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Getting to Know God

I thirst for knowledge, knowledge about God. A. W. Tozer has pulled back the curtain and granted us a glimpse of God. Tozer was a pastor and author of “The Knowledge of the Holy,” which is a clear, simple, and interesting work dealing with the attributes of God. Therein he writes of “The Self-Sufficiency of God.”

“Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard for any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfection, to doubt Him takes nothing away.

“What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself. In coming to Him at any time, we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith. He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when He will see no one. Neither does He change His mind regarding anything.”

In summary, God is God and what we think of Him, either good or bad, does not change His character or affect His nature, He is the one constant in our ever changing world. With Him there is no variableness. 

You will find Him best revealed in the silent sanctuary of His Word, the Bible. You will find Him knowable and loveable in all of His relations with you.

He is trustworthy.

If you want to know yourself better get to know Him better for you are made in His likeness. We try to make God physically like us with human features.  Instead we should strive to make us like Him spiritually. A starting characteristic is one that can change ourselves and those around us. It is found in this, “God is love.” Daily try to be like God in all things. That will mean we will love the unloving, unlovely, and unlovable. That includes those who are unlikable, unlike us, and don’t like us. Just think, God loves all of those. When the Bible says, “God so loved the world….,” “world” is code language for those noted above.

Here is good news, “world” includes you. God so loved you, He sent His Son on a rescue mission that not only provides the ultimate gift of an eternal  home in heaven with Him, but with the bonus blessing of His presence with you until you get home with Him.

I don’t know what you think of God, but I do know what God thinks of you. He loves you and wants the best for you. Every act of disobedience to Him is the forfeiture of blessings for you. Get to know Him better, love Him more, and be more blessed.

To Your Better Self Be True

There is an old cliche that is no longer vogue. It is, “Root hog or die poor.”

It is interpreted to mean as a hog has to work to get what it needs, so do we. If it doesn’t, it will die without achieving. The expression isn’t vogue, but it is valuable. 

Achievers are “rooters.” Adam and Eve were the first assigned work to do. It is an intended task for all. This is not only true in order to achieve, but to achieve in order that it might be gratifying, fulfilling. To avoid it is to avert gratification. 

Find your niche and be yourself therein. Be the original you. There is no other you.  If you try to be someone else you keep from the world your true self. Don’t strive to be anyone else.

Consider the lilies of the field. They are lilies. No lily has ever borne an olive. A lily is that, a lily. Does a stalk of corn ever bear a watermelon? Has an apple tree ever produced an orange? Neither are you ever going to be a better, more productive you by striving to be someone else. 

You don’t choose your calling, your calling chooses you. It is sad to see a person try to be what they are not gifted to be. It is good to aspire, it is better to assess your gifts and fit them to a suitable task.

Young David volunteered to face the giant Goliath. Upon doing so the king offered him his uniform and weapons. David said in effect they are not me, they don’t fit. He wanted it to truly be David on that battlefield not with the king’s sword, but with what he was capable of using, a sling, a simple deadly sling. It worked.

Be what you are capable of being, all you are capable of being. Prepare yourself to be your best by reading, training, studying, to groom yourself. Associate with people of like faith. Don’t be afraid of people who know more and have achieved more than you. Learn from them how to improve on your traits similar to theirs, but without trying to be them.

You have no obligation to succeed. You have only the obligation to be true to the self God created you to be.

In Shakespear’s “Hamlet” Polonius is bidding farewell to his son, Laertes, who is leaving Denmark for France. Polonius, like any concerned parent, gives his son some advice before the young man leaves home: “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12: 2)

“I, therefore, … beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4: 1)

A Joyful Heart

If happiness, joy, were a contagious disease how infectious would you be?

COVID changed the face, that is the face of America. Happiness, joy, was bleached from faces and for many has not returned.

If you have even the most faint smile on your face indicating a joyful heart you won’t have trouble infecting persons and soliciting a similar response. It can brighten things up. If you have a happy face about to break out you will never be short of friends. People who enjoy life in spite of challenges and an atmosphere of gloom are magnets of friendship.

Most persons who know the Bible, and they are not most persons, will remember, “ a joyful heart does good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17: 22)

There is another verse with a similar message: “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” (Proverbs 15: 13)

There are a couple of descriptive aphorisms worth recalling often.  Such as:

“If you have Jesus in your heart, notify your face.” And:

“Joy is the banner that flies over the castle of the heart when the King is in residence.”

It is people who typify these truths that people want to be around. They are friendship magnets, people are drawn to them.

The oil of joy is a medicine for those down and out, burdened, and sorrowful. A big gleeful smile is not suitable for every occasion, but a person who looks on the bright side of things and expresses the sufficiency of the Lord is.

Let’s face it, our tank of joy isn’t always full. We, too, have downcast occasions that drain us of things that give us happiness. It is then we must switch to our second tank and evidence the sufficiency of the Lord. 

Be honest when you are down and out. Lift up your head and shout “I am down and out, BUT I can see the glory of the Lord even amid sorrow. There is a little known poem, the fullness of which eludes my memory of all but one line related to the fact one has not learned to live until he has learned to see the stars through the sycamore tree. The sycamore is symbolic of sorrow. The star is emblematic of bright hope and joy. The line is emblematic of seeing the best and brightest even amid sorrow.

If Nehemiah 8:10 which states “the joy of the Lord is thy strength” is true, and it is, how strong are you? Those words were spoken to the people of Israel as they stood among the ruins of their homeland from which they had been away in exile for years. If they could find joy in their darkest hour so can we by reminding ourselves of the sufficiency of God and His promises of provisions for us.

Got a problem? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3: 5, 6)

        Smile, God loves you.

The Church’s One Foundation

The first church I served as pastor was Mt. Pisgah Baptist just outside of Mt. Hermon. To get there you had to turn off the asphalt road onto a gravel road off of which you turned onto a dirt road. There it set as it had for years. It was for me the “Institute of Pastoral Care,” in that there was a deacon there who taught me more than some seminary professors. I loved the 35 people we had in attendance most Sundays.

The first problem I precipitated was to put screens in the windows to keep out the mosquitos. What I did was irrepressible. There were deacons who always sat by windows so they could spit their tobacco out during the services. I almost drowned one before they took out the screens.

My new bride was right off sorority row at LSU. She had never been to a funeral. The first week there were five. Welcome to the role of a pastor’s wife.

Small as the church was, it was large enough to be built around two family lines that were rivals in all things. After church on Sunday the conversation turned to fishing. Two rivers flowed through the larger community. The two sides challenged each other as to which could catch the most catfish while fishing on the two rivers. I don’t remember how my lot fell to become a member of one team.

The result of the first night of fishing resulted in them calling us to come over and see their 22 pound catfish, making them the clear leader.

The next night we caught one that weighed 20 pounds. I looked at the fish hanging there on the cotton scales with their mouths wide open. I noticed nearby some elongated counter weights used in old windows. I picked up one and dropped it down the fish’s gullet. The scale responded, and with the addition of others registered 24 pounds. We called them to come see our winner. Things went well until we took him off the scale and laid him down. When we did fish clanked – – – gotcha. They insisted we dress the fish immediately and when we did our nefarious act was revealed.

My education in fishing wasn’t over. Later I accepted an invitation to go fishing with one of them. I noticed he put a sack in the boat with something in it.

When we got to the right place he pulled out an old phone not to talk on, but to be used for fishing. I had no idea what he was about to do, but he threw two lines in the water and began cranking the phone. This sent an electric shock in the water which stunned fish and brought them to the top. He netted a number. I could just see a game warden behind every tree. There were none and we avoided arrest.

Dude Miller, a local dairy farmer, led the singing. Right behind the pulpit were two classrooms and restrooms. One Sunday while I made the announcements Dude felt an undeniable urge to visit the restroom. While I, with dignity, made the announcements there was a thunderous roar as he flushed. When he came back one half of his coat in the back was tucked in his pants. No doubt what that was about. 

Only because Jesus said, “I will build my church” has Mt. Pisgah survived. That is true of all churches. I am thankful that the church taught me many lessons that influenced my 50-plus years as a pastor.

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, our Lord. Sing it, Dude.

A Sure Way to Be Blessed

 “….remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20: 35

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us how to be blessed; here, He tells us how to be more blessed! True, because when a person gives there are two people blessed, the giver and the receiver. The principle blessing belongs to the giver.

Basically I have not used the names of those I grew up with, but I am going to expose this one, the late “T. Tommy ” Cutrer, long time iconic voice of the Grand Ole Opry. His start was as a part time announcer at a radio station in a nearby town. Driving around in his car he would make a fist of his hand, and speak into it pretending to be an announcer saying, “This is how you do it.” From him I learned about inflection, pronunciation, dialect, tone, pitch, and projection.

His biggest impact on me came from a simple incident. Walking along together one day he found a nickel. I was probably 12 years old, and to me a nickel was a lot of money. It was before allowances and I had never had a nickel. I was so impressed I said, “I wish I could find a nickel.” He said, “Here, you can have this one,” “Really?”

To this day I still sensitively remember the thrill of that exchange. Remembering it I unconsciously like to replicate it to some degree every time I give. As a result I love to give. There is a two fold reason. One is that experience with Tommy, and the other is the wisdom of Jesus, it really is more blessed to give than to receive.

As an unconscious sidebar, if you want people to remember you and feel warmly give them something. 

I have an anonymous friend who has used this principle as a precursor to raising millions for an institution. He has done it by giving bags of a personally blended coffee. He has used it as a means of establishing and maintaining a good relationship with potential donors. Every sip of coffee is a reminder of that giver and the institution. The return has been far greater than the initial gift.

The giving being more blessed means we don’t have to wait on the action of someone to make us feel fulfilled. Being fulfilled is found in giving. Giving often is not giving something, but more importantly in the giving of self. That is costless,  priceless. Giving is the language of love. It has no other speech. “God so loved that He gave!” Love finds its very life in giving itself away. It is said one can give without loving, but one can’t love without giving.

We should “not (give) grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7b). The word “cheerful” comes from the Greek word “hilaros”. It describes the spirit of enjoyment in giving; willingly, cheerfully, without any restraint. Such an attitude of giving is thereby loved by God.

Now go out there and do what God did and does cheerfully, give yourself away, be someone’s “nickel.”