Monday, March 27, 2017

PONDERING

I Was Just Thinking About - PONDERING.

How much time does one spend in pondering Almighty God - who He is and what He does? Pondering means: “to weigh carefully in the mind; to consider thoughtfully; to meditate.” 
A great Hymn of worship, Praise To The Lord, The Almighty, contains these thoughts in two of the stanzas:

Praise to the Lord, 
who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Who, as on wings of an eagle, uplifteth,  sustaineth.
Hast thou not seen, How thy desires all have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, 
who doth prosper thy work and defend thee,
Who from the heavens 
the streams of His mercy doth send thee.
Ponder anew What the Almighty can do,
Who with His love doth befriend thee!

In response to "What is the chief end of man?", the Westminster Shorter Catechism #1 is: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. One way by which this can be accomplished is the application of Hebrews 13:15-16, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not neglect to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

There can be serious consequences for those who fail to glorify God and enjoy him. He wants us to take Him seriously and to heed His Word in all areas of life. The Lord raised a vital issue with His people in Hosea 4:6, where He said: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you…And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”  One generation can have a negative impact on seceding generations. The Lord also shares with His people that which will delight Him, Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”


Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

LEGACIES

I Was Just Thinking About - LEGACIES.

During the years of pastoral ministry, one of my least favorite tasks was conducting funerals. You may rightfully ask: Why? The dynamic of one’s call to be a Pastor includes an innate love for Jesus Christ, His Church, and His people. A serious Pastor will take that call and dynamic seriously. My difficulty with funerals on the physical level is that a Pastor tries to prove himself friendly with all of his congregation. That also carries over into the development of a sincere love for the people of God. The other difficulty comes when called upon by a family member to read or give a eulogy. It can sometimes make one think of a person as being larger in death than he or she was in life. 

For me, personally, I would like the spiritual to dominate over the physical. I would hope that the words of Jeremiah 9:23-24 would have a prominent place in any eulogy, particularly, my own: “Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Another is the oft repeated words about Joshua and Caleb, Numbers 32:11-12, “Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt…shall see the (promised) land…except Caleb… and Joshua…for they have wholly followed the LORD faithfully.”

At the SCOTUS Confirmation Hearings for Neil Gorsuch, he was asked about what he would want his personal legacy to be. Among his many expressed secular thoughts were these: “And for me, it’s the words I read yesterday from Increase Sumner’s tombstone. And that means as a person, I’d like to be remembered as a good dad, a good husband, kind and mild in private life, dignified and firm in public life. And I have no illusions that I’ll be remembered for very long. If Byron White is as nearly forgotten as he is now, as he said he would be, I have no illusions, I won’t last five minutes; that’s as it should be. The great joy in life, Shaw said, is devoting yourself to a cause you deem mighty before you are thrown on the scrap heap. An independent judiciary in this country, I can carry that baton for as long as I can carry it, and I have no illusions i’m going to last as long as you suggest, and that’ll be good enough for me.”

It bears out the spiritual legacy: “Only one life, it will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”


Prayerfully - consider these things with me. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

PSYCHOLOGICAL MALFUNCTION

I Was Just Thinking About - Psychological Malfunction.

A politician once voiced about being in Washington, DC, “If you want to have a friend, get a dog!” I suppose this was borne out of several factors such as trust, integrity, dependability and camaraderie. Along this line, in Seminary a professor in Practical Theology Class once indicated to those anticipating becoming a Pastor: “When you get into the Church, you will find that many people are disgustingly human.”

A devotional writer once indicated: “It is disconcerting when realizing how fickle we are in friendships. In honest moments, we could list the people we no longer get in touch with, or the phone calls we don’t return. In life, solid, faithful-to-the-core friendships are few and far between.” As we become older, childhood friends are very few. I am grateful for College and Seminary friends with whom some contact is maintained. One of my dearest friends is Larry. We are from dissimilar denominations and theological persuasion. Geographically, we live in different parts of the country and haven’t seen each other in years. However, I know that if I called Larry today with a need or prayer request, he would immediately stop what he is doing and seek the face of the Lord about that which was shared. 

Over half a century of ministry, I have become keenly aware of varying types of personalities and needs, The disappointments, pain, heartaches, disconnection, loneliness etc. I often think of the practicality of some Hymns. One is by Johnnie Hallet - - -
There’s no disappointment in Jesus, 
He’s all that he promised to be;
His love and His care comfort me everywhere, 
He is no disappointment to me.

Another is by A.A. Ackley- 
Heartaches, take them all to Jesus,
Go to Him today, Do it now without delay.
Heartaches, take them all to Jesus,
He will take your heartaches all away.

    Part of one’s redemption in Christ and being a Biblical Christian is the deliverance from psychological malfunction. Jesus reminds us in John 15:14-15, “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants…I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.” One of the keys to overcoming psychological malfunction is to embrace and implement Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”


Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIVING

I was Just Thinking About – VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIVING.
This morning I was proof reading a chapter of a soon to be published book on the subject: Christian Living – Intentional or Accidental? I thought you might like to read some of the thoughts shared. In context, I have written: The question to ponder is apt: Are you living the intentional Christian life, or a life that is more accidental and haphazard?

Years ago an emphasis for Christian living was referenced as The Victorious Christian Life. The strong influence was promoted by, The Torchbearers and the Keswick Movement (both operated out of Great Britain). Part of the emphasis was to learn to live above the circumstances rather than to be bogged down by them. The goal of Torchbearers (founded by Major Ian Thomas) was to provide practical Christian education designed to develop personal spiritual growth. It also had in view the preparation of people for a functional and effective life through the Church. To accomplish the goals entailed development and increase of one’s knowledge of the Bible. 

The Keswick Movement had a twofold emphasis upon justification and sanctification. The early influence of the Movement was based upon the teachings of John Wesley and Adam Clarke. Other Christian leaders became involved in the Keswick Movement, such as the missionary, Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission and the writer, Oswald Chambers.

The emphasis of both groups that resonated most with me was the need for holiness in one’s life. In my earliest acquaintance with both groups, three verses captured my attention and focus. 

The first was Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  This was often connected to Romans 12:1-2 and the need for one to learn and implement the concept of presenting one’s own self to the Lord to become living sacrifice offered to Him.

The second verse that resonated and influenced my focus was II Chronicles 20:15, Do not fear or be dismayed…for the battle is not yours but God's.” It related to the need for one to implement Hebrews 12:2 and to, “Keep on looking to Jesus…” and not the baggage that often accompanies one’s life and the circumstances by which one is often surrounded.

 The third verse was Hebrews 12:14, Pursue…holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” This was connected to I Peter 1:15-16 and serves as a constant reminder and requirement, “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy.”  This emphasis was and has to be with the lifestyle choices one makes and the relationships one chooses to develop.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Friday, March 17, 2017

AFFLATUS VERSUS APATHY

I Was Just Thinking About – AFFLATUS VERSUS APATHY.

Do you wonder about how the Church became so bureaucratic and micromanaged by denominational edicts? Do you wonder about why the local Church prides itself in its independent spirit? Do you wonder why Churches in many communities split periodically? Do you think it is because of dominant power figures within the local Church who follow a rule or ruin approach and philosophy? What if the Church existed by God’s edicts and for His purposes, would you notice any difference in the Church you attend? If the Church was afflatus, it would be one that came into being by “a divine impulse or inspiration.”

Dr. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote about: “Each local company (of people) is ideally and should be actually equipped to do anything that the Head of the church wills to accomplish. Wherever such a company is found, there is the true church, the complete church...Each local church is a fellowship in the deepest spiritual meaning of that word…It cannot be produced by organization…Organization did not create the church; it was imposed upon a church already present, a church which had been born out of the preaching of the gospel. For it is always the gospel that produces the church; there can be no church apart from the gospel.
Is his written view Biblical? If so, what is it based upon?

I Corinthians 12:12, 27
“The body is a unit, though it is comprised of many parts. And although its parts are many, they all form one body. So it is with Christ… Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.”

What should the body of believers do if it is to survive and be effective? A verse that addresses this in part is Proverbs 29:14 (KJV), “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Is that why active membership in churches shrivels and ceases to exist? There needs to be the concern and readiness of regaining God's vision for His people and Church.

Can this trend or tendency in a local church be reversed? The answer is, Yes! It will not occur by osmosis but by actively heeding and doing the words of Jesus Christ. What is that word? Start with Revelation 2:1-7, “I know your deeds, your labor, and your perseverance…But I have this against you: You have abandoned your first love. Therefore, keep in mind how far you have fallen. Repent and perform the deeds you did at first. But if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place.”

Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote about Revelation 2:5, “Remember the threefold prescription of our Savior: remember, repent, and return. May God grant that we might remember our first love and from whence we are fallen. What a tragic term “fallen” is. You are a fallen woman . . . a fallen man. You have fallen from your first love. Repent from your spiritual apathy. Return to your first love for Jesus.”

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

FEAR

I Was Just Thinking About – FEAR.

Yesterday, March 14th, Rush Limbaugh did a radio monologue on the subject: “The Crisis Mentality." He said: “We have to face it. We’ve made everybody afraid of everything. We literally have instilled a crisis mentality and a fear culture throughout our country. Our current culture has managed to make people afraid of everything except, of course, the one thing they should really fear, and that is runaway, rampant, radical socialism, communism…that’s what ought to make people afraid. One hundred million people have been killed by radical, socialist regimes and governments in the history of the world.”

Amid the Great Depression and in his first Presidential Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the nation and said: ”This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

It seems strange to think of God’s people and fear in the same sentence but Biblical Christians are besieged and immobilized by inner fears. If fear becomes one’s reality, what should be the immediate spiritual reflex or response. At the very least, one should remember and rely upon: (1) the sovereignty of God; (2) the presence of God; (3) the power of God; and (4) the promises of God; and (5) where one is positionally, secure in the hand of God. I like to think of some of the words written by Charles Wesley in the Hymn, Arise, My Soul, Arise. Some of the lyric reminds one: “Arise, my soul, arise, shake off your guilty fears: the bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears…He ever lives above, for me to intercede, his all-redeeming love, his precious blood to plead…”

There are also the precious promises of God to His people, such as: Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Also, Isaiah 43:1-5: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…I am the LORD your God…Fear not, for I am with you.” There is this reminder in II Corinthians 1:18-20, “But as surely as God is faithful…all the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him, our ‘Amen’ (so be it) is spoken to the glory of God.”

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

BEING BEFUDDLED

I Was Just Thinking About – BEING BEFUDDLED.
There are times when one’s life can become overwhelmed by personal responsibilities, general concerns, or unexpected news or contacts. At such a moment, it can leave one without a clear sense of what choice to make in terms of prioritizing. My use of the word “befuddle” isolates one of the possible definitions, “to confuse or perplex.” Some of the synonyms clarify the meaning: “perplex, bewilder, baffle, daze.”

A person may become befuddled by a lack of discipline in terms of (a) personal ability, (b) personal responsibility, and (c) a personal view of one’s being indispensable. In terms of Church ministry, one must measure choices in terms of calling, giftedness, skill sets, and humility. Ah, you may think – why is humility mentioned? The answer is due to one’s personal ambition and drive for recognition.
The general guideline for calling is given in Ephesians 4:7-13, “Now to each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. This is why it says…(He)gave gifts to men…it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.”
That which is often blurred or missed completely is that we are to be co-laborers in the cause of Christ. Ideally, the “pecking order” in ministry should not be desired or clung to tenaciously. Pecking Order is more of a term pertaining to Poultry: “a dominance hierarchy, seen especially in domestic poultry, that is maintained by one bird pecking another of lower status: a sequence or hierarchy of authority in an organization or social group." Does this occur within religious groups? Sadly, the answer is: Yes! Hackneyed ideas and expressions, such as: “cream always rises to the top” should be seen for what they are, excuses for maintenance of a religious pecking order. I wonder if this is a reason why people withdraw from churches, such as the “Nones” and “Dones” of twenty-first century Christianity. I wonder if this is a reason why some individuals isolate themselves away from the “hypocrites” as they see them within church memberships. There’s plenty of denial that goes on as effort is made to gloss over the mechanics of church and religious-oriented organizations.
Jesus prays in this regard, John 17:11, “Holy Father, protect them by Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.” Paul expressed in Ephesians 4:1-3, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Is this our commitment to fellow-believers today?
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.