Perspective

Today at lunch, I spilled my drink. It was a dramatic experience not only because it was a mess, but because I was looking forward to drinking it. So, when my delicious soda fell off the desk and hit the floor, I let out an audible, “NO!” I sat there staring at the wasted liquid seep into the carpet. I was so disappointed. In fact, it almost ruined my afternoon. A drink affected my attitude to the point that I needed to re-evaluate my perspective.

As humans, our perspectives tend to be skewed. We tend to focus on the small picture instead of the big picture. Remember Jonah? After he delivered God’s message to the city of Nineveh, he went and threw a tantrum because God showed compassion to the Ninevites. While Jonah is throwing his temper tantrum in the hot sun, God makes a plant grow to shade Jonah.

The next morning, God sends a worm and the plant is eaten and Jonah no longer has his shade. He grumbles to God that it would be better to die than to not have the shade. God asks Jonah if it is right for him to be angry about the plant and Jonah answers it is. That he is so angry he wants to die. And then God answers in Jonah 4:10-11,

“You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

God knows that we have a tendency to “sweat the small stuff.” If He expected Jonah to have and keep proper perspective, I believe it is important for us to have and keep as well. Whether it be when we spill a drink, in our everyday conversations, while we are driving, etc. let us focus on the things above. Let us have and keep a Christian perspective.

What is Real?

Is kindness real? Can you touch kindness? Can you hear it or smell it? You can see an act of kindness, but you’re not really seeing the kindness itself, just an outward expression of an otherwise invisible character trait.

What about joy? Is joy real? You may see someone so filled with it that they jump up and down and shout, but those are only behaviors we may exhibit when we are joyful.

Is anything more real to you than the love you have for others, your spouse, children and especially grandchildren? You know just how real it is, but could you actually show me your love for your family if I asked?

It is worth considering that the most important “things” in life, are not things that are a part of the physical world.

You can gaze into the night sky and see all the wonders of heaven that are visible to the naked eye, and know that as vast and great as they all are, they will one day cease to exist. But you won’t. You are a spirit, just as God is a spirit. You are aware of the stars, but they are not capable of being aware of you.

Your love, your joy, your peace and all of the other blessings of God that truly make life worth living are not of this world, but of God and his world. These “best” things, are what you can take with you when you leave. Perhaps this at least partially explains why Jesus taught us to lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven where the decay of this world cannot touch it. Perhaps these Godly traits lived out in our lives through our faith are the basis of all those stored heavenly treasures. God made the stars to last for a little while, but he made you to last forever.

Faith. That’s it, that’s the one invisible trait that is most real. It is the basis for keeping all the rest and of our salvation itself. Guard it. Feed it. Live it. The day will come when we realize that nothing is more real and more valuable than that.

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

The Founder's Intent for the United States of America

There are four references to the God of the Bible in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. They are as follows, with emphasis being mine:

1st paragraph

“…the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…"

2nd paragraph

“…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

Last paragraph

“…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world…”, and “…with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence…”

If Buddha had been referenced four times in such a foundational document of any other nation, would we not suppose that the authors expected the teachings of Buddha to guide that nation in principle and practice?

If Allah was referenced four times, who would deny that the writers anticipated faith in him to be the primary factor in governing? But our Declaration of Independence does not simply reference the God of the Bible.

The first quote reproduced above proves that the founders based the colonies’ right of freedom from tyranny on the natural laws established by God.

The second quote reveals that they based the equality and rights of every citizen of this new republic on the fact that they were created by the God of the Bible (which fact later helped to end slavery).

The third quote reveals that they called upon the authority of the God of the Bible for justification of their claim to freedom.

The fourth quote makes it clear that those who signed this document pledging, “our Lives our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”, trusted that their hope for realizing independence was totally reliant upon God.

Surely you agree, this would be an odd way to begin the establishment of a totally secular nation.

60 Years Ago

I know I will be dating myself, but 60 years ago I was 12. My grandfather gave me my very first Bible. I was so proud - it even had my name on the front. But even more important, on the inside, he had written in "Psalms 119:11.” Before you read any further, please open your Bible and read that scripture....

I have worn out at least four Bibles since then, but in every one I wrote that scripture inside to remind me of grandpa and the relationship he wanted me to have with God.

In that time I have also come to love ALL of Psalms 119 (all 176 verses) and how it appeals to us to value God's word. Perhaps - no definitely, the problems of today would much more quickly be resolved if we all used God's words instead of our own! What a wonderful world this would be.

Sixty years ago things were very, very different, that's true. But, the one thing that remains consistent is that God's word has not, nor will not ever change. It has been true and powerful for over 4,000 years.

So please let me encourage you to read your Bible. The church encourages all of us to be Daily Bible Readers. The Covid-19 virus has allowed us some extra free time by restricting many things we would normally be doing. Let me suggest setting up a time, even as little as 10 to 15 minutes each day. Don't only read the word, but contemplate on what you have read. You won't believe the difference it can make in your life.

If you "hide the word in your heart,” it will "reappear in your life.”

Why Do You Go To Church?

Six times in the 14th chapter of 1st Corinthians, Paul speaks of the church being edified when it assembles. Edification is about people; building up people.

As a member of the Lord’s church, I know I have an obligation to God to attend the assemblies of the church to worship him. No one in the universe is more deserving of my devotion and service. Isn’t it interesting though, that when we assemble for God, he sees our service to each other as service to him?

This should not surprise us at all, however. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s what we are doing when we build someone up; we are loving them. What better time to love people than when we have gotten together to show God how much we love him?

Jesus also taught us that when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, care for the sick, show hospitality to strangers, remember those in prison and clothe the naked that we are doing all of those things to him (Matthew 25:34-40). If in these ways we are serving God, how much more are we serving him when we build up his family when it assembles.

What can you do to edify the church when it meets?

  1. Be there – your presence speaks volumes. Just seeing you there will signal to others that you agree that they have made the right decision to come.
  2. Learn people’s names – take the time and make the effort to learn their names and spend some time visiting with them before or after assemblies. You won’t be sorry. Use the pictorial directory on our website, make notes when introducing yourself or ask folks you know about those you don’t.
  3. Participate – sing (we are supposed to be singing to each other), listen, take notes, bow for prayer, and fully commit yourself to the assembly. Do all things with both zeal and reverence committing yourself to the assembly instead of conversation or your phone.
  4. Smile – You are on your way to heaven with these folks. What is not to smile about?
Virtue Signaling

– “The action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character or the moral correctness of one's position on a particular issue”

Virtue signaling is born out of the fear of public opinion. That fear will make you hypocritical and weak. Here are just a few examples.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus called out those who sounded trumpets to get folks’ attention so they could be seen giving to the poor. He also taught us not to emulate those who stood praying in public places in order to be seen by men. Still others he warned about were people who fasted, but wanted everyone to know they were fasting so they would be impressed with their piety (Matthew 6:1-18). Yes, virtue signaling was a thing even back then.

Jesus gave sight to a man who had been blind all of his life. When questioned about it, the man’s parents refused to publicly acknowledge what Jesus did for their son because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue (John 9:1-23).

Many of the rulers in Jerusalem believed in Jesus, but refused to publicly confess him for fear of the opinions of the Pharisees. John wrote that they loved the approval of men more than they loved the approval of God (John 12:42-43).

Fear compelled Peter to deny Jesus three times when accused of having been one of his followers. Jesus had even told Peter that he would deny him. Eventually, this stalwart apostle would weep bitter tears of remorse over his lapse. He had sent the wrong signal and gave up virtue in the process.

Can you relate? Have you ever “sold out” to avoid being “put out”? Fear is a hard master, and will constantly remind you of your weakness.

Simply put, the only person’s opinion that should matter to me as a Christian is Christ’s. If I please him in my thoughts, speech and behavior, no one else matters.

One day, we will all stand before him. On that day, at that moment, we will see public opinion for the pathetic lie it is, and want more than anything only to be approved by Jesus the Lord of Glory.

Unseen Enemy

It started in a place so far away we never dreamed it would get to our country.

From Asia to Europe then the USA, it was a war with an unseen enemy.

Some people think we don’t need to worry while others say it could kill us all.

More people praying to God for answers, it is a war with an unseen enemy.

We struggle mightily upon two battle fronts one is our health the other our economy. At times we don’t have the proper weapons, it is war with an unseen enemy.

Our health professionals are fighting bravely, sickness and death and the unknown.

Trying to save all the wounded victims, it is a war with an unseen enemy.

We stay at home and keep our social distance close all the schools and nonessential business.

Even churches are no longer meeting, it is a war with an unseen enemy.

Constant reminders of the deaths and cases flattening the curve becomes our strategy.

But even so people die by the thousands, it is a war with an unseen enemy.

Many businesses considered nonessential closing their doors and laying off workers.

Forcing millions to the unemployment line, it is a war with an unseen enemy.

In the end we have to maintain unity fighting together even though apart.

We’ll lose some battles but we’ll win the war, it is a war with an unseen enemy.

It is a war with an unseen enemy. An unseen enemy.

As Christians, however, we need to remember the following:

God is our [unseen] refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

- Psalms 46:1

Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

- Philippians 4:6-7

The more we dwell on fear and the unknown, the greater chance that fear will overwhelm us. The more we trust in our unseen God, the less fear we will experience from our unseen enemy.

What Could Be Worse than War?

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse”

John Stuart Mill, British philosopher.

Mill’s words tell us that there are some things worth war. Ironically enough, it is actually love in the minds of right-thinking people, compelling them to fight. Do you love your freedom? Do you love freedom for your children and grandchildren? There is a debt of gratitude we owe those who’ve faced the ugliness of war for our sake and not come home.

God determined that governments should exist in order to take up the sword against those who do evil (Romans 13:1-4). Where would we be without that sword, and where would we be without those willing to bear it?

George Orwell is attributed with the statement, “Civilized men sleep soundly because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” A great many rough men have given their “last full measure of devotion,” as Abraham Lincoln put it, for our peace.

General Ulysses S. Grant said, “I have never advocated war except as means of peace, so seek peace, but prepare for war. Because war... War never changes. War is like winter and winter is coming.”

We have seen winter, and its horrible cost. And yet, there is truth in the somewhat hard to swallow statement by General George Patton concerning combat losses, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” His words affront us with a different perspective.

I hate the cross of Jesus for obvious reasons, but at the same time there is nothing I love so much. It is at once, horrifically ugly, and infinitely beautiful. His profound sacrifice secured that for which I was in desperate need.

So it is with those our nation has lost to war, whom we honor this Memorial Day.

God's Faith Gauge

Jesus told a parable about a widow who incessantly went to a judge for legal protection against an enemy. The judge refused at first, but eventually helped the poor woman just because she wouldn’t quit coming (Luke’s gospel, 18:1-8).

Jesus finished the parable with the question, “… when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Faith trusts the reality of what is not yet seen. Looking back to what God has already done, however, is what makes it easy to look ahead with confidence. Faith, rather than being blind, sees the record of God’s trustworthiness.

He made the earth to be ours, and gave us dominion over it and built faith-makers into his creation. We use up trees, but more trees grow. Using water pollutes it, but his ingenious cycle renews it afresh. Loved ones die, but God gives children and grandchildren. Even as we experience death, decay and loss, there is abundant newness springing up all around us.

And life, eternal life, springs up in each of us through Jesus. The “water” of his Holy Spirit he promised in John 7:37-39 keeps flowing. So what if the outer man decays, since the inner man, the one that lasts forever, is renewed day by day (2nd Corinthians 4:16). It is a certainty that, “..if anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creature” (2nd Corinthians 5:17).

So keep coming. Keep praying. Keep thanking and asking and pouring out your soul to God. If you and I are here when the Lord returns, let him find faith.

Who Understands Motherhood, Except Moms?

Jesus said:

“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.”

He knew what he was talking about, having created the whole process of conception, gestation & birth (see John, 1:1-3; 14), no other man could ever have understood and appreciated motherhood like Jesus.

Bearing children? Scary stuff, that. I’ve watched difficult labor. I’ve heard the cries of pain and seen the scars bearing children can leave. But then of course you get a baby, and I’ve yet to hear a mother express regret over either the pain or the scars after she holds her baby. No man, except Jesus, could ever comprehend it all.

You may have noticed that he also bears a few scars. He was rejected as one from whom we would hide our faces; then struck in the face, crowned with thorns, experienced a beating that killed others, nailed to a cross and had his side pierced with a spear. Just a few scars, he has.

But his was also the pain of childbirth, bringing many into the family of God.

Just as it is right that we should always remember how he suffered out of his love for us, we should remember how our mothers suffered to give us life, loving us before they even knew us.

And like a mother, Jesus suffered it all for the joy set before him.

“…..fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
- Hebrews 12:2

What else could his joy be, but the joy of giving us life? Yes, I believe Jesus appreciates all moms everywhere. So should we.