Drawing Near

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

Author Archive

Wednesday

14

December 2016

1

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

0

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…)

Tuesday

18

October 2016

1

COMMENTS

Let’s Play Stump the Counselor

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confused-counselorSome years ago, I read an article by Jay Adams in which he described a typical scenario of a married couple, John and Mary, who came to their pastor for counseling.  While they didn’t announce it, or perhaps couldn’t even articulate it, nevertheless they came to play a popular game with their pastor called, “Stump the Counselor.”  (Jay Adams, “Love is a Decision,” Tabletalk, February 1997)

As Adams describes the situation, we learn that John and Mary already have their minds made up about what they intend to do. They are professing Christians, and know that they have no biblical basis for a divorce, but they both want one. John and Mary reason, “Look, if we can get the counselor to sign off on our misery, and that in our situation there is no hope for reconciliation, then we can find some salve to put on our conscience and will have an excuse from this point forward.”

The counseling begins with John and Mary unpacking their sordid story, and with great anguish they describe how miserable their lives are.  And by the way, they don’t have to strain the narrative, things are horrible for these two! After reciting a decade of bad road, John throws down the trump card, “So you see, pastor, there is no hope for this marriage.  I haven’t loved her for years; there is nothing to build on for the future.” Mary’s chimes in, “Well, to sum it all up, I don’t love him—I hate him!” They sit back and wait for the pastor to attempt the fools errand of refuting their holocaust. (more…)

Tuesday

11

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

Ending the Body Count

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body-countI was once asked to read I Corinthians 13 at a wedding.  I Corinthians 13, of course, is the greatest essay on the subject of love in all of literature. After the ceremony, a young woman in the wedding party came up to me and began to complement me on the words that I shared.  After a little probing, I discovered that she thought that I had actually written I Corinthians 13!

Well, I explained that I was reading the New Testament, and those words were inspired by God himself to tell us what true love is. I Corinthians 13 was written to a very troubled church, the church at Corinth, which was being consumed by infighting and division.  In this passage, we discover that God’s love, the love we are commanded to express to others, cannot be defined in one word.  We see that the biblical portrait of love is multi-dimensional. (more…)

Wednesday

5

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

Singing the Lord’s Song in a Foreign Land

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thWe are 34 days away from a monumental election in the United States, and one that will set the trajectory for this country for decades to come. With great velocity, we have witnessed in the last decade the advancement of a progressive agenda in America that has been astonishing.

Recently, I was attending a symphony concert with a number of friends and one of the wives went to the woman’s restroom only to have a man enter the restroom before her. She decided to hold it. What would have once been a call for law enforcement has become a brazen leap into the insane. It was Erwin Lutzer who noted, “We cannot list here all of the advances of the gay (LGBT) agenda , except to say that virtually everything they have wanted has come to pass.”

Racial tensions are another internal problem our country is facing that seems to be outdoing the chaos of the 1960’s, and this comes at a time when we should be coming together in light of the global permeation of radical Islamic terrorism with many other dangers besides. We are a fragmented nation that doesn’t know which way to go.

As I consider the spiritual climate of our country, we cannot forsake the Law of God so flagrantly and expect to thrive or survive. The reality is we have taken in too much water spiritually and morally as a nation, and with great hubris have sent the God of Scripture a clear message, “We reject you!” (more…)

Wednesday

28

September 2016

0

COMMENTS

When You Pass Through The Waters, I Will Be With You

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img_7296I have lived in south Louisiana since 1988 and have been through a number of disasters. Hurricane Katrina has redefined life for those of us along the I-10 corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Often conversations in our area are prefaced with, “Since Katrina….”

The flood waters of August 2016 will also serve as a benchmark of devastation for years to come. It was painful to watch the radar as a stalled weather system churned like a washing machine for four days over south Louisiana dumping massive amounts of water on a region of the country that can’t bear much. When all was said and done, the Baton Rouge area received over 26 inches of rain, according to data from the National Weather Service, shattering records and shoving rivers over their banks.

A number of news outlets tried to help us get our minds around the amount of water that fell in those days. Ryan Miller with USA Today wrote that if the total from each rain gauge from the affected area topped together it would be 630 inches, or over 50 feet, which puts it well above the Lincoln Memorial statue and almost as deep as the White House is tall. From height to gallons, Miller referenced the town of Livingston, LA. which received 25.5 inches in four days. Which means Livingston, a town with just over three square miles, received over one billion gallons of water. (USAToday, August 17, 2016) (more…)

Friday

27

May 2016

0

COMMENTS

I’m Not the Master of My Fate, Nor the Captain of My Soul

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Childlike FaithWilliam Ernest Henley was an influential poet, critic, and editor in the late 1800’s. His life was marked by sorrow and struggle. His greatest battle was with tuberculosis which eventually took his life at the age of 53.

Henley was best known for his 1875 poem, Invictus, which I remember reading for the first time in a college dorm room. One of my friends had a large poster on his dorm wall that proclaimed Henley’s humanist creed.

Out of the night that covers me,

 Black as the Pit from pole to pole,      

 I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul. (more…)

Thursday

21

April 2016

0

COMMENTS

Resurrection +

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Image-ResurrectionFollowing the invasion of Normandy in World War II, many historians chronicled the Allies progress through Europe as D-Day + (the number of days from June 6th 1944). For the Christ follower, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the most important weekend in the history of the world and in reality we are living our lives in a “Resurrection +” mode.

This post comes about a month removed from Resurrection Sunday, and I was reminded this morning of the promised power given to believers because the tomb is empty. This is a tremendous encouragement of hope as we navigate the challenges, demands, and sorrows of this world. (more…)

Thursday

21

January 2016

1

COMMENTS

Take Hold Of That Which Is Truly Life

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional, Leadership

Version 2For the last few months I have been sharing pastoral reflections from twenty-two years with the same congregation. In previous posts we have discussed Gospel centrality; the priority of prayer; spiritual leadership; spiritual sweat; and healthy relationships in church life. Each of these posts mirrored the Apostle Paul’s instruction in the pastoral letter of I Timothy.

In this sixth and final post, there is strong challenge to live in light of eternity. In other words, a living out of Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount “to lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” and to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:20,33)”

The Apostle Paul, in a similar charge, calls Timothy to warn those under his care of the dangers of loving money and living for this world. For me, this theme is an ongoing challenge of the pastorate to give an impassioned plea to invest our lives in eternity, to lay up treasure in places where moths can’t destroy and thieves can’t steal. (more…)