Monday, August 28, 2017

Many Waters and Bringing Blessing

Water is big in the news these days.  The state of Texas is experiencing the worst flooding in its history, as a result of the stagnant, sluggish Hurricane Harvey.  Due to a highly unusual set of weather circumstances Harvey arrived near Corpus Christi last Friday, moved inland to the Houston area and now seemingly refuses to leave!  The consequences are rainfall totals measured in feet.  The city of Houston appears to be drowning.

Houston is a city of 2-3 million people.  Although the city leaders knew Harvey was coming, to evacuate a city of that size in a matter of a couple of days would have "flooded" the highways with cars and put many more lives at risk.  In our nation's fifth largest city, government is incapable of meeting the needs of Houstonians who have been ravaged by this weather catastrophe.

Fortunately, relief agencies, such as Samaritan's Purse and the Salvation Army, as well as the American Red Cross, major corporations and celebrities have sprung into action.  Additionally, as Harvey continues to dump more and more rain on the greater Houston area, "ordinary people" are, for the most part, showing their better selves. Firefighters and other emergency personnel are working "round the clock".  Groups like Louisiana's "Cajun Navy" have traveled to Houston to search for survivors and rescue them in their boats.  The Southern Baptist group "Baptist Men" have gone to the area to help.  These and others like them are volunteers, who simply want to help their fellow man, many of them Christians who simply want to "be the hands and feet of Jesus" to those in desperate need.

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
Another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
And one who waters will himself be watered.
Proverbs 11:24-25 ESV

In our journey through the book of Proverbs we are going to explore the themes of riches and work. In this first installment, we are beginning to examine generosity.

Listening to a national morning news program today, I heard Franklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse being interviewed.  He testified that the greatest need in this ongoing, unfolding tragedy in Texas is the need for prayer.  I certainly agree.  All of us can pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and well we should.  Is there something more tangible we could do, however?

The Lord has given all of us resources we can generously give, in most instances to nameless, faceless people we do not yet know.  This is giving with no hope of return on our "investment".  But, God knows.  And, God will "water us" in return.  Here is an example of a small businessman in Florida who wrote on the @LACajunNavy 's Facebook page just mere hours ago.

Trying to get in contact with some boots on the ground in the area. I operate a kayaking company and would like to volunteer between 32-64 kayaks and around 126 seats. We can be there in about 20hrs coming from Florida. We also have personnel trained in rescues. Please call my cell that i left for you in a direct message.

Thank you, Mr. Mahan.  Liberty University has trained you well.  You have a generous spirit, and God will "water you", according to His promise.

Let's each of us ask ourselves: "what would God have me do?"  Whatever answer He gives you, do it. And, not just in this present Texas disaster, either.  Anytime the Holy Spirit nudges us to give, may we have open hands, which spring from open hearts.

To volunteer and/or give:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


"It's not me; it's you."  😉

Honestly, do you know ANYONE who takes correction well?  Either correction from the Lord, from an employer, from a relative or friend ... or perfect stranger?

I don't.

Here are some common "first reactions" to correction:
"How dare he?  He doesn't know me!"
"I'm not really like that! Where did she get that idea?"
"Well, that's just ridiculous!"

Although there may be some basis for truth in these responses (i.e. the correction may be wrong-headed) these and other similar reactions more often spring from a prideful heart.  The person being corrected basically refuses the correction.

Then, there is another set of reactions:

"They are right.  I'm worthless."
"I might as well give up."
"Why even bother?"

These reactions indicate the one being corrected has gone beyond letting the correction teach, to the extreme of self-flagellation (severely beating oneself up), which is an indication of poor "self-concept".  So, these reactions are the opposite extreme of the first set.

In both scenarios, neither group receives correction well.
The first group the Bible refers to as "fools", and the second group as "simple".

We've had several blog posts recently on prideful fools; let's look at what the Bible calls the "simple" person.

We find him or her in Proverbs 14:15 (ESV).

The simple believes everything
But, the prudent gives thought to his steps.

When confronted with correction, we must first evaluate it.  Not everything presented as correction truly IS.  Sometimes, it is manipulation, jealousy or outright lies.  There's a danger in "swallowing everything whole", as the saying goes.
It is not being simple-minded to believe every word from God, as revealed in His Word. On Him, we can depend and respond in faith.
It is certainly naive to believe every word from people.

What does the Bible, then, say about receiving correction?

9Give instructionb to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

Proverbs 9:9 (ESV)

So, whether our reactions to correction (which the Bible also calls "reproof" or "rebuke") fall at one of the two extremes mentioned above, or somewhere in between, we need to shake off those initial reactions and dig deeper for some godly wisdom.  If we are Christ's, the Holy Spirit within us is waiting to fill our well with as much godly wisdom as we can handle!

Key Point:  (vs. 9) the wise learn from others.  I was reading yesterday the personal testimony of Warren Weirsbe.  His Old Testament Commentary is open beside my computer right now, in fact.  He said this:1 "One of the best ways to walk with the wise is to read church history and Christian biography.  I have hundreds of volumes of biography and autobiography in my library, some of which I have read many times, and these books have greatly enriched my life.  I didn't have the privilege of knowing personally J. Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, St. Augustine ... but by reading their biographies and autobiographies, sermons and letters, I've benefitted from their walk with the Lord."

Totally by accident, on the same day, I was reading Joel C. Rosenberg's book, Implosion.2  In it, he recounts key players from the First and Second Great Awakenings:  George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, John and Charles Wesley.  As I read about these great men and their families, I was captivated by the depth and breadth of their faith, which flowed from the persistence and perseverance of their prayer life, their devotion.

Even better: wise people who learn from other wise people make better leaders.  Much worse: Proverbs 10:17 states that the person who rejects correction leads others astray as well!  What a responsibility for all of us who claim the name of Christ, but especially those who lead in ministry!

Personally, when God Himself uses His Word, life's circumstances and precious people in my life to correct me and guide me, I try my best to be supremely grateful.  God's correction is never wrong, and I pray I receive it well, with humility, discernment and grace.

Dear God, please rescue us from being "wise in our own eyes".  Instead, we want to be "wise in your eyes"!  May none of us think so highly of ourselves that we come to believe we have nothing more to learn or that we cannot continue to learn from You, and from those godly servants of Yours whom You allow to minister grace to us.  In Jesus' name, amen.


1     Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete Old Testament in One Volume. Colorado Springs, David C Cook, 2007, p. 1071.

2       Rosenberg, Joel C. Implosion: can America recover from its economic and spiritual challenges in time? Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2013.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tying One On

Yesterday in church, our pastor's sermon contained an object lesson.  At the beginning of the sermon, which was on sharing our faith, some helpers passed out to everyone a small "baggie" with a leather strand and a few colored beads in it.  During the course of the sermon he had us assemble a bracelet by stringing the colored beads onto the leather in a certain order.  The purpose of making this "church craft" was to give each of us a tangible witnessing tool.  When we finished making our "bracelet", the final step was to "tie it on".  (Personally, I am going to attach mine to my wallet, so that I will have it with me most of the time I am "out and about".)

Now, in order to use this tool effectively, you need to share Scripture verses, which each bead represents.1

In the course of the sermon, he told a story, which I will endeavor to somewhat recreate, albeit badly, ... for sure.  If you want a more official version, Wikipedia is waiting for you.  I'll post the link in the Sources section.2

Anyway, the story goes something like this.  This man, a "nobody" really, would go up to people on the street and ask them this:  "Are you saved?  Are you sure that, if you died today, you would go to Heaven?"  Depending on their reaction he would sometimes talk to them further.  Other times, he would walk away, leaving them thinking.  Rather direct.  Rather simple.  But, his direct and simple approach caused many, many people to ponder deeply his question.  And, unbeknownst to this lover of Jesus Christ, a Mr. Frank Jenner, many followed up with Christian clergy and came to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

An English evangelist, one Francis Dixon, who had heard many people speak of this "little, old white-haired man" on George Street in Sydney, Australia, who had changed their lives, went to find this influential man.  He found him, in his fifties by this time.  It was the evangelist's pleasure to share with the man, whose name was Frank Jenner, how many thousands upon thousands of lives he had touched...without even knowing it.   Because, you see, those he spoke to directly, after choosing to accept and follow Jesus, impacted many, many more, sometimes thousands more.

Mr. Jenner had had no idea how far-reaching his obedient efforts to share the gospel had been.

Nor do we.

We are not responsible to keep up with the results of our sharing our faith to those who do not know Jesus as Savior.  We are merely commanded to do it.

There are three instances in Proverbs where readers are enjoined to "bind" God's Word to various body parts.  Here they are!  Proverbs 3:3. 6:21; 7:3.  Check the last one out:

Bind them on your forearm;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Proverbs 7:3 NET

The Pharisees took these words quite literally, constructing small leather boxes called phylacteries, which they then bound to their foreheads and left arms.  Inside each little box were passages of Scripture, written on small pieces of parchment.

Sounds rather extreme to our modern-day Christian culture.  But, maybe not.  Maybe we need to wear our faith on our sleeve more.  Perhaps then it we would be more prepared and less hesitant about sharing it.

Mr. Jenner's method may not be the one God leads all of us to.  But, regardless of the method, let's "tie one on."




Thursday, August 10, 2017

50th Birthday

Last night, during the meeting of our discipleship group, we took some time to share our personal experiences of how we came to know Jesus.  One thing I noticed was that each of us spoke of a moment when "the light came on" for us, in our souls.  We truly SAW Jesus clearly - - - what He had done for us, and our inescapable need for Him.  Not a single one of us mentioned peer pressure or feeling rushed by others to make that life-altering decision.  Interesting, yes?

In reflecting on my own salvation experience, I realized that this month is my 50th "spiritual birthday".  The day I decided to follow Jesus was in August, 1967, when nine years old.  The apostle Paul describes that initial decision to follow Jesus as "putting on Christ" in the King James Version of Galatians 3:27.  I like the English Standard Version too.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

We are currently studying in Proverbs, though, and here is the main text for today:

Bind them on your heart always;

tie them around your neck.
22When you walk, theyd will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
23For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,

Proverbs 6:21-23 ESV

Admittedly, this passage is part of a larger passage of exhortations from the writer about avoiding the sin of adultery.  In a larger sense, though, these words speak to me about the resplendent walk.

The Christian's salvation is not a one-time experience.  The decision to follow Christ secures eternal life in Heaven with the Savior, but it is not the "end point'.  The decision, though eternal, is called "the new birth" for a reason.  Birth implies that there is a life to follow that birth.  The initial decision, then, is only the beginning of the relationship.  I have now had the tremendous pleasure of walking with Him for 50 years, and I look forward to so many more with Him --- years which cannot even be numbered.  While my remaining years here on Earth may be few, they are the merest blip on a radar screen, compared to eternity.

Here in today's passage, though, we see the prescription for walking well with Him.

1.  The first step of the journey is to clothe ourselves with Christ, and that includes putting on the wisdom of His ways, as revealed in the Bible.  Goodness knows, in our American culture, we have a dizzying array of choices in how to dress ourselves, both with physical garments as well as with life philosophies.  But, "putting on Christ" involves tying around our necks His precepts and commands for righteous living.
2.  Verse 21 goes beyond putting Christ's commands around the neck though.  It goes deeper, to binding them to the heart.  You know, the outward appearance can be deceptive, a distraction even; it's what's in a person's heart that truly defines who (and Whose) he/she is.
Oh Christian!  Studying God's Word is SO crucial!!
We find Jesus Christ's ways revealed in God's Word, the Bible.  It is the "final word", against which all other "spiritual writings" must be measured.  I enjoy reading and listening to various theologians and self-described prophets interpret and prognosticate.  However, I always measure their insights and claims against the unshakeable, immovable Word of God.  This is extremely important.

Otherwise, I might find myself wearing an Easter bonnet with my pajamas....that is, I would not be appropriately "clothed", not "dressed for success", as the 1980's expression went. (The elderly will understand, lol!)

I read a passage on Facebook this morning from a Christian friend.  Here is what she said:

The Lord is after something far more valuable than you being a success, as this world defines it. He is after you being the man or woman He created you to be. If we trust in Him, keep His word, and live our lives for His pleasure, He'll give us the power we need - power to fight the good fight, to finish the race and to keep the faith.

She has paraphrased verse 22 from today's text so well!  Christians should not be seeking after success as the world defines it, because that type of success often runs contrary to the Word of God and, in fact, leads us away from an ever-deepening relationship with our Savior.  The relationship of Savior to Child should be the one which supersedes any and all others, the pre-eminent relationship that endures forever.

Lord Jesus, I reckon You aren't finished with me yet or that I've not yet finished the work You have created me to do.  Thank you for Your incomparable salvation, extended to me.  I'm not, nor will I ever be, worthy of Your great love.  Thank you for these 50 years of relationship walking with You (and especially for the times you carried me).  I can think of nothing more wonderful than being with You either here or in Heaven for many more.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Holier Than Thou" Perfume

I was sad to learn recently of a former student who, despite having a "heart of gold", lost his way and died of a drug overdose.  Due to the overprescription of opiate painkillers, not to mention the prevalence of illegal drug use in our society generally, these types of tragedies are becoming all too common.

When you hear similar news of someone you know . . . what is your response?

For many of us, in our "heart of (carnal) hearts" the first response is one of a condescending comparison.

"I am so glad my child would never do that.  I raised her better than that.  What in the world could the parents of that child have been thinking to have allowed that?"  

And so forth...
Sound familiar?
God help us, sometimes we even SAY those pernicious, hateful, evil things to others, while feeling so GOOD about it!

{Peeeeyuuuuuh!  (Pyuh!  Pee-you!) . What a stench!}

The Bible calls this heart attitude, this response, "haughty eyes".  Take a look ;)

16There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
Proverbs 6:16-19

Notice that "haughty eyes" are the first on the list.  Another word for that phrase might be ... pride, of the sinful variety.

It is one thing to enjoy a quiet pride, a feeling of gratitude for what God has done for you and in your life.  This is a pride firmly grounded in humility and thankfulness.
It is quite another to compare ourselves with others, looking down on them with condescension.

What do YOU hate?  Consider the visceral, overwhelming disgust you feel for ... whatever it is. Generally speaking, it is different for each of us.

I'll tell you what all Christians ought to hate - - - and that is what God Himself hates.  If we are seeking to align our hearts more with His, should we not align our loves and our hates with His also?
(Clue!  He doesn't just hate other humans' sins.  He hates ours too!)
If we believe this, we need to begin by cultivating a deadly hate for our own sinful pride.

Some1 have called haughty eyes "the gateway sin".  Why?

I think it is because pride can creep into your life before you know it. Pride is the chief pitfall for the Christian who is walking in holiness before the Lord.  Satan plants a thought in our minds that says, "Look how good you are!", for example.  And, before long, we begin to believe it!  We, accordingly, begin to trust more in ourselves and in our own abilities than we do in our only hope, in the only Savior. Consequently, because we are then so "full of ourselves", trusting in our own abilities, we fall prey to all sorts of other sins.

Galatians 6:4-5 The Message says this:

4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

I blogged in more depth on these verses here:

May God save us from being overly impressed with ourselves!  There's a lot of truth in this old saying: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."2

As my brother in the Lord, @stevengberman recently said, in a piece about Chris Pratt and Anna Farris:
"The 'holier than thou' perfume stinks to high heaven!"3





Thursday, August 3, 2017

Lying Around

Have you ever thought about what a marvel sleep is?  I think of it as God's way of turning off the human machine, so that it can recharge.  In addition, sleep cleanses the human mind and the body, down to the cellular level.  Amazing!  Scientists have not yet determined all that occurs when we sleep.

There is such a thing as getting too much of a good thing, however.  One of the signs of depression, for instance, is sleeping too much of the time.  Sleep becomes an escape or avoidance mechanism, keeping the sick person from dealing with the real world.  Too much sleep is also a symptom of laziness, although I think that "lying around" might be a more apt description of what the scriptures intend in Proverbs 6:6-11(ESV)

6Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
8she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
9How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
11and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.

This is not to pick on modern ways at all; but, if we are honest, we will admit that "work" has changed a great deal in the past 50 years.  A huge amount of work has been transferred from the physical realm into the world of cyberspace, something King Solomon knew nothing about.  I don't think anyone would call the person who works at home in front of his computer "lazy" or as the Bible puts it "being a sluggard".  It is merely a different method of earning a living.

However, with the cyberworld at our fingertips (literally), it is seductive to jump into that world for pleasure's sake, when we should be doing something more productive.  Let's go back to the topic of sleep for a moment.

The human body is designed to wake with the morning light and to "head for the recharger" (the bed) shortly after dark.  God has given us the ability to manipulate that natural sleep cycle.  And, those who "work 3rd shift", for example in convenience stores and hospitals and factories, do so by necessity.  Huge kudos to them for their sacrifices!  Often, they do not get 8 hours of interrupted sleep, simply because they are trying to sleep while the rest of the world is up and about.  It's a huge challenge.

But, often (and honestly, this can occur via a good book, or even excessive knitting{!} so not picking on "technology" here) - - - we use our technology as an escape from other responsibilities, spending hours playing online games, immersing ourselves in virtual worlds, when that time could be put to much better use.  Often, we cheat our sleep to do this, and that is not only mentally unhealthy, we can reap negative consequences in our physical health.

All that being said, there are "morning people" and "night people".  As biological units (unique creations of the Master Creator, Jesus Christ), we usually figure out into which camp we fall. Furthermore, some of us need 8-10 hours of sleep each night in order to feel good and function at optimum performance.  Others, like my brother-in-law, can function perfectly well, thank you, on 4-5.  (I know you don't believe that, and it IS rare; but, he is in excellent health and has been doing this by his own choice for decades....)

God's creation is not perfect.  It became broken by sin, beginning in the Garden of Eden.  When Man fell, so did creation, and it has been "groaning" ever since (Romans 8:22).  Still, God's creation is pretty doggone marvelous!  You don't find many indolent, lazy ants, or bees (the Septuagint includes the example of industrious bees in vs. 11 of today's passage), or eagles or squirrels.  If they did not obey their God-ordained impulses to prepare for lean times, they would not survive!

The same scriptural principle applies to us as well.  If we spend all we have on the immediate, not saving for "a rainy day".... If we waste our health, not caring for it so that latter years can be enjoyed ... if we squander opportunities God puts in our path daily ... if we neglect our prayer life and Bible study ... will we then be prepared for when those times of testing and trial come?  No.  We won't.

So, I am going to think about this some more today and try to think more proactively, to use my time more wisely, to prepare for my future more intelligently, so that I can be of ultimate use to the Lord for as long as He allows me to remain here.   Here's one final thought....

The best "prep" or investment is in God's kingdom, serving others according to the spiritual gifts and earthly resources He has provided.  The ant, after all, worships God by doing what He created her to do and doing it with passion!  What a joy when each of us, God's own beloved children, can say and do the same!