March 29, 2019

Sometimes I Am the Pharisaic Lawmaker
Other Times the Sinful Law Breaker

Talk about no good option! Both are odious to God. Both result in a fracture in fellowship and create a fissure in our friendship with the Lord. The first leads to hypocrisy, the second leads to hedonism. Again, both are bad options.
The problem in both cases is... me. It is me-myself, the sinful self, that leads me in the wrong direction. Some call this quandary the work of "the flesh" or "the body of sin" while others call it "the old nature." Call it what you like, it is readily on display. The spiritual solution to this debilitating situation is to walk in the Spirit and not the self.
The apostle Paul felt this difficult dilemma as he explains in Romans 7:15-16. He tells us that he - the born again apostle Paul - actually does the very thing he does not wish to do and does not do what he actually desires to do. He concludes that it is not the real me but sin that dwells in me that accounts for this discouraging reality.

He then continues in Romans 8:12-13 to provide the solution - walk according to the Spirit. (Count how many times the word Spirit is mentioned in Romans 8 compared to the first 7 chapters). He covers the same theological truth and conveys sound pastoral advice in Galatians 5. The choice is to not walk in the flesh but to walk in the Spirit. The result for the Christian is the difference between enjoying Spiritual life or experiencing Spiritual death. (Romans 8:12-13; Galatians 5:16)
The paradoxical reality is that I actually am a new person in Christ. Christ is in me and so "it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) The challenge of the Christian life is allowing the risen life of Christ, to live through me through His Spirit in my spirit.
Mystical? Yes! Supernatural? Of course! Wonderful? Amen!
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

March 22, 2019

                                   Thinking About Thinking!

It is never the right time to do the wrong thing and never wrong time to do the right thing. But what is the wrong thing or the right thing? As Shakespeare opined, "Things are neither right nor wrong but thinking makes them so."  He is wrong. Bad thinking does not make things right.

Today we are exposed to many toxic thoughts that go under the guise of truth but are in fact propaganda masquerading as truth. Maturity in thinking is not only concerned with what to think about but how to think about it. We need to learn how to think about what we think about and how to evaluate and calculate the accuracy of tweets, blogs, memes, Alexa, Siri and especially the "newspaper"!

As the biblical book of Proverbs reminds us; As a man thinks so he is.
As the Apostle Paul reminds us;
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." (Phil. 4:8)

Let us take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor.10:5)

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

March 15, 2019

Falsehood Flies - and Truth Comes Limping After It
-Jonathan Swift-
Unfortunately many of our political leaders possess intellect without morals, ability without scruple, and courage without honor. Note that the three aspects which they are without only make sense if there is an ultimate standard by which to determine between that which is right and good and that which is wrong and evil. Categories of right and wrong or good and evil have no ultimate value unless there is an ultimate "evaluator" to determine such values. We Christians call that ultimate value maker, "Our Father who art in heaven."

Unfortunately, not all Christians agree on what God's word means by what it says. This is why many Christians who are LGBTQ (a designation started in 1996) or those who favor abortion or even allowing the child to die alone if he or she survives after birth (which is technically murder, but let's not quibble - I speak as if I were mad) or suicide or euthanasia, believe that their position is based on truth. God's truth! They believe the Bible must be seen as a living document that changes with cultural norms of the day. As James Russell Lowell said so eloquently: "New occasions teach new duties; time makes ancient good uncouth. They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of truth." And there it is again, the ancient question: What is truth? Without Biblical truth, descriptions of morals, scruples and honor turn into something devoid of biblical meaning.

I remember reading in college the seminal work, Situational Ethics: The New Moralitywritten in 1966 by Joseph Fletcher, a theologian who later became an atheist. Situational ethics takes into account the particular context of an act when evaluating it ethically, rather than judging it according to absolute moral standards. The only absolute moral standard for Dr. Fletcher by which all was to be measured was "Love" for it was the ultimate determiner of ethical decision making. The only problem was, who defined Love?  Here is an example of "Love" according to Situational Ethics.

"People [with children with Down's syndrome]... have no reason to feel guilty about putting a Down's syndrome baby away, whether it's "put away" in the sense of hidden in a sanitarium or in a more responsible lethal sense. It is sad; yes. Dreadful. But it carries no guilt. True guilt arises only from an offense against a person, and a Down's is not a person."(Joseph Fletcher (April 1968). "The Right to Die".  The Atlantic Monthly: 59-64.)
In case you wonder how we got to the state of morality in America in the last 50 years... this is how!! Until and unless we understand the Bible and are willing to submit to its teaching, truth will become a casualty to propaganda.
"Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."
- Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence -

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
     March 8, 2019

       We Are Planting Trees Whose Shadow We Shall Not Sit Under
                                                              Ancient Greek Proverb
A friend of mine called last week to encourage me by telling me he met a student that I mentored many years ago and had made a significant and strategic impact upon.
I said this is what 2 Tim. 2:2 is all about. (Teach men who are faithful and able to teach other men who will teach other men.) My friend reminded me that I have been doing ministry for a long time and I realized that I have been training and teaching for over 4 decades. (No wonder I am tired and on Medicare.)
When I began working in the ministry one of my fellow workers said that he thought that I was a prophet, given that I was able to communicate my convictions with a sense of clarity. Let me assure you that I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet. But I do desire to teach and train with the incisiveness of a prophet, the rigor of a professor, and the heart of a pastor. I desire to train men and women that they might have a scholar's mind and a shepherd's heart.
In the old days we called this disciple making. Today we call it mentoring. The question is not what we call it. The question is -- are you doing it? The great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is expressed in one imperative verb: Make disciples. It is explained with three participles: Going, Baptizing, Teaching. We are called to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. This is the Great Commission-- this is the purpose of the church both corporately and each of us individually.

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments
but what is woven into the lives of others."  - Pericles -
Who are you discipling?
Who are you mentoring?
Who are you building your life into?                                     
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

March 1, 2019

                                   The Feeling of Fear

I must admit, I allow the news to sometimes control my feelings. When I do, I feel a sense of anger or fear. Anger when I watch the ignorant thinking of socialism expounded in our congress. Fear when I think of the incredible damage that will come about from such thinking. Do these people (our political leaders) not understand the history and reality of Venezuela and Cuba?  I also experience anger when I see how our leaders fail to understand the nature of Islam. Again, failure to understand history can be dangerous in the present. I often transition from anger to fear as I realize the zealous agenda of world domination and murderous intentions and actions to accomplish such a global state or caliphate based on a clear reading of the Koran.
Anger and Fear - I think both of these emotions were experienced by Jonah as the Lord called him to go to Nineveh and proclaim the Lord's message. The Ninevites of Assyria were a fierce global force that had perfected the skill of excruciating execution on all who refused to be dominated. This explains why Jonah in tremendous fear ran as fast as he could to get away. But the Lord plucked him from the sea through a great fish He appointed and parked him on the shoreline of the Ninevites. It was as we say, "barf on the beach."  Jonah was still reluctant to preach and even more angry because he thought that these wicked people might just repent and then the Lord would relent of His destruction of this wicked people. After all, Jonah knew that the Lord was compassionate, gracious and abundant in lovingkindness. (Jonah 4:2)
The final section of the story is simple but profound. As you recall, Jonah is mad that the people repented, and God relented of his judgment. As Jonah goes off to sulk in the sun, the Lord appointed a tree for shade. Then the Lord appointed a worm to destroy the shade tree. Then the Lord appointed a fierce wind to blow and beat upon Jonah (4:6-8).  Do not forget that the Lord appointed the great fish as well! (1:17)  Jonah has moved on from fear to anger because of the Lord's grace to an undeserving people.
The Lord gently reprimands Jonah by reminding him that the Lord expressed grace to Jonah through the gift of a plant to offer him shade. How is it wrong for the Lord to offer to the people of Nineveh forgiveness of their sin? After all, "...there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand as well as many animals." (4:11)  Dumb and dangerous people need the grace of the Lord.
Jesus hung upon the cross, having been beaten, humiliated, hated by all, in agony as the spikes in his hands and feet brought excruciating pain to his broken body. As Jesus looked down upon the Jewish religious leaders, the Roman centurion and guards, not to mention a few of his disciples and family members, He declared the most improbable words - "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."
We were dumb and dangerous. But God the Father and Jesus the Son in His grace and lovingkindness did not allow fear or anger to get in the way of His Love for them, for you and for me.
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,