Thursday, July 31, 2014

Of Faith and Fear

Thursday, July 31, 2014
A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure.  Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe.  Immediately, the bleeding stopped.  “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.  Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”  But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.”  Luke 8:43-46 (NLT)
Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit.  At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened.  The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.  They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.  The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened.  They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”  Matthew 27:50-54 (NLT)
I never thought about the connection before this morning.  These two events are so connected; they show what happens in the presence of Jesus.
A woman, desperate to end a twelve-year struggle to regain physical health (as well as social and spiritual wholeness), touches Jesus; in the faith that reaches out to touch, power is released and the woman is made whole.
Sometime later, at the cross, Jesus released possession of the life of his incarnate body and it touched everything in sight; the earth shook, rocks split and tombs could no longer contain the long-dead bodies…they got up and walked the streets of Jerusalem!
In the case of the woman, there is one final, desperate attempt to find life again.  In that ancient culture it was unacceptable for a woman to simply touch a man in public.  And with her continual bleeding, she was “impure,” an outcast, unfit to worship or interact with others.  She was risking everything to touch a rabbi, a “holy man”.  But she was releasing it all in faith to touch Jesus – and she received; his healing power was released.
On Golgotha’s cross, Jesus did the releasing (of his spirit into the Father’s keeping).  That so-affected the surrounding natural environment, rocks couldn’t hold together, the temple’s curtain-wall split and graves vacated.  And the guards trembled!

The Connection

In both events people involved, the woman and Roman guards were trembling; the woman, before being touched, was trembling in faith; the soldiers afterward were trembling in fear.
And that is always the difference between faith and sight.  When you tremble in faith, it is the expectant, desperate need to be in Christ’s will and care that results in being touched by His power – that’s when joy turns trembling into healing.
When you tremble in fear it is because you’ve not entrusted yourself to His power, and you’re simply overwhelmed by how wide the gap is between the power you thought you had, and what you’ve witnessed is God’s reality.
For You, Today
Here you are at another moment of choice – life is full of ‘em, eh?
Which to you want to be today?

Like the woman:  powerless, but touched by infinite power;
Or like the soldier:  in-charge, but ultimately powerless to do anything but watch?

Should be a no-brainer if your heart belongs to Jesus.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Cost of Greed

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Two months ago Donald Sterling and his wife Shelly were in agreement that they would sell their franchise NBA basketball team (the L.A. Clippers) for a record-setting two billion bucks.  Donald balked, vowing to fight Shelly and the NBA to the grave. 

On Monday Shelly had the next laugh.  Her petition to have Donald declared incompetent to
handle his business affairs was approved by the courts, and now she has completed the sale.  The mood was “light and happy” outside the courtroom.  Donald’s out; Shelly’s rolling in it!

But, if the smiles, nervous laughter and celebration seem a little hollow, that’s only because it is!  By most reports those who measure their net worth in 10 digits (or more) live with a knot in their stomachs; a knot generated by watchfulness to see that nobody takes away their fortune. 

That’s a long way from the calmness you sense in those who have found a way to separate their life from their wealth.

The Scriptures (in many places) warn against the deceitfulness that wealth brings, as well as admonitions against obtaining (or wanting to obtain) wealth by means which destroy your integrity:  extortion, stealing, oppressing the poor, etc…

But nowhere does the Bible condemn honestly-gotten wealth, or the persons who possess it.
However, there is a universal warning to those who possess wealth; at any level. That warning is to not let money become the center of your life, whether you add up your net worth with one or one hundred zeroes!  Let’s face it; I can be as obsessed with that $126.51 in my savings account as Shelly Sterling can with billions.

The bottom line with this is that which our attitude towards money compels us to do with money.  Many examples abound, from those whose lives are played out in public displays of opulence and excess…to those who secretly adore the power their wealth affords…King Midas and his “touch of gold” is a fairy tale, but it accurately tells who we are, or could be underneath. 

But names of positive examples[1] also come to mind – people who have given several fortunes away.  These are those who have given their time, resources and life’s-energy to causes that benefit others. 

That is the essence of what Jesus told us about having the right attitude about anything placed in our hands:
 “Take care!  Protect yourself against the least bit of greed.  Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”  Luke 12:15b (TMSG)

For You, Today

A right attitude about money will lead to proper actions with money.

It would be wise today to pray over what you’ll do with what God has given you.

[1] Find a list of notable philanthropists here

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Blood

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The blood of Jesus Christ is always center-stage in Christian worship.  In fact it is the central issue of our salvation altogether.  According to the New Testament there can be no salvation without blood:
…according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22b (NLT)
If you flip open a book on the subject of the crucifixion there is no doubt that blood was everywhere – in Pilate’s courtyard, the via Dolorosa and under Golgotha’s cross. I recall the warnings in 2004 before Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion, came out.  The film was rated “R” due to extreme violence.  That film left indelible images on my mind about suffering, pain and, most definitely, blood!
Which is what the crowd called-for that day.
“His blood be on us and on our children” is what they cried.  I can understand hatred that throws oneself into a rage and puts it all on the line; it’s hard to imagine, though, playing loose with your children’s future.  But that’s what they did!
What could make a crowd want the kind of scene they understood would involve that kind of suffering?  They knew what it meant; Roman crucifixions were common.  They knew the blood and flesh would be torn from a man’s body; scourging/beating the prisoner before nailing to the cross often made the gruesome corpse unrecognizable.
Whatever the crowd’s motivation for calling for blood, they wanted it badly enough to pledge their innocence (and their children’s) to get it!
Paradoxically, the very blood that hatred called for, was the same blood that brought forgiveness. 
That’s a God thing!
And it’s still happening.  The blood still washes us white as snow:
 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:7  (KJV)
The blood of Calvary – remembered throughout history as “on the heads” of those in the mob who cried out for violence – is still the blood that takes away the sin of the world.

Doing the math, I have to admit that blood is on my hands as much as if I’d been in the center of the mob that day.  It’s called sin, transgression, human fallen nature. 

Some try to mitigate the sound of all that by pushing our guilt off – diluting what is our responsibility with words like, “unfortunate choices”. 

But sin is still sin, and only the blood of Christ cleanses that kind of stain.

For You, Today
Forgiveness is always as close as the cross – and the blood.

It will never lose its power!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nehemiah Journal, Part ONE - Faithful Servant-Prayer Warrior

A few short quotes about the man called Nehemiah, before we dig-in to the book called after the man:
“Nehemiah was an energetic leader who combined a deep trust in the Lord with precise planning, careful organization, and discreet but energetic action.”[1]
“He stood like an anvil, till the hammers of opposition wore themselves out vainly beating against him.”[2]
“A man with the counsel of God alone in his mind and in his heart….He will not begin till he has counted the cost.  And then he will not stop till he has finished the work.”[3]
At the outset, let me tell you – I LIKE THIS MAN!  If I could go back in time and make a life-choice, I would follow Nehemiah around, learning how to be a servant and prayer warrior.
Our journey through the Nehemiah Journal must begin with a bit of background, so that we may fully appreciate what God did with this man.  What we have is Nehemiah’s personal account, or journal, set against the backdrop of history.
In the 8th Century B.C. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel.  The prophets foresaw it; the Lord brought it to pass.  The people had become backslidden.  Instead of worshipping the Lord God, they had fallen-in with the pagan nations surrounding them.  It isn’t much different in America today.
A few centuries later the southern kingdom followed suit, as Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian empire.  Later it was the Persians whose dominance in the ancient world replaced Babylon.  We are talking here not only about ancient history.  The regions extend from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.  The problems are just early chapters in the ongoing saga of strife in the Middle East.  Jacob and Esau have never ceased their struggle.
In the 5th century, seven decades after being conquered and deported, the Persian rulers began allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem.      It happened in stages.  First a man named Zerubbabel led a group to begin the rebuilding process.  The city had been destroyed, and lay in rubble.  But, Zerubbabel’s efforts only partially restored things.  Fifty years later Ezra, a priest, returned to rebuild the temple.  Then, fifteen years after Ezra the story we are about to investigate begins to unfold in Susa, the capitol city of the Persian Empire.
Nehemiah was a Jew, probably born in exile.  He was a sharp pencil, trained in the art of business and administration.  He was also the man God would use to change history’s map and the courage of a nation he called “home” – even though his eyes had never seen the place.
Some of Nehemiah’s accomplishments include rebuilding the walls and military defenses of Jerusalem.  Later he also instituted reforms among God’s people.  He helped restore purity in worship, and integrity in family relationships.  In short, he helped restore behavior among God’s people more in line with the belief God’s people claimed they had! 
What is so profitable about the book of Nehemiah is that he accomplished all that in the face of great adversity.  Among the obstacles he faced were these several:
a.              He was not a “ruler”, but part of the conquered exiles, outnumbered and with little “moving and shaking” ability.
b.              There was a widespread laziness among God’s people to overcome.
c.               There were plots from his own people, attempting to cause his efforts to fail.
d.              Misunderstandings and lack of faith abounded.
All of Nehemiah’s mountains to climb are present today in the Christian experience.  We NEED to explore this. 
Today we also see the same problems Nehemiah encountered...
*       The walls are broken down.  American life and culture is obsessed with self, sex and little direction for family life.
*       Community in America, even in the church is anemic, if not comatose.
The typical approach that most Christians have when trying to address problems center on the worldly model rather than the Biblical model.  We can shake our heads and cluck our tongues all we wish…but when God’s people do things the worldly way, and then celebrate our cleverness, or gush over how wonderful we are, we are standing in the midst of crumbling walls.  That’s the trouble with rubble!
Nehemiah demonstrates the opposite.  Notice the reaction of a servant and prayer warrior as he hears the news of broken walls and disgraceful conditions in his homeland…
These are the memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah.  In late autumn of the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa.  Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah.  I asked them about the Jews who had survived the captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.  They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah.  They are in great trouble and disgrace.  The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been burned.”  When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.            Nehemiah 1: 1-4 (NLT)
With a heart blazing alive for God, Nehemiah hears of the distress and disgrace of Jerusalem, and he immediately wept.  It started him mourning, fasting and praying for days.  At the end of those days of praying and fasting, Nehemiah did not get up and get on with life as usual…something altogether different occurred…Nehemiah got on with doing something.  And in that we find our prayer model for servant warriors.
That very model was demonstrated to me by a leader in a church I once served.  Bill contemplated the rubble of the offering for missions in the church.  It awoke him in the night and distressed him until he asked if I’d let him talk about it in the worship service.  He shared his heart and then gave more than he had before.  When he did, it started a holy fire, and the giving goal was met and passed…and then doubled!
There is a disclaimer that comes along with this sermon; it is much like the warning on children’s toys about “some assembly required” – or the health thing on tobacco products.  Here is Nehemiah’s warning:
Studying the book of Nehemiah may lead to
doing things God’s way;
you will find the world will marvel,
worldly Christians will snipe and criticize and…
God will be pleased!
Now, with that as our caution…and our target…let’s look at the model prayer of Nehemiah, a servant prayer warrior.  First of all he expresses:
Then I said, “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands,   Nehemiah 1.5 (NLT)
To “adore” the Lord in prayer is to recognize Who He is, and respond accordingly.  Nehemiah recognizes the Lord as great and awesome the powerful God who is in control of all. 
To adore the Lord means to respond to Him as He has laid it down…love Him and obey his commands.  This is just common sense when you recognize that He is God and we are not! 
Nehemiah started his prayer with adoration.  One of the reasons we don’t always see that in prayers is because our minds are so full of adoration for ourselves.  It is impossible to recognize the sovereignty of God when you are having someone else occupy that position. 
Who is on the throne of your life?  Is it you?  Or is it God?  If it is you, then you won’t adore God…you don’t even recognize who He is!  That’s why the next part of the model is so important for our prayers…after adoration is…
listen to my prayer!  Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel.  I confess that we have sinned against you.  Yes, even my own family and I have sinned!  We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, laws, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.       Nehemiah 1.6-7 (NLT)
Nehemiah’s confession isn’t popular today.  Today, if anything has gone wrong it is always the other guy’s fault.  Hardly anyone accepts responsibility for anything these days. 
*             If a CEO sells his company down the tubes, he leaves with $38 million in golden parachute separation funds. 
*             If a high-profile preacher lives a scandalous life of sexual sins, he thumbs his nose at his denomination and is back on the air in no time at all. 
*             If a president lies, he has merely “mis-spoken” himself and doesn’t skip a beat.
By contrast, Nehemiah, born a thousand miles from Jerusalem, having never been there, included himself in the national sin of Israel.  You say, “Boy, that’s stretching it just a bit far!”  Not really.  You see, Nehemiah is wise enough to know that, had he been there, he also would have sinned.  He understood that he was no stronger than any of his fellow Israelites.  He was under the same commands of the Lord to live ethically and morally, and obediently to the law of God.  Nehemiah knew his own heart.
In our text Nehemiah says “we have sinned terribly”.  Literally, the word means “offended”.  He is admitting the actions of God’s children, including himself, are offensive to the God of Heaven.  Ladies and gentlemen, that is what confession is all about.  It is recognizing that our sins do, indeed offend holy God. 
In the cultural/political climate of our day, there are regulations against offending everyone BUT God!  Him we kick out of our schools, courts and council rooms.  God help us to confess our sins against the Holy One! 
If you want a model for being a servant prayer warrior, there is adoration, confession, and…
“Please remember what you told your servant Moses:  ‘If you sin, I will scatter you among the nations.  But if you return to me and obey my commands, even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’  “We are your servants, the people you rescued by your great power and might.   Nehemiah 1.8-10 (NLT)
Usually we associate “thanksgiving” with smiling to God for our blessings.  It is one thing to say “thanks” when someone gives us a gift we like.  It is quite another thing to say “bless you” (even to God) for hauling us out to the woodshed.  Yet, that is exactly what Nehemiah has in mind here.  Basically, he is rehearsing the fact that God said, “You sin, and I’ll get you!  I’ll hunt you down, and I’ll bring you back and we can do it all over again!”  Then Nehemiah says, “That was our rescue!  Thank you, Lord!”
In acknowledging God’s goodness over the chastisement, it is reasserting the nature of God to be faithful to His other promises of blessing and joy.  God had told them He knew they would go astray, and He was prepared to do whatever necessary to bring them back under His wing:
“In the future, when you have children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time, do not corrupt yourselves by making idols of any kind.  This is evil in the sight of the LORD your God and will arouse his anger.  “Today I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you.  If you disobey me, you will quickly disappear from the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.  You will live there only a short time; then you will be utterly destroyed.  For the LORD will scatter you among the nations, where only a few of you will survive.  There, in a foreign land, you will worship idols made from wood and stone, gods that neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.  From there you will search again for the LORD your God.  And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.  “When those bitter days have come upon you far in the future, you will finally return to the LORD your God and listen to what he tells you.  For the LORD your God is merciful—he will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the solemn covenant he made with your ancestors.                     Deuteronomy 4: 25 - 31 (NLT)
How about that?  God predicted just exactly how they would sin, and how big the sin would be.  And yet He was prepared to offer them forgiveness, based upon his loving covenant.  Do you know what that tells you and me about God?  It says, loudly and clearly, You CAN begin again.  If that isn’t something for which we can be thankful, I cannot imagine there is anything!
And so, our model is nearly complete…There is adoration to acknowledge God as deserving worship; there is confession to recognize our sinfulness and need of his forgiveness; and there is thanksgiving to realize He extends his love no matter how big we have sinned, if we will just repent and be ready to follow Him; and then Nehemiah moves to…
O LORD, please hear my prayer!  Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you.  Please grant me success now as I go to ask the king for a great favor.  Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”  In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.     Nehemiah 1.11 (TNLT)
There is always a decisive moment in life when talking, or thinking becomes insufficient.  There is a moment in time when we must have the rubber meet the road; we must act on what we believe.  In our culture there is the expression which defines that: 
Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition! 
There is a time when praying ends and doing begins
For Nehemiah, that time had come.  He was, after all, a man of action.  The most used word in this book is “so”.  It is used 32 times.  They are all phrases of actions precipitated by intent to accomplish the task:
*                So I prayed  (1.4)
*                So I came  (1.11)
*                So they strengthened  (2.18)
*                So built we the wall  (4.6)
*                So we labored  (4.21)
*                So the wall was finished  (6.15)
This is the nature of the man Nehemiah…and all servant/prayer warriors.  Nehemiah was committed in his prayer – then he got up off his knees and forged ahead.
Now, to say that he only prayed, and that he laid no plans is inaccurate and na├»ve.  He did plan; we see that in his prayer, asking God to move in the heart of Artaxerxes the king.  Why?  It was Artaxerxes, Nehemiah’s boss who had stopped the previous work in Israel to rebuild the city:
Therefore, issue orders to have these people stop their work.  That city must not be rebuilt except at my express command.                            Ezra 4:21 (NLT)
Nehemiah was about to stroll into the throne room and contradict a royal edict.  Sharp guy and good servant or not, Nehemiah was about to give the good king Artaxerxes (a man who had killed his own brother to get the throne) all the reason he needed to lop off his head.  You KNOW he had to be committed to God’s hand to step into that kind of quicksand.
When’s the last time you stepped out in faith?  When’s the last time God put it in your heart to involve yourself in such a way that you knew if He didn’t come through, you were toast?  My dear friends, THAT is what supplication is all about; THAT is what depending on God is all about.
We will see in the coming weeks that the Lord gave Nehemiah success in dealing with Artaxerxes. 
We will also see that God watched over the entire process, as Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, overcame constant opposition and rebuilt the city walls and defenses – just exactly as the Lord had put it in his heart at the first.
The lesson, of course, for Christian believers is how to be a servant/prayer warrior for God.  Face adversity with faith, humbly depending on God, as you build His kingdom with other believers.  It all starts with prayer – as does this book of Nehemiah.  It opens with prayer, and the book ends with prayer.  It tells us God uses cup-bearers, servants who are prayer warriors!
By the way – it is also the pathway to salvation in Christ Jesus.  Look once again at the model:
*          Adoration – Recognize God is in charge, and He sent Jesus to purchase our forgiveness on an old rugged cross.
*          Confession – Acknowledge who you are, a sinner who needs the forgiveness Jesus died to extend.
*          Thanksgiving – Acknowledge your gratitude for the cross.
*          Supplication – Ask Him to forgive your sins, and receive Christ and eternal life.
This is the way to start your life as a servant/prayer warrior!

[1]   Mervin Breneman, The New American Commentary, Vol 10, (Nashville, Broadman & Holman, 1993),  168
[2] Dr. Herbert Lockyear, All the Books and Chapters of the Bible, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1966) 105.
[3] Dr. Herbert Lockyear, All the Men of the Bible, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1958), 256


Monday, July 28, 2014

One of my early mentors in the faith used to say to me, “Russell, if you ever meet somebody who tells you he understands the Trinity of God, grab your hat and run….fast! You’re in the presence of a fool or a madman.”

It’s been a lot of years since I first heard that; I still think it’s true!

As a person who studies Scripture, preaches it, and does his very best to let God inform every part of who I am, with what I need to know, to be the best servant I can be…I can honestly say only this about the Trinity of God: I can give you textbook and common understanding about the Trinity. And I can give you what the master scholars say about the Trinity of God; I just can’t say with a straight face that I completely understand the Trinity of God.

Like the great old hymn[1] of the church says:

   Holy Father, Holy Son,
   Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee;
   While in essence only One,
   Undivided God we claim Thee;
   And adoring bend the knee,
   While we own the mystery.

This is where I am – it is a “MYSTERY” – and I own it; I admit, confess, embrace and re-tell it, this mystery of a Triune God, three persons, yet one; one person, yet three.

To attempt to explain the Trinity existential reality of God, other than just to name it, claim it and rest in it…is futile! This is a mystery you will not solve, except as you surrender your heart and life to Him and God gives you peace in your heart that it is true.

Garfield the cat is a favorite cartoon character of mine. (He explains a lot of deep theology). Once, Garfield was hanging upside down in a tree. He let go, and was falling, falling, falling…UPSIDE down! A split-second before impact at ground zero, the cat flips-over (like cats do), lands softly on all fours…looks out at you and says: Don’t ask me how I do it…I just does it!

Scientists may be able to explain the inner ear anti-upside-down device cats seem to possess, and their uncanny spinal flexibility that allows them a greater denial of gravity than you and I, but nobody will ever truly grasp the deepest mystery of God’s sovereign and eternal Trinitarian existence. That is one of those mysteries you’d better be ready to accept by faith if you want to be His child!

For You, Today…

Here’s what to do with nagging doubts about the Trinity, resurrection, why there is evil, and the rest. Give yourself to God and let Him do the worrying!

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.[2]

[1] Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, GROSSER GOTT, Words: Ignaz Franz, MUSIC: KatholischesGesangbuch
[2] John Wesley Covenant Prayer

Friday, July 25, 2014

One Voice

Friday, July 25, 2014
Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us.  And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.  May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.  Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.     Romans 15:4 - 6 (NLT)
The idea of “harmony” is that many voices together sound like one pleasing voice.  Some of the synonyms the dictionary gives for the word are “accord” “agreement” and “synchronization”.
Paul’s charge to the Roman church folk was to remember Jesus did that for us, opening the door of fellowship for Gentiles, so we could come to know God and his gracious salvation.
The idea of many voices lifting “one voice” (truly synchronized, in agreement) literally means to be many minds, agreed; to be of one passion.  It means being committed to the same set of values, ideas, goals.
With all due respect to my musical friends – this is harder in life than music!
We live in a world where it’s much easier to talk about being homogenous – a one-human-race world – than to achieve it.  These days there are enough “voices” to go around…but not much harmony when the voices are raised.
Especially if you add the Bible to the mix.
Paul wrote that God’s intention for the written Scriptures was to help encourage the human race to patiently achieve harmony.  In this we give “harmonious praise” back to God; we can be truly the crown in His creation.
But, largely, we (the human race) have taken the Scriptures, personalized the message to meet our “felt needs” and dared anyone to contradict us with their version.  It’s usually called “my way or the highway”.  And it’s not harmony; it’s a racket!  This kind of unholy noise is generally well-saturated with cultural prejudice and skewed interpretations which ignore the totality of the counsel of God.
In other words – don’t confuse me with facts; I know what I know.
That “thud” you just heard was the door of an un-synchronized, non-agreeing, accord-refusing mind slamming shut. 
Don’t misread me here; I am not one to “give the farm away”, agreeing with something I don’t believe, just to be in agreement.  I used to be like that – a people-pleaser, going-along, agreeing just for the sake of making “nice-nice”. That’s as bad as slugging-it-out over minute non-essentials just to be ornery.
What I am saying is we need to stop pre-judging everyone until we hear what they’re saying.  Listen with an open mind; answer with a gentle heart; guard the door against thieves.
Do this in regards to doctrine, custom, culture, money and family – and you will be a reasonable person.
Hate people because of their thoughts, place of birth, skin pigment, social status or limitations of all sorts – and you will be a person who adds to the division the Lord came to end.
And who wants to fight THAT battle?
For You, Today
Tune up that voice of harmony today; it’s in there – bring it out!

Title Picture:  By Randy Stern [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons