Wednesday, September 2, 2015

MARITAL MANIPULATION

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There are times when we can become convinced and conclude that we are living in a topsy-turvy world. This can be illustrated and readily observed in the United States of America, Ask yourself, “What is wrong with the following described portrait of American culture? 


This "New American Way of Life" is a departure from the Biblical design by God for both marriage and the family. God’s idea and mandate is clearly indicated as follows: It is the union of one man and one woman where procreation is expected to occur and the family is to be expanded. To understand this purpose, read: Genesis 2:18, 20, 24. This is the biblical pattern as it was instituted by God at the beginning: one man is united to one woman in matrimony, and the two form one new natural family. This family unit is not to become one that is entitlement-oriented but rather one that is self-sufficient. I Timothy 5:7-8 sets the standard when Paul wrote: “Give these instructions to the believers, so that they will be above reproach. If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” The thrust is to provide for one’s own. 

A Biblical truth that should be understood and claimed in shared in Psalm 37:23-26, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way…I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.” When a man and woman decide to live by God’s standards and establish their relationship based upon His principles, God’s provision and blessing will be their portion. 

We are not to live by cultural standards and values but by God’s standards and values. Let us champion and model God's standard to the culture of our day. Consider these things with me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

CONFLAGRATION

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For the past few weeks there have been reports and videos of the fires on the west coast that have been near an uncontrollable point. The devastation of the woodlands, the destruction of homes and personal properties, and the loss of life is incalculable. The world continues to spiral out of control as well. It is almost as though a gigantic whirlwind is gaining strength and nations are being sucked into it. There is a sense that man cannot do anything to stop the trends of the time. The entitlement culture will quickly learn that there are insufficient resources to maintain them. It is predictable that when national resources diminish there will be an increase of crime so people can satisfy their cravings  and appetites.

At one time, we were a society and culture that believed their were certain absolutes by which we should live and standards that would survive the greatest onslaughts and upheavals. The Bible was viewed as a necessity and foundational for moral absolutes; the Church was the place reenforcement of Biblical verities and standards; and God was feared and reverenced. The conflagration (a destructive fire, usually an extensive one) is occurring within the culture and the foundations are being shaken. The Bible is viewed as just another book; the Church is seen as another social gathering place; and God is viewed as no different then any other god or imagined spiritual entity. 

Equally devastating is the influence the culture has gained within christian institutions and churches. Just this past week, Christianity Today is reporting that two Presidents of Christian Colleges have been “outed” in the Ashley Madison scandal where nearly 40 million people have contacted the organization that offered facilitation for adulterous relationships. Other notables have had to leave ministries and been defrocked for their extra-marital affairs. As these reports emerge and are written about, a caution that needs to be present is: “but for the grace of God go I.”

The Scriptures emphasize the proclivity potential by which one can become beguiled and fall prey to the lusts of the flesh. It comes from the conflagration of the human heart and becomes an uncontrollable force and fire within one’s soul. The words in Jeremiah 17:9-10 indicates that the heart is deceitful and wicked. The MSG states: “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” In Mark 7:20-23 (ESV), Jesus said: “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Jesus is describing a type of cesspool that can erupt if it is not brought into submission to His authority and control. Lust is similar to an ember that has the potential for being fanned into flame by circumstances and opportunities that are allowed in one’s life. 

Jesus was very forceful and direct when He said: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24, Berean Study Bible). There should be no glee regarding those who have succumbed to the temptations of life, but there should be prayer for their Biblical repentance and a readiness to rejoice in their being restored by the grace of God. Consider these things with me!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RIGMAROLE

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In the unique realm of American politics and those who seek office to effect change and bring hope to the people, rigmarole (and red tape) usually become the net result. It is a system that one either fits into or who will readily become marginalized by those with self-interests in how the system works best for their personal gratification. Rigmarole is defined as being (Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary): “a long, complicated, and annoying process, description; confused or meaningless talk.” There is a kinship between rigmarole and red tape. The Etymology Dictionary indicates: “excessive bureaucratic rigmarole,1736, in reference to the red tape formerly used in Great Britain (and the American colonies) for binding up legal and other official documents, mentioned from 1690s.”

I sometimes am amused (or annoyed) by some of the entries and rhetorical exchanges in supposedly Christian groups on Social Media. If a person was on a quest for the truth and entered into one of those discussions, he would very soon become confused and lose interest in such a quest because of the religious rigmarole taking place. I think of this especially in terms of theological persuasions and the presentation of the Gospel. By today’s standards, would the Apostle Paul be deemed to be a Calvinist or Arminian in the way he presented the Gospel? Within the presentation of The Roman Road, note how the words Paul wrote are used: (Background) Romans 1:16 - the Gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes;  (1) Romans 3:23 - all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (2) Romans 6:23a - the wages of sin is death; (3) Romans 6:23b - the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ; (4) Romans 10:9-10 - Confess with your mouth - Jesus is Lord…believe in your heart - God raised Him from the dead - you will be saved… (5) Romans 10:13 - everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Summary) Romans 5:8 - God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

When John wrote his letters to the churches, he reminded them of the place for admission and confession of sin, as well as one’s acknowledgement of God’s truth about us and our sin. His conclusion regarding the simplicity of the Gospel is given in I John 5:10-13, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Some people feel as though they cannot share this simple and basic message of the Gospel. This is due sometimes to one’s inner fears  or sense of inadequacy. All kinds of methods have been developed and booklets printed about how best to share this simple and basic message of the Christian faith. I do appreciate and have used the leading questions from the Evangelism Explosion method. They are: “Do you know for sure that you are going to be with God in Heaven? If God were to ask you: Why should I let you into My Heaven, what would you say?” Depending on a person’s response, the bridge into the presentation is : “You don’t know? Then I have the best news you could ever hear!” The five steps employed in this method include: (1) I John 5:13, (2) Ephesians 2:8-9; (3) Romans 3:23; (4) I John 4:8 and Jeremiah 31:3, (5) John 1:1, 14 and Isaiah 53:6 (Conclusion) Acts 16:31.

I am not suggesting that theological distinctions and rigmarole are one and the same. I am saying that some feel, because of their theological persuasions,  as though they do not have to deliberately share the Gospel with as many as possible. All need to be reminded of the compelling words of Paul in his commitment (Romans 1:14-16), “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 1That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel…For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” May his tribe increase. Let us identify with his commitment. Consider these things with me.

Monday, August 24, 2015

COMMONALITY

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Amid the troubled times of life, it is sometimes difficult and puzzling how to chart one’s course. There are so many opinions and self-interests shared that tend to factionalize rather than unify. A recent cause that is being championed allows some individuals an assumed right to interrupt a political public address so they can hold up their signs and raise their voices to drown out the speaker and state: “Black Lives Matter.” When someone responded that “All Lives Matter.” he was booed off of the stage. Another example are the expose videos about Planned Parenthood and how an aborted baby’s body parts and tissue are being offered for sale is reprehensible for many but continues to be endorsed and funded by the pro-choice elements in the body politic. Some states are defunding their share of support for the group whose defense is “only 3% of their funds are used for abortions.” In other words, continue to endorse and support the murder and destruction of babies since it is just 3% of their business. Where is the shock and horror on the part of a civilized and rational society? Have we, in fact, become barbaric and irrational?

What do we know about commonality and how it should work? In the online Etymology Dictionary, the following definition is given: “The common people is attested from 1580s; that of state or quality of being shared is from 1954.” Not surprisingly, the etymology from the first century is absent. A summary from Acts 2:42-45 (BTS - Berea Study Bible) indicates: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. A sense of awe came over everyone, and the apostles performed many wonders and signs. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they shared with everyone as he had need.” This similar thought is shared in Acts 4:32-35 (BTS), “The congregation of believers was one in heart and soul. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they owned…And abundant grace was upon them all. There were no needy ones among them, because those who owned lands or houses would sell their property, bring the proceeds from the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet for distribution to anyone as he had need.” In an extraordinary time, the people were willing to do the extraordinary - and - the abundant grace of God was upon them all!

This was never intended to become a communistic form of government nor was it to evolve into an entitlement culture. It was intended to assist those who were momentarily in a state of transition because of their positive response to the Gospel.  As time passed in the first century, people were expected to become grounded in the faith and to become industrious as followers of Jesus Christ. A principle that was established was underscored by Paul in II Thessalonians 2: 10-15 (BTS), “For even while we were with you, we gave you this command: If anyone is unwilling to work, he shall not eat. Yet we hear that some of you are leading undisciplined lives and accomplishing nothing but being busybodies. We command and urge such people by our Lord Jesus Christ to begin working quietly to earn their own living. But as for you, brothers, do not grow weary in well-doing. Take note of anyone who does not obey the instructions we have given in this letter. Do not associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”

What did/does Jesus expect His followers to know and do? If they complied, what did Jesus assure them would result? A summary of Jesus’ thoughts is recorded in Luke 6:38 (BTS), “Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Are a generous soul or one who is niggardly (“penurious, extremely tight-fisted, mean person, miser”). To remember: God will always honor those who honor Him and His Word. Consider these things with me!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

MULTIPLE IMPRESSIONS

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There is considerable merit in the expression: “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” One thing to also remember about multiple impressions is: A chameleon is also capable of making multiple impressions. Suppose a prominent individual begins to have an iconic impact on a growing number of people, should that alone be the basis for a positive impression? Another supposition, what if that person seems to be an egomaniac personality, does that mean he should receive special attention and privilege? One last observation, what if some of his words are designed to manipulate an audience, does that mean he should be voted for and granted power over other people?

Last evening, the male candidate who is leading in all of the many polls that are regularly conducted was given a stage where thousands had assembled as an audience. He was also given the national stage as news networks broadcast his stage performance and familiar diatribe of self-promotion; belittling any and all competition; parroting a populist theme that gains some applause; and says what he thinks needs to be said to pretend to be what he thinks his audience wants him to be. For instance, in recent appearances, he always manages to hold up a copy of his book, The Art Of A Deal. Last evening, he said: “This is the best book ever written” - and then quickly added - “except for one other…The Bible. The review of his book on Amazon indicates the following comments made by the author: “I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big…I play it very loose. I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open…I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops…I always go into a deal anticipating the worst. If you plan for the worst - if you can live with the worst - the good will always take care of itself.”

One impression that came through in his rambling comments was his use of the vernacular with his insertion of “hell” in his remarks. It makes an impression only because an ego-driven person seldom thinks of “hell” in terms of death or judgment. It is just a word to make one sound like he’s one of the people when in actuality he would have very little need or use for the people except for their vote to elect him. Can you think of anyone in Biblical History who made similar boasts and comparable impressions? Did he achieve the position and heights of power? What did he do with that position and power? Did he use it to benefit others or to promote himself? In both secular and Biblical History, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon from 605 BC to 562 BC is noted for both his abilities and his ego-driven actions. Secular history records Nebuchadnezzar as a brutal, powerful, and ambitious king. He is mentioned approximately 90 times in Scripture although the summary of his life is contained in Daniel, Chapters 1 through 4. 

The impression one is left with about this king is summarized in Daniel 4. Nebuchadnezzar is given a dream by God. Daniel interpreted the dream for Nebuchadnezzar and informed him that the dream was a warning to the king to humble himself and recognize that his power, wealth, and influence were from God, not of his own making. The king ignored that interpretation and was driven insane for seven years. When the king’s sanity was restored, he finally humbled himself before God. In Daniel 4:3, his acknowledgement about God is: “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.” He went on to declare in verse 37: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” What he had neglected, and that which all candidates in a given election cycle need to remember is Proverbs 28:1-2 (MSG), “Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; He directs it to whatever ends he chooses. We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives.” Consider these things with me!

Friday, August 21, 2015

REMNANTS AND TAPESTRIES

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Two of my daughters have skills in sewing and quilting. They have an uncanny ability of seeing bits and pieces (remnants) of cloth and visualizing their use in a design or pattern for a quilt. The word “remnant” is a noun that has a basic meaning: “a small part; a fragment or scrap; a small unsold or unused piece of cloth, or lace as at the end of a bolt…” That which others would discard as a waste or rag, a quilter sees as something of use and value. One of my daughters absconded with some of my neckties because she had a plan in mind where they would be useful. It caused me to think of some family members of another generation. My wife had an Aunt and two cousins who did quilting as part of a church group. When the last cousin died, instead of flowers being purchased and placed around the coffin, various quilts which she had sewn in the church group were artistically draped on the floral pedestals. It was very attractive and impressive, as well as serving as a testimonial of her skill and church involvement.

The artistic capability of people is something that continually amazes me. Some of our Grandchildren are developing artistic skills. My father, brother and sister possessed these same skills whereas I do well to sketch recognizable stick characters. Everyone should have some degree of appreciation for art in its various forms - painting, pencil sketching, tapestries, Mosaics or quilting. We attended a wedding in a church where there was a dramatic Mosaic at the front of the Church. It was so cleverly done that it appeared to be three-dimensional. It was appropriately lighted and portrayed a representation of Jesus Christ, suspended, with a shepherd’s crook in his hand and His arms outstretched. In the lower foreground were sheep and lambs. In the upper background was a cross. The interpretation is in the eye of the beholder but there can be no doubt of at least the following: (1) Jesus Christ literally came to earth; (2) He came to seek and to save the straying sheep and lambs; and (3) He would die on that cross to redeem and cleanse His gathered sheep/lambs from all of their sins.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines remnant as: “Leftovers or remainders, whether of daily food…or people who survive a major disaster or captivity…Sociologically the remnant could be described variously as refugees, a community subgroup, or a sect.” For this Blog, let us focus on just two Biblical illustrations or lessons. The first pertains to the Jews who came out of exile in the day of Ezra and Nehemiah. In Ezra 9:8-9 (ESV), “But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.” Two of the significant words are remnant and reviving! It reminds me of the words in Psalm 85:6-7, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” This should be a part of our hope and confidence in the Lord.

The second illustration or lesson also has focus on the Jews and Paul’s burden for them. We find this concern expressed in Romans 11:1-5, (ESV), “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life. But what is God's reply to him? I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal. So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.” This remnant chosen by grace is part of God’s Tapestry, meticulously sewn together, as he takes a remnant people from every tribe, tongue, nation and group and fashions them into the image of His Son. That Tapestry represents the Invisible Church where Jesus Christ is The Head and the place where He is preeminent in everything. May you be part of that remnant chosen by grace. Consider these things with me!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SNOLLYGOSTERS AND POMPOSITY

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An old expression that was used to describe a position being espoused by an individual was: “You are majoring on the minors.” There’s a great deal of that occurring in the world today. Whenever politicians and politics come front and center, it tends to crystallize the thinking of individuals and the identity of their followers and supporters. It also reveals the character of those who put forth their ideology, ambition and promises for actions that they hope to accomplish. That is known as “political-speak.” The public has been conditioned to hear it and in too many cases to believe it. 

One of the problems with the dominance of “political-speak” (the art of changing two way discourse into one-way communication; sticking to the party message no matter what the other is saying) is that it infiltrates the visible Church. The Oxford Dictionary incorporates “political-speak” with a word, “snollygoster” meaning: “A dishonest politician.” They use an amusing illustration from a 19th century newspaper editor who defined it as: “A snollygoster is a fellow who seeks office regardless of party, platform or principle, and who, when he wins, gets there by the sheer force of monumental talknophical assumnancy.”

The infiltration into the visible Church occurs when a “snollygoster” becomes the most prominent and his “pomposity” becomes the marching orders for the rest of the group. On one occasion, a young man was being considered for the position of Pastor in a smaller congregation. When he visited the church group, the introduction was made by a pompous snollygoster. He went on and on in his introduction with lofty rhetoric. After he was seated, the young man addressed the group and made three comments. First was to the gathered group, “Did you understand anything that was just said?” Secondly, “He said it so mellifluously that I take it as an undeserved compliment.” And thirdly, “I wish my Mother could’ve been here to have heard it - she’s the only one who would’ve believed it.” A couple of Scriptural thoughts came to mind, Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” And, Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

When the Lord pronounces his impending judgments against Babylon, part of it is based upon the statement in Isaiah 13:11 (NKJV), “I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” The ESV rendering is: “I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.” The MSG rendering is: “I’ll gag all braggarts and boasters—not a peep anymore from them…” The snollygoster syndrome can so easily creep into a group of church-oriented people. It happens all across the country when a handful of people try to tenaciously maintain that which is dying or already dead. Pastors are sought for these places and preach to empty pews. An admixture of people, albeit very few, are part of the group but the unity in commitment and ministry is lacking. It is reminiscent of the words of Jesus regarding the hypocrites of His day, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). And what about the men who allow themselves to be called to the dying or dead entity? What is their motivation for accepting a call? Is it a vision for evangelism and outreach ministry? Or, is an act of a mercenary (concerned with making money at the expense of ethics and scruples) who is all too willing to receive a pay check for his services rendered? It is a sad day in many places where integrity of purpose is lacking. Consider these things with me.