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Is There Still Hope?

November 20th, 2019

The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. (Proverbs 20:27 ESV)

Anyone observing the news in America today would be discouraged. It is becoming as Aeschylus said centuries ago, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” And as Isaiah said, “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14).

The partisan politics we see today have been around a long time, only they were not publicly broadcast across the nation. The craziness stayed mostly in the capital and the average person could go about his or her business without giving these things much thought. But today it spills over into the living rooms of not only America but the whole world.

It is the type of thinking that abandons logic and truth, forgets perspective and motive, and that merely contradicts what the “other side” says. (It reminds me of the old Monty Python “Argument” sketch.) In a logical argument one side, using logic, history, and a wealth of experience, establishes a proposition, and then reasonably debates the merit of it. But in today’s world it seems that mere contradictory rhetoric is what we hear.

I have to admit that I, for one, am sick and tired of the angry self-righteous, condemnatory rhetoric that comes out of so many mouths today on both sides of any issue.  When logic is abandoned, when people no longer seek first and foremost to find the truth of the matter and to process it rationally, then it is very difficult to go forward.

And even after the matter is “finished,” it is not really over. It remains unsettled in people’s hearts. And even if truth seems to be the goal of one side, it is a limited goal, for what is truly desired, in such a situation, is not to rule by logic, but to use limited truth, related to one case, as a tool to push through illogical agendas. “If we were right about this, then we are right about everything else.” But the other side is not actually vanquished, but rather they remain very much present and angry, guaranteeing more conflict in the future.

But God brings light to the human spirit

This is why this morning this verse above (Prov. 20:27) spoke to my heart. It tells us that God is still at work in the human spirit. We should not be discouraged as though we “little people” are without power or influence. We have more than we can ever imagine! If we will listen to God, read His Word and hear His Spirit, and do what is right, we can become God’s tools to change the world.

The word translated “spirit” here is nasham in Hebrew, and it relates back to the creation of man, when God breathed into his nostrils the “breath” of life and man became a living being. Nasham means a “puff,” “wind,” or “breath,” and by extension it carries the weight of the enlightenment of God in the human soul.

It contrasts with the word for “inmost being” which is literally, “the inner parts of the belly” in the Hebrew, and refers to the baser thoughts and motives of life: our appetites. It means that God’s plan for mankind is that His Spirit and His Word would enlighten our spirits, enabling us to function on the levels of righteousness and rationality, and not on the baser levels of lust, ambition, anger, and pride.

The meaning is that no matter how darkened the human soul has become through sin and selfishness, resulting of the twisting of the truth and the neglect of justice, there is still present in each of us the candle of the Lord. As Job cried out to his accusers:

As long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak falsehood,
and my tongue will not utter deceit.  (Job 27:3-4 ESV)

What is needed today, and in every age, is for spiritual men and women who will listen to God’s voice, heed His commands, and let Him be their light in their spirits, and then go out and do what is right, using logic, reason, wisdom, and righteousness.

God is still at work to this day

Because of this truth, then we can have hope for our world. Politicians and news media always overstate their importance to life in today’s world, and we should not take them too seriously. They are both important, but just not as important as they present themselves to be. Though Christians should be informed of political developments and vote their conscience, though we should respect and pray for leaders (Romans 13:1-3), most of our day to day living is done irrespective of them.

As I near my seventieth birthday, I am convinced that the prayers of Christians, the preaching of God’s Word, and the providential care of God have much more to do with the shaping of this world than political leaders or news outlets. If you want to make a real difference in this world, pray for the leaders, learn what is right and what is wrong from God’s Word, care for your neighbors, help the needy, stand up for justice, be kind to others, and share your hope in Christ Jesus.

The simple believer who daily seeks to follow the Lord is still the single most powerful advocate for good changes in all societies to come about.

Proverbs

After the Storm

June 10th, 2019

When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever. (Proverbs 10:25)

The way of the Lord is refuge for the righteous, but it is the ruin of those who do evil. The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land. (Proverbs 10:29-30)

In the day of evil we will be tempted to respond to our challenges in a worldly spirit, trusting in our wits, or trying to do what is expedient, or seeking the “safety of numbers.” But when the storm rages that is especially when we must stand in the grace of God, retaining our faith in Him.

In the midst of the storms of life, the safest place is always in the center of God’s will – both the will of God that has to do with our choices in life and the will of God that has to do with the meditations of our hearts. Both of these are realities in our daily life, as the psalmist said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).

Being Righteous

The idea of being righteous has two expressions – in relation to how God sees us and in relation to how we see everything else. In the gospel itself we are taught that through faith we receive the righteousness of Christ as a covering for our sin: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). We are saved not through being righteous people in our own personal efforts, but by trusting in Christ, trusting in His sacrificial and substitutionary death for our salvation. God covers us with the righteousness of Christ and because of that, “There is no therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

But the righteousness spoken of in some places of scripture, such as the “Breastplate of Righteousness,” refers to the effect on our own hearts and minds of our faith in Christ. When we trust in Christ for salvation, God puts His Spirit in our hearts and minds, and He begins this work of transformation. We will begin to grow in personal righteousness, in knowing and in doing the will of God.

Elsewhere this is simply called integrity, living daily in the grace and character of God. This is what is spoke of in the verses above from Proverbs 10: to know the “way of the Lord” in our hearts, to walk daily in His will.

The Safest Place on Earth

The safest place on earth is always in the center of God’s will, in our thoughts and in our actions, whatever that will may be. Even if it means facing persecution, hardship, or even martyrdom, to be who God calls us to be in our thoughts and our actions is the safest place to stand.

The heart comes first, and until our hearts are surrendered to Him, we will misinterpret the blessings that He gives us. We will think of blessings only in terms of worldly success, popularity, health, wealth, happiness, etc. But if we think like the world, we will build our houses (or our lives) on sand. To build them on the Rock we need to value in our hearts, or worship in our hearts, the grace and character of Christ.

Only then can we see clearly to do His will. Knowing and doing His will is not a means to a selfish end — it is an end in itself. The true servant, the true righteous person, is content in simply doing the will of God, honoring Him in our hearts and in our choices.

I knew of an American pastor who God called to go into world missions. At first he and his wife agreed to do so, but then they changed their minds, feeling that it was all too dangerous. They decided that they would not take their children into these dangerous living conditions overseas. Yet a few weeks following this decision, the entire family was killed in an automobile accident in the United States. As tragic as that story is, and really the only ones who know the real truth as to what God was saying to them are the pastor and his wife, it illustrates the reality that dangers lie down every road of life.

The only security any of us really have is to know in our hearts we are where God wants us to be — thinking and doing His will. We do not know, nor can we every know, exactly what would have happened if we had taken another path. But God promises us that the most blessed life, the most peaceful heart, and the most fulfilling and satisfying existence on earth is to live daily in Him, in the integrity of our hearts and in the rightness of our choices.

Proverbs