Sunday, May 27, 2012

For Times Like These

In a book written just for times like this Memorial Weekend 2012, Bill C. Konstantopoulos describes the “new mood of pessimism, negativism, doom, and surrender” filling American airwaves. Shocked Americans find it “incompatible with the traditional and historical American spirit” (Konstantopoulos /A Word in Due Season/Reformation Publishers, Prestonsburg, KY).

We magnify our enemies. We broadcast our weaknesses. We publicize our fears, and openly confess our lack of an unshakable foundation and faith. We fill our songs with the blues and our affirmations of faith, confidence, and adventure are non-existent. We present rising unemployment, our poor economic index, the threat of war, and even the possibility of nuclear holocaust as undeterred monsters that wait to eagerly devour us while we wait helplessly and hopelessly.

Such mood music paralyzes much of our culture. It produces an attitude of procrastination that steals both our time and purpose from us. We would have to be stupid to deny the hard times ordinary people face, and this dark cloud of uncertainty broods over us like a pending storm.

Have we no alternative, other than surrender to the negative doomsayers? Whatever happened to the faithfulness of God? Should we withdraw--retreat, join the enemy, retire into a hard shell of self-protection? Why not hang our harps on the Willow Trees that surround us and surrender our message of hope to our over-charged age of negative pessimism?

What alternative have we? Is there any word from The Lord Who created this universe? Have we no “Ode to Joy?“ Rather than retreat, why not re-tread? Rather than give up to cynicism, why not dig in and begin advancing with clean-cut principles that pursue our divine purpose and destiny?

The best examples of the true Christian spirit, message, and hope are best demonstrated during the hardest of times. As one who has made that long journey of faith, Konstantopoulos suggests “the deeper the darkness … the brighter the light. The harder the times, the more Christians [true Christ followers] give themselves to the spirit of surrender and service.”

This is a simple book, written by a simple man of God that dared listen to the siren call of God as a lad in southern Greece. He followed that certain sound to America, obtained an education and used it in a multi-national, intercontinental ministry challenging ordinary people to meet the demands of a culture that calls for “a new spirit”.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once announced, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Humanity continually searches for that something, or some place, to tie that knot of security, some place where it can hang on in safety. Young people like my younger grandson, who celebrates his 19th mile marker today, are searching for safe places to tie their knot . Take their stand, and make their mark.

Author Konstantopoulos optimistically concludes “Christians ought to do better than that, for only the Christian faith offers a true gift of faith for such faith-less times. Hang on to the promises of God! Let hope abound - where no hope now lives.

Christian songwriter, singer Ruth Caye Jones wrote a wonderful song I first heard her sing while working in Wheeling, WVA. The third verse expresses the core of this faith:

In times like these I have a Saviour,
In times like these, I have an anchor;
I’m very sure (repeat);
I’m very sure (repeat),
My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.
That Rock is Jesus,
Yes, He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus,
The only One;
I’m very sure (repeat),
My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
(Peterson & Smith/Songs That Touch The Heart, Vol. 3/Zondervan/1960)

From Warner's World,
I am

Monday, May 21, 2012

When Life Is At Its Worst

History has a way of repeating itself. Often, when we find life at its worst, someone somehow stands still long enough to hear the voice of God. Following the adventures of Abraham, you suddenly find yourself deep in Egypt with Abram's family, a people called Hebrews. By this time, Ramses II has discovered these Hebrews, Abraham's family, are profitable for expanding his empire.

With divine direction, and the the wise and Godly life of Joseph, Abraham's family found refuge in Egypt and survived the extreme famine. The death of Joseph, however, also saw the rise of the new and young Ramses II as new Pharaoh. With this turn of events, the Hebrews discovered they NEVER had it so bad. They were now slaves to the GREAT ONE of Egypt. One day, in great desperation, a desperate young mother risked her all and floated her newborn in a basket among the reeds on the river bank, rather than sacrifice him to Pharaoh.

In the days following, she lost her son to Pharaoh’s daughter, and became his Nanny. Yet, her inspired obedience saved his life and brought a new future to the nation of slaves. Interceding in human events as God often does, He inspired faith in that young slave wife, calling her to an obedience that positioned her son so that the hand of God rested upon him throughout his life, from his introduction to Pharaoh’s Palace, to The Exodus, to the promise land--Canaan.

The Old Testament traces the action, showing God at work, as the reader discovers God calling Joshua to wait in the wings and replace Moses. What a transition that was! But, God doesn‘t make mistakes, and eventually you arrive in the New Testament and discover Jesus establishing His Church as the People of God.

Contrary to what some believe, the church is the people of God at work in a world God is working to redeem. Theories and theologies abound, yet Biblical Christianity insists that in the worst of human times God still calls responsive individuals to follow His lead and surrender to His cause.

Thus, Biblical events like The Exodus become hinges in the fence of history; they literally turn corners. Between the 17th and 19th centuries our misguided humanity enslaved 11 million black slaves. Powerful forces found slaves profitable for marketing and using as cheap labor. Here and there, God rescued individuals like William Wilberforce, the “Clapham Sect” politician and transformed derelict slave-captains like John Newton. God did it with Moses and Joshua; He did it with Saul of Tarsus, a.k.a. the Apostle Paul.

In northern France, God found Anthony Benezet, born to a 1713 family of French Huguenots - protestants, suffering increasing persecution with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. In 1715, two-year-old Anthony emigrated to London, where he received an education suitable for the son of a prosperous family of merchants. In 1731, seventeen-year-old Anthony’s family emigrated to Philadelphia, to the British American colony.

There, Anthony joined the Society of Friends--Quakers. He became a fine teacher, noted for his dislike of the severe discipline then common. In 1750, he launched an evening class for slave children that he ran from his own home. In 1754, he left the Friends' English School and established his own school exclusively for girls - the first public girls' school in America. While dogged by ill health, he continued teaching slave children, and supported by the Society of Friends, he set up a Negro School at Philadelphia.

From at least the 1750s, Benezet vigorously opposed slavery. His campaign, a solitary one at first, took two forms. He worked to convince his Quaker brethren that slave-owning was not consistent with Christian doctrine, and he wrote (publishing at his own expense) numerous anti-slavery tracts and pamphlets. Of these, Some Historical Account of Guinea, written in 1772, was by far the most influential on both sides of the Atlantic.

His pamphlet was read and, to a degree, imitated by both Granville Sharp and John Wesley, both of whom corresponded with Benezet and distributed his works in England. His works helped persuade Thomas Clarkson to embark on his abolitionist career, and helped prepare the way for Clarkson’s friend, William Wilberforce, to enter British politics and fight the slave trade.

In those worst of times, it was Divine intervention more than evolving secular civility that eradicated slavery, a lesson the church needs to re-discover, if in fact the church be the church. Powerful forces again threaten selected segments of humanity with forms of slavery. Study trending statistics; examine the laws governing finance; read reports for the past three decades showing the expanding Grand Canyon separating those who have from those who are falling out of the system and into economic slavery.

When the Spirit of the Lord came upon Amos, he was a farmer, rather than a politician or a prophet. Yet, God gave him a message and sent him to Bethel, the center of religious and political activity. The major focus of the message of the Spirit was the spiritual hypocrisy of the people and, in particular, the leaders. They had substituted high worship services, excellent music, and swelling offerings for righteousness, justice and mercy; in reality they were afflicting the just, taking bribes and turning aside the poor from their rights (Amos 5:12).

God's Spirit rejected the inconsistency of their affluent morality. As revealed by the words of Amos (Amos 5:21, 23-24, KJV): “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as water, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”

The warning to the church today is, “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.” His admonishment, is “Seek the Lord, and ye shall live.” “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate” (Amos 6:1; 5:6, 15, KJV). Can you imagine the shock that came (and will come to some today) who thought that they had great assemblies, breathtaking music and that their generous gifts would cover their complacency and would become a substitute for the righteousness of God!

From Warner's World, the Bible teaches individual, personal salvation.
On the other hand, even Martin Luther wanted to eliminate the Book of James from the biblical Canon because of over emphasis upon works. What we cannot escape is the truth that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

The Bible teaches with great consistency that when God redeems--rescues--calls--saves a Moses, the other side of that salvation coin shows an obedient Moses leading an Exodus out of Egypt ...