Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister in middle 19th century, used God as the basis of all things. But don’t be deceived: God was only a word to Parker. His entire emphasis, as a transcendentalist, focused on humanity, not God. He didn’t believe God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Or that Jesus was the finality of God’s revelation. Or that Jesus was Deity. Or that the Bible was God’s final revelation to mankind. Or that Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary had any impact on forgiveness of sin.
Still...Page Smith, author of a multi-volume series on American history, didn’t believe Parker’s heresy would be so offensive today—1981, The Nation Comes of Age, 504. Though, at the time, Parker wrote, even clergymen and lay members of his own Unitarian church proscribed and disfellowshipped him. This in the middle nineteenth century.
Smith was correct in 1981. He would be even more correct in 2019. America since the 1960’s has continued into a theological liberalism that no mega or meta church growth has even slowed. In fact, the growth of huge churches has coincided with the greatest possible societal immorality.
Ours is an age of tolerance of all behaviors, with devotees of homosexuality and illegal immigration demanding and receiving acceptance while opponents of each are damned as intolerant. Indeed, our society is intolerant of believing all that Parker denied. And intolerant of believing homosexuality is a sin against God and illegal immigration is an offense against the role of law and order.
We now pay for the Biblical ignorance so glaringly obvious. And it will get worse, leading to the satanic corruption that considers everything about God is bad and all that mocks God is good. Indeed, what Satan wants is now a reality in America. For he wants everyone to believe that what society must fear is absolute faith in the ONE God and HIS CHRIST!
Some of us will contest every effort by Satan to have his way. We will confront him, wherever he appears, with the Complete authority only Jesus Christ possesses and exercises. We will keep preaching Jesus Christ alone as Truth. Come what may. However unpopular Jesus is. We choose to be condemned with Jesus by the age; we’ll never align ourselves with the age against him.
Queen Elizabeth visited one of her courtiers. As she wandered through his castle, the acid-tongued monarch commented on the discrepancy of his habitation vis á vis his position in her administration. The quick-witted courtier replied that the house remained big enough for him; she had simply elevated him to a position larger than the house. Abigail, 141
The same is true of our body vis á vis the spiritual treasure within it—the vast “treasure in jars of clay” II Corinthians 4:7. Even now it means, in Paul’s words, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” II Corinthians 4:8-9.
While the task of discipleship remains far more difficult than our flesh can stand, God’s Spirit empowers his service. Even now, in our fallen personal, but recovered, state. Even now, in a culture hostile to Christ’s very name. Even now, facing societal animus that menaces every Christ-centered message. Even now...the honor with which our Master endows us enlarges our capacity for spiritual service. Indeed, it doesn’t take a docile, patient, interested audience to make Christ-honoring faith possible and powerful!
And that’s just the beginning. For in a time past the present, past death, past judgment and past flesh and blood, God will re-fashion our body to equality with our state as his eternal servants: desires and destiny the same, aspirations and actions, purpose and practice, canons and conduct seamless, indivisible.
Even now...repeat both words until you BELIEVE...even now...all this because “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” John 4:4. Amen.
On the very day God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision, he had all males in his camp circumcised, including himself. That would seem the end of testing. But no...and now...121 years later, with Isaac perhaps 20 years old, God ordered a catastrophic condition: offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice!
And how did Abraham respond? The next morning...ASAP...without delay, or seeking an alternative, or arguing with God...he loaded wood on the donkey, called to action the two servants he ordered to be ready...and SET OUT for the place!
Lessons we can learn. First—and this a summary: from Abraham’s 4000 year old obedience to God came the identity of the specific mountain, in the specific place, that now holds the attention of billions of people world-wide.
Second, and of absolute importance, when God calls us to any service, comply as directed. Indeed...God gave us ears. If he has something to tell us, LISTEN! He gave us eyes. If he has someone he wants us to see, LOOK! He gave us a tongue. If he wants us to say something to someone, SPEAK! He gave us a mind. If he wants to use our intellect as his servant, THINK! He gave us a heart. If he wants to care for someone, LOVE! He gave us a WILL. If he wants it exercised in service, OBEY! And if he wants all the above done now, HASTEN!
Offer no excuses why we can’t...or can’t right now. It didn’t work for Moses; it won’t for us.
In conclusion, if we’re afraid, God gives courage. If we don’t know much, God fills our minds with knowledge. If we say we can’t, God already knows that. He also knows He CAN through us. If we say, “we won’t”, God will find someone who WILL.
And we’ll lose the greatest privilege mortals ever have—being God’s servant to someone he wants reached and knows we can reach them. As mentioned previously, many preachers settle for proclaiming a comforting faith; overlooking hard truths of Scripture to stress God’s compassion, patience and love. That underestimates the most comforting of all Gospel truth—we experience in discipleship the empowering faith that overcomes the world.
When we rise to the challenges of living a faith that conquers, serving a Lord who overcomes, in a Cause that no obstacle, foe or, even death itself, can resist, we become more spiritually formidable than we ever thought possible! Fini
Genesis 21 records Isaac’s birth. Genesis 22 records God’s TEST of Abraham by demanding Isaac’s sacrifice. A point of emphasis, however. A vast difference exists between satan’s temptations and God’s tests. James 1:13-15 makes it clear that temptation comes from satan, appeals to our fallen nature leads us from God. Testing comes from God, appeals to our converted nature and intends to PROVE, in order to FORTIFY to INVINCIBILITY, our commitment to God. In a sentence, then, temptation seeks to lead us from God while testing aims to increase our dependence on God.
On my walk before daylight a few mornings ago, two bright stars—Venus, the Bright Morning Star the brightest—appeared in the southern sky. They seemed no farther apart than a jet plane couldn’t cover in a few hours. In reality they were millions of miles apart. Our mental measure and celestial distances account for the difference. Just so does God’s perspectives and ours differ, with his eternal and ours only historical. And, as Isaiah 55:8-9 says, never shall the twain meet; and never, ever will ours be equal to or superior to God’s.
Thus, God tested Abraham’s faith in order to build and increase it. His specific instructions left no doubt. Abraham would TAKE his son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loved. He would GO to the region of Moriah. THERE, on a mountain God would identify, Abraham would offer Isaac as a sacrifice.
Remember, God loathed human sacrifice as satanic. He never had, and never would, order it. He used the figure only to test the depth of Abraham’s faith: how far would the 121 year-old prophet go without questioning or disobeying God?
In addition, 121 years before, and Isaac not yet conceived, God had established circumcision as the basis of his covenant with Abraham and his descendants Genesis 17. On the very day God established the covenant, Abraham at 99, Ishmael at 13 and all males in Abraham’s camp, were circumcised. That would seem the end of God’s conditions since Abraham fulfilled every one. End Part II
The criminal element always tests society’s patience. It seizes every opportunity to expand and proliferate. Law enforcement has historically limited and punished lawbreakers—to preserve values that hold society together. Beginning in the 1960’s, to this day, Americans decided to become tolerant of moral misbehaviors, not guardians and defenders of Biblical values. Thus we have made it harder for policemen to enforce laws and easier for judges to release felons.
That’s a colossal sin for which we have yet to pay the ultimate penalty. For thinking to pacify the forces of wickedness only increases their lust for expression. Whose demands only increase with every effort of pacification!
Children also test any limits parents place on their behavior. Only foolish parents allow that freedom. For parents alone can determine when and where to draw the line on their offspring. And, usually, the sooner the better. And, with good results, sooner drawing tight limits and loosening them as children show maturity. All of this to establish values that hold families together.
Like children with their parents, human beings, many of them Christian, often test God: by tolerating false teaching or living a false example. By seeing how far from grace they can fall without falling into irretrievable sin. By seeing how much of the world we can welcome into the church without losing its spiritual integrity. All in an effort to be independent of God while claiming his favor. All to be at peace with a culture God has ordered us to combat, correct, convert and destroy. End Part I
If we’re looking for something, we’re likelier to find it than if we don’t know it exists. Simeon looked for God’s Messiah and, at God’s behest, recognized and honored him when he appeared, a 40-day old boy.
Just as Lord Byron prepared to succeed as a poet before publishing Childe Harold in 1812. Suddenly, at 24, he had become famous. Beacon Lights of History, 153.
Just as Allen Dulles prepared between WWI and 1940. An understudy in intelligence in WWI, he gained many contacts. When William Donovan looked for a man to head the OSS from Switzerland in WWII, Dulles’ name headed the list.
May 26, 1805...William Clark gazed westward from a high summit. He saw the Rocky Mountains, blanketed in snow, shining brilliantly in the sun. They were still far away, but the sight filled Clark with a sense of accomplishment. AND...a sense of dread...because of the difficulties these mountains presented to the passage westward. Reflecting on that great, snowy barrier caused soberness. But, since he refused to anticipate evil he accentuated the positive of his sighting.
In 1993 National Geographic photographers shot 1,683,000 frames in 46,769 rolls of film. The magazine published 1,408 pictures that year. That meant each photographer had only a .001% chance to be published. National Geographic, 8/95, p. 64. Nevertheless, only those taking and submitting qualified to be published.
The point is: we must prepare NOW to be ready for tomorrow. For God may call us to serve him there. And only if we have prepared can we be ready to bring glory to Jesus.
Which leads to a question: what if we prepare to serve and God doesn’t call? (For God always has the right to accept, reject, use or ignore any service we offer.) What if we labor without reward; remaining nameless while persevering in our chosen service?
THEN God will call us HOME where...everything we learned, witnessed, taught, preached or lived about Jesus Christ will immediately be put to use in his eternal kingdom! Nothing that praises Jesus now will be removed by death. While everything that fails to praise him SHALL BE! Fini
Simeon proves that preparation remains more important than age in God’s service. It may have occurred to him that time slipped away while he waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Nevertheless, he continued to serve while he waited.
This writer remembers the quotation attributed to young Abraham Lincoln. It was posted on the south wall, under the windows as I recall, as you came down the stairs of our then-high school. “I will study, and get ready, and some day my chance/time will come.” It did.
Young people don’t face a particular challenge preparing to serve. It’s when increasing age finds us continuing to prepare that challenges us. Winston Churchill faced that. Born in 1874, he served in politics from his youth. More often than not, he proved a failed, nearly-always controversial, often anonymous personality. But when the English needed a leader superior to Hitler in 1940, they turned to 66 year old Winston! He never stopped preparing.
In a sermon 1939, C.S. Lewis talked about the frustration of never getting finished with projects; once one was completed, another appeared, and all the while we get older. He suggested a simple solution: work faithfully each day and leave the future in God’s hands. Whether or not we work today, trusting God for the future, he alone controls the future. The only day we have under our control is TODAY—which Jesus made the time frame in which we deny ourselves and carry our cross for him. End Part III
Simeon’s benediction proved Christ’s wholesale, total authority. Second, it proved that God granted him a great privilege. He would not die until he had seen Israel’s Messiah. A promise which embodies a powerful spiritual truth: preparation to serve God, not age, determines our usefulness to him. As an infant, Jesus ruled: angels adored him. As a 2 year-old, aristocrats bowed before him. For it didn’t take a crown to make him a king.
A young man grew up in West Tennessee’s backwoods. He didn’t go to grammar or high school. He showed up at a Christian college when a grown man. With unruly red hair; front teeth missing; a worn sweater held together by safety pins. He later graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Doctorate in English. Before he enrolled he had read: not a few; not a score; not hundreds, but thousands of books of all kinds, including the Bible. He proved that it didn’t take a Doctorate to make a scholar.
So there was: 10 year old Samuel; 12 year old Jesus; 17 year old David; and 969 year old Methuselah. Everyone a spiritual powerhouse for God. Proving that it didn’t take a special age to make a useful disciple.
We can personally experience, or fail to experience, God whatever our age. As we can see, or fail to see, spiritual potential in others, because we have or haven’t prepared to be surprised by God’s Joy!
That’s especially true in discipleship. Anyone, at any age, of any educational or economic status, can serve God. Preparation is the key. End Part II
The consecration of Jesus by Joseph and Mary reveals two powerful truths through Simeon. The first is the Authority even then residing in the 40 day old infant. Six words in Luke 2:27 forecast the singular nature Jesus carried throughout his ministry: “Simeon took him in his arms....” Do not minimize the old man’s action, prompted by the Holy Spirit. He could have spoken his benediction while Mary held Jesus in her arms.
But no, for a specific reason he removed him from parental to God’s control while offering his benison. Because, wherever we see Jesus in ministry, it’s always God the Son working out God the Father’s will through the empowerment of God the Spirit—the Great-Biblical-Three-in-One. Never one person more or less.
Mary never weighed in on a decision. Joseph never did. The disciples never did. The Jewish leaders never did. The politicians and military men never did. Jesus alone on God’s behalf made all the decisions.
Leaving this warning to humanity, including all its churchmen: Jesus didn’t reserve for himself all the decisions THEN to let us NOW determine: what’s essential to church life, and what’s irrelevant; or what constitutes acceptable behavior; or what determines our acceptance to him.
Let us be forewarned. While people can believe what they please NOW, ONLY God decides what’s acceptable to him at Judgment and beyond. Every teaching, belief, practice and observance in Christendom that isn’t found in God’s word will be pulled up by the roots and incinerated Matthew 15:13. Let us take care to build on the foundation Jesus laid only what survives the fires of judgment I Corinthians 3:10-14. End Part I
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P.S. With apologies to hard-working hospital ER workers, this warning: if you don’t have an illness or disease when you must sit in the waiting room, or lie on gurneys, for hours at a time—two nights out of three—you likely WILL before you leave.
Now, to conclude this 2-parter....all taken from the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Fourth, Fred Basset, the dog exits his house barking freely, even joyously. When called by name, he retreats into the house. He hadn’t made a good start; he had broken his New Year’s resolution to stop barking just for the joy of barking. 1/1/19
Comment. Maybe we should just put more substance into our resolution to stop complaining, criticizing, contesting...and whatever else makes relationships difficult or toxic.
Fifth, Hagar the Horrible. A locked castle door stymies our favorite Viking. He called for his personal locksmith. After watching him work overtime on the project, Hagar demands an explanation. The underling admits he can’t do the job but loves to eavesdrop. 12/31/18
Comment. Incompetent as we are serving Jesus, we can’t afford to divert our best efforts in discipleship into extraneous, often irrelevant, sometimes dangerous, contingencies.
Sixth, Marmaduke. A classic. The lovable rascal lies on a vet’s table, being examined. The unspoken conversation centered on the dog’s overweight problem. Which he didn’t like. The picture has him looking sternly at and patting the vet’s protruding tummy, as if to say, “You shouldn’t lecture me.” Leading the vet to riposte that he, not the dog, gave the advice. 12/31/18
Comment. Jesus told his people to listen and obey whatever teachers of the Law taught. However, they should be careful not to follow their behavior Matthew 23:1-4. A doctor may not live his diagnosis, but that doesn’t diminish its value. Professional knowledge, not personal lifestyle, is his strength. Every preacher knows that his example can diminish the value of his message. (Though Jesus doesn’t allow that as an excuse.) Since all Christians are sinners saved by grace, those falling into sin—even leaders—should be corrected and restored gently. For those correcting can soon be the corrected Galatians 6:1-5. Fini