Monday, April 26, 2010

Joy in the Lord

Habakkuk 3:18, "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation."

Oh, how I grieve to say that the so-called joy of my heart has often been in the trite trinkets of the world; trinkets that cannot give satisfaction to the soul, nor endure the waves of trials that surely will come through the journey in this vale of tears.

May my heart cry out with Habakkuk that I will rejoice in the Lord, and only in Him will my soul take pleasure. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. He is worthy of such passion, for He is the infinite of joy itself. The ever-joyful God can make the soul glad for all eternity. We find our sweetest pleasure in His blessed presence and gracious favor. It is in Him alone that we find the truest contentment and the most settled and secure serenity. One day in heaven, when sin, sorrow, and suffering are past, we shall enter into His glory and into His JOY. If there is permitted any tinge of regret, we will say in that hour, "Why did we rejoice in anything but the Lord on earth?"

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Church and Culture

I recently read an article by Ken Meyer in Touchstone magazine (March/April 2010, pages 10-11) entitled, "Contours of Culture." Meyer discusses the relationship of the church with culture, and he notes that there are some important changes in the development of culture in our day.

First, the rate of cultural change is rapidly increasing. And this is continuing with each succeeding and passing generation. I remember reading in the early 1970s a book by Toffler entitled, "Future Shock". In this book Toffler postulates that this kind of rapid change would occur. One of his theses was that change would ultimately occur so fast that people could not adjust, thus creating a social and cultural crisis. Meyer agrees. As a result of this rapid cultural change the church is losing its ability to assess culture; we simply have no time to analyze and evaluate it. Thus, the minister and the church loses its ability to be prophetic with the culture.

Second, the predominating cultural feature of modern culture is that culture is meaningless. According to modern thinking culture is meaningful only as we impose meaning upon it. This is a direct influence of Nihilism and Evolution upon cultural thinking. In the pre-modern era people generally began their meaningful contemplation of reality with the existence of God and the creation of material reality. This gave a foundation for meaningful pondering concerning life and all that exists. We have lost this in the post-modern culture. The sovereignty of the individual and meaningless meditation in cosmology leaves us barren and empty. If the universe is simply a bunch of meaningless stuff, and we ourselves are meaningless stuff going to a meaningless destiny, I mean, what's the point?

The church must rise in our day to proclaim the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of all of this type of thinking. Our thoughts are rooted in the time-tested wisdom of ancient biblical thinking and teaching. We seek to apply in a fresh and modern context the truth of eternal wisdom and knowledge. We assert that epistemologically we are created to "know" that which is "knowable" in the universe, and this knowingness is from God in His revelation. "Knowing" is not related to modern instruments of knowledge; accessing information is not the same as assessing information. May God help us to see the ancient, yea the eternal, for our present time.

God's Competitor

John 19:15, "We have no king but Caesar."

In the context of the passage Pilate is now trapped; in order to survive politically (and perhaps physically) he must condemn Jesus. The Jewish leaders have coerced the crowd in their devious complicity so that the cross is now just a matter of time. Pilate has no where to go intellectually except to condemn Jesus. How did this occur? The issue of ultimate authority has become the apex of discussion. The final discussion ended when the crowd said, "We have no king but Caesar." Pilate, who represents Caesar, then was required to capitulate.

It is interesting in the world of human affairs how often this very question becomes the primary center of debate. The question of ultimate authority is the ultimate question of all. Who is in charge, and is this power just and right? All through human history the story of this issue is prominently displayed, and the conflict between competing options is all the more obvious. Hitler, Stalin, and all other tyrants demanded capitulation from the dominant religion of their day. If the religious institution in question did not acquiesce, then it would be destroyed by the state. The state would not allow for another competing power.

It is the same today. The state, in the minds and logic of many people, is the lord and savior of the people. Notice how many times the state is presented as solving problems, correcting injustices, and granting favors. How can a state assume to do such audacious things? There is only one way to do all of this - BE IN CHARGE AS THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. All others must bow in obedience to the state. The state becomes enthroned as the merciful bestow er of gifts or the punishing avenger of all competitors. And the single solitary competitor of the state is religion.

The United States of American was born in a pristine vision in this regard. Our national documents seek to protect both the state from the tyranny of religion, and they seek to protect religion from the state. Can these two (state and religion) be held in constant and continuous tension? Can they seek to co-exist without one imposing on the other? The Founding Fathers of the USA thought so, and they sought to make it so.

Let us pray, as the state seems to grow in power and assertiveness, that our original American vision rises in the hearts and minds of the people to protect religious people from the restraints and the demands of Caesar. Let Christian people never join in the chorus, "We have no king but Caesar."

Jesus before a Truthless Culture

John 18:37-38, "Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?"

The text before us here is stunningly applicable to our own culture. Here we have the Lord Jesus standing before a governmental representative who rejects and questions Jesus' self assertions. Jesus admits that He is a king of another heavenly kingdom and that He has come to bear witness to the truth. Jesus then declares a very remarkable thing - everyone who is of the truth listens to Him. I can hear our culture howl with angry voices, "bigot!" How dare Jesus challenge our radical individualism and self-autonomy? "Does Jesus not know", squeals our truth less culture, "that we create our own reality, our own truth, by our powerful and all-important choices?"

And there stands Pilate, alone in his struggle and truth less foundation. Is his problem an epistemological one? Is he stating that he thinks there is truth but he doesn't know it (agnosticism)? Or, is he asserting that he does not believe in truth (atheism)? Or, is he simply expelling his own personal, bitter, and angry feelings of one who has lost all hope and meaning in life (nihilism)? Such is the sequential paradigmatic journey of culture. First, there is an uncertainty about truth, then there is a denial of truth, and finally all meaning in life is lost altogether. Such is the case in our day. The secular, pagan culture of American vacillates between "no truth" and "self-idolatry creating truth."

In this setting and challenge the church of Jesus Christ is planted. What is our task? What must we do? What does God call us to do? We have come to bear witness to the TRUTH, to Jesus Christ and God's revelatory truth about redemption in Christ. We do so using the only means God has given - the proclaiming of the Scriptures. "Lord God, please raise up a generation of proclaimers who stand tall and strong against the winds of an anti-Christian culture. May they speak with a clear, loving, yet firm voice informed by the truth and revealing a love for the truth. Amen."