Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins -- Colossians 1:13-14

The kingdom, as we know, is where the King reigns.  Whatever our physical location, if we live under the rule of the King, we are citizens of the kingdom. 

This seems to be missed in the law versus grace argument.  I don’t have a side in that discussion.  Grace and forgiveness are the privileges, we might say, of citizenship in the kingdom of the Son.  Those of us who have the rights of the children of God need not have too much concern about the rights of Englishmen or even what is enumerated in the Bill of Rights.  I live under grace because I have transferred my allegiance and my obedience to the Lord and His kingdom. 

To live in the kingdom is to live by a higher law than any man-made legislative body can craft.  If I am condemned by the Supreme Court it means little compared to the verdict of the righteous Judge of heaven and earth.  He calls me to live by faith in Him.  He says to love others as He loves me, to forgive as I have been forgiven, to behave with care and avoid offense where possible, to protect and guard the souls of His little ones as I would my own. 

I understand the aged Paul better than I used to, I think:  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account (Philippians 1:22-23).  There are people yet in this world that I love, and I want to remain with them to do my part to look out for them and make them happy, but this world is a troubled and troubling place.  I don't think I'll miss it all that much when it’s my turn to leave. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Salty Language

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. -- Ephesians 4:29

This is not, I don’t believe, so much an admonition against foul or profane language as it is about speaking honestly and thoughtfully to one another.  We ought to be careful how we speak to others because we can corrupt someone if we are too harsh and condemning, or not condemning enough. 

Our words should fit the occasion and the circumstances of our hearer.  Many of the world’s problems can be laid at the feet of those who refuse to offend when a reprimand is appropriate.  Speaking the simple truth is now considered by many to be “hate speech”. 

At the other extreme, we used to exercise some restraint on what could be expressed in the various venues of popular culture.  Having labeled all restrictions as “puritanical”, we see that our society becomes daily more immoral, licentious, and depraved.  What a surprise this is.

We need to face the truth about ourselves.  We do not need to be told that we are all right and that every impulse we might have is “natural” and should be followed if we are be authentically ourselves.  The authentic natural man is debased, debauched, and perverse – and the authentic natural woman is probably worse.  If this were not true, Christ would not have had to come into this world and die on a cross for our sins.  We are dead apart from Christ, and all the perfume in the world won’t make a corpse’s prospects any less unpleasant.

To switch to the political for a moment, I wonder if the people who call themselves “progressive” have ever thought about the progress of a dead body.  That is what the “progressive” agenda amounts to.  They would do better by taking up taxidermy like the conservatives.

I am neither progressive nor conservative in that sense.  I believe Christ alone can make the dead live, and this is the hope of humanity.  Those who offer political or economic solutions to spiritual problems are most guilty of corrupting society. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wrong Question

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, Are you for us, or for our adversaries?  And he said, No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come. … -- Joshua 5:13-14

God is on our side.  In the Second World War, this was said by German soldiers as well as American and British servicemen.  In the American Civil War, it was said by both North and South.  Today it is said by the Israeli, by the Muslim, by the policeman, and by the one who shot the policeman down. 

Our political leaders speak of being on the right or wrong side of history.  That is the agnostic, pop-culture, materialist way of saying it.  Marx didn’t like God telling him what to do, so he substituted history in God’s place.  The names change, but the error remains the same.

I am either working with God or I am opposing Him.  Jesus points it out to us from both sides: 

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30).
For the one who is not against us is for us (Mark 9:40).

The right side is God’s side, by definition.  God alone is good.  I can’t do good and be opposed to God; I can’t be opposed to God and do good. 

The problem we face today is that the world, by and large, rejects this simple and obvious reality.  The largely reactionary political left has come to believe that good is doing whatever God says is wrong.  Meanwhile the socially conservative believe that we can get God on our side by passing laws and using the force of government to make people behave correctly.  I am sympathetic to the latter approach.  It makes a lot more sense than sowing chaos then wondering why we’re reaping such bloody and violent pandemonium. 

As a Christian, I am for good behavior.  I hope that goes without saying.  But being on God’s side doesn’t always mean be nice.  God can be disruptive.  In fact, in this world, at this time, we need some divine disruption.  People who are deceived by sin do not need to be pacified or placated. 

A long period of relative peace and prosperity has led us onto a comfortable path, but one that increasing diverges from the truth.  A course correction is about to take place.  If I try to stay on the wrong road or to help others do so -- regardless of how “nice” my words and actions are perceived as being, I will find that I am opposing God.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. -- 1 Peter 5:8

Whatever the devil may be, he is no idiot.  Just as people can be talented, clever, knowledgeable, and even intellectually superior without being good or wise, our enemy is a genius of tactics and strategy.  He has been working the underground angle for a long time.  The forces of evil are like a guerrilla band that thinks they have won the hearts and minds of the general populace and are ready to come out and go conventional.    

It has happened a lot over the centuries in and among various nations.  Now it’s about to come to the whole world.  The devil can take the platform of international news, the internet, and social media and make his proclamation of victory to nearly everyone on the planet simultaneously.  The enemy thinks he has won. 

This is where mere intellectual power fails.  The devil lacks wisdom, as do his ministers and his minions, regardless of the world’s high opinion of them.   Together they have laid a trap for the faithful.  They have dug a pit to capture us, but they will fall into it. 

That doesn’t mean there won’t be suffering among us.  There always is.  Peter acknowledges that in this same fifth chapter, but he also reminds us that we are on the right side – not of history but of truth and righteousness. 

It is time, once again, to remind ourselves that our struggle is not against creatures of the flesh but against the spiritual powers that dominate and control the thinking of those trapped in a carnal mind. 

The enemy can be defeated.  The mouth of the lion can be shut.  Resist him, firm in the faith

Monday, July 18, 2016

Acting Small

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. -- Mark 14:8

Have you ever had a job that was too much for you?  I find that a lot with projects and things that need to be done.  If I look at the whole of what is required, I wonder how I can possibly finish it all.  I hardly know where to start.   

Life in the modern world is like that.  Maybe it’s not the modern world.  Maybe it’s just life.  Right now, though, it seems we are being overrun by evil at every turn.  We are facing one tidal wave of insanity after another, and we fear being swept away.  We are clinging to the Rock of reality.  How long can we hold on?  What are we to do, and how are we to live?  We stand before the Black Gate surrounded and about to be crushed. 

Jesus was about to go to the Cross.  Hostility, antagonism, and opposition to His ministry were mounting.  The pressure was increasing.  He was on His way to His final confrontation in Jerusalem:  And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head (Mark 14:3). 

She could not save the world.  She could not go to the Cross in His place.  She could not spare Him from the suffering that He would have to endure.  What she could do was break that alabaster flask of oil and use it to express her love for the Lord.  It seems like such a small thing.  All of history turns on the Cross.  Jesus was about to bear the full weight of all humanity’s iniquity.  How could her small sacrifice and effort matter?  It mattered to Jesus.  He saw in her demonstration of devotion the reason for what He was about to endure.

We can’t save everybody.  We can’t heal every wound.  We can’t feed every hungry person.  We can’t rescue every person who is suffering or in peril.  None of us, not even working together in large numbers, can really change the world.      

Every one of us, though, can do something.  There is someone we know who needs love and comfort.  There is someone we can forgive.  There is some ill, however small, that we can remedy.  Let’s stop worrying about all that we can’t do, and do what we can.