Archive for » May, 2009 «

May 27th, 2009 | Author:

Welcome to the Word for Wednesday meme. I hope you’ll decide to particpate.

Just pick a scripture passage that means something to you right now, and copy it into a post with as much or as little commentary as you choose. Please note that Mr. Linky is not available at this time due to a server overload, so just leave a link to your post in the comments. It’s that easy, and you may never know whose heart God touched because you took the time to share His Word.

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I have been compelled this week to read and re-read the little book of Haggai. This is the passage that stands out, emphasis added.
Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?”

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”

Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD. “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the LORD of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.

Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Haggai 1:3-11)

This passage is often used by pastors to recruit workers to do cleaning and repairs on the church building, but I don’t think that’s the point. Perhaps God will show you something different, but this is what I’ve drawn from this passage thus far.

1) Consider your ways! While we’d far rather consider what everyone else is doing, and just go on ourselves the same as we’ve always done, God repeatedly tells us to consider what we are doing. One such verse that God wrote on my heart many years ago is Lamentations 3:40.

Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.

Paul reiterates this idea in 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?

2) Go up to the mountains Throughout scripture, going up to the mountains is equated with meeting God. From the familiar Psalm 121 “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth;” to Horeb and the burning bush (Exo 3:1-2); to Hermon and the transfiguration of Christ (Mk 9:2); to the ascension of Christ from Olivet (Act 1:12); mountain-top experiences change lives.

3) bring wood While wood is used to build things, it is also often used as fuel to start a fire of sacrifice.

4) rebuild the temple Scripture also tells us that the temple of the Old Testament age is a representation of the church and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament age:

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:1-5)

5) that I may be pleased with it and be glorified Each of our temples exist only to please God and glorify God.

6) because of you The trials and tribulations that fall on the whole world are often the result of the disobedience of God’s people, although today’s Christians would far rather blame the woes of our nation on evil unbelievers.

If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)

Is God calling us to consider our ways, and go up the mountain to meet with Him? Is He calling Christians to sacrifice the things of this world and rebuild the spiritual temples of our bodies, renouncing immorality and alliances with unbelievers? If we seek to please and glorify God instead of ourselves, will He relent of the drought and pestilence that plagues our nation?

You decide.

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May 19th, 2009 | Author:

Welcome to the Word for Wednesday meme. I hope you’ll decide to particpate.

Just pick a scripture passage that means something to you right now, copy it into a post with as much or as little commentary as you choose, and put a link to that post in Mr. Linky below. It’s that easy, and you may never know whose heart God touched because you took the time to share His Word.

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Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

I have never met the regular participants of the Word for Wednesday meme. I know little about their personal lives, and have never even spoken to them. Yet, some weeks our posts have meshed just like we planned it that way, even though we didn’t.

Conversely, there are times I struggle mightily to understand what fellow Christians could possibly be thinking, even though I’ve known some of them my whole life.

As I pondered this puzzle, I came across a passage by A. W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God, Chapter 7, titled The Gaze of the Soul. As are most pieces by Tozer, it’s an excellent article that equates the Old Testament “looking” on God with the New Testament “believing” on Christ. If you have a spare minute, I’d encourage you to read it.

The concept that jumped out at me, though, is the following:

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

Quite simply, then, when we are “tuned in” to Christ, our thoughts and actions will reflect Christ, and we will preserve the unity of the Spirit. We can then rejoice in our common understanding.

When we are following a different spirit or our own private agenda, though, no amount of conscious effort at unity can create something that doesn’t exist. Where we have discord, we must “tune in” to discover the root of the problem. Masking it over with artificial good cheer serves no one.

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May 14th, 2009 | Author:

This post is part of the Favorite Founders’ Quote Friday meme. Go to Meet the Founding Fathers to see who else has participated today.

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With this post, I finally(!) conclude my line-by-line examination of the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence, but here’s a little refresher as I know it’s been a long time between posts.

In the first post I looked at the phrase, We hold these truths to be self-evident. I established that relative moralism, which declares that no universal standard exists to judge right or wrong, is a lie that many Americans have been taught and have believed. In contrast, ethical positions do not change, but are self-evident in that we instinctively recognize injustice.

In part II, I examined the phrase that all men are created equal, concluding that to “create” means to bring into existence and not to “evolve,” and equal in this case doesn’t mean size or ability or morals or accomplishments or station in life, but instead refers to an individual’s inherent value or worth. I restated the phrase this way: all men are brought into existence having equal worth.

Based largely on Webster’s 1828 dictionary, Part III amplified the next phrase as follows:

that all men are freely given gifts by the One who brought them into existence, which are based on the law or will of God and conform to truth and justice, and may not be transferred or have any legal claims placed against them

Today we’ll look at the last phrase: that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Being careful to state that the rights listed are not the only rights, the founders none-the-less selected three as being worth mentioning individually:

Life: The first definition of life in Webster’s 1828 version goes this way, emphasis added:

In a general sense, that state of animals and plants, or of an organized being, in which its natural functions and motions are performed, or in which its organs are capable of performing their functions. A tree is not destitute of life in winter, when the functions of its organs are suspended; nor man during a swoon or syncope; nor strictly birds, quadrupeds or serpents during their torpitude in winter. They are not strictly dead, till the functions of their organs are incapable of being renewed.

If we accept this definition as being the one our founders understood, then the right to life begins at conception, for what is more natural than our development in the womb? Concurrently, the right to life does not end until all functions are beyond renewal. “Brain-dead” then is a meaningless term if the heart or any other organ continues to function.

This definition agrees with the 4th century Hippocratic Oath which, until quite recently, included the following statement:

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

Liberty: Returning to Webster’s 1828 edition, the first definition of liberty is this, emphasis added:

1. Freedom from restraint, in a general sense, and applicable to the body, or to the will or mind. The body is at liberty, when not confined; the will or mind is at liberty, when not checked or controlled. A man enjoys liberty, when no physical force operates to restrain his actions or volitions. [volition is defined as the power to choose]

Pursuit of Happiness: Again from Webster’s 1828 edition, happiness is defined as follows, emphasis added:

The agreeable sensations which spring from the enjoyment of good; that state of a being in which his desires are gratified, by the enjoyment of pleasure without pain; felicity; but happiness usually expresses less than felicity, and felicity less than bliss. Happiness is comparative. To a person distressed with pain, relief from that pain affords happiness; in other cases we give the name happiness to positive pleasure or an excitement of agreeable sensations. Happiness therefore admits of indefinite degrees of increase in enjoyment, or gratification of desires. Perfect happiness, or pleasure unalloyed with pain, is not attainable in this life.


Summary

In this very long attempt to understand just what our founders meant when they declared independence, I’ve examined the words they chose to begin this infamous document:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In the process, an expanded, albeit less elegant, version has arisen that reflects our current use of language, and hopefully, the founders intent.

We believe the following truths are understood by all: that all men are brought into existence having equal worth, that they are freely given gifts by the One who brought them into existence, which are based on the law or will of God and conform to truth and justice, and may not be transferred or have any legal claims placed against them. These gifts include life, which begins at conception and continues until all organs cease to function; liberty, with no physical force to constrain actions or choices; and the pursuit of happiness, which comes from the enjoyment of good.

So how do we apply this today? How does it compare to the Bible? Can we stand on this statement and make informed, principled decisions about church and state and life in general? I’m asking each of my readers to mull this over and share your thoughts in a comment.

Next week (I promise, if the Good Lord is willin’ and the creek don’t rise) I’ll include your thoughts and try to apply this founding statement to the America of today.

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May 13th, 2009 | Author:

The NYS Court of Appeals has ruled that the state police cannot arbitrarily put a GPS device in somebody’s vehicle to track their movements without first obtaining a warrant.

One step forward for the right to privacy. One step backward for Big Brother.

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Category: Bill of Rights  | 2 Comments
May 12th, 2009 | Author:

Welcome to the Word for Wednesday meme. I hope you’ll decide to particpate.

Just pick a scripture passage that means something to you right now, copy it into a post with as much or as little commentary as you choose, and put a link to that post in Mr. Linky below. It’s that easy, and you may never know whose heart God touched because you took the time to share His Word.

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If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Luke 14:26-35)

“He cannot be My disciple.” How many of us meet this test? How many of us have truly relegated all our possessions and relationships to second place behind following Christ? How many of us have given our very lives to following Christ?

According to this passage, Christians who will not calculate and pay the price bring ridicule to Jesus’ name. According to this passage, half-hearted, tasteless Christians are useless.

Are you a real disciple?

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