Friday, September 28, 2012

Truth or Consequences

By Brenda Black

Imagine the surprise when a woman got on a bus holding a baby, only to hear the bus driver say: "That's the ugliest baby I've ever seen." In a huff, the woman slammed her fare into the fare box and took an aisle seat near the rear of the bus. The man seated next to her sensed that she was agitated and asked her what was wrong.
"The bus driver insulted me," she fumed.
The man sympathized and said: "Why, he's a public servant and shouldn't say things to insult passengers."
"You're right," she said. "I think I'll go back up there and give him a piece of my mind."
"That's a good idea," the man said. "Here, let me hold your monkey."

When you get through laughing, ask yourself: How well do I handle the truth? When we speak it, we feel justified and dignified. When we hear it, we often are horrified, especially if it exposes some heretofore self-denied weakness. We think the truth should be revealed or hidden for our benefit and exposed, no matter the consequences, when it concerns everyone else. So the question again – How well do you handle the truth?

A 1960s game show, “Truth or Consequences,” suggests by its mere name that if you speak the truth, there will be no aftermath. The concept of the show was to always set somebody up to be snookered. When the truth was revealed and contestant prizes distributed more for good sportsmanship than for any specific skill, the audience would laugh uproariously at the big reveal.

I propose that there are always consequences with truth, it's not an either/or situation. If a wife of 20 years asks her husband to tell her truthfully whether her dress makes her look fat, you better believe that man is sizing up his beloved. He's also calculating the fallout from a misinterpreted err on the side of truth. However, say you get pulled over for speeding and the officer has a radar gun in his hand, digitally documenting your last mile with precision. He greets you with his somber nod and says, “How fast were you going?” Truth is the only recourse you have without repercussion to the tune of heftier fines. Truth and Consequences might better describe real life.

Have you determined your answer to how well you handle the truth? While you might be thinking about fielding unsolicited opinions or how honest you are with the office supplies, let me throw a different angle at you. God's Word is Truth. How well do you handle it?

Psalm 119:160 says “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.” A few verses earlier, the Psalmist penned, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and light for my path.” (vs. 105) And in a companion song, David sings, “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Ps. 25:4-5)

The Word is Truth. And Christ taught that those who handle it with integrity build a strong foundation. “'Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.'” (Jesus speaking in Luke 6:46-48)

The consequence for not standing on Truth has an entirely different conclusion. “'But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.'” (Lk. 6:49)

Foundation Fail!
photo courtesy of
Truth or Consequences. Maybe the show had it right after all. It's the Truth of God or no hope at all.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oh Say Can You See

By Brenda Black

How far we've wandered from “We the people of the United States” to “We the fragmented and foolish.” How ironic that in the midst of celebrating National Constitution Week, we find ourselves under siege around the world in opposition to free speech. And how appropriate that this week should conclude with another historical marker of American history, the composition of the Star Spangled Banner on Sept. 21, 1814, to remind our U.S. citizens once again that freedom is never a guarantee. It is won and preserved gallantly and staunchly by fierce determination.
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
This land of the free and home of the brave is governed by a great document as a complement to God's Holy Scriptures. The United States Constitution proclaims: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Written more than 200 years ago and upheld by generation after generation, the ideals of forward thinking and freedom seeking individuals provided the foundation for this country. It breaks my heart to see such disregard for her monumental accomplishments and long-established nobility.

As much as I love this country, what disturbs me more is the parallel I see between the disrespect for the Land of Liberty and the deliberate disregard for the Lord of Eternity. Just as the masses have profaned and marred our flags abroad, they have simultaneously shouted hate toward Christians. Is anyone burning embassies or killing people to refute such hateful actions? I didn't think so.

All around the world, Christians die every day at the hand of violent radicals, just because they profess faith in God. Multitudes of citizens in the U.S. slay Christianity with disrespect. They live protected within America's borders, but shamefully spite the land that shelters them. They live under the blessings of God, but disregard His heavenly provision. They blaspheme both history and the God who wrote it while brow-beating His believers. What a double standard!

So from within and without our battles rage, pointing to God's coming judgment. How long will He tolerate such unholy conduct? I have no idea. But I do know this, I'd rather stand for this country and stand for my Lord than blindly follow the fools headed for captivity and/or hell!

Oh, say, can you see – where this country is headed? If we don't wake up and stop the insanity of socialistic programs and the dumbing down of America, our broad stripes and bright stars will cease to gallantly stream.

Oh, say, can you see – eternity is certain and the here-and-now is critically important. God is patient, but He's also just. It's time to open our eyes and turn from our wicked ways if we want true freedom to last!

President George Washington once said, "A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?"
Another president by the name of George – George W. Bush – said it this way when he proclaimed in 2002 this third week of September as Constitution Week, “As we face the challenges of a new era, we remain resolved and vigilant in the defense of life and liberty against tyranny and terror. Drawing strength and guidance from our Constitution, we will work to ensure that the blessings of American liberty endure and extend for generations to come.”

Do you see? It comes down to you and me living in such a way that we honor God who alone makes it possible to be truly free. The prayer from David to “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law,” found in Psalm 119:18, takes on a whole new meaning. When you look at God's law in His Word, all other laws have to align themselves under that Holy authority. If the law or the lawmaker fails, all is in jeopardy. We honor God and country when we open our eyes to see this great need for liberty.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How Peace is Possible

By Brenda Black

While remembering the tragedy and terror of 11 years ago, we are freshly reminded again this week in a new and offensive way just how far we have not come, and how old wounds never heal if they keep being ripped open and salt poured on them. As much as I'd like to lash out at the heinous violence that cut such a deep gash in our American soul and has continued to stab her heart for more than a decade, I'll refrain. As much as I'd like to rebuke the ignorant methods we've employed to secure safety since 2011, I'll keep my mouth shut. As much as I'd like to rant about the political ignorance that whittles away at our worldwide credibility and here on U.S. soil, I won't. Anyone with half a brain and one crossed eye can see hate and ignorance. No need for a spotlight or a commentator.

Neither will hateful acts the world over cease until there is perfect peace. Don't go looking for it as a result of puny, ill-timed and insulting apologies. Don't think it will arrive on the tails of brutal force. Peace may be sought and prayed for, but it will not come in a world that forsakes the true God of Peace – Jehovah God

It has been estimated that out of 3,530 years of recorded history, there were 286 years of peace, 14,351 of war and 3.64 billion people killed. More than 8,000 "peace" treaties were made and broken. That's a pretty lousy platform on which to place the possibility of long-term peace here on earth. For, most certainly, the numbers have increased abundantly on the war and death side since these figures were documented.

Why no peace? People have forgotten Jehovah Shalom “The Lord is Peace.” As Jehovah-jireh, God provides redemption from bondage. As Jehovah-rophe, He heals sicknesses and sorrows. Jehovah-nissi is our banner of victory, but we suffer defeats because we turn our back on Him. When we deny the power and provision of God Almighty, we lose our peace and we lose our liberty.

The One True God alone can heal the broken hearted. He is the God who sees and the God who cares. We cried out to Him when the Twin Towers fell. We pulled together as a grieving nation and professed sweeping faith in Jesus...for a little while. Then we went back to our wicked, self-centered ways. And lately, it seems with an arrogant vengeance, we shout out “NO!” to having God in our lives at all!

Still, He waits, longing to rescue us and deliver peace if only we would trust Him and obey. Ironically Psalm 9:11 begins “Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.” It continues through verse 20: “For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted. O Lord, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation. The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The Lord is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God. But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish. Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O Lord; let the nations know they are but men.”

This passage in Psalm ends with a musical term“Selah,” which means to give pause and think. So think about this: Peace will not come through murderous intolerance. It will not come to one who is indifferent. Peace is not possible apart from the Holy Spirit living in the hearts of men, convicting them of sin.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace...” (Romans 8:5-6)

For years, I've prayed over my sons a blessing that ends “May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” And to you who read this column today, I give you a blessing as well: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23a)

He's our only chance, our only hope, our only peace in a world defiled by hate.

copyright 2012 - The Word's Out - Brenda Black

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Drops of Mercy

By Brenda Black

Just a drop and the earth is resurrected anew! A little drink and the grass is sprouting like spring! For so long we've waited for a refreshment. But I have to admit, I wondered aloud time and again whether the land could bounce back from such neglect. Now there's proof that so little rain in such a short amount of time has already made such a marvelous difference!

For me, these are signs that God is still on the throne --signs that God cares for His world and His people. Mysteriously, life continues even when we can't see it. Under the dusty, hard, barren land remained a wellspring of life, waiting to surface! He created it to be so from the beginning.

“Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation...and it was so...And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:11-12)

Like most of the land that's lain parched this summer, I've been feeling a little dry myself lately. Some of my drought-like conditions developed from dwelling on what-ifs and fearful worry over politics, money and all things worldly. The troubles of this world often leave me dried up and discouraged.
The Lord offers a remedy. He says, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37)

Just like the creek that holds deep pools of water when every other stream has ceased to flow, inside of the believer remains a pure trickle that neither doubt, nor anxiety can evaporate. There remains a bottomless spring that drought cannot dehydrate. Even a steady dumping of crime, corruption and craziness crammed down our throats from pathetic news sources can't cease its continuous current. I call it the River of Hope. You may recognize it in your life as Living Water or the Wellspring of Life. When you feel dry, the best way out of the drought is to let it bubble forth!

“Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord...For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” (Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-32)

This is the God I serve! One who sees the sin and suffering. One who knows the hearts of every individual and longs to be our filling. He is good to those who pursue Him and right here with us when we fail Him. We just may not always see it.

Still, I must ask whether I mistakenly blame God when times get tough; or more accurately do I blame myself for becoming lazy in the pursuit of holiness and His help. When the landscape of my life looks cracked and cavernous, it's time for a dribble of renewal. I need his drops of mercy to bring forth new growth and joy. I'm pretty sure it's going to take a little lightning and thunder to start the process – an awakening and acknowledgment that I need to get down on my knees in order to get filled back up.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:6-11)

I can feel the grass greening in my soul already!

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copyright 2012 The Word's Out