Saturday, October 30, 2010

Do You Know Who You Are?, by Pastor Ed Evans

Do You Know Who You Are?

Scripture: Isaiah 1:10-18, Luke 19:1-10

Isaiah 1:10-18
1:10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
1:11 What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
1:12 When you come to appear before Me, who asked this from your hand? Trample My courts no more;
1:13 offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation -- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
1:14 New moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
1:15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,
1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
1:18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Luke 19:1-10
19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it.
19:2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.
19:3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.
19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because He was going to pass that way.
19:5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today."
19:6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome Him.
19:7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner."
19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much."
19:9 Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.
19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

Whatever happens in America as a result of the Nov. 2nd national election, the stress and strain of coming days makes it most important that you know who you are. For it is on that basis that we make crucial life decisions. Who we are determines our entire approach to life and its highs and lows. We forgive, support or lash out at other people depending upon who we think we are as we come into contact with them.

In today's scripture readings, in Isaiah and Luke, we find two different responses. God had judged the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah, but they recognized His authority over them not at all. Maybe, for just an instant of time, they thought they had the powers that God has, but He shut them down, permanently.

In Luke, Jesus comes to town and the man thought by all to be a sinner, judges himself as a sinner, but Jesus Christ speaks words of comfort to Zaccheaus, and ignores the judgment of the self-righteous; ignores even their judgment of Him.

The rulers didn't know who they were. The tax collector Zaccheaus knew who he was. In fact, he knew he was short, so he climbed a tree just so he could see Jesus. He knew who he was. Jesus knew who he was. The man's neighbors only thought they knew who he was, because they didn't know who they were. Do you know who you are?

It really is important that we have a clear understanding of who we are because our response to Christ, our understanding of Him, is filtered through our vision of who and what we are, and many have altered views of Christ you will not find in the written, inspired Word of God.

They are like the man who figured there must be some magic in the Bible, and to avail himself of it, all he had to do was pick out a verse and do what it said. So blindly he pointed to a verse. It was Matthew 27:5, which said that Judas went out and hanged himself. Well, that sort of shook him so he blindly pointed to another verse, Luke 10:37, which said "Go and do thou likewise." When you don't know who you are, and you don't know Jesus Christ, you are just up for grabs.

Listen to what Oswald Chambers says in "My Utmost for His Highest" -- "That Christ died for me, and therefore I am completely free from penalty is never taught in the New Testament. What is taught in the New Testament is that 'He died for all' (2nd Corinthians 5:15) -- not, 'He died my death' -- and that through identification with His death I can be freed from sin, and have His very righteousness imparted as a gift to me. The substitution which is taught in the New Testament is twofold -- 'For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.' The teaching is not Christ for me unless I am determined to have Christ formed in me."

Oswald Chambers ends his lesson with a reference to Galatians 4:19-20, where we read Paul writing to the Galatians, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!"

Paul feels the pains of a mother with a stillborn child, seeing that those to whom he preached stopped at the point of thinking Christ was for them, without coming into the fullness of Christ by having Him formed in them. The Galatians knew about Christ from Paul, but they were now listening to others who played upon their emotions, and kept them from moving on to experience Christ.

They thought they knew who they were, but because they now listened to the siren sounds of the world, they were not who they thought they were.

We might use the common zipper as an example. The zipper on our jacket works a wonder to quickly and firmly close the jacket around us and keep out the cold breezes. Unless it gets off-track. Once a snag in the cloth gets in the way, or a hurried movement interferes, the zipper gets off track and does not work correctly. It will not advance and it will not go back. And it does not keep out the cold breeze.

When we not only know about Jesus Christ, but follow His example to experience Him, we can then fully experience the gift of life that God intends for us. Before God Almighty we wear the white-robed righteousness of Jesus Christ. We walk in His will for us, and nothing touches us that does not pass through His hands first. We are not promised that our existence here will be trouble free, pain free, or filled with riches and sweetbreads, but we are promised that He will go through it with us, and, as Mark Twain once alluded to it, ours is "the confidence of a Christian with four aces."

Do you know who you are, or do you only think you know? Are you so caught up in capturing and enjoying what is "good" for you that you have ignored God's warnings about who you are in His eyes? The rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah ignored God's judgment to their own peril, and destruction. The short-of-stature Zaccheaus accepted who he was, and changed, for which God blessed him.

This world does not adapt itself to our wishes, but often buffets us about with difficult lessons and misadventures. What is going on right now in the social structure of the United States of America is creating difficult times for many people, especially in the economic arena. Food, medicines, all the items necessary for life are rising in price, even as jobs and the opportunities to earn a living are disappearing.

Some counsel changing all this through the ballot box, even as reports surface of illegal voting practices. Some counsel change through the law, even as judges have begun to change the laws without the benefit of legislation. Some counsel that freedom and change comes from the barrel of a gun, and call for armed revolution.

Psalm 20:7 cautions us, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." The lesson of the Bible is that prayer changes people, and then people change things.

Do we know who we are as people of the Living God, as followers of Jesus Christ? I think we do, for again and again I see quoted 2nd Chronicles 7:14, "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Do we indeed know who we are? Are we "...My people, who are called by My name..."? If so, then we know what we must do. The very word of God could not be more clear. So, who are you? Do you know?


Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Happened Before, Will It Again? Your Call.

by Pastor Ed Evans

Scripture: Lamentations 1:1-6

1:1 How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.
1:2 She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.
1:3 Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
1:4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.
1:5 Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.
1:6 From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.

Recently I attended the funeral of a friend, where someone expressed the thought that God should keep His arms around the deceased and give him special care to "make up for all he suffered and all that seemed unfair."

In a perfect world, that would certainly be expected. Right would never be overcome by wrong. Good, decent people would not be taken advantage of by thieves and swindlers and people who didn't believe in being fair. And God would count all the nice things we do to our credit, and balance out our sins.

That, after all, would be fair.

And wouldn't it only be fair if America managed to survive all the neglect it has suffered at the hands of those who live within its borders, who enjoy its God-given freedoms and protections, while ignoring Almighty God; drinking deeply from the well without giving thought to replenishing its waters. Only fair?

But I remember an old country adage that says "fair" is where you find the Ferris wheel and where you take the pig every summer to win a blue ribbon. There is no other kind of fair.

My experience in this life tells me that's pretty much true. How about you?

As for seeking justice from God by having Him balance things out, I'd run from that like a scalded dog. It really isn't justice we want from Almighty God, but mercy.

What has all this to do with our scripture? Allow me to substitute a few words in verses one and two for the sake of illustration:

"How lonely sits the nation of America that once was full of people and jobs! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal, financially beholding to other nations. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies."

There are few things that happen in our time that are new, and this is not new. Actually, the same might be said for Israel right now, and Great Britain, and others.

No, life is not fair. If it were, someone has said, we would never learn anything new.

How did America come to be full of people who want, want, want and never give back, give back, give back? What happened to all the jobs? How did the nation with "In God We Trust" stamped on its money, and with Christian mottoes adoring so many of its official buildings in the nation's capitol city -- how did such a nation of people become the nation that murders more infant children than any in the world? The nation that takes from those who productively support the nation and gives to those who have no legal right to be in that nation?

How did America put into place national leaders who claim to worship the Christ, but turn their backs on previously approved national days of prayer, who lie blatantly to the American people, who break their promises to the electorate while blaming others for their misdeeds? How could these things come to be?

There is nothing new under the sun. This has all happened before. No one should be surprised that it is happening again. All down through the history of mankind, through the history of nations, where there is power the righteous and the evil will contend for control. Greed, personal privilege, and avarice will take the field and claim the right of power. Pride, lust, gluttony will lead to sloth and defend itself with anger.

All through history, elaborated upon in the Bible, nations, armies, powers rise and fall as they unite to build themselves up, then drown in their own wretchedness.

It was precisely to avoid such predictable circumstances that the original founders of the United States of America set up a balance of power and organized a government that is "of the people, by the people, for the people." In fact, the first few line of the U.S. Constitution make clear its purpose: " We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

This nation's earliest documents make it crystal clear that this nation was founded on the idea of the free and unencumbered worship of Almighty God, and that government was established for the organized benefit of America's citizens. Somehow the government has become all important and the individual rights of its citizens became less important.

How did we reach this point, with all the checks and balances our forefathers put into place to protect us from ourselves?

Well, let's see.

This is the country settled initially by those seeking freedom to worship as they chose, not as the government required; the Christian Bible was one of the first texts recommended for all schools; in Washington, D.C., the Capitol Rotunda was for many years used as a site for worship services by four different Christian churches, and worship there was first initiated by President Thomas Jefferson. We also have a U.S. Constitution which guarantees us certain "God-given" rights.

And yet, Christian prayer is forbidden in our public schools today, the Bible is not allowed in most schools, the public celebration of Christian holidays is not allowed on most public property and in many schools; lawsuits regularly stop Christian invocations at public meetings, luncheons, even sporting events. Meanwhile the false religion of Islam is promoted by legislators, promoted even in public schools, and so-called ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ urge us to respect and revere the religion of Islam.

We have a President who has attended only one Christian church worship service during his two years in office, he has on two occasions refused to support National Prayer Day events unlike the two previous Presidents, and instead has held at least two public Islamic prayer events at the White House, as well as celebrating the major Islamic holiday of Ramadan at the White House, which this year coincided with Sept. 11th, America's 911 day of mourning.

The original question I posed was, how did we reach this point, with all the checks and balances our forefathers put into place to protect us from ourselves?

We reached it, I believe, because we were not paying attention. We took our eyes off the prize and our minds off praising God. Our attention was diverted by cable TV with its 4,000 stations of entertainment and sports, by easily accessed porn so no one knows, by skipped meditation and prayer times, all separating us from time spent with He who loved us first, with the God who cares enough that He sent His very best, taking our attention away from our own duties in the due concern for the health of our nation, giving free rein to those overcome by the power of their position, turning their back on We the People, and on the God who brought America to greatness. It has all become very confusing.

The Christian writer Oswald Chambers has written, "There are times in your spiritual life when there is confusion, and the way out of it is not simply to say that you should not be confused. It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily do not understand. And it is only by going through the spiritual confusion that you will come to the understanding of what God wants for you."

It was Almighty God who brought America to its position of prominence in the world, to a level of wealth so we could afford to reach out to others in need and offer them the hand of Christian love, food, medications, strength in their time of weakness.

And I believe it is Almighty God who has brought us to this point in our history, that we might turn to Him once more, come to Him in prayer and worship, that we might return America to its position of greatness, if not for our sakes, for the sake of the world which needs America to be great once again.

It is not that we of America are so wonderful, so decent, so much more intelligent, helpful, or even prayerful than any other nation. But it is as Paul writes to the Philippians in chapter 3, verse 13-16: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained."

".....what we have already attained."

God has richly blessed this nation. It can be great once again, if we who worship the One God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will bring to life the promise of God's answer to Solomon's prayer in 1st Chronicles 7:14, if we will stand firm for what is right and what is just before God, if we will draw others to worship God and preserve what God has given us.

Might does not always make right, and right does not always prevail over evil. If we choose to exempt ourselves from the responsibility of God-given citizenship, choose instead to wring our hands and cry "Woe is me," and decline to use the very tools God has set before us for the protection and preservation of this nation He has blessed, then we can look forward to the very real playing out of that portion of our scripture in Lamentations 1:4-6 -- "The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer."

America is one of the last bastions of true freedom for the individual worshipper of God. If we will not work for a transformation of our own government on November 2, if we will not speak out for what is just and right before God, and if we will not ensure that others who worship God get to the polls on November 2nd and clean House and Senate of those who serve themselves and not God, then we deserve what comes.

This wonderful experiment in freedom and liberty does not deserve extinction, our posterity certainly does not deserve it, but those who will not ensure the survival of freedom, justice, and integrity not only do not deserve it, but will not have it.

" Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions..."

Let us "live up to what we have already attained" in Christ Jesus. Your call.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dirtying the American Media Tradition

Friends have recently put me in touch with two blogs that carry interviews with persons claiming to be anonymous White House insiders. The tasty morsel these two insiders share, assuming either is real and assuming they are different people, is that President Barack Hussein Obama is losing it. Or as one put it, he is "empty", referring to a deep depression that has come over the President. His staff is purportedly in disarray and fighting among themselves.
Let me hasten to say, right up front, I believe both articles to be based upon lies. What kind of lies I can't be certain, since the "sources" are anonymous. Are either one of the sources real, or the figment of someone's fertile fiction imagination? Don't know. If they are real, are they one person, or two? Don't know. And if they are real, is the information real or made up? Don't know.
Truth requires a source and credibility. In these two cases we have neither.
One article, claiming to be an interview with a "Washington insider" talks of the President's deep depression for which he is receiving medication. No mention of what kind or how often, or how much.
The other article, also supposedly an interview with an anonymous Washington insider, talks of the depression the President is undergoing, and the infighting among his staff, but does not mention medication.
My field for many years was public relations. I dealt with all sorts of domestic and foreign news media, all around the world. I must tell you that throughout my more than 50 years of dealing with all types of news media and reporters, I have always refused to give credence to anonymous sources. And I refuse this time, as well.
Those who know me or read my blog often already know I am far from being a fan of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress and Senate. But at the same time, regardless of how poorly I believe this nation is being led, how dangerously greedy and self-serving the current Congress and Senate have proved themselves to be, writings and claims based upon anonymous sources are simply scurrilous attacks. They lack to simple basics of truth and credibility and are worse than gossip. They are worse than the back-of-the-hand gossiping that goes on because they appear in legitimate publications, web sites and blogs, and are lent illegitimate credibility. They reek with the foulness upon which they are based.
Why would anyone do such a thing? It happens all the time, unfortunately. Sometimes it happens for what the source considers the best of reasons. They want to get information out into the mainstream, but they could lose their job if their name is attached to it. Maybe it's a matter of conscience, a desire to make a difference, or, sometimes, an attempt to smear someone, to get back at someone, to get even with someone. They don't have what it takes to stand up and fight their own fight, so they stab people in the back with anonymity.
Sometimes it is much more sinister, an attempt to fool "the other side" into a reaction that will trigger a planned response. In debates it's called bring up a "strawman", setting up something that doesn't exist, so as to make an argument that otherwise would not have a basis for coming up. More simply, it's political dirty tricks. They want to defend their man, but the other side won't say bad things against which they can defend, so "anonymously" they say bad things for them. Then they can jump to the defense against the very scurrilous remarks they planted ... anonymously.
You begin to see why "anonymous" attacks and claims cannot be accepted.
We have sufficient whistleblower protection laws in this country. You can stand up and tell the truth, and be protected. That's the kind of country we are. Or, that's the kind of country we were, if we begin giving credence to "anonymous" sources.
No, I don't like the way the Obama government mismanages this nation, I don't like they way they have nearly destroyed the free market system, driven wedges between blacks and whites, Americans and Hispanics, rich and poor, young and old. But neither do I like character assassination by either the named or the anonymous.
All these two articles of interviews with "anonymous" have done is dirty the name of the American news media and bloggers. Neither of them should ever have seen the light of day.
And I'm still going to work as hard as I can to get concerned Americans to go to the polls on November 2nd and clean House and Senate. But I won't do it anonymously.
-- The Master Gunny