Wednesday, April 30, 2014

WATERSHED MOMENTS

From My Perspective - - -

Life is a journey marked by many events, experiences and decisions. There are peaks and valleys; many joys as well as sorrows; a sense of satisfaction but also times of disappointments. We can find ourselves caught up in circumstances and events that were unforeseen and/or unplanned. At such times, we can become overwhelmed and frightened. These can become and often are watershed moments for us. What is a Watershed Moment? The concept of a Watershed Moment comes from the literal meaning of a point where a watershed system is split into two definite paths, such as a river dividing into two branches. Each branch of the river will go on its separate course and direction. The phrase is also used to mean a critical turning point or a moment where everything changes. Once that moment occurs, things will never be the same again. The phrase can also be used to mean something political in a country, or something meaningful in someone's life.

In our lifetime, we have all witnessed or experienced the reality of watershed moments. Among them are: (1) The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; (2) the first use of an Atomic Bomb on August 6, 1945; (3) the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001; (4) The Benghazi Attack that destroyed the American Consulate in Libya and killed the American Ambassador along with three other Americans on September 11, 2012; (5) The Boston Marathon Bombing on Patriots Day – April 15, 2013; (6) devastating Tornadoes within the past three years that has caused loss of life and destruction of property; and (7) the current world turmoil among nations and the perceived weakness and lack of resolve on the part of the United States. The list could be endless in terms of events, experiences and decisions that have become Watershed Moments.

There was an interesting story (more of a brief blurb) regarding people reaching Watershed Moments when they arrive at age 30. That may be true for some but it still returns one to events, experiences and decisions one makes along the way. It should be a life-goal for a person to have some direction and commitment earlier than age 30. To arrive at more serious considerations, one should realize the totality of who he/she is as a person. One is more than a physical entity with greater or lesser intellectual acumen (good judgment; shrewdness; sharp mental capacity). One also has a spiritual dimension that should not be ignored or neglected. Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 states, “I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart…” One is not a mere robot or human machine. There is much more to how God designed the human being. The Apostle Paul shared his thought on the multi-dimensional person when he offered a prayer in I Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All of us are aware of the mind, emotions and will factors. As our lives intersect with events, experiences and decisions, there is a tremendous need and benefit for one to make wise and sound choices. There should never be a choice made on the basis of impulse or in terms of how something makes one feel. Joshua stood before the people of his day and presented them with a Watershed Moment – a time for serious thought and choice. Joshua 24:14-16 summarizes his thrust, “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Project yourself into that Watershed Moment and challenge. What would be germinating in your mind, emotions and will as you heard these compelling words? Would it have stirred you positively or negatively? Would you have noted the benefit of the wise and positive choice versus the detriment of an unwise and negative choice? If you were at a similar Watershed Moment, would you want to supplement your choice with personal conditions? Total Commitment to a wise choice must always be unconditional. Consider these things with me!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

EXCUSING RESPONSIBILITY

From My Perspective - - -

Is it fair to refer the times in which we live as Cultural Morass? What is happening in the ebb and flow of life today is impacted by the influences that dominate within our society and culture. The word “morass” is a comprehensive term that has these applications: It is/can be: (1) “a tract of low, soft, wet ground; (2) a marsh or bog; (3) marshy ground; or (4) any confusing or troublesome situation, especially one from which it is difficult to free oneself; (5) entanglement.” It is the fourth part of the definition - “any confusing or troublesome situation, especially one from which it is difficult to free oneself” – that has the nation bogged down in its state of moral relativism. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) states: “Moral relativism is a philosophy that asserts there is no global, absolute moral law that applies to all people, for all time, and in all places. Instead of an objective moral law, it espouses a qualified view…especially in the areas of individual moral practice where personal and situational encounters supposedly dictate the correct moral position. Summing up the relative moral philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.”

In a Wall Street Journal Column by Jason L. Riley, he quotes a Chicago Pastor – Corey Brooks – who assesses the violence and need of his city. “The pastor's response mentioned in passing "dysfunctional break-ups of the family," but his larger point was to insist that what plagues the black poor is largely beyond their control. ”You're dealing with young black men who are hopeless. You're dealing with a situation where the educational system is awry. You're dealing with a situation where you have an influx of drugs and hopelessness." He called for a "better educational system," more "resources" and "more utilization of summer programs and things that these young people can do to enhance their lives." The pastor is right that we need better schools in our inner-cities, but…better schools won't help people who don't value education to begin with. Nor will more jobs help people who lack a work ethic. And so long as having a black man in the White House trumps having one in the home, the situation is unlikely to change. Ghetto residents do not need more people making excuses for black pathology, which is mostly what they get from cable commentators, especially the black ones. What blacks need is an honest conversation about black culture…”

However, what is common to all the races within the Cultural Morass? Whether or not one will acknowledge where he/she is in terms of cultural orientation, the Biblical declaration regarding the cause of cultural morass is clear. In Jeremiah 17:9-10, the stated fact in terms of God’s viewpoint is: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." A second component in this regard is stated in Hebrews 3:12-13, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Jeremiah records that “the heart is deceitful above all things…” The writer of Hebrews speaks of the potential of being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

You may be a person who allows – “that will never happen to me.” The fact that temptation is relentless and the possibility of failure is a reality should be sufficient to cause us to avoid the cultural morass and to embrace/proclaim the moral high-ground, namely, the foundational principles and core values of the Biblical Standards of God. Why is this essential even for the Biblical Christian? I Corinthians 10:12-13 states a basic answer: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” These words should serve to keep one alert and guarded at all times. The basic guidance for us all is summarized in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths." Consider these things with me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

GENERALIZATION ABSOLUTES

From My Perspective - - -

For Biblical Christians, the day set aside for remembrance and recognition of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is Easter Sunday (more appropriately – Resurrection Day). It should be a time for reflection upon the heinousness of sin in the sight of Almighty God and the blood sacrifice that was required to satisfy the wrath of God. On this day of observance, the ABC program, This Week, raised a panel discussion question and premise: “Are Evangelicals Out of Touch With Mainstream Views?”

The primary generalization was offered by long-time ABC panelist, Cokie Roberts, who said: “A lot of gay people feel that they are sinners, but not because they're gay. In the last decade, public opinion has swung dramatically on key issues pertaining to gay rights, including gay marriage and adoption. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from March found approval for same-sex marriage at an all-time high: 59 percent of total respondents said they approve, including 75 percent of respondents under 30 years old. While evangelical Christians overall are more likely to disapprove of same-sex marriage, younger evangelicals are nearly split on this issue: 43 percent of evangelicals under 30 years old said they approve of the idea. The same poll also found that a majority of Americans, 61 percent, also now approve of gay adoption. The reason the numbers have changed so fast and so dramatically on this question of gay marriage is because everybody in America now has experience with someone who is gay.” Her generalizations are: (1) based on an ABC Poll, and (2) her conclusion: “…everybody in America now has experience with someone who is gay.” A broader statement was made by both Franklin Graham and Ralph Reed who were representing the current evangelical approach. Graham stated: “gays could go to heaven if they repent. Maybe gays that are watching want to know, 'Can God forgive me? Or can I go to heaven as a gay person? Absolutely. But the same for any of us. We have to repent of our sins in turn. A person cannot stay in adultery and be accepted by God. You'll have to repent…"  

What the ABC Panel chose to omit and failed to recognize in their discussion was the Biblical meaning and intent of Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday. Three references in the Holy Bible that state God’s Absolute Purpose and Requirement: (1) Hebrews 7:25-27, “…He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them…we…have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners…He has no need, like…high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” (2) Hebrews 9:22-28 (referring to God’s Standard and requirement), “…under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins…Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf…He (Jesus Christ) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” And (3) Isaiah 53:10-11, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him (Jesus Christ); he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt…Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:6, ‘…the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all...’)” 

In a completely different poll question posed by NBC asked: “Do you believe that the Word God should stay in American culture?” They had the highest Number of responses that they have ever had for one of their polls. The data indicated: 86% to keep the words, IN God We Trust and God in the Pledge of Allegiance, 14% against. Someone and something is illogical in terms of the above statements and polls of both ABC and NBC. Here’s another absolute generalization: Many, perhaps most, church-attending people know what it means to be a Biblical Christian. Take time to measure your belief system with: II Corinthians 5:14-21, Romans 12:1-2, and Colossians 3:1-5. Does your life measure up to God’s standards and requirements? If not, why not? Consider these things with me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

INJUSTICE

From My Perspective - - -

There are far too many instances and illustrations of injustice in the world today. Glancing at our Culture today, one can easily conclude that it is becoming more and more directionless. Disarray and absence of personal disciplines contribute greatly to the situation as it exists. Oppression, ethnic cleansing and persecution exist but are ignored because it seems remote on our horizon. We need to ask ourselves some basic questions: (1) Am I sensitive and knowledgeable regarding what injustice is? (2) Do I view injustice in terms of a growing sense of personal entitlement whether or not one has earned it? (3) If I see injustice, oppression, bigotry, persecution or the slaughter of the innocents – do I try to intercede to the best of my ability to address these activities?

In the eulogy given by Ted Kennedy for his assassinated brother, Robert F. Kennedy, he shared: “In a speech given to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966, Robert said: It is a revolutionary world we live in, and this generation at home and around the world has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived. Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation; a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth; a young woman reclaimed the territory of France; and it was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the 32 year-old Thomas Jefferson who [pro]claimed that "all men are created equal." The eulogy included these poignant observations: “Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.” The eulogy included this summary statement: “That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us. My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

In the decade of the 1960s, John Perkins emerged as one who saw injustice in Mendenhall, MS and sought to address it. Wikipedia has this summation of part of his life and activity: “Initially concerned solely with evangelism and Bible literacy, Perkins had a growing conviction that the gospel of Jesus Christ addressed spiritual and physical needs. In 1965 Perkins supported voter registration efforts in Simpson County and in 1967 he became involved in school desegregation when he enrolled his son Spencer in the previously all white Mendenhall High School. In the fall of 1969, Perkins became the leader in an economic boycott of white-owned stores in Mendenhall. On February 7, 1970, following the arrest of students who had taken part in a protest march in Mendenhall, John Perkins was arrested…(and incarcerated) in Brandon Jail.” The details of his life and experiences during that period are detailed in his book, Let Justice Roll Down. The title is drawn from Amos 5:23-24, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Isaiah 59 is a chapter that addresses evil, oppression and injustice. Verses 8-9, 15-16 gives a summary of what God is seeing: “The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom…The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede...”  This is a Messianic Chapter indicating Jesus Christ will enter the world and intercede for the oppressed and those having to endure injustice. An additional question for us to ponder: “Am I a spectator in my culture or am I willing to run or take rests to be and/or to make a difference.” Sadly, there are too many spectators. Consider these things with me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DISAPPOINTMENTS

From My Perspective - - -

Disappointment is becoming too common in this world of flux in which we live. There are a growing number of voices that decry the direction and actions of the government. However, while the approval rating for Congress is somewhere near the 20% level, the voters will re-elect those with whom there is both disapproval and disappointment. Along with this are the charade-type lives people live. There are motions in behavior that are unclear and meaningless. There is an attempt to project something that is exaggerated and often devoid of reality. Too often deception becomes an action that is disguised as being authentic but is unable to pass the perceptions of the discerning. An example of this is shared in a post by World Magazine, April 16, 2014, under the headline: “Can A Divided Publishing House Stand?” The thesis is framed with these words: “A Christian publishing group goes from Desiring God to questioning God’s Word.”

What is the issue being reported?  Just two paragraphs give one the sense of the article: “You can be gay and Christian: That’s the message of a book due out next week from a publishing group known until now for its evangelical worldview. But the book will emerge from a new imprint designed to allow the publishing house to avoid alienating its evangelical market…Convergent Books, a publishing imprint under the same corporate umbrella and leadership as the evangelical …group is scheduled to release God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines next Tuesday. Vines, a 24-year-old former Harvard student, attempts to refute biblical passages that declare homosexuality a sin.” This serves as an example of both the attempted deception and another basis of disappointment one encounters. The parent company has been known for publishing books written by its best-selling Christian titles such as John Piper’s Desiring God and books by evangelical authors David Jeremiah..."

A person affiliated with Probe.Org opined regarding disappointed with these words: “When I survey my own life, I realize I'm no different than my friends. We all experience disappointment: troubled relationships, poor job evaluations or test scores, death of a loved one, health challenges, social snubs, athletic loss.” He then cautions that: “Disappointment can compound into depression or despair, which may lead to serious consequences.” He then bridges over to this thought: “…despair can contribute to suicide, while hopelessness bred by poverty might manifest as apathy. Values, meaning, and hope appear to act as catalysts for mobilizing energy and finding satisfaction. Without them…life can seem futile.”

The article is a bit lengthy but an excellent point is made regarding disappointment and a need for one to adjust his/her expectations. He writes: “On the one hand, hope can be misplaced. If your highest hope is in achievement, you will eventually be disappointed - success is transient. King Solomon wrote, (1) "As I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless…like chasing the wind" (Ecclesiastes 2:11). On the other hand, if we're so afraid of disappointment that we lower our hopes, we can close ourselves off from what God may have in mind. The proper balance can be elusive. (2) Learn from your defeats. Disappointment and failure build character and patience, when allowed to do so. They can teach you to win and lose with grace, an increasingly lost art these days. In Romans 5:3-4 - "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character…" Inner spiritual strength, the kind resulting from sincere faith in God, helps cultivate that attitude…”

It has become far too easy for individuals within the Christian Community to blurt out references such as Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11, usually with the comment, such as: “Well – all things work together for good…” Too often, it sounds like hollow words that are shy of a valid embrace of what they mean in reality. One’s hope in the faithful care and concern of the Almighty God should never waiver. He continues to be more than sufficient and completely able to “…work IN YOU, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (FOR YOU) Philippians 2:13. To avoid Disappointment, We must compel ourselves to “Keep looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (and hope) – Hebrews 12:2. Consider these things with me.

Monday, April 14, 2014

HOLY WEEK OR WHOLLY WEAK

From My Perspective - - -

For those who observe The Lenten Season, the final days of Lent are occurring this week. This past Sunday Palm Sunday was observed. This coming Lord’s Day is designated as Easter Sunday – but more appropriately – Resurrection Day. Many religious institutions are faithful to the traditions passed down through the years whereas others acknowledge Holy Week with just a mention or a paragraph in a Church Bulletin. For those who fail to recognize the events that transpired, they have a Wholly Weak approach.

When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, it set in motion an accelerating series of events. The Palms that were used to greet His arrival and the chants of Hallelujah and Hosanna to the King would in short order become shouts of rejection and Crucify Him. What transpired to change the chanted Hosanna to the shouted Crucify? In the Christian Church, there will be the observance of Maundy Thursday. This is a solemn observance and serves as a time of reflection when Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples. It was during the Passover that Jesus indicated one of His disciples would betray Him. All the disciples were startled by that disclosure and wondered who it might be. Jesus also stated that the betrayer and all of the other disciples would forsake Him. Even though Peter protested, Jesus indicated that Peter would be the most vocal in his denial. Some church groups combine Maundy Thursday with Good Friday observances. It is designated as a time for reflection on the passion, or suffering and death on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many Christians spend this day in fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation on the agony and suffering of Christ on the cross.

After the Passover Supper, Jesus takes His disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane. He takes three of them deeper into the Garden and asks them to participate with Him in Prayer. His request is based upon His being overwhelmed and sorrowful. Watch and Pray, Jesus says. As Jesus goes off a short distance to pray, the disciples close their eyes and fall into a deep sleep. After Jesus returns and awakens them, one would think they would be both startled and embarrassed for having slept instead of having prayed. There’s an interesting side-note to this event. In Mark 4, there is the incident of Jesus being in a boat with His disciples. Jesus is weary and goes to the stern of the ship where He goes into a deep sleep. A storm rages and the disciples are unable to do anything to get their boat to safety. On this occasion, they come and awaken Jesus and shout – Don’t you care that we are perishing? Jesus rises from his sleeping place and utters words of Peace for both the troubled waters and the frantic disciples. They would often hear Jesus speak to them of their inadequate faith. In other words, they were Wholly Weak rather than being strong and confident in the Lord. After Jesus completes His praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and awakens His disciples, He informs them that the moment has arrived when He will be betrayed. At that point, they see Judas and a Mob coming. Because they had been Wholly Weak at a moment of great consequence, they were ill-prepared for the rapid unfolding of the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Despite their failure and being Wholly Weak, the ensuing events will bring about the reality of Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His love for us, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It also establishes Ii Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” I Peter 1: 18-19 underscores for us, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The purpose in the death and resurrection is stated in II Corinthians 5:15, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” For those who tend to be wholly weak, the Word of God takes that a step further and indicates in Ephesians 2:1-8, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…by grace you have been saved through faith…” The events of Holy Week have accomplished redemption for the Wholly Weak – by grace you have been delivered. Trust and Serve Him as you consider these things with me.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A CULTURAL COMPROMISE

From My Perspective - - -

Some people were surprise and others were shocked by a news headline on April 8th, 2014 that stated: “Chick-fil-A Looks to Lower the Heat on Gay Marriage.” The article in Time includes some of the following: “CEO Dan Cathy wants his company to get past a controversy in 2012 over his anti-gay marriage comments by starting to focus more on attracting younger customers and leaving the public discussion of social issues to politicians Chick-fil-A wants to move beyond recent controversy over the fast food chain’s stance on gay marriage as it looks to court younger customers.” Why was this decision made at this time?

Dan Cathy’s reasoning is summed up in the following statement: “CEO Dan Cathy told USA Today in an interview published Monday that he’s bringing the company into a millennial-friendly era that will not only include new menu items and store locations, but a new perspective on what beliefs should and shouldn’t be shared with the public.” His decision has three components: (1) appeal to younger people (millennial-friendly), (2) introduction of new menu items, (3) business expansion into new markets (New York in particular and the Northeast in general), and perhaps the most telling and disappointing is (4) his “new perspective on what beliefs should and shouldn’t be shared with the public.” Reason (1) above has the following goal: “Chick-fil-A wants to move beyond recent controversy over the fast food chain’s stance on gay marriage as it looks to court younger customers.” Reason (3) above has the following rationale behind it: “Cathy is also eyeing more urban markets in which to open 108 new restaurants this year. Many of these will open in New York because, as VP of design and innovation Woody Faulk said: If we can’t do it in New York, we have no business going anywhere else.”

The value judgment everyone must make at given moments of time is vital. Regardless of what is said by the management of Chick-fil-A, the unvarnished perception people will have is that (1) personal convictions are a matter of convenience; (2) the business bottom-line is far more important than foundational principles and moral values; and (3) Jesus Christ and Biblical Values should not be a corporate function in the market place. This definitive moment in the corporate life of Chick-fil-A will have support from the liberal politicians and churches. There will also be the conservative reaction of condemnation and the threat to boycott the Chick-fil-A establishments.  What should the non-compromising Christian do?

A similar question was raised in Psalm 11:3, “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"A timely and applicable word is given in the Treasury of David, where Charles Haddon Spurgeon commented on Psalm 11:3 and wrote: “It was equally correct that the very foundations of law and justice were destroyed under Saul's unrighteous government: but what were all these things to the man whose trust was in God alone? He could brave the dangers, could escape the enemies, and defy the injustice which surrounded him. His answer to the question, "What can the righteous do?" would be the counter question, "What cannot they do?" When prayer engages God on our side, and when faith secures the fulfilment of the promise, what cause can there be for flight, however cruel and mighty our enemies? With a sling and a stone, David had smitten a giant before whom the whole hosts of Israel were trembling, and the Lord, who delivered him from the uncircumcised Philistine, could surely deliver him from King Saul and his myrmidons. There is no such word as "impossibility" in the language of faith; that martial grace knows how to fight and conquer, but she knows not how to flee.” In the section, Hints for Pastors and Lay-Persons, Spurgeon adds: “If all earthly things fail, and the very State fall to pieces, what can we do? We can suffer joyfully, hope cheerfully, wait patiently, pray earnestly, believe confidently, and triumph finally.” There is “the necessity of holding and preaching foundation truths.” 

If Spurgeon was commenting on the Chick-fil-A business decision, he might be forthright and suggest that just as Lot was directed to not even look back at Sodom and Gomorrah, neither should God’s people look back or shrink back from His values. A word that applies to all generations in all situations is I Samuel 2:30, “…those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” The Message paraphrase states this verse: “I honor those who honor me; those who scorn me I demean.” How should you/will you respond to Chick-fil-A? Consider God’s Word and these things with me!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

LITTLE WORDS - BIG IMPLICATIONS

From My Perspective - - -

The English language is both complex and expressive. By the means of nuance and inflection, the most innocent remark can be interpreted negatively rather than positively. It lends a lot of credence to the ditty one would sing with the children: “Be careful little mouth what you say…” The reason attached to that (a) the words we use matter greatly, and (b) accountability for every word – idle or intentional – is not a suggestion but a guarantee. 

Two Biblical references that serve as good counsel are: (1) Proverbs 10:19-21 (ESV), “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.” (2) The words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 12:36-37, “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." The Proverbs addresses “many words” and Matthew quotes Jesus regarding “every careless word.” It is often the “many words” that will cause misunderstanding and division among friends in particular and cross-sections of people in general. The paraphrase of Matthew 12:36-37 in The Message are descriptive and plain: “Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation."

In current events, one word that has a “haunting” impact is a word used by the President of the United States. What was the word? It was “Period!” He offered it as an exclamation and a fact in reality. Why is it “haunting”? The statements made with the emphasis “Period!” in actuality were more like a dangling participle or an ellipsis rather than a fact or reality. The President was attempting to persuade people that the new health law would not prevent anyone from keeping their own Doctor and their own Insurance plan. Did that become fact or fiction? Do words matter? Do words matter to you? We should be reminded of the words in Proverbs 15:1-2, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.”

The little words for focus are the words “too” and/or “yet”! Over the years, I have found these words to be invaluable. Some time ago there was the use of BPWMGIDWMY – “Be Patient With Me, God Isn’t Done With Me YET.” Words attributed to John Newton convey a similar thought: “I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am." It is not surprising that he would pen the words to: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound; that saved a wretch like me…

The other word for focus and emphasis is the word “too”! Many times in the life of different ones affliction, pain, suffering, sorrow and/or grief can become overbearing and overwhelming. This was a factor in the life of The Apostle Paul. He records it in II Corinthians 12:7-10, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When any of us endures affliction, pain, suffering, sorrow or grief – we should embrace the words of The Lord to Paul – “My grace is sufficient for you…” I remind myself – and you – His Grace is sufficient for you – TOO! The Lord is not done with you YET! The Lord’s Grace is sufficient for you TOO! Consider these things with me! 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A LIFE THAT IS LIVED

From My Perspective - - -

What is this world coming to? What is this world becoming? In a very significant article published in http://byfaithonline.com/a-fight-for-life/ - is the following - A Fight for Life: Belgium Removes Age Limits on Euthanasia - By Alan Dowd - March 26th, 2014. “The best parents are the ones who let their children go.” That’s certainly true when it comes to those turning-point moments in life: graduation day, moving day, wedding day. But this quote comes from a mother who’s speaking not about life, but rather about death — specifically, how she’s explained to her 10-year-old son his options for ending his life through euthanasia. “I didn’t put my children in the world for me,” she explains, as if to educate the rest of us. “It’s their life and their death.” This awful story of moral darkness masquerading as enlightened thinking comes from Belgium, which is expected this year to become the first country in the world to remove age limits on euthanasia. The Belgian senate overwhelmingly approved a bill in December that would allow state-sanctioned, medically-assisted suicide for any child, as long as he or she is diagnosed as terminally ill. Belgium’s lower house is expected to approve the bill sometime this spring. “What’s next?” asks a Belgian woman who opposes the law. “Euthanasia for people with dementia? Then for handicapped people?” Well, yes. Jan Bernheim, a Brussels-based professor of medicine and a euthanasia-for-youth advocate, matter-of-factly tells Newsweek, “The end of life with dementia is a gradual process of involution in which most attributes of personhood end up being lost. Already now, almost everywhere, such patients are not resuscitated or given antibiotics…Their blighted life is not considered deserving of the degreehttp://cdncache1-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.pngof protection that is given to other human life.” Don’t skim over that last line. Read it again and let it sink in: a blighted life not deserving of the protection given to others. What a cold, clinical, care-less way to describe a masterpiece knitted together by God.”

I read this article after receiving word from a friend whose wife of many years had died this week. The words he wrote are: “My Bride Is With Jesus. She can now see and hear ‘The Lover Of Her Soul’ in person…” We were in College together in 1954 – and – I cannot begin to know the great sense of loss and the sorrow in heart being realized by our friend. However, the perspective and reality of the one who is in Christ regarding life and death is far different than that of secularists in Belgium and elsewhere who measure the value of life so differently. It is a perspective of one who has gained a relationship and understanding similar to that of the Apostle Paul who stated in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” It is joined with his expressed thought in II Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

In life, we realize the physical limitations of it. We understand that physical life is temporary. As James 4:14 indicates, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” We also understand that which Moses conveyed in Psalm 90:9-12, “For all our days pass away…The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away…So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” We can think of life in terms of a journey begun and a journey completed. In this regard, words for encouragement are given in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Also, Philippians 2:13, “…it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure..” 

The words written by Carrie E. Breck in 1898 are now a reality for my friend’s "bride": (Stanza 1) “Face to face with Christ, my Savior, Face to face—what will it be, When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ Who died for me? (Stanza 3) What rejoicing in His presence, When are banished grief and pain; When the crooked ways are straightened, And the dark things shall be plain. (Refrain) Face to face I shall behold Him, Far beyond the starry sky; Face to face in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by!” Physical death may be the loss of a loved one, but that loved one who knew Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord has now entered into the full spiritual reality of eternal life. Consider these things with me.

Friday, April 4, 2014

TRAMPLING TRUTH

From My Perspective - - -

The present reality of our day is whether truth is tantamount or truth is trampled. The Bucks County Courier-Times in Pennsylvania published the following opinion in November 2013 by James F. Burns: “If you like your current government, you can keep it. If you like your current Congressmen — your political doctors — you can keep them, too. Call me old-fashioned, but somewhere between political promises from Washington and Miley Cyrus twerking America, I sense a moral degeneracy in which truth and good taste are being trampled by greed and garishness. Call me old-fashioned, but when guest speakers at Ivy League schools are shouted down and driven off the stage in the name of social justice and free speech, I see deeply irresponsible students and absentee university leaders…” Is this a correct assessment of the day and time in which we are living? Hopefully, you will respond with an emphatic agreement.

In Psychology Today (November 2013), Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. discusses: Why We Lie and How to Stop. She begins with the following: There’s a scene in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give” that simply and succinctly captures one reality about the truth. After catching the man she loves on a date with another woman, Diane Keaton is chased out of the restaurant by a guilty and distraught Jack Nicholson. When he finally stops her, he pleads, “I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth.” She replies, “The truth doesn't have versions, okay?” And that’s the truth. The truth may have many sides to it. It may be complicated or hard to understand, but it exists… in one version. Yet, most of us have trouble with the truth. We may not be outright liars, but we certainly shade the truth to make it fit more comfortably into our lives—to keep it from disrupting anything from our careers to our relationships to our afternoons.” She then highlights areas in which all tend to be less than honest by means of (1) omission, (2) exaggeration, (3) covert communication, (4) self-protection, (5) controlled responses, (6) covert communications, and (7) deliberate deception.

The lack of integrity/honesty should not come as a surprise. The first temptation of human beings in The Garden of Eden was based upon a lie. In a general way, Jesus spoke precisely to this issue when dealing with the Scribes and Pharisees in John 8:44-45, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.”  The prophet speaks of a day that seems to foresee the present in Isaiah 59:14, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.”

The core of Jesus’ ministry was the necessity for Truth. To that end, He declared in John 8:31-32, “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He reiterated this premise to the disciples in John 14:6 where He stated: I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life…” This is clarified with the focus on Truth as Jesus approached His Crucifixion, John 18:35-38. The exchange between Pilate and Jesus included: “What have you done? Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world. Then Pilate said to him: So you are a king? Jesus answered: You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. Pilate said to him: What is truth? After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them: I find no guilt in him.” 

Pilate lacked the courage to stand for truth and with The Truth. One can only wonder how often “we” shrink back from representing the Truth and allowing for improper behavior and communication. Could it be that “we” are so starved for acceptance that “we” compromise our foundational principles to maintain a “friendship”? Prayerfully and Honestly, consider these things with me. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

VICISSITUDES OF LIFE

From My Perspective - - -

The English language makes use of clich├ęs, nuance, figures of speech and catchy phrases. Most people have either heard or used the expression: “The more things change the more they remain the same.” In the same way, most are familiar with an expression referring to the success or failure factors that states: “The pendulum swings in both directions.” The word vicissitude is a term not often used but the impact of it is often experienced. The Dictionary states: “The word vicissitude is basically used to mean a change of prevailing situations or fortune; in most cases one that is not good.” The literal definition given is: “a change or variation occurring in the course of something; successive, alternating or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs; regular change or succession of one state or thing to another.” The Dictionary.com illustrated use of the word in a sentence is: “Permanent assets have undergone many vicissitudes in America.” Another is: “Mother has remained my best friend (or encourager) in the vicissitudes of all the years of my life.”

No one can deny or escape the reality of change and mutability. Age and aging reminds of these changes as they slowly, but dramatically, appear as part of one’s personal reality and experience. Within the various historic cultural values of the world in which we live, there is a wide range of attitude and application. Some cultures (usually Oriental) revere and respect the older members, whereas other cultures see the elderly as a burden to society and represented by individuals who are no longer a positive asset to the contemporary world. It allows thoughts and possibilities of “death panels” that can determine a person’s quality of life, as well as the merits of euthanasia to ease the discomforts of the elderly. World War II had a component that sought to develop a “master-race” and experiments were conducted to that end. Today, most have probably forgotten Josef Mengele, known as Angel of Death and Dr. Death. His “experiments” on twins and gypsy children are too hideous to mention. For him, the elderly who were no longer capable of productive labor were expendable and usually consigned to the gas chambers.

An interesting study entitled: “Biblical Perspectives on Aging: God and the Elderly authored by Judith E. Moffett, RN, BC, MS, was published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing, July 2008 - Volume 34 · Issue 7: 56. A reviewer states that this “…is a scholarly work that adds the biblical studies approach to the knowledge base on aging…The author states in the introduction that: the Bible does not directly advise elders about old age or attack ageist stereotypes. It speaks in stories, poetry, and character studies. The materials address aging in indirect ways. Readers generally interpret biblical passages according to their own assumptions or operating paradigm. Hence, each reader of the Bible must analyze his or her own assumptions and pre-understandings while examining the “story” to understand the biblical message on aging.” Reference is made to the description of the elderly in terms of “stages or seasons of life, with roles changing as individuals age.” A Biblical text referenced is Leviticus 27:1-8 in terms of valuations of persons in different age groups. A summary statement in verse 2 states:Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: If anyone makes a special vow to the Lord involving the valuation of persons…”

There are other references one should consider pertaining to the aged ones, such as Leviticus 19 “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father” (Vs. 3), and “"You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord” (Vs. 32). In Proverbs 16:31 we read, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” A reminder of the faithfulness of God toward the aged is stated in Isaiah 46:3-4, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Another reminder of the faithfulness of God is shared in a testimony given by David in Psalm 37:23-26, “The steps of a (good) man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.” Amid the vicissitudes of our lives, consider these things with me.