Something to Think about is a daily (more or less) commentary on life. The Author, Howard Merrell's, goal is to help us think Biblically and Christianly about the issues of life, from the mundane to the sublime.
Readers can subscribe to Something to Think About, STTA, by clicking on the subscribe button at the bottom of the column to the right.
Like many of you, last night I watched the news about the horrible tragedy in Manchester England. News this morning is that the British authorities think they know who perpetrated the act of terror. Whether they actually did it or not, ISIS has shown its character, by claiming responsibility for the murders of nineteen and the injury to nearly sixty more, many of them children. I feel in my heart the urge for revenge. I'm sure that this desire to balance the scales is far stronger in England. Their nation, their people, and their children were attacked. Again, the national peace and security of a great nation has been compromised. We shouldn't ask, for whom the alarm sounds. It summons us all. What, though, should our response be? My comments are not intended as an agenda for our security agencies or armed forces, but as a mental/spiritual agenda for the rest of us. A song we used to sing in my youth says it well.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; Forward into battle, see his banner go!
While the song has been used in military settings, it was not written for thatpurpose. Tim Challies shares the words of the author, Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould,
Whitmonday is a great day for school festivals in Yorkshire, and one Whitmonday it was arranged that our school should join its forces with that of a neighboring village. I wanted the children to sing when marching from one village to the other, but couldn’t think of anything quite suitable, so I sat up at night resolved to write something myself. “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was the result. (here)
Soon after the Salvation Army adopted the song as their favored anthem. It is a great reminder to all we followers of Christ during these times of global threat. Jim Denison reminds us that
We must pray for spiritual victory against our spiritual enemy. Radical Islamist groups seek nothing less than global conquest for their religious ideology. As followers of Jesus, we are on the front lines of this spiritual conflict. We must pray daily for spiritual awakening in the Muslim world and especially among jihadists. This battle will be won on our knees. (emphasis added)
Denison is a good watcher of and commentator on the world scene. I encourage you to read the rest of his post,"Terrorist attack in England: 3 facts". It is clear that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12). While governmental and military action is appropriate, we dare not allow ourselves to believe that this is the final answer. It is not. On the day Jesus was crucified, the greatest injustice and moral atrocity ever perpetrated was taking place, yet our Lord's response was to pray that His Father would forgive them. A few years later a young Rabbi, doing all within his power to finish the job his wicked predecessors had begun, was knocked flat on the ground where he had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ. I recently met a young man from an almost exclusively Muslim land. He is a new Christian. We discussed how he might be a witness to his people. Pray for him, pray for others like him, some of whom are risking their lives to be light in the darkness. Pray for those who are involved in seeing that the Gospel is made known in lands where ISIS is recruiting new terrorists. Pray that God in his unlimited ability to confound our predictions of doom will bring a turning to Christ in these lands where people are taught to hate Christians. "Onward Christian Soldiers . . ." Onward and upward . . . on our knees.
Roger Ailes has been one of the most powerful forces in media for the past several decades. The motto of the news empire that he oversaw is "Fair and Balanced." Ailes died this morning. Clearly there is room for argument, especially with revelations that surfaced at the end of Ailes's life, as to whether his career modeled that motto. I'll leave that discussion to others more "pundit-y" than I. I am confident, though, that Ailes entered a realm where fairness is beyond dispute, and balance is Divine. Hebrews 9:27 declares, "[I]t is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." The early chapters of Romans give us a great deal of information about the standard of the judgment God administers:
God's judgment is rightly directed. It is against "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." We should not take false comfort in that, however, since Romans goes on to say that all have "sinned and fall short" (3:23).
Impartiality is often held up as the standard of human justice. With Godit is clearly achieved. In Romans 3:9-20, words like "all," "none," and "no one;" and pronouns like "they" predominate. Chapter 2 and the first part of chapter 3 make clear that no group gets a pass. Jew and Gentile, religious and secular, educated and unlearned, all stand on level ground before God's tribunal.
Ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense in a human court. God, though, bases His judgment on what we know (Romans 2:12-16). It is as if the Lord will play the surveillance recording in our heart. As verse 19 says, "every mouth will be stopped." We'll know that there is nothing we can say.
Most important to us, while God's judgment is sure, His grace and mercy are without limit. After establishing that all are guilty, the Apostle Paul goes on to show that just as all are guilty before the Lord, salvation is made available to all through faith in Christ (here).
I have conducted many funerals over a lifetime of ministry. I always did so knowing that I was not privy to the eternal destiny of the one being memorialized. When commenting on the afterlife of someone I have never met, like Ailes, that is even more-so. I do know that the God of the Universe will do what is right. Roger Ailes sought to inform, teach, and persuade us for decades. His death, like the end of every life, is a lesson we should heed. It's . . .
One of the ways that Pacific Islands University seeks to serve the communities around us is to have an annual Ministry Equipping Conference. (Hopefully, we'll soon have news about the 2017-18 M.E.C.) Our intention is to do what the name implies--provide God's people with some tools that they can use in accomplishing the tasks God has called us to. It's an endeavor that shouldn't be limited to institutions of higher learning. In Ephesians 4 we read,
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11–12, NASB95)
The Lord didn't give these gifted individuals to do the work--at least not all of it--He sent them to equip the entire body for the mission. Hebrews 10:24-25, talks about the people of God, the church, assembling together. It may come as a surprise to some to read that the purpose of this gathering together is not to enjoy the awesome music or be dazzled by the production. It is to "provoke one another to love and good works" (King James). According to 1 Corinthians 12 the church is like a body--various parts functioning in cooperative unity, each part enabling every other part to function more effectively.
Leverage: It's a term that high-rollers use. I invest a little bit, but use my insignificant contribution to gain access to a whole lot, so my small investment has a much larger impact than it possibly could by itself. It has been said that rather than trying to do the work of five people one is wise to find five people to do the work. Equipping others to serve. It is a task of teachers, pastors, parents, leaders--really all of us.
For at least forty-five of my years on earth, I have lived a fairly short distance away from churches where the faithful show their "faith" by handling snakes in church. According to their wrong interpretation of the last chapter of Mark, they believe that if their trust is truly in the Lord, and their heart is right, that they will be unharmed by the venomous creatures. In college several of "the boys" planned to attend such a service with a professor, of world religions. We were snowed out and never got to see the serpents in church, though I can tell you by experience that "the serpent" is frequently active there. It is interesting that my first experience of seeing snake-handling in church was thousands of miles away from Appalachia and in a congregation of a very conservative--some would say staid--fellowship of churches. As I said, I'm leaving Kathy's name out of this, but if I did mention her name, she would want me to point out that it's not what it sounds like. The Island of Guam has been afflicted with an invasive species of snake. The Brown Tree Snake has decimated the bird population and caused other grief in the far-west US territory. A group of teens was using a talent show to help raise funds for an upcoming mission trip. A young man who works for the United States Department of Agriculture is in Guam to help deal with the snake-problem. So his "talent" is handling snakes. In this case, having a snake in church actually made sense. Genesis1:28 indicates dealing with snakes that are out of hand--though on this occasion they were in someone's hand. OK, I've had enough fun with this, so let me finish with a serious word. God's people ought to be good citizens of the world. We should do our best to take care of the place where the Lord lets us live.
I participated in a graduation, yesterday. I think it begins the season in this part of the world. Pacific Islands University is a small school in Guam that serves, mostly, Micronesian people--F.S.M. Marshalls, Palau, the Chamorros of Guam, etc. One thing that the people of this region seem to be especially good at is celebrating. When we arrived at the church building where our ceremony was held two vendors had already set up shop on the street near the venue. Here, the way you congratulate a graduate is with a lei (Mwara Maram, or something like that, in Chuukese). Only these aren't made of flowers--at least not only flowers--rather they consist of candy, toys, congratulatory messages and even money. I saw one graduate wearing enough candy around his neck to supply a prime location suburban home for a couple Halloweens. The free enterprize-ers were selling these necklaces and other gifts. From the looks of our graduates, the sales were good. The word graduation implies a backward look. We graduate based on something done in the past. For some, the past was just the night before when they finished key assignments. Commencement looks ahead. Something new is commencing. One of the speakers at our graduation spoke of the graduates moving from the realm of students to that of professionals. As I watched these students move their tassel from left to right, signifying that transaction, I was acutely aware of the transitions in my life. It's true about each of us. We are constantly moving from one thing to another. As we were honoring the graduates of PIU, a friend of mine was preparing to be involved in the memorial service for his wife. Some of my colleagues at PIU are moving and changing jobs, another friend is battling cancer, while some others who are dear to me are getting married in just a few weeks. Every moment of every day we live on the border of past and future.
Lord, help us to boldly step across the line, knowing what You have done for us in the past, and that you will not forsake us in the future.
Here "where America's day begins" it is already Easter morning. ln a few minutes Kathy and I will leave to attend an Easter service on a beach facing the Philippine Sea. I'll have the privilege of sharing the truth about the rising of the Son, two Millennia ago--a reality that gives hope in this messed up world. I hope you will join a group of believers who will proclaim and rejoice in this life-changing reality. Listen to them. They know something you need to hear. I encourage you to read 1 Corinithians 15, as well as browse the material you'll find on the link at the end of this email. We could definitely use some hope. You'll find it there.
Go out and live, really live, wherever you dwell on this globe. (You can find out how.
"He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead."
Matthew 28:6, NLT
This evening I'll do something I've done scores of times. I'll share God's word at a service remembering and honoring someone who has died. What makes this funeral notable for me, is this is the first time I've done this on this side of the world. It reminds me of the universality of death.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, ESV)
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27, ESV)
Geography is just one of the factors that don't matter. People in some places may live longer than people in less developed lands, women outlast men, and the wealthy can afford better healthcare and forestall the inevitable, but sooner or later, all people, everywhere, will pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I don't think anyone really denies that fact, we just live as if it weren't true. That is foolish. The fact is, though death is inevitable, defeat by death is not necessary. Jesus is the Lord of life. In Him, not only can we overcome death in the final moment, we can live live a quality of life right here in this death-dealing world that is beyond what we can live on our own.
“. . . when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So . . . be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:54–58, NLT)
Go out and live, really live, wherever you dwell on this globe. (You can find out how here.