“WHAT SHALL I CRY?”

The season’s festivities have already begun for another Holy Day celebrating our Lord’s miraculous birth! He is Emmanuel, God with us; here to bring us into fellowship with the Father. Bless the day of His arrival to Bethlehem!

The season’s greetings and celebrations this year, more than ever, will be shrouded by a cloud thoughts and feelings of terror and fear. Our reality almost every day is some form of violent and tragic incidents inflicted upon innocent everyday people somewhere in the world. We’re all afraid that one day it may be our town, our neighborhood, or our family.

What are we to do in the light of all of these harsh realities and deep rooted feelings of fear? What are we to say in the face of the world’s cynicism, hopelessness, and fear?

Isaiah faced a lost nation with the same desperate inquiry: “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’” (Isaiah 40:6 ESV)

The answer is clear and powerful for a generation long removed from Isaiah’s reality: “Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength; O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” (Isaiah 40:9-10 ESV)

Listen to His promise to a people lost under pretentious religious formality, insensitive consideration of their own countrymen, and where wickedness abounded. It is a word fresh with life for a new millennial age of skepticism, unbelief, fear, and moral bankruptcy. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

It is an old and familiar word to the church! Above all, it is relevant to where we stand in the midst of terrorist violence that is being imposed upon the entire world. We are all vulnerable in this global reality. As Christians, we are also blessed that our God is still on the throne and changes not. He is both aware of these latest happenings among us and He has us on His mind to care for us whether alive or facing death.

Choose Him today, as His promises still live with assurance and power for these days of uncertainty. Our strength is in the Lord!

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OVERCOME THE CIRCUMSTANCE

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.”  (II Corinthians 2:8). Don’t allow desperation to drive your decisions.  “Wait on the Lord, and be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart.  Wait, I say, on the Lord.”  (Psalm 27:14)

The circumstances of life are not your destiny.  Find your place of service and determine to walk in it, “be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  I Corinthians 15:58)

PRESSING FORWARD IN FAST-MOVING 2015

Second Sunday 2015 is coming fast!  So, how are things going so far with all of the new intentions, resolutions, or images planned and outlined for the new year?   What progress has been made through this first week toward losses or gains, improvements or adjustments, goals or aims, or the well-intentioned new focus on life?  It would seem that our best hopes for the new year are already being challenged by realities that are simply too much to overcome!

Each of us is well-meaning in our resolve to pursue something new, different or better!  The unfortunate thing is our inclination to return to our former ways, attitudes, and intentions that we’ve formed over time.  We really want to do better . . . but we remain our own biggest hindrance at times because of trends, habits, lusts or desires.  We may call the hindrance weakness or something else that we’re not proud to admit.  But, we all need help!   Support . . . that’s a better word for what we need in order to get to places that we desire in life we will need, Support!  Sometimes support is a foundation upon which to rest, a mentor to emulate, an encourager; perhaps an ally who may share in our endeavor(s).  Sometimes naysayers become motivation to prove wrong their assessment of our ability or skills to these new reaches.

Whatever the case, none of us can afford to allow the newness to wear off of whatever we’re moving toward!  We cannot afford to give in or give up on our dreams and hopes for the things that are better for us, our lives or our meaning in life.  Our familiarity with the common weaknesses cannot become permanent fixtures or focuses to sap away possibility or potential. If we give up now . . . what will be our end?  So what you’ve not been perfect in your effort this week!   Is that excuse enough now to say that ‘it’s impossible?’  Or is that the one excuse you’ve needed all week to say you’re done with trying?  “It’s too hard!”  Oh, so now you realize that it will take effort, work, initiative, endurance, patience and other virtues to make this thing happen?

Go to church again this Sunday with the same hopes and visions that were your drive last Sunday to promise to do and to be what now may not seem to be so worthy.  But go back anyway . . . in spite of your feelings of disappointment or your reality of imperfection and weakness!  Go back and talk with the Lord just like you did last week.  Only this time, promise Him that you will partner with Him better next week than you did this week to get where you want to be.  And in the face of every challenge with every new day, ask Him to help you (there is that concept of support again).

By doing so, we may each discover that the strength to be or to do is in our admitting that we are too weak to do it or be anything, and in need of support from Him.  Press on . . . I want to live above the world, though Satan’s darts at me are hurled; for faith has caught the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground.”  (Hymn – Higher Ground, verse 3).

“. . . but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize . . .” Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

 

A SECOND LOOK AT UNBAPTISM

An article recently reported “100,000 Atheists Are ‘Unbaptized.”  This is being done by such groups known as the National Secular Society, Unbaptism.Org., or Sunday Assembly which “has launched new services in 35 cities across the world with plans for 16 more.”  Certificates are offered to those seeking them with the following wording:  “[Name] having at one time willingly submitted to the Rite of Christian Baptism and subsequently having realized my beliefs were in error,  I hereby publicly revoke any and all implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out.  In the name of human reason, I reject all that Church’s Creeds and all other such Superstitions.  I wish to be excluded henceforth from claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics.”

At first this ‘certificate offering’ appeared to be a real astonishing thought and an effort in complete and utter folly.  However,  this ‘gesture’ may work for some who have the courage of their conviction to admit that they have no faith in God or Jesus of Nazareth.  They do not believe in the Church as an institution that they can support and officially move on in life by declaring themselves as being what they really are, nonbelievers.

What may be sadder to deal with is the reality of many that still lay claim to something that their lifestyles or behaviors confirm is not their honest and earnest selves.  And many people still attend church and perhaps are involved in its ministries and life, but have little or no ‘saving grace’ that affects the true essence of life resulting in the new and abundant life that Christ offers.

Perhaps there should be respect for the courage of many to declare their unbelief.  It doesn’t make them the worse people in the world.  Rather it simply says to the church that I am not a believer and I do not wish to any longer be associated with it or its ‘faith enterprises.’

The challenge to the church, however, is to be real about its own beliefs with some consistency.  On many fronts it is fighting battles in the public while at the same time privately living out a reality that suggests otherwise about what its honest beliefs may be.  In too many cases, it is hot on certain subjects while cold on others.  Believers tend to be condemning about what they dislike and condone things that they themselves do or at least would prefer turning a deaf ear.  Blaming others for the world’s ills and overlooking it’s own failures is common.  Personal sins of too many believers are paraded before the public and overlooked by church members and its leaders.  Too many believers are heard saying one thing while actually doing something totally different.  Political ideologies are justified in biblical and spiritual terms while there is silence on matters that affect the social reality of the human experience.  The Bible is clear and the words of Jesus speak specifically and with clarity about caring for the poor.

Remember, Peter stayed with Jesus even beyond Jesus’ rebuke of his personal and ‘real ideas.’  Under the right circumstances he denied Christ three times.  Judas stayed while holding on to political and ideological beliefs that eventually thrust him into the worst betrayal.  James and John hung around and they held on to their own personal ambitions.  Thomas couldn’t accept the inevitable truth that had been told him before the fact because of his skepticism and unbelief. And the rest could easily walk away when their presence could perhaps have made a difference in the whole scheme of things one Sunday morning!

The rest of us that are a part of this 21st Century reality must deal with our own set of issues and must deal with them honestly and earnestly to find our own repentance and redemption.  We’re not that much different from those flaws and failures of the men closest to the Master.  And, like them, we have to face our reality and its truth about ourselves in a struggle with being true to what we believe toward repentance and restoration.

The end of all things will be revealing for everybody.  The ‘unbaptized’ may have accepted that reality beforehand while the rest of us just hope for a different outcome instead of repenting!

THE HUMMINGBIRD WAR

The Hummingbird Controversy has escalated into all-out warfare.

The gloves are off, the diplomacy is over, and the positioning and maneuvering about has ended.  This is war!  And the dispute is over two bird feeders with free food containing Hummingbird Food, an enriched Natural Springs Nectar with essential vitamins and minerals.  That is what the fight is all about!

Imagine media’s observations of this fight.  It could be assumed that social dynamics or religious beliefs have brought this confrontation to this reality.  They might consider that perhaps prejudices or biases have deepened among these little creatures causing such hostilities.  Some have a greenish hue, one has a red ring about its neck, and some are longer while others are short and fuller in appearance.  They each have long beaks appropriately. But they are all fighting trying to outdo each other or cause harm by flying into each other with strike after strike.  They are not equipped for warfare, but are made to fly swiftly and with precision to procure their daily rations of nectar for their survival.  But, they are fighting with a vengeance.  Or this may be an old fight only escalated by the presence of ‘free food.’

The feeder was moved and the fight was moved to bring the conflict to the sight of it.  It didn’t matter that one feeder is in the front and the other is in the rear.  The fight now is on, without a break throughout the day.  While flowers with nectar from nature still bloom within sight and a very short flight, these beautiful and otherwise amazing creatures fight over ‘free food.’

What comes to mind is this?  Humanity’s fights could very well be similar in nature to these hummingbirds.  Much of our war mongering may be over ‘free stuff’ that is available to meet everyone’s needs.  But there are some of us who insist that the ‘free stuff’ is mine, all mine!

Have you heard the often quoted statement, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?”  There is probably more truth to that comment than we’re willing to admit.  Some people actually want it all!  Not just access to resources, blessings, or opportunities, but the entirety or the whole of everything.  Some don’t just want a piece of the pie; they want and must have the entire pie.  And, at any price, they are willing to fight to have it all, whatever “it” is!

Could some of the world’s conflicts be settled or tensions eased through thoughtful consideration of the needs of others, other nations, or other parts of the world?  Have we overstated ‘war and rumors of war’ to mean something other than what it really is, an unwillingness to share resources that are provided for everyone’s benefit?  Land, oil, water, air space, outer space, technologies, the list goes on and on.  But the truth of the matter is that all of these things and everything else belongs to someone else regardless of our right(s) or entitlement.  Entire kingdoms and empires have been lost due to man’s need to control everything.  Greed trying to control access to the resources and the resources themselves will drive entire nations to a frenzy of war when out of control.

Isn’t it interesting that the real things of life go neglected, overlooked, wasted, or stockpiled away at the expense of a fight for ‘free stuff.’  Freedom is jeopardized but cited as the just and noble reason for the fight.  Life is lost for what is presented as noble!  Later on, with more objective thought and careful examination, it can be see for what it really is,  a fight to grasp and hold on to resources, blessings, and opportunities from others who have as much right as everyone else to consume or use for their own benefit and blessing.

The nature of war has changed such that we cannot automatically assume that once lofty ideals, principles, or noble causes are the motivation and incentive to stand in the wake of aggression toward others.  Great wars have been fought for noble causes and won so that ideals, principle, and the best things in life might flourish and grow.  It is a new day where mongering on battlefields is at times driven by hidden agendas of the haves against the have nots.  The prophets in ages long past spoke to such issues and were oppressed and killed.  Not much has changed!

This is not an effort to oversimplify the matter.  Conflicts are real, the loss of life is real; the fight is overwhelming expensive in effort and resources.  It is even observable with these little hummingbirds that are expending time, energy and everything they have to this fight.

On one level, like those hummingbirds, it can be a matter of survival and sustaining a way of life.  But no one hummingbird needs the whole feeder.  No one hummingbird can consume the whole bottle of enriched nectar in an hour or a day or a week even.  It will take time for the overpowering and winning hummingbird to consume all of the contents of two feeders. Greed has them enraged and out of their senses, determined to win, to feed exclusively, and have it all to themselves individually!

Would it help if it occurred to these little creatures that the provider of the feeder may have in mind providing more to replace the already consumed nectar.  In other words, whoever decided that these little creatures should have access to ‘free food’ may again provide from among their resources with the same generosity some more ‘free food.’

Which brings up the most important thought about this warfare:  None of the ‘free food’ belongs to either of the hummingbirds.  It is not in their possession, neither of them.  They have access to it!  But once they leave for the season to head south to warmer weather during winter’s reign, the feeder will still be here and they will be gone.  The nectar will still be here and still available!

Think about the fight, the warfare, the conflict that you’re in or the ones that you support.  What is it really about and what really happens if you win?  And, what happens when you or the ones you gave everything to in support of their aggressive solution are gone?  Whose ‘free stuff’ will it be when you and your way of life are gone?

Our sense of entitlement to everything cannot be our justification for the fight!  Sharing and coexistence are worthwhile alternatives to a fight to the death!

Be careful of engaging in all-out war!  It may not be worth all that it takes to win, for the hummingbirds or for mankind!