Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2017

In an effort to increase communication between the pulpit and pew, I recently read the story of a church that began having discussion sessions following the sermon each Sunday. Questions could be asked that gave the pastor an opportunity to explain the meaning of certain words or figures of speech he had used in his sermon.

I can see that some benefit could come from the practice. However, I got to wondering what would have happened if an Old Testament prophet like Amos had asked the people in his hometown of Tekoa, six miles south of Bethlehem, to discuss his sermons. Join me in using your imagination. It might have gone something like this:

LAYMAN: “Doctor Amos, shouldn’t a member of the clergy be less presumptuous than to use such a phrase as ‘Thus saith the Lord?’”

AMOS: “Absolutely, unless such a phrase reflects the truth. By the way, I am not a member of the organized clergy. You will not find a clergy tag on my chariot. And I do not have a doctor’s degree.”

LAYMAN: “When you say that God hates and despises our feasts, what right do you have to say such things? You ought to be more careful in what you say, or you might rock the boat.”

AMOS: “That would be wonderful, for rocking your boat is precisely what I am hoping to accomplish.”

LAYMAN: “When you say such things as ‘Hear this word, you cows of Bashan,’ you are using the kind of unacceptable descriptive language that offends the sensibilities of a lot of people – especially the women.”

AMOS: “Right on, brother! Using strong and descriptive language is the only way I can get your attention.”

LAYMAN: “There is nothing more meaningful than a restful worship service, where those who hear your sermons manifest a spirit of reverence, and where the worship liturgy is carried out in a dignified way.”

AMOS: “If there is any truth to what you say, why is there such a wide gap between what I preach in the synagogue and what you practice outside in the community?”

LAYMAN: “When you say, ‘Woe unto you who desire the day of the Lord. . . It is darkness and not light’, you disturb the people and make them uncomfortable.”

AMOS: “Tremendous! That makes me happier than you can imagine.”

LAYMAN: “I don’t come to the synagogue to hear sermons dealing with social injustice, dishonesty in business, the folly of hypocrisy, or the necessity of repentance. I come to hear a positive message.”

AMOS: “There is undoubtedly a synagogue or two in town where you can get your wish.”

LAYMAN: “The trouble with your sermons is that you never offer any solutions”

AMOS: “You need to clean the wax out of your ears. Don’t you remember my closing remarks this morning? ‘Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an overflowing stream.’ That sounds like a solid solution to me. You want solutions, but you are not willing to let God work through you to make them happen.”

Sometimes people do have trouble understanding a word or a phrase. But, what often passes as an inability to understand is really an unwillingness to listen. It was true in the day of Amos. Sadly, it is also true today!

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

One of the most disturbing trends in the early twenty-first century has been the rapid growth of moral relativism –that is, the belief that there are no fixed standards of right and wrong. As in ancient Israel, the moral standard by which many people live today is to only do “what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 212:25).

This is precisely what led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It will lead to a bad end for any nation – including our own. Multitudes of people do not realize, as William Penn once said, “Right is right even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it.”

Moral relativism – the belief that nothing is wrong and right is whatever you want it to be – is sometimes referred to as “the new morality.” It would be more accurate to call it “the absence of morality” or “the old immorality.” The belief that you are free to live by whatever standard you choose for yourself, in effect, makes you your own god. Worshiping yourself is the worst and most dangerous form of idol worship.

The Bible says that God “created man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). If this is true, and I believe it is, the true standard of human belief and behavior should be established by our Creator, not by any human creature. Having been created by God, everything we do should be done for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). But how can any person determine which actions truly glorify God and obey His will?”

Obviously, since God is our Creator, the only way we can know what is true and is right is for Him to tell us. And that is exactly what He has done in giving us the Bible. The Bible, simply stated, is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. It is His communication, His Law, His Word, His standard for living. The written Word points us to the living Word, Jesus Christ.

The most basic of all sins, and the root of all other sins, is rebellion against God’s Word. The establishment of any other criterion of truth or morality in preference to the revealed Word of God is sin it its most fundamental and deadly form. The three greatest sins are indifference to, neglect of, and disrespect for the Word of God. To disbelieve God’s Word is to reject Him.

This was the sin of Satan himself in his primordial rebellion against God in heaven. Having rejected God’s truth, he said, “I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). And it was with the sin of unbelief and self-idolatry that Satan tempted Eve, saying to her: “Yes, God has said . . .”, but he followed these four words with a blatant denial of God’s Word by saying: “You will certainly not die . . . you will be as gods” (Genesis 3:1, 4-5).

There needs to be a renewed commitment in our nation to the truth found in God’s Word. It is the only way our nation can experience spiritual renewal. Romans 15:4 tells us that “everything that was written in the past was given to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” And Paul’s message to Timothy reminds us that “all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

The preeminent role of God’s Word as the absolute standard of right and wrong is demonstrated by its role in the future judgment. Jesus said, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day” (John 12:48).

If you have not done so already, please believe and accept this truth today!

 

Read Full Post »

Thomas Carlyle, born in Scotland on December 4, 1795, became a biographer, historian, philosopher, and prolific writer. He married his secretary, and following their marriage she continued to work with him in the course of his writing. Not long after their marriage she became ill. In fact, she continued to work long after she should have stopped.

Carlyle, however, was not totally aware of how seriously ill she was. The disease was slowly but surely sapping the energy from her body, and finally she died. Following her death he, along with several of his friends, made the lonely trek to the cemetery to deposit the earthly remains of the woman who has stood by his side so faithfully. It was raining that day, and the mud was deep.

On the way back to his home Carlyle reviewed in his mind how faithfully she had aided him in his work, and how much he was going to miss her help. He began to realize that when she had needed his presence and care the most, he was too preoccupied to meet her need. He would never be able to change that fact.

When he arrived back home, he climbed the stairs, went into her former bedroom at the top of the stairs, and sat down beside the bed where she had spent her last hours of life. His awareness of how faithful she had been, and how miserably he had failed her in her last days and hours of life, burdened him with guilt.

At this point he reached over to a small bedside table and picked up a little book, which he recognized to be her diary, and opened it and began to read. On the page to which he had by chance opened he read these words, “Today he spent an hour with me. It was like heaven. I love him so.”

Flipping to a second page he read, “I have listened all day to hear his footsteps in the hall. But it is now late, and I know that he will not come today.” Reading on through approximately two weeks of daily entries, his heart began to break. Tears began to flow down his cheeks. He laid the book down, ran down the stairs, and out into the rain. In fact, he ran all the way to the cemetery where he had just left the body of the woman who had loved him so much. His friends found him a short time later lying face down in the mud and crying, “If I had only known! If I had only known!”

Why did he not know? He could have known, and he should have known! How can any man get so busy with things of secondary importance, and become so lacking in appreciation for his wife who had worked at his side so faithfully to aid him in his work, and who loved him dearly, that he could let her spend her last hours on earth at the top of the stairs day after day in a room by herself?

Carlyle was a man of great skill. His writings have touched and blessed people for well over two centuries. However, as great as his contributions to the world have been, he would have been glad to give all of them in exchange for the kind of sensitivity he needed but did not have at such a crucial hour. He waited until he would never have another opportunity on this earth to show his wife how much he loved her.

If you have a mate who stands faithfully by your side, who loves you, and who needs your love in return, please do not wait until he or she is gone to demonstrate the sincerity of your love. If you wait until then, the opportunity you will have lost will be lost forever. “Be very careful how you live – not as unwise but as wise. Making the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:15).

 

 

Read Full Post »

The massive Henry W. Grady Memorial Hospital is located in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. The man whose name it bears was a leader in the New South following the Civil War. His father, who had been a successful merchant in Athens, Georgia, fought in the Confederate army and was killed in battle. Following his father’s death, Grady was raised by his mother.

Following graduation from college, Grady rose to national prominence as a correspondent and editor of The Atlanta Constitution. He also earned a reputation as a much in demand, admired public speaker. The Dictionary of Literary Biography describes him as a resourceful reporter, a vivid writer, a pioneer of the interview technique, an astute editor, and a successful salesman of his newspaper and his community. He was nationally recognized following the Civil War as the symbol of the new South.

Grady probably would not have achieved all that he did had there not been a tremendous turning point in his life. That turning point began while he was attending the International Convention of the YMCA meeting in Atlanta. He was moved by their closing ceremony, but he refused to clasp hands with others and sing the closing hymn. His reason for doing so: He did not feel worthy.

He knew that the young men who sang the closing hymn at that international YMCA meeting had something in their lives that he did not have. He wanted to feel once again the wholesome, clean feeling he had known when he was a child living with his mother in Athens, Georgia.

One young man at the YMCA Convention shared with him what Jesus Christ had done to cleanse his life. This stirred an interest within Grady. The following day he checked out of his office, told his friends that he would be gone for a week, and caught the first train back to the home of this childhood.

When he arrived in Athens he was happily greeted by his mother. He asked her to treat him just as she had done when he was a boy. Pie-dough cakes, apple turnovers, ginger horses with raisin eyes, and other goodies were spread before him once again.

In the quiet afternoons, he would recline on the couch and ask his mother to retell the stories of his youth. He requested such narratives as Joseph and his many-colored coat, David and his sling, and Daniel in the lion’s den. He often brought his Bible to the table and asked her to read the story of the birth of Jesus. He requested her to read about Jesus’ life of service, suffering, and death.

When he went to bed at night, he asked his mother to hear his prayers again as she had years before when he was a boy. Kneeling beside his bed, he prayed once again the child’s prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul will take.”

Grady stayed for two weeks, not just one, in his boyhood home with his mother. He emerged a new and renewed man. Something powerful had happened in his life. His spirit, mind, and body were cleansed and refreshed. He was now ready for all that God had in store for his life.

When he arrived back in Atlanta, he found an invitation on his desk. The New England Society of New York City had requested him to be their featured speaker at their annual meeting.

At the dinner, he was seated next to General William Tecumseh Sherman, the man who had burned the city of Atlanta on his ill-fated march to the sea. He observed that General Sherman was a fine man – but, he said, “a bit careless with matches perhaps.”

In his address, Grady stirred the nation powerfully. He spoke of rebuilding Atlanta with “sunshine and love in every brick.” It was the first time a southern voice had spoken eloquently in the north since the Civil War. His message of love, peace, hope, and reconciliation came from a cleansed heart. It had a tremendous impact on those who heard it.

Does your heart need cleansing in the way Henry Grady’s heart needed cleansing? External reform will do no lasting good without an internal cleansing. Only Jesus Christ can do that for you. He won’t enter your heart without your permission. You must open the door from the inside. Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

It is following the moment when you open your heart to the Savior of the world that you will realize, like the prodigal son whose story is found in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of Luke, that you have found your way home.

 

Read Full Post »