Archive for October, 2021

You Are A Promise, A Possibility

God hasn’t asked you to be the best at anything. He just wants you to be your best at everything.

Don’t measure yourself by anybody else. You, the unique you, are your standard.

Resolve to be your best at everything.

Some will remember the lines from an old Gaither Vocal Band song, “I am a promise, I am a possibility, I am a promise with a capital “p,” I can be anything God wants me to be.”

I have my life’s theme text posted several places around our house: “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men” Colossians 3:23.

That results in emotional equilibrium.  If you do what you do to an audience of one, and people criticize you, you don’t get depressed. You didn’t do it for them, you did it for Him.

If you do it to an audience of one and people brag on you and praise you, you don’t become egotistical. You didn’t do it for them, you did it for Him.

It is His approval, not man’s response that matters.

Aspire to be your best self always. Make this a moment of commitment to the Lord to always be your best.

“You are a promise with a capital “p.” You are a great big bundle of potentiality.”

The Sower and The Seed

Conduct has consequences. Throughout the Bible, sowing is used as a metaphor for one’s actions and reaping for the results of those actions. There is an old agricultural axiom supportive of this reality. It goes like this. You reap what you sow. You reap more than you sow. You reap later than you sow. Consider:

You reap what you sow. A farmer never expects corn when cotton is planted. Why should we sow bitterness and expect to harvest kindness, or hate and expect to harvest love?

Paul the Apostle writes: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” He goes on to instruct us to “sow to please the spirit” rather than the flesh, indicating that a spiritual life will result in reward.

What crop are you going to sow today?

You reap more than you sow. A single grain of corn sewn can produce 800 or more kernels. 

People sometimes feel like this law of multiplication is unfair. They make a few bad decisions, and when life falls apart, they think, “Well, I know I haven’t always made the wisest decisions, but I don’t deserve all this.”

However, what they are experiencing is probably not punishment; it is harvest. The law of the harvest doesn’t operate according to exact proportions. Seeds don’t stay seeds.

Sowing doesn’t just produce more, it often produces better. 

You reap later than you sow. This disconnect of time often causes persons not to associate the actions with the result. Because of the nine months between impregnation and birth the Aborigines of Australia have never associate the two. 

Consider some of the things you are experiencing today, and to what past action they may relate. Likewise, consider today’s actions and to what result they may lead. In light of this, be kind to your tomorrow self.

The Family: Prep School for Life 3/19/00

Matthew 19:4-6

JESUS CHRIST said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

The words of Jesus Christ regarding marriage, family life and parenting are so disregarded and disobeyed as to indicate people are ashamed of them. Derelict parents, disobedient children, and consequenting dissolved marriages have become commonplace.

Not since 1973 has there been produced a network series depicting a loving happy family. As a result of the breakdown in parent/child relationships and the breakup of husband/wife relationships, the secular world has rationalized as reasonable and the Christian world appropriately rushed to minister to those injured by divorce while little has been said or done to affirm God’s norm for the family.

For fear of injuring those victims of broken homes, we have neglected assertions related to maintaining wholesome family ties.

Nearly two decades ago the White House Council on the Family issued this statement: “America’s families are in trouble – trouble so deep and pervasive as to threaten the future of our nation.” At that conference, Paul Popenoe of the American Institute of Family Relations stated: “No society has ever survived after its family life deteriorated.”

If the family fails, then all the other institutions of society will fail. The family is the basic unit of society under-guiding all else. It is the prep school for life. Therein we learn to live in community. If you can’t do it there you are not likely to be able to do it properly anywhere.

The basis for family life is found in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate for him.”

Somebody, on behalf of Jesus Christ, needs to declare firmly that the unholy union of two people living together in the pretending role of husband and wife out of wedlock is an affront to God regardless of how pleasant and popular it may appear to be.

Trial marriages are to be rejected as possible alternatives to God’s plan.

BIBLICAL BASIS FOR MARRIAGE

I. THERE MUST BE A CAUSE – MATTHEW 19:6

“Help mate” – Genesis 2:18 = “to go along side,” or “corresponding to,” or “a second self”. This “oneness” is multi-faceted. It is: physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, and financial.

Dr. David Mace: “There are no happy marriages only marriage partners who are immature.” The problem is not with the institution of marriage but with people.

For a cake to turn out well the right ingredients in proper proportions must be added. If sour instead of fresh milk is used, an unpleasant taste results. It is the cake, however, that gets the blame not the milk.

For a marriage to work both parties have to leave adolescence behind and never return to it. Neither can mentally remain single. Two persons become one in flesh and blood through natural procuration. That is, when they join God in creating a life with an eternal destiny.

In a family setting a child learns to be a citizen, worker, friend, neighbor, mate and parent. All of this is learned through the marvelous university called the family long before the child enters first grade.

There is a generation spoken of in the Bible with which youth should strive not to identify. “There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes” (Prov. 30: 11-12).

A ruby is a rare and valuable precious stone. There are, however, other stones which closely resemble it such as the garnet and spinel. Some of these stones look so much like a ruby that only experts can discern the difference. Geologist use a dichroscope to test the stones. A dichroscope makes one see double. Two images of the same stone are seen. A genuine ruby produces one image in orange- red and another in carmine-red. The garnet and spinel each show only one color.

Real mature love under the “dichroscope” of discernment reflects two aspects. These are both illustrated by a classroom experience. A teacher was trying to explain love to a young elementary class.

Dictionary definitions were not proper for their understanding. Pupils were asked to show the teacher what love meant. The ensuing long silence was broken by one six-year old who rose slowly from her seat. She approached the teacher and giving her a big hug said, “That’s love!” Assurance was given by the teacher that one form of love had been expressed, however, she asked for further insight as to what love meant. Soon that same little girl enlisted the help of others in putting the chairs in order and tidying up the room. She then exclaimed, “Love is helping someone too!” That childish wisdom develops two aspects of mature love. Love is not only saying…it is doing. As the real ruby emits two images of varying reds so mature love shows a willingness to cooperate in doing. Cooperating is love in action. It is mobile and meaningful maturity.

Cooperation involves doing things together. Many persons have a breakdown in cooperation, simply they are not together in the right setting often enough. Work schedules, social activities, civic affairs, church-relating events, and numerous other demands divide couples’ time. Select things that can be done together. Hobbies, recreational events, and other extra-affectionate activities that can be done together build a cooperative spirit. Plan schedules to allow for time together. Keep in touch with each other.

Cooperation inevitably requires someone to adjust to the advantage of the other. It is different from capitulation. Capitulation is surrender. Cooperation is support. Don’t keep score. Score keeping implies having an opponent. Instead both parties must be proponents of fair play. Score keepers have a tendency to be forgetful of other’s good plays. They are often ultra-sensitive to their own “scores.” Associated with keeping score of who has done more than the other is the idea of defeating another. After all, scores are not really kept. They are published and reported. Reporting on ones own virtues and victories seldom gains popularity. Conversely, one should be quick to acknowledge and compliment other’s cooperative ventures.

In cooperating keep in mind these “12 Things to Remember” as listed by Marshall Field:

The value of time
The success of perseverance
The pleasure of working
The dignity of simplicity
The worth of character
The power of kindness
The influence of example
The obligation of duty
The wisdom of economy
The virtue of patience
The improvement of talent
The joy of originating

There are basically three reasons for marriage:
1. One is reproduction
2. Another is for sharing life “And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18).
3. The last is as a demonstration of divine love. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Jesus left His heavenly Father and came to earth to identify with His bride, the church. This is a vital aspect of Christian marriage. As he left the Father to identify with a distinct loyalty so there is to be a parental separation from our parents when we marry. There is then a new center of allegiance and base of loyalty.

Demonstrations of love are often more meaningful than declarations of love. Neither should be neglected. Avowal and action are both assets.

II. THERE MUST BE A CLEAVING – MATTHEW 19:5

In marriage two are to “cleave” and “be one flesh”. To “cleave” means to cling, adhere to, or more literally be glued to. In Greek parlance, it means, “to be permanently bonded to.” One said of this text it means when you are married you are stuck with your partner. No, it means you are to stick to your partner.

Every marriage bond is under attack. Often these attacks are more subtle than direct. This multitude of varied assaults, no one of which is sufficient, of itself, to destroy the family, when combined have a devastating effect.

The thought of togetherness does not envision every family member sitting in front of their own television set, eating their own TV dinner, and waiting for their own phone ring. This bond must grow. Christian living is not an accomplished and completed stage, it is a growing process.

To help build this bond:

1. When problems arise attack them not one another
2. Put people before things
3. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt
4. Never argue or fight in public
5. Reserve time for each other
6. Be flexible and adjustable

If persons are going to maturely cooperate in a family framework, they cannot:

ALIENATE themselves from the other family members by doing only “what I feel like.” Disregard for others is devastating to harmony in a home.

AMPLIFY the inconsistencies and errors of others while minimizing their own. Always weight your vices and others virtues on the same scales. Romans 14: 19 says, “do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” In the word “edification” can be heard the word “edifice.” An edifice is a building. Edification means to build up one another.

AFFILIATE with individuals of organizations that demand time and attitudes contrary to what is needed to build good family life.

APPEASE carnal appetites by flirting with persons or interests other than those worthy of the devotion of a family person. Such flirtations are a prelude to frustration.

ACQUIESCE to the lowest denomination. Emphasis is thus put on common. Aspire to rise above that which one can do alone by achieving what two can do together.

The Greek word translated love in this passage is AGAPOA, which is the same word used in Romans 5:8 telling of God’s love for us. It is the noblest and strongest word for love. It speaks of an act of the will rather than emotion. This kind of God-love is sacrificial love. It is always active. It is expressive yet controlled. I Corinthians 9:25 instructs us, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” Hence, an athletic expression is used to speak of self- discipline.

No person can love any other person properly until, in love, they have correctly related to the Christ who loves them most. If one will not receive His great love and return it, that one is not likely to be able to love others fully.

III. THERE MUST BE A CONCLUSION

As students progress in school they move from one grade level to the next. Each is different. Couples upon entering marriage need to remember they are not static. Marriages and families change. This requires flexibility and the capacity to adjust.

A study in the Journal of Developmental Psychology reports on a ten year study of 500 Midwestern marriages. It revealed that the quality of the marriage began to dip almost immediately after the marriage. This change continues for the first three years of marriage before plateauing and remaining constant for the next three years. The next change encompasses years eight, nine, and ten. It is commonly called the “seven year itch.”

Most studies show couples go into marriage simply anticipating being happy. The old line “They lived happily ever after” doesn’t fly. If couples enter marriage realizing things will not remain static they are better equipped to adjust. This is true of any relationship.

For there to be a successful completion of the courses taught in life’s prep school, the family, there must be love. The New Testament word used to describe this type love is the kind our Heavenly Father shows us, AGAPE. It means unselfish, self-giving love. It is not an act of the emotions but an act of will. We must live for each other. Remember the word “united” can become the word “untied” simply by changing the position of the little letter “I.”

The Bible appeals for us to “encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:11).

An image of today’s family is a pyramid. The family is spread like the base. They are scattered. For the family to be cohesive they must come together at the apex of the pyramid. Right up at the top of the pyramid two lines converse at a given point. Daily family members must merge at the apex. It is God’s throne where they meet and pray for each other. This is best done when they are geographically together. However, even if separated by miles there should be a mutually agreed upon time when they meet at the apex in prayer for one another.

For there to be a harmonious horizontal relationship with one another there must be a good vertical relationship with the Lord.

When Storm Winds Come

“They shall mount up with wings like eagles.” Isaiah 40:31

We can learn from an eagle how to face the winds of adversity —- and we all do.  First, expect adversity, don’t act surprised when it comes. Jesus warned us that in this world we would have tribulation.

Standing on the summit of Mount Pisgah, from where Moses first viewed the Promised Land, I got a good lesson from an eagle. From there the vast territory all the way west to the Mediterranean Sea and north to Mount Hermon can be seen. There was a massive storm moving in from the direction of the Sea. As the storm moved our way, I watched a soaring eagle. As the winter storm approached with its chilling rain, the eagle spread its five foot wings and faced into the storm. The winds caught beneath the fixed and locked wings, enabling the bird to rise effortlessly above the storm. There it virtually floated, using the storm as its source of strength. During its ascent through the chilly storm, ice had formed on its wings, but still it sailed and was sustained by the storm. At last, as the storm passed, it rode the wind currents back down to its habitat.

The eagle is designed for flight in the upper atmosphere. They have been seen by pilots above 35,000 feet. They are fashioned to be at home in the upper atmosphere. As the air becomes more rarified it defies most birds to enter it, the eagle becomes more at home. Turbulence causes thermal drafts that give the eagle greater lifting power. It loves turbulence; it works to the eagle’s advantage.

If you soar like an eagle it gives you a larger view, a better perspective of reality.

Man is wise, God is all-wise. Man proposes and God disposes.

Even if you have a four-wheel drive mind, it can get bogged down contemplating the wisdom of God. The thrill of it is, He is willing to share. He makes this offer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). In modern parlance that is, without making you feel foolish.

Who soars like an eagle? “…those who wait on the Lord…” Isaiah 40:31. Are you ready for a day of waiting on the Lord? If so, go soar.

Jesus Sees You

“Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”  John 1:18

When Jesus encountered Nathanael a conversation ensued in which Jesus let Nathanael know he knew him. Nathanael asked how. Jesus said, “…when you were under the fig tree, I saw you….”

What was so startlingly unusual about that, that it would have arrested Nathanael’s attention? In that day fig trees in the Bible Land grew large. They looked like a large mushroom with branches growing up, and drooping out forming a secluded open space underneath at the base. On hot days persons would crawl under where it was cooler, thinking no one could see them. Jesus was saying, I know you so thoroughly that I saw you when you thought no one could.

As a child when they told me Jesus saw me it scared the wits out of me. Then one day it dawned on me, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy”  Psalm 33:18.

What a joyous relief! He is constantly aware of me. That gave me motivation to do good with confidence, He knew my needs, and had the capacity to meet them. Relax. It still works.

Here is a good time to let God’s word speak for itself.

“You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.”  Psalm 139:2

Are you willing to pray “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties….”? Psalm 139:23

Be assured, Jesus always sees you, even when you are under your “fig tree.”