Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Morning Devotions

Ps. 40:4- "Blessed is that manwho makes the Lord his trust, and does not respect the proud,nor as such turn aside to lies."

This verse, written by David, appears within the context of other verses praising God for what He, God, has done for David. David states that what God has done for Him is evidence not only of His existence, but of His nature as well. God is a loving God whose love has been directed toward his servant David. God brought David victory over Goliath. He delivered David from Saul’s deadly jealousy. He protected David from all his battlefield enemies as well as all those who plotted against his life. During these dangerous years, David sought God’s deliverance not only because he feared for his life, but so God would not be dishonored before all God’s enemies. Samuel had anointed David as King. The anointing was a promise in itself that if David remained faithful, God would establish David’s throne. For David to die at the hands of his enemies would send the message that David’s God was not God. David writes in this Psalm, “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O lord, make haste to help me! Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion who seek to destroy my life…But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and deliverer; do not delay, O my God” (v. 13, 14, 17). David knew that God’s deliverance would refute the lies about God which was at the heart of the pagan belief system and which were secretly believed by many in the nation of Israel, that God was just like all the gods the pagans worshipped, that God had no love for Man and cared nothing for those who worshipped Him. “Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion who seek to destroy my life…Let them be confounded because of their shame, who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’ [In other words, your God cannot and will not deliver you]” (v. 14,15). While David was in the midst of his trials, he did not neglect to praise God: “I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great assembly; indeed I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, You Yourself know” (v. 9). By praising God for his own deliverance, David was imploring his people to trust God as much as he did. And David’s words convey the same message to all those who follow Jesus Christ today. Our trust in Jesus Christ today is to result in a witness to the world that we are not the result of blind chance, but that God created the universe and is still is actively engaged in it acting in behalf of those who trust in Him. And those who would tell us different will be confounded just as David’s enemies were. That is, if we allow ourselves to develop our own history, our own relationship, with the living God. For if we refuse to move beyond intellectual assent to God’s existence, if we refuse to trust Him in the midst of our adversity, then God will not deliver us from all that besets us. Those who refuse to allow God opportunities to demonstrate His power on their behalf will become what David warned us not to become, the proud and those who turn aside to lies.

All verses from the NKJV.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Newt Gingrich: Forgiveness Is Not the Same As Trust

When the subject of Newt Gingrich’s private personal conduct is the subject of a blog post, there is always someone who writes in the comment section that Christians are supposed to be forgiving and not consider this aspect of Gingrich’s life when judging his fitness to occupy the Oval Office. Gingrich himself assures voters that he knows what he did was sinful and asked God to forgive him. He also states that now that he is older and is now a grandfather, we can trust him to behave differently. A Christian friend asks why this is even an issue. After all, we are voting for President, not the pastor of a Church. Newt Gingrich’s ability to defeat President Obama is the only thing that matters, these people say.

Those who say we need to be forgiving in regard to Gingrich’s conduct fail to make an important distinction. They fail to distinguish between forgiveness and trust. Yes, Gingrich must be forgiven, but forgiveness and trust is not the same thing. If a person embezzles money, they must be forgiven. Yet they could never be placed in a position of trust involving money ever again. Suppose a person is found to have abused a child and is truly repentant. The Church must practice forgiveness toward that person, yet that person could never be trusted to be involved in any ministry involving children. Yes, Gingrich is older and is now a grandfather, but he was in his fifties and a father when he cheated on his second wife. Not long ago he blamed his conduct on the pressure of fighting for the people in the public arena when he was Speaker of the House. How would he act in the pressure cooker called the Presidency?

Even if we can be reasonably sure that Newt Gingrich would not repeat his behavior if he were elected President, does his past behavior serve as an indicator of how he will conduct himself as a candidate and as President? When responding to John King’s question concerning his second wife’s assertion that Gingrich wanted his second marriage to be an open marriage, Gingrich stated that friends knowledgeable of the situation could rebut the allegation. Well, yesterday we found out that the friends Gingrich was referring to were his two daughters from his first marriage. This comment reveals his capacity to play fast and loose with the truth when he thinks the moment calls for it. This does not bode well as the campaign goes forward. It should make anyone considering voting for Gingrich to wonder if he will make any more such misleading comments that will raise doubts in voter’s minds. When he was having the affair while married to wife number two, Gingrich blasted Clinton and the Democrats for what he called “Woody Allen family values.” Now he says that he wasn’t critical of Clinton for his sexual misconduct, he was only critical of Clinton for lying about it under oath. How will such serial hypocrisy go down with voters? How would he be able to maintain trust as President? There is a strong possibility that President Clinton knew of Gingrich’s affair and used it as leverage in his dealings with Gingrich concerning his impeachment. If true, is there anything else in his past that would make him vulnerable to blackmail if he were elected President? Gingrich supporters might downplay these questions. “Just look at the applause Newt received from the audience for his response to John King’s question. They gave him a standing ovation. It was that response that won Newt the South Carolina primary.” Yes, but that room was full of Republicans who hate the press. Who is to say that the rest of the country will react the same way when the question comes up again, when Gingrich will be asked by a lone reporter with no friendly audience present? When the allegations against Herman Cain first appeared in the press, Cain raised more campaign dollars in the following days than he had received previously. But eventually, as the allegations grew, the support for Cain dwindled. The same fate could await Gingrich. I want Obama defeated just as much as any other true conservative. With so much at stake, including the question of who will appoint the next Supreme Court justices who will decide whether Roe v. Wade will be overturned, Newt Gingrich is too much of a risk to be the candidate opposing Obama.

When Clinton ran for office, the message from liberals was that one’s private life had no bearing on whether one was fit to hold public office. When Clinton’s affair with an intern was made public, secular and Christian conservatives felt vindicated, that the affair proved what Samuel Adams said was true: “The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” Newt Gingrich won the majority of Evangelical votes in the South Carolina primary. If Evangelicals say that Gingrich’s past should not be a factor in evaluating his fitness for the presidency, if they maintain that beating Obama is so important that the private life of Obama’s general election opponent does not matter, then Evangelicals will be labeled as hypocrites. The label will stick because the label will be true. Such conduct by Evangelicals will give the Church a black eye, and will further erode the Church’s witness to a lost world. Some will reject the Gospel because they will see Christians as hypocrites. When Christians preach holiness, these people will see Christians as not concerned with souls, but as those with a political agenda. And we may get leaders that we conservative evangelicals oppose, but God thinks we deserve.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I'm Back!

I am going to resume posting on a regular basis again. I have been on a blogger hiatus since March, posting old material occasionally. I still haven't finished either of the two Wesley projects that I felt necessitated a hiatus. My interest was lagging over the past few months, but has been renewed over the past month. I had run out of original ideas; recently I started to fill a notebook with new, original drafts. As this is an election year, a good deal more political material will appear. If politics isn't your thing, there will be plenty of other material that I hope sparks your interest. I don't specialize in subject matter. I dabble in many subjects and am an expert in none. ("I" appears ten times in  this short paragraph. That isn't good.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Obedience: The Path To Certainty

Clovis Chappell, a well-known Methodist preacher of a by-gone era, concluded a sermon entitled "A Christmas Miracle" with this important truth:

“But these, to the unbeliever, are only evidences.  Evidences, however helpful, are not enough. The faith of Jesus as a living presence may become a conviction of the mind; but before we call him Lord, something else is needed.  We must obey him.  This is the road to certainty, and the only road.  In so saying, I am not stating something that is unique.  How do we know that honey is sweet? Only by tasting it.  How do we know the thrill of love? Only by loving.  How do we come to say, “My Lord and my God”? Only by obeying. “If anyone,” said Jesus, “is willing to do His will, he shall know.”