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“Y acontecio en los días que gobernaban los jueces, que hubo hambre en la tierra. Y un varón de Beth-lehem de Judá, fué á peregrinar en los campos de Moab, él y su mujer, y dos hijos suyos” (Rut 1:1).

Se pregunto una vez, “Acaso puede salir cosa buena de Nazaret?” Asi de la misma manera, se puede preguntar, acaso puede salir bien de dias tan obscuros y malos los dias “cuando reinaban los jueces?” Despues de todo, aunque la edad de los Jueces fue marcada por victorias heroicas de la parte debil y actos de fuerza sobrehumana, aun eran espiritual y moralmente retrazados. Los dias de los jueces eran dias en que “no habia rey en Israel,” y cuando “cada hombre hizo lo correcto en sus ojos.” Eran dias de idolatria grosera, de guerra civil entre tribus, dias de invacion y ocupacion extranjera, y de abominaciones morales escandalosas. Pero en esos dias, hubo un gran cuento, el relato de Rut. Despues de el Libro de los Jueces sigue esta pequna, preciosa perla, el Libro de Rut. Como un diamante brillando entre lo aspero.

Realmente, es la respuesta al libro de Jueces! “Donde abundo el pecado, abundo mucho mas la gracia.” Aunque Israel habia descendido tan bajo, Dios intervino. Por medio de Rut la Moabita, conversa inesperada al Dios de Abraham, Dios restauro vida. El revivio una familia a la orilla de la extinccion. Y establecio la casa de la cual vino David—y el cimiente de David, el Senor Jesucristo!

Acaso puede salir bien de tiempos tan malos? “Ven y mira.”

“Find the door of your heart, you will discover it is the door of the kingdom of God.”

-John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)

“The last time I saw your father [Cotton Mather] was in the beginning of 1724, when I visited him after my first trip to Pennsylvania. He received me in his library, and on my taking leave showed me a shorter way out of the house through a narrow passage, which was crossed by a beam overhead. We were still talking as I withdrew, he accompanying me behind, and I turning partly towards him, when he said hastily, “Stoop, stoop!” I did not understand him, till I felt my head hit against the beam. He was a man that never missed any occasion of giving instruction, and upon this he said to me, “You are young, and have the world before you; STOOP as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps.” This advice, thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me; and I often think of it, when I see pride mortified, and misfortunes brought upon people by their carrying their heads too high….”

-Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Samuel Mather, 1784

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Friend, Benjamin Franklin passes on good advice.  Yet sadly, from what I know if him, he did not stoop far enough.  We as sinners must stoop, indeed, bow down in the dust before God in Christ, begging for mercy. Only when we are hopelessly prostrate in the dust, looking for free and sovereign grace in the blood of Christ, can we be lifted up and spared for time and eternity.  So stoop, sinner, stoop!

There are many stories out there that challenge the dominant LGBTQ narrative, that those with Same-Sex Attraction (SSA) can in fact live within a full, complete, and joyful marriage to those of the opposite sex. Oh, and be a Christian too!  Doesn’t fairness require that their story be heard as well?

Listen to this piece from NPR (and kudos to them for demonstrating something of classic journalistic impartiality!).

And check out this too.

I hardly deny that many may suffer from SSA.  While I’ve never experienced it, I can empathize with those who do.  And in a sense, I can sympathize. There are many things that I am tempted to do that I simply don’t do.  If I acted on all my impulses and were thus “true to myself,” you would probably like me a lot less than you actually do.  (And if you don’t like me at all, well, you’d have even more compelling reasons!)  I’m afraid if I were true to myself, I wouldn’t have the lovely wife and beautiful children I do now. Every day I resist temptation, fighting against what some might call “natural” desires. But I distinguish between natural-good and natural-bad instincts. Eating food is a natural-good.  Being intimate with my wife is a natural-good. Yelling at my children when I am tired and haggard, however, is a natural-bad. It’s natural in the sense that it’s human, but human in the fallen sense.

And this leads us to yet another narrative that needs to be heard. The great ‘meta-narrative’ of the Bible. It is a story that explains exactly how this world ended up as a big, messy jumble of natural-good and natural-bad instincts. Here’s the basic plot: Creation – Fall – Redemption.  God created everything good, in proper harmony, with a perfect unity and complementing diversity. Mankind was at one with itself, at one with its environment, and above all, at one with its God. Mankind, though, transgressed, listening to the lies of the Tempter. And so our first parents fell into sin and misery, and we their offspring, fell in them. Inheriting their nature, we acted out the unnaturalness of our own sinful bent. We polluted the pristine waters of nature, we dirtied our souls!  But God, planning to redeem, made sure that man didn’t gaffe up everything. In His common grace, He hemmed in and restrained something of the natural-good, that it may continue until He sent His Son to fix the brokenness once and for all.  By the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, God broke into this disordered world to get back what He made.

Conversion gives the believer a radical new start.  They are a new creation in Christ. Yet, Christians aren’t perfected; they walk to heaven with a limp.The old man has been dealt a mortal blow, but he is still striving to regain control. The Christian struggles with temptations every day.  Temptations that the world will call “natural.” But he knows, she feels that this needs major qualification. That “natural” was then, this is now. And the now is natural-good, and good getting better every day!

Augustine, the great catholic teacher of the Church, was quite the womanizer prior to his conversion.  I suppose he was being true to himself. But after his conversion, things had changed from the inside. One day, an old flame found him on the street, came up to him, embraced him and exclaimed, “O Augustine!  It’s me!” To which he replied, “Yes, but it’s not me!” The old Augustine was gone (though I doubt not the old man wanted to rekindle the former romance). But he had embraced his new nature, a nature not unnatural, not repressed, not denied, but reborn.

 

 

1280px-AuthorityOfLawIn the last several weeks, we’ve seen several states struggling to come to terms with the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell vs. Hodges decision. Most recently, Mississippi has passed a law protecting the freedoms of pastors, florists, and bakers, who do not wish their consciences implicated by the new reality. They have lost the battle but  are hoping to safeguard their right of dissent and simple non-participation. Let anyone who wishes to support same-sex marriages do as they please, but these folk simply want left out of it. That, however, is bringing down quite the storm of righteous protest from all quarters, from entertainers, to big business, to those in public office. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is just the most recent to join in the denunciation, backing it up with the rod of discipline for his errant, backward un-Americans.

Yes, Obergefell vs. Hodges was truly a watershed moment; but really, one could see it coming miles away. The court of public opinion had already ruled before Justice Kennedy penned his majority opinion. Kennedy only enshrined into law – by judicial fiat, no less – what had already become the new righteousness of modern America. It scratched the itch. Not an itch for true justice.  Yes, many would think that’s just what it was.  A fundamentally good America was simply becoming more consistently good. This was Civil Rights redivivus. But I see it differently – America was instead itching for justification.

Here’s the problem. We are not the impeccable, squeaky-clean nation that we’d like to imagine ourselves to be. We are rather depraved. And I’m not just speaking theologically here. We are actually, tangibly, viscerally depraved. The disease has reached the skin, and the stinking wounds are drawing flies. It has become painfully obvious. We are dirty, down to the fingernails. And when we look in the mirror, we just don’t like what we see.  We want to be clean. We want innocence back. We want to be rid of the nagging voice of conscience that rings in our ears, “We have abandoned God and played the prodigal. We have lost our spiritual virginity and have defiled the core of our beings.” But that’s just way too painful. So we desperately reach for cosmetics. We look for a new justification, to vindicate our consciences short of coming clean before God and the world.

Many Americans try to project their dirtiness on to others – playing some psychological slight-of-hand.  “It’s really the politician.” The voter is innocent. The polls are never wrong (and the customer is always right)!  But once that voter becomes elected and enters the Beltway, he falls from grace. At term’s end, a righteous, holy majority may well vote him or her out of office as a punishment for going bad.

But the facts tell a different story. No-fault divorce is now the norm. Porn is now the norm. Shacking up is now the norm (if you have to Google that, you’ve proved my point). Governor Cuomo is doing just that. No commitment, free sex. How noble!  But I wish I could say he’s any different from Joe Six-pack. Children across the United States are now accustomed to being tossed around like a Frisbee from home to home because their parents act like spoiled children. Is it any wonder this new generation is so troubled? Yet, at least they’ve survived the abortion epidemic.

To me, it seems rather obvious. Our nation joins the latest crusade in order to find justification on their own terms. It finds a new cause, a new righteousness – however warped. By championing that new righteousness, dignity is restored. The feeling of worth and value comes back with a flush. And when the baddies, who hold out for an older righteousness, speak their mind, they are shouted down. At best, they are marginalized – haters gonna hate!

I have little confidence in the American public, apart from God’s restraint. The jury is corrupt, full stop. But I have every confidence that when a sovereign God hears the prayers of His people, when He freely chooses to have mercy on whom He will have mercy, that nothing will stop the revolution in the minds of the people. That He can – when He pleases – stop the madness and bring back a prodigal nation in the mud of the pigpen to its senses. He can persuade America to renounce its new righteousness, its new justification, and receive His through Christ.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26)

Jacopo_Bassano_workshop_-_Animals_boarding_the_Noah's_Ark_-_Louvre“Y se arrepintio Jehova de haber hecho hombre en la tierra” (Gen. 6:6).

El arrepentimineto que aqui se atribuye a Dios no pertenece propiamente a el, sino tiene referencia a nuestro entendimiento de el. Pues porque no podemos entenderlo como es, es necesario que para nuestra ayuda, en un sentido, se transforme. Que el arrepentimiento no puede suceder en Dios, aparece facilmente de esta consideracion que nada sucede que es por el inesperado o no previsto. El mismo razonamiento, y comentario, aplica a lo que sigue, que Dios fue afectado por tristeza. Ciertamente Dios no siente pesadumbre o tristeza, pero permanece para siempre como si mismo en su reposo celestial y contento: no obstante, porque de ninguna otra manera se podria saber cuan grande es el odio y la detestacion de Dios para el pecado, el Espiritu se acomoda a nuestra capacidad. Por tanto, no hay necesidad de involucrarnos en preguntas dificiles y espinosas, cuando es obvio a que fin se emplean estas palabras de arrepentimiento y dolor; lo que es, para enseñarnos que desde el tiempo en que al hombre fue tan grandemente corrompido, Dios no lo contaba entre sus criaturas; como si dijera, ‘Esta no es mi maniobra; este no es el hombre que forme en mi propia imagen, y a quien adorne con tales dones excelentes: no me digno ahora reconocer esta degenerada y contaminada criatura como mia.’ Semejante a esto es lo que dice, en el segundo lugar, acerca del dolor; que Dios estuvo tan ofendido por la impiedad atroz del hombre, como si hubiesen herido su corazon con angustia mortal: Hay aqui, por lo tanto, un antitesis inexpresado entre esa naturaleza justa que habia sido creada por Dios, y la corrupcion que broto del pecado. En lo mientras, a menos de que queremos provocar a Dios, y causarle dolor, aprendamos aborrecer y huir del pecado. Ademas, esa bondad y ternura paternal debe de, en forma no leve, sojuzgar en nosotros el amor al pecado; puesto que Dios, para mas efectualmente penetrar nuestros corazones, se viste de nuestros afectos. Esta figura, que representa a Dios como transferiendo a si mismo lo que pertenece a la naturaleza humana, se llama anthropopatheia.

Juan Calvino (1509-1564)

In our morning message, we considered Genesis 7, the ancient story of the Flood. On that day of reckoning, sinners saw God for what He is – God.  And then they breathed their last. All this fell out just as God predicted, with zero “margin of error.” Here’s a short clip:

To listen to the complete sermon, click here.

 

 

Jacopo_Bassano_workshop_-_Animals_boarding_the_Noah's_Ark_-_Louvre

“And  it  repented  the  Lord  that  he  had  made  man  on  the  earth.”

The repentance which is here ascribed to God does not properly belong to him, but has reference to our understanding of him. For since we cannot comprehend him as he is, it is necessary that, for our sakes he should, in a certain sense, transform himself. That repentance cannot take place in God, easily appears from this single considerations that nothing happens which is by him unexpected or unforeseen. The same reasoning, and remark, applies to what follows, that God was affected with grief. Certainly God is not sorrowful or sad; but remains forever like himself in his celestial and happy repose: yet, because it could not otherwise be known how great is God’s hatred and detestation of sin, therefore the Spirit accommodates himself to our capacity. Wherefore, there is no need for us to involve ourselves in thorny and difficult questions, when it is obvious to what end these words of repentance and grief are applied; namely, to teach us, that from the time when man was so greatly corrupted, God would not reckon him among his creatures; as if he would say, ‘This is not my workmanship; this is not that man who was formed in my image, and whom I had adorned with such excellent gifts: I do not deign now to acknowledge this degenerate and defiled creature as mine.’ Similar to this is what he says, in the second place, concerning grief; that God was so offended by the atrocious wickedness of men, as if they had wounded his heart with mortal grief: There is here, therefore, an unexpressed antithesis between that upright nature which had been created by God, and that corruption which sprung from sin. Meanwhile, unless we wish to provoke God, and to put him to grief, let us learn to abhor and to flee from sin. Moreover, this paternal goodness and tenderness ought, in no slight degree, to subdue in us the love of sin; since God, in order more effectually to pierce our hearts, clothes himself with our affections. This figure, which represents God as transferring to himself what is peculiar to human nature, is called anthropopatheia.

– John Calvin (1509-1564)

 

Gargoyle_enhanced“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

– “Screwtape” to “Wormwood,” in Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis

2941204143_4280c3f48c_oWho wouldn’t?  Who doesn’t?

Well, too many.  Strange thing, indeed!  And yet it makes some sense, when we consider happiness as God defines it.  Happiness is keeping God’s law.

And that’s where pleasure-seekers draw the line.  “Time out!  You mean happiness lies in law-keeping?  Commandments?  That’s too restrictive.”  And yet, it’s precisely within the orbit of a devout and conscientious walk with God that true happiness is found.  Counter-intuitive, but true.

Hear the ancient wisdom-words of Psalm 34:

What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?  Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.  Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.  The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.   The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

The pleasure-seeker fights the fences.  He tramples them down in defiance.  And yet O how we need fences to be happy!  Oddly enough, in God’s world (is there another?), boundaries bless.  They protect, they channel, they guide, they consecrate.  But remove them, and pleasure-seeking runs headlong from good, green pastures into the wilds of insecurity, anxiety, directionlessness, and depression.  And that’s just the beginning.

Who wants to be happy?  Then think outside the box.  Way outside.

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This Lord’s day (Sunday), August 2, we will be treating this text, as it is quoted by the Apostle Peter.  You are very welcome to join us.