IN SUPPORT OF FAITH

As I watch science-oriented presentations—yes, that’s spelled Y-o-u-T-u-b-e—I realize opinions based on faith and/or ignorance are worth what you pay for them … But, I detect a pattern in scientific research. Even the vaunted scientists are proved ignorant eventually.

That’s where faith comes in. Science-based ideas seem satisfying, until something new proves them obsolete. And that’s one of the bases for unchanging religion’s appeal. Regardless what your world view, acceptance or dismissal of ideas comes down to faith, because only God knows ALL the answers.

Be Careful of Exaggeration

The Shrinking Piano

In today’s Our Daily Bread, the author pointed out how our growth in Christ Jesus can be so gradual that it seems nonexistent. To make that excellent point she related a story about her son’s sudden realization that the piano keyboard seemed smaller than it had during two previous years’ recitals.

If that were true, I reasoned, the boy could not have grown appreciably over the two previous years and during the practice sessions for this final recital. Apparently the author had doctored the story’s facts to make her excellent point, which caused it to loose its impact on me.

From now on her words won’t seem as credible to me, even though she didn’t tell an outright lie. That fact sharply impacts my attitude about my own words, especially when relating details of Jesus’ work in my own life.

Opportunities to share my testimony are rare and precious, so my words must ring true.

My Mistake

While reading Our Daily Bread today, I did a double-take over the author’s prayer at the end. I read it as, “Lord God, we are the source of all that we have.” While that reflects the attitudes of many people, I knew it was wrong. So I read it more carefully the second time.

It actually read, “Lord God, You are the source of all that we have.”

Why did my first reading wave that red flag of error so frantically? Because I’m familiar enough with God’s Word to know a lie when I see it. Now, I’m certainly not a Bible scholar, but I don’t have to be in order to discern error. The Psalmist provided the needed counsel:

Psalms 119:9-11 NKJV How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. (10) With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! (11) Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

I praise God for the infinite wisdom He provided in His Word!

The Deeper Side of Christmas

This morning no gifts beckoned me from under my Christmas tree. For one thing, the Christmas tree belongs to my room mate, and any gifts there belong to his two little kids. And the other reason no gifts awaited me is I’ve sort of outgrown the commercial side of, “the Holidays.”

I received my greatest Christmas gift ever forty-odd years ago when I accepted God’s gift to me, “For God so loved [you and me] (so much) that He gave His only Son after His own kind (the physical embodiment of His eternal Word), that anyone who believes (accepts and places his confidence) in Him should not perish (see perdition or destruction), but have (possess permanently) [Jesus’] eternal life.” There’s a mouthful that you can take to God’s heavenly bank.

Those who believe this promise, and many others we find in God’s revealed Word, will feel a level of joy like none other. But those for whom Christmas has morphed into, “the Holidays,” get to enjoy a warm family time … after a month of chasing the perfect presents around the shopping malls and big box stores … and worry about paying for all the excess over the other eleven months. Amazing how heavy those little pieces of plastic can get, isn’t it?

Now that the rush is over, maybe you can flop into your favorite chair and contemplate what Christmas means to God. Think of what it would feel like to give your own child as ransom for the captives who hate you, for the ungrateful multitudes who have killed your messengers, despoiled your home and reviled your name. Most of them would reject your beloved child and suffer the consequences, but you would receive and embrace those few who love and embrace him and the freedom he bought for them.

May the deeper meaning of Christmas bless you now and forever.

Accountability

The financial industry, and the government agencies that oversee it, pass stringent regulations to prevent profiteering. That is completely understandable, as our fallen human nature is rife with greed and avarice; many people will do anything for a buck, or a million of ’em

Profiteering, though, isn’t exclusive to the financial industry, or even the government bureaucracy. Religion has more than its share of greed and avarice, if not for material gain, then certainly for a reward in the afterlife. These days we hear of Muslim “holy warriors” blowing themselves up to take the infidels with them, all to gain the martyr’s status with its reward of seventy-two virgins—or so the story goes. Yet, there is are examples of religious opportunism far closer to home.

Christendom offers many examples of religious opportunism, from multimillion dollar televangelists to the small church’s big donor who expects to run the whole little show. I call them big cogs in little gears; they don’t mesh, and are proud of it.

Regardless the arena or the scale, fallen humanity loves to opt out of accountability. We fancy ourselves as our own authority—even as we give lip-service to our devotion to God.

A less obvious, though far more common, religious opportunism is taking Apostle Paul’s inspired words out of their Scriptural context. When the apostle wrote of our liberty in Jesus, he did not mean to suggest that we could get away with taking God’s grace for granted, as many so easily do.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NKJV
(12) For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
(13) But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON.”

Those who use Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10 to justify an opulent lifestyle are just as guilty of misusing Scripture as Muslim martyrs, and their judgment is just as sure. Some of us have the gift of earning wealth, but forget about Jesus’ words regarding treasure in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
(19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
(20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
(21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What we begin as a, “rainy-day fund,” takes on a life of its own, ruling us with a dictator’s iron gauntlet or hob-nail boot. You’re right, I didn’t mention spiritual or moral responsibility, but your treasure’s location speaks to those as well.

Atheists balk at accepting God’s existence either because some “Christian” demonstrated unchristian behavior toward them, or because if they did they would have to be accountable to Him. Why can’t God’s church see that principle just as clearly?

Commentary On a Viral E-mail

What follows is the body of a controversial e-mail that a good friend and brother sent to me. If you think it looks familiar, check with Snopes, for a decidedly biased article about lots of related complaints. If you have lots of time, read the e-mail’s contents below. Otherwise, skip down to my commentary, which isn’t quite as long.

  In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked the Lord to spare the city if he could find 50 righteous people. God responded to Abraham’s plea “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all.”….Genesis 18:16-33

The movie “Corpus Christi “is due to be released this June to August. It is a disgusting film set to appear in America later this year which depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals! As a play, this has already been in theaters for a while. It’s called “Corpus Christi” which means “The Body of Christ”. It’s a revolting mockery of our Lord. But we Christians can make a difference.

That’s why I am sending this e-mail to you. If you do send this around, we just might be able to prevent this film from being shown in Canada and America. Let’s stand for what we believe and stop the mockery of Jesus Christ our Savior. Where do we stand as Christians?
I am forwarding this to all I think will respect and appreciate being informed. Please help us prevent such offenses against our Lord. There is no petition to sign, no time limit, or minimum number of people to send this to…It will take you less than 2 minutes!

If you are not interested and do not have the 2 minutes it will take to do this, please don’t complain if God does not seem to have time for you. Imagine what would happen if this film were depicting Mohammad in the same way…the Islamic world would be in flames!! . Apparently, some regions in Europe have already successfully banned the film. All we need is a lot of prayer and a lot of E-mails.

JUST GET THE WORD OUT!

Will God be able to find at least 50 righteous people who are willing to express their concern and voice their opinion against this act of blasphemy?

God Bless You All.

If you want to be thoroughly confused, the actual film is a documentary titled, “Corpus Christi: Playing With Redemption.”
 The issue in my mind isn’t gullibly accepting unattributed e-mails, but condemning blasphemy in the most depraved—yes, I said depraved—elements of society, while Christendom practices blasphemy of the Holy Spirit by attributing to Him what is offensive to God. Even among the Evangelical churches, some “Spirit filled” individuals publicly exhibit hatred, sour attitudes, conflict, impatience, critical spirits, meanness, conceit and arrogance, to name just a few of our sins, much of which is done in our Lord’s Name. Is it any wonder that corrupt people do their best to offend God’s church?
 Before we condemn corrupt—and yes, I said corrupt—people, with their corrupt entertainments, we need to cleanse our own house of its own worldliness and corruption. I believe silence on this issue is not the same as approving it, but the more bitterly vociferous our objections, the more we confirm the world’s view of us as ignorant bigots. While we must hate the world system, we must love those trapped in it—a most delicate balance that Jesus pulled off perfectly. Can we truly learn from Him?
 Another great tragedy with this, “Corpus Christi,” is all the people suckered into paying money to behold it in its play form, and in its film documentary form. This is a disturbing commentary on both society’s messed up values, and the church’s failure to keep Jesus and His Word holy before the world’s scrutiny. Jesus made the blind see; now He needs to make His church see as well.

No Limit

If this title were to suggest to you a rap by Usher you likely wouldn’t be reading this blog post … so fergetaboutit. Not that rap-fans can’t be Christ-followers, but, just sayin’ …

There’s another use for, “No Limit,” and that’s from—drum roll please—the Bible!

My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And Your salvation all the day, For I do not know their limits. (Psalms 71:15 NKJV)

One rock-solid fact of life is you can’t overstate God, His righteousness, or the wonder of His salvation. Nobody ever had praise down like King David, yet even he ran out of adjectives with which to glorify God.

Not that God needs our praises to feed His ego, but as His creation, our purpose, our destiny, is to lift up holy hands in praise to Him, to magnify His perfection, His holiness, His love. In short, everything about Him is worthy of our praise. If only we knew the half of His glory we would spend eternity declaring it.

So tear down that Pentecostal or Calvinistic box you’ve built around our eternal, infinite God! There’s no limit to His praiseworthyness.

Communion Sunday …

Communion Elements

Or as I prefer to call it, Communion Lord’s Day.

Please forgive me if this comes across as a rant; I assure you it isn’t, as you’ll see if you read to the end. And it’s not a passive-aggressive attack on a brother I love and respect, so please read this in the spirit with which it is intended.

Regarding what we call the day of the week we choose to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, call me a fundamentalist if you wish, but I don’t worship on a day devoted to the Sun god. I celebrate on the Lord’s Day, not Sunday. And every day we gather as the church we join in the communion of the saints, maybe not using the communion “elements,” but with fellowship in God’s Word and His Spirit.

And the “elements” are another bugaboo of mine; the first century church celebrated the Lord’s supper with unleavened bread, not with little cardboard wafers—okay, they’re not cardboard, but they might as well be. And the “wine” we Evangelicals serve as celebrating our Lord’s shed blood isn’t wine in the traditional sense, but grape juice. True, it’s “fruit of the vine,” but not the dilute, mildly fermented kind the Lord used during His Last Supper. But I tend to nit-pick.

My purpose here—believe it or not—is not to rail on today’s practice of the Lord’s Supper, but on a mistake our associate pastor made, and his thoughtless attempt to correct it. Though I have the greatest respect for him, he really put his foot in it this Lord’s Day. Yes, he was on the spot, as our lead Pastor couldn’t make it to preach today. No doubt I would have folded worse than he did, having to get creative to fill the void. But in so doing he forgot this was Communion Sunday, and dismissed the body without the Lord’s Supper service.

That wouldn’t have been so bad, just a waste of the communion elements, but he tried to save an unfortunate situation by having everyone grab the wafers and juice on the way out, without a time of reflection and, if needs be, confession and repentance. As I walked out of the auditorium I passed right by the good folks holding the elements and headed straight to the exit.

Here again, maybe I’m nit-picking, but I felt like the formality had taken over the Spirit on this one. I personally held conversations with two visitors before our meeting, and both were brothers looking for a church home. If I were in their place I wouldn’t be back, based on today’s unfortunate gaffe. But I will be back, because I love the family of God, and God’s word tells me:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)

So, because I call these folks my home church I must forgive the occasional mistake; Lord knows I’ve made more than enough for three people. And I must commend our associate pastor for his normally godly attitudes and practices. If only I had been as mature at his age.

If I were to focus only on the negatives, I would be grossly disregarding Hebrews 10:24, as well as the balance of Scripture. And that would be sin. Then I’d have to examine my conscience and repent before taking the Lord’s Supper, regardless what “elements” the leadership chooses to dispense on Communion Lord’s Day.

It’s Inevitable

King David got it right:

O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come. (Psalms 65:2 NKJV)

Expressed as a prayer to the One who hears prayer, King David named a universal truth, a spiritual law: All of humanity will one day stand before Jesus, the righteous Judge. We’ll have the opportunity to wave our good karma, to state all our religious works, to schmooze the all-knowing One, but He will ask only one question: What did you do with Me? That, of course, will be a rhetorical question, as He already knows the answer.

Will you rely on your good works?
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

Will you depend on your position as a pillar of the church?
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27 NKJV)

Will you stand before the righteous Judge and refuse to admit He even exists?
The fool has said in his heart,”There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good. (Psalms 53:1 NKJV)

I realize this won’t convince anyone, but it might just cause someone to pause and reconsider their dogmatic self-righteousness. All God asks of anyone is their openness. He’ll take it from there.

See With Your Heart

If you’ve watched Disney children’s programming, you know they are all about feelings and following your heart. The heart is code for emotions.

Now, I’m an emotional guy; I cry at the drop of a hanky. What fired this topical electrode was an ad that I saw on Netflix—it’s not just Disney—about their animated feature, The Little Prince. Here’s the blurb: “He taught her about imagination, loneliness and love. She’ll always remember to see with her heart.”

See with What? Heart is an especially flexible word, as it’s what we call that muscular blood-pump in everyone’s chest. The idea of its being a visual organ is absurd, unless it has x-ray vision. Then we’d have to call it, Super Heart. Romantics speak of their heart flying out of their chest, but I doubt it would stop a bullet.

The Bible’s first use of heart is Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

That doesn’t sound like a reliable way to see. Obviously, the seat of our emotions can have a darkside. Unless, that is, we sincerely pray with King David: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 NKJV)

Only by depending on God’s answer to that prayer, and comparing your feelings with the principles of God’s Word, can we reliably see with our heart.

Father, I pray for the wisdom to know when to trust my emotions, and at all times to balance what I feel with Your Word.