Friday, June 24, 2016

DISMISSIVENESS

I Was Just Thinking About – DISMISSIVENESS.

Dismissiveness occurs and the pain of rejection is real. Should this ever occur within the Biblical Church and community of God’s redeemed people? No! Does it happen among the clergy and other religious professionals? Yes! What focus and Biblical point of view is lacking as and when this occurs? We are reminded in Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring glory to God.” Do we always do this? No!

There are certain words on our vocabulary that are thought or used in reference to other people and what we think of them. The words include – egotist, blowhard, blunderbuss, exaggerator, or one who bloviates most of the time. Sometimes this occurs because a person is seeking attention or acceptance. At other times, it is caused by envy of another person who is being recognized even though he may not be as capable or proficient as the one who is regularly dismissed. Do we live in an unfair and unjust culture? Yes! Are people within the Church also unfair and unjust in their assessment and/or acceptance of certain people? Yes! An adage stated: “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will toot it for you.” Is that often the case within the Church and among professing Christians? Yes!

People deal with dismissiveness situations differently. If one senses that he is in a group of those who are dismissive of him, he may drop out and become detached from the group. He will isolate and insulate himself away from the dismissive group as he tries to avoid the pain of rejection.

An alternative behavior would find one being filled with envy. The Word of God addresses envy in James 3:13-16 (NIV), “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

It is conceivable that the prophet Jeremiah was subjected to and encountered dismissiveness often. This can be gleaned from excerpts in Jeremiah 9:4-6, 23-24 where the Lord is speaking and summarizes  (ESV), “Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the Lord…Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”


Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

GRIEVING AND SORROWING

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In 1873, Horatio Gates Spafford received news that the ship his wife and four daughters were travelling on had collided with another vessel and sunk. His wife was one of twenty-eight survivors. Her telegram to her husband stated, “Saved Alone.” Horatio Spafford had already experienced the death of a son as well as the loss of many of his investments in the Chicago fire of 1871. As he sailed to be united with his wife, he asked the Captain to inform him when they approached the place where his four daughters had drowned. It was at this time he penned the words to the well-known and often sung Hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. Several phrases of his poem give cause for in-depth reflection. One of them is, “When sorrows like sea-billows roll.” The words that stirred his soul and ours are, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

It seems as though our associations include individuals who range from very young to the more elderly that are coping with various life-threatening maladies not the least of which is Cancer. As we pray for these various ones, we realize that cancer is one of the most challenging diseases for which there is no present or definitive cure. We pray for a six-year old who has spent two-thirds of his young life being treated for Cancer. We prayed for a son-in-law who suddenly was diagnosed with cancer and who died shortly after his thirtieth birthday. One of our long-standing contemporary friends with whom there had been a kindred-spirit for more than sixty-years was diagnosed with Cancer a short time ago. Word was received that she died yesterday morning.

There is something very unique in the words of Paul recorded in II Corinthians 1:3-7, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God…our comfort abounds through Christ…For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.” In I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul’s concern was threefold. First, “That you will not grieve like the rest who are without hope.” Second, that there is an understanding regarding those who have preceded us in death. When the Lord returns, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. After that, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.” Third, he adds words that should endure throughout all generations,  Encourage one another with these words.”

Horatio Spafford wrote two stanzas that are not contained in most contemporary Hymnals. They are additional words of his hope and peace,
   For me be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
   If Jordan above me should roll,
   No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
   Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

   But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for thy coming we wait,
   The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
   Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
   Blessed hope! blessed rest of my soul!

Death is a reality but so also is the peace, comfort and encouragement of the Lord! He knows your sorrows. He knows your needs. In 1914, Oswald J. Smith wrote the Hymn, Deeper and Deeper. For those who grieve and are sorrowful, one stanza contains these comforting and encouraging words,
   Joy in the place of sorrow,
   Peace in the midst of pain,
   Jesus will give, Jesus will give;
   He will uphold and sustain.


Prayerfully – consider these things with me!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

COLLISION OR COLLUSION

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A Biblical Christian, in addition to the requirements of one who wishes to meet the cost of  a disciple of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:25-33), must determine whether there is the willingness to Collide with the Culture or to be one who is known by his/her Collusion with the Culture.

The proposal of Jesus Christ for anyone who follows Him is Total Surrender to Him. On a day when an expert in the Law confronted Jesus (Luke 10:25-28) and asked: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The response of Jesus was, “How do you read what is written in The Law?” The expert answered, “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 Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responded, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:21-24), Jesus declared, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

In the Strength for the Journey Devotional for Saturday, June 4, 2016, Joseph Stowell makes this comment and observation: “Betrayal often comes from those we would least suspect. And—here’s a news flash—the person you might least suspect could even be you. The seeds of betrayal are sown in the unseen world of our hearts. And while the seeds may be unnoticed for a time, left unchecked they will inevitably begin to pop up to the surface of our lives in tragic ways. Some of us have already betrayed Jesus at the heart-level. Often it is a slow, subtle shift from being fully devoted to Him, to following the seductive lure of personal pleasure or gain. Hearts dedicated to cash and comfort are quick to bail when Jesus calls us to sacrifice and suffer for Him. But, whether the betrayal is “big” or seemingly small, it is always in the face of His love. That’s what makes it so wrong, so brazen. When we lose the wonder of His amazing love for us, when we fail to look at His nail-scarred hands, when we start taking His daily provision for granted, we run the risk of cultivating a compromised heart.”

In 1898, Eliza E. Hewitt wrote some very succinct words in the Hymn Lyric,
Give Me thy heart, says the Savior of men,
Calling in mercy again and again;
Trust in Me only, I’ll never depart—
Have I not died for thee? Give Me thy heart.

Give Me thy heart, says the Spirit divine;
All that thou hast to My keeping resign;
Grace more abounding is Mine to impart—
Make full surrender and give Me thy heart.

Are you ready, willing and committed to a Collision course with the Culture or are you trying to play it safe by your Collusion with the Culture? Prayerfully – Consider these things with me!

Monday, May 30, 2016

DISARRAY OR DOUGHTY

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Disarray is defined as disorder and/or confusion. It requires no special skill set or motivation for a person or organization to gain this status. The Thesaurus amplifies disarray by linking it to terms such as: anarchy, chaos, lack of discipline, disorganization, unruly, dishevelment and mess. It is a sad state of affairs if and when this occurs in churches and with ministers. John Maxwell is a gifted Speaker and Writer on Motivation and Leadership. In one Blog on “Five Lessons I Learned When Just Starting Out” he references his first Pastoral Call: “Though the church was small, my dreams were huge. The people of the church were more than happy to let me chase those dreams, but due to size and budget restrictions, it was up to me to do the chasing! I was young, I was determined, and I set out to succeed with nothing more than a little willpower and a lot of confidence.” This is a make or break type situation in ministry. 

Statistics can be manipulated except when they can be substantiated by facts. The following statistics were provided some time ago by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc. The list is long and detailed. A bottom-line summary includes the following:
  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
  • Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month , many without cause.
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
  • Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.
  • The Number One reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

It is difficult to watch anyone or anything that is in process of dying. Those who have to make the life or death decision struggle to reach a determination. The obvious is that there comes a time when a reality check must be embraced and Life-Support unplugged. Some Churches should assess their status and face this reality. Rather than Attempting to hang on, they need to move on. Rather than gasping for continuing on, they need to recognize death when it is staring at them and proceed to burial. Rather than continuing with a “last man (or woman) standing” mentality, there needs to be a willingness to cease and desist. There are other Church possibilities for one’s attendance and participation that can be considered. This is similar as it pertains to Ministers. For Ministers leaving Ministry, there is a place for personal assessment. The Minister must consider: “Am I a person legitimately called by God and committed to serve Him as a Pastor/Minister? Or, am I a person given to Disarray (includes appearance, organization and Sermon structure) or am I neat in appearance and oriented to being Doughty (steadfastly courageous and resolute; valiant)?” Some men dropping out can be a good thing and can be an indicator that they never should’ve “dropped-in” in the first place. 

For the careless Pastor/Minister, disarray is never the order of the day. In His Parable of The Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), Jesus Christ stated: “But when the king came in to see the guests, he spotted a man who was not dressed in wedding clothes. Friend, he asked, how did you get in here without wedding clothes? But the man was speechless. Then the king told the servants, Tie him hand and foot and throw him outside into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.” Pastoral Ministry has definitive protocols that supersede the supercilious (arrogant, condescending, stupid). It means one is serving the King of kings and representing Him honorably. Has your “Church” become a ho-hum affair that has lost its motivation, imagination and ambition? Does the Pastor/Minister have a servant’s heart and does he genuinely love the task of ministry and those with whom he is privileged to minister? Prayerfully – Consider these things with me!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

CONGRUENCE

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Politics used to be anchored to the Constitution of the United States and the truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Some of the words are remembered, but sadly, many of them have been ignored or forgotten. Words such as: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The Signers of the Declaration demonstrated unity and congruence (agreement, harmony, compatibility). There was a consistency to their stance and declarations, and a conformity as they appealed to “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.” Their congruent commitment went further when they affixed their signatures to the declaration following their final statement: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Just a cursory review of the nation today could lead one to a conclusion that Divine Providence is no longer a key factor in governance; and self-interests and selfish ambition has little room for a mutual pledge to each other of our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor. To indicate there is a present erosion of foundational principles and core values would be a classic understatement. To conclude that the nation has stepped off of a precipice and is descending toward the cultural abyss would be an appropriate and obvious assessment.

When I was a boy, we attended a small mission-type Church. Whenever the Lord’s Supper was going to be administered, there was a ritual that was followed. It was suggested that we know Romans 12 and I Corinthians 13 so in a congruent way we could recite it together. A key section, Romans 12:15-17, states: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.” This was an ambitious goal and challenge. There was a compatibility among those who attended and an acceptance regardless of one’s station in life. Later on, I became part of a denomination that had Scottish roots. Whenever the churches met as a General Synod (or later, as a General Assembly), the gatherings always concluded with the singing of Psalm 133 (from the KJV), “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is FOR BRETHREN TO DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY!”

Congruence should be a core value by which we live and interact with others. The enemy of our souls utilizes deception, disruption and devious devices to prevent harmony and unity from being realized even within and among those who are Biblical Christians. Paul may have had that sad reality in mind when he wrote (and prayed) Romans 15:4-7, “For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST JESUS, so that with ONE MIND AND ONE VOICE you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring glory to God.” We should be able to make a significant difference in this decadent world as we embrace and practice these truths of Scripture. Jesus prayed, John 17:20-21, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, THAT ALL OF THEM MAY BE ONE, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Prayerfully – Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

AN UPPER ROOM REALITY

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It is obvious that we live in a day and time where true religion is being sacrificed on the altar of secularism and self-indulgence. As the Gospel narratives drew to a conclusion, Luke continued writing a transitional history of what Biblical Christians desired and practiced. They were unwilling to surrender to the inevitable of making choices between the lesser of two evils. Truth must be preserved. The Gospel must continue to be declared regardless of the cost. Commitment to Christ, crucified and risen, who ascended into heaven was required. Would there be a personal cost? Yes. Would there be suffering and persecution? Yes. Would the power of God be thwarted? No.

Before the ongoing effort, ministry and message, there had to be the important moments in the Upper Room. We get a glimpse of the upper room where they had been staying (Acts 1:12-13). We also learn two things immediately about this upper room gathering in Acts 1:14, they were all with one mind and they were continually devoting themselves to prayer. These two upper room principles are needed in personal lives as well as in The Church as it exists today. There is a drift away from being of one mind. Similarly, prayer can appear to be a religious ritual we tack onto our Church worship agendas. If the professing Christians could arrive at the one mind point and continually devote themselves to prayer, the result would be positive and remarkable. Emerging would be a corps of Biblical Christians and the development of the Biblical Church. The enemy (that old serpent, the devil (Revelation 20:2, 9) is relentless in his effort to disrupt and destroy the Upper Room reality. It appears that the enemy has made inroads into organized religious organizations. Some of the clear truths that the inspired Word of God condemns, churchmen are intellectually and in the name of relevancy are condoning.

Do you ever long for a gathering of likeminded Biblical Christians in an Upper Room atmosphere and experience? I remember fondly a family in a church startup situation who opened a room above their garage where we were able to have an Upper Room Bible Study and Prayer Time. There was a spirit of oneness. Camaraderie (mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together) resulted. It was a friendship and fellowship that does not often occur. It is sorely missed and is absent from several places where it should be present. It is a situation where people don’t just talk religion but who walk and practice true religion. Do you belong to a Church or group where such camaraderie is both natural and present? If only God’s people would fully return to doing God’s word in God’s way, we might actually experience that for which David longed for when he wrote, Psalm 85:4-7 (NASB), “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your indignation toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your loving-kindness, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.”

Are you ready and eager for a God-sent Revival in your life, your Church, your community? Is God still able to bring it to pass in amid the secularized twenty-first century? Was God’s power limited to just the Upper Room group? Are you willing and available to meet with like-minded brothers and sisters who are 100% committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s will – and cry out to God to accomplish great and mighty things in our contemporary world? Are you willing to run any risk and pay any price for the Lord to work in and through you to reach this generation with the Gospel truth?  If so, the message would begin with John 8:31-36 (ESV), “So Jesus said…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you freeif the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” To and for a people who are in the grip of the enemy, bound and enslaved to him, the message that will break through by the power of God remains, “The truth will set you free…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Can you be counted on to make that truth known? Come to the Upper Room and be empowered by a Great God to do His Great work in and through you! Prayerfully – Consider these things with me

Monday, May 16, 2016

READING WHAT'S ON THE WALL

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In the contemporary world, some people believe their graffiti on a wall is what the world has been waiting for and expecting! In too many instances, in is best to avoid looking at or reading that which some vulgar person has drawn or written. The idea of this Blog pertains to something far more serious tan graffiti on a wall. Last week, the Federal Government allowed for a new interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with a particular emphasis upon sex and gender preferences. With his signature on yet another Presidential Decree based upon that new interpretation, the writing on the wall outside of restrooms in public places and schools must now read – Transgender Restroom. The distinction of – men or women, boy or girl – is now illegal inasmuch as the POTUS Decree supersedes that distinction. To enforce this decree, any state or institution refusing to comply will lose Title IX funding from the Federal Government. Obviously, it is another act of defiance of this nation’s foundational principles, core values and moral standards. What will The Church do? How will Evangelicals respond? What Congressional action will be immediately taken to reverse this decree? Whose voice will be raised in opposition?

A few hundred years ago there was a moment to decide about taking a stand for truth and righteousness. Elijah had appeared before King Ahab and issued a challenge regarding the prophets of Baal and the growing opposition of the nation toward God and His standards. In I Kings 18:22, Elijah issues a challenge to the people. He text indicates, “Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word.” The last phrase was part of the problem in Elijah’s day and is a major problem in our day as well. In the NLT, this same text reads, “Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him! But the people were completely silent.” Sadly, the people were completely silent. They were afraid to take a stand for God and righteousness. They measured any such involvement against their own vested interests. The result was they went along just to get along.

In another time, God’s people were having to endure the Babylonian Captivity. The Emperor had called for a time of celebration and a festive activity. While this party was taking place, a startling incident happened. It is recorded in Daniel 5:2-4 records the level of their decadence, “Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.” During their drunken display of decadence, the tone of the party abruptly changes (Verses 5-6), “The fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lamp-stand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. What did that message say? What did it mean? 

Daniel stands alone and speaks (Verses 22-23), “Belshazzar, you have not humbled your heart…but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.” Daniel then proceeds to interpret the Writing On The Wall (Verses 26-28), MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” In other words, the party and the kings reign is now over. Something bad is about to happen as the Medes and Persians attack and take over the nation. God’s deciding factor and measurement of Belshazzar in Daniel’s day and POTUS in our day is Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Prayerfully – consider these things with me!