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N. Moore

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Birds


I grew up in Texas, often wakened by the rasp of blue jays outside my window, frequently entertained by mockingbirds with their collection of stolen songs.  Buzzards circled in the sky.  On the ground, close up, they are hideous creatures, but high overhead, riding the wind, barely moving their wings, they looked majestic.

When we moved to Rochester, Minnesota we lived on Assissi Heights, next to the Convent that housed the nursing staff for St. Mary’s and Mayo Clinic.  I watched the Canadian geese migrating to and from the fields in their Vee formation. Sometimes they passed so low overhead I could hear the wind in their wings, not to mention their constant honking.  I later learned they can fly 70% further in formation than they can fly alone.

I camped with my sons in the Boundary Waters, a wilderness region of rivers and lakes on the Canadian border.  A bald eagle built her nest in the top of a lone tree on a rocky island less than 50 yards from our camp.  When she circled overhead the sun glistened off her white head.

We owned a beach house for a few years on Galveston Island.  I never tired watching the sea gulls balance on the wind, descending delicately to the shallow surf where they laughed and danced on stick legs. They seemed to think it was hilarious. I watched the pelicans swoop in squadrons over the breaking waves. One or more would suddenly drop in a vertical dive, splash in the surf and return to the sky with an unsuspecting fish.

In Colorado our house looks out on an open marsh.  Every spring the red-wing black birds return to build their nests in the tall grass.  And, as in Minnesota, the Canadian geese occasionally fill the sky from one horizon to the other.

In every region and every climate birds survive and thrive.  They are masters of the air, the forests, the land and the sea. No wonder Jesus encouraged us to “consider the birds.”

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in [x]hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-29).

He who cares for the birds of the air will doubtless care for you.  You are of great worth to God.   Look to the birds and listen to their song. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Viral Gospel


The world is once again is on the verge of panic over a new viral strain that threatens a global epidemic. In spite of efforts to contain it, the 2019-nCoV caronovirus continues to leap national boundaries.  In the first three weeks the infection soared from 50 in China to 17,000 in 23 countries with 425 deaths.  We must pray for those who have been affected, especially for those in China and for the families who have lost loved ones.

The power and potential of anything “going viral” is mind boggling. “Going viral” was once limited to communicable diseases, the kinds that are so easily transmitted that they can rapidly escalate into an epidemic.  In our day the term means something quite different.  With the aid of the Internet, email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, text messaging and You Tube, what was obscure can “go viral” and become suddenly famous.

Facebook went viral in 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg and a few friends launched it from their dorm rooms at Harvard.  Today, more than one billion people use Facebook.  It boasted a market cap in 2019 of over $500 billion and has become one of the most powerful tools on the Internet to catapult others into the “viral” stratosphere.

The Swedish teenage climate activist, Greta Thornberg, was catapulted to fame after she posted her first protest as a 15-year-old on Instagram and twitter. Within a week she gained international attention.  Her actions went viral on Facebook and other media and in December 2019 Time named her the youngest ever “Person of the Year.”

“Going viral” appears to be a twenty-first century phenomenon. But is it? 

History documents that the Gospel went viral following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  There was no media campaign.  There were no reporters, no cameras, no photo ops, no internet, no Facebook.  But somehow, Jesus impacted and changed the world.  Growing up in the obscure and infamous village of Nazareth, Jesus’ public ministry lasted only three years.  He walked wherever he went and never traveled more than one hundred miles from his birth place. When He was crucified, there were no papers to report it, no news teams to film it. But the news spread around the world and is continuing to spread today.  It did so by “going viral.” 
Paul spoke of.”the gospel which has come to you, just as  in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.”  (Colossians1:6). And again, “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” 2 Cor 4:15, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8).
When the Gospel goes viral, it requires more than posting a few sentences or a video clip on the intenet, more than “clicking” and forwarding information.  The Kingdom of God goes viral when lives are transformed by faith in Jesus Christ so that society is saturated with honesty, integrity, justice and generosity.  Changed lives change the lives of those around them. The Gospel has gone viral in previous generations.  It could “go viral” in ours.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Doomsday


Last week the Doomsday Clock was moved to 100 seconds to midnight.  Created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1947 following WW II and the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. the hypothetical clock measures how close the scientists estimate the human race is to global catastrophe and potential annihilation.  Across the years the “clock” has varied from 17 minutes to midnight to 2.  Its original setting was 7 minutes to midnight and has been adjusted backward and forward 23 times.  This is the first time it has been moved closer than 2 minutes to midnight.

The scientists cited three primary reasons for moving the clock to 1 minute and 40 seconds to midnight: (1)the rising threat of a nuclear blunder (collapse of the Iran nuclear agreement, reemergence of North Korean threats and buildup of nuclear weapons in Russia, China and the U.S.), (2) climate change; and (3) disinformation.  No one knows what to believe anymore. According to Robert Latiff, retired Air Force major general and fellow at the University of Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, “We have a witch’s brew of ingredients for global conflict.” 

Like generations of old, we are prone to turn a deaf ear to doomsday prophecies.  It was so in the days of Jeremiah and Amos, who warned of impending disaster.  We don’t like bad news. We prefer to live our lives undisturbed and dismiss dire warnings.

As in the days of Jeremiah and Amos, the solutions are ethical.  Amos proclaimed, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).  Jeremiah wrote, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

The more we embrace prejudice, tolerate injustice, practice deception and turn a blind eye to corruption, the closer the clock ticks toward “midnight” and humanity’s final hour.  When we promote understanding, conduct ourselves with compassion, practice honesty, generosity and truthfulness, the world becomes a safer place.

So, what should we do?  We must hold our leaders accountable and we must pray for them to establish peace in a world of unimaginable weapons of destruction.  We are all stewards of the earth and our environment. Space exploration has made us more aware of how remarkable and fragile our planet really is.  We must all be committed to the truth, to tell the truth and to discern the truth. 

While the Bible is clear that the earth will eventually pass away to be succeeded by a new heaven and a new earth, we are admonished by Jesus  to pray that “His Kingdom would come and His will be done on earth (today) as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Secrets


You would think that we would have learned our lesson about secrets.  President Nixon and “all the President’s men” thought that they could get away with it.  But every word uttered in the oval office found its way into print and into the public.  The Watergate tapes ripped the mask off the public image of politics and left an entire generation disillusioned.

Twenty years later, Bill Clinton assumed that what he did in private would remain secret. But what happened with Monica Lewinsky behind closed doors became public record resulting in the second Presidential impeachment in history.  In his autobiography Clinton confessed, “The question of secrets is one I have thought a lot about over the years.  … Secrets can be an awful burden to bear, especially if some sense of shame is attached to them … Of course, I didn’t begin to understand all this back when I became a secret-keeper.  …I was always reluctant to discuss with anyone the most difficult parts of my personal life.”

The Wikileaks secrets were first released in 2010. Most of the documents appeared to be trivial and petty.  Some of them serious.  All of it stemmed from words written and spoken in secret places that the participants never dreamed would be read or heard by anyone else.  But what was said in private is now public.

Edward Snowden released classified National Security Documents to the mainstream media in 2013. Facing possible prosecution in the United States, he continues to live in Russia.

Jesus warned us that our secrets would become public.  He said, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.” And again, He said, “For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”

Our conduct in secret is the most important part of our life.  Jesus constantly encouraged his followers to focus on what they did in secret.  “When you pray,” He said, “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” And, “when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Jesus taught that those who say and do things privately that they do not want others to know about are like cups that are only washed on the outside.  A slimy green scum continues to grow on the inside.  He compared people who keep up a public image that is not consistent with their secret conduct to marble tombs in graveyards. They appear whitewashed and clean on the outside, but inside they are filled with rotting flesh and decayed bones. . (Matthew 23:26-28).

When you do what is right in private, what is seen in public will take care of itself. The most important part of your life is the secret part.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Who Is Jesus?


He is the most controversial person who ever lived.  His own family thought him mad.  The people loved him. One of his closest friends betrayed him.  The Jewish court convicted him of heresy.  The Romans killed him. He never earned a degree and had no formal schooling.  He was never elected to office.  He never wrote a book. When he died he owned nothing beyond the clothes on his back. But, within three centuries of his death, the entire Roman Empire worshipped him.

More books have been written about him than any other individual who has ever lived.  Entire libraries have been devoted to understanding his life and his teaching.  He changed the course of western civilization and, today, two thousand years since he was born, millions are turning to him in Africa and Asia and South America. Who is Jesus?
 Leo Tolstoy, arguably the greatest Russian novelist spent much of his life wrestling with the teachings of Jesus.  In his later years he wrote The Kingdom of God is Within You, an attempt to implement the teachings of Jesus.

  When Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home was bombed in 1956, he stepped out on the front porch to quiet an angry crowd that threatened to do battle with the police.  He said, “
"We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: 'Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.' This is what we must live by.

Jesus remains popular in the United States.  A Barna Group survey concluded that two out of three Americans claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus "that is currently active and influences their life."  But who is the Jesus whom two thirds of Americans claim to know?

In his book, Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos creates a fictional story in which Jesus is seen according to the image of the beholder.  In so doing, he introduces “King James Jesus,” “Magic 8-ball Jesus,” “Testosterone Jesus,” “Free Will Jesus,”  “New Age Jesus,” and “Meticulous Jesus.”  Which leaves us asking again, “Who is Jesus?”

Jesus was the first person to pose this question.  When His popularity was growing so that thousands thronged to see and hear him, He took his twelve disciples aside and asked them the question, “Whom do men say that I am?”  The disciples looked at one another and began repeating what they had heard others say. “Some say you are John the Baptist,” they said.  “Others say you are Elijah. And still others say you are one of the prophets.”  After hearing their response Jesus put the question to them more personally.  “Who do you say I am?”  In both accounts, Peter was the one who spoke first.  “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.”  Peter’s confession was confirmed when Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to His followers for more than forty days with many convincing proofs. (Acts 1:3).

When Jesus asked the question, He was looking for more than a confession, a creed or mental assent from his followers.  If they believed in Him, Jesus expected them to put their faith into action.  Elsewhere he said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not the things that I say.”  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  Perhaps the most important questions any of us will face in this life are, “Who is Jesus?” and, “Am I doing what He said?”

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Healthy Heart


We have adopted our New Year’s resolutions, and many of us are focused on a “healthy heart.”  It apparently is making a difference.  According to the American Heart Association, “The epidemic increase in heart disease mortality ended in the 1960s or 1970s.” Deaths from heart disease have fallen dramatically over the last 50 years. Heart-healthy alternatives are produced in almost every food category. Restaurants include heart-healthy menus. Smoking has been banned in most public places. Physicians and non-profits promote diet-and-exercise.

I first read Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book, Aerobics, in 1982. It was a groundbreaking book that opened the eyes of millions to the benefits of aerobic exercise and healthy diet for a healthy heart. When I visited Brazil I was fascinated to find hundreds of Brazilians walking and jogging every morning to get in their “Cooper.” The doctor’s name had found its way into Portuguese as a synonym for heart-healthy aerobic exercise.

As important as it is to maintain a healthy heart physically, it is even more important for us to develop a healthy heart spiritually. The Bible clearly sets forth the disciplines and characteristics of a healthy spiritual heart. They include gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love. If we discipline ourselves to be grateful every day for what God has done, if we hope when things look hopeless, if we forgive those who injure us, if we love our enemies instead of just loving those who love us, we will have a healthy heart.

But, like our physical heart, having a spiritually healthy heart requires more than knowledge. We may know that we need to be grateful, hopeful, forgiving and loving. But how do you create heartfelt gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love?

In the spiritual realm, this requires a spiritual heart transplant. God has to create a new heart within us, something that He is more than willing to do. We are all born with spiritual heart disease. Jeremiah says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). But later he writes, “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God.” (Jer. 24:7). And in Ezekiel He says, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh.” (Ez. 36:26).

God sent His son Jesus so that He might create in us a healthy heart that is full of gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love. He changes the heart that has grown callous, bitter and resentful into one that overflows in gratitude. Someday our physical heart will beat its last beat and our bodies will die. But the spiritually healthy heart that God creates will live forever.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Keeping Our Focus in 2020


We will soon turn the page to 2020.  It seems like such a perfect number, so much better than 2019, an odd number that always seemed to fall just a little short. 2020 rings with the hope of perfect vision and a perfect year. 

But we already know 2020 will have its challenges.  It is likely to open with a Presidential impeachment trial in the Senate and conclude with a bitter political battle for another Presidential term.  2020 will not be easy. It certainly will not be perfect, but it can be better.

Evangelicals seem to be in the forefront of the early political discussions.  I have considered myself an Evangelical since my youth.  When I was a young pastor in Texas I considered myself Evangelical because I was evangelistic.  I wanted to introduce others to faith in Jesus Christ.  When I moved to Minnesota in the 1990s I discovered that Evangelicals include a broad swath of denominations interconnected through a movement largely defined by Billy Graham whose offices were in Minneapolis. (“That’s all the address you need.”)  I admired Mr. Graham then and still do.

In 1956 Billy Graham launched Christianity Today as the flagship publication for Evangelicals.  Recently Mark Galli, the current editor, rattled the Evangelical world with his editorial calling for President Trump’s removal from office.  He wrote, “The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.”

In response to the firestorm that followed, Timothy Dalrymple, Christianity Today’s president wrote, “The problem is not that we as evangelicals are associated with the Trump administration’s judicial appointments or its advocacy of life, family, and religious liberty. We are happy to celebrate the positive things the administration has accomplished. The problem is that we as evangelicals are also associated with President Trump’s rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees; and more. In other words, the problem is the wholeheartedness of the embrace.”

I remember when Billy Graham endorsed Richard Nixon in 1972.  He had never endorsed a political candidate before. After Watergate he vowed he would never endorse a candidate again. In 2011 Graham said, “Looking back, I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.” “I… would have steered clear of politics.”

As we enter 2020, we can only have a clear vision for our actions within our families, our businesses our churches and the world by keeping our focus on Jesus and the conduct he demonstrated.  That conduct is best explained in the Sermon On the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

A New Year's Gift: Download Bill Tinsley's Civil War Novel, Bold Springs, Free eBook.  Available January 1-5, 2020.  Click the image to the right.