Wednesday, October 28, 2015

There Is No God?

We live in a time of great progress in science and technology and it often seems as if this intelligence is innate as mankind morphed from living in caves, clothed in animal skins and using stone axes. There comes with such progress a sense of self sufficiency whereby we sometimes feel as if we have pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps and are beholden to no one! The Bible has often been compared to a book of manufacturer’s instructions which is an excellent description, because anyone who takes the time for daily reading of the scriptures has much to gain!

(Psalm 111:10) “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who practice it. His praise endures for ever!”

So if there is a God then why fear? Don’t we usually hear that God is love?
The Apostle Paul has the answer to this question in his letter to the Romans.
(Romans 1: 16 - 30) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.”

(Proverbs 1:7) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Having been a child once and later the father of two boys I can relate to the fear of the Father that is spoken of as it has everything to do with discipline for those foolish enough to despise parental instruction and make unwise choices, because there are consequences that come for failure to obey.

When someone claims to be an Atheist or to believe in some other deities we are left to assume that they approve of the beliefs and lifestyles on some level of those described by Paul in his letter to the Church at Rome. The reason is that those beliefs require no boundaries where adults are free to carry on like children with no supervision. Some make up their own brand of righteousness which is referred to as self-righteousness because it does not come from the love of God. Many  unbelievers seem like good people, obeying the laws of the land which are based for the most part on the original commandments that God gave to Moses. My question is that if there is no God then why bother? The answer is couched in social correctness for the sake of receiving the approval of others and is little more than an outward show of self righteousness! They having opted to become children of a different father following after him in their own manner thus attempting to make themselves lord and master of their own destiny as did Lucifer. The following verses describe what happened to an angel of light that became known as Satan.
(Isaiah 14:12 - 15) “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.”
Jesus clearly alludes to this, Luke 10:18) “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” And again later;
(Matthew 8: 28 - 29) And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”

This needn’t be the lot of non-believers, because though God’s expectations for us and His judgments are just, in His loving kindness He has provided a way for all the be excused and experience eternal life in His presence through his Son Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) So consider the following, would you allow your only son to be tortured and put to death as penalty for the wrongdoings of others?

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10) For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

(Colossians 2:13-14) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

(Titus 2:11-14) “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

(Proverbs 9: 9 - 10) Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Who then knowing this will then make the decision to fear God’s judgment and become wise, accepting Christ as their personal pardon for sin and life’s failures? Ask God to forgive your unbelief and for the grace to be able to believe and trust in him.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Polemic Christianity Syndrome

One of the most despicable practices that has unintentionally surfaced in organized Christianity is the propensity for a certain kind of complacency to seep into the lives of many believers which becomes what I’ll call “The us and them syndrome.” It’s a rather polemic attitude that evolves over time when new believers eventually become firmly ensconced as members in a local congregation. Eventually they become steeped in friendships formed in their group along with all the trivial customs and trite cliches that come with church life. With that there is a desire to hang out with like minded people and to shun those who don’t share the same beliefs. This is not just typical of Christians but is universally typical of all human beings everywhere. However what is most insidious about it is when they begin to think of “us the saved and them the sinners.” 
Forgetting their own roots and how they themselves had previously run from those “bible thumpers” and avoided churches as unbelievers wallowing in self-righteous delusions and ignorance. 
True Christian believers are excited about Jesus and are quick to share their beliefs with unbelievers whenever the opportunity arises, they rightly see themselves as sinners who have been saved by the love of Christ. 

Nominal Christians, that is those who are Christian in name only, prefer to keep their beliefs to themselves and associate only with their own kind, most often see themselves not as sinners but as those in diametric opposition to sinners, a class of persons they prefer to avoid. These are the ones that commonly shun their long time friends when they hear that they have been stricken with cancer or some other debilitating and deadly disease. In the following verses we can clearly see what Jesus considers an abominable attitude that these types hold.

(Mark 2:15- 17)  And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(Luke 11:23) Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

Sadly there are many who are scatterers, if not by outright commission, then by omission which is equally egregious. What about those people in our society who are simply just different, street people who are homeless, prostitutes, homosexuals or transsexuals and others who for various reasons may ascribe to some confusingly different life style? Are they any more a sinner than those who are Christian? Human beings tend to judge others by assigning varying degrees of grey to blackness in how they view the differences and failings of other’s lives when in reality in God’s mind any sin is deadly and the only release we have from condemnation is through acknowledging it and leaning on Christ as God’s answer to the problem. Jesus called this out, consider now that the scribes and Pharisees of his day were the same as the nominal Christians of today as you read the following.

(Matthew 23:15) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”  And again in (vs 25 - 28)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

People go to great lengths to fit into the societal dictates for men and women, sadly those who don’t fit are shunned, but times are changing with the advent of the information age, the Internet and the twenty-four news cycle. That which was formerly not commonplace now is and those who claim to be true believers see it as an opportunity to reach out and welcome those who appear different and sinners in need of Christ just like themselves. Those who refuse to change will no doubt remain scatterers alienating many from the joys of knowing the love of Christ.

(Matthew 7: 1 - 5) “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (vs 21 - 23) “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Wayward

 (Luke 15: 11 - 16) Jesus said: “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ He divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, there he squandered his property in loose living, when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine, he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate because no one gave him anything.”

How many parents and friends have shed tears while questioning themselves about what had gone wrong when one of their children or friends have run off to places unknown and have intentionally estranged themselves from everyone who loves and cares for them? How many siblings have wondered and worried about their brother or sister, missing and perhaps sick or dead in some God forsaken situation or evil place?
What about a strong willed individual refusing to listen to common sense or parental admonitions who opts to follow after peer group miscreants with drugs, alcohol and licentious sexual activity and purposefully walks away from home and family to follow after wrong headed and useless pursuits? How often have we heard this story and even experienced it with a family member or a friend? 

Oftentimes we wonder if that person is going to wind up living in desperate conditions or perhaps dead through some act of violence or dying of a disease in a hapless situation. These are questions that so often go unanswered, but the bible has the answers for those that diligently seek them. There is hope, when we earnestly pray for those who seem lost. First it is important to understand what is written in (Ephesians 6: 12) For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” So often it seems that we are engaged in a battle for the mind of a wayward, stubborn individual who might benefit from a trip behind the woodshed to bring them back to their senses. However scripture says, it’s not a flesh and blood struggle, but a spiritual battle wherein a dark force is corrupting their thought processes. The previous verse, is a directive for us in how to begin to deal with the problem. (Ephesians 6:11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” So how do we do this? First of all we have to relinquish control of that person completely and turn them over to God. Sometimes it’s difficult as we battle with our own desire to maintain control over a situation that we don’t really control at all. It requires a heartfelt conversation (prayer) with the Lord acknowledging that what we have been doing is actually a sin (meaning failure, falling short or missing the perfect mark) We inadvertently do this by trying to handle things by our own wit and flesh things out, things that are all decidedly well beyond our own understanding. When we confess our shortcomings to God and ask Him each day to intercede in the life of our estranged one, the dynamic will begin to change and we will start to understand the power behind the following verses. 
(2 Corinthians 10: 3 - 5) “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” The meaning of this becomes abundantly clear, we are dealing with entities that we cannot see who have been exerting their influence on those that we care for and whose power can only be broken by the higher power of God. Finally keep in mind the following: (James 5:16) Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” As believers in God and in His Christ we need to first own up to our own shortcomings and where we have failed and then begin to take a stand on behalf of our lost friend or loved one through fervent prayer, requesting God’s intercession in their life. The first sign of a change will become evident as God brings the bottom up for them until reality begins to smack them in the face much like what happened in the story of the prodigal son, then we will begin to see some changes taking place. Don’t forget to thank God daily giving joy for their deliverance as the rest of the story unfolds.

(Luke 15: 17 - 24)  “But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Center Of The Universe

We are living in a time when we hear people say, “I am master of my own destiny” and “It’s all about me.” This is the “Me Generation” where each individual is the center of their own universe, everything and everyone circulates around them for their own fulfillment and self aggrandizement. Such individuals are insufferable and difficult to be around, they exude selfishness from every aspect of their persona. However they are not alone, we all suffer from this personality trait in varying degrees whether we realize it or not, it is part of the inherent nature of man.

One therefore must take into account how this all came about as Adam and Eve, the first family who had initially been given dominion over the earth by the Creator, fell prey to the ego inflating message of the tempter and accepted his word over that of the Creator which served to remove God from the center of their lives and make Satan central, whereby they instantly became self aware while at the same time taking on the egocentric personality of the one whose voice they had opted to obey, thus consigning their dominion and entitlement over to Satan.

The serpent in the Hebrew is a being or person is called 'Nachash.' The Hebrew word Nachash is translated to “shine” (like brass) or whisper (as in enchantment). The Nachash was not a literal snake he was, to use the literal Hebrew, a shining enchanter. He was also 'shrewd' (smooth or slick), as a descriptive term in the Hebrew for 'naked and cunning' in deceiving Eve.

(Genesis 3: 1 - 7) Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

In time God gave Moses the law and throughout the centuries that followed we can read of the continual failures of mankind to keep the law perfectly and even to this day there is no one on earth who has not failed under those ten commandments due to the dictates of ego and man’s propensity to sin.

Following his baptism by John in the Jordan River Jesus went out to the wilderness where he fasted and prayed for forty days before beginning his ministry and is confronted by Satan who directed questions designed to appeal to Jesus ego, it was there in that moment in time where he put his own human ego to death placing the will of God the Father at the foremost center of his own existence. This is a profound example of the Son of God placing God his Father as central in the throne room of his own life and relegating himself to a subservient role by crushing the desires of his own ego.

(Matthew 4: 1 - 11) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’ Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,’He will give his angels charge of you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written,
‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.

And later here again, Jesus knowing that he was about to be tortured mercilessly and crucified, he put the will of the father above his own.

(Matthew 26: 36 - 42)  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsem′ane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zeb′edee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch  with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.” 

A certain event that happened at the crucifixion of Christ which was recorded by Luke exemplifies the egocentricity of one of the criminals as opposed to the repentant God centered attitude of the other.

(Luke 23: 32 - 43)  Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into  your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Herein we see evidence that all is not lost even on the worst of sinners, one who was sentenced to death, because God approves a repentant and contrite heart and has provided a way to redeem His creation from the clutches of Nachash through the person of Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” Let us all try to put Christ in the central place in our lives as Savior and Lord and give ego a back seat to what’s infinitely more important than ourselves.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Times Of Testing

Most people’s personal insights come to them while thinking about certain events that occurred at earlier times in their lives. Those who gain nothing are to be most pitied as the human phase of our eternal existence is intended by the Creator to be a time of instruction and learning. There are multiple times that I have been tested and in retrospect admit to having failed many of those tests miserably, the reason for that is because as members of a humanity flawed at birth by the fall of man in Eden, we are egocentric by nature and put ourselves above everything around us, rather than being creator centric and maintaining a continual awareness of the presence of God in our daily lives. 

(Job 1: 1 - 22) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each on his day; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “Whence have you come?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand.” So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; and there came a messenger to Job, and said, “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; and the Sabe′ans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The Chalde′ans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Not one of us would have responded like Job did, and it continued. Shortly after that he became covered with oozing pustular sores and his body began wasting away. A handful of friends showed up to offer condolences and solace, each one recounting what a righteous man he is and eventually suggesting that since God had obviously abandoned him that he would be better off to just curse God and die to end his misery. Job then lapsed into self pity and began to loathe his life and rue the day he was born, up until then he had been relying on his own self-righteousness to justify himself not unlike what most people tend to do at times. His friends unwittingly were in essence being used by Satan to taunt him mercilessly. Job finally entered into a lengthy conversation with God and recognized how insufficient his own righteousness really was, but in spite of all that had befallen him he refused to blame his Creator and continued to acknowledge Him above all else. Then God blessed him and restored his health, family and fortunes multifold. 

Upon reading the entire lengthy story of Job, one comes away with a sense of their own insignificance which becomes helpful in maintaining a right prospective of one’s self in God’s scheme of things. Job had passed an incredibly difficult test, the likes of which none of us will ever be faced with. However we are tested in smaller ways multiple times throughout our lives. I can attest to going through years of resistance to acknowledging my insufficiency which often resulted in personal failures, and have come to the conclusion that the answer to being an overcomer and a winner is in starting each day with time for God. A quiet time of study, introspection and prayer will eventually turn the toughest bone head into becoming conscious of God’s presence throughout the day, placing thoughts concerning God’s will over one’s self and in time a foul mouth, evil thinking and nasty comments will give way to the things that are honoring to God and no longer self defiling.
That welcome morning coffee goes well with time for God, the stress of daily news and the outside world can wait, it will still be there but can be faced more victoriously afterward.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Everyone Loves Heroes

We have recently seen news of two selfless and outstanding young American men who are being hailed as heroes, both charging unflinchingly into the face of certain death. First Alek Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guardsman who along with two others ran forward and captured an armed terrorist intent on killing everyone on a train traveling from Belgium to France. Then another former Army soldier, Chris Mintz who received multiple gunshot wounds while blocking an armed killer behind a classroom door at an Oregon college. Both men not counting their own lives over the lives others, advanced into chaos and almost certain death to save them. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Heroes don’t come in special wrappings, usually they are just ordinary people living ordinary lives until they are called through an internal urge to do extraordinary things, even if it costs them their own lives. John the Baptist was one like these, the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, both righteous people. Zechariah was a priest in the temple of God and according to Jewish tradition the priesthood was passed down from one generation to the next firstborn son. So John the Baptist was by birthright a member of the temple priesthood, however John was called out to the wilderness by that inexplicable inner voice.
John was what we would call an eccentric leaving a comfortable life behind as a temple priest opting to take on hardship for the sake of a greater cause than himself. He was carrying a warning to all who would listen, to make way for the coming of the Lord.

(Matthew 3:1 - 6) In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
(Luke 3: 11 - 12) “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

(John 3: 25 - 30) Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over purifying. And they came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness (referring to Jesus), here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

John came with a warning and was a herald of something greater than himself that was coming, his message was not well received by some and eventually it cost him his life.

(Matthew 14: 1 - 12) At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus; and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist, he has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Hero′di-as, his brother Philip’s wife; because John said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Hero′di-as danced before the company, and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it; and they went and told Jesus.

(Matthew 11: 7 - 14) As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli′jah who is to come. He who has ears to hear,let him hear.

John was a great hero, called like so many other heroes by that mystical inner voice that drives men to lay down their own lives for causes much greater than themselves. John said, “He must increased I must decrease”. In other words, it’s not about me to draw attention to myself, it’s about something greater than myself just as this blog written as Joshua Stone is merely a non de plume rather than draw accolades to myself, it’s about He Who Is….Jesus. 
Most of the good, kind and seemingly righteous deeds that people do and are praised for today are usually couched in selfish motives, because they enjoy the praise of others, or they expect it will create personal opportunities for gain and be a good tax deduction. There is usually always an ulterior motive behind people's good works!  Not so with the likes of John the Baptist and these two soldiers whose motives were entirely selfless for the sake of others even unto death, selfless not unlike Jesus himself, the Lord and Savior of all mankind who gave his all that we might live!