THE CALL TO PRAYER

What do you do?  Like so many of us watching and listening to hear from our president, we’re left with more questions than answers with feelings of uncertainty. What do you do when you’re left with a feeling that something is painfully wrong with what you’ve observed? How do you handle the reality of ‘alternative news’ and the suspicion of ‘real news’ being offered to explain concerns, contentions, and complaints? After a live press conference, the myriad of questions, and the public discrediting of reporters and news organizations, who do you believe? What should be discarded or ignored?
 
This is where we are today! Something is terribly wrong! It has nothing to do with political ideology or partisan politics.
 
What do we do, those of us who are people of faith who desire the best for our country and its leaders? Assuredly, we want for ourselves and our leaders the best in policies that insure our safety, well-being, and pursuit all things good. This isn’t political! But, our observations clearly reveal that something is not functioning properly to give us feelings of security and stability.
 
I humbly submit to my faith community and beyond that we must be diligent and fervent in our cries unto the Lord. In our moments of prayer and meditation, we must seek the will of God for ourselves individually and for the larger community, including the nation. This is no time for partisan fighting, harsh critiques, hateful innuendo, or crassness. Indeed, this is a time for seeking God’s face.
 
Too many of us have long forsaken prayer as a viable tool of interaction and intervention in and among crucial happenings of the day. But, I believe that God is the same in welcoming our cries before Him for the state of affairs among men of the world. Our prayers relieve us of great tensions and stress created by the world’s clamor. Our prayers embolden us for the journey through challenging days of cynicism and gloom. Prayers refocus our minds to consider divine solutions to the great problems of our personal lives and the republic. And, prayer pours out before God our authentic selves to consider the purposes that He has for us in these key moments in time.
 
The great burden of leadership weighs heavy upon Mr. Trump! He is a human being now being inundated with weightier matters than he could have ever imagined. He is surrounded by people that may not have his or our best interests in mind, but rather seek to forward an agenda that is unhealthy for the nation and the world. He needs our prayers.
 
To all of the faithful, let us not join with those who cry foul at every word or critique every action, or espouse partisan hatred for the purpose of undermining the president. Those of us who preach need to be Nathan in David’s palace or Elijah in Ahab’s court. We must offer words of hope like a Samuel to Saul or Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Where is the Emperor’s Paul or the Sanhedrin’s Gamaliel who may offer reason, common sense and decency? Who will serve in obscurity offering prayers for the perceived enemy and for those who stand in the gap on the front lines? What does the Lord hear from His people in such a time as this?
 
We must be passionate, persistent, and powerful in our challenges to status quo thinking before friend or foe to our president with the challenge to keep decent our resistance and honorable our efforts to offer what is right and good for this land and people. And, I believe that we must begin and be sustained through prayer for both the president and those leading the charge to make known our concerns and hopes.
 
Let us pray: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV
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AN UNDISCLOSED SOURCE

It has become common to use the phrase ‘an undisclosed source.’  Whether speaking of classified or top secret information, newsworthy information, or secret financial donations, or just plain old good gossip, ‘undisclosed’ is a word usually applied.

Isn’t there something wrong with these ‘secrets’ that hide individuals or institutions that seek influence or control in a free society?  If motives are legitimate and honorable, why hide?  And, those who are willing to publish the news without a disclosure regarding from whence this ‘information’ has come become suspect.  If the information is legitimate, why isn’t the source willing to be disclosed?’

To disclose is to open up, or make something known or public.  Undisclose(d) is not in the dictionary but is one of those words grouped under one heading with the prefix ‘un.’  Merriam-Webster identifies ‘un’ as meaning ‘not’ or the opposite of.  In other words, news information or donation sources are not disclosed or made known to the public.  No reason or explanation is offered usually.  And there are cases in which journalists refuse vital information sources and have to serve jail time for their refusal to divulge the ‘undisclosed source.’

Is the matter something rumored?  Who saw it happen?  Did it happen?  Why is there cover-up?  How much money from who?  The questions can go on and on and on without disclosure.

Of course, good gossip doesn’t usually come with a ‘disclosed source.’  Much of the time individuals are so happy to get the ‘news’ that it really doesn’t matter who said it.  It doesn’t matter anymore that we may be repeating a lie or an exaggeration.  And we’ve come to expect a little embellishment to go along with the best stories.  Right!

Well consider these matters:

  1. Witnesses are needed to establish credibility.  Witnesses are people who have seen something; a person who was present for an event and can say that it happened.  Who are the witnesses, where are they (if they exist)?  If the source isn’t available for examination, one has to question the credibility of the one delivering the information.
  2. The Biblical norm is stated in Deuteronomy 19:15 (NKJV):  “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or sin that he commits;  by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”  It is repeated by the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 13:1 (NKJV).
  3. The spirit of the 9th commandment is jeopardized by this undisclosed issue. It states, “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16 NKJV).  How do we know if the information, news, etc. is false or true when its source is undisclosed?  Full disclosure helps to eliminate the possibility of false information.
  4. Who can you believe, the one bringing the information or the undisclosed source? But, we can’t ask clarifying questions because we don’t know the source.  The one reporting isn’t talking, but only repeating his/her claim(s).

It is no wonder that cynicism, skepticism, and doubt runs rampant everywhere.  We don’t know any more who to believe or trust when false information and misinformation have become common.

Are you one of those ‘undisclosed sources?

DESTINATION UNKNOWN

Every day, travelers head in most every direction in the skies with designated departure times with expectation of arrival to a destination at an appointed time.  The jet and its passengers move definitively and determinedly through the heavens to places unknown.

Those travelers are much the same as those on the ground, pondering their movements among people as they go here and there in cars, buses, trains, or trucks.  Destination unknown:  We can only wonder where they’re all heading.

Such is life.  As we make choices and decisions about our likes, dislikes, preferences, ambitions, hopes, dreams, we’re moving deliberately to somewhere developing and growing a life and legacy as we go on a fast track that quickly adjusts to the right or the left, up or down, or perhaps just straight ahead.  The destination isn’t clear, but we’re on our way!

Be careful how you travel though.  Excess baggage can ruin the trip.  Be careful what you pick up along the way.  Travel comforts can affect others.  Don’t create travel discomforts by insisting on your own comforts creating burdens for other travelers.  Be nice, assistance may be needed down the road.  Someone you neglect or ignore may be the one person with the very skill needed to help you to carry on with your journey.

Life has a way of returning favors.  Be sure to offer them as you travel because the journey will take turns without warning and there will be need for favor in your adjustments in those turns.  And the travel really does bring adjustments.  A gate change or seat adjustment, comforts, discomforts, physical challenges, or health issues can all make the journey so different.

The journey does end somewhere at a yet undisclosed location.  The means of travel does not matter, the journey ceases somewhere in time and space where travelers will get off of the bus one last time, leave the car parked for one last time, exit the train or plane one last time, or back the truck up for one last haul.  As was once said among the ‘mothers of the church’ or the elderly faithful, ‘when I’ve gone in my room to come out no more,’ that too will be a last.

Travel so that you can leave with dignity on the last ride.  Move along in life with meaning and purpose achieved only by interacting peaceably with others and helping others to journey to their end.  Because, at the end, everyone discover that this journey is not about us individually as much as it is about others that we can help, meet their needs and demonstrate caring concern.

The destination is determined by how we are willing to submit to someone bigger than ourselves to love other people.

Destination unknown?  Not really!  The treasures of the heart tell us where we’re headed.  They remind us daily whether we’re about ourselves or others.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV

COMMITMENT ISSUES? REALLY?

There seems to be trouble with the word ‘commit’ these days.  It is highlighted by the National Signing Day and all of the hustle and bustle for the best high school football players available by schools all across the land.  Many have committed (or so we thought) while some have decommitted (a new word I think).  Now we’re hearing of a university decommitting from their scholarship commitment to a young athlete, leaving the young man to search for someone else to commit to him so that he can commit to them.

These are the young man’s words:  “I felt lost and hopeless.  I mean, I had shut down my recruiting and basically gave everything to those guys – my commitment, my word and everything.  Now my commitment and your commitment isn’t the same thing.”

This is too much.  What happened to the phrase, ‘your word is your bond?’  What happened to a contract being sealed with a handshake?  What is the problem with the word commit?

It’s showing up everywhere!  More and more people have commitment issues related to their ‘love’ interests, friendships, business relationships, and even with relationship with God.  Longstanding institutions are finding it difficult to survive because of commitment issues.

I love you but I can’t commit (Isn’t that a misnomer?)  I want you on my team but I want to grayshirt you (after offering the scholarship).  We can do business together but . . .  I believe in the Lord, but I am not ready to ‘commit.’

It seems there is always but . . . not the one with two t’s, just one, which communicates ‘no commitment.’  There is always an underlying current, a risky possibility, a remote chance, a shred of doubt or something that keeps people from using the word or execute the action of commit.

Committed?  Really, are you all in with no holdouts, no hidden agenda, no reluctance, no hesitancy or doubt?  Really, because if you’re committed, doesn’t that mean to entrust something (That is a form of trust I think).  Commitment carries weight because each party realizes it is binding upon both of them. (Usually!  But, the language is in transformation, obviously.)  And, the agreement obligates (It did at one time!) parties to perform certain acts or to deliver on certain matters mentioned in the commitment.

Well, National Signing Day is almost here and we will see how these commitments pan out.

But every day presents opportunities to demonstrate our commitment to some things such as our relationships, our institutions, our businesses, values and principles without which our whole society will be in turmoil.  Do we really have society without trust or commitment?

That may explain some things.

MOVING ON UP TODAY

The daffodils are pushing up . . . hurriedly and with determination to blossom forth with their beauty and presence in God’s created fields.  It is deliberate with the slightest hint of warm weather!  These bulbs are pushing upward to bloom.

Nature’s progress is ever changing with the seasons that come and go annually like clockwork.  Sometimes each season may be extreme in its strength and influence upon the conditions of the atmosphere and land mass.  They may have interruptions of warmth during the cold season and cold in the warm season.  But other elements of nature respond to what they feel and their nature dictates during these interruptions.  For these daffodils, its nature says it is time to push forth with new life to blossom with rich color, aroma, and classic beauty.

There is something in each of us that moves upon us to stand to contribute with rich and powerful meaning what has been planted deep within our souls.  There is a time for us to step into our destiny, to realize our possibility on a higher plane than our job responsibilities, or a deeper level than financial obligations, or even beyond our interactions and connections with family and friends.  Something should engage us and move us to a place of purpose and meaning in life that will offer us our greatest feeling of fulfillment and joy.

This drive within comes from something bigger than we are and more noble than we can conceive within our own minds.  The motivation is stronger than the constraints of environment or the limitations of conditions and circumstance.  This strength reaches beyond the reservations of our own hearts or boundaries of our minds to overcome shortcomings, feelings of insufficiency, or inabilities.  In fact, this urgency to produce or to contribute is divine . . . and we cannot help ourselves.

The daffodils, at the slightest hint of warmth, are decidedly and anxiously moving with deliberate velocity to bloom in a new season.  It may be a bit early, but whose to say that they won’t survive.  This drive is divine and a part of their nature.

What is there driving you onward and upward?

“I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Philippians 3:12b NKJV

THANK GOD FOR OLD FRIENDS

An old friend stopped by and it was good see him.  He is a precious relationship that has had meaning from 40 years ago.   We were young then and full of energy and possibility.  Thank goodness for the passage of time and God’s grace to still be alive to be wiser to appreciate the promise and possibility that we’ve been able to realize along the way.

As college mates we marched in the band together and interacted on campus during school activities.  We enjoyed college football rivalries and going to the big game.  We mastered registration (the old of doing it with the long lines) and kept up with our class regimen. We lived next door to each other where we shared the fun and mischief of dormitory life.  We achieved in the midst of all of the college craziness. We graduated!  We were all smiles then with not a worry in the world.  We were playful and mischievous with only ourselves, most of the time, to think or worry about.  It was a great time in our lives.

We’re men now:  husbands, fathers (of daughters mind you), grandfathers, employed with seniority, and people with influence within and beyond our communities.  We’re ‘known in the gate’ for lives that have meaning beyond our play and enjoyments.

Thankfully, we’re older and wiser now.  The experiences of life have taught us many great things, things we’ve needed for this life, but things that could only be had through the course of life and experience.  Real feelings and real focus have been the means of our learning experiences.  One has to listen and observe well to understand with clarity so much better ‘under the circumstance or condition.’  And these situations, circumstance, conditions, or even feelings became our teacher and we were and continue to be the disciple.

My friend’s appearance was a reminder of the grace that is ours to experience life daily.  His walk through the door brought memories of what once was but now is.  And what is seems so much better with the beautiful landscape of life.  Our grey hair, a more tempered walk, a distinct look of insight or perception, the use of choice words of wisdom, a realness that only life can bring, an embrace that warms with passion, eye contact that conveys I’m really your brother, and a departure with mixed emotions of love and longing.

I cherish friendship!  I cherish my friend!   It is not a daily interaction but one that is near and dear to the heart, enough to overcome the passing of time.  We’re friends today . . . I think we will be friends tomorrow!

ARE YOU GOING TO THE FUNERAL

Are you going to the funeral?  Is anyone concerned that a great deal of time, money, energy and planning are being put forth for the deceased?

The practice of waiting to bury loved ones days and weeks has become the trend to prepare glorious celebrations, high priced festivals and fanfare to glorify the person being laid to rest.  Hours and hours of testimonials and singing during visitations, wakes, and funeral programs have become the norm.  Processionals of cars, limousines, and other vehicles are assembled for the  long ride to the final resting place.  People travel miles and miles to be present for these grandiose exhibits for the beloved deceased.  And the deceased are prepared for display before family, friends, and total strangers who pass by!  Venues are chosen for their size in order to contain all those who come to see and share in all of the arrangements that have been made for the ‘home going celebration.’

On the surface, this may be harmless demonstration of caring and concern.  Looking more closely, however, we may discover that all of this fanfare may be superficial and overrated.  You ask why?  Well, consider the fact that the person in the middle of all of this, the deceased, has no knowledge of all that is being said or done.  The person in the box is unaware of all of the feelings expressed in long well-meaning orations and demonstrations.  The flowers are beautiful but cannot lend to the plight or passage of the one being spoken of and around whom they are arranged.  The music, though warm and feely in conveying thoughts of hope and heaven, cannot lend a hand to the deceased in their transition from life into death.  And while the deceased’s family can benefit some from all of this, they serve little value in assisting family members with the harsh reality of death of someone they’ve loved and shared their lives with for a lifetime.  Quieter and more private moments will be needed to find peace and strength to work through ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’

With more thought, the most revered among those of the household of faith, their family or friends, didn’t wait for all of this kind of recognition or even plan for a funeral.  Of course, the general practice during death vigils didn’t allow for all of these grand displays.  People were buried as soon as possible after their deaths and it was done with discretion to allow privacy for family members directly affected.  And consider the words of Jesus, ‘let the dead bury the dead,’ in response to a question about a potential follower postponing joining with Jesus in order to bury a family member.  Is it possible that too much is invested in the death of our loved ones and friends?  Furthermore, when the news came to Jesus that John, his cousin and forerunner in His own work of ministry, had been beheaded, He left town and resumed His work of preaching, teaching, and ministering to the masses of people needing Him.

Are our priorities out of order?  Are we doing too much?  Does it take all of this time, money, effort, resources, words, music, etc.?

In the larger scheme of things divine and important, should all of these things be done when someone dies?  What is it for?  Who is it for?  Why?

Can we add to anyone’s life?  Can we improve upon the quality of one’s living?  Do we contribute to a person’s achievements over the span of their lives?  Are we judge and jury of whether this person deserves to be rewarded with a life after death with reward and glory?  Really, what does it all mean?  Will any of us be able to make things alright with this scenario of glorious accolades, crowds and beauty?   Do you want all of that while you lay pristinely prepared on display?

All of this may sound insensitive and uncaring?  To some, it is too much about nothing.  But, some thought might be given to this notion of death and its finality.  Is there anything that can be said or done that will change the outcome of this life that is ended?  Probably not! 

The people who really matter will be there after all of the fanfare to help with adjustments and encouragements.  The people who don’t matter will resume their usual programming.  And the people directly affected, loved ones, will find the strength to move on into their new reality remembering ‘the person’ who made a difference in their life experience.

THE POT OR THE KETTLE

The pot calling the kettle black is a common phrase throughout our culture. Its meaning, however, escapes many of us who sometimes use it to apply to others’ need for self examination.

Both the pot and the kettle are inanimate objects without any feeling or compassion. And much of the time, our antics, tirades or rants toward others of another opinion, belief, ideology, race or creed, are only expressions or demonstrations of our own inability to feel, care, or have unconditional, positive regard toward others.

Let’s face it! Both of them, the kettle and the pot are black . . . like, all of us are sinners.

INTERNET ANONYMITY AND THE GAME

The Ole Miss loss at LSU this past Saturday night has raised deep feelings of heartbreak, anger, frustration among the fan base and great glee among outsiders of its followers.  It was to be expected with all of the high hopes that have been generated by an unprecedented season and a shock for those who do not wish the team or institution well!

In light of some of the written responses posted over various internet mediums, it doesn’t seem to matter which side you’re on when reading the posts of the anonymous (not named or identified; made or done by someone unknown; of unknown authorship or origin)!  Many are enraged and don’t mind expressing it while others are so happy they cannot contain their overwhelming joy at the loss.  Of course, people have a right to their feelings and the right to express them!

The cover of anonymity seems, however, to give people an opportunity for boldness to be insulting, rude, challenging, or even offensive in their posts to complete strangers.  People in authority or people that post either their joy or sorrow are approached by usernames that are protected by passwords and other means.  Their profiles, pictures, or real identity are hidden away and one has to be really computer savvy to chase down these culprits of insult and rage.  And many times, very decent, honorable people are tempted to dignify these rants with their own comments in return (big mistake).

It’s not just an Ole Miss game that does that to us!  Most any post of a political, religious or social nature brings out the worst of humanity with a strength to criticize, critique, castigate, ridicule, assassinate, or destroy the posts’ authors or an entire genre, group, following etc with all the hate that can be mustered.  And it is much of the time done under the shadow of anonymity.

O, I understand that it is legal to say what you want to say about most any topic!  But I wonder if it is in the best interest of a nation and its sense of unity and dignity for us to tear at each other under the covering of darkness of anonymity?  Does it serve a good purpose to undermine our neighbors or total strangers?  And worse, what does it say about us individually that we can spew such vehemence, rage, hate, or disgust from within ourselves?

James the Apostle advises us to bridle our tongues (James 1:26 NKJV), suggesting that it reveals what our hearts consist of, its vanity and self-deception.  Perhaps his thought could be applied to our internet interactions under the shroud of anonymity to teach us about our fingers over the keyboard or touch screens of our cell phones.  They have the same effect of uncontrollable tongues that spread the mongering cries of ill will and ugliness among people and deceive us of our own vanity, self-righteousness and deception.

There was a time when we could play our games in a friendly manner with every desire to win without such rage being expressed during or after the game.  Foes were friends during the week and enemies for 60 minutes.  And it was over afterward with only the emotions of gladness for the winning team and disappointment for the losers.  Political positions have always challenged the opposing side with an eye upon compromise, collaboration and cooperation!  That too is a thing of the past.  Social order has usually been maintained by constraint, dialogue, and a desire for amiable relations and peace.  Not anymore!

It’s a whole new game today and one better be careful in the parking lot or under the cover of anonymity over the internet!  You may be attacked by a strain of hatred thrust at you through the powers of typed anonymous messages designed to destroy you for only stating your case or emotion about an event.  It’s a whole new game today!

Well, the LSU game is over!  My team lost and I’m unhappy about it!  But, I think I will stop now!  I’m going back to my anonymity!

The Enemy Inside

When the social ills or sins of a nation go unnoticed, unmentioned, or unchallenged, is that nation really Christian?  Or, when the church gives much less priority to its Gospel message while the nation’s culture, prosperity issues, and self-gratification are celebrated, is it really being Christian?  Is there an enemy on the inside of the church?

The heart of ‘the good news’ celebrates suffering, sacrifice, death and resurrection!  Its whole focus is upon one person whose life centered on others, their plight, and their access to the best that His kingdom offered.  He overcame humanity’s greatest enemies by making Himself of no reputation and obedience, even unto the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)

With that in mind, how can the 21st Century church justify its mild mannered approach to cultures, its commitment and challenges?  The world’s ills call for a bold stance upon principles of righteousness, service and sacrifice.  The Apostle Paul tells us that this was God’s aim and purpose ‘before the foundation of the world.’ (Ephesians 1:4)  Modern times nor new technologies, or even new heresies and teachings can change the focus of Jesus to fit what are now base desires and lusts packaged in new forms.  He ‘endured the cross’ and its consequences to rise to a new beginning and new victories that can be had by all those who will trust Him in faith.

This may explain the commonness of our modern church experience.  It becomes even more piercingly obvious when we compare ourselves to that first victor and Overcomer?  Does the message of the modern church resemble the message of an itinerate preacher from Nazareth?  Our willingness to serve and sacrifice, perhaps even consider death in this cause, may be the very essence that is missing in these latter days.  The power associated with His central message cannot be the church’s experience nor will others who observe and inquire feel its affect unless there is the same desire for the church to be rejoicing that “they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41 NKJV)

And emphasizing His blessings and benefits without focus upon His suffering sacrifice is dangerous.  It may be the very cause that drives the question, ‘is the church really as ‘Christian’ as it proclaims?  And it will have to reconsider the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-25, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

There is a church identified in scripture that wears the label ‘carnal.’  Its description fits these modern times in every way.  And that church’s effectiveness as change agents, healers of the community’s ailments, or ministers of reconciliation was compromised . . . as it is today.  (I Corinthians 3:1-4 NKJV)

The church may be its own enemy within, out of focus and existing aimlessly.  Perhaps another look at Jesus will help!

Something to consider!