We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine


Big People–Small God!

Have you ever avoided serving the Lord because you were afraid of what a certain family member might say? Or have you served the Lord in secrecy because of what friends might say?

Thirty years ago I brought a friend to church. He was twenty years old, and it was his first time in a Bible church setting. He was very moved by the gospel, and we were rejoicing that God had opened his heart. But later that night I received a phone call from his dad-a very angry dad. He yelled and threatened me never to get near his son again. I never saw this young man again, but recently I heard from him. Can you imagine, after all these years? The first thing he told me was that he was never the same after that day in church, but he also never been able to share what he experienced or live it out because of the fear of his family.

In Judges 6 we see a similar story. After God reminds Gideon that He will be him, he gives him an assignment to destroy his father’s false gods. The text reads: “So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.”

If you are struggling with the fear of man, there is a book that will help you to overcome this road block. The title is When People are Big and God is Small. It’s time to stop believing the lying whispers of the enemy, because “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8).

Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 12:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Unfairness Doctrine

Would you believe it if I told you that a woman’s amputated hand and a muzzled ox are important clues to one of the most obscure chapters in the Bible? The text is found in Deuteronomy 25. At first glance it appears that there are six unrelated stories.

The first is a legal dispute where the guilty party is to be punished, but within protected limits, lest he be humiliated.

Next we have the protection of an ox while it is treading out the grain.

Then there is the humiliation of an unfair brother-in-law. By law, if a brother refused to marry his widowed sister-in-law, then he had to face public humiliation. She was to meet him before the elders of the city, take his shoe off, and spit in his face. This legal procedure was a protection for women and a strong communal pressure to influence men to fulfill their responsibilities at home.

Next, we encounter the humiliation of a woman who fights unfairly. As she sees her husband losing a fight with another man, she steps in and aids her husband unethically. Her penalty is a severed hand and public humiliation for life.

Then there is promised long life for honest business owners who use fair weights and measures.

In the last account, we have the harshest judgment–that of annihilation–which serves as a reminder that God will judge those who take advantage of the weak.

Although these six stories appear unrelated, they are all connected by a common theme. Fairness, especially toward those who are weak and unprotected, is important to God. As such, we need to place a premium on fairness in our businesses, relationships, judgments, and dealings toward the weak and unprotected. Unfairness, on the other hand (no pun intended), needs to be dealt with swiftly and firmly.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Do You Believe?

Many lives were radically altered prior to the birth of Christ. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in his old age, announcing the coming birth of John. Then there was the miraculous pregnancy of two women–one past childbearing and barren and the other a young virgin. Each character faced challenging circumstances that would alter their lives forever.

The angel’s words of consolation to Zechariah reveal that he was a praying man. His elderly wife even bears a child because of his prayers! Regrettably, however, his prayer life was stronger than his faith. Learning that his prayers had been answered, he questions the angel by saying, “How shall I know this?” We are not given much information concerning Elizabeth’s response to the news of her pregnancy.

Mary’s response seems, in English, the same as Zechariah’s. She says to the angel Gabriel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Note the responses:

Zechariah – “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

Mary – “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Though the responses seem similar, the Greek words for “how” are completely different. Zechariah’s “how” is a combination of two Greek words which frequently denotes opposition or intensity. Zechariah skeptically asks the angel, “How can I be sure?” The angel Gabriel restricts Zechariah from speaking until his son is born, because he “did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

In contrast, the word “how” that Mary uses expresses exclamation as “how much” or “in what way” will this be accomplished. Zechariah answers the angel from a heart of disbelief; Mary embraces the word of the angel by faith. What a rebuke for Zechariah as he heard these words fall from the lips of his wife: “. . . blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Trusting in the promises of God is no easy task when faced with seemingly impossible circumstances. But nothing is impossible with God.

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Christians in Public School, Part 4

Today, I would like to move forward in our discussion of public school education. I can say from personal experience that there are teachers in the public school and secular colleges who publicly proclaim that their goal is to influence our children against the knowledge of God and replace it with an evolutionary, humanistic, liberal philosophy of life. I have talked with these teachers personally. There are also Christian teachers in the government schools who are there to be light in darkness and an anchor of the soul for those who need encouragement.

But do a few good Christian teachers balance out the damage that a few bad teachers can have on our children? Is the goal of education to prepare our children to be salt and light in the midst of darkness or is it to help our children grow in wisdom and the knowledge of God? Francois Fenelon of the 17th century, who wrote perhaps the greatest educational treatise ever written, wrote, “the true end of education is to persuade the mind, and to inspire it with a sincere love of virtue, and a passion for learning.”

In contrast to the 17th, 18th, and most of the 19th century, the government schools which started in the late nineteenth century placed knowledge above virtue. In fact, virtue had little to do with education as the primary goal was to keep parents working in the factories and prepare their children to eventually do the same. As we quickly moved from an agrarian to an industrial society, the size of families shrunk, many lost their individual independence as they became subservient to industrialized America, and masses of children lost their work ethic as well as their values and virtues.

If you would like to learn more about Fenelon’s biblically based treatise on education and parenting, you can find his book, The Education of a Child, at www.lamplighter.net. You’ll be amazed by what you read!

Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 12:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Scripture doesn’t shy away from reminding us that seeking God often requires stillness, silence, and waiting. But our culture is fast forgetting what it means to be still. In fact, just recently, I had forgotten this truth. As I tried to convince my wife of a certain position I held, I found myself verbose and unwilling to accept her view since it restricted my forward motion on an important decision.

I was reminded again of my impatient verbose spirit as I read the following words of Francois Fenelon:

“I think . . . that you should try hard now to practice silence . . . Silence promotes the presence of God, prevents many harsh and proud words, and suppresses many dangers in the way of ridiculing or harshly judging our neighbor. Silence humbles the mind, and gradually weans it from the world; it will supply all that you need . . . .”

Perhaps one of the most moving stories I have read that exemplifies this truth was the story of a little boy named Geoffrey–the main character in a book called True to the Last. Though just a young boy, Geoffrey had a keenness of conscience which is rarely seen in children. When accused of wrongdoing he did not commit, Geoffrey bore the guilt, rather than tattle on his brothers or cousin. Though false accusations pained him greatly, he, at a young age, understood that the power of God is often unleashed in silence and waiting.

Oh how I wish that my children were still at home so that I could have looked at their faces and peeked into their hearts as they listened to this most life-changing story. This is a must read for everyone. It will leave an indelible mark upon your life–and your children.

Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Christians in Public School, Part 3

I realize that the topic of Christians attending the public schools is a very sensitive and controversial subject. I have heard plausible arguments–both pro and con–on the subject. Some Christian parents view the public school as a training ground for evangelism. Some view public education as the best way to prepare their children to live within the culture. Some believe it is better preparation for college.

However, government run schools, with their evolutionary and humanistic philosophy, have an agenda. I was one of their teachers. From sexual perversions in the name of “free thinking,” to pro-abortion ideas, to a “progressive” worldview, government schools are predominantly opposed to a Christian worldview.

Believing that one’s home life can counterbalance the influence of a public school education seems illogical to me. An oak tree that stands in the wind for thirty hours a week will eventually bend and grow crooked. Though I do believe that God can miraculously protect a child from these influences as he did with Daniel of old, the real argument is whether or not we are following God’s design for the education of our children.

If we look into the history of our schools and colleges, they were built upon Christian principles. Even Harvard once stood upon the foundation of the Word of God. During this time parents and teachers worked together to raise up statesmen and godly citizens who in turn would provide a positive influence upon society.

Whichever educational environment you have chosen for your children, I implore you to watch, pray, and be involved. Know who is teaching your children and what is being taught. Most teachers have an agenda and a worldview from which they will influence your children. If you find that it is contrary to the truths of God’s Word, then it is time to take action, and perhaps plot another course.

Regardless of your school of choice, there are two books every child and teen must read. Children under 10 should read Challenge at Runaway Brook; teens must read Hand on the Bridle. I believe the themes found within these books–overcoming stubbornness and peer pressure–are essential for children and teens today.

Published in: on May 13, 2011 at 11:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Christians in Public School, Part 2

Yesterday, we began talking about the effects a public school education may have on our children.

Having been a public school teacher, a Christian School administrator, and a homeschool dad, I think I am in a position to speak on this subject, though I realize that my experiences make me biased. The public schools that I have been a part of and frequented are a haven for the “filthy conversation of the wicked” as well as a platform to teach that which is against the knowledge of Christ (2nd Corinthians 10:5).

This does not mean that Christian schools always produce better environments. I have seen hypocrisy in Christian schools do as much damage, if not more, than placing children in a public school. And homeschoolers are not exempt from critique. Many take their separation too far and are unable to be lights in the midst of a dark world, nullifying by their actions the command of Christ to love their neighbor as themselves. Other homeschoolers overprotect their children so much that when they are older they are unable to stand strong against the rude awakening of the world.

But just because there are some Christian schools and homeschoolers who educate and prepare children poorly does not mean we are justified in handing our children over for six hours a day, thirty hours a week to those who do not possess a Christian world view. No matter how strong your children are, their souls will be vexed (worn down, or distressed) from day to day by the things they see and the things they hear (2nd Peter 2:7,8). There was a reason that God didn’t allow Israel to send their children to the Canaanite schools. If you take the time to reread the book of Deuteronomy, I think you will find the reason.

Published in: on May 12, 2011 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Christians in Public School, Part 1

Recently a friend of mine decided to send his children to a public school. He views this move as an opportunity to prepare his children for the “real” world as well as an opportunity to be a witness for Christ. Many Christians whom I respect make this same decision. I have listened to their views, but when I look at God’s clear admonitions of how we are to raise our children, I cannot justify a public school education in today’s immoral environment. Yet in my finite understanding of the ways of God, I do not judge my brother for making this decision, but sense the need to at least present an objection.

Old Testament Israelites were commanded by God to teach their children when they rose up, as they were walking, and as they were lying down (Deuteronomy 6). God also wanted a separation between his children and the world, so he warned against intermarriages which might cause His children to worship foreign gods.

In the New Testament, God continues to warn against this sort of mixing with the world, using Lot as an illustration of what happens to a family when they get too close to an unbelieving culture. The Apostle Peter writes, “And [God] delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)” (2nd Peter 2:7-8).

Lot was not doing what they did, but just seeing their deeds and hearing their talk on a daily basis was enough to wear him down spiritually. Though I am sure there are a few Christian young people who can maintain their spiritual edge while attending public school, the Scripture is clear that these daily influences are not good for the soul.

I’d recommend reading the book Friendly Dragons and Moral Nightmares; it will open your eyes to what’s influencing our children’s minds.

Published in: on May 11, 2011 at 11:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Strength for Today

Strength for Today;

Bright Hope for Tomorrow!

Most are familiar with the lyrics of the well-known hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, and have sung with joy the heartfelt words:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;

As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

These words come from the heart of Thomas Chisholm, who directs our thoughts to a portion of Scripture that meant much to him. He received his inspiration from the study of Lamentations 3, which inspired him to pen these words:

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

If I were to ask you to fill in the blank: “His _______ are new every morning,” most would say, “His mercies.” But if we take a closer look at Lamentations 3, we find that it is God’s compassions that fail not and are new every morning. This is a significant truth to bring with us into the New Year and to carry with us in our relationships with one another.

In Hebrew, the word “compassion” carries the idea of “tender love” or “to cherish.” It is like “a mother’s womb,” where one is safe and protected. God, in His compassion, forgives and protects us daily. The hymn-writer understood this as he wrote the words to the final stanza:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

No matter how strained a relationship might be, if it is approached with mercy and compassion, we will indeed find strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 11:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Waiting

How long are you willing to wait for God’s promises?

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, there may have been times when you found yourself being impatient with God. We resist anything that causes us to wait. This is especially true today, for we have been accustomed to an instant-everything.

I will always remember the advice of a seminary professor who said to me as I sat in his office, exhausted, stressed, and overloaded because I was trying to complete two degrees in three years: “Mark, God isn’t in a hurry; why are you?”

Patience is a virtue that doesn’t come easy for me, but then again, if it did come easy, it wouldn’t be a virtue.

It didn’t come easy for Abraham either, as is described in Genesis 12 through 20. Discouraged, frustrated, and impatient, Abraham did what I have a tendency to do: to take matters into my own hands and make unwise decisions because I think that time is running out. Abraham’s unwise decision created havoc in his marriage and family that has lasted until this very day. Too often, we thwart the fulfillment of God’s promises by our impatient, unwise decisions. God did keep his promise to Abraham, though it took 25 years to see just a glimpse of the first stages of its fulfillment.

How long are you willing to wait for God’s answer? Do you believe that your Father knows what is best? Wait on God to work through life’s difficult situations and patiently wait upon His promises. He will ultimately bring redemption.

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act . . . Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him . . .” (Psalm 37:5, 7a).

God is ready to act but we must be willing to get out of the way.

Published in: on May 6, 2011 at 12:18 am  Leave a Comment