Archive for August, 2021

The Royal Order of Edifiers, Part 1

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

If Jesus is your Master, model Him. Scripture says, “It is enough that a servant should be as his master.”

Acts 10:38 gives a succinct summary of the life of Christ: 
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good…”

There is your prototype, your template for life. Pattern your life after Him. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (I John 2:6).

Jesus seized opportunities to build people up. He was an edifier. In the word edification the root word for edifice can be heard. An edifice is a building. The process of edifying is the mission of building up.

Even on the eve of His execution He comprehended the mood of His disciples and said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1) He built them up. 

If Jesus is your exemplar, then do as He did.

Are you a people builder? Or, are you a member of Satan’s demolition crew?

“I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a hove-heave-ho they swung a beam
and a side wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
The kind you would hire if you wanted to build?”
He replied, “No indeed,
common labor is all I need,

For I can wreck in a day or two
What it takes a builder a year to do.
I thought to myself as I walked away,
Which of these roles am I trying to play.

Am I worker who builds with care
Carefully measuring life by the rule and square.
Or, am I content to walk the town 
Content with the job of tearing down.”

Are you a wrecker or a builder? When people see you coming do they feel, “Wow! Here comes an edifier!” Or, do they look for a back door?  You know the kind of person, they brighten up a room just by walking out of it. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if when people walk away from a contact with you feel edified, built up? Jesus Christ said, “You shall be My witnesses….”

Your speech makes you a good or a poor witness. As His ambassador what you say and do reflects on Him. Ideally, it should be a commendation of Him to all who encounter you.  Are you a member of Satan’s demolition crew or Christ’s developmental school? Join Him in edifying individuals daily.


This relates to what is considered the number one sin of Christians.

           Jesus taught us to pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12)  

If we do not, we are disobedient to Him.

We are never more like Him than when we forgive.

With a computer it is necessary to perform a disk clean-up to make it work better. Forgiveness is a human disk clean-up.

There is a little couplet that says: “Bitterness does more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to the one on which it is poured.”  Bitterness is self-punishment.

Scripture posts this warning sign: “Watch out that no bitterness take root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” (Hebrews 12:15)

Ephesians 4:30 appeals: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…”  It then notes “bitterness” as grieving the Holy Spirit. We grieve the Spirit when He is guiding us not to do something and we do it. Thus, the Holy Spirit is depicted as appealing with us not to be bitter. The word “grieve” means to weep. Your bitterness makes God cry.

An old adage states: “The hornet of remembering may fly again, but the sting of bitterness has been removed.”

When the poet Edwin Markham reached the age of retirement, he was stunned to learn that his banking friend had betrayed him and lost all of his life’s savings. At retirement he was penniless. The torch of bitterness burned where the candle of joy had formerly gleamed. His inspiration ceased and his pen became unproductive. One day this highly productive poet was sitting doodling, drawing circles when the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit impacted him. He said the Holy Spirit did not speak to him in an audible voice, but clearly convinced him, “Markham, if you do not deal with this thing, it is going to ruin you. You cannot afford the price you are paying. You must forgive that man.” He prayed, “Lord, I will, and I do freely forgive.”

With the root of bitterness uprooted, his creativity returned and the man who wrote the memorable poems “Lincoln” and “The Man With the Hoe” produced what he considered his best poem entitled “Outwitted.”

“He drew a circle that shut me out–
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
But love and I had the will to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!”

That is one of my favorite poems. Do as I did long ago, memorize it.

Here we are back with the model of Christ as our example of forgiveness. Out of gratitude for His forgiveness we must forgive. If we don’t forgive we are indicating we are ungrateful for His forgiveness. 

After the chapter break comes this instruction: “Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us…” (Ephesians 4:13) If needed, may you enjoy expressing forgiveness.

The Cleansing Power of Jesus

John 13:1 – 8

It is not bragging to say the following principle applies to every Christian from time to time. If it applies to you presently it offers a delightful spiritual renewal.

Jesus Christ gathered His disciples for the last time in the Upper Room. He seized a teachable moment for them and us. It was the custom of the era that at a festive occasion the host had a servant who would wash the feet of the guests. Instead of having a servant do it, Jesus did it. The reason for this becomes apparent when the time in which it happened is understood.                                 

Guests would bathe before coming to dinner. However, raw sewage and trash littered the streets. By the time guests got to the place of celebrating, their feet were dirty and needed washing again.                     

When Jesus came to Peter he refused to let Jesus wash his feet. As always, Jesus began His illustrative teaching saying, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.” Peter then showing his zeal said, “Well wash all of me.” Jesus said if you have bathed, all that is needed is for your feet to be cleansed.                                    

The spiritual application is this. If you have been saved, you don’t need to be saved again. However, even saved people get their feet dirty, that is, they sin. Walking in the world they become needy of a fresh cleansing.  We all have those times when we need to get contemporary in our relationship with Jesus and ask His cleansing.

This act was an enactment of 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The confession of our sins and the forgiving of them relates to salvation, the equivalent of the bathing in the story told by Jesus.

The cleansing “from all unrighteousness,” speaks of the renewal of fellowship with the Lord. Unrighteousness is literally minus righteousness, which are sins by Christians.

In Jesus’ account Peter over-responded, desiring to be bathed again. Jesus responded by saying those who have been bathed, saved, don’t need to be bathed, saved, again. They only need their feet washed, their unrighteousness, sins since salvation, forgiven. 

Believers can avoid frequent need of spiritual renewal by walking in fellowship with the Lord. 

When Giuseppe Verdi produced his first opera in Florence, Italy, the composer stood by himself in the shadows off stage and kept his eye on the face of one man in the audience —– the most renowned composer of the day, Rossini. It mattered not to Verdi whether the people in the hall cheered him; all he wanted was a smile of approval from the master musician.

At the moment of a decision look only for the approval of the Master, Jesus Christ. It is the best way to keep your feet clean. If you fail to do so, when you repentantly confess the sin you will find Jesus waiting with a basin of water and towel to cleanse you of all your unrighteousness.

A Song for the Ages

In 1834 the Warner family brought their two young daughters, Anna and Susan, to Constitution Island, located in the Hudson River near the West Point Academy. In more prosperous times, the family had purchased a summer home there at the urging of the girls’ Uncle Thomas, an academy chaplain and professor. Hard times and family circumstances forced them to take up year-round residence; the sisters would live out their lives there.

Due to unavoidable poverty, both sisters began to write novels. Susan’s first book, “The Wide, Wide World,” was, in its day, second in sales and popularity only to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” She soon began turning out a novel a year. Anna’s most successful book was “Dollars and Cents,” a memoir of the family’s difficult times.

Across the Hudson River can be seen the spot of their former home. Every Sunday these two sisters would row across the Hudson and teach Bible to the cadets, many of whom went on to be military leaders.

On occasion the West Point students rowed over to the island on Sunday afternoons. The sisters would prepare lemonade and ginger cookies for their young guests. In the winter when the Hudson would freeze cadets would cross the river and escort them across the ice. When war broke out  they could no longer continue to teach. The sisters wrote a song for the soldiers to sing not only during services, but it was sung during drills. It was a reminder to these military personnel of the love of Jesus. It was originally written as a poem in Anna’s novel “Say and Seal.” Therein the words were written as comfort to a dying child. In 1861 the words were set to music.

After Susan died in 1885, the Sunday School classes became Anna’s “one thought in life.” She continued teaching until her death in 1915. That year’s graduates, known as the “class the stars fell on,” included Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower — a pupil of the Warner sisters.  It is believed President Dwight Eisenhower was among the last cadets to sing the song during drills.

Visitors to the graveyard at West Point Military Academy can see the graves of the two sisters, Anna and Susan Warner. They are the only two civilian women who lie buried in the cemetery at the U.S. Military Academy. Susan and Anna Warner earned this signal honor as Sunday School teachers to generations of West Point cadets.

Their home, Good Crag, was willed to West Point Academy and made into a National Shrine. The home is now a museum in their honor.

That simple song has been used through the years to teach little children that profound thought. It has comforted many in the military, others in their hour of need, and reassured many dying individuals. Great orchestras and choirs have beautifully proclaimed it.

That song is, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.”

Pause a moment and sing it to yourself. Do it several times today as a reminder He does love you.

Defined Goals Result in Refined Lives

Consider an ultimate goal —- your tombstone. What do you want written on it? Candidly, I am not ambitious to have a tombstone just yet.

At Chamonix at the base of Mont Blanc there is a monument erected to an Alpine climber which reads: “He died climbing.” Figuratively, that is a worthy aspiration. 

Longfellow wrote a poem about a young man who lived a good life. The poem bore the name of the epitaph on his tombstone: “Excelsior,” meaning “higher yet.” Hopefully your ambition is similar.

The epitaph of the hypochondriac: “I’ve been telling you I was sick.”

What do you want on your tombstone?

“I’ve been busy.”

“This guy could play golf.” Or, perhaps just, “Fore!”

“She died watching TV.” Or, “This gal could shop.”

“Here lies a world class worrier.”

Bob Buford has written a book entitled Finishing Strong. Here are a few quotes from it:

“If people see their best years behind them, they’re probably not going to finish very well, because you can’t finish well when you’re going backwards.”

“As long as you are able to do something meaningful, why should you want to go into some kind of holding pattern?”

“We live pale and empty lives here on earth because we’re ignorant about what lies ahead, and we need to see that the dimensions of life are so much greater than what we can see, hear, and touch.”

“We can retire from our jobs, but not from our calling.”

A meaningful life demands movement toward something meaningful and convictions provide the direction.

Often I find meaningful quotes authored by persons with whom I have little philosophical kinship. I find it acceptable to quote such statements because the Scripture says, “if there be any virtue, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)

In other words, a diamond found in a pig pen is still a diamond.

A diamond from the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, is worth our attention. He said, “You will never find peace and happiness until you are ready to commit yourself to something worth dying for.” Jesus and pleasing Him is that worthy object.

What you do is important, but who you are is more important. Resolve to be a person growing “in grace and in knowledge.” Remember, as our loving Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (II Corinthians 12:9)  Regardless of your age and physical limitation hang that on the corridors of your cranium and reflect on it often.