Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Devotional Thoughts for the New Year: Don't Forget What the Donkey Remembers

Reading: Isaiah 1  
The year 2013 begins with a nation still grieving the tragic loss of 20 children and 6 teachers in Newtown, CT. As necessary and appropriate as this grieving is, there is an unspoken national hypocrisy going on. Many who grieve the loss of these children through this gruesome slaughter would have celebrated had Adam Lanza gone to medical school and become an abortionist. He could have killed 20 children a week and been celebrated. Why? Because those babies are viewed as infringing on the freedom or happiness of another person, giving that person the right to be the judge, jury over the child, and the doctor to be the executioner.
Just because one person doesn't want a particular child, it doesn't lessen the value, the human value, of that person. Adam Lanza apparently did not want those children in Newtown, but that didn't make their lives meaningless. And if a mother or father does not want a child, or if the government of our nation does not want the children of particular segments of our population, that does not make their lives meaningless.
Since 1973 the number of children snuffed out through abortion is greater than the population of half the states in our nation added together. Or to look at it another way, it would be equal to about the populations of California, New York state, Connecticut, and Colorado added together. Where is the outrage? Where is the media coverage? Where is the grief? This does not minimize the grief of the families that suffered the loss of their children in Newtown, nor does it minimize the greatness of the loss of each one of those children. However, the greatness of each of those children lost in Newtown, when understood, magnifies the greatness of the loss through abortion.
Today our nation faces many threats: lunatics like Adam Lanza or James Eagan Holmes (Colorado movie theater shootings), terrorists desiring the destruction of our nation, an economy at its breaking point, moral chaos, and natural disasters the likes of “Superstorm Sandy.” We may well view these issues as the cause of our nations woes, the root problems themselves. However, I am not so sure they aren't the result of our root problems. Like the faithful city of old, the United States, also once a “faithful city” has become “an adulteress”. How so? “Once full of justice” (no, not perfect, but at least attempting to protect the helpless), “but now, murderers!...they do not defend the rights of the fatherless.” (Isaiah 1:21, 23)
How did we get here? What is the root cause of these plagues on our nation? I believe it may well be that we have forgotten what the donkey remembers.
2Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. 3The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand." 4Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. 5Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. (Isaiah 1:2-5)
Isaiah is speaking to the nation of Israel, not the United States. However, Old Testament Israel is in many ways a microcosm of the world. That is to say, God chose Israel to be a messenger to the world. In her disobedience she still fulfilled that calling by modeling for the world the problem with rebellion against God. In truth, all people owe allegiance to God (Acts 17:24-30), for God is the maker and therefore rightful master of every nation. Whether a nation is a Christian nation or not (if there is any such thing) doesn't matter: even heathen nations owe allegiance to God and will suffer harm for living in rebellion against Him. Therefore there is a lot applicable from Isaiah to our own day and nation. Even a donkey knows his masters feeding trough (Isaiah 1:3 HCSB), but as a nation we have forgotten. We are in active forgetting mode: actively trying to deny our Creator.
What does this mean for believers? One may say, “I can't control what the world around me does, so how does this effect me?” True enough, we cannot make the world around us remember God. However, we too must not forget our Master's feeding trough. Where are you feeding? Where have you been feeding in 2012? Where are you going to be feeding in 2013? This I know, if we are going to see a change in the course of our nation it will come only when believers are remembering our Master's feeding trough. It isn't the TV, the radio, the onslaught of meaningless reading materials that are so popular today. There is only one source of Living Water—Jesus Christ. And the place where we feed on Him is through His word, by His Spirit in the place of prayer. It is found in churches where the word of God is proclaimed and explained. It is relationship with Him and His people.
I am not talking about trying harder to be good Christians. That will never do. I am talking about relationship with Him in truth. Relationship that is rooted in how He has revealed Himself to all mankind—the Gospel. Relationship that is personal. I am talking about knowing where we find nourishment. You can't keep eating empty food and expect to stay healthy. Spiritually, we must go to the only place we can find real nourishment: to our Master's feeding trough.
Remembering our Master's feeding trough will be so vital for the church, for every believer, in 2013. Only a church that is feeding in our Master's feeding trough will ever be the witness of God to the world of the life that is truly life. We may or may not ever get laws passed that will protect the unborn, but if we are feeding in our Master's feeding trough, we will have the courage to persuade the mother of the unborn to choose life, we will have the compassion to minister Gospel truth and forgiveness to the mother that has already had an abortion, we will have the strength to adopt children, or foster children, show mercy to the fatherless and orphans, or strengthen the parents and family grieving the loss of their sons and daughters in tragedies like Newtown. Only then will the church be the church it is called to be.
Here are some practical steps to take in order to feed at our Master's feeding trough:
  1. Find a Bible Reading Plan that can work for you. Preferably one that is not dated so you won't get so discouraged if you fall behind. Here is the one I use. Develop a habit of reading that is similar to your habit of eating—regular and necessary.
  2. Find a church that is faithful to the Scriptures and be a faithful member there.
  3. Develop a regular habit of both private and group prayer. Use the Scriptures to help you pray. There are psalms and many prayers written in Scripture that will inform our prayer.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,