Thursday, July 20, 2017

UNFAIRNESS

I Was Just Thinking About – UNFAIRNESS.
We live in a world that can easily be described as unfair. UNICEF reports: “Time is running out for millions of children, unless the world acts now. Famine and lack of a reliable food supply are threatening the lives of approximately 80 million people - more than half of them children - in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen, and in nine additional countries across Africa and the Middle East.  The numbers of children under threat are enormous. More than 2.5 million face imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition. Approximately 4 million children and adolescents may not be able to go to school. Almost 17 million people - including many children - will need lifesaving vaccines, medicine and healthcare. Caused by war, intractable violence, displacement, climate change and drought, this man-made crisis menaces the following countries: (a) Lake Chad Basin: Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria; (b) Eastern Africa: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda; (c) Middle East/Northern Africa: Djibouti and Yemen.
The United States has its share of unfairness where there have been millions of abortions. Those not aborted are often unwanted. Some have been abused; others placed in the Foster Care System; and thousands eligible and available and waiting for adoption.
On the health front, the news reports today of a US Senator who has been suddenly afflicted with an aggressive form of Brain Cancer. The news outlets repeat that he will be kept in our “prayers” for healing. Meanwhile, in hospitals such as Shriner’s and St. Jude’s; there are hundreds of children – mostly unnoticed or unknown – who are suffering all kinds of maladies. It seems so unfair that these little ones have such challenging and debilitating maladies. While a US Senator gets national attention, there are little ones suffering equally who receive limited attention – one lad who has spent almost three-fourths of his life receiving treatments for leukemia – only to learn that it has aggressively returned. The nation will not hear about him nor will they respond accordingly - it seems so unfair.
A Hymn Lyric asks: Does Jesus care when my heart is pained, Too deeply for mirth or song, As the burdens press, And the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long? The refrain answers: O yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief. We are reminded in I Peter 5:7, “Cast all your care (anxiety) on him (Jesus) because he cares for you.” And then, in Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares (burdens) on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” This is our faith, hope and confidence.
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

VERBAL TATTOOS

I Was Just Thinking About – VERBAL TATTOO.
In the past few years, we have seen an increase of the number of people desiring to mark their skin with a Visual Tattoo (or several tattoos). While there is a possibility for them being surgically removed, it is not without pain and some scarring. My focus is upon the Verbal Tattoos that attempt to label a person or persons.
In a recent Blog, I made mention of Howard Hendricks and the major contribution he made in the lives of countless thousands of people and students. In the beginning of his life’s-journey, he was anything but a model student. He grew up in Philadelphia, PA. He wrote the following about his early life of being raised in a broken home: “My parents separated when I came along. I split the family. His father’s mother reared him, and he described himself as a ‘troublemaker’ during his elementary school years, probably just ‘acting out’ a lot of insecurities. ‘Most likely to end up in prison’ was the assessment of his fifth-grade teacher in Philadelphia. Once she even tied him to his seat with a rope and taped his mouth shut. Yet everything changed for that boy when he met his sixth-grade teacher. He introduced himself to Miss Noe, and she told him: ‘I’ve heard a lot about you. But I don’t believe a word of it.’ Those words would change his life. She made him realize for the first time that someone cared.” 
What is said about other people can marginalize them - scar them - for life. It can become a Verbal Tattoo that marks a person. There was once a young minister who did not have the “connections” for advancing in a denomination. When his name came up for consideration, one church leader indicated that in his opinion, this man was a “blunder-buss” (a clumsy, unsubtle person). For better or for worse, that opinion was passed along to others. We need to be very careful with the use of words that are used by us to define another person.
What should be the guideline that governs what we say about others. The first thought that should come to mind by the Biblical Christian is Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Emphasis on the words: “value others” and “the interests of others.” Similarly, in Romans 12:3, we are reminded: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” We should always have in mind Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
You may have been marginalized by the Verbal Tattoo of another person. Put that behind you and know that Jesus thought of you as a person of possibilities when he redeemed you. Follow Him wholeheartedly. It is His opinion of you that matters the most.
Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

DISCOMFORT ZONES

I Was Just Thinking About – DISCOMFORT ZONES.

If given a choice, most would prefer the COMFORT zone rather than the DISCOMFORT one. What are some of the discomfort zones of life. The list can be long and varied. It could include grief due to the loss of a loved one or a very close friend. It might reflect a prevailing malady for which one receives treatment and care but hope of remedy and cure is not the calculation. The malady may not be life-threatening but causing one degrees of limitation. The Wounded Warriors, those who served the nation in areas of conflict, come to mind. A subtle area of discomfort is the pursuit of happiness in life’s situations. Especially when one finds it to be more of an illusion than a reality. A debilitating discomfort zone is where one struggles with depression. Medications fail to bring recovery or meaningful relief.

The Apostle Paul shared his heart when he wrote about a “thorn in the flesh” that limited him and made travel and ministry more difficult for him. He wrote about it in II Corinthians 12:7-10, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

David led a very active life and faced all kinds of challenges. In some of the Psalms written by him, he often makes reference to fear and anxiety. He would write using the words “Fret not!” He had in mind the world in which he was living and the manner in which evildoers seemed to prevail unencumbered. In Psalm 23:4, David wrote: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” The “rod” would be for correction and discipline; the “staff” for guidance and direction.
Regardless of where one finds himself/herself and the discomfort that is connected to it, the Lord still holds His children in the protective hollow of His hand – the place of safety and reassurance. Isaiah 43:1-3 reminds us: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One…your Savior.”

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Saturday, July 15, 2017

THE STRUGGLE WITH GUILT

I Was Just Thinking About – THE STRUGGLE WITH GUILT.

There are many things in life’s experience that can cause one a moment, or a prolonged sense of guilt. There are always the “If Only” situations that occur on a personal level. Last year, I had committed myself to calling my brother at least twice a week (three times was my goal). My brother had not been well for an extended period of time. I normally would’ve called him by July 9th but that day included many other things and I never got around to it. July 10th was a Sunday and we were busy with travel and activities. On July 11th, it never crossed my mind to call him. But then, on July 12th, I received an early call that my brother and his wife sat down at the table for a light Breakfast. His wife had to leave the room briefly. When she returned, his head was on the table and he had breathed his last breath.

There are other areas of our lives where guilt can become (or should be present) where (a) forgiveness needs to sought or granted – but hasn’t been; (b) someone has been offended, or been the cause of a personal offense, and Matthew 5:23-24 has been ignored; (c) words, deeds and actions for which repentance must take place – but again – we conveniently forget a passage such as Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Does the Biblical Christian believe that he/she is exempt in this area before the Holy God? Have we embraced a mentality that there are certain things from which we are exempt? What place does James 5:16 have in our lives, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Do we truly believe these words? Do we make appropriate application of them?

It’s been a very long time since I’ve heard or read a sermon on the peril of a seared conscience. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about many things he would encounter while doing ministry. A collective thought is given in I Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, influenced by the hypocrisy of liars, whose consciences are seared with a hot iron.” In reality, one does not need to look far to determine the reality of the “seared conscience” both in the secular world of cultural decay, as well as the spiritual world of church erosion. This impacts the professing Christian who becomes less and less offended by the things that offend a Holy God, while becoming more and more tolerant of sub-standard foundational principles.

I John 1:8-9 spells what must be done: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  

Prayerfully – consider these things with me! 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

ABSTRACTIONS

I Was Just Thinking About – ABSTRACTIONS.

An old saying about preaching is: “A Text taken out of its Context is a Pretext.” For some it doesn’t matter a great deal – if one can make it fit and apply it – do it! The downside is that there is a loss of a definitive and practical meaning to that which is being shared. The word “abstraction” is itself a fluid word with possible meanings that include: “absence of mind; preoccupation; and – the process of formulating generalized ideas or concepts by extracting common qualities from specific examples.”

When it comes to the understanding and the practice of the Christian Religion, simplicity is far more desirable than any flailing attempt toward intellectualism and/or being erudite. In 1960, the United States Navy came up with the K.I.S.S. acronym – Keep It Simple Stupid – as a design principle. The basic meaning is: “Most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal - complexity should always be avoided.”

I suspect this is the principle employed by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 1:18-21, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. It is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” These words stated by Paul are anchored to The Word of the Lord in Isaiah 29:13-14, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore, once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

The Lord is conveying through His Prophet and Apostle an imperative – don’t play around with that which pertains to God or His word. Eternity hangs in the balance for those who proclaim as well as for those who hear. To those who pretend at being true servants of the Lord but insist on doing ministry “their way” rather than “God’s Way” there is this word in Isaiah 29:16, “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it: You did not make me? Can the pot say to the potter: You know nothing?”

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

BEING FRIENDLESS

I Was Just Thinking About – BEING FRIENDLESS.

I suspect that many of us know people who have made a decision to be alone rather than run the risks often associated with involvement with other people. They carve out a niche for themselves and make that their personal comfort zone. It can also be pointed out that some people can become “different” and have the attitude of “accept me as I am, or just leave me alone.”

When this occurs in the context of what is commonly called The Church, it should be seen as a behavior that is egregious. Why? Because it ignores the prayer intention of Jesus Christ in John 17:11, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” This is reiterated in the instruction of Paul, Ephesians 4:2-3 (NLT), “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”
Another area for consideration pertains to those with varying mood swings. From week to week, it is difficult to know what “mood” is dominant at a given point in one’s life. With some, it is obvious. They tend to be the authority types who desire recognition, whether deserve or not, just so long as they are seen to be “The Leader” within a given group. They may believe they need that recognition without realizing that for many it has a twofold effect: (a) de-motivation, and/or (b) chalking that person off. Allowing one person to believe that it is all about him may feed that one’s ego but it causes the negative behavior of disenfranchisement within the broader group. 

A passage that needs consideration when engaged in interpersonal relationships is Proverbs 18:1-2, 24 (NIV): “An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

What can be done in The Church for the unassuming or disenfranchised person - one who has tried to be a friend to others but has not been accepted? Too many are forced into believing there is no acceptance; no inclusion. Just one more person who begins to believe they are unwanted or unneeded. There is comfort in the words of Jesus who accepts one as His friend (John 15:12-15 - ESV). One can also find joy in in the Hymn by J. Wilbur Chapman (1910), “Jesus! what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.”

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

FACADE OR MEANINGFUL PURPOSE

I Was Just Thinking About – FAƇADE OR MEANINGFUL PURPOSE.

Winston Churchill addressed the British House of Commons on June 4, 1940 and emphasized with powerful words and underscored by determination along commitment: “We must never forget the solid assurances of sea power and those which belong to air power if they can be locally exercised…The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and their need, will defend to the death their native soils, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength, even though a large tract of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule. We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.”

In the 21st Century Church, one can hear many grandiose addresses and glance at statistics ad nauseum. Church Denominations have a propensity and trend toward diversity and accommodation. The Bible is not always viewed as being the Word of God and from God. Somewhere along this pathway of uncertainty and spiritual erosion there needs to rise one (or several) who will be committed to the prophetic words: “Woe to the obstinate children, declares the Lord, to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers: See no more visions! and to the prophets: Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:1, 9-10, 18, 20-21). An old Hymn expresses: “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side…” 

The Biblical Christian must be fully committed to the one true God. He/She must never compromise and never surrender.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.