Follow by Email

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Render Unto Caesar?

"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's."--Matthew 22:21

This statement from Jesus is one of the most grossly misinterpreted verses in the entire Bible. Commonly the statement is used to justify paying taxes to the government, no matter what.

But that interpretation fails to consider the context.

First, Jesus was answering a question from those who intended to trick him into saying something for which they could have him arrested. 'Should we pay taxes to Caesar?' If he said no, then he could be charged with treason. This was the Roman Empire, and Caesar was the Emperor. Dissent among peasants was not tolerated. If, on the other hand, he answered simply, 'yes,' then he would alienate his audience, many of whom suffered relentlessly under oppressive taxation that they could in no way afford.

Jesus opted to give a non-answer. He held up a coin with Caesar's image on it, and asked, 'Whose image is on the coin?' When they said, 'Caesar's,' he said 'render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.'

Now, note the folly and fallacy of the argument that Jesus is commanding the payment of taxes. Caesar's image was on ALL of the money, not just that which was collected for taxes. Does that mean, then, that he was advocating that citizens give up ALL of their money and give it to the Emperor? How would they live? No one in their right mind has ever suggested that this is what Jesus was saying. Yet those who claim this statement commands the payment of taxes are saying exactly that. If Caesar's image is on it, then it belongs to Caesar and must be given to him. And that means ALL of the money, not just part of it.

Thus, the statement was intended to foil his interrogators, which he did. They had no answer. But those who had followed Jesus and loved him knew that the statement contained a hidden message that only disciples could understand.

'Render unto God the things that are God's.' Jesus had already taught that ALL things belong to God and that all we have is merely borrowed for a while. Not even a coin with Caesar's image on it actually belongs to Caesar. It, too, belongs to God ultimately.

Thus, our first and ultimate responsibility is to obey God, even if that means disobeying the government. Jesus broke the law on several occasions to show the scribes and Pharisees that some laws are asinine and should not be followed.

And when government pits itself against all we know to be right, good, and honorable, Christian citizens have a responsibility to obey God and disobey the government. As the Apostle Peter stated, 'We are to obey God rather than men.'

Song: This one is a real classic from the 1950s. It talks about 3 Hebrew children who refused to obey the King and were thus thrown into a blazing furnace. This song is presented by a group that dominated Gospel music from the late 40s until the late 60s--the great Hovie Lister and the Statesmen Quartet.  The song is entitled, 'The Fourth Man.'  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Heroes

Hebrews 13: 1-7

1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
 4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
   “Never will I leave you;
   never will I forsake you.”[a]
 6 So we say with confidence,
   “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
   What can mere mortals do to me?”[b]
 7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Within these verses we find admonitions to help one another in this cruel and heartless world, to show hospitality, to remember those in prison, and to honor our spiritual leaders.

Of course, the passage contains much more, but for our purposes today we will focus on the concept of spiritual mentors, those who were role models of love and compassion, those who went out of their way to show hospitality to all, even to those who were 'strangers' or in prison.

Such persons blazed a trail that we would do well to emulate. This is part of living out our faith.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Honesty

Matthew 5:37
But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.


In this verse Jesus speaks of telling the truth, of being honest. Many erroneously view honesty as requiring that everything be told. Such a view is sheer folly. Some things are not to be told. We could betray someone's confidence in doing so or hurt someone beyond repair--needlessly.


This does not mean that we lie. As one old gentleman who served as a mentor to me when I was a young man in ministry said, 'When they ask me something I don't think needs to be told, I simply say, "I won't say one way or the other."'


Wisdom will dictate to us how to word things in such a way that the things that are not supposed to be told remain hidden without telling a lie. Truth is not meant to hurt unduly. There must be an overriding beneficial and redeeming purpose for telling the painful truth to someone. If no such benefit can be found, then it is best to keep one's mouth shut.


And most of the time, when we are put on the spot by inappropriate questions, we can either tell the person that such a question is uncalled for, or we can answer yes or no, with no added explanation. Often it is the explanation that gets people in trouble.


The intent of Jesus was to teach Christians that His way is that of truth. And if that is our intent, then our hearts can remain pure in this realm.


The following is not a gospel song, but it presents a lot of truth. Here is the song with the lyrics posted on the screen:


"Honesty" by Billy Joel



Monday, June 27, 2011

Loving

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind."-- Matthew 22:37

Loving God and loving man are the two greatest commandments, according to Jesus. In fact, the entirety of the ancient Hebrew law is summarized by those 2 commands. The essence of the 10 commandments is that each one represents the nature of appropriately loving God and appropriately loving our fellow man.

If we love God and love others, we will do certain things and avoid doing other things. The behavior proves whether or not this love is present.

Song: "I Love the Lord" by the Talley Trio.  When I first heard this song, released in 2003, I was driving and it was broadcast over the radio. I had to pull over to the side of the road it was so moving. Here, the Trio sings the song live before the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a special blessing that I hope you will not pass up.  God bless you.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

'Lift Up Your Heads, Your Redemption Draweth Nigh'

Luke 21:28
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

These words represent what has been known in Christian circles down through the centuries as 'the Christian hope.' That hope is based upon fact, that Jesus will one day set the world right at the culmination of history, when this particular age as we know it draws to a close.

The term 'the end of the world' is somewhat of a misnomer due to the fact that there is no real end, but a continuation in a 'new heaven and a new earth.' We simply pass into a new realm when the old passes away.

For those who have lost loved ones to death, this is a comfort. For those who suffer in this world, this is like water in the desert--the knowledge that one day all suffering, pain, and even death itself will end. At that point we will be united with God, our Savior, and our loved ones, to live in a new realm forevermore.

Look up, my friend, for your redemption draweth nigh!

Song: This one is a real gem from 1972, a clip that has just been found from the old TV show 'the Gospel Singing Jubilee.' Here the Florida Boys sing 'Redemption Draweth Nigh'--the best rendition I ever heard. This was when the Florida Boys were in their heyday.  Personnel: Tommy Atwood on tenor, Les Beasley on lead, Glenn Allred on baritone, Billy Todd on bass, and Darrell Stewart on piano. Enjoy...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Peace and the Sword

Matthew 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.


It would be easy to take this verse out of context and assume Jesus is saying he promotes war rather than peace. To the contrary, the goal of the Christian Gospel is 'peace on earth, goodwill toward men.'


However, Jesus was no pacifist. In an angry rage he drove money-changers--those who were overcharging Jews for the animals that would be used in Temple worship--right out of the Temple, overturning their tables and all. No 'gentle meek and mild' pacifist could have done such a thing. 


There is a time to fight, and there are things worth fighting for. One of those is the Gospel. Another is human freedom. Another is the protection of the lives of loved ones and their property. Nowhere does the Bible even hint that fighting for these things, even with deadly force, is forbidden.


The peace that Jesus speaks about must be balanced with other statements He made, showing that common sense dictates that evil in this world must be opposed vehemently, even if it means using deadly force.


Had Europe heeded the lone voice of Winston Churchill in the late 1920s and early 30s, as he warned that Hitler must be stopped, then the world could have avoided the Holocaust and a deadly world war. But Britain was in no mood to take 'preemptive action' against one of the most brutal barbarians in history. You know the rest of the story.


These truths must not be forgotten in light of the deluded thinking of those pacifists who masquerade as Christians, deceiving people into believing that it is always wrong to fight back.


Song: 'Keep on the Firing Line' by George Younce and the Cathedrals. Here ole George 'gets down' to some mega low notes!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quitting Church

Psalm 122:1
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.


As I have gotten older I admit that going to church seems to be much more important than it was when I was younger. I went through a period of 'take it-or-leave it' when it came to church, and I rationalized my lack of regular attendance with the common mantra among evangelicals, 'Well, going to church never saved anybody,' which is true but is not meant to be used as an excuse not to go.


The Church is the Body of Christ, established by the Lord Himself--a place where we can worship, pray, experience the love and fellowship of other believers, and experience the presence and strength of the Lord in unique ways.


If you don't find that at your church, then get out and find another one. Don't just quit.


I admit I like going to church for the first time in years. I like the fellowship of Christian friends. I like the positive message of love and forgiveness to be found in the Christian Gospel. I love the music.


I hope you will find a church like mine.


Song: This is a real gem from the past. The Sego Brothers and Naomi are the only Southern Gospel group that had a certified million-seller single. That song was 'Sorry, I Never Knew You' from the early 60s. This song, however, is from the late 60s and early 70s, and it is about going to church. Their sound is country gospel for sure, but I admit I like it. It's called, 'Good Morning Neighbor' by the Sego Brothers and Naomi.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Words of Comfort and Strength

Psalm 91

 1He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
 2I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
 3Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
 4He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
 5Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
 6Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
 7A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
 8Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
 9Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
 10There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
 11For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
 12They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
 13Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
 14Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
 15He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
 16With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Psalm 91 has always been very special to me. I hope you will find the same comfort and strength from these words as I do.

Monday, June 20, 2011

All Things Work Together for Good

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.


This scripture verse does not say that everything that happens to us is good. Far from it. Some things are bad, very bad. But the message in this verse is that for those who love God and believe that their lives are to be lived according to God's purposes, all things--the good and the bad--work together for an eventual good outcome.


For example, one man years ago lost his Mother to a rare disease at a young age. He was but a small boy at the time. Being very close to his Mother, he was devastated. In no way could such a thing be considered 'good.' And the loss effected his life in countless ways in the years thereafter.


But when he went to college, he determined that he was going to try to find a cure for the dreaded disease from which his Mother had died. He entered a pre-med program and later went to medical school to train for medical research.


This man was able to develop treatments that helped extend the lives of countless persons who were afflicted by that disease. He once stated, 'Had I not been so devastated by my Mother's death, I probably would have never even thought about entering the field of medicine.'


Through our pain God can bring about a positive outcome. It all depends on our faith and perseverance. 


Prayer: 'O God, in sorrow or in pain, give us faith. Help us believe that in your wisdom you are accomplishing your purposes and that your purposes are always good and right, through Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.'


Song: 'Romans 8: 28' by Glen Payne and the Cathedral Quartet. This one is a gem!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Evening, Folks!

So sorry for the lack of posting of late, but I have been out of pocket since Wednesday, except for a brief time on Friday. But, as they say, being busy is good, especially when you are a singer/speaker.

To those of you who have continued to visit these pages in my absence, I give you my sincere gratitude.

I hope that such a lengthy absence will not be necessary in the future, although there will be days when I cannot post.

I will take this opportunity to remind you of my new CD of Gospel music. It is entitled, 'By Request,' and contains 10 songs that people have asked me to sing around and about. The CD can be yours for a $10 donation to this ministry. Be sure to leave a shipping address when you make your payment through PayPal, the link for which you can find at the top of the right column.

Thanks again, and God bless!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Waiting on the Lord

Isaiah 40:31
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.


Waiting is difficult. In today's society, we wait seemingly for everything. We get caught in traffic jams on a daily basis, and we wait. We go to a fast-food entity to save time, but we have to wait in line. We go to the doctor or hospital ER, and we wait.


I admit I am not the most patient person in the world. Waiting is hard for me, but I am learning to relax. Some things simply don't matter as much as we think they do.


This verse tells us there are uncountable blessings in waiting. We gain strength. We gain renewed vigor. Our motivation is re-energized.


So, wait, my friend, on the Lord.


Prayer: "Dear Father, forgive us for our impatience and help us to grow in the grace of waiting. When we wait on You, we reap many benefits. Remind us of these things this day, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."


Song: Donnie McClurkin sings 'Wait on the Lord.' 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Out of My Darkness...

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light."--Isaiah 9:2

These words from the prophet Isaiah are commonly interpreted to refer to the promise of the Messiah. This would be consistent with how other Biblical writers described Him.

John's Gospel states that 'in Him was life, and that life was the light of men.'

Jesus said of Himself, 'I am the light of the world.'

Thus, those who walk in the darkness of uncertainty, fear, and bewilderment, with no direction or purpose, can look up into the light that shines in the darkness. My friend, that light still shines brightly to this day.

Look up to Jesus.

Prayer: 'O God, may we remember the light that guides our footsteps through this world of darkness. And may we always be ready to lovingly point people to that light, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.'

Song: 'Out of My Darkness' by Legacy Five.

Friday, June 10, 2011

On Prayer

Thessalonians 5:16-18


 16Rejoice evermore.
 17Pray without ceasing.
 18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Most people of faith can affirm that prayer is important. But how does one pray without ceasing? Does this mean that we must go into the prayer room and stay? That we must not venture out?

Going into the prayer room, or prayer closet, as Jesus called it, is very important. We need that time. We must set aside time every day for what our Christian forebears described as 'prayer and meditation.'

But it goes beyond that. We can develop a spirit of prayer that stays with us. We can offer mini-prayers throughout the day while driving, working, shopping, or whatever we do. One theologian described these as 'quickie prayers.'

The benefits of developing this kind of lifestyle are innumerable. We develop a calm inner core that sustains us through all of life's storms. We develop an intimate relationship with God. We know that we can approach Him with any need and that He hears and understands.

Prayer: "O God, teach us to pray. Show us the way to personal growth and internal calm. Give us strength to forge a new depth in our relationship with You. And we pray in faith, believing You will answer. In Jesus' name, Amen." 

Song: This one is a lot of fun, but the message is timeless and good. This is a vintage clip of the Dixie Echoes and the late Dale Shelnut singing on the Gospel Singing Jubilee. You will see at the end that Dale could not be controlled as he sings another chorus, much to the chagrin of producer Les Beasley.  The song is entitled, 'Come Into the Prayer Room.'

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Forgiveness

Matthew 6: 14-15

14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
 15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

These verses serve as a reminder and as a warning. We are reminded that as people who have been forgiven through God's mercy in Christ, it is natural that we would seek to live our lives in a spirit of forgiveness for others. We are warned that the failure to forgive others is a sign of our spiritual state. We are not truly forgiven if we cannot forgive others.

Granted, forgiveness of others is often very difficult. Some things are so mean and hideous that our emotional reaction prevents us from feeling and expressing forgiveness. This is complicated by the fact that many believe that the act of forgiveness is a signal that we believe the act committed against us is acceptable, that it was perfectly okay for the person to do such a thing.

But it is essential to bear in mind that forgiveness and excusing bad behavior are two separate issues. Christians can never excuse bad behavior or pretend that it is okay. But we can made a conscious choice not to hold that bad behavior against the offender, provided that offender is truly sorry and seeks our forgiveness.

It is also essential to recognize that often one must get themselves in an emotional position that makes forgiveness possible. As long as we are stuck with the hurt, the resentment, the anger, the outrage resulting from a terrible act against us, we are in no emotional position to forgive. We must first recognize the anger and hurt, allowing ourselves to feel the depth of the rage. We also need to express that anger and hurt, either directly to the offender or perhaps in a letter in which we pour out all of our emotions. Such a letter works well for offenders who are deceased or for victims who cannot confront the offender directly.

Once we do the emotional work necessary for forgiveness, we can then make a conscious decision to refrain from holding the offense against the offender, thus making it possible for us to move beyond it. It is then that emotional and spiritual healing can occur.

Those who can forgive are the recipients of much more emotional healing and fulfillment than those we forgive.

Prayer: "O God, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

Monday, June 6, 2011

In the beginning...

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void." Genesis 1: 1-2

I have always said that the war between science and religion is one that should have never been fought. Science has its contributions in suggesting the 'how' of creation. The Bible contributes the 'who' of creation.

We are told God did it. But we are not told how.

Just after God created it all, the Bible says the earth was without form and void. It goes further to say that at the time the earth was a planet made up of mainly water, mists, and gases. A lot had to happen to pull the earth into the form it's in today. We are not told how long that took. Genesis says 6 days. But we are not told they were 24 hour days.

The Bible also says that a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day with God.

The bottom line? God is bigger than our minds can grasp, and thus, He is capable of doing whatever He wishes in the manner in which he wishes. It is not man's task to place God in a box.

Prayer: "O God, we ask that as we contemplate your creation that you will fill us with the sense of wonder and mystery that is characteristic of your great works, and make our faith so strong that it is not threatened by variations in scientific theory. Remind us that there is much we do not know and don't need to know and that new discoveries do not threaten the foundation of our faith. Through Christ our Lord we pray, Amen."  

Song: "All Creatures of our God and King."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Love is the Key

Scripture: "And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." I Cor. 13: 13

I had a conversation with someone not long ago during which I apologized for some things I did years ago, things I realized as I got older that were ill-advised. The result was that the person was hurt very deeply--something to which I was totally oblivious at the time.

In making my apology, I said something like the following--"How is standing for what is right, and good, and honorable of any good effect if one forgets about another person's feelings in the process? If it was not done in a spirit of love, then it was not right. We cannot abandon those we love just because they don't live up to everything we want them to be. Heaven knows I am not and will never be all I need to be."

Further, I stated, 'The people in our lives--that is what is most important, not the letter of the law." These things were stated in the midst of tears.

Jesus said, 'By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.'

I had to swallow my pride and admit that my actions and words did not portray the love of Christ, and that if one were looking for the love that proved I was, indeed, a disciple, then they would not have found it, at least not in this particular incident.

Love is the key to it all, my friends. Other gifts and spiritual graces are also important, but none as important as love.

Prayer: 'Forgive us, O God, when our lives failed to portray your love for this world that is seeking light and direction. May the words of our mouths, may the thoughts hidden in our hearts, may the actions we undertake, and may our very attitudes reflect your great love for all humanity. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.'

Song: 'The Love of God' by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unto Him Who is Able...

Scripture: Ephesians 3: 20-21

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 


Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."


I must admit that these words are a great reminder and encouragement for me. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by all that is happening around me. Being busy is good, but when that busy-ness is complicated by problems that seem insurmountable, along with all of the bad news we are receiving now on a daily basis, a person can begin to wonder if perhaps life has become too hard to bear.


Add to that a few painful losses, and, well, I think you know what I mean. We've all been there.


But this scripture passage tells us that our God is so powerful and awesome that he can do exceedingly and abundantly more than anything we ask for think. Just think of it. God is able to do much more, infinitely more, than our minds are even capable of thinking.


This being true, then maybe our troubles are not so overwhelming after all. We face them with the assurance that God will always make a way, one way or another, in this life or the next. Praise the Lord.


Prayer: 'Dear Lord, forgive us for those times when our fears are so overwhelming that we forget just how powerful and mighty you are. And you are always willing to make a way for us when all seems lost. Let us look up and see these things with our eyes of faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.' 


Song: 'Our God Is An Awesome God' by Michael W. Smith.