Saturday, November 12, 2016

Culture and Clothing

Ever since the garden of Eden, God has had an opinion on the way people dress. From the animal skins used to cover Adam and Eve to the garments worn by priests, God has prescribed modesty as his people clothing style. But what about today? Does God care how men and women dress in today's culture? Let's take a look.

The reason I am even writing this is that I was asked to read Scripture for tomorrow's morning service at Orwell Bible Church. The passage is 1 Timothy 2. As I read through the passage, I consulted The Bible Knowledge Commentary for an explanation of several verses. Among other things, the commentary on verse 9 was especially good.

"Next Paul turned to the females in the congregation. For their adornment they should not emphasize the external, but the internal. They should dress modestly, with decency and propriety (cf. v. 15). These terms stress not so much the absence of sexual suggestiveness, though it is included, but rather an appearance that is simple, moderate, judicious, and free from ostentation. The specifics Paul mentioned (braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes) are not wrong in themselves, but become inappropriate when they indicate misplaced values (cf. 3:3). In the Ephesian church these styles may have been associated with the local temple prostitutes. Christians must be careful about letting a pagan culture set their fashions."

That last sentence of the commentary summarizes what often happens to Christians living in a culture that is unconcerned with God's perspective on something as simple as clothing. While the way we dress should not be "everything" to us, we mustn't let current cultural trends override what God intends for us to be and convey by our appearance. The Bible tells us that God not only cares about our dress but also a great number of other things including what we say, think, and do. And as we slowly conform to His perfect ways, we will become quite different than the culture around us. But that is okay. Our goal as followers of Christ is not to be purposely weird but it is to be as much like our Father as possible. Maybe that should be the new trend.

Friday, November 04, 2016

It Depends...

While reading Daniel 4, I couldn’t help but notice the compassionate response Daniel had toward King Nebuchadnezzar (4:19). If you recall, the king had a dream which foretold his coming judgment because of his pride. The king (who apparently wrote this chapter) had the perception that Daniel did not want him to suffer under God’s judgment. He even offered advice on how to possibly escape from the judgment. This is a good example of compassion toward the lost.

My first response was to note the good attitude toward a leader and to call all Christians toward a loving, compassionate attitude toward all people and especially toward our government leaders. If Daniel could treat Nebuchadnezzar with respect (the man who probably orchestrated the death of his parents), then Christians should have this attitude toward all political leaders despite their policies, evil choices, or pretty much anything bad they might do or stand for.

But it’s just not that easy. You see, it depends on the person. If you were to continue reading the Book of Daniel, you would see that Daniel didn’t have quite the same attitude toward King Belshazzar (Dan. 5:18 ff.). Belshazzar had a great party for his wives, concubines, and officials. No doubt it was a shameful occasion that reeked of wicked behavior. And to make matters worse, the king chose to party with gold and silver cups which had been part of the temple service in Jerusalem. This definitely would not have endeared the king to Daniel.

So, why the difference in attitude? Both kings were unbelievers who were not known for their godly behavior. But Daniel reacted with compassion toward one and disgust toward the other. I guess it really depends on the circumstances. Just as it is fitting to ignore (Prov. 26:4) or confront a fool (Prov. 26:5) when necessary, so it is fitting to be compassionate toward some and to show disgust for others (Jude 22-23).

I think that this may seem difficult for some to take. It seems proper to always show compassion to those who are lost and drowning in their sin. But is this truly what God wants us to do? I don’t think so. In general, it is a good idea to show compassion toward sinful humanity. But when someone shows their disdain for God and his ways, it is appropriate to show displeasure toward such a person’s actions and attitudes. Remember Elijah and Ahab. It was not your typical “Love the lost” relationship, was it? There comes a time when ungodly people need to know the seriousness of their sin against God. And that is probably why Daniel responded the way he did toward one and not the other. It just depends.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why does He still love us?

Have you ever read something that affected you with equally opposite emotions? This was my response to Ezekiel 16. In this passage, God describes to Jerusalem His great love for her people and their subsequent turning away into spiritual adultery. The description of the first is beautiful while the second is hideous.

God describes Jerusalem as a new born baby who was left in a pool of blood and about whom nobody cared. He loved that child and rescued her from death. But even after His many gifts and expressions' of love toward her, Jerusalem chose to seek "love" from others. The description is hideous and not one I care to describe right now.

Click here to read Ezekiel 16.

At the very end of the chapter, after sending judgment on the people of Jerusalem, God takes a remarkable action. Despite their unfaithfulness to Him, He announces His choice to keep His covenant with them and forgive them by atoning for their sin. This relationship between God and the Jewish people is amazing. But so is His relationship with Christians. Despite the sins which we are ashamed of, God has loved us and atoned for our sins through the gift of his Son Jesus. It brings up the age old question. After all we have done, why does He still love us?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rejected Silver

While I am driving, I hear radio advertisers talking about the value of investing in silver. No matter what day it is, it is the best time to invest because "silver may double in value this year!" There is no doubt that pure silver has value once it has been refined. But what if the impurities could not be removed from the metal? It would be rejected as unusable.

Jeremiah 6:29 (NKJV)

The bellows blow fiercely,
The lead is consumed by the fire;
The smelter refines in vain,
For the wicked are not drawn off.
People will call them rejected silver,
Because the LORD has rejected them.”

During Jeremiah's ministry, the Jewish people who lived in Jerusalem were known for their impure lives. God described Jerusalem as a place of oppression (6), a well full of wickedness (7), people who could not heed or delight in God's words (10), covetous (13), unable to blush (15), unwilling to listen (17), and stubborn rebels (28).

Despite God's great patience and warnings from prophets, the people of Jerusalem would not turn from their sins and obey the God who loved them. Because of their habitual sin-filled lifestyle, they got to a place where they were too wicked to change their ways. Every attempt to refine them was unsuccessful because they were not interested.

There comes a time when even God gives up on certain people. Just as a metal worker rejects impure silver after multiple attempts, so God rejected the wicked people of Jerusalem. It is a sober warning that God's warnings must be taken seriously because his mercy will last for only so long. Judgment came to Jerusalem in the form of a violent defeat by another nation. For those who reject God's ways today the final judgment will be even worse (Rev. 20:11-15). Take heed to God's warnings and turn to Him before it is too late.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Prince of Peace and Family Conflicts

Those of us who have experienced the new birth know very well that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Through his death in our place, we have been forgiven for all our sins. And as a result, we are no longer enemies but have peace with God. This peace is a wonderful thing to experience. But it is readily apparent that not all people know this peace--even some who are very close to us.

This conflict is explained by Jesus in Matthew 10:34-36.*

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN's ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD"
Jesus came to reconcile man to God. But that peace, provided by the Prince of Peace, is not given to all indiscriminately. Those who continue in their sin and choose to rebel against God will never acquire it. This causes a problem for those of us who are on God's side. We often experience the brunt of the rebellion's anger against us because of our allegiance to Jesus. Our new life is a constant conflict with their lifestyle and goals.

This conflict can affect even the closest family relationships. Jesus said that following Him would bring division between father and son, daughter and mother, and many other relationships. We hate the division and if we could change things we would! We would love to share God's peace with those closest to us. But this deep seated hatred for God and his ways often wins leaving believing family members with great sadness.

But amidst this great sadness, there is one who can give peace despite the great conflict. That person is Jesus, the Prince of Peace. While at times the conflict worsens and our hearts are troubled, he promises to "keep him in perfect peace who trusts in Him." He also calls believers to "cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you." And when we take these difficulties to the Lord in prayer, with thanksgiving, Jesus promises "the peace of God that passes all understanding."

It would be easy for a believer facing family opposition to lose hope and become discouraged. Perhaps this describes you today. Please take some time today to not only understand the conflict but also to seek the peace that Jesus offers to you. He cares for you!


*Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is that what you want?

This Tuesday, Ohio voters will make their voices heard at the polls. Some have suggested that conservatives should vote for Ohio Governor Kasich so that Donald Trump does not win Ohio's 66 delegates. The strategy is interesting because it might work. But is that what you want?

1. First of all, recognize that these ideas are based on flawed political polls. While we do rely on the media for information, these polls have often been wrong. Relying on the media and pollsters and voting for someone other than a true conservative in effect eliminates our voice in the discussion. Is that what you want?

2. If conservatives tried to beat Trump by voting for Kasich, there may be other consequences. For instance, Kasich might win Ohio and be convinced to continue running. That would most certainly continue the division amongst the Republican candidates. Is that what you want?

3. Think of another consequence. If none of the candidates have the required 1237 delegates at the end, it would lead to a contested convention. Instead of having a candidate who best reflects the will of the people, we would be turning the vote over to the party which has disappointed us with their most recent decisions. Is that what you want?

This Tuesday, I will not use the suggested strategy. Instead, I will vote for the candidate I believe will do the best job as president. That candidate is Ted Cruz. He is a conservative that has a proven record. If that is what you want, then vote accordingly.

The Arch of Kerguelen

This blog is named after the French territory, Isles de Kerguelen, in the South Indian Ocean. About 15 years ago, I came across the island on a map and read up on its history. You can read about it here. That also led to me writing two fictional children's stories about Kerguelen's voyage to the Desolation Islands. Interesting stuff ... at least to me.

One of the most interesting aspects of the island is the Arch of Kerguelen in Christmas Harbor. The 300 foot arch once proudly marked the harbor but has since fallen. On occasion, I will peruse Google for new pictures of the island or see what is happening there in the news. This afternoon, I found this artist's rendition of what the arch must have looked like when the island was discovered many years ago. Beautiful!