Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Look, There's A Squirrel!

Reaching retirement age has a number of benefits, one of which is that there isn’t anything left to be learned the hard way.  Almost anything that comes up, we’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt.  One of the things I’ve had time to practice is my  ability to focus on one thing at a time.  Being a creative type, trained as a photojournalist, my mind is usually tracking three or four things at a time.  My equally creative wife, the artist, calls that the “squirrel reflex”.
That’s where the fellow is talking along and suddenly stops to blurt out, “Look, there’s a squirrel!”  And everything else is forgotten.
Now one way to improve both one’s concentration and effectiveness, the experts tell us, is by using lists to sort out and prioritize what lies before us.  If you’ve never operated that way, you should try it.  You sit down and list all the things you need to do, need to buy, need to accomplish, all the people you need to speak with and why.  The you pick out the top five and number them one to five in accordance with which are most important. 
Then you have before you all that is important to you, for that day, and the sequence in which they should be accomplished.  That’s how things get done and not forgotten or lost in the shuffle of the day.
This year 2016 is a sparkly, brand new year, not at all like last year.  We’re not even completely aware of the opportunities and challenges waiting for us there, yet.  But we each have a few things we would like to accomplish before this year is out, meetings and conventions we would like to attend -- like what is promising to be an exciting one in Pigeon Forge this year -- and a few triumphs we would like to be in on.  That’s where your list comes in.  Set priorities.
Now, if we could just get our legislators to make a few lists in our favor, that might work to our benefit.  Seems like in the middle of doing the people’s business, somebody’s always yelling out, “Look, there’s a squirrel!”

A Guest Column from John Powers - The Back Nine Holes

R Meade Phillips graciously reminded me that I posted this on the 25th of December, last year. It remains pertinent, and true, so I offer it to you once more, with thanks to my friend and fellow Marine, R Meade Phillips.
In six days we shall cross that imaginary -- but time-wise very real -- line into a new year, the year 2015. Over the next six days, consider this message from John Powers, take stock, and make your plans.....
You know ... time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.
But, here it is... the back nine of my life and it catches me by surprise...How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go?
I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that I was only on the first hole and the back nine was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.
But, here it is...my friends are retired and getting gray...they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me...but, I see the great change...Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant...but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd become.
Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore... it's mandatory! Cause if I don't on my own free will... I just fall asleep where I sit!
And so...now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!! But, at least I know, that though I'm on the back nine, and I'm not sure how long it will last...this I know, that when it's over on this earth...it's over. A new adventure will begin! Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn't done...things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done. It's all in a lifetime.
So, if you're not on the back nine yet...let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don't put things off too long!! Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether you're on the back nine or not!
You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life...so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember...and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!!
"Life" is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one. LIVE IT WELL! ENJOY TODAY! DO SOMETHING FUN! BE HAPPY! HAVE A GREAT DAY Remember "It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. LIVE HAPPY IN 2015!
~Your kids are becoming you......but your grandchildren are perfect!
~Going out is good.. Coming home is better!
~You forget names.... But it's OK because some people forgot they even knew you!!!
~You realize you're never going to be really good at anything like golf.
~The things you used to care to do, you aren't as interested in anymore, but you really do care that you aren't as interested.
~You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV 'ON' than in bed. It's called "pre-sleep".
~You miss the days when everything worked with just an "ON" and "OFF" switch..
~You tend to use more 4 letter words ... "what?"..."when?"... ???
~You notice everything they sell in stores is "sleeveless"?!!!
~What used to be freckles are now liver spots.
~Everybody whispers.
~You have 3 sizes of clothes in your closet.... 2 of which you will never wear.
~~~But Old is good in some things: Old Songs, Old movies, and best of all, OLD FRIENDS!!
Stay well, "OLD FRIEND!" Send this on to other "Old Friends!" and let them laugh in AGREEMENT!!! It's Not What You Gather, But What You Scatter That Tells What Kind Of Life You Have Lived.

Monday, November 30, 2015

What If ..... Imagine.....

What If….
Russia, America, Israel, Iran, Syria, et al., Are Playing a Game?
By Pastor Ed Evans

          During the 1980s, there was a very popular movie titled “War Games.”  A very young Matthew Broderick played the part of a computer-savvy youngster who hacked into a Pentagon computer that played war games for the military Joint Chiefs of Staff and strategic planners in the war room.  But when young Matthew, as part of the “game”, opted to launch a nuclear attack, the robot computer really launched a flight of nuclear missiles at Russian targets.  And neither Matthew nor the Generals could shut them down.  But before it reached that point, again and again, the robot computer would offer, “Do you want to play a game?”
          The only fail-safe was to opt out of the game before the final decisive directive was reached.
          So, if for the sake of argument, we entertain the computer’s enticing “Do you want to play a game?” there is just one more element from the past that we need in place.  It comes from nine years earlier.
          On September 9, 1971, Apple Records released Beatle John Lennon’s second studio album, “Imagine”.  Destined to become a blockbuster hit, the song begins with “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try … No hell below us … Above us only sky … Imagine all the people living for today...”  Indeed, how hard would it be to “imagine no possessions” when your personal worth is half a billion dollars, as was his.  Yet, there are similarities between the imagination of John Lennon and the Pentagon/political planners.
          I have to wonder, would we be justified in calling John Lennon a “seer”, a modern day Nostradamus, if we suggest the song “Imagine” carries with it some strangely predictive description of today’s American political leadership?  After all, Nostradamus, the French prophet and occultic seer who died in 1566, did predict rising wars in the Middle East that would lead to a 27-year World War III.  In fact, among his top ten predictions for the year 2016 are that Barak Obama will be America’s last President, there will be unusual weather patterns, attacks on Israel that will bring the West to its defense, and the melting of the North and South Poles.
          Does the American political leadership follow the prophecies of Nostradamus?  Are they aware of his predictions for 2016?  Some people assiduously avoid reading their own horoscopes because they feel the predictions may influence their behavior.  What about America’s military leadership in the Pentagon, the DoD?  What about America’s political “royalty”?
          So okay, maybe John Lennon could take on minor Nostradamus status, but let’s get back to the enticement, “Do you want to play a game?”  What if our elected and appointed leadership is, after all, just playing a game.  Then the real issue might be who makes the rules?  Who enforces the rules?  What are the rules, or more to the point, are there any rules?
          Let us, with John Lennon, imagine there is a quasi “game” underway, imagine that there are no unplanned consequences that blind-sided the players, and that they know exactly what they are doing.  But don’t lose track of that fateful “computer” in the background, operating under its own principles, qualifications, and planned goals.  And therein lies the real danger, that the players believe they are in control, allowing untoward events to proceed, certain they can “shut them down” whenever they wish.
          Imagine that the Generals and Admirals of the Pentagon, and the politicians of the White House, did know all along that attempting to de-throne King Assad of Syria, one of Russia’s prime consumers and petroleum traders, would push Russia to protect its interests with boots on the ground and aerial support.
          Imagine they also knew and foresaw that attempting to please and play ball with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are the religious enemies of not only America, but of each other, would be to light a match in a gas-filled room.
          Imagine they knew that after deliberately and overtly disrupting Russian military dominance in Afghanistan, this would bring Russia anxiously to the war table to do exactly the same thing to American forces in Afghanistan through local tribes.
          Imagine also that they knew by training and arming Afghanistan Islamic fighters with western tactics and armament that those fighters would view the American forces as much the invaders as the Russians and build up a fledging al Qaeda army into a formidable ISIS juggernaut.
          Imagine these American planners, military and political, knew ahead of time that by promoting sanctuary in Iraq to the political free radicals from Turkey known as the Kurds would anger the Turks and lead them to attack those same Kurds and their mobile government in northern Iraq. 
          Imagine they knew this apparent “betrayal” of Turkish sovereignty would drive the nation to support an Islamic leader who would pit Turkey’s future against Christian America and its allies.
          Imagine they knew any nuclear treaty with Iran which gives Iran the control and flexibility of the current agreement, would further endanger not only Israel, but American allies in the Middle East and European region, and, because of new and far-reaching missiles, American interests, as well.
          Imagine they knew the complex crossing of the lines of historical and political allegiances, as well as tribal, familial and religious allegiances, would eventually lead Turkey to shoot down a Russian war plane over Syria, moving the Russian Bear’s paw that much closer to the nuclear button.
          And now, imagine they knew that historic trade agreements between China and Qatar would lead the Chinese to maneuver themselves into establishing bases of operations on the Mediterranean Sea such as Camp al-Sayliyah and al-Udeid Air Base.  One more match poised to ignite a gas-filled room.
          Finally, imagine they knew that those countries with warships on the Mediterranean, such as Russia, China, and Iran could care less about the American fleet there because they know from inactions they have already observed, that the Americans will not back up their threats with anything beyond trade embargoes.
          “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try … No hell below us … Above us only sky … Imagine all the people living for today...” 
          Living for today begins to sound attractive, for tomorrow appears to be very tenuous, to say the least.  And certainly no tomorrow of which anyone in the West would dream.
          So the question must be asked.  If, as they claim, our American military and political planners knew, and know, what they are doing, in whose interest are they operating?  It seems clear none of these accomplishments are in the best interest of the people of the United States, and most not in the best interests of America’s allies.  It appears America’s traditional rejection of the military coup as a check against political chicanery and unrestrained agendas has not served the best interests of the American people.  Political correctness and personal aggrandizement by this nation’s leadership have run wild in America, damaging this nation’s economy, its standing in the world, and thereby its ability to be a helping hand to the world’s “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
          We must find a way to right the wrongs we have allowed to hobble and fragment this nation, to make us vulnerable to our enemies, to obstruct the future this world needs America to live out.  It begins in each home with a solid set of morals and ethics, with not accepting anything less. 
          It starts with me.  It starts with you.  Let us, individually and together, hold high the banner of what America is all about, refusing to allow our local, state and national leadership to accept less, to agree to less -- freedom, liberty, and justice: “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  Integrity, truth and public trust matter.
          The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) promotes a program of public awareness with the slogan “If you see something, say something.”  It’s borrowed from the World War II era, but a Gallup poll two years ago found that less than 50% of Americans were aware of the program begun in 2011.
          Nevertheless, it’s a good idea and should be in effect beyond the need to report terrorism or suspicious activity.  It should apply everywhere the high water marks of ethics and morality apply.  And when you see something that is wrong, ethically or morally, you need to immediately notify your Congressman and Senator.  Contact your local city representative, your Mayor and your Governor.  Let them know how you feel about specific violations of ethics and morality locally, statewide, and nationally. 
          In the eyes of the world, America is always in the spotlight.  Our historic beginning as a nation of Christian ethics and morals will always be challenged by those who don’t feel we are living up to our own limits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, three examples of the “unalienable rights” the American Declaration of Independence says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.  Even some Americans who don’t understand our history foolishly challenge it.
          However, they are your rights.  Don’t give them up without a fight for their existence.

          This is no game.  But if it were, you have already been declared a winner.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

No Room in Love for Fear

By Pastor Ed Evans

“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love.” – 1st John 4:18 (Message)
For the past weeks and months Americans have been treated to the fearful actions of Islamic extremists who think nothing of slaughtering people, even blowing themselves up if they can take innocents into death with them.
Over the past week the news has been filled with the recounting of Muslim jihad slaughter of French people, deadly raids and hostage situations, French bombing runs against the ISIS enemy forces, violent incidents in England, Africa, and Belgium, as well as in Syria.
Even as this is happening, with blood yet running in the streets, the President of the United States boasts he will bring thousands more Muslims into America as refugees. There are already thousands of Muslims in America, some in business, some in training camps across the U.S., some in prison for incidents of jihad violence. This has led the American people to proclaim loudly that they wish no more Muslim refugees right now. They have proclaimed that desire to the news media, to their State Governors, Congressmen, their Senators, and the President.
Still, President Obama proclaims the FBI and DHS vetting of refugees will protect the American people. Even as he does, the Director of the FBI and a member of the Senate Commission on Homeland Security admit they cannot adequately vet that number of foreign immigrants as quickly as the President wants them moved into states across the U.S.
As of this date, 27 State Governors have said they will refuse to allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states, citing the necessity to protect the people of their state. These refusals come even after the Supreme Court has said only the President has the authority to refuse refugees, and only he can say where they will and will not be resettled. The 27 Governors, who control the funding to support such resettlements, continue their refusal. Congress has also passed a bill defunding any Syrian refugee program, in response to a week of vociferous contact by their constituents.
The President’s unkind response was to belittle the American people, speaking fro the Philippines, for being afraid of “widows and orphans.” However, it has not been lost on the American people that nearly all the photos of crowds of Syrian refugees are of men who are of military age, with no “widows and orphans” in sight.
I think it is obvious that much of this refusal, by the people of America, by their Governors, Congressmen and Senators, is driven by the continuing Muslim violence in Europe, and the many individual instances right here in the United States. At its core, it is cold, hard, fear.
There is an old saying many of us probably remember from our high school sports days, that says when things get tough, the tough get going. Our football coaches used it on the playing field, and over time, it became useful in other areas of our life. “When things get tough, the tough get going.” Basically, when the situation facing us becomes difficult, that’s when the strong, the hard, the determined knuckle down and come up with solutions to the problem. That old saying has been attributed to Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President John Kennedy, and to football coach Knute Rockne.
Whoever said it first, it is still the best way out of difficult problems. Sitting around moaning about our circumstances, becoming emotional over them, closing our eyes and pretending nothing has gone wrong – all useless reactions. But this is what we see much of the world doing, plus looking for others to blame, others upon whom we can wreak our vengeance for our mistakes in not stopping it sooner.
For the Christian, for those whose worship and faith are grounded in the Living God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, none of that is necessary. Believers in Jesus Christ actually do live in a different, an altered if you will, world. Psalm 20:7 tells us, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." The American military is the best-trained, the best-equipped, with an ability and a prowess that is respected all over the world. It is often said, “The enemy knows our name.” They watch for our mistakes, our weaknesses, to exploit them to their advantage. But especially in this case, it is not America’s military prowess and ability that will make the difference. Our enemies are the enemy of God. This is His war. He will win it His way.
And what should His children be doing in the meantime? We should be remembering 1st John 4:18 – and the Message version says it best -- standing strong in His Word, without fear, acting in love. “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love.”
In every circumstance during this difficult period before us, remember love, without fear. Stand in His love, plan in His love, act in His love. Then, be still and know that He is God, and watch Him work. Amen.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Who's Job is it To Protect You?

by Ed Evans

Democracy and freedom are not without their inherent dangers. For while we demand freedom for ourselves, we must also protect the freedoms of our neighbor who may be doing things we don't like. Tough. That's what it's like to live in freedom.

Of course the old saw is still in effect, my neighbor is free to swing his fist as he likes, until it comes in contact with my nose and then it's Katie bar the door!

The story below is perhaps intended to give Americans a warm, fuzzy feeling that their national government is at work on their behalf. Reminds me of an old radio program called "The FBI at Peace and War". It was sponsored appropriately by Lava Soap Company.

All well and good that the FBI is on the job. But your FBI, your local police, and even the Sheriffs of every state in the union have one thing in common. That is they are not in business to provide for your personal protection. They are there to uphold the laws we as the public have put into place.
In other words, while they are busy keeping the peace and chasing law-breakers, it is distinctly up to you and I to provide for our own protection. Law enforcement officials will stand up and say they are not in favor of vigilante action. And basically I believe most of us would agree with that. But providing for the protection of our own person and that of our families is not vigilante action, it is self-protection.

We know that criminals are not allowed to have guns. That's a good law, but to the criminal it means nothing. They ensure they have guns and they count on you and I not having a weapon to protect ourselves against the criminals with guns.

That's why gun-free zones make no logical sense; criminals have guns and they ignore laws and signs that proclaim areas are "gun-free." Gun free zones have become killing zones. No one but the criminal has a gun in those zones.

I make the point again, the protection of yourself and your loved ones is your responsibility. It was that way when dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers roamed earth, and it remains that way today. The "civilization" of mankind is only skin deep. Don't be the one to get skinned.

Here's the story this long introduction is leading you to:

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Good Guy Gun Trumps A Bad Guy Gun

by Ed Evans

In Tennessee the Chairman of the Davidson County Democratic Party crafted a letter to all Tennesseans decrying the murderous incident in Roseberg, Oregon.  He quoted the President, scattered some gun control statistics and expressed disappointment gun control was not universal in America.  But before he got into all that, he first expressed sympathy for those killed and injured in Roseberg.
It is comforting to note that the Chair of the DCDP began his letter citing condolences and prayers for the grieving in Roseberg, unlike our President "of all the people", who launched right into his gun control agenda in his response to the nation.  Long on gun control stats, however false, and short on sympathy and real answers.
However, it is interesting to note that in Roseberg, Ore., Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin tells the news media he is against more gun control, "because you can't enforce universal background checks." He also said he is against "gun free zones." At last, some common sense!
Earlier this year, he told state lawmakers that background checks wouldn't keep criminals from getting guns. And back in 2013, the sheriff wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden to say that his deputies wouldn't enforce any law that infringed on the constitutional right to bear arms.
Maybe this is a beginning to get the political focus off gun control and on stopping people from wanting to harm other people; off guns and on mental illness.  
Actually, a Forensic Criminologist named Martinelli reported last night on the news that the stats Obama reported in his speech to the nation about the crime rate being lower where guns are banned is absolutely false. He said the real stats totally refute that. He gave many examples of cities where there are strict gun laws and serious crimes are way above average; Chicago being the flagship of gun control and high murder rates. Too bad he has to report inaccuracies to push his agenda against guns. It only takes common sense to know the quickest thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Much more than a cliche.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

How to Defend a Lion

By Pastor Ed Evans, by virtue of Pastor Ray C. Stedman

Tonight I listened to a quote used on a TV drama that intrigued me, wrongly attributed to Aquinas.  In fact, it was Augustine of Hippo who said, “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.”

 The computer search for attribution led to a marvelous sermon by Pastor Ray Stedman, given March 14, 1982.  Prescient, I would say, sitting here in September of 2015, nearly benumbed by the evil I see swirling around my beloved nation, stunned by the misinformation and misadventure surrounding my beloved Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Almighty God.

Join me in a worm hole visit back through time and space to March 14, 1982, and Pastor Ray Stedman, sharing how the great preacher Charles Spurgeon used that quote, as Stedman was holding forth from behind his pulpit to his congregation regarding the Word of God in that place and time.  It speaks to us yet, today.

Scripture: 2nd Timothy 1:14 – 2:2
“By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
“You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Almost every Christian alive has heard the famous quotation from Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, about defending the Scripture.  Spurgeon said, "Scripture is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose; it will defend itself." That oft-quoted word has a great deal of truth in it. Notice that it does not deny that lions sometimes need defending; it merely recognizes that the best way to do that is to turn a lion loose and it will defend itself.
The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, suggests a similar approach. Writing from his prison cell in Rome to Timothy, who is left all alone in the great, pagan city, Ephesus, Paul tells his young son in the faith (Chapter 1, Verse 14):
Guard the truth which has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. (2 Timothy. 1:14 (RSV)
I would like to give you a slightly different, perhaps more accurate, version of what Paul wrote, because that translation suggests that the phrase, "by the Holy Spirit," is linked with the entrusting, i.e., the Spirit has entrusted to Timothy the truth. Actually, that phrase goes with the word guard: "Guard by means of the indwelling Spirit the good deposit," is what Paul wrote. The "good deposit" is the gospel, or the Scripture of truth. Though the word truth does not actually appear in this verse, it is not inaccurate to render it as this version has, "guard the truth by means of the Spirit."
The great claim of Christianity is not that it is a religion, but that it is the truth; it is the way things really are in life. Dorothy Sayers said, "The test of any religion is not that it pleases us, but that it is true." That is what marks the character of Christian faith -- explaining life the way it really is. That is why, when Jesus taught in his day, every time people heard him say something, inwardly they thought, "Yes, of course. That's right, isn't it?" Jesus was speaking to their experience, even to their unconscious, unarticulated experience, which they felt deeply and which his words explained. The glory of Christianity is that it is knowledge, knowledge that can free us from the lies that the world in its blindness is following to its own destruction.
Arnold Grunigen, a well known Christian businessman and leader in the early days of this congregation, used to put it this way: "The Bible is God's instruction book which goes along with man." When you buy a new car you get a book with it that tells you how it operates and what to do if it does not. When you get a new washing machine or a new toaster you get a book with it. When you buy a personal computer you get a big book with it. God sent us into the world, complicated beings that we are, so it makes sense that he would give us a book that goes along with man. That is what the Bible is, and Timothy is to "guard that truth by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit."
It is very important that we understand what the apostle means here. It is not merely the words of the Book that make it powerful, rather it is the presence of the Spirit enlightening the words of the Book. The Spirit illuminates the Book; he brings it home to the heart. He makes these words living words, penetrating words, powerful words, words that enlighten the mind, pierce the heart, words that produce profound changes in attitude and behavior in mankind. It is true that the words are truth, that this is the Word of God, without error as God gave it to man, but it is the Spirit who makes this Book a living word, and transforms it, if you like, into a powerful lion which is capable of defending itself.
How do you turn the lion loose? That is the question we are facing in this passage and throughout this section. In fact, the first thirteen verses of Chapter 2 will detail for us four ways by which Timothy was expected to turn the lion loose to let him defend himself. We will trace these four things, taking two of them today and two of them next week.
First, the apostle would remind Timothy, and us, of what the times were like in which this "guarding of the truth" was to take place. Verse 15:
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, and among them Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15 RSV)
It would not have been news to Timothy that there had been a great turning away from the authority of the Apostle Paul in Asia. Timothy lived in Ephesus, the capital of the large Roman province of Asia, which was about the size of the State of California. Timothy was expected to teach and to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in Ephesus, so he faced every day the problem that Paul mentions here.
In fact, Timothy was running into increasing opposition to what Paul taught. I do not think that implies that there was a widespread turning away from Christianity -- a denial of Christ. Rather, there was an attempt to separate Paul from Jesus. This is always the beginning of apostasy -- to deny the authority of an apostle as opposed to that of the Lord himself. This, of course, was something Paul faced everywhere he went because he was not one of the twelve. Jesus had not called him in the days of his flesh. Many people took advantage of that and accused Paul of making himself an apostle. They suggested that his were invented words, that his teachings went beyond what Jesus taught and added to it things that Jesus never intended.
You can still hear that argument on every side today. Even Christians who ought to know better are suggesting that Paul was an encrusted old bachelor who had no use for women. His writings with regard to women ought to be disregarded, they say, because he was speaking out of his own soured experience. These people suggest that we need to pick and choose in Paul's writings as to what is from the Lord and what is not. That is exactly what Timothy was experiencing, and that is what Paul is referring to here.
We do not know exactly who Phygelus and Hermogenes were. They evidently were prominent leaders whom Paul expected to support him. As I read this account, I wondered if they were not among those people, described in Acts 19, in that time of riot and uprising in Ephesus, whom Luke calls "certain Asiarchs" (Acts 19:31 RSV), i.e., of Roman authorities. Luke said these were friends of the apostle who would be expected, perhaps in a day when Paul was under charge by the Roman government, even facing possible death, to come to his defense, yet they refused to do so. It may be that these were people whom Paul had looked to to support him, but they had refused to do so, and he was left alone to defend himself.
At any rate, it is clear that it is hard for Paul to write the statement, "all in Asia have turned against me." Luke records in the book of Acts that just a few years earlier, as a result of Paul's teaching in the rented school of Tyrannus in Ephesus for five hours a day, all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks, (Acts 19:10), What a wonderful awakening that represented! That was a time when the whole province seemed to be alive with the power of the gospel, and thousands were turning to Christ. Yet, a few years later, Paul has to write, "All in Asia have turned against me."
That brought to my memory the scenes, less than ten years ago, when this room was jammed with young people on Sunday nights. They would sit in the aisles and up here on the platform because we had no room to seat them elsewhere. That was part of a great spiritual awakening which we now call the Jesus Movement. Without any apparent reason thousands of young people left the drugs scene, the world of the occult, and the world of profligate sex, and turned to Christ. They began to read their Bibles, and seek after the truth. The whole of the West Coast was electric with excitement as we saw the power of the Word at work in young people's lives. But today, apathy is apparent on every side. Many of those young people who welcomed the Word with such excitement in those days have faded into the background. There is resistance to the truth, and a turning away from the authority of the apostles. An apostasy has set in.
That is exactly what the apostle is experiencing here. In the words of Dr. E.M. Blaiklock, professor of classics at the University of New Zealand (a wonderful Christian scholar who preached at PBC in the early days), "Of all the centuries, the twentieth is most like the first." It is evident that you and I are living through similar times to what Paul and Timothy are facing here. Even the Christian community is turning away from Christian standards, morals and ethics. Divorce is epidemic among Christians, who ought to be manifesting the ability of the Spirit of God to keep a family united in love and grace and growing in truth and righteousness. Instead, Christians are succumbing to the ways of the world around. Immorality is rife among us; famous names are turning away and forsaking Christian standards. That is what Paul and Timothy were facing.
In the Roman world of that day when this letter was written, (about the year 67 or 68), the whole Roman East was aflame. Like Mt. St. Helens, it was giving evidence that it was about to erupt and explode. Just two or three years later, the Roman armies under Titus would surround Jerusalem and attack the city. They destroyed the temple, killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, and led others off into captivity. All this was about to happen, so that the world of that day was being shaken as the world is being shaken today. Paul's word for such an hour is to "guard the truth by means of the Holy Spirit which has been entrusted to us."
By contrast, there was one man from Asia, Onesiphorus, whom Paul describes as having found a way to "guard the truth" in his day. Here is what Paul says about him (Verses 16-18):
May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me -- may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day -- and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. (2 Timothy 1:16-18 RSV)
Onesiphorus means "bringer of help." Here was a man who lived up to his name. He was, evidently, a businessman. Paul had known him and his family when he himself was in Ephesus. There the family and the man had ministered to Paul many times, so he prays a blessing upon them.
In his business travels, Onesiphorus had come to the city of Rome after Paul had been captured. Painstakingly, at great effort, he sought and found the apostle. That was not easy to do. The Romans were not telling everybody where Paul was imprisoned, but Onesiphorus kept looking until he found him. And he was not ashamed of Paul's chains. He found him at great risk to his own life, for, to befriend an enemy of Caesar in those days was to put one's own life in peril. Nero would eliminate anybody for the slightest deviation from a manifestation of loyal support of him and his plan.
Onesiphorus ministered to Paul and refreshed his spirit. He did not come gloomily wringing his hands, beating his breast and talking about how terrible things were all through the Empire. He came with confidence that God was still in charge and upholding things. Here Paul prays for him now that he is still away, probably on another trip somewhere, and he asks Timothy to support his family there and prays that God would bless him "on that Day."
By his life and his actions, here is a man who found the way to turn the lion loose in his own time. Onesiphorus was fearless, he was faithful, and he was cheerful. He reminds me of that favorite definition I have used many times of how a Christian ought to be: Completely fearless. Continually heerful. Constantly in trouble.
Paul now returns to Timothy and gives him step-by-step instructions on how he can guard the truth, how he can turn the lion loose in a day of widespread declension and apostasy. This passage runs on through Verse 13, but we are only going to take two verses this morning. Chapter 2, Verses 1-2:
You then, my son, he strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1-2 RSV)
The first thing you have to do when things start falling apart, Paul says, is to be strong yourself in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; that is a fundamental principle of helping anybody. You can only pass on to others what you yourself have received. Head knowledge is of no value. If you merely pass on a knowledge of the truth -- teaching people the various doctrines of Christianity -- you have done nothing to help them at all. Unless they can see that that truth has changed you and made you different, that you speak out of the experience of having been altered by the truth you believe, you will never do anything to help someone else stand in the hour of danger. If you want to strengthen others, Paul's advice is, start with yourself: "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." That is the way to guard the truth. That is what Onesiphorus had done. He was strong, he was able to withstand the fear and the pressures of his day because he had found that Christ could strengthen him. So he becomes an example to Timothy and to us of how to stand in an evil day.
That which strengthens is grace, Paul says, "the grace that is in Christ Jesus." A peculiar thing about grace is, it is never available to strong people. That is what makes it difficult for us to get hold of it sometimes. We are continually assaulted today with a barrage of propaganda teaching us that the way to be strong is to develop some quality about ourselves, some hidden power, some reserve of personality, some right that we need to demand and stand on and insist upon that. But if you believe your Bible, that is the way to be weak -- and that is what proves to be the case. God's grace alone is strong enough to handle the pressures of a fallen world, but the only way you can lay hold of the grace of God is to acknowledge that you are so weak you do not have anything else that will hold you. So the first thing that grace demands is that we admit our weakness, not our strength.
Many today are unable to be strong and unable to stand in the day of pressure, although they give great testimony about how they are going to follow Christ and stand for him. In the moment of pressure, however, they go down almost instantly. They have bought the lie of the world that if they just make up their mind, that if by their will or their effort they display their tremendous natural gifts, or if they develop some power to ride over the rights of others, they can stand. Not a day goes by but we are exposed to invitations to send away for this course or sign up for that one that will teach us how to stand up for our own rights. There is even a course offered today on how to intimidate others. That is the spirit of the age. But Paul's word is that the way to strength is to discover "the grace that is in Christ Jesus." Recognize your own weakness and then accept God's promise to work with you and through you in your weakness to make it strong. That is how it works.
Christians are to be forever learning to say, "I can't live up to this demand, I can't do this thing that is asked of me, but he can, therefore I can." Take the action based upon the expectation that God is in you and he will enable you to do what you otherwise cannot do. That is authentic Christianity. It is supernatural. Natural strength is its greatest enemy. When we learn that, we can be "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, was a marvelous exemplification of what we are talking about. Here is a quotation from his writings:
It makes no matter where he places me or how; that is rather for him to consider than me. For the easiest positions he must give me grace, and in the most difficult, his grace is sufficient. So, if God places me in great perplexity, must he not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible or so difficult, but the weight and the strain are all gone. His resources are mine, for He is mine.
That is a Christian response to the pressures of the day. I love to hear a congregation sing the hymn, "Amazing Grace," especially when they put the emphasis upon the "zing." That is what grace does: it puts zing into life. "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me."
That is what Paul is writing to Timothy. So if you want others to be pure, learn to be pure yourself, by "the grace that is in Christ Jesus"; and if you want others to stand, then learn to stand yourself by "the grace that is in Christ Jesus." That is the place to start. If you cannot demonstrate it in your own life, you will get nowhere trying to communicate it to others.
But if you start there, then the next step is, as Paul points out, "what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Pass it on; communicate it; let them see what you have learned. Let them see the struggles and the temporary failures that you went through in the learning of it.
That is why Paul adds these words, "before many witnesses." Timothy had accompanied Paul on many journeys. He had often heard him preach and teach; he was with him when he addressed pagans and at times when he addressed Christians. He heard the marvelous truths that the apostle understood which fleshed out all the words that Jesus had said. He saw the tremendous impact these words had made upon various people, both for good and for bad; some words that led to life, and other words that seemed to lead some to death. He must have discussed this frequently with Paul. He saw the hurt and the opposition that introduced into the apostle's life, the struggles Paul had as a result of faithfully proclaiming the truth. Timothy also saw the fantastic blessing that spread, the tremendous changes that were introduced, and the lifting of a whole level of a community's life because of the truth as it is in Jesus. So, Paul says, "What you have heard and seen and learned from me, pass it on to faithful men."
How do you tell a faithful man? (That is a generic term that includes both men and women.) How do you tell faithful people who can learn truth? Let me share with you four qualities I look for in someone in order to pass on what I myself have learned.
First, I look for a searching mind, a mind that is ready to learn, a mind that has given evidence, both in secular and sacred ways, that it wants to know something. Such a mind is not content to pass through life with a radio blaring, or a TV on, being entertained all the time. It wants to learn, to search out truth, to listen to what is going on around; it is willing to think about it, to meditate on it and explore its application. That is the first thing: a searching mind.
Then I look for a humble heart, for somebody who has already learned that truth is bigger than he is. He will have learned that we are to set aside our own egos, that truth is not given to us in order to build up our image in the eyes of people, that we are not to manipulate people to gain standing or prestige among them, but we are to be willing to submit ourselves, to put ourselves down and not seek credit; a humble heart.
The third thing is an evident gift. That is what Paul says here. Look for someone who is "able to teach others also," somebody who has a gift of the Spirit that can communicate and impart to others what he himself has learned. That is a process of duplication and reduplication that will rapidly spread truth throughout a body of people; an evident gift.
The fourth thing I look for is a faithful spirit, somebody who has demonstrated by a track record that he does not quit when the going gets tough. He is not ready to leave when some more enticing thing comes along, when the skiing gets good or the sun is hitting the beach, but he is willing to stay with what he has committed himself to; a faithful spirit.
A searching mind, a humble heart, an evident gift, a faithful spirit; when you find such as those, commit yourself to them. Paul says to Timothy, "Give yourself and everything you know to such men because they will pass it on to others, and soon the truth will spread."
I was recently in touch with a church which, when it was founded a couple of decades ago, had great understanding of the truth about the church, about the gifts of the Spirit, about the nature of elder leadership, and the authority of the Lord Jesus in the midst of his people. Because of its commitment to truth, for a long time that church made a tremendous impression in the area in which it is located. But of late it has been going through severe struggles. It has had one serious split, and now it is gradually becoming more and more an ordinary church, merely fitting itself into the usual plan and program of the church. I asked one of the elders of that church what had gone wrong. His answer was, "It was our (the elders') fault. We did not pass on to the newer elders what we ourselves believed."
All of us live just one generation away from total apostasy. The work of the church can fall apart in one generation if we do not faithfully pass on what we ourselves know -- parents to children, elders to the younger ones, leaders to those who follow; "faithful men and women who are able to teach others also." That is God's process of supporting and spreading truth and helping it to stand in the hour of attack.
I do not think there is any greater testimony to that than what has happened in China. When the missionaries were thrust out of China in 1950, Christians everywhere wrung their hands and said, "This is terrible. China will go back into the dark ages under the Communist heel. The poor Christians there will be reduced to nothing." But the truth has now become evident. The door is open to China again, and Christians who went back in found that the church had increased numerically sevenfold over what it was when the missionaries left.
I have always maintained that God's most significant approach to evangelizing a city is to begin by locking all the preachers up in jail. Remember that Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Many of the brethren are much more bold to preach the gospel because of my imprisonment," (Philippians 1:14 RSV). That is God's method of spreading the church. When you and I look around and see the apostasy that is setting in, in our day, among Christians in the church, we must remember, as the poet James Russell Lowell put it:
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone that's strong.
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadows
Keeping watch above his own.
"Truth crushed to earth shall rise again," is a famous, oft-quoted saying. How true it is.
What then do you do in the day of declension, when people are turning away from Christianity? How do you let loose the lion that he might defend himself? Paul says there are four steps which we can take. We have looked at two of them: Practice a daily communion with the Lord Jesus yourself; and then communicate that to faithful men and women around you.
In the remainder of the passage Paul goes on to speak of the necessity for an earnest, dedicated commitment of the will, and of a confidence in the power of God that will continue to stand in the midst of pressure. We will look at that next week.
In the meantime, let us start to put into practice what he exhorts us to here -- a daily communion with Jesus himself, and a communicating of it to those with whom we have influence.


Lord, we thank you for calling us to stand in this evil day. We know we are not living in a world that is going to minister to our comfort and please our indulgence very long; for that which can be shaken is about to be shaken. All the world seems about to fall apart around us; we cannot avoid it by hiding our heads in the sand. Grant that we may be faithful Christians who have learned how to guard the truth by means of the Holy Spirit in order that the lion of truth, made powerful by the Spirit, may be loosed among men and women in our day; and we will see the truth surmount its enemies and rise up to bless the world yet. We ask in Jesus' name, Amen.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Guest Blogger -- The Fiddling Ant: It's NOT the War on Terror Stupid!

It's NOT The War on Terror, Stupid!

On the 14th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the powers-that-be continue to refer to "The War on Terror," as if we are fighting terror.  "War on Terror" gets more than 85,000,000 Google results.

At the risk of being politically incorrect, the correct label should be "War on Islamic Fascism." However, this only shows up on Google 1,760,000 times which is only 2% of the "War On Terror" label. As usually, political correctness wins out, even when it is wrong.
In the past fourteen years, ALL of the terrorist attacks on America have been perpetrated by Islamic Fascists. (scroll to the bottom of this post for a definition of Islamic Fascism). We don't have militant Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, or even atheists attacking the United States.
Twenty-five of the twenty-eight terrorists on the FBI Most Wanted List have Arabic names. When Christians leave a church, Jews leave a synagogue, Buddhists or Hindus leave a temple, you don't see them rioting and killing people. However, it is a common occurrence for Muslims to riot and kill after leaving a mosque service after being incited by a Muslim preacher. It happens with disturbing regularity.
To be clear, the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not ascribe to the radical views of Islamic Fascists so thoroughly demonstrated by ISIS, but they are allowed to preach their terror inciting views nonetheless.
In our modern PC world, in its quest for equality and diversity, all cultures are recognized as having equal value.  This is not true and thank goodness the PC virus did not exist when America fought WWII. When Germany and Japan were defeated the fascist Nazis and fascist Japanese imperialists were rooted out. Germany and Japan are now much better for this.  However, in Iraq and Afghanistan, no action was taken to combat the roots of Islamic Fascism. No wonder there is little hope for improvement in these countries without America's presence.
The Associated Press, which is the source for much of our news, perpetrates the whitewashing with stylebook rules (also here) that keep reporters from identifying Islamists as terrorists.
To look at Hollywood, the movie industry has studiously avoided making Muslims the bad guys. For example, when Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears was made into a movie they changed the terrorists from Muslims to Europeans. Most movies that tackle the subject of America's fight against terrorists show America in a bad light. (For a screenplay showing what would happen if Hollywood was attached by terrorists, see here.)
In World War II, Franklin Roosevelt announced that it would be a war that would end with the Unconditional Surrender of our enemies. There was no talk of "degrading" the enemy. The war ended in less than four years after this statement. Now Germany and Japan have turned from suppressed fascist states to thriving democracies.  Here we are 14 years after 9/11 and although we have been able to eliminate some of the terrorist leadership, the root source of animosity to America remains.
Where do you think Germany and Japan would be today if the philosophies of Nazism and Japanese imperialism were not eliminated? During the cold war, America had a Voice of America radio show that broadcast news and American values to countries under communist suppression. Why have we not done the same during this war?
________________"The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. ("Death to the intellect! Long live death!" as Gen. Francisco Franco's sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined "humiliations" and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual "deviance"—and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures." Christopher Hitchens, Defending Islamofascism: It's a valid term. Here's why, Slate, 2007-10-22