Category Archives: Jesus Christ

The Pitfalls of Being a “Self- Made” Man

James HJames Mom%20%26%20Jamesallmark is a good friend of mine…and I am proud to call him”friend.”  He is a pioneer in television in these parts beginning his work with KRBC when it was tiny studio up in the hills of the Callahan Divide overlooking Abilene.  We found we had a lot in common having both begun work when TV was just a kid.  I was on the “floor crew” at KMID, in 1960 moving cables and cameras around.  James was beginning his career as an announcer and doing voice over for commercials.  He has been responsible for telethons every year…hard, detailed work.  But best of all he is a strong, faithful, committed Christian.  He writes a great article nearly every week as you will find out when you read the post below

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” Someone once used these words to describe a man that he knew. Cutting but true! The world has convinced mankind that a self-motivated, self-serving lifestyle is his right and obligation. The self-worshipper is “full of himself” and thinks nothing of ignoring others and even God, if they stand in the way of his agenda and human nature’s desires. He deliberately keeps God and others at arm’s  length. The Apostle Paul described the self-driven lifestyle in these words: “And that means killing off everything connected  with this way of death: sexual promiscuity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like It, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. “That’s a life shaped by feelings and things instead of by God” (Colossians 3:7 MSG).

Let’s dig down deep and see if we can discover our spiritual enemy and how he has always worked his will in our lives. Let’s set aside the image of Satan as having horns, wearing a red suit (fire resistant I presume), and carrying a pitchfork. He is the general on the battlefield of our spiritual life, who dispatches his army of demons to torment us and take us as prisoners of war. Satan ensnares us by manipulating the man of flesh that resides deep within each of us. This man of sin is easy pickings for Satan and his hordes.

Self-control is the only weapon we have fight off the enemy. The problem that we have is that most of us don’t have sufficient ammunition to fight off the invaders. Their concept of self-control is that they, themselves, control our lives and actions. And, of course we as human beings excuse our bad behavior with the lame blaming that “after all we are only human”.   That leaves us holding the bag!

Self-control means that somehow we must exercise control of our choices. Let’s look in the mirror and see our ego-centric self is what we must overcome, and we have to be able to admit that it is out of control and uncontrollable without divine help. The truth of the matter is that until we can overcome the influence of our human nature that rules in our lives. our lives can only get worse…never better!

Several years ago I discovered that hyphenated words that start with “self” run up a red flag. I’m talking about words like self-indulgence, self-fulfillment, self-absorbed, self-motivated, self-love, self-driven, self-pity, self-centered, to mention just a few. I’m sure that others may come to mind. Our problem is that many of these appear to be good characteristics that we have been taught to nurture. Now, substitute “God” for “self” in each of these words and you may be surprised at the cleverness of our enemy. Replacing “self” with “God” brings into sharp focus the kind of live we are prone to live, left to our own devices, and the real life that God offers. It has been suggested to me that sin is a perversion of God-given. When our instincts for security cross an invisible line it can morph onto pride, greed, and envy and anger. Our human need for companionship can turn into lust and lust into sexual impurity. Our need for self-preservation can find expression in angry outbursts and gossip. It has occurred to me that all of my unacceptable behavior can be traced back to my self-centered distortion of legitimate human needs that are carried too far. My responsibility is to learn the difference between my “wants and “needs.” He leaves the choice with us. Do you want to be a self-made man or the Creator’s creation?

A few years ago, a commercial ran on national television that really caught my eye. It was a commercial for the Edward Jones financial people. It opened at a nurses’ station at a hospital. A doctor is on the phone with a patient, who is at home. Try to visualize this scene. The doctor is instructing his patient on how to do surgery on himself. The doctor said: “Now, make an incision about six inches long between your third and fourth rib.” The camera cuts to a very distraught man standing in his kitchen with shirt unbuttoned. In his hand is a butcher knife from the kitchen. He had broken out in a cold sweat, and muttered nervously: “Doc, shouldn’t you be doing this?” The spiritual surgery that must be performed to set a person free from himself is drastic and painful, but absolutely necessary. You must decide whether you want a scalpel, or do you want the Great Physician to take over?

Archbishop Fenelon was a spiritual advisor in the court of King Louis the XIV in France some three hundred years ago. He ministered to a small group of faithful Catholics and often wrote letters to them to encourage and instruct them. Here is an excerpt from one of the letters. “The death that God brings pierces deep within. Soul and spirit will be divided. He sees all in you that you cannot see. He knows exactly where the fatal blows should fall. He heads straight for that which you are most reluctant to give up. Pain is only felt where there is life. And in this situation is precisely the place where death is needed.”(The Seeking Heart-Fenelon, pg 5).

The Christian life was never meant to be a self-improvement program because it requires that we nail our old self to the cross of Christ. When we have carried out this self-crucifixion, God immediately goes to work recreating man in the image of his Son. As Peter wrote, “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust” (II Peter 3-4 MSG). Read Peter’s words again and absorb the significance of what they mean about the daily, intimate relationship that our supernatural God wants to have with each of us.

It boils down to choosing whom we will believe. We have to decide whether we will believe the lies of the father of lies, or take the word of the One who created the universe and mankind. Many years ago I put my trust in God, and have never regretted my decision. I have even begun to experience God working in my life, and that brings me peace, and hope that the world cannot comprehend. I am not willing to be a self-made man any longer, I much prefer becoming A God-fashioned man.

I am content to be the clay and put myself in the hands of the Master Potter to turn a pile of mud like me into something beautiful.

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Politics and Civility

eyeseeyouOkay, I get it, a bunch of Americans don’t like Obama.  You have made your point clear.  A bunch of Americans didn’t like Bush either.  In both cases, the muck-throwing has been prodigious!  Shame on us!  How fortunate we are to be citizens of a country where they don’t lock you up or knock you off for criticizing the president/prime minister/king or dictator.  If we lived in one of these nations, a bunch of people would now be behind bars or deceased.

How privileged we are to be able to vote for the president and congress (the Supreme Court is another matter).  Come the next election, we can vote-out those we disagree with and vote-in those we think better represent our values.  Historically this is a new paradigm bestowed upon the world by the Mother of Parliaments and not every nation is ready or able to live within this concept.  Yes, we are indeed fortunate to live in a nation governed by and for the people.

In a couple of years, we will be able to express our opinions of Mr. Obama and his party by voting in an election.  We can go to the polls and fire those we disagree with.  In the meantime we can make our opinions known in letters to the editor, blogs and in the various forms of social media.

Unfortunately, what I have been reading across the political spectrum is distressing.  Never have I seen such hatred and invective.  So much of it is offensive, disrespectful, divisive and downright ungodly.  Some of it is simply false.  And, to make matters worse, too much of it comes from people who call themselves Christians.

It is possible to disagree without spewing hatred.  The lengths to which some go to express their hatred is astonishing…especially from those who should be known for speaking the truth in love…whether that truth is related to the gospel or any other subject.

How would you like to live under a Roman emperor or a cruel king or governor?  Well, as a matter of history, Christ and his followers lived in such a time.  And yet, we fail to see them respond with anything but Godliness.  About the strongest language I can recall is when Jesus called Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:32)  I challenge you who claim to be Christians to re-read some pertinent passages.

John 19:10-

  • ·         Pilate’s authority (when he reminded Jesus that he had authority to crucify him) was given to him by God.

Romans 13:1-7

  • ·         All authority is from God and we are to be subject to them.  We are not to resist their authority…to do so is to oppose the ordinance of God.
  • ·         Authority is a minister of God to you for good.
  • ·         It is necessary to be in subjection for conscience’ sake.
  • ·         We are to render tax, custom, respect and honor to whom it is due.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

  • ·         We are to pray for kings and all who are in authority.
  • ·         We are to pray for them that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
  • ·         This is good and acceptable in the sight of God.

1 Peter 2:13,14

·         “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

1 Peter 2:17

·         “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

We live in a wonderful time when we can voice our opposition and act upon it in word and deed when we go to the polls.  But we must do it with honor and respect, praying for those in authority whether we agree or disagree with their policies.  It is high time we begin acting like the one we follow.

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Filed under Blogs & Blogging, Christlikeness, Comments, Current Events, Discussion, Freedom, Hatred, History, honor, Invective, Jesus Christ, Peace, Persuasion, Politics, Respect, Ridicule

Hodgepodge Evangelism

eyeseeyouI believe that one of the most beneficial changes any church could make is to correct their misunderstanding of evangelism.  We’ve made such a monster of it in our minds that very few of us do any of it at all.  We count on having user-friendly churches with seeker-sensitive assemblies featuring a great preacher, state-of-the-art equipment and methods.  We rely on doing Bible classes and assemblies so well that when people visit us to do their church shopping, we hope they’ll choose us instead of that other church down the road.  There are three things wrong with that.

·         First, it’s not evangelism it’s accumulation.

·         Secondly, people who have to be won by attractive methods and surface cosmetics will only last as long as those remain valid.

·         Third, it is a focus and emphasis unknown by Jesus, the apostles and the early church.

The church that won the Roman Empire knew nothing of “user-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive churches or spectacular methods of reaching the unconverted.  Mark Galli writes,

What it did have seems paltry: unspectacular people, with a hodgepodge of methods (so hodgepodge they can hardly be called “methods”), and rarely a gathering of more than a handful of people.  The paltry seems to have been enough, however, to make an emperor or two stop and take notice (Christian History, Issue 57, p. 8).

Without publicized campaigns or even an explicit evangelistic strategy, Christianity made its way quietly and effectively in an environment not wholly unlike that in the post-Christian West today. 

            Glenn Hinson writes, “Most churches had the same goal: evangelism.”  But it was not evangelism based on getting people into church buildings since it was nearly 300 years before the first one was built.  This was evangelism by friendship.  It was outreach through good works such as feeding the hungry and rescuing abandoned children (1 Peter 2:12).  It was the message of a moral and pure way of life (1 Peter 3:2).  It was seen in their keen pursuit of justice.  Each disciple was ready to tell their friends and associates the reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15).

            Evangelism is the life-blood of any congregation of the church.  Only if it becomes our goal, we will truly become alive.

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So What Can I Do?

eyeseeyouI have finally come to grips that I will not be a “mover and a shaker.”  The world, alas, is not clamoring for my opinions, my advice, my counsel, my pontifications.  The President and members of congress no longer call (man, could I give them an earful if they did!).  It has been some time since some anchor person contacted me to get my take on foreign or domestic events and developments.  Celebrities fail to call me for my thoughts on the directions their careers should take.  No one sends me scripts for potential movies or plays anymore.  Congress persists in passing bills without my input.

So what can I do to make the world a better place?  Jesus said we can do this by serving; by letting our light shine through our good works (Matthew 5:13,14).  Consider:

Think of your fellow man
lend him a helping hand
put a little love in your heart.
You see it’s getting late
oh please don’t hesitate
put a little love in your heart.
And the world will be a better place
and the world will be a better place
for you and me
you just wait and see.

–Jackie Deshannon

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Preaching as Position

 

Foxworthy Preacher

Photo from Randy Boyd via Levi Sisemore

Generally, I love the comedy of Jeff Foxworthy.  This time I am both laughing and crying.  I was a preacher for a long time and I know the pressures of the profession.  When the congregation is not growing/happy/interested/involved/etc., the preacher is the first one blamed and, very often, sent packing.  Maybe a new preacher will be more dynamic/younger/pretty/gregarious/educated/entertaining/etc.  Sorry, Jeff, that’s not really his job.

Most of this pressure is because we have become assembly-oriented.  “Going to church” is the expected and almost exclusive activity of the majority.  Because of this, it had better be well-orchestrated (maybe even have an orchestra).  If “going to church” is not interesting/exciting/ entertaining, then attendees will drift to a more appealing (I almost wrote, “appalling”) venue.  Consequently, all kinds of shenanigans are pulled to draw the crowds away from one congregation to another.

It never seems to cross our minds that our purpose is not to have the biggest congregation, but simply to follow Christ with the strength and wisdom that God provides.  It doesn’t seem to occur to us that assemblies are for edification and encouragement.  If we restore assemblies to their scriptural purpose, we won’t need smoke bombs, rock bands and a new preacher to keep folks coming back.

The light that we are commissioned to bring to all the world has nothing to do with electricity.  It has everything to do with letting the light of Jesus shine through our words, actions and attitudes, bringing glory to God.

Nowhere in the instructions of Jesus and the apostles is there even a hint of having preacher as a position, much less heaping upon him primary responsibility for the state of the congregation and the quality of the “worship service” (a term not found in Scripture).

With church affiliation declining across the denominational spectrum, it is high time to take a fresh look at Scripture.  Are we truly following Christ into the world or leaving him in the uncomfortable streets while we attend another comfortable “worship service” in our well-appointed “church buildings?”

May God forgive me (us) for participating so long in something so foreign to Scripture and deviant to our purpose.

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Peace with Ishmael

eyeseeyouAbraham is considered the father of the Arabs through Hagar, the mother of Ishmael.   Suicide bombings, honor killings, murder of innocent men, women and children…these people don’t think like we do!  We are all products of our belief system or worldview and those raised as radical Muslims are no exception.  Christian denominations debate and draw lines of fellowship but they are not shooting and bombing one another.  Sunnis hate the Shias and both of them hate us.  Why? I don’t know all the answers, but Genesis 16 predicted the nature of the progeny of Hagar (the Arabs, in whose culture Islam came to be):

“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers”
(Genesis 16:11,12)

That is why our nation-building adventures in the Middle East are so misguided and ill-advised.  The Arabs and those influenced by Arab culture will never be subjugated or altered by those from Western cultures, notably Christian cultures.[i]

We have no business putting our soldiers on the ground in any Islamic country.  Read your history!  It has never worked and never will.  Iraq is a prime example and Afghanistan will soon be.  When we leave one of these hell-holes they revert back to some sort of lawless wastelands of violence they were previously.

Now we are being tempted to intervene in yet another Middle Eastern conflict in Syria.  The carnage there horrifies the West.  As the self-appointed policemen of the world, we think, “We must do something to stop this!” But now, word has it that Syrian rebels slaughtered groups of Christians until stopped by the Syrian loyalists.  If that is true, do we want to help the rebels come to power?  Will the new boss be the same (or worse than) the old boss?

I recently asked a career military man what we should do in the Middle East and he immediately began discussing weapons systems and military strategy.  It was psychologist Abraham Maslow who wisely observed, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”  People cannot be changed without a change in worldview.  The only way I know to change a person’s worldview is to cease hammering and introduce them to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  And, the only way I know to introduce people to Jesus Christ is to imitate Him.  And, the only way I know to imitate Him is to love our enemies.  And, the only way I know to love our enemies is to pray for them and do them good, not evil (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27; I Thessalonians 5:15).

If we spent as much time, resources and energy seeking to win the hearts and minds of our enemies as we have on violent “shock and awe;”…if we sent our young men and women on missions of peace instead of war, we would rob terrorists of their leverage.  I have to believe that we can overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Would that cost lives?  Without a doubt.  But they would be lives given in the only strategy that will ever be effective in bringing peace and stability to this dark, violent and troubled region.


[i] I am using “Christian” in the broadest sense of the term and as a social construct as much or more than a religious one.  “Us” are Christians and “them” are those under the influence of radical (violent) Islam.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Arabia, Arabs, Change Agent, Culture Wars, Current Events, History, Ishmael, Islam, Jesus Christ, Middle East, Prophecy, Religion, Scripture, Terrorism

A WORD TO PREACHERS AND TEACHERS

eyeseeyouKNOWLEDGE…Wonderful, desirable and powerful!  Passage after passage in Scripture commends its acquisition.  Knowledge, however, can become a source of pride. Maybe, for example, you know a bunch of “big words.”  You may be able to slap together a phrase that no one but the very well educated can understand.  But, if your big words hinder communication, what good are they?  Knowledge for its own sake is as useless as a parka in Miami. “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies (builds up)” (1 Corinthians 8:1).  If your goal is to impress the easily impressed with your “smarts,” then acquiring a lot of facts, figures and information (whether practical or not) should work well.  Truly, you have your reward.  But what then?

All Scripture has a purpose, an application, a meaning that influences the course of our life — how we speak, what we say, what we do and why we do it, our goals, our relationships, the quality and purpose of our work, how we spend our time, how we use our talents and resources, etc., etc.  The Word that we preach or teach potentially makes a difference in the lives of those who hear(depending on their degree of absorption).  Otherwise our preaching and teaching is in vain.  “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice,” wrote Anton Chekhov.   And Samuel Johnson said,  “Between falsehood and useless truth there is little difference.  As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which cannot apply will make no man wise.” 

Always, always we must make our lessons practical and applicable to everyday life.  It is not our job as teachers to convey obscure theological theories and opinions.  People need to know how to live!  Charles Stanley wisely observed:  “I think a lot of people, even Christians are willing to be satisfied with gaining lots and lots of biblical knowledge — and many people go to Bible studies and don’t realize it isn’t enough to know what’s right, it’s applying the information and knowledge that you have.” 

Jesus was frequently called, “Teacher.”  But the goal of His teaching was to bring light into the lives of souls stumbling in the darkness.  His teaching brought grace to those enslaved by sin and captive by man-made laws and traditions.  He walked among the spiritually bereft teaching those who followed about an abundant way of life.

So keep your well-educated pride to yourself and preach and teach the simplicity and purity of the life-changing good news.

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