Tuesday, February 24, 2015

VENGEANCE OR RETALIATION

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In recent weeks and months in this nation, there have been several occasions where a form of vengeance or retaliation surfaced and riots ensued. The basic idea of vengeance is “The act of or desire for taking revenge and/or the execution of retributive punishment.” An unarmed young man who posed a threat to a police officer is shot and killed. Without seeking to understand the facts of the case, organizers decide they should stir up riots in the streets. As and when this occurs, some of the rioters use it as an opportunity to burglarize stores and steal from merchants in the immediate area. Why? It is alleged that the public is expressing its frustrations and the many injustices it feels it has had to endure. This similar type of behavior also occurs in many places in the world.

A greater concern is when similar behavior occurs within the visible Church. People become frustrated about some issue and a spirit of vengeance or retaliation becomes evident. It usually results in people being (a) expelled from the church membership, or (b) a local Church entity experiencing division and a split. Without consideration of the implications of such actions, the attitude unfolds with an expectation that other Church entities or people will choose sides and identify with one group of people or the other. Facts usually have very little to do with the action that has transpired. It generally has to do with internal power and who has it, as well as who is in control of the Church entity. Sadly, there is not even an afterthought of the visible Church and its duty to be a credible reflection of the Invisible Church, the Bride of Jesus Christ. The idea of the visible Church being "holy and blameless before Him" (Ephesians 1:4) is not even considered as the controllers and power people exert their will to achieve their goals. The Church becomes divided and a small group establishes a Church entity so that they can control and exert their will. 

Lost in all of this is a desire for oneness within the visible Church. A principle of governance that has never been known, or is either forgotten and ignored is the prayer of Jesus Christ for the visible Church. In John 17:20-21, Jesus is praying to the Heavenly Father and says: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The world today is losing interest in the message and manner of the visible Church because they fail to see the reality that Jesus Christ was desiring! In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ gives a guideline on how the visible Church should learn to pray. The words that immediately follow His prayer guideline are universally ignored. Matthew 6:14-15 indicates the attitude and behavior that a follower of Jesus Christ must exhibit, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Why should these words of Jesus be implemented and adhered to today? It is because fractured application of God’s Word has repercussion and consequence. One consideration is given in Ephesians 4:27, “…do not give the devil a foothold.” Another primary area is stated in Ephesians 4:30-32, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” While individuals may claim this is the practice and reality in their Church now, they are living in a realm of deception because they fail to “forgive, just as God in Christ forgave you.” When you find a Church that is living according to God’s Word in these basic practical areas, you will find a Church that people will want to attend. What most people find obnoxious to them in local Churches is the degree of facade and hypocrisy that is packaged as the life and message of Jesus Christ. The Church is long overdue to amend its ways (Jeremiah 7:5, 26:13).The Church needs to live by the Standards of God and not the whims or devices of man. Consider these things with me. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

PREVARICATION PROPENSITY

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We live in a day when unvarnished truth is held in obeisance and deceit, deception, lies and falsehood are easily embraced. For some, prevarication (a false or deliberate misstatement, lie) comes too easily. Those who have become easy prey for prevarication begin to manifest a propensity (a natural inclination or tendency) to perpetuate something other than truth. Within any culture, there will peaks and valleys regarding justice, righteousness and truth. Isaiah 59:12-15 (NASB) may be an apt description for our contemporary culture: “For our transgressions are multiplied before You (the Lord), and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: Transgressing and denying the Lord, and turning away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving in and uttering from the heart lying words. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the street, and uprightness cannot enter. Yes, truth is lacking; and he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey. Now the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.”

If you take the time to search the internet for submissions about truth, you will find that many are content with it being subjective. It allows that it is more a philosophical approach and one persons truth may be deemed better to someone else’s truth. The subjective truth opens the door for everyone to do whatever they subjectively embrace as being truth for them. It has become too easy for some people to have no qualms when it comes to looking directly into your eye (or a television camera) while their mouth is spewing deceit, misstatement and lies. There is an old statement attributed to Sir Walter Scott that indicates: “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” Any parent can identify that statement as they endeavor their child (or children) to be a person of good character and integrity. However, with wide-eyed innocence, our children will spin a yarn about some misdeed or misleading statement in their attempt to get the parent to believe their prevarication. 

Where did this prevarication propensity originate? At the creation of the world, God created a man and woman, placing them in a perfect atmosphere where they could willingly comply with just one command/directive. Even in that perfect atmosphere, since the man and woman were created with a will and conscience, there was the innate possibility for making a wrong choice. When Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, he included the following (I Timothy 2:9-15, NASB): “…A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness…For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression…” Paul did not elaborate on the perfect atmosphere of The Garden of Eden nor the presence of the serpent who instigated the temptation to which Eve succumbed. 

Throughout various stages of Biblical History, the following is recorded about God: Hebrews 6:17-18, “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” In a similar way, in Titus 1:1-2, “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago…” There are other references to consider: Numbers 23:19, I Samuel 15:29 and Romans 3:4. In a very basic way, Jesus declared (John 14:6), “I Am the way, the TRUTH, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 18:37-39 demonstrates how easily men can avoid the truth, even when the One Who is TRUTH is standing in direct proximity to the interrogator. How sad when one, either philosophically or pathologically, would persist in asking: “What is Truth?” You must believe in Jesus Christ Who is the only way, the on;y truth and the only life! Consider these things with me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BECOMING SANCTIMONIOUS

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To say that our nation has been impacted by the cultural quagmire and the accompanying morass that surrounds us daily, is an unequivocal understatement. At one point, the nation thought it had arrived at a pinnacle of righteousness and from that vantage point all of life in the nation (and world) could be measured in terms of a self-interpreted Judeo-Christian ethic and standard. There were the very vocal anti-communist groups that spoke loudly about those who had been duped into an atheistic philosophy of life and government. Others were influenced by those who identified themselves as the voice for the moral majority. By way of observation, who or what occupies the pinnacle and mountaintop of greatest influence today? 

Just this past week, we have heard POTUS (President of the United States) exclaim that the more important issue of climate change is being drowned out by the inflated fears regarding ISIS and Islamic extremists (similar to Christians during the Inquisition). He is unable to use the phrase “Islamic Terrorists” and has framed terms such as “work-place violence” or “armed insurgents” to describe the murders, beheadings, immolation, rapes and cruelty that is occurring in the world today. It is a form of denial in terms of reality and misrepresentation of that which is happening to real people in real time. We have witnessed in our nation and government the trampling of truth underfoot. Rhetoric has replaced reality and misrepresentation has replaced truth. Part of the sad commentary of these times is that the general public either doesn’t care, has become desensitized or being impervious to that which is right or wrong. As a result, people who have lied, are elected and reelected to office. Those who have failed to pay their Income Taxes received appointment to government positions or have frequent access as resource people advising POTUS. How far removed are we from the pinnacle where loud voices informed the nation and world what was righteous or not? Where are we as a culture on the slippery slope of compromise? For almost 50 years, we have witnessed the legalization of practices that are totally contrary to any Judeo-Christian ethic or moral value, such as abortion on demand to the current same gender marriage legislation and speaking of the possibility of a form of euthanasia (by limiting life support, treatment or medications for the elderly who are invalidated for further medical treatment).

Currently, evidence of the sanctimonious has surfaced because a television network has discovered their primary newscaster has embellished a story he reported and repeated over a 12 year period. The reporter claims that he had misremembered. Others attribute it to the fog of war syndrome. The reporter, in his form of defense and apology stated: “In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions…Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.” The network has decided to suspend him immediately for 6 months without remuneration. 


Critics have found it easy to condemn one man for his obvious error in judgment, conflating his report and repeatedly misrepresenting the facts (in other words, he lied and knew it was a lie each time he repeated and embellished his narrative). This is where the sanctimonious syndrome enters. The “holier than thou” becomes the mantra as judgments are made about one who was caught in his lie and “misremembering.” For the Church and Christian, care must be exercised because being sanctimonious is the trait of many who love to be able to look down upon others from their pinnacle of self-mandated righteous standards. If only we could return to the place where Psalm 85:10 (KJV) references “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” The only place where that can be found and embraced is recorded in Psalm 89:14 (ESV), “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” We need to gather constantly before the throne of God where the absolute standard of righteousness is found. We need our lives assessed by God before we dare to judge others by our own sanctimonious standard. Consider these things with me.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

THE "B" SYNDROME

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An old saying suggests: “You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression.” In personal contacts or when being interviewed for an educational or employment position, one is measured by appearance, ease in communication and believability. Those whose profession is to assess others can easily detect whether or not one is being real and honest. The “B” Syndrome has contributed to many casualties along the way. Why has the “B” Syndrome been such an important factor in the assessment process? There are at least three “B” factors. In no particular order, they are Boasting, Bragging and Bloviating (talk at length in an inflated or empty manner). For some reason, a person creates a narrative about himself and his exploits or achievements. In time, it is no longer just a narrative but a claimed feat, experience or achievement. It no longer is distinguishable whether any of it is true or not. The longer the narrative is stated the more the person who created it in the first place begins to believe it actually occurred.

An sad example of The “B” Syndrome is a news story that was reported on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015. The following summary was posted on The Drudge Report: “NBC News anchor Brian Williams conceded on Wednesday that a story he had told about being under fire while covering the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was false. Williams said he was not aboard a helicopter that was hit by enemy fire and forced down — a story he retold as recently as last week during a televised tribute to a retired soldier during a New York Rangers hockey game. On NBC Nightly News Wednesday evening, Williams read a 50-second statement apologizing for his characterization of the episode. “After a ground-fire incident in the desert during the Iraq war invasion, I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” he said. “It did not take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in that desert. I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by [rocket-propelled grenade] fire. I was instead in a following aircraft…This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and, by extension, our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not.” The admission is a rare black mark for Williams, a poised, veteran newsman who has anchored NBC’s signature newscast since 2004…”

Regrettably, this is also true within the Church and the lives of those involved in ministry. There is a subtle biographical expectation by the Church for one to be its Pastor. With both the Church and the one being considered, there is an unreal expectation. A Church may have an inflated view of itself and seek a man who is equal to that expectation. To be considered, the applicant submits a resume that may be tweaked in order to have a chance to be the one chosen. Rather than both the Church and man spending time in prayer and fasting to determine God’s will, the process becomes secularized and inflated Church expectations and expanded Minister skills slowly and subjectively become exaggerated. How does the Scripture address the pervasive “B” Syndrome? Note II Corinthians 10:12-18 (ESV), “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence.” A guideline one should purpose to follow is Proverbs 27:22 (ESV), “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” One consideration that should cause one pause is in James 4:16 (ESV), “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” Each of us needs to exercise care in terms of The “B” Syndrome. Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"What-Cha-Ma-Call-It-Ism"

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Have you ever had a what-cha-ma-call-it moment? At one time or another, we have all had that type experience. We’re in the middle of a conversation and someone or something we’d like to mention escapes us. It is at that moment we resort to expressing ourselves by adding the “what-cha-ma-call-it” (an item whose name one doesn't know or has forgotten) into our sentence. I was thinking about this in regard to the struggle our government has when addressing the atrocities happening in the world. In order to avoid the term, Radical Islamic Terrorism, and rather than appear to be non-intellectual if “what-cha-ma-call-it” was resorted to, we introduce a different description by using the term, “armed insurgency.” 

By changing the name used for the aggression, there is the idle hope that perhaps this nation can gain some form of credibility with a fierce and militant organization. The vain hope is that our nation will be able to become a positive influence on the way ISIS and others think and act. Meanwhile, Christians, and multitudes of others, are driven from their homes. Some are beheaded, buried alive, tortured, and most recently, a Jordanian Pilot is placed in a cage and doused with a flammable fluid and burned alive. As he collapses, a backhoe drops rubble and sand on his remains. Meanwhile, our government continues to speak of our strategy being to degrade and destroy ISIL. In a stammering statement, The President of the United States called this “one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization…Whatever ideology they’re operating off of, it’s bankrupt…this organization appears only interested in death and destruction.” For the President, The Radical Islamic Terrorists are the “what-cha-ma-call-it” armed insurgents.

If we allow ourselves to bridge over to the Church and professing Christians, both are marked by the “what-cha-ma-call-it” syndrome. Some hesitate to state abortion is murder of the innocents. It is not unusual to observe the Church trying to speak around the homosexual issue by refusing to identify it as a sin condemned by God. The initialism (or acronym) LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual, Transgender) is used rather than a clear identifying term. In other words, there seems to be a reluctance to identify evil and wickedness as being sin and unrighteousness. Additionally, the Church has muddled the Biblical concept of separation, consecration and holiness. This is also a vain attempt to be more appealing and attractive to a broader base of people who have no desire or inclination for Church and Biblical precepts. This procedure of straddling the proverbial fence is a latent effort to gain people as numbers and members by labeling someone or something “Christian” when they in actuality are more of a “what-cha-ma-call-it” non-homogenous group that has been assembled. 

One’s Christian profession and the core values of the Church should coincide with the following: II Corinthians 6:17 (NIV) “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” Joshua 3:5 is one of several statements Joshua states to the people as they are about to enter the Promised Land, “Consecrate (purify) yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” In Leviticus 11:44 God states His requisites, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” In Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” When is the last time you reviewed your life and examined the ministry emphasis of the Church you attend in terms of Separation, Consecration and Holiness? Are you one who has become content to be a “what-cha-ma-call-it” religious-type person? In Revelation 2 and 3, this is the person and Church to whom Jesus Christ stated: "Remember, Repent and Return!" Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CONVOLUTED CONFUSION

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Clarity in communication should be a foundational goal based upon that which is true, verifiable, logical and non-convoluted. One should always strive to say precisely what is meant and to mean unequivocally what has been said. It appears that clarity has been set aside for that which is convoluted and precise definition for that which results in confusion. Anything that is convoluted is defined as “twisted, coiled, complicated and intricately involved.” One recent illustration of this is the Affordable Care Act that contains more than 2,000 pages of descriptions, ramifications, fee structures, coverages, etc. One advocate for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, who hadn’t read it, addressed the House of Representatives said words to the effect: “you have to pass it so you can find out what’s in it.” That statement and concept is “convoluted confusion.”

Despite this type of “convoluted confusion” consider what it could’ve been if we were living 1500 years ago. At that time, our Alphabet contained more than the 26 characters we have today (See dictionary.com). One of the changes was the removal of the “&” (ampersand). They state: “…that small character was once the 27th part of the alphabet. Where did it come from though? The shape of the character (&) predates the word ampersand by more than 1,500 years. In the first century, Roman scribes wrote in cursive, so when they wrote the Latin word “et” which means “and” they linked the e and t. Over time the combined letters came to signify the word “and” in English as well. The word “ampersand” came many years later when “&” was actually part of the English alphabet. In the early 1800s, school children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with the &. It would have been confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and.” Rather, the students said, “and per se and.” “Per se” means “by itself,” so the students were essentially saying, “X, Y, Z, and by itself and.” Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together into the word we use today: ampersand (the ampersand is also used in an unusual configuration where it appears as “&c” and means etc. The ampersand does double work as the e and t).”

It is a given that Congressional Language in Bills proposed or passed contains that which is convoluted and confusing. It usually contains legal language that lacks the precision and clarity one would desire. Even within religious movements and denominations, there is convoluted confusion in what is referred to as the Book of Order. The “order” sought is noble but it too often leads to disorder and disagreement over the applications of the Book of Order. There is a denomination that asks previously ordained ministers, when they relocate from one geographical jurisdiction to another, “What is your view?” about a variety of subjects. Some men act as though they should not be subjected to stating their “belief” (since they had done that previously somewhere else) but to be asked only about their “view”! What if their present “view” no longer squares with the “belief” system of the organization? This is how “convoluted confusion” begins and evolves.

There is an ongoing debate about Creation and the length of creative days. The simple words of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created (made all things out of nothing)…” is debated and argued. The statement about Creation in the fourth commandment is conveniently bypassed. Despite the resounding clarity of I Corinthians 15:1-8 regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ and those who were witnesses to that act and event, arguments have persisted over the years of a possible “swoon theory” and questions about “who moved the stone”, etc. Additionally, despite the declaration of Romans 8:31-39 of the certainty and assurance of one’s redemption and salvation in Jesus Christ, there are those whose doubts about eternity become overwhelming. Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly states that salvation comes by God’s grace alone and not by any of man’s deeds or works. However, some groups teach the opposite that results in convoluted confusion. When Jesus stated in John 10:28-30, “I give to them eternal life and they shall never perish…” one should eagerly believe and receive that provision of God’s grace in His Son, Jesus Christ. Consider these things with me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

STUPEFYING

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There is a story that could begin with the words, “Once upon a time…” However, this story would not be a fable with a happy ending but a newsworthy story about intentional deception based upon the audacity, effrontery, insolence and shameless boldness of a man known as Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economics professor known for his role in advising the Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act. Demonstrating intellectual swagger and audacity Gruber was recorded and reported by ABC News as saying: “Gruber has made controversial comments in the past, but they don’t compare to the comments that came to light this week in videos where he refers to the ”stupidity of the American voter” and In another, when speaking about the Affordable Care Act tax credits said, “American voters are too stupid to understand the difference.” With his arrogance and insolence, he allowed that the American citizenry was easily stupefied by and with the deceptive rhetoric being used. The British Dictionary defines stupefying as: “to render insensitive or lethargic; to confuse or astound.”

The stupefying approach appears to be a clear and present danger for this generation in our nation and for the culture at large. Following the President’s 2015 State of the Union address, “MSNBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel emerged as a rare voice that to condemn the President’s rhetoric on foreign policy as both unrealistic and, in many cases, simply not true. After being asked by anchor Brian Williams for his thoughts, Engel began dissecting the President’s perceived world outlook: “Well, it sounded like the President was outlining a world that he wishes we were all living in but which is very different than the world that you just described with terror raids taking place across Europe, ISIS very much on the move.” In other words, he was indicating that the address was fantasy and myth. It implied that the intention of the rhetoric was to stupefy and mislead the public.

Is stupefying applicable only in the area of politics and government? Does it extend throughout the culture and impact the area of religion and the Church? Within the religious culture, there are any number of people who are graciously referred to as gullible.They are known for their readiness to ingest the “sound-good” words of the nefarious who proclaim “Peace, Peace when there is no Peace.” In Jeremiah 8:10-12, we have this description of the nefarious messengers who are beguiling the gullible and stupid: “From the prophet even to the priest Everyone practices deceit.They heal the brokenness…of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, And they did not know how to blush…” Before anyone cringes at the use of the word “stupid”, consider the words of Psalm 92:5-8, “How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep! The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; but you, O LORD, are on high forever.”

Paul began his writing to the Church at Corinth, I Corinthians 1:2-4, with these words: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…” Paul was also clear about the inherent dangers of gullibility when he wrote in Philippians 1:9-10, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” In the confusing and deceptive culture in which we live, great care must be exercised to guard and increase our knowledge and discernment regarding Jesus Christ, the Living Word, as well as the written word of God in the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God alone, Hebrews 4:12, “…is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Consider these things with me.