Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Did Jesus Really Mean ALL When He Said "All?"

"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake." --- Jesus speaking in Matthew 24:9

My daily devotional time involves the reading of the Scriptures and prayer. The Scripture readings take me through the Bible in a year's time -- the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice plus additional readings in the prophets as well as elsewhere. The prayer time involves praise and thanksgiving as based on Psalm 103. There is a time of confession, personal petition, and intercession.

One part of intercession involves prayer for those who are in governing authority and church leadership authority. But more important than that is prayer on behalf of brothers and sisters whose faith is centered in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Unknown to me but certainly known to God are those fellow believers who are suffering bitter and violent persecution for their faith in some countries in this world. There are families who grieve this day because some member or members of a family have been put to death for no other reason than the fact that they were followers of Jesus Christ and faithful ambassadors for Him (2 Cor 5). The Voice of the Martyrs is an excellent source of information on how Christians are treated in some parts of this troubled world. Our prayer list at our church in Gipsy includes a reference to praying for those fellow believers who are suffering violent persecution.

There are some countries that have built a "reputation" for being very hostile toward Christianity and those who are Christian in faith and commitment. China, North Korea, and many Muslim controlled countries are examples. Try building a church that preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do evangelism in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Iran and see how far you get!

This should not really be surprising in light of statements made by Jesus. He explicitly revealed that His followers would undergo persecution. Since He became the target of resistance and open hostility it stands to reason that those who follow HIm will experience similar treatment at times. He confirmed this by stating,

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." --- John 15:18, 19

The Greek word in the original text (miseo) as translated "hate" (John 15:18, 19) means to detest, especially to persecute. Followers of Jesus Christ are "light" and "salt" in this present world (Matthew 5:13-16) The world (great mass of unbelievers) does not want to be exposed to the glaring light of truth nor does it want to be resisted (salty Christians) in its acceptance and practice of evil in its many forms. The reaction will always be hostility, if not violent persecution.

So, when Jesus said hatred toward His followers would involve ALL nations (Matthew 24:9) did He really mean all? The Greek word for "all" in that reference is pas and has the following meaning -- "all, any, every, the whole."

Now comes the interesting part -- how about the United States? Could it be the exception? If so, then that makes Jesus out to be a liar. There are a few of us who not only acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord, but as perfect God revealed in human form on the planet which He created. As such, He only speaks truth on any and every occasion.

There has been a growing hostility against Christianity even in "the land of the free and the home of the brave" in recent decades particularly. The fierce debate continues over the Supreme Court decision that banned the reading of Scriptures and the practice of prayer in public classrooms. There are professing Christians who support the decision and state that it is a good thing. Was it really? Is the country in a more superior spiritual, moral and ethical condition now as a result of that decision than it was at the time the decision was handed down? Honesty would dictate that the answer is a definite "No!" and the Supreme Court decision was nothing less than a slap in the face of Almighty God Himself!

Other court decisions have demonstrated an explicit hostility toward Christianity with perhaps the most infamous one being the decision in 1973 stating that it is a constitutional "right" for a female to destroy her unborn child by an intentional choice! One critical thing to remember -- of the over 52 million victims of the United States' "holocaust," there would have been those who would have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but due to being mutilated and murdered before birth, they never had that opportunity. Hostility against potential Christians in its most horrendous form, is it not?

We can expect increased "warfare" being waged against Christians in the United States as time moves on. That is, the target will be those who still believe that the inspired record known as the Bible is totally true and to be practiced in every day living. There is a problem, however, and that is those persons who claim to be Christian but who have compromised on issues of morality and ethics and do not accept the Bible as the final authority on matters of faith and practice -- to these, the Bible is but a fallible book merely produced by some human beings! And you, the individual, become the final judge as to what you want to accept or reject. Above all else, be sure to do everything you can to silence those fanatics who insist that the Bible is God's inspired Word and Jesus Christ is the exclusive way of forgiveness, salvation and hope for time and eternity!

"Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! for indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets." --- Jesus speaking in Luke 6:22, 23

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Memories of Dad!

Picture of Russell F. Harriger with daughter, Connie, and son, Clayton, about the year, 1940, on a rented farm in Monroe Township, Clarion County, Pennsylvania.

Russell F. Harriger was of German and Dutch ancestry. I have always been thankful that the last name was "Americanized" because, having seen the original, I know I probably would not be able to pronounce it and would certainly struggle to spell it.

My dad had those qualities that are too often sadly missing in today's world and the quality of life in our culture often reflects the reality of that in these very unsettled times.

From my earliest memory of dad I learned quickly that he was a hard worker at anything he ever did. His dream was to own his own farm and the hard work eventually paid off. The picture above was taken on the farm that he and my mother rented for a time. Then they entered into an agreement with a cousin of dad to live on the cousin's farm. This happened during the WW II years. The rented farm had no electricity. Our lights were gas with what was called a mantle attached over the fixture. They created a kind of eerie glow while ignited. We did not have a radio. There was no indoor plumbing. When we moved into the house on the cousin's farm we had electricity, a radio, and a hand pump at the sink for drawing water.

During this time my dad was working on the section gang of the New York Central Railroad. His dream was still to buy and own his own farm. Finally early in 1946 it happened -- my folks had managed to save enough money to make a down payment and get the farm. It was the one they originally had rented. The price paid for that farm was $4,600.00. We moved back into a house that now had electricity and a water pump system. But there was no bathroom. The bath was still taken in a galvanized tub and the little "outhouse" was where you went for "relief." Out of date Sears & Roebuck catalogs provided our toilet paper in abundance. Montgomery & Ward also assisted in maintaining this important inventory!

My dad was a man of honesty and deep conviction when it came to issues of right and wrong. He was definitely a "black and white" person -- there was no hazy gray area when it came to issues with him -- it was clearly right or clearly wrong and he would never compromise on his convictions.

He was also quite clear as to his stand on political issues. He believed that every citizen should vote and he did so in every election he could.

Dad was a man of faith and believed in prayer. He always said the prayer before we ate our meals. He and my mother were deeply involved in our church in a variety of ways. Dad did confess that he could never teach a Sunday School class, but when it came to manual work that needed done in some form around the church, he would be there and always ready to go to work.

He had a sense of humor and it was the kind that could be shared in mixed company without embarrassment. He had no time for the off color brand and was never amused when someone may dredge something up out of the gutter. He also never used foul language of any kind. In fact I never heard him use expressions that have their roots in profanity such as "dang," "darn," "gosh, "gee," "gee whiz," etc. His language was simple and you had no trouble understanding what he was talking about.

My dad dropped out of school in the sixth grade. And at that young age began working on his dad's farm as well as helping neighbors. He told me once of earning 50 cents a day -- a day that involved long hours. This rate of pay from an uncle involved plowing fields with a team of horses and walking behind a plow! If I recall correctly, he was 13 years of age when he did such work.

About the time I was born my father became a member of the school board for Monroe Township in spite of never having completed even grade school. He continued in that position for some time after I had graduated from high school. A major change took place during those years with the closure of the one room schools in Monroe Township and merger with the Clarion school district. A picture in my high school yearbook shows the school board for that year and my dad was one of the members of that board!

He was a disciplinarian and made clear to my sister and me what was expected of us in terms of behavior. Get out of line and we were punished. Sometimes I learned the hard way -- that when my dad had said how it was to be and I did not listen, I then paid a high price. But I never violated his word again in that area in which I had experienced his "judgment!"

To save money, he bought hair clippers and would cut my hair. He and a cousin would "trade haircuts" as they called it. Each would cut the other's hair on a regular basis. All this went rather well until the time came when the clippers got a bit worn and dull -- then instead of cutting all the hair, some didn't get cut and when he pulled the clippers away, those few hairs got pulled out by the roots! You can understand why I did not look forward to those times when my dad said it was time for a haircut. By that time he was going to a regular barber in Clarion.

His love for us was also demonstrated in many ways time after time. An early memory was when he and mom had gotten me a pair of rubber boots. I was about 4 years old at the time. It was in early spring of the year and our barnyard was really a quagmire. I had to try out the boots -- I waded into the barnyard a few steps and began to sink -- the more I tried to get a foot out, the other went deeper into the mud. In desperation, I cried out and my dad was near enough that he heard that frantic call for help. He came and lifted me out of that mud. What a relief! I have used this from time to time as an illustration as to how Jesus Christ came into this world to rescue us from the quagmire of sin, setting us free and making possible forgiveness and assurance of eternal life with Him forever.

Dad was just a few weeks past the age of 84 when he went to be with the Lord. We felt our loss was Heaven's gain and look forward to the moment when we shall be reunited in the presence of our Lord Jesus forever.

Thanks, dad, for the many ways you were a blessing and an inspiration to my sister and me over the years -- even though there were some of those times we did not recognize you to be the example and teacher you really were. It was only later in time that I recognized you were far more intelligent than I gave you credit for when I was in my rebel teen years.

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. --- Ephesians 6:4

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Too Late to Pray for Our Republic?

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, "Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the LORD!'".......... Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you." --- Jeremiah 7:1,2, 16

There are two very common assumptions about prayer.

One, that God always hears every prayer. That is, when anyone prays, then God is going to hear and respond to that prayer no matter who is doing the praying and no matter the nature of the request that is submitted.

Two, that God will always be around in a crisis when the time comes in which we need to be "bailed out" -- after all, is God not a God of love and He would never leave us stranded in a time when He is so greatly needed, would He?

Tons of books have been written on the subject of prayer. Further, there seems to be no end to a listing of persons considered to be "specialists" in the realm of prayer in times such as these.

And certainly there has at times been an emphasis upon praying for our republic and its leaders. There are solid Biblical grounds for engaging in such a practice.

However, the Bible also reveals that there are limitations regarding prayer. It's sort of like the proverbial "line drawn in the sand." There can be times when God Himself makes clear the fact that it is useless to pray any longer!

It happened in years just prior to 586 B.C. in the ancient Israelite kingdom of Judah. For the most part God's commandments and standards had been rejected by the religious and political leaders in the kingdom. With that kind of leadership it was simply a matter of time before the majority of the citizens followed the ungodly examples set before them. There was a small remnant which still held to the true faith but the influence of this group could not bring about a miraculous change so that the kingdom again was under the favor and blessing of Almighty God.

Now then, how about the United States of America -- the "land of the free and the home of the brave?" Are we in a postion to effectively call on God with assurance that as a nation we will be abundantly blessed and secure or have we "crossed the line" and if there is a response, it is worded something like this: "Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble." (Jeremiah 11:14).

There is more than a tad of evidence to suggest that it could be the latter scenario! We continue to destroy thousands of unborn children every week of the year. As of this writing we have mutilated and murdered more than 54 million unborn children since the infamous Supreme Court decision in January of 1973. We are a nation of fools of the first magnitude if we believe that God is not going to respond to this massive shedding of innocent blood for which we are solely responsible!

We continue to follow our idols at a fervent pace with money being the #1 "god" and the pleasure "god" being a close runner-up. Idolatry can take many forms and certainly has done so in our republic over decades of time. It can be an object, a person, or a type of activity and involvement in the same.

Our sexual immorality is practiced at an unprecedented rate and the philosophy that "Sex is fun with anyone, or more than one anyone at the same time, anywhere and at any time!" is being adopted by all ages in U.S. culture. God has in His special revelation to us explicitly shown where the boundaries on human sexuality are drawn. The sacred gift of human sexuality is to be shared and experienced within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Search all you want to -- you will not find even a hint that God has enlarged the boundaries to include additional sexual activity of different kinds involving males and females, same gender persons, adults with children and/or animals, or whatever bizarre perversion may enter a person's mind.

We are teaching millions of our young every year that we have evolved from lower life forms over millions and millions of years in time -- go ahead, insert however many millions of years you want to -- does it really make any difference? Perhaps the big difference in the millions of years is whether the forehead is sloped 3/4 inch backward or a mere 1/4 of an inch! Of course this also means that you have no need of a Creator and you are free to make your own "rules" in life with no real accountability after you die. Since it was convenient to ban God from the public classroom, it was also very convenient to deny that we are the focus of an act of creation in the past with a divine purpose and plan for each conceived human being. A godless theory filled the resulting vacuum and we are producing millions of young people who wander about day after day with no meaning to their existence!

And the church at large that claims to be "Christian" in faith has become corrupted over decades of time. The Bible is under assault and its truths denied by apostate renegades. Just a couple of many examples is denying the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead following His crucifixion and that Jesus was indeed God appearing on earth in human form in the 1st Century! The United Methodist Church stresses that it is a "connectional church" due to its organized structure. What isn't recognized is the seriousness of the "infection within the connection." When a church leader says that we need to forget about going to other nations and converting the people to Christianity because they have their own religions and we ought not to interfere with that, then something is terribly wrong in light of Jesus' command to take the Gospel into all the world and confront all nations with His claims and call.

Pray for our republic and expect to be heard? It could happen if certain conditions are met. The main one is that the majority (including political and religious leaders) are willing to pray in a repentant spirit as did Daniel who found himself being carried away from his home and placed in a raw heathen environment known as Babylon! Consider the opening statements of his prayer: "Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, 'O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.....'" (Daniel 9:3-6).

Anyone up to admitting that we are badly out of step with the Creator of this mighty universe and we are guilty of commonly accepted practices which have caused Him to pour out His undiluted wrath in the past on cultures that committed similar transgressions?

And what is this thing that is said about history repeating itself?

Then the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for this people, for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence." Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them, 'You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.'" And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart." --- Jeremiah 14:11-14

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Am Sold 100 Per Cent on Marriage!

"Foreasmuch as Clayton and Jean have consented together in holy wedlock...... I pronounce that they are husband and wife...." --- statements made at conclusion of a wedding ceremony held at Monroe Chapel Methodist Church, south of Clarion PA, on June 13, 1953 by Pastor Paul B. Dunlap.

I confess to a long standing conviction -- I'm 100 per cent sold on marriage for some solid reasons!

First, my life is richer and fuller because of a very special person by the name of Jean who has been my wife for 58 years. That means she has worn many "hats" in her experiences with me over these years. She has been confidant, friend, lover, comforter, supporter, partner, mother of our five children, nurse at times, prayer warrior, and the "always there" person whom I so often needed!

Second, marriage is that very special arrangment in which two persons become as "one." It is a perpetual sharing experience over time. Each day is an open door to new adventures and opportunities. Sometimes the experiences are trying, difficult and painful -- but the comfort is in knowing one is not alone -- the "partner" in this special arrangement is there to share and to give support -- so together, you press on. But there are the blessed times and those numerous occasions of joy and delight which make the painful moments fade away into the valley of insignificance!

Third, this is a great institution because God Himself so arranged it to be. In the book of Genesis we are informed that a man will leave his father and mother and be joined unto his wife and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Jesus confirmed that this is how it is to be when it comes to the issue of marriage as He made reference to that early declaration in the book of Genesis -- a man leaving his parents behind and being joined to his wife with the result that they are no longer two, but one in that special union known as marriage (Matthew 19:4-6).

However, in unstable times such as these there are those persons and groups that want to alter this special arrangement which God has clearly established. These are days of "redefinition" and the vain attempt to say that marriage must also include 2 sodomites or 2 lesbians being permitted to marry! There is absolutely no Biblical revelation that permits this to take place. God has explicitly set the boundaries for marriage and sexual expression and experience. Those are limited exclusively to a male and a female within the covenant of marriage.

Yeah, yeah -- I know, such statements as these place me in the category of a Bible-thumping, mean-spirited, homophobic radical. But I can live with that knowing that the day will come when God will have the last word on this issue and will confirm that the arrangement of marriage that He originally revealed through His inspired Word is indeed true.

We are warned that the time would come when there would be those persons who would, by their very conduct and attitudes, cause the earth to become defiled -- "The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." (Isaiah 24:5).

I'm sold 100 per cent on marriage and the fact that it is limited to one male and one female -- and the best wife I ever had agrees with me on that. We claim that we are living proof by the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ that it is indeed very true!

And now a PS on that wedding, preceding events, and later ones -- I was on a short leave between my schooling in TN near Memphis and my orders to report to Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station near New Bern NC. We had to get blood tests, apply for marriage license and all those details in a short time. We made it to the court house about 45 minutes on Saturday before it closed to pick up the license. The preacher was about 20 minutes late for the wedding which was scheduled for 8:00 PM. We had a fender-bender accident turning into a motel that was closed for our wedding night and then went back to Clarion to the hotel. Some neighbors surprised us with a serenade on Sunday night. We left early on Monday morning for North Carolina. It was raining in New Bern when we arrived. We got a newspaper and started looking at apartment ads. Found a kind of broken down place and rented it for a while, and set up housekeeping -- a chair collapsed the first time Jean sat in it -- and no, she was definitely not overweight! Anyway, I thank God that in His great mercy and goodness, He arranged for Jean and me to meet, fall in love, (at our home church) and eventually enter into a very special covenant known as marriage reserved exclusively for one male and one female!

Oh, and now a PPS: I heard an unusal tribute to marriage a few years ago -- a man was asked, "If there is such a things as reincarnation, what would you like to come back as in the next life?" Instantly without hesitation the man answered, "My wife's second husband!" Sounds like he was sold on marriage also, does it not?

Finally, a PPSS: A while back I got a card for Jean which was very simple in its design and in the words expressed -- it said this, "I wonder where all the years have gone, but never how else I might have spent them." On this day of June 13, 2011, those words still very much apply!

And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
--- Matthew 19:4-6

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Congressman Anthony Weiner and a Thing Called Ethics!

Congressman Anthony Weiner (NY) has admitted to sending a lewd photo of himself to a female and to having online "relationships" with other females. First, he denied the photo thing claiming it was the work of hackers -- is such a denial called lying any more -- and now admits to it. Demands that he step down are growing by the day.

The subject of ethics seems to surface and maybe even a call for an "investigation" as to whether rules of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress may have been violated when a member of that body is alleged to have engaged in questionable behavior.

The scandals seem to be picking up the pace as time marches on. In recent times high profile persons have been involved in behavior that at least used to be considered a "no-no" for elected officials -- Bill Clinton, Charlie Rangel, John Edwards, Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, Ted Stephens, Newt Gingrich, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name a few! A friend of mine has accused me of being a bit prejudiced and only picking on a Democratic president while not mentioning the latter two persons because they are professed "conservatives" when it comes to my "tirades" against the moral deficiencies of our nation and its leadership.

For the record, I am a non-affiliated registered voter in Cambria County PA and as for the likes of Gingrich and Schwarzeneggar, I would not vote for them under any circumstance. And if Newt should be the Republican candidate for president in 2012, I will not vote for him -- I may do a write-in if that is the case and write in Beetle Bailey -- he would do a better job anyway! Newt, of course, is regularly featured on Fox News. But a little of Fox News goes a long, long way and at times you wonder if you are not viewing a competitive beauty pageant laced heavily with TV ads and then here and there a bit of "news" inserted!

But, alas, I digress -- on this issue of ethics as it pertains to elected officials. Why even make an issue of it now anyhow. They pretty much do what they want to do -- proof of that is seen in the lavish salaries and perk benefits they have voted and continue to vote for themselves -- just check what they get for retirement alone and the health care benefits they get -- and then some member of the Congress talks about ethics and an "investigation?"

But even worse -- what kind of ethics are we talking about when a president and the members of the U.S. Congress do absolutely nothing about paying down the national debt which is now creeping fast toward 15 trillion dollars. They quibble about reducing the deficit by a piddling amount. That scenario is like trying to plug a small leak in a dam with bubble gum at one end while at the other end the breastworks is breaking away and millions of tons of water are gushing forth to bring death and destruction to all who live in the area below the dam!

What really has happened is that there has been a rejection of the original Book on ethics which is commonly known as the Holy Bible. Some subsequent "man-made rules" on ethics have been devised, but even these are rarely heeded. Once in a blue moon there may be some stirrings and a conviction of some kind, but more often than not, we scheme and connive to "look after our own!" And this is the situation with both Republicans and Democrats.

As I just recently told a friend -- I am personally about fully convinced that the situation in Washington DC is terminal and beyond healing. Likewise it is pretty much the same in the state capitols as well, especially so in Harrisburg PA with about the most cumbersome legislature of any in the entire republic!

As with the ancient kingdom of Judah a few centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, so it is with us -- we are fast ripening for judgment at the hands of a holy God. Compassionately He has been using events, sounding the warning, and appealing for a return to Him through repentance of all sin (individually and corporately) but the response has been the same as recorded in the 36th chapter of 2 Chronicles -- a thumbs down with a thundering "No!" With leadership such as we have (church and political) how long will it be until the ruins of our culture will be scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific, on some islands known as Hawaii, and in a frigid area known as Alaska?

Ethics? Who has time to consider such a subject, much less try to implement it into our daily way of life?

Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the LORD, she has not drawn near to her God. Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning. Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people; her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law. --- Zephaniah 3:3-4