Do You Have a Healthy Appetite?

There are times when I read my Bible that I find contrasts so intense they leave no pretense for similarity in the subject or persons being discussed.  Such is the case with an Old Testament pair named Jannes and Jamres and a man from the New Testament named Epaphroditus.

Read the verses below to see the contrast in their character:

  • 2 Timothy 3:8-9: Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no farther; for their folly shall be manifest to all men, as theirs also was.
  • Ephesians 2:25-30: Epaphroditus has been my brother, fellow-worker and comrade-in-arms, as well as being the messenger you sent to see to my wants . . . men like him should be held in highest honour, for his loyalty to Christ brought him very near death—he risked his life to do for me in person what distance prevented you all from doing.

Jannes and Jambres were magicians; sons of Balaam; and, they played a part in the golden calf incident.  These men were acrimonious malcontents with narcissistic appetites that were edacious and voracious.

Epaphroditus, however, was sanguine in his service and meticulous in his ministry, and he was a paragon of faithfulness.

Jannes and Jambres were judged as recalcitrant reprobates, but the epitaph of Epaphroditus was a declaration of one who had lived a laudable life. The difference in the lives of these men is the distinction between the appetite of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. This is Paul’s focus in Galatians 5:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.  But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

The important question is not:  “When you review your life which path have you walked?” The question of most concern is:  “When you look to the future, which path will you take?”

Do You Have a Sleep Disorder?

More than 400,000 Americans struggle with internal clocks that are more than a tick or two off.  Afflicted with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, their circadian rhythms run about two hours slower than the rate at which the average person functions.

The desire to acquire an extra wink of sleep leaves them out of sync with society, and their more punctual friends see them as dysfunctional and time-challenged.

Being aware of the time and being responsible for using it wisely is a theme of Scripture:

  • Romans 13:11: Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:2: Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
  • Ecclesiastes 3: To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up

I’m afraid that a large part of the Church is infected with a sleep disorder:  We are asleep, and it is harvest time.

  • Solomon hints at this in the Proverbs: He who gathers in summer is a wise son; He who sleeps at harvest time is a son who causes shame.
  • Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 9: The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Can we afford to snooze when the world needs to hear the Good News that Jesus saves?

Has He Suffered Enough?

Although it happened in November 2012, I still feel a sense of disappointment when I think of the failure of General David Howell Petraeus.  After being caught with his pants down, Petraeus resigned his post as CIA Director, and said:  “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus said in his statement when he resigned. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”

The General has been in the news again this week as the F.B.I. and prosecutors at the Justice Department have recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder file felony charges against Petraeus.  I believe Petraeus is guilty as charged, but it would be guilt enlarged to send the pre-eminent military officer of this generation to prison.

How much more does he need to suffer?  Even Senator Feinstein, vice chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said: “This man has suffered enough in my view… it’s done, it’s over. He’s retired. He’s lost his job. How much does the government want?”

We are a people who celebrate stories of rags-to-riches, and we encourage the 98 pound weakling when he muscles up and whips the bully.  It seems incongruous that we are also a people who have a tawdry and unforgiving fascination with the mighty when they have fallen.

Petraeus lost a legacy of treasure in a momentary quest for pleasure.  Even though he has gone from hero to zero, his limp and shameful condition is no reason for him to be perpetually castigated.

As one of most well-known men of history, David’s adultery led to the murder of one his trusted soldiers.  Pleased with his accomplishments, he let his guard down, and a brash attitude made room for a rash decision.  He compromised his ethics, his morals, and he failed miserably when he lusted after Bathsheba and brought her to the palace; and like the General, this King got caught with his pants down.

King David confessed sin and God blessed him with His mercy.  General David has admitted his failure, and it is time that we show him mercy as well.

David Petraeus has paid the price for his failure.  He should not be damned to a public purgatory and constant scorn as the man who “kissed and told.”  There should be a recognition and remembrance of his sacrifice and service to this nation.

When you think of General Petraeus and others who have stumbled and fallen, I encourage you to reflect on these words of Paul:

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived (Galatians 6:1-3 ~The Message)

Out-Rage-Us: Purveyors of Religious Intolerance

When some people see it, thy see more than one—they see two.  What do you see when you see the word “outrage?”  Do you see “out” and “rage?”

Some people try to understand the etymology of outrage by defining it in the context of “out” and “rage.”  To do so is to misunderstand the origins of the word.  Early usage of the word is traced from the Middle English sense of a “lack of moderation” back to its Latin roots of “ultra” or “beyond,” and it has little to do with “out” and “rage.”

Even though I understand the meaning and the roots of outrage, to simply say that the religiously intolerant exhibit a “lack of moderation” seems grossly inadequate.  It seems there is a radical element that has little more than an elementary understanding of their religion.  To espouse the idea of peace and love and then kill in the name of religion is outrageous.

Two recent incidents serve as an example:

  • The terrorist activity in France and the cold-blooded attack on Charlie Hebdo and the team of cartoonists who focused on satire.
  • The massacre of innocents by Boko Haram which, according to Amnesty International, has resulted in the death of some 2,000 people in Nigeria.

As I said late last week:

It seems unreasonable that someone can be offended by cartoons, but at the same time promote rape, beheadings, hostage taking, forced marriages, genital mutilation, and suicide bombings

What happened to a simple life based on the Golden Rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Abu Dawud offers the Golden rule in these words:  “Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you; and reject for others what you would reject for yourselves.”

The world will be a better place when we stop out-raging people and begin out-loving them.

Pray For The French

Je soutiens le français et je prie pour vous.  I’ll say it again in English:  I support the French and I pray for you.

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Do You Pay Attention to Your Intention?

When I read my Bible there are some verses that really grab my attention, and Genesis 6:5 is one of these:  The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Some translations use intention instead of inclination, and when you break intention down and scramble-it-up a little, it gives some insight into the meaning of the verse.  Look at intention this way:  Intent-I-On

Whatever you are Intent-On-Doing defines the inclination of your heart.  The historical setting for Genesis 6:6 was the days of Noah, and the people of this time period were Intent-On-Doing “evil all the time.”

Let me suggest that you give some consideration to the inclination of your heart by reviewing the Scripture below:

  • Inclination of Dedication: I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end (Psalm 119:112)
  • Inclination of Supplication: I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God; Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech (Psalm 17:6)
  • Inclination of Application: Incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding (Proverbs 2:2)
  • Inclination of Cultivation: Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your heart to my knowledge (Proverbs 22:17)
  • Inclination of Affirmation: Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel (Joshua 24:23)
  • Inclination of Renunciation:   Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward (Jeremiah 7:24)

Your intent will determine the path you take in life.   Solomon confirms this in Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones (3:5-8).”

I started this post by saying: “When I read my Bible there are some verses that really grab my attention, and Genesis 6:5 is one of these.”  Three verses later, God makes a statement so captivating that it will tranquilize your fear and tantalize your faith:  “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

The inclination of God was to transcend the mass and mess of sinful humanity, and extend His grace to Noah.  What God was Intent-On-Doing for Noah, He is Intent-On-Doing for you:  You can find grace in the eyes of the Lord.

What’s Following You?

On Tuesday of this week, I walked the hallway of three different hospitals. My first stop took me to the room of a man who is ravaged by cancer.  I saluted him earlier this year when he was the Parade Marshall of the Celebration of Freedom Parade.  Will’s heroic deeds during World War II helped to pay for the freedoms I enjoy today.

My second stop took me to the room of a man I’ve know all of my life. I’ll always be grateful for his friendship and his help.  Johnny was one of the first people to come to my house when I was a 12 year old boy and my dad had just been killed in an oil field accident.

My third stop was the most difficult because it took me to the room of a blonde-haired and blue-eyed little girl.  At the age of 2 1/2 years she is fighting an inoperable case of cancer, a neuroblastoma.

Yesterday, I conducted the funeral of a man, I worked with my last two summers of high school.  Ralph’s face was usually marked with an ear to ear grin, and I will remember the mischievous sparkle that colored his eyes.

The sadness that has filled the lives of each of these people and their families can only be tempered by the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.  A foreshadow of that hope is see in the verses of Psalm 23.

If you feel like you are living under a cloud of despair, and walking a path full of worries and problems, you might find some comfort in the words of this Psalm and the declaration of David: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (23:6).

I think it is important to note that David did not say that every waking moment of your life will be filled with good times and happy days.  He did say the goodness of God and His mercy are resources that are available when needed.

Unless you have given some consideration to the meaning of mercy and its close cousin, grace (goodness), you may think they are synonymous.  To help you distinguish one from the other, let me define them:

  • Grace is when God gives you something you do not deserve.  Salvation is a good example of this.  I do not know of anyone who really deserves it.
  • Mercy is when God does not give a you what you deserve.  When a righteous God judges sinful man, He can either punish him or extend His goodness and mercy.

I’ve heard people say:  I just want what I deserve and what I have coming to me.  Not me, I want the mercy of God.

David said the mercy of God is a given, and we see this in the word surely.  It isn’t a hope so or maybe so proposition: It’s a guarantee from God.  In the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet said:  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed; they are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!

In the shepherd/sheep analogy of Psalm 23, we have the Good Shepherd who leads us, and guarding the back of the flock are His two sheep dogs.   One is named Goodness and the other is called Mercy.

Remember the promise of this Psalm:  Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.  Think of Goodness and Mercy as your lap-dogs who are just a whistle away.

I’ll Give You $15 for Your Benjamin

usd-loi-d13dbI had to chuckle when I opened my email and read an offer for a free gift card.  That’s right, free.  When I spend $100, the merchant will give me a free gift card in the amount of $15.

I’d like to make the same offer to you:  For every $100 you place in my hand, I’ll give you $15 in return—no stipulation, no fine print, and no questions asked!  It’s free!

Evidently there is some disparity between that merchant’s idea of free and my understanding of the word.  One the many meanings of free is “no charge.”

This two word definition also sheds some light on the nature of salvation.  It is a “no charge” salvation because Jesus has paid the price of sin.  According to Scripture:

  • You were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body (I Corinthians 6:20).
  • The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
  • God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins (I John 4:9-10).

The gift of salvation is exactly that—a free gift from God at the expense of Christ.

. . . by the way my free offer still stands:  $15 for every $100 you give me.

GPS: God’s Promises are Sure

The end of 2014 was accompanied with the sad news of the crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 and the tragic loss of the 162 passengers on board.  Earlier in the year, Malaysia Airlines reported the disappearance of MH370 when it veered off course and vanished en route to Beijing.

Without any arm twisting, First Air, a Canadian airliner, has taken steps to calm the fears of their passengers.  Because the airline flies across some of the most barren and remote areas on the continent, First Air has beefed-up their technology.

Realizing their flight patterns often place their jets beyond the reach of conventional radar, they have added about 6 pounds to the weight of their aircraft.  This additional weight comes in the form of a tracking system about the size of a hotel safe that efficiently acquires the whereabouts of the plane in almost any situation.

This new technology lies dormant until activated by a sudden change from normal operating procedures.  The tracking system is activated if the flight encounters a sudden loss of altitude, an engine malfunction or if there is a dramatic change in the pitch of the place causing it to veer sharply off path.

When any of this occurs, the FLYHTStream™ system begins transmitting data to the ground, via satellite. Along with performance data, the system provides the information such as speed, altitude and coordinates that are used by search-and-rescue teams.

The tracking prowess of the FLYHTStream™ reminds me that we are never lost to our Sovereign God.  We may not always understand the mind of God, but we are never far from His thoughts.  Psalm 139 is proof of God’s providence and the  power of His promises:  “You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; you are aware of everything I do (Ps.139:3).”

Even in times of uncertainty, God’s promises are sure.

Be Purposeful in Your Random Acts of Kindness

The purpose of a newspaper headline is to capture your attention, so you will read the article.  The same is true with the bold heading on the pages of the internet.  They scream of a horrible crime, announce a recent tragedy, and some of them announce a random act of kindness.

I like random acts of kindness, and I’ve included a few that I found this morning:

  • A waitress at the Route 6 Café was stunned to find a diner had left a $1,000 tip for a $15.61 meal.
  • Whenever golfer Phil Mickelson sees kids selling lemonade stand, he buys a cup with a $100 bill and walks away.
  • Tamba Hali of the Kansas City Chiefs recently left a $1,000 tip at a steakhouse
  • After Bubba Watson won the Masters in April, he left a $148 tip at a Waffle House.

You might say, “Those are people who are wealthy and they can afford to do that.”  True, but they were not required to do it.

A few days prior to Christmas, I was given some money with the instructions:  “Use it however you can to help whoever needs it.”  I purchased 10 hams and several gifts cards and gave them in acts of random kindness to people I met.

To many of these people, the ham meant they would have a good meal for Christmas.  The gift cards, at least for a moment, removed the wrinkles that the framed the faces of people stressed by the worries of life.  Every one of the people who received the gift expressed their gratitude for this kind act made possible by the person who funded the effort.

One lady wrote a letter that said:  “I would like to think the man from your church who gave me and my children the gift card.  It was a wonderful act of kindness and great lesson for my children.”

When she was a child, Traci Bild and her brother scrounged up some spare change and decided to buy a Christmas Tree.  They showed the salesman their handful of change in their tiny palms, and he said:  “I think I have the perfect tree for you.” He walked away and came back with the largest tree on the lot.”

The Huffington Post printed a recent article of Bild’s as she retells this story to her children:  “Not too long ago I took my kids to Urbana, where I grew up. Driving past the cemetery we decided to pull in. “I want to show you something,” I said. I pulled up to what is now Jugs gravesite and tears fell from my eyes as I saw his name inscribed in stone. I told my kids about his amazing generosity to me both when I was a child of seven in search of that tree and later again in life as a teen of 15 in search of a job (he hired me to work at the Dairy Queen). This man, no longer alive will forever be present in my heart- his single random act of kindness played out in my mind over a lifetime. He probably had no idea what kind of impact he made on my life and that is what makes this story so special. He gave from the kindness of his heart, when no one was looking, because he could. What about you — can you do something unexpected for someone today?”

The kind acts of Jugs were moments that helped to jog the mind of Traci Bild, and set her on the right path in life.  What kind deed will you do?

Paul never used the phrase, random act of kindness, but he encouraged you to behave in such a way:  “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (Romans 12:10-13).”