Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reflection for June 24, 2009

The Danger of Unbridled Freedom

Each year on July 4 we celebrate the birth of our nation and celebrate our freedom. Our freedom has not come cheap but it has been paid for with the blood of the men and women of our armed forces. It has provided and environment in which we can seek to reach our full potential. It has enabled us to speak out in favor or against the issues we feel strongly about. Unfortunately, it has become a blessing we take for granted.
Not only do we take our freedom for granted, we fail to understand that freedom will never survive if it is not accompanied by responsibility. Somewhere in our journey we have lost sight of responsibility. Instead, most demand an unhindered right to go and do as they please with little thought of how it might effect those around them. We have forgotten that unbridled freedom or freedom minus a sense of responsibility leads down a slippery slope until those who seek it find themselves enslaved to the very things they have sought.

The search for unbridled freedom intensified during the sixties and has continued to the present. All around us, we can see the harvest of the fruit of such a philosophy. We see it in things such as the insistence on abortion on demand, a multi-billion dollar pornography business, an increasingly loud clamor for same-sex marriage, nightly programming on television that deal with topics during prime time that would not have been mentioned at any hour years ago, a movement to make illegal drugs legal, teachers hindered from demanding discipline in the classroom, an obsession with a long list of political correct dogma, a concentrated effort to remove all mention of God in the public arena, etc. .

Those who support this road toward unbridled freedom might believe these things are evidence of progress. They might claim that these things represent a new openness and liberty. They see it as a victory of the soul from the repression of religion. Others see this as a road toward disaster. They believe that this land has been blessed by God and that His blessings will not continue forever if we continue to seek an unbridled freedom that forgets the basic laws He has given to us.

I believe that the late Peter Marshall, former Chaplain to the United States Senate, would be among the later group if he were alive today. He said years ago, "The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration. I am rather tired of hearing about our rights and privileges as American citizens. The time is come – it is now – when we ought to hear about the duties and responsibilities of our citizenship. America’s future depends upon her accepting and demonstrating God’s government."

For a half a century, our society has been in a downward spiral toward an unbridled freedom that will ultimately lead to our demise. Whether the slide will continue remains to be seen. If it is to be reversed, there must be a time of repentance and revival in our land. If revival is to come to our land, it must begin with God’s Church. It must begin in my heart and in yours. A thousand years from now when new civilizations read about us they will discuss the results of the choices we make in the years ahead.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reflection for June 17, 2009

"Let Your Light Shine"

My wife and I are especially fond of Franklin, North Carolina. Over the years we have found it to be a wonderful place for rest and relaxation. While autumn is special, we find the other three seasons to be equally beautiful and peaceful. Beyond these obvious attractions, we enjoy the Sunset, our favorite restaurant. It is nothing fancy, but it has a great breakfast, lunch and supper menu.

One does not have to eat at the Sunset but once to realize that the owners are Christians. Their faith is not flaunted but it is evident without being overwhelming in the decorations and sayings you find on the walls. Most of all, it is evident in the people who work there. During our last visit in 2007 our server for each meal was the same lady. (I believe her name was Sue.) In our conversations with her, we discovered that she had worked at the restaurant for twenty-four years. She worked six days a week from 6:30 AM to 3:30 PM each day. If you do the math, it shows that she works fifty-four hours a week and she does it with a smile.

When we expressed an appreciation for the number of hours she worked each week, she responded, “I enjoy my work.” Her pleasant demeanor gave evidence that this was not a rehearsed response but it was an expression of her true feelings. Anyone who has worked in a comparable position knows the toll that working with the public day in and day out can take on one’s attitude. To be able to hold such a position for twenty-four years and to still do it with a smile and an upbeat attitude was amazing. My wife and I concluded the obvious. She had to have special help. Her help came from her relationship with Christ.

As my wife and I discussed her testimony through her service, I thought of several verses that would reflect her attitude. Proverbs 16:24 reads, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (NASB). Proverbs 25: 11 reads, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances” (NASB). I could not help but wonder how many lives she has blessed over the years by greeting them first thing in the morning with a smile and a kind word. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus is quoted: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (NASB). I am sure that over the twenty-four years there have been bad days, but in the days we had opportunity to be served by her, we can testify that her light shined brightly and she was an example of Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (NASB).

We all could learn a valuable lesson from the pleasant personality of this fine lady. We could learn that we need to be careful of what we say and the attitude we say it with. Like it or not, if we have identified ourselves with Christ, others are watching to see how we handle ourselves. We need to let the words of our lips reflect the place that Christ has in our lives. We need to let our lights shine brightly wherever we go. If we do, we may profoundly affect someone’s life without knowing it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reflection for June 10, 2009

The Power of Vision

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is sometimes called the “Roll Call of the Faithful”. It contains a listing of many of the heroes of the Old Testament. The last two verses read, “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect”(Hebrews 11:39,40). What could cause so many to sacrifice so much without ever seeing the full fruit of their labor? They all had a vision of the coming of God’s Kingdom. While they did not understand all there was to know about the coming of the Messiah, they believed He was coming. Their vision of something better motivated them to do great things.

The power of vision is no less important today. The world understands this power. Church leaders have the same responsibility. Vision is important, because it enables people to see beyond what is to what can be. Without vision the old adage, “If you keep on doing what you have always done, you will keep on getting what you have always got,” becomes true.

Vision is important for leaders for three reasons:

One, the power of vision helps us overcome the fear of the unknown. Uncertainty influences people to cling to the present and less likely to think in the future. Vision gives a reason for taking a risk and believing that there is something better on the horizon.

Two, the power of vision enables us to overcome the fear of sacrifice. Progress requires sacrifice. John Maxwell said, “If I succeed without sacrifice, then it’s because someone who went before me made the sacrifice. If I sacrifice, and don’t see success, then someone who follows will reap success from my sacrifice.” The task of leadership is to demonstrate the sacrifices demanded today are worth the rewards they will bring in the future.

Three, the power of vision enables us to learn from the past, to live in the present and to believe in the future. The wise visionary does not forget the past. He learns from past successes and failures but he refuses to live there. The visionary lives in the present, but he never loses his belief that the best is yet to come. Most importantly, great leaders are able to transmit their vision to their followers.

Our nation and our churches are in need of this kind of leadership. The problems we face will not be solved by finger pointing and false promises. Like the problems of the past, they will be solved through hard work and sacrifice. We should pray for God to raise up leaders who will cast a vision that will convince us the sacrifice will be worth it. As you pray, remember you may be that leader.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Reflection for June 3, 2009

Most medical people will tell you one of the secrets of good health is early detection. This is why it is a good policy to have regular physical checkups. When you go for your checkup, the first thing the doctor does is check your vital signs. He weighs you, listens to your heart and lungs, and takes your blood pressure. He orders a variety of blood test to make sure there are no danger signs. By checking these vital signs, he is able to get a good feel for your physical condition. If one of these vital signs is abnormal, he knows to look deeper to the cause for the abnormality. By identifying a problem early, he can often treat it and prevent it from becoming a major problem.

As surely as there are vital signs that identify a physical problem, there are vital signs that help a disciple of Jesus Christ recognize that he/she is having spiritual problems. Paul recognized this truth. In his second letter to the church at Corinth, He reminded them that it was wise for them to check on their spiritual health. He wrote, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (II Corinthians 13:5a NASB)

Let me suggest that there are at least ten spiritual vital signs that disciples and churches can check to measure how healthy their spiritual life is. This month we will look at four of the most obvious ones. First, a healthy disciple will have a deep appreciation and hunger for God’s Word. When there is no interest in God’s Word, it is impossible for someone to grow up strong in the Lord. A steady balanced diet of God’s Word is as important to the spirit as a balanced diet of food is to the body. If it is missing, the spirit becomes weak and is open to a wide variety of attacks by the enemy.

Second, a healthy disciple will recognize that prayer is an essential element in ones spiritual development. Just as our nervous system transmits commands from our brain throughout our body, prayer keeps us in touch with our Head, Jesus Christ. You show me someone who has done great things for God and I will show you someone who has a powerful prayer life.

Third, a healthy disciple understands the importance of fellowship with other believers. The Christian faith was never meant to be a private faith. It was meant to be shared. Paul uses the analogy of the physical body to describe the church. He emphasizes that the body is effective only when it works in harmony with all the part. It makes no sense for the eye to tell the ear that it doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. Each part is important. Working together all the parts can do great things. A healthy disciple understands that he needs others. He understands that it is a two way street. The church needs all of its parts and the individual parts need the church

Fourth, a healthy disciple has the right attitude toward stewardship. He understands that all of his time, talents and treasures belong to God. They are not his to own but they are his to be a steward over. Ultimately, it is God who should determine how he should use these gifts that He has bestowed on him. When someone hoards their time, talents and treasure, it is a sure sign that there is a problem with their spiritual health.

The good news is that we do not have to go to the doctor’s office to check on these spiritual vital signs. We need to get in a quiet place and allow the light of God’s Spirit shine into our lives. His light will reveal the areas upon which we need to improve. However, just as a doctor can prescribe medication for our physical problems but can not force us to take the medications he has prescribed, God’s Spirit can reveal our spiritual needs but He will not force us to follow His cure. Each one of us must decide, if we are going to do what is needed to become spiritually strong. When faced with this choice, it seems to me that our most sensible response is clear. We should follow God’s direction.