Whenever we face problems, it’s easier to blame others than take responsibility for them ourselves. And because blaming someone or something other than ourselves is so much easier, this is exactly what people often do.
Blaming our circumstances or someone close to us is appealing because it gives us cover for our failings. But doing so takes away hope for any change for the better.
The tendency to refuse responsibility for problems and shift the blame on others goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. After the first man and woman ate the forbidden fruit, Adam blamed his wife, and Eve blamed the serpent.
Although Adam and Eve portrayed themselves as victims, they were filled with shame and hid themselves from God. If it were not for God’s pursuit of them, they would have remained in this hopeless state of shame. But God confronted them with the truth, and brought them mercy so they could move forward with their lives.
The blame-shifting approach modeled by Adam and Eve is practiced daily as people face their own personal difficulties. It is far more common for people to explain away their wrong behavior than own it themselves.
The result? Multitudes spend their days stuck in hopelessness and shame.
This problem is reinforced in that society discourages personal responsibility and encourages blame-shifting in various ways. It used to be, for example, if someone had a drinking problem he’d be called a drunkard and exhorted to change his ways. Today, someone with a drinking problem is said to have a disease and is urged to get treatment.
This sort of approach is intended to be caring as it tends to soften the blow on the person who is afflicted. But the net effect is that it takes away hope.
From the very beginning of creation God revealed His intention for mankind to develop the whole earth for His glory (Gen.1:26-28). As this has been God’s plan from the start, we should keep it in mind as we make our own plans for a new year.
Making plans for the coming year is a wise thing to do. God Himself makes plans, and by making plans ourselves we show that we bear His likeness.
But we must not merely plan – we must have regard for God in our plans.
Many will make plans during this time of year. Those with wisdom will make them with an awareness of God’s presence and a desire for His glory.
The Proverbs reveal an inescapable interplay between the plans of men and the plans of God. Consider a few examples. . .
“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Pr.16:1).
“Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Pr.16:3).
“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs His steps” (Pr.16:9).
What is the gist of these verses?
There was a news report out a few days ago that told about a bank that was being forced by the government to remove all of its Christmas decorations. Generic holiday decorations could stay, but anything having to do with Christmas, Jesus, or the Christian message of the season had to go.
Many would see this kind of action as another example of what’s been called “the war against Christmas.” But actually, attempts to rid the season of any vestiges of the Christ child is just one battle in a much larger war – the war against Jesus Himself.
The war against Jesus has been going on for a very long time. In fact, it precedes His incarnation.
After the fall of mankind, God promised that a seed would be born who would overcome evil and redeem fallen humanity (Gen.3:15). Once that promise was issued, Satan did his best to keep it from being fulfilled.
Cain’s murder of Abel, the corruption of the human race before Noah, Pharaoh’s efforts to kill the male offspring of the Hebrews, and Saul’s attacks on David are just a few examples of Satan-inspired attempts to keep God’s promised seed from coming forth.
But the seed did come forth. In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.
Yet, even after Christ was born, the war continued as attempts were made to keep Him from reigning and ruling as the royal seed.
When the prophet Isaiah wrote of Him, he described Him as the “Prince of Peace” (Is.9:6). After the announcement of Christ’s birth was made, the heavenly host praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men. . .” (Lk.2:14). Also, the hope of Christ’s kingdom is that the day will come when, “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Is.2:4).
With the coming of Christ, peace should be a foremost desire for us, and what we strive for in the midst of conflict. The Bible tells us as much as it depends upon us, we are to “be at peace with all men” (Rom.12:18). It also says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Mt.5:9).
In light of the emphasis that the Bible puts on peace, it’s remarkable how many professing Christians are so quick to advocate war. Too often the knee-jerk reaction to some country that goes against our nation’s established policy is to want to “nuke ‘em.” We’d rather send the military than missionaries to bring about change.
Of course, a nation has a right to defend itself. But let’s consider a few facts.
As a nation – at least publicly – we have abandoned God. His Word tells that if we forsake Him, He will forsake us (2 Chr.15:2). A nation forsaken by God is sure to find itself in more trouble, including war.
We have entered the time of year that Christians call Advent – a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus, the King of kings. More popularly, we have entered what’s known as the Christmas shopping season.
As we come into this season, we are accustomed to hearing about the dangers of materialism. And these admonitions are fitting. For countless souls, there is hardly a thought about the reason for the season, all while consumed with the buying and getting of stuff. So, a warning about materialism is definitely in order.
But along with the warning, we should recognize that there is nothing wrong with material things, per se. Christ’s incarnation during His first Advent makes this obvious.
When Christ came into the world, He did so by taking on a human, fleshly body. As He grew in wisdom and stature, He interacted with the material world. He wore clothes, ate food, rode in boats, and did many other things that we can identify with. Since all these things were from His Father, we can confidently say that He enjoyed them.
At age of 30, Jesus began His three year ministry which ended with His death and resurrection. The purpose of this ministry was to bring redemption to the world. A redemption that applies not just to the spirits of men, but to the whole creation. He came, in other words, that the whole earth would be restored and all the stuff in it would be set apart for the Lord.
All this has a bearing on how we think about the things we get and give for Christmas.
There’s a paradox about being thankful. On the one hand we know we should be grateful, but on the other hand ingratitude seems to be where we so naturally find ourselves.
The Bible expresses this paradox throughout its pages.
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” the Bible tells us (Ps.107:1). “In everything give thanks,” it says (1 Thess.5:18). Yet, despite these exhortations we find plenty of grumbling (Ex.16:7), forgetfulness of God’s mercy (Dt.8:12), and refusals to honor Him or give thanks (Rom.1:21).
God calls us to thankfulness, but gratitude is rare.
This is something we can identify with all too well when our own busyness, self-sufficiency, and preoccupation with our own plans keeps us from giving thanks when it’s due.
So, how does one get and keep a grateful heart? The answer is to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
If our state of gratitude is only linked to our immediate circumstances, we’ll constantly be vulnerable to ingratitude because we’ll always be tempted to focus on what’s wrong with our present situation. This is true whether you find yourself in good times or bad.
Yet, when our focus is on Jesus as the supreme ruler over all, a thankful heart can be the norm for us as we recognize that what we might experience at any given time is all incidental to knowing and walking with Him.
The Apostle Paul has more to say about being thankful than anyone in the Bible. This is remarkable because he spent so much of His life facing persecution and hardship. So, how was it that thankfulness became such a big theme in his life and ministry? Because the supremacy of Christ was preeminent in his thinking. Read more…
We live in a secular age. One of the beliefs that distinguishes our age is that we don’t need God to remedy our problems. We believe that we can set things aright without Him.
The Bible teaches us the exact opposite. It tells us that in order for humanity to thrive it must look to the Lord, because it is His Spirit who not only creates all that exists, but also maintains the bonds necessary for civilization to be secure and prosper.
When men depend on anything besides the Lord, their efforts ultimately prove to be in vain. But when men depend on God, His Spirit gives the ability to overcome obstacles and fulfill the callings that He gives.
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD of hosts” (Zech.4:6).
The first man, Adam, learned this the hard way when he failed to trust the Lord and and decided to depend on His own understanding. And every man since him must decide how he will live – will he depend on is own carnal reasoning or trust the word of the Lord.
Joseph engaged the world and all its temptations with a heart turned to the Lord. As a consequence, he was regarded as one who possessed “the Spirit of God” and was empowered to lead all of Egypt. Saul, on the other hand, hardened his heart, and because of it the Spirit of the Lord departed from him and an evil spirit tormented him instead.
All of this has relevance to our own time.
Almighty God and Merciful Father, you have established your throne in the heavens and your sovereignty rules over all. You are the one who changes the times and the epochs, and it is you who remove some from authority and raise others up.
Knowing that you are God, we bring these petitions on behalf of those who will be elected to office, as well as the people of this land.
Lord, give us rulers who are better than we deserve. Having forsaken you as a nation, you would be just to discipline us with tyrants. But show us mercy in giving us rulers who will learn to love righteousness and the wisdom of your ways.
Lord, grant us rulers who recognize your authority over them. May this lead them to govern with humility and justice. Cause our rulers to see that you have not ordained them to be saviors, but servants. Help them to be be good ministers of justice, who will judge without partiality and know the limits of their power.
Lord, send us rulers of good character who despise corruption. Do not send us those who would come to steal, kill, and destroy. Protect us from deceivers who would use their office for their own gain. Preserve us from the wicked who would cause us to groan. Rather, increase the righteous that we may rejoice.
Lord, bring woe upon those rulers who call evil good and good evil. And bring us those who are able to discern between good and evil that they would fulfill their calling in keeping with your Word. May your law be the foundation of our laws so that we would have liberty and peace.
Lord, keep us prayerful for those in authority, so that we would lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. Keep us from covetous hearts so that we would not look to our rulers to steal for us. May your Spirit empower us to govern ourselves, since it is only by good self-government that we can ever expect to have good civil government.
Lord, help us to see always that our hope is not in the servants of the state, but in you. Cause us to know that it is righteousness that exalts a nation and nothing else. May this lead us to have repentant hearts and a new desire to honor you.
Comfort us concerning all our cares as we remember that you have already installed Jesus Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
In His Name, Amen.
While the economy has taken center stage during this season’s political campaign, there is a more fundamental issue that voters need to take into account when considering the candidates. That issue is where a candidate stands on abortion.
Ever since the infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, a candidate’s position on abortion has been regarded as a defining issue. During this election cycle, where a candidate stands on abortion hardly defines him at all. This should not be.
Where a candidate stands on life needs to be brought to light. Voters also need to realize that a candidate’s position on this issue is critical. So critical that pro-abortion candidates show themselves to be disqualified because they are incapable of fulfilling the most basic duty of one who governs.
Life begins at conception. Scripture has taught this for millennia – “Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps.139:13,14). Today, when you add the recent technological advances that have given us a window to the womb, the time that life begins and the personhood of the unborn are hardly debated.
Life is to be protected, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable. Those who are being taken away to death are to be delivered (Pr.24:11), and the obligation of defending “the least of these” applies to all of us. One way we fulfill this obligation is by paying attention to where a candidate stands on the abortion issue, and making sure we are not complicit in his promotion of death.
If the obligation to protect the weakest among us belongs to all of us, it falls even stronger upon those who have the authority to ensure the protection of the unborn. The Bible teaches us that civil rulers are ministers of justice (Rom.13:4). They are charged by God to preserve the life and liberty of those who are made in His image – including the unborn.
When a candidate takes a pro-abortion stance, he reveals upfront that he will not fulfill this duty. He makes a plain statement that under his or her rule there are some who will not be protected. In this regard, pro-abortion candidates are fundamentally flawed and unfit for office.
The basic orientation of the Bible toward the future is positive.
God wants us to know that He intends the days ahead to be
better than today.
This is an important orientation for us to adopt. Especially,
if things aren’t going so well for us today. Without the positive
future orientation that the Bible reveals, despair and loss of hope
easily colors one’s view of everything.
How to view the future is an issue that people have always had
to deal with. And they have always needed hope for the future
to know how to live in the present.
In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, the land of Judah was about
to fall in judgment to the Babylonian Empire. This judgment is
something the people had brought on themselves. Not only had
they been unfaithful, but the generations before them had also
forsaken the Lord. So, they were about to be corrected for
their own wickedness.
This was all very depressing to the people because it appeared
that they were trapped in an endless cycle of defeat. But God
did not intend to leave them in hopelessness. He intended that
they would learn from their hardship and come to relate
to Him in a better way.
“’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord,
‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and
a hope’” (Jer.29:11)
In order for this hope to be realized, God entered into a new
covenant with the people. Through this new covenant, He forgave
them and wrote His law on their hearts. This led the people to know
Him and His mercy like never before, and it brought them into
a position to live faithfully with Him as their God.