Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wisdom in Proverbs 24

In my devotioal time one day last week I read Proverbs 24 and was struck (as I am each time I read Proverbs!) with the wealth of wisdom contained there. Just from Proverbs 24 alone, I wrote down the following, I'm sure you could find even more things there that I've missed:
  • Do not envy the wicked or desire their company (v. 1)
  • Do not forsake wise counsel when making a major decision (v. 6)
  • If my strength (of character or whatever) fades in the face of opposition, it was not really there to begin with (v. 10)
  • Do not rejoice in the adversity of others, even if they are your enemies (v. 17)
  • Do not judge people based on shallow things like appearance or the 'success' they've achieved in this life (v. 23)
  • Do not call what is wicked good (v. 24)
  • Do not indulge in the trappings of success (i.e nice house, fancy car, etc.) without the proper underpinning of hard work in order to pay for them. In other words, live within your means (v. 27)
  • Laziness leads to poverty (vv. 33-34)

What do you think? Have I missed some important points in this Proverb or misunderstood the one's I came away with?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Isaiah Chapter 5 - Back to the Future

I recently began a study of Isaiah for my personal Bible study time. The commentary I've chosen for this study is "Isaiah: A Covenant to be Kept for the Sake of the Church" by Allan Harman which I obtained from Monergism Books.

This morning I read Chapter 5 of Isaiah and was struck by the similarity between the situation addressed in that chapter and our situation here in 21st Century America. Though Isaiah was addressing the nation of Israel during his own day, I think we can learn from what is said to them though his prophecy.

The first six verses of the chapter are basically a parable, comparing Israel to a vineyard, a comparison Christ often made as well in His ministry (see for example
Matthew 21:33-41). In it God ask rhetorically "What more could I have done for you as a nation than I have done, yet you continue to disobey me and reject my law?" (Verse 4) Again, realizing the difference between the Old Testament Nation of Israel and the United States, we can still look back on the abundant blessings God has given this nation and wonder if He might not say to us "What more could I have done for you as a nation, yet you continue to disobey me and reject my law." Even within the Church itself (a closer equivalent to the Old Testament nation of Israel) we have rejected sound doctrine in favor of sound bites and the expositional teaching of the Word in favor of self-help and therapy. As a result our fruit is often not the sweet grapes God intends for his followers to produce but is more like the 'wild grapes' he saw in Israel in Isaiah's day.

The result of this rejection of God is that God promised to remove the hedge of protection from around His people (verse 5). The implication of this is obvious. We cannot flout God's Word and His instructions and expect God to protect us from the consequences that come. Indeed, in some cases, as happened with Israel, God deliberately sends trouble our way because of our disobedience (see also Hebrews 12:5-7 ).

Beginning with verse 7, Isaiah records a series of 'woes' against the people highlighting some of the wicked behaviors that were signs of their rejection of of God. According to Harman they provide a picture of society in Isaiah's day. It is a picture that is strikingly familiar to anyone living in 21st Century America.

Some of these are:
  • Drunkenness, revelry and wild partying (Vv. 11-12)
  • Calling good things evil and evil things good (V. 20). There are so many ways our culture does that I cannot begin to list them here.
  • The perversion of justice (V. 23)
The final section of the chapter (Vv. 24-30) outlines what the consequences are going to be for the people's rejection of God and His word. The Lord is going to summon a host of pagan nations to destroy Israel (V. 26). The Lord will actually enable the invaders with good fortune so that they may carry out His judgment on the people (Vv. 27-29)

Though not a prophecy to us today, Isaiah Chapter 5 has much to say to our current national situation and to the modern church in the west. We should read it with fear and trembling considering the fate that befell those to whom it was written. I pray that such a reading would lead us to repentance.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is Al Gore 'Reasonable'?

I just read an exerpt from Al Gore's new book The Assault on Reason over at Time Magazine's website . In it he expresses a deep concern for the future of our country due to the many problems he sees in our culture. I cannot disagree with the notion that we should be concerned for the state of our country, nor can I deny that many of the problems he points out are real and serious. For example, he bemoans the lack of respect for truth in the public arena, clearly a problem we face from the federal level down to the local school board.

My disagreement with Mr. Gore would be with his identification of the root cause of these problems. It is our having abandoned 'reason' according to Gore that has lead to our troubles. He says we must have more "faith in the power of reason" if we are to save ourselves. He says:

Our Founders' faith in the viability of representative democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry, their ingenious design for checks and balances, and their belief that the rule of reason is the natural sovereign of a free people.

Perhaps Mr. Gore is not a student of history, but it occurs to me that a nation once tried to build itself on this concept of the sovereignty of reason and the result was that during the French Revolution the streets of Paris ran red with blood. "Reason" was literally the god of the French revolution but without the God of the universe in the picture, it was a disaster.

The missing element in our culture is not reason it is a desire to respect and honor the one true God of the Bible. Gore's assertion that reason was viewed as the 'natural sovereign' by our Founders is laughable. The sovereign our Founders looked to was the God of the Bible and without His influence in our culture, no amount of man-centered reason can save us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Art of Manfishing by Thomas Boston

Boston is one of the Puritan Divines and this short little book was a sort of diary that he kept. In fact, no one outside his family saw it until some 30 or 40 years after his death. The book is a compilation of his thoughts on how a Christian minister should conduct his ministry and much of the advice he gives is still needed by ministers today.

For example, Boston was a firm believer in "the law being a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." He would, I'm sure, be shocked at the minimal attention given the law by much of today's pastors and evangelists. He also saw conversion as something that was most often the result of sustained ministry in the life of a person rather than the result of an instantaneous, emotional response. It goes without saying that this message is sorely needed in today's church.

Boston speaks much of humility in the life of the minister. He emphasizes several times that a minister must realize that he can do nothing good apart from the Spirit's enabling. He is very critical of ministry which grows out of a man's own power and ability (i.e. excellent speaking skills) where that talent is not accompanied by an humble realization that apart from Christ we can do nothing.

Christ was sent to glorify God and to seek and save the lost. Therefore, Boston reasons, those same things should be the primary tasks of ministers. Anything which is a hindrance to those core things is to be jettisoned according to Boston. He says on page 98: "...do not needlessly involve thyself in worldly matters, to the hindrance of the duties of they calling and station."

Overall this was an a very helpful book, far better than many modern tomes on evangelism and ministry. I'm thankful that Thomas Boston thought to write these things down and that his family later saw fit to share them with The Church.