January 31, 2020

The House of the Mourning
In my life as a pastor and professor for the past 45 years, I have been called upon to conduct many funerals. Most of them have been for my friends. That makes it particularly painful, but also peculiarly positive because I know where they are and will be forever. They are with the Lord Jesus.
This past week Marsha and I went to my hometown in the California Bay Area to be at my sister in-law's "celebration of life service." She was my age and had been in poor health and finally succumbed to a host of health issues.
It was difficult "going home" for a variety of reasons. One of which was that almost all of my friends have already passed away, as well as my parents. But also, I did not know most of the people at the memorial except for a few of my brother's friends.
The celebration of life was a magnificent tribute to a wonderful woman, a wife, a mother, grandmother and friend. Many shared stories and songs. The three-hour celebration gave people who were present an opportunity to remember and reminisce about the past. But there was not a word about the future. There was not a word about God, heaven or eternity. The silence was deafening. The absence was acute.
The words of Jesus are striking and stunning in terms of their immense importance. He reminds us that there is a resurrection of life and a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:29) He declares that He is the resurrection and the life and those who believe in Him will have eternal life and never come into judgment. (John 5:24)
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

January 24, 2020

The Power of Bad
Our unique and exceptional country was founded by Christian Theists and Deists. Christianity and its Judeo-Christian value system influenced everything from economics to education and has radically changed the world both for the temporal and eternal good of millions of people.
But there is another modification that has led to a transformation of the once hoped for Christian utopia into a social dystopia. We are witnessing Christians being blacklisted by the private sector, prosecuted by the government and censored by the media. The influence of the church upon society has clearly waned. One simply needs to consult the statistical realities of the social moral indicators listed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1 to see that his vice-list of violations sounds like he is living in contemporary America.
One reason for this change is that the church has become more interested in personal peace and affluence than in making disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate "Mission Creep." If that sounds harsh, consider the shrinking of the size of the church numerically and the statistical growth of other world religions, cults and atheism, not to mention the moral corruption in every citadel of society.
Another reason is that 'civic servant leadership' has also mutated into 'careerism' and the goal of helping society has been replaced with the goal of helping oneself. As Ayn Rand warned:
"When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - When you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - When you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - You may know that your society is doomed." Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1957
Lest I leave you in the "slough of despondency" because of this dystopian dilemma, let me remind us all, that it is never too late to start doing what is right. What is right is to make sure we keep the main thing the main thing, and keep first things first! 

The first thing is to "Make Disciples." How do we do that? Evangelization and Edification. Jesus commands us to "Make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Evangelism) and teaching them all things I have commanded you." (Edification) Matt. 28:19-20
How are you going to invest your week?
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,


January 17, 2020

A Smart Person Knows What to Say -
A Wise Person Knows Whether to Say it Or Not
The relationship between wisdom and knowledge has baffled man since the beginning. We are living in the 'Information Society' where knowledge is king. At times it is a bit overwhelming if not overpowering, with so many texts, blogs, and not to mention email or even the morning newspaper and the evening news.... so much information.

As TS Eliot reminds us from his poem, The Rock.
"All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no longer nearer to God.
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust."
The Scriptures remind us that knowledge carries the danger of puffing up a person with pride. Knowledge can also confuse us if we are not careful. That is why wisdom is important. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. Wisdom is the ability to make sense and order of knowledge and give it context and contours leading to insight and judgment.
The Scriptures remind us of this seminal truth: Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. (Ecclesiastes 10:10)  The Bible, the inspired word of God, is full of God's wisdom to guide His people during their stay upon the earth. That is why we should seek and desire God's wisdom more than gold.  (Proverbs 2)
Make no mistake - There is no premium for stupidity in the Christian life. Knowledge is vital. But are you simply a knowledgeable person or are you a wise person?
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

January 10, 2020

                              The Gates of Hell Will NOT Prevail
I have had the privilege all this week of teaching a doctoral course on the Theology of the Book of Acts. My students are pastors and educators who live not only in the USA but also in the Philippines and Nepal. (The time zone change is challenging for some, but at least we do not need the gift of tongues since they all speak English!)
The Book of Acts seems to be more relevant every day, for in it we see our own culture that is degrading in its cultural perversion and growing in its physical and psychological persecution upon the Church of Jesus.
The persecution of Christians is now growing in every corner of the globe. The form of this persecution takes many forms. Often it is direct and physical, other times it is indirect and aimed to do psychological damage, seeking to destroy our spirit. The declaration of the Apostle Paul is always appropriate:

 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2
Jesus reminds us; "I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail." Of course, that does not mean that the devil will not do his best to destroy the Church.
As we open a new decade, we see in America a spiritual battle the likes of which we have not seen in this country before. Wisdom would encourage us to be mindful of the day we are living in. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5, "redeem the time, for the days are evil."  
Might I also suggest that we make it our practice to pray regularly for our brothers and sisters who are living in hostile places like China, Iran, Somalia, Nepal, Pakistan and many other locations where it is illegal to be a Christian and a person could pay with their life for proclaiming loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,


January 3, 2020

Some People Break Their Standards Faster Than They Lower Them
- Anonymous -
It seems that often the first step in politics is to lose the distinction between right and wrong.
On their better days, politicians of ancient Greece and classical Rome, as well as the early church fathers saw the virtue of politics and sought to practice 'virtue politics.' This was their attempt to reform civic life by improving the questionable morality of the ruling elite. This may sound like a fool's errand to you. 

As Toni Morrison so accurately reminds us; "Evil has a blockbuster audience - goodness works backstage." And yet our effort should never be determined by our expectations, but by our excellence.
As we begin a new decade in the third millennium, we need a clear focus on the times in which we live. We also need to remember Saint Augustine's reminder: "You say the times are evil - Live nobly and you will change the times."

So teach us to number our days,
that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.    
Psalm 90:12

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,