Friday, November 30, 2007

Trembles at my word

The Lord declared in Isaiah 66:2, "But this is the one to whom I will look:

he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."

This last chapter of Isaiah was likely written shortly before his death. According to Jewish tradition, Manasseh sawed Isaiah in two. It is thought that Hebrews 11:37 is a reference to Isaiah.

When the prophets came to Manasseh, he paid no attention (2 Chron. 33:10). Manasseh was a wicked king. He worshiped Baal, erected an Asherah on the temple mount, worshiped the astral gods, and made his son to pass through the fire in worship to the god Molech. Manasseh shed "very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another" (2 Kings 21:16). He erected altars in the two courts of the temple. It was Manasseh's wickedness that God remembered when Jerusalem was destroyed (2 Kings 21:13). Manasseh was a wicked, wicked king who had no regard for God or his word... until...

God had enough. The Lord sent the king of Assyria against Judah. They captured Manasseh with hooks (thongs put through the nose), bound him and took him with bronze chains to Babylon (2 Chron. 33:11).

And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. (33:12-13).

In response to God's blessing, Manasseh rebuilt the outer wall of Jerusalem, removed the idol and the foreign gods from the house of the Lord, as well as the altars. He threw them out of the city. (33:14-15). He restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace and thank offerings. He ordered Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel. The people still sacrificed in the high places, but only to the Lord (33:16-17).

Unfortunately, many of the reforms of Manasseh were too late. His son Amon in his short, two-year reign brought back to Israel all that Manasseh got threw out. But we must admire Manasseh for humbling himself--even if for a short time.

Some lessons:

God forgives the penitent, even when one has been a terrible sinner. (Psalm 51:17) A humble and contrite heart is precious in God's eyes.

When one fails to hear God, he is following the path of destruction (Matt. 7:24-27). Bible authority is not something to be ignored or dismissed, as many progressives do. God means what He says. We ought to "tremble" at His word, taking it seriously enough that we do not get involved in idolatry or self-made religion (which is itself a kind of idolatry, since all idols are made). Manasseh carved out his altars and brought in his gods. We should not bring in the human-made machines for worship. God did not ask for them or teach us to use them. People thought that up on their own.

When we learn something is in error, we should throw it out.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Change your perspective

Finally, brothers,

whatever is true,

whatever is honorable,

whatever is just,

whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely,

whatever is commendable,

if there is any excellence,

if there is anything worthy of praise,

think about these things.

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:8-9)

people are about as happy as they choose to be

people are about as content as they choose to be

people are about as optimistic as they choose to be

My friend Charles Williams wrote in his bulletin today:

Historians say the first “Thanksgiving” was when the Pilgrims gave a great feast and invited the local native Indians to participate in a peaceful feast and the offering of thanks to God. Whenever the early Pilgrims worshiped, they did so in the face of constant danger, but on that day, they celebrated the blessings of peace and plenty.

In their services, they prayed for their safety and that the dangers would one day be removed. Their primary purpose was to thank Him for the blessings they had already received. They had traveled thousands of miles; endured untold hardships for the right to worship Him in freedom. The religious persecution in Europe taught them just how precious that freedom was.

We live in a great country. She is not perfect, but she is a beacon to the world for freedom of speech and religion, blessings we too often take for granted. As we celebrate Thanksgiving as a part of this great country’s customs, let us not forget the fact that our freedom to worship safely is one of the greatest gifts we enjoy.

Perhaps today is a good day to change our perspectives, to make a friend, to say "thank you" not only to God but to those who bless our lives daily, to forgive, to make peace, and to think the best about others.

Let us be done with lipservice, low goals, sight-walking, and appearance judging. Let us grow in grace and knowledge. Let us take God serioiusly.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Name Calling

When there is a discussion, and one of the conversationalists cannot advance his position, he may be tempted to advance an ad hominem argument. An ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy and moves from the issue to an appeal "against the man."

Such arguments stereotype the opponent, so that the audience or readers are biased against him for being such a person. In the church we tend to label and mark too quickly. It is easier to make a charge than it is to convince others the charge is not true.

Several years ago my brother-in-law, Dale Hartman, left the church in Senatobia, MS, to enter the mission field in Australia. Dale is from western Oklahoma and grew up on a farm/ranch. Rodeo is a big deal in Oklahoma, and some rodeo wannabes are often called "goat ropers." Since I was coming to Senatobia as he was leaving, he told everyone I was a "goat roper."

Dale's description of a goat roper was rather detailed. He wore Levi's and had the circle of a Skoal can in one of his back pockets. Of course, he also dipped. He wore a western hat, belt, and boots. He practiced his calf-roping on goats and often road home-made or mechanical bulls. A goat roper was indeed a wannabe that never did. Oh, he said, and there is one last thing:

"A goat roper will deny it to the end!"

Now, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. No matter how often I told the guys at Senatobia that I grew up in town, didn't care about rodeos, and wasn't a goat-roper, the more they were sure of it. One dear friend even left a couple of cans of Skoal on the pulpit one Sunday morning after our twins were born. (I attended my dear friend's funeral a couple of years ago, and his boys gave me an empty can of Skoal.) This half-truth stuck on me for years.

When I began this blog, I began it due to criticisms leveled at me from both the far left and the far right. (Go to the early posts.) I have been slapped on both cheeks from the ultras at both ends of the theological spectrum in churches of Christ. I even found my name on a website featuring its title in red, burning letters....suggesting my eternal end.

Some folks think I'm conservative; others call me liberal. I guess it depends on what issue you are dealing with. I am often called a Pharisee, a traditionalist, and a legalist. I always liked what J.D. Bales said, "I'd rather be a legalist than an illegalist!"

I really don't care to be labeled except for this: I am a Christian. Jesus is the Lord of my life, and I don't care who knows it. I belong to Him.

Name calling is rude, pejorative, and often unfair. Few gossips who call names are honest enough to apologize or take it back, when they are found to be in error. I was once the featured victim of an acid pen calling me a deceiver and compromiser. The fellow who wrote the drivel had failed to do his homework, but he never apologized. Instead he got another guy to join in the slander.

Before you call a name, consider whether that is the best approach. You may lose any opportunity to dialog with that person later on. You may unfairly label someone you don't understand.

There is a time to mark and avoid (Rom. 16:17-18), but such an action on unfounded evidence is cruel and dishonest.

Our law does not judge a man until it hears him.

my thoughts,