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Showing posts from July, 2017

Wrestling With God

Genesis 32 describes an unusual occurrence. While preparing for a confrontational meeting with his brother Esau, Jacob gets into a wrestling match with a “man” who is later described as an angel (Genesis 32 and Hosea 12). The two battled throughout the night until the angel dislocated Jacob’s thigh socket – but even that didn’t end the scrap. It wasn’t until being promised that he would be blessed that Jacob gave up the fight. As a result of his fortitude Jacob was told, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

This wrestling match set in motion the future of the Children of Israel, but I wonder if there isn’t a modern application – not to the Jews, but to us. Have we ever felt like we were wrestling with God? Have we ever though that things were not as easy as they could be? It wasn’t that we hadn’t been blessed (or punished) by God, it just felt like we were having to exert an extortionate a…

Satan's Idle (Yes, Idle) Worship

What would happen if someone came into the assembly and put a bull-like statue engraved with the name Beelzebub on the Communion Table?  I am not sure my mind can fully grasp the response, but it would be swift and certain!  In addition to physical actions, there would be some Bible-quoting going on!  Some would be stating, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6) as others quoted I Corinthians 10:14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” 
I cannot imagine this happening today because satan knows that it would not be effective.  He is not going to influence the modern church wi…

Bullying

If there is a social problem that defines this decade it may be summed up in the word “bullying”.  A few years ago anti-bullying campaigns became a matter of focus for people who worked in adolescent environments, but now, it occupies everyone’s attention.  Bullying has become a political, social and legal concern, yet when we look at it, it is spiritual as well.  The answer to bullying is found in the an understanding of the principles of Christianity.  Take, for example, these basic spiritual principles: 1.  We should love one another (John 15:12).  Love is often defined as seeking the best for another person.  It is based upon a foundation that inspired God to send His Son as the answer to sin and compelled Jesus to give His life as the perfect sacrifice.  Is there any way that we can fulfill God’s command to love one another (even our enemies) and belittle or harass people at the same time? 2.  We should elevate the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).   Paul drew upon the examp…

Freedom

What is “freedom”?  The definition of freedom is likely to depend upon who is asked.  To the 18th Century American colonist it was the opportunity to have a say in the government.  It was the ability to live as independently-minded people, secure in a belief that they were out of the shadow of a inattentive or oppressive monarchy.  To a 19th Century slave it might mean the difference between being perceived as a “person” or “property”.  It may have been the fulfillment of what had been promised a century earlier when Jefferson wrote of the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.   To the young adult in the 1960s it could mean the ability to express yourself without the encumbrances of an archaic society.  Freedom might have focused on the expression of new and controversial ideas as well as exerting control over one’s own body.  Each generation and location has its own understanding of freedom, but they share a common thought.  It is a noble quest worth the sacrifice it takes to gain …

Backing Up

I am not sure how I did it, but just about everything I do with my phone gets backed up on the Verizon Cloud.  While this doesn’t necessarily bother me, what does irritate me is that I get a message every few days that my stuff can’t be saved because I don’t have any space left and (oh, by the way) I should consider buying extra space on the cloud.  I am not intentionally saving anything, but for some reason stuff is automatically being saved and, as a result, my space is full and my phone is sending me messages.  The other day I got to thinking how something similar can happen in my life.  I may not be intentionally saving (internalizing) junk, but it is clogging up life and choking out joy.  As I pondered this a bit further I was able to identify at least three areas that seem to create problems for me: 1).  Allowing anxiety to take up too much space  Anxiety is a memory hog.  Even when we aren’t aware of it, it continues to run deep inside us influencing our decisions and crowding o…

The Father And The Son

When we search the New Testament for teaching on paternal parenting, there isn’t a lot to go on.  In Ephesians 6 the Apostle Paul teaches that children should honor their parents and that fathers should discipline and teach their children, but it shouldn’t be so stringent that the children turn (in anger) on them.  Beyond that, there really isn’t a whole lot of insight.  While a valid argument can be made that living a Christian life we can positively influence our children, I think there is another way we can learn about the father/child relationship.  The relationship between Jesus and God is described as one between the Son and His Father.  Since they are two Prefect Beings, this relationship is bound to provide us with an insight into what it takes to have a wonderful relationship.  We don’t see a lot of explicit commandments built upon this connection, but by studying how they interact with Each Other we can improve the relationship we have in our human families.  What can we lea…

The Good Guys

In the early Western movies, there was a trend for the good guys to wear white hats so that they could be identified as the heroes of the story. In essence, there was no need for sound because it was easy see the outcome – the guy in the white hat was going to win because he was the good guy and the good guys always won.  Ah, wouldn’t it be great to return to those simpler, better times? The truth is that those times never really existed! It might seem that life would less complicated if it could be lived in “black and white”, but the reality is that it can’t and it wouldn’t.  It is tempting to want to believe that “living by labeling” is the answer to all of life’s difficulties, but it isn’t accurate.  Wouldn’t it be simpler to navigate a world where we could believe that all those who profess Christianity  are pure, all Muslims are radical, all liberals value life over money or all mothers are nurturing?  Life would be so much easier if we could pretend that all criminals looked a p…

Lonliness

We live in a world with almost 7.5 billion people.  Our nation has over 300 million citizens.  When we go to Wal-Mart or drive down Three Notch Road we lament the crowds.  The evidence suggests that there are people all around us; yet, almost inexplicably, we also have a society that wrestles with loneliness.  CBS News cited a 2016 Harris Poll that indicated 72% of us experience some kind of loneliness and about one-third of us feel it weekly.  Fortune Magazine referenced research done in 2010 by AARP that indicted 40-45% of people felt a sense of loneliness.  Even when we are tripping over one another, there is a tendency to feel lonely.
Loneliness is a social concern; but, it can also be a spiritual issue.  The Bible provides resources for people who deal with a feeling of isolation; but, it also challenges us to be proactive in reaching out to people who are struggling.  The Apostle Paul instructed, “Bearoneanother’sburdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) wh…

Helter Skelter

According to Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, Charles Manson sought to bring Helter Skelter to the United States in the summer of 1969.   Manson envisioned a race war that would eventually benefit him and his “Family”.  When events were not moving fast enough for the cult leader, he organized two horrific murder scenes that he hoped would start the racial finger-pointing which would culminate in the holocaust that would put him and his cult in control of the young people and the world.  On the surface, Manson’s plans seem to have been fueled by an infinity for music and a misunderstanding of the book of Revelation; but, in the end, the thing that drove him was evil.  He was willing to kill and he was willing to dupe people to achieve his grandiose dream.  Simply put, there was evil in his heart!
Recently,  I have thought a lot about Charles Manson.  There is a lot of finger-pointing going on  these days.  A terrorist attack that claims the lives of two dozen people in England, a senseless …

Modern Idolotry

From the very beginning of God’s relationship with His chosen people He wanted to make one thing clear – He was to be the one and only God.  The Lord realized that the Israelites were going to be tempted to follow other “gods”; but, they needed to know that He was their God.  The Ten Commandments begin with, “I am the Lordyour God,who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house ofslavery.  You shall have no othergodsbefore Me.  You shall not make for yourselfan idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am ajealous God,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,but showing lovingkindness tothousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:2-6).   Even with a new covenant (when God’s chosen people were identified as Christians) believers were cautioned to …

Teachers

This is National Teacher Appreciation Week and Tuesday, May 9, is Teacher Appreciation Day.  First and foremost, I would like to honor all of the past and present educators in our congregation.  You will never know the impact that you have had on our young people and our society.  Not only were you called to instruct the Three R’s (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic); you accepted the challenge of teaching many students everything else they needed to know about life.  You are responsible for their health (both in education and welfare).  You have had to discipline them while helping them learn the value of discipline.  You were required to teach them about Civics and show them what it means to be good citizens.  You have been a social worker, mental health professional, nutritionist and parent.  There are certain professions that transcend being a “job” and even a “career”.  Teaching is a lifestyle.  Thank you for answering the call and meeting the challenge head-on each and every day.
On…

Words Of Infamy

What it would be like to have to live with the stigma of being a negative influence?  While this would be tough if our legacy was known only to our friends and family; what would it be like to have it recorded throughout history?  Such is the fate of Hymenaeus and Philetus.  These two individuals have the distinction of being infamous – not necessarily because of what they did; rather, for what they said.  The Apostle Paul warns Timothy, “… avoid worldlyandempty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,menwho have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.”  (II Timothy 2:16-18).  As I reflected on these two, I found myself more drawn to the warning issued to Timothy than I was in their condemnation.  Paul is straightforward in his opinion of Hymenaeus and Philetus; but, he takes the opportunity to caution the young minister ab…

Making Me

I am sure that my parents got tired of hearing “You made me do it!” or “You make me so mad!”.   My sister and I got along pretty well; but, like all siblings we had our moments when my folks may have wondered why they’d ever had children!  Eventually Kim and I matured and grew out of our childish banter; but, it would be  years before I would learn one of the most important lessons of my life – no one can make me do anything I don’t choose to do.  Sure, there are people (or agencies) who can overcome our physical strength; but, when it comes to matters of attitude; I, alone, am the captain of that ship.  I may not be able to dictate all of the circumstances in my life; but, I get to choose my response them.  In contrast to my childish rant, no one can make me do “it” and no one can make me mad (or happy or sad or any number of other emotions). 
As we look at the issue of personal choice, we see the important role it has in our lives.  Take, for example, that we get to choose our …
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He Is Coming

On the night before Jesus was crucified He had an incredible meeting with His closest disciples.  While all four of the Gospel writers record certain events from that night; including the specifics of the Last Supper and Judas’ decision to follow-through with his treasonous act, it is John’s account of that evening that provides us with the most detailed insider’s perspective.  As John reflected on that night, he recalled that one of the topics Jesus discussed was His return.  Even though, to this point, He hadn’t gone anywhere Jesus encouraged the disciples by saying, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; forI go to prepare a place for you.If I go and prepare a place for you,I will come again and receive you to Myself, thatwhere I am,thereyou may be also.” (John 14:2-3).  Within the next few hours these words would be lost on the disciples.  As they scrambled their resources to find a grave, they forgot that they didn’t need somethi…