Sunday, January 22, 2017

HELPING THE HELPLESS

Today marks the 44th Anniversary of the Supreme Court's Decision (by a 7 to 2 vote) to legal Abortion in the United States.

As I was reading the Devotional - Get More Strength for the Journey - the opening paragraphs reminded me of the need for us all to shed any measure of complacency and become more engaged in defending the defenseless.

Joseph Stowell wrote in the Devotional:
“How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you” Isaiah 30:19.

"I don’t think I’ll ever forget the story my son told me about taking his family to see the stage production of The Lion King. A good time was being had by all until the play turned to the point in the story where the young lion, Simba, wandered into the dangerous valley and right into the trap of his evil uncle, Scar. The plot goes like this.

“In order to usurp the kingdom from his brother Mufasa, Simba’s Dad, Scar arranged for a group of hyenas to chase the wildebeest into a stampede that would endanger little Simba and lure his father, Mufasa, to the rescue. At which point Scar would kill Mufasa and begin to rule as king. After the stampede ended, little Simba looked up, all alone, to see his father lying dead on the ground. In the quietness of that moment, with the dust and smoke still swirling on stage, little Simba began to cry, “Help, help, help!” It was at that point in the hushed theater that my three-year-old grandson stood up on his chair and shouted, “Why doesn’t somebody help him?!

"It’s a reminder of a sobering truth. Each day, scores of people within the reach of our resources are hurting and desperately in need of someone to rush the stage of their life and help them. And here is the issue for us: Will we just sit by and watch like detached observers in comfortable theater seats? Or will we get engaged and do something about it? We are called to be the extension of the hand of God to the needy and helpless that are within our reach."

As you ponder whether or not you should become involved, at the very least, consider the following Scripture References:
Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT – The Words of David)
You (The Lord) made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workman-ship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Psalm 51:5-6 (NIV – The Words of David)
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Jeremiah 1:4-5
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Proverbs 24:10-12
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

TAKING A STAND

I Was Just Thinking About – TAKING A STAND.

There is a statement/adage that indicates: “If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything.” It reminds one of the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20 and the necessity for the whole armor of God. One point he emphasizes is Verse 13, “Therefore 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.”

As I pondered these thoughts, my habit is to read devotionals each morning written by others. It may only be a coincidence but two of them made reference to the same text in Matthew 5. First, in Get More Strength for the Journey, Joseph Stowell commented on Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” He indicates this can occur at different levels depending on culture and geography. Second, in Solid Joys (a Blog-Devotional by John Piper – Desiring God), he uses the same text and concludes/summarizes: “Jesus anchored the happiness of suffering saints in the reward of heaven. And he anchored the happiness of successful saints in the same. And thus he freed us from the tyranny of worldly pain and pleasure — worldly suffering and worldly success.”

That being said, the servants of the Lord do suffer on their journey with the Lord. The servant of the Lord (Pastor or Missionary) who tries to take a Biblical “stand” on that which should be embraced by all Biblical Christians will realize marginalization by those who are willing to be accommodating to cultural trends – or – some will be willing to compromise the core values and Biblical principles so that “their church” will not lose members or be subject to any negative criticism.

Larger churches can better absorb the loss of some contrary members and their financial support who differ with the “stand” that is taken, whereas the same scenario in a smaller church becomes a major crisis. Knowing that, the contrary member(s) will posture to get their way – and – gain the consensus of others who are afraid to disallow such rule or ruin behavior. The appeal of Paul seems to be long-forgotten – Ephesians 4:1-3 – “As a prisoner in the Lord, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” If only these words were the commitment of God’s people in relationship with God’s servants - and - each other.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

VULNERABILITY

I Was Just Thinking About – VULNERABILITY.

This coming Sunday, January 22nd, is one of the days of infamy that should not be forgotten. It was on this date in 1973 that the United States Supreme Court by a 7 to 2 majority vote legalized Abortion in this country. The summary of the Court’s action is: “The Court deemed Abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, thereby subjecting all laws attempting to restrict it to the standard of strict scrutiny!” Based on a report by LifeNews.com, as of January 2016, “the National Right to Life now estimates, based on the data from the Guttmacher Institute and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), that the total number of abortions since 1973 has reached 58,586,256.”

David mused about the origin of life and understands it to begin at the time of conception. In Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT), he indicates: “You (The Lord) made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” David not only speaks of the delicacy factor but that of vulnerability as well. 

The mandate and guideline from the Lord - Proverbs 24:10-12,
If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

In another place, after he had violated God’s Standard for one’s life, he cried out to the Lord and mentioned the origin of life once again. In Psalm 51:5-6 (NIV), “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”

Another example of vulnerability occurs in the Life of Samson (Judges 14-16). Even though he had been dedicated to the Lord as a Nazarite and subjected to a strict code of separation (See Numbers 6), his inner lusts took control of his life and choices. In Today in the Word, the commentator shares: “Samson’s story is the longest in the book of Judges, and in the final episode we find a very different Samson from the previous chapters. The mighty warrior is now disabled. He is not invincible but he is vulnerable, having to be led by the hand of a servant boy on account of his blindness. He is not feared but mocked—the laughingstock of teeming crowd of Philistine spectators. He is not powerful but helpless, reduced to one last pleading prayer to the sovereign God of Israel. As the curtains close on his life, the man called by God to deliver Israel is buried under a pile of rubble— victorious and vanquished at the same time” (Judges 16:30).

There are two areas that require one’s attention and action. First, defending the defenseless – the infants in the womb. Second, to exercise greater discipline and obedience to obey God rather than one’s lusts (I John 2:15-17). 

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

PERPETUATION

I Was Just Thinking About – PERPETUATION.

There is some truth to the old saying: ‘The more things change the more they remain the same.” That’s the basic meaning of perpetuation. It means: “to cause or continue to prevail.” This is obviously true in politics where term limits of Senators or Congressman are talked about but rejected. A negative result is that things of importance become institutionalized and entrenched in bureaucracy.

The same is true in the Church where Deacons or Elders are elected by congregations and become entrenched in a peculiar bureaucracy. Many times it is also more secular than spiritual. How we arrived at this place no one can adequately affirm. All that can be said is that it is what it is. A person in a leadership role in a Church has a need and requirement to meet God’s minimum standard. We get a clear idea of this as Paul addresses the servant of the Lord with the words recorded in Titus 1:4-9, “To Titus, my true child in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. The reason I left you in Crete was that you would set in order what was unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who are believers and are not open to accusation of indiscretion or insubordination. As God’s steward, an overseer must be above reproach—not self-absorbed, not quick tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not greedy for money. Instead, he must be hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it was taught, so that by sound teaching he will be able to encourage others and refute those who contradict this message.”

Do the words of Titus 1:4-9 describe and define those in leadership roles in the Church you attend? If not, why not? It is not a position where anyone should be chosen but only those who meet and comply with God’s requirements. If we don’t follow God’s standard and requirement, then we have become secular rather than spiritual. It also means that if we continue this practice we are perpetuating wrong choices from the past and bogging down the possibilities of ministry in the present.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Monday, January 16, 2017

THE CHURCH

I Was Just Thinking About – THE CHURCH.

Throughout the decades of my life, there has never been a time when The Church was not part of it. A question that is pervasive asks, What is The Church and what characterizes it? In a devotional compiled from his book, The Set of the Sail, Dr. A. W/ Tozer shares a very concise concept of what The Church is supposed to be. At the very least, “The Church is born out of the gospel and that gospel has to do with God and mans relation to God. Christianity engages to bring God into human life, to make men right with God, to give them a heart knowledge of God, to teach them to love and obey God and ultimately to restore in them the lost image of God in full and everlasting perfection.”

As the parameter and guideline for The Church, he utilized I Corinthians 1:2, To the church…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-their Lord and ours.” A thought attached is, “The Church is the people of God, the family of God. Wherever the people of God are The Church is. We are members of Christ’s body in the world. We are not confined to a church building. We are the Church wherever we are.” Also attached to this devotional is a prayer: “O Lord, may Your Church be the Church-bold and unashamed. We are Your people through whom You seek to reach those around us.”

The place where The Church begins is when a person enters into both a commitment and discipline expressed in Psalm 27:8, “You have said, Seek my face. My heart says to you, Your face, Lord, do I seek.” It will also include the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman in John 4:23-24, “But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

Over the years, I have read about and experienced varying views about The Church - its structure and function. There is obvious disagreement about the subject of The Church manifested by the various groups in communities across this nation and world. Just as obvious is that several of them are wrong in how they determine and define The Church and its rituals. Who is more correct – The Baptists or the Roman Catholics – who dominate the world stage with “churches”? Is the Pentecostal movement more Biblical than the United Methodists, etc? Generally, the answer would be – No!

One should appreciate the approach of Peter to The Church during a dispersion period, I Peter 1:3-6. As The Church is driven from its buildings and their antiquities destroyed due to persecution, that which defines who the people of God are is stated as: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who through faith are protected by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice.”

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Sunday, January 15, 2017

SILENCE

I Was Just Thinking About – SILENCE.

Several years ago, Paul Simon wrote (1963-1964) the lyrics to a song he titled, “The Sound of Silence.” The opening line of the song is: “Hello darkness, my old friend – I’ve come to talk to you again.” As he writes the different stanzas, he includes these words:
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone, '
Neath the halo of a street lamp, 
I turned my collar to the cold and damp, 
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light 
That split the night - 
And touched the sound of silence.”

A point of interest in the lyric is that he does not see himself as totally alone. It is the lack of sound and inter-personal relationship that results in The Sound of Silence. He adds these lyrics:
“And in the naked light I saw, 
Ten thousand people, maybe more. 
People talking without speaking, 
People hearing without listening, 
People writing songs that voices never share - 
And no one dared - Disturb the sound of silence.”

Obviously, most of us have received the words of instruction in our youth that “Children should be seen and not heard” and “Silence is golden.” In all likelihood, the “silence is golden” statement is based upon the words recorded in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” This truth is undeniable. However, one must be guarded about maintaining silence when a timely word should be uttered.

In terms of assessing the time and place for not maintaining silence, King Lemuel rehearses the oracle and instruction of his Mother in Proverbs 31:8-9, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Another illustration of this truth is forcefully shared in an hour of crisis when Mordecai sent word to Queen Esther – Esther 4:13-14, “Do not think to yourself that… you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

There were too many people who remained silent during the Holocaust in World War II. 
Too many people have remained silent in their opposition to abortion on demand that was legalized in 1973 resulting in the deaths of nearly 70 million unborn infants. 
Untold numbers of professing Christians are silent about racial inequities and injustices. 
The “Church” observes atrocities throughout the world and would rather “play it safe” rather than “run any risks.” 
There is a webpage, Time To Speak, that shares: “1 of every 4 children will experience sexual abuse before age 18. Moat abusers are family or friends of family and are known to the child.” And yet – too often by both the “church” and “professing Christian” there is the deafening sound of silence.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!