Wednesday, April 26, 2017

THE UNEXPECTED


I Was Just Thinking About – THE UNEXPECTED.

The definition for the word unexpected is very brief: “surprising” and “unforeseen.” The Thesaurus adds: “abrupt, startling, sudden, unforeseen, unanticipated, swift.” Our lives are lived each day as a series of connected moments. In the midst of those moments, the unexpected and unwanted may become one’s reality. This is how it was yesterday afternoon. I had been working on a Worship Service and Sermon for a Homecoming Service this coming Lord’s Day. The Sermon will be on the theme: “Our Ongoing Journey of Faith” based upon Isaiah 43. 

The telephone rang and the voice on the other end said: “We’ve been in a wreck. The car is totaled. We are alright. Can you come and get us?” Tuesday is the Bowling Day for a group of ladies. The four of them had completed lunch and were driving to return home when this accident occurred. Their car had been hit and flipped on its side. As I drove to the Fire Station 30 miles away, some of the words that had been said to me kept resonating in my mind and prayers: “Peggy is alright. They had to free her from her Seat Belt. The rescue squad had to remove the windshield of the car and remove her that way.” She had hung in that seat belt for longer than ten minutes. The unexpected and unwanted had occurred. The car that caused the accident left the scene. By the grace of God, there was no major injury sustained by anyone. Peggy was taken to the ER and all the Scans and Tests were conducted, and other than soreness, no ribs or bones were fractured.

It was an emotional trip as I drove to get these ladies. Part of the sermon text kept passing through my thoughts and prayers (Isaiah 43:1-7, NLT): “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One…Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” When I started my computer this morning, the words of Isaiah 49:15-16 (ESV) opened on the screen: “I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” What great words of assurance and reassurance from the faithful God who watches over his own!

An old Hymn was also passing through my thoughts and prayers. It was written by William Freeman Lloyd (1791-1853): “Our times are in Thy hand; O God, we wish them there; Our lives, our souls, our all we leave Entirely to Thy care.” Other stanzas include: “Our times are in Thy hand…Pleasing or painful, dark or bright, As best may seem to Thee… Why should we doubt or fear? A Father’s hand will never cause His child a needless tear.” For our Lord, there is never the unexpected moment! He holds His own in His hand! His care is constant! He never fails!

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

TRASH TALKING

I Was Just Thinking About – TRASH TALKING.

Did you ever pause and think to yourself: “If my trash can could speak, I wonder what it would say about me?” The other part to this thought pertains to the words one utters or mumbles. Does it really matter what I am thinking about and what I say? An application is in terms of the words spoken negatively about others. The person listening to such words and absorbing them as being truthful has allowed for his/her ears to become trash receptacles. Those careless moments and words do have eternal consequences.

In the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, He covered several subjects. In Matthew 12:33-37, Jesus said: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of his good store of treasure, and the evil man brings evil things out of his evil store of treasure. But I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” The emphasis is on the phrase: “every careless word.”

James 3:5-11 expands on this thought of Jesus: “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest on fire. The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell…no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

Several books in the Bible contain passages that address the words one uses when they flow out of a heart of bitterness, anger, wrath, envy, evil speaking, etc. Sometimes, it flows out of a life that has been lived irresponsibly and ignoring the standards and values of the Lord. Then, like with a snap of the fingers, there is a “religious experience” or a moment of awakening and wanting to find acceptance within the structures where there have been years of rejecting or ignoring God and His Word.

When planting fruit trees, it takes time for growth and maturation to occur. There has to be care and diligence to make certain the tree has every opportunity to be what it is supposed to be. So it is with life. Psalm 1 indicates that it needs to be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. Anything harmful for the trees growth and maturation, like trash and weeds need to be removed. It takes time and care for that tree to grow and to become productive. Trash-Talking must be dealt with if the spiritual tree, one’s life in Christ, is to be fruitful and productive.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Friday, April 21, 2017

OUTRAGE

I Was Just Thinking About – OUTRAGE!
Is outrage ever a proper action or reaction for the Biblical Christian? Outrage is defined as: (Noun) “(a) any act of wanton cruelty or violence; any gross violation of law or decency; (b) anything that strongly offends, insults, or affronts the feelings; (c) a powerful feeling of resentment or anger aroused by something perceived as an injury, insult or injustice.”
Samuel J. McLure wrote on Facebook:” No one is sufficiently outraged. AL State Legislature just passed Constitution Amendment declaring AL as a pro-life State. Professing Christian Senator and others opposed arguing that Jesus would like mothers to have the option to kill their children. No one is sufficiently outraged.” This issue pertains to Proposal 16 that was being presented to the Governor and Legislature for definitive action. It states a needed concern about the 16 Babies Aborted daily in the State of Alabama.
Frank Pass Commented on Sam’s Post: “Sam I am outraged. I am outraged that our legislators would rather declare themselves pro-life than act on pro-life principles...I am outraged that 16 babies a day are aborted in Alabama and not enough people care...I am outraged that nobody cares about single moms in poverty without healthcare and that addressing these issues will have a direct effect on the number of abortions in our state... I am outraged that there are 5000 kids in foster care in our "pro-life" state, probably half of them waiting to be adopted, and over 12,000 churches in our state who obviously do not believe that true religion is to care for widows and orphans...I am outraged that too many Alabama families have to break federal law or move to treat their kids with cannabis...all these things are pro-life issues and they are widely ignored by our churches and our politicians in our "pro-life" state and that is outrageous.”
Frank Pass made reference to James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In a nation and world that is becoming increasingly secularized, it appears that the professing Christian and secularized Church have become numb to the Biblical focus and obligations of those who claim to embrace “pure religion.” How frequently do you think and pray about the widows and orphans within your sphere of knowledge and living area? How often do you reach out and do a kind act for the widows and orphans? How often do you pause and determine to share a kind word or bring a gift for the widows or orphans? How many of you would be willing to become foster or adoptive parents for one of the thousands of orphans in the state where you reside? Will you, like Jesus, say bring the little ones to me and do not forbid them to come? 
Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Monday, April 17, 2017

INCONVENIENCE

I Was Just Thinking About – INCONVENIENCE.
We’ve all heard the phrase used in societal maters that “Somebody ought to do something about that.” I live in an area where one intersection had a series of accidents with injury and death. The knee-jerk response was that “somebody” ought to do something to alleviate the danger at that intersection. It caused me to think of the old story that went something like this: “There were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”
That brings us back to the local crossroad discussion. Even though the primary Highway is four-lanes, there was some community opinion that what was needed was a traffic light at that crossroad. Others thought that a Caution Light and Warning Sign would suffice, and some offered the opinion that a four-way stop sign would be sufficient. The State conducted a study and determined what was needed was to change the dynamic of that intersection and prevent cross-traffic altogether. They did this by creating J-Turns. As a result, few people were pleased with this decision and result because of the inconvenience it would cause for residents getting into town. Some business owners suggested it would lower their customer traffic. An old comedian used to begin his act by asking: “Is everybody happy?” If that question about the intersection decision, the answer would be a resounding “NO”!
As a society, no one likes to be inconvenienced. It reminds me of a Biblical event where a great banquet had been arranged and guests were invited to attend. In Luke 14:16-24, Jesus was speaking and said: “A certain man prepared a great banquet and invited many guests. When it was time for the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited: Come, for everything is now ready. But one after another, they all began to make excuses.” These excuses are defined as one having other plans, purposes and priorities. Attendance at the Banquet would be inconvenient for them. It echoes the above story where everybody thought somebody else could attend because anybody would be happy to do so. However, nobody responded affirmatively.
Think about your life’s priorities and whether or not they square with the Lord’s values. When He requires all, we are willing to give Him some. When He demands commitment, we give Him tokenism. When He calls us to go and do for Him, we suggest somebody else to Him. What excuses do you use? Why do you think they should be accepted by The Master and Savior?
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

THE JESUS LOOK

I Was Just Thinking About – THE JESUS LOOK.
Have you ever been subjected to “The Jesus Look”? If so, why? What crossed your mind when you noticed it and were subjected to it? How did you respond when it occurred?
There was a special moment mentioned during the sufferings of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion that could be applicable to many who claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The scene is the moment when Peter is speaking and voicing his third denial of having been one of the disciples of Jesus. The rooster begins to crow and then we read the brief phrase, in Luke 22:61, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Luke 22:61-62 shares with us the response of Peter: “Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: Before the rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times. And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
If we extrapolate, “The Jesus Look” doubtlessly occurred elsewhere. When Jesus awakened the sleeping disciples three times in the Garden of Gethsemane and the impending betrayal. The sleepy disciples must’ve been subjected to “The Jesus Look” when He returned the third time and said them in Matthew 26:45-46, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! See, My betrayer is approaching!”
In Matthew 26:49, and the betrayal kiss, “The Jesus Look” probably pierced deeply into the heart of Judas Iscariot. It more than likely haunted him. We see evidence of his remorse in Matthew 27:3-5, “When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was filled with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. I have sinned by betraying innocent blood, he said. What is that to us? they replied. You bear the responsibility. So, Judas threw the silver into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”
After the betrayal, Matthews 26:56 records, “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” Did any of them, for a fleeting moment, turn around as they were fleeing, and see “The Jesus Look”?
While “The Jesus Look” was one of compassion, it doubtlessly indicated His disappointment with the human failure of His closest followers. This added to His broken heart over the bitter rejection of men He was enduring (Isaiah 53:3) and His sufferings as He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). It is too easy to overlook that He was bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).
“The Jesus Look” – have you ever been subjected to it? What did it indicate to you? The Savior’s approval or disapproval? Was He pleased or displeased by your lifestyle choices? Did He find you obeying or disobeying Him? Did He find you standing with Him or fleeing from Him?
Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

INDIFFERENCE

I Was Just Thinking About - INDIFFERENCE.

Amid the ongoing atrocities and carnage in the Middle East and elsewhere, HOW should the Biblical Christian and Church respond and WHEN? 

The USA likes to think of itself as a "Christian Nation" - BUT - is it? A perennial question that was often asked and reflected upon was: "What Would Jesus Do?”

Think about - Matthew 25:34-36, "Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’"
Also - think about James 1:22, 27 - “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves…Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

And then, Isaiah 58:6-9 - “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer: Yes, I am here, he will quickly reply.”

May God have mercy upon the afflicted - and - those who profess to be Christian and yet continue to be insensitive, apathetic and indifferent.

(The Graphic Appears in World Magazine).

Prayerfully - consider these things with me. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

SELF-SERVING CHOICES

I Was Just Thinking About – SELF-SERVING CHOICES.
Human behavior can be a fascinating study. Whether one approaches it from a strictly secular orientation or a spiritual determination, conclusions will vary considerably. The key focus is the self-serving choices one has determined to be best. A Lifezette News Story references the current political climate and the selection of a United States Supreme Court nominee. The article for today includes in its sub-headline the words that define one political party’s choice, that they: “Choose obstruction over principle as left demands resistance.” The primary Headline is declaratory: “Gorsuch Filibuster Shows Dems Powerless to Oppose Their Base.” The focus of those who are making that choice is the 2018 election cycle and their desire to continue in office for another six years. The issue of principle and that which is either right or wrong has very little or nothing to do with the choice made. It is the motivation for continuance in a position of governmental “power” and “influence.”
If we shift to the self-serving choices one makes in a spiritual setting, will we find similar behavior or a self-sacrifice choice versus a self-serving one? The Biblical text that should govern one’s choice is plainly given in James 4:16-17, “As it is, you boast in your proud intentions. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, whoever knows the right thing to do, yet fails to do it, is guilty of sin.” The New Living Translation of James 4:15-17 reads, “What you ought to say is: If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that. Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”
Thom S. Rainer published an article on March 27, 2017 whose headline stated: “Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make Or Die.” His conclusion is: “Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent. Hear me well, church leaders and church members. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die. Time is running out. Please, for the sake of the gospel, forsake yourself and make the changes in God’s power.”
Among the nine changes are: Number 6, “We must stop focusing on minors. Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.” Number 7, “We must stop shooting our own.  This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, the staff member, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. We will even go after their families. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.”
How many us will genuinely care and change? If so, when?
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.