Friday, April 22, 2016

It Is All In The Message… Or InThis Case, The Lyrics..Or Is It?

I have been struggling over the past hour or so about whether to write today or not. I have put together my thoughts about the post of a very interesting song, performed by a group known as Boyzone.  I am posting some of my thoughts only as a basic statement of reasoning, as to how I see the folly in our first glance acceptance of some media, especially if it sounds catchy or upbeat, while having a pseudo-Christian flavor.
If you are familiar with my writing at all, you will know that I am wordy.  I try to think through things systematically, because I too have been found wanting and unworthy myself many times.  My only intention is to try to help others to avoid the traps that life can bring. If I can help one person evaluate life, reflect on their purpose, and find God’s true meaning in giving us life, I try to do so.

I have no right to judge, other than from the perspective of what Scripture directs about our duty in love, to question the validity of things sometimes. I guess we are to judge what is right or correct, in clearer terms, as a gauge for living, that we might reflect both God’s love and His desire for our purpose in Him. We are taught to love everyone, but also in doing so to follow the lines of delineation that separate us from the sin that might mask itself behind twisted truths. This means to protect our hearts and minds form Satan’s ploys, while serving those who are the downtrodden and lost, or in the activity of ministry through testimony and teaching. Losing one’s self in the work can be a dangerous folly with tragic results. The story of the betrayal by Judas begs the great example, while the folly of Peter’s denial of Christ shows how easy it is to be drawn away by circumstance. These men are two examples of the frailty of the human spirit. While one was used of Satan for God’s purpose in what is judged as a truly distasteful event, (I know beyond our human understanding!), the other tripped on his own fear and confusion (we somehow judge as a more accepted recklessness) and was used in a totally different manner for God.

So, I have been stewing on the song that was posted and many others like it. “Boyzone”, has a magical influence on their listeners. But is magical enough, or does it turn our heart away from where God wants us to be? The message of the song they sang in the post has a very deliberate duality in its presentation. The use of language and its influence in all audiences can be very leading to say the least. From the perspective of the novice, (Careful here for sure…. As I don’t want to be misunderstood) when their listening ear hears words like God, faith, belief and the particular phrase they used, “If only prayers were answer…”, it would be easy to equate this to be a song with a Spiritual base in God’s grace, but it is nevertheless, as you listen and read the lyrics, only of small “s” spiritual… based not in God’s mercy and grace, but that of self reliance and one’s own tenacity and ability.

The world today is filled with pitfalls, and it seems that even Boyzone had its own tragedy when one of its members, Stephen Gately, was found dead while he and his husband Andrew Cowles were on vacation. We live in such a mishmash of influences and it is always hard to know how lenient we are to be with our belief, knowing that we are bashed from every side with lobbyists who while heralding the anti-Christian flags, lift high the idea and importance of being “politically” correct, over being “Spiritually” correct. It is hard for most young people to find a track that meets both God and man’s acceptable standards. Today we tread a similar path that the Israelites trod, as they moved slowly toward their freedom from slavery, and finally the Promised Land. They wanted God, but had an idol of “human” need fashioned, rather than wait for both God’s directives, and direction, for their future.

I wonder sometimes about how far we can stretch Christ’s directive to His disciples, found in Luke 9:48-50. This portion of scriptures is often used far out of context, beyond its intended purpose. Here Jesus is telling his disciples to not stop those outside of their own group, stating, “For anyone who is not against you is for you.” It is nearly impossible for us today to get to the root of the full understanding of Christ, of things around him, other than His being both God and man, dwelling among us. For the disciples, the stress caused by watching someone else using Christ’s power in miraculous ways, was disconcerting to say the least. What is important here, is not the disciples understanding of what was taking place, but Christ’s ability to acknowledge what the circumstances of the event, that the disciples were then judging, really was.

In today’s social upheaval, with Satan's struggles to keep humanity in his preferred alignment, away from faith and toward destruction, we as Christians need to be vigilant in our survey of what is both meaningful and healthy in our ingestion of many hidden messages in sheep’s clothing. In a study back in the 1960’s (I covered it in a course I took in my post-graduate work) it was found that subliminal messages could be sent via mass-media, which would affect the watchers/listeners toward almost any action or reaction. (No!!!… This is not a conspiracy theory about governmental control… not as most would see it! This government control is of a spiritual nature.) In the study, which tested people’s reaction to subliminal content, there were commercial messages for certain food and drinks, placed in between numbered frames of movies in drive-in theatres. The reaction was found to be phenomenal. People rushed to the food kiosks at an amazing rate during intermission. What they found, caused the limitation of advertising to that being only non-subliminal, but did little to stop the flow of its use in how the presentation of subliminal messaging could be used, both covertly and overtly, in all forms of media, including advertising itself, following the governmental regulations that ensued.

One must be cautious not to overstate the obvious. Any overstatement can create an avalanche of recrimination against any facet of social media, including Christian music itself. It is said that the foundation of many of our “Old Faithfulls” of the past, are known to be found with non-Christian origins, having their melodies taken from the popular ancient tunes from the pubs of European society. Many the old hymn has brought men, women and children to their knees in repentance before Christ, so it is folly to throw stones at too many glass houses, I realize. The message of music is not only stimulating; when used overtly, but as stated can be a powerful motivator towards repentance and salvation.

An ol’ time preacher once stated that it was easy to bring a soul to repentance… it is far more difficult to keep them safe and secured in Christ. We hear the heralding of the benefits of more music and less sharing of the “word” in Churches today. People through the ages have always preferred music over preaching and so the seats of the church sanctuaries are oft filled with the “core groups”, those who are the mainstay of the church, and our deliberation of who they are and why they attend are left to God’s judgment, and not man’s; though those outside are oft too quick to judge that group for themselves.

“The CONTEXT, the CONTEXT”, comes the cry from the heralds of academia. When the music of faith is sung in glory to God, and not “man”, as it seems was the case for the driving out of demons, as Jesus saw it; and in the context of satisfying God’s directive to teach, preach and testify to the new creation in Christ, and what He accomplished on the cross for mankind; it makes all the difference. So, I worry about what is being presented and accepted by even true believers by times. We are all so easily both influenced and affected by what can still be a subliminal means of misleading and misdirecting us away from the true message of God’s Word.  What is most important I think, should be what He has, and is accomplishing, even today for His glory and here we must take caution in our evaluation of praiseworthiness. So our eagerness to subject most things to scrutiny before God should become not just important but an everyday exercise, for our good and the good of others.

I am, as I stated, not the best judge, as I myself am judged daily by God, but I try to consider the end results of all that is happening; as I view even more closely the end, and what that holds for all of us. I pray that as we listen, watch and absorb information of all types, even from the pews/seats of our churches, we might check the foundations of its content and meaning in accordance with God’s Word, and for our lives.
Sometimes the walk to the edge is not what or where we expect it to be. Today I am reminded that I am near the edge now; how close only heaven knows, but I am nevertheless getting closer each day. My perspective is just that, mine. But, if you go there with God, in Christ Jesus, you often find things that you are not expecting. The key is not letting go of God’s hand. Let His Spirit guide you, and the view from there can be uplifting, while also un-nerving by times… But God is there with you. Why not go there and see for yourself, if you are not there already! I am praying for you!

I leave you with this message that St. Peter wrote: 2 Peter 3:14-16 Living Bible (TLB)

14 Dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen and for him to come, try hard to live without sinning; and be at peace with everyone so that he will be pleased with you when he returns.
15-16 And remember why he is waiting. He is giving us time to get his message of salvation out to others. Our wise and beloved brother Paul has talked about these same things in many of his letters. Some of his comments are not easy to understand, and there are people who are deliberately stupid, and always demand some unusual interpretation—they have twisted his letters around to mean something quite different from what he meant, just as they do the other parts of the Scripture—and the result is disaster for them.

Friday, April 15, 2016

What Is There About The Number Three?

People down through the years have often stood by old sayings. Have you noticed that? For instance there is the forecasting of weather. My mother used to say that you could tell when it was going to rain by what the ants did. As we sat on the steps on good days, and watched the various insects, birds and animals throughout the various seasons, Mom would point out what was taking place. She was passing on the information that I suspect was both her experience and that which was told her by others.

The work of the ants was always curious to me. I never wanted an ant farm, but how they labored was always a curious thing. Some mornings as we ventured out to play, it was easy to notice the small mounds that were formed around their holes in the walks and driveways. I am sure that most people have seen them and will have heard the explanation for their work. Mom would say that it was a sign of coming rain. The ants would build these little dikes around their holes to keep the water out. I thought it was quite ingenious… so a stitch in time saves nine. The work they did in preparation would do a lot towards saving them from repairs later on.

Certain times of the year the birds reacted differently. Come early fall we would watch some varieties gather on the power and telephone lines; starting with a few then in large bunches stretching across several lines sometimes. They would form into flocks as they prepared to go south for the winter. And in the spring the work of gathering material for new nests began, or the refurbishing of older nests to be reused, took a priority and we soon heard that a mother’s work was never done.

This is my dog Kea but Dad used to tell of an old dog that they had named Bunny. I am not sure of the breed, but it seemed to be a typical family dog from what I can remember of the stories. She used to lie around the house as that is quite typical of most dogs, when there is not much happening. Dad used to tell of the antics of the dog, as her daily routine began to follow the course of family life as she aged. One particular trait, which I have read about and heard from others, is the ability to tell time by events within the family they belong to. Well Bunny was that kind of dog. Dad said that his mother would tell of the dog getting up from the mat in the late afternoon, where she lay all day, and stretch and want to go outdoors. She would make her rounds and then about 10 minutes before my Dad would be coming home from work, Bunny would make her way to the front gate to await his arrival and greet him… always happy to see him home again. Dog, has always been man’s best friend.

Now to this point I have stuck with insects, birds and finally animals. I suspect that by this time there is the feeling arising that I have digressed again. Well, I haven’t; I am just enjoying the thoughts that come to mind about those old sayings and how we both receive them, and how they affect our everyday lives.  Not all of those old sayings are always true. Well, there is a sense of truth, but in my experience it is like one more old saying that Mom used to quote and I heard later, on many occasions: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. It remains that things are not always going to fall into the molds of our generalizations in life, but there are those things which do stand as foundations for our life’s journey.

Some time ago I took a spill as I left the house. It was one of those days that announced spring in a relaxing telltale sort of way. The sun had been out, the ice on the driveway had melted, and it was now dry, and all was well with the world. What I had forgotten was that the sun, now on the opposite side of the house was no longer able to keep the temperature up in the areas that were now shaded. So, a bit of water that had dropped from a leaking gutter was now a frozen patch of ice. I was busy looking forward and did not notice the frozen patch which lay about 10 inches below my first step. Yes… I ended up head over kettle (there is another one for you with variations!) in pain, bruised, embarrassed and unable to get up without assistance. I thankfully was not injured too bad I think. Time will tell, as my old back has not yet recovered.

Now I have always heard another old saying that states. “Things usually come in three’s”. Perhaps the use of the negative, bad things happen in three’s is more frightening. It causes one to wonder, when something happens, if there is more to come. I don’t know how many times my Mom would say that death happen in three’s; meaning old friends or relatives. So, I nursed my wounds, gathered back what was left of my pride and went about my daily work, as best I could. I steeled myself for the eventual ribbing that I knew I would receive from family and perhaps a friend or two. The jokes came and so did the next accident. This time it was my son. He somehow cut one of his knuckles at work and needed 3 stitches to keep it together. I felt bad as he already has enough on his plate just now. But the term “bubble wrap” was kicked around briefly for the two of us by this time and a few laughs were had. Wouldn’t you know a few days later my oldest daughter tripped over their young puppy and twisted her ankle… now the bubble wrap comment became overused for sure, and with a boomerang effect for some of the users!

Some could say that adds an edge to the accuracy of old sayings, when life’s experience has borne out that particular saying to carry some level of truth by times. But this brings me back to the other saying about pleasing people or always being right… not always right all the time. So we can feel somewhat secure with the likelihood of the incidents and circumstances of the day not always providentially to be found in threes … right? You would think so… But for one!

A fellow that I studied with through the years often said, “But the Big Guy has a plan!” This kind of off the cuff relaxed statement from a theolog, reminded us all that the insecurity of attaching ourselves to much of the idealistic terminology of the times, can lead us down a path towrd slippery footholds. I have often been more than weary of old sayings, due to my own observations about life. While the ant, the birds and the old dog sayings do have an element of truth, and there were those three recent accidents in my own family; this does not prove anything written in stone. What can we bank on then? Well for the young theolog from past years, and many just like him, there is one truth that we can’t escape and it has to do with the idea of three once again.

We all are born, we all die and we all will rise again. WOW… did he just say that we will all rise again? I thought that was only for them born again believers!!!! Yes, I KNOW, I KNOW! But before you close off reading and throw this blog to the ditch consider this. Everyone, no matter their religious affiliation, or lack thereof, has come to the conclusion that the first two portions of my stated threesome are true. There are those others who see life as a cycle of death and rebirth at one level or another. Forbid it Lord that I could come back at a toad, but perhaps in someone’s estimation, that should be my fate! Others among us will casually qualify life as an unending replay of birth, death and rebirth to try again, to perhaps do a better job next time. Ever watch the movie, “Groundhog Day”? LOL What if all we had was the reoccurring, relentless pursuit of haphazard life in cycles? What a drudgery and let down; perhaps but for  those adventure seekers who’s only ambition is the adrenaline rush of putting it all out there for the magic of the moment. Most of us want more than the moment… or at least I think that is the status of most, even today.

So how about that third option… well it is not an option… it is a reality. For those who are believers (I am steering away from the “born again” label on purpose here) this last step in process, for we created beings, there is the belief in the final step. One day we will all stand before God. Ah! ... But what about those others… you know them… the ones who don’t… you know they don’t believe… you know, they don’t believe in God… who He is and how it all works! Well, you have to remember that even believers sometimes think that once the end happens, (you know DEATH) there will only be those who believe and serve God, who will get to see Him, up close and personal like. It is kind of a biased attitude really, but one that bears more than its share of elitism I am afraid, in terms of “beware of our own folly” thinking. Well, here is this ol’ dog’s take on that idea, dear readers so hang on to your hats folks cause here it is.

Where was I going with this?… Oh yes, for all you naysayers at this point don’t give up on me just yet. I have not come without much study, research, thought about all of this and the only thing I am missing is empirical lab test-tube type study (for all you scientifically oriented persons needing that type of confirmation). I stand only on what the Scriptures have to say about it all. Sure, one day I am going to face God and He alone will judge. But the Bible tells us that “all” will be judged, for the good and the bad. Yes, that includes even the unbelievers. So, how does one justify their presence before God without their being resurrected? Hmmm… kind of adds a twist to those selected few theories that get flung around by some.

Every day we face so many incidents of trial, tribulation and concern. Every day is a battle to reach some level of assurance that our lives are not falling apart. I think St. Paul had it right when he stated that he was happy for his trials, as they made him stronger. Someone once said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I am just glad that I have God on my side, as He helps me get through the everyday “stuff” so that I do not lose either hope of faith. Both are important to me… I could not go on without them. “Try it Donald and see!”, was a familiar saying from my childhood. We don’t always trust that which we cannot see and so God gets left out by many. But take a step on the wild side and test out this non-adrenaline cure for your curiosity. It is another walk near the edge and believe me, you “will” get a new perspective from there.

“When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be…”; see, even the hymn talks about it… But there is a stipulation included.. There can be good news, or bad… Today we have the choice. Choose to believe… It brings a better ending for that number three! Blessings from me and May God richly bless your day!