Thursday, December 8, 2016

CASUALTIES

I Was Just Thinking About – CASUALTIES.
The spiritual battlefield is littered with the wounded and fallen. A cause for this is addressed in today’s devotional by Dr. A.W. Tozer – NO TURNING BACK. 
“With large blocks of evangelicals praying and preaching like Christians while they live and talk like worldlings, how much longer may we expect them to remain evangelical? Apostasy always begins with the conduct. First there is a wrong orientation of the life, a facing toward the lost world with yearning and enjoyment; later there comes a gradual surrender of the truth itself and a slipping back into unbelief. That has happened to individuals and denominations and it can happen to the whole present evangelical communion if it is not checked before it is too late. For this cause, the facing-both-ways attitude of our present Christianity is something to be alarmed about. And if that attitude were the result of plain backsliding there would be much more reason for optimism. Unchristian acts done by a Christian through weakness and over the protests of his better heart may be bad enough, but they are not likely to be fatal. But when he does them with the sanction of his teachers and with the belief that they are all a part of the Christian way, how is he to be rescued?
VERSE: John 6:66
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
THOUGHT
There is turning back which is deliberate and decisive. There is also that which is gradual and almost insensible. It is the latter to which we may be most vulnerable. We are in the world. Are we of it, too?
PRAYER
I am in this world but, Lord, I don’t want to be of it. Help me to discern the difference.”
As I reflected on the above, my prevailing thought was – What is our duty toward those who have fallen? Do we leave the wounded and fallen on the spiritual battlefield? Two thoughts occurred to me – – –
First: Jude 1:22-23 – “And indeed, have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; and to still others, show mercy tempered with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh.”
Second: Galatians 6:1-2 – “Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.”
Prayerfully – remember and consider these things with me!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A DAY OF INFAMY

I Was Just Thinking About – A DAY OF INFAMY.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt used “Infamy” (a day that will be known for some very bad deed) to describe the horror and loss caused by the Japanese Invasion at Pearl Harbor. Cal Thomas has written a column about that horrific day 75 years ago – December 7, 1941. “Only five of the 335 men who survived the unprovoked attack that sunk the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, remain alive. Donald Stratton, 94, is one of them. He has added to the historical knowledge of that day and the beginning of America’s entry into World War II in a new book, All the Gallant Men: The First Memoir By a USS Arizona Survivor. Typical of so many men of that era, the book is…more about the men with whom he served. According to the book, total casualties at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day amounted to 2,403 dead and 1,176 wounded. Many of his shipmates lie interred in the bowels of the Arizona, which still secretes oil, a constant reminder to “never forget.” 

The byword emerging from that fateful day is – "Remember Pearl Harbor." To Remember – is to bring to mind or think of again; to retain in the memory. There is a much greater day of infamy that one is called upon to Remember. It should be purposeful for the Biblical Christian to properly celebrate the day of the birth of Jesus Christ. In doing so, one should never forget “Why” He was born. John the Baptist summarized it when he saw Jesus Christ – John 1:29 – “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Again – in John 1:36 – “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, Look, the Lamb of God!” People in that day were better able to conclude and equate the meaning of what John was saying, namely, Lamb and Sacrifice was being used synonymously. 

Jesus spoke to His disciples about a day of infamy coming very soon in their experience – His death. During a Passover meal – Luke 22:19 – Jesus “took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” When Paul reflected back on that Last Supper statement, he incorporated it when he was establishing the parameters for such times set aside to “Remember.” 

In I Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul wrote: “I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said: This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me…after supper He took the cup, saying: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

Spiritually, this Day of Infamy is remembered in terms of one’s relationship to Jesus Christ. It is determinative in terms of where one will spend eternity – therefore – Remember His death. Remember that eternal life and heaven is available only in Him.

Prayerfully – consider and remember these things with me! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

MISFITS

I Was Just Thinking About – MISFITS.

A meaningful television special based upon the story and characters of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Island of Misfit Toys is worth watching. The misfit toys are cute but do not fit the stereotype usually associated with them. Part of the storyline includes toys that have been discarded because they have gotten old or worn and a child wants something new and more current. There is a multi-spotted elephant; a train with square wheels on the caboose; a Charlie in the box; two tin (rather than wooden) soldiers; a winged bear; a cowboy who rides an ostrich; etc.  These toys are isolated on an Island because they do not meet the expectation of those who have a special toy in mind and how it should function.

In many ways, this animated fictional story has a true-to-life sound and application to it. In the ebb and flow of life, some in the older generation are forgotten by the younger generation, ignored or shoved aside (at least, it seems as though that is the case). In a previous Blog, mention was made of “the least of these” and those who sense they are unneeded or unwanted. In such a time of sensing personal uselessness, some people despair and become overwhelmed with hopelessness. In a study by Psychology Today (2012), the following summary was written: “In the United States, nearly 30,000 people die by suicide each year, and the rate of attempted suicide is much higher. Worldwide, suicide claims more deaths than accidents, homicides, and war combined. And many cases of suicide, particularly in the elderly, go completely undetected and unaccounted...”

In a world that had become weary and hopeless, we read this following Biblical statement in Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT),  “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” 

When I was a child, a chorus sung in Sunday School was: “Jesus loves the little children; All the children of the world; Red and Yellow – Black and White, all are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world." Peter expressed it differently when he wrote, I Peter 2:9-10, “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Never forget – you are not a Misfit. Hope and acceptance is available for you in Jesus Christ. You are special and precious in His sight. 

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

THE LEAST OF THESE

I Was Just Thinking About – THE LEAST OF THESE.

There are many, many people who go through life being unnoticed and with little or no recognition. They can be people who are the poor among us or they can be people who have sought to serve others in various professions. For some of them, exclusion and loneliness has been a lifetime experience.

A couple of years ago, I authored a book titled Realizing Significance that chronicled just a small sampling of people who have faced handicaps and existed within the category seen as little people. The theme text of that book was a phrase taken from Mark 4:36, “there were also other little” boats with them.” A point made was that when a raging storm became a reality, the disciples in a larger boat were concerned for their lives and safety but no mention was made of a concern for “the other little boats that were also in that storm. It was significant that Francis Schaeffer made the purposeful statement in his writing titled True Spirituality that: There are No Little People and No Little Places. When referencing those deemed “little people” he added, “there are only consecrated or non-consecrated people.” A hymn that is sometimes sung at Missionary Consecration Services is: So Send I You. The first stanza contains these words - -
So send I you to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown.
To bear rebuke, or suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for Me alone.

In Matthew 23:11-12, Jesus reminded the crowds and His disciples: “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” A short time after, Jesus states this criterion for entering His Kingdom, Matthew 25:31-46 – The Separation Of The Sheep and Goats. Jesus mentioned how the sheep and goats differed in their approach to “the least of these, My brethren.” He measured the sheep and goats – their observations, actions or inactions - based upon verses 35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” When they inquired about “when” this had been done, Jesus replied with His “least of these” statement. If one ministered to the “least of these, one ministered to Jesus Himself. If one ignored the least of these, Jesus declared one had ignored Him.

A person should never feel or believe he is unneeded or unnecessary. No one is on this planet for personal recognition even though there are those who strive for it and receive it. We are here to serve Jesus Christ so that whether by life or by death, He alone is magnified and glorified (Philippians 1:20-21). 

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Friday, December 2, 2016

WISHFUL THINKING

I Was Just Thinking About – WISHFUL THINKING.

Throughout the history of philosophy, there has been a struggle between the ideal and the real. There was the ongoing distinction being made between universals, ideals and reality. Plato gave expression to these tensions when he allowed: “Universals do indeed exist, although not in the same way that ordinary physical objects exist, but in a sort of ghostly mode of existence, outside of space and time, but not at any spatial or temporal distance from people's bodies. Thus, people cannot see or otherwise come into sensory contact with universals, and it is meaningless to apply the categories of space and time to them, but they can nevertheless be conceived of and exist.” His thinking would be described as a man seated in a cave facing a blank wall where only the shadows of the ideal would be projected and his understanding of the real would become his reality.

Does this impact us today in any way. A sports story of the Football Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings last night begins with this statement: “For Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, the hyperbole has turned into reality. Those who gushed over him in the preseason, lavishing over-the-top praise, have found those compliments to be just and warranted.” The word “ideal” could easily be substituted for the “hyperbole” usage.

The world of politics is sometimes blatant with its struggle between the ideal and the real. Cal Thomas writes today about former UN Ambassador John Bolton being interviewed for the position of Secretary of State and employs this Bolton quote: “Negotiation is not a policy. It’s a technique. It’s something you use when it’s to your advantage, and something that you don’t use when it’s not to your advantage.” That, Cal Thomas asserts, is the opposite of wishful thinking.

If one set out to pursue the tension between the ideal and real in the Holy Scriptures, many volumes would be required. One situation pertains to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul would argue this matter at the outset of I Corinthians 15 and the many witnesses to the actual appearances and reality of the resurrected Jesus Christ. At the outset, there was the moment in John 20:19-29 when the resurrected Jesus appeared in the midst of His disciples. Thomas was missing. When the others exuberantly told him of this reality, he doubted, and dismissed their report as probably “wishful thinking” on their part. He set forth his criteria of accepting their “ideal” and his “reality” when he said: “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, and put my finger where the nails have been, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.” He was overwhelmed when Jesus appeared again and told Thomas to do what he required about the nail-prints and riven-side. After doing so, his reality was expressed when he said: “My Lord and my God!” Are you a wishful thinker who tinkers with ideals versus the real, or have you by faith and commitment the reality of Who Jesus Christ is and what He requires of one’s committed life to Him?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

IF ONLY

I Was Just Thinking About – IF ONLY.

The following is copied from today’s devotional (December 1, 2016): Get More Strength For The Journey by Joseph Stowell. The title is: “What Can I Do To Help?” The text used is Galatians 6:1-2, Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The thought that occurred to me was IF ONLY the Body of Christ would act and react in the manner described by this text. A question raised is: What is our “first response when we encounter trouble in the life of someone else, especially when it’s the result of sin?”
The devotional continues: “It’s easy to want to blow off the problem so that we don’t have to get involved in it. We usually feel that we have enough burdens of our own and don’t need anyone else’s. Which makes it easy to respond with gossipy criticism like, “I knew it! That person has been headed for disaster for years.” Or we can’t wait to tell someone about the struggles of another, anxious to affirm our own self worth through a juicy tale or two. Other times our response is even more sinister. We give vent to a sense of self-righteous judgment: “That’s unbelievable! I certainly would never do that!” Why is it that seeing trouble in the lives of others so often gives way to a sense of religious superiority as we draw the conclusion that we are somehow more worthy and less in need of grace than the person in the ditch? It’s so easy to forget that as rebellious, disobedient people, none of us deserves God’s favor and blessing. We can’t miss what Paul is saying here. He gently reminds the Galatians that the responsibility of the believer, when faced with a sin-snared life, is to “restore.” Pause here for a moment. Paul doesn’t say to “condemn.” Paul doesn’t say, “Preach against.” He doesn’t say, “Tell someone else.” Rather, he tells us to ‘RESTORE.’ In fact, he tells us how to restore—‘GENTLY.’”

Think about the IF ONLY transparency situations in which you have been or are involved where the response has been anything anything but “RESTORE GENTLY!” I have seen and felt the pain of others (as well as my own) when transparency was attempted and “RESTORE GENTLY” was absent.

The devotional includes: “When a friend, loved one, family member, or fellow Christian is snared in sin, the first thing that should be on our lips is, “How can I help?” Paul goes on to remind us that we are all in need of grace—that we must be on guard, as well, against the same snares that entangle others. He also reminds us that “carrying one another’s burdens” is part and parcel of what it means to live as a Christ-follower.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

BEING CONFUSED

I Was Just Thinking About – BEING CONFUSED.
If one consulted a Counsellor about his/her personal confusion, the Biblical Counsellor would eventually come to a bottom line resolve for a person: (1) Get Re-focused. Plug into Hebrews 12:2 and “Keep on looking to Jesus, the Author and Completer of your faith.” (2) Make A Commitment to the Author and Completer of your faith. At the very least two areas of this commitment are (a) Luke 10:27, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and (b) Acts 20:24, “But I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus—the ministry of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (3) The Commitment will also include something similar to John Wesley’s: “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”
One of the great fellowship opportunities is to communicate with or to read the thoughts of those who are transparent. In some instances, it can bring one to agony of soul and cause tears to flow. I just recently came across a communication of one who described his plight in life with these words: “Yes, I’m confused about life just like everyone else. I get depressed, I struggle and I feel lost too, more often than you probably would imagine. In fact,…I had a bit of a breakdown. That might be an understatement. It was actually quite a significant breakdown. Despite having been traveling for 15 years…nothing made sense to me. I was placing intense personal pressure on myself, I had no answers to anything and every day I woke up with a ‘…I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing’ kind of confusion.”
Despite this transparency, his conclusion regarding his personal confusion would not ordinarily be the desired resolve. “Let me say this….don’t worry about the confusion you are feeling. Don’t worry about feeling lost and having no idea what to do in life… Maybe you wanted to quit your job and head in a new direction but you weren’t sure what to do…Perhaps you just don’t know how to take the first step towards your goals and you’re worried that you’ll never achieve what you really want to achieve in the end. Again, don’t worry about these things. Worry about who you are right now instead. That’s where it starts. Understand what kind of person you want to be as you move through this world, what you believe in, how you want to treat others and what is important to you. Once you figure this out, the rest will come and you’ll be able to handle any periods of confusion, fear, uncertainty or whatever you must face along the way…” Obviously, he has missed the intent and purpose of Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT), “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” It would also be invaluable to remember the words of both Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28.
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.