John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on his memory of a local legend in his youth, an 85-year-old woman named Mother Barker, who frequently walked several miles, doggedly sacrificing for her family by toting groceries and provisions, makes several observations about the vicissitudes of aging. The inexperienced young and the wiser senior look at the adage, "life is a fleeting vapor," quite differently. In the stream of life, we begin at the back of the pack, influenced by those who have blazed the trail and who have experienced varied adventures. Eventually, we likely assume a position as the most aged of our community, realizing that "old age is not for sissies" and that the cause-and-effect principle behind God's Laws guarantees that, both spiritually and spiritually, everything matters. The indiscretions we committed in our youth have the invariable tendency to whip our hind ends. Even when God forgives our sins, the piper will demand his fee.
"Deference" is a word that receives scant support in these days of individual rights and equality. Solomon, however, makes the subject of deference—that is, being properly respectful and submissive to an authority figure—a major part of Ecclesiastes 8. John Ritenbaugh urges Christians always to see God behind those in power over us, which will help in giving proper deference.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that wisdom is not the answer to all of life's problems, indicates that it is still a valuable virtue, transforming us for good and a sense of well-being. In the matter of deference to civil authority, we must remember that, as ambassadors and sojourners in a foreign land, we must give governing officials respect, even though they may be the basest scoundrels on earth. God may have not directly appointed them, but He passed on their placement in office. Being subject to these officials does not mean that we can obey human laws which conflict with God's laws. We are to pay deference to governing authorities both for conscience sake and so that their oversight enables us to live in peace, a necessary pre-requisite for spiritual growth. Even the local magistrates, elected locally, have been passed on by the Almighty, similarly to Moses' selection of captains of 100, 50, and 10, which were possibly democratically elected by people who knew them best. Our current judicial system, with its appellate levels, evidently was patterned after this Jethro-like concept. Realizing that God allows for human foolishness and that He has allowed the basest scoundrels to hold the highest offices in the land, we are nevertheless, as painful as it may seem to us, obligated to treat them with respect and dignity, realizing that God has a purpose for all of His appointments. Government has been established so that (1) law abiding citizens can be protected, (2) evil doers can be restrained, and (3) order and tranquility can be established. As bad as government can become, the alternative, anarchy, is unthinkable madness and chaos. At our baptism, we made a covenant with Almighty God, giving Him our lives, and remembering that His purposes take precedence over everything else
John Ritenbaugh reflects on two recent news items in which individuals foolishly initiated altercations with police and lost their lives in the process. As a matter of common sense, it seems the height of idiocy to challenge constituted authority. Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 8:17 that we are not privy to God's operations under the sun, but we must nevertheless leave room for God's operations, realizing that He has the prerogative to impose both blessings and calamity, the latter as a response to man's disobedience. God wants us to witness difficulties and the natural consequences of sin. In these difficult times, we need to be mindful that God is carefully watching us. As we yield to God, and apply godly wisdom, analyzing, calculating, observing, etc., our knowledge increases and we add an extra dimension of character as we morph into God's offspring. One of the difficult lessons we must process is that God backs up constituted authority, regardless of the governmental structures that placed it into office. We must realize that whether we are dealing with federal representatives, city council members, the policeman on the beat, our employer, our teachers, or our parents, we owe them the same deference and respect we would give to God. The human family was given by God as the building blocks of all governmental structures. As the beginning of wisdom is fear of Almighty God, we humans learn to fear, giving deference and respect to our parents, and then transfer this deference to civil government and other governmental structures of society. We must continually remember that we are strangers, pilgrims, and sojourners in an alien land. Even if we consider ourselves ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom, our latitude to participate in the governmental structures in this world has been greatly restricted. Nevertheless, we are obligated to render respect, deference, and honor to constituted authority as though we rendered it to God.
Austin Del Castillo, recalling an incident earlier in his life when he allowed his pride at being the only college graduate on his crew to lead him to take his job less seriously or diligently than he should have, examines the destructive, corrosive effects of pride, and the positive value for genuine humility in the workplace and in our relationships with one another. Humility is important as we are guided by God's Holy Spirit; we are obligated to do something constructive with it. The former guardian cherub is the architect of pride, his heart lifted up by his beauty, causing him to develop an entitlement mentality, an affliction shared by all who have carnal human nature. Pride hopelessly distorts our view of reality, as well as our relationship with Almighty God and our fellow called-out ones. We have been called out to be separate, holy, and sanctified, submitting ourselves to one another, rather than elevating ourselves over one another. Being humble is not for the faint of heart, but it requires the Spirit of God operating in our lives.
John Ritenbaugh, continuing the description of the pernicious fruit of secular humanism, pointing out the one-way nature of tolerance, such as respecting the perverse life-style of homosexuals and other aberrant behaviors and disrespecting the rights of those who attempt to faithfully serve God, turns his attention to another eroding virtue becoming almost non-existent in today's society. Deference, or common-sense respect, such as taking off one's hat when entering a room, opening a door for a lady, or showing respect for a senior citizen, has largely disappeared as the emerging generation has been taught by the mores of secular progressivism to "diss" their elders, showing contempt for them. Informality, not in itself a negative quality in the right circumstances, has nevertheless proved "a canary in the mine tunnel," giving an early warning of the impending collapse of our society. Former President Jimmy Carter dropped the ban on denim jeans in the Oval Office, and current President Barack Obama has dropped the requirement to wear a suit coat, inviting the citizenry to have increasing disrespect (and perhaps contempt) leveled toward the office of President. The obsession for 'equality' has led to critical erosion of standards of decency and decorum. Our people are beginning to reap the bitter fruit of disrespect and rebellion against all forms of manners and common-sense deference. In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevia lived through a series of social and cultural revolutions, continually threatening his equilibrium as if he were trying to play a violin walking across the gable of a high roof. We are witnessing a similar deterioration of American culture, but having nowhere to escape (except, thankfully, to God's watchful care). In the meantime, we cannot allow the world's lack of deference to erode our character.
These days, it seems, everyone demands respect but few are willing to grant it to others. It is a rare event and often worthy of note when someone gives up his seat to a woman or elderly person or when a child responds with proper deference. Mike Ford analyzes this international problem, zeroing in on the Bible's injunctions on the subject.
On Tuesday, April 14, 2009, crowds gathered in Bingham Hall, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill educational building, filling the seats with college students, professors, and members of the community, waiting to hear Congressman Tom Tancredo speak about illegal immigration....
John W. Ritenbaugh: In a crowded restaurant not long ago, I noticed that a large number of male patrons entered wearing a hat of some kind, but almost none ever removed it from his head, even after being seated and served. ...
Martin Collins concludes his series on the three illustrations that comprise one long parable in Luke 15. In this part, he explains what is known as the Parable of the Prodigal (or Lost) Son.
Much has been said and written about leadership in the church in the past several years. David Maas writes that godly leadership is an outworking of the virtue of meekness.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing on the processes of developing faith and hope, indicates that the rules for making the calendar, a very complex activity, are not contained in the Bible. To put ones efforts into such a project (especially with limited or elementary knowledge of astronomy or mathematics) constitutes foolish, misguided zeal. Using errant human assumption, some in the greater church of God have concocted no less than nine conflicting calendars. The preservation of the oracles (including the keeping of the calendar) has not been entrusted to the church but to the tribe of Judah (Romans 3:2). Some of the anti-Jewish bias in the would-be calendar makers smacks of anti-Semitism. We need to have faith in God's ability to preserve a working calendar, believing Him unconditionally as Abraham did.
What is the proper balance between respecting someone and showing respect of persons? Is formality among church members necessary? Desirable? How should Christians treat each other in this area?
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that if one does not give up control to God (does not submit to Him), then one is never going to live the Government of God; and one will never be able to understand it. The church is neither an institution nor a corporation, but a living organism- a body connected to the Head (Jesus Christ). The body exists and functions by reason of its vital union to the living Jesus Christ. Church government is family government, with each member submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21). The ministry's authority consists of teaching, edifying, and equipping the members for sainthood, but not to wield dictatorial power over their lives
John Ritenbaugh observes that the fifth commandment provides a bridge, connecting our relationships with God and the relationships with our fellow human beings. It is the pre-eminent commandment of the second set of commandments- serving as a twin center pillar with the Sabbath commandment. The honor and deferential respect accorded to Almighty God should transfer to our physical parents and ultimately to other authority figures in society. Because the family structure provides the basic building block or template for all government, including the Government of God, if the family is undermined, society and government is likewise undermined. Because parents stand in the place of God, parents (because they are the formulators of the child's character) must live a life worthy of reverence as well as taking a timely, active, " hands —on" approach to the child's education and upbringing. God demands that parents produce Godly seed.
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