IS COMPASSION DEAD?

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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)

THE STARS STILL SHINE AT NIGHT!

I saw the stars last night.  They were brilliant and shined brightly with amazing beauty!

And they took me back to days out in the country when under the cover of darkness, these same stars shined brightly to capture my attention and wonder.  It was amazing then and they were amazing last night.

Some things never change!  Some things shouldn’t change and the stars never change.  Men have charted their course around the world by them on land, water and even in the air.  They can be counted on to stay in the same place through time and circumstance.

I know this to be a fact.  Fifty years ago as a little boy I chased the ‘lightnin’ bugs’ during the dusk of evening and later would look up into the skies to see the same exact tapestry I saw last night.  They shone with the same brilliance in the exact same place . . . all of them; every one of them scattered in the sky from the eastern horizon toward the far western.  No wonder exploring travelers could count on their guidance to navigate through the seas and over the terrain to lands and places with such precision.  “Lift up yours eyes on high and see Who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26 NKJV

They’ve been there all this time, at times covered by a layer or layers of clouds, shrouding them from view.  Other times, the lights of the city made viewing them difficult to near impossible to see and capture their beauty.  But, they were there all the time.  And once again, last night, they captured my attention with amazement.  I stopped to see, with my childlike wonder and now maturing faith, what caught my eye 50 years ago.

I was reminded of the surety of God!  The One who has been with me these 50 years and still captures my heart with the creative things that He has made.  Most of all, those stars remind me of the steadfast love of God, which, just like the stars, remains there all of the time despite my difficulties seeing it because of the sometimes shrouded covering of life’s darkness of night or the sometimes overpowering nature of all things superficial.

His love is always there!

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39 NKJV

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?

NATIONAL SIGNING DAY 2015

Committing and decommitting is over now as National Signing Day is well underway all across the landscape of college football.  No more I will or I won’t.  No more I did or I didn’t.  Today is the final day of decision when commits become actual signed contracts between student-athletes and their college of choice.

Many of these student-athletes will have great opportunities to display their talents on and off of the field by choosing to focus on both their academics and athleticism while others will be distracted by the hype and hoopla of college life.  Some will make it to graduation and stardom on the field.  Others will fall by the wayside without either.  Perhaps others had better athletic skills but cannot meet the academic requirements of their school choice.  They will have to go the community college route to seek to meet those requirements.  Some will be discouraged by the intensity and high standards of it all and sadly do nothing.

But for today, they sign contracts, both the colleges and the student-athletes.  The students will be hailed as the finest available and looked upon as the future for their college teams.  It will be a good day for many with high hopes of success and perhaps even very nice careers in the NFL.

But they have to sign on the dotted line.  The commit has been evasive at best, illusive at times, and allusive from some, but not past today.  You have to choose, you have to sign the contract, and your choice is made public for everyone to know.  You have to get off of the fence, no more campus visits, phone calls from coaches seeking you out.  After today, it is clear who is where and with whom, without assumption, presumption, or conjecture.  This is it.  “. . . choose for yourselves this day . . .” (Excerpt from Joshua 24:15 NKJV)

Such is life.  We have to make choices that will have lasting effects upon our lives.  The choice will not allow us to bounce around any longer or second-guess ourselves.  We cannot merrily waltz our way through life without firmly stating and demonstrating our choices about life.  And really, no choice is a choice.  This is it.  Marriage, job, house, car, bills, civic duty, church and faith . . . all of these and more require decision or choice.  They require signatures . . . binding, obligating, contractual, all of the things that will not allow one to just walk away but hold one accountable to contract requirements.   The covenant works both ways.  This is it . . . “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.   He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”  Psalm 37:5-6 NKJV

The Lord’s commitment is sure.  Where is yours?

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.

MALCOLM BUTLER: The Undrafted Rookie!

They call him an undrafted rookie!  But, as an undrafted rookie, Malcolm Butler was prepared for the one moment that would catapult him into notoriety.  It didn’t matter that few knew his name or that he hailed from humble beginnings.  His was not a direct route to the NFL.  His promise was not obvious or noted.  But, Malcolm Butler was ready when opportunity was given him to come forth out of obscurity to contribute to the game and help his teammates on to victory.  His background didn’t matter, his size didn’t matter, his rookie status didn’t matter, and it didn’t matter that he was never drafted.

What mattered was that Malcolm Butler was there and he was ready!  His reaction to the initial reality of it all suggested that he was profoundly thankful that his ‘vision’ had become his reality.  Going in, he was not the expected game changer or potentially the most valued, the star, or the team’s branded name.  He only saw himself contributing to make a difference and was ready to play.  And his humble spirit is now the observation of proud family and friends from his home state of Mississippi, the University of West Alabama, Hinds Community College and countless others who’d never heard of him.  But, they know him now.  The masses know that Malcolm Butler caught the interception that sealed the game for the World Champion New England Patriots.

“Malcolm Butler’s Journey From ‘Good Employee’ at Popeye’s to Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX Hero” is the headline in the Washington Post.  Now that is notoriety!  But, reading the article, one will soon discover that it is also testimony.  A testimony of struggle, disappointment, fortitude, determination, endurance and hard work.  Simply stated, it is amazing.

Many of us may have a similar opportunity to make a difference somewhere in life, perhaps not with so much coverage by the news media outlets, but a significant contribution to an individual or even to the world longing for something good, authentic or life altering.  That one contribution can make things better at a key moment in time and have far reaching consequences.  The question for many of us is simple, will we be ready when the opportunity presents itself?

And what is readiness?  It is fitness and form for making significant contributions.  It is steadfastness when opportunity seems aloof and afar off.  It is focus upon a vision or calling that may not draw attention or labeling for the ‘first draft.’  It is humility within that appreciates small things that may prepare one for the possibility of greater things.  It is working hard at every task and giving your best to every attempt at making a difference.  And when the time comes, you’re in place prepared to do or achieve what others may never imagine.

This 24 year old has an amazing attitude toward the simple things of life that have grown and developed through struggle.  Things haven’t been ideal, they’re still not ideal!  But, Malcolm Butler’s name is indelibly marked upon NFL history and in our conversation because of his readiness for the big game.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”  I Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV

Be ye also ready!

Should I Leave This Church?

Disgruntled, unhappy, and frustrated churchgoers are staying because this is my church.  Unfortunately, when it starts being your church, especially with the atmosphere being filled with general feelings of discord, it may no longer be God’s church.  He does remove Himself from confusion and non-glorifying circumstances.

When being edified is no longer the experience of the congregation or the individual, there should be some close scrutiny of the situation.  And here is how to do it.

First, begin by looking within!  Ask yourself,  ‘why am I having feelings of frustration?’ Often there are issues within or personal failures contributing to our loss of fellowship with God that has us frustrated.  Before we blame others, check to see what is going on within.  Make sure there isn’t sin ‘crouching at the door!’

Second, the problem may be rooted in being overly impressed with worship forms or preaching styles observed elsewhere.  Make sure that the prevailing consumer mentality isn’t making shopping around for something ‘better’ more appealing.  Don’t allow the appeal of secular ideas have you thinking that your church isn’t current or relevant.  You may need to stay where you’re planted.

Third, burnout from tedious ministry tasks or loss of a vision for what it is you have been charged to do may cause one to lose focus.  Make sure that there is time away to seek the Lord and refresh before leaving worthwhile responsibilities or duties in the church.  Your covenant with the Lord and the body of believers should not be easily breached.

Finally, if there is a problem, in the pulpit or worship ministry where ministering to the needs of the people of God and/or the worship is compromised by too many secular trends that do more to entertain than edify, then voice your concerns with someone in leadership in the same spirit of Galatians 6:1.  Meekness when dealing with sensitive issues will open doors to dialogue that may be fruitful toward improving preaching and ministry initiatives.  Go to your brother or sister and seek to engage them in a positive and spirit-filled discussion about your concerns.  Applying Matthew 18:15-17 may be appropriate to seek understanding.  But it should be applied with prayer before speaking to someone and preferably together with them once dialogue begins.  Prayer always helps to take the matter out of our hands and into God’s hands.

However, worship can be more about us than about God so much so that many leave with no sense of having been edified or exaltation to a higher consciousness of God and His presence in their lives.  Souls continue to hunger for a word because preaching is exciting and even entertaining with little or no food for thought or pondering.

When the worship center becomes filled with distractions, frustrations, and most importantly, heresies than worship encounters with God, an edifying word, or a fellowship wherein people may grow, it may be time to look elsewhere.

Don’t be guilty of staying because this is my church!  The Lord leaves when He is no longer welcome!

SUPERNATURAL POWER OR DIVINE POWER?

SUPERNATURAL?

SUPER – Of high grade or quality; used as a generalized term of approval; very large or powerful; or exhibiting the characteristics of its type to an extreme or excessive degree.

NATURAL – Existing in nature and not made or caused by people, coming from nature; not having any extra substances or chemicals added, not containing anything artificial; usual or expected.

SUPERNATURAL – Of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe, especially of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil; departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature; attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit).

DIVINE POWER?

DIVINE – Relating to or coming from God or a god; a general name of deities or divinities as used by the Greeks or spoken of the only and true God.

POWER – The ability or right to control people or things;  Strength, power, ability; inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth; power for performing miracles; moral power and excellence of soul.

DIVINE POWER – Power associated with the nature of God to live out His purposes and perform or execute His will as a part of His kingdom.

WHAT WOULD YOU PREFER?

“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:  ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”  Zechariah 4:6 NKJV

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me . . .” Acts 1:8 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!