Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Good Is Evil

Isaiah 5:20-21
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

This is not talking about putting sugar in the salt shaker or salt in the sugar bowl.

Yesterday a court ruled that restrictions on abortion requiring doctors to have admitting privileges in local hospitals was unconstitutional because it would effectively close several abortion clinics and interfere with a woman's right to kill her unborn child.

Meanwhile, the same people who celebrate this decision are pressing to have the "barbaric" practice of capital punishment abolished under the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Killing an innocent infant is good, but killing a convicted murderer is evil.

Also in the news...
New study finds children exposed to religion have difficulty discerning between fact and fiction.
Commentators were amazed over a man being acquitted for spanking his child.
Courts across the country are striking down laws against same sex marriage as unconstitutional.

It would be a huge mistake to see this as a liberal versus conservative issue. Some of the most conservative voices are promoting greed, selfishness and oppression as patriotic virtues. They call good evil and evil good - just like the liberals.

The source of the problem is human pride that believes its own sense of right is a sufficient measuring rod. They are guided by their own feelings and their own interests as they perceive them. But they have no regard for God and no objective guide for what is good and what is evil.

Up is down, left is right, light is dark... This is our world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

God Is Good

1 Chronicles 16:34
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

This psalm of praise is a theme throughout the Old Testament. In times of celebration and in times of crisis, God's people are encouraged to remember that God is good and His steadfast love endures forever.

The future is unknown. We are flying into the darkness at the speed of light. We are bumping into obstacles and experiencing surprise and pain. How can we keep from panic? How can we avoid depression and despair?

The answer is hope.

Right now we can only see one glob of paint on the canvas and it is so close to us that it is not even attractive. But this is a work in progress. There is a painter at work who is competent and careful. He will add other colors, use different brushes and keep working until the whole picture is complete. Then we will stand back with him and see the whole. Then we will appreciate the beauty of his plan.

We must have hope that life is not random. The work we do, the relationships we have, the trials we face are all part of a meaningful pattern that we will appreciate when we can see it from the right perspective. 

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We trust in the God who has revealed himself in the Bible. Our hope is in him. We can't see the whole picture, but we know about the painter. He is good and his steadfast love endures forever.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pursuing God

I recently caught just a snippet of a radio program. The person being interviewed talked about the difference between success and mastery as objectives of endeavor.  She pointed out that the pursuit of mastery comes from a love of the process, while the pursuit of success comes from a desire for society's approval.

That is about all I heard, but I've been thinking about this.

Presumably, two people could engage in the same activity for completely different reasons. They might, for example, both take up target shooting with a pistol. They buy the equipment, they study the subject, they get training and they go to the range to practice or compete.

The one is pursuing success. For him, the ultimate objective is to win his matches and receive the prizes and recognition that come with winning. It is not that he will give up if he doesn't win every match, but unless he sees his progress and feels that he can ultimately begin winning matches, he will not be satisfied.

The other is pursuing mastery. In his case, he just likes the whole experience. He likes the equipment, the study of it, the people associated with it, and most importantly, he likes doing it. He might never actually enter any formal competition, but he will keep practicing. Winning a match is unimportant to him and his enjoyment of the sport. He works to master the skill for love of the process.

It is easy to see the application of this to Christian living and ministry. Some pursue Christianity and even ministry out of a pursuit of success. By being a Christian they might be praised by other Christians. By being in ministry they might get more praise and there are even celebrity Christian ministers. The big danger is that very few get much success out of the pursuit of Christianity. They may end up frustrated and discouraged.

Christians should pursue Christianity because of a love for Christ. We love to get to know Christ better through the study of his word. To spend time with God in prayer is our delight. To fellowship with other Christians is refreshing. To teach or preach is a tremendous privilege and a great joy. We strive to master the material out of a love of the practice of Christian disciplines.

Lola and I are going through some deep waters these days. A year ago, I was diagnosed with myelofibrosis - a kind of chronic leukemia. I was told my mean life expectancy was about seven years. This summer my dear wife, Lola, was diagnosed with uterine cancer. After her hysterectomy a few weeks ago, the pathology showed that she has stage III C 1 cancer, so she is preparing for a long series of radiation followed by several rounds of chemotherapy. The statistics give her a 47% chance of surviving five years.

These developments give me a sinking feeling. They definitely don't feel like "success" and it is very tempting to say, "Why did we spend all these years and all those dollars pursuing our educations, ordination, certification, etc.? What have we accomplished - and now we are hanging on by the skin of our teeth."

The answer is, "We pursued these things for the love of Christ and he is worth it all." Our delight in God and his word and his people has motivated us. Our respective cancers are another opportunity to learn to depend on God through difficulties and to demonstrate God's sufficiency in trials.

We aren't dead yet and it may be that God will give us both twenty more years of life... but we just don't know. What we do know is that he is worth living for, no matter what happens in this life.

(Philippians 1:20 ESV) as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.