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May 27, 2010

For Whom Should I Lay Down My Life?

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Scriptural Basis:

Scriptural Basis:

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16


Application:

There is a before and after in these verses written down by the hand of the same man, the Apostle John. The first was John’s recording of the words of his beloved Savior just prior to His crucifixion and death; and the second was written looking back at His death, just as we do today. It is this death which sets the significance of all others, and it is this death which essentially defines what love is. Jesus not only tells those who are willing to hear how “love is defined in the eyes of His Father, He shows us.
Memorial Day spotlights sacrificial love for others. Some recognize the cost and the value of those deaths, while others live as though their freedom is a personal right to whom no one is owed thanks and honor, especially from them. I am still moved to tears by the sight of pristine cemeteries I have seen in Europe where American soldiers have been laid to rest, still cared for with devotion and gratitude by a dying generation who know the cost of freedom. In some cemeteries in America boy scouts and others will place an American flag beside each of the thousands of grave stones and crosses marking the graves of many who gave the last full measure of devotion for our freedoms. The grateful crowd who honor them diminishes year by year, while the thankless crowd grows, even as politicians and judges erode the very freedoms for which those soldiers died.
Jesus said His death was an example that should be emulated by those who desire to love greatly, laying down one’s life for others. This verse can certainly be applied to those soldiers who died in the cause of the freedom of others, but it extends to and is focused on a more specific army. Jesus spoke to “soldiers of the cross when he said these words. He spoke to those who would identify themselves by their faith as His disciples, foot soldiers in His Army, including men, women and children. They wear the uniform of Ephesians 6. Their names and their graves are not forgotten. Their God has recorded them in His own Memorial Book, which the prophet Malachi calls the Scroll of Remembrance. (Malachi 3:16). And the promises accorded those whose names are on those pages will be fulfilled. The blood of Jesus guarantees it.
This is why the battlefield is not just Normandy, Guadalcanal, the Auchau Valley, or Tikrit. The battlefield of which Jesus speaks covers the world, and his Medal of Honor is and will be placed on the chests of those disciples who spend their life for others that they might live forever. In the context of John 15 and 1 John, you are the personal object of your Master’s entreaty; you, the warrior who bears His name. The intended recipients of your love cannot be more obvious: all He has placed in your path. You know who they are. The question “For whom should I lay down my life? is a meaningless diversion. You can be sure it will not be asked in heaven, because you already know the answer.


Encouragement:

“A noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid, around the Savior’s throne rejoice, in robes of light arrayed: They climbed the steep ascent of heaven through peril, toil, and pain: O God, to us may grace be given to follow in their train
(4th verse of Reginald Heber’s hymn, “The Son of God Goes Forth to War, 1827)


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May 20, 2010

Delicious Evil

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Scriptural Basis:

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13


Application:

Our Lord teaches us to ask the Father to “deliver us from evil. He does not say “keep us from evil, or do not “lead us into evil, as He says about temptation, but He clearly says in the prayer He has given us as a model for all our prayers, “deliver or “rescue us from evil. The simple implication of the Lord’s choice of words is that we are smack dab in the middle of evil. We are not above it. We are not at some safe distance removed from it. It does not require a trip to get there. As Tolkien illustrates: “Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. Except in the case of evil you need not even venture out your door to encounter it. Living is indeed a dangerous business! And too many are unprepared to deal with their real world because they mistakenly believe it to be normally good, or at the very least, neutral… certainly not evil. Consequently, there is neither urgency nor priority to pray unceasingly as though it were constantly necessary, “Father, deliver me from evil!
The very nature of evil is that we do not always see evil as evil. It is purposefully amorphous when seen through indiscriminate eyes. In case you do not have your dictionary close by, this means “lacking definite form, of no particular kind of character; indeterminate; unorganized. Most think, “Of course, I know evil when I see it! Do you? Consider the temptation of the Lord by the evil one in the wilderness. The fact that evil is presented in “candy wrappers with a “guaranteed-good seal of approval printed on the side, exposes the very real and personal enemy behind it. Evil is not a static thing that you peruse on shelves as you would various foods in your grocery store. Evil follows you down the aisle when and if you pass it by. It literally dances before your eyes and in your head, until it dazzles you. The evil one did not parade horrific, demonic, heinous images before the Savior’s eyes in the wilderness of temptation. Every one of them was “GOOD. Who would not desire in a hungry world the power to turn stones into bread and feed the starving children and even your hungry self? Is not this a great idea of the devil, which might be a solution to the deepest conflicts of human life?
Or consider his second temptation that Jesus before a massive audience jump from the highest pinnacle around Jerusalem when overflowing with millions of onlookers gathered to participate in one of the great Jewish feasts. The enormous appeal to the nerves and senses of the titillated crowd, who would witness the spectacular rescue by angels no less, would result in a propaganda appeal designed to bring many followers into Christianity’s folds. Wall Street marketing execs or mega-church preachers could not do better. The third temptation is the most magnificent of all. The devil offers Jesus immediate (cross-less) control of all the kingdoms of the world. When you consider the horde of evil oppressors and dictators, the corrupt governments, the pagan philosophies and religions that dominate empires, why not bring them all immediately under the control of Christ and Christianity, so that all might live and grow and thrive under a beneficent rule.
Every offering of Satan is what you and I might at first blush call “good. And so it is as evil is presented to our eyes and senses every day of our life. It looks so right in the moment. It looks pleasurable. It is persuasive and immediately attainable. It even appears to be the best choice we could make. This is good, we think.
But it is so NOT good. It is ruinous as you and I and every sinner have discovered too late, when the consequences inevitably appear and our pain and tears with them. The literal reading of our Lord’s prayer is not only “deliver us from evil, but deliver us from the evil, that is, the evil one. He is a stalker, your stalker. You may not sense his presence, especially if he does not see you pursuing righteousness anyway. But do NOT forget this one thing. Jesus was and is the victor over the evil one. Your victory rests nowhere else. You require Him in your life, in your heart and mind, to see evil clearly, to run from it, to defeat it. Have you yet prayed today, “Father God, deliver me from the evil one, in the name of Jesus?


Encouragement:

“Art thou weary, art thou languid, art thou sore distressed? “Come to me, saith One, “and coming, be at rest.
“Finding, following, keeping, struggling, is He sure to bless? Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, answer “Yes!
(John Mason Neale’s hymn, “Art Thou Weary, 1862)


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May 13, 2010

Time Travel and the Fourth Dimension?

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Clock

Scriptural Basis:

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
2 Peter 3:8
“For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Psalm 90:4


Application:

The brilliant astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, just announced this past week that he believes time travel into the future is scientifically possible. At the same time he firmly declared that time travel into the past is scientifically impossible. Hawking explains his thinking that it is simply impossible to “mess with cause and effect. You cannot go back in time for example and do something to obliterate in the present your own existence or someone else’s, or change the outcome of an event, etc. On the other hand, Hawking’s theory of time travel into the future involves a lot of big “ifs; like spending a loooong life time (80 years at least) in a space vehicle large enough to carry a “great amount of fuel and attaining 98% of the speed of light. In the process the lives of the passengers pass much more slowly than those on earth, and when and if they are able to return they will find life on earth centuries into their future. Not very appealing…… in my mind.
Time is a real mystery in so many ways. Man has not come close to plumbing its depths. Scientists, like Albert Einstein, Hawking, Hubble, and Paul Davies, have achieved world renown with their discoveries involving time. We are all familiar with the three dimensions of height, width, and depth. Many scientists who study time call it the fourth dimension. They have discovered that the creation is filled with its own “clocks both in microscopic matter as well as in the largest forms in the outer reaches of space. We are all creatures of time who know nothing of actual timelessness, though some claim their minds have taken them there……..for a brief time.
Augustine believed that time began with God’s creation of matter in the beginning of the universe. Other theologians question that concept when they contemplate the triune God in His eternal pre-existence according to His self-revelation. Time involves succession they point out; one thought, one conversation, one decision, one decree succeeds another. It is difficult to consider existence apart from such logical progression. Though God is Creator and not creature, He is not totally foreign to us, seeing He created us in His image.
The old gospel song goes, “When the roll is called up yonder, and time shall be no more… What does that really mean: “time shall be no more? Since we are creatures of time, and that is all we have known, we cannot imagine existence apart from it. Yet should we fear eternity because we cannot imagine living forever when all we have experienced is “time like an ever rolling stream bears all its sons away? The biological clock never stops ticking in this life; the fountain of youth (plastic surgery?) eventually succumbs to the inevitable. Did Methuselah really live 969 years in this fallen world, we ask ourselves? How did he do that? How did men and women from Adam and Eve to the flood midst thorns, thistles and Murphy’s Law live for hundreds of years? What will it be like to live forever? Oh, there is no doubt we do not come close to understanding time in its wonder and mystery under God’s magnificent design and sovereign hand.
The new heavens and new earth of eternity is new not only in the resurrection bodies we have been promised (see I Corinthians 15), but in the nature of time itself. It will be new in a fashion we cannot contemplate prior to the experience of it. The promise and revelation of God, trusting Him as we claim, gives no reason whatsoever for fear of eternity or of time in eternity. Yet for today, righteous fear in regard to time is this: it is a gift to be used, not buried, with a disciplined view to its investment, just as the Lord expressed in His Parable of the Talents; for we all must give account to Him one day for our time. This is why Paul writes, “Be very careful how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity (your minutes, hours, and days) because the days are evil…knowing that your labor in the Lord is never in vain.


Encouragement:

“Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day.
“Our God, our Help in ages past, our Hope for years to come; Be thou our Guard while troubles last, and our Eternal Home.
(6th and 7th verses of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “Our God Our Help in Ages Past, 1719)


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May 05, 2010

What Is A Real Role Model?

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What-Is-A-Real-Role-Model

It is easy to look at celebrities, athletes, anyone famous really and say, I want to be like them. More often than not, we look to those who are well known and hold them up to be role models, but are they really the best examples for us to follow? While athletes do spectacular things on the athletic field, and celebrities may be talented actors or actresses, does that mean they are the ones who should become the role models in our own lives or our children’s lives? More often than not the answer is no.
While this is a generalization and there are always exceptions to the rule, in most cases, athletes and celebrities are self-consumed and focused on a singular goal: success. Little gets in the way as they hone their craft, working diligently, over and over to become better. Though a strong work ethic is more than admirable, and developing discipline is a necessary part of growing older, holding celebrities and athletes to this high standard of being a role model is not practical. More than that, it raises the question of why we choose those who are famous to be role models. Is it because they are celebrated, have reached a higher social status, or is it because they have qualities, and character attributes that we want to emulate?
The problem for us is that those we most often aspire to be like are usually from a different socio economic level. Unfortunately, the wealth that we observe among well known athletes and Hollywood idols has significant influence on who we would most like to be. Someone who is wealthy, or is well known, does not by default mean they are people after whom we should model our lives. In fact, when our definition becomes mostly about what we aspire to have and not who we ultimately want to be, the role model we have set before us is ourselves.
Of late, we as parents have failed to teach our children what a real role model looks like.
A real role model:
1. has qualities that we would like to have or keep.
2. is someone who we aspire to be like and is noticeable for how they live their lives.
3. Impacts us and makes us want to be better people.
So what are you going to do and what example are you following? Do they align? If these are not just words, then here are some steps to being a role model for your children and others.

Step one: Know who you are. That means you will want to have friends who are not pretending to be something they are not.

Step two: Be unique. It is more than fine to be different. That does not mean being different just for the sake of being different. Instead it is being comfortable with who you are. One of the most liberating moments in life is when you come to grips with your own weaknesses and you are okay with that.

Step three: Be kind and focused more on others than yourself. Learn how to give credit to others and notice the example they set. Live in such a way that your life can be seen and respected so that it may be said of you: “who can argue with a life so well lived!


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