Drawing Near

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

Author Archive

Tuesday

8

August 2017

3

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

0

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

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

0

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

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

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…)