Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Blessed are those who are called by the name of the Lord, for they shall be feared.
Blessed are those who listen, for they shall be chased down by blessing.
Blessed are those who observe and do, for they shall be set on high.
Blessed are those who have the word in their mouth and heart, for the new commandment is theirs.
Blessed are those who are truly fruitful in their basket and store, for they will hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Blessed are those who serve God in joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things, for they shall be free of covetousness.
Blessed are those who have not looked on the form or shape of any graven image, for they shall see God.
Blessed are those whose foot does not slide, for they shall walk in the truth.
Obedience can only be offered in the present, and disobedience—that unclean sacrifice—can only be offered on that same altar. Whatever it is must be offered in the present. Were you faithful once? Were you a faithful nation then? To offer up faithfulness then as though it were as good as obedience now, to rest on your laurels, is the same thing as offering up disobedience now. Offer what God asks of you. Offer your heart, promptly and sincerely, and do it now.
Do not think that these are words of revolution, designed to overthrow your laws and customs. Rather you have already been diligent in overthrowing your own laws and customs, while pretending you have not done so, such that if anybody comes to you and urges a return to the old paths, you think of him as the radical. If someone were to come to you and urge three senators from every state, you would hail him as an innovative progressive, and the Constitution as a living document that allows for such progress. If someone were to resist the novelty, you sneer at him as an extremist.
The Heart of Obedience
You have heard it said that it was the intention of the Founders to keep and maintain a strict separation between church and state. You have even heard it said that there was to be a wall of separation between the two. But I am telling you there is a difference between separating two forms of government found under the sun, ecclesiastical government and civil government, which is a most biblical thing to do, and separating God and state, or morality and state, or righteousness and state. You would separate morality and state . . . isn’t there enough of that already?
Divorce and Remarriage
A nation cannot be as faithless as you have been to your God without that faithlessness also being manifested in your marriages. You treat the dissolution of marriage as a personal convenience, whatever you feel like. You ought rather to consider divorce as something more akin to having a leg amputated.
You assume to yourself the right to prioritize all your promises. Promises that are about defending the Constitution are the really important ones, but promises to remain faithful to your wife are only “about sex.” But a man who will betray his wife, or a woman who will betray her husband, is already treacherous in principle. Treachery grows, just as cancer does, and oath breaking is a gangrenous business. This is the long way around, but it is to say that a nation filled with liars, thieves and adulterers is going to be well-represented in their state and national capitals.
Good for Evil
You judge yourselves by your intentions and motives, and you judge others by their actions toward you. You do not take their intentions (or professed intentions) into account. In your evaluation of all your interactions with others, you weigh and measure with meticulous care, always taking proper care to leave your thumb on the scale. Because you evaluate motives in such a crooked way, it is not surprising that your retaliations toward others are so often unjust.
And beware of all the humility snares. You are a casual people, and you take pride in not being stuffy. But if previous generations were proud of their top hats and tails, and you are proud of your sweat pants, what is the real distinction between you and those others—apart from the fact that they had more of a plausible excuse for their pride?
Your worship services resemble classroom lectures, or assemblies, and sometimes they even look like pep rallies. And yet you are proud? No creature should be proud of anything at all, but to be proud of doing something poorly is a remarkable feat.
Pray Like This
When you reflect on your own character, on your failures and successes, this is how you should do it. Pray to God in this way, and not in a way that will seal your blindness to your true condition.
Father God, Father in heaven, You are holiness itself, and may that holiness come down and take root in me. May I measure my life by a heavenly cord, and cease my attempts to measure heaven with an earthly one. As you grant me my daily bread, keep me from using it to subsidize any continuing folly. Help me to see that forgiveness that does not go out is a forgiveness that never came in. Keep me from becoming ensnared by all the shiny objects around me, and let me actually see your kingdom, which is the true shining. Amen, and amen.
Pray this way, and don’t let anyone know that you do. Pray this way, and let God be in charge of who might find out about it.
Don’t Be Greedy
Greed will out. There is no way for you to set your heart on things below, like a hog rooting for acorns, and not have what you are becoming being revealed to all. Stand upright, and look at the stars. Look up to the heavens. Where is your heart? Is your heart there, in the heavenly places, or is it here below, down among the acorns?
Why are you so beset by false urgencies? Why do you set apart important tasks for the sake of trivial but urgent tasks?
No Double Standard
Everyone is the protagonist of their own story. Everyone is in the middle of writing a novel in the first person, writing it in their own head, and as it turns out, everyone is their own hero. Some will say that the word hero is ill-chosen—do not some people have very negative views of themselves? But even though it is a negative view, who is still the protagonist? All the other characters are judged by a different standard, which is how double standards arise. We judge others by their actions, and we evaluate ourselves by our motives—which, as the first person narrator, we can easily see.
Don’t Waste Your Breath
How many hours have you spent trying to correct people who did not want your correction? And you had no real obligation to correct them in the first place?
Do not measure the warmth of God’s heart by the coldness of your own. Because we are the merciless ones, we project that hard attitude into the heavens, and assume that God will deal with us as we deal with one another. If we continue insisting upon this that may eventually be arranged—where the measure we use will be measured back to us—but our starting point is entirely wrong. God is filled and overflowing with tender mercy.
The Contrary Way
The world does not follow the broad way to destruction out of statistical necessity, but rather as a function of contagion. Finding the narrow way is not like winning the lottery, as someone had to mathematically, but is rather a matter of learning how to refuse the madness of crowds.
Liars and Their Fruit
Beware of those theologians who separate doctrine from life, especially if their schematic diagram of the relationship of doctrine to life appears to be accurate and edifying. The truer a confession is, the worse it is when it is not lived out. The worst is when the confession that is not lived out is the confession that all truths must be lived out.
If you know what to do then every witness in heaven and on earth calls upon you to actually do it. We are after the lost art of Christian character, and are mighty tired of the showy performances of Christian personality.
Character withstands the storm, like an oak tree rooted, and personality blows off across the way like a withered oak leaf, no longer attached to the tree.