Saturday, March 16, 2019

A MUZZLE


I Was Just Thinking About – A MUZZLE.

Muzzle is a word with multiple applications. Minimally, two of the more common are: (a) the barrel of a gun or pistol; and (b) a device placed over an animal’s mouth to prevent it from biting or eating.
If muzzle is applied to Biblical principles, the application would be to restrain one’s speech and the expression of opinions. This would include bearing a false witness; hypocritical persuasion and expression; lying and propensity toward deceit; gossiping where negatives prevail; etc.

When our children were very young, there was a neighbor who had a boy the age of our children. He was cute and was fun for the children to know and with whom they enjoyed playing. However, there was a major problem. The little boy lived in a home where the parents were given to vulgarity and profanity. It was a difficult situation for our children. The little boy had learned his parent’s vocabulary and would utter profanity often. It was an impossible situation as we attempted to “muzzle” his use of those words while he was playing with our children. Even though we would remind him that if he wanted to come to our home and play with our children he would have to be careful what he said, it was difficult for that boy to express himself without using profanity.

One of the children’s choruses we had sung with our children was: “Be careful little mouth what you say…Be careful little hands what you do…Be careful little feet where you go…” But – their little friend was unchurched and regularly exposed to vulgarities and profanity.

It is obvious that King David was mindful of the importance of the words used in public discourse. In Psalm 39:1 (ESV) he wrote, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” He would go on to pray in verse 4,  Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” James 3:1-12 is a reminder of how important it is for one to tame his/her tongue. The way the tongue is to be used most effectively is stated in Isaiah 50:4 (ESV), “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.”

The guideline that I/We should embrace and always be mindful of is Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV), “Let no corrupt (unwholesome) word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary (and beneficial)  edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” If I/We fail to remember and practice this guideline and instruction, there is a sobering result stated in Ephesians 4:30 (NKJV), “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Verses 31-32 state what the behavior and vocabulary must be, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Do you need to be muzzled? Do your words and speech edify and impart grace to the hearer? In Matthew 12:36, Jesus said: “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless (idle) word they speak.”  You and I are responsible before our Lord and Savior to speak and behave is such a way that our chief end will always be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

DEVOTIONAL


I Was Just Thinking About – DEVOTIONAL.

Many church-attending people are well acquainted with Daily Devotionals that are regularly made available. Our Daily Bread is one that is most common. When people start their day with a time for prayer and Bible Reading, almost always it includes reading some comments of a devotional writer such as Streams in the Desert; My Utmost for His Highest; Daily Light; etc. There is no limit to devotional materials one can use. I usually read some myself, such as: Get More Strength For The Journey; Insight for Living; Daily Treasures; etc. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with doing so unless it detracts from quality time in prayer and diligent reading and study of the Holy Scriptures.

I was listening to a sermon that was given in the presence of hundreds of people who had gathered for an Awakening Conference. The speaker was clear as he stressed two convicting thoughts: (1) Do you reckon with the barrenness in one’s life because of unconfessed sin or any sense of guilt before a Holy God; and (2) Do you wonder about the desert existence of the church where there is little expectation of any display of God’s power and His presence in the midst of the church?

The early indication of what was necessary for there to be any awakening after the ascension of Jesus Christ was observable in the actions of His disciples/apostles. Acts 1:14 describes the scene for us: “With one accord they all continued in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Some translations indicate that they “devoted themselves to prayer.” Following this time of prayer, those who had been cowardly at the crucifixion became bold in their declaration about Jesus Christ. Peter became the spokesman for the group and hundreds became so convicted that they cried out (Acts 2:37): “What must we do?” As the respondents became part of the spiritual awakening that was occurring, Acts 2:42 indicates: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Where there had been barrenness, there now was life; where there had been a desert and nothing to quench their spiritual thirst, there was now the life-sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit that was satisfying and rejuvenating that which was at the throes of death.

One of the most poorly attended gatherings in any church is when a Prayer Meeting or Group is announced. Some churches have surrendered to the inevitable and cancelled any specified time for Prayer. The result is not a surprise. Christianity Today, March 6, 2019 posted a LifeWay Survey that indicated: “6 in 10 Protestant churches are plateaued or declining in attendance and more than half saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past 12 months. The research gives a clear picture of the state of Protestant churches in America today. Most have fewer than 100 people attending services each Sunday (57%), including 21 percent who average fewer than 50.  Twenty-eight percent of Protestant pastors say their church has seen worship service attendance shrink by 6 percent or more compared to three years ago. The lack of growth in worship attendance in most churches is matched by a lack of new commitments to Christ last year.”

It is obvious that the Church cannot accomplish mechanically that which can only be realized spiritually. It is not in the programs devised but in Prayer that is marked by devotedness. It is not by the powerful preaching of the pulpit occupant but by the presence of God and the outpouring of His Spirit that results in confession of sin and renewed commitment to Jesus Christ. We cannot think that we can produce a result that can only be accomplished by God in Jesus Christ (John 3:21).

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

PAROCHIAL PARALYSIS


I Was Just Thinking About – PAROCHIAL PARALYSIS.

There is an expression that indicates: “As now – so then!” The basic idea is that the way one lives now is the predictable way one will live in the future. It also refers to a mindset that easily develops that expresses itself in many ways, among which are: (a) “We’ve always done it this way.” Or,  (b) “We’ve tried that before.” From a parochial standpoint, it is essentially proving” “narrowness in outlook or scope.” This was a problem addressed by Jesus with His disciples early in their learning from Him. The scene is John 4 and the woman at the well. The disciples have gone into a town to purchase food for Jesus and themselves. They question Him as to “why” they are wasting their time when they needed to eat and move on in their journey. After urging Jesus to eat (Verse 31) so they can move along into a place for ministry, He responds (Verse 35), this is not a waste of time but a ministry opportunity: “Do you not say: There are yet four months, then comes the harvest? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

What did Jesus want His disciples to see? The woman He had “wasted His time with” was returning with many of the people from the town where she lived so they could see Jesus and listen to Him. Rather than being in a rush to leave that place, Verse 40 indicates the Samaritans asked Jesus to stay with them. For two more days, Jesus ministered to them. Is there a lesson for the professing Christian and the Church one attends? Yes! There is a need to get over the “parochial paralysis” and begin to represent Jesus in a disciplined and broader ministry purpose.

There were interesting events that occurred almost simultaneously in Selma, Alabama this past weekend. Severe Weather was in the forecast. Tornadoes struct the citizens in Lee County resulting in the death of 23 souls. Meanwhile, the annual March on the Bloody Bridge also was taking place. Notable celebrities were present and gave their typical speeches about voter registration, etc. What was not addressed was the growing educational and personal needs of 42% of the children in Selma. Why is it that the obvious can be and is missed? Sadly, for the city as well as the majority of the churches in Selma, it is parochial paralysis.

Is there a simple solution? No! Many analysts offer their theories and do their fund-raisers but it is seldom from a workable and provable realism. There are many types of methods offered for “Church Growth” and programs that should be embraced. One notable person indicates that he offers a method that will cause a 30% increase in church attendance. However, he is also in a church affiliation where the closure of poorly attended and financially unsound churches are closed annually.

Is there a resolve of any sort? There is a Biblical method that should be energized and where follow-through is needed: Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV), “He gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, the pastors (shepherd-teachers), to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The genuine Christian and Biblical Church is to prove its viability by an active ministry by all affiliated within the Church. A further point that should be embraced is II Timothy 4:5 (ESV), “always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

The people who comprise the membership of the local church must become engaged in DOING the work of ministry. Until then, the church will dwindle in numbers, survive with less financial support, and embrace a non-Biblical contentment with things the way they are. Does this describe YOU and YOUR Church?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.