Hanging Out In The Shadows

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My Musings – Michael Jordan just may be the greatest all-around basketball player of all time.  But the one who played in his shadow, Scottie Pippin was no slouch either.  Babe Ruth is a baseball legend, but playing somewhat in his shadow was a pretty good baseball player in his own right, Lou Gehrig.  For several years, Aaron Rodgers stood patiently on the sidelines as back-up quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, waiting his turn to come out from the shadow of Brett Favre.  Many people (Barnabas, Titus, Silas, Timothy) labored alongside the Apostle Paul, largely in his shadow.  But for the person casting the shadow, many of these shadow dwellers may have shined brighter.

There are examples in the scriptures too. Verses that “hang-out” in the shadow of the better verse we all love to quote.  Here are three examples.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  (John 3:16-18, NIV 1984).

Standing in the shadows of that great promise for all who believe, is the condemnation for those who do not.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV 1984).

Standing in the shadows of astounding proclamation of salvation by grace through faith alone is what God has prepared for those who take that step of faith.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:6-8, NIV 1984)

Standing in the shadows of  that precious promise of peace and guarded hearts and minds, are the instructions on how they are obtained.

There are, I am sure, many other examples I could cite.  But the point is, let’s not be satisfied with quotable “sound bites,” as marvelous as they are.  There is so much more we can learn in the surrounding context.  In many cases, what is obscured in the shadowy context, may reveal we’ve been applying the more well known verse improperly.

My Advice – We need to correctly handle the Word of truth.  For “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  By the way, that last phrase (“so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.“) sometimes gets overlooked in the shadows.

 

Towards A New Birth of Freedom

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John 15:13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV 1984)

Musings of Others – Today I’ve selected the musings of others to share as we commemorate Memorial Day 2019 and those brave soldiers who laid down their lives for their fellow country men and women.

  • Francis Scott Key – “Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?”
  • Unknown – “Our flag does not fly [“yet wave”] because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.”
  • George Washington – “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
  • Abraham Lincoln – “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”
  • John F. Kennedy – “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”
  • Ronald W. Reagan – “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We did not pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

My Musings – Francis Scott Key might be surprised indeed that our flag still waves.  But he probably would not be surprised that it took the “last breath of [so many] soldier[s] who died protecting it” to keep it flying for so long.  As a nation, as individuals, we need to make sure that those soldiers who “gave [their] last full measure of devotion” did not “die in vain” and to not “forget in time that [these] men died to win” the freedoms we enjoy, that they continue to be “appreciated by their nation.”

It is sobering indeed to realize that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” something that Francis Scott Key probably realized when he penned those words.  So we need to continue to be vigilant that “these dead shall not have died in vain,” particularly given the fact that the “cost of freedom is always high.”  I would hate to think that following so close behind the “greatest generation” that I could be among the generation of that freedom’s extinction.

What is particularly sobering to me, is that today, what may be the greatest threat to this nation’s extinction, is not some foreign enemy, but ourselves.  As I see the bickering amongst our elected officials, the polarization of our citizens, and the animosity that seems to permeate the fabric of our nation, I fear that one other quote may become more prophetic than all of the others. For we have known all along that “a house divided against itself cannot stand:”

  • Nikita Khrushchev – “We do not have to invade the United States, [you will destroy yourselves] from within.”

My Advice – We need not “spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”  We need not choose the “path of surrender, or submission” or self-extinction.  How do we guard against it:

  • George Washington – “Be Americans. Let there be no sectionalism, no North, South, East or West [no Democrat or Republican, no liberal or conservative]. You are all dependent on one another and should be one in union. In one word, be a nation. Be Americans, and be true to yourselves.”

But more importantly be a nation “under God” that does “not perish from the earth” until Christ returns.  This is how we can best remember the “honored dead.”

2 Chronicles 7:14If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (NIV 1984)

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I’m Sixty-Four

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Joshua 14:10-12“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (NIV 1984)

“When I’m Sixty Four”

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, 1966

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty four?

You’ll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine forevermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty four?

My Musings – Feeling thankful today on my birthday (guess which one?) for all the blessings God has given me over the years.  Eileen, my wonderful wife of nearly 44 years, our two precious boys Josh and Joel, devoted parents, and two thoughtful brothers.  There have been speed bumps along the way, of course (Eileen’s health issues and blindness, Josh’s handicaps and early death at nine and Dad has passed), but by and large we are grateful to God for His goodness (even the blessings that have resulted from these difficulties) to me and my family.

I remember listening to this Beatles’ song in my youth (“many years from now [ago]”), thinking how remote and unimaginable 64 would be. And I can’t begin to imagine anyone claiming to be just as strong and vigorous at 85 as they were at 40 (as Caleb claimed), much less 64.  Just this past week my mom (85 years old, just like Caleb) remarked that she must be getting old.  “No mom,” I said, “I’m getting old, you’re already there.”  We had a good laugh, with perhaps a bit of melancholy mixed in.

My mom is a fairly “vigorous and strong” person for being 85 years young (she still lives in her own house, mows her yard and snow blows her driveway).  I am still in relatively good health despite my “advancing” years and the occasional kidney stone, Eileen continues to persevere and rise above the multiple health-related issues that persist, and Joel is the blessing the doctors said he would never be after the all the handicaps that his brother Josh had. Yet, God has been good to us in all these things.  Even now that I’m 64. And with the Lord’s help, maybe I’ll be just as vigorous and strong at 85?

My Advice – Not exactly mine.

Ecclesiastes 12, 1-3 – Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”— before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop. (NIV 1984)

Romans 8:35-39Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword [or blindness or handicaps or poor health or premature death]? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [even advancing age], will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV 1984)

Postscript – Learn more about the things that have convinced my family and me that nothing “in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” archived under “Our Family Album” section of this blog site.

 

 

Milestones

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I Have Something To Say – My first blog was August 12, 2017.  Since then, I have written 591 musings.  This weekend, I got my 10,000th hit.  While the U.S. has over 90% of the hits (naturally), my site has been visited by individuals in 57 countries covering six continents (still waiting for Antarctica).  Other than the U.S., my top viewers are (in order of frequency) from India, Ireland, Canada, Indonesia, United Kingdom, South Africa, China, South Korea, Nigeria and Hong Kong.  Most of the other countries (like Australia, Fiji, Iraq, Myanmar, Qatar, Vietnam,  and Zambia) had only one hit.  At any rate, people in countries from A to Z have been shared The Word at least once.  Trusting that I really did have something to say, and that it was God who really sent it, it will not return without accomplishment.  Maybe I’ll get to meet most of you on the “other side” one day.  Many of you I know already know, (like my mom who probably has 8.999 hits – just kidding, kind of).  Thanks to all of you, especially my “frequent flyers.”

While these stats might seem like a lot to some, they are pretty modest compared to many other blogs I’ve seen and are following (they are an inspiration). But, they are encouraging enough that I will keep blogging “for the Kingdom.” For a bit longer at any rate.  My biggest disappointment so far is the lack of comments from those that read my blogs.  I have had a few, but I was looking forward to a bit of “iron sharpening iron” as comments go back and forth.

Thanks again, and I leave you with a re-blog of the one that started it all.

You Are Free

Genesis 2:16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – Freedom (“you are free”), responsibility (“you must not eat”), choice (“when you eat”) and consequences (“you will surely die“). A complete package, all present from the beginning.

Freedom is not a license to act outside the will of God. While we may choose to do so, there will inevitably be consequences if we do.

My Advice – Be responsible in how you exercise the freedom that God gives you. Make wise choices that are consistent with God’s moral laws. This way you can avoid the consequences of wrong choices.

The Devolution of Man (The Termination of the Species)

 

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Revolutionary Declarations

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Romans 13:1-2Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (NIV 1984)

In Congress, July 4, 1776 – The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, Continue reading “Revolutionary Declarations”

Encouraging Words

Memorial Day

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Memorial Day, is primarily Continue reading “Encouraging Words”

Onward Christian Soldiers

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Ephesians 6:12-14 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark-world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, (NIV 1978)

Preparing To Do Battle

  • Why is it important to know our enemy (“not against flesh and blood“) when choosing our weapons?
  • What is so important about using all (“full”) the armor?
  • Are there instances where it is all right to give a little ground (i.e.  to not “stand your ground”) in order to make greater gains in the long run? Why (or why not)?
  • What happens when we go into battle with the wrong weapons (don’t take a knife to a gunfight and don’t fight spiritual battles with worldly weapons)?

Suiting Up

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All Dressed Up But Not Ready To Fight. Unless . . .

Ephesians 6:8 –  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (NIV 1984)

  • What role does praying “in the Spirit” play? Why isn’t the “full armor” complete without it?
  • We have on the full armor. Our prayer life is dynamic. What happens if we are not “alert“?

Follow The Battle Plan

  • God is our ultimate power source (“be strong in the Lord”).
  • We need to be in full armor.
  • Willingly giving ground is not an option.
  • Prayer is vital to our preparedness.
  • If we are not alert, all our preparations will be compromised.
  • Don’t let the heat of the battle cause us to lose sight of why we are fighting in the first place.