Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Pastor's Pondering, December 26, 2017

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

In a climatic scene of the 1991 American action gangster film, New Jack City, a sobbing Gerald "Gee Money" Wells weeps and asks his former partner in crime, Nino Brown, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  After he quickly kills him, Nino says, “Yes.”  The obvious follow up question is then why not act like it?  This question has been asked repeatedly since after the fall from the Garden of Eden, when Cain replied to God when asked about his brother Abel whom he had just killed (Genesis 4:8-9). 

As men and women of God, we have a responsibility to help maintain the standard of moral excellence and holiness among our brothers and sisters.  We ought to be able to answer the question that God asks us, “Where is your brother?” As individuals, we may fail and exhibit weaknesses, but when we are willing to expose ourselves to each other in moral accountability, we can help them help us (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11). 

The Bible says that the strong ought to follow Christ’s example and bear the weakness of others by building them up (Romans 15:1-3).  When we are willing to say to our accountability partners, “I have a problem in this area, give me a hand, support me, pray for me, but don’t simply excuse me,” it demonstrates that we will not be supporters of personal racism, sexism, homophobia, or putting down others while calling ourselves, lovers of God.

Love does not excuse others sins, but also not gleefully expose others because love covers many of our sins (1 Peter 4:8).  Sometimes we have to exhibit tough love to others and remind them that while man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on our hearts. If we all want to go together to live with Christ throughout eternity, He requires holiness (1 Peter 1:16). 

Therefore, as we go into the 2018, let us remember that we want to demonstrate, through our lives, the scripture that God is able to keep us from falling (Jude 24) by helping to keep each other from falling into sin and to be able to present ourselves faultless before God.

Therefore, yes, we are our brother’s keeper.

Genesis 4:8-9
New International Version (NIV)
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11
New International Version (NIV)
10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Romans 15:1-3
New International Version (NIV)
1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

1 Peter 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 1:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.

Jude 24
King James Version (KJV)
24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, December 18, 2017

Do To Others Like You Want Others To Do To You

As a father of three young ladies and as a pastor, the subject of sexual assault of women is especially painful.  Rachel Simmons, Author and Co-Founder of Girls Leadership, wrote an article in the December 15, 2017, issue of Huffington Post entitled, “When Middle Schoolers Say #MeToo.”  The disturbing article said, “To be sexually harassed as a girl is to learn a lesson as old as time, one that is unlikely to be displaced by well-intentioned girl-power computer science classes and soccer drills: A girl’s most important source of value is her body and how others look at it. Known as self-objectification, the trait shows up in girls as young as 11, and is linked to depression, poor academic performance, social problems and eating disorders.”

The twisted message that our society has pushed on women is ungodly and wicked. All of us are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image (Psalm 139:14, Genesis 1:27).  Our God personally put us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and He does not make us to be assaulted, hurt, and bullied by others.

Over the last months, we have seen great men fall from high status because of their horrible behavior towards women.  Lizzie Crocker in a December 17, 2017 article in the Daily Beast wrote, “It made many men reflect on whether they’d been complicit enablers of sexual misconduct, or offenders themselves. And it led to a collective reckoning with systemic sexism in our culture.”

Why? The Bible says to train up a child the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). It seems that while children ought to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1), it seems some parents for various reasons have not been able to effectively train children to be respectful men and women.  Naturally, we would like to emphasize to the world that our children did not learn that behavior from us. We may take credit when our children do well as adults, but not take responsibility when they do wrong.

Let us who love the Lord endeavor to pray for our male children and instruct them that their masculinity does not lie in hurting our female children. Let us pray that the females of our society do not self objectify themselves so that they do not accomplish the purposes of God in their lives and that their standard is Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith.  We must all remember that we should not harass, shame, or assault one and another because we must do unto others as we would have others do to us (Matthew 7:12).

Psalm 139:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Genesis 1:27
New International Version
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them

Psalm 139:13
New International Version
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb

Proverbs 22:6

New International Version (NIV)
6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Ephesians 6:1
New International Version (NIV)
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Matthew 7:12
New International Version
12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, December 11, 2017

God Is Our Ultimate Judge

Twinkie Clark sang a song at the First Cathedral in Bloomfield, CT entitled, “Only What You Do For Christ Will Last”.  Some of the powerful lyrics are, “You may build a cathedral large or small. You may build a skyscraper great or tall. You may conquer all the failures of your past, but only what you do for Christ will last…only what you do for Christ will be counted in the end.”

Percy Shelley's poem entitled "Ozymandias" was written about a ruined monument to a great king.  It had the inscription, “'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!' Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.” Only what you do for Christ will last.

Many of us spend our days striving for mastery of our craft, socking away money for our retirement, supporting our loved ones and hoping someone will remember us after we have left this earth.  But the Bible reminds us that after these few years of struggle, we must give an account of our deeds before God (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). We should consider spending a lot of our efforts on things that will count in eternity rather than things that have a short-term existence (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Getting a great career is fantastic, marching across the stage with a college degree in hand is powerful, writing books is outstanding, and gathering admirers is uplifting, but God says the whole duty of man is to fear Him and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).  Making a lot of money will get you worldwide notice, adulation, power and fame, but we have to ask ourselves “Am I doing this because God wants me to do it or am I doing it merely to please myself?”

Quite honestly, striving for success in the world is important, reaching personal goals is exhilarating, having a loving relationship is satisfying, and developing our personal talents is necessary. But when all is said and done, we have to remember what is of lasting importance and that is loving Him, loving others, and obedience to God.  In the final analysis, this is His greatest commandment to us (Matthew 22:36-39).

You may not be a worldwide star, you may not have the latest fashions and your bank account may be non-existent, but when the ultimate judge reviews your life, He won’t discuss the many friends, the personal accomplishments, the flash or the bling.  Happily those who love the Lord can smile as He says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.” Only what we do for Christ will last.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10
New International Version (NIV)
9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

1 Corinthians 15:58
New International Version (NIV)
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14
New International Version (NIV)
13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Matthew 22:36-39
New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Monday, December 4, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, December 4, 2017

God Is Our Protection

Anna Fifield wrote an article in the November 29, 2017, issue of the Washington Post magazine entitled, “North Korea’s latest missile launch appears to put U.S. capital in range.” The article quoted North Korea’s most famous newsreader, Ri Chun Hee, who said, “With this system, we can load the heaviest warhead and strike anywhere in the mainland United States.”  According to the "Federation of American Scientists: Status of World Nuclear Forces", there are eight sovereign states that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons.

Now, we could be paralyzed with fear, but we have to continue to remind ourselves that our God is love and His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).  We should not be afraid of diseases, job loss, mass shootings or anything else (Psalm 91:4-6). We can declare that our God is able to keep us from falling and to protect us from danger (Jude 24).  My youngest daughter shared with our church that she felt led to leave a large holiday event before four people were subsequently shot just minutes later. God promised that our ears would hear a voice telling us which way to move (Isaiah 30:21). Thank God that she listened to His voice for direction!

Even those that love the Lord may fall victim to catastrophe.  Yet, we can rest assured that our God will be with us, keep us, and comfort us.  We know that even though bad things may happen to good people, we still have an eternal home with Jesus (John 14:2-3).  Let us remember that we do not have to fear. God is our protection.

1 John 4:18

New International Version (NIV)
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Psalm 91:4-6
New International Version (NIV)
4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Jude 24
King James Version (KJV)
24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

Isaiah 30:21
New International Version (NIV)
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

John 14:2-3
New International Version (NIV)
2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.