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Recent days have shown how far some judges will go to impose their views on the majority of citizens.  Just yesterday, one solitary judge in Utah by fiat overturned that state’s constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  This right on the heels of the same in New Mexico.  On a purely political level, this trend ought to be alarming.

And yet, this cannot be alarming merely because the will of the citizens of Utah or other such states has been steamrolled.  In our democratic America, it is ever and always “we the people.”  If a judge overrules the will of the people, then there is a defiant outcry.  But if a judge rubber-stamps the current of popular opinion, applause erupts.  Yet, what if the majority of the people are wrong?  (Cue gasps.)  Yes, I did just suggest the unthinkable.  But there it is.  And if they ever are wrong, a judge could and should overrule their wrong decisions.  And deal with the fallout unflinchingly.

What happened in Utah should outrage the people, within and without the state.  But not because a single judge crossed their will, enshrined by law.  What should shock the folks of Utah and the rest of the United States is that God’s law has been overturned.

That is evident for those who do not willfully close their eyes.  Nature speaks.  The male and female bodies were designed for each other.  Pick up that anatomy book again and review.  In detail.  Behold the signature craftsmanship of God!  The unnaturalness of man and man or woman and woman is obvious.  How?  Barrenness is not a painful exception in such unions; it is an inflexible law.  This barrier to conception and childbearing is a clear stamp of God’s total disapproval.

To this testimony of nature, God adds His revealed Word.  “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Lev. 18:22).

Judges who overturn God’s law will have to reckon with God.  And citizens who – by their elected representatives – overturn God’s will will answer to Him as well.  We have great reason to fear, both people and officials, elected and unelected.  We have been transgressing God’s law for decades, flagrantly disregarding His commandments and sanctioning them after the fact by law or decree.  Yesterday was but another step in a long process.  Having given our stamp of approval to sex outside of marriage, to no-fault divorce, and even to the inhumanity of abortion, it is not terribly surprising that same-sex marriage eventually gets a pass.  Most heterosexuals have abandoned their moral high ground to critique anything they may not prefer.

We are effectively writing a new declaration of independence.  From God.  And the real alarm should be that we are sorely trying His patience, and that His patience will at some point come to an abrupt and jarring end.  How long will God withhold His hand of judgment?  How long will He indulge our prodigal orgy of lawlessness?  I genuinely fear that our day of reckoning is coming.  Whether by cyber-terrorism, or by an unstoppable epidemic, or by some other fearful national calamity, it is coming.  And that is only the beginning, when one reckons with the fact that temporal judgments are omens of those beyond death.  “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psa. 9:17).

O, that we might come to our senses!  All of us – “we the people.”  And with broken hearts and tears of sorrow, that we might pledge our allegiance to God once again, and to His Christ.

Mark 10:13-16, “And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”

* * *

Tomorrow, we will be considering this memorable story of Jesus welcoming and blessing the children. First and foremost, we shall see that these little ones do not get “put out” of the adults-only circle of the worthy. No, children are properly citizens of the Kingdom. All who bring their children to Jesus may bring them precisely because theirs is the Kingdom.

But what is more, not only does Jesus’ Kingdom include children. His Kingdom only includes children! Placarded on the gates of this Kingdom, with royal seal affixed, are the words, “no adults allowed.” None who feel adequate before Him, none who feel ‘entitled’ by their long resume of attainments, by their matured and more penetrating minds, by their boasted seniority. Oh no, none of that! Seniority disqualifies from the Kingdom. Only children will receive His saving blessing. Only the inadequate, the insufficient, the undeveloped, and the weak belong. And more, only those who with childlike simplicity receive Jesus as He is – holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners.

I think one of the beauties of this Kingdom mystery lies in the King Himself. He only accepts children because He was a child once. Yes, the Son of God did not become a man fully formed. He didn’t bypass childhood. No, the Lord of all embraced this weakness. And unlike so many adults who forget they were children once, Jesus never forgot. To be sure, there is a natural forgetfulness. Memories fade with time. Yet some of that fading is culpable. How often we forget what it was like to be a child! We can be gruff with children and shoo them away just like the disciples, because we fail to remember our childhoods. We can shut them out because we are in on what is really important. Shame on us.

But not so with Jesus! He got angry at the disciples for shooing away those precious children. Jesus, the childlike One, who was “meek and lowly in heart,” had not forgotten what it was like to be a child. And so with the utmost tenderness, He welcomes them. He takes up their little bodies into his arms, He puts his hand on that disheveled head and blesses.

George_Henry_Durrie_-_Going_to_Church1. Above all, God  commands it.  “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”  “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.”

2. God lets you have six days for yourself.  One for God, six for us.  That’s pretty generous.

3. God deserves our gratitude.  Think about it.  He formed you when you were in your mother’s womb.  He gave you life, breath, and all things.  He makes His sun shine on you, His rain fall on you, His earth to produce for you.  In short, He gives you everything.  Coming into His house is giving credit where credit is due.

4. God deserves public, not just private honor.  We publicly recognize accomplishments, especially those who are especially worthy.  When we gather together in the house of God, we unite our voices to express His greatness.   Officially.  “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.”  The purple heart isn’t awarded in a dark basement, but in a public forum.  And God is greater than our greatest heroes.

5. You were meant to worship.  Theologians have well said that each of us have “the seed of religion” within us.  Having been made by God and for God, we cannot escape our fundamental religiousness.  Not to worship is to act against our humanity.  It is animalistic.  Look  in the mirror.  You’re not an animal, meant to eat, drink, and become compost.  You have a soul, a God-shaped hole that only He can fill.

6. Your children were meant to worship.  They are little humans.  And they need you to fear God and to lead them to Him.  They won’t do it otherwise. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  And if they complain, remember – God put you in the driver’s seat, not them.  You make them eat broccoli, even if they don’t like it.  Get over their foot-dragging.  If you hold the line, they will thank you for it.

7. You will improve your physical health.  Our bodies can be overworked, especially in our fast-paced society.  We weren’t made to do 90 in a 25 mph zone.  God tells us to slow down!  Further, when we give rest to our souls in the Church, the hospital of Christ, our souls are healed and reinvigorated.  And a healthy mind contributes to a healthy body.

8. You will recover your sanity.  When God speaks by His Word, light shines and clouds are dispelled.  A calm there descends on the storm of our thoughts.

9. You will improve all your relationships.  The more we are distant from God, the more alienated we become with husbands, wives,  parents, children.  Back to God is back to family, back to community.

10. The doors to God’s house will one day close.   Now there is an open house.  Now there is easy access to this place of forgiveness, renewal, and restoration.  It is an oasis in a desert, available for all the thirsty to drink and be satisfied.  But not forever.  There is a day, unknown to men, in which God’s offers of grace and  mercy shall be withdrawn, and men shall then face a God-less eternity.  “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man.”  The doors then closed, and the rain fell.

We’re all still reeling from the news.  The absolute senselessness of it all falls like a dense, dark fog on your heart.  We can’t suppress the mental images of horror.  The unthinkable end of those precious little ones – just like our children.  Your mind just wants to hit the brakes.  Just stop thinking about it.  But try as you might, it lingers.  And haunts.

But then we snap to and begin the collective reappraisal.  We can’t let this kind of thing happen again.  Hence the renewed debate over gun control.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I fully agree that this is an issue that warrants rethink.  The principle that firearms should be regulated is a no-brainer.  But Newtown demands infinitely more than policy or enforcement reappraisal.  Newtown demands deep, meaningful, national introspection.

By introspection, I don’t mean seriously rethinking the 2nd Amendment.  Guns are a necessary evil in a world of bad guys.  As long as there are bad guys, we’ll need guns.  Of various sorts.  And as long as government is prone to fall into the hands of bad guys, private citizens will need them.  I wish it weren’t so.  But let’s face the music.  Until the Kingdom comes and the violent “beat their swords into ploughshares,” guns are here to stay.

But that’s not really my point.  My point is that we need introspection on the national soul in the most radical sense.  Gun control is a superficial solution – and arguably a big distraction – when the core, the heart, the very control-center of our national being is quite out of control. 

Even if we craft better gun legislation or simply enforce existing legislation better, will it change the fact that across every index, America is driving well in excess of the speed limit, music blaring, weaving back and forth over the double yellow lines?

Will it change the fact that we cannot control our marriages?  Or for that matter, our tempers?  Will it restrain our sexual overindulgence?  Or put a curfew on our decades-long bacchanalia?

Will it help us control our waistlines, the widest in the world?  Will it curb our spending?   It’s not just government going off the fiscal cliff.  Before we wag our fingers at our politicians, let’s just watch the grainy security videos from Black Friday.  Yes, that’s us, America.   And now we stampede on Thursdays, while the stuffing is still warm.

And perhaps most painful to ask, will any legislation help us control our own dear children?  They see that we cannot control ourselves, so why should they?

I wish it were all a matter of better policy, better enforcement, or both.  But it just isn’t.  Newtown was hardly an isolated event.  It is an obvious link in a chain.  And it points to something much, much deeper.  Something systemic.  Something spiritual.  Nor is it just about them.  Whoever they are.  This is about us – all of us.  Right here in our sleepy, little law-abiding towns.

What’s more, the tragedy after the tragedy is that it seems the only way to regain control is to surrender it.  To hand the keys over to a sober driver.  Or the license back to the D.O.T.   It’s an answer to be sure, but a profoundly demoralizing one.  And quite scary, when you’re tempted to gaze into the murky, crystal ball.

But is it the only option?  There is, after all, the Author of control, from whom we’ve fled.  We can always go back Home – into the arms of the Father through His only-begotten Son.  There we can have forgiveness, welcome, structure, and peace.  But it will mean coming to our senses.  It will mean a full-stop to our superficiality and blame-shifting – and a total acceptance of our reckless folly and rebellion.  It will mean confession of sin, personal and corporate.  It will mean repentance.  Even amending our constitution to reflect it all.

Maybe, just maybe,  Newtown will be a turning point.  Where America goes deeper than mere policy or enforcement and instead rediscovers her God.  Now that’s a painless train of thought, with images you don’t have to shake.  A day when “the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets.”  You can think about that.  And you can pray for it, knowing that God will surely hear.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.”

You were a miracle.  And so are they.

Ten days after conception, your mother’s body began to change. For you. In another eleven days, your heart was beating and pumping blood.  With a blood type different from your mother’s.

“Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.”

In six and a half weeks, you had teeth buds.  In two more, all your body systems were present.  You could suck your thumb.  By ten weeks, you could squint your tiny eyes, swallow, and move your tongue.  Your fingers could grip.  You were unborn.  But you were there.  Very human and very alive.

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and made: marvellous are thy works.”

By your third month, you were breathing fluid.  Soon you would be breathing air!  At this point, you had fingernails.  At week sixteen, you had eyelashes.  By your fourth month after conception, you even had completely established fingerprints, and your taste buds were in full working order. You were a wonder in the works, though hidden in a veil of flesh.

“My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.”

And so you grew.  You slept, you awoke – and slept again.  You hiccupped.  You danced.  You even dreamed.  You could be happy and even get fussy.  Father and mother could not see you. Brother and sister could not peek in.  But Someone saw you there, didn’t He?

“Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

And so you grew.  Until  the contractions began. Involuntarily, yet by design.  Planned by God.  A good God, an almighty and all-wise God, to display at last His craftsmanship to the world.

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!”

God made you. And He made them. But you lived. You were spared.  Others live, yet their precious lives are threatened.  They are not a “choice,” but a life – and a human life at that.  They are there as we once were.

We must protect them.  We must speak and not be silent.  For they cannot yet speak for themselves.

“Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.”

 

 

Our busy world  is full of noise.  It is about inescapable it seems.  And what is worse, most get the jitters without their incessant tunes and tweets.  Silence is a disturbance, no longer a retreat.

On  a recent Sunday morning, my wife and I sat on our deck enjoying the cool breeze.  All was calm and serene, fitting for a day of meditation and devotion.  Then an unknown neighbor to the back fires up his circular saw.   The little bubble of sacred silence burst.

And yet, there is a sound that, quite frankly, I wish I heard more in those often quiet moments.  Every once in a rare while, the silence of a (sadly) sleepy Sunday morning is broken by the chiming of church bells.  Strange!  And yet, the sound brings pleasure.  It is a reminder of a day when Americans were more contemplative, more content, and of course, much more devout. Those bells used to chime, calling worshipers to the house of  God.  But such pleasure is mixed.  Those sounds may be quaint, perhaps, to those with a taste for nostalgia but little taste for organized religion.  Yet  they don’t belong today as they were once regarded, as a symbol of religious authority.  Aesthetic pleasing, but hardly a summons.

But God continues to call, to speak amid the bustle.  And those who have ears to hear will turn down the volume and listen.  And come.

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