Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankfulness For A God Who Doesn't Slumber

My family's Thanksgiving has been a little different this year. My 90 year old great-grandmother is the hospital, resulting the cancelation of most of our usual traditions. However, this whole situation has caused me to reflect on all the things that God did for me before I was even born.

As the apostle Paul reminding the Corinthians, I have nothing that I have not received. All that I have is gift from God, either directly or indirectly through the workings of other people. I've become very thankful for those who have gone on before me. I would like to take this time to give thanks for all that God did before I was even born that is now helping me grow in Him.

-First of all, I'm thankful that God had a plan. A brilliant, incredible plan. This plan had many phases which were laid out through the course of human history. The master stroke of this amazing plan was the death and resurrection of my Lord and Savior. Becasue of this incredible plan I who was once an enemy of God can call Him Daddy. What could be more amazing?

-I'm also thankful that God has preserved His Word. The Lord wants to communicate with the children of dust and has ensured that His Word would survive. However, the Scriptures have not always been as accessible as they are now. Even in some parts of the world today, the Bible is not readily accessible. I'm so thankful that I can have unhindered access to the Words of my Lord.

-I'm also very grateful that in every generation God has risen up teachers and proclaimers of His Word. I'm still benefitting from the teachings of by-gone admonishers. One of my heroes is the great revivalist, Jonathan Edwards. The man was an absolute genius. However, it's also very easy for me to relate to him. Most people read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and picture some Hell-raising, fire-and-brimstone maniac. But Edwards was anything but. He was a basically just a quiet, mild-mannered, skinny bookworm (I've been described in similar terms before) who was used of God to transform America as we know.

I've also been greatly impacted by more recent teachers, namely Doug Phillips, John Piper, Voddie Baucham and Tim G. Echols. Before I was even born, God had been working in these people’s lives and gave them a vision for ministry. I am now the academic product of God's working in those men's lives.

-Lastly, I'd just like to express thankfulness for what God has done with my family. I praise God that a logger in northern Minnesota got on his knees and accepted Jesus as his Savior. He then proceeded to teach his children, who taught their children, who taught their children who taught me. I am the product of five generations of faithful men and women who passed on biblical Truth to their children.

Likewise, I'm thankful for what God did in my parents’ lives. I'm thankful that they are both saved. I'm thankful that they both love the Lord. I'm grateful that God put them together. That they were both committed to disciplining their children. That they've taken the time to teach me and train me.

There are so many other events and people I could think God for. He has been so very good to me. I know I can't even begin to think Him enough. His grace is so amazing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lawlessness Is The New Legalism

Many churches pride themselves in speaking out against the enslaving evils of legalism. Pastors are always reminding their congregation to not get distracted by rules and regulations but to just concentrate on Jesus. Well, that's great. Or is it? Legalism has become such a negative buzz word that we no longer really know what it means. I'm a guy who likes to have words nicely defined. So, before we continue our little discussion on legalism, let's give it a definition.

In my understanding, legalism is an overemphasis on law rather than on God which usually results in the creation of additional rules. Legalists typically become judgmental of those who violate these laws. In short, legalism is idolatry. It's putting man-made laws above God Himself.

So, than what's with my peculiar title? If legalism is the overemphasis of law how can lawlessness be the new legalism? Didn't I just contradict myself? Just a few months ago I would have answered yes to that very question. However, then I got to thinking about the way that we often label people as legalists.

We take people who don't listen to rock or families that don't watch R-rated movies or girls who only wear dresses and then label them legalists. But what are we focusing on? The outward appearance. Laws. Rules.

There are many people in churches today who have strict rules about not having strict rules and then when people violate their no-rule rules they judge them for being judgmental.

I've seen families who homeschool their kids, don't listen to anything with a beat, hardly every watches movies, only read certain kinds of books, would never hear of dancing, dress in a very conservative way and attend a Fundamentalist, family-integrated church. But no one could ever justly call them legalists. They aren't focusing on rules. They're focusing on Jesus and this has caused them to live their lives in a certain way. They don't judge others who don't have their same standards, but focus on living their lives in a way that would please God.

On the flip side, I've seen believers who walk around like they're at a pop culture festival and live very legalistic lives. They may not think they have rules about dress or media, but they actually do. Their rules just have the extra convenience of commanding them to act 'lawlessly'. When people use the argument that the Bible never says "thou shalt not " what are they focusing on? The law. They aren't looking at the heart behind the law. Just the law and the law doesn't mention the particulars. They are very dedicated to their anti-rule rules and will judge and label anyone of violates them.

But before I start judging the lawless legalists, I must remind myself that we're all legalists at heart. We all have this natural, God-given draw toward order and it's much easier for that order to be controlled by rules rather than love.

We must all guard ourselves against the dangerous snares of legalism. At the end of day, if you're driving down a precarious road it doesn't really matter if you fall into the ditch to your left or the ditch to your right.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Election in Perspective

My overall emotion concerning Tuesday's mid-term elections is enthusiasm. Granted, things didn't go just as I would have wanted them. I'm disappointed that Brenna Findley will not be our next attorney general and that we have to put up with Congressman Boswell for another two years.

However, by and large, I'm pleased with the election's outcome. Personally knowing some of the candidates has added a whole new dimension to this year's election. I'm very excited that young Josh Cockroft won his state house race in Oklahoma.

I'm also very glad that Kim Pearson won her race. I remember running into Mrs. Pearson shortly after she had announced her candidacy. Though she did express a great deal of enthusiasm, she also seemed reluctant to show too much optimism. I remember her commenting that at least she would make her opponent spend some of that Union money. Now she's going to the Iowa House!

And I couldn't be more thrilled for Kent Sorenson. His opponent played dirty and took some really low shots. But he came out the victor. I honestly can't help but think that he's invincible now. There's really no mud left to sling at him. They're already unleashed every piece of ammunition they had and it still couldn't bring him down.

I believe that this election, particularly the race of Iowa governor, illustrates a very interesting point. The day after the election I was riding around with one of my co-workers. Now, you have to understand that my co-worker is an unsaved, die-hard Democrat that practically worships the ground President Obama steps on (that really isn't much of an exaggeration.) However, when it was announced over the radio that Terry Branstad had soundly beaten Governor Chet Culver, he pumped his fist and said, "Good. That's what he gets."

Upon further questioning, I discovered that my co-worker, like a lot of people, was mad at Culver. Very mad. In fact, I can't help but wonder if the Republicans could have won that race even if they had nominated Joe Blow from Anywhere City.

However, that wasn't what I found so interesting. What I found interesting was that my co-worker wasn't mad at Governor Culver because of his decisions, but because of his indecision. He felt like his governor never took a stand or was wiling to make the really hard calls. To me, that was just a great remember of the need for leaders to take a stand and be decisive. No decision at all is almost worse than a bad one. I believe that the success of this new movement which was established this year will depend on their ability to not fall into the trap of limp-wristed indecision.

The issue on the Iowa ballot which probably carried the most long term weight was the judicial retention vote. I was very pleased to see that vote go in our favor. Iowa sent a very strong message that they will not stand for judicial tyranny or the obstruction of marriage. We the people did our job of keeping wickedness at bay. We should be excited about the way the vote turned out.

However, it is also important to remember that this is not the answer. Getting righteous people into office and keeping our laws pure of wickedness is very, very important. But at the same time we mustn't put too much stock in politics. Politicians, even the best among them, will fail. The real answer is a change of heart in our people. Real change will come only after we've seen a spiritual awakening in this land. While I'm very glad to see that the political sphere may be turning back in our favor (at least for the time being), I believe it is important that the ambassadors of Christ keep our eye on the ball and not become enchanted by the whimsical movements of this age.