Monday, April 25, 2011

Covers and Labels

From My Perspective - - -

There are many adages and old sayings that have validity and make good sense. One of them is: “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” Before making the purchase of a book, one would be wise to first look at the Table of Contents; an Introduction (if there is one); an Epilogue; a Summary on the Back Cover; and Browse through a Chapter or two before making the purchase. One should never be deceived by a clever or misleading title. For instance, if you were near the Cook Book selections, and a Title was: Meals To Die For – one should not conclude that it is a book about suicide or murder. With careful reflection, one should conclude that it was a perfectly planned meal with several courses – but because of the high caloric content – you would not want to eat it unless you were on Death Row and it was your last meal.

I recently made the purchase of a book that had the Title: “Passion For God.” The description on the Back Cover stated: “No true great work for the Kingdom of God is born without passion for God…” There is nothing wrong with the title or summary. The problem is that it is a Book Cover on an entirely different Book and subject matter, and a different Author. It is a cover on a Book that deals with: Practical Awareness of Living In The Presence of God. While the material inside the cover is valuable, if one’s book budget is limited, it is an expensive error. One can receive the correct Book but there is the frustration of correspondence and delay. The point is: You can’t always tell a book by the cover!

Another hackneyed statement is: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck – it’s a duck.” One can call it whatever one wants but it doesn’t alter what it is, namely, a duck. Why bring all of this up? Most people would agree with the adage or old saying, so why repeat it? Maybe its necessary because many are so easily duped. If a politician talks about raising taxes or cutting Social Security Benefits, there will be an outcry and a negative response. But suppose the tact is adjusted somewhat, will people respond differently? What is a tact? It is “a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations.” The adjustment is made with the word selection. Rather than calling it an increase in taxes, the term gets changed to making an “investment” in a program or area of government. Here’s where another adage can be mentioned: “A rose by any other name is still a rose.”

It isn’t just in politics where the tact is altered and vocabulary changed. At Funerals, it seems as though the reality of “Hell” is avoided and everyone is going to Heaven because “he/she was such a good person.” Time Magazine features a man with credentials viewed as being exceptional (Graduate of Wheaton College and Fuller Theological Seminary). One critique of Rob Bell’s redemptive approach is given in Time Magazine: “The traditionalist reaction is understandable, for Bell's arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelation. When you adopt universalism and erase the distinction between the church and the world, says Mohler, then you don't need the church, and you don't need Christ, and you don't need the cross. This is the tragedy of non-judgmental mainline liberalism, and it's Rob Bell's tragedy in this book too."  

Luke 16:19-31 is a parable given by Jesus Christ about The Rich Man – in the place of torment - and Lazarus – in the place of comfort and peace – with a great gulf between the two. Jesus makes a distinction between heaven and hell despite the tact of the modern day approach. The question is: Who will you believe – Jesus Christ or Rob Bell? Many people already believe everyone is going to heaven and it makes alternate views to mainline Christianity more palatable. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus makes the distinction very clear: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne…the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…He will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." This is what Jesus believed and taught. We should believe it too! Consider these things with me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Whats Up and Whats Down

From My Perspective - - -

There are dramatic events occurring in the world today. If one scans the current horizon of life and the world, what will be seen? What’s up and what’s down in the world and universe? The world’s horizon is cluttered with earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, revolution in Middle Eastern countries, economic peril, escalating prices and many things that are both unpredictable and yet unknown. The Headlines from April 17th, 2011 give a frightening report regarding 267 Tornadoes reported and 241 touching down in the span of three days. The report from Yahoo News summarizes: “From Thursday, April 14, 2011 to Saturday, April, 16, 2011, devastating tornadoes rampaged across communities of the southern United States. Cities and towns from Oklahoma to North Carolina were assaulted by the deadly twisters. The tornado outbreak led to a total of 267 tornado reports in 15 states over the three-day period. This will likely rank this tornado outbreak among the largest in history. Tragically, the death toll has risen to 45 people so far with dozens of others injured.”

In the area of Economics in America, most people are aware of the escalating prices for goods and services. Standard and Poor’s has now “…issued a warning to the nation’s leaders cutting its outlook on United States Sovereign debt for the first time and throwing more fuel on the raging debate over America’s swollen deficits. The Agency kept America’s Credit Rating at Triple A but for the first time since it started rating US Debt seventy years ago, cut its outlook from stable to negative…meaning there is a one-third chance of a downgrade in the next two years…” if current trends and expansion of debt continues. A lead Headline on the Drudge Report is terse in its estimate and states: “worst Since Pearl Harbor: Debt Blow for Economy…” These things should not be ignored – but they have been and will be by far too many politicians who believe that printing more money will solve the problem rather than sensing that inflation and higher interest rates are a nearing inevitability.

The United States has been a generous nation and has faced many financial challenges in the past. The nation has borne the brunt of costly wars, foreign aid, and emergency relief. There are limits with generosity and provision of entitlements for the needy. The old saying – “If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will become your downfall!” – is the current reality. Other nations have already met and discussed using some other currency in place of the dollar for the economic standard. Some are bold in allowing that the United States is becoming a nation like Greece – a nation that is seriously considering default on all of its indebtedness. There usually is a “domino effect” and one can only muse regarding how many other nations will follow suit and declare a national bankruptcy.

When King David looked at and assessed his world, he penned his thoughts in Psalm 2:1-4,Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us. He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” When Jesus Christ gave guidance to His followers about world trends and conditions, He shared with them in Matthew 24:27-35, “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man…Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man cominghe will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect…when you see all these things, you know that he is near…I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” It is vital to heed the warnings and to pay attention to what’s occurring around and about us. Each of us needs a clear perspective of what’s up and what’s down. These things must not be trivialized or politicized. Jesus Christ knows what He’s talking about. We should turn to and follow Him!  Consider these things with me!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sighing and Groaning

From My Perspective - - -

Have you ever come to a situation, circumstance or experience where you just had to pause and reflexively – sigh? What if in the same context you sensed the enormity of the immediate and you groaned? To sigh means: “to let out one's breath audibly, as from sorrow, weariness, or relief; to yearn or long; pine.” On the other hand, if your response was to groan it means: “to utter a deep, mournful sound expressive of pain or grief; to suffer greatly or lamentably.” What does a “sigh” or “groan” mean and what does one hope to see accomplished? 

The Bible mentions that on one occasion Jesus paused and sighed. In Mark 7:32-35, “And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him…Be opened. And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” In his book 3:16, Max Lucado. Writes: "When Jesus looked into the eyes of Satan's victim, the only appropriate thing to do was sigh. It was never intended to be this way, the sigh said. Your ears weren't made to be deaf; your tongue wasn't made to stumble. The imbalance of it all caused the Master to languish." He goes on to say: "And in the agony of Jesus lies our hope. Had he not sighed, we would be in a pitiful condition. Had he simply chalked it all up to the inevitable or washed his hands of the whole stinking mess, what hope would we have? But he didn't. That holy sigh assures us that God still groans for his people. He groans for the day when all sighs will cease, when what was intended to be will be."

There was also the occasion in John 11:32-35 where one can glean and sense the extent of inner groaning. A friend, Lazarus, is dead and Jesus arrives late for the funeral. Then we read: “When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, Where have you laid him?They said to him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.” The key words are – “He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” The inner groaning of Jesus is obvious. 

Another glimpse of Jesus groaning is in Mark 15:34,37-39: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice…My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?...And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God!" The groan is: “A groan is a deep, inarticulate expression, an inner sigh, which expresses internal pain, sorrow, grief, frustration…It also involves inexpressible yearning.”

Does God care about the Sighs and Groanings of His people? In Exodus 2:23-25, we read: “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue…came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…God saw the people of Israel--and God knew.” He not only knew, He also cared and would soon set in motion the Exodus of His people from the place of bondage to the place of promise. 

In Romans 8:18-27, we find that God’s people today groan before God as they wait for their deliverance from the place of tears to their final destination of eternal rejoicing. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies…we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." The final destination is not too far off. As you sigh and groan under temporal burdens and limitations, don’t let your hope fade – we are close to our promised land. Consider these things with me!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Keep Looking Up

From My Perspective - - -

The expression “keep looking up” has had varied applications over the years. It has often been used with those who are downcast for one reason or another – suffering from disappointment, discouragement, and/or depression. A friend may remind such a one to “keep looking up!” The idea is to be encouraged by the new day, the many potentials, and the possibilities that could be missed by the one who is looking down rather than up! Looking down limits one to a very small sphere of what can be seen and known, whereas the one who is looking up has a vast horizon and wide range for viewing and appreciating.

Its interesting when one has Physical Therapy that very often the Therapist will remind the patient to “keep your eyes open” and “keep looking up.” A reason for this is so the Therapist can determine ones state of alertness and consciousness. They want to safeguard further injury to the patient if he/she suddenly felt faint or was on the verge of blacking out. Another reason for the “keep looking up” direction is to restore confidence to the patient as he/she recovers and returns to more normal activity. For some, it is a longer process than for others – it requires discipline to return to normalcy and to look up and out as one walks. It will enhance ones perspective and improve ones equilibrium.

A relative of my wife developed an unusual malady some years ago. He explains it: “I am scheduled to have a corneal transplant in my left eye as an outpatient procedure. Some 15 years ago I had a shingles across my left eye that only allowed me to see light or darkness with that eye. It took years to completely get rid of infections in the eye so I could have a cornea transplant. The old one…has now gone bad so I need another one. The procedure now is very different from the one I had 11 years ago. Then – it was stitched in. Now they make a small opening to slide a new one in that often does not require even one stitch. Then they shoot some air behind it in order to hold it in place in place until it adheres…The only draw back is that I will have to lay on my back looking up for the first 24 hours after the operation…” Yesterday, his wife wrote: “Overall the surgery on Ed's eye seems to have gone well. They did have to go back in and rearrange the cornea and blow in more air to hold the cornea in place. The surgeon seemed to be pleased with the outcome. Ed is home now laying on his back looking up…The first 24 hours after the operation he has to be very careful not to look down…” To assist him in this recuperation, they had his head and neck in a brace that would cause him to keep looking up. For the time being, even after the brace is removed, he will have to remember to “keep looking up” until he is completely healed.

In a purely spiritual sense, “Keep Looking Up” is vital to the growth and progress in ones spiritual life. It will enhance ones ability to trust, and obey, and to be confident in the Lord at all times. In Psalm 5:3 (NIV), the words are: “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” The NKJV states it: “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” The assertion and statement of conviction is: “I will look up.” In a Song of Ascents, Psalm 121:1-2 (NKJV) the Psalmist writes: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills - Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Again, it is both ones focus and statement of conviction – I/We need to “keep looking up.” In Luke 21:25-28, Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the signs of the end times. His choice of words is striking: “there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." Jesus is clear about the discipline and confidence His followers are to have in Him. He indicates that when things seem to be falling apart in the world and the very foundations of the earth are being shaken – that is the time to “look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Remember to maintain your focus and confidence! Consider these things with me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Souls On Board

From My Perspective - - -

Just another ordinary day in New Orleans. Passengers have boarded United Airlines Flight 497, an Airbus Jet headed for San Francisco, and were comfortably seated. The flight departed and were starting their ascent when the unexpected occurred. The Pilots radio the Tower that they have smoke in the Cabin and need to return to the New Orleans Airport. Suddenly, the Pilots radio another message that their flight controls are not longer operational. As the Tower readies plans for an Emergency Landing, the Controllers ask: “How Many Safe Souls Are On Board?” The Pilots respond: “There are 106 Souls on Board.” The Tower asks about “Safe Souls”! The Pilots respond with just “souls” which may have implied that their situation was tenuous at best and “safe” was an unknown with the uncertainties occurring in the Aircraft.

Hebrews 2:6-8 asks and answers a question about man: “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet. Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him…”The Message translates Genesis 2:7 and enunciates: “God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive - a living soul!” Other translations state that man became a living spirit, or being, or creature, or person. The body houses the soul. When a person dies, the soul leaves the body and maintains its reality in eternity. The question of the Control Tower is both intriguing and haunting – “how many safe souls are on board?”

The question regarding “safe souls” could (and should) be asked in several venues, not the least of which is the entity referred to as The Church. Over the years, one of the most disappointing times was when the questions were posed to a “church member”: (1) Have you come to the place in your life where you know for certain that if you died today you would enter Heaven? and (2) Suppose you did die today and you were standing in the presence of God and He said to you – “Why should I let you into my heaven?” – what would you say? Many people do not have a clue! When a follow-up question is posed that asks upon what passage of Scripture are you basing your hope of eternal life in Christ? – What brought you to the place of conviction of your sin and your need to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? – once again – the responses leave much to be desired. Countless numbers of people, when pushed/pressed have said, “well I guess its John 3:16!” - while others offer Psalm 23 as the possible answer. It is guessing and hoping the answer is close to being correct. The concern should be that “guessing” is unsatisfactory – knowing with “certainty” is both satisfactory and required. Is it possible to know with certainty? One of the great truths in God’s Word is I John 5:13-15, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” The key phrase for the “safe soul” is “that you may know that you have eternal life.”

A “safe soul” stated a beautiful answer to my wife and me when we asked her “Why should God let you into His heaven?” She said, “I would have to say to God that I really don’t deserve to be in your heaven – I’m so unworthy - but I asked Jesus to cleanse me from all my sin – and He promised me I can be with Him forever. That’s what I would say to God.” These were the words of a safe soul in her late 80s. Her husband, in his 90s, told of his being a member of the “church” for as long as he could remember. His answer reminded me of a line from the Hymn, - Love Lifted Me, “Souls in danger, look above – Jesus completely saves, He will lift you, by His love…” I love the statement used by the Evangelist when he stated: “Just like sitting in a garage won’t make you a car, neither will sitting in a “church” make you a Christian” (that is, one who is certain of eternal life in Jesus Christ}. Be a “safe soul” on board with Jesus rather than an uncertain and unsafe soul without Him. Consider these things with me!

Monday, April 4, 2011


From My Perspective - - -

There are many who suggest that we are living in dangerous times. That term can mean different things to different people. A General with his troops in a war zone – Dangerous – has a very obvious meaning, such as imminent attack or death. A Prophetic Preacher speaking of uncertain times – Dangerous – suggests Doomsday, Armageddon, etc. A person who is lost and wandering in a Ghetto area – Dangerous – has a whole array of possibilities – mugging, robbery, stabbing, rape, murder, etc. John Newton penned some interesting words in the Hymn, Amazing Grace: “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come…” What was he reflecting upon, and what dangers was he reviewing in his mind when he wrote those words? Could it have been the cruel acts of being a slave trader; or his behavior when he was drunk; or when he sunk to the depths of wretchedness as a human being; or when he had a moment when he sensed how lost he was and how wretched he had become?

The word Danger means: “liability or exposure to harm or injury; risk; peril. an instance or cause of peril; menace.” When an enemy in combat has demonstrated superiority, and a retreat is ordered, the danger level is elevated. Even though a rearguard is established, it is a very small contingent and thin line between the advancing army and the retreating troops. The fear level is also heightened and the death factor becomes an increasing reality. It would cause one to muse and consider – what if you were the last person of the retreating troops – how would you feel and what would you do? Would you want the people in front of you to move more quickly? Would you be constantly looking over your shoulder to see if the enemy was closing the gap and getting closer? Would it be a time to quote and pray Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon thee…”?

It is good to reflect upon History – not just because if we forget it we are doomed to repeat it – but because of the courageous and heroic acts and actions of ordinary people. The inspirational moment when brave men climbed Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945 and raised the American Flag over Iwo Jima.  The dramatic rescue by ordinary people of those who were under siege of Germany at Dunkirk – using whatever crafts would float and moving the troops out of harms way. The role of national leaders, such as Winston Churchill, who stood as a monument of defiance and proclaimed to Hitler and the world, “We shall never surrender.”

More significantly, are those in Biblical History who withstood the opposition even though it meant possible persecution, torture and death. The words of Hebrews 11:32-38 are a very apt description of a determined and committed people – “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth…” The epitaph was: “of whom the world was not worthy…” It also causes us to think of Psalm 23 and the words of confidence David shares in terms of The Lord and His faithfulness to His people – “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me…” It was his absolute certainty that because the Lord was his Shepherd he had everything that he needed or would ever need. Is that your absolute certainty – because the Lord is your Shepherd you have everything that you need or ever will need? ? Can it be said of you – “of whom the world was not worthy…”? May the Lord deliver you from every fear and lead you in His paths of righteousness and peace. Consider these things with me!