Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day After

From My Perspective - - -

There's an old expression regarding “the day after the night before” which pertains to the partying practices of different cultural groups in the world. It usually has reference to the “hangover” that some experience from their excessive drinking and consumption of alcoholic beverages the “night before”! For such a one, “the day after the night before” can be a miserable one as blurred vision and headaches accompany one in the process of becoming “sober” and functional.

However, “the day after the night before” has a different tradition, observance and reference than a binge with which one has inflicted himself/herself. Particularly in the British Empire, it has reference to the day following Christmas – December 26th is observed as St. Stephen’s Day. “St. Steven's Day is an official holiday in Italy, Finland, Ireland and some other countries. It is also celebrated in some other countries as an official or unofficial holiday. In England and the English speaking Commonwealth countries it is known as Boxing Day and celebrated as an official holiday under that name. In Ireland, December 26th is celebrated under the name of St. Stephen's Day or sometimes referred to as Wren Day. Today the holiday is celebrated in Ireland very much like Boxing Day is celebrated in nearby England. But much of the lore of the day centers around a little bird known as the wren. In rural Ireland in times past, groups of young men and boys would dress in old clothes and blacken their faces. They would then capture and kill a wren, and march from house to house, carrying the dead wren on the top of a pole, and asking for a treat or money to bury the wren.” It is a strange way to commemorate a day bearing the name of one who was very significant in Christian and Biblical History.

We first read about Stephen in Acts 6. As the Church was expanding and growing, the Apostles were directed to find godly men who would be able to assist in aspects of ministry – especially the care of widows (and presumably orphans). The requirement for those to assist in a Diaconal role is stated in Acts 6:2-5, “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;  but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.  And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (along with six others)…” In Acts 2:8-15, a summary of Stephen’s life, character and ministry is given: “…Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen…disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council…And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”

The result of the wicked scheming of the Freedmen is given in Acts 7:55-58, Stephen “…being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him.” Stephen became the first Martyr of the Christian Church. Rather than the day being observed with the frivolity of a Boxing Day or a Day of the Wren, it should be commemorated as a day for noting the cost of true discipleship and a challenge to us all to have the same confidence, hope, courage and commitment to implement Ephesians 6:13, “…take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Heritage - Christmas Reflections !!

From My Perspective - - - 

On the website – Fathers.Com – is an interesting presentation regarding: “Your Heritage and Your Legacy” written by Ken Canfield. He states the following – “Some of my recent study has gone toward helping fathers understand the hand-in-hand connection between their heritage and their legacy. Becoming a father is often a catalyst for a man to process his past and begin planning for the future—his and his childrens. With that in mind, I have come up with an exercise for fathers consisting of two sets of six questions… The first six questions focus on your heritage: (1) In reflecting on your relationship to your father or father figure, how would you describe his support of you? (2) Did he regularly show you affection? (3) Was he present and accessible to you growing up? (4) Did he struggle with substance abuse or was he unfaithful to your mother? (5) Did he abuse you or another family member? (6) Would you say he was a good example? The second set focuses on your legacy: (1) What values and skills do you want to pass on to your child? (2) What are your child’s greatest challenges? (3) What are his greatest strengths and gifts? (4) How can you strengthen your relationship with him in the coming year? (5) What physical and emotional resources will be required for your son or daughter to face the future with confidence? (6) Whom can you count on for support and counsel as you father your child?...” 

One’s life can be greatly influenced and impacted by his past. I am the youngest of three children and have a vivid memory of seventy years ago today. It was in the early morning hours when the policemen came to the door of the tenement in which we resided to inform my Mother that our Father had died. I stood at the doorway behind my Mother and have the continuing memory of the emptiness of that moment and the wonderment of what the future held (our Father was buried on Christmas Eve, 1941). Where we lived was in a nice, clean German-oriented neighborhood. For whatever reason (perhaps embarrassment, or financial need), shortly after the turn of the year, my Mother decided to relocate us to a tenement that was the reverse of where we were living – to a dingy and dirty and backward community where we were clearly the “outsiders.” It was clear that we did not fit, did not speak Italian, were not Roman Catholic and were further advanced in schooling than in the comparable grades where we were placed (or displaced). We didn’t know that we had moved into a “ghetto” atmosphere – but – we were aware that it was traumatic for all of us. My Mother had to find employment; my Grandmother came to live with us and to be a care-provider; due to our Father’s malady, we had to go to the Board of Health for X-Ray observation…It was a debilitating, demeaning and difficult time – – a time when we felt isolated and alone.

One of the positives with these transitions was that our Maternal Grandmother - a godly woman who knew the Bible and was willing to share it with everyone - came to live with us. A verse that is too often generalized rather than particularized is Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” The Message paraphrases it: “ Don't you see that children are God's best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?” There are several places and circumstances where one can observe the workings of the Lord in one’s life. Personally, I find substance and application to the clich├ęd words – “I’m not all of what I ought to be; I’m not all of what I’m going to be; but – praise God – I’m not all of what I could have (or might have) been!” Early on in my life, I underscore a verse in my Bible – Deuteronomy 33:27 – “The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, 'Destroy!'” I think it was a personal quest to be accepted or to have some sense of worth and value. Our Mother would remind us – “Be the best of whatever you are.” In that regard – and later on - a different verse challenged and motivated me – II Corinthians 5:15, “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” These words, as well as those of a college Hymn, challenged me then – and – continue to challenge me now. The Hymn: “All For Jesus, all for Jesus! All my beings ransomed powers; All my thoughts and words and doings, All my days and all my hours… Let my hands perform his bidding; Let my feet run in His ways; Let my eyes see Jesus only; Let my lips speak forth His praise.  Consider these things with me!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Festival Of Light

From My Perspective - - -

This year the Jewish Celebration of Hanukkah begins at the evening hour. today Hanukkah means Dedication  - the time commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. The events leading up to this event are given in the writings of Flavius Josephus and in I Maccabees, especially Chapters 1 and 2. Briefly, “In 168 B.C.E. the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals. Then in 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus IV made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. He also ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods.” The oral history tells of the extent to which  Antiochus went in his Hellenization efforts. One such incident, such as, if any Mother with a male child who had been circumcised – that Mother was killed, as was her infant son, and they hung that dead son around the Mother’s neck. It was a treacherous and hideous time.

History records that “Jewish resistance began in the village of Modiin, near Jerusalem. Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the Jewish villages and told them to bow down to an idol, then to sacrifice and eat the flesh of a pig – both practices that are forbidden to Jews. A Greek officer ordered Mattathias, a High Priest, to acquiesce to their demands, but Mattathias refused. When another villager stepped forward and offered to cooperate on Mattathias' behalf, the High Priest became outraged. He drew his sword and killed the villager…” In I Maccabees 1:20-28, “After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred and forty-third year. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force.  He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand   for the light, and all its utensils.  He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off.  He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found.  Taking them all, he departed to his own land. He committed deeds of murder, and spoke with great arrogance. Israel mourned deeply in every community, rulers and elders groaned…

I Maccabees 2:1-22, contains a summary of both the commitment and courage of Mattathias and his sons. Given the opportunity to compromise their core values, and in observing the degree and extent to which the arrogance of Antiochus has gone, when Mattathias : “… saw the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem said,  Why was I born to see this, the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city…the sanctuary given over to aliens?” When called upon at the moment of actual compromise, he said: “…Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers,  yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers.  Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances.  We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left." When the victory is won and the Temple is to be rededicated, only one small vessel of dedicated oil is found to light the Menorah – only enough for one day – as they proceed, the oil lasts for eight days. That tradition and celebration – The Festival of Lights - continues to this day.

The summary of the Birth of Jesus Christ in John 1:1-14,  “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This “Festival of Light” is celebrated by the Christian world as Christmas. The sadness that attaches to this celebration is the fact of John 3:19-21, “And this is the condemnation (verdict, judgment): light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.But whoever does what is true comes to the light… Have you come to the Light – Jesus Christ? Do you – with commitment and courage – abstain from all compromise as you grow in knowing Him and making Him known? Consider these things with me!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Compromise

From My Perspective - - - 

Is there ever a time when Compromise is the correct and only course one can/should take? Does Compromise violate another’s conviction, principles of life, core values and moral compass? What is the standard by which Compromise can take place without there being a violation of ones conscience? Should Compromise merely be accepted as “the way things are” and “we need to learn to live and let live” – or – is it a case that the stronger and more dominant are allowed to exercise their will upon those who are weaker and with little or no influence at all? Has Political Correctness been allowed to run amuck in this nation? Has any one raised a voice of protest or – like a Caspar Milquetoast (a milquetoast is a weak, ineffectual or bland person; the word is derived from the character Caspar Milquetoast from the 1924 comic strip The Timid Soul) – just shrugged and willingly accepts that as the new status quo? 

It strikes one as being strange that the traditional Christmas Season has succumbed to Political Correctness, and to the Atheists who purport that their rights are violated when a Church places a Nativity Scene on Church-owned property. Should the “will” of these and other groups be allowed to determine what Music is permissible at this time of the year or what type of Display can be viewed by the public? In addition, this issue of Compromise has entered the rules of the House of Representatives as our elected officials are told how they can communicate with their Constituents. The Washington Examiner headlined a report (12-16-11): “Congressman Can’t Say Merry Christmas In Mail.” The column begins: “Looks like the PC Police have threatened members of the House of Representatives against wishing constituents a “Merry Christmas”, if they want to do so in a mailing paid for with tax dollars. Members who submit official mailings for review by the congressional franking commission that reviews all congressional mail to determine if it can be “franked”, or paid for with tax dollars, are being told that no holiday greetings, including ‘Merry Christmas’, can be sent in official mail.” They were also told they cannot say ‘Happy New Year’ but can say “have a happy new year’ – referencing the time period of a new year, but not the holiday…” The columnist then opines: “So it's true, the elected representatives of the nation that puts ‘In God We Trust’ on its currency are not permitted to use the greeting that has likely been uttered by every living adult American at least once in their lifetimes. Just another demonstration that political correctness and freedom of speech, faith and thought are utterly incompatible.” 

Compromise is defined as being: “a settlement of differences by mutual concessions…adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles…” A Biblical narrative of a Compromise that never should’ve occurred is: “II Chronicles 18 - Jehoshaphat, the good king of Judah, and Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, joined together to make war against Syria. Jehoshaphat was intent on asking God’s will before going to war, so Ahab summoned 400 of his prophets. They all foretold victory. Jehoshaphat then asked if a prophet of the Lord could be found (it seems he could tell the difference!). Ahab said there was one, the prophet Micaiah (V.7), “but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil”  (Devotional By Life Lines). Once Compromise is permitted, it can only lead to worse choices and events. Ahab convinced Jehoshaphat to wear his clothing and to drive his war chariot. “Jehoshaphat allowed himself to forget a major core value: “Once you have sought out God’s will, don’t ignore it. The astounding part of this story is that after God’s prophet foretold defeat, Ahab and Jehoshaphat went to war anyway!” We might expect this from Ahab, but Jehoshaphat should have known better! What was the end result? Jehoshaphat came within seconds of being killed because of his having been duped into wearing Ahab’s garments and driving Ahab’s War Chariot. How closely have you come to a costly error and ruin because of a foolish and unprincipled compromise? Ecclesiastes 7:5 states, “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools.” The NLT renders this verse, It is better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool!” Be a principled person who is governed by a moral compass that guides you away from unwise and unfounded compromise. Let Isaiah 30:21 be part of your core value and life practice: “And your ears shall hear a word...saying, "This is the way, walk in it…" Consider these things with me!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Reflections

From My Perspective - - -

Christmas is a time of considerable merriment, joyous anticipation and happy celebrations because of the special One Who was born  on Christmas Day. Any more, before Thanksgiving has come and gone there are the displays and music to let all know that Christmas is nearing and will soon be here. The stores are decorated; the strains of Christmas Melody ring out; merchandise is being purchased for gifts that will be given to loved ones and friends; travel will be planned so families can be together; meals will be planned – cookies and pies will be baked – and the aroma of the special day fills the home. The traditional Salvation Army Bell-ringer is in place outside of some of the busiest stores and many people drop Money in the bucket so that those without – those who have little or close to nothing - might have reason for some hope and joy.

At this Joyous Season and time of Merriment, there are also those who have Reflections Of The Past that left an indelible mark upon them. They are conflicted as they celebrate the reason for the season – The Birth of Jesus Christ – while at the same time they reflect nostalgically about how things brought about sadness and dampened some of the Christmas excitement. They can remember the joy that suddenly turned to sadness when word was received of an illness or death of a family member. This occurred in our family in 1941 seventy years ago – the artificial Christmas Tree was in place and decorated with lights, ornaments and tinsel; gifts had been wrapped and placed under the tree; the artificial fireplace occupied a corner of a crowded room; stockings had been hung with the expectation of candy, fruit, cookies, nuts and a silver dollar in the toe being in them on Christmas morning. Our Father had been ill for some time and was in the Hospital but there were gifts wrapped for him and placed under the tree. The possibility of his recovery was not great. However – no one expected the knocking on the door late one night just a few days before Christmas – and the policemen informing our Mother that our Father had died. For three days before Christmas, time was spent at the Funeral Home. Our Father’s burial would occur on the day of Christmas Eve. This impacted my brother, sister and me at that time and for me, there is the remembrance and emptiness of that Christmas past.

It does cause me to think about many who will be unable to celebrate Christmas with Family or Friends. Because of many factors, the emptiness of the past becomes somewhat vivid in the present as one contemplates a day without the children, or special aromas, or the gifts under the tree. Despite that fact, we nevertheless put up a tree and some other decorations realizing that only “we” will enjoy it – together – just the two of us. But then – I think of those in the Nursing Home – not a place of their desire or choosing – but there out of necessity – the hope is that they will not be forgotten or included in some way.

On a Facebook entry, someone allowed: "Set your minds on things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." (Col. 3:2) And then, he wrote: “We cannot do this if we do not ever visualize a real and tangible Heaven! Truth be told most of us know absolutely nothing about Heaven.”  This caused me to do some research on and about Heaven and found in the Easton Bible Dictionary that the Redeemed and “…The Blessed are said to "sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," and to be "in Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22Matthew 8:11); to "reign with Christ" (2 Timothy 2:12); and to enjoy "rest" (Hebrews 4:10,11). In heaven the blessedness of the righteous consists in the possession of "life everlasting," "an eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17), and…the "fullness of joy" for ever (Luke 20:361 Peter 1:45:10). The believer's heaven is not only a state of everlasting blessedness, but also a "place", a place "prepared" for them (John 14:2).” May this be your reality, your confidence, the reason for your joy and hope. Remember those who are alone and sad. Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Has Truth Become Disingenuous?

From My Perspective - - -

Is truth identifiable in the broad spectrum of your life? Can it be found in politics? What about religion, can it be found there? Within family structures, has the influence of culture become so invasive that families have deficiency in the area of truth? Is there a clearly defined line that determines the moral from the immoral (and even the amoral)? Whatever happened to the principle: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”?

In 1966, at a World Congress on Evangelism, one of the speakers was Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984). In his address to the Congress, he made this statement: “The mark of our century is the victory of the Hegelian concept of synthesis, instead of a recognition of truth in the sense of antithesis and absolutes. Prior to Hegel, non-Christians generally acted upon the concept that if a thing was true, the opposite was false. In morals likewise, if a thought or action was viewed as right, the opposite was considered wrong. If the Church in that day, including the Evangelist, said that Christianity was true, or that a thing was right, this had meaning and was understood…Since the influence of Hegel…this is no longer the case. We are increasingly surrounded by a culture in which a concept of truth in the sense of antithesis, and of moral right and wrong does not exist…”

Was Francis Schaeffer right then? Is his analysis of the culture dominant in 1966 even more prevalent and dominant in 2011? In his book, Escape From Reason, he shared these observations: “It is an important principle to remember, in the contemporary interest in communication and in language study, that the Biblical presentation is that though we do not have exhaustive truth, we have from the Bible what I term ‘true-truth.’ In this way we know true truth about God, true truth about man, and something truly about nature. Thus on the basis of the Scriptures, while we do not have exhaustive knowledge, we have true and unified knowledge…We cannot deal with people like human beings, we cannot deal with them on the high level of true humanity, unless we really know their origin - - who they are. God tells man who he is. God tells us that He created man in His image. So man is something wonderful…” Francis Schaeffer points out another observation that has application to the times in which we live: “We are watching our culture put into effect the fact that when you tell men long enough that they are machines, it soon begins to show in their actions. You see it in our whole culture - - in the theatre of cruelty, in the violence in the streets, in the death of man in art and life…”

David had a similar sense about his culture, his world and lifestyles that were devoid of a sense about God and the standards He established, when he wrote in Psalm 139:11-20, “If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain…!”

We need to regain the voice of Truth and champion that message tirelessly. When Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.” – this was not just an encouraging word for His disciples, it was the message He wanted all men in all generations to champion and make known until He returns. Have we ‘dropped the ball’ when it comes to the ‘true-truth’? Have we lost our courage to have and to make a courageous statement of our faith and belief? Consider these things with me!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Anniversaries To Remember and Celebrate

From My Perspective - - -

In one way or another, all of us recognize and celebrate anniversaries throughout one’s lifetime. Perhaps the most notable anniversary is one’s Birthday. Children, especially, have come to expect cards, gifts, and a Birthday Party to mark the passing of another year. For those who have been united in Matrimony, the wedding Anniversary becomes very significant. A Husband can forget many things but he had best devise a way to remember the Wedding Anniversary. Otherwise, what should have been a day of remembering the love and joy of marriage, he may experience a day of misery and woe.

Historically, there are significant “anniversary” days that one should remember. For instance, I, along with several classmates, can remember detail surrounding the Assassination of President Kennedy (we were in a class with a Guest Lecturer of note). Many can remember exactly where they were and what they were preparing to do on September 11, 2001 – an anniversary date that now marks the reality of world-wide terrorism as well as the vulnerability of our nation that here-to-for has been safe from attack within the borders of our nation. This week represents an date that was declared as one that would live in infamy – December 7, 1941 – the 70th Anniversary of the Japanese Attack at Pearl Harbor. Words cannot adequately describe how life in and for this nation changed dramatically 70 years ago. “Remember Pearl Harbor” became a rallying cry for the nation that summoned a level of unanimity and patriotism across this nation.

Part of what should be remembered is the Historical Data regarding December 7th, 1941: “…The Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor and on the airfields of Oahu began at 0755 on December 7, 1941 and ended shortly before 1000. Quickly recovering from the initial shock of surprise, the Americans fought back vigorously with antiaircraft fire. Devastation of the airfields was so quick and thorough that only a few American planes were able to participate in the counterattack. The Japanese were successful in accomplishing their principal mission, which was to cripple the Pacific Fleet. They sunk three battleships, caused another to capsize, and severely damaged the other four. All together the Japanese sank or severely damaged 18 ships, including the 8 battleships, three light cruisers, and three destroyers. On the airfields the Japanese destroyed 161 American planes (Army 74, Navy 87) and seriously damaged 102 (Army 71, Navy 31). The Navy and Marine Corps suffered a total of 2,896 casualties of which 2,117 were deaths (Navy 2,008, Marines 109) and 779 wounded (Navy 710, Marines 69). The Army (as of midnight, 10 December) lost 228 killed or died of wounds, 113 seriously wounded and 346 slightly wounded. In addition, at least 57 civilians were killed and nearly as many seriously injured. The Japanese lost 29 planes over Oahu, one large submarine (on 10 December), and all five of the midget submarines. Their personnel losses (according to Japanese sources) were 55 airmen, nine crewmen on the midget submarines, and an unknown number on the large submarines. The Japanese carrier task force sailed away undetected and unscathed…”

The Bible indicates there are particular matters that one should remember. One of the ideas is shared in these excerpts from Ecclesiastes 12:1-5, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them…in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few…they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way…” In a day marked by uncertainty and apprehension – Remember Your Creator. Another consideration that must be remembered and put into practice – if we want and expect the help of the Lord - is II Chronicles 7:13-15, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place…” Do you believe this? Have you been implementing it in your life, home, family, church? Do you believe this is the primary foundation upon which hope is to be built? If so, begin – without delay – to do it. Consider these things with me!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Quest: Clarity

From My Perspective - - -

From:  The Message
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
    Philippians 4:8-9

In his comments to the 1,000 plus attendees of the 31st General Assembly meeting of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Stated Clerk Jeffrey Jeremiah said: “I believe our Lord is saying to us today, I see your orthodoxy. It is essential and I commend you for it. I see your orthopraxy as well. Now, show me your orthopathos."

Basically, what is Jeffrey Jeremiah saying and meaning? The words used have specific meaning: (1) Orthodoxy pertains to what one believes! (2) Orthopraxy pertains to what one does or practices! But - what is (3) Orthopathos? The closest one can come to a sense of what it means is that it pertains to what one feels, namely, a feeling of sympathy and/or compassion (about what he has heard and how he feels about those with whom he is associated).

In actuality, it is an old pedagogical formulation for the one teaching to keep in mind that the bottom line and focus is what one wants those whom he has taught to (1) know, (2) think, (3) do in terms of what they have heard. Teaching, if it is viable and valuable, should produce both understanding and action. The instruction is not to the end that the listener will possess more knowledge and warehouse it, but that he will glean from it what his response and application must be as a result of that instruction.

This is also a suitable and useful formulation for those who are called to "preach/teach the word" – namely - action is the expected response and result of preaching! What does one want his congregants or students to (1) Know, (2) Think, (3) Do. Regrettably, there is too much "talking" in the pulpit and from the lectern rather than "teaching"! The result is that no one - including the preacher/teacher - has any notion regarding what one is to Know, Think or Do.

In this regard, The Message Paraphrase has an excellent rendering of I Corinthians 2:1-5, “You'll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God's master stroke, I didn't try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did - Jesus crucified. I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate - I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it - and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God's Spirit and God's power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God's power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.”

In all of ones communication, one should strive to keep it simple, basic, clear and understandable. Otherwise, one will emulate the noisy gong and clanging cymbal spoken of in I Corinthians 13:1.How do others respond to your communications? Are they impressed with your intellectual skills and abilities, or with the fact that you have spent time in the study and preparation of God’s Word – and – you have spoken it in such a manner that even the youngest and/or most simple can understand and benefit from it? Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When Truth Is Trampled

From My Perspective - - -

A major question often posed in the areas of philosophy and theology is, “What is truth?” It is the question posed by Pilate at the trial and ultimate crucifixion of Jesus Christ – when he asked Jesus – “What is Truth?” If only he could have known and connected the dots from the ministry of Jesus when Thomas had asked: “How can we know the way?” On that occasion, Jesus answered with an amplified and comprehensive statement in John 14:5-6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” Pilate did not connect the dots in his day and people are not connecting the dots in our day either.

This profound question – “What is truth?” is current in our news cycle as a Republican Presidential Candidate tries to explain the complaints and charges of sexual harassment by five women. The bottom line of his defense so far has been “they are not telling the truth.” One thing is certain – before this is over – it will become obvious in terms of who lied and who is telling the truth. Wisdom Words of the ages will unfold, namely: “Be sure your sins will find you out!” There is the misconception where people believe they can insulate themselves from responsibility for all kinds of deceit and/or corruption – but such a one is deceiving himself/herself. The fact is that a day of reckoning will always come and truth will always prevail.

There are moments within ones lifetime where religion plays an important role. Usually, it occurs at a time of War and/or Great Tragedy. People have the innate cry of despair – that helplessness and sense of a need that one cannot humanly meet – an a cry goes out to “God”. It is like an S.O.S. signal sent out across the horizon in the hope that someone – somewhere – will hear the distress signal and call – and come to the rescue. Pearl Harbor and World War II was such a time; September 11, 2001 was another occasion; times of accident or illness also tend to be a time when religious thoughts occur. However, these times and moments suffer from disconnect and neglect. It is not a constant in many lives. It tends to be an emergency type religion that is embraced and practiced.  Someone observed and poignantly wrote: “Between the bookends of our moment of terror yesterday and our moment of truth today, lie the pages of our life as a people. The picture is not pretty. The headlines reveal, as renowned pollsters George Gallup and George Barna have for a decade declared, a profound moral and spiritual disconnect between the way we see ourselves and the way we truly live.” Some other observations that were shared are: “Morality, ethics and dishonesty were named by the Gallup Poll in 2001 as the top problem facing the nation...not terrorism. Virtues have given way to values as every one does that which is right in his own eyes. 33% of our children are born out of wedlock as are 80% of those in the major cities of our land. Less than half of us believe it is immoral to live together outside of marriage, confirming why cohabitation precedes 37% of all marriages in the United States…Now 91% of us lie regularly…The wave of corporate fraud did not emerge in a vacuum. It’s in part a consequence of a society that refuses to recognize absolute standards of right and wrong…TRUST is rapidly slipping away for all of our institutions…”

How does The Eternal God see this world today? What does the Word of God allow has happened to truth and righteousness? Is there a remedy – a solution? Psalm 5 along with Isaiah 59 state a summary of what God is observing and has determined: “…your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear…No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly…feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity…there is no justice in their paths… For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us…we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God…conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled (is trampled underfoot) in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking…The Lord saw it, and it displeased him…” The remedy is Isaiah 59:1, “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear…” It is time to repent and to return to the Lord!  Consider these things with me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fair and Balanced

From My Perspective - - -

One particular News Agency loves to state that their News Reporting is “Fair and Balanced – we Report, You Decide.” The question is: Is there any News Agency whose reporting is “fair and balanced.” On the ABC News Website, the following appears: “Critics of President Obama felt little holiday cheer after the president did not thank God in his Thanksgiving-themed weekly Internet address. They immediately took to Twitter and the Internet to voice anger and disbelief…"Somebody ought to remind Obama (and his speechwriter) that when Americans sit down around a meal today and give thanks, they give thanks to God." Over on the website of Fox News Radio, radio host Todd Starnes also took issue: His remarks were void of any religious references, although Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally steeped in giving thanks and praise to God…The president said his family was reflecting on how truly lucky we truly are, Starnes said. For many Americans, though, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on how blessed and thankful they are." Is any of that “fair and balanced”? No! Why, you may ask?

The ABC Report continues: “…the President explicitly thanked God earlier in the week in his written Thanksgiving proclamation, which called the holiday one of our nation's oldest and most cherished traditions, and an occasion that brings us closer to our loved ones and invites us to reflect on the blessings that enrich our lives. As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come, Obama wrote.” Lest the political opponents get too gleeful too quickly, observe the following: “Ironically, the attacks on Obama came as the Republican White House hopefuls suspended their criticism of the president on Thursday in favor of a unified message of thanks to U.S. service members and their families. Three of the Republican presidential candidates – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – issued Thanksgiving statements that omitted any references to God. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry mentioned God in their statements…”

It is becoming safe to say that we are becoming more and more irreligious in our nation and among the national leadership. Religious comments by politicians seem plastic and inclined to appeal to a portion of a political base rather than from a real and personal commitment to the Eternal God Who created and sustains the universe – and Who is carrying out His Will and Purpose regardless of who agrees or disagrees. In this age of political correctness and an imbalanced commitment to avoid offending or alienating those of Islamic convictions, we have jettisoned our foundational principles and core values as a nation. Our nation is in the process of turning a corner in terms of Israel and being identified with that nation that is surrounded by Arab States.

In the midst of our imbalances, we need to regain a focus and commitment to the principles and values that should never be compromised. There is a place where “fair and balanced” are of no consequence at all – namely – when it comes to The Authority of God. We would do well to note Isaiah 43:10-11, “You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” And, Isaiah 45:5-7, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Remember Who spoke these words and Who will speak the last words as well!  Consider THESE THINGS with me!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Whose Counting

From My Perspective - - -

We live amid fast-paced lives – always doing; always buying; always going somewhere; always wanting something new or different; more and more – leaving one breathless at the end of the day and unable to get adequate rest. Then – there is the embrace of “worries” and “anxieties” – the cares of life and the world piling up and overwhelming one – will my employment be terminated; will my home be lost to foreclosure; can I maintain a reasonable and adequate standard of living; can I meet the rising costs of the basics of life – these and many other concerns weigh one down and leave one weary and aching at the end of the day.

A danger to all of this is what will get crowded out of one’s life – the important and necessary for the maintenance of stability. One can become so involved and absorbed with secular survival, that the spiritual is forgotten and/or neglected. The focus on the here and now dominates and allows one to bypass the eternal. In Mark 4:18-19, Jesus states a Parable about the Seed and The Sower. He rightly points out the various kinds of soil one will encounter. Then Jesus makes this observation about some of the seed: “…And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful...” The language is plain and simple – (1) the cares of this world, and (2) the deceitfulness of riches – enter into one’s thinking and becomes the number one concern. In the process of this occurring, the Word of God – “My God shall supply for all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” – is choked out of one’s life and alternative for living – and – is not allowed to be fruitful for practical living. The Message Translation of Mark 4:18-19 is even more clear: “The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.”

Another area that needs to be refreshed and remembered in our lives is some time allotted for Meditation and Remembering. In 1896, the Hymn Writer succinctly reminded one to:    
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
    Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
    Count your blessings, name them one by one,
                                   And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. 

In Psalm 103:1-6, one is reminded of this same truth – the things one should remember as Blessings from the Lord Who is merciful and gracious, as well as bountiful in the various ways by which He blesses: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your  diseases, Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed...”

As you gather with family, friends, loved ones – make certain that all are directed to remember: “Christ is the Head of this house; the Unseen Guest at every meal; the Silent Listener to every conversation.” A Polish Blessing shares these thoughts: “Lord, we ask You to bless this family with a warm place by the fire when the world is cold; a light in the window when the way is dark; a welcoming smile when the road is long; a haven of love when the day is done; For the Blessing of this home, we give thanks.” Also, I remember the popular song by Perry Como that contained these words: “Bless this house, Oh Lord we pray, Make it safe by night and day. Bless these walls so firm and stout, Keeping want and trouble out. Bless the roof and chimneys tall, Let thy peace lie over all. Bless this door that it may prove, Ever open to joy and love…Bless the people here within, Keep them pure and free from sin. Bless us all that we may be, Fit Oh Lord to dwell with thee. Bless us all that we, one day, may dwell, Oh Lord, with Thee.” Take time to think about spiritual things – eternal things! Commit yourself to rest in the Lord and to live in His peace. Remind your loved ones of these great truths – and – have a Happy, Joyous Thanksgiving. Consider these things with me!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Posturing

From My Perspective - - -

Government and Gamesmanship are almost synonymous with each other. It is made to appear that through posturing and proclamations – these are the rules of the game. The teams – Republicans and Democrats – come to the center of the field. The Referee – the President – flips the coin and tells the teams to let the game begin. The teams have been given a date by which the game must be concluded otherwise there will be an automatic scoring that will take place for which both teams will be able to disown the result. Then – the Referee – not only leaves the field of play – he also leaves the country for a period of time and lets the unmanaged and uncontrolled teams play their game according to their own rules. This, in brief, is how the Debt Reduction Committee was formed, organized and performed. There was little or no expectation that anyone would have the gumption to do what was necessary and/or right.

The origin of the word “gumption”, taken from the online etymology dictionary, states the primary sense and usage of the word: “The Word Origin and History – gumption – 1719, Scottish – common sense, shrewdness, initiative, give attention to…” I suppose that in terms of the ever-increasing National Debt (now more than $15 Trillion) it could be said that the Commission and Congress allowed this once great and proud nation to die of neglect. As a nation, we are struggling to keep our heads above water and gasping for air to breathe. Where is the Life Preserver? Who will throw it – The Chinese…The Iranians? Where is there a Lifeboat – a rescue vessel? Is there anyone who cares? Will someone come to their senses and see there is an immediate need? Can those who decide be willing to forget about their individual career and look at the bigger picture – the survival of the nation? They have already taken care of themselves at the cost of a neglected citizenry.

As a nation, we have come to the time in our calendar and observe a day called Thanksgiving. It is a time to cease from all other things and to acknowledge that God has blest us far greater than we deserve and with much more than we need. It’s a time when we can look beyond ourselves and/or our own to those who are in desperate and hopeless situations in our world. Hopefully, any effort to reach out will be welcomed. Sometimes the effort may be rejected by one group or another but there are all too many alternatives. My wife and I had come across an opportunity to get some beautiful clothing at a greatly reduced cost. The first country we thought of has been devastated with storms and poverty, etc. Our offer was essentially rejected because giving the clothing “would put people out of work who are making the clothing.” Our view was – perhaps it would give them something nice and useful to clothe their children and allow them to get to work. Part of our thinking is a result of an almost obscure text in Mark 4:35-41, “…when evening came, He (Jesus) said to His disciples, Let us go over to the other side.Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, Teacher, don't you care if we drown?...”

The phrase for special note is – “There were also other boats with him.” Why? When the storm was most furious and the situation most desperate, for whom are the disciples expressing concern – the other little boats with them – or – themselves? When the disciples come to the stern of the boat and awaken Jesus, there is no mention of the other little boats – just – “Teacher, don't you care if we drown?” The preoccupation with self and the immediate needs and wants for self are the occasion of the urgency. If Only – we could get the focus off of “self” and refocus onto others, and let them know that we care. Also, it would be good if we would remember to pause and give thanks to the Faithful God – maybe even using the words of Psalm 103 – Who showers us with His benefits; Who forgives; Who heals; Who redeems; Who Satisfies; Who restores and renews our strength - Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name… While we are remembering to do this, let us not forget the little boats out there where the needs are so very great and situations are so very dangerous and desperate. Let us do what we can to alleviate those conditions and to let them know - we genuinely care!  Consider these things with me!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Super Committee - Super Failure

From My Perspective - - -

How does a unique power in History suddenly become a disrespected weak one? What does it take to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory? How can that which has been a Super Success drastically become a Super Failure?  This past week Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense offered a grim and bleak outcome if the Super Committee of Congress (composed of 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans) failed to arrive at a place where they had a significant Budget Reduction to lower the National Debt by close to 2 Trillion Dollars. Their inability to do so would trigger automatic reductions – 600 Billion being in the area of Defense. Panetta was adamant: Failure Would Hurt Defense.

The publication – Roll Call – reports: “Panetta warned lawmakers in a letter today that the military would face substantial problems if House and Senate negotiators fail to come to an agreement on a massive deficit reduction deal by next week.If the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction deadlocks and automatic across-the-board cuts kick in, Panetta said the consequences would includes the halting of most ship and construction projects, cuts in contractors, and the smallest Air Force in history.His letter reiterated his previous testimony before Congress while more clearly outlining the potential effects of sequestration — the automatic cuts that would slash roughly $500 billion in defense spending as well as other areas of the federal budget.The impacts of these cuts would be devastating for the Department…Facing such large reductions, we would have to reduce the size of the military sharply. Rough estimates suggest after ten years of these cuts, we would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history…As a result, we would have to formulate a new security strategy that accepted substantial risk of not meeting our defense needs. A sequestration budget is not one that I could recommend.”

What is true and possible in Government Affairs is also true in and for Personal Lives. The determining factor for both are the Core Values – those things that define and shape Purpose - that are embraced. Without valid Core Values, Governments and Individuals will drift through life in a listless  manner  (having or showing little interest in anything) – merely drifting from pillar to post. For Nations and Lives, there is an interesting description given regarding God’s People as they wandered without purpose or vision in Psalm 105:13-23 – “…wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, He allowed no one to oppress them; He rebuked kings on their account, saying, Touch not my anointed ones, do My prophets no harm! When He summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, He had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free; he made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions, to bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom…” The Message Translations states Verse 13, 14 - “Wandering from country to country, drifting from pillar to post, He permitted no one to abuse them. He told kings to keep their hands off…” 

Have you ever tried to function apart from focus, vision, purpose, a sense of God’s Will? Have you ever allowed yourself to be relegated to the “wandering from pillar to post” category? Have you arrived at a point where you feel you are no longer necessary or needed? Or – do you “bluff” as though you are on the top of your game? Do you try to project confidence and ability which you lack? Have you manipulated situations so you might gain status or a position for which you were neither equipped or qualified? Have you attempted to project an “image” that you wished was true – but – you know it wasn’t? If so, like the Super Committee you will be drifting toward Super Failure. 

The lyric to an old Hymn is a good commitment to have – “My times are in Thy hand;My God, I wish them there; My life, my friends, my soul I leave Entirely to Thy care… My times are in Thy hand, Jesus, the crucified! Those hands my cruel sins had pierced Are now my guard and guide.” This is the best core value and safest place to be!  Consider these things with me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Changing Times

From My Perspective - - -

The events of our current day illustrate the climate for change that is occurring in the world, as well as in our own nation. From the overthrow of governments in the Middle East to the gatherings of the Occupy Groups in our nation – frustration, envy, inequity, hopelessness and despair – all seem to contribute to the expressions of our day. The other part to this scenario is that there appears to be no immediate resolve or remedy for those who have lost their employment; or are having to do more menial tasks at lesser remuneration; or those who have endured foreclosure as the housing bubble burst; etc. The Government that promised “hope” and asked to be “trusted” has failed to prove they have earned or deserve a response of either hope or trust. Those who are entrusted with tax revenues and budget management have enlarged the nation’s debt level; and those who insist on reminding us that they are concerned for the “people” feather their own personal nest with “Insider Trading Benefits” (According to CBS: 60 Minutes on 11-13-11) that would cause the rest of us to be incarcerated.

Changing times also impact traditional families in the nation. It is provable that the Holidays are the most critical in the lives of people, especially for the aging and elderly. In too many ways, the aging and elderly can be neglected and/or forgotten. What once was an exciting time of family festivity and gathering has turned into an empty-house and loneliness. Where decorations were common place because the children were coming home with their children, now is barren and relegated to the non-eventful. The aging and elderly can feel as though they must either force their way into being included and/or allow themselves to be squeezed into a different context where they don’t feel or believe they really fit. They may accommodate the situation but do so reluctantly because they believe more in the Traditions than they do the Transitions. They wonder – whatever happened to the merry song – “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go; the Horse knows the way to carry the sleigh…” Some who read this will claim it is false, whereas others will read it and fully identify with it. One sees it from the perspective where it becomes a case of there being a tension between Traditions on the one hand Transitions on the other. There is a time and place for the younger families to begin forming their own Traditions as their families grow – but – at what cost to the aging and elderly?

Some of the things that do not change include the general teaching of God’s Word, Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” The Apostle Paul found this sufficiently important that he added it in Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." The words of Ephesians 6:4 may be the reason why some Transitions take place and Traditions become scuttled, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The Message translates the verse: “Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” The second generation can get the feeling that their parent or parents have become “grumpy” and “fuss at their children” too often and too much. The result is that no one of the third generation wishes to come home and the second generation would rather not have to contend with the complaints of their own children not wanting to go to the Grandparents home. What a reality! What a tension! What a problem! What a Tension!

One way to Remember and to Honor one’s parents – don’t avoid them and don’t treat them as relics. Your aging and elderly parents don’t need gifts – they already have plenty of “stuff”!  They just need to be loved, understood, wanted, included and remembered. This is even more true for the Mother/Grandmother who tends to live longer than the Father/Grandfather. Is it too much to expect that the Children and Grandchildren will regularly remember those who are an important part of their lives and heritage? Just some words for the wise! Don’t read into them – rather - heed them!  Consider these things with me! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Character

From My Perspective - - -

What does it take to be a person whose character is beyond reproach? How long does it take for one’s character to become tainted? How much time will it take to repair one’s tainted character and to have trust and confidence regained? Is it possible to repair what has been besmirched? Can it ever fully take place? The Synonyms for the word “character” give a summary of what is meant by good character, namely: “the characteristics possessed by a person; especially moral qualities, ethical standards, principles; the distinctive qualities that make one recognizable as a person differentiated from others; the combination of outer and inner qualities that will determine the impression that a person makes upon others…”

One’s words, thoughts, deeds, behavior, associations, etc. must be guarded carefully because it takes only a moment of time to destroy that which has taken a lifetime to establish. For instance, (1) a person with ambitions to become the Republican nominee for President begins to gain some traction and moves into the lead of several polls; his popularity begins to soar; his fund-raising has increased dramatically – and then – word leaks out from “someone” regarding the possibility of inappropriate behavior approximately 15 years earlier that is deemed to be sexual harassment – nothing specific and no individual named – BUT – the character of the candidate is brought into question – AND – he begins to have to defend his character against the unidentified and the unspecified. What becomes lost here is that on the one hand there is alleged sexual harassment and on the other possible character assassination. (2) a person who has achieved what no one else has achieved – 46 years a Head Football Coach with more wins than any other coach – is now suddenly and unceremoniously fired as the Head Coach. Why? It is alleged that an Assistant Coach 12-15 years ago began to be involved in inappropriate behavior with young boys and was reportedly observed as having raped one of them. Once this “news” begins to be circulated, the Head Coach – a man of character and reputation for most of his 84 years – becomes culpable because – once he learned of this alleged act - he did not report it to the police.

In Proverbs 22:1 (NLT), “Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold.” The Message Translation: “A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank.” When Paul was instructing Timothy in terms of commitment and character, he wrote in I Timothy 1:18-19, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…” In this instance, Good Character means having a strong faith in God and His Word and a Clear Conscience as every effort is made to live consistently and obediently to his calling and conviction.

Paul states the Qualifications for an Overseer in the Church in I Timothy 3:1-7, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” Verse 2 in the New Living Translation states: “He must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation.” Paul wanted the godly man to know the stakes are very high. It takes a lifetime to develop character – but – it takes just a moment for one’s character to become personally tainted, as well as bringing reproach to the name of Christ and His Church. In I Peter 2:12-22, Peter wrote about the need to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God...” Can you do it? Will you? Consider these things with me!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Occupying Forces

From My Perspective - - -

The Cost Of Freedom should never be forgotten. In the modern culture that maintains a self-indulgence that is unprecedented, it has become too easy to be focused upon what “I want now” versus “What it cost” for that degree of freedom to exist. Today, for instance, should focus upon the many who placed their lives in jeopardy for the defense of the freedoms and liberties of this nation and in behalf of others who yearned to be free. It is now called Veteran’s Day to commemorate – to honor – all the brave men and women who have served in the military – and – especially the many who died in the conflicts. Originally, this was known as Armistice Day when the significant surrender of the enemy occurred on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour in the year 1918 ending what was called “The Great War.”

On this day, in November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

To that end, The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words: Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”

How will this day be observed across this nation? In all likelihood, with very little remembrance or fanfare. However, “Occupying…” is part of our current news and vernacular. “Occupying” groups are taking place in many cities across our nation. Some of them are orderly, while other groups are not. Regrettably, violence has occurred – rape and shootings – perpetrated by some who have infiltrated the Occupying Groups. Those given to conspiracy by the establishment will attribute that to police brutality. They will say that without a shred of evidence to prove their point – but – say it they will. Part of the primary purpose – to decry and denounce the one percent of the nation who represent “wealth and material gain” versus the ninety-nine percent (47 percent of who pay no taxes) demanding an equal share in the wealth. 

It reminds one of an illustration of Jesus Christ when he spoke of the 99 safe sheep and the 1 sheep that had gone astray. The shepherd would leave the 99 and seek for that 1 lost sheep. If we view this in a juxtapositional way, an effort needs to be made to reach the 99 who seem to be lost in their understanding of finances and business. They can “Occupy” if they wish – but – that is a command that was issued to the disciples of Jesus in terms of His Kingdom. In Luke 19:13ff, the Lord states a parable about a man of wealth and his distribution of some of it. The direction in Luke 19:13 (NKJV) is simple: “Do business till I come.” Most of us were nurtured in Church with the KJV of the Bible. It seems to be the only translation that expresses Luke 19:13 to: “Occupy Until I Come.” Clearly, the “Church” has lost its “Occupying” duty, vision and fervor. Our “Occupying” is supposed to share the Gospel message. How are we doing? Consider these things with me!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Only Tops Should Spin

From My Perspective - - -

In a more innocent time, different types of Tops were designed with the sole purpose that they could and would spin better than some other manufacturer’s Tops. We have progressed to a point where in this day People do most of the spinning. It’s no longer the Toy but politicians, educators, religious leaders, sports representatives – they and sundry others have learned how to “spin” verbally to try and make a negative become a positive. Currently, there is the long-tenured Head Football Coach whose only defense against child abuse that occurred by one of his assistants was – “I should’ve done more…I did what I was supposed to do.” No! – he did not do what he was supposed to do! He was supposed to notify the police that a felony had been committed and a child had been sexually violated.

This is not dissimilar than when a large world-wide Church became aware of charges being made about and against pedophile priests. What should be done when a priest violates the laws of decency and morality? What should’ve been done wasn’t done. Instead, you remove the priest from Parish A and assign him to Parish B. Now – that should be the remedy and cure! Was it? No! The only remedy was to admit what had occurred and to remove the priest from any and all parish duties and activities. He should’ve been arrested and the crime of child abuse addressed legally. But – “Spin” and “Evade” seem to be the preferred route to be taken.

More recently, an American political leader who loves to talk is heard in conversation with a French political leader. What’s at issue? The One News Now report states: “French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently made negative comments to President Obama, saying ‘Netanyahu is a liar.’ Obama quipped back, ‘You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!’” When did this occur? “The two leaders exchanged barbs targeting Benjamin Netanyahu after a press conference at the G-20 summit, but they did not realize that reporters were still listening via translation headphones.” The report continues: But even though the blunder was witnessed by a number of reporters…the…administration will find ways to use the diplomatic embarrassment to its advantage. The White House spin machine will do whatever they have to do to reassure friends in the Jewish community that it's been blown out of proportion or whatever…But I (Gary Bauer) am also absolutely convinced that they will go to the people they're reaching out to in the Muslim community and say, 'I hope you saw those remarks by the president about what he thinks of Netanyahu.'"

Somehow – Somewhere – there needs to be a return to (a) accepting responsibility for one’s words and acts, and/or (b) a precise and prompt confrontation that addresses the negative or wrong that has taken place. There is an interesting place in the Bible where the main character manipulates events – in other words, “Spins” them – so the end result is most favorable to him and his reputation. The conclusion to the event is recorded in II Samuel 12. The story is well-known. David observes Bathsheba bathing and lusts after her. He sends for her and she becomes pregnant. Now – what should one do? David tries to “spin” the matter to his advantage – 1) bring her husband home from the battle; 2) set it up so it will appear that he is the father of the child – but he has failed to consider the loyalty of commitment of this soldier-husband. Her husband refuses to go into the comfort of his home while his comrades are still engaged in battle. David – in his frustration – arranges the battle lines so that this brave, courageous, and innocent man – is left exposed and will be killed in battle.

The confrontation with David comes in II Samuel 12:1-7. Nathan spoke a parable where a rich man took the ewe lamb of a poor man to feed an unexpected guest. The King became infuriated and wanted to know who that man was because he was deserving of death. The passage states: “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! Then Nathan said to David, You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says…” No wiggle-room here! No “spin” to manipulate the event. No – just – “You Are The Man!” Don’t try to “spin” who or what you are! Be open, transparent, honest before the Lord! Walk with Integrity before all men! Consider these things with me!