Monumental Moments

timewarpQuintus Horatius Flaccus was a poet who lived during the reign of Caesar Augustus, and he’s credited with saying: Exegi monumentum aere perennius.  This phrase is found after the final poem in Horaces third book, and it means: I have made a monument more lasting than bronze.

Horace seems to have been pleased with his poetic powers and the many lines of lyrics he had written.  Notoriety, however, begins to fade about as quickly as bronze starts to tarnish.

The words of Horace make me wonder:  What in this world enjoys a life of longevity? Are there monumental moments that last beyond the tick of a clock?

The memory of some actions are more lasting than bronze, and I have this on good authority; Jesus confirms it: “By pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she has prepared Me for burial.  I assure you: Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what Mary has done will also be told in memory of her (Matthew 26:6-13).”

The kind, compassion-filled, and sacrificial act of Mary was a monumental moment that’s been recounted a countless number of times.  Notice what Mary did:

  • She looked for an opportunity to honor Jesus (Mary recognized Jesus as Lord, but Judas saw Him as a ladder to help achieve his selfish ambitions).
  • She gave of herself (To wipe the dusty and dirty feet of Jesus with her hair was an act of devotion and reverence).
  • She paid the price (The ointment she used came from the Himalayan mountains and the cost was equal to the average man’s annual salary).

How do you use your moments in time to build monumental memories? Do the actions of Mary’s suggest why she anointed Jesus?  Could it be that Mary wanted Jesus to know how much she valued Him?

Monumental moments are born when people perceive they are valued.  As Solomon said, “Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but the sweetness of a friend is a fragrant forest (Proverbs 27:9).”

What can you do to sweeten the sense of value among you, your family, and your friends?

 

What Am I Missing?

life-of-faithWhen I hear a puzzling story or a comment about someone or some event, I wonder about the specifics of the situation and ask:

  • What happened?
  • What are the facts?
  • What details am I missing?

The mention of the name Demas stokes the fire of my curiosity.  Of the three passages that refer to Demas, two are positive and one is negative:

  • Philemon 23-25: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
  • Colossians 4:14: “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:10: “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

What happened to Demas?  How could he go from being a co-laborer with the Apostle Paul to being classified as a Christian who went AWOL?  Had his Christian experience been a mere dalliance with no true alliance to Christ?

Was Demas like the sunshine soldier that Thomas Paine spoke of when he addressed the difficult times in which he lived?

 “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country.” 

Contrary to what many people believe, living a life of faith is not for the frail of heart.  Paul suggests that it takes guts, courage and backbone:

  • I Timothy 6:11-12: Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.
  • 2 Timothy 2:3 “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
  • I Corinthians 9:24-25: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
  • Hebrews 12:1-2: “we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”

Demas dismissed the principled and dedicated life that Paul modeled, but a man named Jim Elliot embraced it.  Sixty years ago, Elliot was martyred on the mission fields of Ecuador. A daily practice of his was to write in his journal, and his notes give a glimpse of his dedication to Christ:

  • “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
  • “Rest in this: it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you.”
  • “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one like You, Lord Jesus.”

When you consider your life and the faith factor, what do you see.  Is your Christian walk little more than a dalliance of dedication, or does it reflect a true alliance with Jesus Christ?

What I Should Have Said

whisperOn my drive back from the cemetery at St. John, I thought of something I wish I would have said:  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” This simple statement from Proverbs 22:1 offers a profound description of Roger Taylor.

When I spoke at Roger’s funeral yesterday, it was easy to think of good things to say about this extraordinary example of humanity.  Decent, kind, and generous, are three words that offer an honest estimation of the genuine life Roger lived as a husband, a father, and a Christian.

Ben Franklin once said that, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”  Roger lived a life of good deeds.  As I reflect on his many years as a member of First Christian, I remember his willingness to serve as a deacon, an elder, and the chairman of the board—always unassuming and never wanting to ruffle any feathers.

Because they would make Roger blush, I’m a little reluctant to close with the next line or two; however, they are so true, I shall.  D.L. Moody said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”  Roger has been a man of character, and he developed the reputation of being a man of “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).”

A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank. The rich and the poor shake hands as equals—God made them both! A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered. The payoff for meekness and Fear-of-God is plenty and honor and a satisfying life. ~ Proverbs 22:1-4 (The Message)

Fickle or Faithful?

Mario+Cantone+Monty+Hall+Mario+Cantone+Hosts+dpcp3vqC2VFlFrom 1963 to 1977, Let’s Make A Deal was one of the favorite shows on television.  It was hosted by Monty Hall who would offer a deal to contestants.  The contestant would either accept the deal or choose between doors #1, #2, or #3.

Throughout each day of your life, you make several choices.  Some of these are minor, and others can be life-changing.  The power and potential of choices have been the subject of many people, including:

  • Michel J. Fox: I have no choice about whether or not I have Parkinson’s. I have nothing but choices about how I react to it. In those choices, there’s freedom to do a lot of things in areas that I wouldn’t have otherwise found myself in.
  • Buddy Hackett: As a child my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it.
  • Harvey Mackay: When you wake up every day, you have two choices. You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose to be an optimist. It’s all a matter of perspective.

When you read John’s third epistle, you see the names of 3 men listed.  If you had to make the choice to pattern your life after one of these men, which would it be? Which door would you choose:

  • Door #1: Gaius
  • Door #2: Diotrephes
  • Door #3: Demetrius

Door #1 is a wise choice because Gaius was commended by John for his spiritual maturity.  Gaius tried to walk in the footsteps of John, and he had most likely read the words of Paul: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).”

Door #2 is a different story.  John described Diotrephes as a person “who loves to be first, and will have nothing to do with us.” Diotrephes has been described as a man who loved being the center of attention and one who wanted to control the decisions

Paul addressed this same issue when he wrote to the church at Rome:  “Because of the grace allotted to me, I can respectfully tell you not to think of yourselves as being more important than you are; devote your minds to sound judgment since God has assigned to each of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:13).”

Door #4 is also a great choice.  John thought highly of Demetrius, and he said that, “Demetrius has a good reputation with everyone we know. The truth stands on his side, and we add our unreserved recommendation to the long list of accounts on his behalf. You can rest assured that we are telling the truth.”

Through which door will you walk?  It might determine whether you live a life that is fickle or faithful.  As you think about this question, give some thought to these words from Romans 16:

I am pleading with all of you, brothers and sisters, to keep up your guard against anyone who is causing conflicts and enticing others with teachings contrary to what you have already learned. If there are people like that in your churches, stay away from them.  These kinds of people are not truly serving our Lord; they have devoted their lives to satisfying their own appetites. With smooth talking and a well-rehearsed blessing, they lead a lot of unsuspecting people down the wrong path.  The stories about the way you are living in obedience to God have traveled to all the churches. So celebrate your faithfulness to God that is being displayed in your lives—seek wisdom about the good life, and remain innocent when it comes to evil

Fickle or faithful: What is being displayed in your life?

Versions and Perversions

images (4)After listening to some of the comments from the presidential hopefuls in the recent Iowa Straw Poll, I think a name change is in order.  Because the brief speeches revealed some weaknesses, it might be more accurate to call it the Flaw Poll.

Sometimes political speeches disintegrate into a form of mindless banter, and the candidate’s version of the facts is a perversion of what is true.  Winston Churchill said: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

Truth is not created. It is discovered.  Whenever you find someone trying to fabricate the truth, you have discovered a lie.

The difference between the truth and a lie is as simple as the letters “d” and “i.”  When you add them to version, you get a di-version from the truth.  You allow your emotions, wants and desires to turn you aside from the correct course or you yield to the biased opinion and false argument of another you are misdirected.

This was the problem that Paul was addressing when he wrote to the Christians at Galatia (1:6-9):

I can’t believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message! It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God. Those who are provoking this agitation among you are turning the Message of Christ on its head. Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven!—were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.  ~The Message

There is a close connection to the degeneration of society and the proliferation of lies.  This is one reason Paul warned the Galatians: Any diversion from the principles of God is a perversion of the truth.

Before you yield to the new and ideal, you might want to compare it to the tried and true: “We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are expert in the craft presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ (Ephesians 4:14 Phillips).”

Weighing Your Options

download (1)In a post I made to this blog last week, I wrote about character and reputation.  I cited Romans 5, and I called your attention to a cause and effect link:  “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.”

Over the weekend I reflected again on the words of Paul, and I remembered a story that Billy Graham tells.  It’s a good illustration of how God can use the suffering you encounter in your life.

The incident occurred during the Great Depression, and Graham spoke of a friend who had lived a life of hardship.  The man had lost his job, his wife, his home, and his fortune.  This Christian could not comprehend the purpose of his suffering, but he didn’t let his trials shake his faith.

While walking by a church one day, he stopped to watch some masons as they worked.  One of the men was chiseling a triangle shaped piece of stone, and Graham’s friend asked him: “What are you doing?”  The workman replied:  “See that little opening near the top of the spire? I’m chiseling this stone down here, so it will fit in just right up there.”

As Graham’s friend walked down the street, his eyes filled with tears and he smiled.  He realized that God was using his suffering as a chisel down here, so some day he would fit in up there.

Paul said:  “For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

When your heart aches, I hope you will find some comfort in the promises of Psalm 27:1, 14: The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!

I’ll close with this thought:  When you wait on the Lord, He lifts the weight of the world.

Building Character

“Because I gave him my word” was the answer to the question I had just asked.  The question was, “How does he know you will pay him?” It was an interesting conversation, and one that I’ve remembered for almost 50 years.

Even though the word “reputation”was not used, it was the subject of the discussion.  Pop finished the conversation with this statement:  “A man is only as good as his word.”

I posted a comment about reputation to my Facebook page yesterday:  People wouldn’t have to spend so many minutes protecting their reputation, if they would pause for 60 seconds to guard their character.

You can read the character-focused Scripture I’ve provided below in less than 60 seconds:

  • Proverbs 22:1:  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
  • Ecclesiastes 7:1:  “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.”
  • Hebrews 11:1-2:  “Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see. It was this kind of faith that won their reputation for the saints of old.”

It was Helen Keller who said:  “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

The quote above reminds me of Romans 5:1-5:

Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.  Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Do you see the cause and effect links in the verses above?  “Suffering produces endurance,  and endurance, character, and character, hope.”  

 

 


Character_Building (1)
I’m not sure that Paul would agree with Calvin’s dad, but you may have the opportunity to build some character with snow in the forecast for this weekend.