Don’t Say It – Pastor John

An excerpt from our chronological Bible reading this past week:

Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD.  Jeremiah 1:4-8 (NASB)

We live in a world awash with the profusion of words. The value is to talk, though often there’s no depth to match length in speech. Politics, “news” and social media are noisy specimens. Yes, you note I did not include sermons in my examples.

You may recall a time when the value was in words few and measured, with weighty thought behind them, chosen to persuade and effect change. The shift today is value in a torrent of words, and cleverness or crudeness of phrases. The goal is not to dialogue, but to “cancel” detractors, and embolden minions holding to the “correct” view. Attacks shift to personal levels, and every perceived slight is amplified through a flood of rhetoric, designed for reaction, not reason.

So here we are. And this is the world our children inherit.

Jeremiah was certain his place was to be silent, and offered his youthful inexperience as his hall pass. The Lord counseled him with some truths that we might be sure to pass to our children, as we also live them out ourselves.

The Lord informed Jeremiah that He was sending him, and obedience was not optional. It is a good reminder that God has divine appointments for us in our days, and we are to respond to the Lord’s direction for us. Think of Noah, Abram, Moses, Jonah, the Prophets, the Disciples, Paul…

The power behind the words we speak will be from the Lord. That implies we are listening to and allowing Him to form us, in thought, deed and word. “I think” is not as weighty as, “The Lord tells us.” I know this from experience. Are we teaching our children of the importance to listen to God (in His Word, prayer, godly counsel) and then unapologetically communicating what He reveals to us?

The fear of man is a warning throughout scripture. When we walk with our Lord, and are used of Him in situations easy or stressful, we can leave the outcomes to Him as well. Our deliverance is already secured through the power of the Risen Christ, and what have we to fear, whether standing before paupers or kings?

A great example of this truth in life is found in Acts 3 and 4, where Peter and John are hauled before the authorities to give account. Their response, and the response of the believers (at 4:23 and forward) is something worth reading carefully and discussing fully with your family.

There would be more I might share, but I’ll take my own medicine, and refrain from talking further at this time…

What a Shame – Pastor Greg

Jeremiah 6:15  Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord.

Romans 1:32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Edgar Allen Poe. Ever read any of his short stories? One that stands out is called the “Tell Tale Heart” – a story of a man who kills his roommate and buries him under the floorboards. The crime is perfect and he is sure to get away with it, but for one thing. He begins to hallucinate that he can hear the man’s heart beating and it drives him to confess! The point of the story is how one’s conscience, even a crazy one, will motivate people to change behavior. I am sure that all of us can remember when we did something wrong and were miserable until we confessed. That is our conscience working as it should. It is something that God has given to us. We see the first example of this when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and immediately realized they were naked and ashamed. They tried to cover and hide. 

The conscience is an immaterial part of all people that either excuses or accuses the correctness of our behavior. Its function is like that of an umpire in a game. The umpire does not determine what is wrong or right, but takes his cues from an outside source such as the rule book. So if the rules are changed, so will the umpire’s response, based on what is acceptable or not. So it is with our conscience. It takes its cues from an outside source, be that society, legislation or God’s word. If any of those codes of conduct change then the conscience will adapt to what is now acceptable or not. Paul describes the conscience this way in Romans 2:15: “For when Gentiles who do not have the law do instinctively the things of the Law these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” Even unbelievers who do not have the clear declaration of God’s law understand the concept of right and wrong, even if those definitions are twisted.

Going back to Poe’s story, the crime of murder was clearly understood to be a wrong thing to do. In 1843 when the story was written, murder was a capital offense and was a shocking event when it took place. Not only was it a crime legally, but it was also understood from God’s word that only God or designated human authority had the right to take a life. This clear declaration both legally and morally had been absorbed by the conscience of the murder and manifested itself in the sound of a beating heart that drove him to confess to his heinous crime! 

But our conscience can be adjusted or seared. The more sin is redefined as less than sinful, the more that good is declared to be wrong our conscience will adjust to the new input and accuse or defend accordingly. Paul shares in I Tim. 4 that in the later times some will fall away from the faith by believing deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons and that by saying one thing but doing another their consciences are seared. Ever sear meat? It’s done to seal in the juices, it creates a barrier on the outside. So it is with our conscience, we can say one thing and then live another way, and by doing so we slowly sear our conscience and make it less sensitive to the truth. Our culture does not know how to blush anymore. It is hardened to the truth of God’s word and rejects it outright. So the things that once caused us as a society to blush no longer have an effect and in reality are applauded.

What about you and me? Are there things that we used to be bothered by, but now we don’t really notice? Can we say we are more sensitive to the things that God cares about or less sensitive? As the world becomes harder and harder are we allowing the tenderizing of the Word to influence our hearts? I have to say that I need the reminder to keep faith and a good conscience (I Tim 1:19a). It takes effort and I need to adjust my thinking to the truth rather than allow the culture to adjust my thinking to it. So, does our conscience bother us? Do some things cause you to blush? Good. Ask why and seek the truth.

Drink Deeply of Truth – Pastor John

“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:1-7

Early in our Sunday services, I’ve been sharing a highlight or two from our daily chronological Bible readings. The purpose is to help us to connect what we’re reading with our own lives, our family, and those around us in church or the world. It’s good for us to be “on the same page” with that priority for learning and applying the Word of God.

Amid us today, the culture is dictating what the individual, the family, and even the church should be. We at Cornerstone believe it is our duty to discover and live the Culture of Christ. This will often find us with opposite views and values from what this culture champions. Much of the division could well be traced to one overriding question: “What is the source of your ‘Truth’?”

For an unbelieving world, the source of truth is mankind. This results in a worship of man’s philosophies, “inerrant” science, self-enlightenment, and the resultant mélange of worldviews. In this “truth,” man is the sole authority, and truth must necessarily shift as man continuously evolves upward; ever more wise, informed, and assured.

For one who has new life through Christ Jesus, the Word of God made flesh is not just the source of Truth, but is Truth. There can be no melding of “some” of Jesus’ teachings with a culture’s “more accurate” truth. The Bible – the very Word of God – is received as Truth. It is not received as an opinion to weigh, or of “some” light value, or (worst) simply a collection of sayings and legends to draw from allegorically. No, this is bedrock, unchanging Truth; the assayer’s scale for testing all thoughts and reasoning that issue from the heart of man.

So here we are, looking through Proverbs in our chronological reading. This is a book full of practical instruction for all, but particularly for youth. The introduction to Proverbs (above) is a treasure in its clarity and statement of purpose. In effect, God says, “I am your source. I give you the True definitions of righteousness, justice, and equity. Drink deeply of Truth. Let me form your character, shape your thoughts, create in you the True culture of mankind made in the image of Me.”

I’ve shared the importance of slowing down with your kids and chewing on select proverbs with them. Put these proverbs in your own words. Illustrate them from life all around us. Show the sharp contrasts between the culture of this world, and the culture of Christ. Talk about practical ways of living out these precepts, then do that.

You will be letting God’s Spirit teach you more and more about meditating on His Word, thinking on profitable things, and putting real-time evidences of faith into practice. Be clear with motivations, both for you and your children. Practicing these truths are not to “earn” salvation, but to live out our salvation before an Awesome God, letting our lights shine in a world that needs some pure illumination!

Blessings on your continual journey in God’s Word. I am sure you will reflexively visit the book of Proverbs, again and again. It is a well of refreshing, continuously providing us with living water.