Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BEHAVIORAL HIGHS AND LOWS

I Was Just Thinking About - - -

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

I Was Just Thinking About - - -

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!




Friday, April 22, 2016

COMPLACENCY AND THE CULTURAL MAZE

While the complacent and indifferent righteous nap, their secure world has warped and slid into a Cultural Maze. 
*   Politicians offer their watered down solutions to appeal to a broadened voter base. 
*  Mega-Church representatives straddle the proverbial fence in order to maintain a broad support base. 
*   Government Regulations are designed to impact a near-dormant society with restrictions that stifle creativity and initiative. 

The wretchedness that prevails within the Cultural Maze is described by a Biblical passage — Proverbs 6:6–11, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest — Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man.” It seems as though the nation, culture, religion and indifference has occurred. Now we await the full reaping of the consequences for the actions and inactions of the complacent and indifferent. How will the nation/you escape the dark and vast cultural maze?

In some Bible Translations, Proverbs 6 has a Heading. In the NIV, it is: Warnings Against Folly. In the ESV, it is: Practical Warnings. The NASB heading is: Parental Counsel. The KJV is: Warnings Against Foolishness. The detail of the Chapter has two emphases that should be studied and understood. 

One section describes the worthless and conniving person in Proverbs 6:12-15 - - -
“A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;  therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.”

A second passage describes the things that are obnoxious to God and which arouse His hatred toward seven behaviors – Proverbs 6:16-19 - - - There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 
(1) haughty eyes (pride), 
(2) a lying tongue (deception),  
(3) hands that shed innocent blood, 
(4) a heart that devises wicked plans, 
(5) feet that make haste to run to evil, 
(6) a false witness who breathes out lies, and 
(7) one who sows discord among brothers.

At the very least, we should make it a point to echo the Prayer of the Psalmist – Psalm 140:1-3 (NLT) - - - 
“O Lord, rescue me from evil people. Protect me from those who are violent, those who plot evil in their hearts and stir up trouble all day long. Their tongues sting like a snake; the venom of a viper drips from their lips.”


Consider These Things With Me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

POLAR OPPOSITES?

I Was Just Thinking About - - -

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines Polar Opposites as: “That which is conspicuously different in most important respects.” In Yahoo Answers, the following was given as the Best Answer: “It means that they are completely different whether in looks, personalities, etc. Think of the earth's two poles. They can't be any further from each other. They say that about people or things when they have absolutely nothing in common.” We live in a day and time where polarization between ethnic groups and the races is reaching epic proportions.

Within the Political Correctness climate, Church groups attempt to address the problem with resolutions and challenges for equanimity to prevail in the delicate matter of ethnic and racial considerations. It is not as simple as it appears. One group is urged to assuage another group in order to overcome diversity. It tends to fragment when Group A formulates the cause of diversity is due to Group B’s status of privilege (better schools, better income, better living conditions, better opportunities, etc.). Group B responds that Group A has become oriented to entitlements that are defined as “a type of government program that provides individuals with personal financial benefits (or sometimes special government-provided goods or services) to which an indefinite (but usually rather large) number of potential beneficiaries have a legal right.” How should the Biblical Church consider the obvious ethnic and racial diversity? It would be helpful if in the discussion and proposals regarding ministry attempts to build bridges toward and into those places where ethnic and racial diversity are present, certain words should be avoided. One of them is the term “Hatred” which is defined as: “intense dislike or extreme aversion, enmity or hostility.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary (1897) addresses the subject of Hatred as being: “among the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:20). Altogether different is the meaning in Deuteronomy 21:1-5, Matthew 6:24, Luke 14:26, Romans 9:13, where it denotes only a less degree of love.”

Focus Papers and Power Points can be helpful. However, there are always other points of view that will be raised and with which there is also validity. Over the years, I have read several commentaries that present different interpretations for a statement by the Lord in Malachi 1:2-3 (Repeated in Romans 9), “I have loved you, says the Lord. But you ask: How have you loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? declares the Lord Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Underlying the text is the fact that the purpose of God will be carried out in God’s time and in God’s way. It is sometimes argued that God is a God of love and incapable of hatred! This sounds like a compelling argument unless or until one reads a passage such as Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

One should spend reflective time in study and meditation on expected Christian Behavior in The Book of James. A starting point – James 1:22, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 2:14, “What good is it, brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” James 4:17, "Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin." It is difficult to change mindsets and established behaviors. There needs to be a broader application of “prove yourselves doers of the Word and not merely hearers.” A place to begin is with temperate language, enlarged hearts of compassion and openness to God’s will and purpose for His people in the culture where we exist. He wants us to be engaged! Are we? Specifically and actually, what are we doing? Consider these things with me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

PLAGIARISM OR ATTRIBUTION

I Was Just Thinking About - - -

Have you sat in a Church Worship Service and while listening to the sermon thought to yourself, “Hmmm, this sounds familiar”? The same might be true while reading a Christian Publication and you came to the obvious conclusion, “I’ve seen (or heard) this somewhere else.” In World Magazine, a column dated April 15, 2016 written by Emily Belz is titled: “Consider The Source.” Some of her written thoughts include: “The reason may be that the giver of the sermon or the writer of the book has taken the material produced by someone else and is conveying it as his own work product. When this occurs, it is determined to be a form of plagiarism. Tyndale House Publishers defines Plagiarism as: 'presenting another’s ideas or writing as one’s own. That can appear either as word-for-word copying without attribution or inadequate citations for the source of an idea…Plagiarism remains a danger for authors who become careless in writing or research…Andy LePeau, the retired head of Inter-Varsity Press after a 40-year career stated: It’s just easier to pull stuff off the internet and use it or rework it…There’s this misimpression that because it’s on the web it’s public domain." You can read the entire column by going to:
http://www.worldmag.com/2016/04/consider_the_source

In a general discussion with some Pastor-friends, I have heard them defend the practice of using someone else’s outline and/or developed material. Their defense is without merit. The honest approach would be to identify the source of the material being presented. It could be done by stating: “In my studies for the sermon/lesson today, I was personally enriched by the thoughts expressed by – (name the source - Attribution) – and I thought you would be enriched also by hearing his presentation. My own conclusion is that plagiarism is due to: (1) laziness, (2) an inability to think logically, (3) failure to have read the Bible frequently to glean the lessons God was teaching through his servants in varying real-life situations, (4) an inner desire to be received by people as an articulate speaker-scholar, or a host of other possible reasons. Generally, in many smaller churches, a Pastor may be able to go undetected if/when he has plagiarized material. 

It might be worth the time and money spent to either read a book on or take an extension course from a reputable institution on Basic Hermeneutics ("the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures; the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis"). There is an interesting narrative in Isaiah 28: 9-13 where the pronouncement of God’s judgment upon Ephraim and Jerusalem is stated. It contains a basic lesson in Hermeneutics as well.  The prophet declared: “To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little. For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people, to whom he has said: This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose; yet they would not hear. And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” The Hermeneutical lesson is: “precept upon precept… line upon line…here a little, there a little. It is taking the truths of God and using them as building blocks for those to whom one is ministering.

How, Where, From Whom does one develop the ability to be Hermeneutically correct (being free from plagiarism) when proclaiming or writing about God’s Word and establishing the foundational principles and core values in a person’s or people’s lives? In Psalm 25:5 (NIV), the Psalmist prayed: “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” And, John 16:13 (NIV), “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” Those who minister the Word in any capacity must ask themselves: Am I Spirit-filled and Spirit-guided in what I am preparing to share with God’s people? Consider these things with me.

Monday, April 18, 2016

FACTS or FICTION or the FANCIFUL?

I Was Just Thinking About - - -
In a day when noise and deception in the public square is rampant, it is refreshing to read the well-written thoughts of one who cuts through all of that to clarify what is occurring in the political arena in this country. Andre Seu Peterson has posted a column in World Magazine on April 15, 2016 that is titled “Strange Sympathies.” Her expressed idea is in the sub-title: The Reasons Given for Supporting Candidate A Don’t Add Up.”
A Portion of her column states: “You get an upright man in government, and what do you do? You call him divisive; you say he doesn’t get along with others. You get a candidate who claims to be one of Christ’s, and what do you do? You accuse him of wearing religion on his sleeve. 
Jesus said: “To what then should I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep’” (Luke 7:31-32).The one standard for one candidate, the other standard for his opponent. Leniency and tolerance for the ungodly man; arrows shot from the shadows for the better man. “Yet wisdom is justified by all her children” (Luke 7:35). It is always best to read the Scripture referenced in context – Luke 7:29-35
Whatever Happened To Facts and Accuracy?
An Instance of An Unfactual & Inaccurate Quote & Use Scripture
When asked about his favorite Bible verse, one political  candidate said: “an eye for an eye” and implied that this  was an apt way to deal with political opponents and other nations. The Candidate said: “That's not a particularly nice thing. But you know, if you look at what's happening to our country, I mean, when you see what's going on with our country, how people are taking advantage of us, and how they scoff at us and laugh at us…And they laugh at our face, and they're taking our jobs, they're taking our money, they're taking the health of our country. And we have to be very firm and have to be very strong. And we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you."
However, the statement that: “A Text taken out of its Context is a Pretext” applies here. Jesus was speaking in the Sermon On The Mount with His disciples about real situations and possibilities that will be encountered in life - and said – Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well; and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Whose interpretation will you believe at this point – a Political Candidate or Jesus Christ?

Consider these things with me!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

STRETCHABILITY AND FLEXIBILITY

I Was Just Thinking About - - -

How does one handle day to day experiences, tensions, crises - with patience, sound reasoning or with panic? While we would love to be consistent and free from anxiety and panic, we can easily become short-circuited and respond with knee-jerk reactions.

For those who were born and reared in an earlier decade, Knickers and Knee Socks were common ware for boys. The sock size was determined by the shoe size and the measurement of one’s foot. When World War II came along, it allowed for a considerable amount of synthetics to enter the market place. When synthetic is used as an adjective, one can begin to understand that it was something “not genuine; a substance or material made artificially.” Nearly everything genuine was committed to war effort materials. Everything else was either rationed, unavailable or synthetic. The available data suggests that 1946 (approximately) men’s sock sizing changed. If the foot size required a Size 11 Sock, one could now buy socks that fit Size 10 to 13. How did that come about and how was it marketed? The expressions were that the socks were stretchable but just as durable. Stretchability meant the ability to extend the length of the sock for greater use by more individuals. Flexibility implied greater comfort by wearing that which was capable of being bent or extended without breaking or tearing. It also included the idea of it being adaptable and pliable.

For the Biblical Christian, there is a transferable concept and commitment that can be applied and utilized. First would be in the area of Anxiety and the words of Scripture urging one “Do Not Be Anxious/Do Not Worry.” Passages such as Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:6 emphasize that nothing is gained through anxiety. Second, when it comes to being stretchable, flexible and adaptable, there is the reminder of the Apostle Paul and his ministry objective and commitment recorded in I Corinthians 9:19-24 (ESV), “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

Question: In all areas of your life, how Stretchable, Flexible and Adaptable are you? Depending upon your response, as a Biblical Christian - how effective are you? Consider these things with me!