“The Description of a MAN”

If I were to ask you to offer the description of what a “real” man is like, what would you say?  Have our definitions of a what a man is like, been shaped by the famous?  the educated?  the powerful?  the athletic?  the self-made?  the rich?  Who would be your example of the prototype of what a man ought to be like?  I suppose there would be as many different answers to these questions, as there are people that read them.

This morning as I was reading in James, this passage made me stop and think about the qualities that a man ought to have.  Observe carefully what James has to say:

Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness  is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.  (James 3:13-18, HCSB)

That is not necessarily the definition, or the qualities, that the world would look for in a real man.

wise

good conduct

gentle

pure

peace-loving

compliant

merciful

Do those attributes and qualities change any of the answers that you gave; to what makes a real man, or who is the prototype of a real man?  You see, in my opinion, a real man is one that believes in, and has submitted to, the God of the heavens; by having a relationship with Jesus the Christ; and allows the Spirit of God to bear fruit in his life.  That fruit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit  is love, joy,  peace, patience,  kindness,  goodness, faith,  gentleness,  self-control. … (Galatians 5:22-23, HCSB)

You see, the definition a real man (or woman) is not determined by what you look like, how much money and possessions you have, what kind of position you have, or how much power and authority.  A real man is one that has turned over control of his life, and emotions, to God — and manifested these attributes in all phases of his life.

Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place, if the people in authority had these kind of attributes.  Peace.

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“Look for the Helpers”

Recently, I read the words of Fred (Mr.) Rogers when he explained how he would comfort children watching disasters unfold on television.

His answer, “Look for the helpers.” (Ed Stetzer “Remember Teachings of Mr. Rogers and the Good Samaritan in Harvey Relief Efforts” USA Today, August 31, 2017).

It seems as if whenever a disaster strikes, faith-based groups (churches) get there before government aid, and are there after the government assistance has left.  That is not intended as a slam against government assistance, but churches have their roots in the communities, and with the people.  It is their neighbors, friends, and loved ones that are suffering; and they are personally involved in what is going on in their communities.

Churches have caught a lot of flak for some of the things that they have said and done, and some of it has been deserved (in my opinion).  But, no one objects to churches and religion, when they are doing what they are supposed to do!

I was reminded of that this morning, in my reading of James 1:

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  (James 1:27, NASB-U)

It is my opinion, that James is not limiting the assistance of God’s people to orphans and widows.  But, they were among the most helpless in the culture of his day, and those that could be in distress the quickest.  It is my conviction, that God’s people are never more Christlike than when they are helping someone else.  This verse, and countless others, throughout Scripture admonish us to be among the “helpers”. 

You know, if we would spend our time being “helpers”, doing Kingdom work; and less time worrying about politics, issues, and other things of the world — God’s people might have a better reputation.  Peace.

“What Do People See in Me”

When I first moved to Florence, Alabama to attend the International Bible College; for a short while I attended the Mars Hill church of Christ.  This church was just off the campus of Mars Hill Bible School (a K-12 Christian school).  On the grounds of the church, was the old Mars Hill church building, that was built in 1904.  The old building is still maintained, and used for weddings, funerals, etc.  But the history of the Mars Hill church dates all the way back to the 1860’s.  One of the great evangelists of fellowship was T. B. Larimore, and the Mars Hill church was his “home” church, and he had a gospel meeting at the church every August for 40 years.

The preacher at the church, when I attended was Kenneth Davis.  Kenneth was also an instructor at the Bible School, and an adjunct professor for the Bible College.  He was speaking in one of our chapel services, when he made a statement that I have never forgotten.  He said that most Christians had such long faces, that they look like they could eat oats out of the bottom of an old-fashioned buttermilk churn.  I referenced that statement in a sermon on Psalm 84 a couple of weeks ago, but my reading this morning reminded me of it again.

The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”  (Psalm 2:2-3, NIV)

The context probably is expressing surprise that the nations would plot against Jehovah God, and the king of His people.  The “Chains and Shackles” would be the dominance of the nation of Israel in the land that God had given to them.

My question upon the reading of that text, is why so many people today consider the service of God as being in the bondage of chains and shackles.  If you have trouble believing that — talk to a few of them, or read some of the things that they write.  Could it be, that those of us who are in the service of the Messiah; appear to be miserable (have such long faces) in the daily practice of our Christianity.  That our Christianity is more a case of the “don’ts” than anything else.  That our service to God, is our payment on the “fire insurance” that we have taken out?  It might be, that we have just enough of God to make ourselves miserable!

Is it possible that we have not really grasped what belongs to us in Jesus.  He said, Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32, NIV).  Freedom from what?  Freedom from guilt — freedom from sin — freedom from fear — freedom from death — and the list could go on and on!  Remember, Christian, that the people of the world READ us; and they will make judgments about the importance and value of serving Jesus — based upon what they see in our lives and attitudes.  What I have to ask myself, today is “What are they seeing in me”?  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook on May 26, 2016.  It is being reused here as one of our “Psalms for Saturday.”  It is our prayer that it will encourage and edify you in your walk with the Lord.  Bill)                                                                                                

“Overwhelmed”

In 1996, I was hired as the “Branch Manager” of Fowler Equipment in Springdale, Arkansas.  Fowler was a sister company to E-Z Mart Stores, Inc.  They were at that time two separate companies, but there were so many ties between the two companies that you could not think of one, without thinking of the other.  In fact, Fowler Equipment was started by E-Z Mart, to do maintenance on their stores and equipment; but after a few years it had been sold to a group of investors.  But of those 9 investors, 6 were employees of E-Z Mart, and the other three were related to the owner of E-Z Mart.  The challenges of managing a company like that were numerous, and, at times, just a little bit overwhelming.

One of the real challenges was trying to meet the expectations of the nine members of the board of directors.  On one hand, they expected their branches to go out and get business from other companies beside E-Z Mart; but, on the other hand, they insisted that E-Z Mart problems be the first ones that we responded to.  The people in Northwest Arkansas in the fuel business, or that owned convenience stores, viewed E-Z Mart as the competition; and Fowler Equipment as a subsidiary of E-Z Mart.  Naturally, they felt if they used us for any of their projects; they would be contributing to the success of their competition.  It was very difficult to convince them otherwise.  But, I always managed to to keep a salesman on the payroll, who had the responsibility of finding “other” business.  We never were as successful as we wanted to be, but we managed to find some customers.

The 6 years that I was the branch manager, were years of expansion for E-Z Mart.  The owner was buying other convenience store chains, and we were adding stores to the list that we were responsible for.  At one time, my office was responsible for the maintenance of over 125 stores:  that reached in Oklahoma from McAlester, to Shawnee, to Ponca City, to Arkansas City, Kansas,  and then to Tulsa — and points in between.  We took care of stores in Joplin and Sarcoxie, Missouri, Mountain Home, Arkansas, Fort Smith, Arkansas — and points in between.  Plus, all the 33 stores in Northwest Arkansas.  For a couple of years, we were running a dozen service vehicles — we were putting  a lot of miles on those vehicles (and the men were getting paid for a lot of hours).  During a couple of those years, I would lay in bed at night and wonder how we were going to get all the work done.  There were other times, I would lay in bed and wonder how I was going to keep all those men busy.  One of those is better than the other, but they both will leave you feeling just a little bit overwhelmed.

This coming Friday night (9-15), I am speaking at a men’s retreat on Leadership.  As part of my preparation, I am reading Nehemiah in my morning devotionals.  There is a lot in the task that Nehemiah faced that I can identify with:  (1) He was a cupbearer for the King in Susa, and was going back to Jerusalem to take on a major construction project of rebuilding the walls of the city of Jerusalem — not exactly what he was trained to do; (2) when he got there, he found that the job was bigger than he had originally thought; and, (3) there were those that did not want him to succeed.  I’m sure that a lot of you can read that; and think I have been there.  You may even be thinking, I bet I know how he felt.

In reading the first four chapters this morning, I began to understand how he got the job done — a job he may not have been qualified for, a job that was bigger than he thought, and a job where there were people who did not want him to succeed.  Let me suggest a few things:

(1) In the first four chapters, every time this a critical situation the text either records a prayer of Nehemiah, or says that he prayed.

(2) He involved the people in rebuilding the walls of the city, even people that you would not normally think of being involved in a construction project.  For example:  Shallum, ruler of half of the district of Jerusalem, and his daughters (Nehemiah 3:12); look at this list of some of those building walls — goldsmiths (3:8, 31), perfumers (3:8), Levites (3:17, 18), priests (3:22, 28), and merchants (3:31).

(3) When those that opposed his work, reached the point that they were enemies and were using guerilla warfare tactics to stop these people from repairing and rebuilding the wall — Nehemiah made sure the people knew that he cared as much about them, as he did rebuilding the wall.  At the most vulnerable points, he stationed people to protect the people and the workers.  There were other places where half the people worked, and the other half stood guard.  There were also those places where people worked with one hand, and held a sword in the other.

Those three areas, are areas that leaders of all kind (spiritual, business, or volunteer) need to learn to practice, in order to be a better leader.  Ask God to help you by stopping to pray in every critical situation; be relational to the people where they will all care and be involved in the project (in one way or another); and let them know you care more about them, than you do the project or the task.  The successful leaders that I can remember in my life, had those qualities.  Peace.

“Blood, Sweat and Honor”

There is a saying that has been popular for a number of years, “If you can remember the ’60’s, you weren’t there”.  I suppose that is true for some people, because it was an explosive and turbulent time in our country.   Changing attitudes were obvious everywhere — from the clothes, the hair, the music, the attitudes toward sex, and the use of drugs.  It was probably more true in the larger cities, than the towns that were in the buckle of the Bible belt (like Springdale, AR); but it was still happening.  It would be interesting to know how many arguments took place every day between parents and children — just over clothes, hair, and music!

Authority was the one subject that ignited discussion among almost all teenagers at the time.  It seemed that everyone was against authority, at one level or another.  There was no place that authority received more animosity than the military, and particularly when discussing the draft.  As I mentioned yesterday, when I graduated from high school in 1968, a young man had three options: (1) go to college, (2) get married, or (3) go to the military.  At that time, if you did not go to college, get married, or enlist in one of the armed services; you would get “drafted” into the Army.  If you got drafted, more than likely you would be sent to fight in Vietnam, in the first war that was being shown on television every night.

The war in Vietnam is a dark spot on the history of the American people.  There were anti-war rallies all over the country, and the soldiers that returned from there were treated terribly.  Some when they came home, when they got off the plane in their home town — would not wear their uniforms, because they were afraid of what people would do.  Recently, I have thought of all the veterans from Vietnam that I have known, and how little they talked about their experiences.  I am glad to know that attitudes are changing toward those that served their country during that terrible time.

This trip down memory lane is because of a really interesting experience that I had this past Sunday.  At the Prairie Grove church, we have a book club that meets once a month.  It has 10 members, and we rotate among the members selecting the books that we read.  The book that we were to read, and discuss in September was Blood, Sweat and Honor, by Derl Horn.  One of our ladies, Mildred Bone made the selection; and I remember thinking at the time, that was a somewhat unusual selection for her.  The subtitle of the book is “Memoirs of a Walking Dead Marine in Vietnam”.  What I didn’t know then, but found out about a week later, was — Derl Horn was from Springdale, Arkansas!  Not only that, but Mildred was friends with Derl and his wife, Marilyn.

When we met this past Sunday, after our morning assembly, Derl and Marilyn were a part of our meeting.  They answered questions about the book (and, yes, she is a very important part of the book), discussed how the book came to be, the effect of the war on them as individuals and as a couple, and how their faith enabled them to survive all that happened.  There was appreciation expressed, a few tears shed, and lots of thankfulness to a God that brought them through it.

When I was preparing to be a senior in high school, Derl was fighting in “Operation Buffalo”, which resulted in an ambush at the DMZ by 5,000 North Vietnamese, against his company of 150 men.  His perspective of all that, and all the other things that happened, make me appreciate what many gave, so that we can have the freedoms in our country that we do.

I would encourage anyone that graduated from high school during the years that the war in Vietnam was going on, to buy this book.  If you are a student of history, you will appreciate his perspective of what happened.  Here is a link, where you can get this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Sweat-Honor-Memoirs-Walking/dp/1511419458/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505221287&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+sweat+and+honor+book

As our Sunday meeting was ending, and Derl was autographing my copy of his book, we found out this his mother and my parents had been really good friends.  It is a small world.  Let me close with a passage of Scripture, that I believe is applicable.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.  (Romans 12:15, CSB)

Our Vietnam veterans have much to rejoice about, but there is also much to weep about.  Let’s honor them by sharing in both.  Peace

“Called to Care”

This morning when I turned on the computer, the first headline that I saw said “Jimmy Fallon Gives One Million Dollars to J. J. Watt Fund.”  After reading the story, I realized that it was not Jimmy Fallon, personally, that gave the money; but the television show that bears his name.  Regardless, it was a significant gift for a very deserving effort.  If you have not heard the story, J. J. Watt (a professional football player for the Houston Texans) set out to raise $200,000 for relief efforts in Houston; and now, a little over a week later, the fund has raised over $21,000,000!  That money has been given by over 187,000 contributors, showing that there are still a lot of generous, and caring, people in our country.

It really appears that our country is going to need a lot of generous people over the next few weeks and months.  The largest, and most powerful, hurricane ever recorded (Irma) is churning its way toward Florida, and should be there sometime between Sunday and Tuesday.  The report I saw said that they are not quite sure, once it gets to South Florida, what direction it will go — but not many of them are good options.  Yesterday, in the Gulf of Mexico, another Tropical Storm (Katia) was formed.  It is off the coast of Mexico, and is moving east.  The Gulf Coast could take a real hammering this year, and the damage that has already been inflicted is catastrophic.  The care and concern of the people in our country has always been amazing.  That care and concern could be really stretched this year.

All of those stories sort of dove-tailed, into a passage from my reading this morning.  As I read about the generous people in our country, giving to help those that are struggling with all that is happening, this passage reminded me that God’s people need to be the ones that are leading the way.  Listen to what Paul said:

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Galatians 5:13-14, NRSV)

That’s not just in the way that we treat people on a day to day basis, but how we respond to their needs.  As I have read on Facebook, and various blog posts, I have been extremely proud of the way that God’s people have responded to the needs along the coasts of South Texas, and in Louisiana.  We need to exhibit that kind of loving, caring attitude to the world, and not just during times of disaster.

But now, I want to mention another area where we need to be caring, and loving.  Most of you know, I am not too interested in politics, or things that are political.  But the repeal of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) really got my attention yesterday.  Beginning in January, 2004 through December, 2015 — I was a salesman for Arkansas Insulation, and because of the nature of that business; most of our installers were immigrants from Mexico, and Central America.  Over that 12 years, some of those guys that I worked with on a daily basis became friends.  I am sure that some of them were illegal, but I did not make it a practice to ask.  So, when we talk about legislation regarding immigrants, it is not some legislation that is not real to me.  It resonates with names like Alberto, Jesus, Jorge, Juan, Antonio, Raul, Adolpho, …  So when I read these things, it is not just someone — it is a name, a face, a personality.  Obviously, that effects the way that I think about such things.

What I observed over those years is that being here legally, after you have once come illegally is not easy.  Two of our men did that, changed their status from illegal to legal.  But to do that, they had to go back to Mexico for nearly a year, leaving their families here, before they could come back legally.  It is my understanding, that if you are here illegally, you don’t just go in and file for U. S. citizenship.  You have to be here legally to do that, and I just explained what that involves.  Many of these men that I know, don’t have anything to go back to in Mexico — that’s why they are here.  DACA was a way that children that were brought here as a child (under the age of 16, I think) would have a renewable two-year grace period from deportation, and eligibility for a work permit.  I don’t have any answers about what needs to be done, but it seems that there could be something better than sending all of these people back to a country where there is no future.

In the Old Testament, God told the Israelites to remember that they had been slaves in Egypt, and to care for those that aliens (NRSV) or sojourners (ESV).  Listen to the words of Moses:

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22, ESV)

I believe that one of the things that made Boaz a worthy man (ESV), in Ruth 2, was his concern for those that were in need, and Ruth was an immigrant.  I don’t have all the answers for this, or any, subject; but I believe that God’s people ought always to come down on the side of love and concern.  I am going to be praying that our government will be able to come up with a reasonable, and caring solution.  Peace.

” Consistency”

Recently, a head football coach at a major university resigned from his very lucrative, and prestigious position.  Evidently, some things came to light that put his behavior in a very bad light.  The school administration made it very plain, that if he had not resigned, he would have been fired.  Their reasoning was that his “personal conduct” had violated certain stipulations in his contract.  In other words, his behavior had not been consistent with what they expected from someone that was in his position.

Now, I’m not going on a “witch hunt,” or cast stones at someone that is down; because the university that I support, lost a coach on somewhat similar circumstances.  Other schools, businesses, and organizations have all lost people because their behavior is not “consistent” with what they stand for.  I know that there are some college football coaches that have “cut ties” with star high school recruits, because of something that appeared on their social media accounts.  Again, their behavior was not “consistent” with what they wanted from their players that represent the university, and them.  There are certain behavior patterns that people, and organizations, expect from those that are in position of leadership and influence.

This morning, I was reading in Galatians as a part of my devotional reading, and I read the story where Paul had to confront Peter.   You see, Peter, even though he knew better, was acting like a racist toward the Gentiles (because there were people there from Jerusalem).  Peter was in such a position of influence, that others, including Barnabas, were joining him in this racist action; and Paul was compelled to speak.  What I found interesting in that story, was this verse:

But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, … (Galatians 2:14, NRSV).

When I read that, I thought he was rebuking Peter for acting in way that did not reflect what Jesus was all about.  WOW!  If we rebuked people today for not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, who would not be rebuked!  Then a thought slapped me up side of the head, as I thought about something that has been going on in the evangelical world for the last few days.

Last Tuesday (8-29), some evangelical heavy-hitters released what they called The Nashville Statement.  It is a document that has 14 articles that deal with human sexuality, and it is obvious with the LGBT movement.  Now, I suppose that I had better say first of all, I have read the statement and believe what they say is right.  So you’re question is, What’s the problem then?

Well, I don’t understand (1) why it had to be said, (2) why it had to be said when it was, (3) what was the purpose for saying it, (4) what good will it accomplish, and (5) if this is the only statement that they think is necessary.  Now, there are people a lot smarter than me, and a whole lot more influential than me, that are discussing those questions — I don’t suppose that there will be very many people that ever know this blog was written.  But, the thought this morning, as I was reading Galatians, is how can you make a “statement” about only one of the “sins” that is troubling us today?  A little later, in Galatians 5, Paul lists what he calls the works of the flesh, look at that list:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious:  fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. …  (Galatians 5:19-21, NRSV).

Wouldn’t like to see the statement that a group of religious leaders drew up about enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy … .  There are some of those that I would not want to have any part, because I would be guilty.  Is our anger any worse in the judgment of God, that sexual sin?  Where was the evangelical statement about racism after Charlottesville?  How many of our people excuse their behavior, saying “that’s just the way that I am”?  This list could go on and on and on.

Now, I understand that some are afraid of our changing culture, and the impact it will have in the future.  The culture is changed, and the laws are made.    The die is set, as far as the country, and it’s government, is concerned. We should quit worrying about that, and start preaching Jesus and His redemptive love.  I worry about proclamations and statements that drive the wedge deeper; between those who are supposed to represent Jesus, and those that are struggling with immense problems.

Now, I know that that this will not please everyone!  There are probably some that will think I am too soft on this.  I don’t see this as soft on this, I see it as saying we are picking what we to attack, and soft on a lot of other things.  What I have written is not a well thought out piece, that I have taken the time to word properly.  I read Galatians, went for a walk — talked to the Lord, and thought about what I would write.  I hope that it has made you think.  Peace.

“How Important Am I?”

Over the last 40+ years of ministry, I have been involved with, and watched, lots of catastrophic disasters in our country.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, fires, and floods; those are just a few of the things we have seen.  What always impresses me, is the way that people respond to a series of events like this.  It is not just an outpouring of money, it is an outpouring of people putting themselves on the line to help someone else.

We have all seen examples, particularly this past week, of people risking their own lives to help others.  Regardless of race, sexual preference, religion, or any other division that we tend to make among ourselves — people helping people has become the shining light through this tragic time.  People are coming from all over our country, and even other countries, to help the people of south Texas.  Oh, there have been a few that have tried to make political statements and push their issues from what is going on — but, by and large, it is about one person helping another.  Sort of the way that God intended for us to act.

This is the post that I intended to write yesterday morning, before I had PC and internet connection problems (and did not have time to get it straightened out).  For the last week or so, I have been reading Galatians for my morning devotional, and yesterday I finished it for the third time, from a different translation each time.  After reading the ESV and the NIV, I read the New Living Translation — and there was a verse from it, that just reached up and slapped me in the face!  Slowly take in what this verse says :

If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself.  You are not that important.  (Galatians 6:3, NLT).

My reaction to that was probably enhanced by all that I have seen and heard over the last few days.  When you live in an area that just received 50″ of rain, there is no one that is too important to lend a helping hand.  There may be some that think they are, but they … are only fooling … themselves!  I thought it would be appropriate to cite a variety of other translations of that verse, before I make one final point.

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (ESV)

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. (NIV)

For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  (HCSB)

For if a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.  (ASV)

If a man thinks he is “somebody,” he is deceiving himself, for that very thought proves he is nobody.  (Phillips)

If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.  (The Message)

The verse right before this, instructs us to fulfill the law of Christ, by bearing the burdens of one another.  The NLT may not be the word-for-word translation for what the original says, but it captures the heart of the message, in my opinion.

The real challenge is, for all of us, after time passes and we forget the calamity; how will our attitude be about those that need help?  Will we maintain the “spirit of Houston,” or will we go back to being a divided, cynical nation again?  Will we divide over race, sexual preferences, sexual identity, religion, and economic status?  Or will we learn that we are all just a moment’s notice from being a people in dire need?  May God help us to learn the lesson that is right in front of us.  Peace.

“I Can Do All Things … What?”

For those of you that don’t know, I just looked, and the jackpot for the Powerball lottery is $430,000,000.00 tonight.  That could increase during the day, as more and more people purchase tickets.  What would you do with that much money?  Have you ever thought about it? I’m sure that the millions of people that buy tickets have thought about it.  There will be people that just buy the tickets, as part of an entertaining game; and the other extreme is, that people will spend money they don’t have (and do without things they need).  The thing that ties all of them together is the fascination of what it would be like to have that much money.  Some of them will actually go beyond fascination, and it will turn into covetousness.

Our culture has fostered all of these feelings, as it has glamorized wealth, prosperity, and the lifestyle that they bring.  Those in the advertising agency have recognized this for years!  They advertise products that will give us a “taste”, or a “piece”, of what the good life is all about.  Television shows feature those that have success financially, and materially; creating (whether it is intended or not) a desire in us, to have what they have.  I believe that if you asked most young people (18 to 25) what is the American Dream, most all of their answers would include something about wealth and prosperity.

It seems to me, that there are elements of “Christianity” that have embraced the pursuit of wealth and prosperity, as a part of what Christianity is about.  That God wants His people to have a really good life, and is desiring to bless them with those “things.”  One of the verses that people use to support there efforts in accumulating things, and God helping them in that pursuit, is Philippians 4:13.  We have heard this verse used to support, and explain; wealth, athletic achievement, and many other things.  Rather than just pull that text out and quote it (for whatever you are trying to do), have you ever considered what the context is in Philippians 4.  Listen to what Paul has to say:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:10-13, HCSB)

In the context of Philippians 4, Paul is saying that it is through Christ that he can have the strength to be content, whatever his circumstances might be.  Whether he has a little, or whether he has a lot; it is through the strength that Jesus supplies, that he can be content with what he has.  Obviously, if he has a lot, it is not wrong to have the things of the world; but it is wrong, to allow the desires of this world to overwhelm and control any of us.

Satan has a really strong weapon in his arsenal — the desire to have the things of this world, to have the “good life.”  It is not just manifested in the buying of a lottery ticket, going to a casino, or betting on a football game.  There are times that it is manifested by the way we work — putting our job first (in order that we can have things), the way we treat people as we climb the ladder of success, and a lot of other actions in the pursuit of stuff.  If we are not aware of that, and appropriate the strength that Jesus offers, we could lose to that desire.  We can learn to be content, but it will come through the help of the Lord.  Peace.

“A Servant’s Heart”

If someone were to ask you: “Who do you know that has the heart of a servant?”  Who would come to your mind?  I’m sure that each one of us, know at least one individual that is always there, ready to help anyone that has a need.  It doesn’t matter who it is, or what they need — they will do their best to assist.  There is never any thought of what they will get in return, only the need of the individual is what matters.  They are the kind of people that inspire us to do better.

Over the years, almost every church that I have had the privilege of being involved with, has had at least one, and most of the time more, servants as a part of their fellowship.  They are not the kind of people that you would mention their name, because they would be embarrassed by the attention (and would likely scold me, if they saw it or heard about it).  They come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and occupations; but one thing stands out about them, they have a big heart!

For about the last 10 years, I have teaching a small group Bible study that has a core group of about 5 couples — the group has fluctuated, adding one or two couples, and then losing a couple.  The group is spread out over parts of 3 counties, and our meeting places vary (at the different homes of the members).  We try to meet once a month during the school year, but there are times that schedules (and weather) have interfered.  We had our first meeting this past Sunday, and the decision was made to study Paul’s letter of Philippians.

Beginning on Monday of this week, as my devotional reading, I have been reading Philippians (from a different translation each day); and, you might have noticed, my devotionals and “tweets” have been coming from what I have been reading.  This is the second devotional from Philippians, and so far Paul’s letter has been tough on me!  Tuesday (8-8-17) we talked about the practice of prayer, and the how of doing it and the need for consistency in our prayer life.  This was drawn from the first chapter, as Paul talked concerning the how and what of his prayers for the church in Philippi.  This morning, my mind was forced to think about what it meant to be a servant, and the people that I have been privileged to know that were servants; and to admit to myself, that there are some areas of serving where I am not what I need to be.  Observe what Paul says:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  (Philippians 2:3-4, NLT)

The challenge we face is to really think like that!  I don’t remember where I saw it, but in the last week, I scanned an article that affirmed that most “white southern evangelicals” believe that people in need are there because of their own lack of effort and initiative.  If that is true, are “we” really living out the attitude that Paul says that we need to have.  Are we hindered in our ability to serve, because we don’t have the “heart of a servant”?  Do I regard myself as “better”, because I am the one being asked to serve?  What does that say about my heart, and my relationship with the Lord?

Notice what Paul says next:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  (Philippians 2:5, NLT)
What attitude is that?
     Though he was God;
          he did not think of equality with God
          as something to be cling to.
     Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
          he took the humble position of a slave
          and was born as a human being.
     When he appeared in human form,
          he humbled himself in obedience to God
          he died a criminal’s death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8)
The question that I have to ask myself is, what if Jesus had looked at me in my need; and
thought of me, like I think of those in need in my world.  Where would I be now?