Archive for February, 2022

Life’s Basic Requirements

I Corinthians 4: 1 – 2

Jesus has assigned you a management position. Isn’t that exciting? You have two important roles. If you actually occupied a suite of offices with your title on the door, it would have two words on it. Both are found in our text. They are: SERVANT and STEWARD.

In considering the following, evaluate your life in light of these roles.

Believers are to be the Master’s servants. Servants are under authority. All of us are responsible to someone or some authority. The Greek word translated servants is “huperates.”  In considering your role, let’s first evaluate it as one under authority.  “Huperates” refers to a subordinate officer wanting to and waiting to carry out the orders of his superior. It involves an eagerness to do the master’s will. 

The term translated servant was also used of an orderly who attended a military commander in war. The orderly lived to enable the commander to function and win his objective. When there was a command, there was no equivocation, only obedience. We live best if we live to serve.

Albert Schweitzer, a genius with a servant temperament, said, “The only ones among us who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”  In our mad rush for pleasure many have forgotten this elemental formula as phrased by this brilliant man.

Our text next refers to you as a “steward” and states that “it is required in stewards that they be found faithful.”

The text uses a second term to describe a believer. It is the Greek word “oikonomos” which means “stewards.” It meant a manager or trustee. Throughout the New Testament it is used to define the task of a disciple. As a follower of Christ you are responsible for managing your life. Upon reaching adulthood you have a management position waiting for you. You manage your life. The Lord governs it.

I have a picture of me made with former President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office. On his desk can be seen the sign originally displayed there by Harry Truman which states: “The Buck Stops Here.” 

That sign belongs on the desk of your mind. It gives you something for which to live.  It gives a sense of responsibility.

A good steward always plans ahead for the inevitable. The ultimate inevitable is death and life beyond the grave.

For the believer that demands laying up treasures in heaven by faithful service to your loving Master. Resolve to be a faithful servant right now.

For the person not yet of faith, trust of Jesus as savior insures where you will spend eternity. Not doing so also insures where you will spend eternity.

Reasons to Be Bold and Not Give Up

“And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

That promise was not made to you, it was made to Joshua as the mantle of leadership was laid on him as the death of Moses neared. Though not made to you, it is germane in the life of all doing God’s will. It is a living principle regarding God working in the lives of His people. If that is true, and it is, let’s explore how it is applicable in your life. 

First consider what God does in advance of what we must resultantly be cause of and not do.

Going before us means God leads His people. Always search for and be sure what you are doing is of the Lord. The provisions are based on following His leadership. If following His leadership, why would He not aid in accomplishing it. Logically He does.

In doing so He is “with us,” Don’t act like He is with you, act because He is with you. This is the provision of friendship.

If you are doing His will, he will stay with you, He will not cop out on you. In challenging times of resistance in opposition to His will be bold, He has not abandoned you. It is at those times His presence is most often felt most realized.

He will not forsake you. He will not walk out on you. Inevitably there are times you may feel He has, He hasn’t. Facts are fixed. Feelings are fickle. 

Now these provisions make some very important reactions  possible.

Do not fear. Waver? Maybe momentarily. If so, drawing on the provisions noted he was emboldened. When facing the farmable walls of Jericho, in confronting the coalition of armies gathered against him, and in dealing with the complexities of numerous other opposition he may well have vacillated, taken a deep breath, reflected on the fact God was leading him, was with him, had not left him nor forsake him …. and charged into the battle.

Don’t be dismayed. A dictionary defines dismay as “to break down the courage  completely, as by sudden danger or trouble; be dishearten thoroughly; to be surprised in such a manner as to disillusion.” In summary, to not be dismayed means don’t quit, don’t give up. Persistence is often the purchase price of success, push on.

These provisions are yours if you are doing His will. That is true whether you are undertaking a big project or going about your obligatory daily responsibilities. If you are in His will these provisions are relevant. Press on, be of good courage. Reflect, “… the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” 

A Hopeful Life – Part Two

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Inherent in new life are three wonderful blessings. Hope is the third following joy and peace. Our God is a God of the hopeless. 

As you face life with a commitment to Christ, let your heart sing with Mary Martin from “South Pacific,” “I am stuck like a dope on a thing called hope and I can’t get it out of my heart.”

The expression, “the God of all hope,” means the God who inspires hope, He imparts it. He is the Source of hope. It is insured by “the power of the Holy Spirit.” This type of hope isn’t simply a weak aspiration, it is a deep rooted expectation. Hope does not work apart from trust. It is the forward looking aspect of faith. 

In our text is found the enabling element for there to be joy, peace, and hope. The key words are “in believing.” A modern English translation is clearer: “in the exercise of your faith.”

The principle character in Og Mandino’s, The Greatest Salesman in the World, said, “I will make good habits and become their slave.” He suggests these habits. You can be a slave to good or bad habits. These good habits inspire hope.


1. I will close the book on pessimism and open the book of praise.

2. I will not keep score on what life owes me, but think about what I owe Christ.

3. I will stop looking for friends and start being friendly.

4. I will be content in Christ and stop whining about what I don’t have.

5. I will stop looking for others to help me and start helping others.

6. I will commit my life to the service of an imperfect church and keep in mind the twelve chosen by Christ were not perfect.

7. I will leave the choices of life up to the Lord and prayerfully seek  and do them. An old English lexicon reveals the English word meaning of hope came from a contraction of desire plus expectation. This applied hope means we desire for God to keep His word and expect He will.

“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ … without hope and without God in the world. But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He, Himself, is our peace!”  (Ephesians 2: 13, 14a)

“Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ….” (I Peter 1: 13)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

A Hopeful Life – Part One

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Jesus came to give us new life. Inherent in this new life are many wonderful blessings. Among them are joy, peace, and hope. This is the first of the three.

The biggest word in my vocabulary has 29 letters. It is floccinaucinihilipilification. It means the habit of underestimating. Don’t underestimate your worth to the Lord and what potential He has embodied in you.

Every day write across the sky of your mind: “This will be a day with all joy and peace in believing,” that will, “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Hang this slogan on the peg board of your memory and read it often: 

“Beware of the Barrenness of Busyness.” 

Think in terms of your attitude and frame of mind. Evaluate it from a spiritual standpoint. Three spiritual states stimulated by the birth of Christ can make each day the best day of your life. They are found in Romans 15: 13:

The first is joy.

The Greek word “chara”is translated “joy” means “gladness,” or “delight.” It is seen in so few lives. Our text speaks of “the God of all hope” enabling, “you to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In case you have the mistaken impression Jesus was somber and gloomy, I would remind you He was so fun loving, so joyous, that some of His detractors accused Him of being drunk. When have you, while sober as a judge, had someone accuse you of being drunk because you were so joyous?

Once we drift away from the Biblical principles established by Christ our joy begins to fade. Study His Word daily to benefit from its blessings.

To have the joy of your salvation program your mind on the Word of God. Then you can develop a biblical worldview. This enables you to interpret the events of life in light of Scripture. You are prepared thereby to confront life’s conflicts and be a conqueror.

“Joy to the world the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King.” As you become a submissive subject in His kingdom then it becomes apparent, “joy of the Lord is your strength.” If that is true, and it is, how strong are you?

The second of the three is peace,

As a result of so little personal peace Albert Camus has called ours “an age of overt anxiety.” Worry has been termed the “official emotion of our generation.”  It is the most pervasive psychological problem of our time.

Augustine was a sensual based individual until he encountered Christ. His life was filled with discontent and fear. Then he wrote of his transformation: “Thou hast touched me and I have been translated into Thy peace.”

“He, Himself, is our peace.”  (Ephesians 2: 14a) Fill your mind with His word and live as if in His presence, then peace will be yours.

Mary Magdalene: A Commiserate Plodder 10/10/99

Luke 8:1-3

JESUS CHRIST was asked how often a person should be forgiven. In making the inquiry Peter was revealing he was fed up and ready to explode. “Seventy times seven” was not the answer the Big Fisherman expected or wanted. Perseverance was not a strong point for Simon. In answering this question Jesus stresses a principle expedient in the total Christian experience. It is persistence. Plodding is a secular synonym for it. Keeping on keeping on doing the right thing typifies plodding.

Plodders know the four steps to accomplishment to be:

Plan purposefully, prepare prayerfully, proceed positively, and pursue persistently. Hang them on the wall of your mind and refer to them each time your thoughts pass by.

Plodders are people who wanting to do something find a way no matter how difficult while others find excuses. They are willing to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable, and bear the intolerable to achieve their goal. Samuel Johnson, the British author, proved he was a plodder by being one of the first to compile an English language dictionary. Johnson said, “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.”

Inspirational plodders can be found in such diverse venues as athletics and academics.

Nolan Ryan is the prototype of a plodder. He is known as one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all times. His emergence marks the path of a plodder.

Most second-graders are asleep at 1:00 AM. Not little Nolan. He was up helping his dad deliver “The Houston” on his 55 mile route. Trying to help the family in their financial crunch he would work until 4:30 AM and get a couple of hours of sleep before school. In the process he was developing the work ethic that would identify him all of his life. Throwing newspapers was a prelude to throwing something of more significance, a baseball.

He once told a reporter, “The type person I am, I deal with today and prepare for tomorrow.”

After a brilliant high school career Nolan joined the Mets late in 1966. His troubles intensified. An elbow injury sidelined him right away and kept him out most of the 1967 season. When he returned he had control problems the next four years. He refused to give up and resolved to improve. He worked hard and studied his fellow pitching great Tom Seaver who advised him to go out and do the job.

In 1971 he was traded to the second rate California Angels. He resolved to make the best of it by working hard and studying the best of the best. His coaches told him he needed to focus and focus he did. Like a telephoto zoom lense.

One of his coaches, Jimmie Reese, would hit line drives to him after practice to help improve his speed and agility. In practice he would concentrate on one spot and throw there over and over until he was certain that is where the ball would go.

In 1979 he became the first million dollar baseball player when traded to the Houston Astros. He knew that to compete against bigger and stronger players he would have to work harder. Day after day he put in two hours more workout time than the others. The work ethic he learned as a second- grader was paying off. The late Gene Autry, former owner of the Angels, said of Ryan, “It’s easy for people to always talk about Nolan Ryan the pitcher. But for me, I’m probably more impressed by Nolan Ryan, the person.”

It was Nolan Ryan’s plodding that enable him to enjoy a 27 year major league career. He pitched more no-hitters, recorded more strikeouts and played more seasons than any player. He holds or shares 50 other major league records. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot with the second highest vote total of all times. He belongs in the “Plodder’s Hall of Fame.”

Inspirational plodders are found in every field of endeavor. “The Sunday Lady of Possum Trot” is a sterling example.

Little Martha sat in her log house playhouse one Sunday afternoon enjoying the beauty of the season when she heard voices of young children at play.

In a soft cultured voice Martha asked, “Do you go to Sunday School?”
In chorus they answered, “No’m.”
“Do you go to regular school?”
“No’m,” they shyly replied.
There was no school in the Georgia uplands for poor children.
“Would you like to hear some stories like children listen to in Sunday School?”
Eagerly they gathered around and listened intently.

The next week they returned bringing their little sisters. The third week they came again bringing their parents. The following week neighbors joined in. The adults listened as intently as the children sang their songs with childish enthusiasm.

She realized that if they could learn the Bible they could do well in school. With parental consent she started teaching them during the week. The numbers grew and Martha’s dad gave her land and built a school house across the road from the plantation. Dormitories became a necessity and were soon built to house the farm boys that were now coming from some distance.

As part of their learning Martha resolved to instill in them a good work ethic. This wasn’t all together easy for these boys thought there was work beneath their somewhat primitive dignity.

One of her first young boarders who was told to wash his clothes told Martha “Ah reckon washin’ clothes is a woman’s work.” Knowing arguing with the boy would do no good Martha washed them her self. Embarrassed by this the boy gently pushed her aside saying, “I ‘low as how I can wash my own overalls.” The other boys decided to follow their leader and each washed his own.

Martha moved into the dorm. At night she would sing with the homesick youth and provided them special biscuits and honey as a treat.

It occurred to her that if she educated the boys and not the girls who would they marry as a peer. This required new girl’s dorms.

Martha invested her own fortune in the school but its growth exceeded her capacity. She chanced to write Henry Ford and tell him of her experiment. His courteous response contained a gift of one dollar. Martha bought seed with it and planted a crop. In the fall she harvested and sold it of a substantial profit. She wrote Ford again thanking him and telling him of her industrious use of the dollar. She included a warm invitation to visit if he were in her part of the country.

Henry Ford was impressed and knowing he was coming through that area consented to visit. He was so impressed that he invested generously and encouraged his friends such as Andrew Carnegie to do the same.

Today you can visit her school, the largest and one of the most beautiful campuses in America near Rome, Georgia, Berry College. There on the crest of the highest mountain is the “House of Dreams,” a retreat built for her by her students. They said she gave of herself too much and wanted to provide for her a personal retreat. She never used it, desiring instead to teach by her example the merits of plodding. In doing so she gave America one of its most beautiful and productive schools.

There is a Biblical character with a distinctly different background who provides an admirable profile of a plodder. Her name was Mary and she was from the sea side village of Magdela on the Sea of Galilee.

Magdela means “the tower” and the ruins of the tower and city walls still mark the location of her home town along the shore of the sea. Dye works and textile factories made it a prosperous town. The towns reputation and the location of the introduction of Mary in the New Testament have given her an undeserved reputation. She is a victim of guilt by association and assumption.

The first reference to her in the New Testament follows the account of the anonymous sinful woman caught in the act of adultery. Coupled with the fact she was from a town known for its reputation of women of ill repute there is no Biblical reference to her being such a person. None of the Christian Fathers who wrote in the early centuries attributed such character to her. The church in Naples, Italy established a house for fallen women in 1324 called the “Magdalen House.” Thus, Mary has been given a bad and undeserved rap.

Her identity as a plodder is well established.

She is introduced to us by Dr. Luke as having been possessed by seven demons. Seven is the number for perfection and may have indicated she had many demons when Christ delivered her from their powerful control.

Have you ever wondered how Jesus managed to wander around like a nomad without any visible means of support? In addition to the wealth of certain apostles there were certain wealthy women who were His disciples. Three are distinctly identified: Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Susanna, Mary Magdalene, and “many others who provided for Him from their substance” (Luke 8: 3).

She is thus identified with women of substance. Perhaps it was inherited wealth or from the industry of Magdela. Wealth is both a blessing and a burden. Those who have it have the responsibility for managing it. Mary chose wisely how to use her wealth. She used it in support of Christ. God has placed in the hands of persons the wealth to bless many. Discretionary distribution of it could further the cause of Christ.

Eight of the fourteen times Mary is mentioned in Scripture it is in connection with other women. She always heads the list indicating her position of leadership.

When Jesus freed her from the demons He also set free her spirit of sacrifice, courage, and perseverance. She became an all-star plodder. She lived down the stigma of being demonic and lived up to the standard of a free child of God. To become all she could be she had to be an overcomer. Most plodders do.

God hasn’t promised smooth roads that are wide,
A swift easy journey needing no guide.
God hasn’t promised skies that are always blue,
Nor flower strewn pathways all life through.
God has not promised that we shall not bear
Many a heart ache, many a care.
But God has promised,
Rest for the weary, help from above
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Mary is a living example of the reassuring example that “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).

When Jesus saw her He looked upon her and He did not merely see demons He saw a potential angel of mercy who could be a blessing to Him and others. He always looks upon the best potential of each of us. In His wonderful plan for our lives His design is best to be sought. Her life-long devotion and delight in doing for Him was an outgrowth of gratitude for His deliverance. As she had experienced suffering because of demonism now she found joy in deliverance. There is no possibility of repaying our Lord for all He does for us but it is appropriate to express gratitude through obedient plodding after Him.

Like the other women with her Mary provided from her substance for the support of Christ’s earthly mission. This virtually stealth group of women traveled with Christ just as did the twelve apostles. It was they who provided the nomadic provisions necessary for His itinerant ministry.

Not all who are healed or helped are grateful. Christ healed ten lepers but only one turned back to say thanks. Ingratitude is more often found than endearment. Persons who respond joyously and graciously find almost as much delight in doing so as in their deliverance.

The most difficult grace is the grace of receiving. One of the most delightful ones is the grace of giving by showing gratitude. She who was held by seven demons held back no acknowledgment of thanksgiving. She first gave herself to the Lord and found no boundary for her giving of her substance.

Plodders don’t equivocate or vacillate even when others forsake. Mary and the other women were with our Lord when He made that last journey from Galilee to the city of His death, Jerusalem. Together they had to minister to our Lord as long as possible. However, now in Jerusalem His detractors dominated.

Mary was there to hear Pontius Pilate’s pronouncement of the death sentence even after acquitting Him. She was a witness to the inhumanity of the blood thirsty crowd. The sound of the hammer on nails reverberated in her as the cries of derision resonated in her ears. Plodders offer comfort just by their presence. Thereby they show their perseverance.

Dr. Luke tells us “All His acquaintances and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” (Luke 23: 49).

What words cannot capture artists have commendably attempted to portray.

I stood transfixed in the Louvre before a painting of desolation and love. It portrays a dramatic moment during the crucifixion. The sky has grown dark but in the darkness can be seen a kneeling form. It is Mary Magdalene holding the blood streaked feet of Christ with her lips pressed against them. Plodders are devotees.

Dr. Luke tells us of an aspect of the burial the artist Rubens attempts to capture in his painting entitled “The Descent of the Cross.” Nicodemus and Joseph having received the battered body of Christ have come to entomb the lifeless form. “The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid” (Luke 23: 55).

The end!

The front end of glory. Life went into an eclipse for Mary and Christ’s loyalists.

Then came Sunday morning. Defeated, disillusioned, and disparing women came to the tomb. Life was hopeless and there was no hope of life. They brought spices for the final processing of the body. They mused who would roll away the stone.

Then all heaven broke loose. “He is risen” was the angelic announcement. Set free from the bonds of death and the limitations of human life Christ was turned loose on the world.

After Peter and John were summonsed to the tomb and had left Mary lingered at the tomb only to have her reverie disturbed by two angels who asked, “Woman why are you weeping?” with a fearful voice she said, “Because they have taken away my Lord.”

As she was about to leave she sensed a presence. Assured Christ was dead and assuming the figure to be the gardener Mary asked where they had laid the body of Christ. “Tell me where you have laid Him and I will take Him away.”

She never considered her weakness only her opportunity.

Then by an unmistakable voice her name was called, “Mary.”

The inflection, the intonation, the resonance, that voice was the same one that commanded the demons to leave her. All the glory of heaven was in that voice. With elation she replied, “Rabboni!” This was the strongest expression of respectful, rather reverential, love. Rabboni means “my great master,” and He was.

To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. Mary loved very much because she knew she was forgiven much. If we were to inventory His grace applied in our lives we each would love Him more dearly.

Plodders know who to follow and in what direction.

As a reward for her sacrifice, courage, and perseverance Christ appointed her the first herald of His resurrection.

As the first to have seen the resurrected Lord she must have been the fastest to have shared it. Having personally been set free from seven demons she, of all people, believed Him to have been set free from human kinds most dreaded detractor, death.

What such liberation means is illustrated by John Bunyan in his “Grace Abounding.”

“I find to this day these seven abominations in my heart. Pride, envy, anger, intemperance, lasciviousness, covetousness, spiritual sloth — these were Dante’s seven scars on his sanctified head ….It is better to enter into Heaven with seven devils excavated out of our hearts as with a knife, than to have them gnawing in our hearts to all Eternity.”

There are scars in heaven, but not on Dante, Bunyan, or Mary Magdalene. The scars on Christ obtained at Calvary purged, healed, and made perfect all saints.