Worthy of Disgrace

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They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”  (Acts 5:40–42, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Imagine being flogged and ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus.  Many people around the world today, and throughout history, have not had to imagine this (and even worse things).  For people like me, who have yet to face this, it is humbling.  At least it should be.  For what we face is mere inconvenience (ridicule, rejection, disrespect) in comparison.

Next, imagine not only continuing to teach and proclaim the good news that Jesus is the Christ but also rejoicing (feeling or showing  great joy or delight) for being counted worthy (important enough) to suffer such disgrace (strongly and generally disapproved of) for the name.  All the while knowing that even more (or worse) is to come.  Also humbling, as all too often we grumble over our “inconveniences.”

My Advice – Be worthy of disgrace for His name.  Because it is the name before all other names.

Begin With The End In Mind

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Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”  (Matthew 7:21–23, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The second habit in Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” is begin with the end in mind.  The gist is, if you do not know your destination, how in the world are you going to get there.  This applies on various scales.  No one would begin to build a house without first visualizing what it should be like.  Its dimensions, number of rooms, construction materials, where to best locate it, etc.  Once these are determined (planned out), the actual building begins. Unfortunately, few visualize the totality of their lives that way. We may have a one and five-year plan, a plan to provide for retirement, a plan for life in retirement, and a plan for what we want to pass on in our estate. But these individual components do not add up to the totality of our lives.

“I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long.” – George Bailey, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Think for a few minutes about your funeral, the people that might attend, for instance.  What is it that you would like them to say about you.  “He sure had his five year plan well thought out.”  “Nobody planned for or lived their retirement like she did.”  “He sure left his children well off.”  As good as these things might be, are they really our legacy?  Not really.  What we really want, if we think hard about it, is to be remembered for the kind of person we were.  The life we lived. The lives we touched. The differences we made.

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  Clarence (the angel), “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

But as we plan for and live our lives, do we begin with this end in mind?  For many, maybe most, probably not.  We begin with making a living in mind rather than beginning with making a life in mind.  At your funeral, will people be talking about the places you visited (Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum), the things you built (airfields, skyscrapers a hundred stories high, bridges a mile long), or how many other lives we touched, the awful hole we will leave?

My Advice – But even these are not the totality of our lives.  For, “just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  (Hebrews 9:27–28, NIV 1984).  There will be many who will have lots of kind and heartfelt things said about them at their funerals for the fine things they did in this life, only to hear Christ say “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

You see, it’s not what we did, it’s who we know.  What we did, our good works, can never atone for the sin in our lives.  But who we know can, because of what He did.  “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:5, NIV 1984).

So, if you really want to begin with the end in mind, don’t just think about what other people will say about you at your funeral.  Think about what He will say to you when you stand before Him.  It can be, “come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”  (Matthew 25:34, NIV 1984).  But only if you have been born again.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

 

 

The Road Less Traveled

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Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”  (Genesis 1:26, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Humans are distinguished from the rest of the God’s “creatures.”  We have self-awareness (conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires).  We have imagination (the ability to form ideas, images or concepts that are not observable by our senses).  We have a conscience (an inner prompting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior).  We have an independent will (the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with those choices and decisions).  We have principles (fundamental truths or propositions that serve as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior). To name just a few.  This is, in part, what it means to be made in God’s image (not to mention the fact that we are more than just a physical creature).   The animal kingdom, for example, when confronted with a stimulus, can only respond to that stimulus (based on instinct, urges, conditioning, fight or flight, etc.).

Stimulus ——-> Response

Humans are different.  Because of things such as self-awareness, imagination, conscience, will, and principles, we have the freedom to choose how we respond to the stimulus.

Stimulus ——-> Freedom to Choose ——->Response

While we may be pre-disposed to certain “determined” responses due genetic determinism (your DNA or nature), psychic determinism (your upbringing, or nurture), and environmental determinism (something or someone in your environment that influences  you one way or another), in the final analysis we still have the freedom to choose.  Our choices cannot ultimately be blamed on these factors.  Our choices, our behavior (response), is a product conscious decisions that we make and that we are responsible for.

Despite all of this, from the very beginning, and all too often, our lives are characterized by so many wrong choices.

Stimulus – When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,

Freedom to Choose

Response – she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

(Genesis 3:6, NIV 1984)

My Advice – Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some “magic” eraser that would let us start over with a clean slate?  The truth is, that there is.  There is a choice we can all make that will make up for all of our poor choices, as if we had never made them at all.  “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7, NIV 1984).  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12, NIV 1984).

Stimulus – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

Freedom to Choose

Response – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  (John 1:12–13, NIV 1984).

The Choice Is Yours.  Choose Wisely.

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Adapted from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

 

 

 

 

 

Close Encounters

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As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  (Isaiah 55:10–11, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Last week, you might recall my blogs regarding a flat tire leading to re-connecting my brother with a long-lost friend and sharing the Gospel.   If so, then you know that encounter did not work out the way we had hoped it would (yet).  Well, over the weekend the story took a new twist.  While grocery shopping I spotted another old friend (Ken) from High school that I had not seen in probably 10 – 15 years.  As we talked, he told me, “say, I hear you ran into Ron at the car dealership the other day.  I also hear he and your brother spoke on the phone.”  Strange, don’t you think?

My AdviceOne day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  (Luke 5:1–6, NIV 1984). Sometimes, when you let down your net, it comes up empty.  And then again, you never know.  “It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  Continue to pray for Ron, and now Ken as well.

He Has Set A Day

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Since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:29–31, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Of course we are much too enlightened to believe in graven images (or at least much of the world is) these days.  Our idols, the things we “worhsip” and run after, are much more sophisticated.  Power.  Prestige.  Possessions.  Pleasure. Professions.  We should not think the divine life can be found in any of these things.  We are God’s offspring, yet we search for and chase after these things rather than a relationship with Him.  In fact there are many who regard belief in God, and belief in the death and resurrection of His Son, are just as ignorant as believing in images made out of gold, silver or stone.

My Advice – “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, ‘We want to hear you again on this subject.’ At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed.” (Acts 17:32–34, NIV 1984).

Just like in Paul’s day, there are three ways people respond to the message of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  We can reject it (“some of them sneered“).  We can postpone consideration (“we want to hear you again“).  We can accept it (“a few became followers…and believed“).  How about you.  This really is not something we can remain neutral about (postpone) forever.  Eventually, we will choose one of the other two.  Either we will accept the Him or reject Him.  But we must remember, “he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.”  We will be judged by the One that we either accept or reject.  How about you?  How will you be judged?  With justice, for sure.  But about who you are, or what He has done?

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Today’s musing was inspired by Lead Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on February 2, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Will I Proclaim? I Will Proclaim!

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Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.  They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”  (Psalm 145:3–7, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What strikes me about these verses is the phrase “One generation will commend your works to another; will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty.”  Is this a generation that speaks of the glorious splendor of God’s majesty?  If not, does the fault lie with this generation or the previous generation for failing to commend His works to the succeeding generation?  Trick question.  The fault lies with both.  Certainly, a generation is handicapped when the previous generation is lax in their responsibility to pass along the glory of God.  However, “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:19–20, NIV 1984).

My Advice – As is often (always) the case, my advice applies as much to me as it does my readers.  So, if you are of my generation (more years behind you than ahead of you), recommit to sharing the glory of God and the Gospel of His Son to all, but especially to those who will be left to pass it along to the next generation when you are gone.  This model has worked remarkably well for 2000 plus years.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:1–2, NIV 1984).

If you are of the younger generation, with much of your “three-score and ten” left, stop making excuses.  Today is the day of salvation if you do not know Christ as your personal Savior.  But, if you already know Him, there is no better time than today to begin being accountable to the Great Commission.  Become a believer and follow Him.  Then become a disciple and teach others to follow Him.

How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if [fill in the blank] is God, follow [it].”  (1 Kings 18:21, NIV 1984).

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

When In Athens

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While Paul was waiting for them [Silas and Timothy] in Athens. . .he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. . .Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”  (Acts 17:16–20, NIV 1984).

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”  (Acts 17:22–23, NIV 1984).

We should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”  (Acts 17:29–31, NIV 1984).

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you.”  (Acts 18:9–10, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The thought occurs to me from time-to-time, that readers of my blog might be saying of me “what is this babbler trying to say?”  Especially as I share with my friends and acquaintances on FaceBook that have known me over the years, but have never known me to share my beliefs so openly.  Maybe it’s because social media does seem to give us a degree of boldness that we rarely seem to have in our personal interactions.  You know, those three taboo topics of sex, politics and religion that we are supposed to avoid.

I do try to avoid those first two topics sex (out of a sense of modesty and decorum) and politics (can be way too divisive and polarizing).  But religion…?  I guess I feel a certain sense of urgency as we approach the day that God has set “when he will judge the world with justice,” to proclaim the good news of the Gospel.  To say what I’ve left unsaid for so many years of my life.  To share what I know with others.

I would like to think for most of my readers (if they read it at all), that I am not “bringing some strange ideas to their ears.”   Yet to some, even those quite familiar with the story of Christ, the concept of being “born again” sounds cultish or merely the belief of a fringe group of religious weirdos.  But the term “born again” was coined by Jesus Himself.  Because Jesus said it should make one “want to know what [it] mean[s].”  God does not need to be “an unknown God.”  But He can only be known though “the man He has appointed” by “raising him from the dead.”  We should not think it is strange that the Father appointed the Son to be the only way we can come to Him.

So while I do get discouraged periodically, wondering if anyone is paying attention to what I write, I guess I will “keep on speaking” and “not be silent.”  One never knows who might be listening.

My Advice – But don’t just listen to me.  Listen to Jesus, the Son of the living God.

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Today’s musing was inspired by Lead Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on January 19, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.