After I taught Sunday School this past Lord’s Day, I visited the men’s room. As I washed my hands, I decided to read a small piece of art that was hanging on the wall. I’d probably seen it many times before, but I paused for the first time to actually read the words. It looks like this:
Just in case you can’t read it, here are the words:
- Keep skid chains on your tongue. Say less than you think. Cultivate a smoothing voice. How you say it often means more than what you say.
- Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully, no matter what the cost.
- Never lose an opportunity to say a kind word to or about somebody. Praise work well done, regardless of
who did it.
- Be interested in others, their pursuits, their homes and their families. Let everyone you meet, however humble, feel your regard him as important.
- Be cheerful. Keep the corners of your mouth turned up. Hide your worries and disappointments under a smile.
- Keep an open mind on all debatable questions. Discuss, but don’t argue. It is a mark of a superior mind to disagree and remain friendly.
- Let your virtues speak for themselves and refuse to discuss the shortcomings of others. Discourage gossip by changing the subject.
- Have respect for the feelings of others. Wit and humor at the expense of a friend is never worth it.
- Pay no attention to destructive remarks and personal attacks on you. Live so that no one will believe them. Remember, a common cause of backbiting is a dissatisfaction with oneself.
- Don’t be concerned about your “just due.” Do a good turn for the sake of being helpful.
The placard is entitled Getting Along With People (Springbrook Publications, Inc., 1993).
What do you think? Will following the counsel above lead to healthy relationships? I think so. I wouldn’t say that I am convinced that smiling while suffering is laudable (#5), but the other points are well-made. I can’t help but think about how much more of a blessing I could have been had I followed the advice above!
Which of the above points hits you between the eyes today?
For me, it is the #8. Too many times in my life I have hurt others with my humor. It’s only been in recent years that I can honestly say I am learning how to apply #1 (“Say less than you think”). Believe me when I say that I was not reared in such a home where words were weighed before they were spoken! Friends in my past also often did not help, laughing at some comments or jokes when a gentle reprimand would have proven more beneficial. But maturity is a beautiful thing! One of my hopes is that my children will mature much faster than I did!
And that’s why I write this blog!
But thanks for stopping by! May this day and this week find us “getting along with people”!
The following are excerpts from an official court document submitted to the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Central District on January 31, 2017. John C. Depp, II (you know him as the gifted actor Johnny Depp)
is named as one of the plaintiffs. The defendants include a company that Depp had employed to assist in managing his finances.
You may or may not be shocked by the following:
Depp lived an ultra-extravagant lifestyle that often knowingly cost Depp in excess of $2 million per month to maintain, which he simply could not afford. The following examples are just some of the ways that Depp chose to spend his money (p.3).
- Depp spent in excess of $75 million to acquire improve and furnish 14 residences, including a 45-acre chateau in the South of France, a chain of islands in the Bahamas, multiple houses in Hollywood, several penthouse lofts in downtown Los Angeles, and a fully-functioning horse farm in Kentucky (p.3).
- During this same time, Depp spent lavishly on various luxury items, including spending over $18 million to acquire and renovate a 150 foot luxury yacht (p.3).
- Depp spent millions more acquiring and/or maintaining at least 45 luxury vehicles (p.3).
- He spent $30,000 per month on expensive wines that he had flown to him around the world for his personal consumption (p.3).
- 200 collectible pieces of art and works by world famous artists such as Warhol…(p.3).
- 70 collectible guitars (p.3).
- Depp also spent many millions more over the years on extremely rare and expensive Hollywood collectibles. Depp’s collection of Hollywood memorabilia involving such icons as Marilyn Monroe, John Dillinger and Marlon Brando is so extensive that it fills approximately 12 storage facilities…(p.3).
Try to take that in for a minute. The management firm estimated that Depp required in excess of $2 million per month to live at his desired standard of living. $2 million a month! $24 million annually! And it still wasn’t enough!
The document (linked below) also included the following remarks:
Depp’s voracious spending consistently outpaced his earnings (p.10).
Depp, and Depp alone, is fully responsible for any financial turmoil he finds himself in today. He has refused to live within his means (p.4).
Have you any response to this?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
What advice might you offer Mr. Depp?
Later today I will participate in the funeral of my friend’s mother. Today is also my own Mom’s birthday. She died four years ago. She would be 85 today–her birthday (though she would object due to the fact that she was actually a leap year baby, born on the 29th of February).
Sadly, as far as I can assess, my Mom died outside of the Lord. It was also saddening that we did not have a funeral or memorial service. My Dad had passed several years earlier. In reality, none of us children knew exactly what to do. Three of Mom’s siblings had passed and she had not communicated to any of us any particulars regarding a type of ceremony or service. Consequently, we did nothing. Perhaps something could have been planned but we’re spread out now, living in North Carolina, Nevada, Wisconsin, Texas and Tennessee. And since Mom wasn’t religious, no pastor or church was involved. She was quietly cremated and we all went on with life.
It was odd.
Today, my friend celebrates the blessed death of his mom. That concept is found in Revelation 14:13.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.
The reason for which the are blessed is provided. They may rest from their labors. Why? Their deeds follow with them. In other words, if we know Christ and strive to live for His glory, blessing others around us even though we remain remarkably imperfect in this life, a glorious rest awaits us throughout eternity.
Have you ever considered what that rest is like? Contemplate these thoughts from James Durham’s (1622-1658) collection of sermons on the verse quoted above (The Blessed Death of Those Who Die in the Lord, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2003, Don Kistler, ed.).
“Then we confidently and comfortably conclude that death–whenever, wherever, and however it should overtake us–would be gain to us, by putting a final and eternal period to all the remainders of indwelling sin, to all temptations to sin, to all desertion, and to all complaints and fears of desertion and hidings of God’s face; to all doubtings about our gracious estate and about our interest in God; to all fears of backsliding, and of offending or of giving offence; to all trouble, sorrow, sadness, and sighing on whatsoever account; to all indisposition to serve, worship, and glorify God; to all interruptions of fellowship with Him, and to all fellowship that is but mediate and in part; to all sinful ignorance and imperfect knowledge, or that which is but in part. In heaven, great theologians read all their divinity without books, and without the least difficulty in the beatifical immediate vision of God’s face. Death ushers us in to that blessed state wherein we call be satisfied with His likeness, and that both objectively and subjectively, being then admitted to see Him in Himself as he is, face to face, even to full, immediate, and never-to-be-interrupted fellowship with Him” (p.xi).
Said as only a Puritan preacher can!
Our glimpses of heaven provided to us by the Scriptures enables us to grasp Paul’s declaration that dying is gain (Philippians 1:21)!
Charles Spurgeon wrote,
“They rest from their labors in the sense that they are no longer subject to the toil of labor. Whatever they do in heaven will yield, then, refreshment and never cause them weariness. As some birds are said to rest upon the wing, so do the saints find, in holy activity, their serenest repose. They serve Him day and night in His temple and therein they rest. Even as on earth, by wearing our Lord’s yoke, we find rest unto our souls, so in the perfect obedience of heaven, complete repose is found” (A Voice From Heaven, Sermon 1219, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, http://www.spurgeongems.org).
My friend’s Mom did not live an easy life. She suffered greatly from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Today, however, she finds herself not simply in the Lord, but with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8)! Her laboring to live with an awful disease has ceased. She now rests in perfect health.
How thankful we all are that she was “in the Lord.” She trusted in Christ and in Him alone for her salvation. She was depending upon His grace and trusting in His promises. She was blessed. She is blessed. She will always be blessed.
I pray the same will be said of us!
James Durham concluded his treatise with these words:
“Now may the Lord Himself, who alone can do it, powerfully persuade and prevail with you so to live that you may have the well-grounded hope of dying in Christ, since blessed and only blessed are they who die in the Lord, who rest from their labors and whose works follow them” (p.129).
Although the application is self-evident, I am impressed to draw it to your attention. Where are you with Christ? Are you outside of Him or are you inside of Him? Believe me when I state that no more important question will be asked of you today, this month or this year. Death is only blessed if you are “in the Lord.” If we have received Christ, believing upon Him (John 1:12), how are we living today? Are we laboring? Are we striving to say on mission? Every Christian has the same purpose, even if we word it a bit differently. My mission statement reads as follows: Glorify God, Bless People & Prepare for Eternity. Does that resonate with you? If so, it will determine what you do today and this month and this year. It is what motivates you to serve others and find ways in which to utilize your gifts and talents in the body of Christ–a local congregation. The bottom line is this: What we believe today and how live today matters.
Thank you for stopping by the blog and for considering these important issues!
Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
The pictures above were taken in Bardia National Park located in western Nepal. The area made the news in late December of last year when a herd of elephants that live in the park attacked a small nearby village, killing one person and injuring two. The story peaked my interest (I love geography) and quick glance at Google images helped me to see that Bardia is teeming with wildlife, some quite dangerous.
The second photo illustrates what can happen when a deer allows herself to become too comfortable with her surroundings. The shot above shows three other deer very much on the alert.
The concept of alertness is on my mind. I need to be alert. There is an enemy seeking my defeat from within (my flesh, the sin which remains)and from without (the evil one and his minions). One particular verse caught my attention several years ago. 1 Corinthians 16:14-15 reads,
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
Eugene Peterson renders these verses as follows:
13-14 Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.
When I served in the Army, I was trained on how to perform guard duty. I vividly remember guarding a building (with an empty M-16). Thinking a drill instructor might try to sneak up on me, you know I kept my eyes open! I wasn’t just on guard duty. I was on my guard! Like the deer in the top picture above, I was ready for anything! If that was how seriously I took that responsibility when I wasn’t in any real danger, how much more seriously should I be now that I find myself in the crosshairs?!
A good word for me today! I hope you were encouraged as well!
“What makes a man a man? A friend of mine once asked. It’s the choices he makes. Not how he starts things, but how he finishes them.”
That’s the last line from the movie Hellboy. Lest you become too concerned, please know that I did not actually watch the movie. I happened to turn on a particular channel the other day as the movie was concluding. As a father of two boys, you can see why the quote grabbed my attention.
I would love for my sons to become men who are known for making wise decisions and for finishing what they start. I suppose that is the hope of every father.
This afternoon I hit the Dayton (TN) walk track for lunch. As I often do, I pray as I exercise. One of the things I prayed for today were my children. I prayed for their salvation and for their maturation. I prayed for me as their Dad. I prayed for their Mom. I also prayed that I would finish well at my particular callings (Christian, Husband, Father, Friend, Worker). I very much do not want to fizzle out as more and more of my hairs turn grey. That concept has been on my mind as I will be mentioning the latter years of both David and Solomon tomorrow night when I teach a class on the Old Testament. Both kings started well, but did not finish strong. David (Solomon, too) proved to be a poor
father (a bit hard to excel at fatherhood when you have over 20 children). Solomon worshiped idols. Without a doubt, they did not finish
well. May that never be said of me. May it never be said of my sons. May we do the right things–even when they are hard.
May God help us to these noble ends!
I recently watched an interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson by Larry King (see link below).
I personally find Dr. Tyson to be delightful and interesting. His personality is winsome. His answers to Larry’s questions were fascinating, but I particularly took interest at what took place at the end of the interview. King brought of the concept of fearing non-existence (both men are atheists). Tyson replied:
“It is the knowledge that I am going to die that creates the focus that I bring to being alive. The urgency of accomplishment, the need to express love now, not later. If we live forever, why ever even get out of bed in the morning? Because you always have tomorrow. That’s not the kind of life I want to lead.”
After Larry King asked him if he feared “not being around,” Tyson answered:
“I fear living a life where I could have accomplished something and didn’t. That’s what I fear. I don’t fear death.”
Don’t you appreciate his vulnerability?! I sure do! I also find his comments insightful. As a Christian, however, my perspective on both living and dying is in conflict with that described by Dr. Tyson. The facts that I will indeed live forever and that I will face God upon my death serve as important impetuses for my accomplishments as well as my expression of love to those around me.
My mission statement is short, but has profound implications for my present.
Prepare for Eternity
Tomorrow is important. The future awaits. But that unrealized and certain hope does not negate my calling today. Why did I get out of bed this morning? Because I have a mission to complete over the next twenty-four hours! The primary purpose for my existence is to glorify God. To a point, that happens without any effort on my part. Yet, it is also something I consciously do (and I wish I did more consistently). Jesus told me to let my light so shine before men that they might see my good works and glorify my Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:16). He was also very specific (as were the authors of the entire New Testament) that I seek to bless others (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:14). Whatever the context in which I find myself, I am to prove to be a good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Finally, I need to live each day with the knowledge that I will “be around” forever. What I do today matters. And that makes this day as important as tomorrow.
I recently completed reading a small book entitled The Management Methods of Jesus (Bob Briner, Nelson Business, 1996). The subtitle appears above. In several places, the book stretched the application of Jesus’ actions and example a bit too far, but I particularly appreciated the following lines:
“Inadequate preparation produces inadequate results” (p.3).
“Whether you’re laying the foundation for a career, launching a product, or making a presentation, there is no substitute for preparation” (p.4).
“A lack of absolutes can lead to all kinds of corporate problems, from petty thievery to major crime. It leads to shoddy products and shoddy practices in the marketplace. ‘I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong’ is a common defense of everything from manipulating stock to adding extra nicotine to already lethal cigarettes to building cars with dangerous fuel tanks. As a company and as a manager, teach the right way, insist on the right way, be an example of the right way to do business. Follow Jesus’ example” (p.18).
“Don’t fall into the trap of arrogance. Not only is it unseemly, it is bad business. One way to combat it is to keep a picture in your mind of Jesus Christ, God’s perfect son, kneeling before ordinary men, his own disciples, and washing their feet. With this picture in mind, it is pretty hard to be arrogant” (p.36).
“To succeed, use the Jesus model. Take good care of your employees and your customers. When Jesus said in Matthew 23:11, ‘He who is greatest among you shall be your servant,’ He made a statement by which any business can live and thrive” (p.58).
“Both through His actions and His teachings, Jesus demonstrated that He expected His followers to be fruitful and productive. He was equivocating on this” (p.83)
Happy New Year! Thanks for walking with me over the past twelve interesting months yet again!
Here’s a quick fly-over from our year together:
One year of serving at Grace on worship team, AWANA, nursery, teaching adult SOD!
10th Anniversary of teaching on the collegiate level!
25 Years of Marriage!
Teaching Romans at Church!
Cubs win! Cubs win!
Trump won! Trump won?!
Thanksgiving & Christmas Day!
God’s provision through our jobs!
Plus Celena, TJ, Dayton, Cascade & Cadence!
What a year! Did I miss anything big? It has been a rather eventful year for me personally (25th wedding anniversary and the anniversary of my 10th year teaching college students). It has also been a full year for us as a family (puppies, school, vacation). Without a doubt, we have experienced the grace and mercy of God. No, the year has not been without its challenges (I think of TJ’s health issues, raising a toddler, and the sins of seven people living together under one roof). But we would be sinful to complain as day #365 rapidly approaches its conclusion. The Lord has not treated us as our many, many sins deserve. We have been greatly blessed and we are looking forward to living 2017 together. But first…
“The true meaning of Christmas is to cheer people up during a cold and depressing time of year. That means lots of food, getting together with family and friends, giving each other gifts, being kind to others, and helping those in need.”
Those are the thoughts of blogger, atheist and humanist Staks Rosch in a 2013 article on The Huffington Post blog (see link below). He continued:
“Whatever excuse you want to use to celebrate the winter season is great. Jews celebrate a day’s worth of oil that lasted eight nights. As excuses go, that’s pretty weak, but if it makes people happy, great. Celebrate long-lasting oil, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the birth of a mythical figure, a funny episode from a sitcom, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (sauce be upon him), Human Light, or even Star Wars Life Day. Whatever you celebrate, have a happy holiday season.” He concluded with a tribute to the famous and now deceased Christopher Hitchens (a hero to all those who hate religion).
As you might imagine, I do not appreciate Mr. Rosch’s comments. In particular, I think he is a bit naive to state that Jesus was a mythical figure. Even the Jewish historian Josephus acknowledged that Jesus actually lived when we believe that He did.
Jesus truly was a Jewish man, born in Israel over two thousand years ago. The real question is whether or not He was who He claimed to be. One of the men that walked with Him for three years was from the fishing village of Bethesda located on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. His name was Peter. As Peter sensed the end of his life approaching, he wrote two letters. We know them as 1 & 2 Peter. In his second epistle, he wrote the following:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty (chapter one, New American Standard Bible [NASB]).
Another eye-witness stated it this way:
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John, chapter one, NASB).
Several years later, the same author would write the following to one of the early congregations:
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life (1 John 1:1; NASB).
If the New Testament is clear about anything, it is that Jesus of Nazareth walked among us!
However, in order to believe what He claimed about Himself and what others (Peter, John, Paul, etc.) taught, you must be given a gift–the gift of faith. Knowledge takes us to a point. Faith completes the journey. But faith, according to the Scripture, is not something we can create ourselves. It is a gift, given by God (Ephesians 2:8). And, I contend, it is the greatest gift one could receive!
Have you received it?
Have you asked God for it?
You may be content to be–like the atheist author quoted above–an unbeliever. Please know, I am not more intelligent than Mr. Rosch. In fact, he could probably run circles around me intellectually and defeat me in an argument with one arm tied behind his back. But I have received something he has not–the gift of faith. It really is that simple. I was given a gift and I opened it. I believed. That’s why Christmas is more to me than “lots of food, getting together with family and friends, giving each other gifts, being kind to others, and helping those in need.” Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all those activities mentioned! BUT I APPRECIATE JESUS CHRIST EVEN MORE!
And that is what makes my Christmas worth celebrating.
For another perspective than the one offered by The Huffington Post, consider:
Chattanooga recently witnessed a horrific event. A bus carrying grade school students crashed, killing six and injuring many others. Words cannot express the grief experienced by so many in the community following the accident. On the next day, I was listening to a talk radio station out of Chattanooga. The host of the show that morning encouraged everyone of every faith to find a place to get alone and pray. He went on the state that individuals who were not religious should think positive thoughts because, like prayers, they make a difference. He even mentioned that it was a proven phenomenon.
I would question the validity of whatever study was performed.
My positive thoughts will not improve your negative day.
Without a doubt, I can bless you if I communicate to you (face-to-face, email, Facebook, text, etc.). If you know that I’m in your corner, that can make a world of difference. But my simply thinking kind thoughts about you or for you isn’t going to assist one bit.
I know what you’re thinking: “The force isn’t strong with this one.” Exactly! I reject the new age spiritualism adopted by the talk show personality who described himself as a Christian–Druid–Universalist (I’m serious).
Thankfully, we do not need to resort to an Americanized form of eastern mysticism when we, our loved ones, or strangers are suffering. The triune God listens to His people when they pray! He condescends to hear the requests of those to receive His Son. And, hallelujah, He answers in the affirmative far more than in the negative. In other words, His children hear “Yes” much more than they hear “No”!
Knowing this, how often should we pray? Paul commanded us to “pray continually” and be devoted to prayer (1 Thess. 5:17; Col. 4:2). Jesus instructed us to pray specifically and repeatedly (Luke 11:1-13). And we should especially pray when we learn of tragedies such as the bus accident in Chattanooga. God is everywhere and He is all-powerful. He can assist and comfort those in great sorrow and, most importantly, He can draw people to Himself through very dire circumstances.
The fact that we do not pray more reveals a very inadequate theology if not a very small faith.