Drawing Near

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

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Saturday

7

April 2018

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COMMENTS

Ninth Commandment- “You Shall Not Bear False Witness”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperIn January of 1996 William Safire, noted author and journalist, referred to Hillary Clinton, then first lady of the United States, as “a congenital liar.”  This started an exchange in the pundit world with many being outraged by the acidic tone of Safire’s words.  Through his press secretary, President Bill Clinton suggested a punch in the nose was in order.

“Liar” is one of those words in our culture that picks a fight quickly. It brings into question one’s integrity, one’s honesty.  But is there any truth to William Safire’s statement?  Not just about Mrs. Clinton, but what about Mr. Safire? What about you, and me?

Consider the cry of the psalmist, “I said in my alarm, ‘All men are liars.’” (Ps. 116:2) Or the apostle Paul’s referencing of other psalms to establish the universal guilt of humanity with regard to sin. Speaking of all of us, Paul writes with precision, “’Their throat is an open grave;  they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’  ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’” (Romans 3:13,14)

Truth be known, as God sees the human race, we are all marked by the inability to speak the truth consistently. The Lord God established the importance of truth speaking in the ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness.” Bearing false witness, declaring falsehood and lies, is part and parcel of what it means to be a sinner. (more…)

Thursday

22

March 2018

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COMMENTS

Seventh Commandment- “You Shall Not Commit Adultery”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperGod’s protection and love are on display powerfully in the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)

The seventh commandment forbids adultery which is viewed biblically as the shattering of the marriage covenant between a husband and a wife through sexual relations with another outside the marriage. This commandment became the basis for the prohibition of a whole range of sexual sins expanded upon elsewhere in Leviticus and the New Testament: fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.

The warning against adultery is second only to idolatry in the Old Testament, and second to none in the New Testament.  It was considered to be a treacherous sin, not only against another person, but against God, as expressed by King David’s cry in his post-adultery confession, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:4)

We are commanded to honor marriage (Hebrews 13:4), and adultery is an offense to the sacredness of that union. The fallout of unbridled adultery is everywhere.  Someone has quipped that in America every hour is “Sex O’Clock.” A perusal of the media reveals an epidemic of relationships birthed or ended because of adultery, and any type of accountability for this covenant shattering behavior is dismissed out-of-hand.

A national acceptance has settled like a dark cloud, and like the adulteress woman in Proverbs 30:20, “She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’”  However, the pain, the regrets, the shame, and the awkward dynamics brought to family life through adultery last a lifetime. From our neighborhoods to our nation, we hear regularly of the blow-outs that come to marriages because of marital unfaithfulness. (more…)

Thursday

15

March 2018

0

COMMENTS

Sixth Commandment- “You Shall Not Murder”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperSeveral years ago Christianity Today  printed a cartoon which depicted two public school administrators watching a line of students pass through a metal detector.  “It’s the latest in school safety devices,” one of them explains. “That light and horn go off if a student tries to smuggle in a gun, a knife, a bomb or a copy of the Ten Commandments!”

Let’s be honest, the Ten Commandments are offensive to many and have created an irrational fear concerning their influence upon life in our culture.  However, that being said, there is almost universal agreement with the sixth commandment.  This commandment, which is only two words in the Hebrew text, translates into English as, “You shall not murder.”

Most people don’t need to be convinced that homicide is bad and that suicide is devastating.  I’m greatly encouraged that many in our country are beginning to see that it is difficult to avoid application of the sixth commandment with regard to abortion. (more…)

Thursday

8

March 2018

0

COMMENTS

Fifth Commandment- “Honor Your Father and Your Mother”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperThe fifth commandment brings with it an incredible promise, Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)

This commandment is heavy, literally. The Hebrew word translated “honor” means “weighty” or “heavy”.  The same word is used to describe God’s majesty elsewhere in the book of Exodus, (33:18).

To honor one’s parents is to give due weight to their position, and to understand it is by God’s design that parents are to train, nurture, protect, and provide for their children.

Additionally, by God’s design and plan, children are to give their parents the recognition and obedience under God-given authority.  Such obedience brings with it a promise of God’s blessing.

However, in a world where children are abused, exploited, and tortured, we might be tempted to write this commandment off as obsolete. (more…)

Thursday

1

March 2018

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COMMENTS

Fourth Commandment- “Remember the Sabbath by Keeping it Holy”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperThe fourth commandment brings us to God’s command for a Sabbath rest, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God..

In recent years billionaire Bill Gates of Microsoft fame has stated that belief in God makes sense. He has also commented on why he didn’t go to church regularly, “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.”

This sentiment is shared by many others as church attendance has waned in developing countries of the world.  Some have attributed the decline to negative portrayals of religion in the media coupled with a boredom or a lack of connection with the worship services. (more…)

Thursday

22

February 2018

0

COMMENTS

Third Commandment- “The Misuse of God’s Name”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperIn this series of posts on the Ten Commandments, we come to the third commandment which addresses the problem of misusing God’s name. Exodus 20:7 reads, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

The word “vain” is describing an empty expression or usage of God’s name.  This would include broken oaths or vows; irreverence; scorn; or cursing.  These violations carry consequences, “…the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

“The abuse of His name snaps open an umbrella that deflects the showers of grace God desires to give us,” wrote R. Kent Hughes.

The third commandment deserves some serious thought especially as we live in a culture that has become increasingly vulgar and irreverent.  We have become like the friend of Lord Byron, who according to Byron was described this way, “He knew not what to say, and so he swore.” (more…)

Friday

16

February 2018

0

COMMENTS

Second Commandment- “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…)

Tuesday

8

August 2017

4

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…)