Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June, 2016

Our nation officially began on July 4th, 1776. Therefore, let us all join together on the 240th anniversary in saying, “Happy Birthday, Uncle Sam. May you have many more!” The number of birthdays Uncle Sam has remaining will depend on how well we continue the American dream. This dream can be seen in the following documents:

Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights . . . that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of right, ought to be, free and independent states. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Eighty-seven years later Abraham Lincoln, looking out over the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, reflected on the cost of liberty in his historic Gettysburg Address: “It is for the living rather to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced . . . the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion . . . that we here do highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

The statement inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, your wretched refuse from your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” This statement was written by a Jewish immigrant from Europe who appreciated the genius of America.

I see in these historic documents many parallels to the Christian life . . . for the faith, commitment, and effort which brought this nation into existence is but a reflection of what is required of Christians. In 1776, the colonists were declaring their independence from a tyrannical British government. In conversion, Christians declare their independence from the tyranny of sin – it is an independence that God makes available to every person. As those colonists died to set America free, Jesus Christ died to set mankind free. “If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

What is this dream called America? It originated in the hearts of persons who believed in a righteous God, to whom all persons are responsible. It had its roots in the spiritual offspring of Abraham’s faith which led him out from among his own kindred and familiar surroundings “to a land which he knew not.” It possessed, and still possesses, the courage of Moses who stood before a tyrant Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go!” It is built upon the moral foundations set forth in the Ten Commandments, and expanded upon in the Sermon on the Mount.

Many of the qualities woven into the American dream come straight from the Bible: the worth of every individual being; respect and love for others; the assumption of responsibility; the value of honest labor – the work ethic; the importance of building on solid foundations; a just judicial system; the four freedoms: freedom of speech, assembly, press, and worship; and the strong belief that “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

How can we today continue the American dream? First of all, we must build upon the foundations already laid: recognition of the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men, separation of church and state (not separation of God and state), respect for others – their differences, their abilities, their uniqueness, honest labor – each finding his or her place. If we allow the American dream to be lost, our liberty will be lost, and the brave and dedicated investments made by those who have gone before us will be down the drain, relegated to the dust bin of history. And our children will not rise up and call us blessed. May we never forget the wisdom found in Psalm 33:12 — “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

America is not perfect, nor will it ever be, but it is my land . . . and your land . . . and with God’s help we can make it His land. MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA!

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Dr. Emil Brunner, German theologian, rightly said, “The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” This being true, the success or failure of your church, or of any church, is not determined by the condition of its buildings, the number of its programs, or the size of its membership, but by what it is doing to proclaim the message of God’s love to its surrounding community and world. It cannot and will not succeed in fulfilling the mission God has given it unless it is committed to the following four things:
It must be a worshiping church. The early church was a singing church. The apostle Paul told the churches to which he wrote that as the Word of God dwelled in them, they would teach one another in psalms and spiritual songs. Singing is not incidental to what a church does. It is not just a warm-up for the sermon. It is the best way I know to express through praise and joy what Christians believe and feel.
I agree with Dr. W.T. Conner, the former teacher at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, that worship is the primary business of the church. Everything a church does grows out of the quality of its worship. The order of a worship service has been called “God’s Table Manners.” Leonard Griffith once wrote that the main motive in the ministry of Jesus was “to bring God into the experience of men and to bring men into the presence of God.”
It must be a caring church. The world will not care how much we know until it knows how much we care. Dr. Elton Trueblood, great Quaker theologian, described many churches as “stained-glass foxholes” where Christians meet on Sunday, isolated from the world, then go home at 12:00 noon. It is easy for you and other members of your church to say you are concerned about meeting the spiritual needs in your community, but words of concern meet spiritual need only they are expressed in tangible ways.
Cal and Rose Samra, in Holy Humor, share the story of a man who decided he wanted to join a church that was notorious for its spirit of exclusiveness. The pastor sought to evade the issue by suggesting that he reflect more carefully on the matter, and pray for guidance. The man that night prayed and asked for God’s direction. He later said to the pastor, “When I told God I wanted to join your church, He laughed, and then said, ‘They won’t let you in. I’ve been trying to get in that church for ten years myself, and I can’t get in.’”
It must be a praying church. A prayerless church is a powerless church. God intends that every church be a channel through which His power be made available to the world. Ask yourself these two questions: (1) Is my church a praying church? (2) Am I as a Christian such a believer in God’s power, such a receiver and channel of His power that it flows constantly through my life to others? If not, you should be and can be, for that is part of your birthright as a Christian. The church without spiritual power is a factory for the creation of hypocrites. As Tennyson said, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
Why is prayer so important? It will show us our needs, and lead us to the confession of sin. It will make us aware of and sensitive to the needs of others. It will make all the resources of heaven available to us. Evangelist Dwight L. Moody declared, “Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure!”
It must be a witnessing church. Every church can witness in the following ways: (1) Have an active visitation program; (2) Join with other churches in evangelistic campaigns; (3) Through individuals sharing their faith with non-Christians; and (4) Through regular worship services containing both proclamation and praise.
If your church is a worshipping church, a caring church, a praying church, and a witnessing church, it has what it takes to make a genuine impact on its community and world.

Read Full Post »

Everything I do as a Christian minister involves the use of words. My job is to communicate to others the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do this through preaching, teaching, writing, public speaking and private conversation. If I am to do any of these things I must use words.

Few things are more fascinating or powerful than words. They come in two basic forms – written and spoken. Anyone who desires to communicate thoughts or ideas in either of these two ways is a word merchant. Through the employment of words response can be gained, individuals or groups can be changed, and even nations can have dialogue with one another.

Right words, when properly and skillfully used, can achieve valuable and desired ends. Wrong words, spoken in haste or written without careful thought, can do immense harm. Lives have been ruined, homes have been broken, and nations have gone to war when angry words have been spoken. Using too many words can smother an idea. Using too few words can make communication difficult or impossible.

Some words are long – for example, the word pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis (containing 45 letters). Other words are short – so short, in fact, they only contain one letter. There are kind and unkind words, helpful and hurtful words, happy and unhappy words, words very much to the point and words that are ambiguous. These things being true, it is not difficult to understand why words are fascinating and powerful. Communication would be difficult, if not impossible, without them.

To illustrate further the power of words, let us focus on just one little word – the word up. People use the word up in so many ways. We put up with, use up, come up, move up, go up, walk up, climb up, run up, fill up, look up, dig up, plough up, butter up, line up, pick up, stand up and are often fed up. Houses are opened up, lighted up, warmed up, cleaned up and closed up. Boats are speeded up, slowed up, tied up and laid up. Cars are jacked up, fixed up, gassed up, cranked up, charged up, and tuned up.

In our own personal lives we are often mixed up because we have to hurry up. We foul up because we are not willing to grow up. In the world of education, business, and commerce those who make up their mind to shape up have by far the best opportunity to move up.

Everywhere you look the word up shows up. It is not necessary to think up the word up. It just keeps showing up. It would be very easy to get hung up on how many ways you could come up with the word up because it is such an important word. The whole world uses the word up in so many ways.

You perhaps have not realized this before, but UP is pre-eminently a Christian word. A Christian’s greatest blessings come from looking up. A Christian’s greatest challenge is to lead others to follow the example of the psalmist who said, “I will lift UP my eyes unto the hills –where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1). It is only by consistently looking up that you can be prayed up and will ultimately go up when Christ returns to gather His church.

By the way, do you plan this coming Sunday to get up in time to show up at church so you can stand up with fellow believers to lift up your voice in praise to God? Starting each week by looking up will keep you from having a down week. This being true, you understand why UP is pre-eminently a Christian word.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Louis Evans in his book, Your Marriage, Duel or Duet, has a chapter entitled “Finance . . . A Fury or a Fellowship.” In this chapter he points out that the unwise management of money can wreck a marriage that does not have a well-thought-out program of money management prior to their wedding day.

This being true, I have tried in pre-marriage counseling sessions to help couples develop a plan to use their material resources in ways that make a marriage strong and would not become a problem. God designed marriage to be “until DEATH do us part,” not “until DEBT do us part.”

Some of the reasons money can cause problems in marriage are:

The love of money. There is nothing wrong with owning money – even lots of it. The problem comes when money owns us – that is, when we love money. Acts 5 tells us that Ananias and Sapphira met their death because they loved money. Judas loved money so much that he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The bishop (pastor) of a New Testament church must be one who is “not greedy for money” (I Timothy 3:3).

Misunderstanding the purpose of money. Failing to understand how money should be properly used leads to abuses. Both those who have lots of it and those who have very little of it can lack understanding how it should be used in wise and appropriate ways. We have seen it often happen. Perhaps it is currently true of you.

Unwise credit buying. Buying on credit has enabled many families to have things they would never have gotten otherwise, but buying on credit more than can be later paid for creates chaos in families. Perhaps you have heard the story of the man who told a friend he had arranged for his wife to have plastic surgery. “I took a pair of scissors,” he explained, “and cut up her credit cards.” It is an idea that lots of other families might profitably employ.

Keeping up with the proverbial Jones family. We are literally bombarded by commercials every time we turn on a radio or television set. We are encouraged to covet what we do not have in the belief that it will enable us to have what others have. Greed takes over and getting becomes more important than giving.

Jack Taylor, in his book, One Home under God, shares a poem by an anonymous author you will enjoy. It describes a certain bride and groom’s determination to never let money become a problem following their wedding day:
“The bride, bent with age, leaned over her cane,
Her steps uncertain need guiding,
While down the church aisle,
With a wan toothless smile
The groom in a wheel-chair came gliding,
And who is this elderly couple thus wed?
You’ll find when you’ve closely explored it,
That this is that rare, conservative pair . . .
Who waited TILL THEY COULD AFFORD IT.”

 

Read Full Post »

Pulpit Digest some years ago carried the story of two Irish women who were talking as they were walking together on the way home from church one Sunday. They had just heard the local Archbishop preach a sermon on the subject: “The Beauty of Married Life.” “’Tis a fine sermon his reverence gave us today”, said one woman to the other. “’Twas indeed” replied the other, “and I wish I knew as little about the subject as he does.”

A good marriage does not automatically happen. It is something for which two people must work and strive. It should start with the personal commitment of each spouse to Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:21 says that when that kind of relationship exists in a marriage it is a form of worship. So, how can husbands and wives achieve this in their marriage?

First, they must learn to deal with their differences. This has never been easy for me to communicate to young lovers sitting on the couch in my office in pre-marital counseling sessions. They are holding hands and have a gleam in their eyes. The fellow sees his fiancée as though she were a goddess. She, in turn, exaggerates his every virtue into a glorious illusion. Following their marriage both partners are going to need the spirit of forgiveness in abundance. The faults they never saw before will become obvious in Technicolor.

The point is that we are all human. We fail in many ways. We have differences of opinion on a countless range of subjects, and these can quickly be blown out of proportion, and often are. The Phillips translation of I Corinthians 13:5 describes it this way: “Love does not keep an account of evil.” It is difficult to live with a spouse who continually brings up every mistake you ever made. Not to forgive is a form of control.

Second, they should never neglect their spouse. We as individuals were created for fellowship with God and for one another. “It is not good that the man should live alone” (Genesis 2:18). Multitudes of husbands and wives suffer from “chronic emotional malnutrition.” And they become lonely and neglected, isolated from one another. The husband’s work load increases, and the wife throws herself into civic organizations and into church activities. The marriage suffers because they grow apart. A marriage can be vaccinated against “chronic emotional malnutrition” through renewed commitment to Christ, by continuing to date, and by a continued willingness to help one another.

Finally, they must love their spouse as he (or she) is. Trying to mold your spouse into your own image creates the kind of tension that leads to problems, and possibly to divorce. There is something about human nature that resists persons who try to constantly change you – even when you need to change. Nothing is too big or too little to discuss together in a prayerful way, but the ideal change agent in a Christian marriage is Jesus Christ. He is the potter; we are the clay. That is the divine order for constructive change in a marriage.

Admittedly, there are many times when you may think you will not survive the idiosyncrasies of your partner. But, if they are dealt with prayerfully, the Lord can help you to become more in touch with your own hang-ups which He knows will have to go in order for your marriage to survive in a healthy way. With God’s leadership every marriage can succeed.

Ogden Nash, in his poem entitled “Marriage,” adds this additional very practical advice:

“To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it,
Whenever you’re right, shut up.”

 

Read Full Post »