Monthly Archives: March 2014

Maturity – is knowing we’re old enough to know better

In the cartoon Family Circus, little Billy is scolded by his mother with the sharp reprimand, “You’re old enough to know better.”  How many times in our beginning years did we hear that refrain from mom or dad; how many times did we repeat it to our own kids—and they to theirs?

Billy’s answer was realistic for a child.  “How was I supposed to know I’m old enough to know better?”  San Diego Union Tribune, 2/25/14.

Good question.  We should “know better” than say or do certain things, but do we know we’re old enough to know better?  Sometimes, no matter how old we get, we never learn better.

Christian maturity may not eliminate Billy’s question when we’re reproved by the Holy Spirit in scripture.  It may help us to develop to a point where we DO know we’re old enough to know better—and…secure in the knowledge, doing it!  Here’s to a discipleship that admits were babies crawling…but always towards the high calling of God in Christ Jesus Philippians 3:14.

Conversion – life worthy of necessary

Nick Waddell, a coastwatcher in the Solomon Islands in World War II, kept a “visitors book” in which he wrote the names of all downed flyers rescued by his men.  He organized a club called “Rubber Rafters Association” and gave every rescued airman a certificate of membership.  To maintain good standing in the group each man had only to get drunk every year on the anniversary of his rescue; if possible he also had “to make as many others as possible equally drunk.”  Not a high expectation of those rescued from almost certain death.

When Jesus liberates us from sin’s power he frees us to remain independent of it, not to celebrate our emancipation with further plunges into depravity.

When members of the Boston Museum X‑rayed Jean‑Francois Millet’s “Young Shepherdess”, they discovered his “The Captivity of the Jews in Babylon” beneath.  Millet apparently painted over the “Captivity” in 1848 after it received unfavorable reviews.

God’s forgiveness doesn’t paint over sin, hiding the old life underneath.  He removes that life altogether.  For he won’t have canceled sins visible like shadows beneath a veneer of grace.


Sin, unforgiven will be punished

As a 19 year old army soldier, he and two others attacked and killed one man, wounding another.  The 19 year old went to prison for 23 years as a convicted killer.  In 1977 he escaped, disappeared and assumed a new identity.  Then, March, 2014, Federal marshals arrested him outside his work place.  He didn’t respond when called by his real name—perhaps  for not speaking it so long.

The story illustrates the bulldog-tenacity of law, especially where murder is committed.  Those enforcing the law never stop looking for the guilty.  The murder may be found in a high pile of cold cases, but hot interest always pursues them.  San Diego Union Tribune, 3/15/14

The spiritual application of law is even-more alarming.

God’s law, revealed through Moses, like all law in all nations, had the purpose of controlling behavior by limiting misbehavior.  And, when violations occurred, constituted authority imposed restitution or penalties.

Law always looks to adherence, even to those rules we may not know:  ignorance of the law is no excuse.  It seeks penalties on breakage since its purpose is to force compliance.  The pivot in law is always, “why haven’t you obeyed?”  And, if we’re guilty of breaking even one of 10 laws, no limit to the amount of misbehavior exists.

Unforgiven sin is like the crime the man committed.   God’s justice never forgets; that sin is always inscribed in the Books God keeps on each of us Revelation 20:12.  We may forget we sinned but in vain if we don’t have it forgiven, for it will, like that man’s past, rise up in the most unexpected time and denounce us.

Now…thank God for Grace…a word of hope.  While law searches God’s justice looking for a rule to condemn, Grace ransacks God’s love seeking an exception that forgives.  The pivot in grace is always “how can this sinner be exonerated?”

Law was preventative, given to protect others from ourselves.  “If you don’t do good, at least don’t do bad to others.”  Grace was given to be pro-active, freeing behavior to benefit others.  “I must help you any way you need it because God has helped me.”

At Judgment, only Grace, not Justice, will look at every page in our book and find FORGIVEN scrawled in blood-red letters.  Then we’ll know what “saved by grace alone through faith” really means.  And if no Grace looks in, endless lists of sins glare at the sinner.  And you know what that means!

Intolerance – by those supposedly open to diversity

World Magazine, February 8, 2014, quotes New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as saying his state has no use for extreme conservatives—those who are “right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay”.  If that quote is accurate, would the Governor please answer a question?  Whatever happened to the diversity that liberals have trumpeted as necessary to a free, full society, where all beliefs and behaviors are equal?  Or do they mean diversity SO LONG as it emphasizes only liberal-agenda issues?

If any conservative took the same position against liberal standards, what state of the Union would not be excoriated by the liberal press?  But where is the shock and dismay and disappointment with a Governor so prejudiced against beliefs opposite his that he wants them eliminated from his state?

If a conservative theologian expressed the same opinions about abortions and homosexuals, he’d be declared an intolerant fanatic.  Yet Cuomo’s extremity is merely an opinion.  Liberals never have been consistent.  They won’t start being consistent now, with all the evil they support and sponsor and demand to have accepted as normal behavior

Change – how things do

LONG AGO, for this illustration, the 16th and 17th centuries, political and Church Law coincided in England and the earliest Chesapeake colonies.  Because Henry VIII divorced himself only from the Pope in Rome, and maintained himself as the leader of the Church in England, English sovereigns viewed themselves as God’s regents of the church.  Kings appointed clergy of all ranks.  They also demanded that all local parish churchmen must support the King’s and Parliament’s decisions.  When King James I wanted sermons against “women…wearing…broad-brimmed hats, pointed doublets, their hair cut and short,” they expected denunciation of the miscreants in all parishes.  King Charles, James’ successor noted that “people are governed by the pulpit more than the sword in time of peace.”  American Colonies, 160

Of course, that admixture of divine truth and political expediency weakened the impact of God’s Word on people’s lives without strengthening or illuminating political decisions.  But has the complete rupture in American life between God and the Bible and political and judicial decisions made the nation stronger in any way?  Haven’t we weakened to the point of collapse a nation originally founded on Biblical principles, even if not personally adopted?  How could we ever think that a nation can be strong and lasting when it defies God?  Scripture repeatedly states that unless the Lord builds the house it cannot stand (Psalm 127:1), and blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalm 33:12.

We cannot mock God.  It isn’t that we should not mock him; or that we better not mock him.  As Galatians 6;7 says, God cannot be mocked.  We reap what we sow!

America, take heed and pay attention.  God’s judgment is in our yard, maybe on our porch, and maybe knocking at our door—but much closer than we think!

Sin – we try every method to cover it

In 18th century England people who contracted smallpox could easily die of pneumonia, fever or hemorrhage of the lungs et al.  If, as often happened, the disease so entirely covered the face that little skin appeared, the victim would be terribly scarred for life.  If more skin than pox showed during the disease, and after the fever broke and the pustules healed and dried, a more normal face could appear.  (George Washington had a light case of smallpox when a young man, with good results afterwards.)

Interestingly, however, those fortunate enough to have a significant recovery began wearing patches over the scars and pimples that remained.  It became the fashion in London, women the main practitioners, pasting their faces with the patches—like one of us decorating our face with band-aids  To be stylish, even those not suffering the disease began wearing the patches.  1700, p. 102.

A parable of humanity.  We have all sinned, some more egregiously, and publicly, but all of us so obviously that our scars remain.  But even though clearly sinful, we try to cover with bandages the disfigurement with excuses, rationalizations, explanations.  Which make us all the more hideous for refusing to accept our condition.

If we deny we sin, we lie.  If we try to explain why we sin, God has no interest in listening.  If we confess our sin as without excuse, Jesus Christ cleanses us I John 1:8-10.  When he forgives, scars may remain, since sin can have lasting consequences, though forgiven.  Even then, however, as Paul discovered when God wouldn’t remove his thorn, he could glory in this weakness because it made God’s strength complete in him II Corinthians 12:9-10.

Christ – the ONE who Has

An advertisement in the San Diego Union Tribune 2/28/14 showcased the Shen Yun extravaganza.  It’s a New York-based spectacular that re-captures the art, music, dances and orchestration of 5000 years of Chinese culture.  Among the high compliments paid the show:  “Go see it…otherwise, you are going to miss the most important thing in your life.”  “Absolutely the greatest of the great.”  “None can compare to what I saw tonight.”   Then…in an immaculate assumption, advertisers described Shen Yun  as “the Arts Connecting Heaven & Earth.”  One of the critics raved, “I was in heaven watching it.”

The Bible has good and better news for Shen Yun.  First, the good:  the distance between heaven and earth has been spanned.  The better:  Jesus Christ has spanned it, not Shen Yun.  Referring to the early symbolic nexus between heaven and earth—you can read the story in Genesis 28:10-15—in John 1:47-51 Jesus claimed to be the anti-type of Jacob’s Old Testament type.  Thank God that Jesus, not Shen Yun, has brought humanity and God together.  It means God has authored the rapprochement, reaching down to us with spiritual grace.  It doesn’t need, and won’t accept, the desperately-connived human substitution of beauty for sacrifice, gymnastic dexterity for self-denial or athleticism for discipleship.

Fear not, little flock.  It is God’s will to bring us to him so we can live with him, see him face to face, and delight in his presence, but only in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten—who came from him, full of grace and truth.

Humanity – a shared humanity is the only factor in crisis

Lt. Colonel Henry Clay Jr. died in the battle of Buena Vista, Mexico, 1847.  The son of Henry Clay Sr. had been wounded when Mexican soldiers overran his position and he stayed behind as rear guard while his men fled for cover.  While on the ground Mexican soldiers bayoneted him to death.

Clay Sr. had already lost six daughters to the grave and two other sons to mental breakdowns.  Yet, the Democratic paper Union  reported the death of the young Clay without comment; and President Polk didn’t consider it important to even mention the death in his Diary.  Country of Vast Design, 355-355.

The common humanity all Whigs and Democrats experienced should have surfaced sympathy when any of them suffered war casualties.  Remember Gene Klein, owner of the San Diego Chargers, and Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders?  They fought bitter court battles.  Yet, when Davis’ wife had serious health problems, and faced the possibility of death, Klein wired or wrote Davis, “Al, if there’s anything I can do….”

Our humanity diminishes the differences between us by the common problems, crises, illnesses and deaths we all experience.  Misfortune suffered by a political enemy, a business competitor, a religious disputant, should surface sympathy, not boasting.  Remember Solomon’s warning about an enemy’s misfortunes Proverbs 24:17-18.  More importantly, remember Christ’s words in Matthew 5:43-48 and Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:17-21.

We can trust God to exact a fair revenge against all wickedness.  Can he trust us to be as merciful to our foes as he is fair to us all, and gracious to all seeking his forgiveness?