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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Helen's poppies
We pass this beautiful corner of poppies planted by our friend Helen.

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"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20).

Last night I listened to a minister from inner city York, a small city about 20 miles from us, which is plagued with violence, particularly gang related. On Mother's Day a little girl from Lancaster was killed as  she was playing outside with her cousins she was visiting.

He was describing the disturbing social conditions in the city that leads to so much unrest and violence. He spoke of the family breakdown as the core of the problem. He stated that the role of grandmothers was a stabilizing influence in the past, when there were absentee or abusive parents, but now many grandmothers are in their late twenties and have no interest in taking on a grandmotherly identity, much less providing a secure, nurturing setting for their grandchildren.  They're still caught up in their own sinful, unstable circumstances and they themselves are very needy.

Among the signs of our culture's moral downfall is the failure to uphold the Creator's standards, which has led to great confusion as to what constitutes evil.  We see this in the current muddy position of many in regard to terrorists.  Are these evil, wicked, murderous terrorists "martyrs", which traditionally and Biblically is a noble outcome? Or are they "freedom fighters", which again sounds like a good thing? Surely not!

The slide into decadence continues and the notion of determining morality by majority has always failed. I have long had a concern regarding the strategy of the pro-life and traditional marriage position (both of which I strongly hold) in appealing to opinion polls. Will abortion or alternative arrangements of marriage become "good" when the opinion polls indicate a majority favor it? Surely not!

I consider how many moral changes have come about simply by majority ruling.  The words of Paul in Colossians 2:8 give us a very wise caution that we should pay close attention to:  "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

Consider Biblical history:
  • A majority gathered around the golden calf when Moses was on the mountain.
  • A majority sided with the prophets of Baal in Elijah's epic contest.
  • A majority bowed before Nebuchadnezzar's image when Shadrach, Meshasch and Abednego stood firm.
  • And a majority cried out "Crucify Him!" at Christ's trial. *
What powerful contrasts are seen in our daily text: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

Isaiah's "woe" is timeless. "Woe" is a literal transliteration of the Hebrew.  In other words it's an expression that sounds the same in Hebrew, English or any language. (Similar to "Hallelujah".)  Woe is also an onomatopoeia, which is when the formation of a word imitates the natural sound associated with the object or action involved. Consider the sounds of deep, painful wailing.

Woe is an exclamation of pain and grief.  As our culture drifts farther and farther from its Biblical moorings we see the truth of Isaiah's proclamation.  Do we also feel his exclamation of woe?

What is the source of this woe"Those who call evil good and good evil."  Biblical morality is turned on its head, not only in Isaiah's cultural setting but also in our lifetime.  We are often stunned by what the courts rule in favor of when it is so contrary to the right and wrong we were taught as children and was once commonly believed by believers and non-believers alike. But today much of what is evil is called good and what is good is called evil.

Today let us remain faithful to the perspective that God gives us through the inspiration of Scripture. As unpopular, "intolerant", socially insensitive and politically incorrect as it sounds in today's screened and approved vernacular let us continue to call evil "evil".  Add the letter "d" to the word evil and we have "devil."  Perhaps that's why many who no longer believe in the devil also like to refrain from using this word, since the devil is the very embodiment of evil.

When we soft pedal the meaning of evil we also water down the meaning of sin. It is rather common now to hear Christians, when referring to their sinful acts as, "I made a mistake" or "I used poor judgment."  Those points are true, but James puts it much more bluntly, "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." (NASV)  I believe God desires that we come to Him to confess our sins and readily admit to another when we have sinned against them.

Thank God there is a remedy for evil.  God's grace is greater than our sin.  Fanny Crosby excluded no one when she wrote, "the vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives."  Frank Bottome marveled that he who was once "a child of hell, should in His image shine."  And William Cowper described the fountain of sinless, life-giving blood drawn from Immanuel's veins as powerful enough to save to the uttermost, "The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in His day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away." 

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, how grateful we are that Your grace is so much greater than our sin.  Our spiritual burden is lightened when we ponder the Scripture, "Where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound."  We do not want to be overcome by evil but we want to overcome evil with good and the way that we can do this is to absorb, maintain, and uphold the Scriptural understanding of good and evil.  We pray against authorities, personalities, and persuasive rhetoric that tempts us to compromise or water down the truths we learn from Scripture.   The contrasts of light vs. darkness, good vs. evil, the spiritual nature vs. the sinful nature are abundant in Scripture.  May the guiding light by which we live our lives in these evil days be the light of Your Holy Word.  In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.

"To God be the Glory" by Fanny Crosby
"The Comforter Has Come" by Frank Bottome
"There is a Fountain" by William Cowper

* Scripture references: Exodus 32, 1 Kings 18, Daniel 3, Matthew 27

Here's an interesting example of a poll taken in 2006 that reflects the changing moral standards in various age groupings. The following percentages of males and females in various age groupings feel that viewing pornographic material is morally acceptable:
44% of males ages 18 to 34
29% of males ages 35-54
15% of males ages 55+
23% of females ages 18-34
13% of females ages 35-54
4% of females ages 55+

As can be seen unless there is a revival, the majority of young males will soon hold a position that viewing pornography is morally acceptable (good).  This statistic is now over two years old.

Today's photo has an interesting story:  Last Friday I was on the way to a company visit in Palmyra PA and Ester was along with me. We had been passing these beautiful poppies for some time and again noticed them. Then I passed Helen's house and I noticed that her son Galen, a friend of mine, was out working in the yard and I wanted to greet him.

I stopped, looked behind and saw no cars coming and then backed up. As I pulled into the driveway another car coming towards me that appeared to be speeding dramatically swerved to miss me. Quite frankly I am not sure after backing up I looked ahead, at least very carefully, before turning into the driveway to see if a car was coming! (The spot is also near the crest of a hill which can hide oncoming traffic.)

Whatever I sped up and parked and thanked the Lord for again protecting us from what would have been a very serious accident, especially on Ester's side.

This also gave me an opportunity to explain to Ester a concept I recall all the way back from Driver's Education I took at Truman High School in Independance Missouri called "last clear chance"

Now, there's a spiritual application to "last clear chance" and I'll be mulling over that for awhile.

Here's another flower photo I took at Helen's house. Galen and his sister from Ohio were helping Helen around the lawn and had placed this hanging arrangement on a tree.
Helen's flowers

Harvest Road Amish Farm
A few miles beyond we passed this Amish farm on laundry day.
My favorite features are the white picket fence and the large dark tree in the center of the photo.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.

"There Is A Founatin Filled With Blood"  Video  Selah

"The Comforter Has Come"
 Video  Jars of Clay (Newer arrangement)

"To God Be The Glory"  Video 

"Holiness Is What I Long For"
 Video  Sonicflood

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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