Critical times

“So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5 NASB).

Nothing focuses our attention more surely than emergencies. Whether they are global, national, local or merely personal, when we are confronted with great need or danger, we tend to give our complete efforts and energies towards meeting and overcoming whatever the challenge is that we face. Counselors term this approach “Crisis resolution.”

Crisis itself may be a little tricky to define and identify. Several years ago I was given this definition of the term. A speaker said, “You are diagnosed with serious illness; that is not a crisis. You go into depression because of the diagnosis – now that is a true crisis.” In other words, crisis says more about one’s reaction to a situation than it does about the situation. Continue reading “Critical times”

Taking responsibility

“Nathan then said to David, ‘You are the man!’” (2 Samuel 12:7 NASB).

I suspect that I am not alone in my distaste for the blame game being played between various countries and even the different political parties within our own nation for the existence, spread, and extent of the Corona Virus pandemic. Perhaps never has there been greater need for cooperation in battling this new disease for which there is at present neither preventative vaccine nor proven cure. Countries and agencies around the world are competing for vital medicines and equipment which is in dangerously short supply. Yet many seem to be more interested in blaming others than in working for a common cause. Continue reading “Taking responsibility”

Isolation

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NASB).

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18).

As I write this I am halfway through a two-week-long self-quarantine due to having traveled back to the U.S. from Asia and because of the rapid spread of the Corona Virus or Covid-19. Though this quarantine began as a recommendation, and was limited to a two-week period, the situation has changed considerably. In my state there is not yet a legally mandated “shut-down” of travel and other activities, but that could be imposed at any time. My quarantine may be extended considerably, as will that of most in this country. Continue reading “Isolation”

If it pours

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint-hearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. . . . It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons, for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:3-4, 7, 11 ESV).

I am known as a dedicated coffee drinker. Not only that, but I prefer dark-roast coffee, brewed to be rather strong. My philosophy on coffee, I often say, is, “If it will pour, it will drink.” That is, if it is liquid enough (i.e., thin enough) to pour out of the pot, it is liquid enough to be swallowed. Continue reading “If it pours”

Conformity or cooperation?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV).

Conformity has a bad connotation in the modern mind. It is portrayed as being forced into an artificial mold that society (or government) has adopted as the correct way of thinking and behaving for its members. One popular expression denoting the concept is the demand to “stay in one’s designated lane.” There are many who understandably rebel at any requirement which seems to result in their having to be like everyone else, even to that of driving on their side of the road. Continue reading “Conformity or cooperation?”

Surrounded

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV).

Today the word “surrounded” has a predominantly negative connotation. It brings up images of “Custer’s Last Stand” (aka, “The Battle of the Bighorn”) where a small detachment of cavalry was overwhelmed by thousands of Sioux warriors. Similarly we may think of the Battle of the Alamo where approximately 200 “Texians” were wiped out by Santa Anna’s Mexican army. Jack London fans may think of the two Alaskan dog-sledders who were stalked by a large pack of famine starved wolves at the beginning of “White Fang.” Being surrounded is mostly not such a good thing. Continue reading “Surrounded”

Believing what one reads

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us?’ But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?” (Jeremiah 8:8-9, ESV).

How often have we heard or said, “You cannot believe everything you read?” Human writers make mistakes. They also are always influenced by their own preconceptions, experience, education, and abilities, to say nothing of pressure from outside to conform to the demands of others. Sometimes, sadly, they just plain lie.

Even when it comes to sacred Scripture, which is from God and therefore is true (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we today are dependent upon other humans to preserve, translate, and explain it to us (as in Nehemiah 8:5-8). God’s word is absolutely dependable. Human teachers, not so much so. Continue reading “Believing what one reads”

Sufficient evidence

“The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’” (John 20:25).

Any teacher or student will recognize the effectiveness of visual aids. We learn through our senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) and the more of our senses which are involved in any experience, the more likely it is that we will perceive that experience correctly and remember it. Continue reading “Sufficient evidence”

Passing the hat

“On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NKJV).

An old country ballad (“Picking Time”) includes the lyrics, “Last Sunday morning when they passed the hat, it was still nearly empty back where I sat.” I don’t remember an assembly of the church in the United States where an actual hat was used to gather the collection. However, not long ago in Asia we visited a small congregation where, when it was time for the offering, it was discovered that there was no bag or pan or other vessel suitable for the purpose. I did however have a hat with me, so it was used. I enjoyed sharing with them the expression “passing the hat” and its tradition in our country. Continue reading “Passing the hat”

Reunions

“And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. … He himself went on before him, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother” (Genesis 33:1, 3 ESV).

When we have been separated from someone for a long time, it is never certain what kind of reception we will confront when we are reunited. Jacob left Esau at a time of stress and enmity. His older brother had actually threatened to kill him. Jacob fled to the country of their ancestors. Continue reading “Reunions”