Saturday, September 12, 2015

Grace Under Pressure

Despite what is going on around us, we need to remain calm and proficient, performing our duties effectively under pressure; cool, calm and collected when under attack, in quietness and confidence is our strength, trusting in God, placing our faith in Him showing grace towards others despite the way they act or how they might treat us.


There has been a continuous increase in pressure mounting against decency, fairness, and morality. Each iteration is a personal attack on our values and the things we hold dear. We tend to take it personally. We get the latest news item by whatever means we prefer, TV, radio, or internet and we become emotionally outraged, disgusted, or distraught. There has been a growing spirit of anger in this country over the past two decades, (Fox News began Oct. 7, 1996) a mounting pressure, a seething just under the surface that builds like a pressure cooker until a man can become angry at the slightest provocation. If we let ourselves continue to focus on these things we can become distracted from the more important things we should be doing.


Just about everyone we encounter is under stress in one form or another. Stress has a way of bringing out the worst in people. As we deal with others throughout the day we're almost certain to come across someone having a bad day. We might have to deal with an ill-mannered a clerk, or be shown a lack of common courtesy by a stranger, or encounter out and out road rage. Our spirits are vexed on a daily basis.

We replay and rehash the confrontation over and over in our minds as we analyze it to death trying to understand what we did to provoke such treatment or how we could have handled it better or what we should have said. We replay the daily news in our minds shaking our heads in disgust as we wonder why would they do such things? How could those in charge be making such ridiculous decisions? How could this be happening?


We become worn out to the point that we have no energy left for the things that are most important. In many, if not all, cases we have no power to control the circumstances that are making us angry anyway. We get ourselves all worked up over the events of the day to no avail and to no repair.


Now we have movements like #BlackLivesMatter that are stirring up one race against another that cause us daily to shake our heads in disbelief.  Christ told us that nation (ethnos) would rise against nation (ethnos) and that this is just the beginning of sorrows. He gave us a book, the very word of the living God that tells us the Lord is not willing that any should perish, that #AllLivesMatter (2Pet 3:9)
And so here we are. The things Jesus told us were going to happen are happening, so why should we be surprised when they do? Why should we be angry? Why should we be upset? We should count it all joy. It should increase our faith as we see what was foretold actually come to pass.


Rather than getting emotionally wrapped up in all this, we need to distance ourselves, to come out of it and be separate, to be observers and not participants. We've been instructed by the word of God that this would happen so that we would not be dismayed when it does. Until and unless our nation repents on a wholesale national basis we know things will not get better and in fact will continue to deteriorate. So though we are pressed in on every side, how should we respond?

2Co 4:6-10  For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  (7)   But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.  (8)   We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  (9)  Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;  (10)   Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

Despite what's going on in the world around us we are to be a light to others. Bear in mind that one of the reasons for the tribulation is to get peoples' attention and turn their hearts back to God. Well, if we are all in a panic, who can they go to for help and instruction? If we are all in a dither, who will take care of enriching their lives through the gospel and preparing them for Kingdom? We must remain focused on God's Word, Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. We mustn't be completely focused on ourselves and our problems but must let others see Christ manifested in our lives. Give them a cause to ask us for the reason of the hope that lies within. If we're always complaining about what's going on or angry and afraid, why would they ask us the reason for the hope and joy in our eyes. If we're not calm and collected with hope in our hearts and joy shining in our faces, we look just like them, angry and afraid. There's nothing to ask us about!


We shouldn’t just be calm under pressure maintaining our own composure. We are ambassadors of Christ and the Kingdom of God. We are to go the extra mile and show grace towards others, even those who abuse us.


I saw a sign once that said -

be kind (sm).jpg


We can all be self-absorbed and are to some degree. We have a tendency to assume everyone else is as focused on us and what we are doing as we are. Well, guess what? They're not. Everyone else is just as focused on themselves as we are on ourselves. When they are unkind to us or rude, they may be dealing with some issue we know nothing about. We need to make allowances for that and give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn't mean it that way.


But so what if they did? What if they were rude or mean to us intentionally? If it's not life-threatening, maybe we should just take a deep breath and calmly respond with a kind word; a soft answer turneth away wrath. Grace under pressure is not just that we should remain calm ourselves but that we should bestow that grace upon others who may not deserve it. Regardless of what we may be going through at the time or what pressures we're dealing with in our lives we should practice passing the grace that God has given to us on to others. We didn’t deserve it either. We are to show God's grace to others so that through that abundant grace God will be glorified.


2Co 4:15-18  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.  (16)  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  (17)  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  (18)   While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
 
We must not allow ourselves to be spiritually weakened but be renewed and refreshed each and every day. So, in these troubling times, what manner of persons ought we to be?


2Pe 3:11-16  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,  (12)  Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?  (13)   Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.  (14)   Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.


Our focus needs to be on the matter at hand, to be diligent in our studies and prayer, to make our calling and election sure lest we fall  (2Pet 1:10) that we may be accounted worthy in that day to stand before the Son of man, (Luke 21:36) growing in grace as well as knowledge.


2Pe 3:17-18  Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.  (18)  But grow in grace,G5485  and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Rather than respond in kind to others we meet who are under the same stresses we are but are without Christ, we ought to give them some respect, exhibiting grace under pressure and allow our light to so shine before men that our LORD is glorified. Rather than quarreling with them, maybe we can leave them better than we found them. Maybe they will inquire of the reason for the hope that lies within us, and we can lead them to the gospel of the good news of the coming Kingdom of God where God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away and all things have become new. (Rev 21:4)



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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Quit You Like Men

How do you see yourself? Would you consider yourself one of the guys?

Complete this sentence by filling in the blank with either "guy" or "man" -


I'm the kind of _____ who likes a good home cooked meal.


Which one felt more comfortable for you? This kind of self perception affects how we view the world and the actions we take.

To think of oneself as a man presumes a few things doesn't it? It implies that one is no longer under Daddy’s umbrella of protection and provision. It implies that one has attained certain attributes and character traits.
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Marines - We're Looking for a Few Good Guys

This slogan dates all the way back to March 20, 1770 when Capt. William Jones, USMC advertised for "a few good men" to enlist in the Corps for naval duty. It has endured for over 200 years and has been synonymous with the U.S. Marines ever since.
Are the Marines Looking For A Few Good Guys? No, they're looking for A Few Good Men. What's the difference? Why would they want men instead of guys? What's implied in the term "men" that is lacking in the term "guys"? It’s an attitude isn’t it?

What are some of these characteristics of a man’s attitude? What are  the distinctions we can make between a "guy" and a "man"?
  • Personal responsibility
  • Determination
  • Sense of Duty
  • Sense of Sacrifice
  • Giving up personal pleasures
  • Delayed gratification
  • Putting others needs ahead of our own
  • Contributing - making decisions, planning, taking actions for the benefit of others
  • Making the tough decision even in the face of stiff opposition, even when it's not popular, even when you're not popular because of it
  • Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, regardless of how you feel


In the spiritual sense, the apostle Paul puts it this way -


Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. (1Cor 16:13) 


This phrase has always sounded funny to me. What does "quit you like men" mean? The Greek word used there is andrizomai (an-drid'-zom-ahee) and it means to act manly. That's what it means. To act manly. To act like a man. To "man up". The New King James says to “be brave”. 

What is bravery? It’s courage in the face of adversity.


Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; (Eph 6:10-14) 


How do you spend your free time?
  • laying up treasure in heaven
  • cleansing our minds with the word of God
  • preparing spiritually for battles we must fight every day and for the spiritual war that is coming
  • caring for the needs of our families, brethren, friends, and neighbors
  • preparing them for what lies ahead
  • playing video games and fantasy football, and memorizing baseball stats


Culture has abandoned the importance of growing up and many of our men have abdicated their manly roles. Meanwhile our women have been forced to step into the vacuum and fill the man's role. And we wonder why they sometimes lose their femininity over time.


TV - Father Knows Best vs. Two and a Half Men, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family - every grown man or father figure is a doofus, just another child in the house trying to put one over on the Mom
Movies - Wedding Crashers - actually anything Vince Vaughn, Will Farrell, or Jack Black ever made
Magazines - Maxim which is nothing more than soft porn, Game Informer to learn the latest cheats codes for Call of Duty and Halo


In the business world, we talk about something called "opportunity cost".


Opportunity cost is the value of what you lose by choosing to do one thing instead of another. It's the value of what you would have gained had you done the other thing instead.


What is the opportunity cost of delaying the making of this way of life our own? What is the opportunity cost of not taking personal responsibility now to giving diligence to making our calling and election sure? (1Pet 1:10; Php 2:12)


What is the cost of extending our childhood and continuing to act like one of the guys and playing games versus growing up, acting like men and putting away childish things? If we’re not preparing ourselves now to be leaders in the times to come, we can’t go back and make it up later.


This way of life and learning God's way is a process. You learn by doing. If you continue to delay your personal responsibility for your calling so you can play video games instead of studying your Bible or spending time tracking your fantasy football team instead of learning the fundamental doctrines taught by the Church, what is that opportunity cost of delaying putting oil in your lamp, fortifying your spiritual armor and preparing for the times just ahead?


God too is looking for a few good men. Men who will obey Him. Men who will stand in the gap before Him. (Eze 22:30) Just like the Marines, who take regular guys and forge them into men of honor and valor through rigorous training and discipline, God chooses the foolish, the weak, and the base of this world and through the process of conversion forges them into men of truth and honor and Godly character in order to confound those in the world so that no flesh may glory. (1Cor 1:26-29)


However, this doesn't happen by itself, nor does it happen overnight. We must train and discipline ourselves on a regular basis to do our part to bring our bodies and our minds into subjection. (1Cor 9:27) We must make the personal commitment to make this way of life our own through study and prayer and fasting. Quit you like men. Gird up the loins of your mind. (1Pet 1:13) Take the personal responsibility to prepare yourself to stand in the face of the challenges that lie ahead of us.


When it all falls apart, our families, our brethren, our neighbors and others will be looking for leadership. We must solidify our faith if we are to bolster theirs. We must know and know that we know if we are to withstand the evil in that day. If we are to be strong in the Lord, and keep our heads, and do what's right in the middle of the chaos and destruction all around us, though a thousand may fall at our side and ten thousand at our right hand. (Psa 91:7) We must prepare now if we are to be one of the ones still standing when the smoke clears.


Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (2Pet 1:10)

Quit you like men.


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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Are YOU Offended?

Matt Walsh
Today it seems everyone is offended by something. If you're not offended, you're not paying attention. Today it seems everyone can be made to be offended by just about anything if it's adequately charged by the media and spun into the right emotional outrage. We are not told just the fact of the matter anymore but we have to be told how we should feel about it too. How we're supposed to feel about various things is somehow shaped by what others have to say about them as well. It seems a growing number of people can no longer think things through on their own and draw their own conclusions. They have to wait to see what Bill O'Reilly, or Oprah, or Glenn Beck, or Al Sharpton has to say about it before they can form an opinion of their own. We are being divided daily by issues surrounding flags, race, gender identity, abortion, guns, moral values, and on and on it goes. Anything that polarizes us. Anything that causes someone to be offended.

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We live in a time when a tweet can get you fired. Even if that tweet was years ago before the issue became a hot topic of public debate. It may have gone unnoticed at the time but it can be dredged up and put up on a stick for all to see so they can point, gasp, and shake their heads, and demand the offender be banished from society.


We live in a time when the same people who are offended by Tim Tebow's acknowledgment of God on the football field embrace and laud Caitlyn Jenner with an ESPY award for courage. Your approval is not requested, it's demanded or else they're offended.


We live in a time when anything someone says or anything someone posts on social media can evoke outrage if it's given enough emotionally charged exposure, long enough and loud enough. It seems that any comment can be twisted into a hurtful and insensitive phrase if it's properly framed by just the right emotions of hurt, anger, pride and entitlement.


As blogger Matt Walsh said recently in his "I'm Offended By This Potato" post on Facebook, "Everything truly is offensive and everyone's feelings are hurt, so stop saying things, thinking things, or otherwise communicating thoughts of any kind to anyone. It's the only way to make sure everyone is safe."


The point is that we now live in a time when not only what we do but what we say and even what we think can be called into question, categorized, and ostracized. Anyone who can garner a big enough voice and invoke the "I'm hurt and offended" card, the rest of us must kowtow and capitulate to it. Turn to Matthew chapter 24.


Now here's the real problem for us. Virtually everything that we do, and say, and teach is counter to societal norms today.  We're on the right side of God's truth but on the wrong side of society. We are rapidly being boxed in from all sides as to what we can publish, voice, write, or post on social media, as a church and as individuals. The time is coming when we will be put in a position where we can no longer preach, teach, or even discuss in an open forum, the real truth of God without penalty. We are quickly approaching that time spoken of by the prophet Amos where there will be a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. (Amos 8:11)


Matt 24:8-10 KJV All these are the beginning of sorrows.  (9)   Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.  (10)  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
There is a motion being made right now promoting that in the United States we need to identify radical Islamists and extremists in our midsts, to identify them, and remove them from society before they can cause any harm. These religious extremists must be prevented from performing their destructive deeds on the rest of us. They don't believe the things we do. They don't hold the same values as we do. They don't think like we do. They must be stopped and they must be removed from society before they do any more damage. At least that's the approach that's being advocated. I'm not in a position to say one way or another whether we should do this or not but when we start rounding up people for what they might do, or how they think, our own demise is on the horizon.


As Christians who believe in the Bible and take it literally, living God's way of life, we have already been categorized as religious extremists because of the beliefs we hold. We are being hemmed in by the powers that be in this world because we don't hold to the modern views. We don't have the same values as the rest of society. We are behind the times. We are perceived as outside the norm, intolerant, judgmental and we don't belong here anymore. As this perception goes, our beliefs make us unworthy of living in a progressive society, unworthy of holding jobs, we're a political liability to the companies we work for and the organizations to which we belong. Companies and organizations cannot allow themselves to be associated with those who hold such radical beliefs. It might affect their images, their revenues, their profitability, and their shareholder value. This is the political and social climate in which we live. Turn to Luke chapter 21.


The truth has indeed fallen in the streets and we who depart from evil have made ourselves a prey. (Isa 59:14-15) Christ told us the time would come when we will be betrayed by our neighbors, our family members, and even our own brethren. Turned in to the authorities, Homeland Security, because of something we have done, something we said, and for the very thoughts we think that are out of step with everyone else. The groundwork has already be laid. Ever hear of a Homeland Security program called, "If You See Something, Say Something"?


Luke 21:8-19 KJV  And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.  (9)  But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.   (10)  Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:  (11)  And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.  (12)  But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.  (13)  And it shall turn to you for a testimony.  (14)  Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:  (15)  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.  (16)  And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.  (17)  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.  (18)  But there shall not an hair of your head perish.   (19)  In your patience possess ye your souls.
 
Does this mean we fold our tents, quit and go home? Or do we double-down on our prayer life and Bible study and stand fast for truth and right come what may?


But why would our own brethren betray us? Why would our own brothers and sisters in Christ turn us in to those who would persecute us? Because somewhere along the line they were offended by someone and allowed their hurt feelings to come between them. It doesn't matter what it was or how petty it was, it was allowed to fester into hate for that person. Instead of following the Matthew 18 formula for reconciliation, they continued to hold disdain for that person in their heart.

You know, we have a tendency as human beings to be a bit more understanding when it comes to our own faults and shortcomings. We allow ourselves a bit more latitude when we fall short and chalk it up to circumstances at the time or 'this is where I am in my journey, I'm still learning’. But when it comes to others we tend to be rigid, structured, and less tolerant. We don't afford our brothers and sisters in Christ the same leeway that we give ourselves. We hold them to a higher standard than we do ourselves. We demand mercy when it applies to us but judgment when it applies to others.


Look, we're all on our own journey, learning God's way of life, learning to be more like Christ. None of us is perfect and we're not all at the same place. Some are further along in the process than others. Even those who are further along though are weaker in certain areas than others. We need to hold ourselves to the higher standard and allow others room to grow. Reconcile our differences before they fester. We can't afford to be offended. And I have to tell you, this IS salvational brethren.
Turn to 1 John chapter 3.


It appears times are going to get tougher, a lot tougher. This is the real deal, brethren. The pressures are only going to increase. We need to start looking out for one another even better than we do now. We're all we got. We're all we've got to rely on in this world until Christ comes. We have God, Jesus Christ, and each other.


We need to encourage, edify, exhort, and comfort each other on a daily basis. I would encourage each of us to make a point of calling someone during the week just to talk about what we see going on and what we're going through. Maybe send a text message or quick email. How was their day? How are they holding up? Tell them about the challenges you've been having. If you're struggling, call someone and talk about it. Encourage each other to stand fast in the faith. Let them know they're not alone. We're in this together.

1John 3:10-24 NKJV  In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.  (11)  For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,  (12)  not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous.  (13)   Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.  (14)   We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.  (15)   Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  (16)  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  (17)  But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  (18)  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.  (19)   And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.  (20)   For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.  (21)  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.  (22)   And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  (23)   And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.  (24)   Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
 

Let's love one another. Let's let one another know we care about each other in sincerity and truth. Be genuine. Cut through the pleasantries and open up to each other and not be afraid to show our vulnerabilities. Ask for help if you need it. Offer to help where you can. We're going to live with each other for an eternity. We might as well get to know each other and learn to love one another and not be so easily offended.


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Who Am I

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I strive to be as the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:10-11 receiving the word with all readiness of mind, and searching the scriptures daily, whether those things are so. Check up on me in your own bible. Should you find me in error please let me know immediately. We must prove all things (1Thes 5:21) and rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim 2:15) together lest we be deceived. (Matt 24:24)

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Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

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