My stomach turns when churches get involved in politics beyond praying for leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), submitting to the laws and lawmakers of the land (Romans 13:1-7), and dealing with moral issues that may also come up in political discussions. I also do not appreciate the notion that the United States of America has a corner on the gospel. The gospel of Christ knows no national exclusivity. So please don't misunderstand what I am about to say.
God sovereignly places each of us in particular places at particular times. In those places, God calls us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We are also to pursue the well-being of those places with the goal of the good of God's kingdom. When God did deal primarily with one nation, we find in Psalm 122:6,9 "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem...for the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good." When God's people were in exile in Babylon, Jeremiah wrote to the exiles and said in Jeremiah 29:7 "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." And under the new covenant when the gospel is going to all nations, the prayers for "kings and all who are in high positions" are so that "we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior." (1 Tim. 2:1-3)
As it is fitting to have a day to honor others whom God calls to particular tasks (like mothers or fathers), I'm thankful for Memorial Day to remember those in our military who have served and are serving our country. They help provide for us a place of freedom and peace where we can lead quiet, godly, dignified lives, worshiping our God and seeking his honor. They have been placed in their position by God and do not bear the sword in vain (Romans 13:1, 3-4; 1 Peter 2:13-17). So I am thankful for the service both of my grandfathers gave. I am thankful to my brother-in-law who bravely served our country, to 2 other brothers-in-law currently serving, and to the many others. I know I am a day late, but as a citizen of this country, I am thankful to God for the freedom and peace to worship God and for those who defend that freedom.
Here are three questions that I have been thinking on.
1. Are you ready? Of course this question comes to mind because of the many deceived people who believed that they were going to be raptured out of this world last Saturday. But should it take a false prophecy to get us to ponder whether we are ready to meet our Maker? The whole point of Jesus telling us that we can't know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36) is so that we will be ready. Matthew 24:44 "Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." The way to be ready is through faith in the one who spoke those words.
2. What are you attached to? (I know; I ended the sentence with a preposition. I thought it sounded better than "to what are you attached?") My youngest son has been carrying around 2 things the past few days - a baseball glove and a Bible. The removal of those items from his grip results in a crying meltdown. (I know; we're working on it.) He's attached. Us? Our responses might be more socially acceptable than Zach's when we can't have our favorite thing, but those responses show much about our hearts. Anything that you cannot live without has become too important to you; in other words it is an idol. If you can fill in the following blank with something other than God (a family member, air conditioning, approval of others, double chocolate brownies, etc.), pray with me for grace to tear that idol from God's throne and worship only him. If _____________ was taken away from me, I couldn't be happy.
3. Who knows you best? My wife knows me so well that she often knows what I am going to say before I say it. But she's not the one that knows me best. The one who made me knows me (and you) like no other. And as his children, he has our best interest at heart like no one else. That means that everything he brings to us is exactly what we need. Whether good or bad, joyful or sad, God gives it for our good. He's helping us shed our idols and be ready to meet him one day.
Last time I checked (about 20 seconds ago), parenting is hard. I have four boys. They are entirely too much like their father. Take my selfishness, lack of patience, and short attention span and multiply that by 4. Raising these boys is an unspeakable joy and at times an impossibly difficult challenge.
With that in mind, I am writing a true blog post this afternoon. Did you know that the word "blog" came from the words web log? Web logs were a "log" of websites the author of the web log wanted to share. Web log was shortened to blog and instead of just a forum for sharing insights from around the world wide web, it became a place for people to share their own insights. When it comes to parenting, I don't have much in the way of original insight, so let me point you to some great resources for parenting - from short and sweet to longer and more involved. (I thought of this because my brother, Benjamin Hoak, posted a few parenting links today and it got me thinking. He has three boys and you can read some of his writing here.)
First, a brief blog post from Kevin DeYoung. Humorous because, well...if you're a parent trying to raise your children according to God's word, you'll understand.
Then two books on parenting. The classic - Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Ted Tripp. It is a must read. Don't Make Me Count to Three is Ginger Plowman's practical application of Shepherding a Child's Heart.
If having family worship is a challenge (and it is a vital part of raising your kids!), check this out.
Oh and this. If your marriage isn't solid, it will be difficult to raise your kids together. So here's the best thing I've seen on marriage in a long time. E and I are working through it together. Thank you Dave Harvey!
And now for the longer and more involved, but well worth your time: If you want your kids to turn out like me...no wait. Strike that. This is a parenting class taught by my dad. It is 17 sessions on video or you can download the audio. It is worth every minute you'll spend watching or listening. And don't use me as a barometer for how effective it is. Just take it on its own merit. You can find it here.
So, is Mother's Day a commercialized invention to rake in more cash for Hallmark, American Greetings, florists, and restaurants? Or does it give us an opportunity to fulfill a Biblical principle that calls us to honor mothers? It's probably a bit of both, but let's focus on the latter. Proverbs 31:29 speaks of a wife and mother who fears the Lord. "Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." If you are a husband or a child, is this a regular thing in your house? It should be! If not, be thankful for a day each year to remind you. Then make it your daily habit - not just a yearly thing. (By the way guys. Moms are really smart. If Mother's Day is the only time of year that you express your gratitude to her in any meaningful sort of way, she'll see right through that. But if what you do on Mother's Day is another expression of the love and gratitude you show year round, she'll appreciate that much more.)
So make sure that your mom knows how much you love her and how thankful you are for her. Make sure others know too. Proverbs 31:31 says, "Let her works praise her in the gates." Does anyone else know how you feel about your mom? They should. So let me praise my mom "in the gates." I can honestly say that without my mom ("Work before play, Aaron!"), I wouldn't be where I am today. And without the mother of my children...well, let's not even go there. My mother-in-law is pretty cool too...without her my wife wouldn't be who she is today. Then there are grandmothers, but I'll stop there. I thank God for the moms in my life. I hope you do too.
Not sure a facebook status or a 140 character tweet can quite do justice to the Osama bin Laden discussion. Not sure I want to get involved, but I have yet to read something that quite expresses my thoughts. So here are my two cents.
Should we rejoice in the demise of an evil man who has received deserved justice? Romans 13:4 tells us that our governing authorities are "an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." And then there are passages like Psalm 58:10-11 "The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. Mankind will say, 'Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.'" Proverbs 11:10 "When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness."
Or, should we be mourning another unrepentant sinner now suffering in unspeakable torment? Ezekiel 33:11 (or see 18:23) says, "Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?" Proverbs 24:17 "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles."
So which is it? It seems that much of what I have seen or read (with some exceptions) has emphasized one of these perspectives or the other. The Bible clearly teaches the necessity and certainty of justice being done for unrepentant sinners. It shows the gladness of the righteous at the execution of that justice. The carrying out of justice brings glory to God and that is reason for rejoicing. (Were Moses, Miriam, and all of Israel wrong to rejoice at the demise of the oppressive Egyptians - Exodus 15?) But the Bible also teaches us love for the souls of the lost, a desire to see them saved, and not taking pleasure in the death of those who remain in that lost condition. What a sobering thought that we deserve the same punishment, and except for the grace of God shown to us in Christ, we would receive it; another has died without that grace.
Some won't like this, but I believe our response should be both rejoicing and mourning; a feeling of gladness and relief, but also of sorrow. We don't require a choice between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. We believe in both without apology. So too here. "For everything there is a a season, and a time for every matter under heaven...a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4). Scripture is balanced. We should be too.
Some miscellaneous musings from Pastor Aaron.
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
All rights reserved.