Watch Yourself!

If there is one thing in the world that might destroy you, it is the pandemic germ common to mankind that took Adam and Eve out of the garden after it had forfeited Lucifer from his exalted angelic position over angels.  It is the sin of pride and it got Haman hanged and Pharaoh drowned, and Saul slain, and it will take you down too if you do not guard diligently against it.

The history of humanity has attested well to Solomon’s proverb: “A man’s pride shall bring him low….” (Prov. 29:23) He was the wise man who also said that “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty….” (Prov. 18:12), and “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) C.S. Lewis said that it is the sin that we all loathe when observed in others but that we seldom imagine we are guilty of ourselves.  He called it the essential vice and posited that unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness and all are mere “fleabites” in comparison.  The Devil became the devil through pride, and it is “the complete anti-God state of mind.”

Chesterton said, “If I had only one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against pride.”  A teacher of preachers said to his class: “I can think of no more deadly foe than self-esteem; I would hazard the guess that professional pride is the sin par excellence of the clergy.”

Napoleon could have boasted in his military prowess, but he knew the folly of such a thing.  He said of his own accomplishments: “I am doing now what will fill thousands of volumes in this generation; in the next, one volume will contain it all; in the third, a paragraph; in the fourth, a single line.”

J.P. Struthers spent his life ministering to a small Presbyterian church when, it was said, he could have occupied any pulpit in the Britain of his day for he was dearly loved by all who knew him and the more they knew him the more they loved him.   A friend said that because of all that Struthers had done he would surely have a front seat in heaven.  But another close friend of the great pastor offered the following: “Struthers would be miserable in a front seat anywhere.” 

We’re living in an age that promotes self-esteem.  Talk shows and books have been promoting self for decades.  It is easy to get caught up in this psychology that makes one feel good about one’s self.  Certainly, the redeemed child of God, heir of God and joint heir with His Son, can rejoice in his standing in Christ.  But let us never forget that the old man, with us to the end of our earthly journey, is just as corrupt as ever and in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. (Romans 7:18) Next time the flesh begs to be stroked and puffed, watch out!  It’s that which more than anything else in the world will more likely bring to you personal, spiritual ruin.

“A rabbi, a cantor and a humble synagogue cleaner were preparing for the day of atonement,” shared Alan Paton in Instrument of Thy Peace, “when, beating his breast the rabbi said: ‘I am nothing; I am nothing.’  The cantor did likewise.  However, when the cleaner beat his breast and said, ‘I am nothing,’ the rabbi was overheard to say to the cantor: ‘Look who thinks he’s nothing.’”

During Sunday school a teacher taught the lesson from Luke 18 about the Pharisee who, praying to God, gave thanks that he was not like other people, while a tax collector said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”  The teacher explained that the self-righteous Pharisee looked down, because of pride, on the tax collector.  At the end of the class, the teacher asked one of the students to close the class in prayer who, when he prayed, said “God, I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee.”

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly….” (Romans 12:3)

Aker Blog

Here is an article written by my friend John Aker, former pastor and current Healthcare CEO, on Wednesday, following the Presidential election.  I think you will appreciate it, so I send it along with John’s permission.  You may contact him at jba@akerjba.com to comment or to receive future posts on his The Forward Edge of Battle Area installments:

Dear Friends on The Forward Edge of Battle…

Greetings in The Master’s Name!

And, in His Name be courageous…do not fret or fear…but take heart and be at peace… 

As of this writing, I know not who will sit in The White House, but I know personally That One Who sits on The Throne–and I choose to dwell in His Shelter and abide in His Shadow…

Scripture cautions us about singing glad songs to a heavy heart.  And while I truly wish to respect this admonition, for the many whose hearts are heavy these days I want to share some truths that I pray will gladden your hearts.

My window looks out on a world so very different from the one in which I enjoyed my childhood, young adulthood, and even my middle and later years.  America has changed and it seems to be at a place where the change may become even more noticeable and less bearable–unless you choose to dwell in the Shelter of The Most-High and to abide in the Shadow -of The Almighty.  And the choice, with all its attendant consequences is yours…

So, think of these truths…

If the foundations are destroyed,

What can the righteous do?

Psalm 11:3 

There can be no doubt that the anti-God squad is achieving its objectives and the good old boys of the Democratic Party are following these little girls around like adoring puppies at their heels. The Judeo-Christian principles upon which this once-great-nation was founded are offensive to the anti-God squad and The Left that is now lock-stepped with them.  The elimination of the phrase under God from the pledge of allegiance at the opening of The Democratic National Convention was neither an oversight, not a simple slip–and do not be fooled, it was no small thing.  They have evicted God from the schoolhouse, The House in Congress, and they want God, and anyone who would speak on His behalf, out of The White House.  They have nothing but lip service for Him–and they want nothing from His Word.

Help, LORD, for the godly disappear from among the sons of men…

Psalm 12:1

You might almost think David was walking down the Halls of Congress when he penned those words.  Please, do not be so narrow-minded as to think the swamp is only on one side of the aisle.  The AIDS syndrome is endemic throughout our Nation’s Capital–Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome.  The credentials of many who sought political office in this last general election, as well as many currently holding office, reflected a serious deficiency of integrity and morality.  And for so many Americans this was just ho-hum.  Well, the sad thing about corruption is that it originates in a complacency that leads to compromise–and it is contagious!  And when good men like John James run for office, they are too often defeated by do-nothing politicians like Gary Peters who are backed by big-buck liberal politicos.

But Psalm 12 says more!

The words of The LORD are pure words,

As silver tried in a furnace on the earth,

Refined seven times…

Psalm 12:6

What are those words.  Well, here are just a few that offer comfort and strength to those who will believe them:

Why are the nations restless
And the peoples plotting in vain?

The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers conspire together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
Let’s tear their shackles apart
And throw their ropes away from us!

He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury, saying,
But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain…

Psalm 2:1-6

(The Lord has the last word…and the last laugh)

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me;

The promises of Thy love, O LORD, are everlasting;

Do not forsake the works of Thy Hands…

Psalm 138:8

(I am secure and safe in His Hands because His promises of love never fail)

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

And have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Well, even these may forget,

But I will never forget you.

Look, you are engraved on the palms of My hands…

Isaiah 49:15-16

(God will never forget His love and promises to me.

My person and His love for me is ever before His eyes

In the only man-made things in heaven–

The wounds in my Savior’s Hands!)

Wednesday morning, the day after Election Day, Joyce Kaufman of 850 AM Radio, Ft Lauderdale, Florida said words to this effect:

I really did not vote for a person…

I voted for the freedom to worship my God…

I voted for The Police and The Military…

I voted for The Unborn…

I voted for a country that would support Israel…

I voted for peace in The Mid-East…

I voted for secure borders

And for these reasons and many more,

I voted for the only politician who, in my lifetime,

Has kept his campaign promises!

And Greg Gutfeld of The Five, as I only briefly remember, and somewhat in my words, said:

Come On, get your face up off the floor!

We won!

Yes, we did, we won!

200 Federal Judges, Thee Supreme Court Justices,

Mid-East Peace Treaties,

A respected presence round the world…

And so much more…

We won!

   Do not, again, DO NOT, allow the unknowable, although unacceptable, to be unbearable.  What can the righteous do when the foundations are destroyed.  Three things:

VOTE

I did!

PRAY

I did…I do…and I shall continue!

TRUST

I do…because…

I know Whom I have believed,

and I am convinced that

He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him…

II Timothy 1:12

What have I entrusted to Him?  My treasures: Rose, my dear wife…our daughters, Laura Lynn, Natalie Anne, and Jana Marie…their husbands, Lance, Trent, and Matthew…our twenty-one grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.  And my own life, as unworthy as I am of His great love.  But it is that love that secures all I entrust to Him.  And I am at peace–even with the unknowable!

Some last thoughts:

Do not fear those who can kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul;

Rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell…

Matthew 10:28

I will never desert you,

Nor will I ever forsake you,

So, we confidently say,

The LORD is my helper,

 I will not be afraid.

What shall man do to me?

Hebrews 13:5-6

And those who know Thy Name

Will put their trust in Thee;

For Thou, O LORD,

Hast not forsaken those who seek Thee!

Psalm 9:10

You voted…you have prayed, and you continue to pray.  Now trust…just trust…and keep on trusting…and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus…

And that is my prayer for you personally, dear friend…

With you in His Great and Gracious Hands

John B.  Aker

Your Body and You

David said, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made….” (Ps. 139:4).  The more we learn about these bodies given to us for “tabernacles” on our earthly pilgrimage, the more we appreciate just how truly wonderful they are!

Your heart is a perfect pump; the nervous system has never been equaled by any modern technological invention; our voice reproduces sound that no high tech medium can match in quality or definition; the eyes are cameras more precise than has been manufactured by man; the nose, lungs and skin are a ventilating system without equal in preciseness and effectiveness, and the spinal cord, serving up instant actions and reactions accompanied by appropriate and timely warnings to a complex city of nerves and nerve endings is in a class of its own.  No wonder the Psalmist exclaimed that we are wonderfully made!

God fashioned the man and the woman and said that everything was “very good.”  Because of sin, though, Adam’s descendants begin to die the day they are born.  Studies have shown that a person reaches his or her peak as far as learning and retention of knowledge at or about the ripe old age of 20.  I’ve always said that you could take a look at your high school graduation picture and see yourself at your very finest—at least physically.  For most it seems to be “down- hill” from then on!

But though our bodies often take merciless beatings from us, they somehow keep going usually for seventy or eighty years or more.  Death, because of sin, will ultimately overcome every one of us, except those who are taken up in the Rapture, sending us to the grave.  Thanks be to God, though, for victory over death.  Because Jesus Christ conquered the tomb, we too shall one day rise victorious.  Our bodies will then be changed, made like unto His glorious body (Phil. 3:21), reunited with our spirit and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (I Thess. 4:13-18) Amen.

As a believer, you can look forward to living without any possibility of death in a body not subject to sickness, decomposition, deterioration, pain, aging or change in any way, shape or form.  You will resemble your present, physical self but without any blemish.  You’ll have a “make over” that will be out of this world!  Glory!

There are some special considerations we ought to give our present “tabernacles”:  (1)  We are urged to present them as a living sacrifice daily to God, because it is our reasonable service to do so (Rom. 12:1,2); (2)  We should yield the members of our body as instruments of righteousness with which to serve God and not as instruments of unrighteousness with which to serve “self”;  (3)  We should know that our bodies have been claimed and purchased by Christ’s blood and, therefore, they do not belong to us (I Cor. 6:19, 20);  (4)  We should remember that the body in which we tabernacle is not given to us for fornication, but to use to bring glory to God (I Cor. 6:13); (5)  We should, knowing our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, (2 Cor. 6:16) refrain from abusing it in any way, including the following:

  1. Tattooing 
  2. Eating disorders
  3. Sleep deprivation
  4. Drunkenness
  5. Gluttony
  6. Nakedness
  7. Drug addiction
  8. Self-mutilation
  9. Adultery, fornication, immorality
  10. Idolatry

May God give us a Biblical appreciation for this tabernacle of flesh, blood and bones specially made for our earthly journey and one day to be remade for our eternal habitation.

What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price:  therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Cor. 6:19,20)

The Power of 1

“By the grace of God, I am what I am,” the Apostle Paul, church planting evangelist par excellence, said of himself, humbly, in I Cor. 15:10 just after confessing that he was least of all the apostles and not worthy to be called an apostle; yet, he was what he was!

And, so are you!  You have never been called or commanded to do the work of any other person:  you are your unique self, one person, and only able to do exactly what your Creator has planned for you to do today, one day at a time.

And, today just happens to be election day here in the USA, 2020.  The polls are open; hopefully you are registered to vote.  You have approximately ‘til sundown depending upon which state you live in, to get to a designated voting place to cast your ballot for the candidate of your choice.

The two major political parties, with their candidates, have made their cases to the American people.  Every office is important. You no doubt have heard it said that “all politics are local politics.”  At the grassroots level debates, deliberations and discussions have occurred that have shaped the direction of the party platform that will eventually impact the direction and destiny of a nation.  There is no inconsequential vote to be cast; no unimportant office to fill, and no candidate for any office that should be considered with indifference.  Today is an historic day in our nation’s history.

Today, America stands at a crossroads:  we will choose our leaders, lawmakers and executives, for another two, four or six years.  Every vote is hugely critical.  Each person who casts a ballot or pulls a lever will vote for life or death, morality or immorality, truth or tyranny, socialism or capitalism, freedom or oppression.

Yes, the contrast could not be more pronounced.  Long shadows are being cast over our nation’s horizon by little people.  Churches are being harassed by petty bureaucrats. Laws, customs, mores, history books, and monuments are being turned upside down to accommodate the “woke” world.  People who are dedicated to keeping neighborhoods, streets, malls and public squares safe places to congregate are having to dodge bricks, vile epithets and lawless mobs while the peace-keeping thin blue line of law enforcement is abjectly abandoned by city councils gone crazy.  It’s not the America most of us have known; it’s not the America most of us want to know.  You, friend, must vote.

Yes, you are only one, but you are one, and one vote has, and one vote can turn the course of history.  The Middleton, Massachusetts home page cites some elections won or lost by the narrowest of margins:  In 1800 Thomas Jefferson was elected President by one vote in the House of Representatives after a tie in the Electoral College; in 1824 Andrew Jackson won the presidential popular vote but lost to John Quincy Adams after an Electoral College deadlock; in 1845 the U.S. Senate passed the convention to annex Texas by just two votes, and more recently, in 2000, the Presidential election was decided by just 537 votes with more than six million voters having voted, so, yes, one vote, your vote, counts and is very important so do not let the huge early voting numbers discourage you from doing you civic duty:  get out and vote today.  You will not regret doing it, but you most certainly may regret not doing it.  See you at the polls!

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

“Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  James 4:17

See You Sunday!

A little girl whose family had just moved to a large city became lost.  She went to the corner policeman who began quizzing her but without success, trying to determine where she lived.  Finally, the child said, “If you will take me to church, Mister, I can find my way home.”

Church attendance has been on the wane in recent years, and the 2020 Covid-19 shut down has caused new patterns of church attendance that have not yet been subject to measurement.  Some church experts are projecting that when the pandemic is over, most churches will have 20% fewer people regularly attending Sunday mornings at one location than they had attending pre-corona virus days.  More people, it is assumed, will have adjusted to worshipping on-line and will not show up for on-site, in person worship.  But, church attendance has always been and ever will be for New Testament churches in line with the Biblical injunction to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and the promise of Jesus that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

A local lumber yard sign read:  “81% of your customers will be lost ten years from now; 1% will die; 3% will move away; 5% will give their business to a friend; 9% will be lost to competitors; 14% will quit due to dissatisfaction with a product and 68% will quit because of an attitude of indifference on the part of an employee.”  Could it be that those statistics will reflect church attendance patterns too?

But faithful, regular attendance is so very important.  Biblical commentator John Stott in one of his commentaries said that Christians are players in a “cosmic drama.”  The stage, he said, is the world; the actors are the church; the writer, producer and director, God; cosmic beings are rulers and authorities in heavenly places.  Stott said that through the old creation God reveals His glory to men, and through the new creation (the church) He reveals His glory and wisdom to the angels, principalities and powers (I Cor. 11:10).  Thus, how we look at our responsibilities regarding the church and our relationship to it, even in matters of attendance to its regular services, takes on a new and elevated significance:  by our faithfulness we can teach angels, both the fallen angels that chose to follow Satan’s coup against God, rebelling against His authority; and the unfallen angels who chose not to follow Satan, but remained unfallen and confirmed in holiness.  We teach the former lot of angelic demons that they made a mistake in believing Satan’s lie and in sinning against their Creator, leaving their “first estate,” (I Pet. 1:10-12; Jude 6).  We teach the latter lot, unfallen angels, that they made a wise choice in bowing to God’s sovereign authority; and we are demonstrating by our faithful attendance and obedience to His command that we are “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” and that we have made the same choice.

So, if we are His disciples, it is incumbent upon us to “show up,” if at all possible, when the Body meets for regularly announced worship together.  Like Mrs. Ellen Craig, reported by the Nashville Banner, who had perfect attendance in Sunday School for 1,040 Sundays, or twenty years!   “Doesn’t Mrs. Craig ever have company drop in on Sunday?  Does she never have headaches, colds?  How about week-end trips, family reunions, or times she would sleep in, or stay at home because of rain or snow; or, has she never gotten her feelings hurt by someone in the church?”  (Richard DeHahn)

The reasons for not attending church regularly were once parodied by a clever wag: “I never wash because I was made to when I was a child; people who wash are hypocrites—they think they are cleaner than everyone else; there are so many different kinds of soap, I could never decide which one is right; I used to wash but got bored with it; I still wash on occasions:  Easter and Christmas; none of my friends wash and they seem to get along all right and after all, people who make soap are only after your money!”

How is it with you?  Do you treasure times together with His family, meeting as one Body?  Don’t forsake it!  Joyfully embrace it.

I leave you with a humorous story a pastor friend of mine shared with an adult Sunday School class he was teaching one Sunday, stressing the importance of faithfully attending Church and its services.  He said:  “In the Puritan  churches they dealt with absences from church in this way:  miss one Sunday and you get no meals on Monday; miss two Sundays and you receive a whipping; miss three Sundays and you go to jail; miss four Sundays…NO ONE MISSES FOUR SUNDAYS!

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”  (Hebs. 10:25)

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps. 122:1)

All I Heard Was Go!

She and her husband have been serving on the mission field in the intermountain area of the United States for 31 of the 35 years they have been married.  We will call her Diane as that is her name.  She would have been, in her earliest years, the most unlikely candidate for a future missionary because of her home environment, but God!

Church bus workers knew how to draw children back week after week (with candy!) and Diane says she got hooked, but not only because of the candy but more importantly because of a loving church family that took her into their hearts and homes and nurtured her, after she became a child of God through her new birth following a gospel message at a Christmas Youth Group party.  Dr. Fred Moritz, then pastor of the church she was attending, baptized her and the rest is history.  She became the “adopted” child of a half dozen or more loving church families while cherishing Psalm 27:10: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”  

In ways that only a sovereign God could have engineered Diane was able to enroll as a student at Bob Jones University after a wise youth pastor and his wife took her on a trip to BJU where she for the first time in her life got to experience “a little bit of heaven on earth.”  She did not know what she wanted to do but through her first semester “it seemed all I heard in chapel, in my Bible classes, and in my devotions, the Lord kept pointing me to missions. That summer, my pastor, Anthony Slutz, preached on John 15:16.  All I heard was Go!  I didn’t know where the Lord wanted me to go, but I was willing to go wherever He led me!  I went back to school in the fall and changed my major to missions.”

Tony Miller, leader of a missions team to the Intermountain West, spoke in a missions chapel that semester on John 15:16. Diane says, “I went to the team meeting to learn more about it.  I really believed the Lord wanted me on this team, but I had no idea how I was going to return to school next year, let alone go on a mission team!  I told the Lord I was willing to go, but He would have to provide.  A few days later, I learned that my Dad had money in an account that no one knew about at the time of his death.  It was enough for me to go on the mission team, as well as return to school in the fall!  My heavenly Father knew that the money was there when I would need it.”

The trip west sealed Diane’s burden for the Intermountain Mission field and she testifies that on that trip was a handsome young man that she was drawn to: “We’ve been married for 35 years and have been serving the Lord with Northwest Baptist Missions for 31 of those years.  God has always been so faithful and good to us!”

Most of Diane’s family have never professed faith in her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, though by her life, love, letters and prayers she has wept over them and waited with hope of hearing that her Savior had become theirs through faith.  She had little or no encouragement from anyone outside of her church family and Christian circle of friends, including a Christian school, to attend church, continue in church, attend a Christian college, or to become a missionary.

It is not a stretch to say that Diane’s story, like others, is one of the grace of God, the skillful guidance of His hand and the loving care for a child pretty much “on her own” who was found by some faithful bus workers, evangelized by a faithful youth pastor, nurtured by a faithful church family and mentored by teachers whose sole interest in Diane was a soul interest in Diane.  May their tribe increase.  The host of believers whose lives have been interwoven with Diane’s for the past forty plus years can rejoice, praising our great God for a child whose heart was open to and drawn to our home mission field and who, listening through messages, testimonies and lessons would later testify that “All I heard was Go!”

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  Then said I, Here am I; send me.  And He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed….” (Isaiah 6:8,9a)

Our Only Hope

A Puritan writer once wrote: “The Christian’s armor will rust except it be furbished and scoured with the oil of prayer.”

Once again, our nation stands at a crossroad.  The issue before us:  a burgeoning, bustling land where freedom’s light shines as a bright beacon of hope, or on the other hand a bungling, blighting bureaucratic government of the powerful, by the political and for the privileged who live within the beltline and who have made a career of milking the deep state for every last lobbied dollar that could be had; all in the name of the United States of America.

The odds are against the few free brave men and women who believe in life and liberty for all and an equal field upon which to pursue one’s dreams.

One party platform espouses life for the unborn baby whose only home has ever been its mother’s womb; the other party believes that the fluid baby’s cradle is as much a death chamber as the butcher’s block ready to receive the bloody axe.

It’s a clear choice, and in just days Decision Day 2020 will be upon us; the “odds makers” give it to the “progressives” by a 74-33 margin as of 14 days out.

But God!  At a dark hour in our colonial history, a wise Ben Franklin, not known for his faith in God or in God’s Word, proclaimed to his fellow framers of the U.S. Constitution when their deliberations had come to an impossible impasse:  “We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred scriptures that ‘except the Lord builds the House they labor in vain that build it.’”  Franklin went on to entreat that “henceforth prayers (be made) imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessings on our deliberations…every morning before we proceed to business….”  Following Franklin’s plea, it is said that the iceberg melted and safe passage through the once frozen political sea was achieved until at last, we had a Constitution that could only have been born through a special dispensation of the grace of God.  A lady hollered across the street to Ben Franklin as he was departing Constitution Hall one day: “What have you given us?”  To which Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”  Today, we struggle yet, as ever, “to keep it.”

We have the most earth-shattering weapon under heaven given to men in the instrument of prevailing prayer. Moses prayed and the sea was parted; Jonah prayed and God sent a great fish to spare him from a drowning death; Daniel prayed and the manes of the kings of beasts, which had been smitten with lock jaw, became Daniel’s pillow for a night’s sleep in a den of lions; Daniel’s three friends prayed and Jesus joined them in the fiery furnace; Joshua prayed and the sun stood still.

So, we join the Apostles in their petition, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  We can do much after we have prayed, but we can do nothing to advance truth’s triumph until we have prayed.  Herbert Lockyer told his ministerial students: “Let us not shun the College of the Wilderness, from which we graduate with the degree of Reliance upon God.”

And so, do not despair during this dark hour.  There is a God whose ears are never stopped, whose eyes are never closed, whose arm is never shortened and whose will is never thwarted.  So, PRAY!

Prayer makes the darkest cloud withdraw; prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw; and Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.” (anon.)

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (Eph. 5:18)

Stand Up for Freedom!

Dear Mr. Irsay: Dear Mr. Reich:

As owner and as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, I address you on behalf of the multitude of people whose lives are impacted every day by what “The Blue” does, not only on Sundays when game time rolls around but on every day of the year when, having eaten at a local restaurant we pay the bill which most often includes a “stadium” (Lucas Oil) tax or pick up the tab for an out of town friend staying at a local motel which adds on another tax for the three-quarter billion dollar stadium built for Colts games which only a few of us ever have the opportunity to attend.

We live here and we are glad that over the years, since the Colts moved here from Baltimore, we have been able to boast of a fine, competitive team that not only won the Super Bowl but has demonstrated, through the likes of Coach Dungy, Peyton Manning and others, class citizenship in community endeavors, representing well your organization as one that cares for our city and its citizens and contributes in many ways to our pride and progress.  For that, we are grateful.

That’s why, in your first game this year, when it was time for the National Anthem, typically signaling the beginning of the game’s play action, it was terribly disappointing, even disgusting, to see the entire team of players standing behind you, Coach Reich, while you put one knee to the ground and refused to respect “old glory” and our national song of appreciation for all men and women, past and present, who have sacrificed their own pursuits to serve in our armed forces to protect, preserve and to pass on to the next generation the freedoms that have been so unique to our great nation since those 56 brave colonial Constitution framers signed the Declaration of Independence pledging their lives and fortunes so that our republic could be one where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” could be enjoyed by every American.  Most of those valiant men lost everything:  their lives, families, possessions because of their courage in signing that historic document; and from the inception of our nation, millions of mostly young, heroic, barely out of the stage of boyhood men have sacrificed their lives on foreign soil so that we could breathe free air today, choose our vocation and place of worship and rear our children and establish our homes in a country where there has been from our nation’s inception the opportunity to live free.  The ultimate price for this freedom has been paid by generations of patriotic men and women who freely forfeited their own dreams and desires so that we could, as we do today, enjoy this experiment of republican government, now 244 years old and counting, which has been unlike any ever known in mankind’s history, and which is the envy of the world’s masses most of which are still “yearning to be free.”

That’s why, sirs, when the Colts took the field for its season opener and our coach, with the approval of the team standing behind him, refused to stand in respect for our flag during the National Anthem, we were so smitten with disbelief, disappointment and disgust.  It is a football game.  We follow the news and agonize over what our great nation is now enduring.  We pray, we contribute in legitimate endeavors to make our city one where each person is treated fairly, equally and with dignity absent discrimination in the work a day world or in the halls of justice.  We get it.  We as a people can do better.  We protest with all our might any movement that is bent on destroying buildings, businesses and bodies because there has been an aberration of justice in our city, state or nation.  But when we go to a football game or watch our hometown team play on any given day, we expect the coaches and players to show respect for our country, its historic symbols of freedom and its men and women serving to preserve our freedoms.  You, sirs, have done your many fans and well-wishers a monumental disservice; we beg of you to find a respectable way, a patriotic way, an inoffensive way, to show your support of the United States, its citizens of all persuasions who are trying to obey the laws of our land and striving to live in peace with every fellow-American regardless of race or religion.

Please, stand in respect for the flag and all that it represents and for the millions of men and women now serving and who have in wars past or present served and shed their precious blood ensuring that you have a place to play your football games where there is life and liberty guaranteed for all.

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”  (Provs. 22:28)

“Righteousness exalteth a nation:  but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Provs. 14:34)

What’s Your One Wish?

On September 29, 1978, less than two months into his papacy, Pope John Paul I was found dead in his bed with the book Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A. Kempis, opened and his reading light still on, probably having died of a heart attack.

Paul the Apostle wrote to some first century saints in Philippi that he desired to know his Lord and specifically the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil.3:10).  He not only wanted to imitate his Savior, Paul wanted to commune with Him in such a way that his life would be a shared life, even in the manner of suffering.

Most of us want to know Him and we surely want to live a life of resurrection power, but that suffering issue is another matter.  We have read what Paul said to young Timothy when he reminded him that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:12).  And, Peter has caused us to give serious consideration to the matter of adversity when he wrote to suffering, scattered saints that they were “called” to suffer because Christ had left us an example that “ye should follow in His steps.” (I Pet. 2:21).  It is easier to relegate those instructions to believers living in the early church age; but to the 21st century western world of Christ-followers, well, we’re not so quick to embrace that postulate.  Sure, we would love to know Him in a way that we’ve never known Him before; but to say “Amen” to Paul’s confession that “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,” well, that would surely give us cause for pause.

But the “fellowship of His sufferings” entails such a work of grace in a believer’s heart that he/she will have a different mind-set about things past (reputation, comforts, respect, retirement, privileges, and possessions).  Paul affirms that he “suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him….” (Phil. 3:8,9).  That statement sums it all up for Paul, and becomes our mantra yet today.  To be found in Him, His will, His service, His fellowship, His blessing, so that He is the center and circumference of our being, our existence, means that Christ the Lord is our “All in all!”

What is your one wish today?  Riches, friends, success, security, fame, health?  Or, to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings?  There is no short-cut. We cannot pick and choose.  To have the resurrection power will not be realized apart from the fellowship of sufferings.  

That just may be the key to the timeless, perplexing puzzle: “Why do good people suffer?”  All of us know some “salt of the earth” folk who have been in and through the furnace of suffering to an unimaginable extent.  We can only wonder, sometimes, why.  Then Paul’s words echo in our heart’s chamber: “…and the fellowship of His sufferings.”  We do not need to know more.  It is part of the knowing, showing and growing as we “reach forth unto those things which are before.” (Phil. 3:13).

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect:  but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ.” (Phil. 3:12).

Strangers and Sojourners

A few days ago, “You and God” addressed the subject of riches and the dangers of trusting in them; the sheer vanity of doing so as expressed by the very wealthy King Solomon who suffered from what some have called “destination sickness,” defined as a person “arriving” only to discover he is “nowhere.” (H.B. London)

Today, please consider the question “What are you doing with that with which you’ve been entrusted?”  We’ve already established the fact that Americans are a wealthy lot of people.  For example, one news outlet reported that in a recent Christmas season the average American family spent nearly 300 dollars per child on holiday gifts.  Some families in some countries do not make that in an entire year.  So, yes, we are “wealthy” by the standards of the world measured in dollars and cents.

Howard Hendricks once stated that “materialism has nothing to do with amount, but with attitude.”  So, let us ask ourselves, “Am I materialistic?”  Do you feel like you have “arrived” financially?  As someone put it, if an enemy took over your town and led you out of the city with nothing in your possession, would you say that you had “left everything behind?”

Readers Digest told of an anonymous writer who wrote that an American tourist visited a well-known 19thcentury Polish rabbi.  The visitor was surprised that the rabbi’s house contained only a few books, a table, a chair and a bed.  The visitor asked, “Where’s your furniture, rabbi?”

“Where’s yours?” the rabbi replied.  “Mine?” asked the puzzled American.  “But I’m a visitor here—just passing through.”

“So am I,” replied the rabbi.

David had that attitude in his psalm of praise when he said, “For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers; our days on the earth are as a shadow and there is nothing abiding.” (I Chr. 29:15)

John Stott: “It is not that Christianity pleads for poverty.  There is no virtue in being poor…Christianity pleads that it is never in the power of things to bring happiness; happiness comes from personal relationships; and (2) it pleads for concentration on things permanent; things that a man can take with him when he dies:  himself and his relationship with God.”

Jesus exhorted His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and “all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

In Haiti, an elderly woman who was living in poverty had walked miles for a meal to share with a young girl.  A veteran missionary, learning of this kindness commented: “The very poor are more generous than the rich.”

A businessman gave away millions of dollars anonymously to several non-profit institutions.  When someone discovered his identity and pressed him as to why he divested himself of so much of his wealth, he simply said, “I decided I had enough money.”

So, assuming you are a believer and follower of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, how is it with you concerning stewardship?  Do you have a right attitude toward possessions?  Are you investing in Kingdom endeavors?  Are you a generous person?  Have you put to work the “talents” God uniquely equipped you with?  Every one of us will give an account of our stewardship.  The issue?  Faithfulness.  “In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up that makes us rich.”  (Beecher)

Missionaries are prepared and planning to go with the life-changing gospel to the whitened harvest fields of the world.  Could you set aside a portion of your income to invest in the eternally rewarding work of world missions?  No one ever cast his “bread” upon waters but what it came back many-fold.  “There was a man they called him mad; the more he gave the more he had.”  Or, as Lonial Wire, now home with the Lord, would testify at our missions conferences: “I shovel it out and God shovels it back to me; but His shovel is a lot bigger than mine.”

A pompous lawyer, in a room filled with anxious relatives waiting to hear the will of a deceased family member read, opened the document up and read, “I, John Jones, being of sound mind and able body, SPENT IT ALL.”

How about spending it for the kingdom and laying up treasures where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through and steal?