Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lessons from Mordecai

I completed reading the Bible through this past week.  Always amazing at how much I learn each time I read the Bible on a regular schedule.  The final book I read was Esther.  This is how the book of Esther closes: "King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores.  2.  And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai to which the king had raised him, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia?  3.  Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews" (Esther 10:1-3). 

That last phrase of verse 3 really grabbed my attention when I read it the other morning.  Perhaps it took on new meaning in the light of the political debacle we are witnessing in Washington right now.  Mordecai was help in high esteem because he worked for the good of his people.  Mordecai did not look out for his own political ambitions.  Mordecai did not focus upon what the polls were saying about his administration of Jewish affairs.  Mordecai did not concern himself with how he could better his own position.  No, the text states clearly that Mordecai worked for the good of his people. 

Friends, that is a focus that is glaringly missing today.  Our elected officials often call themselves the "servants of the people."  I wonder if many of them truly understand what that term means.  A servant, by definition, does not look out for his own concerns.  A servant, by definition, does not act on the basis of what is best for himself.  No, a servant, by definition, acts on behalf of those he serves.  Their best interests and welfare are what drive him in his service.  It seems to me that many elected officials today are only interested in how they can keep their jobs.  Many are "party people" rather than "servants of the people."  Many have lost touch with the realities of their constituents.  Many have been in office for so long that there is a disconnect with people back home.  And so we have political gridlock as these supposed "servants of the people" ask themselves, "If I make decision A, what ramifications will it have for me when the next election comes?" 

Somehow I don't envision Mordecai being a poll-watcher.  I don't imagine that Mordecai spent much time thinking about how he could keep his position within the Xerxes administration.  No, Mordecai "worked for the good of his people."  He had a servant's heart.  How we need people in government today who have the true heart of a servant.  Men and women who are willing to take a stand for what is "good for his/her people" back home.  We need men and women who truly understand that it is not about is about what is best for the people of the United States. 

I reminded our staff yesterday, as I shared this verse with them, that our role as leaders in the local church is to be that of servants.  We are not to seek our own welfare.  We are not to seek our own job security.  We are to be so in touch with the people in our congregation that we know and understand their needs and so "work for the good of our people."  We need to remember that it is not about is about Him who is the head of the Church. 

Mordecai is one of those people whose story is told within the Scriptures that I want to spend some time with in heaven.  Mordecai was an effective leader because Mordecai was first a humble servant.  Lord, help me to remember that one who leads others well is first one who serves others well. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Romans 1 Kind of World

Just when you thought that you had heard it all, that the bizarre could never become the normal, there comes this article from the Daily Mail in Britain, dated September 24.  The headlines read, "An adult at 18? Not any more: Adolescence now ends at 25 to prevent young people getting an inferiority complex."  That headline grabbed my attention.  The article reads in part, "Adolescence no longer ends when people hit 18, according to updated guidelines being given to child psychologists.  The new directive is designed to extend the age range that child psychologists can work with from 18 years old up to 25.  It is hoped the initiative will stop children being 'rushed' through their childhood and feeling pressured to achieve key milestones quickly, reports the BBC.  'We are becoming much more aware and appreciating development beyond [the age of 18] and I think it's a really good initiative,' child psychologist Laverne Antrobus from London's Tavistock Clinic told the BBC.  There are now three stages of adolescence, according to the BBC report: early adolescence that ranges from 12 to 14 years, middle adolescence from 15 to 17 years and 18 and over is classed as late adolescence."

Now I realize that every person develops physically, emotionally, and intellectually at different speeds.  Often the physical development far outpaces that of the emotional and intellectual.  The question is when do we reach that age when we make adult decisions.  How long should childhood last?  The Apostle Paul formed the thought this way: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me" (1 Corinthians 13:11).  We have a family in our church with a family of all boys.  A couple years ago they had a "coming of age" experience for their oldest son.  It was one of those unforgettable moments.  I had the privilege of walking a mile or so with their son, just sharing thoughts on how he could experience and know the will of God for his life.  In a few weeks, the second son will turn 13 and I have been invited, along with several other men, to share in another "coming of age" experience.  At 13 will this young man become an adult?  Absolutely not!  But his family wants him to know that it is time for him to begin casting off the childish ways and childish thinking that had been part of his life. 

Perhaps, instead of lengthening the time of adolescence, we should focus instead on helping our young people understand the realities of life and perhaps provide a "coming of age" experience for each of them.  I am not sure we need to prolong childhood, but we do need to prepare our young people for adulthood, and that is something we have not done well over the years. 

A second article, this one from the October 4 issue of "The Washington Examiner," reported that "the 60,000-strong Thomson Reuters media empire, in an effort to determine its diversity success, is asking its staff of reporters, researchers, marketers and others to pick their sex from nine choices, including 'genderqueer', a category for identities other than man or woman. According to the company's annual employee survey, choosing a sexual identity doesn't have to be based on a worker's actual sex, but instead 'a person's innate, deeply felt psychological identification.'"  Now I know you want to know what the nine choices were.  Here is the question as posed in the survey, along with the nine choices: "Please choose the category that best describes your gender identity.  (Gender identity, as defined by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), refers to a person's innate, deeply felt psychological identification as male or female, which may or may not correspond to the person's body or designated sex at birth.  The categories the HRC uses are listed below):
     1.  Male                                                6.  Transsexual
     2.  Female                                             7.  FTM (female-to-male)
     3.  Transgender                                     8.  MTF (male-to-female)
     4.  Genderqueer/Androgynous              9.  Prefer not to say
     5.  Intersex

Friends, I can assure you that this list of choices did NOT come from the Word of God.  If I remember reading Genesis 1, God made them "male and female."  Okay, that must mean that there are only two choices: I am either a male, or I am a female.  And, furthermore, you know that choice when you are born.  So, why are there 9 choices today?  I believe it is because we have abandoned those principles that God shared with us from His Word.  We have willfully negated the truth and have believed the lie.  And I believe the impact of this lie will continue to grow until it is finally destroyed when Christ comes to claim His throne and Satan is cast into the bottomless pit for one thousand years. 

I have the privilege of leading an early Tuesday morning Bible study this fall and we have begun to go through the Book of Romans verse-by-verse.  We have been in chapter 1 for several weeks.  And the above article really speaks to the scene described in Romans 1:18-32.  How close are we to "being given up" by God?  I don't know, friends.  But I do know that the longer we persist in our giving approval to those who are flaunting sexual perversity, the nearer we get to God's giving us over to the depravity of our sexual expressions and the depravity of our minds.  Psalm 2, which was our focus last week, and Romans 1 are key passages that help us to understand where we are today.  And, friends, the picture is not a pleasant one.  Romans 1:18 states plainly, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness."  To experience the wrath of God will not be a pleasant experience.  Just ask the people of Jerusalem following the destruction of their city by, first the Babylonians, and then the Romans.  Read Revelation 16 where the description is horrific when the wrath of God is poured out upon the earth during the final days of our age. 

It is time for believers to awaken from our slumber.  It is time to put on the whole armor of God.  It is time to take up the shield of faith.  It is time to sharpen the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  It is time to conduct boot-camps where we are trained to ward off the influence of the Evil One.  There still is time, although darkness will soon be upon us when no one can work.  The work load is great.  Let's begin to make our lives count for Christ. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Psalm 2 Speaks to Us Today

Well, how are you doing on this second day of government "shut down," or, as they were saying on the Fox News network yesterday, the government "slim down?"  I am certain that for many who are employed by the Federal Government, these are scary days.  How long will I be out of work?  How am I going to pay my bills?  I understand the anxiety that is occurring right now in many homes across our nation.  And I pray for a speedy resolution. 

But people losing their jobs occurs every day.  Merck Pharmaceuticals has announced that it is laying off several thousand of its employees.  Wells Fargo is laying off several thousand employees in its mortgage banking area.  Other businesses, both big and small, terminate employees almost daily somewhere in our great land.  Many of those laid off find some relieve through the unemployment benefits, but it is not the same as having a job. 

Why do corporations like Merck and Wells Fargo lay off employees?  It is to maintain a good fiscal posture.  If business income drops, one of the first steps to remain fiscally responsible is to lay off employees.  I know of no business person who takes delight in laying off someone in his or her business.  They know the difficulties that will entail for that family and they attempt to ease those difficulties with severance packages.  Yet the viability of the business itself is inherently important.  Our Federal Government has grown out of control.  I just read that our government consumes over 40% of the annual Gross Domestic Product, or to put it in laymen's terms, our government spends over $40 for every $100 that is produced in this country.  And still our government wants more of the money we work so hard to generate, both as individuals and as corporations.  Perhaps it is time for government to do what businesses and families do when finances become critical: for a business, you lay someone off; for a family, you cut your spending.  Government has a difficult time doing either; in fact, it seems to do just the opposite.  But the problem is that it cannot be sustained indefinitely.  Perhaps we are approaching that time. 

We know that during the Tribulation all finances will be controlled by the government.  According to Revelation 13, we know that unless a person has the mark of the beast he cannot purchase anything or sell anything.  There we read: "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:16-17).  Sounds to me as if the government controls the access to all funds.  You cannot sell anything without the government's permission, nor can you purchase anything without that same government's permission.  It makes no difference how much money you have (the rich) or how meager the resources you have (the poor), the government is in control.  Sort of sounds like 100% control of the GDP to me.  When that time comes, where will you place your confidence?  (I am praying that the Lord will return before that time arrives, but the Bible is not absolutely clear on that fact).  What will you do?  Will you panic and say, "I have to survive," and thus take the mark of the beast so you will live for the moment?  Or will you be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and say, "Our confidence is in the Lord?"  The time for thinking through such a response is now, not when the time arrives. 

And don't forget the Iranian situation.  We might be mesmerized by the talk of the new Iranian President Rohanni, but, from his speech yesterday before the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has not been mesmerized.  He trumpeted clearly that Israel still sees a nuclear Iran as being trouble in the Middle East.  And, although the Prime Minister did not come out and say that Israel would launch a strike against Iran to shut down its nuclear program, he did not say that Israel would not launch such a strike.  I will be in Israel in two weeks and I want to find out how the Israelis think of the Iranian situation.  Should the West lessen its economic sanctions against Iran in the hopes of a promise to negotiate some kind of nuclear compromise?  Would the Israeli people be willing to go it alone against Iran?  I am looking forward to some interesting dialogues.

When you hear what is happening, aren't you glad that you know who is in control?  I re-read Psalm 2 the other morning with a group of men.  I want to close with a few verses from this great psalm.  "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  (Notice: God already says that anything the nations plan to do will fail, it is futile).  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.  (We know this Anointed One as Jesus Christ).  'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.' (This has been Satan's primary purpose since the Garden, to overthrow the government of God, to free himself from the tyranny of God, as he sees it.  And this purpose has been handed down to governments and peoples controlled by Satan.  Yes, let's get rid of God!)  The One enthroned in heaven laughs (one of the few times in the Bible where we read of God's laughter, and to what do we attribute this laughter - the foolish plans of the nations).  The Lord scoffs at them (sort of "makes fun" of them).  Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath..."  As I shared with that group of men, I believe we are well past God's laughter and even His scoffing.  And, I am fearful that we have surpassed His rebuke - He has warned us again and again of the sinful manner of life we have adopted - and are heading toward God's wrath.  I am grateful for the peace that comes from knowing that God is in control.  And so I put my trust and rest upon Him.  Yet, even as I do that, I am aware that I do have a responsibility to be salt and light before this dark work, telling them of God's love. 

These are very interesting days, don't you think?