don’t want us to worship the item itself, I also know that most of us take the Divine Text so much for granted that while we may have several copies lying around, we read them rarely and obey them even less. Didn’t someone once say that familiarity breeds contempt? Have we maybe gotten to that point with regard to Scripture?

I think of those missionary stories where people are clamoring to obtain a copy of the Word. I think of the young Belarusian girl we hosted several years ago, and her giddiness when we sent home a Russian language Bible for each member of her family. Why don’t we have that kind of passion for God’s Word? Have we forgotten that these are not just idle words, but they are our very life? (Deut. 32:47)

In a sermon called The Unkept Vineyard Charles Spurgeon said:

“We often say that the Word of God is precious — that every page of it glows with a heavenly light. Do we study it? Friends, how much time do you spend upon it? I venture to say that the bulk of Christians spend more time in reading the newspaper than they do in reading the Word of God. . .

“The last new book, perhaps the last sentimental story, will win attentive reading, when the divine, mysterious, unutterable depths of heavenly knowledge are disregarded by us. Our Puritan forefathers were strong men, because they lived on the Scriptures. None stood against them in their day, for they fed on good meat,
whereas their degenerate children are far too fond of unwholesome food. . .

“Alas, my brethren, too many eat the unripe fruit of the vineyards of Satan, and the fruits of the Lord’s vines they utterly despise!”
Oh, that God’s people would return to a genuine passion for His Word; that we would truly see God’s promises as valuable as David does in Psalm 19:10 - “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”

Our Jewish friends may have missed the point in all this, but I find myself wishing we had their zeal for the Word in this regard.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mike Huckabee for President

I’ve just realized one of the really great blessings to blogging. I can say what I want about politics! As a pastor, there are those today who would like to gag my political opinions. The liberal powers that be have misconstrued the First Amendment and Jefferson’s passing reference to a “Wall of Separation” between church and state to say that pastors aren’t allowed to have public political opinions.

Of course, this wasn’t always the case. There was a time in this nation when pastors were expected to talk about, even preach about, not only political issues, but even particular candidates. There was a time when they named names. That was of course back in the day, close enough to the writing of our constitution for folks to actually remember what the intent was.

These days, due to memory loss on our part and outright deception on the part of others, we are told that the church should stay out of political matters. And whatever you do, Pastor, don’t ever mention a political candidate by name. I mean come on, you could lose your tax exempt status. (Even though this is all misunderstood, I wonder sometimes if that tax exempt status is even worth it! But anyway…)

However, as a private citizen blogging away in the blogosphere, I can say what I want. I don’t speak as a representative of any church or denomination. I don’t even speak as a pastor; merely a citizen who prays for his nation and for godly leaders to be raised up.

I believe former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is an answer to that prayer. Rarely do we find, in this day and age, a political candidate who claims to be a Christian, and by all appearances actually backs it up with his life! I realize I don’t know the man personally; but then again, I don’t know any of the candidates personally. Yet those who report on such things seem to agree that His faith is genuine, and I haven’t seen or heard anything to the contrary.

I was already leaning toward supporting Mr. Huckabee when I received an email from the Home School Legal Defense Association officially endorsing him. You can read on their site his position on several key issues.

I hope you do your own research. I hope you don’t just fall in with the guy who the party powers say has “electability.” It’s about time Christian people stood up and supported a candidate who is truly doing his best to represent Christ in his life. Wouldn’t it be great to return to a day when the leadership of this nation truly believed in the battle cry of the Revolution: No king but King Jesus!

To all five people who actually read this, tell your friends about Mike Huckabee. Maybe even send him a couple dollars to help out with the campaign. I’m waiting for my bumper sticker to come in the mail so I can proudly say: Mike Hucakbee for President.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Passing Of A Hero

This is a day of mourning for the American church. Today we lost one of the truly great heroes of the faith. D. James Kennedy entered his reward early this morning. A memorial site has been established by Coral Ridge Ministries for more information about Kennedy's life and legacy.

That site begins with a message from Dr. Kennedy himself regarding how folks ought to react to his passing. He says that he wishes for rejoicing instead of mourning, since he says, "I will be more alive than I have ever been in my life, and I will be looking down upon you poor people who are still in the land of dying and have not yet joined me in the land of the living."

As always, his sound theology comes through loud and clear. And yet, with all due respect, this is a day of mourning for many. We have lost one of the true heroes of the faith and one of the genuine patriots of this land. His commitment to sound biblical teaching was matched by his passion for this nation and her Christian heritage. Though with the miracles of modern technology Dr. Kennedy's teachings will continue to be available to the next generation of American Christians, we will sorely miss his voice.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Thank God for Stay-at-Home Mothers

I know I’m going to get flack for some of this (I’m still going on the delusion that people are actually reading this!). But here it is anyway…

Today’s Springfield News-Leader carried a front page story about an 18-year-old babysitter who got into a bit of hot water for, get this – dropping a two-year-old out a second story window!! And listen to her reason: “two children she was babysitting – including the toddler’s 8-year-old sister – wanted her to throw the child out the window.” You’ve got to be kidding me! She told police she thought is was a bad idea, but she did it anyway!

Now, I know this doesn’t reflect the mental capacity of all 18-year-old babysitters. I know that my 16-year-old daughter would show more wisdom than this. And I know that I don’t know the details of why this family’s mother wasn’t at home.

I am well aware that some families are dependent on two incomes. It’s tough to get by out there. (However I know that many of those who say they “need” two incomes only need it to sustain a certain lifestyle that they’ve grown accustomed to). And I know there are single parents out there who struggle day in and day out to make ends meet, etc.

But here’s the point. Thank God for women who have answered the God given call to motherhood and who are committed to that call as a top priority. They aren’t ready to let others raise their children for them while they are off being modern, independent women, or whatever the current phraseology might be.

Again, I know there are certain circumstances that require something less than the biblical ideal in the home. (And yes, I do mean that the biblical ideal is for a mother to have her family and child-rearing as her top priority; let the riot commence). But for most, having mom stay home would simply be a matter of making some choices.

We shop at Wal-Mart and Dollar General. And that’s for the good stuff. For everyday stuff, we shop at garage sales, and second-hand shops. Doesn’t hurt my pride at all, nor my family’s.

We don’t have the newest cars, or the biggest, best house. In fact, after nearly 20 years of marriage we are just now making house payments on our own home for the first time.

Our kids don’t have all the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos. For electronic entertainment they have a garage sale Sega Genesis (for those who may not know, that is way, way, way out-dated in this day of the X-box and Playstation 3, 4, 100, whatever). But their entertainment isn’t limited to electronic devices that cost millions. They read books!! They play outside!! Imagine that.

Now, I’m not just trying to brag about our kids, as great as they are. Nor am I trying to hold our family up as some kind of super-family. I’m simply saying that we made choices. If Cheryl worked, maybe we could have newer cars, a bigger house, and “nicer stuff.” But at what cost? And is that what’s really important?

I don’t know how my kids will all turn out. We’re homeschoolers by experiment, which means “we ain’t never done it before” and we don’t know how it will all turn out. But I do know this much. Our kids are grounded in God’s Word. They are being given a biblical worldview that will be their foundation for life. They know that we strive our very best to base our family on God’s Word in all things. And they know that their mother loves them more than the new “stuff” she could buy with the income from outside employment.

I know there are more issues involved here than I could address in several days worth of entries; and this is probably already way too long. But reading that article just led me to let out a big prayer of praise and thanksgiving for a godly wife and mother to help raise our children. We may not be perfect. But I’m pretty sure no one is going to get dropped out of a window anytime soon.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sometimes It's Good To Look To The Past, Part Two

In response to my post about returning to the passion of earlier days, my good friend Rod, a little side tracked by the whole Stryper theme, gave me a good natured rebuke. He told me to “Dust off your Puritan hymnals my friend, and feed your soul the true music of heaven.”

Actually, he wasn’t just being facetious. I do collect antique hymnals as a hobby. And he makes a very good point. The idea of returning to the past and recapturing some of the passion and substance of our forefathers in the faith would apply to the area of music as well.

As I’ve already demonstrated, I have a certain weakness for loud screaming guitars. But there is certainly something to be said for the insightful lyrics of days gone by. So much of today’s “worship music” is weak and insipid lyrically, regardless of the musical style. The hymn writers of days gone by were often much more theologically astute.

One of the favorite pieces in my collection is the 1847 edition of The Psalmist, a nice old Baptist collection which includes many of the Puritan writers Rod refers to, especially Isaac Watts. Consider the richness of Watts’ words in adoration of God’s Sovereignty:

Keep silence, all created things,
And wait your Maker's nod;
My soul stands trembling while she sings
The honors of her God.

Life, death, and hell, and worlds unknown,
Hang on His firm decree;
He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be.

Before His throne a volume lies,
With all the fates of men,
With every angel's form and size
Drawn by th' eternal pen.

His providence unfolds the book,
And makes His counsels shine;
Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Fulfils some deep design.

Here, He exalts neglected worms
To scepters and a crown;
And there, the following page He turns,
And casts the monarch down.

My God, I would not long to see
My fate with curious eyes,
What gloomy lines are writ for me,
Or what bright scenes may rise.

In Thy fair book of life and grace
May I but find my name,
Recorded by Thy sovereign grace
Beneath my Lord, the Lamb!

Aside from the sound theology of that great work, how many of us would even have the patience to sing that many verses?! Definitely not a "7-11" song. Or how about this humble entreaty from 18th Century Baptist PK, Anne Steele:

And will the Lord thus condescend
To visit sinful worms?
Thus at the door shall Mercy stand,
In all her winning forms?

Surprising grace! - and shall my heart
Unmoved and cold remain?
Has it no soft, no tender part?
Must Mercy plead in vain?

O Lord, exert thy conquering grace;
Thy mighty power display:
One beam of glory from thy face
Can melt my sin away.

Unlike our modern little song books, there are over 1,000 entries in this old book, most of which reflect the same kind of passion and insight. Indeed, looking backward to some of these great old hymns would do us a world of good. It would remind us modern, independent, self-sufficient types of the biblical truth that God is God and we are not. Our pride and ego could use a good dose of these songs.

So thanks, Rod, for the reminder. Though it was meant in jest, you merely confirmed my previous post that there is great value in looking back sometimes.