Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.

Friday

16

February 2018

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COMMENTS

Second Commandments- “No Idols”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperIn our journey through the Ten Commandments, we come to the second command which is a prohibition against idols:  “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

In reading this command, we can’t help but wonder why idolatry is so serious that God would forbid it? Why would the making of figures or objects of worship carry with it such severe consequences?

The Old Testament record reveals that when Israel drifted into idolatry it was met with great loss. Because of idolatry, Israel failed to reach the promise land under Moses’ leadership.

Even in the New Testament, the Apostle John warns those under his pastoral care, Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  This very clearly shows that idolatry is not a throw back sin of primitive cultures, but rather a clear and present danger for all of humanity for all of time. (more…)

Friday

9

February 2018

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COMMENTS

First Commandment- “No other gods before Me”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperIn our last post introducing the Ten Commandments, we established these words were not suggestions.  They were given as merciful words of life, and as authoritative words from the God who is.

The account of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt is amazing. Once this nation of slaves was freed by the hand of God, we find them gathered at the base of Mt. Sinai by God’s direction and appointment.  From this mountain, God speaks to His people and gives to them His Law.

The first commandment is one of priority as God establishes a foundation for His people by declaring, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)

Before we learn other things about what God demands, we need to know who He is and who we are in relationship to Him.  God goes on record by saying that He refuses to share worship that is rightly to be given to Him. (more…)

Tuesday

6

February 2018

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COMMENTS

There is a Shark in the Tank, And For Good Reason

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635576994451396582-great-white-1I once read of a British fisherman who would troll the North Sea for mackerel. His fishing expeditions would yield abundant catches, but because it was before refrigeration, many of the mackerel would die on his trip back to market.

On one particular trip, the fisherman caught a small shark in one of his nets and had to dump it into the tank along with the other fish. The shark chased the other fish and kept them moving throughout the remainder of his voyage to shore.  When he arrived back, the fisherman discovered to his surprise that there was not a single dead fish in the holding tank. The mackerel had been forced to move around to avoid the shark that they didn’t have time to die!

I will always be amazed at how God places sharks, as it were, into the tank of our lives.  To be a follower of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean that we will be carried to skies on flowery beds of ease. In fact, one of the most unpopular promises given to believers in the New Testament is that sometimes following Christ means trials, persecution, sufferings, and excruciating loss. (more…)

Friday

2

February 2018

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COMMENTS

They Are Not The Ten Suggestions

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperThirty years ago Ted Koppel, the noted journalist, addressed the graduating class of Duke University.  In his commencement address, Koppel made this compelling statement:

“We have actually convinced ourselves that slogans will save us. ‘Shoot up if you must; but use a clean needle.’ ‘Enjoy sex whenever with whomever you wish; but wear a condom.’ No. The answer is no. Not no because it isn’t cool or smart or because you might end up in jail or dying in an AIDS ward — but no, because it’s wrong. What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions, they are Commandments. Are, not were… The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify, in a handful of words, acceptable human behavior. Not just for then or now but for all time.”

Koppel’s words cut like knife in an age which treats the concept of objective truth, “right and wrong,” like a wax nose, where one can custom craft their morality according to what they think is right.

Koppel was correct to affirm that when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai written upon the tablets of stone were not suggestions. They were not helpful hints to tweak your life. No, these words written by the hand of God were loving commandments given to His people to guard them and bless them.  Israel was fully warned that to forsake the commandments of God would bring terrible consequences (Deuteronomy 28:47). (more…)

Tuesday

12

September 2017

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COMMENTS

Suing Saints

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Image of LawsuitsI did a lot of highway travel this summer and have been amazed by the glut of attorney advertisements along the interstates of this fruited plain. I began to think that if I were a visitor from another country (or another planet), and I was trying to determine what was important in this culture, billboards and television commercials would indicate that having an aggressive attorney is one of the most important resources that I could have.

We live in a lawsuit-crazed culture where advertisements for attorney services appeal to your right to file a suit against another. The appeals are incredible, and at times shameful:

“Have you got your check yet?”

“I love my lawyer!”

“After you have been injured, there’s only one place to turn…”

“I will fight for you!”

An attorney is often the first person someone calls after any scrape or conflict. Without question, there are times and circumstances when we need an attorney, but for the Christian there are many things to consider with regard to lawsuits, especially when it pertains to another believer. (more…)

Tuesday

8

August 2017

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COMMENTS

Massah and Meribah: Living a Thankful Life in a Grumbling World

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Grumbling Man ImageIngratitude is one of the official symptoms of this age. In fact, ingratitude made the noxious list of behavior that characterizes living in the last days (2 Timothy 3:2-4). We are warned in Scripture that ungrateful hearts are often unbelieving hearts. That was certainly true of ancient Israel in the days of the wilderness wanderings. In the book of Exodus, we follow the account of Israel’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt where God’s power was demonstrated uniquely in world history. (Exodus 1-14)

Through mighty power God delivered His enslaved people and brought them out of bondage to pursue a new life in a Promised Land. Even though Israel had seen the unparalleled might of these liberating miracles, and even though they had tasted of the provision of the Lord day-after-day, they still did not trust God to meet their needs en route to this new homeland.

One major spinout is recorded in Exodus 17 where Israel erupted with gripes over their circumstances. Panic gripped the people over the shortage of water, and instead of trusting the God who had parted the Red Sea to secure their deliverance, the nation grumbled and complained. The text says they put the Lord to the test and quarreled with Him.

In response, Moses put new names on the map to identify this location as a place of national failure. Massah (testing) and Meribah (quarreling, grumbling) would mark the spot of a major attitude problem that would bear terrible consequences. On this occasion Israel tested the Lord, “Massah,” and from that appalling attitude flowed grumbling and quarrelling with God, “Meribah.” Psalm 81:7 and Deuteronomy 33:8 suggest that God was testing the Israelites in these instances, and so God’s tests were met with severe grumbling. The Psalmist gives a vivid descriptor when he wrote, “They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the LORD.” (Psalm 106:25) (more…)

Wednesday

5

July 2017

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COMMENTS

Reflections on Another Birthday

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Independence Day has been a special holiday for me no doubt because of childhood memories as it came a day before my birthday. Those early years of my life were marked by special memories of sparklers, fireworks, cookouts, swimming, and birthday cake.  As I grow older, the 4th of July is special for different reasons.

Yesterday we celebrated the 241st anniversary of the United States of America. We should be grateful for the manifold blessings that God has poured out upon this country. The freedoms we enjoy to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the envy of many in this world.

Our nation’s history is not perfect. There is no golden age we can claim. Our legacy while amazing in the history of human civilizations is not a clean legacy, but this only underscores a biblical worldview that every nation needs the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need the King of Kings to reign over us, and we long for the day when the governments and nations of this world will bow before their rightful Lord. Until then, our charge is clear in making known the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Eric Metaxas commented this week, “To love your country doesn’t mean to agree with all the bad stuff, but it means to praise it for the good stuff.” Indeed, we have many things for which to be thankful, and perhaps at the top of the list is a religious liberty that should be used by the church for the spread of the Gospel.  Regularly I am reminded of this liberty when I ascend the steps to my pulpit on the Lord’s Day. I thank God for the privilege of leading worship openly and unmolested by government. I know that it is not a given that it will always be this way, and I also know it is not that way elsewhere. (more…)

Wednesday

14

December 2016

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COMMENTS

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

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In my tenure as a pastor of a local congregation, I have preached over a hundred Christmas sermons through the years. I have often thought that if someone attended our worship services only at Christmastime, they may think, “Wow, this Church and its leadership are in a rut. Every year it’s the same thing. They need to turn the page.”

However, far from a rut, preaching on the birth of Christ will never get old to me because the reality of the Incarnation will always be relevant to every generation. Furthermore, the biblical prophecies fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming can’t help but stoke our hearts with anticipation for his second coming.

Bethlehem’s manger was the earthly beginning of God in the flesh that would culminate in the sacrificial death of Jesus to redeem a people for his glory.  He was named for that very purpose as the angel instructed Joseph to name the baby “Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

When you consider the claims and legacy of Jesus Christ, one must conclude with Billy Graham that “Jesus was not just another great religious teacher, nor was he only another in a long line of individuals seeking after spiritual truth. He was, instead, truth itself. He was God incarnate.” (more…)

Wednesday

2

November 2016

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COMMENTS

The Hand of the Lord

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hand-of-the-lord

In the fall of 2002, the terror of the Beltway snipers was front and center on the national news and for good reason. We witnessed during those three weeks the impact of what two men, John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo, could do traveling the beltway of our nation’s capital and assassinating innocent people from the trunk of their vehicle.

One thought that gripped me during their rampage was, “What would keep multiple assaults of this nature from occurring in every major city in the United States at the same time?” With the unfolding drama of global terrorism, that is a fair question, and one that has tremendous impact on the way we live. Ultimately, whom do we trust and depend upon for our well being?

Yes, we should be grateful every day for law enforcement who enter into the war zones as it were and serve as instruments of God to provide order and help (Romans 13:1-7). But even the best police force or military can’t protect from every danger. (more…)

Tuesday

25

October 2016

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COMMENTS

The God Who Answers By Fire

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god-who-answers-by-fireOne of the criticisms often leveled at Christians is that we are negative, pessimistic, and worse, we don’t bring anything to the table by way of constructive ideas to resolve perplexing problems.  Our perceived negativity often leads to the charge that we are judgmental and hypocritical.  This is true in some instances, but only serves to highlight the message of our lives, namely that we all need a Savior.

Believers in Jesus Christ see the world through the lens of revealed truth (Scripture) and concern for God’s interests in this world. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Within these commands comes a lifetime of commitments that are often misunderstood or rejected by a watching world.

Marvin Olasky in his fine work, Standing for Christ in a Modern Babylon, gives a vital apologetic/defense before a culture that seeks to marginalize the Christian worldview. Olasky places the contemporary believer in a modern “Babylon” much like the Hebrew prophet Daniel experienced. Daniel seemed to thrive in an environment that was antagonistic to his faith, but nonetheless he stood courageously in the face of tremendous trials. Olasky writes to contemporary believers,

“The dramatic nature of Christ’s claims means that life as a Christian in Babylon is not boring. Christ’s statement, ‘I am the way,’ means that other ways are not, and that does not sit well with some. Christianity cannot be the live-and-let-live religion that goes down easily in a theologically laid-back society because Christians know that the reality apart from God is live-and-let-die. Christ’s claims inevitably force a reaction, either believing or hostile, just as He said they would.” (more…)