The sons of Issachar are described as “those who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32). Daniel speaks of God as the one who “reveals secrets” (Dan. 2:28-29). The apostles command us to pray for the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:17). This is not some giddy, charismatic sixth sense, but a solid wisdom revealed in space and time to those who have the Spirit of truth and are led by him.
Consecration is at the heart of Christian discipleship. A consecrated life is not finding room for a little religion in one’s life. When life is a mirror of one’s religion, there consecration exists. It does not require monastic orders. It is far different than talking about one’s religion all the time, claiming to have all the answers, and trying to be the conscience of everyone around you. Said as simply as I know how, a life consecrated to Jesus Christ is marked by the commitment to serve and submit to him in everything.
We live in extraordinary times. Each day we hear of bold perversity and cruel violence against human life and property. Leaders stir God’s hand against us by their aggressive war against him and his Christ. A deadly blindness has descended over our land. Many are the evils of our day; many are the schemes of the wicked; many are the fears and frustrations that grip the souls of men. Behind them all, God is judging us for our rebellion, driving his enemies forward to madness, and abandoning them to the corrupt desires of their heart.
When was the last time you took a few minutes and seriously, quietly reflected upon God’s goodness to you? Perhaps it has been rough week at home, but are your children healthy, happy, included in God’s covenant promises? Do you see evidence of his working in their life, that they have not run off to the world but with all their struggles keep coming back and listening, desiring peace and reconciliation with you? You have more than enough reason to glorify God, to be deeply struck by his faithfulness and goodness. But are they wandering in wilderness of rebellion, breaking your heart?
Several weeks ago, I took my grandmother to visit my father’s grave. As I walked with her down the familiar slope toward the place of his interment, we passed by many gravestones. Most had Christian symbols and promises – a reminder that whatever we may profess in life, only biblical religion gives us hope in death. “Resurgiam,” “Sleeping in Hope of Everlasting Life,” and “I Am the Good Shepherd” were common. Gingerly, I picked a path through the granite and marble memorials: much fairer above than below ground, I thought. Still, I would not walk on the dead. They have beheld what I have not.
Our Savior’s love for us and his surpassing loveliness is the fountain of true and abiding joy. Yet because our faith is so weak, he seems far away, glorious and desirable but remote and untouchable. Oh well, we say to ourselves, he is in heaven, surrounded by all the glittering hosts, while I am still on earth, where there is so much trouble and filth. What good does his loveliness do me? Such thinking is the reason shockingly few believers really give themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord’s word.
Called before the Roman governor of his province in the wake of fresh persecution against the church, Polycarp of Smyrna could have saved his life. The aged pastor needed only to recognize the validity of the Roman Emperor’s claims to be divine, or at least the highest expression of the divine on earth. He need not wholly repudiate his own faith, but find room in his conscience for the claims of others, to work within the polytheistic system of his times without narrow dogmatism. He would not compromise.
It is my prayer that the Lord will give us far greater fervency in seeking his face and speaking of his grace and truth in Jesus Christ than we have for the quadrennial circus of sound bites, lies, and vilification. Whoever wins the Presidential sweepstakes, this will remain a nation under judgment – be he the lesser of two evils, the hope of millions, or the promise of change. Nothing substantial has changed with us. We have not repented and are under the wrath of the King. As a nation, as a mishmash of peoples and gods, as a government, we do not kiss the Son of God (Ps. 2:10).
If we take God’s word seriously, the obsessions, vanities, and distractions of modern life, as well as its fears and frustrations, are unmistakable signs of the fool’s heart: rushing to judgment, unsettled, discontent, easy prey for promises of easy happiness, self-absorbed. This is a miserable way to live. Think of its destructive impact upon mothers whom God calls to be settled and quiet in guarding the home, upon children who must be sufficiently focused to prepare to serve God.
The amount of information available to us is numbing. It is also distracting, for most of it is utterly worthless. It seems important but only because our short time of personal participation is short. The desire is strong to thrash around, stay informed, and add our thoughts and deeds to the mix. Do not get me wrong. History, past and present, is important. Believing in Jesus does not give us permission to retreat within enclaves of spirituality. We testify and hope in a crucified, resurrected, and reigning Savior – all in history.