Drawing Near

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

Devotional Archive

Tuesday

17

April 2018

0

COMMENTS

Tenth Commandment- You Shall Not Covet

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional, Faith & Culture, Family

tenCommandmentsWallpaperWe end our journey through the Ten Commandments this week with a look at the last of these commands which forbids coveting. We might be tempted to dismiss coveting as a mild offense in light of the other commands which forbid murder, adultery, or stealing.  However, the tenth commandment addresses the desires of the heart as an important indicator of the direction of one’s life.

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul refers to this tenth commandment in his personal reference of how he came to understand the sinful dictates of his own heart.  Paul writes in Romans 7:7, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” He could have referenced any of Ten Commandments to describe his discovery of his sin nature, but he mentioned covetousness because it brought him to the wayward desires of his heart.

The tenth commandment forbids the coveting of your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17) I believe God gave this word to keep us from many sorrows and to call us to find the satisfaction of our life in a personal relationship with Him.

Rodney Clapp some years ago wrote an essay published in Christianity Today entitled, “Why the Devil takes Visa.”  In the article Clapp addressed the universal battle with covetousness:

The consumer is schooled in insatiability. He or she is never to be satisfied—-at least not for long.  The consumer is tutored that people basically  consist of   unmet needs…..Accordingly, the consumer should think first and foremost of himself or herself and meeting his or her felt needs.  The consumer is taught to value above all else freedom, freedom defined as a vast array of choices.

These “vast array of choices” seem to describe what fuels a frenzy of consumption.  In this world’s philosophy, such a passion for things is linked to one’s happiness. However, this is a dangerous way to think and to live. This vicious cycle helps us understand why God lovingly goes on record by forbidding covetousness.  (more…)

Wednesday

28

March 2018

0

COMMENTS

Eighth Commandment- “You Shall Not Steal”

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

tenCommandmentsWallpaperWe come to the eighth commandment this week where we find a prohibition against stealing. Like the commandment forbidding murder, there is almost universal distain for theft.  I doubt there is anyone reading this article who has not tasted the disgust and feelings of violation that comes when a personal item is stolen.

When I was in seminary, we discovered my wife’s engagement ring had been stolen out of our apartment.  She had taken it off over the kitchen sink while preparing dinner the night before, and when she looked for it the next day, it was gone.  There were other signs in our little home that someone had picked through our stuff.

We are outraged at such offenses. The gnawing feeling inside of us indicates that stealing is not right.  The command found in Exodus 20:15 literally means “to carry something away as if by stealth.” To steal is to take something that doesn’t belong to you, and the application is comprehensive. (more…)

Friday

9

February 2018

0

COMMENTS

First Commandment- “No other gods before Me”

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

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

0

COMMENTS

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

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

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

0

COMMENTS

They Are Not The Ten Suggestions

Written by , Posted in Devotional, Faith & Culture

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

8

August 2017

4

COMMENTS

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

Written by , Posted in Devotional, Uncategorized

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…)

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…)

Thursday

21

April 2016

0

COMMENTS

Resurrection +

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional

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…)

Wednesday

23

December 2015

0

COMMENTS

Though He Was Rich, Yet For Our Sake He Became Poor

Written by , Posted in Devotional

Birth of ChristIn this Christmas season, once again the question of the ages is, “Who was the baby in the manger?” If he was in fact God in human flesh, and his life was lived in the monumental way in which it was lived, what are we supposed to do with that information? The Apostle John wrote his gospel to answer that question:“so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31,32).

God took on human flesh and dwelt among us and his glory was seen by a multitude of witnesses. The brief life of Jesus Christ was captured in four inspired and authoritative books named for the authors who penned them: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. From these four perspectives, we receive a composite of the life and work of Jesus Christ. These accounts were written not so we would remain neutral on the question of Jesus, but for the expressed purpose that we might believe that he was the long awaited Messiah, and that by believing we might have salvation and hope in his name.

Some years ago Philip Yancey, in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, contrasted the humility that characterized Jesus’ royal visit to planet earth with the prestigious image associated with world rulers today. Yancey wrote:

Queen Elizabeth II had recently visited the United States, and reporters delighted in spelling out the logistics involved: her four thousand pounds of luggage included two outfits for every occasion, a mourning outfit in case someone died, forty pints of plasma, and white kid-leather toilet seat covers. She brought along her own hairdresser, two valets, and a host of other attendants. A brief visit of royalty to a foreign country can easily cost twenty million dollars…

In meek contrast, God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn king but a feed trough. Indeed, the event that divided history, and even our calendars, into two parts may have had more animal than human witnesses. A mule could have stepped on him. (more…)