Man’s law vs God’s law – It’s a Riot

All eyes are on Baltimore, Maryland this week as dangerous riots have broken out this week in response to the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the police.
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But in case you haven’t been paying attention here is a sample of headlines.

“Huge fires set across Baltimore as Freddie Gray rioters torch city, loot stores and injure fifteen police officers as violence rages into the night and local politicians are left turning on each other .” – Daily Mail

“Baltimore Rioters Threatening ‘Anybody… Who Was Not African-American”- CNN

“‘Police Violence’ on Blacks ‘Far More Shameful’ than Baltimore Riots” – News Busters

“Police: We failed to get Freddie Gray timely medical care after arrest”- CNN

“New reports of looting as Baltimore mayor under fire over ‘destroy’ remarks, response to riots”- Fox News

The liberal response tends to be to condemn social injustice and perceived racism within the system, siding with the rioters.   The conservative approach tends to condemn the lawlessness of the rioters thus siding with the police. What however is the appropriate response?   Here are a couple verses to think about:

Isaiah 10:1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression

Exodus 23:1-3 You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

Judges 21:25 In those days …everyone did what was right in his own eyes

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

The problem is both in the system and in the individual.   We as a culture have rejected God’s rule.   We rebel against His law. Instead of God as our highest authority, we have decided to be an authority unto ourselves. We are a people who worship idols, do every type of sexual perversion, hate our brothers, have greedy and covetous hearts, dishonor our parents, neglect our children, and elect people who approve of all the previous to be our leaders. We have individuals who reject God’s commandments and a government which does the same.   This inevitably leads to injustice.

Instead of a government of laws that upholds God’s rule we have a government of man’s rule.   GK Chesterson once said ““When you break the big laws you do not get freedom. You do not even get anarchy. You get small laws.” We get a ton of small laws.  When we break God’s commands we don’t get freedom, we get enslavement.    When we set up ourselves as lawgiver, we get law upon law upon unjust law.

Looking now at Baltimore, we see that the blame goes to both sides. We area people who are rebellious.   We have a government which makes unjust laws.  Rebellious people rebel against the unjust laws.   The police, made up of people with sinful hearts, are tasked with cracking down and enforcing these human laws.   In the process, some police act as a law unto themselves as well. This leads to more injustice and more rebellion.   There is enough blame to around.

The gospel is the answer.   God sent His son to live a Holy law-fulfilling life. He willingly took upon himself the shame and guilt of our rebellion. God was pleased to put on Christ the punishment that we deserve.   Christ died as our substitute. He defeated death in his resurrection. He therefore ascended to heaven, to the throne, where he reigns as priest and king.  We need to repent of trying to be a law unto ourselves.   We need to repent of our disobedience.   We need to lay down our arms and quit our war against God.   He will then enable us to live Holy law-fulfilling lives as well. He will enable us to govern our lives by His law. We will then reform ourself as an individual, our families, our culture, and our government.

Paul says of God’s law in Romans 7:12 “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.”    God’s law in the whole of the Bible is just.   It is good for both individual and for our government.   Psalm 19 says that God’s law is perfect.   God is concerned with justice.   He has revealed in His word what the true and just path is.  As long as we as individuals and as a nation refuse to have Christ as Lord, we will see more of Baltimore.  The answer is not lawless rioting nor is it tyrannical government.   The answer is submitting to Christ.  The answer for Baltimore, Ferguson, the United States, and the world is the gospel. May we embrace it.

Space, The Final Frontier

Space the Final Frontier

Space, the final frontier”, those words from Star Trek, one of my favorite television shows when I was younger, have fueled my imagination for years. Something about the stars and planets just excites me. As a child, I can remember getting for Christmas a set of glow in the dark stars and the moon to put on my bedroom ceiling. That simple inexpensive gift was one of the most valuable I have ever received. From then on I slept under the stars every night. Even now as an adult, there is nothing that takes my breath away quite like a clear starlit sky. Since moving to Kentucky and getting a job as a student minister in Cropper where the terrain is flat and wide open, I have been amazed at how the stars seem to burst forth from one side of the horizon to the other on a cloudless night. I can just stare up into the heavens for hours as lights twinkle and seem to fade into view the longer I look.

I am convinced that King David too was an avid star-gazer. In Psalm 19, David writes that the heavens declare the glory of God. David is absolutely correct. David also writes in Psalm 8 that God displays His splendor above the heavens. It is amazing to think that God spoke and brought all of creation into being. Sometimes in life, it is easy to get puffed up in pride or to think highly of one’s self. When the daily events of life begin to creep up on us, we tend to magnify our current circumstances and in turn magnify our significance. But just like David when we look into the night sky and see the billions of stars and all the work of God’s fingers, we begin to see the smallness of man. When we realize that our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains 200 to 400 billion stars of which the closest is 4.25 light years away and that our universe has billions of galaxies, then we can begin to catch a glimpse of just how small we are and how large God is. All of our problems and things that we find so much significance in become increasingly insignificant when viewed in relation with the entire universe.

When David views the stars in Psalm 8, he sees the insignificance of man, but yet he also sees the absolute kindness of God in that God would look favorable upon man. In all of creation, God in His love has set man just a little lower than Himself and set man up to have dominion over the earth. I am just amazed that God would entrust to us, the care of his creation. God who holds the entire universe of billions and billions of stars in the palm of His hand, chooses to let us share in His glory and majesty. It is beyond comprehension to think that God would love us this much. It is even more mind-blowing that God would Himself become man and die on the cross for a creature as insignificant as me.

It is in light of this great divide between God’s greatness and our smallness that makes our sin such a foul stench and injustice. That after God created us and loved us enough to share in His glory, we have rebelled and turned our hearts against Him in a futile attempt to be God is a gross betrayal of that love. When I think of my sin in this context, I am disgusted by my betrayal of His love and glory. In Psalm 51, David also comes to this conclusion regarding his sin. He rightfully concludes that he had sinned against God and not only was God able to punish him but that God would be justified and blameless if he did. It is in light of this greatness of God and smallness of ourselves that must realize that we can only do one thing and that is throw ourselves upon the mercy of God. In Psalm 51, after having committed adultery and murder David threw himself upon the mercy of God. He begged God for only what God could do, namely to cleanse him from the stain of sin. God doesn’t need or want our sacrifices. God already owns the entire universe, there is nothing that we can give Him to repay for our sins. God desires one thing and that is a broken and humbled heart. If God loves us enough to put us in charge of His creation then surely God loves us enough to forgive our sins when we run to Him. David knew this. He knew that only the one who created his heart could give him a clean heart pure from sin.

The great news is that this forgiveness and grace is given freely. Sometimes though we associate free with cheap but the gift of God was not cheap. In order for God to forgive and still be just, someone had to pay for sin. God sent His only Son to live the life I couldn’t and then to die in my place. In Romans 5, it says that while I was an enemy of God, He died for me. Just as Adam’s betrayal of God has led to the whole of the human race being cursed and deserving of death, the righteous love of Christ brings about our restoration. My works and deeds could never begin to fix the damage done by my sins. It takes the work of the one who never sinned to repair that damage. To think that the God of the universe would first of all create me and then second of all forgive my betrayal is amazing. God not only forgives but He gives me the promises that Jesus rightfully earned.

If it is not by my actions or deeds that I am saved then can I go on sinning? Romans 6 answers with a resounding no. Why should I continue to be a slave to destructive power of sin? If Jesus came to free me from sin and repair my relationship with God why would I even want to go back to the chains of sin.  Sin is a deadly master looking to destroy. The God who created the heavens loved me enough to free me from that slave master. Yet there are times I try to run right back into those tyrant arms of sin. The good news is that not only did God free me from sin but that by His work I am also His. Those who belong to God, God holds and sustains. Even when the times in my life I try to go back to the old master, God does not let me go back under that slavery. God’s love truly is amazing in that He not only forgives us our sin but He works in us to make us righteous.

When I look at the billions of planets, I wonder why God did not just destroy us and start again on another planet. I am amazed at God’s persistent love for us. I am amazed at the unworthiness of myself and the great majesty of God. I am thankful that God forgives and gives new life to me. It is with David as in Psalm 51 that I can say, “O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.”

Purpose of Parables

     I have been reading through Mark when I came upon a verse in Mark 4 that gave me pause. In the NIV, verse 33 is translated “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand.” This translation seems problematic to me because just a few verses earlier Jesus had told his disciples that he was speaking in parables to the crowds so that they would not understand. In Mark 4:11-12 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!””

I found it strange that in one place Jesus would tell his disciples the purpose of parables was one thing and then later it seemed to change. The NASB and the ESV have a better translation of verse 33 that makes more sense in context. Instead of saying that Jesus spoke as many parables as they could understand, these versions say that Jesus spoke as many parables as they could hear. To me this passage reflects the way that the gospel works on people. The gospel message has two purposes. The most clear purpose is that those whom God has chosen would hear it and have their hearts pierced, their souls convicted, and then they would repent of their sin and turn to Him. The second purpose is that there will be those who hear the gospel message and it will only work to further their rebellion. It will only work to harden their heart. In this way the gospel will stand as an accusation against that person in judgment. The gospel will come across as parables,stories, and fairy tales.  There will come a time when they can bear to hear it no longer. The message of the gospel is foolish to those who are perishing but I am grateful that to those being saved it is the power of God.

Put Me In Coach

                     As I spent time reading through Mark today I landed on two passages. The first one was the parable of the sower and the various types of soil. Something I noticed is that Jesus took the time with the ones He loved to show them the meaning of the parable. I felt convicted at this time. I want to be the soil that is usable, in particular with spiritual disciplines. Many times I am more like the rocky soil that receives the call to spiritual discipline with much joy but does not stick it out for the long haul. I am praying that through my spiritual disciplines class that I will begin a lifelong habit of spiritual discipline. I also felt convicted today for all the time I waste and have wasted in my life. This got me thinking about past sins and I really felt agony for all the evil that I have done in my life. Sometimes I wonder how I could ever be forgiven. I wonder how could I ever be used by God. My only defense is grace. It is all I have. I can not stand on my own merit. Grace is the cry of my soul. I am guilty and yet at my judgment the only thing I can plead for is grace. Just a chapter earlier in Mark, Jesus is accused of casting out demons because He is of the devil. Jesus refutes that with a great comment about a house divided. But it is the next verse that I am thankful for today. Jesus said, “I assure you that people will be forgiven of all sins….” I am so thankful that my sins are forgiven. I can be rest in assurance that I did nothing to deserve grace and therefor have done nothing to lose it. I am humbled by this. I also celebrate because of it. Satan continues to attack me with his attempts to guilt me onto the sidelines of life. And Satan is right, the sidelines is where I deserve to be, but God in His mercy has given me the game ball and put me in the game.