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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Where True Hope Lies

"Cursed be he that setteth light by his mother and his father. And all the people shall say, Amen."

It is the temptation of every generation to think that the world began when they came into it. "Every man is first in his own cause," is the way Solomon put it, for the pride of man's heart is to think that he is smarter, and wiser, and better than his neighbor

There is great wisdom in a little flower that grew in my garden this past spring: One little columbine that has grown in the same spot every year for I do not know how long.

I do not know the history of this little flower. I do not know from whence the seed came. All I know is that one year it grew up there and each year it appears. But I do know: there was such a seed and there was a parent to this little flower.

Columbine comes in other colors, but this one is always white and blue. Something in its genes.

It is wisdom to be in touch with the facts of the world. The earth brings forth "after its kind," is the way Genesis puts it. Dogs cannot breed cats and onions cannot produce columbine. Man can do wonderful things by cross-breeding, genetics, and other tinkering, but it cannot go beyond the material that it has been given--there is always a parent material: only God can make something from nothing.

This is the reason for the Fifth Commandment, the first commandment with promise. There is no promise to those who cannot live with the factness of the facts. It is wisdom to know the root from whence you spring, to accept it, and not long for it to be otherwise.

My father was an unbeliever, who wandered from place to place, never worked regularly, always looking for the grass on the other side of the fence. I never remember being bitter about my parents, but I often wondered how the Fifth Commandment applied to me. It was through the ministry of a minister who spoke at a school chapel--a man whose name I do not even remember--that light came into my soul on this matter. Like so many other biblical truths, the illumination on this subject brought light on many other subjects.

Faith teaches the child of God that he is God's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that he should walk therein." But the Bible does not teach that these "new creatures in Christ" are dropped into the earth directly from heaven. No, they are taken from the corrupt clay of Adam and molded to be vessels of mercy according tothe will of the Father in heaven, as Romans 9 tells us. There is no good clay from Adam, only a corrupt clay.

There are always instruments that God uses in the molding of these vessels of mercy and in honoring these instruments, we are honoring the God who made us. "To set light by mother and father" is to despise the work of God in our lives, of which they were the first instruments. To despise magistrate and ministers is to do the same thing. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it:

Q104: What does God require in the fifth Commandment?
A104: That I show all honor, love and faithfulness to my father and mother, and to all in authority over me, submit myself with due obedience to all their good instruction and correction, and also bear patiently with their infirmities, since it is God's will to govern us by their hand.

As a child of God I must realize that there are two major components in the forming of me according to the will of God: one of nature, and one of grace. Nature put me into the world in the first half of the 20th century, in the state of Oregon, born of English, Scots/Irish stock, without wealth, but a pretty good pedigree. The families on both sides thought they were better than the other side, but neither were right: both had "character" issues and closet skeletons. I was made to mind, given a public school education, taken to Sunday School and church, and given a Bible at an early age. That's where the grace comes in. It was much later in life that I came to know that nature could never make me a child of God. That life must come from the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Christ. Nature could only make me a child of Adam, with his nature and attributes.

I read the Bible. I heard preaching two times every Sunday and at the Wednesday prayer meetings. I sent to summer camps and vacation Bible schools. I came under conviction of sin. I never ever doubted that the Bible is the word of God, but assurance of salvation was long in coming to me.

By God's grace I learned to have mercy upon my parents and worked hard to strengthen my ties to them. My father died in 1988, my mother in 1999, and I am very happy to know that I had done all I could to honor them and love them. In honoring them, I had learned that I was honoring the God who brought me into the world and saved my soul by the blood of Christ. Although Dad in particular did not live for the praise and glory of God, yet I his son have been enabled by God's grace to praise and glorify God though my honor of my father. In this way, even my father, who seemed not be be a believer, became an instrument for the glory of God. I loved him very much and realize more every day how much I was shaped by him, some of it good--some of it bad, but all under the direction of my Heavenly Father, whose ways are beyond finding out.

Discontented and bitter souls chaff against their Maker and blame God for their troubles. Because they cannot reach up to God and unleash their bitterness on Him directly, they either turn their anger on themselves in self-destructive ways, or they war with their parents, their ministers, their governors. The war in their souls disturbs all around them and they never find success anywhere. They are the authors of their own discontent, but the havoc is spread around.

When thinking of such things, it is a blessing to come back to the lowly columbine. What a beautiful flower! God did not make it a great tree or a mighty mountain. It blooms for a few days and spreads its seeds and vanishes to bloom another year, perhaps sown in another place, its history known only to God.
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