Thursday, February 11, 2016

ANTIDOTE FOR MARGINALIZATION

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The idea of marginalization (to relegate to the fringes; making someone or something to be out of the mainstream of involvement and/or discourse; make someone or something to seem unimportant or irrelevant) is a harsh but effective device in political rhetoric. It is designed to establish a narrative about a rival that will cause one to defend himself or herself as per the exaggerated or insignificant revelations gleaned from one’s past statements or relationships. The tactic is designed to utilize a statement or act that is out of a broader context and magnify it so that people will believe the worst about another person. There always seems to be a quest for and emphasis upon an individual’s negatives. By utilizing this tactic and strategy, it is believed one can achieve a more favorable personal result because of the comparison narrative that is being circulated.

The reality of marginalization is also present in Church and Religious matters. As in most situations in life, one will encounter the proverbial “pecking order” (a hierarchy of status seen among members of a group of people or animals). Some people, in order to obtain prestige or position, have to be in a special relationship with those who are part of the “pecking order.” They represent those who recommend and influence personnel placement, the ongoing agenda and the narrative to which one is expected to accept and promote. Anyone attempting to not kowtow to the “pecking order” whims and dictates will generally find himself marginalized within the broad context of the organization. Whether the narrative established about one is valid or exaggerated to emphasize negatives, is accepted in a carte blanche manner only because it originates with a voice in the “pecking order.” There was a man years ago who was seeking relocation into a better situation for himself and his family. He was not connected to the “pecking order” because of his own personal naiveté. He believed that the will of God was the goal and purpose – not the will of any man! When one in the “pecking order” received inquiry about him, it was opined that he was more of a “blunderbuss” (implying that his actions or way of doing things demonstrated his lack of subtlety and precision). Despite the fact that he had always served faithfully and well, he was “labeled” and some of the better opportunities never were afforded him.

The adage that states “You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression!” does have some merit for those who are influenced by the comments or recommendations of others. If the ideal was being pursued by the Church, there would be an appeal made to a Scriptural portrait of a narrative that should be the expectation for each professing Biblical Christian. One criterion for consideration would be I Corinthians 15:9-11, “For I am the least…and am unworthy…But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not in vain. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” Another criterion is Micah 6:6-8, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

The basis for ministry and Christian life evaluation does not flow from any structured “pecking order.” It must always be Scripturally based and in accordance with God’s standards and will. There is a Worship Hymn that should easily be the prayer and narrative of a Biblical Christian: 
In this quiet place with You, I bow before Your throne; 
I bare the deepest part of me To You and You alone. 
I keep no secrets for there is No thought You have not known. 
I bring my best and all the rest To You and lay them down.
          (The Refrain): 
With all my heart I want to love You Lord; 
And live my life each day to know You more. 
All that is in me is Yours completely, 
I'll serve You only with all my heart!” 
This is the Biblical Christian Antidote for Marginalization. Consider these things with me!

Monday, February 8, 2016

TRANSPARENCY

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If you were asked to prepare a biographical narrative about yourself, what would you write and what would you include? If you were going to be totally transparent, what self-analysis – both positive and negative - would you be willing to share? If you could see yourself as others see you, would you be willing to peal away the veneer in order for the real you to emerge, to be seen and to be understood? For most, this would be a painful experience and excursion. For others, the egotistical and subscriber to the power of positive thinking, it would be a moment for exuberance to let others know all about “I” and that which “I” have done and am doing!

Peggy Noonan wrote a column following the Iowa Caucus where she shares about the action and reaction of one of the self-indulgent candidates who suddenly had to face the reality of being a loser rather than being the winner he had boasted about since his foray into politics. She writes: “(The Candidate) was dinged by Iowa, but not by losing—loss happens. He dinged himself, perhaps significantly, with his subsequent reaction. He was robbed, we need a recount, he may sue. In politics—in life—you have to know how to lose. The presidency itself involves losing—the bill fails, the talks stall, your numbers plummet. You have to be supple, have some give. All political careers end in failure—you never get all you want and in the end you slink away or get thrown out. How to respond? You don’t whine, you don’t complain, you don’t act like a little rhymes-with-witch. You take it full in the face and keep walking. Anyone can win with style. A real champ knows how to lose.” Can a person who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think and who seeks to intimidate, belittle and marginalize any or all of his challengers face the reality check that not everyone agrees with his self-image, vision of grandeur or personal greatness?

In the area of spiritual dimension, there are numerous illustrations where people allowed themselves to put limitations upon themselves. It was done to avoid the great challenges and issues of the day. They saw the world only humanly and ignored the spiritual enablement available to them. An illustration of this is recorded in Numbers 13 and 14. Moses has led the people from Egypt to Kadesh-Barnea, the threshold into The Promised Land. Before they proceed any further, the Lord has directed that Moses select a chief individual from each of the twelve tribes and have them spy out the land and bring back a report. They are selected and given an assignment (Numbers 13:17-20): “ “Go up into the Negev and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds, and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land.”

After forty days, the spies return with their report (Numbers 13:23-33). Ten of the spies report that the land is fruitful but the people there were great and they would not be able to conquer them and possess the land. When the people hear this report, they become upset with Moses and Aaron for leading them to a place of disaster. In the midst of the turmoil, two of the spies give an alternative view. The contrasting views are summarized in Numbers 13:30-33, “But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” The ten others said:  “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are…(it) is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height.” How did the ten spies view themselves?  Verse 33, they express: “We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” How do you view yourself before Jesus Christ who said (Matthew 28:18): "All authority (power) is given to me – Go!"? How do you acknowledge the Lord God in your life who has assured you (II Corinthians 12:9): “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”? Are you content with embracing a grasshopper status for yourself? Or, would you rather be identified with the confidence of Caleb (and the three friends in Daniel 3:17): “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…and he will deliver us …”? Will you dare to break away from the grasshopper crowd (the majority) to confidently be part with those who courageously serve the Lord (the minority)?  Consider these things with me!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

ABBREVIATED COMMUNICATIONS

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Communication is supposed to be clear, precise and accurate. However, we live in a day where Twitter, Instagram, Snap and a host of other social media tools has reduced communication to a brief sentence and no more than 140 words. In the political world, how many politicians can answer a simple or basic question with a “Yes!” or “No!”? There is always some qualifying comment or statement that far exceeds a 140 word limitation. It accomplishes a primary function, (1) non-commitment, and (2) muddying the water sufficiently so that no one will be able to quote the person with any definitive accuracy.

It is not just politicians who have fallen into this vagueness and abbreviated communication. It is becoming more and more common in the area of religion. The Clergy uses their share of Buzz Words and phrases such as: Regulative Principle, Reformed Faith, Arminianism (Remonstrants), TULIP, etc. (It is understandable if the average layman is left scratching his head and wondering about what is being conveyed or intended by these words and phrases. Exegesis is the task of the Clergy whose duty is to clarify and hermeneutically amplify the Sacred Scriptures. There is considerable implication to the words spoken by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 14:9, “But in the church, I would rather speak five coherent words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a strange (unknown) tongue.” When the Apostle Paul wrote to the young Pastoral Student, he reminded him in I Timothy 4:12-16, “Let no one despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you…Be diligent in these matters and absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to your life and to your teaching. Persevere in these things, for by so doing you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” It will require study of the Scriptures and due diligence in its proclamation.

The presentation of the Gospel has also fallen into a simplistic quagmire in varying forms of presentation. In an effort to communicate in quickly and simply, there has been the development of Booklets that are supposed to be used as a tool that can accomplish the task of communicating the Gospel in three to five minutes. Some of these booklets are, The Four Spiritual Laws; The Bridge; Steps to Peace With God. They, and others, follow a format of four basic steps that can bring one to a place of decision. In an effort towards a more accurate approach, there was the development of Evangelism Explosion that bases its approach on two basic questions. Depending on the response to: (1) Have you come to a place in your life where you know for certain that if you died today you would go to heaven?, and (2) Suppose you did die today and God said to you, Why should I let you into my heaven, what would you say?, an elongated presentation of The Gospel is then presented. The effort to present The Gospel in a moderately simple format is the development of The Roman Road to Salvation. It is based upon five passages in the Book of Romans. (1) Romans 3:23, (2) Romans 6:23(a), (3) Romans 6:23(b), (4) Romans 5:8, and (5) Romans 10:9-10. The invitation to receive Jesus Christ as Savior is given in Romans 10:13, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There is some structure to this presentation and one would be wise to receive instruction in terms of a smooth and cogent presentation of The Roman Road.

How is it with you and your personal knowledge of Scripture? Your answer needs to be more than The Lord’s Prayer, The Apostles’ Creed, The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. Those have a place in terms of the substance in one’s belief system but they are not a substitute for your personal study and knowledge of the Scriptures. The goal for one’s life should be similar to that expressed about the Bereans in Acts 17:11-12, “Now the Bereans were more noble-minded…for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if these teachings were true. As a result, many of them believed…” Study and know God’s Word. Consider these things with me!


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

MACHINATIONS

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Are you a person who subscribes to the idea that the end justifies the means? Perhaps you may be attracted to the words of a legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, who allowed: “Winning isn’t everything – it is the only thing!”  Do you believe that machinations are totally acceptable in the culture of today? Machinations means: “crafty schemes; plots; intrigues.” Two of the synonyms are: “stratagem and device.” When this is the approach, its similar to observing a chess-master who gives no indication of his strategy or moves. His idea is to bait you into playing “his game” and falling prey to his skillful board moves.

The Idiom Free Dictionary states the following regarding the end justifying the means: “You can use bad or immoral methods as long as you accomplish something good by using them.” There are two illustrations used to express that concept (not everyone agrees with it): (1) Lucy got money for the orphanage by embezzling it from the firm where she worked. The end justifies the means, she told herself.” The additional illustration seems more applicable at this time of political saturation in the United States. (2) “The politician clearly believed that the end justifies the means since he used all kinds of nefarious means to get elected.”

Deuteronomy 18:14-22 addresses the potential of machination in terms of prophetic utterance. It is set in the context of a pagan culture and society. God’s people will encounter a culture where machinations are common-place: “The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination.” By contrast, there is a clear and precise instruction: “But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so.” The people of God are not to dabble in the theories and intrigues of an unbelieving cultural worldview. Instead, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” What will distinguish the true from the false? How will a person be enabled to drawn the distinction? The Lord states: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” There will also be accountability of both that which is spoken and that which is heard and implemented:  “I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.” The consequence for the one imitating a true prophet will be: “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

The Lord anticipates their question: “You may say to yourselves, How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” The Lord’s answer is: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.” In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:15-16), Jesus warns: “Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” II Peter 2:1-3, summarizes and concludes: “Now there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies that even deny the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow in their depravity, and because of them the way of the truth will be defamed. In their greed, these false teachers will exploit you with tales they have concocted. The longstanding verdict against them remains in force, and their destruction does not sleep.” We must be guarded and discerning so that the cleverly devised fables of men do not become attractive to us. Embrace and identify the Truth always!  Consider these things with me.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

ANGER MANAGEMENT

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What is anger? It is defined as: “a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.” Some Synonyms are: “resentment; rage (vehement anger); violent displeasure.” Most are familiar with the term “Road Rage” and some may have experienced it. There is a study that states there may be a “Medical Basis For Road Rage.” The National Institute of Health sponsored a study that looked at road rage in drivers. “A general theory came out of the study, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) was identified as the cause of road rage…Whether or not you believe in a medical basis for road rage, you still need to know how to deal with it. Uncertain situations can escalate unpredictably, and the best advice is to avoid confrontations altogether.” Advice is given: “ If you tend to provoke other drivers or are on the aggressive side of road rage, put some effort into learning new driving habits.”

There are numerous situations that stimulate anger within another individual. There is a familiar line that was common place with some that said: “We don’t get mad – we get even.” This is known as retaliation and can be categorized as a vendetta – “a private feud in which the members of the family of a murdered person seek to avenge the murder by killing the slayer or one of the slayer’s relatives.” This would be a rule in gang warfare or in the action of nations. A current example of a vendetta pertains to the Fox News Presidential Debate scheduled for tonight (01-27-16). One person, who has the leading percentage in some polls,  has decided to skip the debate. Why? Is there a conflict in his schedule? No! Is there a pressing matter that requires his attention elsewhere? No! His official response is that “he was likely to skip the debate because he is incensed over how it’s treating him.” His objection is that one of the Moderators asked him questions last Fall that he did not find appropriate. All the Moderator had done was to quote some of the derogatory remarks he hade made about women in past years. In other words, his feelings were hurt and now he will engage in a “tit-for-tat” display as his expression of his indignation and anger!

In July 2012, The Readers Digest published an article that asked: “What Really Happen When You Get Angry?” The answer describes the physical, emotional and mental responses. “When we get mad, our rational prefrontal lobes shut down and the reflexive back areas of the brain take over. The left hemisphere also becomes more stimulated as the brain’s hormonal and cardiovascular responses kick in. A tense body pumps out cholesterol and a group of chemicals called catecholamines, which encourage fatty deposits to pile up in the heart and carotid arteries. It’s no surprise, then, that angry people are three times more likely to have a heart attack than those less prone to fury.  The fight-or-flight response can prompt your nervous system to cut blood flow to your stomach and divert it to your muscles, impacting intestinal-tract contractions and digestive secretions. Stress can also increase stomach acids…It causes a surge in the stress hormone cortisol, which bumps up oil production and leads to acne and other skin problems. During prolonged and frequent eruptions of rage, parts of the nervous system become highly activated, making it difficult to return to a relaxed state and, over time, affecting the immune system.”

The Bible gives a basic response for an impulse to become angry. Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry but sin not, do not let the sun go down upon your wrath (anger).” In other words, deal with it quickly. Ephesians 4:31 indicates a progression that can easily develop within one: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” The chain reaction is both spiritually and physically harmful. The solution is given in Ephesians 4:32, “Be  kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.” If you are a Biblical Christian, you must deal with your negative behavior and reactions. Why? Ephesians 4:30 tells us: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by whom you have been sealed unto the day of redemption.” Being kind, tenderhearted and forgiving is the standard for the Biblical Christian. Let us be committed to this being the expression that others observe in and through us! Consider these things with me.