Why America is Christian in Name Only

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The title sounds a little pretentious, maybe even a little bold. A friend sent me a link to a Fox News report called “Where Have All the Christians Gone?” You can do an internet search and find it dated for 2009. (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2009/09/25/bruce-feiler-christians-americans-gone.html)

The report states the number of people claiming to be Christians is dropping. Along those same lines, not too long ago our current president stated America is not a Christian nation. Could he be right? Honestly, I think so. Here’s why:

The Situation

The current generation of Americans wants to be entertained more than anything else – at work, at school, and at church. This is not unlike most every other civilization that has been decimated from the inside out. Part of this “wanting to be entertained” is due to apathetic and self-centered attitudes that revolve around an “it’s my right” mentality. Most Americans focus on what is rightfully theirs. We don’t have a problem telling someone what we think of them or what they have done. We don’t mind telling others what our opinions are and we don’t mind making it known when something belongs to us. However, “don’t tell me what you think of me or what I have done and certainly don’t tell me what your opinion is. How dare you!!”

The Problem

Adrian Rogers, well know evangelist and orator, once said that he believed the basic problem with America is the lack of civility. Americans, he explained, don’t even perform the basic acts of kindness or consideration for others. Is he right? Look at the models of society that is held up before us on a regular basis as the brightest, most talented, and best looking people in the world. Surely these people are the cream of the crop. It begs the question: “Does Hollywood and Washington reflect society as it is or does it influence it?” What civility or kindness do most of them espouse?

When selfish and apathetic attitudes are my primary focus, then being a Christian and all that it entails is not. Jesus is just too demanding today, one might say. No, not true. He is no more demanding today then he was when he walked the earth. He was too demanding for the selfish and apathetic then as well. Christ is not too demanding for a particular time, but for the selfish and apathetic, which is indicative of our time and our country. Just because someone calls themselves a Christian does not mean they are Christian in the truest sense. Jesus said, “Not everyone who calls me Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

What’s in a Name?

We have bigger problems in America than naming ourselves a Christian in some survey. No, if America is a Christian nation it is name only. The attitudes, actions, and beliefs of her citizenry, which is shown in such surveys and studies, shows that America on the whole does not operate on Christian ideals. Our governments do not operate based on Christian principles. One look at Hollywood and/or Washington and/or most of our newspapers, large and small is proof enough. After all, who funds Hollywood by supporting these actors/ directors, and who is it that elects these officials to office and who is it that appears on the front page of the papers? We the people.

We the People

Psalms 33:12 says “Blessed is the nation whose god is the Lord.” We have been a blessed nation for over 240 years. Yet, we the people have let our Christian heritage erode and no longer hold accountable those in authority over us. The same reason for the decay is the same solution for the decay: we the people. When we get back to the basics of Christianity and run our daily affairs in a Christian manner with Christian principles, then our governments, local, state, and federal will operate on those principles and it can be said again of our nation that we are truly a Christian nation.

WIRED 2016 – Construction 36 – A Personal Experience

WIRED 2016 Worship

With all the chaos, violence, and uncertainty in our world and country, there was a life changing event this past summer that deserves mentioning – WIRED 2016. It was designed to “occupy” the Southeast Alabama area as a force for good during the last full week of June. A stark contrast to the forces in the world to move to destroy, WIRED 2016 moved in a positive, life-changing direction.

What Is WIRED?

The brainchild of Mark Anderson and friends in 2008, WIRED is an organized effort to “wire” together the churches and Christians in unity and mission. That mission is to reach out, touch, and affect the lives of others in a positive way. One of the mantras of Christianity is “to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” WIRED exemplifies this mantra through setting up and conducting “mission sites.” These sites were construction, evangelistic, child outreach, and non-profit agency support, in nature. This year forty-six churches sent youth and chaperones to man over ninety-five (95) such sites.

Construction Sites

This was my second year as a chaperone at WIRED. Both years I was involved in a construction site. Even though it was construction in focus, this site was consisted of the same make up of every other site. That is, youth who came from different churches, at least two adults from different churches, a track leader adult (usually a college student) and the mission contact. On the construction sites, the mission contact is a site foreman and sometimes an assistant. Unlike most youth camps, mission and otherwise, the work is not done by church groups. Rather, the work is done by members from different churches. The goal here is to do missions as the Body of Christ rather than just as a local church group. This not only broadens the horizons of the youth involved, it exposes them to missions with brothers and sisters they never knew before. Sometimes lifetime friendships are created as they work side-by-side with fellow believers to minister to those who may be less fortunate.

Praise and Worship

Every morning the group assembled in the Dothan Civic Center for a brief moment of worship, a word of encouragement and inspiration, and marching orders for the day. Each night is filled with a time of praise and worship through songs and exploring the Word of God. Everyone heard the teachings of Jesus and then put them into practice the next day. Part of the worship and praise was a recount of the day’s events through a video and announcements. Sunday through Thursday consisted of the WIRED group. On Friday an invitation was extended to anyone who wished to join the WIRED group for a night of worship. Friday night, the Dothan Civic Center was packed to overflowing. It was an awesome sound to hear over 5000 voices singing songs like “Good, Good Father.”

The last night of the week, Mark spoke to the WIRED and extended group. He told us if we counted up all the volunteers who were ministering at each site, both youth and adult, the count was close to 1600 volunteers. Add up the hours of each volunteer for the week and you would have over 45,000 volunteer hours in the community. It would take one full time volunteer over 20 years to accomplish what this group had done in one week. Impressive.

Construction 36

There were thirty-nine construction mission sites this year. I, along with the 15 passenger bus from our church, were assigned to Construction 36. Our mission: scrub down, prime and paint the home of an elderly couple in the community. Additionally, we were to remove and replace all soffit and fascia from the home, build a walking ramp, paint the front door, and shore up a sagging cabinet in the home. Our team consisted of ten youth, our track leader (Hayden Bush), and three adult chaperones (Meda, Kevin, and I). Unfortunately, when we arrived the first day we did not have a foreman. He had a family emergency and would not be there that week. The duties of leading and directing the work fell to the adults, who did a superb job.

The Workday

The youth were phenomenal in their participation. The cleaning, priming, and painting stayed right on schedule. They tore off the soffit and fascia in no time. Replacing it in time was questionable and fortunately for us we had back up through Tom and Steve to install it while Kevin, Meda, and Hayden helped the youth paint. The front door had to be rebuilt and painted. The walking ramp was a simple build and was done in half a day. We did not get to the cabinets. At lunch Hayden led the group in a bible study of the principles they were living out that week and hopefully for the rest of their lives.

WIRED 2017

I am very proud to have served with the group known as Construction 36 and with over 40 youth and adults from Balkum Baptist Church. Provided below is a catalog of pictures of these wonderful people who I will always remember and cherish. Next year’s date is already set: June 26-30th. If you want a challenge as well as a blessing serving for at least one week as the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need visit the website for WIRED at www.wiredministries.com.  You can also go to my Facebook page and look at the album I have shared there.

 

 

 

Why I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

Ghost Busters
Logo from the movie Ghostbusters.

Who ya gonna call?

Yes, I know the word “ain’t” isn’t proper English grammar and there is a double negative. It is just when hauntings and ghost sightings are mentioned I hear the theme from Ghostbusters start off in my head. Personally I don’t believe in ghosts per se. Okay, one Ghost, and I am not afraid of Him, but I will get to that in a minute. Let’s explore the possibility that there are or are not ghosts. As with any subject supernatural, I use the Bible as my premise and foundation.

Ghosts Defined

A ghost, as defined by Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) is “the supposed spirit of somebody who has died, believed to appear as a shadowy form or to cause sounds, the movement of objects, or a frightening atmosphere in a place.” As defined, I do not believe ghosts exist. You could probably bring to this argument, hundreds, if not thousands of arguments to the contrary. These would include haunted houses with unexplained phenomena ranging from: thumping noises to furniture moving, to cold presence, and sick owners. I could not dispute what these people have encountered. My question would be: was it ghosts? I think not.

I believe in angels, fallen angels, demons, and/or evil spirits. Nothing more. I believe that all the hauntings, evil and cold presences, sicknesses, and thumping noises are demonic in nature.

Why?

To answer this we have to go back to the beginning of creation of man and the world to the first account of fallen angels. The king of fallen angels has been called by many names throughout the years: the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, Father of Lies, the Accuser, etc. Not exactly human friendly terms. Most religions of the world have this evil being as the leader of all this evil. He not only hates God, but all that is good and created by God, especially humans.

Also in creation we can find why he hates humans so much. After God created all and saw that it was good, He created man in his image (See Being Fully Human for more discussion). Man was the crown of God’s creation and above all the world of created beings. Satan would and does attack the closest thing to God and to God’s heart: man. One of the most effective ways to injure a man is not to attack him, rather to attack his family.

How?

Several of the demonic tactics in luring humans away from God is to seed doubt in our minds, especially in times of sorrow or stress. This accounts for the seeing of loved ones or even animals shortly after their death. Humans seek stability through reasoning and answers. We do not like change and pain. We prefer pleasure and simplicity. Demons appear as our loved ones in an attempt to question what we know and lead us away from God. Many times God is silent to the passing of our loved ones. He has His reasons, even if we don’t agree with them. We long to see them again. If demonic activity allows for our greatest longing during our greatest pain, to see our loved ones again, then we tend to relieve the pain through acceptance.

Summary

The Bible clearly states concerning Christians for us to be separate from the body is to be present with the Lord. Though some religions mention the body lingering for up to three days before departing, the Bible does not teach this . There is no mention of people hanging around or visiting loved ones once departing this life. Rather, there is a void that exists. Then something else is impersonating our loved ones. Satan and evil forces exist and will do most anything to keep you from the one true Holy Ghost. This Ghost or Spirit is not to be feared, but loved since He is the Spirit of Love. So now, who ya gonna call?

4 Philosophical Ways to Know Jesus

The Thinker.png
The Thinker. Sculpture by Auguste Rodin.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer stated there are four basic rules of philosophical argument or debate. These rules help govern debates through logical steps and conclusions. Here are the basic principles in simplified form:

  1. Everything that is, exists.
  2. Nothing can simultaneously be and not be.
  3. Each and every thing either is or is not.
  4. Of everything that is, it can be found why it is.

So, how do these rules of philosophical debate stack up when discussing who Jesus was and is? When conducting any investigation one must use facts as stated by reliable witnesses if the investigator is not an eyewitness to the events. So it is also with any debate or argument.

Everything that is, exists.

Over the years there have been attempts to prove Jesus of Nazareth never existed. These investigators come up, not surprisingly, short of concrete proof for the His non-existence. On the contrary, history is replete with factual evidence of Jesus’ existence so vast that it cannot be listed here. From the Bible to Josephus to early church fathers, the references are there. It begs the question: does He still exist like Christianity claims?

Nothing can simultaneously be and not be.

Many have said through the ages that Jesus was a good man or a good, moral teacher. He claimed of Himself to be the Son of God and the Savior of the World. C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell stated Jesus was: a lunatic, a liar, or the Son of God. A lunatic could not, and would not have had the mental capacity to establish the ways, beliefs, or truths of Christianity. No liar could be a good man or moral. This leaves Him to be who He said he was: the Son of God and Savior of the World. He cannot be a lunatic, liar, and the Son of God simultaneously. He has to be one and not be the others.

Each and every thing either is or is not.

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and in fact, God Himself. This same claim was, and is made of Him by Christians since His death and proclaimed resurrection from the dead. He either is what He says He is or He is not. He cannot be the Son of God and not be the Son of God. When speaking to the religious leaders of the day he stated the proofs of His deity: His miracles, His words, and the testimony of others to include: God the Father, John the Baptist, the Holy Scriptures, and those He had healed. These witnesses being reliable as they are, also provides evidence that He still exists today.

Of everything that is, it can be found why it is.

What of Jesus’ existence on earth? If He was, and is truly God, as He and His followers have stated, why was He here on earth? His mission is stated in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) There is a thief who steals everything from man that can be stolen. This includes our joy, our purpose, our souls, and our lives. Just look around the world today and throughout history. Jesus came to stop the thief and give man back all he was designed by God to have. That starts with his life eternal. This is the difference between Christianity and all the world’s religions and belief systems. Man’s spirit is dead within him. Jesus creates that spirit to come to new life; a new creation. He offers and requires a spiritual renewal. The world religions and belief systems neither require, nor offer such renewal.

You Can Know

Those who would debate against the existence, mission, and validity of Jesus have not examined all the evidence. Rather they have taken the stance of “My mind is made up don’t confuse me with the facts.” Two great books filled with the evidences of Jesus and His mission is The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and New Evidence That Demands a Verdict
by Josh McDowell. Examine the evidence and know Jesus existed. He was more than a moral teacher. He is who He says He is and He wants a deeper relationship with you. I invite you to start your relationship with Him today. Click on the link below to learn more.

Begin a Relationship With Jesus

Being Fully Human: Claim Your Birthright
       

Finding Something Better Than a Golden Dome

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Golden Dome of the Georgia State Capitol

 

On the street corner in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, a friend and I were standing, chatting, and waiting for the little pedestrian icon to turn from orange to white so we could cross the street. An older woman came up to us and looked passed us up to the top of a building beyond.

“I am not concerned about Jesus Saves,” she said. “I am looking for the golden dome. Do you know where it is?”

It took us a minute to realize what she was asking. I think our hesitations cast some doubt in her mind as to whether we could give her a trustworthy and satisfactory answer. My friend’s name being Jesus (Hey-Zues) added to my confusion. We guessed she was talking about the golden dome that sits atop of the state capitol government building along Washington and Trinity streets in downtown Atlanta (More about the Georgia State Capitol) . We pointed in the general direction of where we believed it to be. With apparent no trust in our judgment, the lady headed in another direction. The dome was indeed in the direction in which we had pointed.

Jesus Saves

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Steeple with “Jesus Saves” on both sides.

 

Jesus and I continued towards a building where we were to conduct an inspection, discussing the strange encounter. We were not sure what she had meant by her not being “concerned about Jesus Saves.” Part of our inspection included the roof top. We decided to go there first. Once upon the flat roof I surveyed the Atlanta skyline. I saw a steeple with the words “Jesus Saves” on the side of it. I looked down and saw the street corner where the lady had spoken to us. Other buildings had blocked our view of the steeple where the brief discussion had taken place. I realized what her statement meant. She wasn’t looking for this building, but for the building with the golden dome.

This woman echoed the sentiments of so many people. They don’t care too much about “Jesus Saves.” They just want to know the direction to the golden dome. Jesus addressed this very concern of the world’s obsession with things that are limited and false. People prefer the shiny things in life to what Jesus has to offer. The golden dome this lady sought has twenty ounces of gold leaf covering it. It is estimated to be worth $30,000. As impressive as it sounds, it is still temporal.

The golden dome represents man made government and society. In Isaiah 6:9a, the government and kingdom of God is spoken of. The scripture says “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” (ESV, italics are mine for emphasis). The government of man shall pass away in all its imperfections, but the government and kingdom of God will not.  Jesus saves from the temporal and faulty government of man and replaces it with His kingdom. It starts now in our hearts and will be in full force when Jesus sets up His kingdom at the end of time.

We pointed the lady in the right direction, but, again like the world she didn’t trust us with our directions any more than she trusted Jesus to save her. I wonder if she even knew what she was asking. I know she meant it one way, but it could be taken another. I wonder if she thought, “What is it that Jesus saves from?” Based on her statement and then her interaction with us, I would hazard a guess that she never gave the statement a second thought, much less a deeper meaning. She, after all was “not too concerned with Jesus Saves.”

I, on the other hand am very glad Jesus Saves and Jesus saved me. As Ravi Zacharias has said, “Jesus did not come to earth to make bad people good. No, He came to earth to make dead people alive.” Jesus saved me from death. He saved me from a life of aimlessness and worthlessness. He saved me from the slavery of sin and deceit. He saved me from eternal separation from God and he saved me from unrighteousness. He saved me from me. He came to give me life and that more abundantly. He did all that by the renewing of my spirit. This is what it means to be born again; to be born to new life and to become a new creature. This is how Jesus Saves. This is the good news we must tell to others, even those who are not so concerned that Jesus saves and prefer the gold and golden domes.

Getting to Know Jesus

Find out more about the abundant life with Jesus at the links below.

Are You a Watchman?

Christianity Coexist? It Cannot Happen.

Christianty Coexist? It cannot happen.

coexist_by_chima.png

Perhaps you have seen this bumper sticker of late that suggests all the world’s religions, movements, and beliefs should just get along and play nice: they should coexist. It is kind of like the saying “to live and just let live.” Those who display such stickers or embrace this stance do not understand there is one of those “religions” that cannot just coexist.  I am sure you noticed I put the word religion in “”. This is not a grammatical error because though Christianity is a religion to many, it was never designed to be.

Though the symbols of all belief systems are not displayed in the sticker, it is intended to be all inclusive. This thought process in and of itself is Hinduistic in nature. It says, “There is room for every belief system.” The saying “all roads lead to Rome” or better, “all beliefs lead to heaven” is its mantra. There in is the rub. Christianity by its very nature cannot be all inclusive to all beliefs though it is welcoming to all who would believe.

An examination of Christianity will find it similar in nature to many of the belief systems of the world:

  • There are many who claim their founder was an Avatar or incarnation of a/the Supreme Being.
  • Some claim their founder was born in unusual or supernatural circumstances.
  • Some belief systems claim their founder died and was resurrected from the dead.
  • Many systems claim a higher road of living with ethical precepts. These precepts are offered in a systematic order of conduct. There are various levels of being or living which is dependent upon how closely the precepts are adhered to. The greater the adherence to the belief systems’ precepts, the greater or closer one will be in the walk to attaining the goal or to the Supreme Being or Universe.
  • Many systems offer a way to heaven or at least a calmer existence in the afterlife.
  • Many claim theirs is the only way to attain this afterlife and/or oneness with the Supreme Being or at least with the Universe.
  • Many systems claim when one attains the blissful afterlife, they have simultaneously saved themselves from an alternate hellish afterlife.

What makes Christianity so different from all other world belief systems? All the claims made above can and are made concerning Jesus and the belief system He offered with two exceptions: the spiritual condition of man and the cure for it. Like many of the world systems Christianity says mankind is in a state of imperfectness and there must be some alteration to make him viable to gain all that is offered. Where most, if not all belief systems encourage a gradual becoming, Jesus states man must have a new beginning first. Many belief systems see the becoming as a journey that starts at birth. Some state it crosses many lives and many attempts. Christianity sees man as a dead spirit and there is no way he can cause that spirit to live again. In his spiritually dead state he is separated from God and his ultimate destiny is in a place of eternal separation.

Christians call this new beginning being “born again.” Jesus used this terminology in the book of John and chapter three. In His discussion with Nicodemus He stated everyone must be born again. Paul calls it being a new creation. Jesus further tells Nicodemus that this new birth comes from believing in Him, the Son of God. The Bible clearly explains how Jesus died on the cross in our place. It wasn’t an accident, it was intentional. None of the major world belief systems have a founder who willingly and purposely died in the place of its adherents. Nor does any of the world religions require the adherents to accept the substitutionary death of their founder as the only way to gain the salvation spoken of in its precepts. Jesus further explains the reason for His death and resurrection: the love of the Father.

If someone claims to be a Christian but has never come to the place where their spirit has been renewed by the Spirit of God then their brand of Christianity is no different than any other belief system. They may follow every rule outlined but they have in essence taken the precepts of Jesus and made them an ethical system. This is one of reasons people think it should and could coexist with all other world systems when in fact it is more than an ethical system. In the words of Jesus “You must be born again.” At that point, the journey really begins. Have you been born again and are living the abundant life Jesus promised to provide? Or are you living a life which seeks to emulate an ethical system? It’s a choice and not to choose is to choose not to have.

If you would like to know more about being  born again, click on the link below.

To Be Born Again

The Raven Revisited

Gold featherI have always been an avid reader and have always liked the work of Edgar Allen Poe. I was reading his famous “The Raven” some time back and thought about how dark it was. Yes, I know he was lamenting his loss of Lenore, but it was so bleak. So, I rewrote it from a Christian perspective.  Here it below: “The Raven Revisited.”

Once upon my life so dreary, while I wondered weak and weary,
Over many a squandered chance of lost opportunity yore,
While I staggered, strength sapping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my cold heart’s door.
`’Tis some mournful feeling,’ I muttered, `tapping at my cold heart’s door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was my soul’s dark December,
And my depression a dark amber wrought its light upon the floor.
Eagerly searched I relief of sorrow; – loneliness like wasteland yarrow.
From my deeds, smoke of a claro – sorrow for a life abhorred –
For the rare and radiant prospect whom the angels all once adored –
Useless here for evermore.

Downtrodden my spirit hurtin’ dark as the color of rare aged burton
Thrilled me – filled me with final feelings never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`’Tis some specter entreating entrance at my cold heart’s door –
Some unknown specter seeking entrance at my cold heart’s door; –
This it is, and nothing more,’

Presently my soul grew weaker; straining at the voice of the speaker,
`Sir,’ said He, “You must seek forgiveness for sins performed before;
But the fact is you were napping, when the Spirit came a rapping,
And so kindly He came tapping, tapping at your heart’s door,
Oh, great Spirit kind I hear you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
Brilliantness there, and so much more.

Deep into that brightness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams I, mortal never dared to dream before;
But the silence now was broken, and the radiance of love awoken,
And the glorious word there spoken was the wonderful word, `Adore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Adore!’
“Intensely love” and so much more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me yearning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,’ said I, `surely fact is my lonely life has so lacked this;
Let me see then, what practice, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the Spirit and so much more!’

Open here I flung my moral sense, with examination to recompense,
In my soul stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
With all Godly obeisance made he; resident stopped and stayed he;
All, with mien of the Lord prayed he, entered he into my heart’s door –
Entered he a heart so callous just inside my warm heart’s door –
Entered and resident forevermore.

Then this golden bird compiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the splendid and fine decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be grand engraven, thou,’ I said, `thou art sure a haven.
Stately and ancient raven directly from the bright morning shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Day’s Heavenly shore!’
Quoth the raven, `Forevermore.’

Much I marveled this splendid fowl to hear discourse so candid,
Though its answer commanded – great relevancy bore;
For I could not help agreeing that any forlorn human being
Is set free by just receiving the Spirit within his heart so sore –
Freedom explodes within the accepting weary heart so sore,
With such name as `Forevermore.’

And the raven, sitting bold he to my living soul, told he,
That one word, as if his being in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Others you have yet saved before?
Of my sorrow relieved me, as my hopes have not soared before.’
Then the bird said, `Forevermore.’

Startled at the sadness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,’ said I, `what it utters I will take stock and store,
Flown from his Happy Master whom a merciful dream caster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs release burden bore –
Till the dirges of his hope freed within me all burden bore
Of “Forever-evermore.”‘

Now the raven a stately piling set my glad soul now so flying,
I wheeled a cart and danced within my soul like never once before;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this grandiose bird of yore –
What this glad, gainly, ghostly, gaily, and promising bird of yore
Meant in stately `Forevermore.’

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the capon whose loving eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
He shall press, ah, forevermore!

Then, me thought, my mind grew clearer, from the fog as from a mirror,
Removed by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Salvation,’ I cried, `my God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
Freedom- freedom meant He, from sure damnation bore!
Freedom from the chains of past sins my soul damnation bore!’
Quoth the raven, `Forevermore.’

`Prophet!’ said I, `of souls retrieval! – prophet still, of hell’s upheaval! –
The throne of emerald rainbow came thee to settle this one score,
Desolate my soul undaunted, a desert land disenchanted –
Prospect of hell  horror haunted – once yes, but no more –
There is – there is balm in Gilead? – He is glorious Heaven’s door!’
Quoth the raven, `Forevermore.’

`Prophet!’ said I, `of souls retrieval! – prophet still, of hell’s upheaval!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore –
A once dead spirit now awaken, a different road I now am taken
Of this salvation no mistaken, Jesus to whom the angels kneel before –
Not angels only but all creation and mankind shall all kneel before.’
Quoth the raven, `Forevermore.’

At that word light dream defying, with echo of saints glorifying –
Shaken from the night’s vision and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
On bed a gold plume as a token of the truth to soul was spoken!
My thought train still unbroken! – of the raven, salvation galore!
Life to my heart, a new creation of salvation of truth not lore!’
Quoth the raven, `Forevermore.’

And the raven, voice committing, in mind and heart, still is sitting
Whether dream imagined or somehow real from heaven’s door;
And his echoed voice all the seeming of an angel in my dreaming,
The eternal lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his light in my core;
And my soul now regenerated, liberated, exonerated, redeemed fore,
Shall be lifted – forevermore!

Are You a Watchman?

shofar-man

Invariably when I broach this subject I am quizzed about the Watchtower booklets used by the Jehovah’s Witness. And so, right up front let me say that these are not the same. Rather, this is a term used in the bible in Ezekiel, Chapter 33, and verses 1-11. In this chapter God addressed Ezekiel in such a manner that it leads some scholars to believe God was talking to anyone who is called to be part of the clergy. Some scholars will say God is using this example to Ezekiel to highlight the duty of all Christians. Either way there is a lesson to be learned here. I am not going to write out all the verses. Those that I quote will be from the Revised English Standard.

The people of the Old Testament times were mostly nomads; some people had become city dwellers as a means of safety. Whether nomad or city dweller, danger lurked in the form of marauding bands or raiding armies. A watchman was necessary to warn the people of incoming danger. The watchman would take the highest vantage point to scan the horizon for trouble. From the highest sand dune, cliff, or pinnacle of the city tower, he would keep an eye out for threats. We obviously want people with certain qualities to fulfill these positions. They need to be able to see communicate clearly. We don’t want a blind mute watching for us.

God set Ezekiel up a watchman. He was told to warn the people of Israel as God’s spokesman. What God told him, he was to tell the people. God specifically told Ezekiel, the Watchman to warn the wicked that they will die in their wickedness. There were two possible scenarios here God describes along with the outcomes of each.

  1. The Watchman, given a clear word from God to warn the wicked people of their wickedness and to turn away from it, decides not to warn the people. The people will surely die, but God will hold the Watchman accountable because the people did not have a chance to change from their wickedness.
  2. The Watchman does tell the people they are going to die in their wickedness and they don’t repent of their wicked ways. Again, the wicked will die in their wickedness, but the Watchman will not be held accountable. He did what he was instructed to do.

In the first scenario the wicked are not warned and God says that person will be “taken away in his iniquity.” Iniquity is immoral behavior. If left unchecked, the person will be lost in it. Can people be so blind to their immoral lives? Yes, they see nothing wrong with their lives and who are you to point it out? You got to be careful here. If God tells you to speak with someone about their immoral lifestyle, you better be sure it is from God and you go in His power, not your own. Conversely, if God has told you to address the immoral ways of someone and you don’t speak up, then God is going to hold you accountable for not speaking to that person. This isn’t so easy with family or friends, is it?

The part of the equation besides God’s power is the reason for the telling, which brings us several questions:

  • Do Christians have a right to correct/confront non-Christians? It is not a matter of right; it is a matter of obligation, obedience, attitude, and desired outcomes. Again, is God telling you to do it or are you doing it in an attitude of being offended or judgmental? Do you just want them to stop the behavior or do you want them to see they are lost in that sin without a Savior? If you want them to meet Jesus then it won’t be a “come to Jesus meeting.”
  • Do Christians have a right to correct/confront Christians? Here too, it is not a matter of a right as much as it is a matter of obligation. Believe it or not, Christians and non-Christians have a different standard. God does not expect the unbeliever to act like a Christian. He expects them to become Christians. God also does not expect Christians to behave like unbelievers. The correction here is to bring a brother or sister, someone who is part of the family, back into a right relationship with the family. Their iniquity separates them from fellow brothers and sisters as well as the Father.

Above all things, there is to be an attitude of love. We talk to the immoral unbeliever because we love them and want them to live up to the spiritual purpose God created them for. We lovingly confront the brother or sister because we love them and, like God, want what is best for them in their walk with Him. In the last two verses God makes it plan that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Rather, as a loving Father He implores them to turn back from their wickedness to find life. He asks, “Why will you die?”

Divine Appointments & Stray Cats

Sally Cat

As I looked out the window from my third floor hotel room overlooking the parking lot, I notice two cats slinking their way across the lot. One of them obviously was in charge of the two since she or he had the lead. The other followed like a good underling. Not far back, came another cat some distance as if she or he was a subordinate, but not allowed to walk in close proximity to the leader. It was somewhat interesting to watch as they stopped and sniffed tires and pieces of trash, one cat after another. I am no stranger to cats since we have six ourselves. Almost all of them were strays that had no one until we took them in. They too, have a pecking order and they know who is in charge.

Later that night I had to gas up the rental car I was to turn in at the airport the next morning. Being a people person I watched the folks around me fueling up their cars or going in and out of the convenience store. My daughter refers to this activity of watching people as “creeping” and jokingly calls me a creeper when she sees me. For example, the car in front of me was empty and the driver was nowhere around. I thought it was odd how the car was pulled a little too far forward of the pump for gas. I had to almost touch bumpers with it in order for me to reach the gas nozzle to the car.

Across from my gas dispenser, I noticed a young lady who I thought was a little underdressed in the night air of 30 something degrees. She was talking to a man who was fueling his truck. They conversed while she propped over the tailgate of his truck. She must be with him and is about to go into the store, I thought. He never looked at her and had his back to her as he pumped his gas. He shook his head in disagreement with something she said. She smiled and headed for the store, but she never went in. Instead she went to another car to speak to yet another man. Out of the corner of my eye, to my left, I saw another young woman, though older than the first. She was a little more dressed as she had a shawl to keep her warmer.

The driver of the car in front of me came back and began to pump his gas. He had been stopped by the first woman and after a few words they parted ways. She headed out into the parking lot where the second woman was now. The second woman headed for towards the intersection and the younger, first woman followed. She stopped at the intersection and leaned into the passenger side window of a vehicle waiting at the stop light. She conversed with the driver while woman number two leaned against a power pole at the same intersection. They reminded me of the cats who I had seen earlier on the prowl looking for opportunity; human strays that didn’t seem to have a home or fit into society. I finished fueling the car and drove away. In my rear view mirror I saw the younger girl still leaning into the car and the older one was joining her. I thought about how I would have reacted if they had approached me. I had helped a young man at that very same gas station earlier in the month on a similar night. I hadn’t hesitated when he approached. It was almost like God told him to speak to me and God told me to help him and I did. I pray for him often. Maybe God told them I was not worth their time. I smiled at the thought.

Except for the grace of God, I would be like those strays even today. I recognized that grace and accepted it. How many people are offered the love, mercy, and grace God offers and they turn Him down. We are not supposed to keep all that to ourselves. We are to be sensitive to the voice of God and to be Jesus to the world. That means we sometimes are in awkward situations, approached by people who are not like us, and to be ready to touch their lives as God sees fit. If we are not willing to be used, God will not waste His time putting hurting, lost, strays into our lives. It is called Divine Appointments. I am glad Jesus put me in the life of those who reached out to my family when I was young. The second son of a single mother, I for all intents and purposes was a stray, but I didn’t know I was a stray. Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost. He expects us to do the same. If we are not looking for the lost we will never see them and we won’t be able to offer them the salvation from their lostness. Thank God Jesus is in the business of looking for and taking in strays.

If you feel like you have strayed, please click on this link to learn more. Jesus the stray seeker

 

 

 

 

We Don’t Need Valentine’s Day

0207-VALENTINE-CANDY-HEARTS[1]Are we so vain or shallow in our society that we absolutely need one day out of the year to force our significant others to show their love for us? There will be those who say this is not true. Really? Why will billions of dollars be spent for this day? Why do people get so upset when the day is forgotten or if they don’t get what they think they deserve for that day? Valentine’s Day is not sacred. I personally do not need an overly commercialized day to show my wife I love her. I have 365 days to show her I love her (this year 366). If I am such a cad as I only express my love for her on one day a year, I am in a sad state of affairs. If my wife doesn’t know I love her by my continued expressions of love throughout the year then I am a cad indeed.

Don’t get me wrong. I will get my sweetheart something for Valentine’s Day not because “I have to” or “because it is expected”, I will because this affords me another opportunity to remind her of my love for her (I am not stupid). Let me take this a little further. If someone has to be coerced to show love or if you feel you need to coerce to be shown love, then there is something a little deeper going on there. Love should be shown every day. We all fall short of this and we men are especially oblivious.

There are some basic steps one can take to start on the year long road to showing love.

  1. Understand that everyone wants to be loved.
  2. Understand women desire love more than men do. Men desire more respect than love.
  3. Understand we all have a different way we express and receive love. A great book on this is The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. It would be a great Valentine’s gift and would be even greater if read and applied.
  4. Understand that all relationships require work. This comes more naturally for some than for others, but it is important.

Love is a verb, not a feeling. It is action and choice. The greatest act of love happened around 2000 years ago on a cross. “For God (The Father) so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son (to die in our place), that whosoever should believe in Him (as Lord and Savior), should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16. (Parenthesis mine). God chose to send the Son and the Son chose to accept the mission. The God of love created us to love. He created us to be like His Son. That is our mission: to choose to show love like Jesus showed God’s love for all of us by His actions. Those around us should not doubt our love for them because we should live our lives in such a way to remove any doubt. This should be expressed more than just once a year. Do we get it right all the time? No, but as long as we are alive we get the opportunity to choose to love. Could you imagine if God only showed His love towards us only one day a year?