Monday, September 25, 2017

AWAKENING (Part 1)

I Was Just Thinking About – AWAKENING (Part 1).

Reference is often made to the plea and prayer of David in Psalm 85:5-7 (NASB) for spiritual revival, “Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your lovingkindness, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.” David had a sense of the spiritual dearth (a scarcity or lack of something) that can so easily creep into one’s life and Church, resulting in coldness to the things of God.

In this nation in the early 1700s, this had become the spiritual drift in the British-American colonies. Bursting on the scene were two dynamic men Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. They were key to a spiritual revival that swept throughout the colonies. Jonathan Edwards, the Yale minister who refused to convert to the Church of England, became concerned that New Englanders were becoming far too concerned with worldly matters. It seemed to him that people found the pursuit of wealth to be more important than John Calvin's religious principles. Edwards forcefully declared: "God was an angry judge, and humans were sinners!" It was reported that he spoke with such fury and conviction that people flocked to listen. It became known as The Great Awakening. Out of that time of forceful declaration of God’s Word came his sermon: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Many people were brought to tears and came repenting of their sins against a Holy God.

In addition to Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), George Whitefield (1714-1770) was a minister from Great Britain who toured the American colonies. An actor by training and with good stage presence, he would forcefully declare the word of God, weep with sorrow, and tremble with passion as he delivered his sermons. Colonists flocked by the thousands to hear him speak. He converted slaves and a few Native Americans. It was reported that the religious skeptic Benjamin Franklin had come to hear him speak in Philadelphia and was also impacted by what he heard. What was so unique about their ministry and sermons?

In part, it was a dramatic shift and break from the Church of England and the formalism, rituals and traditions it represented. Additionally, there was an emphasis on the centrality of Prayer. A servant of the Lord who is committed to Church Revitalization has shared: “Prayer is the most critical and essential element in the DNA of a local church. Martin Luther said: Prayer is the daily business of the Christian. John Calvin said: We see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer. John Wesley said: There is nothing without prayer.” Where do you believe you/we should focus and implement? 

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

REVIVAL REFLECTIONS

I Was Just Thinking About – REVIVAL REFLECTIONS.
What is the underlying basis and fact of true Biblical Revival. Many verses are cited to define what is meant by true revival. What do you mean when you use that term? The Church that announces and publicizes three days in the Fall for Revival, what does that mean? What is the expectation? What do the spiritual leaders of that particular Church anticipate happening? Is there a track record that proves an annual time for “revival” has achieved any attainable spiritual goal? Has there been – will there be any recognizable transformation in the lives of individuals; the Church; the community?
A passage that describes spiritual renewal is Isaiah 61:1 (NASB), “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” Does that describe the “community revivals” you’ve witnessed over the years?
Isaiah 61:3 goes on the describe something very special and significant: “To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So, they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” What a beautiful picture of a potential outcome for a time of spiritual renewal. We should be taken by the last comment of the verse that describes the work that only God can do and that which will be recognized as an act of His grace and His purpose – “they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
Can that occur in the twenty-first century church? It better! We need to recognize the desperateness of “business as usual” especially as we note the lack of interest in that type ministry contentment. When will here be the recognition that this “Titanic” is taking water, and will soon be nothing more than part of a debris field on the ocean’s floor – just a fading memory of what once was and that which it might have become.
What will people become when God does His work among them? What will people observe about them? Isaiah 61:10 indicates: “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult (feel elation or jubilation) in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Does this describe how we appear before a watching world today? Or, do people observe diversity, hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, stubbornness, or worldliness? The place where we need to begin is honest assessment of one’s own relationship to the Lord. Then, with humility and contriteness become desirous of the daily presence of God in one’s life. Like Jacob of old, persist (Genesis 32:26) – “I will not let You go until You bless me.”
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Friday, September 22, 2017

DISCOURAGEMENT

I Was Just Thinking About – DISCOURAGEMENT.

In our journey through life, there are times of uncertainty, fears and discouragement. When these times occur, and they will, it might be good to reflect on the lyrics of an older Hymn - 
“Why should I feel discouraged; Why should the shadows come…?
His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.”

The words of Psalm 56:3-4 also come to mind: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid…” When the disciples asked Jesus about their inability to perform a miracle, He said to them (Matthew 17:20), “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain: Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Questions: Do we really believe what Jesus told His disciples? Do we believe that is a functional possibility for today? Did Jesus place any restriction when he said, “nothing will be impossible for you”?

Currently, my family is facing one of these impossible situations. Our Great Grandson who has been treated for Leukemia since he was two and a half years old, is now seven years of age and was being prepared for a stem cell transplant. His baby brother, who is one year of age, was a perfect match and he was being prepared for that transplant of his stem cells to his older brother. This was all to take place next week. That is, until yesterday afternoon. After one additional test, it was discovered that the Leukemia had returned. As you can imagine, everything is in a state of flux.

One glimmer of light is the following that occurred on August 29, 2017: “In a landmark decision for the field of cancer immunotherapy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved a personalized cellular therapy developed by the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for the treatment of patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that is refractory or in second or later relapse.” One of the Hospitals qualified to administer this treatment is in Dallas, TX. The cost is horrendous - $475,000.00 – IF it works. One ray of hope is: “in larger trials, we’re seeing overall remission rates over 80 percent, which is a remarkable improvement upon previous treatment success rates.”

Most of the members of our family take God, Prayer and the Word of God seriously. There is a quaint saying from the past: “God said it! I believe it! That settles it.” Quaint or not, this is a great place to be in the moment of crisis or uncertainty. I love the words of Isaiah 12:2 (NLT), “See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” The place where I want my family and me to be is in Psalm 52:8-9 (NASB): “But as for me…I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.”

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

THE IMAGE OF GOD IN MAN

I Was Just Thinking About – THE IMAGE OF GOD IN MAN.

Our obvious starting place is Genesis 1:26-30 and the Creation of Man and his becoming a living soul. When he was created, Man had been told by The Creator that anything he would ever need would be bountifully provided. At this point, Man also had full knowledge of God and His will; the reality of complete righteousness; and perfect holiness. Man had experienced unhampered fellowship with God. Until the serpent entered and infiltrated the thinking of both Adam and Eve. Although man’s chief end was to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, man allowed for the beguiling alternative of increased and enhanced knowledge so he could become – literally – equal to The Creator.

The descent of man was rapid. He was driven from the Garden of Eden and bean to experience the consequences of his disobedience. Romans 5:12-20 discloses the consequences all mankind suffers because of the one man’s sin. It also reveals the role that Jesus Christ fulfilled to redeem fallen man from his sin. It will also include the restoration of man back to the image of God through and in Jesus Christ. When one comes to Jesus Christ for redemption, the process of man’s return toward his pre-fallen estate begins. We learn from Colossians 3:10-14 that: “The new self is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” The new-life-changing process includes a renewed spiritual growth: “As the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity.” Man is transformed as he is: “being renewed in knowledge.”

Additionally, in Paul’s instruction regarding the ramifications of knowing Christ, Ephesians 4:20-24 instructs: “You were taught to put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The new self, “created to be like God, is the return to true righteousness and holiness. This is in keeping with the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And, I Peter 1:15-16, “But 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 is how man was created to be and this is how God wants man, in Jesus Christ, to be today.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

(To Note: There are many lengthy discussions on the subject of The Image of God in Man. A solid resource for sound information on this subject is Monergism.com).
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Sunday, September 17, 2017

LONELINESS

I Was Just Thinking About LONELINESS.

In general, when one is younger and with a growing family, life is anything but calm or lonely. There are always various activities and projects that need to be done. It is at such a time that one wistfully thinks about how nice the “empty nest” will be when quiet and order is once again restored. A time when parents can order their own lives and have their own conversations on an adult level that is free from incessant interruptions. 

Charles R. Swindoll writes of this in his devotion for the day – Someday. He wrote: “Yes, someday when the kids are grown, things are going to be a lot different. One by one they'll leave our nest, and the place will begin to resemble order and maybe even a touch of elegance. The clink of china and silver will be heard on occasion. The crackling of the fireplace will echo through the hallway. The phone will be strangely silent. The house will be quiet…and calm…and always clean…and empty…and filled with memories…and lonely…and we won't like that at all. And we'll spend our time not looking forward to Someday but looking back to Yesterday. And thinking: Maybe we can babysit the grandkids and get some life back in this place for a change!”

The heart and mind of God allowed in the Creative Order (Genesis 2:18 - NASB) that: “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” The writer of Hebrews reminded those who are The Body of Jesus Christ – His Church – about a starting place for benevolent care and personal interaction - Hebrews 13:1-3 (NASB),“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” A normal behavior is expected to be taking or making necessary time to show concern for or interest in another individual who may be alone or lonely.

It is good to remember that regardless of any human contact, the Lord has promised repeatedly that He always cares and is always with us. I appreciate the words in Psalm 27:10 (NLT), “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.” The rendering in the ESV is: “The Lord will take me in.”

In 1920, Robert Harkness penned the words to a Hymn that should encourage the lonely person, No Longer Lonely: 

On life’s pathway I am never lonely,
My Lord is with me, my Lord divine;
Ever present Guide, I trust Him only,
No longer lonely, for He is mine.
Refrain:
No longer lonely, no longer lonely,
For Jesus is the Friend of friends to me…
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

CONFUSION AND CONSTERNATION

I Was Just Thinking About – CONFUSION AND CONSTERNATION.

One of the sad things to observe is when a person you have known very well over the years begins to slide into forgetfulness and the confusion that accompanies it. For them personally, there is a measure of consternation (the feeling of anxiety and dismay). I visited a widow in the local Nursing Home whose husband had been a long-time Pastor in another town. She would have moments when she would stop in mid-sentence and forget where she was –or – not able to complete the thought. She tried to explain to me how her mind had become like a gear that had lost a tooth or two and would not mesh and work like it should. Since I had known her and her husband for a few years, I assured her that together we would piece together what she was trying to remember.

Another minister and I had done combined services from time to time. His wife was beginning to fail mentally and not able to fully express herself. When the Ministers assembled where the congregation would be exiting, she came by and said to me: “I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.” I replied: “Just stand here between your husband and me and you will be fine.” She managed to smile and seemed so relieved to know where she belonged and felt safe.

A Scripture passage that is referencing how the Body of Christ should show a readiness to “accept one another.” I see an application for those whose minds are failing, where they are drifting toward dementia and possible Alzheimer’s. Romans 15:1-2, “We who are strong ought to bear with the shortcomings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” This will involve a sensitivity toward those who often repeat themselves, as well as being unable to remember names, dates and places. It will also require patience as one slides through these various stages. Another verse that makes me think of a way through this wilderness journey is Psalm 22:19 (ERV), “But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid.”

One of the encouraging acts that the Biblical Church can do is to always include the person who is enduring the trial of memory loss. In actuality, it is more frustrating for them than it would be for you. If the person repeats something that had just been said, don’t point it out or make a correction. This, too, is a frustration for the person. As an act of kindness, as has been pointed out in previous Blogs, help the person thorough the rough places. Remind them of what your name is or where the next activity is taking place. A simple: “Let’s walk together to the next destination.” Some things that could be done in the past may not work as well in the present. Don’t call on the person to lead in prayer or to quote some Bible verse or story they have shared previously. Be kind, considerate and helpful. It will mean a lot.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Friday, September 15, 2017

EXCUSES AND BLAME

I Was Just Thinking About – EXCUSES AND BLAME.

When was the most recent time you’ve heard someone accept blame for failure of any sort? The politician blames the other political party; an employee in any occupation blames a co-worker; a student blames an inadequate teacher/professor; a clergyman blames church officers or some member of the church; the Doctor blames incompetent staff; a criminal blames the crime victim or arresting officer. The protestors in the streets of this nation make use of unsubstantiated accusations. At the root of the protests is to find someone or something to blame. The list of blaming is long and approaches the never-ending mindset of excuses.

In the Garden of Eden temptation (Genesis 3), when God confronted Adam about the disobedience that had taken place, what was the first utterance he offered to God? His excuse was, the woman you gave me caused me to disobey. Adam chose to blame God. When God confronted Eve, she had an entirely different response. Her excuse was, the serpent You created told me it would be alright. Eve chose to blame a created being. The responses of Adam and Eve continue on in the approach to human needs of people today.

It is especially true and has become easy in the larger cities of this nation to become immune to the countless homeless people on the streets. It has also become easy to try to avoid such people and to pass by and wonder what went wrong without reaching out to help. Why is it that we have become so calloused/curious and are far more interested in the details of what, why, when, and where, than we are about how we can help?

An example of this is introduced in John 9:1-2, “As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him: Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The disciples’ curiosity was about why he was suffering and that outweighed any desire to reach out to him. Were the disciples concerned about what they could do to help this man? Did they have any modicum of compassion for him? One of the followers of Jesus was a Medical Doctor. Would he pause and determine if there was anything that could be done to assist this man? It appears that lurking beneath the disciples’ question was a desire to know whom to blame for the problem.
Within the Church, the list of excuses is part of the never-ending category. Missionaries and Church ministries too often hear, “We can’t afford to do this!” However, if there was an examination of the misguided priorities one has embraced and believe are excusable, much more kingdom work could be done and accomplished. Sports Stadiums are occupied by some professing Christian people, who if they were asked to sacrifice the cost of a sports event for the cause of Christ would, in many cases, be met with mundane excuses. Forgotten in all of this is that God knows the heart and is keeping a detailed record. Oh? Obviously, change is needed! Will you put an end to your excuses and blaming of others? 

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.