The Elephant In The Room

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My Musings – “People primarily respond not to what we do but how we’re being.  It’s not that we do the wrong thing necessarily, but that we do what we do – maybe even if it is the ‘right’ thing – the wrong way.” (Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute).

My great fear for the Church today is that a lot of us spend a lot of time and energy “doing” Christianity, while failing to “be” Christ-like.  We pride ourselves with saying, supporting and doing the right things (the modern-day equivalent of a tenth of our mint, dill and cumin), but neglect to be those things (the all-time equivalent of, “justice, mercy and sacrifice“).  In the process, we are well on our way to alienating an entire generation from “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”  Given the appropriate “salt and light” there are many who would love to “be” like Christ, but are afraid of “doing” like “Christians.”  But unfortunately, the “salt” in many of us leaves a bad taste, and the “light” shining from us artificial and not a true reflection of its Source.

My Advice – There is nothing wrong with saying, supporting and doing the right things.  But we must practice these without neglecting “justice, mercy and sacrifice.”  Otherwise, we are merely a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  Distracting noise and “fake news” in a world searching for the truth.  Woe to us, the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge.

Don’t just do, be.  People still might not acknowledge the truth, but what they are rejecting will be plain.

Before God and Man

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My Musing – At first blush, this is a somewhat curious statement, at least to me.  If we strive to keep our conscience clear before God (a high standard indeed), why would we need to concern ourselves about man.  Wouldn’t satisfying the former, automatically satisfy the other?  It is clear that keeping our conscience clear before God is our top priority and that keeping our conscience clear before man should not take precedence.  But the former does not exclude the latter.

Paul states elsewhere to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of all people, and if possible, as far as it depends upon us, we should be a peace with all men. (Romans 12:17-18).  Man is fickle, while God is not.  So a clear conscience before God will not always satisfy man.  Especially if they do not have a relationship with Christ and their only picture of him comes from us.  But we must still strive to have a strive to have a clear conscience, “as far as it depends on us.

The first (and greatest) commandment is to love God (with heart, soul, mind and strength).  We need a clear conscience about that.  But is second is like it.  Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39). We need to keep our conscience clear about that as well.

My Advice – Sleep well with a clear conscience.

Except Through Me

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My Musings – A few days ago, (July 26, 2019) the title of my musing was “On the Side of Truth.”  In the blog, I wrote that the truth is verifiable, not fabricated.  There are two primary means of verification:  reliable evidence (something that furnishes proof) and reliable testimony (firsthand authentication).

In the verses above, Jesus makes the bold truth claim that He is not just a way to the Father (God) and to eternal life in Heaven, but that He is in truth (fact) the only way.  To know Him is to know the way.  Apart from His own word, what evidence and what testimony do we have that corroborates His claim?

Evidence – The Old Testament records 356 prophecies concerning the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled (see https://accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html for a complete list).  All recorded at least 400 years before Christ was born. Here are just three:

His Birth – These prophecies included specific details surrounding the circumstances and location of HIs birth, something He could not have possibly orchestrated.  One of the details even required the proclamation to a disinterest pagan emperor (Augustus Caesar – see Luke 2:1), to ensure that Jesus was born in the town of His ancestor King David (Bethlehem -see Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1-6) and not the town where His mother and step-father resided (Nazareth – see Luke 2:4).

His Triumphal Entry – Another prophecy (see Daniel 9:23-27), involving yet another proclamtion of a pagan emperor (Artaxerxes, King of Persia), predicted Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the original Palm Sunday.  A span of 483 separated the proclamation and its actual fulfilment to the exact date (Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1363). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.).

His Death – The predicted mode of Jesus’ execution described crucifixion in very specific detail (see Psalm 22), despite being recorded an estimated 600 – 700 years before the first recorded executions by crucifixion by King Darius I of Persia ca. 519 B.C (see https://www.gotquestions.org/crucifixion.html.).

Evidence  – The Bible records over 500 eyewitness to post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).  There is no evidence that the Jewish or Roman authorities responsible for Jesus death were ever able to discredit any of the witnesses testimony.  Many of eyewitnesses died horrible deaths as a result of their belief in a risen Savior. Yet if the face of martyrdom and persecution, there is no evidence that any of these witnesses ever recanted.

The New Testament is not the only source of testimony concerning the historicity of Jesus.  These include Jewish historian Josephus, Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, Samaritan historian Thallus, governor of Bithynia Plinus Secundus, secular author Phlegon and Syrian philosopher Mara Bar-Serapion.  The Jewish Talmud also acknowledges the historicity of Jesus.  (see https://evidencetobelieve.net/history-of-jesus/).

My Advice – In “On the Side of Truth” I wrote that no matter what is being debated, there can only be one truth.  To me, there is more than a “preponderance (more likely than not)” of evidence and testimony that Jesus is the only way.  To me, it is beyond a reasonable doubt.  What about you?  What is the one truth to you?

 

Walk This Way

1 John 2:6Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Those who claim to know Jesus as Savior, but who continue to live a rebellious life are likely not saved at all.

My Advice – Continue to follow in His steps, giving evidence that your life is in Him.

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.

 

 

Prepared for Gentle Respect

1 Peter 3:15But in your hearts set apart Christ Jesus as Lord. Always 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. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – In a world with little hope, Christians should stand out because of their hope. This is likely to raise questions. Questions we should be able to answer (although many are unprepared). We should not be arrogant or condescending in our replies. The lost deserve our pity and compassion, not a “holier-than-thou” response.

My Advice – Be gentle in your responses. Respect their right to choose for themselves. Do not lose your gentleness if they do not choose Christ. There may be another time and how you respond to them now may make some difference later.

Setting an Example, One Way or Another

1 Timothy 4:12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Spiritual maturity has very little to do with chronological age. “Older” Christians can learn from those who are younger.

My Advice – You do not live your life for yourself alone. One way or another you are an example to other believers, non-believers and someday to a family. Be diligent in continuing to be a good example in the ways listed and in others ways that people might look up to you.