Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reflections for April 29, 2009 - "Leaky Cisterns"

The prophet Jeremiah had a message for God’s people that we in America would do well to heed today. He wrote, “I will take you to court and accuse you and your descendants of a crime that no nation has ever committed before. Just ask anyone, anywhere, from the eastern deserts to the islands in the west. You will find that no nation as ever abandoned its gods even though they were false. I am the true and glorious God, but you have rejected me to worship idols. Tell the heavens to tremble with fear! You, my people, have sinned in two ways __you have rejected me, the source of life-giving water, and you’ve tried to collect water in cracked and leaking pits dug in the ground.” (Jeremiah 2:9-13, The Promise: Contemporary English Version)

It is difficult for us to fully understand this passage because we have such easy access to water. For the people of Jeremiah’s day it was not so. They tried to capture all of the water that they could when it did rain. They dug large cisterns to catch the run-off when rains did come. This was a source of life for them during the long stretches between rains. When a cistern leaked it presented a major problem.

God used this clear picture to give His people a message through Jeremiah. God accused them of rejecting the cistern of life-giving water that He provided and of digging cisterns of their own. The problem with their cisterns was that they leaked. The point of all of this is that only God can truly meet the inner needs of individuals. He holds the secret to the genuinely filled life that men and women seek. When people create their own substitutes for God and attempt to fill this need with things of their own making, they discover it is not enough to meet the need that exists. In review, God provides life-giving waters from a cistern that never leaks, while man digs his own cisterns and they always leak and fail to provide the life-giving enter peace that man desires.

Here lies the core problem with society in America today. We have fallen into the trap of placing our hopes for the good life in leaky cisterns. We have been lead to believe that peace, joy and abundance comes from possessions, power, prestige and pleasure. We have been lead to believe that protecting our rights is more important that fulfilling our responsibilities. Many sacrifice everything to achieve these things, only to discover that they may bring physical comfort but they do not fill the inner need that only God can fill.

It is time for the message to be heralded across the land that we were created by God to fellowship with God and nothing else but that fellowship will provide leak proof cisterns in our life. Nothing else will fill the emptiness that comes from rejecting the life-giving God and replacing Him with substitutes of our own making.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reflections for April 22, 2009

One Saturday morning while I was still in high school, a friend and I went squirrel hunting. As we wandered through the woods, we soon realized that we were not sure where we were. After crossing the same creek twice in the same place, we decided to walk in a straight line until we came to a road. When we came to a road, it was a long distance by highway to the place where we had left our car. If we had had a compass and if we had known how to use it, we would have reduced our wandering considerably.

The illustration above is more humorous than it is tragic. However, it does lead me into another problem that is anything but humorous. It is the most serious problem facing our nation today. Despite what public opinion polls may say, it is not the economy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war on terrorism, education, immigration or any of the other problems that are often listed. I we do not check this problem, in time we will find ourselves on the scrape heap of great nations that have come before us. This problem did not occur over night and it may take it decades to bring about the demise of this great land. Make no mistake however, if it is left unchecked it will ultimately bring about our fall.

The problem is the loss of our moral compass. Presently, we are wandering around in a sea of moral relativism and we have all but lost our moral compass. When it has been completely obliterated from our public landscape, we will find ourselves in the same condition that the Jewish people found themselves at the end of the Book of Judges. The last verse reads, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (NASB) All one needs to do is to look around and he/she can see evidence of this problem.

Unfortunately, this problem has also infected the church. Polls reveal that those who attend church regularly are as confused as those outside the church. In fact, attitudes toward many of the moral issues of our day vary little between professing Christians and non-believers.

Where do we find the moral compass that can help us to avoid certain demise? For over 200 years the Holy Bible has served us well as a compass. This does not mean that all of our people were believers but it does mean that the foundations of our attitudes toward right and wrong, good and evil could be found in the Scriptures. These foundations have been under attack over the last half-century. There has been a continual outcry by many to take the God who gave us the Scriptures out of the public square completely. Unfortunately, these forces seem to have the momentum at this time.

The answer to this problem must begin among believers. There must be a return of the Bible to the pulpits of America. Even more important, the Bible must once again become the moral compass of individual believers across the country. People must once again look to the Scripture for the principles of life rather than to the talking heads that parade before us each day on the pages of the media or the television screen. We must once again take seriously II Timothy 3:16,17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for ever good work.” (NASB) Whether we do this or not will have a greater impact on the future of our country than anything else. I guess you could say that it is a matter of national security.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reflections for April 15, 2009

Excuse me for being a week behind. I could not let Easter pass without calling our attention to the core belief that sets us apart from all other religions.)

This past weekend millions of Christians from all persuasions celebrated the holiest holiday of the Christian calendar. It is important that each one of us give thought to what it means. Let’s look at why Easter is absolutely essential to the Christian faith. The Cross was not a thing to celebrate in the Roman world. It was above all else a symbol of death. Make no mistake, when Christ went to the Cross, He felt the fullness of the pain and suffering it involved. The stripes upon His back were real; the spikes in His hands were real; the thorns upon His head were real; the strain upon His muscles was real; His death was real; and it all was for you and for me.

It is difficult for us today, sitting in our comfortable pews two thousand years removed from this historical event, to fully embrace its meaning. How can we comprehend this kind of love? Yet, we must, because until we do, we can never fully embrace the Cross and live in the newness of life Christ died to give us.

Would you shut your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself standing at the foot of the Cross? See through your mind’s eye the blood running down His face. Hear Him as He cries out; “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Hear Him as He yells victoriously,“ It is finished!” Now, hear his breathing, as it slowly grows shallow until finally He looses consciousness and dies. He did that for you and for me, not because we deserved it, but because He loved us with an unconditional love.

The good news does not stop here. For His closest followers the Cross was a devastating loss because they did not realize what God was going to do with this unjust event. They did not understand the resurrection. They did not anticipate the empty tomb. It was not until the resurrection that their gloom turned to glorious celebration and unbridled commitment.

From the beginning, there have been those who have attempted to discount the resurrection. They have attempted to water it down as a tale of desperate people looking for a ray of hope in a situation that looked hopeless, or they have simply rejected it completely. Paul addressed those of his day who rejected the resurrection in his first letter to the Corinthian church. He wrote, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…..For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…..If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:13,14,16, 17, 19 NASB).”

God does not say that we must understand the resurrection. How can we? It contradicts everything we know about life and death. He does say that we must believe it. It is a matter of faith. It is the event that validates everything that Jesus ever said about Himself. It is the belief that sets Christianity apart from other religions. For you see, we do not worship a dead martyr, we worship a living Lord.

(If you found this devotional thought worthwhile, I encourage you to share it with your friends.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reflections for April 7, 2009

From now to next February, college coaches across the nation will be trying to secure commitments from young high school athletes across the nation to attend their perspective schools. It is interesting to observe the recruiting language players use in this process. It is not uncommon for a recruit to make a commitment to a particular school, and in the same breath to say he is still open and considering other possibilities.

Apparently, I do not know the meaning of the word commitment. I thought when a commitment had been made, it was final. Apparently, the new generation sees it to mean something entirely different. Instead of being final, it refers to the direction one is headed unless something better comes along.

It is not my purpose to single out athletes. This same attitude toward commitment can be seen across the board in our society today. It is seen in the workplace, in marriage relationships, in friendships, in labor negotiations, and many other areas of society. People have reached the point that commitment means they will be faithful until it doesn’t fit their needs anymore. The thought of a commitment resulting in personal sacrifices is becoming rare.

Unfortunately, this secular adaptation of the word has crossed into the Christian understanding of commitment. It has become increasingly difficult to get people to make long term commitments to positions within the church. People are willing to serve as long as it does not pose an inconvenience for them. With this new type of willingness to serve, people are not willing to agree to serve for the long term, because something better may come along.

This understanding of commitment flies in the face of the teaching of Jesus. He did not pull any punches. He did not sugar coat His message. He did not leave wiggle room. He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24, 25 NASB). This teaching of Jesus does not mesh well with the modern concept of commitment. It calls for a total yielding of ourselves to a higher authority. It calls for sacrifice of ones self for others. It teaches that we find genuine life, not by self-indulgence but by giving ourselves in service to others. It paints a true picture of what commitment is suppose to mean.

It seems we are faced with a choice. Are we going to accept society’s view of commitment or are we going to accept Christ’s view? Society’s view promises the world and delivers emptiness. Christ’s command demands everything and gives us a fullness of life that can be found no where else. What will you choose today?