The criminal element always tests society’s patience. It seizes every opportunity to expand and proliferate. Law enforcement has historically limited and punished lawbreakers—to preserve values that hold society together. Beginning in the 1960’s, to this day, Americans decided to become tolerant of moral misbehaviors, not guardians and defenders of Biblical values. Thus we have made it harder for policemen to enforce laws and easier for judges to release felons.
That’s a colossal sin for which we have yet to pay the ultimate penalty. For thinking to pacify the forces of wickedness only increases their lust for expression. Whose demands only increase with every effort of pacification!
Children also test any limits parents place on their behavior. Only foolish parents allow that freedom. For parents alone can determine when and where to draw the line on their offspring. And, usually, the sooner the better. And, with good results, sooner drawing tight limits and loosening them as children show maturity. All of this to establish values that hold families together.
Like children with their parents, human beings, many of them Christian, often test God: by tolerating false teaching or living a false example. By seeing how far from grace they can fall without falling into irretrievable sin. By seeing how much of the world we can welcome into the church without losing its spiritual integrity. All in an effort to be independent of God while claiming his favor. All to be at peace with a culture God has ordered us to combat, correct, convert and destroy. End Part I
If we’re looking for something, we’re likelier to find it than if we don’t know it exists. Simeon looked for God’s Messiah and, at God’s behest, recognized and honored him when he appeared, a 40-day old boy.
Just as Lord Byron prepared to succeed as a poet before publishing Childe Harold in 1812. Suddenly, at 24, he had become famous. Beacon Lights of History, 153.
Just as Allen Dulles prepared between WWI and 1940. An understudy in intelligence in WWI, he gained many contacts. When William Donovan looked for a man to head the OSS from Switzerland in WWII, Dulles’ name headed the list.
May 26, 1805...William Clark gazed westward from a high summit. He saw the Rocky Mountains, blanketed in snow, shining brilliantly in the sun. They were still far away, but the sight filled Clark with a sense of accomplishment. AND...a sense of dread...because of the difficulties these mountains presented to the passage westward. Reflecting on that great, snowy barrier caused soberness. But, since he refused to anticipate evil he accentuated the positive of his sighting.
In 1993 National Geographic photographers shot 1,683,000 frames in 46,769 rolls of film. The magazine published 1,408 pictures that year. That meant each photographer had only a .001% chance to be published. National Geographic, 8/95, p. 64. Nevertheless, only those taking and submitting qualified to be published.
The point is: we must prepare NOW to be ready for tomorrow. For God may call us to serve him there. And only if we have prepared can we be ready to bring glory to Jesus.
Which leads to a question: what if we prepare to serve and God doesn’t call? (For God always has the right to accept, reject, use or ignore any service we offer.) What if we labor without reward; remaining nameless while persevering in our chosen service?
THEN God will call us HOME where...everything we learned, witnessed, taught, preached or lived about Jesus Christ will immediately be put to use in his eternal kingdom! Nothing that praises Jesus now will be removed by death. While everything that fails to praise him SHALL BE! Fini
Simeon proves that preparation remains more important than age in God’s service. It may have occurred to him that time slipped away while he waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Nevertheless, he continued to serve while he waited.
This writer remembers the quotation attributed to young Abraham Lincoln. It was posted on the south wall, under the windows as I recall, as you came down the stairs of our then-high school. “I will study, and get ready, and some day my chance/time will come.” It did.
Young people don’t face a particular challenge preparing to serve. It’s when increasing age finds us continuing to prepare that challenges us. Winston Churchill faced that. Born in 1874, he served in politics from his youth. More often than not, he proved a failed, nearly-always controversial, often anonymous personality. But when the English needed a leader superior to Hitler in 1940, they turned to 66 year old Winston! He never stopped preparing.
In a sermon 1939, C.S. Lewis talked about the frustration of never getting finished with projects; once one was completed, another appeared, and all the while we get older. He suggested a simple solution: work faithfully each day and leave the future in God’s hands. Whether or not we work today, trusting God for the future, he alone controls the future. The only day we have under our control is TODAY—which Jesus made the time frame in which we deny ourselves and carry our cross for him. End Part III
Simeon’s benediction proved Christ’s wholesale, total authority. Second, it proved that God granted him a great privilege. He would not die until he had seen Israel’s Messiah. A promise which embodies a powerful spiritual truth: preparation to serve God, not age, determines our usefulness to him. As an infant, Jesus ruled: angels adored him. As a 2 year-old, aristocrats bowed before him. For it didn’t take a crown to make him a king.
A young man grew up in West Tennessee’s backwoods. He didn’t go to grammar or high school. He showed up at a Christian college when a grown man. With unruly red hair; front teeth missing; a worn sweater held together by safety pins. He later graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Doctorate in English. Before he enrolled he had read: not a few; not a score; not hundreds, but thousands of books of all kinds, including the Bible. He proved that it didn’t take a Doctorate to make a scholar.
So there was: 10 year old Samuel; 12 year old Jesus; 17 year old David; and 969 year old Methuselah. Everyone a spiritual powerhouse for God. Proving that it didn’t take a special age to make a useful disciple.
We can personally experience, or fail to experience, God whatever our age. As we can see, or fail to see, spiritual potential in others, because we have or haven’t prepared to be surprised by God’s Joy!
That’s especially true in discipleship. Anyone, at any age, of any educational or economic status, can serve God. Preparation is the key. End Part II
The consecration of Jesus by Joseph and Mary reveals two powerful truths through Simeon. The first is the Authority even then residing in the 40 day old infant. Six words in Luke 2:27 forecast the singular nature Jesus carried throughout his ministry: “Simeon took him in his arms....” Do not minimize the old man’s action, prompted by the Holy Spirit. He could have spoken his benediction while Mary held Jesus in her arms.
But no, for a specific reason he removed him from parental to God’s control while offering his benison. Because, wherever we see Jesus in ministry, it’s always God the Son working out God the Father’s will through the empowerment of God the Spirit—the Great-Biblical-Three-in-One. Never one person more or less.
Mary never weighed in on a decision. Joseph never did. The disciples never did. The Jewish leaders never did. The politicians and military men never did. Jesus alone on God’s behalf made all the decisions.
Leaving this warning to humanity, including all its churchmen: Jesus didn’t reserve for himself all the decisions THEN to let us NOW determine: what’s essential to church life, and what’s irrelevant; or what constitutes acceptable behavior; or what determines our acceptance to him.
Let us be forewarned. While people can believe what they please NOW, ONLY God decides what’s acceptable to him at Judgment and beyond. Every teaching, belief, practice and observance in Christendom that isn’t found in God’s word will be pulled up by the roots and incinerated Matthew 15:13. Let us take care to build on the foundation Jesus laid only what survives the fires of judgment I Corinthians 3:10-14. End Part I
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P.S. With apologies to hard-working hospital ER workers, this warning: if you don’t have an illness or disease when you must sit in the waiting room, or lie on gurneys, for hours at a time—two nights out of three—you likely WILL before you leave.
Now, to conclude this 2-parter....all taken from the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Fourth, Fred Basset, the dog exits his house barking freely, even joyously. When called by name, he retreats into the house. He hadn’t made a good start; he had broken his New Year’s resolution to stop barking just for the joy of barking. 1/1/19
Comment. Maybe we should just put more substance into our resolution to stop complaining, criticizing, contesting...and whatever else makes relationships difficult or toxic.
Fifth, Hagar the Horrible. A locked castle door stymies our favorite Viking. He called for his personal locksmith. After watching him work overtime on the project, Hagar demands an explanation. The underling admits he can’t do the job but loves to eavesdrop. 12/31/18
Comment. Incompetent as we are serving Jesus, we can’t afford to divert our best efforts in discipleship into extraneous, often irrelevant, sometimes dangerous, contingencies.
Sixth, Marmaduke. A classic. The lovable rascal lies on a vet’s table, being examined. The unspoken conversation centered on the dog’s overweight problem. Which he didn’t like. The picture has him looking sternly at and patting the vet’s protruding tummy, as if to say, “You shouldn’t lecture me.” Leading the vet to riposte that he, not the dog, gave the advice. 12/31/18
Comment. Jesus told his people to listen and obey whatever teachers of the Law taught. However, they should be careful not to follow their behavior Matthew 23:1-4. A doctor may not live his diagnosis, but that doesn’t diminish its value. Professional knowledge, not personal lifestyle, is his strength. Every preacher knows that his example can diminish the value of his message. (Though Jesus doesn’t allow that as an excuse.) Since all Christians are sinners saved by grace, those falling into sin—even leaders—should be corrected and restored gently. For those correcting can soon be the corrected Galatians 6:1-5. Fini
You know the news is irrelevant, irritating or unwelcome when you get illustrations from the comics. Nevertheless, cartoonists sometimes have an eye for reality that our “politically correct” society refuses to face. Mallard Filmore is one. I offer the following examples today from 1/1/19 San Diego U-T.
First, Classic Peanuts. Lucy and Schroeder discuss getting married. He has always said he would never marry her. She asks some reasons. First, she’s crabby. Second, she’s bossy. She replies in astonishment that he considers them reasons.
Comment. No one wants a crabby mate. But if males waited to find a “non-bossy” woman, who would ever have a wife?
Second, Marmaduke. While she freely criticizes the dizzy dog in this cartoon, Phil’s wife thanked him profusely for finding a paper on the floor and chewing it to pieces. And why? Because it contained all her New Year’s resolutions.
Comment. What a great idea: make resolutions and find ways to discard them. Most of us need no help breaking a resolution, but it’s nice to know an outsider exists to “lose” them without our “breaking” them.
Third, Garfield. The insufferable cat—aren’t all felines insufferable?—sets in his box hugging his Pooky bear. The cat notes that life has both ups and downs. Flat on his back in the third frame—his favorite position—he says that position was “UP”.
Comment. We’ve all seen bumper stickers. The “Garfield” kind says, “I’d rather be in the sack.” With Americans being some of the most exhausted people in the world, maybe that should be our national slogan. Or, “exhausted but refusing to slow down.” End Part I
Anyone who has been to a medical emergency room hears questions. Have you fainted? Only when my boys cleaned their rooms. Have you been out of breath? Only when I’ve done 220 push-ups. Do you have problems being understood? On multiple occasions my congregation has turned to each other and asked: what did the preacher say? Do you have any paralysis? Mostly when God orders obedience and I don’t want to obey. Have you any numbness? Only when I stand amazed that such a sinner as I can still be saved by grace. Do you have slurred speech? Only when tongue-tied before the majesty of God in his word. Were you vomiting? Only when I think of the Chargers deserting San Diego for L.A. Do you have trouble standing? Only when in God’s presence; then I want to fall full-length in adoration. Do you feel pain? Only when I wait for 6-7 hours in E.R.
On New Year’s afternoon my wife awakened from a nap not feeling well—she’s had two surgeries in two months. She took her blood pressure (BP) 185/76. (She had a pacemaker installed 12/28.) Then, 190/86. Then 202/90. Then 216. We arrived at E.R. about 6 pm. At E.R. 223/90. When the nurse on staff got to her about 11:15, BP had slipped all the way to 221/89. When the doctor finally came after midnight, it had fallen to 171/70.
The moral of this blog is: pay no attention to high blood pressure unless you have: shortness of breath; vomiting; inability to stand; pain in extremities; slurred speech, etc., etc., etc. Pay no attention to Advice Nurses who ask the same questions previously noted, then send you to E.R. When you arrive and tell the security guard that your wife has a BP of 216, he’ll smile and tell you to take a seat and WAIT! That will lower the BP. If it doesn’t, at least after waiting 6-7 hours, you’ll die in the presence of medical practitioners sworn
to take care of you.
New Apologetics book at: Amazon
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