A Solid Foundation

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you God. Micah 6:8

Periodically, somebody comes up with a brand new religion or philosophy or theory of ethics they claim is “ground-breaking” or “revolutionary”. But trying to come up with a truly “new morality” is pretty much like trying to come up with a new primary color.

It’s like the king in Dr. Seuss’ ‘Bartholomew and the Ooblek’. He, fool that he was, grew tired of the same rain, sun and snow coming down out of the sky and commanded the court magicians to make something new come down. Result: they summon “ooblek” which is some kind of green goo that falls and gums up everything. Finally, the King gets a clue and realizes that change is not the only good and that “radical change” can often be a prelude to disaster.

In morality, it is the same thing. There can be moral growth and improvement (as there was in the development from the Old Testament morality of “Love your friend and hate your enemy” to the New Testament command to “Love your enemy.”) But we cannot reject the very basis of morality without catastrophe. It is one thing to grow from the simple justice of the Old Testament toward the charity which commands “Love your enemy” in the New Testament. It is another things to propose hating everybody including your friends simply because it’s a novelty.

That is why the New Testament builds on, but never rebuts the moral teaching of the Old. The basic, no-brainer teaching of the Old Testament remains true everywhere and at all times: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God. No dimestore philosopher on a talk show has ever built a better foundation for life than that. No one ever will.

Abundant Mercy

When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord you God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. Deuteronomy 4:30-31

The mercy of God is his greatest attribute. Our greatest fear when we sin is that God will act as so many people do, clucking the tongue and saying, “You expect me to forgive after you did that?” But the reality is that God really and truly does promise forgiveness of all our sins, if we will only turn to him for mercy.

People are made in the image of God, to be sure. But people are fallen too. Our failure to be merciful is not a sign that God is like us, it is a sign of how far we have fallen away from the God of mercy. So don’t let the rejection of people in the past make you fearful of seeking God’s mercy. Ask for mercy and he will surely give it.

If he can forgive those who crucified him, he can forgive any other sin for which we ask pardon and he can give us the grace to forgive those who have had no mercy on us.

Fulfill His Command

Praise the Lord. . . Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. . .lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, . . . Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. Psalm 148

The difference between lightning, hail, snow, clouds and stormy winds on the one hand, and us on the other, is that these things have no choice about obeying God’s commands. But we do have a choice. They are, so to speak, purely earthly. When God says “Burn” to carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in the presence of sufficient heat, there just has to be flame. The atoms have no choice but to do what they are created to do. But when God tries to spark the flame of the Holy Spirit in the human heart, we have the option of saying yes or no. It is our dignity to say yes, it is our fault if we say no.

Today, say yes to God with all your heart and fulfill his command by your willing cooperation with his grace.

The Table of the Lord

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23: 5

One wag has suggested a sort of “negative evangelism” campaign with a bumper sticker that reads: “Satan Hates You and Has a Terrible Plan for Your Life”. It’s a whimsical idea and one that is not entirely without foundation in Scripture. For the fact is, we do have an Enemy in the fallen angel who is Satan. And, as unpleasant as it sounds, it doesn’t matter if we disbelieve in him, he still believes in us and hates us because he hates God.

In the unthinkable choice made before all worlds to make himself and not God the center of his existence, Satan rejected once and for all not only God but all that God loves. Satan, being infinitely less than God, can never defeat God. But, in a parody of divine charity, he can stoop to the smallest viciousness just as God stoops to do the smallest kindness.

And so, from the very start, Satan has sought to destroy that creature made in the image of God for the same reason any cruel man would kill the son or daughter of his enemy, because they are dearer to the enemy than his own life. And so, Satan tempted our first parents to reject God and embrace death. But God became man and embraced death himself, destroying it from the inside out.
And now, with every communion he prepares a banquet before us in the presence of our Enemy. In every baptism and confession of His name, he anoints our head with oil. That is why St. Paul tells us that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

The Enemy of God has succeeded only in putting himself outside in the dark looking in through the kitchen window. Even his schemes have only made sure that God has died for our sins and established the eternal marriage supper of the Lamb.

Self-Esteem or Self-Love ?

Psalm 47:7 For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. (KJV)
Psalm 49:7 None of them by any means can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him. (KJV)
John 8:36 “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (KJV)

What we have today is a culture that is attempting to heal itself rather than seeking God’s healing. The results speak for themselves. This does not exclude necessary support, counseling and therapy, but at some point we must (sooner rather than later, I believe) avail ourselves of God’s divine healing power. That doesn’t mean waiting around for a lightning strike type of miracle, but to use the miracle of God’s Word and direction to begin the process of healing and sane living. It really isn’t magic, but a practical method of improving your life, my life, and the lives of those around us by imitating Jesus Christ’s behavior.

As Arno Froese says in his book, How Democracy will Elect the Antichrist, “Psychology Repairs – Jesus Renews” …the chapter entitled Self Love: Babylon says, “It is no longer acceptable in the religious world to teach that a man is corrupt, lost, unable to help himself, and on his way to eternal damnation. That idea is contrary to what the world teaches and also professing Christianity at large. In fact, today’s society is being taught to over-emphasize man’s nobility, to think positive, and to do everything in his power to build up a person’s self-esteem. According [to numerous reports] self-love is the very reason for criminal behavior.”

Out of this self-love comes the sin of justification and rationalization. Obviously, being rational and just are not sinful activities, but what we are able to convince ourselves, and others of, is sinful because of the far reaching results of such thinking. If you justify stealing from your company because you spent your money unwisely or rationalize cheating on your taxes because you’ve convinced yourself that the government is stealing anyway, does it absolve you of the consequences? And, if we can justify one sin, then it will be easier to rationalize greater and greater sin. Once the foundation is laid the stacking of bricks upon it is an easy task.