Well, we're home. Abby and I spent the week at a camp in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. I think it was a good week. We had devotionals, lectures, and Bible studies on the subject of gaining the mind of Christ. My class was 14 and 15 year olds - they were all really talkative and had great comments and questions. I preached in Kenosha, Wisconsin last Sunday.
During the week I stayed in tents with boys (again ages 13-15 or so) without electricity or running water. We did have shower houses about a quarter mile away that we could use :) It was a fun time - one of the young men with me (napoleon) is a mandolin player, so we had some pretty good jam sessions after dark - he and Abby and I performed Salt Creek for the variety show on Friday. Went over pretty well if I do say so. Another feature of the evenings was a bonfire after Bible study Wednesday night with hotdogs, chips, and soda - and some impromptu wrestling illuminated by my car's headlights. Last year a couple of the braver boys wrestled me. This year, alas, there were no takers. I only got to officiate and observe... still fun though.
Afternoons - volleyball, softball, kickball, earth ball, batttle-ball, capture the flag, tug of war. After the official tug of war we had a few exhibition matches. The men (staff) beat the high school boys - natch. But then, the women (staff) also beat the high school boys! Not sure we'll be hearing much about that from the boys for awhile.... In the staff/camper male softball game we overcame the humiliation of last year's first ever staff defeat and beat the high school boys. We also managed to defeat them at volleyball in a no-holds barred game. Lots of fun - but I was dead on my feet by Friday!
Hope everybody else is doing well. Talk to you all later.
We braved Chicago rush hour to go down to Portage to hear Gerry Sandusky preach. We really enjoyed getting to know some of the people down there, and Mr. Sandusky's preaching, as always, was excellent. If you're anywhere close and can get there this week, you should :)
“You have wearied the Lord by saying, ‘everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord…” (2:17)
“…you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.” (3:18)
Clearly, Israel had lost the ability to make such distinctions. This problem also exists in our own time. Today, it is not permitted to call anything “sin” – the cliché of our day is, “we’re all God’s children.”
Pride is a besetting sin of mankind which leads to all sorts of trouble. It is very easy for us to believe that nothing we do could be all that bad. We take pride in the freedom we enjoy to decide for ourselves what is good and what isn’t. But we’re very mistaken when we begin to believe that everyone’s sense of good and evil is equally valid.
Now, it doesn’t happen overnight that God’s people lose the ability to see the difference between right and wrong. In Malachi’s time, and today, there are other things that usually come first.
1. Weakened Faith
“You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.” (3:14-15)
Consumed, perhaps, by what they didn’t have, they failed to see what blessings they had from following God. Unfortunately, we often do the same thing. If others who are faithless appear to get along better in this life, we too are prone to conclude that “there is no profit” in serving God. And we too begin to call the arrogant blessed and place value in self-sufficiency instead of in trusting in the Lord.
II. Insincere Worship
“If I am a master, where is my fear, says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food on my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised.” 1:7
“But you profane [the Lord’s name] when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts.. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord.” (1:12-13)
In these verses we find Israel still technically worshipping, but with poor attitudes and with poor offerings. Today, as Christians become more and more ensnared in the pursuits of the world, we do the same thing. We treat church as a drudgery and give worship half or no effort, and only show up if we have absolutely nothing else to do. It’s easy to see how the line between right and wrong gets blurred when we cease honoring God.
III. Poor Teaching – 2:1-9
“The lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.” (2:7-9)
People are supposed to seek the word of the Lord, and the priests of the Old Testament were tasked with “guarding knowledge” – knowing God’s word and being able to impart it to others. Preachers, among others, today are given that same charge – I Tim. 4:6-16, II Tim. 41-5. But when people do not demand good Bible teaching, and when priests or preachers provide selective, incomplete, or false teaching of God’s word, obviously it’s going to get more difficult to understand the distinction between good and evil.
IV. Indulgence in Sin
“And this is the second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards your offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” (2:13-14)
Mostly, it seems that we tend to justify evil because we’re either doing it or we approve of those who are doing it. It’s true in our own day, and it was true in Malachi’s.
As these things pile up, our faith only grows weaker and our pride and arrogance becomes stronger and we come dangerously close to being unrecoverable. In Malachi 3:16-4:3, God warns them of his impending judgment. There would be an accounting where they would see the folly of their sin, insincere faith, and shallow worship.
Through their example, we see that when we become enamored with our own wisdom and strength, and when we can no longer make a proper distinction between good and evil, we are lost.
How do we avoid such a fate? Reverse the trend. Put away sin, seek God’s instruction and teachers who will rightly expound it, worship and serve God with the best you have, and watch your faith grow each day.
I found this this morning...
A Different Kind of Father's Day Gift
Rick Hilton needs a swift kick in the butt. That's my opinion on the never-ending Paris Hilton spectacle. And while we're at the butt-kicking, we can line up any number of successful businessmen, movie stars, and sports heroes who have neglected the fundamental duty of fathers, which is to train up our children in the way they should go. We could turn it into an annual Father's Day weekend tradition: the 24-hour Tail Stomp, open season on every bad father. I think it would be cathartic. And before someone else claims him, I've got dibs on Alec Baldwin.
It's interesting that we celebrate the success of men at business, sports, entertainment, war, and politics, but rarely at the thing which matters more than those often-ephemeral feats, the raising up of confident, competent, moral, courageous children to carry on a free and prosperous civilization. Not to wrestle with this great calling every day of our lives, fathers, is to fail at manhood itself.
I'm not saying that we are failures if our children don't end up perfect. But we are failures if they emerge without a moral compass, and genuine self-confidence (which should not be confused with arrogance, which is often a sign of insecurity), and some fundamental ability to earn a living. Hence Rick Hilton's need for a kick in the rear-end, at least from my very limited vantage-point, because his daughter seems to lack all three. Insofar as she earns a living, it's Donald Trump-style, off the outrageousness of her own conduct. That's not value-creation, it's a freak show.
In the last days of his life, as Teddy Roosevelt collaborated with editor Joseph Bishop on a bound volume of his letters to his children, he said, "I would rather have this book published than anything that has ever been written about me." These letters don't contain much in the way of TR's exploits on the battlefield, or his political victories. Instead they tell his children about a curious lizard he caught in Cuba, or explain how proud he is that they have learned to ride their horses better, or admonish them not to let sports get in the way of what's important. They are letters that reflect his love of and hopes for his children. Being a good father, he recognized that this was his most important legacy, his family.
I've met a great many men over the years who have been so seduced by the lure of business success that they neglect their children. I can't describe for you the remorse that I've heard in some of their voices, as they sit in their beautiful, empty homes, and say that they wish they could do it over, and be fathers to their children. But there is no doing it over; there is only right now, the choices you make today — and each choice constrains what choices will be available to us tomorrow. Can Rick Hilton spend time with his daughter now, and convince her that she is truly lovely, that she needn't whore herself out to the men and the lights and the cameras? That work should have been done years ago. But, he does have that thriving real estate business, and several palatial homes. He's what we call successful.
Perhaps we need to redefine that word. The worst part is that Hilton probably told himself, as do so many of us, that he was doing it for his family, the twelve-hour days and endless travel and weekend work. Beyond some basic necessities, however, what our children need most is us, the very thing we so often deny them.
I find that more and more, when I hear or read about a successful man, I say to myself: Yes, but what kind of father is he? It's worth asking, don't you think? Don't be surprised if you end up unable to find someone to vote for next fall, however, or if your favorite actors and sports stars lose some of their luster. But that's how it should be, I think. Maybe men will stop sacrificing our children on the altar of success when we reintroduce shame as a public concept.
Goodness knows, I don't get it right. I've lost count of the number of evenings I've put my head on my pillow in shame, wishing I could rewind the day, and take back a moment when I barked at one of my boys, or ignored them when I should have been listening. But I wonder if it even crosses the minds of many successful men that they are failing as fathers, and therefore, as men. I want to believe that this in itself makes a difference, the conscious striving. Weak and foolish as we are, maybe we can still succeed as fathers if we will just put forth the effort. Maybe that's all our sons and daughters really need from us, the unspoken love that comes with that striving.
So, fathers, are you striving?