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The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Until Lambs Become Lions

Rise and rise again until lambs become lions1

There is a line in the movie, Robin Hood (2010), starring Russell Crowe (as Robin Longstride a.k.a. Robin Hood) and Cate Blanchett (as Lady Marion) that is etched in Robin’s memory from childhood. Thinking that his father had deserted him as a very young child, he learns as the movie unfolds that the line was said by his father, who also carved it into a stone. Eventually Robin learns from one of his father’s now elderly friends, Sir Walter Loxley (father-in-law to Lady Marion) that his father was actually beheaded when Robin was a child of about six years old. This scene is available on YouTube at the following link. In the clip, Robin learns that his father was not only a stonemason, but a visionary, who believed that “kings have a need of their subjects, no less than subjects have a need of kings” (quote from YouTube clip). He believed in the rights of all ranks from baron to serf, and thousands took up his cause. A charter was created by his father with the signatures of many barons who believed in his cause; however, the king did not. When the king’s men showed up to get the charter with the names of the barons from him, he refused to give it to them, and he was beheaded. The following line stated by his father became the rally cry of the movement and was carved in stone:

Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.

When later asked by his comrades what it meant, Robin said that it meant “Never give up.”

As background information, a plot of the movie follows (Source: Wikipedia):

In 1199 A.D., Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). A veteran of Richard’s crusade, he now takes part in the siege of Chalus Castle. Disillusioned and war-weary, he believes the King when invited to give an honest view of the war; after Robin gives a frank but unflattering appraisal of the King’s conduct, Robin and his comrades – archers Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and soldier Little John (Kevin Durand) – find themselves in the stocks.

When the King is slain during an attack on the castle, Robin and his men decide to free themselves and desert. They come across an ambush of the English royal guard by Godfrey (Mark Strong), an English knight who has conspired with King Philip of France to assassinate Richard. After chasing off Godfrey, Robin decides to take advantage of the situation by having his men impersonate the dead English knights to return to England. As they depart, Robin promises one of the dying knights, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge), to return his sword to his father (Sir Walter Loxley) in Nottingham.

Upon arriving in London, Robin assumes the identity of the slain Loxley to inform the royal family of the King’s death. He witnesses the coronation of King John (Oscar Isaac), who orders harsh new taxes to be collected, dispatching Sir Godfrey to the North to do so – unaware that Godfrey will instead use French troops to stir up unrest and create an opening for Philip to invade England.

Robin and his companions head to Nottingham, where Loxley’s elderly and blind father, Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), asks him to continue impersonating his son, to prevent the family lands being taken by the Crown. Loxley’s widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), is initially cold toward Robin, but warms to him, when he and his men merrily recover tithed grain for the townsfolk to plant.

Godfrey’s actions have incited the northern barons, who march to meet King John. Speaking now for Sir Walter, Robin proposes the King agree to a charter of rights to ensure the rights of every Englishman and unite his country. Having realized Godfrey’s deception, and knowing he must meet the French invasion with an army, the King agrees. Meanwhile, the French marauders plunder Nottingham. Robin and the northern barons arrive and stop Godfrey’s men, but not before Godfrey has slain the blind Sir Walter.

As the French begin their invasion on the beach below the Cliffs of Dover, Robin leads the united English army against them. In the midst of the battle, Robin duels with Godfrey, who attempts to kill Marion and flees before Robin finally pierces him with an arrow from afar. Philip realizes his plan to divide England has failed and calls off his invasion. When King John sees the French surrender to Robin instead of himself, he senses a threat to his power. In London John reneges on his promise to sign the charter, instead declaring Robin an outlaw to be hunted throughout the kingdom. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) announces the decree as Robin and his men flee to Sherwood Forest with the orphans of Nottingham. Marion narrates their new life in the greenwood, noting that they live in equality as they right the many wrongs in the kingdom of King John. (Quote source here.)

There is also one other character not noted in the plot above by the name of William Marshall (William Hurt). “When King Richard died childless in 1189, William (part of the regency appointed by King Richard to govern in his absence) supported the succession of John, and once again was welcomed to the court of a one-time adversary and new king. William soon had a falling out with the new king, but in spite of this he would advocate on the side of John against the other barons in the issuance of Magna Carta in 1215.” (Quote source here.) He was also a friend of Robin’s father and was witness to his father’s beheading.

When Robin told his comrades that the saying, “Rise and rise again until lambs become lions,” meant that they should “never give up,” it immediately brought to mind what Jesus told his disciples in the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8, specifically in verse 1 which is a lead-in to the parable:

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

I found the following comment that was posted on Bibleornot.org,” from a guy (“stevec828”) who watched the movie and stated the following:

I just saw the Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott movie Robin Hood, and this quote was a transforming saying that Robin Longstride, a.k.a. Robin of the Hood, learned as a boy and remembered as a man.

“Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.” – Robin Hood the Movie, 2010

When asked by Little John and Will Scarlet what this saying meant, Robin Hood explained something akin to Winston Churchhill, and to our American founding fathers. It means never give up for the cause of liberty, never, ever give up. Rise, and rise again, until the docile lambs become conquering lions.

While this is not a quote from the Bible, there are some spriritual overtones about perseverance, and fighting the good fight. Get a little deeper and you could think about the cause of liberty and how it is worthy for one to lay down his life for it. In the movie, Robin Hood’s father died in defense of it. In the Bible, Jesus Christ lays down his life so that all mankind could be set free, i.e., set at liberty (Isaiah 61:1).

Go even deeper, and we can connect this to the salvation process of being born again, and how God remolds us and reshapes us over and over again until we become what he has intended us to be. This is especially true for those He has called into the ministry and positions of leadership within the Church. Consider the Apostles, starting out as fishermen, tax collectors, etc., little lambs following Christ for 3 years but after the infusion of the Holy Ghost, they become lions for the Gospel.

Go even deeper, yes we could go on and on, and consider Jesus Christ Himself. He was a Lamb led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), who laid down His life, only to rise on the 3rd day. One day he will come again, in essence, rising again out of Heaven to bring judgment upon the earth. And in this second coming He is coming as the Lion of Judah. Rise, and rise again until the Lamb becomes the Lion (Revelation 5:5, Revelation 19:11-16).

OK. Reality check. It’s just a quote from a movie. So what’s the point? The point is that within many inspirational quotes we can find, or be inspired to find, truth from the Word of God. Even in the simplest of things, like a blade of grass, or ant walking across a sidewalk, or a line from a movie, we can find lessons out of the Word of God.

The Word of God is all around us, if we merely open our eyes to see it. (Quote source here.)

sacredseculardivideThis statement is something that I, too, have discovered especially in these past six and a half years since I lost my job in Houston. We often tend to put what we think of God inside a box of our own making. We have a great tendency to separate the sacred from the secular and while there is definitely a sacred sphere to our worship of God, He is, indeed, not limited by our own thinking and can be found, as the author of the comment above stated, “even in the simplest of things.” And in the most profound of things, too.

One of the areas that seems to rankle a number of Christians is when supposedly “secular” things are equated, or brought alongside, with things that they consider to be “sacred.” The “secular” things just don’t seem to fit in with their world of “sacred.” In other words, they divide their lives into “sacred” and “secular,” and never the twain shall meet.”  A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote about this very dilemma in his classic book, The Pursuit of God,” Chapter 10:

One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas, the sacred and the secular. As these areas are conceived to exist apart from each other and to be morally and spiritually incompatible, and as we are compelled by the necessities of living to be always crossing back and forth from the one to the other, our inner lives tend to break up so that we live a divided instead of a unified life.

Our trouble springs from the fact that we who follow Christ inhabit at once two worlds, the spiritual and the natural. As children of Adam we live our lives on earth subject to the limitations of the flesh and the weaknesses and ills to which human nature is heir.

Merely to live among men requires of us years of hard toil and much care and attention to the things of this world. In sharp contrast to this is our life in the Spirit. There we enjoy another and higher kind of life; we are children of God; we possess heavenly status and enjoy intimate fellowship with Christ.

This tends to divide our total life into two departments. We come unconsciously to recognize two sets of actions. The first are performed with a feeling of satisfaction and a firm assurance that they are pleasing to God. These are the sacred acts and they are usually thought to be prayer, Bible reading, hymn singing, church attendance and such other acts as spring directly from faith. They may be known by the fact that they have no direct relation to this world, and would have no meaning whatever except as faith shows us another world, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Over against these sacred acts are the secular ones. They include all of the ordinary activities of life which we share with the sons and daughters of Adam: eating, sleeping, working, looking after the needs of the body and performing our dull and prosaic duties here on earth. These we often do reluctantly and with many misgivings, often apologizing to God for what we consider a waste of time and strength. The upshot of this is that we are uneasy most of the time. We go about our common tasks with a feeling of deep frustration, telling ourselves pensively that there’s a better day coming when we shall slough off this earthly shell and be bothered no more with the affairs of this world.

This is the old sacred-secular antithesis. Most Christians are caught in its trap. They cannot get a satisfactory adjustment between the claims of the two worlds. They try to walk the tight rope between two kingdoms and they find no peace in either. Their strength is reduced, their outlook confused and their joy taken from them.

I believe this state of affairs to be wholly unnecessary. We have gotten ourselves on the horns of a dilemma, true enough, but the dilemma is not real. It is a creature of misunderstanding. The sacred-secular antithesis has no foundation in the New Testament. Without doubt a more perfect understanding of Christian truth will deliver us from it.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our perfect example, and He knew no divided life. In the Presence of His Father He lived on earth without strain from babyhood to His death on the cross. God accepted the offering of His total life, and made no distinction between one act and another act. “I do always the things that please him,” was His brief summary of His own life as it related to the Father. As He moved among men He was poised and restful. What pressure and suffering He endured grew out of His position as the world’s sin bearer; they were never the result of moral uncertainty or spiritual maladjustment.

Paul’s exhortation to “do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31) is more than pious idealism. It is an integral part of the sacred revelation and is to be accepted as the very Word of Truth. It opens before us the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. Lest we should be too timid to include everything, Paul mentions specifically eating and drinking. This humble privilege we share with the beasts that perish. If these lowly animal acts can be so performed as to honor God, then it becomes difficult to conceive of one that cannot. . . . (Quote source and complete chapter are available at this link.)

Tell the World LacraeTozer, of course, died before Postmodernism (see blog post titled, Say What? As in Postmodernism) when it’s “truth is relative” message came into full swing, but his words still ring true. In an article titled, ‘Sacred-Secular Divide’ Hinders Christians From Impacting Culture, Says Lecrae (2012), published in CP Church and Ministry, Christian hip-hop singer Lecrae (Lacrae Moore) talks “about the subject of engaging American culture in a non-typical, yet Christian way in order to further the Gospel.” Here is what he had to say:

“I think we don’t engage culture because we’re scared. We don’t want it corrupting our kids. I think we’re scared because ultimately we’re still caught up in a sacred-secular divide,” said Lecrae, who is also a ministry leader, to a crowd of more than 2,000 church leaders Thursday at the Resurgence Conference (in 2012) at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif.

“We are still caught up in the reality that everything is broken up in two and if you go too far here you are going to get messed up,” he said. “There is a sacred-secular divide that hinders us from impacting culture.”. . . . 

“We (Christians) are great at talking about salvation and sanctification. We are clueless when it comes to art, ethics, science, and culture. Christianity is the whole truth about everything. It’s how we deal with politics. It’s how we deal with science. It’s how we deal with TV and art. We can’t leave people to their own devices,” Lecrae said during his talk at the conference.

“We just demonize everything. If it doesn’t fit in the category of sanctification or salvation it’s just evil.”

Lecrae said that society in the U.S. is moving away from “this traditional, evangelical, conservative America.”

“Relativism and secular humanism permeates the world that we live in.” He asked, “How do we engage this culture? How do we raise up people to engage this culture?”

Lecrae said that in the area he lives in there are a lot of people, who because of the activity they are engaged in, many Christians would avoid altogether.

“There’s homosexuality rampant. There’s crime and all kinds of things going on around me. I take my kids to the park and there’s two men kissing, people selling drugs, and I’m grateful,” he said. “I’m not trying to escape. I want to be in the midst of that because I need to be. That’s where I need to be.”

He added, “I believe that the reason why the church typically doesn’t engage culture is because we are scared of it. We’re scared it’s going to somehow jump on us and corrupt us. We’re scared it’s going to somehow mess up our good thing. So we consistently move further and further away from the corruption, further and further away from the crime, further and further away from the post-modernity, further and further away from the relativism and secular humanism and we want to go to a safe place with people just like you. We want to be comfortable.”

Lecrae emphasized that God created many things in this world that were intended for good, but have been misused.

“I’m talking about using things that are typically used for evil and showing how they can be used for God’s glory,” he explained. “Things are not of themselves evil. It’s [about] structure and direction. God has structured things for His glory and His goodness and humanity is directing it in evil or good ways.

“If you are going to engage culture it’s about taking the things, and the things you are skilled at, and asking ‘How can I direct them in a good way?’

“I’m not saying let’s redeem the world and create this utopian planet,” Lecrae continued. “I’m saying let’s demonstrate what Jesus had done in us so the world may see a new way, God’s way, Jesus’ way–the picture of redemption that Jesus has done in us. So Jesus redeems us and we desire to go to the world and demonstrate that so that others can see what redemption looks like.” (Quote source here).

The point, of course, is that we need to look beyond our own tendencies to be short-sighted when it comes to what God is doing in our world and how He is going about accomplishing it. As stated in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

And Proverbs 16:4 reminds us that:

The Lord works out everything to its proper end—
    even the wicked for a day of disaster.

And since God can even keep track of the wicked, He can certainly keep track of what we as Christians do in accomplishing His will in this world of ours (if we will follow His lead and not our own). There really is no dividing the sacred from the secular. It all belongs to Him.

Getting back to the original message of this post, I’ll end it with these words from Jesus that should always be embedded in our minds and hearts no matter what situation or circumstances we find ourselves in, which are found in Luke 18:1:

Always pray . . . 

And never give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Tell the World” by Lecrae:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

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Tisha B’Av 5775 (2015)

Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av on the Jewish calendar) falls on Saturday, July 25, 2015, on our Western calendar this year. It officially starts at sundown on Friday, July 24th; however, since it is falling on the Sabbath this year, it will be observed starting at sundown on Saturday, July 25th (when the Sabbath officially ends), and ending at sundown on Sunday, July 26th. I have written about Tisha B’ Av” (reblogging the original post) for the past three years, and I decided to repost it again today (see below). It is customary to read from the books of Lamentations and Job in the Old Testament on this day known as an “official day of mourning and fasting” due to a series of catastrophes (listed below) that occurred on this exact same day over a period of centuries including the destruction of the First Temple (Solomon’s Temple) and Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Here are a few verses from Lamentations to get us started (Lamentations 3:22-26, NIV):

Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those
whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

Photo credit here

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Below is my original blog post from 2012 (Tisha B’Av and 9/11):

Tisha B’Av and 9/11

Posted on July 29, 2012 by Sara’s Musings

tisha-bav-the-jewish-911-yeshuatyisrael-comToday is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar. It started at sundown yesterday and ends at nightfall tonight (which is the typical start and end of each day on the Jewish calendar). However, this particular day has powerful significance for the Jewish people and it is known as a day of mourning due to a series of severe catastrophes that occurred on this same day over a period of centuries.

Being a Gentile (non-Jewish), I haven’t given much thought to the Jewish calendar over the years in relation to our own calendar. However, in June, I stumbled upon some interesting facts regarding the Jewish calendar and came upon information about Tisha B’Av and the three weeks prior to that day–a time frame observed by religious Jews as a time of fasting, mourning and repentance that starts on the 17th day of Tammuz and leads up to the official day of mourning, the 9th of AvTisha B’Av.

So what exactly happened on Tisha B’Av? The following information is taken from Chabad.org:

The 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it’s clearly a day specially cursed by G‑d.

Picture this: The year is 1313 BCE. The Israelites are in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they dispatch a reconnaissance mission to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies return on the eighth day of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they’d rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.

The First Temple was also destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.

When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader, Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 133 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? Of course—the 9th of Av!

One year after their conquest of Betar, the Romans plowed over the Temple Mount, our nation’s holiest site.

The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, you guessed it, Tisha b’Av. In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? Oh, by now you know it—the 9th of Av.

Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. And yes, amazingly enough, Germany declared war on Russia, effectively catapulting the First World War into motion, on the 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av.

What do you make of all this? Jews see this as another confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn’t haphazard; events – even terrible ones – are part of a Divine plan and have spiritual meaning. The message of time is that everything has a rational purpose, even though we don’t understand it.

I was stunned after I read that list and realized that every single horrific event listed above that occurred over several centuries happened on the exact same day–the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av. I found a “reader” (a small collection of articles) on Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks at Aish.com and downloaded it last night and read it this morning. As I was reading through the incredibly moving stories, the similarities that the Jewish people feel regarding the catastrophes that have happened to them on Tisha B’Av are not dissimilar to how Americans feel about what happened to us on 9/11. Tisha B’Av is primarily about mourning the loss of the Temple (twice), where God’s presence dwelt among the Jewish people in the Old Testament. It was the pulling away of God from His people and His presence in their lives. Normally, during Tisha B’Av the Book of Lamentations is read as well as other readings which “reflect the sadness of the tragedies and often relate the tragedies to rebellion of the people. However some of the Kinot [readings] reflect the hope of redemption” (Source no longer available at former website).

The following two quotes are from two articles in the reader which you can download at this site: Tisha B’Av Reader. The first quote is from an article titled, “The Heart-Rending Cry” by Keren Gottleib, pp. 4-7:

“I understood that this [the mourning mentioned in her article] was exactly how we are supposed to mourn the Temple on Tisha B’Av. We are supposed to cry over the loss of the unity and peace throughout the entire world. We are supposed to lament the disappearance of the Divine Presence and holiness from our lives in Israel. We are supposed to be pained by the destruction of our spiritual center, which served to unify the entire Jewish nation.

“We’re supposed to feel as if something very precious has been taken away from us forever. We are meant to cry, to be shocked and angry, to break down. We are supposed to  mourn over the destruction of the Temple, to cry over a magnificent era that has been uprooted from the face of the earth. The incredible closeness that we had with God–that feeling that He is truly within us–has evaporated and disappeared into thin air” (p. 7).

As I read that article I was struck by that last sentence, The incredible closeness that we had with God–that feeling that He is truly within us–has evaporated and disappeared into thin air.” After America’s own catastrophe, 9/11, we pulled together (and filled the churches) and were united once again as a nation unlike anything we had experienced in recent decades since the war in Vietnam that divided our nation; however, it didn’t take long for most Americans to get back to living their own individual lives again although every time we go through security to board an airplane it should serve to remind us of the horror of that terrorist attack instead of as an inconvenience that takes too long to navigate. And, after the initial shock of 9/11 dimmed, we put God back on the shelf, too, except maybe on Sunday morning.

The second quote is from an article titled, “On the Same Team,” by Dov Moshe Lipman, pp.7-9:

“Perhaps each time God puts us through another round of suffering, His proclamation of ‘Again,’ He is waiting for us to stop identifying ourselves as an individual Jew coming from his separate background and upbringing. ‘I’m modern Orthodox.’ ‘I’m Reform.’ ‘I’m a Hasid.’ ‘I’m secular.’ ‘I’m Conservative.’ ‘I’m yeshivishe.’

Those characterizations polarize the nation and make it impossible for us to function together as one team. As individual groups, we cannot accomplish what we can accomplish as one team. We are held back by that same baseless hatred which creeps in when we are not one unit.

“Perhaps God is waiting for all of us to proclaim in unison, ‘I am a Jew.” Plain and simple.

“Even more importantly, perhaps God is waiting for us to stop seeing others as ‘He’s modern Orthodox.’ ‘He’s Reform.’ ‘He’s a Hasid.’ ‘He’s secular.’ ‘He’s Conservative.’ ‘He’s yeshivishe.’

“Perhaps the answer to our suffering and long exile is reaching the point where we see other Jews as members of the same team and family. Jews and nothing else” (pp. 8-9).

As I read those words, it became crystal clear that we as Christians in America do the same thing. We put each other in categories–‘Baptist.’ ‘Charismatic.’ ‘Methodist.’ ‘Pentacostal.’ ‘Anglican.’ And the list goes on and on . . . . Yet we all claim to serve the same God through Jesus Christ. We fight among ourselves in a sort of “our church is better than yours” self-righteousness instead of working together, united in Jesus Christ. No wonder our nation is falling apart. We have forgotten what true repentance is and what it requires of us, and we’ve forgotten that if Jesus Christ is truly our Savior and Lord, that we are all on the same team.

Another anniversary of the horrific catastrophe of 9/11 will soon be here. Will we continue to be “one nation divided or “one nation united under God”? Do we want to see God’s blessing on our nation again, or will we continue on a path that brings only division and strife, and ultimately, destruction?

The choice is ours . . . 

And we need to start making it now . . . .

Music is not played during the observance of Tisha B’Av; therefore, I have not included a YouTube video on this post.

Photo credit here

Motive Is All Important

motives2Motives . . . we all have them, and, in fact, they run our lives on a regular basis. Vocabulary.com defines a motive as “your reason for doing something” (quote source here). Google defines it as “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious” (quote source here). And, of course, an ulterior motive, as defined by Dictionary.com, is a motive that is being beyond what is seen or avowed; intentionally kept concealed.” Synonyms include “hidden, covert, undisclosed, undivulged” (quote source here).

In answer to the question, What does the Bible say about motives?”, GotQuestions?org gives the following statement:

The Bible has a lot to say about our motives. A motive is the underlying reason for any action. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Because the human heart is very deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), we can easily fool ourselves about our own motives. We can pretend that we are choosing certain actions for God or the benefit of others, when in reality we have selfish reasons. God is not fooled by our selfishness and is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Human beings can operate from a variety of motivations, often negative. Pride, anger, revenge, a sense of entitlement, or the desire for approval can all be catalysts for our actions. Any motivation that originates in our sinful flesh is not pleasing to God (Romans 8:8). God even evaluates the condition of our hearts when we give offerings to Him (2 Corinthians 9:7). Selfish motives can hinder our prayers. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Because our hearts are so deceitful, we should constantly evaluate our own motives and be willing to be honest with ourselves about why we are choosing a certain action.

We can even preach and minister from impure motives (Philippians 1:17), but God is not impressed (Proverbs 21:27). Jesus spoke to this issue in  Matthew 6:1 when He said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Those involved in ministry must stay alert to this tendency toward selfishness, because ministry begun for pure reasons can quickly devolve into selfish ambition if we do not guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).

So what is the right motivation? First Thessalonians 2:4 says, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts” (NLT). God is interested in our motives even more than our actions. First Corinthians 4:5 says that, when Jesus comes again, “he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” God wants us to know that He sees what no one else sees. He knows why we do what we do and desires to reward those whose hearts are right toward Him. We can keep our motives pure by continually surrendering every part of our hearts to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Here are some specific questions to help us evaluate our own motives:

1. If no one ever knows what I am doing (giving, serving, sacrificing), would I still do it?
2. If there was no visible payoff for doing this, would I still do it?
3. Would I joyfully take a lesser position if God asked me to?
4. Am I doing this for the praise of others or how it makes me feel?
5. If I had to suffer for continuing what God has called me to do, would I continue?
6. If others misunderstand or criticize my actions, will I stop?
7. If those whom I am serving never show gratitude or repay me in any way, will I still do it?
8. Do I judge my success or failure based upon my faithfulness to what God has asked me to do, or how I compare with others?

Personal satisfactions, such as taking a vacation or winning a competition, are not wrong in themselves. Motivation becomes an issue when we are not honest with ourselves about why we are doing things. When we give the outward appearance of obeying God but our hearts are hard, God knows. We are deceiving ourselves and others, too. The only way we can operate from pure motives is when we “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16,25). When we allow Him to control every part of us, then our desire is to please Him and not ourselves. Our flesh constantly clamors to exalt itself, and only when we walk in the Spirit will we not gratify those desires of our flesh. (Quote source here.)

examine your motivesIn another article on Christianity.com titled, What God Values More Than Motives,” the author, Matt Smethurst, makes the following statement:

Motives matter. One thing that separates biblical Christianity from almost every other religion is its laser-like focus on our hearts. Our Creator cares what we do, to be sure, but most fundamentally he cares how and why we do certain things. He’s interested in those intentions that are hidden from human eyes. He’s after our hearts.

Psalm 100:2 commands us to “serve the LORD with gladness.” This means that serving God can be an exercise in disobedience. (Yes, you read that correctly.) If our service springs from a heart that isn’t glad in God, it isn’t obedience. It’s sin.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus raises the bar even higher. Struggling with hatred? You have a murder problem. Lust? It’s adultery (Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28). And when you fast or give to the poor, Jesus says, make sure no one notices (Matthew 6:1–4, 16–18). God sees your heart, and his approval is enough.

The Maker of heaven and earth isn’t just concerned with our service; he’s concerned with our intentions. Our motivations. Our hearts. (Quote source here including entire article.)

And one more item I ran across on the subject of motives is the following very short chapter in a book titled, This World: Playground or Battleground? by Dr. A.W. Tozer (1987-1963), compiled by Harry Verploegh and published in 1989, that speaks to the issue of our motives.

Motive is All-Important

by A.W. Tozer


THE BIG QUESTION AT LAST WILL not be so much, “What did you do?” but “Why did you do it?” In moral acts, motive is everything. Of course it is important to do the right thing, but it is still more important to do the right thing for a right reason. Intention is a large part of the action, whether done by good or bad people. The man who wills his enemy dead has, in the eyes of God, killed him already. “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Not the overt act, but the will and the intention constitute the guilt.

Any act performed for an evil or selfish purpose is a bad act no matter how good it may in itself seem. Any act done out of love is a good act, even if through ignorance or failure the outcome is not found to be good for the one concerned. A Christian mother, for instance, who rises in the small hours of the morning to care for a sick child only because she loves it and wishes it well is performing a good act even if in her ignorance she may actually harm the child by failing to care for it properly. And the mother who would rise in cold anger to look after a child she hated would be performing a bad act even if her superior skill enabled her to care for it well.

We should carefully consider our motives. Some day soon they will be there to bless us or curse us. And from them there will be no appeal, for the Judge knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.

(Article taken from “This World: Playground or Battleground?, Chapter 15 )

The Bible has much to say about our motives and here’s a link to 46 specific verses related to our motives and their consequences. Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” And in I Samuel 16:7 we learn that “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Proverbs 21:1-8 also has a lot to say about how God examines our motives. Here are those eight verses from The Message Bible:

God Examines Our Motives

Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God;
    he directs it to whatever ends he chooses.

We justify our actions by appearances;
    God examines our motives.

Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors
    mean far more to God than religious performance.

Arrogance and pride—distinguishing marks in the wicked—
    are just plain sin.

Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run;
    hurry and scurry puts you further behind.

Make it to the top by lying and cheating;
    get paid with smoke and a promotion—to death!

The wicked get buried alive by their loot
    because they refuse to use it to help others.

Mixed motives twist life into tangles;
    pure motives take you straight down the road.

Also, Jesus Christ stated in Luke 8:17,  For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” And Jesus said it again in Luke 12:1-3, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

The heart attitude–our motives–are critically important to God. We may be able to fool everybody else on the planet, but God is never fooled. Never. King Solomon, considered to be the wisest man who ever lived, understood that very real fact, too. At the end of Ecclesiastes (usually attributed to his authorship) he made the following statement:

The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by One Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.
~Eccl. 12:11-14

Indeed, motives do matter to God.

For He will bring every deed into judgment . . .

Including every hidden thing . . .

Whether it is good or evil . . . .

YouTube Video: “Gotta Serve Somebody” sung by Shirley Caesar:

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A Humble Heart

micah-6-8

A humble heart . . . it’s not easy to acquire (and it has to be acquired as we come out of the womb wanting our own way) or to keep. FreeDictionary.com defines humble as (1) marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful; and (2) showing deferential or submissive respect (quote source here). Unfortunately, most of those attributes are in rather short supply in our society today. We are more into branding ourselves and taking selfies and splashing them all over social media than deferring to others or showing much respect to others. And, as a current airline commercial tells us over and over again, It’s All About You” (as in “us”). Humility is not often one of our strong points.

However, humility is one of the key ingredients of Micah 6:8. The New International Reader’s Version (NIRV) of Micah 6:8 states the following:

The Lord has shown you what is good.
He has told you what he requires of you.
You must act with justice.
You must love to show mercy.

And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God.

And it doesn’t get any clearer than that about how God wants us to live with Him and with each other on a daily basis. The three main ingredients of that verse include doing justice, loving mercy, and being humble. Let’s briefly look at each of these attributes:

Acting with justice means not only knowing the difference between right and wrong (and in our heart of hearts we all know exactly what that is at any given moment), but also doing the right thing… as in acting justly towards others and not just looking out for ourselves or hurting/using others in any way to get ahead and/or to benefit ourselves. And that also means that we don’t get to pick and choose who we “act justly” with or to, nor hide behind excuses and explanations that make us look good and “them” look bad.

Loving to show mercy means not being selfish and self-serving but to genuinely care about others in a meaningful and heartfelt way. Ah, “there’s the rub” as Shakepeare once wrote (as in “a meaningful and a heartfelt way” which we often reserve for ourselves). After all, our hearts are often turned towards what we want for ourselves, regardless of what it may cost someone else. However, there is no reason good enough to destroy or demean another person that isn’t at it’s very core incredibly selfish and self-serving (as in just plain evil). None. And what we do to others (good and bad) is extremely important to God, and nothing is hidden from Him (see Hebrews 4:13).

God is our judge, and we (even those of us who may not even believe in Him) will answer to God and God alone when our life is over. Not that this may have any meaning right now to those who don’t personally care or believe in God (it doesn’t). And it’s obvious on a daily basis that there are many people who believe that way (that nothing matters but what they want regardless of how they go about trying to get it or who they hurt doing it). Just watch the news for plenty of examples. However, our actions do have consequences, and while those consequences may not show up for a long time, they always show up eventually. There is no free ride, not even for the rich (and wannabe rich) or anyone else. Life comes with a price. Even Adolf Hitler realized that at the end of World War II when he committed suicide.

Being humble in the sight of God means living like God actually exists and knowing He is intimately involved in our lives. It means not treating God like He is some disinterested force in life who really doesn’t care what we do or don’t do, including the evil we do to others and even do to ourselves on a moment-by-moment basis (e.g., if sin wasn’t pleasurable in some way most of the time we wouldn’t do it), instead of acknowledging Him as the Creator of the entire universe. And how we treat others (as in all others) is a direct reflection of what we think about God. And for those of us who don’t really believe that God is intimately involved in our lives or is some kind of impersonal force who turns a blind eye to what we do and how we behave, the words of King David in Psalm 139 state just how intimately God is acquainted with each and every one of us:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

heart-RightSpiritIn looking at the context of Micah 6 which contains the verse stated at the beginning of this blog post, the context gives us the background to the question that verse 8 brings up–“What does it mean to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly?” (Micah 6:8). What was true for the people of Israel back then is still true for us today. GotQuestions?org answers that question with the following statement:

One of the most popular verses among both Jews and Christians promoting social justice is Micah 6:8. It reads, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Many desire to know more about what this inspiring verse teaches on the issues of justice, mercy, and humility.

Micah 6 involves an imaginary conversation between the Lord and Israel. In verses 1-5 the Lord introduces His case against the disobedient people of Israel. Verses 6-7 record Israel’s response as a series of questions beginning with, “With what shall I come to the Lord?” (Micah 6:6).

Israel’s focus is on their external religious rites, and their questions show a progression from lesser to greater. First, they ask if God would be satisfied with burnt offerings of year-old calves (Micah 6:6b), offerings required in the Law of Moses. Second, they ask if they should bring “thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil” (Micah 6:7a). This is the rhetoric of hyperbole; such an offering could only be made by someone extremely wealthy or by the larger community of God’s people. Third, they ask whether they should offer their firstborn sons as a sacrifice for God. Would that be enough to cover their sin? Would God be pleased with them then?

Verse 8 follows with God’s answer, rooted in the Law of Moses: “He has told you, O man, what is good.” In other words, Israel should already have known the answer to their questions. God then says that He did not need or desire their religious rites, sacrifices, or oblations. Instead, the Lord sought Israel’s justice, mercy, and humility.

The answer to Israel’s sin problem was not more numerous or more painful sacrifices. The answer was something much deeper than any religious observance: they needed a change of heart. Without the heart, Israel’s conformity to the Law was nothing more than hypocrisy. Other prophets tried to communicate a similar message (Isaiah 1:14Hosea 6:6Amos 5:21). Unfortunately, God’s people were slow to heed the message (Matthew 12:7).

“Act justly” would have been understood by Micah’s audience as living with a sense of right and wrong. In particular, the judicial courts had a responsibility to provide equity and protect the innocent. Injustice was a problem in Israel at that time (Micah 2:1-23:1-36:11).

“Love mercy” contains the Hebrew word “hesed,” which means “loyal love” or “loving-kindness.” Along with justice, Israel was to provide mercy. Both justice and mercy are foundational to God’s character (Psalm 89:14). God expected His people to show love to their fellow man and to be loyal in their love toward Him, just as He had been loyal to them (Micah 2:8-93:10-116:12).

“Walk humbly” is a description of the heart’s attitude toward God. God’s people depend on Him rather than their own abilities (Micah 2:3). Instead of taking pride in what we bring to God, we humbly recognize that no amount of personal sacrifice can replace a heart committed to justice and love. Israel’s rhetorical questions had a three-part progression, and verse 8 contains a similar progression. The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly).

The message of Micah is still pertinent today. Religious rites, no matter how extravagant, can never compensate for a lack of love (1 Corinthians 13:3). External compliance to rules is not as valuable in God’s eyes as a humble heart that simply does what is right. God’s people today will continue to desire justice, mercy, and humility before the Lord. (Quote source here.)

Too often in our society today we view humility as a sign of weakness. Actually it is a sign of strength that depends on God and not on ourselves. In an article titled, 10 Earmarks of a Humble Heart,” by Joyce Meyer and published in Charisma Magazine on April 20, 2015, she states the following “10 earmarks” of a humble heart:

1. The humble can always ask for help, and they don’t insist on everything being done their way.

2. They are quick to forgive others, difficult to offend, and content to wait on God for vindication when they have been wronged.

3. They are patient and don’t get frustrated with the weaknesses of others.

4. The humble person is a peacemaker. In fact, we need humility to maintain peace in our lives. Romans 12:16 says, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Do not pretend to be wiser than you are.”

Wow! Just imagine if we all decided to adopt just this one command from the Bible. It’s the way that leads to peace with ourselves and others.

5. A humble person knows when to be quiet. It’s certainly not wrong to talk, but a humble person is comfortable allowing others to have center stage and doesn’t feel the need to speak their mind in every situation.

6. A humble person sees their own weaknesses and can readily admit them. When we open up to others about ourselves, it can actually encourage and help them realize they’re not the only ones who deal with things.

7. A humble person happily serves other people, and they don’t do it to impress others. They do it unto God, knowing their reward will come from God.

8. A humble person is very thankful. This is one reason they’re usually so happy. When we live with an attitude of gratitude, it releases joy and power into our lives.

9. A humble person has a tender conscience and is quick to repent.

10. A leader who is truly humble treats everyone with respect. How a leader treats people is the quickest way to find out their level of humility.

First Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of humility. In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing.” I often pray things like: “Lord, I can do absolutely nothing without You today. Please help me—I need Your grace in every situation.” (Quote source here.)

Those “10 earmarks” are a good place to start in our search in obtaining and sustaining a humble heart with God and others, and in acquiring a humble heart to help us to “do justice” and “love mercy” as stated in Micah 6:8. So remember to. . . .

Do justice . . . 

Love mercy . . .

And walk humbly with God . . . .

YouTube Video: “For the Sake of the Call” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

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Understanding Grace

The bedrock of our salvation as Christians is found in God’s grace given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. One of the classic passages of Scripture on the subject of grace is given by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:1-10 in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The two verses in this passage that many Christians are familiar with are highlighted in red (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace “is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Unfortunately, being human, we have a big tendency to fall back on our “works” (as in what we do) as “proof” of our salvation. However, when it comes to grace, it is not about anything that we do. It is about what God has done for us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. What we do we do by faith (James 2:14-26). [For more information on faith, see Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine,” “Faith, The Evidence of Things Not Seen,” Taking Action,” and also an article on GotQuestions?org titled,Why is faith without works dead?”]

On the subject of God’s grace, the following information is provided by GotQuestions?org at this link:

Grace is a constant theme in the Bible, and it culminates in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus (John 1:17). The word translated “grace” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “charis,” which means “favor, blessing, or kindness.” We can all extend grace to others; but when the word “grace” is used in connection with God, it takes on a more powerful meaning. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves.” The only way any of us can enter into a relationship with God is because of His grace toward us. Grace began in the Garden of Eden when God killed an animal to cover the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). He could have killed the first humans right there for their disobedience. But rather than destroy them, He chose to make a way for them to be right with Him. That pattern of grace continued throughout the Old Testament when God instituted blood sacrifices as a means to atone for sinful men. It was not the blood of those sacrifices that cleansed sinners; it was the grace of God that forgave those who trusted in Him (Hebrews 10:4Genesis 15:6).

The apostle Paul began many of his letters with the phrase, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7Ephesians 1:11 Corinthians 1:3). God is the instigator of grace, and it is from Him that all other grace flows. Grace can be easily remembered by this simple acrostic: God’s Riches AChrist’s Expense.

God shows both mercy and grace, but they are not the same. Mercy withholds a punishment we deserve; grace gives a blessing we don’t deserve. Consider this illustration: you were stopped in your old clunker for going 60 mph in a school zone. The ticket is high, and you can’t pay it. You appear before the judge with nothing to say for yourself. He hears your case and then, to your surprise, he cancels your fine. That is mercy. But the judge doesn’t stop there. He walks you outside and hands you the keys to a new car. That is grace.

In mercy, God chose to cancel our sin debt by sacrificing His perfect Son in our place (Titus 3:52 Corinthians 5:21). But He goes even further than mercy and extends grace to His enemies (Romans 5:10). He offers us forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12Ephesians 1:7), reconciliation (Colossians 1:19-20), abundant life (John 10:10), eternal treasure (Luke 12:33), His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and a place in heaven with Him some day (John 3:16-18) when we accept His offer and place our faith in His sacrifice.

Grace is God giving the greatest treasure to the least deserving—which is every one of us. (Quote source here.)

There is much out there in our culture today that tries to convince us that because of God’s grace which is freely given to us, that sin isn’t really an issue anymore. There is no effort in that line of thinking to move forward in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is little or no talk of “transformation” (as in being “transformed by the renewing of our minds” –see Romans 12), or of “persevering” in our faith (see James 1-2). It is as if we have been given approval by those teachers (see 2 Peter 2, and Jude 1) who are endorsing this philosophy (for lack of a better word) that we can remain just as we were before we believed in Jesus Christ without any type of transformation that is promised to us through the power of the Holy Spirit (as we can’t do it on our own)–and that is anything but the truth. In fact, Paul gives us a lot of information on how the grace of God is not given to us as a license to continue in sin in Romans 6-8. Let’s look at Romans 6:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The wages of sin is still death, and that hasn’t changed just because we live in a culture with a zillion excesses available to us on a 24/7 basis. We’ve been inundated with teachers who say that we can use God’s grace as a license to continue living however we want or live under the illusion that if we just can’t stop doing it (whatever the “it” happens to be) that it’s okay since God’s grace covers it all. Sin hasn’t changed to be a convenient excuse for us who claim to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord to keep on doing what we know isn’t right. And if sin rules, Jesus is not Lord of our lives.

The teachers who teach that grace as a license to keep on doing whatever we want to do and that “grace covers it all” are counting on the fact that we don’t do our own homework, and that means keeping in closing communication through prayer with our Savior, and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us every moment of every day. And they count on us not taking the time to read the Bible and pray on a daily basis and to depend on listening to them for our guidance (and monetary support that usually goes along with it).

Back to BasicsThe outflow of this has been that the grace given to us by God through Jesus Christ is not often extended to others that we come into contact with, especially those others we either don’t know or don’t particularly like for whatever reason (often from a source of gossip). Whenever we follow anyone who keeps us focused on ourselves and what’s okay for us to do or what we want or “fill in the blank” without looking to Jesus as the source for everything in our lives, we extend that lack of grace to others around us and treat them accordingly. And the Pharisees were very good at that, too–having a righteousness of their own and looking down on others. And we are often good at pointing out the sin in others while totally ignoring our own.

Another outcome of this “sin doesn’t matter anymore” mentality among Christians especially as it has proliferated over the past several decades is that we are losing a generation of young people who just don’t get what genuine Christianity is all about because it hasn’t often been modeled to them by their own parents or religious leaders in their own lives. And there in much in this world of ours that will fill that vacuum. In an article titled, The Church’s Lost Generation,” on Beliefnet.com, the author, Ron Dreher, made the following comments:

In March, I traveled around the country to give speeches at three Christian colleges. At each stop, I spent some time talking to professors, asking them what they’re seeing in their classrooms. And at each stop, the anguished answer was the same:

These kids know almost nothing about their faith.

It’s not that they are bad kids; it’s that the basics of Christianity are unknown to them. Mind you, these are college students who were raised in Christian homes, and who chose to attend Christian colleges. And yet, their teachers are discovering that when it comes to the Christian faith, most of them are blank slates.

Let me repeat: these are Christian students, in Christian colleges. In California, a Baptist theologian who teaches at an Evangelical college told me the ignorance of his students astonishes him. “It’s all Moralistic Therapeutic Deism with them,” he said. “Maybe you’ve heard of that?”

Indeed I have. MTD is the name that the top sociologist Christian Smith gave nearly a decade ago to what he calls the “de facto dominant religion among contemporary teenagers in the United States.” Simply put, it’s a pseudo-religion that says faith is about nothing more than “feeling good, happy, secure, and at peace” . . . .

I came home from these college visits discouraged, but also challenged to put my own complacency behind. My children are still young. We attend church regularly, and have a pastor who teaches clearly and strongly. But he can’t carry the weight alone. Mom and Dad are the primary religious educators in the family. Now, each night, I sit down with my kids and teach them from a catechism.

God willing, my children will grow up as committed Christians, but if they walk away from Christianity, unlike most of their generation, at least they will know what it is they’re leaving behind.

The following statement is taken from an article titled, American Christianity: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?” (2014), on Patheos.com, by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, describing Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and how it has embedded itself into American Christianity:

Some time ago I read a blog post identifying the degradation of American Christianity into what was termed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It’s given me much pause for thought and the analysis seems to me to be spot on. . . .

Moralistic in replacing vital sacramental, evangelizing Christianity with a set of rules and regulations. Different sets of rules and regulations exist for different sub sets. For a smart suburban congregation the rules might be those of respectability and good manners. For a liberal, socially aware or hipster group the rules might be all about ecology, the right attitude on human rights issues and the right political stance. For a conservative Christian group the rules would be focussed on sexual morality, modesty and the right religious devotions. While none of the rules and regulations are necessarily wrong, the error is in mistaking the rules and regulations for real religion.

The “therapeutic” part of the definition refers to replacing religion with therapy. As in the “moralistic” part of the definition the “therapy” takes many different forms, but at the heart of the problem is the need for the religion to help me in some way. For a smart up-to-date community church it might be all about recovery from addiction, advice on money matters or help with parenting skills. For a classic, suburban church it might be the therapy of feeling good about oneself, one’s “blessings” i.e. wealth, and using church to get the kids into good private education, the right college and a “good” job.

Another dimension to the therapeutic aspect is how we want our religion to make us feel good. Whether it is warm, fuzzy charismatic worship or high church aestheticism with ornate ritualism or whether it is a feel good sermon and sentimental music, we want our religion to be like our morning drink: warm, comfortable and sweet. Now, there is nothing wrong at all in receiving a good feeling from religion, but just as the rules and regulations are not the religion, so we must remember that the good feelings should not replace the religion. The religion is our worship and service to God.  The regulations are the rule book for the game. The good feelings are the enjoyment we get from religion, but it is not the religion itself.

Deism is the belief that God is “out there” and not really involved in our lives on a day to day basis. We believe in this distant God, but we do not have a regular transaction with Him. Because he is disconnected our religion reverts to being a system of rules, regulations, therapy and feeling good. (Quote source here.)

Sound familiar? Unfortunately . . . way too familiar. That should give us some idea of what has been invading our church cultures over the past several decades. And it has often replaced biblical literacy. I have often been shocked at the biblical illiteracy of my own generation (the Baby Boomers), so I can only imagine how much worse it is with their children and now their children’s children. It doesn’t take very long at all anymore to see how shallow the younger generation can be towards Christianity in general and specifically regarding faith issues. Faith in what or who? The material world and lifestyles of their parents have blinded them to the reality of a real, living faith, and has overshadowed what genuine Christianity and faith in Jesus Christ is all about. It would be interesting to take a survey of young people today to see just exactly who they think Jesus Christ is as I find that mostly it appears that He doesn’t mean much if anything to those I have talked with lately. They have found other things in this world that hold their fascination and given them a measure of perceived power, and have been left believing in a weak, insipid version of Jesus Christ that is about as far removed from the truth as one can get, if they believe in Him at all.

Whenever the focus is on us and what we want in this life and not on God and Jesus Christ, we become myopic. We want what we want and we usually want it as soon as possible, too. And we don’t stop to count the cost of much of anything anymore as we are too busy trying to accumulate more of whatever it is we think we want or need. And don’t think our children haven’t noticed. This mentality has been passed down to the younger generations in our midst today which is why they so often don’t really have a clue who Jesus Christ really is, as I’m not sure their parents really know. I worked at a Christian college for over four years and I saw this focus on self not only in the attitudes of some of the students but in the lifestyles of some of the staff (generally speaking as individuals and their own personal commitments to Jesus Christ vary). We have so “Americanized” our version of Christianity that it is losing its meaning to us and has now been passed down to the younger generations. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Until we learn to get the focus off of ourselves, nothing is going to change. We can’t very well extend grace to others if we really don’t understand what it means in our own lives. And it is not a license to do anything we want, nor is it a set of rules we have to live up to or forced on others who don’t seem to measure up to what we think they should measure up to, either (as in the description of MTD above–unwritten but embedded rules in many of our church cultures today). And what have we taught the younger generation? We’ve taught them how to say all the right words and how to look and act oh so very Christian when they need to, but there is absolutely no depth because they have no proof of it’s reality other then what they get from others, and they have no actual living faith in Jesus Christ. Again, I’m speaking in general terms as, fortunately, we haven’t lost the entire younger generation, but there are a lot out there who have learned how to play the game and play it well (and that’s exactly how they see it–as a game), and that’s a travesty of major proportions.

We need to get back to the basics of genuine Christianity if we even recognize the basics anymore, and the only place to do that is in the Bible, and praying for an understanding that only God can give us to get back on the right track. Repentance is a good place to start, too . . . .

In fact, it’s the only place to start . . .

How about starting today? . . . .

YouTube Video: “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” sung by Chris Tomlin:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Pressing On

PrintLast evening I started writing a blog post but it wasn’t coming together so I gave up on it a bit after midnight. Usually, I write my blog posts over several hours in one sitting. Actually, they write themselves as I never know what the topic is going to be or even the direction the post is going to take as I am writing it. In other words, I am “compelled” to write them. I suppose some writers might attribute it to a “muse” of sorts. I call it an unction of sorts.

It is now 3:30 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. Well, I almost fell asleep, but this feeling kept gnawing at me so I finally got out of bed and turned on the laptop. So here I am, in the middle of the night, writing again. Fortunately, most of the time it is in the morning or early afternoon when I feel compelled to write. Rarely is it in the middle of the night, like now. However, unemployment does have a couple of “up” sides and writing at any time during the day or night is one of them. For example, I don’t have to wonder how I will get through the next day at work if I write in the middle of the night. In fact, if I was working it is most likely that I never would have started this blog in the first place five years ago. However, on to the topic at hand . . . .

In Chapter 3 of Philippians, the Apostle Paul brings up a very important item–that he puts “no confidence in the flesh” (verse 3) even though he had many reasons for boasting about his accomplishments until he met Jesus Christ. Here is what he had to say in Philippians 3:

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal,but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Paul gives us his credentials “in the flesh”–circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” However, he tosses it all out the window when he goes on to state, But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. . . .”

Let’s think about what he is really saying here as it has a very real application to our own lives. How often do we boast about our own accomplishments? That somehow we have managed to accomplish what we’ve done on our own and we’d like to receive some accolades for our efforts. We might get promoted up the line to a very high level position with a big salary to go with it. We purchase a house in a good neighborhood to keep up with the Joneses and impress others. We climb the social ladder and accept the praise as we go higher. Appearances matter to us. So does being admired by others. And if anything happens to damage that image we’ve built, whether it is something we did or something done to us by someone else, we scramble to still try and look good. We don’t want people talking about us behind our backs. And we certainly don’t want to lose our public image that we have worked so hard to attain. If our reputation went down in flames, we’d feel like we literally died. What others think about us is of primary importance to us, as well as our socio-economic status in society.

Read Paul’s words again after he talked about his own accomplishments. What was it that he said? He said:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. . . (verses 7 & 8).

Think about that for a moment. Would we consider losing everything we have and what we worked so hard for for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord? Paul had an excellent reputation with all the honors associated with it as a Pharisee and he lost it all once he met Jesus Christ. And he spent 30 plus years preaching Christ and being persecuted by the very people he was once a part of, in fact, a very big part of, all because of knowing Jesus Christ. Not only that, but he went on to say the following in verses 8-12:

I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

surrenderDo we really understand what it means to follow Jesus Christ? It means giving up our pride and our ownership in anything that we do or that we have as it all comes from Him in the first place. It is not us that needs to be honored but Jesus Christ. But do we really understand what that means? So often we have it totally turned around. We climb the social and career ladder and accept all the accolades that go along with it and may even thank God for all of it, but we do like to take the glory for it, and at least to be acknowledged in the public eye for being “successful.” We’ve learned to toot our own horn as if we accomplished it all on our own and we want everyone to notice. And, of course, we want to be admired by others, too. So you ask, “What’s so wrong with that?”

First off, understand that it’s not that the things Paul had learned in the past didn’t directly impact what he did in the future after he met Jesus Christ. In fact, it was his very background as a Pharisee that gave him the education he needed to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Israelites after he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, and eventually to the Gentiles, too. Without that knowledge he could not have written the New Testament books that he wrote. But he didn’t boast about his knowledge or his background or hold it over anyone as a way to make them appreciate him or follow him. No, he always pointed to Jesus Christ and never to himself. He knew he was not the focal point, but that Christ was the One to receive the glory. And he did lose everything he had to pursue the mission Jesus Christ had for him. And he did it gladly.

Let’s pick up from verse 12 through verse 14. Paul continued by saying:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Jesus Christ can’t be Lord of our lives if we are constantly in control and seeking accolades for ourselves or looking out for our own welfare all the time. If we insist that our own reputation is more important to us than that of Jesus Christ, we are not serving Him. We are serving ourselves and what we want. We have to lose our own lives in order to gain what Jesus would have us to do with the rest of our lives. And if we don’t get that, we don’t really understand what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. It’s about transformation (see Romans 12:1-2) and it’s about being “conformed to the image of God’s Son” (see Romans 8:29-30).

In March 2015, I published a post on an article written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) and available online titled, Five Vows for Spiritual Power.” The article is available at this link and it provides full explanations for each of the five vows listed below. For this post I’m just going to list them:

  1. Deal thoroughly with sin.
  2. Never own anything. (This does not mean that you can’t actually own anything, but rather it means the need to, as Tozer stated, “get delivered from this sense of possessing them.”)
  3. Never defend yourself.
  4. Never pass anything on about anybody else that will hurt him or her.
  5. Never accept any glory.

Humility is not our strong suit in America, in or out of the church. We like taking the credit when we think credit is due, but as a Christian that is a very dangerous position to be in. Psalm 115:1 states, Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” 

Once Paul met Jesus Christ, nothing was ever the same again. In fact, Paul gladly counted it all as loss “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Do we have that kind of passion when it comes to knowing Jesus Christ? If not, who do we really belong to and what do we really live for? This world? Or the next world where eternity stretches out forever.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous posts that we have a somewhat warped idea of what success is supposed to look like for a Christian living in America. Far too often, it looks just like our culture’s idea of success. Paul’s life before he was converted to Christ looked just like what we might describe that a Christian’s life is supposed to look like in our culture. And nothing could be further from the truth. If we will allow Him to, God determines what success looks like for each and every one of us, and it’s not according to our culture. He did that for all the people in the Bible, too, who yielded to Him and not to themselves. And many of them wouldn’t fit very well in a lot of our churches today. History records that Paul was beheaded at the end of his life (although it is not mentioned in the Bible). However, at that point his real, eternal life had only just begun. So which is more important to us?

The “here and now?” (See James 4:13-16) . . . 

Or “forever?” . . .

The choice is ours. . . .

YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul,” by TobyMac (with Kirk Franklin & Mandisa):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Independence Day 2015

Independence Day of the United States, also referred to as Fourth of July or July Fourth in the U.S., is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress declaring that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire. Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the National Day of the United States.” (Quote source here.)

Today we are celebrating the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence that declared the original thirteen American colonies as a brand new nation–the United States of America. And a whole lot has transpired since that time: a Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, and many conflicts in between and all around the globe. Besides noting the wars, there are also many great contributions that have come from the United States over past two plus centuries of its existence, to include becoming a world superpower after World War II. “To be a superpower, a nation needs to have a strong economy, an overpowering military, immense international political power, and a strong national ideology” (quote source here), and we certainly had all of that after WWII.

While I must admit that I have personally never been a history buff (well, I did take a shining to art history), I just ran across an interesting article about the U.S. Constitution (ratified in 1787) that you might find interesting titled, Perspectives on the Constitution: A Republic, If You Can Keep It,” (1998), by Richard R. Beeman, Ph.D. In the article, Dr. Beeman states:

“. . . as fragile as America’s federal edifice was at the time of the founding, there was much in the culture and environment that contributed to a national consensus and cohesion: a common language; a solid belief in the principles of English common law and constitutionalism; a widespread commitment (albeit in diverse forms) to the Protestant religion; a shared revolutionary experience; and, perhaps most important, an economic environment which promised most free, white Americans if not great wealth, at least an independent sufficiency.

“The American statesmen who succeeded those of the founding generation served their country with a self-conscious sense that the challenges of maintaining a democratic union were every bit as great after 1787 as they were before. Some aspects of their nation-building program–their continuing toleration of slavery and genocidal policies toward American Indians–are fit objects of national shame, not honor. But statesmen of succeeding generations–Lincoln foremost among them–would continue the quest for a ‘more perfect union.’

“Such has been our success in building a powerful and cohesive democratic nation-state in post-Civil War America that most Americans today assume that principles of democracy and national harmony somehow naturally go hand-in-hand. But as we look around the rest of the world in the post-Soviet era, we find ample evidence that democratic revolutions do not inevitably lead to national harmony or universal justice. We see that the expression of the ‘popular will’ can create a cacophony of discordant voices, leaving many baffled about the true meaning of majority rule. In far too many places around the world today, the expression of the “popular will” is nothing more than the unleashing of primordial forces of tribal and religious identity which further confound the goal of building stable and consensual governments. . . .

“The challenges to national unity under our Constitution are, if anything, far greater than those confronting the infant nation in 1787. Although the new nation was a pluralistic one by the standards of the 18th century, the face of America in 1998 [when this article was written] looks very different from the original: we are no longer a people united by a common language, religion or culture; and while our overall level of material prosperity is staggering by the standards of any age, the widening gulf between rich and poor is perhaps the most serious threat to a common definition of the ‘pursuit of happiness’. . . .

“If there is a lesson in all of this it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.” (Quote source here.)

In 2015 the face of America looks a lot different now then it did when this article was written 17 years ago in 1998. As Dr. Beeman noted in the last paragraph above, our Constitution “requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens” . . . and that “democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.”

In looking back over the past several decades, unfortunately–and all too often–“We the People” have neglected our own duty and left it in the hands of elected officials who often look out for themselves (not all, of course, but enough) and let them run the show. It’s not that there hasn’t been some very vocal private citizens who have marched on, but the general population has been busy securing their own personal futures rather then focusing on the state of the nation as a whole. And now we as a nation are not what we once were.

Fourth_of_July_fireworks_behind_the_Washington_Monument,_1986

Fireworks behind the Washington Monument ,1986

Personally, I’m not sure how we can fix it or if it can even be fixed at this point in time. On this 4th of July, 2015, I want to reflect on another area we have let slide into the background while often assuming all is well (and I’m writing now to the Christians among us). Americans are known for their fierce independence and love of freedom, such as freedom of speech, but over the past several decades we have been allowing our own “security” issues, such as financial security, interfere in a big way in the life of this nation and often without even realizing it. Greed has a way of chipping away at both freedom, independence, and genuine love for others. And it often makes us selfish and myopic–often “looking out for #1” at the expense of others, and especially God.

I just read a couple of very short devotions for July 3rd and July 4th written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), in a devotional book titled, My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day,” (2013), compiled and edited by James L. Snyder, that I would like to share. I must admit that the first one hit me a bit hard as I was out and about yesterday going to several stores that were very crowded due to it being a national holiday, and a lot of working people were off work and shopping. My own reaction at times–fortunately not often (I’m not a fan of crowds)–was that of what I read in the first devotion below for July 3rd. And the devotion for July 4th is a continuation along that same line of thinking. Each devotion starts off with a verse.

July 3

“When they hurled their insults at him [Jesus Christ],
he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.
Instead, he entrusted himself to Him [God] who judges justly.”
~1 Peter 2:23

I am sick in my own heart; sick about myself, about my friends and about the preachers in the ministry today. How utterly self-centered we have become, and yet we talk loudly about glorifying God, and boastfully say, “This is the glory of God.”

How do you know that you are self-centered?

This is very simple. If anybody crosses you, your hackles go up immediately because you are self-centered and self-indulgent. You are very quick to defend yourself against all so-called enemies. Just let anybody cross you, and they will know it immediately.

Christ was not like that. He gave Himself and poured Himself out without one bit of selfishness. He was reviled against but reviled not against His enemies.

Any Christian’s heart that is self-indulgent and self-centered cannot be warmed up. The Christian who is defending himself is one who will never experience a depth of fellowship and communion with God.

Christ loved us; He is our Shepherd. He is our Advocate above, pleading our cause. We are His brethren and He is our God. But the changes of fellowship and sweetness in the saints while they walk on earth are more than just technical changes.

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July 4

For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:
“The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
~Romans 15:3

It is amazing to me how much people allow doctors to push them around. Whatever the doctor says is gospel. Some people’s lives would drastically change if they would obey God as strictly as they obey their doctors. The doctor only influences your health; God influences all your eternity.

Many people have put their spiritual life on a budget and will not spend anything for God unless they can justify it in the columns of a “spreadsheet.” What a cheap carnal way of living, and yet many people do so.

The love of the Lord Jesus Christ was a great, passionate outpouring, causing Him to give Himself completely. He pleased not Himself.

What is wrong with the majority of Christians today is that we are self-pleasers. We live for ourselves. Even though we are saints; even though we are born again and have our marked-up New Testament, the love we have is a calculating and narrow love. It is a love that does not give itself, so how can He give Himself and fellowship with us? Our absolute surrender to Jesus Christ paves the way for Him to pour out His love on us and for us to fellowship with Him.

Over these past six plus years of unemployment I have found myself at times trying to defend myself against what happened to me at that job in Houston (as a note their stock on NASDAQ has been reduced to 7¢ a share). It has taken a very long time to get over it as it has left me unemployment for over six years now and add to it that I’ve been living in hotels for over nine months now that I can’t afford which I have explained in a previous blog post. Sometimes I think that if I just yell loud enough something will change and I’ll finally get to see some justice in my situation. It has been a very long haul, to say the least. And I have to be honest in that I have been shocked over these years to find out how unkind people (and yes, the Christians among us, too) can be when they want to be. And I’ve been shocked at the reaction by the total lack of genuine help I have found when I have sought help from the Christian community. And, I have to admit that there have been times I wanted to walk away from them when their lack of giving a crap was so apparent.

I have often said that I don’t hate anyone, and I really don’t–not even those guys who started this back when I lost that job in Houston. But I have been shocked by the lack of any genuine help over these years when I have sought it out–help in finding a job and now help with just finding a more affordable and far less expensive place to live. Talk is cheap and that’s what I’ve found most people give in abundance . . . cheap talk that goes nowhere, and very little (usually none) action and even less caring. Where is that “Christian Community” I thought would be there when I needed it to be there?

Serve God or Money? We can't do both. Matthew 6:24

Serve God or Money? We can’t do both. Matthew 6:24

This, of course, is not a condemnation of the entire Christian Community. I realize there are circumstances that I’ve been learning about over these years that are far beyond my control and directly stem from my losing that job in Houston, and that often control others who don’t personally know me. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I became aware of that fact after I interviewed for an Associate Registrar position at a “for-profit” college in Largo, Florida, back in September 2011. In fact, it came up in the conversation I had with the fellow who interviewed me for that position.

While I don’t wish to go any farther into it at this point until more is revealed to me, I do want to say that as a Christian, I realize that no one is perfect, and I am certainly not perfect, nor have I been perfect over these past six plus years. But if we are Christians (as in Community and in Christ) we should not be throwing rocks at each other or making assumptions that we have no right to make or believing gossip for who knows what motives lie behind the gossip.

And I’m here to say I’m done trying to defend myself . . . .

As has been noted by many famous people in our society over the past several decades (in fact, it was a big topic of conversation when I was in graduate school at Iowa State University in 1990-91), civility is pretty much dead, and it appears to be that way in many churches, too, when it comes to people who don’t know or like others yet judge them harshly because of information they received from whatever sources who have their own personal motives and agendas and who are spreading that gossip. The assumptions we make about others we don’t know are often so erroneous that if the truth was known it would be shocking.

With that in mind, and to the Christians in my reading audience, I would like to make the following suggestion. I have no idea how to fix the problems we have in our nation today, and I’m not sure some of them are even fixable at this point in time, but there is one thing we can fix, and we can start fixing it right now but we have to choose to do so.

We need to stop being so “independent” by always looking out for ourselves and what’s in it for us in this life and start being “dependent” on the God we say we believe in and are dependent on yet there isn’t much in our lives that proves that out. We need to stop lying and being deceitful (in even the tiniest of ways) just to fill our own pocketbooks and start reading what Jesus had to say about how we are to live, day by day, hour by hour, and stop with all the excuse-making or listening to the many “Pied Pipers” peddling their wares. If you want to know the truth, read it for yourself. The Bible is still the #1 Best Seller in the World. So get the information first hand. And don’t assume anything just because someone else said it. Let this day be our “Dependence Day” –depending on God instead of ourselves.

And if we can’t do that, there isn’t much hope for the nation or for us. Selfish people only end up destroying themselves in the end. And it doesn’t matter how young or how old one is or where they fit in the social-economic scale in society. Greed kills everybody it touches . . . .

One Nation Under God?

In God We Trust?

Prove it . . .

YouTube Video: “Made in America” by Toby Keith:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Love Me Like A Love Song

Fireworks of different colors over a night sky - Extra large size

It’s not often that I write a blog post “just for fun.” However, this might be one of those blog posts. Maybe . . . . If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that last fall I spent three months living in hotels in Houston while trying to see if I could find an affordable place to live on my social security income. Unfortunately, and after much effort, it didn’t materialize, and I ended up returning to Orlando at the beginning of January where I have since still not been able to find an affordable place to live. I guess some things just don’t change very easily. . . .

One day back at the end of October while I was driving around Houston, I ran into a radio station, 100.3 FMThe Bull,” which plays country music. Now, first off, I need to make it clear that I’ve been a “rock ‘n roller” since I was old enough to shake my booty, and I’ve never been a big fan of country music but then again I never really listened to it, either. However, I made the discovery that country music is a lot different now then I remembered it being years ago, and it has a lot more feel of “rock” to it now (as in “country rock”). And a song came on that I just really liked. In fact, I like it so much I wrote a blog post I titled after the song which was written by Luke Bryan and Eric Church and sung by Jason Aldean titled, The Only Way I Know.” And I discovered just how much I liked the new country music (with a rock twist, of course).

Fast forward nine months later and here we are, in America, about to celebrate the 4th of July in three more days. I’m still living in a hotel and still looking for more affordable housing–maybe it’s time to try Houston again after being back in Orlando six months now with no luck, but then again I’m in no hurry to return to Houston, either, and hotels are everywhere so maybe someplace new is in order. Anyway, there are a couple of new country songs that talk about a particular topic from two different perspectives, and that topic is love. . . .

The title of this blog post comes from a combination of the titles from two songs that are very popular on the country music scene right now. The two songs come from the two different gender perspectives (one female, one male). The first song, which comes from a woman’s perspective, is titled, “Love Me Like You Mean It,” sung by Kelsea Ballerini:

*

And the second song, which comes from a man’s perspective, is titled, “Baby Be My Love Song,” sung by Easton Corbin:

*

Now, first off, I’ve never been into one night stands and free-wheeling sex even though I’m a product of the hippie generation which started the sexual revolution in a big way back in the late 60’s. And I realize (and almost didn’t post it) that the second song from the male perspective definitely implies it right off the bat. The female version in the first song has it right from most women’s perspective, but obviously not the perspective of all women as sex has been used by certain women since the beginning of time to get what they want or, well, whatever. . . .

And second, I’m a Christian. Now I know that term has all kinds of meaning nowadays and some say that Christians can do whatever they want. That’s not true and it never has been, either, but there are folks out there who peddle their wares in order to make a decent living off of it (in fact, a lot of money can be made from it), and Pied Pipers are everywhere. However, when I have any questions, I open the Bible. That’s our instruction manual.

That is not to say that our culture hasn’t been a powerful force in shaping even the Christians among us. It has, and it’s done a good job at watering down what the Bible has to say about a lot of stuff, and one of those really big areas is sex. I remember years ago hearing a saying that goes like this:

“Women give sex to get love and men give love to get sex” (you can Google it if you want more information). And it is a fairly accurate statement on the surface, but don’t look too far beneath it.

love isWhile I may be old now (63, which to a 20-year-old and maybe even some 30-year-olds makes me pretty much look like ancient history), nothing much has changed since I was 20. Actually, I started getting hit on by men when I was 13 (I developed early with an attribute that stood out). I was shy and I ignored their advances, but by the time I hit my teens the hippies were making themselves known and the sexual revolution was well underway by the time I was in high school. Overnight, it seemed, sex had become a free-for-all. To not do it was so very uncool . . . . and, of course, the birth control pill had been developed and marketed to American women in the early 60’s. Of course, nobody brought up the subject of sexually transmitted diseases, which proliferate to this day.

The pressure on young women to have sex when I was young was tremendous. And respect went down the proverbial toilet. I watched as my female friends went down that road and usually got burned but the biggest reason I didn’t partake in all the “activity” was because I was a Christian, and I truly believed sex was for marriage, period. It’s not that I didn’t make mistakes (the pressure was huge) as I was engaged twice, nor that I wasn’t curious (I was), but it was a bedrock issue with me that, in my own case, sex is for marriage. Others could do what they wanted, but that didn’t mean I was going to join them.

Since that time as the decades have passed it appears to have only gotten worse. Sex doesn’t mean much of anything to anyone anymore and they do whatever they want. Civility in our society has waned, big time, and I’m not sure that young people today are raised with any kind of morals that aren’t undone by society-at-large once they are out from under parental control. And, I’m not sure some parents even teach any kind of morality (when it comes to sex) anymore. I remember when I was in my 20’s that a woman I knew who had a very young daughter said to me that as soon as her daughter was old enough she was going to take her to the doctor and get her on birth control pills (she did, too, so what did that teach her daughter about sex?). That’s been almost 40 years ago now and I can’t imagine how much farther down that road society has gone since then. Are sexual morals even taught anymore? If they are they appear to be quickly undone by our culture.

While I’ve been single and celibate for most of my life (both by choice), I’ve been shocked at how readily women I’ve known over the years will give into having sex with men just to have a man in their lives. Not all, mind you, but it has been (and continues to be) very prevalent. During the years I was dating (I stopped dating at 52 because I got tired of the hassle) as I look back on the men I dated, society has changed it into a battle ground that I never wanted to fight on. Sex is not something that is bartered for dinner, and it just got old beyond words. So I stopped dating. And it has nothing to do with my interest in sex. It has to due with whatever happened to respect? Whatever happened with saying no and having it be okay to say no? What has happened to the moral fiber of our society? When sex is reduced to a mere act for release and nobody really cares how they get it, that speak volumes about the society in which it has been allowed to degenerate to that level on a wide scale and become perfectly acceptable, too.

Sex does not equal love. . . . Women giving sex for love aren’t getting love. And men giving love for sex aren’t giving love. Let’s at least call it what it really is. Do we really want to know what genuine love looks like? It looks like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. . . . (I Corinthians 13:4-8).

That’s genuine love. And it comes with respect for others, too. And what the world needs now is a whole lot more love. . . .

There’s a chorus in the 1974 song, Mighty Love,” sung by the Spinners (see YouTube Video below) that goes like this:

Hey, hey (Mighty love)
I can feel the world gettin’ brighter
Brighter with your lovin’
(Mighty love) You see,
With a mighty love you can
Sometimes turn the world around
(Mighty love) From all your love
You can, you can turn the world around
Sometimes, yes, you can . . . .

Mighty love . .  . While sex may be a powerful urge, nothing beats out love. And in the end, love is all that matters. As 1 Corinthians 13:13 states:

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

And the greatest love ever known to humankind comes from Jesus Christ. As John 3:16 states:

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.

And that’s a Mighty Love . . .

Yes it is . . .

Yes it is . . . .

YouTube Video: “Mighty Love” (1974) sung by the Spinners:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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