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!