“A Case of the WANTS”

Our society is challenged by “things”!  Culture has made most people develop a really bad case of the “wants”.  Everyone is chasing the American dream — I want to make it big, so I can have everything I want.  Lotteries, casinos, multi-level marketing, all kind of treasure hunts on television, and a multitude of other things — all feed the desire to have more.

Everything around us feeds the desire to have more.  Advertisers know how to entice us to want more.  How easy life would be if we had these “things”.  “Easy terms” make it accessible for everyone.  How many commercials do we hear, or watch, in a day.  We notice every “new” thing that our friends and neighbors purchase.  We participate in a “Parade of Homes”, or an “Open House”, (for houses that we know that we will never be able to afford) — and see a shower bigger than our bathroom, a bathroom bigger than our bedroom, and a master suite bigger than our house.  We have come to the point that “success” in life is determined by how much you have.

The problem that a society like that creates for the Christian, is reconciling what they (we) want, with the pursuit of a relationship with God.  We have to develop a theology of money, and how we allow it to fit into our lives.  There is nothing wrong with money, and nothing wrong with having a lot of money.  The difficulty with money comes as we decide on our theology concerning it, and does the cultural view toward money have more influence than the Biblical view.  Where do money and things fit in the pecking order of the priorities of our life.

One of our struggles, in developing this theology of money, is why do good things happen to bad people?  As I look around, and see the people with money and things (and maybe things that I would like to have), my mind wonders — “Why them, and not me”?  Of I’m not careful, I could come to the conclusion that it is because God doesn’t care about me; or doesn’t trust me, or doesn’t want me to be wealthy.

This is not a new problem, just about all of Psalm 73 deals with this struggle.  Just observe a few of the things that are said:

“But as for me, my feet almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  (Psalm 73:2-3, NIV)

This is what the wicked are like — always carefree, they increase in wealth.  (Psalm 73:12, NIV)

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  (Psalm 73:13, NIV)

Not all wealthy people are sinners.  Not everybody else is envious of what the wealthy have.  But there is the danger of thinking that God does not love us, because we don’t have what others have.

Two things that I encourage us to remember:  (1) as missionaries often explain, compared to the rest of the world’s population — most Americans are wealthy; (2) we have to know what is important.  The psalmist says — …and earth has nothing I desire besides you.  (Psalm 73:25, NIV)

Satan works on me constantly, seducing me with the things of the world.  My struggle, my prayer, and my goal is put God on the throne of my life, and not want ANYTHING that this world has to offer more than I want God!  May God bless me in that effort.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, June 9, 2016.  It has been revised, and posted here as a part of the “Psalms for Saturday,”  It is my prayer that it will bless your life.  Bill)



“Doing What You Love, and Feeling Useful”

Friday, December 11, 2015 was my last official day to be an employee of Arkansas Insulation.  Oh, I went back a couple of times to work with the young lady that took my place — introducing her to the customers, sharing some of the things that I had learned about those customers, and giving her some tips on how to make the job easier.  It was my desire that she be successful at the job, and take good care of my customers.  But, I went off the payroll on that Friday.

Every once in a while, I will run into people (or they will contact me) and they will always ask “How do you like being retired?”  I had a pretty stock answer for that question — “I am old, bald, fat, and very happy!”  One of those four things is very important, two of them I can’t do a thing about, and the fourth one I am in the process of changing (and I am nearly through)

What I want you to know today is, that I did not retire from Arkansas Insulation to quit working!  But what I do now does not feel like work.  You see, I believe that the saying is true — Find something that you really enjoy doing, and you will never work another day in your life.  I am doing what I enjoy most in life — preaching for the Prairie Grove church of Christ!  I look forward to every day, the challenge of that day, with the prayer that I can do something good for the Lord that day.

This morning, I want to share two passages from Psalm 71, that have become a part of my daily prayers.

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
(Psalm 71:9, NIV)

As for me, I will always have hope;
        I will praise you more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
        of your saving acts all day long—
        though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
        I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
        and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
        do not forsake me, my God,
(Psalm 71:14-18, NIV)
Now, I know that the Lord will not forsake me.  My prayer is that I will not feel forsaken.  That I will feel useful, and  be able to share the story of God’s power, love, and salvation to another generation that is coming behind me.  I know that I have a lot less time in front of me, than I have behind me (and what is behind me passed quickly).  My prayer is that the Lord will help me to be fruitful, and useful, in that time.  Peace.
(This was first posted on Facebook on June 8, 2016.  It has been updated and revised, and posted here as a part of our “Psalms on Saturday.”  It is my prayer that you will be blessed by it.  Bill)


“Home Run Bible Study #1”

Jackie Chestnutt has been a really good friend to me over the last several years, and I value his friendship very much.  Jackie has served the Southside church of Christ (Rogers, AR) for over 40 years in a variety of roles (bus minister, youth minister, elder, pulpit minister).  We have found ourselves to be “kindred spirits,” not only in matters concerning God, the Bible, church, etc.; but also in some of the hobbies we have shared.  At one time, we both had a real passion for sports cards (particularly baseball cards), and actually were partners in a small baseball card shop in Rogers.  We still talk occasionally, may be not as often as we used to — but the conversations are always like we talk every day.

Several years ago, Jackie introduced me to a concept that he used to explain the steps of studying the Bible.  Well, almost immediately, I fell in love with the idea; and, I have taken it and run with it.  I have tuned it, refined it, and tried to make it my own — but, the idea was from Jackie.  So, beginning with this blog post today, and continuing for, at least, the next two Wednesdays, I want to share this idea with you.  Jackie compared effective and successful study of the Bible to hitting a home run in baseball.   Let me begin to walk through that process.

#1 — The On-Deck Circle

This is the place where the batter makes the final preparations for going to bat.  Let me suggest that there are several things that you need to do.

First, you need to pick a time and place that are conducive to study.  You will need a place that is well-lit, comfortable, and quiet.  Also, you will need to have a time that will be free of distractions and interruptions.  This is difficult for many of us, because of all the things that go on in our homes.  Since, Malia and I have become “empty-nesters”, I have been fortunate enough to turn one of our bedrooms into an office.  It has worked well for me, as I have a computer desk, another desk, and plenty of lighting.  For the past 16 or 17 years, I have made it a habit to get up between 4 and 5 in the morning, to the office, and try to read and write for, at least, a couple of hours.  I love that time of the morning:  (1) it is just me and the Lord, and (2) my mind is never sharper during the day, than it is when I first get up in the morning.  I know that won’t work for everyone, but the principle of the right time and place is imperative.

Secondly, you will need to pick the translation that you want to read.  Obviously, I believe that the best translation is the one that you will read.  At this point in my life I am using three translations.  I have been preaching, teaching, and studying from the ESV for about the past seven years, and have found it to be more than adequate.  I am also using the NASB, for some writing projects that I have agreed to do (they are part of a larger project, and all of them are using the NASB).  Finally, Crossway Publishing sent me a free copy of their new translation, the CSB, if I would use it for a while and then write a review of it (it is the translation that I have been using as I am preaching through Nehemiah).  I am not an authority on the original languages, the translation process, or all of the translations.  Scot McKnight, a well-respected New Testament scholar, wrote this on his blog in 2014:

“The sweeping conclusion is this:  unless you can read the original languages, you should avoid making public pronouncements about which translation is best.  Instead, here’s my suggestion:  if you don’t know the languages and can’t read them well enough to translate accurately on your own, but you want to tell your congregation or your listeners which translation is best, you need to admit it by saying something like this –‘On the basis of people I trust to make this decision, the _____, or the _____, or the _____, or the _____ is a reliable translation’.”

I believe that is really good advice; and I am not a scholar, so I will follow it.

Finally, after you have decided on a translation that you will read, pick an edition of that translation to use.  There are some things that are really important to me, but they may not be that important to you.  There are three things that I look for in a Bible I will use for study.  I want print that is a little larger (and this is becoming more and more important).  It does not have to be large print, but I do not want to have to use my magnifying glass to read (and I do keep one on my desk).  It also needs to be a single column edition, like every other book I read.  I don’t know who decided that a double column page was a good idea, but in my opinion it stinks.  I suppose that they were concerned it keeping the Bibles from being so thick (which also led them to use paper so thin, that you can see through it).  There also needs to be wide margins on the Bible I use.  I am a note maker!  I have Bibles where the margins are crammed full of notes that I have made as I am reading.  I would also recommend certain kinds of pens and highlighters to use during the study, because as we have noticed; the paper in Bibles has the tendency to be a little on the thin side and will bleed through. If you have any interest in this, message me and I will share my opinion with you.

At this point, we are ready to get in the “batter’s box,” and begin our study.  At the present time, I am studying the book of James, so the examples I will use in the posts for the next two Wednesdays will be from there.

I look forward to continuing this for the next two weeks.  Peace.

(I am sorry to be so late getting this posted today.  My son-in-law had surgery yesterday, and so the granddaughter spent the night with us.  So, this morning was considerably different than normal.  I’m really not sorry that it is late, because I would do the same thing again; but, I am sorry that I didn’t make the fact known ahead of time.  Bill)


“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)                                                                                                

“I’m Supposed to do What?”

One of the most heart-breaking things on television the last few days, was the letters SOS painted on the streets in Puerto Rico.  Underneath the large block letters, were the words “we need food and water.”  It is impossible for me to imagine how dire this situation really is, and very little that I can say from the comfort of my office in Prairie Grove, Arkansas to make the people in Puerto Rico feel better.  It is going to take boots on the ground, and lots of dollars to help the people recover from two major hurricanes within a 2 week period.  It is a tragedy that is only to get worse over the coming weeks, and even months.  The really heart-breaking story is how this going to affect the children of the island.

Puerto Rico may be the worst situation right now: but the people of South Florida, those along the Gulf Coast of Texas, many that dealt with the fires along the Columbia River in Oregon, and the tragedy of the earthquakes in Mexico City, might have a hard time understanding how it could be worse than what they face.  I read on Yahoo this morning, that there is a volcano about to erupt in Bali — that has the locals being evacuated, and travel warnings from most major countries in regard to traveling there.  Even in our own area in the last few years, we have seen the devastation of tornadoes in Oklahoma City, Joplin, Tuscaloosa, and Vilonia.  The power of nature, at its worst, may make you want to throw up your hands and scream “God, WHY?”

You may wonder, what made me take off on this rant?  This morning, I was reading in James; when these words stopped me in my tracks:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, (James 1:2, NASB).

When I read that, and then thought about all that has been going on in our world recently, I just shook my head and thought, “There is nothing to be joyous about in the middle of all this!”  In the midst of all the loss, destruction, and death; HOW CAN ANYONE FIND JOY?

Then it dawned on me, it does not say that there is any joy to be found!  In fact, it implies just the opposite!  There is nothing joyous about the things that James is talking about, IF they have to be “considered” joy.  In fact, I think he would tell us that they are anything but joyous.  But, when we are set upon by trials (or sickness, or disease, or persecution, etc.), and we meet them with an unwavering faith in God; if we are blessed to come through, we will be stronger and have more endurance.  THEN, we can look at that trial, that period of suffering, knowing that we are stronger (because we have more endurance), and that moves us closer to where we want to go in our walk with the Lord.  James did not say that it would be easy to do, and I have no desire to endure trials and suffering like that, just so that I can say that I know.

I do believe that James tells us that it is possible, and I think that the very next verse in James is there for a reason.  It says:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  (James 1:5, NASB).

Wintley Phipps, on one of the Bill Gaither Homecoming shows, said that an old black woman told him, “If the mountain were smooth, you couldn’t climb it.”  As he said, she probably had more sense by accident, than the rest of us have on purpose.”  What I have to remember is that God never said that it would be easy, or that the sailing would always be smooth; because life is just difficult.  What I have to learn is to face the rough times with faith; and on the other side, see the blessing and joy that came from enduring.  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.

“It’s a Lot of Work”

This past Sunday morning, in a sermon about Ruth (second in our series on “Heroines of God”), for a few moments I talked about the difficulty of life, hard times, and the American Dream.  I stated an opinion, that I did not believe that the American dream happened as often now, as it did in previous generations.  It was my speculation that there was two reasons for this: first, because of the vast amount of media that is available, our dreams are a lot bigger; and, secondly. the current generations will not work as hard to achieve those dreams, as the generations before.  Our culture is wrestling with a sense of entitlement now, that did not seem to be a part of our make-up before.

Let me see if I can offer an illustration.  If you have read this blog very often, you know that I had “gastric bypass” surgery about three months ago (in fact, you are probably tired of hearing about it).  As I have talked about it, the comment has been made that it is not a “magic bullet” — that just because you have had the surgery, the weight will not drop off, and stay off.  For the surgery to be successful, it takes work — a lot of work.  I have had to break habits, that I have had for years.  I have always eaten too much, too fast, and whatever I wanted.  Now, with the surgery there are some things that will deter you from doing that, but it still takes effort to make changes in that behavior.  If you had told me a year ago, that I would get up most every morning and walk 2 to 4 miles (and sometimes more) — I would have probably laughed at you.  For this surgery to be successful, and stay successful, for me; it is going to take a lot of work, for a long time.

I don’t remember who was the first one that I heard say this, but this saying is very true:  The only place that success comes before work, is in the dictionary.  It really doesn’t matter what area of life that you are talking about, that statement is true.  If you want to be good at something, and someone that is considered successful in a chosen area; you are going to have to work at it.  I was reminded of that this morning in my reading from Galatians.  Look at what Paul has to say:

Oh, my dear children!  I feel as if I’m going to through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. (Galatians 4:19, NLT)

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that following Jesus is easy!  There is a lot of work in allowing Christ to develop in you fully!  There are too many people that view baptism as a paid in full “fire insurance” policy, and never make the effort to develop and grow to the point that Christ is developed in their lives.  As we learn to live out the repentance that we expressed, from serving ourselves to following Jesus — there are habits that we are going to have to break — habits that we have practiced all of our lives.  As we attempt to practice the confession of living for Jesus the son of God, there are new habits and practices that we are going to have to develop.  These new habits will take a commitment to do it, and time to make it happen.  On top of all that, we have an enemy that will be working against us in everything that we do.  This enemy is as powerful as a roaring lion, and his minions are not flesh-and-blood enemies, but evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, mighty powers in this dark world, and evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Does winning a war with an enemy like that, sound easy to you?

Once you have got into Jesus, don’t think that it is all over.  You need to continue to work, to get Christ fully developed in your life!  It’s a lot of work to do that!  Peace.

“Who Am I Trying to Please?”

There was a customer of mine, that once told me that when I walk into a room, people want to talk to Bill Hooten.  We were taking about my job as a salesman for Arkansas Insulation, and his considering a change  in employment and careers.  I have always considered his remark as more of a statement about his feelings about the other job, than an accurate portrayal of me.  Those of you that know me well, know that I really struggle with crowds of people that I don’t know, or where I am not known.  Most of the “personality” tests that I have taken, say that I lean strongly toward being “introverted.”  Even those simple little tests that pop up in your timeline on Facebook, have come back with those results for me.

That seems really strange, since the two “professions” that I have done for the last 15 years are as a minister, and as a salesman.  If you ask most people, I think the standard answer would be that someone that does those two things, more than likely should be  extroverted.  Now, there have been certain aspects of both of those “professions” that have given me real difficulty.  For example, one of the most difficult things that I did in my sales job was “find” new customers, especially ones that I did not know.  Meeting them, introducing myself, and “selling” them on allowing me (and my company) to be of service to them — still gives me chills.  BUT, once I had a customer, and  built a relationship with them; I never lost many.  In fact, over the years I gained lots of “new” customers, because of the relationships that I built with the people in the companies that I did business with.  Someone would leave and start their own company, and they would call me.  A construction superintendent would leave one company, and move to another; and it would not be long until I had the opportunity to bid on work for the new company.  In fact, I can think of one man, Kirby Burks, that over about a 12 year span, I had the opportunity of doing work for 6 different companies that he was associated with.  You see, even introverts can build relationships.

Building relationships was about caring for people, and taking the time to get to know them, and being likeable.  It is amazing how many people struggle with doing those three things.  I want people to “like” me, and I do my best to get to know people, and go out of my way to be caring about them, because I want them to “like” me.  In 12 years of sales to the home-building industry, I can’t think of very many people that I didn’t “like”; and, in turn, didn’t “like” me.  There are always exceptions!  There were a few that were abusive to guys that worked with me, the installers — who, if they didn’t do the work, I could not sell anything.  There were a few that wanted to take advantage of the relationship — getting me to do something, they knew that I should not (and would not) do.  I know that there has to be a “line drawn” somewhere, in every relationship, that can not be crossed; if that relationship is going to work.

This morning, as I was reading in Galatians 1, these thoughts ran through my mind as I read what Paul had to say.  Be attentive to what he has to say:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, ESV)

In that particular context, Paul is saying that just to make other people happy, he will not change what the gospel says.  There were those Jewish Christians, who were trying to hang on to the last vestiges of their Jewish way of life, and bind circumcision as essential to being a Christian.  Even though, Paul had an orthodox Jewish background, he would not change the gospel to please anyone.  Almost all of the first three chapters of Galatians, he spends explaining why he would not, should not, could not do that!

Most all of us want to be liked, and want people to accept us.  Lots of people will want us to participate in things that we know we should not.  All of us need to remember, that if we are Christians, we cannot please men; IF it means displeasing God.  This is a struggle that we begin to face from a very early age, and, for many (including me) it continues for a lifetime.  Not only do we have to remove ourselves from the throne of our heart, but it is essential that we removed the desire to win the approval of other people.  That throne only has room for one.  Jehovah God wants to sit on that throne, and be in control of our life.  Peace.


“Living Purposefully”

How many are familiar with the “Battle of the Bulge”?  No, not the battle that was fought during World War II, but the struggle that many face with their waist.  I am a long-time veteran of that struggle, and have lost more of the individual conflicts than I have won.  It is a difficult battle to fight, and if you keep losing long enough, it will eventually lead to deteriorating health problems.  About the middle of February of this year, I decided to investigate the possibility of having “gastric bypass” surgery.  I read the literature about it, studied the different kind of procedures that were possible, checked to see if my insurance would cover the expense, scheduled the appointment with Roller Weight Loss and Advanced Surgery Clinic, and made the commitment to do whatever it takes to be successful with this surgery.

My first appointment was on March 15th, and it was a 4 hour appointment, and they educated me on a lot of different things that I needed to know.  The thing that I remembered the most, was that I needed to learn to “Eat Mindfully.”  The nutritionist explained that they wanted me to think about what I was going to eat, take small bites, chew my food completely, eat slowly (laying my fork down between bites), and to quit when I was satisfied (not stuffed).  I will be perfectly honest, I was going to have to go through a learning process to do that.  Up to that point in my life, what I had been most concerned about was did it taste good and was there enough of it!

The way that I decided to attack the problem was to keep a journal of what I ate.  So every day, since March 20th, I have written down what I have to eat and drink, and when I have it.  I have avoided sugar, fat, carbohydrates, caffeine, and carbonation — concentrating on proteins and liquids.  My surgery was scheduled for May 30th, and the clinic told me that I needed to lose 16 pounds, before the surgery.  Well, I lost 29 pounds before the surgery, and have lost 47 since the surgery.  I still write down everything that I eat and drink, still keep track of protein and liquids — still trying every day to eat mindfully.  The surgery that I had was an invaluable weapon in my battle against the bulge, but losing the weight (and learning to keep it off) is still a lot of work.

Well, some of you are probably thinking, Bill, we’re happy for you, and proud of you; but, why in the world do we need to know all of this?  This morning, in my devotional reading of Philippians, there was a passage reminded me of all of this, and, in particular, the concept of being “mindful.”  Look at what Paul has to say:

It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14, CEB)

In that passage, Paul says that there is a single-mindedness, or a purposeful behavior, in the way that he lives his life, and in particular his Christian life.  Their is a goal that he is pursuing, and his purpose is to reach that Goal — …God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.  In pursuing that goal, he doesn’t allow himself to be hindered by past failures or accomplishments, but focuses on the things that are ahead of him.

I wonder how many of us live every day haphazardly, particularly in our walk with the Lord.  Not purposefully living every day pursuing the upward call of Jesus.  Do we get up in the morning thinking about what we can do to serve the Lord that day — reading His Word, communicating with Him through prayer, sharing the story of Jesus with someone we know or meet, caring about other people, etc.

If I am going to be successful in losing weight, and maintaining that weight loss, “eating mindfully”  is going to have to become a part of who I am!  It will be no accidental lifestyle for me to reach the goal of the Christian life.  I am going to have to dedicate myself to living “purposefully.”  Will you join me on that journey?  Peace.

(I have been reading Philippians every day for the last week, and reading it from a different translation each day.  This morning I read from the CEB, the Common English Bible.  This is the first time that I have ever read from this translation, and so far the review is mixed.  Obviously, my opinion is going to be based on readability, not on the accuracy of the translation — that will have to be left to the scholars.  There were some things that I like about it, and there were some things that I didn’t.  Bill.)


“Seeking God”

Does it seem to you that we spend our whole life chasing something?  How many movies have been made about the endless pursuit of “something”?  There are those that are comedies, dramas, adventures, and tragedies — but they all portray man’s pursuit of what they deem to be most important, or what will make them happy.  The Billy Crystal movie, “City Slickers”, where Jack Palance kept reminding him of the “one thing”, is one of the premier examples of that.

It is not just in movies where this pursuit is featured, it is featured in our lives.  There always seems to be something out there, that we think will make our lives a little better.  It seems to start early in our lives:  a place of acceptance in a certain circle of peers, a romantic relationship (with the one that sets our hearts to fluttering), a car (and not just any car, the right car), graduation from high school, college, and a host of other things that attract our attention.  Even as we get older, the “pursuit syndrome” is still there is still there.  We want a loving, lasting relationship; a job that pays well and makes us feel good about ourselves; a house that becomes a home for our safety; and security for the future; and, ultimately, retirement.

Have you ever wondered why we are that way, or at least most of us?  I believe that God intended for us to have this “pursuit syndrome“, and wanted us to focus it on a relationship with Him!  That we recognize, that the most important thing that we pursue in our life, is the relationship with a Holy God!

We have often wondered about “how” the Bible could say that David was a man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14).  It certainly was not because of his sinless perfection!  The key word, in my mind, is “after” — that David was “seeking” God, and a relationship with Him.  Regardless of how man times he faltered and fell; he would get up, confess the wrong that he had committed, and begin to seek God again!

When you read the Psalms, there seems to be two ideas that jump off of nearly every page — the steadfast love of the Lord, and the admonition to seek God.  There is a beautiful description of what we are seeking, in Psalm 89:15-18 – – listen closely:

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
     who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
     they celebrate your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
     and by your favor you exalt our horn.
Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord,
     our king to the Holy One of Israel.
May the “ONE THING” that we pursue be God!  Isn’t that what Jesus said, Seek first his
kingdom and his righteousness, … (Matthew 6:33, NIV).  Peace.
(This was first posted on Facebook, May 12, 2016.  It is being posted here, as one of our “Psalms for Saturday.”  It is our prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)