Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Psalm 16: I have no good apart from you

          David opens the 16th Psalm with the cry: "Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge." David finds his soul in such danger that he cries out unto the Lord for deliverance. Yet, in the next line, he speaks not of his calamity. Rather, David affirms that the Lord is his God and utters: "I have no good apart from you." Amidst David's troubles, he remembers that all the goodness he experiences come from no other source that God Himself.

     Consider the rains which water the earth. Which drop falls at the behest of man? Look to the clouds that veil and reveal the sun. Who commands them? It is the Lord, the Almighty God. Man works no good for even himself, save those passed into his capacity by Providence.

     David teaches us that in trials and hardship, our chief consolation is in the goodness of God himself. Apart from the Lord, there is no good thing.

    The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
        you hold my lot.
    The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
        indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

(Psalm 16:5-6)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Psalm 40: God's Mercy

As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me;
Your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!
When I think of God restraining something, I usually think of God restraining his wrath, or holding back the wickedness of men, so when I came upon this line from Psalm 40, I found it to be worth meditation. Here David is praising the Lord by confessing that he "will not restrain" his mercy. Though I daily struggle with sin, be it mine or another's, the mercy of God will not be withheld from me. This mercy, taking shape in the love and faithfulness of God, is David's rock and salvation. Not in his own ways and means, nor even in his love for God does David find security. In God alone do I have my justification.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Psalm 23: The Loving Providence of God

In my personal devotional time lately, I've been reading Psalm 23. When you think about Psalm 23, thanks to Hollywood, what typically comes to mind are funerals and famous last words. Yet, over the last few weeks, I began to see that this Psalm is more than what it normally gets passed off as. Far from being a dour and dirgey Psalm, it is much more fitting to be understood as a testimony of God's providence and blessing in the life of the Christian.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Here we have the common motif of God as the Good Shepherd, who care for his flock. David is lead by the Lord to still waters and green pastures. More than just pretty imagery, David uses it as metaphor for the spiritual reality: God restores his soul and leads him along the path of righteousness. His spiritual needs are taken care of so that he has none: I shall not want. To the Christian, God provides just as much as he did for David. Through Christ, our sinful souls are restored, and the Spirit guides and sanctifies us, taking us along the path of righteousness.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
It is important to note that the path of righteousness often requires us to walk through trials and temptations in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Christian life does not promise a life of ease and luxury. As Peter wrote in his First Epistle, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed....For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil." In times of trouble and trial, our God is ever with us, our constant help and salvation. The loving corrections of the Good Shepherd comfort us in our trials, giving us the consolation that the not only is God with us to rebuke us, but that he works even those trials to our gain.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Even when we are surrounded by evil, the Lord still provides our daily bread. Moreover, he blesses us, and gives us in abundance that which we need. In light of all this David arrives at a clear conclusion: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Looking back over the course of the Christian's life, the regular blessings of God should cause you to look to the future with the firm conviction that the very same God will continue to bless you and supply your needs, all the days of your life. Looking beyond this life, David peers into eternity: "And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Such was his hope, and so is it ours also.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Defending the West



The Victory of September 11, 1565
Here is an article that sheds light on why the Muslims may have chosen September 11th to carry out their attacks on the American manifestation of Western Culture. Cella quotes the leader of the Knights of Malta, on the eve of a Muslim attack on their fortress, "A formidable army composed of audacious barbarians is descending on this island. These persons, my brothers, are the enemies of Jesus Christ. Today it is a question of the defense of our faith -- as to whether the Gospels are to be superseded by the Koran. God on this occasion demands of us our lives, already vowed to his service. Happy will be those who first consummate this sacrifice."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Anti-Abortion Is Not Always Pro-Life


Elizabeth has blogged some thoughts on what it means to be pro-life as opposed to anti-abortion. While most evangelical and Protestant Christians would identify themselves as pro-life, when one considers the actions and ideas behind many of these, it is fitting, instead, to call them "anti-abortion." As Elizabeth explains:

If someone is pro-life (and Christians are called to be pro-life, as our Creator is), they value life in all forms, from conception to its end. That means supporting a pregnant teenager and a family with 6 kids. It also means supporting a family with 1 child and the 83-year-old lady who spent her life serving the Lord single in Indonesia. It means viewing each and every life as a precious miracle. No matter how many kids a couple has, each one is a miracle, whether or not the child was "easily" conceived or whether it took years of trying.

I expressed similar thoughts when I wrote, "300 Million, What A Blessing."

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Hiding From The Dark


Darkness is the source of many a childhood fears, nightmares and boogie men under the bed. In the absence of light, the faint rustling of the wind and leaky facets are easily transformed into monsters. Ironically, a flashlight is usually all you need to fend off boogie men and closet monsters. Darkness is, after all, only the absence of light. It is not actually a thing itself, simply the absence of a thing.

Many people of late have been demonstrating a concern over the upcoming film, The Golden Compass, which is based off of the book by Philip Pullman. I have not read his books, not have I found myself privileged with an advanced screening, so my knowledge is based on second hand sources, such as the Christianity Today article, "The Chronicles of Atheism," by Peter Chattaway.

Many Christians are concerned about this movie because of the blatantly hostile comments that Pullman has made in reference to Christianity, and several critics point out that his stories contain a "death of God" theme, and depict established religion as being subversive, cruel and the source of all manner of evils. Since the film is about a young girl (as most all children's films these days, but that is rant for another time) and her adventures, it is being marketed to children. Many worry that interest in this film by children will result in increased readership of Pullman's books, which, it is feared, will in turn result in indoctrinating them in atheism.

Yet, is this movie something that Christian parents ought to hide their children from? Are Pullman's books something that a parent ought to dread finding on their son or daughter's book shelf? As with most dilemmas, the answer is "Yes and no." Parents should be involved in their children's entertainment choices. While, as my mother found out, reading every book your child reads becomes impossible, it is only responsible to be familiar with what they are reading and watching. However, what about material that is not Christian or even "Christian-friendly?" Should parents allow their children to read books beyond the authors known by all to be "safe?" The issue of safety is a big concern for evangelicals. That is why Harry Potter has become a bone of contention among so many Christians. "Will this book or movie entice my child away from Christianity?"

The obsession with "safety," in some respects, is a cop-out to the real issue, which I believe involves the training and discipline of children. Rather than sit down with them and teach them the skills they need to evaluate what they are reading or watching, and giving them a firm grasp of what is Good, True and Beautiful, we give them only safe materials. The problem with this is that when these children grow up, they have no experience at discerning good from evil and will have a harder time holding on to what little they do know to be true. It is no wonder that most Christian youth walk away from their Christian faith by the time they graduate from college if all we do with them is play games and make them feel good about themselves. If we actually took the time to instruct them in sound doctrine and right living, they would stand a much greater chance when faced with hostile views.

Regarding Pullman specifically, parents should not automatically strike it off the reading or watching list. Instead, they should evaluate how discerning their student is. At 15, my parents told me that they trusted my judgement when it came to media. I had demonstrated a good grasp of right and wrong, thanks largely to the upbringing they provided, which not only included spiritual instruction, but also provision for critical thinking. If a parent has a student who is discerning, is there need to worry if about whether or not they will be swayed by the ideas in The Golden Compass? If a child is not very discerning, perhaps Pullman is the perfect opportunity to teach them discernment. A parent might consider reading the book with their child or taking them to see the movie, then actively engaging them in discussion about the ideas contained in it. This will not only give you bonding time with your child, but will allow you to come along side a less discerning person and show them how to analyze what is going on. Yes, it requires work on the parent's part. Mom and/or Dad will have to think about the movie or book themselves.

Does this mean that a parent should let their child read just any book? No. There is a moral umbrella that must be maintained in all things. As my friend Jeff Baldwin teaches in his class on Christianity and the Arts, if something present in a kind of media tempts you or causes you to sin, you need to avoid it. The classic example he gives is Michelangelo's statue David. This particular statue is a nude, which means that David has no clothes. Now, to the average male, a statue of a nude man is not going to tempt him to sin. However, if the statue were of, say, a nude Greek goddess, there will likely be a problem and the man would be advised to act accordingly. The key thing here, is to be honest with yourself and with others about what is a source of temptation for you. Thus, if a particular movie or book contains morally objectionable content that will cause your child to stumble, then by all means, strike it from the "read" list.

There is also a fair amount of hypocrisy that threatens the Christian family that boycotts Pullman, but not other media. The most common objection that I have heard to his works is that they promote atheism and thus, children should not be subjected to it for fear of indoctrinating them in falsehood. I would be interested in knowing if these same families would also prevent their children from watching The Land Before Time, which contains as presuppositions, evolutionary theories. Certainly we do not want to indoctrinate our children in evolutionary naturalism, do we? Certainly not, but there is far more concern over Pullman than there is over Littlefoot and his friends. What about Disney movies? Most of them tell children to follow their heart and to believe in themselves. Do we really want to subject our children to indoctrination by empty, self-help feel-good philosophies that are probably more harmful to them than an atheistic fantasy story? The Lion King is clearly Buddhist in its worldview, but is enjoyed by countless Christian children with the blessing of their parents. Double standard? Hypocrisy? Ignorance?

We cannot hide from the darkness. While the atheism of Pullman's books is certainly false, we only do ourselves harm by avoiding it. Rather, we must shine our light into the heart of the darkness his books contain and show the monsters in the corner to be what they really are: paper tigers invented by sinful men who have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and who worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1). In the absence of truth, we should fear The Golden Compass, but in the presence of the light, our fears are shown to be false.

Monday, February 06, 2012

"Self-Worship"

I have a bone to pick with the way churches do worship. The heart of my complaint was that it is too man-centered. I found someone at ReformationTheology.com who has articulated this better and more succinctly than I have.

"Self-Worship"

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

300-Million, What A Blessing!

In case you haven't noticed, people are everywhere. In October, 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that America has crossed the 300-million persons mark, out of a global population estimated to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.5-billion. Many people are concerned about this number. Some extremists think that there are already too many people on this earth, and that the alleged global warming crisis is a result of this.

In the midst of this new growth in population, I can't forget that the census should read 347,000,000. We're missing, primarily from my generation, 47-million people. They are the babies that we have sacrificed to our Molecian gods of convenance, irresponsibility and death. In the midst of all the "doom-and-gloom" reporting on the population landmark, it is easy to have our view of 300-million people soured when we really ought to rejoice. If the death of so many children from abortion should stir us up, then the increases in our population should be cause to rejoice. Given that more and more of my generation are becoming parents, abortion has cost us not only their 47-million lives alone, but denied us their children as well. Given this, we ought to be concerned with the fact that we're just now crossing the 300-million mark. Terence Jeffrey wrote, "Is America a richer, better, more pleasing place to live for having killed those 47 million? Not a chance."

Culturally, we do not value children as we use to. Indeed, we often see them as a burden, or an inconvenience. Rather than seeing them as we ought to, as precious human lives given to us as gifts from God, we worry about the "costs" associated with raising children and are distracted by the Almighty Dollar Sign. Women are concerned as to whether or not having children will tie them to their homes and prevent them from living a "fulfilling life." Men are worried that they will not have time with their wives if they have children.

Sadly, even Christians are not immune from this thinking. The widespread acceptance and usage of birth control among Protestants is evidence of this. I have taken a lot of flack from my fellow protestants by taking a moral stand against birth control, and, hopefully, earned some respect from my Roman Catholic friends as well. I do not mean to open that debate, but I think it is relevant, because I do not think you can be in favor of (artificial) birth control and truly be pro-life. You may be "anti-abortion," but you are not pro-life. The truth is, if life beings at conception, than even birth control methods that merely prevent implantation of the fertilized egg are causing the death of a human being.

To truly support life, you have to believe more than that abortion is wrong. You have to believe that human life is created in the image of God, and that from the moment of conception, it is a sacred life. You have to understand that life is a gift, it is a good thing, and that it is a blessing from God. None of us curse God for being healthy, for being able to live our lives to the fullest. If we are thankful for our own lives and health, why do we not take an interest in the well being of the unborn lives?

I do not want to simply end the abortion culture. I want to have a pro-life culture. I want to live in a society in which mothers who taking their 5+ children to the grocery store are praised, not harassed. If we take life seriously, if we teach and train our children to value even the smallest of human lives, not only are we helping to prevent abortion, but we are taking steps to encourage sexual responsibility.


May God help us to learn to love life and look forward to 400-million.