Archive | September 2018

NO VOICE

 

I can hear the deafening silence and it’s unbearable. Where is the man who will stand in the gap and declare the word of God without fear or favor? America is in spiritual turmoil: those who recognize it are afraid to say it; and others who are aware are unwilling to admit this fact, because they fear will share the responsibility to do something to bring about positive change. Others see it but couldn’t care less; and then there are those who have no clue that we are rotting from within.

The state of spiritual degradation that we are facing today did not happen overnight. It happened slowly as Christians grew fat sitting on their couches, listening to flamboyant televangelists who stroke both their egos and their fears. They started abandoning churches where less charismatic preachers stuck to the unadulterated word of God and feasted on “air-brushed” homilies that are devoid of expressions about the wages of sin, hell, and allusions to hell. These glossy sermons are professionally packaged – reminds one of a beautifully wrapped Christmas present that holds nothing but a worthless bauble, when opened.

It’s not only on television that we see such chicanery.  Once God-fearing churches are now adopting tactics to appeal to the world that are moving further and further away from the Bible. The most glaring example is in the music that is dished up to suit the perceived palates of mostly the young and the restless who are searching for authenticity, and the church cannot give it to them because the church is too busy serving up what they have left in the world.

News Flash! When the world comes to church, they expect to have a church experience. Nobody pays money to go an authentic French restaurant and expect to be served a blend of something French. If the food is a mixture of other cuisines, then it should be clearly stated – no surprises.  God’s word must not be tampered with because it has its own power to accomplish its purpose. It needs no special effects to be effective. The reason some Christians want to dress it up is because they don’t believe what they say they believe. They have a “form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof: [and]from such [the Bible tells us to] turn away” (II Timothy 3:5). God can achieve his purpose without the feeble attempts of human intervention:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 KJV).

The church can be people friendly without compromising its basic principles that are built on the foundation of Christ Jesus. We can use various teaching strategies and the advantages of living in a technological to enrich the conveying of the gospel. Even Jesus used parables to make His messages clear to His audience. However, our intention should not be to mask or minimize the scriptures to draw or entertain a crowd. The whole purpose of the word of God is to bring positive change in the lives of people and not to placate them.

If we abandon the word of God, we have abandoned God and all the other things we do in His name are meaningless. The word allows God to speak through us – without it we have no voice. Our congregants and hearers can only develop a case of spiritual ennui when they listen to us that can only be cured by the very Word that we have rejected. Let’s find our voices again in the Word of God and watch what happens!

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The Cost of Discipleship

Salvation has a price. It cost God the Father the life of His only begotten Son! He was the One who required that cost because he valued the only creatures on earth that He made with His own hands and into whom He blew His precious breath. Christ’s incarnation cost Mary her reputation, and for Joseph, the apparent cost was deferred gratification in the consummation of his marriage and perhaps ridicule for being a cuckolded husband.

The whole purpose of Christ’s dying on the cross was to fulfill the desire of His Father to make sure once and for all that all men would have the opportunity and the right to eternal life through acceptance of salvation. Through His obedience, He left His royal home in heaven, divested himself temporarily of immortality, took on human flesh, and paid the cost for human sin by dying on a rugged cross (Philippians 2:6-8). He humbled himself as a babe in the womb of a young virgin and was born into a poor family and raised by a carpenter in a village where few people would care to settle.

To say that he did not grow up in the lap of luxury is an understatement. His earthly father died early, as was customary, since he was the eldest male sibling of His mother’s children, had to help to support the family. The Gospels of Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56 point to his vocation as a carpenter and state the names of his brothers: his sisters are also mentioned, but not named. Even after his ascension, Jesus is still paying the cost for mankind’s redemption, having gone to prepare a place for us so that we can be with Him eternally (John 14:1-3). He also continually “[watches] over [His own] word, [making sure] it is fulfilled” (Jeremiah 1:12 NIV) and He is “at the right hand of God, who is making intercession for us” (Romans 8:34 NIV). Moreover, Jesus goes over and above, although He is more than capable of keeping us, by sending the Holy Ghost to be our Resident Protector and Comforter Extraordinaire:

 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them”(John 14:16:21 NIV).

 

 

He also knew that not everyone would receive this gift readily, therefore, he instructed His disciples before He ascended into heaven that they should:

 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

2Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:19-20).

He also revealed to them that:

[they would] receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

 

Considering that “God commended his love toward us for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), we should have no doubt that he takes soul winning and discipleship seriously. He has showed us the pattern in the Bible while He worked with His disciples during the course of His earthly ministry. Some of His followers were tough, stubborn, weak, fearful, impulsive and with passions like some of us, but Jesus prayed for them and taught them the word in ways that would help them understand kingdom living and building. He chided them when necessary, saw to it that they rested, showed concern for their daily needs and often encouraged them.

He did it all, so we would understand the cost of discipleship is not cheap because man’s life is worth a whole lot to God. We must be willing to try to invest in others what God has invested in us (although we will never reach His mark). As we have freely received, we must freely give without any complaining. I learned a lesson about going the extra mile to see others saved and live a sanctified life in the book of Mark. In Mark II:3-12 (NIV), some friends of a paralyzed man demonstrate exceptional love for him by using unconventional means to get him to Jesus so that he could receive healing. They tried to press through an extremely large crowd with his bed without success. Realizing that it was almost impossible to get through to the Master, they:

 … made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (vv.4-5).

Think about what the men did for the sick man. Although the distance that they travelled to bring the paralytic to where Jesus was, we can glean from the story that they either had to carry or transport him and his litter on a beast of burden. On reaching the site they had to try to push their way through, and after gouging a hole in someone’s roof, they had to pay the owner to cover the cost for repairs -and not to mention the coordinated effort and care to lower him to the floor without causing further damage to his body.

No wonder when Jesus saw their faith, He was moved to forgive the man’s sins and heal his disease. The passage did not mention the man’s faith to diminish the importance of personal faith, but to teach us that we who know about the power of God to cleanse us from unrighteousness should persevere in telling others about Jesus, praying for their salvation, and letting our light shine so that they will come to repentance.

God has not given us a choice in the matter of evangelism and discipleship. WE MUST WORK WHILE IT IS DAY. If the men who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus had not worked while they had daylight to get through the roof, he would not have been healed. We must also seize every opportunity to labor for souls because “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous availeth much” (James 5:16). Our heavenly Father takes note when we intercede for loved ones, coworkers, bosses, students, teachers, enemies and all our neighbors. He is pleased when we stay in the trenches with the fledgling believer and we strengthen our fellow Christians when they are weak.

Don’t give up on an unbeliever! Don’t abandon your Christian brother or sister who has slipped. Keep digging until there’s an opening to Jesus. If the cost was little or nothing, we would lose sight of how much God loves us. Salvation is not cheap because souls are valuable to God. It will cost us to care but it is worth every bit of sacrifice to walk with another on their Christian journey.

 

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Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech in the United States is the right of individuals, groups, and communities to express their opinions without fear of reprisals, censorship, sanctions, or any form of retaliation.  It is part of the over-arching freedom of expression that includes the reception, production and dissemination of ideas and information through various media forms.

The United States is not alone in supporting freedom of expression: it has affirmation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) document that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 that consists of 30 articles recognizing an individual’s right in a free society. Article 19 of the UDHR reads: “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.

The article was later amended for clarification in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and asserts that the exercise of the free expression is not absolute. Too often, people tend to believe that their right to free speech cannot be challenged in court.  It can be and should be challenged; albeit, the burden of proof is laid heavily on the plaintiff because offensive expression is not necessarily harmful.

 

Free expression may be limited by the intent of the originator to do or incite others to do harm. Some examples of harmful expressions and limitations of speech are libel, slander, obscenity, and divulging classified information and information that may be potentially harmful to public security. Limitation on the latter two examples are important for the protection and security of not only individuals, but for the nation.

 

America stands out among democratic nations as the model for civil liberties and free expression, and it would be a shame if she does the opposite. She cannot lose face by curtailing one of the most cherished rights of her people: yet, she must know when to stop the barrage of apparently innocuous information that may ultimately have dire consequences for the very populace whose freedom of expression she seeks to protect.

 

Who can leash the appetites of a people who have gorged themselves on so much information that many have lost their ability to discriminate between bad and good? America is a world power for many things, but it is no secret that she is dominating the 21st century because she controls how information is distributed in the world. Power names like Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft are as American as apple pie: few places on the planet have escaped their presence – if there are any. Neither can one fail to mention the ubiquitous McDonalds and Coca-Cola who indirectly appeal to their clientele through various media forms while lining their pockets overseas.

 

In the same breath, American music and film industries surpass all that have been mentioned about other industries because these two forms have influence on various groups in any country on earth. Some people in many countries outside of the United States know more about Michael Jackson and Beyonce than what they know about celebrities in their own countries! They listen to their songs and they are affected by what comes from the mouths of these stars and the images in their videos. I was shocked to learn after visiting my native country of Jamaica two years ago, that my relatives were watching more American channels on television than I did here in the United States.

That fact means that American information sells!

 

Therefore, anybody who disseminate information to the public about the government or anything about national security, regardless of how harmless it appears, should think twice about it. Millions of people on this planet are fans of American culture, but there are many on this planet who despise the perceived values of this great country and will use what we publicize for our demise. In this violent political climate that we are living in, tempers flare, impetuous words are spoken, and revenge is sweet. However, there is a price that all will pay when the dust settles.

 

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