Monday, November 24, 2014

HOW CAN I SAY THANKS?

From My Perspective - - - 

When I was a boy, the church we attended had Junior Church for those under age twelve. There were probably forty of us who would attend each week. One day, the lady who led the Junior Church brought in a large box of Chocolate Candy. It appeared to be the largest box any of us had seen. After we did the preliminaries, she invited us to line up in an orderly fashion to file past the box of candy she was holding and to take any one piece we wanted to try. After we returned to our chairs, she indicated that there was plenty more candy. If we wanted another piece, we were to line up once again and file by and choose another piece of candy. After we returned to our chairs, she remarked that she was happy to share her box of chocolates with us. However, there was one thing missing - no one had expressed “thank you” for this special treat she so kindly shared. Additionally, it was during wartime (World War II) and chocolate candies were not that abundant. That experience has remained with me for many years that no one said “thank you” for the gracious gift that was being shared with us.

In 1971, a musician who had become a follower of Jesus Christ, Andrae Crouch, penned the words to a song he had written called, “My Tribute.” The Lyrics contain these words: “How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me? Things so undeserved, yet You gave to prove Your love for me; the voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude. All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Thee.” The song also contains words about the act of God’s Grace in His Son, Jesus Christ: “With His blood He has saved me, with His power He has raised me; to God be the glory for the things He has done.” Then the song moves into the area of personal desire and commitment when he wrote: “Just let me live my life, let it pleasing, Lord to Thee, and if I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary…to God be the glory for the things He has done.” The focus is one of Giving Thanks for the work of God’s love, mercy and grace and God’s act of redemption in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:14-17 contains this instruction for one’s application: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” There is a resounding Hymn that invites and encourages us to: “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come!” There are several sections in the Book of Psalms that remind and assist us in what one with a thankful heart should do. Psalms 95 through 100, Psalms 114 through 118, and Psalms 145 through 150 - all urging us to sing and shout joyfully to the Lord with thanksgiving! The Book 0f Psalms closes with these words: (Psalm 150:6) “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!”

There are two interesting statements as it pertains to who and when thanksgiving can be offered. The first is Psalm 6:4-6, “…O Lord, rescue my soul; save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; in Sheol who will give You thanks?” Second, a similar perspective and statement is made in Isaiah 38:18-19. After King Hezekiah has been healed, his prayer contains these words: “For Sheol cannot thank You, death cannot praise You; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. It is the living who give thanks to You, as I do today…” Take special note of these words, “It is the living who give thanks to You, as I do today…” 

As you gather around your Thanksgiving Table, will the living gathered be giving thanks to a great God Who showers you and your family with countless blessings. How often do you thank Him for all that he has done and is doing in your behalf? A way to begin to give thanks is to sing the Doxology, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow…” This would be consistent with Psalm 150:6. Another possibility would be to sing the Hymn (at the very least, the chorus): “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided - Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!” Count your blessings and name them one by one - it will surprise when you consider all that God has done in your behalf. May God grant each of you a joyous Thanksgiving! May you be richly blest in and by Him! Consider these things with me!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

PRETENTIOUSNESS

From My Perspective - - - 

Pretentiousness is a descriptive term (adjective) that has the following usages: “one who is full of pretense; one who makes an exaggerated outward show; one who is ostentatious (One who tries to attract attention; an effort to impress others); an assumption of exaggerated or undeserved self-importance.” The synonyms include the description of one who is: “pompous, bombastic or showy.” Generally, it represents one who goes through life pretending to be what he is not (and likely will never be). In secular terms, he is a phony and one who attempts to fake it. In religious terms, it is one who presents himself to be what he is not and is classified as one who is a hypocrite. 

Details about the Affordable Care Act and what it was designed to accomplish is becoming more apparent with each passing day. The Wall Street Journal for November 14, 2014 contained these comments regarding the candor of Jonathan Gruber: “As a rule, Americans don’t like to be called stupid, as Jonathan Gruber is discovering. Whatever his academic contempt for voters, the Obama-Care architect and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his candor about the corruption of the federal budget process. In his now-infamous talk at the University of Pennsylvania last year, Professor Gruber argued that the Affordable Care Act would not have passed had Democrats been honest about the income-redistribution policies embedded in its insurance regulations. But the more instructive moment is his admission that this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure Congressional Budget Office did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” At the very least, this is a display of blatant pretentiousness and an abandonment of integrity in a most raw form. It is a classic display of doing what ever one has to do to accomplish a goal and objective regardless of truth and honest representation. In other words, it allows for the end desired being attained by any means necessary. Government is able to function in this manner when people have allowed themselves to  become gullible, indifferent, ignorant and dependent on largesse (distribution of free stuff) from the government that is following a course of being disingenuous (lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity).

Why does an elected government decide to go down the path of deceit and recklessness? It is due to the personal character of the elected and appointed individuals who have jettisoned their scruples and their regard for for the citizenry. Those who lie are clearly identified by Jesus in John 8:43-44 (NASB), “"Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” This may sound harsh but it is factual. Our leaders lie because they are given to the practice of deception by the father of all lies. the devil. 

Why have people become lazy and government-dependent? The Bible addresses the subject of man and his work ethic. In II Thessalonians 3:7-12 is a basic principle for personal application. The Message paraphrase words it bluntly: “Don't you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? If you don't work, you don't eat. And now we're getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately - no excuses, no arguments - and earn their own keep…don’t slack off in doing your duty. If anyone refuses to obey our clear command written in this letter, don't let him get by with it. Point out such a person and refuse to subsidize his freeloading. Maybe then he'll think twice.” Rather than becoming the objects of shame, we have allowed a large portion of the culture to become dependent. The culture represents them to be people who deserve pity, compassion and recipients of that for which others have diligently worked to attain. Proverbs 28:19 (NIV) should be remembered and implemented: “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.” Consider these things with me!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

IMPRESSION AND PERCEPTION


From My Perspective - - - 

One of the definitions of perception is: “immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment.” The Synonyms are: “awareness, sense, recognition.” There are at least two important aspects of interactional life: (1) the impression one makes when meeting another person or group of people. An often used cliche is: “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” The significance to the validity of this  cliche is that “you will never have a second chance to make a first impression.” (2) Perceptions occur in the way one presents himself. A sloppy appearance would indicate a careless or indifferent person. A limp hand shake would indicate a lack of self-confidence. Slouching might indicate individual insecurity. Rightly or wrongly, impressions are made and perceptions are formed from the beginning of an interactional relationship.

On November 3, 2014, Peggy Noonan’s Posted Blog was titled: “How To Lose and Win Graciously.” Her thesis, observation and perception regarding the 2014 elections was: “If the president’s party loses big on Tuesday, as appears likely, much of the loss will be due to 3 C’s—competence, coherence and credibility. Competence: The administration has shown little talent for or focused interest in running the federal government well, and has managed the executive agencies very poorly. Coherence: The administration has been unable to explain persuasively the reasoning behind its current priorities (global warming? really?) or its decisions in areas from foreign policy to Ebola in a way that has allowed the public to follow their thinking. Credibility: If you want your doctor you can keep your doctor, red lines, it’s highly unlikely Ebola will come here, there’s not a smidgen of corruption in the IRS, etc. It’s a terrible thing when a president loses his credibility. Absolute failure in any one of the 3 C’s will bring trouble, and when you fail in all three you get very big, even historic trouble.”

If we adapt and apply these considerations to a Biblical Christian lifestyle and interaction with others - “competence, coherence and credibility” - they will be factors in the impression one makes upon others and the perceptions that will be formed by them. The Biblical Christian, in addition to being measure by these three verities, will also be measured by other factors that include clarity in articulation, content of one’s character, purpose to one’s life and precision in one’s articulation. When the church was being persecuted in the first century, the Apostle Peter wrote: “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” The key phrase to highlight is: “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15-16). In other translations, the word “reason” is used in place of “make a defense: (apologia). The NLT renders it: “if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”

Two things that Peter links together are vital to a viable impression and perception being formed. The first is “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” It keeps in mind an old Hymn Lyric: “What you are speaks so loud, the world can’t hear what you say. They're looking at your walk not listening to your talk they're judging by your actions every day. Don't believe you'll deceive by claiming what you've never known, they'll accept what they see and know you to be, they'll judge by your life alone.” Once the impression is made that one is living what he is sharing, there will be an openness to accept the authenticity of the defense and reason for the hope has one through the Gospel. What impression do you make with others? What is their perception of the words you share with them? Do they perceive you are faking it and merely going through religious motions? Jesus said: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Does your life reflect Jesus who is the true light? Proverbs 4:18 reminds us, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter…” Do these words describe who you really are? Consider these things with me! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WEIGHTY MATTERS

From My Perspective - - - 

In a culture and world with shifting priorities and values, ethical and moral values are allowed to become obscured. Those who adhere to Biblical foundational principles and moral values know what is right and wrong in God’s sight. When the secular culture is allowed to influence and dominate public discourse, spiritual values begin to be suppressed and sacrificed. As the trend persists, it becomes a weight and burden that is difficult to bear. Despite the fact of spiritual instruction to: :Cast your burdens upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22), the burdens of life can appear to be overwhelming. In like manner, when Peter instructed the persecuted Church to: “Humble yourselves…under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties (cares) on Him, because He cares for you” (I Peter 5:6-7), he goes on to write about ongoing suffering one can expect: “Resist him (your adversary), firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (I Peter 5:9-10).

For those seeking to preserve and adhere to Biblical principles and values, a further instruction zeroes in on the expected behavior of a follower of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12:1-2 instructs: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…” The cloud of witnesses are all those who persevered “by faith” (Hebrews 11), as well as the model of Jesus Christ that is shared in Hebrews 12. What is included in the weight that is to be laid aside? There are at least two broad areas that should be considered as the “weighty matters.” The first area includes the things that should be removed (put away) from us, such as: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice…” (Ephesians 4:29-30). This baggage and weights enumerated will bog one down and prevent forward progress in spiritual growth and development. 

The other area zeroes in on interaction by and among people. Jesus was very clear in His instruction about one’s perspective and behavior: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). Two other areas indicated are: “And you shall shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…mind…strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). There is one other aspect that must be included as the commandments of love are being implemented in one’s life. It appears in I Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” The Amplified New Testament expands on the application of: “Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].” We would do well to  remove the “weighty matters” that are debilitating as we put on the spiritual applications of love which bring us into harmony with the love that God has toward us. Consider these things with me.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

DYSTOPIA

From My Perspective - - - 

Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden, is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of “Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?” among other books. He wrote a column in the Washington Post (November 10, 2014) with the headline: “The midterms were a big, dystopic groan from an electorate that knows something fundamental is broken and nobody’s trying to fix it.” The first paragraph of his column indicates the possibility of the “dystopic groan” to which he refers: “Various post-midterms analyses suggest that significant numbers of voters did not hear the economic message they sought and thus stayed home or located somewhere on the annoyed, disgusted continuum by voting against the dysfunctional status quo.” The column goes on to advocate a remedy that would include the return to Labor Union bargaining power in behalf of the middle class worker.

To be given over to dystopia means: “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” The origin and history of the word suggests that it is: “an imaginary bad, abnormal and difficult place.” The British Dictionary definition indicates it is: “an imaginary place where everything is as bad as it can be.” It is interesting that Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus lists the two synonyms for dystopia as “antiutopia and apocalypse.” The antonym given is “dreamland.” Another term that is closely associated with the idea of dystopia is “malaise: “a feeling of unease or depression…a complex of problems affecting a country and economy.” The secular world interprets events and conditions dictated by a current and prevailing cultural vacuum. For instance, the Etymology Dictionary understands malaise as stemming from “pain, suffering, sorrow and anxiety.”

There is a alternative to the current and prevailing cultural vacuum. A Biblical analysis for the dystopic groans and malaise would include Proverbs 29:1-2 (NIV), “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy. When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan.” The stated cause for the Dystopic Groan is: “but when a wicked man rules, people groan.” In the NLT, “When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” Similarly, in Proverbs 28:12 (ESV), “When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.” We live in a day and time when “If Only” seems to be part of the thought and wonderment of the day. This is especially true when we consider it in terms of “If Only” we would return to our spiritual roots and focus as a nation. What would be a result “If Only” we did so? The answer is given in Proverbs 14:34 (ESV), Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” The NLT states: “Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”

In terms of the future and the hope one should possess in the present, Romans 8:18-24 addresses the issue of dystopic groans with these words: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And…we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” In so-called “Christian” entries in social media, one can read words of hopelessness and despair. They are looking at the world through the secular lens only. However, the Biblical Christian looks at the world through a spiritual lens. We need to return to the spiritual principle that governed Abraham (Romans 4:18) “in hope against hope he believed.” It lends itself to what is stated about Abraham in Romans 4:3, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” This relates to us today because “if you belong to Christ, you are Abraham's descendants, and heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). You are to be a Biblical Christian given to constant rejoicing in the Lord. Despite the times in which one may be living, our hope is in the Lord and our triumph is secure (Romans 8:31-39). If in doubt, read the end of The Book (The Bible). We win! Consider these things with me.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

PUSSYFOOTERS

From My Perspective - - - 

When the 45th Governor of Alabama, George Corley Wallace, Jr., became a candidate for President on the American Independent Party ticket, he made a memorable and worthy statement regarding why he had shifted from another Presidential attempt with the Democratic Party. It was due to his observations and characterizations that the politicians had become pussyfooters. When he used this term, he was inferring that they were apt to “move stealthily or cautiously; to act timidly to avoid committing oneself.” 

Sadly, it is not just in the area of politics where “pussyfooters” are prominent. The culture is not only dictating to the government. The Church is also succumbing to the cultural pressures and adapting to the alternative lifestyle choices of a society that has moved toward the edge of the dangerous precipice that will lead to demise. Rather than standing in the gap as a roadblock to the places of danger and demise, the church has assumed the posture of accommodation and a willingness to adjust and adapt. The words of Proverbs 24:10-12 (NASB) should be etched upon our hearts, minds and souls: “If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited. Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.If you say, See, we did not know this, Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?” The NLT paraphrase is: “If you fail under pressure, your strength is not very great. Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don't stand back and let them die. Don't try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn't know about it. For God knows all hearts, and he sees you. He keeps watch over your soul, and he knows you knew! And he will judge all people according to what they have done.” 

The point being made is obvious: (1) the danger of falling under pressure; (2) the avoidance of responsibility; (3) the thought that God might not know what you knew and when you knew it; and (4) the hope that one will not be held accountable for what one has done (or not done). The word of God is clear regarding what constitutes holiness, righteousness and godliness. Romans 3:10-23 is a clear statement of what God sees and knows about the sinful behavior within a given culture and society. It culminates in verse 23 with the summary statement: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” However, there is always the word of hope because of God’s readiness to act in a redemptive way to remedy the cultural and societal propensity to head toward demise as they slide into the abyss of certain destruction. Romans 3:24-26 states the word of deliverance and hope: “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Man is unable to activate this process because: “Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” An evidence of the fact of justification having been actuated in one’s soul and life will be the change that begins to occur. This process is known and defined as: “sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole person after the image of God, and are enable more and more to die to sin and live unto righteousness.” If the process of change is not occurring, then there should be no claim to an act that may not have occurred. The pussyfooter pastor may be an enabler and allow a lost person to think they are going to heaven because they have been a long-standing church member and have consistently tried to do good. The danger to this is that it ignores a very clear declaration in Ephesians 2:8-10 of the proper redemptive order: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Paul was not a pussyfooter. Consider these things with me!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

LABELS

From My Perspective - - - 

The technological progress made in this generation allows for media use of commercials about various products that are available. Almost one-third of a television hour is given over to the promotion of various products. There are claims and demonstrations of what a particular product can do. However, to learn more about a product, one needs to locate it in a store and read the Label of that product. This enables one to learn both the positives or negatives so a potential buyer can reach a determination to either buy and try or to replace it on the shelf. Obviously, labels serve a useful purpose. They disclose who produced the product, the location where the product was prepared, the weight of the content and the various ingredients within.  Some products, such as tobacco or over the counter medications,  are required to issue a warning on their label that indicates use or misuse of a product can be harmful to the user.

In the area of politics, every community is beleaguered with signs everywhere advocating one should vote for the person named for a particular position. With the use of other media, politician A will attempt to define politician B. It has become an expensive process and millions of dollars are raised and spent to convince or persuade the voter how they should mark their ballot. It has become and is a time of considerable negative advertising and circulation of a narrative that besmirches one’s opponent or contrary cause. Amendments are usually written in such a way that they confuse rather than inform. As a result, it has become difficult to ascertain the truth about a candidate or cause.

When we traverse into the realm of religion, there is also a similar confusion. Labels abound when it comes to media communicators and the various churches they represent. The labels used are along the line of Liberal versus Orthodox, Modernist versus Fundamentalist, Evangelical versus Neo-evangelical, etc. On November 4, 1935, J. Gresham Machen wrote in The Presbyterian Guardian the following: “However, it is a different matter when we are choosing terminology that we shall actually use about ourselves. When we are doing that, I think we ought to be just as careful as we possibly can be. The term Fundamentalism seems to represent the Christian religion as though it had suddenly become an “ism” and needed to be called by some strange new name. I cannot see why that should be done. The term seems to me to be particularly inadequate as applied to us conservative Presbyterians. We have a great heritage. We are standing in what we hold to be the great central current of the Church’s life—the great tradition that comes down through Augustine and Calvin to the Westminster Confession of Faith. That we hold to be the high straight road of truth as opposed to vagaries on one side or on the other. Why then should we be so prone to adopt some strange new term?” His preference was to champion being Orthodox. He added: “Orthodoxy means, as we have seen, “straight doxy” [or "straight teaching, straight doctrine"]. Well, how do we tell whether a thing is straight or not? The answer is plain. By comparing it with a rule or plumb line. Our rule or plumb line is the Bible. A thing is “orthodox” if it is in accordance with the Bible.”

On a personal basis, Paul wrote about the importance of a Label in II Corinthians 3:2-3 (NKJV), “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” If we substitute one word, the verse would read: “You are a LABEL known and read by all men.” The ingredients of one’s life has been “written by the Spirit of God.” The product of one’s life will be a statement of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that is easily read and known by all people. When people look at the Label of your life, do they see favorable ingredients that are desirable and beneficial or do they read a Warning that emulating you could be hazardous to their spiritual health and well-being? You are a label that others see and observe. May they see in you that which is favorable and desirable for spiritual nurture and benefit. Consider these things with me.