Thursday, April 17, 2008

Seeing God

'Like an east wind I will scatter them
Before the enemy;
I will show them My back and not My face
In the day of their calamity.'"

Jeremiah 18:17

This verse is the culmination of God’s threatened judgement for the idolatry of Judah and Jerusalem begun in verse 11. It struck me when reading it recently that of all the judgements and punishments God declares against them (making their land a desolation, scattering them), the final judgement is that He will turn His face from them. Of all the punishments that God can mete out, this is the most severe: to us off from Himself and hide His face from us.

It seems that the times that are most difficult for me, the burdens that are hardest to bear, are those that do not accompany a deep awareness of God’s presence. What a horror to think of a life without the comforting presence of God to cheer and to guide my family and me. It is a horror that will be experienced by many when, in the last day, Jesus will declare to them :'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' – Matt. 7:23.

I am so grateful that though we often turn our backs on God, He never turns His back completely on us, that there is always room for repentance and restoration, until the final day. I am also thankful that He has promised to preserve us to the end until we will finally see Him face to face forever.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Havner on Extremism

If we preach the whole counsel of God, we shall be accused of extremism, not only by the world but also by a professing church that cannot endure sound doctrine.
Vance Havner

Monday, April 07, 2008

Beware the Extreme!

Last month I read The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage in the Age of Terrorism by Count de Marenches and David Andelman. de Marecnhes was the head of SDECE (France's intelligence agency) from 1970 to 1981 and had a number of very controversial things to say.

Written in 1992, I remember reading this book in 1998 and thinking Marenches was a kook, based in part on statements like this:

"…the very essence of the enemy embodies a new form – which is what makes the Fourth World War so much more deadly, and desperate. Our enemy this time is the theological fanatic. Such a fanatic will never be happy as long as there is one member of his detested opposition left alive. .. it will be the heart of increasingly broader conflicts in the battles of the Fourth World War."

Essentially, Marenches was positing a fourth global conflict (the Cold War being the third) that would pit the West against small groups of deadly and fanatical terrorists and the occasional rogue states that supported them. This, just a few years after the fall of the Berlin wall, the "End of History" and the "Peace Dividend"!

He claimed that Europe and North America were not taking the threat seriously, but was optimistic that this would change. It took nine years, but what looked like alarmist rantings in 1992 look positively astute in light of September 11, 2001:

"My hope for the future enlightenment of the Americans springs from… my certainty that international terrorism will finally find its way to their shores. That is not something I would wish on my most mortal enemy, let alone my friends. But if the terrorist threat has the effect of shaking up the American people and especially their leadership, then it will have had some value. The Americans until now have led a relatively charmed and sheltered existence. Terrorist incidents involving Americans or American property have all happened far from the territory of the United States. "

"Many of the circumstances are changing, though. With international terrorism now nearly two decades old, its leaders have become adept at, even smug about, operating in any type of environment. The FBI is beginning to look no more threatening that France’s DST or Great Britain’s MI5. The Untied States may soon seem a soft and tempting mark. And it will only take one successful terrorist operation there to convince the terrorist international that the United States is a promising new and virtually untapped well of targets for their violence."

I did not take the warnings seriously, and neither did anyone else. Could the events of September 11, 2001 been avoided had the Americans taken seriously de Marenches' call to arms? It's impossible to say, but more vigilence would not have been amiss.

Why have I devoted a post to this book? Simply because it is a lesson to us all to always examine a claim in light of objective truth and not reject it simply because it runs contrary to what "everybody knows" or because it is "extreme". It is a sad commentary on our current culture, that the litmus tests for arguments seems to be not, primarily, whether they are true, but whether they are "extreme" or "offensive". Revolutionary ideas almost always seem extreme and offensive. Jesus’ words to the scribes, Pharisees, sinners and smug, self-righteous, religious nationalists of His day of were both "offensive" and "extreme", but never the less, true and still hold the key to abundant and eternal life.

Things that are extreme or revolutionary are not always true, but neither are they, by definition false. When encountering unfamiliar ideas, may we have discernment and wisdom to be able to look beyond our cultural biases and fear of the "extreme" to see clearly those ideas which are true and revolutionary and may ultimately be for our good.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rejoicing Parents

Continuing my presentation to the youth, I continued on from having looked at some of the reasons to obey parents to some practical goals for youth with respect to their parents. More correctly, I suggested one goal: instead of seeking to merely obey their parents, perhaps they might think about how to delight their parents.

Proverbs 23:25 - "May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!"

But how? How do we bring gladness and joy to our parents. In addition to obedience, it seems that a life lived in wisdom and righteousness will bring joy to any parent.

Proverbs 10:1 - "A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother."

Proverbs 23:24 - "The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him."

The young people responded incredibly well to this challenge and we spent a good time discussing ways in which to bless our parents, particularly as it related to growing in holiness, righteousness, and wisdom. As I have written before, many of the children live in very awkward circumstances, but (or perhaps, because of this) they have a genuine hunger for the truth of the Bible and an encouraging responsiveness when it is presented to them.