Four Words

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My Musings – When studying the first chapter of Genesis, the focus of many are on the details and why they can or cannot be taken literally.  But even before getting into the details are the first four words.

Four Words: Their Basic Definitions

In – Expressing the time period [beginning] during which an event [creation of heavens and earth] takes place.

The – Denoting one or more people [God] or things [beginning] already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge. Used to point forward to a following qualifying or defining clause or phrase [created the heavens and the earth].

Beginning – The point in time or space at which something starts.

God – the Creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme Being (IAM).

Four Words: Expanding Our Understanding

Common Knowledge – The Creator is clearly seen in His creation. It is understood that an intelligent design means there is an intelligent designer. Order and complexity did not happen by chance or accident. “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 1:20, NIV 1984).

The Point In Time Something Starts – God is not that something. Because “in the beginning, God” was already there. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8, NIV 1984). God is self-existent (existing independently of other beings or causes), the “uncaused causer.” God is transcendent (existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe – time, space and matter). “I am who I am,” “I will be who I will be,” or even “I cause to be what is.” This is not a “name” that makes God an object of definition or limitation. Rather, it is an affirmation that God is always free to be and act as God wills. (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

The Creator – Of the many names used for God in the Bible, the one used here in Genesis is Elohim, which is a plural noun. (Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, Calvin, J., & King, J.). Only two persons (Father and Holy Spirit) of the Trinity were specifically mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2). The third person of the Trinity (Son) is inferred, but not fully revealed. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26, NIV 1984). The revelation came later. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Let’s focus on the Creator.  That will put us in a much better position to appreciate (not worship) His creation.

My 85 Year Old Mom Is A Cheerleader

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My Musings – The above quote from Jesus follows immediately after Peter’s great confession to Jesus’ inquiry ““who do you say I am?”  Peter replied, “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16, NIV 1984).  Most of the focus on this verse is on what Jesus meant by “this rock.”  Did he mean Peter?  Was He referring to Himself?  Or is the rock Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah?  Learned theologians cannot agree on this, so I am sure I cannot shed any light on it.  But what I want to focus on in today’s musing is “My Church.”

“My Church.”  There is no mistaking whose Church it is.  But today, many within the Church  want to wrest control from Jesus and make it (keep it) their Church.  They want the worship style to be this way or that.  The time of the service must start no earlier (or later) than this time or that time.  The preacher must not speak any longer than… Well, you get the picture.

Now today, the Church is under increasing criticism, if not downright persecution.  With the increasing influence of secular humanism, relative morality, and it’s “my” view or no view in our schools, in the media and society in general, we (the Church) are in danger of losing the “next generation.”  While there are many things worth “fighting” for in the Church, the above mentioned “non-negotiables” (style, time, length) don’t make the list.

If the Church loses the next generation, where will the Church be?  God will always have His remnant, but how big will that remnant be?  Are we really so vested in the way it’s always been done that we risk that loss?  Are we so insistent that it be “my” Church to such an extent that we have no one to pass it on to?  Now I am not saying we water-down the Gospel to Christianity lite.  There are certain things that are non-negotiable, and we know what those are.

My 85 year old mom understood this.  “Her” Church (the one I grew up in and accepted Christ) was in decline.  It was literally dying off.  Either the lampstand’s light would go out or it needed new oil.  That’s why they voted to become a “satellite” Church of a much larger congregation in a larger town.  And this brought a lot of changes.  Most of which involved those sacred items (style, time and length).  The unadulterated proclamation of the Gospel was not one of the changes.  And in the final analysis, that is what really matters – that the Truth continues to be proclaimed.

While my mom has her own ideas and preferences of what she would like worship services to be, she understood.  She embraced the changes and became one of the leading “cheerleaders” for the Church she knew was not hers, but His.  Her name is not Gladys (its Roberta), and she cannot jam on the electric guitar, but she knows “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24).

My Advice – Always remember, and never forget, it’s His Church.  He wants to build it, not see us tear it down over things that really do not matter.

Here are a couple snapshots of my 85 years young mom:  on her knees on the floor  showing me how to fix her vacuum and snow blowing her sidewalks (plans to give that up this year).

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Keeping It Holy

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My Musings – The Sabbath day, according to the Old Covenant is the seventh day of the week (Saturday).  For most Christian faiths, however, the day of rest and worship is the first day of the week (Sunday), because that is the day Christ rose from the dead and ushered in the New Covenant.

It certainly is observed much differently today than when I was a kid.  Nowadays there is less rest and less worship.  We rush here and there doing this and that and at times are more exhausted by Sunday evening than we were on Friday evening.  We can sit and watch football all afternoon, but the sermon better be over by noon at the latest, so we can get on with “our” day.  Of course, that’s if we are there at Church at all.

My Advice – Jesus said that man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man.  We need that day to set aside for our rest and to commune with and worship our Lord.

Be That Voice

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My Musings – Leadership is not measured by the number of people that report to you. It is measured by the number of people that follow you. People may report to a title on a business card, but they follow a leader. People have to follow the boss. They want to follow a leader. So what makes a person want to follow, as opposed to having to report?

It is a responsibility that hinges almost entirely on character.  Leadership is about integrity, honesty and accountability. All components of trust.  Leadership comes from telling us not what we want to hear, but rather what we need to hear.  To be a true leader, to engender deep trust and loyalty, starts with telling the truth.  (From “Leaders Eat Last,” by Simon Sinek).

My Advice – People will follow and be loyal to those they trust.  People will trust those who show integrity, honesty and accountability.   These are shown by being truthful, telling people what they need to hear, whether they want to hear it or not.  The “voice” of truth is the “voice” of trust.  People will “listen to” (follow) a “voice” like that.  Be that “voice.”

Not So With You

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My Musings – No one wakes up in the morning with the hope that someone will manage us.  We wake up in the morning with the hope that someone will lead us.  The problem is, for us to be led, there must be leaders we want to follow.  (From Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek).

There is no shortage of people who wish to exercise authority.  Just look at the number of candidates in recent (and upcoming) elections who want to be President.  As you listen to many of them, you get the idea that as much as they would like to lead, there are not many that we would like to follow.  This concept is not restricted to politics.  It is rampant in many businesses and organizations, and yes, even in some churches.  To make matters worse, many who wish to lead, find little fault in their leadership skills, preferring to blame those they wish to lead with the inability or unwillingness to follow.

Perhaps that is one reason why Christ turned the leadership model on its head.  Do you want to a leader?  Then learn how to follow.  You want to be seen as great? Then learn to be humble.  You want to be first? Then be willing to wait in line.  You want to be master?  Then be willing to become a servant. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45, NIV 1984).

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.‘” (John 13:12–17, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Go and do likewise.  Has a familiar ring to it.

Belong

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Romans 12:3-6For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  (NIV 1984).

My Musings – Far too many Christians are going their own separate ways these days, believing that they can worship anywhere (which they can) and can get along just fine with the fellowship of a local church (which they cannot).  Others prefer to skip in, blend in and skip back out, without building relationships within the body.  In they process they gain little and contribute little. Often on their way back home they comment “well, I didn’t get much out of that service,” missing the point entirely.

It is never about how much we get.  It is always about how much we give.  And ironically, the more we  give the more we end up getting.  Iron sharpens iron, and it is hard to sharpen anything without something to rub up against.  It is difficult for anyone to grow sharper spiritually without rubbing up against other believers in fellowship, worhsip, prayer and the Word.  Sure, we can get by, but that’s somewhat like the steward that buried his talents and was only able to give back to the master what he had been given, nothing more.

“As much as we like to think that it is our smarts [spirituality] that get us a head, it is not everything.  Our intelligence [Spiritual maturity] give us ideas and instructions.  But it is our ability to cooperate that actually helps us get those things done.  Nothing of real value on this earth was built by one person without the help of others.  There are few accomplishments, companies, [churches] or technologies that were built by one person without the or support of anyone else.  It is clear that the more others want to help us [and we them], the more we can achieve [grow].” (From Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek).

My Advice – Don’t you want to give back more?  Don’t you want to help others do the same?  Find a local church and do more than just blend in – belong.  Because whether you admit it or not, that is where you do belong.

The Minority Report

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Romans 2:21-23[Y]ou, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?  (NIV 1984)

My Musings – This one’s going to sting a bit.  The following quote was recently posted to my FaceBook page. “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.”  I like the quote.  I agree with the quote.  I believe the quote is very descriptive of what we see happening in these “last days.”  So, I shared it.  But need to be aware of a couple potential problems.

Problem #1 – While we certainly should not condone or excuse calling a lie truth (or truth a lie), wrong right (or right wrong) or evil good (or good evil), perhaps we should not be too eager to condemn a society that does?  After all, weren’t we part of that majority at some point in time?  They are now, like we once were, already condemned.  What they need now, like we once did, is redemption.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save [redeem] 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. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”  (John 3:17–21, NIV 1984)

We cannot expect those living in darkness to recognize the light for what it is, if we use it as a weapon to maliciously expose them and not as a tool to sincerely help them see plainly.  We do not want people to be blinded by the light.  We want them to be able to see through the darkness because of the light.  And there is no middle ground here.  We must not dampen the light in an attempt make truth, right and good less “offensive” and more “user-friendly.”  A watered-down Gospel is no gospel at all.

Problem #2 – Just like God did not send His Son to condemn, but to save, Jesus sends us to be wielders of the light in an increasingly dark world.  But we cannot expect those living in darkness to see the light as a good thing if it also reveals our hypocrisy. “You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?”    We cannot excuse our own faults by viewing the faults of others as more egregious than ours.  Jesus was not scourged less for our sins than theirs.  His cross was not made heavier because of their sins than it was for ours.  His death was not more necessary for their sins than it was for ours.  Their was no sin so great that Jesus did not die for it and no sin so small that He did not have to die for it.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14–16, NIV 1984).

We cannot expect those living in darkness to see the light as a good thing if rather than illuminating our good deeds, it spotlights our hypocrisy.

Now here is where it really stings.  Are we Christians, in our hypocrisy, just as guilty of calling a lie truth, wrong right and evil good, when we excuse our “minor” sins while excoriating  the “major” sins of the lost?

My AdviceAlways be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  (1 Peter 3:15–16, NIV 1984)

Proclaim the truthBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.  

Stand up for what is rightBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

Expose evilBut do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

Remember, the lost do not need our condemnation, because they already stand condemned.  They need our light to guide them out of darkness (the lies they believe to be truth, the wrong they believe to be right, the evil they believe to be good), to where they can see clearly enough to believe the “minority report.”  Do not compromise your credibility as a wielder of what is true, right and good, by living like the majority.  Keep a clear conscience.

When all is said and done, the majority may continue to “hate the light” and speak “maliciously” about our witness.  We should not expect to be treated any differently than the Master.  Let’s just make sure that the malicious talk is indeed “slander.”  In so doing, we just may help rescue some.

Now for what really, really stings. This advice, like most of the advice I give, is just as much for me as it is for others.