Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #6, October 17, 2020: Servanthood

What Does The Bible Say About Servanthood?

The Bible has much to say about having a servant’s heart. One of those “teaching moments” that Jesus had with his apostles was when the mother of James and John came to Jesus to ask a favor. Here is the Scripture account:

20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” 22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” 23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” 24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:21-28, NLT)

Consider also the following passages:

Luke 22:27 ESV: For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

John 12:26 ESV: If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Ephesians 5:21 ESV: Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

1 Peter 2:16 ESV: Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Mark 9:35 ESV: And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Mark 10:42-45 ESV: And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45 ESV: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV: For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Galatians 5:13 ESV: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

1 Peter 4:10 ESV: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Philippians 2:5-8 ESV: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Matthew 23:11 ESV: The greatest among you shall be your servant.

How Does This Contrast With What The World Say About Servanthood?

“The world encourages personal ambition and pride. As the saying goes, ‘He who dies with the most toys wins.’ We live to compete and succeed. We want to be first. We want to be the boss. Our bumper stickers boast of our achievements. Our walls are decorated by our diplomas.

Is it possible that God desires something far greater for us than our own personal ambition? Yes it is, and yes He does. This greater thing that God wills is to be found in the most unlikely of places, a place to which most of us would never look at all: servanthood.

The world does not think highly of servants. To be a servant is to be in the lowliest of positions. No one boasts of their job as a servant. In fact, most people would be ashamed to be called servant. However, we do not live for the opinions or applause of man, but of God. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, what does God say on the subject? What does the Bible say about servanthood?” (https://www.compellingtruth.org/servanthood.html).

Here Are Some Real Actionable Steps We Can Take!

Leadership authority, Dr. John Maxwell, says that “to embody the quality of servanthood, a true leader:

1. “Puts Other’s Ahead of His Own Agenda….

2. “Possesses the Confidence to Serve….

3. “Initiates Service to Others….

4. “Is Not Position-Conscious….

5. “Serves Out of Love….”

He then suggests, “To improve your servanthood do the following:

  • Perform small acts of kindness for others that show you care
  • Learn to walk slowly through the crowd…. Make it your goal to connect with others by circulating among them and talking to people. Focus on each person you meet…..Make your agenda getting to know each person’s needs, wants and desires….
  • Move into action….Begin serving with your body and your heart will eventually catch up….

(The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader, John C. Maxwell, pp. 136-139)

Conclusion

We can all probably think of people in our lives who have demonstrated the characteristic of servanthood. I always think of my Dad who selflessly served others as he preached the gospel for forty-nine years (1957-2006). He preached in many small, struggling churches and worked as a welder, to support himself as he preached. He was not one to get discouraged easily and was a great role model.

In her book When Character Was King, Peggy Noonan gives many examples in the life of former President Ronald Reagan that demonstrated his servant’s heart. Also, in an article titled, “The Quiet Grace of Ronald Wilson Reagan” by Craig Shirley and Frank Donatelli, that appeared in the October 19, 2016 Wall Street Journal, they give an example of his personal grace, “Over the course of his life, the Gipper sent thousands of letters to fans, friends and even opponents, many of whom remember his personal grace. During his stay in the hospital, recovering from the assassination attempt, nurses were astonished to find Reagan one day on his hands and knees, cleaning up some water he had spilled. The leader of the free world was wiping the floor so no one else would have to do it” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-quiet-grace-of-ronald-wilson-reagan-1476831665).

Serving others is a recognized step in the recovery process. In the Celebrate Recovery Eight  Principles, Principle 8 says, “Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.” Step Twelve of the Twelve Steps of Recovery says, “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” This step is based upon Galatians 6:1, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” This is all about giving back; about servanthood!

I hope these thoughts will help you in becoming the man that God wants you to be. Thanks for reading ….

Randy

Disciplines of Life: Lesson #12 – Discontentment

“And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord” (Numbers 11:1)



Introduction
We continue our series on the Disciplines of Life by looking this month at the Discipline of Discontentment. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

The Pilgrim’s Progress is   a religious allegory written by English author John Bunyan, and published in two parts in 1678 and 1684. The work is a symbolic vision of the good man’s pilgrimage through life. At one time second only to the Bible in popularity, The Pilgrim’s Progress is the most famous Christian allegory still in print. It was first published in the reign of Charles II and was largely written while its Puritan author was imprisoned for offenses against the Conventicle Act of 1593 (which prohibited the conducting of religious services outside the bailiwick of the Church of England). (Patricia Bauer, Assistant Editor, Encyclopedia Britannica) (https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Pilgrims-Progress)
 
V. Raymond Edman begins his chapter on discontentment by looking at an excerpt from this work by Bunyan. He says, “Bunyan paints a colorful portrait of contentment in his description of the shepherd boy in the Valley of Humiliation, ‘Now as they were going along and talking they espied a boy feeding his father’s sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a very fresh and well-favored countenance; and as he sat by himself he sang: ‘Hark,’ said Mr. Great-hart, ‘to what the shepherd’s boy saith.’ So they hearkened, and he said:
‘He that is down need fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is,
That go on pilgrimage;
Here little, and hereafter bliss
Is best from age to age!’
 
‘Then said their guide, ‘Do you hear him? I will dare to say that this boy lives a merrier life, and wears more of that herb called heart’s-ease in his bosom, than he that is clad in silk and velvet.’”
 
“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1st Timothy 6:6) is the divine commentary on this wholesome and healthful attitude of the soul. On the contrary, the danger of discontentment is written large in the Scriptures. Is it fair to infer that godliness without contentment can be great loss?”(pp. 173-174). There are many things in this world that might tend to create discontentment in us, especially in this time where we are so concerned about the COVID pandemic, political and social unrest, and the approaching election. Let’s take a look at some reasons why discontentment is a discipline that the Christian should monitor and control.  
 
Discontentment Disregards the Divine Presence Promised to the Lord’s Own.
 
Consider God’s relationship with Moses and the Children of Israel. He led them by a pillar of cloud during the day and by a pillar of fire at night (Ex. 13:21-22). He defended them with this same pillar (Ex. 14:19-20). He showed them where to pitch their tents & when they should journey (Num. 9:15-23). The Lord had made a strong promise to Moses (Ex. 33:12-23). Throughout the long wilderness journey, Moses “kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27, NLT). But the Children of Israel complained (Num. 11:1). They forgot God who had done great things in Egypt (Ps. 106:21).
 
Consider the promises made by Solomon in his Proverbs, to those who seek the wisdom of God:
“5Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. 9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you, 12 To deliver you from the way of evil…” (Proverbs 2:5-12, NASB)
 
Consider what we find In New Testament times. Jesus promises to always be with us (Mt. 28:18-20).  Jesus promises to send His Spirit to the apostles (Jn. 14:15-17). When we consider all that Scripture has to say about how He is always with His people, discontentment disregards those statements of affirmation. As Edman concludes, “Sweet, wonderful, gracious Presence of the Lord! With us by His Spirit, whom we disregard when we are discontent!” (Edman, p. 175).
 
Discontentment Despises the Promises of God.
 
Moses reminds the Children of Israel that they had been led out of Egypt by the powerful hand of God to the land promised to their fathers.
 “3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by [c]a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. 4 On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth. 5 It shall be when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall [d]observe this rite in this month” (Exodus 13:3-5).
 
But dissatisfaction gripped their spirit:
“Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe in His word, 25 But grumbled in their tents; They did not listen to the voice of the Lord” (Psalms 106:23-24).
 
Their memories selectively only remember the good parts of their time spent in
Egyptian bondage
“4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna” (Numbers 11:4-6).
 
We need to be careful, lest we express discontent during troubled times. We need to maintain a positive disposition and emulate the Apostle Paul’s attitude:
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
 
Discontentment Discounts the Provision God Makes for Us.
 
Daily bread, received in the form of manna was initially much appreciated:
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction….  14 When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.’” 17 The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18 When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat” (Exodus 16:4, 14-18).
 
But eventually they tired of the manna and greedily desired meat:
4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:4-6)
 
We must be careful lest our taste for the Word of God become less appealing to us as did the taste of the manna change from the taste of honey to the taste of fresh oil (Numbers 11:8).
 
Discontentment Displeases God (Numbers 11:1).
 
Though Scripture tells us that the Lord “delights in blessing his servant with peace” (Psalms 35:27) and that He “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9), it is possible to be a disappointment to God by not believing Him. For faith is a very important characteristic that He looks for in His children (Hebrews 11:6).
 
Of Israel it is said, 
“The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them. Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord” (Psalms 106:24-25).
 
Unbelief among His own people in Nazareth caused Jesus to marvel and limited his opportunity to do mighty works in their presence!
“Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And he was amazed at their unbelief” (Mark 6:4-6, NLT).
 
What about us? We have the Lord’s assurances of His presence, promises and provisions but do we displease Him by our lack of faith when we face a little inconvenience in our lives?
 
Discontentment May Be a Natural Part of Our Disposition, but Contentment Can Become a Major Characteristic of Our Christian Life.

The Apostle Paul serves as an excellent example, for he said,
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13, NLT).
 
“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content” (2Timothy 6:6-8).
 
Conclusion

“The discipline of discontentment is to turn from a complaining spirit, and the criticism that corrodes, from the dissatisfaction that displeases God, to a thankful attitude and a ‘merry heart that doeth good like medicine (Proverbs 17:22), to the faith and praise that bring pleasure to the heart of the Almighty” (Edman, p. 179)

The discipline of discontentment is to be “be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ 6 So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me’” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT).

(Adapted from: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 173-179)

Randy

Reaching A Generation For Christ #1, September 26, 2020

What is Youth Ministry?

By Randy Sexton

I have a book in my library which I purchased October 23, 2009 but did not begin reading until August 9, 2018. The book is titled Reaching a Generation for Christ and is edited by Richard R. Dunn and Mark H. Senter III. The book was published and copyrighted in 1997 by Moody Press which it says is a ministry of the Moody Bible Institute. The subtitle of the book is A Comprehensive Guide to Youth Ministry, and the back cover introduces the book in this way, “In Reaching a Generation for Christ, more than fifty of the country’s youth experts send a resounding call that the years ahead can bring one of the most exciting and fruitful time ever for youth ministry. Never before has so much youth ministry been taking place. Yet we have barely begun to tap into all the creative, fresh ways to present the good news to this generation…. A comprehensive, compelling new book that expands upon and updates The Complete Book of Youth Ministry, this is a valuable resource for youth pastors, volunteers, leaders, and anyone who is concerned about capturing young people’s hearts and minds for Christ.“

The book contains 7 parts and 32 chapters written by various authors who “have studied youth ministry, taught about youth ministry, and have done youth ministry.” The 7 parts include:

  • Framework for Youth Ministry
  • Structures for Youth Ministry
  • Contexts for Youth Ministry
  • Skills for Youth Ministry
  • Challenges in Youth Ministry
  • Resources for Youth Ministry
  • The Future in Youth Ministry

With this introductory article, I hope to launch a new series, “Reaching a Generation for Christ.” I am planning to publish a new article in this series the 4th Saturday of every month. We will examine some of the thoughts and ideas presented in this book, compare them with Scripture and try to draw some applications. The articles will be written primarily by me, with perhaps a guest article periodically. I would appreciate your comments and feedback on the articles, and if you think they contain beneficial content, please share the posts with others.

The question for this introductory article is What is Youth Ministry? As I address this question, there will be four components: What Do the Scriptures Teach, What Has the Church Done Historically, What is a Youth Ministry Culture, and What Action Do I Need to Take?

What Do the Scriptures Teach?

The Scriptures certainly have much to say about teaching children to love and obey God. But the concept of a Youth Group or a Youth Ministry is foreign to the Scriptures. I would concur with the following summation of the teaching of Scripture:

“God has already given us everything that pertains to life and godliness (2Peter 1:3), including the principles and models of ministry in the Scriptures. If our goal is not to grow a youth group, but to see the first-century church ideals and convictions reproduced in the context of twenty-first-century teens, then Scripture does indeed contain sound principles for youth ministries within the church. Every ministry’s goal is to make disciples. Student ministry should be purposeful, active, engaging, and spiritual. For it to be biblical, it needs to follow the model in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 with students being mentored for character, instructed in doctrine, and equipped for every good work so that they will engage in effective ministry. The leaders (i.e., adults, mentors, pastors, youth leaders) are there to model, mentor, and equip these young ministers in Christ-like character, sound doctrine, and effective methods to reach lost peers and make disciples of their own (Matthew 28:18-20). This is clearly the ministry model of Jesus Himself. According to many scholars and experts on the life of Christ, somewhere around half of His original disciples were teenagers when He began His discipling ministry to them. His was the original ‘youth group.’

The Apostle Paul gives us a good picture of this kind of effective mentoring ministry in 
2 Timothy 2:2, when he says to Timothy, ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.’ Here is the application for those in student ministry today. Mature believers are called to equip the saints with sound doctrine to produce the outcome of sound living. Now let us bring this all back into a twenty-first-century student ministries context. The goal is making disciples and seeing the power of God unleashed in and through the lives of young people. Teens are at the point in their lives where they need to know the truth of God, how to live a life pleasing to Him, and what task He has called them to. As long as our motivation and message match that of Christ, then our ministries to youth are not only biblical, but necessary.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/youth-ministry.html)

What Has the Church Done Historically?

Conservative Churches of Christ have not historically had a “youth minister” or a specific ministry labeled as “youth ministry.” The conservative view of Scripture is that any organization smaller or larger than the local church is not authorized (except the church universal, of course, which has no physical organization).

Ed Harrell in his book, The Churches of Christ in The Twentieth Century, mentions “Young People’s Meetings” as a source of division. In fact in 1936, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. listed them among his “list of hateful problems.” He says that in that same year, “Guy N. Woods attacked the ‘menace’ of Young People’s Meeting Societies.” He quotes from an article written by Woods, “The Menace of the Y.P.M. Society” that appeared in Firm Foundation, March 17, 1936, p. 1, “Not since the shameful defection produced by the innovation of instrumental music and missionary societies, has a more insidious evil encroached on the purity of New Testament churches. For a time covertly, but now brazen and bold, the Y.P.M. Society, rears its ugly head, as religious journals weekly tell of further departures from the ancient order of things and the simplicity of the Lord’s arrangement” (pp. 45-47).

If you look at the history of youth ministry in denominations you find a “mixed bag.” Dave Wright, coordinator for youth ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has written a very informative article that can be found at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/a-brief-history-of-youth-ministry/. In this article, Wright traces the history of youth ministry from the beginning of Young Life by Jim Rayburn in the 1940s, Youth For Christ and Bible Clubs of the 50s and 60s, the parachurch movement of the 70s, and the entertainment-driven focus of the 80s. The result he summarizes as follows:

What happened in all that? First, we moved from parachurch to church-based ministry (though the parachurch continues). In doing so, we segregated youth from the rest of the congregation. Students in many churches no longer engaged with “adult” church and had no place to go once they graduated from high school. They did not benefit from intergenerational relationships but instead were relegated to the youth room.

Second, we incorporated an attractional model that morphed into entertainment-driven ministry. In doing that we bought into the fallacy of “edu-tainment” as a legitimate means of communicating the gospel. Obscuring the gospel has communicated that we have to dress up Jesus to make him cool.

Third, we lost sight of the Great Commission, deciding instead to make converts of many and disciples of few. We concluded that strong biblical teaching and helping students embrace a robust theology was boring (or only relevant to the exceptionally keen) and proverbially shot ourselves in the foot.

Fourth, we created a consumer mentality amongst a generation that did not expect to be challenged at church in ways similar to what they face at school or on sports teams. The frightening truth is that youth ministry books and training events were teaching us to do the exact methods that have failed us. The major shapers of youth ministry nationally were teaching us the latest games and selling us big events with the assumption that we would work some content in there somewhere. In the midst of all this, church leaders and parents came to expect that successful youth ministry is primarily about having fun and attracting large crowds. Those youth pastors in recent decades who were determined to put the Bible at the center of their work faced an uphill battle not only against the prevailing youth culture but against the leadership of the church as well.

The task before us is enormous. We need to change the way we pass the faith to the next generation. Believing in the sufficiency of Scripture, we must turn to the Bible to teach us how to do ministry (rather than just what to teach). Students need gospel-centered ministries grounded in the Word of God.

What Is a Youth Ministry Culture?

In the preface to the book Reaching a Generation for Christ, it is stated,

“Though theology remains the queen of the sciences, the developmental, sociological, and historical lenses assist the innovative youth leader in doing theology in the environment of this generation. Even with the four lenses, youth ministry is still an art. The Spirit of God guides the insightful disciple in painting on the tapestry of growing lives. As in The Complete Book of Youth Ministry (1987), this book revolves around three statements amplified in “Part 2: Structures for Youth Ministry:

  1. Youth ministry begins when adults find a comfortable method of entering a student’s world
  2. Youth ministry happens as long as adults are able to use their contacts with students to draw them into a maturing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
  3. Youth ministry ceases to happen when either the adult-student relationship is broken or the outcome of that relationship ceases to move the student toward spiritual maturity.”

According to some who are active in Youth Ministry, there are five components that are necessary for building a strong youth ministry culture: creativity, communication, creating common experiences, articulating and reinforcing core beliefs, and commitment.  (“How To Build a Strong Youth Ministry Culture, Andy Blanks, February 18, 2019) (https://youthministry360.com/blogs/all/how-to-build-a-strong-youth-ministry-culture).

According to one source, “In the past ten years there have been a number of excellent studies on the religious beliefs, practices, and attitudes of adolescents. Unique among these research projects is the ‘Study of Exemplary Congregations in Youth Ministry (EYM), funded by the Lilly Endowment. The EYM Project focused on identifying congregations that consistently establish faith as a vital factor in the lives of their youth and discovering what accounts for their effective approaches to ministry. Seven denominations were involved in the study: Assemblies of God, Evangelical Covenant Church, Lutheran (ELCA), Presbyterian Church USA, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, and United Methodist. Dr. Roland Martinson of Luther Seminar was the project director.” (Special Research Report: The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, (https://faithformationlearningexchange.net /uploads/5/2/4/6/ 5246709/ spirit__culture_of_ym_essay.pdf).

But some believe that current youth ministry culture has missed it’s mark. Notice, “Obsessed with cool. Trendy. Impulsive. Self-focused. Caught up in the moment. Probably sounds like a description of some of the kids in your youth group. Actually, um…well…this is not an article about youth culture or the world of today’s teenagers. This is an article about us—those of us in the youth ministry culture, those of us who work with teenagers—and how we seem to be sliding into an adolescent approach to our faith and mission. Look at our must-read books, listen to our conversations, go to our seminars and measure our values. Even a quick survey of the current youth ministry culture tells the story: We’re not just working with teenagers; we’re starting to think like them. ( “The Culture of Youth Ministry,” Duffy Robbins, https://www.youthworker.com/articles/the-culture-of-youth-ministry/).

What Action Do I Need to Take?

The statistics are alarming. As Dave Wright points out in the article sited above, “Mike Yaconelli, founder of Youth Specialties, stated this rather boldly in Youthworker Journal in 2003. According to Lifeway Research, 70 percent of young people will drop out of church after high school, and only 35 percent will return to regular attendance. Christian Smith’s National Study of Youth and Religion found that most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise do not give it much thought. Kenda Creasy Dean, in her book Almost Christian, asserts, “American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith—but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school.” 

The Barna Group says, “When Barna president David Kinnaman published his 2011 book You Lost Me, we heard from many people (especially church leaders) who were shocked to learn that 59 percent of young adults with a Christian background had dropped out of church at some point during their 20s—many for just a time, but some for good.

Eight years later, research for Kinnaman’s new book Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon reveals that the church dropout problem is still a problem. In fact, the percentage of young-adult dropouts has increased from 59 to 64 percent. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. 18–29-year-olds who grew up in church tell Barna they have withdrawn from church involvement as an adult after having been active as a child or teen.”

So what is the solution to reversing this trend? Kinnaman has some interesting ideas that he presents in his new book, which I have not yet read. We may take a closer look at it in future articles in this series, but he introduces the concept of “resilient disciples.”

“It is not all bad news, however. Through more than a decade of interviewing teens and young adults, Barna researchers kept encountering a small but significant number of young Christians who run counter to the overall trend. So, using the same research parameters as in You Lost Me (18–29-year-olds with a Christian background), Kinnaman and the Barna team fielded new research to study the countertrend. Yes, most Christian twentysomethings spend at least some time disconnected from a faith community. But what about those who stay? What, if anything, do they have in common?

In Faith for Exiles, Kinnaman and his coauthor, Mark Matlock, get to know the one in 10 young Christians for whom they’ve coined the term “resilient disciples.” “From a numbers point of view,” Kinnaman says, “10 percent of young Christians amounts to just under four million 18–29-year-olds in the U.S. who follow Jesus and are resiliently faithful. In spite of the tensions they feel between church and everyday life, they keep showing up.”

So what does it mean to be a resilient disciple? As defined in Faith for Exiles, individuals in this group: have made a commitment to Jesus, who they believe was crucified and raised to conquer sin and death; are involved in a faith community beyond attendance at worship services; and strongly affirm that the Bible is inspired by God and contains truth about the world. In addition, they agree with one or more of the following statements that speak to the exilic conditions in which their faith still thrives:

  • I want to find a way to follow Jesus that connects with the world I live in.
  • God is more at work outside the Church than inside, and I want to be a part of that.
  • I want to be a Christian without separating myself from the world around me.”

(https://www.barna.com/research/resilient-disciples/)

Tune in again next month when we will continue this series.

Randy

Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #5, September 9, 2020: Passion

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must face life with passion. Passion is “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate… a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything” (www.dictionary.com).

Leadership guru John Maxwell says, “Experts spend a lot of time trying to figure out what makes people successful. They often look at people’s credentials, intelligence, education, and other factors. But more than anything else, passion makes the difference. David Sarnoff of RCA maintains that ‘nobody can be successful unless he loves his work.’”

He proceeds to list “four truths about passion and what it can do for you as a leader:

1. Passion is the First Step to Achievement. Desire determines your destiny…. Anyone who lives beyond an ordinary life has great desire…..

2. Passion Increases Your Willpower…. Passion “is the fuel for the will. If you want anything badly enough, you can find the willpower to achieve it. The only way to have that kind of desire is to develop passion….

3. Passion Changes You. If you follow your passion – instead of other’s perceptions – you can’t help becoming a more dedicated, productive person. And that increases your ability to impact others….

4. Passion Makes the Impossible Possible…. A leader with great passion and few skills always outperforms a leader with great skills and no passion” (The 21 Indispensable Qualities of A Leader, pp. 83-85).

Brian Biro uses the word “enthusiasm” to describe this attribute which he says was one of the two “foundational cornerstones” of Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. The other was “industriousness.” He says, “To fully achieve the best of which you’re capable, you must love what you do. Industriousness and enthusiasm are inextricably bound together. Hard work without enthusiasm leads to tedium. Enthusiasm without industriousness leads to unrealized potential. When they are present together, they cement a solid foundation leading to success

He says there are three primary targets for your enthusiasm: people, fundamentals, and learning.

(Beyond Success, p. 62-63)

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says this about passion, as it is used in Scripture:

“’Passion’ is derived from Latin passio, which in turn is derived from the verb patior, with the root, pat-. The Latin words are connected with the Greek root, path-, which appears in a large number of derivatives. And in Greek, Latin, and English (with other languages in addition) words connected with this root, pat-, path-, are often susceptible of a great variety of meanings, for which the dictionaries must be consulted. For ‘passion,’ however, as it appears in English Versions of the Bible, only three of these meanings need be considered.

(1) Close to what seems to be the primary force of the root is the meaning ‘suffer,’ and in this sense ‘passion’ is used in Acts 1:3,’ ‘to whom he also showed himself alive after his passion.’  This translation is a paraphrase (Greek: ‘after he had suffered’), due to the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) (post passionem suam), and in English is as old as Wycliff, whom the subsequent English Versions of the Bible has followed. This is the only case in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) where ‘passion’ has this meaning, and it can be so used in modern English only when referring (as here) to the sufferings of Christ (compare ‘Passion play’).

(2) ‘Suffering,’  when applied to the mind, came to denote the state that is controlled by some emotion, and so ‘passion’ was applied to the emotion itself. This is the meaning of the word in Acts 14:15, ‘men of like passions,’ and James 5:17, ‘a man of like passions,’ Greek homoiopathes; the Revised Version margin ‘of like nature’ gives the meaning exactly:

‘men with the same emotions as we.’

(3) From ‘emotion’ a transition took place to ‘strong emotion,’ and this is the normal force of ‘passion’ in modern English the King James Version does not use this meaning, but in the Revised Version (British and American) ‘passion’ in this sense is the translation of pathos, in its three occurrences:

Romans 1:26 (the King James Version ‘affection’); Colossians 3:5 (the King James Version ‘inordinate affection’); 1 Thessalonians 4:5 (the King James Version ‘lust’).

It is used also for two occurrences of pathema (closely allied to pathos) in Romans 7:5(the King James Version ‘motions,’ the King James Version margin ’passions’) and in Galatians 5:24 (the King James Version ‘affection’). The fixing of the exact force in any of these cases is a delicate problem fully discussed in the commentaries. In Colossians 3:5 only does ‘passion’ stand as an isolated term. The context here perhaps gives the word a slight sexual reference, but this must not be overstressed; the warning probably includes any violent over-emotion that robs a man of his self-control.”

See AFFECTION; MOTION.

Burton Scott Easton

(Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Entry for ‘PASSION, PASSIONS'”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”. 1915.) 

Bestselling authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz refer to this quality/attribute as “Spiritual Energy.” They maintain that, “The quantity of energy we have to spend at any given moment is a reflection of our physical capacity. Our motivation to spend what we have is largely a spiritual issue. Fundamentally, spiritual energy is a unique force for action in all dimensions of our lives. It is the most powerful source of our motivation, perseverance and direction. We define ‘spiritual’ not in the religious sense, but rather in more simple and elemental terms: the connection to a deeply held set of values and to a purpose beyond our self-interest. At the practical level, anything that ignites the human spirit serves to drive full engagement and to maximize performance in whatever mission we are on. The key muscle that fuels spiritual energy is character – the courage and conviction to live by our values, even when doing so requires personal sacrifice and hardship. Supportive spiritual muscles include passion, commitment, integrity and honesty” (The Power of Full Engagement, p. 110) (Underlining is mine – RS).

Let’s encourage one another to approach life, and especially our roles as spiritual leaders in our families and in the church, with passion. God expects no less of us!

Thanks for reading.

Randy

The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #11 – Disappointment

“I had no relief for my spirit” (2nd Corinthians 2:13, R.V.)

Introduction

Disappointment is defined as “1. the act or fact of disappointing, 2. the state or feeling of being disappointed, 3. a person or thing that disappoints.” Disappoint is defined as “1.to fail to fulfill the expectations or wishes of; 2. to defeat the fulfillment of (hopes, plans, etc.); thwart; frustrate (www.dictionary.com).

What does the Bible say about disappointment? If you look for the word in Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, or in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, you will not find it. You will find two instances of the word “disappoint,” and one instance of the word “disappointed.” They are:

  • “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise” (Job 5:15, KJV)
  • “Arise, O Lord, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes” (Psalm 17:13-14, KJV).
  • Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22)

V. Raymond Edman well describes the disappointment one can feel as he tries to live a godly life. He says, “Who has not experienced the depths of discouragement that come from the stinging defeat of eager expectation, the merciless blasting of high and happy hopes, the frustrations of fond dreams;  in a word, from disappointment, dark, deep, dismal? We had not planned the results in that way. We needed friends and helpers, whose word was true, whose cooperation was cheerful and constructive, and whose dependability was undoubted, but they failed us. We needed abundance of physical health to perform our tasks, and our strength was pitifully poor. We needed large resources to achieve a worthy goal, for the glory of God, and our resources were woefully inadequate. We needed encouragement and enthusiasm, and our only reward was caustic criticism or studied indifference. We believed human promises that proved to be puffs of wind; we experienced pain rather than gain. We were disappointed…. Disillusionment, despair, defeat and degrading self-pity do not meet nor mend disappointment.” (The Disciplines of Life, p. 159).

So what does help us to overcome such disappointments? Edman suggests five things and I would like for you to consider those with me, dear reader. I trust that this will help you, as you strive to add this as one of the disciplines with which you approach life, and as you grow in your service in the Kingdom.

Going Onward Does

The Apostle Paul is a great example of going on in spite of disappointments. In 2nd Corinthians 2:12-14 we read that Paul anticipated meeting Titus in Troas. But Titus did not show up. Scripture does not indicate whey he did not show. But it affected Paul! Paul says, “I had no rest for my spirit” (v. 13, NASB). How did he react to this disappointment? Well, Scripture tells us that Paul knew what his work was; he knew what goal he was out to achieve to further the work of the Kingdom of Christ. He says, “… taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia” (v. 13, NASB). He expresses his gratitude for the assurance that God “always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (v. 14, NASB).

Another great example is Job. He was in the midst of despair when he said, “My spirit is crushed, and my life is nearly snuffed out. The grave is ready to receive me. I am surrounded by mockers. I watch how bitterly they taunt me” (Job 17:1-2, NLT). The three friends, whom he called “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2, NLT) had not helped him. He also told them, “Your counsel is as helpful to me as a dry streambed in the heat of summer” (Job 6:18, AMP). In spite of this despair, he recognized an important truth that would help to pull him out  of his disillusionment, despair, defeat, and degrading self-pity, “the righteous shall move onward and forward; those with pure hearts shall become stronger and stronger. (Job 17:9, TLB)

Thankfulness Does

Another thing that will help one deal with disappointment is having a grateful heart that freely expresses thankfulness. “A thankful spirit remembers the many triumphs as well as the trials of our faith, the many promises in the Word as well as the many perils by the way” (Edman, p. 160).

The Apostle Paul was thankful under a wide variety of circumstances. He was thankful for food & shelter in the midst of a storm (Acts 27:35). He was thankful for faithful brethren in distant places (Romans 1:8; 1st Corinthians 1:4; Phil. 1:3). And above all, he was thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s indescribable gift (2nd Corinthians 9:15).

Because he was thankful, he could urge us to be thankful in all things (Colossians 3:15; Ephesians 5:20), especially in prayer (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2), as we make known our requests. “A heart that is thankful to God for His many mercies is conditioned by a sweetness of God’s spirit against the bitterness of human disappointment” (Edman, p.161).

Again, we have great examples in the Bible. David knew disappointment and discouragement. After arriving home from a three days journey, he finds that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and on Ziklag, they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone. David’s men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. Rather than allow this series of events to discourage him, Scripture tells us “But David found strength in the Lord his God,” and in this strength, David sought the Lord’s direction. Scripture tells us, “Then David asked the Lord, ‘Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?’ And the Lord told him, ‘Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!’ (1st Samuel 30:1-8).

Habakkuk is another good example. He “saw no outward prospect of prosperity, only utter desolation and disappointment, yet a thankful heart lifted him to high places of victory” (Edman, p. 161). As you read the words of Habakkuk, you find a man who, in the beginning questions God’s justice (Habakkuk 1:2-3), but in the end, he realizes that God is sovereign and that His justice is far beyond his comprehension. Habakkuk was sent by God with a message of judgment on Judah. Habakkuk expresses his changed attitude in the words of his prophecy, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT).

Assurance Does

Paul had learned that all things work together for good to them that love God (Rom. 8:28). He could say, “All deserted me … But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me (2Tim. 4:16-17). Paul could endure and take pleasure in his infirmities and weaknesses because he knew that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2Cor. 12:7-10). Paul had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself (Phil. 4:11-13).

“Do we know the assurance of trust that takes the sting out of disappointment and turns it rather to ‘His appointment’? Joseph could say, ‘It was not you that sent me hither but God’ (Gen. 45:8). The Most High had so sweetened Joseph’s spirit that he named his sons Manasseh (‘Forgetting’) and Ephraim (‘Fruitfulness’), for God made him to forget his disappointment and to be fruitful in the land of affliction (Gen. 41:51-52)” (Edman, pp. 162-163). Paul had been disappointed in John Mark, but later learned that ‘he is profitable to me for the ministry’ (2Tim. 4:11). The Lord Jesus was disappointed in Peter, but He prayed for him that he would turn again to be strength to the early Christians (Lk. 22:31-32)

“What would happen if in faith and love we prayed for those who had disappointed us? Would they not turn to the Saviour, would not our hearts be sweetened, and would not life become ‘a constant pageant of triumph in Christ?’ …Be assured of God’s promise, as was Paul, who could say, ‘the things which happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). Try faith in God and in our fellows when we face disappointment” (Edman, p.163).

Going On Does

“Rather than sulk by life’s roadside, Paul went to the next place of service. There were many that needed his ministry of love, to whom his life, by the indwelling Saviour, could be the unspeakably sweet fragrance of Christ. Herein lies the real discipline of disappointment and despair, to rise up to help others, and to find in that the very attitude and act, that life is “a constant pageant of triumph in Christ” (Edman, p. 163)

“Ezekiel could rise out of the sorrow caused by his wife’s sudden death to bring the message of God to his people on the morrow (Ezekiel 24:18). Out of bitter disillusionment Hosea could say, “Then we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). Of the Lord Jesus, Isaiah prophesied, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged” (Isaiah 42:4). Tidings came to Him about the tragic death of His cousin, John the Baptist. Of course, His tender heart was torn; but there was no opportunity for leisure or solitude; because the multitudes needed Him. Out of the wound in His heart He fed and healed the needy, and thereby that wound was healed (Mark 6:29-44). Going on with God always helps and heals” (Edman, pp. 163-164). 

The “Afterward” Helps

“For every disappointment there is a delight, for every trial, a triumph; for every anguish, an ‘afterward.’ The Scriptures say explicitly: ‘Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby’ (Hebrews 12:11). God’s hard word is never His last word. The difficulty is not defeat. The failure of another is not necessarily a finality. The disappointment need not be disillusionment” (Edman, p. 164)

Yes, Paul was disappointed that Titus did not show at Troas. But, as it turned out, Paul had even greater need for his help and encouragement in Macedonia and was able to report, “God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2nd Corinthians7:5-6).

Conclusion

“There is the discipline of disappointment that would destroy us, unless we cause it to lift us into a new sphere of usefulness and devotion. Turn from the pain, and find the gain of thankfulness and assurance that will make of your life ‘a constant pageant of triumph in Christ.’ Out of heartache there will be healing for you and for others” (Edman, p.165).

Disappointment. It’s something that we all, no doubt, will experience in this earthly life. But if we view it as a discipline to be worked through, as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character,” we may benefit from it.

Thanks for reading!

Randy

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 159 -165)

The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #10: Desperation and Difficulty

This is the tenth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; Danger, Daring and Darkness; Defamation and Defense; and Delight and Desire thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Desperation and Difficulty.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.

Desperation

Life can be tough. Even as Christians, we may sometimes find ourselves in circumstances that cause us to despair. Or as Edman describes it, “We cannot strive nor struggle, flee nor even faint; we can only cry unto God” (Edman, p. 121).

Consider the following examples …

Peter

In Matthew 14:30, Peter cried, “Lord, save me.” As we look at the context of that plea of desperation by the apostle, we remember that he had been enjoying the safety of the boat, when his impetuosity caused him to step out of it onto the water and begin walking to Jesus.  “But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’

“We may not approve his impetuosity nor his human impertinence in attempting to walk on the sea; but we must admire his implicit obedience and his deep devotion to his Lord” (Edman, p. 122).

The Disciples

Mark tells of another night when the disciples were with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee:

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41, NLT).

“That terrible thought, ‘Carest thou not?’ had been forming in their minds as the wind and wave rose higher, and the ship began to founder. Darkness of night, danger of storm, depths of the sea with death all about them, then in desperation the disciples gave vent to their pent-up fears, ‘Carest thou not that we perish?’” (Edman, p. 123).

We can experience those same kinds of feelings. We sing a song that asks “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song, As the burdens press, and the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long? Does Jesus care when my way is dark With a nameless dread and fear? As the day-light fades into deep night shades, Does He care enough to be near? Does Jesus care when I’ve said ‘good-bye’ To the dearest on earth to me, And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks Is it aught to Him? Does He see?” The resounding response of the chorus is, “O yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief; when the days are weary, the long night dreary, I know my Savior cares” (Does Jesus Care, WORDS: Frank E. Graeff, 1901).

In writing about this song, Robert J. Morgan says, “In his book, Lectures to My Students, Charles Haddon Spurgeon devoted a chapter to ‘The Minister’s Fainting Fits,’ warning his students of the dangers of discouragement and depression in the ministry. The chapter begins, ‘Fits of depression come over the most of us … The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.” He goes on to explain that, “A series of heartbreaks shattered his spirits, and Frank Graeff found himself in the unfamiliar valley of deep depress and despondency…. The truth of 1Peter 5:7 suddenly too hold of him ‘… casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Out of that experience, Frank wrote ‘Does  Jesus Care?’ with its series of commonly asked questions, followed by this resounding reply: O yes, He cares …” (Then Sings My Soul, p. 253).

The Tax Collector

Luke recounts the story of the Tax Collector

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, NLT).

“If he had been so minded, like many of his day and ours, he could have blamed his sinful condition upon his family background, his heritage, environment, circumstances, evil companion. He really never had a chance: a poor home, no education, the pitiless strife of the street, ward politics, the dishonest and trickery of tax-gathering. Of course respectable people like yonder Pharisee despised him; he despised himself. Not only did he not blame his unhappy and unfortunate fate, he also laid no claim to any merit in God’s sight, no prayers, no fasting, no tithing, nothing of the Law. He was just a miserable, lost sinner, an ‘extortioner, unjust’ (v.11). He could only blame himself, and pray, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’ (v.13). And God had mercy upon him, instantly, completely; so that ‘this man went down to his home justified’ (v.14)” (Edman, p.125).

David

David testified:

When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
    My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude

(Psalm 32:3-5, NLT)

We need to have this same attitude when we sin. We must not bury ourselves in denial. We must not try to run away from responsibility and accountability. We must not seek to transfer blame to others. Let us duplicate the attitude expressed by David in another of his psalms.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn. (Psalm 130:1-6, NLT)

George Matheson 

Erdman quotes George Matheson, Thoughts for Life’s Journey (pp. 266-267) to further illustrate this discipline of despair, “My soul, reject not the place of thy prostration! It has ever been the robing room for royalty. Ask the great ones of the past what has been the spot of their prosperity; they will say, ‘It was the cold ground on which I once was lying.’ Ask Abraham; he will point you to the sacrifice of Moriah. Ask Joseph; he will direct you to his dungeon. Ask Moses; he will date his fortune from his danger in the Nile. Ask Ruth; she will bid you build her monument in the field of her toil. Ask David; he will tell you that his songs came from the night. Ask Job; he will remind you that God answered him out of the whirlwind. Ask Peter; he will extol his submission in the sea. Ask John; he will give the palm to Patmos. Ask Paul; he will attribute his inspiration to the light that struck him blind. Ask one more – the Son of Man. Ask Him whence has come His rule over the world. He will answer, ‘From the cold ground on which I was lying – the Gethsemane ground; I received my scepter there.’ Thou too, my soul, shalt be garlanded by Gethsemane. The cup thou fain wouldst pass from thee will be thy coronet in the sweet by-and-by. The hour of thy loneliness will crown thee. The day of thy depression will regale thee. It is thy desert that will break forth into singing; it is the trees of thy silent forest that will clasp their hands” (Edman, pp.126-127).

Disciplined by desperation, we come to depend upon our God! Our Almighty God will deliver us! As we sing, “What A Mighty God We Serve!” “Our God is an awesome God!”

Difficulty

William H. Prescott

Edman relates the difficulties of William H. Prescott as he attempted to write his historical accounts, The Conquest of Peru and its companion, The Conquest of Mexico. Prescott first received an injury to one of his eyes, and then the other became inflamed making it debilitated for the rest of his life. He made up for his lost sight, by procuring the services of a secretary who read to him the resource material that he needed for his writing. He then used a writing-case to commit his thoughts to paper without the aid of sight.

“This is the discipline of difficult, understood and overcome only by the indomitable in heart. Only the undaunted, despite aching head and failing sight, could say that others could be in deeper difficulty than they. Lesser souls would be swallowed up in their own sickness, sorrows and silence” (Edman, pp145-146).

John Milton

John Milton became totally blind at the age of forty-four and was forced to give up public service. But he did not give up nor cease to actively pursue his passion. During this time, he brought forth his immortal masterpieces, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes.

Moses

“Moses had the handicap of age before he began his lifework. At forty, when life allegedly begins, he went into exile, to spend his days as an obscure shepherd of the desert. He endured the adjustments made necessary by the shifting from Pharaoh’s majestic court to a Midian sheepfold, with its solitude, silence and apparent uselessness. At eighty, when most men have retired from active service, he was called at the burning bush to become the Deliverer of his people. With reasons, he could object to this calling, saying ‘Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (Exodus 3:11).” (Edman, pp, 146-147).

Mordecai

“Mordecai knew the humanly hopeless handicap of racial prejudice. He was a Jew in a strange land, and knew by experience the bitterness of unbridled racial bigotry. He had to warn his niece, Esther, not to reveal her nationality (Esther 2:20). Haman’s wrath knew no bounds when he was told that Mordecai was a Jew (3:4); with the result that he ‘sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai’ (3:6). The plot proceeded temporarily without hindrance, to the pleasure of Haman; while Mordecai was overcome with fear and grief (4:1-3). Only the soul that has felt the heel of the oppressor and the fury of the sadist can sense the sorrow that was Mordecai’s” (Edman, pp. 147-148)

Matthew

As a tax-collector, Matthew was familiar with social prejudice. Palestinians of his day viewed him as a traitor, as selling himself to be a servant of the hated Romans. They classed the publicans with the lowest of the population: the sinners. Matthew, however, was not overcome with social stigma. He responded immediately to the Lord’s call, “Follow me” (Matthew 9:9).

“Herein lies the discipline of difficulty: to recognize one’s limitation and handicaps; nevertheless, to rise up and do the impossible in spite of them. To yield to discouragement and difficulty is to be defeated. The handicap, I repeat, can be physical, racial, social, personal in any way; yet the soul that will rise up and follow the Saviour will know life that climbs with Bunyan’s Pilgrim the Hill Difficulty, to find on its summit the Palace Beautiful, whose windows face the sun-rising. Our discipline is to keep on climbing when sight is dim and strength is debilitated, when friends fail and foes are fierce, when handicaps hinder and hardships harry. God has use for the heart that no difficulties can deter!” (Edman, p. 149).

(Source: The Disciplines of Life, pp. 121-127, 143-149)

Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #4, May 17, 2019: Courage

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must evidence courage in the face of challenges. The word courage, courageous, or courageously appears 26 times in the KJV of the Bible. In other translations the word may appear as many as 116 times. There are many ways that we must be strong and courageous, but I would like for you to consider three: courage to confront, courage to change, and courage to say no.

In the King James Version the word “courage” appears in the following (20) passages:

Numbers 13:20 – And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Deuteronomy 31:7 – And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.

Deuteronomy 31:23 – And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.

Joshua 1:6 – Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

Joshua1:9 – Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Joshua 1:18 – Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.

Joshua 2:11 – And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

Joshua 10:25 – And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.

2 Samuel10:12 – Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.

1Chronicles 19:13 – Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight.

1Chronicles 22:13 – Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfil the statutes and judgments which the LORD charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed.

1Chronicles 28:20 – And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.

2 Chronicles – 15:8 – And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.

Ezra 10:4 – Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.

Psalm 27:14 – Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Psalm 31:24 – Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

Isiah 41:6 – hey helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.

Daniel 11:25 – And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices against him.

Acts 28:15 – And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.

In the King James Version the word “courageous” appears in the following (5) passages:

Joshua 1:7 – Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.

Joshua 23:6 – Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;

2 Samuel 13:28 – Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant.

2 Chronicles 32:7 – Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:

Amos 2:16 – And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.

In the King James Version the word “courageously” appears in the following (1) passage:

2 Chronicles 19:11 – And, behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king’s matters: also the Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and the LORD shall be with the good.

The Courage to Confront

Confrontation is hardly ever pleasant, but the Scriptures teach that, if we encounter someone who is in danger, we will warn them of that danger.  We are instructed, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important” (Galatians 6:1-3, NLT). And in another passage, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-21, NKJV).

In the Old Testament the watchman was charged with the responsibility to watch for any approaching enemy. If one was observed he was to sound warning so that precautions could be taken to defend the city. Notice how his responsibility is described in Ezek. 33:1-6, “Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’

Sometimes our attempts, to confront one in love to turn from their sins, are met with resistance or outright hostility. The Scriptures provide the example for further discipline if this occurs (See Matthew 18:15-17). In such situations, truly courage must be manifested in order to do what is right.

The Courage to Change

The humility to change, when sin is evident in our lives, requires courage. The determination to change, when our behavior is harming others, requires courage. The sincerity of heart to change when we are bringing reproach upon our physical and spiritual family requires courage.

The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr captures the essence of this courage to change (emphasis by underlining and highlighting added by me):

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time;

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

taking, as Jesus did,

this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it;

trusting that You will make all things right

if I surrender to Your will;

so that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

The Courage to Say No

It requires courage to say no when you are asked to serve in some way, but you know that “your plate is full” and that you cannot give any additional task the justice it deserves. Saying no in a conflict situation when you are a “conflict avoider” requires courage. And saying no to not enable inappropriate behavior of one you love takes a great deal of courage.

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have a great deal to say about saying no in their book Boundaries:

“Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what our job is and what it isn’t. Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries. Just as  homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t” (pp.24-25).

“Some people become so accustomed to others rescuing them that they begin to believe that their well-being is someone else’s problem” (119).

“Dysfunctional families are known for a certain type of boundary problem called ‘triangulation.’ Triangulation is the failure to resolve a conflict between two persons and the pulling in of a third to take sides. This is a boundary problem because the third person has no business in the conflict but is used for comfort and validation by the ones who are afraid to confront each other” (p. 129).

“Teens need to be setting their own relational, scheduling, values, and money boundaries as much as possible. And they should suffer real-life consequences when they cross their boundaries. The seventeen-year-old who still needs to be disciplined with social media and phone restrictions may have real problem at college in one year. Professors, deans, and residence hall assistants don’t impose these kinds of restrictions; they resort to tactics such as failing grades, suspension, and expulsion…. When their ability to say and hear no is deficient, clarifying house rules and consequences can often help in the last few years before the youth leave home. Symptoms such as the following, however, may indicate a more serious problem:

  • Isolation of the teen from family members
  • Depressed mood
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Continual conflict in family
  • Wrong type of friends
  • School problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use
  • Suicidal ideas or behavior

Many parents, observing these problems, react with either too many boundaries or too few. The too-strict parent runs the risk of alienating the almost-adult from the home connection. The too-lenient parent wants to be the child’s best friend at a time the teen needs someone to respect. At this point, parents should consider consulting a therapist who understands teen issues. The stakes are simply too high to ignore professional help” (p.192)

Truths About Courage

Leadership guru John Maxwell says, “As you approach the tough decisions that challenge you, recognize these truths about courage:

  1. Courage Begins with an Inward Battle
  2. Courage Is Making Things Right, Not Just Smoothing Them Over
  3. Courage in a Leader Inspires Commitment from Followers
  4. Your Life Expands in Proportion to Your Courage

(The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader, John C. Maxwell, pp. 40-41)

Conclusion

Much more could be said about the attribute of courage that we need to possess as we seek to become the men that God wants us to be. But I hope these words have been thought-provoking and that, in some small way, they may help you with your Christian walk. For that is the purpose of this website.

Thanks for reading …

Randy

The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #9: Delight and Desire

This is the ninth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; and Danger, Daring and Darkness, and Defamation and Defense thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Delight and Desire.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.

Delight

“I Know how to abound” (Philippians 4:12)

What is “Delight”?

Dictionary.com defines it as “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture.” It was used in much the same way in New Testament times as is reflected in W. E. Vine’s definition: “Lit., “to rejoice with (anyone). To delight in (a thing) with (others),” signifies “to delight with oneself inwardly in a thing,” in Rom. 7:22”

“Delight is an affection of the ‘inmost heart’ (cf. Ps. 40:8). It signifies that in which one finds pleasure, i.e., the object of one’s love. In Prov. 5:19 the piel form of the verb rawa (lit. ‘drink one’s fill’) is used to denote being saturated with sensual pleasure.

Why is Delight a Life Discipline that We Should Develop?

As the term is used by Erdman, it describes a way of life that does not despise others, thinking that they get all the good things in life while we do not. “They seem to have abundance of resources, and all that goes with money, clothes, car, companions, ease and education, while we plod along, quite penniless; theirs, abundance of good looks, while we carry weary body and aching hear. The have prosperity and prominence, poise and position, friends and favor, family and affection, home and hospitality in the words of the Psalmist, ‘They have more than hear could wish (Ps. 73:7).” (Erdman, p.85)

The Discipline of Delight will humble us to appreciate what we have. The Discipline of Delight move us away from “score-keeping,” comparing what we have with what others have. The career of Moses illustrates wonderfully this Discipline of Delight.

How Did the Career of Moses Illustrate the Discipline of Delight?

By the world’s standard he had everything a person might want, but he gave it all away to serve God. From boyhood, Moses’ parents “saw that God had given them an unusual child.” (Heb. 11:23, NLT). Elsewhere in Scripture Moses is described as “lovely” (Acts 7:20, NASB), and “special” (Ex. 2:20, NLT)

He did not allow “pride of place,” as “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24; Ex. 2:10; Acts 7:21) to ruin his compassion. Moses did not lord his royalty over his lowly fellows, but rather “he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work” (Ex. 2:11, NLT)

He did not allow his learning to puff up his estimation of himself in relation to his brethren.  “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22, NKJV)

He did not allow his achievements to turn him into a prideful, impatient, overbearing man. He was “mighty in words and deeds,” and his leadership of the unruly children of Israel in the wilderness revealed the organization and discipline that came from military training.

We Must Discipline Ourselves to Be Useful to God and Our Fellow Man

“Moses points out the pathway to that service. Rather than delight in himself and his distinctions, he concerned himself with the difficulties of others (Acts 7:23). Unselfish interest in the welfare of others makes us unconcerned about any natural gifts and graces we may have. We forget ourselves in helping others; and others are then conscious, not of our person and position, but rather of the Christ who dwells in our hearts” (Erdman, p. 88).

“Choosing to suffer affliction for others becomes a genuine delight to us” (Heb. 11:25). “We identify ourselves with a Cause that is humanly unpopular, but which has the approval of Heaven. We renounce our rights in order to be on the right side; and a title to which we are entitled (as “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter belonged to Moses) becomes a mere trifle, if only we be known as “the sons of God. We depend not upon our knowledge nor ability; rather we also ‘endure as seeing him who is invisible.’ (Heb. 11:27)

“There is satisfaction in serving the Lord Jesus; sweetness in suffering for His Name; blessing in bearing His reproach; pleasure in becoming a pilgrim; delight in doing his bidding…. To have every natural delight… is to need the discipline of delight, that every gift be acknowledged as from the Giver, that every talent become a sacred trust, that every honor become a humbling of heart  before Him, in order that He have all the Glory. Then, like Moses of old, with lowly heart and veiled face, we shall walk where He leads…. Then comes to pass the word, ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart’ (Ps. 37:4) (Erdman, p.89).   

II. Desire

“For even Christ pleased not himself” (Romans 15:3)

What is Desire?

Dictionary.com defines it as, “a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment; an expressed wish; request” The Encyclopedia of the Bible says, “There are over nine different Heb. words which can be tr. into Eng. as ‘desire’ as well as about the same number of Gr. words…. Some of the words which are used are אַוָּה, H205, חֶמְדָּה, H2775, חֵ֫פֶץ, H2914, חֵ֫שֶׁק, H3139, מַחְמָד, H4718, מִשְׁאָלָה, H5399, נֶ֫פֶשׁ, H5883, רָצﯴן, H8356, תַּאֲוָה֒, H9294, תְּשׁוּקָה, H9592; θέλειν; θέλημα, G2525; θεμησις; ἐπιθυμία, G2123; αἰτέω, G160; ἐρωτἀω. Practically the whole spectrum of underlying psychological meanings are covered by the wide range of the above Heb. and Gr. words. This clearly shows how important a characteristic it is esp. as far as Scripture is concerned.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Desire)

Why is Desire a Life Discipline that We Should Develop?

As Erdman examines the Discipline of Desire, he asks, “as a Christian, what criteria of Christian conduct should be mine?” He rightly concludes that the Scriptures distinguish between various types of conduct. 1) Some matters are clearly required and 2) other matters are clearly prohibited, i.e. things that we must avoid. Then there is a third category, he says, “In between, there is a wide area of border-line cases; matters intrinsically innocent in themselves, but good or evil according to principles found in the Word of God. For those border-line cases the Scriptures give us basic principles of conduct, rather than precepts (Rom. 12-14; 1Cor. 8, and elsewhere); and we should catch the spirit as well as the letter of the Word to apply to our conduct” (Erdman, p. 102)

Erdman then proceeds to outline the following principles as “criteria of Christian conduct”:

1. There should be no conformity to the world (Rom. 12:1, 2; 1Jn. 2:15-17).

Erdman quotes from John Wesley to give a “working definition” of the world, “Whatever cools my affection toward Christ is the world.” Have you ever thought about it in those terms? What cools your affection towards Christ? What causes your desire to be for other things so that you don’t “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Phil. 4:8, NLT)?

2. There should be no condemnatory attitude on our part (Rom. 14:1-3, 14-21).

In matters of opinion we definitely should show open-mindedness and appreciation for the opinion of others. An attitude that shows disrespect for a fellow human being is not of God. Do your desires cause you to run rough-shod over the opinions of others or do you have the humble attitude expressed by Paul, “14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. 20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble” Rom 14:14-21, NLT).

3. We are to have our own convictions, based upon the Word of God (Rom. 14:1-9).

As Paul discusses the principles he lays out for the Corinthians, he makes application to two issues that were problems in his day. The first was eating of meats offered to idols and the second was observing of certain days. Please consider what one writer has said about these issues of the first century, “Under Judaism certain meats were forbidden (Lev. 11:) These were legal restrictions, not due to the nature of the animal (Gen. 9:1-4). But Christ fulfilled the typology of Judaism, and these restrictions were removed (Acts 10:10-16; 1Tim. 4:4. Again, meat that had been offer unto idols was sold in the markets, and was per se (of itself) unrestricted (1Cor. 8:1-8). To those with understanding, there was no wrong done in eating these meats. Under Judaism certain days were declared ‘holy’ (Lev. 23 :).These days were ‘set apart’ for Jews, and given significance by God’s decree, not for anything inherent in the day itself. They were a ‘shadow’… but the body is of Christ’ (Col. 2:16-17). The shadow had fulfilled its purpose with the coming of the New Covenant; hence, ‘day observance,’ per se, had lost its significance.” (Reading Romans, “When Saints Differ on Nonessentials,” Robert F. Turner, p.101)

In light of this, Paul emphasizes, “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable” (Rom. 14:5). “i.e., act with conviction, do whatever he does because he believes this is to the glory and service of God” (Turner, p. 102).

4. We are to be considerate one of another (Rom. 14:10-13).

“13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall (Rom. 14:13, NLT). I like Warren Wiersbe’s comments on this passage. He says, “Note the possible ways we can affect each other. We can cause others to stumble, grieve other or even destroy others. Paul was speaking of the way the strong Christian affected the weak Christian… The strong Christian has spiritual knowledge, but if he does not practice love, his knowledge will hurt the weak Christian. Knowledge must be balanced by love. Often little children are afraid of the dark and think there is something hiding in the closet, Of course, Mother knows that the child is safe; but her knowledge alone cannot assure or comfort the child. You can never argue a child into losing fear. When the mother sits at the bedside, talks lovingly to the child, and assures him that everything is secure, then the child can go to sleep without fear. Knowledge plus love helps the weak person grow strong” (Be Right, Warren Wiersbe, pp. 157-158).

5. We should be consistent in our practice (Rom. 14:14-17).

“Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil” (Rom. 14:16, NASB). Wiersbe said it well, “Not the externals, but the eternals must be first in our lives; righteousness, peace, and joy. Where do they come from? The Holy Spirit of God at work in our lives (see Rom. 5:1-2)” (Ibid)

Erdman gives an example from the life of Rodney “Gipsy” Smith who was a British evangelist who conducted evangelistic campaigns in the United States and Great Britain for over 70 years. He was an early member of The Salvation Army and a contemporary of Fanny Crosby and acquaintance of G. Campbell Morgan and H. A. Ironside” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_%22Gipsy%22_Smith). He says, “More than once I heard the late Gypsy Smith relate the story of his father’s conversion. He heard the message of salvation, and with penitence received the Saviour as his own. That evening he returned to his motherless children in the gypsy wagon, and related to them all he knew of the Saviour and of the Scriptures. Then he prayed with them, setting up a family altar the first night of his new life in Christ. The following morning he repeated the whole matter again. Then he went back to town, and took with him the dearest treasure of a gypsy’s heart, his violin. On returning home that night he was without it, for he had sold it. He had sufficient spiritual insight, the first day of salvation, to realize that the old association of drinking and dancing places, where he had used his violin, would be inconsistent with his stand for Christ, and detrimental to his own conscience. We are glad for those whose background allows them to play the violin for God’s glory; but whatever is inconsistent to us and to others must be abandoned” (Erdman, p. 105).

6. Our conduct should be constructive (Rom. 14:18-19)

“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19). “Do my words, actions, standards, make for peace, to establish others in the truth of the gospel; or do I live to myself, unconcerned about the blessing promised to the peacemakers (Mt. 5:9) or about building strong Christian character and conviction in those that are as yet weaker in the faith?” (Erdman, p. 106).

7. We should be careful of conscience in what we allow in Christian conduct (Rom. 14:20-23).

“Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right” (Rom. 14:22, NLT). “We have to live with our own conscience to be under self-condemnation as well as under the conviction of the Spirit when our deeds are doubtful to ourselves; and on the other hand, we can have the happiness of a good conscience. We are to bear in mind also, however, the conscience of others in that which we allow. ‘But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.’ (1Cor. 8:9-12, NLT).  Strong and searching words, that should give us a tender and thoughtful conscience, with conviction that ‘Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.’ (v.13, KJV). High standard? Yes, high, but also holy and helpful; with the conscience of a weaker Christian as my criterion” (Erdman, pp. 107-108).

8. Our conduct should be Christ-like (Rom. 15:1-7).

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself” (Rom. 15:2-3, NLT). “The final criterion is the capstone of them all… Is the welfare and well-being of others a first consideration with us, as it was with Him? Can we deny ourselves that we might please others (v.1)? Is any sacrifice on our part in the least commensurate with His sacrifice for us? He has been patient with us, and desires that we be ‘likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus’ (v 5.). Do our words and our deeds, our attitudes and our acts, show forth Christ to others, especially to the weak in the faith? Are we Christ-like in our concern for them?”

Conclusion

Two more Disciplines of Life, I suggest as worthy of development in the life of the Christian: Delight and Desire. Delight is a way of life that does not despise others, thinking that they get all the good things in life while we do not. It is an attitude that says, “I am appreciative for what I have and I will not waste my time trying to keep score of what I have compared to others. The Discipline of Desire will cause me to apply the principles of Christian conduct to my actions, in the light of another’s conscience.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 85-89, 101-111)

Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 4, February 22, 2019 Theme: Thoughts From Philemon and Jude

In This Issue

  • “Appreciation, Appeal, and Assurance: Thoughts from the book of Philemon,” written by Hannah Clark
  • Overcoming The Apostates: Thoughts from the book of Jude,”  written by Dillon Jarrett

Appreciation, Appeal, and Assurance

Thoughts from the book of Philemon, written by Hannah Clark

               The book of Philemon is a letter from Paul to a fellow brother in Christ, Philemon. It is very short and was broken down into 25 verses so it’s one of Paul’s shorter letters. Despite its length, it holds a powerful message about forgiveness and accepting those that have come to Christ.

               Appreciation

Verses 1-3 convey Paul’s appreciation of Philemon as a “fellow laborer” in Christ and the church that is in his house. Philemon is described in verses 5-7 as showing love and faith to the saints he encounters and sharing his faith with others. Paul mentions that the “saints have been refreshed by you” (vs. 7). 

This description is one that should be commonly applied to those that are followers of Christ. In having traveled a lot in my life, I know of many I could apply this description to and it fills my heart with gladness. Knowing that there are Christians near and far is very encouraging.

               Appeal

Verses 8-16 reveal Paul’s main reason for writing the letter to Philemon. Paul is appealing to Philemon for the sake of Onesimus, a slave of Philemon. It is not revealed why Onesimus left Philemon but is assumed that Onesimus did not leave on good terms. After leaving Philemon, Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a fellow brother in Christ. Paul likens Onesimus as a son to him but is sending him back to Philemon and appealing to Philemon to take him back. Paul states that Philemon is receiving back more than a slave, but a brother as well.

It is sometimes hard for people to accept those that they felt have done them wrong or that they may not get along with. There is no room for this in the church and when there are those have decided to follow Christ, it is our job to welcome them as fellow brethren; to love and encourage them.

               Assurance

Paul concludes his letter in verses 17-25 by offering to repay Philemon for whatever/however Onesimus had wronged him. Paul has “confidence in [Philemon’s] obedience” that he will accept Onesimus and asks that Philemon prepare a room for him in the hopes that Paul will be able to visit. Paul lists his fellow workers that offer greetings to Philemon and closes his letter.

We don’t have a follow-up account of what happens when Onesimus returns to Philemon, but I would like to think (based on Paul’s account of Philemon’s character) that he welcomed Onesimus back as a brother in Christ and that he worshiped with the church that was in Philemon’s house.

Overcoming The Apostates

Thoughts from the book of Jude, written by Dillon Jarrett

               Jude should become one of your favorite letters if it isn’t already. The depth and breadth of topics included in this divine rhetoric is full of spiritual nuggets. Please take a few moments with me to review Jude in the eyes of our topic, “Overcoming the Apostates.”

               It isn’t coincidence that Judas, most likely the half brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3), uses a different name to not have any semblance of the infamous Judas Iscariot. One of the most well known apostates, in accordance with prophecy and his own selfish ambitions (Matthew 26: 14-16), Judas fulfills the definition of apostate, “a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.” This is the very problem that Jude will address throughout the letter.

               From the outset, it is clear his intentions were to write about the glory of the Kingdom of God and our salvation, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3). Defending the faith (THE GOSPEL) is a common theme in the epistles (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Cor. 10:5; Psalm 94:16); Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 4:2; Philippians 1:16; Ephesians 5:11). Yet, Jude felt rather compelled to dive into the discussion that he does. Rightfully so. The Gospel message is something that many had already given their lives for, namely Christ. Allowing others to contentiously, selfishly and inaccurately portray the word of truth was not something acceptable to Jude in his writings. It should not be for us, either. “The faith” doesn’t mean our own personal belief, or faith in the sense of our trust in God. The phrase the faith means “The essential truths of the gospel that all true Christians hold in common.” The faith is used in this sense repeatedly in the New Testament (Acts 6:7, 13:8, 14:22, 16:5, 24:24; Romans 1:5 and 16:26; Colossians 2:7, and 1 Timothy 1:2 are just some of the examples). We must contend earnestly for the truth. “The faith is the body of truth that very early in the church’s history took on a definite form (Acts 2:42; Romans 6:17; Galatians 1:23).”

               Let’s notice how he addresses this problem. “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 4-7). The apostates were predicted (Isaiah 8:19–22; 2 Thessalonians 2:6–10; 1 Timothy 4:1–2; 2 Timothy 3:1– 9; 2 Peter 2:1–9). This is the first part of Jude’s sermon: Sin Separates and can Sets One’s Fate. One of the scariest notations in this discourse is the idea that these men secretly slipped in among you. That is the danger with ungodly people or those who once with good intentions, abandon the truth for their own desires. They pervert the grace of our God into a license of immorality…deny(ing) Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord. This isn’t something his audience didn’t already know, but it needed reminding. He speaks of the Exodus and those who failed to believe after being relieved from bondage. Even the angels are bound to the Lord’s authority and were susceptible to condemnation. He finally points to Sodom and Gomorrah, specifically noting the immorality and perversion. Much could be said about the triplet representation above, but his point is simple: they serve as an example of those who suffer punishment of eternal fire. When we willfully sin and continue in that sin without desire to make our lives write with God, it should not be a surprise what one’s fate will be with those.

               This way of thinking is dangerous. It is toxic. It is ungodly and not fitting for Christians to partake in or EVEN ENTERTAIN. One of the dangers we see today that is prevalent in all avenues of communication (news, government, social media, radio, etc.) is this: on the strength of their dreams, these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. It is rather important to note the point he makes next about Michael the Archangel. Much could be said about this angel’s power and history, but the point is clear. Even he understood sometimes it is necessary to engage in spiritual warfare, but also with who’s authority he was in subjection to. As powerful and glorious as Michael is referenced in the Testaments, he would not dare to rebuke with the devil upon his own authority. It was only through God the Father that he engaged. He knew his place. The danger of these individuals addressed in Jude is that, more than anything, they have no respect for authority, especially the one true Lord. Notice how he references them with another rebuke: Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain (Genesis 4:8-9); they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error (Numbers 22-25, 31); they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11). Jude’s points about these three are a pinnacle point in his argument. The most dangerous aspect of Cain’s attitude was unbelief and empty religion. We fear many attacks on the faith today, but none are more striking and detrimental than vain, empty worship and living. A Christian who is lukewarm or engaging in apostasy is just as dangerous to the congregations of God’s people as the dangers we often label outside our walls. Jude’s second point in this section is: Don’t Sell Your Soul for Materialism. The danger of Balaam’s decisions were that he based them in greed. He was willing to compromise everything for money. Think that is happening today? Selling a message that tickles the people’s ears to fill congregations to the brim? Those individuals spiritually feed their congregations empty plates while trying to convince those people (and themselves) they’re filled (2 Timothy 4:3). Too many individuals are lost in these messages that are sweet to ears, but sour to the soul. To conclude this point, certain men live out the rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16). You could say this is the final straw in some ways. Korah’s problem with Moses was that he had this crazy idea that Moses was attempting to exalt himself about the congregation of the Lord.” (Numbers 16:3). He wanted the authority and ministry of Moses. That was ultimately his problem with Moses: he wanted the spotlight and needed to remove Moses in order to get it. The problem with his intention was that he forgot that Moses didn’t put himself in that position, God did. Korah needed to learn this essential lesson: we should work hard to fulfill everything God has called us to be. At the same time, we should never try to be what God has not called us to be. (Guzik).                The most important principle from Jude’s final point would be this: Apostasy Can Come from Anyone and Any Walk of Life. Cain was a farmer. Balaam was a prophet. Korah was a leader within the nation of Israel. Problems can come from the pulpit, the pews, and anywhere else in the population. The future held for people that choose this path are sad existences. Spots in your love feast. They serve only themselves. Clouds without water. Trees that should bloom, who bear no fruit, not dead once but twice, pulled up from the roots (their perceived foundations.) Like streaking stars, their brightness is brief and always swallowed up in the blackness of the sky, a description of their destiny. A darkness forever that is never ending. He concludes with what Enoch says in prophecy about these types of individuals, “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon

The Disciplines of Life – Lesson #8: Defamation and Defense

This is the eighth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; and Danger, Daring and Darkness thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Defamation and Defense.

As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.

Defamation (2nd Samuel 16:5-14)

Defamation is defined as “the act of defaming; false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as by slander or libel; calumny” (www.dictionary.com).

Edman reminds us of the admonition of Scripture, “For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (1st Pet. 2:19-23, NLT). He then says, “This is a deep discipline of the soul, this evidence of our true sonship with God, as described by our Lord Jesus Christ… ”But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt. 5:44-45, NLT).

David’s conduct before Shimei excellently illustrates the discipline endured by those who are defamed.

The situation: David is old; he’s been driven from his capital, caused by his rebellious son Absalom. Scripture describes Shimei’s stinging insults and David’s response (2nd Samuel 16:5-14, NLT).

Shimei said, “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”

David’s response, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.”

This is an often repeated theme in David’s Psalms:

“Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth! Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts…. The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do” (12:1, 2, 5, NLT).

“Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good. I am sick with despair. Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered. I was sad, as though they were my friends or family,    as if I were grieving for my own mother. But they are glad now that I am in trouble; they gleefully join together against me. I am attacked by people I don’t even know; they slander me constantly” (35:11-15, NLT).

“I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me” (39:1, NLT).

“I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil. But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!” (37:35-36, NLT)

“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. Praise the Lord, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack” (31:19-21, NLT)

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain” (3:1-4, NLT).

Others demonstrated this discipline as well – the soft answer “that turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1)

Moses was the object of criticism, not only from the Israelites in General, but even from his own brother and sister. “While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)” (Num. 12: 1-3). “One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?” Num 16:1-3, NLT)

The humble response of Moses is described, “When Moses heard what they were saying, he fell face down on the ground. 5 Then he said to Korah and his followers, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show us who belongs to him and who is holy. The Lord will allow only those whom he selects to enter his own presence. Korah, you and all your followers must prepare your incense burners. Light fires in them tomorrow, and burn incense before the Lord. Then we will see whom the Lord chooses as his holy one. You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!” (Num. 16:4-7, NLT).

Jesus was above all men spoken against falsely. In return for the miracles and healings He performed, He was repaid with the anger and envy of political leaders who sought to kill Him. One such example is that is recorded says,  “Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. (Mk. 3:1-6, NLT)

Mark also records, “One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.” Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.” (Mark 3:20-30, NLT).

Many other examples could be cited (Mk. 6:3; 14:45, 61; 15:3, 5; Isa. 42:2, 3; 53:7; Mt. 5:11-12) but suffice it to say that Jesus was without question the greatest sufferer and the most prolific example of the discipline of Defamation.

Paul described some of the things that he faced, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2Cor. 4:8-9). When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside” (2Cor. 7:5).

“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap    burning coals of shame on their heads.”Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Rom. 12:7-21).

Defense (1Sam. 22:8)

“And there is none of you that is sorry for me.” “These are the words of a king! Who would have thought it could be so? A sovereign stooping to self-pity, a monarch making himself miserable and mean, a crown that cries like a spoiled child! But that is what the story tells, with penetrating insight and illumination into the character of Saul, first king of Israel” (Edman, p. 63).

Selfishness and self-pity were not conspicuous in Saul’s character at the outset his royal career, but he would soon develop a character dominated by those attributes.

At the outset of his royal career he seemed to have commendable characteristics: He came from a good family (1Sam. 9:1). He was a dutiful son (1Sam. 9:2). He was tall, handsome, competent, cooperative, and had qualifications to be over God’s people (1Sam. 9:16). He was humble and unassuming (1Sam. 10:14-16). He shrunk back from being king (1Sam. 10:22). He held his peace when criticized (1Sam. 10:26).

When time came “to reveal his qualities of leadership, he was not inadequate” (1Sam. 11:4-11). He showed that he could be magnanimous; for when his soldiers wanted to cut off his erstwhile critics, Saul could say with generosity, “There shall not be a man be put to death this day… (1Sam. 11:13)

But flaws began to appear in his personality & character: He seemed to lack a sense of the spiritual despite his home training. He became self-willed, impulsive, and imperious (“domineering in a haughty manner”-dictionary.com). He presumed the prerogatives of the priest by offering  the sacrifice (1Sam. 13:13-14)

He “seemed to lack a sense of fitness in things human as well as divine” (Erdman, p.65). He denied his men food when a great victory was in the making (1Sm. 13:15-23; 14:24). Even his son Jonathan said he “troubled the land” (1Sam. 14:29-30).

The test came years later when he was to destroy the Amalekites (1Sam. 15:1-3) but his obedience was only partial (1Sam. 15:9). The Lord was sorry he had set up Saul to be king (1Sam. 15:11). When confronted, he made excuses (1Sam. 15:20, 21) as he had done earlier (1Sam. 13:11-12).

Erdman says about this discipline:

“This is the discipline of defense. As long as a man is on the aggressive, alert to his liabilities and limitations, active in his service for God and man, he can be courageous, generous, altruistic, large-spirited; but when he allows himself to get on the defensive: defending his position, policies, procedure, personality, program, then he tends to become timid, selfish, self-centered and small. He has lost the magnanimity that can minimize insults and injuries. He forgets the wholesomeness and soul-health necessary for his own soul. As indicated in a prayer of Phillips Brooks, ‘Let me not lose faith in my fellow men. Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery or meanness. Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them.’

“Self-centeredness makes a man soft, sensitive, selfish. Self-pity makes him pitiable, a picture of pathos when he should be a power for good. Self-importance makes him unimpressive, important in his own eyes but impossible to others. Conceit makes him contemptible. Bitterness of spirit over the success of others makes him blind to his own shortcomings. Envy makes him unenviable. Petulance makes him picayunish. Self-pampering makes him sarcastic. Self-indulgence makes him indolent. Self-defense destroys his self-respect, and makes him less a man.”

“This I say is the discipline of defense. To whimper is to be a weakling to complain is to be a coward; to blame others is to be a baby; to pity self is to be pitiful; to yell is to be ‘yellow,’ which term of contempt contains the whole concept of the unworthy and worthless.”

“The discipline of defense demands that we destroy self-centeredness, self-pity, self-importance, self-indulgence, self-defense of any kind. If others are honored, congratulate them (1Cor 12:26); if you are neglected, forget it. If the job is too big for you, admit it to yourself and to others and step aside graciously; you will be a bigger and better man for it. If others can do the job better than you, let them do it with your ‘God bless you!’ Let no dog-in-the-manger attitude make you snappy, showing teeth and temper rather than kindness and courtesy; in other words, be a Christian rather than a cur!”

“The discipline of defense is to ‘to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love in honor preferring one another … not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith … (to) bless them which persecute you; (to) bless and curse not’ (Rom. 12:10,3,14).” It is further defined and described in Phil. 2:3,14,15. “It is to do your duty and to do good unto others.”

“To defend yourself is to descend to the despicable, the degrading, the destructive; to deny yourself is to ascend to the worth-while, the wholesome and the helpful” (Erdman, pp.66-68).  

Conclusion:

This article has dealt with a positive discipline that we should seek to develop and a negative that we should be on guard against.

The positive, Defamation, that is doing good and living for God, no matter the consequences that may come to you as a result, is a discipline to be developed.

The negative, Defense that is allowing yourself to get on the defensive: defending your position, policies, procedure, personality, program, tending to become selfish, self-centered and small. You have lost the magnanimity that can minimize insults and injuries. This is a discipline that would cause us to guard against the invasion of flaws of personality and character like those that developed in Saul.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 55-70)