Tuesday, August 4, 2015

IRRATIONAL CALCULATIONS

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We have come through a period of history at the outset of the twenty-first century that crystallizes for us the direction we are now heading at an increasing rate of acceleration. We can generalize and indicate that it has become the cultural norm of our day. However, that would be a misrepresentation of the propensity of the human heart, emotions and irrational calculations that are imbedded within every human being. Left unchecked and undisciplined, it will rapidly contribute to societal disarray and increasing decadence. We have fallen prey to allow for irresponsibility while assuming we are privilege and entitled. We have seen countless numbers of public figures who find giving excuse for actions taken and resorting to blaming others for the prevailing conditions and trends.

The more the culture ignore the Eternal God and His Infallible Word, the more the use of excuse and the action of blame will increase. On one occasion, the Lord Jesus Christ shared a sweeping truth in The Parable of The Great Supper - Luke 14:12-24. In verses 17-18, there is a sad summary where the Master of the house has extended his invitation and the ensuing response: “Come, for all things are now ready. But they all with one accord began to make excuses.” The MSG renders the text: “They all began to beg off, one after another making excuse.” When an excuse is given, it is the attempt to be released from an obligation or duty. The Oxford Dictionary indicates that it is: “A reason put forward to conceal the real reason for an action; a pretext.”

We find that the readiness to offer excuses and blame began shortly after Creation. When Adam and Eve allowed themselves to succumb to the temptation of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, it would alter their personal privilege and that of all following generations. Adam and Eve had become accustomed to the regular evening visits by God in the cool of the evening. One can only imagine how unique that fellowship would’ve been. The change occurred after they had disobeyed God’s one command to them. They had always anticipated God coming to meet with them, but now Genesis 3:8-13 describes their behavior: “Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees in the Garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him: Where are you?” The obvious should be pointed out that God knew what Adam and Eve had done and where they were. The Biblical principle that should always be remembered by us is given in Hebrews 4:13, “And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.”

But Adam, like us, tried to explain why he was hiding. The Genesis 3 text continues: “Adam said: I heard the sound of You in the garden and (1) I was afraid, (2) because I was naked, and (3) so I hid myself.” The obvious question he and we have to answer is: “Who told you that you were naked?” Another question follows: Did you disobey Me? “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Now the blame game begins. “The man said (blamed): The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate.” The text continues: “Then the Lord God said to the woman: What is this that you have done?” She has someone to blame: “The woman said, the serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The trend is so easily repeated in every context of life: (Luke 14:18) “They all with one accord began to make excuses.” The personal application pertains to how you and I respond to the Lord God. Are we any different that Adam or Eve? Do we believe our excuses will be received favorably by our God? Steve Green wrote a lyric that can serve as a prayer: “Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey. Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.” Consider these things with me.

Monday, August 3, 2015

APPROVAL AND AFFIRMATION

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It is obvious that every person would choose to be wanted; accepted for who they are; recognized for their worth and value; recipients of approval for the level of their achievement; and affirmed as one who is important and valuable for the contribution they can make or are already making. The measure of a person’s worth should never be measured in terms of appearance or intellectual achievement. In terms of the traditional Bell Curve, the majority of people will be found more toward the middle of the curve rather than at the beginning of it. In all fields of study, the Bell Curve is sustainable. In Education and test scores, a few students do very well and a few do very poorly. It has been found that most scores are bunched together around the mean score (or apex of the curve).

In professional fields, the same conditions prevail. While the goal of all pursuits should be excellence, the individual participants always strive for approval and affirmation. If that does not occur, performance will wane and stress factors will begin to surface. In order to gain recognition, several studies about athletes and the possibility of their use of performance enhancing drugs have occurred. In other instances, politicians wanting to stand out from the crowd have embellished their biographies and made unsustainable claims for themselves. In the area of education and the effort to excel, cheating and plagiarism has taken place. It is strange that the public seems to be impressed by the embellished biography but equally pleased if or when it is debunked.

This type of embellishments also finds entry into the area of religion. Credit for ministry accomplishments are often exaggerated. In the attempt to seem important, it is not unusual for one to resort to “name-dropping” of well-known people. The assumption is because one has spoken with or been in the company of such a person there will be linkage so that people will think the “name-dropper” is significant or equally notable. To get a sense of this, read book promotions or biographical notes about a publication. It will be observable with the frequent use of “I” in what is written.

Applying the Bell Curve to Christian ministry, the studies indicate that 10% of a congregation will be loyal to a Minister regardless of any idiosyncrasies he may have; 10% will hold him in low esteem and with disregard; and the 80% are similar to a jury withholding judgment or assessment until or unless he proves himself to be acceptable. Meanwhile, the Minister has to strive to please those who have been non-receptive. Is it any wonder that churches tend to shrink in size? The numbers of the “Nones’ (those who want no further part of the control and forms, seeking some other alternative) and the ‘Dones’ (those who bail out of organized churches and want nothing more to do with it) are steadily increasing! Additionally, churches reach an unsustainable point; ministers become laden with stress and their family is impacted - and - they just give up and go into some other occupation. 

What is the valid measure for ministry? I Timothy 4:12-16 indicates: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” If the servant of the Lord follows the Lord  wholeheartedly, he will receive the Lord’s approval and affirmation. The well-intentioned naysayers in the church will receive their just reward for their words, deeds and actions in the Lord’s own time. Consider these things with me.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

COLLOQUIALISMS

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Most of us have been reared in a culture that seems to be in love with the use of colloquialisms (a word or phrase appropriate to conversation and other informal situations), aphorisms (a short pithy saying expressing a general truth; maxim) and idioms (a group of words whose meaning cannot be predicted). An example of an aphorism is a saying attributed to Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”An example of an idiom would be: “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Some colloquialisms are humorous even though it may be negative in its intent: “He’s as handy/useful as a back pocket on a shirt (Meaning: Someone who is useless or worthless). Many of us are familiar with colloquialisms and have probably given expression using them from time to time, such as: “He’s a pain in the neck” (Meaning: An annoyance); “Well, if that don’t beat all” (Meaning: Something very amazing or unusual);  “He’s so clumsy he would trip over a cordless phone” (Meaning: non-observant and awkward); and one that some parents in the past have used: “If you don’t stop that crying, I’ll give you something to cry about” (Meaning: A spanking is on its way!).

Well-known Biblical colloquialisms include the statement: “As a dog returns to its own vomit” ((Proverbs 26:11, II Peter 2:22) references a fool and his folly to the point of his repeating his foolishness. Another is “Spare the rod and spoil the child” (Proverbs 13:24 - “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him”). When King Solomon penned the proverbs, he also was influenced by the expected behavior of royalty. For instance, anyone representing the royal family was to be known by a disciplined behavior. One example is Proverbs 20:1-3 where he uses colloquialisms to state the expected and obvious behaviors: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life. It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” A similar statement of personal disciplines is in Proverbs 23:1-7, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating: Eat and drink! he says to you, but his heart is not with you.”

In the cultural and political climate of our times, it is not unusual to hear someone utter a descriptive colloquialism about a politician: “When he enters, he sucks the oxygen out of the room.” It has various meanings but the most likely is - he’s a person who is overbearing and dominating. When a controversial bit of information surfaces about a person or situation, it is referenced as “the elephant in the room” or the “300 pound gorilla is present.” On one occasion while Jesus was giving instruction to a wealthy person, He stated (Mark 10:23-25), “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” John Calvin, in his commentary on the Gospels makes this interesting point: “The comparison of the camel which is soon after added, is intended to amplify the difficulty; for it means that the rich are so swelled with pride and presumption, that they cannot endure to be reduced to the straits through which God makes his people to pass. The word camel denotes, I think, a rope used by sailors, rather than the animal so named.” This links well with the idea of entering through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13) and trying to thread the swollen sailor’s rope through the eye of a needle. Jesus was quick to remind His disciples that the things impossible for man are possible with God. We would do well to remember that truth! Consider these things with me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

GOD AND GUNS

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A Headline Story in the Christian Post on July 22, 2015 was: “Potter's House Pastor Chris Hill Explains Why His Denver Megachurch Needs Armed Guards.” The rationale for the armed guards is: “The Charleston (South Carolina) shooting was certainly not the first time a church had been targeted by a gunman. In 2012, a former employee of Creflo Dollar's World Changers Church International in College Park, Georgia, had walked into an early morning Bible study and shot a member point blank while he prayed. In 2009, late-term abortion Dr. George Tiller was murdered while serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. In fact, Carl Chinn, a former Focus on the Family safety manager and a church security expert, tracks "deadly force incidents" at faith-based organizations. According to Chinn's data, there have been 971 such incidents between Jan. 1, 1999 and Feb. 15 of this year.”

Are armed guards and the use of weaponry justified by New Testament teaching and the words of Jesus Christ? A text that is often cited is Luke 22:35-39, “And He said to them: “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything? So they said, Nothing. Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one…they said, Lord, look, here are two swords. And He said to them, It is enough.” What did Jesus mean when He said, It is enough? Was He stating that two swords among the disciples was adequate? Or, does it mean what the Reformation Study Bible states: “The disciples take the words about the sword literally, and Jesus’ reply means, Enough of that sort of talk!” The problem with the disciples’ understanding (or at least with Peter) is what immediately ensues. Matthew 26:50-53, “Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Put your sword back in its place, Jesus said to him, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

What is Paul’s approach to the use of weaponry in ministry? In II Corinthians 10:4-6, Paul emphasizes, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” His basic approach and thesis is stated in verse 3, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” In other words, we are not doing spiritual ministry in a secular manner. The focal point is the use of reason and logic. In the spiritual realm, this would necessitate having an Apologetical base as one presents the Scriptural message to religionists, agnostics, atheists, cynics and all other opposition dialogue or antagonism.

Paul’s clarifying statement of ministry purpose and intent is given in Ephesians 6:10-13, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Even though the Biblical Christian is living amid cultural chaos, evil and wickedness, we should not allow ourselves to depart from the words of Esther 4:16 who pled the case of the Jews before the King, “I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Despite the well-intentioned thoughts of carrying a weapon on one’s person for protection against ant-Christian elements, perhaps a secular song (ditty) from the past would be a good mantra for the Biblical Christian - “Lay that pistol down, Babe - Lay that pistol down! Consider these things with me!

Friday, July 24, 2015

SORROW AND MOURNING

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The opening verses of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV) cover a wide range of human experiences under the general heading of “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Included in that list is the reminder that there is: “A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to weep…A time to mourn…” A natural response when a close friend or loved one dies is that of sorrow and mourning. Some may be able to internalize those emotions whereas most of us cannot. When Jesus was giving the Sermon on the Mount, He included as the second Beatitude (Matthew 5:4), “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

There are countless numbers of Biblical references that are practical encouragements for those who come to a point when a loved one has died. It is most usual to find comfort in Psalm 23, especially with the words of verse 4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” The comfort of the Lord is always available and is unique in its design for each individual. As difficult as it is to deal with the finality of physical death and the ensuing closure as the remaining loved ones seek to proceed with their lives and duties, the words of II Corinthians 1:3-4 should be helpful in that time of transition: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 

A question one may have is, what does God know about the depths of one’s sorrows and griefs? There are these words shared about Jesus, the Suffering Servant, in Isaiah 53:4, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” The heart of God is one of tenderness and compassion. We should remember when Jesus was summoned by Martha and Mary because their brother Lazarus was very ill, their hope was that Jesus would arrive in time to heal him. That did not happen. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was dead and in the grave. It is a scene where two important lessons were shared. The first is John 11:25-26,  “Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” The basic question for all who are sorrowful, grieving and mourning is: “Do YOU believe this?” The other words in this passage are John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” In His love and compassion for those whose loved one had died, Jesus shared their sorrow and was willing to carry their grief.

Most have come to know, love and sing the words of a Hymn, It Is Well With My Soul . The words were written by Horatio G. Spafford and the music by Phillip P. Bliss. The words were written out of a context of personal sorrow. In 1870, a son died of Scarlet Fever. In 1873, his wife Anna and their four daughters were sailing to England to attend a D. L. Moody evangelistic crusade. Their ship collided with another vessel and all four daughters perished. As he sailed to be with his wife and passed over the spot where the shipwreck occurred, the words that flooded and comforted his soul, he wrote down in verse form. Some of the words that are not often known or sung are: “…No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life. Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul….But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, the sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!” Today, an extended family member, Roland Harper, will bury his wife Mary Lou! He does so with the words resonating within: “…we do not sorrow or grieve as those who are without hope…" I Thessalonians 4:13. May God comfort and surround the Harper Family with His love, compassion and comfort this day. Pray for and with them. Consider these things with me!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

IDIOMATIC INDIFFERENCE

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The English language and History is being changed and rewritten in both blatant and subtle ways. This has been occurring in one area since January 22, 1973. The United States Supreme Court took upon itself the task of determining when life began. In a ruling under the general heading of Acceptable government regulation according to Roe v. Wade, it was concluded that “different rules at different stages of pregnancy were considered appropriate. In the first trimester, the state (that is, any government) could treat abortion only as a medical decision, leaving medical judgment to the woman's physician. In the second trimester (before viability), the state's interest was seen as legitimate when it was protecting the health of the mother. After viability of the fetus (the likely ability of the fetus to be able to survive outside and separated from the uterus), the potential of human life could be considered as a legitimate state interest, and the state could choose to regulate, or even proscribe abortion" as long as the life and health of the mother was protected.”

In 1976, Francis Schaeffer wrote a book on the theme: How Should We Then Live? A film series on this subject would follow along with a cross-country speaking tour. He would be joined on-stage with Surgeon General C. Everett Koop as they made the appeal of the warning signs that could lead this nation into the hideous practice of euthanasia and infanticide. A review and summary of what Schaeffer wrote is: “When we base society on humanism, which he defines as a value system rooted in the belief that man is his own measure, that man is autonomous, totally independent, all values are relative and we have no way to distinguish right from wrong except for utilitarianism. Because we disagree on what is best for which group, this leads to fragmentation of thought, which has led us to the despair and alienation so prevalent in society today. Another premise is that modern relative values are based on Personal Peace (the desire to be personally unaffected by the world's problems) and Affluence (an increasing personal income.) He warns that when we live by these values we will be tempted to sacrifice our freedoms in exchange for an authoritarian government who will provide the relative values. He further warns that this government will not be obvious like the fascist regimes of the 20th century but will be based on manipulation and subtle forms of information control, psychology, and genetics.

Was Schaeffer correct in his assessment of the culture in 1976? What is a recent headline in news reports this week? Some media have ignored the discussion of Planned Parenthood and the harvesting of tissue and body parts. The summary of what has been occurring was secretly recorded: “The discussion centered on the sale of donated tissue from aborted fetuses. Dr. Nucatola (a Physician associated with Planned Parenthood) said: We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver … so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” For the abortionist, a non-existent life has body parts that are useful and functional. Sadly, if all of this is true, we have slid into Infanticide as something that is tolerated within a the secular culture. 

The spiritual culture should become aware and take a noble stand in a righteous cause. Proverbs 31:8-9 is apropos, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, Speak Up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” If you don’t do it, who will? If this isn’t the right moment, what is? Let the phrase - “ensure justice for those being crushed” - be indelibly written in your heart, mind and soul. The time to “Speak Up” is now!  Consider these things with me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PRACTICAL PERSPICACITY


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There are all kinds of cliches and adages that are familiar to most of us. One pertains to whether or not we see the cup as being half empty versus visualizing it as being half full. We live in a day when many people whose thinking is more influenced by what is reported in the daily news than that which is recorded in The Good News, the Holy Scriptures. News Headlines are designed to do two primary things: (a) Capture the attention of a person, and (b) Convey a point of view of the media source. If one chooses to live by the Headlines of men, he will be easily dismayed by the events being reported. Any practical perspicacity is either neglected or short-circuited in ones thinking. Valid perspicacity means: “keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment; penetration.” Some of the synonyms are: shrewdness and insight.

In an entry by This Day in PCA History records an insight from J. Gresham Machen in the Alps, 1935. In Words to Live By, Machen wrote:  “God will, in His own good time, bring forward great men again to do His will, great men who will resist the tyranny of experts and lead humanity out again into the realms of light and freedom, great men, above all, who will be messengers of His grace. There is, far above any earthly mountain peak of vision, a God high and lifted up who, though He is infinitely exalted, yet cares for His children among men."

However, in the interval there will be times similar to those indicated in II Kings 17:7-11 (NASB), “Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced. The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the Lord their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city…and they did evil things provoking the Lord.” In the Biblical History of Israel, periodically there were times of captivity that would have to be endured by those known as God’s people. A few of the major captivities they experienced were Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Roman. In and through all of them, the Sovereign God was in complete control and had made provision for the redemption and deliverance of His people.


Where are we in this day and time? Are we in the last days? Have we entered into the “birth pangs” referenced by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24? In terms of practical perspicacity, are we on the threshold of II Thessalonians 2:7-12 (NASB)? The passage relates the following: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” The Sovereign God is not detached from His Creation or the events of our day. Regardless of the degree of desperateness that may ensue in our lifetime, be encouraged by the words of II Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NASB), “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.” Consider these things with me!