Tuesday, May 24, 2016

CONGRUENCE

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Politics used to be anchored to the Constitution of the United States and the truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Some of the words are remembered, but sadly, many of them have been ignored or forgotten. Words such as: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The Signers of the Declaration demonstrated unity and congruence (agreement, harmony, compatibility). There was a consistency to their stance and declarations, and a conformity as they appealed to “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.” Their congruent commitment went further when they affixed their signatures to the declaration following their final statement: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Just a cursory review of the nation today could lead one to a conclusion that Divine Providence is no longer a key factor in governance; and self-interests and selfish ambition has little room for a mutual pledge to each other of our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor. To indicate there is a present erosion of foundational principles and core values would be a classic understatement. To conclude that the nation has stepped off of a precipice and is descending toward the cultural abyss would be an appropriate and obvious assessment.

When I was a boy, we attended a small mission-type Church. Whenever the Lord’s Supper was going to be administered, there was a ritual that was followed. It was suggested that we know Romans 12 and I Corinthians 13 so in a congruent way we could recite it together. A key section, Romans 12:15-17, states: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.” This was an ambitious goal and challenge. There was a compatibility among those who attended and an acceptance regardless of one’s station in life. Later on, I became part of a denomination that had Scottish roots. Whenever the churches met as a General Synod (or later, as a General Assembly), the gatherings always concluded with the singing of Psalm 133 (from the KJV), “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is FOR BRETHREN TO DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY!”

Congruence should be a core value by which we live and interact with others. The enemy of our souls utilizes deception, disruption and devious devices to prevent harmony and unity from being realized even within and among those who are Biblical Christians. Paul may have had that sad reality in mind when he wrote (and prayed) Romans 15:4-7, “For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST JESUS, so that with ONE MIND AND ONE VOICE you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring glory to God.” We should be able to make a significant difference in this decadent world as we embrace and practice these truths of Scripture. Jesus prayed, John 17:20-21, “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.” Prayerfully – Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

AN UPPER ROOM REALITY

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It is obvious that we live in a day and time where true religion is being sacrificed on the altar of secularism and self-indulgence. As the Gospel narratives drew to a conclusion, Luke continued writing a transitional history of what Biblical Christians desired and practiced. They were unwilling to surrender to the inevitable of making choices between the lesser of two evils. Truth must be preserved. The Gospel must continue to be declared regardless of the cost. Commitment to Christ, crucified and risen, who ascended into heaven was required. Would there be a personal cost? Yes. Would there be suffering and persecution? Yes. Would the power of God be thwarted? No.

Before the ongoing effort, ministry and message, there had to be the important moments in the Upper Room. We get a glimpse of the upper room where they had been staying (Acts 1:12-13). We also learn two things immediately about this upper room gathering in Acts 1:14, they were all with one mind and they were continually devoting themselves to prayer. These two upper room principles are needed in personal lives as well as in The Church as it exists today. There is a drift away from being of one mind. Similarly, prayer can appear to be a religious ritual we tack onto our Church worship agendas. If the professing Christians could arrive at the one mind point and continually devote themselves to prayer, the result would be positive and remarkable. Emerging would be a corps of Biblical Christians and the development of the Biblical Church. The enemy (that old serpent, the devil (Revelation 20:2, 9) is relentless in his effort to disrupt and destroy the Upper Room reality. It appears that the enemy has made inroads into organized religious organizations. Some of the clear truths that the inspired Word of God condemns, churchmen are intellectually and in the name of relevancy are condoning.

Do you ever long for a gathering of likeminded Biblical Christians in an Upper Room atmosphere and experience? I remember fondly a family in a church startup situation who opened a room above their garage where we were able to have an Upper Room Bible Study and Prayer Time. There was a spirit of oneness. Camaraderie (mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together) resulted. It was a friendship and fellowship that does not often occur. It is sorely missed and is absent from several places where it should be present. It is a situation where people don’t just talk religion but who walk and practice true religion. Do you belong to a Church or group where such camaraderie is both natural and present? If only God’s people would fully return to doing God’s word in God’s way, we might actually experience that for which David longed for when he wrote, Psalm 85:4-7 (NASB), “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your indignation toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your loving-kindness, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.”

Are you ready and eager for a God-sent Revival in your life, your Church, your community? Is God still able to bring it to pass in amid the secularized twenty-first century? Was God’s power limited to just the Upper Room group? Are you willing and available to meet with like-minded brothers and sisters who are 100% committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s will – and cry out to God to accomplish great and mighty things in our contemporary world? Are you willing to run any risk and pay any price for the Lord to work in and through you to reach this generation with the Gospel truth?  If so, the message would begin with John 8:31-36 (ESV), “So Jesus said…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you freeif the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” To and for a people who are in the grip of the enemy, bound and enslaved to him, the message that will break through by the power of God remains, “The truth will set you free…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Can you be counted on to make that truth known? Come to the Upper Room and be empowered by a Great God to do His Great work in and through you! Prayerfully – Consider these things with me

Monday, May 16, 2016

READING WHAT'S ON THE WALL

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In the contemporary world, some people believe their graffiti on a wall is what the world has been waiting for and expecting! In too many instances, in is best to avoid looking at or reading that which some vulgar person has drawn or written. The idea of this Blog pertains to something far more serious tan graffiti on a wall. Last week, the Federal Government allowed for a new interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with a particular emphasis upon sex and gender preferences. With his signature on yet another Presidential Decree based upon that new interpretation, the writing on the wall outside of restrooms in public places and schools must now read – Transgender Restroom. The distinction of – men or women, boy or girl – is now illegal inasmuch as the POTUS Decree supersedes that distinction. To enforce this decree, any state or institution refusing to comply will lose Title IX funding from the Federal Government. Obviously, it is another act of defiance of this nation’s foundational principles, core values and moral standards. What will The Church do? How will Evangelicals respond? What Congressional action will be immediately taken to reverse this decree? Whose voice will be raised in opposition?

A few hundred years ago there was a moment to decide about taking a stand for truth and righteousness. Elijah had appeared before King Ahab and issued a challenge regarding the prophets of Baal and the growing opposition of the nation toward God and His standards. In I Kings 18:22, Elijah issues a challenge to the people. He text indicates, “Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word.” The last phrase was part of the problem in Elijah’s day and is a major problem in our day as well. In the NLT, this same text reads, “Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him! But the people were completely silent.” Sadly, the people were completely silent. They were afraid to take a stand for God and righteousness. They measured any such involvement against their own vested interests. The result was they went along just to get along.

In another time, God’s people were having to endure the Babylonian Captivity. The Emperor had called for a time of celebration and a festive activity. While this party was taking place, a startling incident happened. It is recorded in Daniel 5:2-4 records the level of their decadence, “Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.” During their drunken display of decadence, the tone of the party abruptly changes (Verses 5-6), “The fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lamp-stand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. What did that message say? What did it mean? 

Daniel stands alone and speaks (Verses 22-23), “Belshazzar, you have not humbled your heart…but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.” Daniel then proceeds to interpret the Writing On The Wall (Verses 26-28), MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” In other words, the party and the kings reign is now over. Something bad is about to happen as the Medes and Persians attack and take over the nation. God’s deciding factor and measurement of Belshazzar in Daniel’s day and POTUS in our day is Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Monday, May 9, 2016

PRACTICAL ATHEISM

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Many years ago, a philosophical viewpoint by  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) emerged that proposed the possibility that God is dead! This conclusion was reached when he commented: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” It was thought that Nietzsche’s works were expressing  a fear that the decline of religion, the rise of atheism, and the absence of a higher moral authority would plunge the world into chaos.”

In 1963, Bishop John A. T. Robinson (1919-1983), Anglican Bishop of Woolrich,  published his work titled, Honest To God. It had some thoughts similar to those of Nietzsche regarding God and His existence and influence in the world. In a later writing (1967), Exploration Into God, Bishop Robinson shared the intent to synthesize the work of theologians Paul Tillich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Rather than clarifying his viewpoint, it muddied the water somewhat when he called on Christians to view God as the "Ground of All Being" rather than a supernatural being out there – somewhere. The views of Bishop Robinson in his book have had thoughts in common with the psychological deconstruction of God-ideas put forward by his fellow Cambridge theologian Harry Williams.

In America, we have come to a juncture in terms of what we believe about the Almighty God. Does He exist in our culture and thinking? Is He relevant at all in terms of lifestyle choices? What about political trends and candidates, does He have any involvement at all? What if the populace has become cultic (a quasi-religious or political organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents) and leaves no meaningful choice among candidates – has this become the nation’s Rubicon or has it become similar to the Tower Of Babel for the voters? Has God lost control of the United States of America? Is He “dead” in our nation? If He is alive, does He have a plan? What is His plan and what is He doing?

Ponder the words of Psalm 75:2-7 (ESV) where The Lord speaks, “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. I say to the boastful, Do not boast, and to the wicked… not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck. For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.” In Daniel 2:20-22 (ESV), Daniel has a vision from the Lord that interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” In Proverbs 21:1-3 (ESV), we read, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

Is God in control? Is He in charge of His world? Do we truly believe that the Almighty God is alive and active in the contemporary world? When a nation (and/or Church) has made the incorrect cultural and political choice(s), Jeremiah 4 is applicable as God’s judgment is declared. Verse 18 summarizes, “Your ways and your deeds have brought this upon you. This is your doom, and it is bitter; it has reached your very heart.” There remains a window of opportunity for the nation (and Church) to come to its senses and repent. Which choice will be made? Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

SHAMELESSNESS

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The cultural changes and dynamics that are occurring are very significant. The nation has gotten so caught up in trends and political correctness that it has lost its moorings in the process. There isn’t much mention made of those things which made the nation great and blest beyond measure. The historical perspective has become blurred and the lessons of the past have essentially been abandoned. The Church, which was once a hallowed place and reverenced as a sanctuary, has abdicated convictions for conveniences. In the craving and drive for acceptance, “Evangelicals” (so-called) have compromised and set aside the moral compass that could guide us through the challenges of the present time. One leading “Evangelical” from Dallas, TX likes to reference his political choice with words such as: “We’re electing a Commander in Chief – not a Pastor in Chief.” He goes on to indicate that tone and language should not be front-burner issues because the objective is to win and achieve victory. He used an analogy about General Patton and World War II and said: “No one cared all that much about the tone and language of Patton – all they cared about was his leading the troops to win the battle.”

During and following World War II, a popular song was written by Irving Berlin as a prayer about and for the nation. It was originally written in 1918 but never published. With the rise of Germany’s militancy, the song was recalled and published in 1938. The opening stanza of God Bless America contains these lyrics: “While the storm clouds gather, Far across the seas…Let us raise out voices, in a solemn Prayer." The Prayer is: "God Bless America, Land that I love! Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above…” The song was sung often and proudly as the nation drifted into conflict with Nazi Germany and Japan, and then echoed after victory had been achieved. 

Where are we today? Do we look to God for anything anymore? Is God even mentioned in the public square in a reverential way? An example of how far we have drifted as a nation, on April 25, 2016, a news story that received very little attention or mention was headlined: “9/11 Memorial Guards Make Kids Stop Singing The National Anthem.” The story stated: “A group of North Carolina middle-school children on a field trip to New York City paused on Friday to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the 9/11 memorial site as a demonstration of respect, but a pair of security guards ordered them to be quiet. You have to stop, one guard reportedly told the student’s teacher.” Why did this take place and why did the guards stop the National Anthem from being sung? The reason given was: “This is considered a public demonstration. The guards insisted the children would have to acquire a permit to be able to complete their song.”

As both patriotism and the Christian religion is being squelched whenever and wherever it can be, the nation drifts more rapidly away from its foundational principles and core values. It reminds one of a day and time when God spoke through His prophet – Jeremiah 8:9-12 (ESV) – and said: “The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them? From the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore, they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.” 

The application should be obvious. It sounds as though it was a commentary about the present day. The epitaph that could be written about this nation, unless it repents and returns to the Lord, is: “They were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.” Are we any different than those living in the days of Noah when wickedness was great upon the earth (Genesis 6)? Are we any different than the people in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah who tolerated amoral behavior (Genesis 19)? Are we any different from those about whom it was said, “God gave them up” and “God gave them over” to their lustful and sinful behaviors (Romans 1)? Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BEHAVIORAL HIGHS AND LOWS

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Someone enters a school armed with guns and begins to shoot randomly with the result that innocent lives are abruptly ended – why did this have to happen?  A co-worker who has been treated nicely by others unexpectedly targets fellow workers in an act of terror – and there is no logical reason for that event taking place. Incidents like this occur too frequently, and many are affected, fearful and confused. In the secular handling of such incidents, the usual action that follows is to bring in grief counsellors to deal with those who have been emotionally/psychologically impacted by such heinous and random acts.

On “October 2nd, 2006 – a normally quiet and peaceful day in the rolling Amish farmlands of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – when suddenly that peace was shattered when the sound of gunfire. When local police broke into the one-room Amish schoolhouse they found 10 Amish girls ages 6-13 had been shot by a man who had then committed suicide.” Why did the shooter commit this act? A biographical background of the shooter disclosed the following that he: “was a milk truck driver who serviced the local community, including the farms of some of the victims’ families. Nine years earlier his wife Amy gave birth to their first child, a baby girl. However, the baby died after living only 20 minutes. Apparently his daughter’s death affected him greatly. He never forgave God for her death, and eventually planned to get revenge.” He dismissed the boys and adults in the classroom and then shot and killed the girls! How did the Amish Community react and respond to this devastating event? They reached out to the shooter’s family with forgiveness and acts of kindness.

One reason given for this abnormal behavior is in a study of those who are bi-polar. CNN has published a study and shared some of their findings that: “Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive disorder. And the name describes the illness. It involves depression with at least one episode of mania or hypomania. Bipolar can be hard to recognize because the highs and lows can seem like separate problems. But catching it and getting a correct diagnosis is vital because proper treatment can help bipolar people regain control over their lives.” However, bi-polar behavior is not always predictable. There are radical mood swings that are observable as: “An abnormally elevated mood is a characteristic of mania. This can mean that a person will act overly happy or outgoing. A manic person may feel naturally high in this state. In fact, mania can make people feel so high they become too stimulated and out of control. They end up being irritable, agitated, jumpy and anxious. Manic people are highly active, easily distracted, restless, and overly talkative. They tend to have extremely high self-confidence levels and engage in risky behaviors. The flip side of a manic episode is a depressive episode. These periods tend to occur more frequently, last longer, and be more problematic than manic episodes. During depressive episodes, people with bipolar disorder experience worry, emptiness, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. They lose interest in previously enjoyable activities.” 
(See: https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/bipolar).

A Biblical response regarding unpredictable behavior is given in by Jesus Christ in Matthew 15:18-19, “Do you still not understand?” The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.” However, in this complicated day in which we live, can a Biblical Christian be bi-polar and have radical mood swings? The direct answer is “Yes!” A Christian Website (See: http://www.gotquestions.org/bipolar-manic-depression.html) makes the following statement regarding the Bi-Polar professing Christian: “Because bipolar disorder or manic depression affects the way a person thinks, finding godly counsel is essential, Proverbs 1:5-7, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance…The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Also, spending time in God’s Word is likewise essential, II Timothy 3:16-17,  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Bipolar disorder alters a person’s perceptions of reality, so a strong foundation in truth is a necessity when dealing with its symptoms.” There is hope for the bi-polar Christian offered in II Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is passing away; behold, the new has come.” II Corinthians 12:9 reminds us that, God’s grace is always more than sufficient for one’s need. 

A question that needs to be considered carefully is: Can a bi-polar person formally serve the Lord effectively in any leadership capacity? As difficult as it is to write and say, in the short term, the answer is “Yes!” but in longer term service, the answer would be “No!” Think about it - consider – prayerfully and carefully -  these things with me!

Monday, April 25, 2016

FECKLESS OR FLAWLESS

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In moments of import, is the professing Christian feckless (ineffective; incompetent; indifferent; lazy; uninvolved; having no sense of responsibility), or flawless (having no defects or faults)? If we compare a professing Christian with a Biblical Christian, there is a stark contrast.

The Biblical Christian will be acting responsively to Hebrews 12:1-3, NLT), “Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses  to the life of faith (See: Hebrews 11), let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

The Biblical Christian will sense the immediacy for involvement and action by preparing oneself for engagement in a spiritual conflict for the souls of people. The specifications for preparation and standard equipment for the Biblical Christian is given in Ephesians 6:10-18,
  • (1) What one is expected to be: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
  • (2) The enemy one will face: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
  • (3) What one is expected to do: Take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.
The question one must honestly answer pertains to whether one is accepting responsibility to be engaged fully in spiritual matters and warfare, or to remain feckless and sitting on the sidelines. The old hymn (Am I A Soldier Of The Cross?) asks an important question that requires an answer:

“Shall I be carried to the sky, 
On flowery beds of ease; 
While others fought to win the prize, 
or sailed through  bloody seas?”

Another stanza states the answer and commitment required:

Sure I must fight if I would reign; 
Increase my courage, Lord. 
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, 
Supported by Thy Word.”

Which stanza represents you?  Consider These Things With Me!