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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Reading the Daily Headlines

Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over all the cattle, over all the earth…”

A cursory reading of today’s USA Today website revealed the following news headlines:

United States military veterans were denied immediate medical attention in an Arizona veteran’s hospital, resulting in at least seven known deaths.

Military insurgents in Iraq continue their violence against the government, increasing the likelihood of a full civil war.

Teen is held in custody following the death of his own grandmother…in a nudist community.

At least 10 people were shot and two killed in Miami.

A bitter political division continues in Washington, DC.

These daily headlines are typical of what one might read on any particular day. The question is, Why? Why is the condition of our world so deplorable? Why all the problems and negativity?

According to Donald MacKay, in his book Human Science and Human Dignity, man was created for so much more:

“In these familiar phrases [the verse mentioned above] the Book of Genesis spells out the mysterious dignity of what it means to be human. Encamped in a complex and dangerous world whose every feature, like himself, owes its being to the say-so of his Creator, man is singled out as one who has an explicit task. He is to ‘have dominion’. He alone, it would seem, among his fellow creatures. will be held accountable for the management-or mismanagement- of the resources at his disposal. For the biblical writers the world is not merely something to be enjoyed or admired-though it is both-but something to be explored and developed by man in a spirit of thankful and responsible stewardship, for the benefit of his fellows and the glory of God. With all limitations, he has enough likeness to his Creator to be called upon to accept and pursue his Creator’s priorities. This-no less-is his destiny and dignity.”

MacKay argued that man is responsible to manage this world (have dominion) and will be held accountable to God for the results. The question to be asked then is “How is man doing?”

Based upon the evidence of daily news headlines, not very well. While mankind has made enormous advances in science (which is the focus of MacKay’s book), technology and medicine, we have not fared so well in our relationship to one another and to our God. For example, man cannot seem to exist without the presence of war. American historian and philosopher Will Durant stated “Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty and dies with chaos.” He and his wife Ariel concluded that in 5000 years of human history, there have been less than 100 years in which a war did not happen (The Story of Civilization). Another writer, Conway Henderson noted that since 3500 B.C, there have been 14,500 wars, costing 3.5 billion lives. As Durant once said, we do not seem to learn from our mistakes:” History is a good teacher with very few pupils.”

The source of man’s problems, according to the Bible, is the sin which is entrenched in his nature: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? [The parts which form our sinful human nature.] You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. [God] You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you might spend it own your own pleasures.” (James 4:1-3)

Selfishness and rebellion against the Creator are the things which form the daily news headlines. We are failing in our management of planet Earth because we refuse to give God the glory which He deserves. In turn, we hurt other people. In spite of our incredible stewardship in some areas, we are miserably failing overall. The only solution is to pursue, as MacKay argued, the priorities of our God. This, he said, is our “destiny” and our “dignity.”

We have dominion over the earth and one day we will be held accountable for it. The Bible declares it this way: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Daily Verse & Prayer

 

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Aside

The uproar surrounding the Washington “Redskins” football team is baffling to me. Admittedly, I am not a descendant of the tribes of people who occupied this land prior to the arrival of Europeans, so I cannot sympathize with those who are being “disparaged” by the use of that term “redskin”. Please notice that I did not use the term “Indians”, so as not to confuse them with people who migrated here from India, nor did I refer to them as “native Americans”, since “America” did not exist until 1776, and I myself happen to be a “native American.”

Which brings me to the point. Where did the “speech police” come from and how long have they been here?

Nowadays, it seems that offending others with our speech is an occupational hazard for those of us who make a living through communication. Politicians, lawyers, educators, celebrities, talk-show hosts, owners of sports franchises,and preachers all share a common affliction: What we say can be turned against us and cause someone to be angry.

Let me make this matter abundantly clear: There is no excuse whatsoever for being rude, mean, racist, or divisive with our words. Scripture teaches “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt [for the purpose of preserving and healing], that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6). James instructed us to “bridle our tongues” in the same way that one would bridle a horse or control the movement of a ship at sea. (James 3:3-4) We should never say anything to intentionally hurt another human being. Occasionally, we offend other people without intending to do so, sometimes because our word choices are poor, or we are insensitive to other people’s feelings or we are simply misunderstood. What matters, however, is our intent; that which is in our hearts.

To answer the question concerning the “speech police”, sociologists Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl argued that “PC” (politically correct) speech has “relativism” as its source. Relativism, according to the authors, is the concept that there is no such thing as objective or moral truth. In other words, truth is whatever you wish it to be, not something that is fixed and absolute. This idea dominates the worldview called “postmodernism”, which has become the dominant thought for 21st century culture. Simply put, the idea that my opinion is just as valuable as yours, has created an atmosphere in which we supervise and analyze each others speech. Rejection of truth, Beckwith and Koukl stated, results in people who are looking to be offended, constantly listening for the fault in another person’s speech. To be blunt, it is self-centered.

As a minister, I have learned to be “thick-skinned”. The evangelist Vance Havner used to say that preachers should have the “heart of a dove and the hide of a rhinoceros.” Over the years, there have been a number of occasions when listeners did not receive the “Word”, because all they heard were my “words”. Oftentimes, in the use of quotes and illustrations, the main point of my sermon has been lost because someone became preoccupied with something that I said during the course of my delivery. We all have “filters” in our minds that determine how we interpret the information that we receive. As a speaker, I am constantly aware of how my speech is received by my listeners, and am always mindful of the “speech police” who would take what I say , re-interpret it based upon their worldview, and get offended by it. I can honestly say, without hesitation or fear of God’s discipline, that I have never stepped into the pulpit with an “ax to grind” or with the intent of angering someone. That does not change the fact that I have offended people, nor does it prevent me from offending others in the future. I am always apologetic to those who I have offended, but not apologetic for attempting to deliver God’s Word to human ears and hearts.

Those who speak often need to intentionally guard their language, and try to avoid confrontation when possible. Havner also remarked that  a doctor’s request to “let me see your tongue” is a good way to begin the examination of any Christian. “What we talk about is a good index to our character,” he noted, “Our speech betrays us.”

With that in mind, may I wish the Washington “Redskins” a good football season. And may I also wish the “Thin-Skins” a happy day. May God bless all of you. I truly mean that.

Redskins and Thin-Skins

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Daily Verse & Prayer

 

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Ready for His Return

For almost two thousand years, followers of Jesus Christ have patiently looked for Him to return.

He lived here on Earth for thirty-three years, died on a Roman cross, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. His last recorded words were, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Those words were recorded around 95 AD and it is now 2014. He has not returned in these last 1919 years. His meaning of “quickly” is  obviously not the same as ours.

John’s response to Jesus was identical to mine: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Although I enjoy my life, and savor the moments that He gives me, I long for His Second Coming. I look forward to a world which is governed and controlled by Jesus, and not man.

The beauty of a sunset, the warmth of the summer sun, the rolling mountains and vast ocean, all testify to the glory of our God. I enjoy nature and the splendor of God’s creation. I love my wife and family, my church and my friends. I savor good food, love laughter and furry pets, and can’t wait to cuddle with my grandchildren. And yet, I long for a better home (Hebrews 11:14-16), a better world, a place without war, disease and evil. For the following reasons, I am praying to see my God:

1. This world is pulling further away from the Creator, not closer to Him. (Romans 1:18-32). Sin is growing worse every day. There are no man-made solutions on the horizon, no monumental breakthroughs in politics, science or technology to pull mankind upward. Humanity is on a downward spiral into chaos and we are taking the world with us. I grow weary of hearing the news: continual scandals in our American government, the encroachment of militant Islam, racial strife, the dismantling of traditional values, the satanic destruction of marriage and family…is there no end to the bad news?

2. True followers of Christ are hard to find. Many who profess Christ simply do not follow Him. (Matthew 7:21-23). Church goers have increasingly become compromisers, choosing to sacrifice morality in order to fit in with people who do not love nor worship God. I have witnessed a steady decline in godliness during my 52 years of life. There are many pew sitters who also sit on bar stools in honky- tonks and nightclubs. They sing about adultery, partying and sex during the week, and then attempt to sing praise to the Almighty for fifteen minutes on Sunday morning. The Bible declares that this is not right (James 3:6-12), but most people today see nothing wrong with it.

3. Preachers and churches have watered down the Gospel and neglected the” hard” teachings of the Bible for fear of offending folks. We lament that church membership, baptisms and worship attendance are on the decline. Our response to the problem is that we quit talking about sin, we try to make our preaching and music more appealing to the masses and we join right in with them in their way of life. Let me put it this way: If we get people to say the “sinners prayer”, walk them down the aisle and baptize them, but never tell them that they are sinners and need to change, then what have we accomplished? We haven’t saved anybody in that case!! The Bible states that we are to “pull them out of the fire” (Jude 23), not allow to wallow around it. I am sick to my stomach of compromise in the churches!!

As much as I love the good things of this life, the bad things make me homesick for heaven. Like the men who witnessed His ascension to heaven, I find myself “gazing up into heaven”, waiting for my redemption. The further that we fall into this colossal mess, the more that I long for His glorious return to this planet. “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:28)

I am NOT looking for the end of the world. I am looking for Jesus to take back the one that belongs to Him.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Daily Verse & Prayer

 

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The Secret to a Successful Life

If I were to ask ten people what the secret to a successful life is, I might get ten different answers.

One might say: “Financial freedom.” Another might say: “The love of family and friends.” Still, another might suggest, “Being content with what you have.” Everyone has their own definition of what success is and how to achieve it.

The followers of Jesus in first century Corinth were having many problems in their church. They were struggling with immorality , contention and chaos. Their walk with God was all messed up and their church meetings were a disaster.

In 1 Corinthians 14:40, Paul gave the believers of Corinth some practical instruction from God: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

How “decent “is your life? Is your personal devotion with God “decent”? Is your relationship with others “decent”? Is your conduct, manner of appearance and speech “decent”?

How “orderly” is your life? Do you have order in how you do your job? Are your house and possessions in order? Is your daily schedule in order? Is your money in order? Do you conduct your everyday life in an orderly fashion?

From my own personal experience, I am successful  when I do things “decently” and “in order.” When I do things badly and in a disorderly way, I get absolutely nothing of value accomplished. The difference between success and failure is determined by how you and I live our lives. When we do things according to the Bible, we succeed. When we do things our way, we fail. It is very simple.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Daily Verse & Prayer

 

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How God Showed up

One of the best scenes in Forrest Gump was the one-on-one confrontation between Lieutenant Dan Taylor (played by Gary Sinise) and God. When Lt. Dan questioned Forrest, “Where’s this God of your’s?” while on the shrimping boat, Forrest replied that “God showed up!” The next scene in the film is a raging storm at sea, in which Lt. Dan is screaming and cussing at God atop the ship’s mast.

God “showed up” throughout the Bible. He showed up to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, enabling them to cross the Red Sea on dry land. He showed up to protect Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He showed up to rescue Daniel in den of lions. He showed up to raise Lazarus from the dead.

When the disciple Philip asked Jesus to show him God, Jesus remarked that “He who has seen Me has seen the Father;” (John 14:9) Just a few hours later, God showed up at the Cross, when His precious Son died for our sins (Hebrews 1:1-3). He showed up three days later, when our Lord Jesus arose from the Tomb, conquering death, hell and the grave for us.

When has God showed up in your life? Perhaps He showed up in the delivery room, when your child was miraculously and wonderfully born. Perhaps He showed up at the doctor’s office, when the doctor told you that you have a terminal disease and you felt God’s comforting Hand on your shoulder and heard His voice say, “Peace, be still.” Perhaps He showed up at the funeral home, as one by one, friends and relatives smiled and hugged and loved on you as you prepared to bury your loved one.

God showed up in my life on August 17, 1977 at Heatherwood Baptist Church in Riverdale, Georgia. On that day, I prayed to receive Jesus as my personal Savior and surrendered my life to Him. He showed up to save me from my sin and to give me eternal life. What’s even better is that He never left. He has been with me ever since, showing up whenever I need Him. He said that “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Has God showed up in your life?Image

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Daily Verse & Prayer

 

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Two Rivers Which Flow Into One

I am reading a fantastic book by W.P. Campbell. The book is entitled Turning Controversy Into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality.

According to a 2013 survey published by Lifeway Research, 64%(nearly two-thirds) of Americans see gay marriage as inevitable. As of this writing, there are 20 states (plus the District of Columbia) in which homosexual marriage is legal, and eleven other states in which bans against gay unions have been declared unconstitutional. In other words, it will not be long before the definition of marriage is permanently changed in the United States.

How does the church of Jesus Christ respond to such a clear violation of the Bible? Campbell wrote that there are two theological “rivers” which flow in Christianity. The one river is grace with compromised truth. This side emphasizes the grace and love of God, and acceptance of homosexuality, but denies the truth that homosexual behavior is a sin against God. This river, Campbell said, is an extreme which needs to be avoided.

On the other side is the river of truth with compromised grace. This extreme position condemns homosexuality and homosexuals alike. Those who are in this river might declare that homosexuals need to “turn or burn.” We must avoid this extreme as well.

As the author pointed out, the correct “river” is one in which grace and truth are united in one. Christ’s way is one full of grace AND truth.(John 1:14) As followers of Jesus, our response to homosexuality should be as follows: We should reach out with love, acceptance and compassion to all who are active in the homosexual lifestyle, as well as those who struggle with same-sex attraction. At the same time, however, we should NEVER compromise the Scriptural truth that homosexual behavior is not acceptable to God and that marriage between one man and one woman is His perfect design. In the same way, we should teach and preach for the sanctity of all marriage, and be willing to speak against co-habitation, adultery and divorce.

To be simple, we should “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Churches which learn how to have a positive impact on an ungodly culture will thrive. Churches which ignore the issues, or do not engage the issues in a Christlike manner, will die. Churches which embrace sin will suffer the discipline and punishment of God. Jesus said that He is the way, the truth and the life. As we encounter the inevitability of same-sex marriage, followers of Jesus must respond in HIS way, not our way.

 
 

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Whose Side Are You On?

Whose Side Are You On?.

 
 

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