Thursday, June 16, 2011

Our Values - Costly or Cheaply

From My Perspective - - -
Have you ever paused to consider how many famous and outstanding men have there been in history? Do you remember who some of them are? Why do you consider them to be famous and outstanding? What did they do or say that left an indelible mark upon both history and for your life?  

The Patriot Post referenced the following paragraph written in 1776 by Thomas Paine in his pamphlet, "The American Crisis," Thomas Paine opened his famous pamphlet with these words: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."

If we fast-forward 170 years to 1937, the German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book with a simple title, Discipleship. It is centered around some of the thoughts and exposition that occurred to him as he was reading The Sermon on the Mount. His attempt is to spell out what he believed it meant to follow Christ. Historically, his book was published as the Nazi regime was emerging in Germany. One of the most famous quotes extracted from this man’s thoughts and exposition focus upon costly grace versus cheap grace. He wrote: "…cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism  without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ." By contrast, "…costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Part of the concern of Paine was that the freedom purchased at such a great cost would be viewed too cheaply in and by future generations; that future generations would not share the same vision of freedom nor be willing to make the sacrifices to preserve and maintain it. With Bonhoeffer, part of his concern and argument was that as Christianity spread, the Church would became more and more secularized, accommodating the demands of obedience to Jesus to the requirements of society. In other words, the “Church” and “Christian Community” would succumb to the political authority of the day and remain silent amid all kinds of atrocities and injustices. The signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor of the cause of freedom.Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

If only the “Church” and “Christian Community” of this day would review part of the cost of commitment for both life and proclamation. The words of the Apostle Paul are both stirring and challenging in Acts 20:24-27, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold…I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Can you identify with any of this commitment – “I do not account my life of any value; I do not count my life as precious to myself; I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Consider these things with me!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


From My Perspective - - -

What is “Discombobulation” and what does that have to do with me in my world today? The only meaning is: “to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate.” If we allow ourselves to pause and reflect upon these areas, we may well come to the conclusion that “Discombobulation” is an apt description of where we are and where we appear to be headed in (a) our world; (b) in the economies of the world and our nation; (c) the “church” as it exists today; and (d) our own individual and personal lives.

In terms of our world and world economies – where are we? Wherever one turns, it seems as though there is disarray and uncertainty. The best minds of various nations cannot arrive at a resolve. In our own nation, the President and his panel of “experts” that were supposed to generate jobs and employment following the infusion of more than one billion dollars into “the economy”, when asked what happened to the “shovel ready jobs” and why is unemployment continuing at such a high level, jokingly answered the question by saying: “there weren’t as many shovel-ready jobs as we had thought.” Is that an acceptable answer for those who are in control and print more and more money to throw into the non-existent “shovel-ready” jobs? It is at best convincing rhetoric and at worst it is misguided and inaccurate information foisted upon the public (who are all too gullible when it comes to accepting what they are told by their “leaders”).

If the world and nation is in a state of confusion, where can a person turn for an accurate evaluation and authentic input for ones times and life? Well – maybe it is the “church”?!? The Church used to be a safe refuge and a place where truth was championed – but does that Church still exist? An attempt is made to describe what is occurring in the “Church” today in a recent article in Leadership Journal by Jon Tyson entitled: “Breaking The Mold.” He writes regarding this observation of the times in which we are living: “As a Christian leader, I am grieved by statistics indicating that believers and non-believers live almost identical lives: similar sexual ethics, spending patterns, and lifestyle choices. Despite spending millions of dollars on transformation campaigns, conferences, books, curricula, worship music, small groups, multimedia, Internet churches, and all forms of relevance and engagement, Christians are remarkably like the world. This is compounded by real confusion about how to healthily engage the culture around us. So we end up, sadly, ‘of the world but not in it.’ Why do our best efforts seem to make so little difference? And how can we help our people grow into actual Christ-likeness?” He cites the writing of James Wilhoit, author of Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered, who wrote: "Spiritual formation is the task of the church. Period! Spiritual formation is at the heart of its whole purpose for existence. The church was formed to form. Our charge, given by Jesus himself, is to make disciples, baptize them, and teach these new disciples to obey his commands."

The Editors of this discussion of the “Church” and the “Culture” have this introductory passage: “Quick quiz: What do the following three statements have in common? (a) "Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking…”; (b) "Do not let the world press you into its mold…” and (c) "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world" Figured out the common element? If you know, you're to be congratulated for knowing your versions of the Bible. These are three translations of one phrase from Romans 12:2 (The Message, J.B. Phillips, and the New Living Translation). The more familiar phrasingi s: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." No matter now you phrase it, the passage is clear—don't be shaped by the world; instead be shaped by God. And that's a real challenge for anyone who interacts with any culture.” The task is to get the “church” re-focused and re-energized. Jesus Christ gave the specific mission and task – our duty is to do it faithfully! One discussion on Facebook states that the Bible doesn’t teach “revival.” Perhaps that one (those ones) need to read and pray Psalm 85:6, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”  Consider these things with me!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Declines and Inclines

From My Perspective - - -

When my children were young, one of their exciting moments was to ride the Incline on the Lookout Mountain Railway. The Incline is a funicular, in which two cars are attached to opposite ends of a fixed-length cable. The cars counterbalance each other so that the engine in the upper station needs to supply only enough power to overcome friction and the different weight of passengers in the two cars. Specially designed cars, with windows on the side and the ceiling, take passengers on the steepest passenger train ride in the world.Passengers are transported from St. Elmo's Station at the base, to Point Park at the mountain summit, which overlooks the city and the Tennessee River.  The railway is approximately one mile in length (single track except for a short two-track stretch at the midway point, allowing operation of two cars at one time), and has a maximum grade of 72.7%. It is billed as the world's steepest passenger railway.While my children were excited with their fifteen minute ride to the top, their Grandmother was terrified for them. Needless to say, The Incline was built in 1895 and countless hundreds of tourists have taken that trip.

I guess one could be forgiven for pondering that if the journey to the top is called an “Incline”, by the same token could the return trip back to the starting point be rightfully called a “Decline”. I began to muse about this after reading a Washington Times news entry that was headlined: “Mr. Obama Tries To Hide The Decline.” The article states: Last November during his trip to India, President Obama admitted that on his watch the United States was a declining economic power. For most of my lifetime…the U.S. was such an enormously dominant economic power…that we always met the rest of the world economically on our terms. But those days were over because of the rise of new international competitors such as China and India. But it was a positive development…because this will keep America on its toes…Then, during his recent trip to Britain, Mr. Obama abruptly denied the decline. It's become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the rise of these nations will accompany the decline of American and European influence…That argument is wrong." The Washington Times  editorializes: “Maybe so, but he was the one who made it. Nothing dramatic has happened on the economic front since last fall that would justify this 180 degree shift in the president's thinking; in fact there have been several developments that argue to the contrary, such as rising energy prices, expanding U.S. debt and declining rates of U.S. GDP growth…”

The difference between an Incline and a Decline is simply direction. If this is true of nations, it is also true for the Church and individual lives as well. Throughout History, there are times when the Church has lost its direction and is actually in Decline (although those within the Church have been lulled into thinking they are on the Ascent rather than the Descent). There are two places in the Bible where delusional thinking has allowed people to think “their Church” and “Church work” is in keeping with Biblical standards for spiritual health. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus tells those who boasted what they were doing in His name – “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Paul gives a scathing assessment in II Thessalonians 2:9-12 – “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false…” Being deceived they were on the Incline, they were blinded to the steep decline that was spiraling them downward. Jeremiah 23:12 spoke of it as a “slippery slope in the darkness” that can only result in disaster.The Message States it: “But they won't get by with it. They'll find themselves on a slippery slope, careening into the darkness, somersaulting into the pitch-black dark.” Know the difference between being on the Incline versus tumbling down the Decline! Get turned around before you miss that opportunity. Consider these things with me!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Social Engineering

From My Perspective - - -

The term “social engineering” became a leading news item recently when an announced Presidential candidate evaluated the Congressional Budget Proposal, especially a part dealing with Medicare, as being “right wing social engineering.” The candidate made his reference on Meet The Press when he said: “…replacing Medicare with a voucher system was too radical an approach…I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering…calling the plan too big a jump for the country. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."

Social Engineering is a term that is applied in many aspects of society. Even though it is most prominent in terms of the physical needs of society – hunger, housing, health care, etc., there are other applications as well. There is a sound argument that the long-standing debate on Abortion and Zero-Population goals for this nation is classic social engineering. It is difficult to attach a definition for Social Engineering because it can vary widely. It is a case of it depends on who you ask. One possible answer is: “Social engineering is a discipline in political science that refers to efforts to influence popular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments or private groups…virtually all law and governance has the effect of changing behavior and can be considered social engineering to some extent. Prohibitions on murder, rape, suicide, and littering are all policies aimed at discouraging undesirable behaviors.” The goal may be worthy but how does one go about enforcing the “Prohibitions on murder, rape, suicide, and littering…”? One would hope there would be ways found that would prohibit all (or most) of these negative behaviors. However, that resolve and solution has not yet been discovered and/or enforced.

In a more recent study, released early in 2010, the reasons for Teen Deaths were listed. The top six causes are: First is Unintentional Injury (traffic accidents; drowning; fire; falling); Second is Malignant Neoplasm (a new, often uncontrolled growth of abnormal tissue; tumor); Third is Suicide (the intentional taking of one's own life); Fourth is Congenital Anomalies (a condition that is present at birth); Fifth is Homicide; and Sixth is Heart Disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) indicates that an observant parent or other caring person should be able to discern a changed behavior in an teen that is a sign of something dramatic occurring inside of that him/her. “According to the AAP, signs that a depressed teenager might be suicidal include: A dramatic change in personality; Relationship problems, especially with a romantic partner; A drop in grades or quality of schoolwork; Alcohol or drug abuse; A change in eating or sleeping habits; Having trouble concentrating; Giving away prized possessions; Writing notes or poems about death; Talking about suicide, even jokingly…”

Peer Pressure is considerable in teen years. In addition to it, there is the Bullying Tactic that in many places is being employed to either (a) exclude a person from a group, or (b) to bring them to a point where they submit to the pressure just so they can survive. Part of the insulation and reinforcement of self-worth for the young person is a good solid home, and a solid Biblically based Church home. The lessons flowing from the home are basic and foundational. The first is Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The second is Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.” The third is Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” The young person also needs to learn to talk with God each day. One suggestion by Focus on the Family is: “Prayer goes hand in hand with turning away from wrong and doing right. We can't just say the right things; we've got to follow them with action.” All of this requires diligent effort by the home, the church and the individual. It is well-worth the effort. Consider these things with me!

Friday, June 3, 2011

When Good People Start To Die

From My Perspective - - -

There seemingly are many inequities in the world at any given point. We see secularism gaining strength and momentum whereas spirituality is waning and becoming less of a factor in the contemporary world. Islam is growing by leaps and bounds and Mosques are being built everywhere. Whereas, more churches are closing than are being started and some with their grandiose ideas are filing for bankruptcy. There seems to be an abundance of unrighteousness throughout the world, whereas the righteous are having more and more difficulty getting any traction for their lifestyle and priorities.

In Psalm 73:1-9, David wondered aloud before the Lord regarding this very matter. Note his words: “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth.” As we look at our world and nation today, do these words represent our inner thoughts and prayers? Do we wonder before God – Why? Do we feel there is gross injustice occurring? Do we feel as though no one cares and no one will attempt to change the negative and destructive course of nations and men? Do we become exasperated and muse – What’s the use? It just doesn’t matter anymore – or – does it?

David progressed – and – so should we. In Psalm 73:16-28, note his words: “When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me - Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction…I was so foolish and ignorant…Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.” There is another side to this matter. Not everyone gets to reflect in this life as David did. The Lord in His grace and mercy – His eternal plan – has something far better in store. We get a glimpse and a peek of this eternal plan in Isaiah 56 and 57.

The Lord says to His prophet that He is aware of the times through which His people pass and persevere. Isaiah 56:8-12 is a summary of the times and what is about to take place – “The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him. His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, They cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand; They all look to their own way, every one for his own gain…Come," one says, I will bring wine, and we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; tomorrow will be as today, And much more abundant." This is a description of the shepherds – the Pastors – who have failed in their task. So – what does the Lord do for His people in such situations and at such times? In Isaiah 57:1-2, “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” The Lord echoes – I am your Shepherd, you shall not want (Psalm 23) – and He comes and embraces His scattered multitudes – those who have become disillusioned – and takes them to Himself – that where He is, they may be also! Some speak of the “rapture” and the sudden appearance of the Lord to take His own to Himself! Can it happen soon? Yes! Will it happen in our generation? Just wait and see – but – be ready – He is coming soon!  Consider these things with me!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Confusion - Which Way Is Up?

From My Perspective - - -

There are many people with a very poor sense of direction. To give such a person travel directions of when to go East or when to go South, this can result in confusion and a total loss or sense of direction. They can understand turn right or turn left – but NSEW – forget it – these directions are a waste of time and only serve to confuse the person receiving them. They will become annoyed and frustrated as they pursue their journey and coming to the place of not knowing which way is up? Have you ever been there? Are you there now? Maybe even coming to the point of not wanting to leave on a journey because they have a very poor sense of direction and would find no pleasure as a result.

As one looks at the world today, it is easy to arrive at the conclusion – where are we going and where are we headed? Another aspect of this is if we think we know where we are headed, why is there so much misdirection and continual turning into dead ends? If one attempts to keep up with the events of any given time period, and then thinks someone can speak authoritatively and say which way things are headed, only serves to demonstrate and magnify the problem for that period of time. Where is the economy headed; where are the nations in the Middle East headed; where is our nation headed; where is the economy headed; how many severe storms can be expected; what does The Church have to say in terms of the best direction for a confused and misdirected world? These and many other questions can and should be asked and more importantly – be answered! The underlying issue for many who speak is their personal integrity and whether or not they actually know which way is up!

When attending Sunday School as children, one of the Bible verses we were given to memorize was Isaiah 53:6. Some of us did not know what it meant, especially since we were products of a city. The first phrase of the verse is: “All we like sheep have gone astray…” Later on, a question that was in my mind was – Why did the sheep go astray? I began to understand it more clearly from a passage such as Matthew 9:35-36, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” What a description – the sheep were weary and scattered – wandering with no shepherd to guide them on the right and safe path for their journey. Ezekiel 34:2-6 indicates the plight of the sheep when the shepherds fail to do what is right and best for the sheep and lambs: “…prophesy against the shepherds of Israel…Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds - Woe to the shepherds…who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them."

Jesus Christ took upon Himself the task of seeking and finding the sheep who were straying and helpless. In John 10:25-28, “Jesus answered…I told you, and you do not believe…you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” No confusion here. In John 10:14-18, Jesus declared: “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own…I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” There is hope and there is right direction. You can know which way is up! Jesus Christ is saying - just follow Me. Have you? Will you?  Consider these things with me!