Monthly Archives: June 2014

Christianity – the message is the thing

On February 9, 1982, fire broke out in Maxim’s, a Tijuana, Mexico, department store.  Before being extinguished it devastated eight businesses in the surrounding area.  Just the day before Tijuana firemen had been in San Diego receiving advanced training in fire-fighting techniques.  But superior fire-fighting methods couldn’t help the men when the city’s mains wouldn’t pump enough water through their hoses as they fought the blaze.

When Peter preached to the Israelites on Pentecost he spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection and his promise to forgive sins.  When he preached to Cornelius Peter’s message remained the same—Jesus died; God raised him and everyone who believed in him is forgiven.

Somewhere, somehow, many churches and preachers have forgotten this message.  Yet, while neglecting it, they try to accomplish God’s will by superior methods, programs, and community-centered activities.

Still…without the message Peter preached, the church’s latest, most advanced methods avail nothing.  It’s like having the fastest fire truck, longest ladder and biggest hose, but no water to fight the fire.

Every church should reach its community every way it can:  sponsoring food and blood banks, co-operating in rehabbing houses and even cleaning stretches of highway.  But no church can afford to use these methods and forget the message Peter preached.  Christianity grows without much method, with poor buildings, in unlikely places.  But it cannot impact society if it abandons its message—that Jesus Christ died, rose again and now forgives all who seek him.

Knowledge – must change us

In the 4th century B.C. the Ptolemies of Egypt established in Alexandria the greatest center of learning in ancient times.  They gathered a library of some 490,000 separate volumes on every subject studied at the time.  They brought the ablest scholars to the city and let them work.  All manuscripts of any worth were purchased and stored for use.  The Septuagint version of the Old Testament was one good result of that renaissance of learning.

It also had glaring failures.  Questions about personal identity, God’s person and the purpose of life were hotly debated, but no real solutions were found or offered.  Increased knowledge raised questions for the students, but offered few definitive answers.

When Peter preached to Cornelius he addressed a man familiar with the name Jesus Christ and with his reputation as a great miracle worker—because knowledge of the Master was widespread in Israel.  But though Cornelius knew what Jesus had done among the Jews, he had yet to discover that Christ’s life in Judah affected him in Caesarea and, like him, all others in the world.

People today aren’t much different from Cornelius in this regard.  Many have a general, superficial knowledge of Jesus, but little specific information that leads them to see his relevance to their lives.  They’re aware of certain Biblical facts but remained uninformed of their meaning.  It’s a historical person they consider when they think of Christ, not the Living Presence all human lives desperately need right now and forever.

Are we as his disciples any better informed?  If informed, do we draw any of the necessary conclusions from the knowledge:  such as, only by obedience to his will, and in self-denial, is his grace at work in us on behalf of others?  Does our knowledge lead us to repentance and to frutiful discipleship?

God – love of guarantees his benefits

As Columbus approached his sovereigns in Barcelona, on his first return from America, they rose to greet him, an unusual procedure, meaning they were receiving him as a person of the highest rank.  Though they reluctantly allowed him to bow and kiss their hands, Ferdinand and Isabella insisted that he seat himself in their presence, a rare honor the Spanish rulers seldom gave anyone.  Yet, to do less, they felt, would be an insult to a man whose daring, initiative and foresight had just opened a new world to Europe.

In Ezekiel’s first encounter with the glory of the Lord he fell face down, incoherently afraid of the sight.  Then, to his joyous relief, he heard God urging him to “stand up” and listen to God speak.   This command suggests that God’s desire was to elevate Ezekiel, not demean him.  God sought his servant’s welfare, not his destruction.  No bully or thug, wreaking vengeance, God was the beneficent Creator, aware of the frailties of his people, but loving them anyway.

Each Christian shares Ezekiel’s awe as he thinks of God’s interest in each of us.  God…the Almighty God, would value us?  And not only value us, but would actually know our name and be concerned about our problems?  And he would actually give Christ to die for us?

Yes!  The Creator of all takes an active interest in everything he’s made.  His power might ignore us; his love cannot.  He humbled himself to love us because he knows how desperate lonely we’d be without that love.  He sacrificed himself to save us because he knew the terrible lostness we’d experience without him.  While we are terribly sinful—at a time we find it hardest of all to love someone we know—God gave his best gift to us Romans 5:8.  If at that time he showed us such love, what superfluity he will show us now that we’re washed in his Son’s blood Romans 5:9.

Reputation – having a

When General U.S. Grant visited General Phil Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley in September, 1864, a sergeant lounged against a fence and watched them talk.  When a comrade came by the man jerked his thumb at the pair and said he sure hated to see Grant come around. For whenever he came around there was sure to be a big fight somewhere.  Grant’s reputation as a fighter had obviously preceded hm.  Grant Takes Command, 363.

When God called Ezekiel to a prophetic ministry, he had a specific idea in mind.  The prophet would preach to a people both obstinate and rebellious, God stated.  Nevertheless, God wanted him to develop such a reputation as a preacher of divine tidings that the people, while denying everything he said, could never deny his role as every inch the prophet he claimed to be.

Every Christian faces that challenge today.  We sometimes work in hostile environments where verbal testimony is rejected.  We often labor in negative situations where even an example is ridiculed.  We have no control over that…over the thoughts, reactions, appreciation or abhorrence of the public for our witness.  We do have God’s command that our faith is to be publicly lived.  His Word must go to all.  God won’t distinguish between good and bad, for all need to hear.  The stress is always on the testimony borne, not on the response to it.

Our relationship with Christ prevents us from retreating into a monastic privacy, where it’s just “Jesus and me.”  That’s where faith begins.  But it must be related in public for others to see.  We are to show our faith, without making a show of faith.  And even if we’re rejected we can guarantee that our witness will be emphatic and authentic.

Bible – the better it gets

The earliest settlers in the Hill Country of Blanco County, Texas, delighted in its wildlife and full streams, its thick, knee-high grasses and great oaks.  Just the place to grow cotton and graze cattle, they thought.  To those pursuits they abandoned themselves.

To their dismay they found that the grasses and oaks had grown only because the land had never been farmed or grazed.  As a  virgin country, it would have remained a paradise.  But even with nutrients returned to the soil, the first 20 years of ranching and farming stripped the hills first of grass and its roots and then of its soil.  The land couldn’t tolerate use.  Path to Power, Robert Caro, 11

What a different face the Bible presents.  Long ago the Psalmist extolled it for the wisdom, insight and understanding it gave him Psalm 119:97-100.  And, ever since the same, the Bible continues to offer substantial, intuitive meaning to all its students.

Yet…the more we plough the Word with our minds, and the more harvests our studies reap, the more limitless its capacity appears.  Its treasures, like deep, black loam, lurk timelessly inexhaustible, inviting all to dig, richly rewarding those who do, but always promising more treasure beneath our deepest mental penetration.  Our needs become more complex; its meaning becomes more complete.  Millions have reaped benefits from its vast acreages, but its still-untilled areas offer continually boundless resources to all who use it.  Brilliant minds have studied all the Bible books, yet every Bible book retains mysteries and beauties for succeeding scholars and students.

The more it’s used, the better it gets.  It not only tolerates use, it rewards use beyond containment!  Let us go down into that Word; out into the world as its witnesses; and up into Christ-likeness as its goal.

Wage –a critique of the gigantic spike in

Seattle has raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, an unthinkable union-backed appeal among unskilled workers a few years ago.  The City Council of San Diego is debating this week, June 9 to June 13, raising the wage to $13.09 an hour.  Only a bureaucratic mind could derive that strange figure.

Remember, this wage is for non-skilled, entry-level positions.  By the very definition, entry-level means “learning to work”—a neophyte, often incompetent, not a journeyman employee.

Such entry-level work is ideal for the children of families wanting work experience and spending money; learning responsibility while correctly taking orders; making change;  developing interpersonal skills.  But if the children of families decide to be families with children, is that any call for us to support immaturity and immorality by boosting such a raise?

As has been seen in Detroit, Stockton, San Diego, Illinois, and California, Unionism and liberalism work hand-in-glove to gain benefits without demanding accountability.  But are the American people so economically simple that they will allow this Union-driven madness to continue?

Come to think of it, however, and with a different perspective, if this silliness proliferates into other states, the higher hourly wage will summon to the part-time positions mature adults with a work ethic no child has, expertise in employment gained only by experience and interpersonal skills beyond immaturity.  When that happens, where will thousands of kids be?  They will find themselves on the streets, victims of dreams beyond their competence.

That’s my opinion; what’s yours?

Victory – that’s worthwhile

We’re success-oriented people.  We’re told to “compete, overcome, succeed.  Never give up. Climb to the top.  Be the best.”

This is all admirable, if we continue to recognize and respect the rights of others.  The desire to master a subject or project is God-given.  And God won’t take it away.  But he does challenge us to channel that competitive spirit towards worthy goals.  So that our victory will be in the greatest and most lasting areas of life.

Think for a moment.  Isn’t our greatest victory the conquest of self?  Or our greatest joy, forgiveness?  Isn’t our greatest honor the privilege of serving others?  And our greatest beauty a sweet spirit?  What greater talent is there than communicating understanding and love to all?  And what is our greatest frontier, if it isn’t the undeveloped spiritual dimensions in the human mind?

Our greatest poverty is a proud spirit.  Our greatest mistake is trying to impress God.  Our greatest decision is to surrender our life to him.  Our greatest riches is to be reconciled to God through Christ.  And our greatest possession is faith in a Risen Lord.

Succeed all you want.  Strive for excellence.  Commit yourself to its pursuit.  But be very sure that you succeed in an enterprise that cannot fail.  Otherwise, all your success will be a mockery.  God’s cause never fails and has already succeeded.  Why not be a shareholder in a victory already won?

Ignorance – innocence of

Blessed are those who have “the innocence of ignorance.”  Not the kind of ignorance that Goethe says is the worst of evils.  That kind of ignorance is destructive.  When that “ignorance comes to power,” Svetlana Alliluyeva wrote, “encouraging ignorance and basing itself on ignorance, then historical monsters such as Hitlerism, Stalinism, Maoism are born….”

No…Pascal said there are two kinds of positive ignorance.  One is that which we all have at birth.  The second is that which we achieve as we grow in knowledge, only to realize that we know little of all that can be known.  One of Churchill’s statements represents this feeling.  When he got boastful of his knowledge, he said, he walked into a library.  This shrank his hat size.  This kind of ignorance is good, for it keeps us humble.

Another ignorance is better.  It is the “innocence of ignorance.”  It is not knowing that a thing “can’t be done.”  How many wonderful inventions have made life easier and more productive because men and women didn’t know “it couldn’t be done.”  Not knowing it couldn’t, they persevered until they did it.  Without that spirit, we’d have no new explorations, discoveries, procedures, and products.

God’s people need this kind of ignorance.  We need to teach, not knowing “it can’t do any good;” to evangelize, not knowing “so and so can’t be reached.”

And if we carry a burden too heavy to bear, let God take it away.  Don’t say “it’s too heavy for God to remove.”  Be ignorant of that—give it to God and we’ll find, with the prophet Habakkuk, that God can and will lift the weight from us and, in its place, give us the pleasure of His Presence in Christ.