Sermons

Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be: Volume 3, Number 2, September 22, 2018: Compassion

 

What is Compassion?

Compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” (www.dictionary.com). The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” Compassion involves “feeling for another” and is a precursor to empathy, the “feeling as another” capacity for better person centered acts of active compassion; in common parlance active compassion is the desire to alleviate another’s suffering” (Sherlyn Jimenez, see article on Compassion, The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology, Volume I, Editor: Shane Lopez, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 978-1-4051-6125-1).

 

“It is a word often misunderstood. Many people think that to be compassionate means to give money to those in need, or to hug someone when they are feeling down. Those are aspects of compassion, but compassion is more than that. It is entering into someone else’s pain, suffering or hardship with them. It is stepping into their circumstances and providing comfort, assistance, or both” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Volume 3: Compassion, p.3).

 

Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for a friend” (Jn. 15:13). If we are to be the men God wants us to be, we must be willing to lay down our own needs and desires to reach out to others who are in need of our compassion? Are you willing to do that? Please consider some areas where we must demonstrate compassion and some outstanding examples in each of these areas.

 

Compassion for family

Mike Magusiak was an executive at CEC Entertainment, Inc. (Chuck E. Cheese) for nearly 27 years. “When Magusiak initially joined CEC Entertainment in 1987, the Irving-based company was facing a negative cash flow and needed a turnaround. By 1989, with Magusiak as chief financial officer and taking CEC Entertainment public, the company began returning profits once again. In 2008, Magusiak was named CEO of the company and served until 2014 when it was sold to a private equity group. Magusiak also served on the board of directors from 1988 to 2014. The annual compound growth rate of CEC Entertainment, Inc. stock from 1989 to 2014 was 18.6 percent” (https://udallas.edu/cob/cob-news/Chuck_E_Cheeses_CEO_Joins_Faculty.php).

 

In his leadership position, he had a great deal of responsibility that required job commitment. But Mike determined early in his career that he would not allow his career to stand in the way of spending quality time with his family, making it clear which one he loves more.

 

In an interview that appeared in the March 2013 issue of D Magazine, Mike described the valuable time he spent with his family.Wendy and I have been married for more than 30 years. We are blessed to have three sons. Jason, 24, is a CPA working for KPMG; Matt, 23, is a senior at Ole Miss who will graduate next semester with a double major in accounting and marketing; and Nick, 17, is a junior in high school. My wife and I spend a lot of time at ice arenas watching two of our boys play hockey. I also enjoy golfing with our middle son, and we enjoy boating as a family. Every Halloween when our boys were young, my wife would take them next door while I changed into a Chuck E. Cheese costume and I’d take them around the neighborhood to trick-or-treat. My boys never knew it was me. In fact, one year they wanted to bring Chuck E. home to meet Daddy.”

https://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-ceo/2013/march/meet-ceo-michael-magusiak-of-chuck-e-cheeses/

 

 

Karen Hughes was a trusted top advisor to President George W. Bush. She served as the White House communications director but in 2002 she decided to give up that position in order to spend more time with her husband, Jerry, and son Robert. Upon announcing her resignation, she said, “Throughout my career I have tried to prioritize my family while I have a career…I think this says that I can do what is right for my family, and continue to serve the President in a key way. I’ve always prided myself that this is a family-friendly White House, and I think this is a family-friendly decision.” Many Washington insiders were shocked by her decision. But Karen Hughes redefined what it means to put family first. She remained an advisor to the President, but she put her family first. She still treasures that decision, stating, “Other than marrying my husband, that decision was still the best decision I think I’ve ever made.

 

 

Compassion for peers

Krissi Holomon was a bright & beautiful teenager who died at an early age cutting short dreams of college. But she was a person known for her extreme passion. She so touched her classmates that the high school graduation was moved to her home when she was too sick to leave her bed.  The touching story of Krissi Holomon can be viewed in the HOC Foundation video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSf5WXmxCFs.

 

Compassion for those in need

Andrea Jaeger was a tennis prodigy who rose to the second-ranked player in the world in 1979 at the age of 14. But in 1985 her career was ended by a shoulder injury. Five years later she founded the Silver Lining Foundation in Aspen, Colorado to help children with cancer. She used her $1.4 million in tennis earning to launch the foundation in 1990.

 

Young cancer patients are flown by the Foundation to Aspen for a week of support and activities. Because of her experiences in high school she developed a heart of compassion for kids in need. When she was in high school, fellow-students, jealous of the attention she received as the result of her tennis prowess, would throw food at her in the cafeteria and push her into lockers.

 

“Jaeger’s autobiography, First Service, was published in 2004. In the book she wrote about her teenage years as a tennis player and her later decision to focus on serving God. All proceeds from the book were donated to children’s charities.

 

Jaeger has since established the “Little Star Foundation”, reaching on average 4,000 kids annually. She has moved from Aspen to a much larger 220-acre (0.89 km2) property in Hesperus, Colorado, where she will be able to expand her programs. [12] (https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/printedition/sports/20070309/c1scov09.art.htm)

 

On September 16, 2006, at the age of 41, Jaeger became Sister Andrea, an Anglican Dominican nun.[15] She reportedly left the order in 2009.[16] (Futterman, Matthew (August 27, 2010). “Where Are They Now?” The Wall Street Journal).

 

In April 2007, Jaeger and several former athletes, including Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Tony Hawk, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Muhammad Ali, appeared on the American morning television talk show Good Morning America to announce their formation of a new charity entitled “Athletes for Hope” with the goal of encouraging their fellow athletes to think philanthropically. [17][18] https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3077119

 

Oprah Winfrey describes Jaeger as a superstar turned superhero. [19]” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Jaeger)

 

 

Compassion when it costs you

Todd Wagner is a successful business man with interests in technology and entertainment, but his greatest interest is in kids. He has dedicated many personal resources to make a difference in the lives of others.

 

Wagner is the co-founder of Broadcast.com and founder and CEO of the Charity Network. He also co-owns 2929 Entertainment with Mark Cuban, along with other entertainment companies. Wagner has his own charitable foundation, the Todd Wagner Foundation. After meeting with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wagner in 2001 launched his Foundation’s first children’s program, the Dallas chapter of the After-School All-Stars (then called Inner-City Games), a national program championed by Schwarzenegger that provides year-round technology, academic, sports and cultural programs for children in the nation’s inner cities. The Dallas After-School All-Stars now reaches more than 4,000 children with programs ranging from chess and art classes to golf, running clubs and math competitions.

 

Wagner also created a Minority Technology Fund that provides funding and resources to minority-owned, technology-focused businesses based in Dallas and has made investments in numerous companies including: Imaginuity Interactive, a Web site development firm; Abstract Concepts, developer of African-American communities Ebonymate.com and Dallasblack.com; and rocKnot, a software development firm.

 

Wagner has also developed the MIRACLES technology, education and life skills program that provides an after-school program for inner-city children. This program is currently in its fifth year and is operating in nine cities in conjunction with the national After-School All-Stars. The multi-year program begins in sixth grade and continues through high-school graduation. The Foundation recently made a grant that unites the MIRACLES curriculum with The Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) technology program “Club Tech”.

 

The Foundation has also provided funding to bring KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter school to Dallas in 2003 and to Wagner’s hometown of Gary, Indiana in 2006. KIPP Truth Academy is a program for students to develop knowledge, skills and character.

 

“An old parable teaches that it is more compassionate to teach a man to fish rather than to catch a fish for him, because if he is taught how to fish, the man will be able to sustain himself throughout his lifetime. True compassion that enables sustained change requires a personal investment from us. Whether time or money, change comes at a price.  An old saying goes, ‘no pain, no gain.’ True compassion requires us to ‘consider others above ourselves. ’While difficult thing to do, there is no act that is nobler. Others need your compassion, but it may cost you – in time, money, comfort or convenience. However the results will be life changing.” (Heart of a Champion Program, Compassion, p.13).

 

  1. Truett Cathy was the founder of the fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A. He took a tiny Atlanta diner, originally called the Dwarf Grill, and transformed it into Chick-fil-A the nation’s largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain. With $7.885 billion in sales annually (as of 2016) and over 2,200 locations across America, Cathy’s business success allowed him to pursue his true passion – helping young people have a better future. In 1984 he started the WinShape Centre Foundation, named for its mission to shape winners, which provides scholarships to 20 to 30 students to attend Berry College. Also, through its Leadership Scholarship Program, Chick-fil-A has given $1,000 scholarships to restaurant employees. Those awards have totaled over $23 million since 1973.

 

For Cathy, it was not just about giving, but about giving in a way that enables others to succeed. Cathy believed that requires sacrificial giving – giving to others in a way that means a personal cost to him – a cost that he said is well worth it. “We must motivate ourselves to do our very best and by our example lead others to do their best as well,” Cathy said. Before his death in September 2014, Cathy said, “I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.”

 

For Cathy, leadership was about making a difference and a willingness to use personal resources to better the lives of others. His life philosophy is reflected well in his statement, “If you wish to enrich days, plant flowers; if you wish to enrich years, plant trees; if you wish to enrich Eternity, plant ideals in the lives of others.”

 

Cathy wrote five books: the autobiography Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People, a motivational book entitled It’s Easier to Succeed Than to Fail, the parenting book It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men, an explanation of his business success in How Did You Do It, Truett?, and a final book on the significance of money in today’s society titled Wealth, Is It Worth It?. He also contributed to the anthologies What My Parents Did Right and Conversations on Success, and co-wrote with Ken Blanchard Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure.

 

Cathy was a deeply religious man and determined from the beginning of his enterprise that all Chick-Fil-A’s restaurants would be closed on Sunday. It was a decision made out of personal conviction and care for his employees. Realizing full-well that he would be forfeiting an entire day of business, he desired to give his employees a day free for rest, family time and the exercise of their faith. His business has never suffered from that decision and is carried on today by his son Dan, who became CEO of the business in November 2013 when his father retired. S. Truett Cathy died at his home on September 8, 2014 of diabetic complications at the age of 93.

 

Conclusion

Think about what it takes to demonstrate compassion in your family, for the needy, for your peers and when it costs you. What do you now know about compassion and how can you show others that you care? Now that you know what compassion means, what are you going to do to show what you know? Quite frequently in Scripture it is said that Jesus was moved with compassion by what he saw (Mt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; Lk. 7:13; 10:33, etc.). Won’t you be the man that God wants you to be by showing compassion like Jesus did?

Thanks for reading.

–Randy

 

It Is Well With My Soul

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

“… for I have learned to be content…”  Philippians 4:11

A talk given by Linda Sexton for Ladies Day, September 25, 2004

The thoughts that are expressed in Philippians 4:11 teach us that contentment is something that can be learned regardless of the circumstances in our life.  I’m going to ask you to think of two things.  First, what does it mean to be content?  Second, think of someone you know that is content.  If I asked most people what it means to be content, I think they would tell me it means to be happy.  In the bible, to be content means to be satisfied with our life.  We can learn to be satisfied even during sad times of our life.  Think of your content person.  Was their life free of trials?  I see you shaking your heads “No.”  

We don’t find contentment in this life by avoiding trials.  We find contentment by overcoming the trials that come our way.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says “… we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”   Not crushed, not despairing, not forsaken, not destroyed!  So how do we do this?  Well, Jesus tells us how in a passage that illustrates the difference in the way two houses are built.  In Luke 6:47-49, He says “Everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood arose, the river burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But the one who has heard, and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation; and the river burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of the house was great.”  Jesus tells us that His word is our foundation and if we will hold to what He teaches then we can handle any storm that comes into our life.  

I was asked to speak to you today because of the various storms that have blown through my life in the past sixteen years.  I’d like to share some of those with you today and show you how God’s word, time after time, has helped me find contentment regardless of what I have faced.  

The first point I’d like to make today is –  

DON’T LAY YOUR FOUNDATION DURING A STORM. 

 I can’t tell you how much it helped me to already have a foundation in God’s word before troubles came into my life.  Don’t wait until you have problems to find out about God’s ways for your life.

There were forces in my life that helped to lay my foundation even before I was born.  In 1886, my Grandfather Wilson was born.  When he was 21, he married Dora and they had seven children together.  In 1931, their last child, Lora Lucille was born.  Six months later, they were going to church, but they weren’t able to take all their children with them that day.  On the following day this article appeared in the paper.  

August 2, 1931  “A Missouri Pacific grade crossing accident 3 miles west of Coal Hill, AR, about noon Sunday, took the lives of Mrs. Dora Belle Wilson, 40 years old, her daughter, Eula Lee Wilson, 13, and her son, Thomas Wilson, 3, and resulted in injury to the husband and father, John Wilson, 45.  Trainmen believe, that Wilson knew that the regular passenger train had passed already and was not looking for a special, which was running immediately behind the regular.  The second section of the fast passenger train crashed into the light touring car in which the four were riding.  The car was hurled from the track and demolished, Mrs. Wilson and the two children dying almost instantly.  Wilson, shocked by the collision and tragedy, at first was believed fatally injured.  He was removed to his home, which was but a quarter of a mile from the scene of the accident, and was taken to the Paris hospital Sunday night.  Attendants at the hospital Monday morning said that his injuries were not serious.” 

I learned something from this story about my family. 

  • I learned that life isn’t fair.
  • I also learned that bad things happen to good people.
  • But I learned something else.  If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t even be mentioning this to you today.  I learned that tragedy does not have to ruin our life.  
John Wilson with his daughters, Fannie & Mildred

For as long as I can remember, this is how I knew my grandfather.  He was always a happy man.  I don’t know how the family coped at the time of the accident, but in my lifetime I never heard any words of bitterness, feelings of pity, or challenges as to why God let this happen to them.  In the book, “Becoming a Vessel God Can Use” by Donna Partow, there’s a chapter entitled “Where Does Joy Come From?”  She says joy comes “through perseverance during hard times:  Hard times come into every life… Whatever it takes, persevere.  To those who don’t give up when the going gets tough, God promises:  Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.’  Psalms 126:5-6  This is what I saw in my grandfather’s life and what I learned from him.  

 

 

Lucille Carson with grandson Ryan

Eventually the baby in the family grew up and got married and had four daughters.  Lora Lucille Wilson became Lucille Carson, my mother.  She is the person I think of as someone content.  Now I can promise you my mother is not content because everything in her life is perfect.  I love my father dearly, but my mother has a pillow on her bed that I made for her that says “Some Mornings I Wake Up Grouchy, and Some Mornings I Let Him Sleep.”  She will admit that she had one child that was easy to raise, implying that the other three weren’t.   And in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t “the one.”  What I learned from my mother was that contentment doesn’t come from focusing on your own pleasures.  Our American culture is constantly telling us that the ultimate goal in our lives is to pursue happiness. “We can’t make anybody else happy until we’re happy.  We need to take time for ourselves.  We need to indulge ourselves because we deserve it.”  Granted, there is some truth in all those things, but the most miserable people I think I’ve ever known are the ones that are the most self-absorbed with their own lives.  What my mother showed me is what Christ teaches us in Matthew 20:26.  “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.”  I’ve seen a lifetime of serving her family and serving others, and I see a woman who is content with her life.  

Eventually, I grew up.  I was taught the value of going to church, worshipping God, and living a Christian life.  At the age of 13, I was baptized into Christ.  As a teenager, I had a very immature faith.  I approached my walk with God in basically two ways.  First, there was the list of things you had to do.  Second, there was the list of things you couldn’t do.  As long as I followed those two lists, I thought everything was okay.  As I matured, I realized that’s not the kind of service that God wants from us.  A few years back, the WWJD bracelets came out – WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?   Well, long before that, I came up with WWJWMTD – WHAT WOULD JESUS WANT ME TO DO?  Instead of trying to meet the bare minimum requirements to get into heaven, I realized that I needed to be offering my best service to Christ.  When deciding what I should do, instead of thinking “Well, the bible doesn’t say I can’t do that, so it’s okay.”, I would ask myself “What would Jesus want me to do?”  It was at this point that I stopped being an anxious Christian, always trying to orchestrate things to work out my way, and I learned to find contentment by trying to do things God’s way.

I grew up and got married, and my husband and I moved to Atlanta.  The Embry Hills church of Christ there had such a response in the metro area from people interested in having bible studies that they asked my husband to come and work with them full time, coordinating and teaching home bible studies along with the members of the congregation.  It was during this period of my life that some of the storms started to approach.

My second point today is – 

DON’T LEAVE YOUR FOUNDATION DURING A STORM. When trouble comes, stick with God’s ways. 

After we had lived in Atlanta for a while, I was expecting our first child.  I had miscarried the year before, but this time everything about the pregnancy seemed normal.  Finally, at 42 weeks the doctor induced labor and my daughter,

Lora, at birt

Lora was born at about 4:00 A.M. on a Friday morning, November 18, 1988.  By noon of that day the doctors were telling me she had some kind of genetic disorder.  It turned out to be Trisomy 18.  Instead of having a normal pair of chromosome 18, she had three of them. This was Lora the first day she was born.  A cardiologist had examined her and found a large hole in her heart, and said that she would die of heart failure before the weekend was over.  I’m not sure there’s anything more devastating than hearing that your child is going to die.

 

I learned to live my life differently that day.  I didn’t worry about anything in the future because my daughter had no future.  I learned to take one day at a time.  And you know what?  That’s what Jesus had told me all along in Matthew 6:34.  “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”   The doctors really did me a favor by telling me that Lora would die that weekend, because if I had known everything I was going to face in her life, I would have panicked.  I was not prepared for everything that would come, but I didn’t have to be.  I only had to be prepared for one day at a time.  

Well, Lora didn’t die that weekend.  Some of you may have realized from looking at the picture you just saw that most of the stuff hooked up to her was just monitors.  The only thing that was really different that the hospital was providing for her was a feeding tube.  She had a cleft lip and palate and she couldn’t suck on a bottle.  So the nurses told me that when I learned how to do the tube feedings I could take her home.  I’m not sure anyone has ever said anything scarier to me.  I was horrified at the thought of taking a tube and putting it down the throat and into the stomach of this tiny, 4½ pound child.  But I was determined if that was what I had to do to take my daughter home, then I was going to do it.  Step by step, the nurses talked me through the process of tube feeding her.  When Lora was a week old I took her home.  I did everything that the nurses told me to, but I added one step each time.  Every day when I would take the feeding tube out and put a new one in, not once did I start without saying a prayer first. 

Linda tube-feeding Lora

 

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  When I conquered the feeding tube that became my motto.  I didn’t know what else I would face in her life, but I knew that somehow, someway, I’d handle it.  Thirteen years later, Yvonne Wist, made me a shirt with this passage embroidered on it.  I’m sure that she couldn’t have known just how much it has meant to me over the years.

But I had another problem in my life at that time besides Lora.  People were noticing that my husband was acting differently, and everyone assumed it was because of Lora.  But I knew better because I had seen him change before she was born.  When Lora was two weeks old, he told me he was having an affair with another woman – that he loved her, he didn’t love me, he had never loved me, and he was going to be with her.  So we separated.  At the time in my life when I needed him the most, he was not there for me.  The next day he came back and said he didn’t want a divorce.  And then he went back to her.  And then he came back and said he didn’t want a divorce.  And then he went back to her.  And then he came back and even more sincerely said he didn’t want a divorce.  This went on for months until I finally realized that it was time to get a divorce.  When Lora was six months old, we were divorced.  Throughout all this time, she had continued to do well.

But I still had another problem.  My husband had resigned his job with the church before Lora’s birth and not replaced it with another job.  I had resigned my teaching position to quit on my due date.  So there was a financial crisis.  But remember, I was still living one day at a time because the doctors were still telling me that Lora was going to die at any time.  80% of children with Trisomy 18 die by the time they are six months old – her age when we got our divorce.  So I really didn’t have to come up with a long term solution.  When Lora died, I could go back to teaching and I could take care of myself.  I also knew what Matthew 6:25-34 said.  “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.  But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?  Do not be anxious then saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’  For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. 

Did I believe that?  The judge had awarded child support that did not even make the house payment.  There was no way I could make ends meet.  If I had any doubts whether this passage was true, it was certainly proven to me that it was.  I started receiving unsolicited money from all over the country, from friends and strangers alike.  It might have been $10 and sometimes it was $1000.  I went to the pediatrician’s office and found out a friend had left a check there and I had a credit on my account.  Lora was given almost more clothes than she could wear.  I’d go to church and someone would have a case of formula for me, and someone else would have diapers. Then I’d get home and find money in my pockets.  Not only did I have everything I needed, I had an abundance.  Not long ago at the dinner table, Ryan asked me “Mommy, are we rich?”  Now of course, by American standards, we are very, very middle class.  No one would call us rich.  But I said “Yes, Ryan, we are.  We have everything we need and more.”  And that was what I saw back at that time.  I was rich, and not just in financial ways.  I had every possible support I needed.  No, my husband wasn’t there for me, but the people at church and my family filled that void in my life, very richly.

Lora at 6 months

During all this time, Lora continued to thrive.  She was doing so well the doctors said we should repair her cleft lip so she could start to take food by mouth.  Before we could do this we had to visit the cardiologist and see if her heart could handle it.  So we went back to the cardiologist that had seen her at birth.  He was stunned to see us.  He apologized and apologized for not following her as a patient because he had never imagined she survived.  Before the day was over, I sat down with him and watched as he carefully examined an echogram of her heart and discovered why she was still alive.  There was a flap of tissue that was growing and hovering over the hole in her heart, providing resistance.  He said he had never expected that to happen.  And I thought, “You didn’t allow for prayer when you made your diagnosis.”  

So Lora had the surgery and did well, and continued to thrive in spite of the fact that the doctors were telling me that 90% of children with Trisomy 18 die by the time they are a year old and 95% die by the time they are two years old.  Well, Lora didn’t die and I knew I had to find a long term solution to my financial situation.  So I took my daughter and moved back home to Arkansas to live with my parents.  I thought I was taking my daughter back home to die.

After we’d been there for a while, a woman at church came up to me and asked if I’d be interested in dating her nephew.  She said he was looking for a Christian woman to date and she thought we should get to know each other.  Now this was pretty unusual for me, because when I had dated other guys in the past and they had started to get interested in marriage, their family and loved ones would start to warn them about becoming a parent to a severely handicapped child and try to talk them out of it.  And also, you know – I WAS DIVORCED.  So, here was a woman that knew all this stuff and was actually hoping I would marry her nephew.  I honestly didn’t give it much thought at the time, but we eventually did meet, and when Lora turned five I had my first date with Randy.  A few months later he asked me to marry him, and that same month – one year later – I accepted his proposal.  

Lora, age 7

I waited because I wanted to be sure I really knew who he was.  I was not going to make the same mistake twice.  I wanted to see how he acted when he was under stress; how he treated me when he didn’t agree with me; and I wanted to know how he behaved when he got mad.  I finally had to give up on the last one because he just never seemed to lose his cool.  In November of 1995, just after Lora’s 7th birthday, we were married.  

After being married for a while, I did finally learn what made Randy lose his cool. 

Ryan & Tyler

 

This brings me to the next challenge in my life – having more children.

Randy and I  both knew that we wanted more children when we married, but very early on doctors let us know that there was virtually no chance we were going to conceive a child together.  So we decided to adopt.  Adoption is hard because it is so stressful emotionally.  You make all your preparations, you pay money, and then you wait while you hear all the horror stories about adoptions that have gone wrong.  You’re at the mercy of others, and it’s a very anxious time.  I think I probably would have gone nuts during this period if it weren’t for Philippians 4:6-7.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  When I started to feel anxious, I could turn to God in prayer.  I knew that I could ask Him to help me have another child, and if that’s what was best, He would grant my request.  And if His answer was “No”, I knew I could make my peace with that because that’s what would be best for me.  Well, God didn’t answer my prayer once, but twice.  In 1998, we adopted Ryan and in the year 2000, we adopted Tyler – both at birth.  The attorney we used here in Kansas City with Tyler said it was the smoothest adoption he had ever handled.  The attorney in Arkansas that helped us adopt Ryan also said he has never had anything like it happen before.  Not only did God give us more children, but He made it so much easier than normal for us during the adoption process.

There’s another aspect of having children that I was asked to mention – having children later in life.  Before I tell you how old I am, I have a little survey for you called “You Might Be My Age If…”   

…you used your first computer after high school.

…you watched Captain Kangaroo on a black and white TV.

…you’ve ever rolled your hair on orange juice cans.

Most women this age have grown children and grandchildren, not boys that are three and six.  I was 42 when Ryan was born and I was 44 when Tyler was born.  You’ve got to understand my family history a little bit to realize that I didn’t know better.  I had a sister that was just six years younger than I was and she was still having babies, so I figured “What’s six years?”  I can go back four generations in my family and see women having babies in their forties.  Also, women in my family tend to live to a ripe old age.  I had two great-grandmothers, born in the 19th century, who lived into their nineties without the aid of modern medicine.  I also have an aunt in her nineties, still going strong.  She celebrated her 94th birthday this year by buying herself a new car.  So I figure I still have plenty of years left to raise my children.  I also knew that no matter what your age when you have a child, there’s no guarantee how long any of us are going to live on this earth.

There are advantages to having children at an older age.  I’m a much wiser parent than I would have been if I’d had children in my twenties.  Also, we’re in a better position financially than many young families starting to have children.  But there is a downside.  There is no way I have the energy I did ten, twenty years ago.  Now occasionally I would see a parenting magazine with a list of “10 Things To Do When You’re Up At Night With the Baby and You Can’t Get Back To Sleep,” and I would just think  “Who are these people?!”  If I’d had five minutes of peace and quiet, anytime, anywhere, I could have gone to sleep.  After many years, I finally saw something in a magazine that made sense.  It’s from a book called “Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads.”       

That I understood.

Things were going well.  We had a happy family of five, but life was about to change again.  There was another storm to come.

Lora was 12 years old when Tyler was born and she had done well all those years.  Only once had she been hospitalized for illness, and that was just because she had dehydrated after a stomach virus.  The doctors were just amazed with her.  But not long after Tyler was born she started to have seizures.  They weren’t the typical grand mal seizures that you think of, but they took a toll on her none-the-less.  They just left her exhausted.  A child that was never very fond of eating was now even more difficult to feed.  She finally lost so much weight that we had to resort to surgery to implant a gastronomy tube through her side and into her stomach, and we began tube feedings again.  Also, from the time she was three, scoliosis had slowly and relentlessly been progressing.  About the time we moved here to Kansas City, five years ago, we were seeing a significant change.

Scoliosis had so severely deformed her spine and her ribcage that it was starting to impair her lung function.  By the end of the year 2001, we entered the hospital three days before Christmas because she had pneumonia.  We thought at the time that she would just need to be there for a couple days for some respiratory treatments, but it didn’t quite work out that way.  Twelve days later, after spending Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital, I finally took Lora home.  She had nearly died and now she was in hospice care.  After 13 years of hearing that she was going to die, I was finally seeing it start to happen.  

That was a challenging time in our life.  Her care was much more demanding than ever before, and it was a lot harder to meet with the needs of my family.  

Some days I needed all the help I could get…..

But I did have Randy, and he was a wonderful help to me, …

… especially with the children.  

But seriously, he really was a wonderful help, as were so many of you here today.  I know the families at church prepared more meals for my family that year than I did.  You helped me in so many ways. Your teenagers came over and helped me with the boys, we had your prayers, and you sent cards and special treats to let us know you were thinking of us.  Once again during Lora’s life I saw such an outpouring of love and support that helped us through a very difficult time. 

Lora, age 14

Throughout all of this I prayed for Lora.  I didn’t pray that God would spare her life.  I could see that it was her time to die.  Her body was failing her on multiple fronts.  And so I prayed to God for mercy.  I did not want to see my child suffer.  Mostly, Lora just slept.  Nothing we tried would stop the seizures.  They kept her exhausted and so she rested.  Finally, after she had been in hospice care for 13 months, one Wednesday night at bedtime she started to cry.  It was a pitiful little cry that told me she was hurting.  I went and got the narcotic we had on hand for just such an occasion and I gave it to her, and very quickly she calmed down.  I kissed her goodnight, told her that I loved her, and she went to sleep.  And she never woke up again.  Two nights later, she peacefully died in my arms and God had answered my prayer.  It was a very, very merciful way to die.  

I was struck with two thoughts at the moment she died.  First, that she had been released.  This sweet, perfect child had been released from the very imperfect body she’d gotten stuck with.  And second, that it was just going to be a little while before we’d be together again.  I knew that someday we would be reconciled.  One day when I was thinking about that – about how wonderful it was going to be to see her again in heaven – I realized that was probably the closest I would ever come to understanding just how much God wants to be reconciled to us, and how He could send His Son into this world to die for our sins.  2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”   But I was struck with something else when Lora died, and of course, it was grief.   

On September 11 of this year, the mayor of New York City, in a ceremony for those who had lost children and grandchildren said “It has been said that a child who loses his parent is an orphan, a man who loses his wife is a widower, a woman who loses her husband is a widow.  There is no name for a parent who loses a child, for there are no words to describe this pain.”  I don’t know if you ever get over losing a child, but I know that by giving grief it’s time that you can start to heal from the pain and it will diminish.  I’ve seen a remarkable difference in my life in the past 20 months since Lora’s death.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 says “There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  It’s important to give grief it’s time.  I don’t believe it’s something that you can avoid.  You can try to put it off, but eventually you have to deal with it, and not until you do does the pain start to diminish.  Everyone grieves in their own way and on their own timetable.

Grief does one other thing for us, I believe.  It sharpens our focus.  It helps us realize what’s important and what’s not important in this world.  For example, last year, nine months after Lora died, we moved in to a new house.  It was the first time since I was two years old that I have ever lived in a brand new house.  In the first month that we were there my family had soiled the carpet with bleach, coffee, blood, pooh-pooh, tee-tee, and vomit – some of those on multiple occasions.  I won’t pretend that I was immediately nonchalant about it, but then I realized — “I buried my child this year.  This is carpet.  This is nothing.  It’s not worth getting upset about.”

There’s part of my story that I’ve left out on purpose, that I’d like to share with you now.  It’s another storm that we can deal with in our life – guilt.  You can’t find contentment in this world if guilt is eating you up.  I was asked to say something to you about guilt, and at first I thought “What could I possibly have to say to you about that?”  Then I realized it has shaped some of the biggest decisions I have made in my life.

One of those was in Lora’s life.  I told you her scoliosis started when she turned three.  I knew that if nothing stopped it, it could take her life, and I prayed to God for years, “Please don’t put me in the position of having to make a life or death decision for my child.”  I didn’t want guilt for the rest of my life, wondering if I had done the right thing.  And God answered that prayer – with a big, fat NO.  

Five years ago, the doctors let me know the time had come that we had to decide about surgery for Lora’s spine.  We had a window of opportunity for about a year.  After that, it would be too late and I would see her die sometime in the next few years.  So we made the rounds to a variety of doctors, trying to decide the best thing to do for her.  And it came down to this.  If we didn’t do the surgery, she would die.  If we did the surgery, the surgery might kill her.  Or we could do the surgery and she might die during the recovery period.  Or the doctors felt she would probably survive the surgery and the recovery, but ultimately something else would still take her life at a young age.  You notice every scenario ended the same.  She was going to die.  But all through this my gut instinct was telling me “Surgery is not the right answer for Lora.  She can’t handle it.”  Over the years I’ve learned, as a mother, to have great respect for my gut instinct.  I know my child better than anyone else.  So I finally decided that we should not do the surgery, and I fully understood what that meant.  

Now I told you that God answered my prayer with a big, fat NO.  He really didn’t.  What I was really praying for was to be free of guilt.  God helped me understand what I needed to know to make the decision, and He gave me the strength to follow through with it.  At the time, I wasn’t 100% sure that I was doing the right thing, but I can promise you that when Lora died, I was absolutely sure that I had.  What I saw shortly after we decided not to do the surgery was the onset of seizures.  If we had followed through with the surgery, it would have been terribly complicated by seizure activity.  Even if she had survived all of it, nothing would stop the seizures.  The only drug that was keeping them somewhat calmed down was one to which she would develop a tolerance.  We had to constantly increase the dosage, and just before she died we were very close to the maximum amount that we could give her.  If she hadn’t died from respiratory failure, seizures would have killed her very soon afterwards.  

Because I saw that, I will never look back and wonder if I did the right thing.  As Mick Jagger so eloquently put it, “You don’t always get what you want, but … sometimes you get what you need.”  I got everything I needed from God.  He did answer my prayer, just not in the way that I had expected.  Because I was at peace about the decisions I had made for Lora, in spite of suffering over her loss, I requested that the song “It Is Well With My Soul” be a part of her funeral service.  It says: 

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrow like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say

“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

I’d like to conclude  by reminding you of the two points I wanted to make today.  

  1. DON’T LAY YOUR FOUNDATION DURING A STORM.  Learn God’s word and be prepared before trouble comes.
  2. DON’T LEAVE YOUR FOUNDATION DURING A STORM.  If you will hold fast to God’s word and do what He says, then no matter what you face in your life, as long as you’re on the road to heaven, someway, somehow, you can find contentment.  I know this because of what Romans 8:28 tells me.

“For we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.”

The Disciplines of Life: Declining Days, Deformity, and Disability

This is the fifth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have noticed: Solitude, Discipleship, Dependability, Determination, Discernment, Decision and Duty thus far.  As we have said, 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 Declining Days, Deformity, and Disability. 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). Please consider …

 

Declining Days (1Samuel 8)

1Samuel 8 tell us that when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel but they did not walk in his ways. Instead they turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. As a result the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel. They said to him, “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else” (paraphrasing). As we think about Samuel’s situation we can think of several difficulties that can beset us as we get older. These difficulties require a disciplined mind to approach them with the proper attitude.

Difficulty #1: graciously granting responsibilities to younger people without feeling that you are no longer wanted or needed

In the local congregation, we know that we need to begin transitioning responsibilities to the younger folks. If the local church is to survive, we need to recognize that our young people are the church of the future, but

Difficulty #2: seeing your children no longer walking in the way of the Lord

How embarrassing it must have been for Samuel that his very sons whom he had appointed to positions of responsibility and leadership were now involved in dishonest gain, bribery and perverted justice. It can be very discouraging to Christian parents when their children no longer walk with God when they become of age. It causes them to question where they went wrong in carrying out the instruction to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. As discouraging as it is, parents cannot allow their own faith to be wrecked. They must continue to walk faithfully and to pray that their children might return to the Lord as well. Proverbs describes both the sorrow of the parent of the child who is disobedient and the joy of the parent of the child who is obedient (Proverbs 13:1; 23:24-250.

Difficulty #3: adaptation to demands of a new day

Samuel had succeeded Eli as judge in Israel. He followed in a long line of judges with an established routine of governing. But now the nation was demanding a new form of government and a new ruler. This left Samuel feeling, not only that he was losing his job, but also that they were rejected him as a person. Of course the Lord told him, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (v. 7).

So it can be with us today. Declining days may bring unemployment or forced retirement. A professional who has given many years to the profession, that he chose early in his career, may find that employment in that field is not possible, for whatever reason. The Christian must have the discipline to reject the despondency and despair that could come upon him. Reacting positively to the demands of a new day, he turns to a second career or accepts the reality of retirement and turns his attention to spiritual pursuits.

Difficulty #4: seeing the next generation turn from “the old paths”

Like Samuel, a Christian can give earnest, even tearful admonition (8:11-18; 12:6-17) to the oncoming generation. He can try to teach about the issues that have faced God’s people in the past. But still some will not want to bother studying “Issues That Divide Us.”

Rather than becoming sullen in such a situation, the challenge is to maintain the sweetness and sincerity of a Samuel. His response to those who he felt was rejecting him was, ‘Yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart … For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (12:20, 22, and 23). Christians today need to sound the same call made by Jeremiah, “Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

To Pray and To Teach is one of the “deepest disciplines of declining days.” Erdman makes an excellent point when he says, “In my opinion, Samuel did more for Israel in the days of retirement than in all the long years of active and conspicuous service. He prayed for all his people and their new king, in days that were darker and more difficult than any they had known under Samuel’s administration.”

It is not difficult to believe that Samuel was so busy with his administrative duties that he had not been able to give much time and effort to teaching. Now that he was no longer the leader, he could pray and he could teach. Thus began “the school of the prophets” (1Sam. 19:18-20; 2Ki. 2:15; 4:38; 6:1).

“The discipline of declining days that comes when days wane and strength subsides, when doors close and comforters depart, when others bear the heat and the burden of the day; then to grow old graciously and sweetly; to grant responsibilities to stronger, though less experienced, hands of our sons or others; to adapt oneself to the demands of a new day; and above all, to pray for others and to serve the Lord in whatever hidden ministry may be ours. This disciplines in spirit we are sweetness and strength to those who need us most” (Erdman, p. 53).

 

Deformity

George Gordon Byron (i.e. “Lord Byron”) (born January 22, 1788, London, England—died April 19, 1824, Missolonghi, Greece) was a “British Romantic poet and satirist whose poetry and personality captured the imagination of Europe…. had been born with a clubfoot and early developed an extreme sensitivity to his lameness.” (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lord-Byron-poet).

Lord Byron’s response to his physical handicap is captured by Erdman (pp. 71-73) in a lengthy quotation from Margurite, Countess of Blessington’s, A Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron, pp. 143-144. Byron says that it was his feelings at this period that suggested the idea of a play that he wrote calling it The Deformed Transformed.

 He said, “My poor mother, and after her my school-fellows by their taunts, had led me to consider my lameness as the greatest misfortune, and I have never been able to conquer this feeling. It requires great natural goodness of disposition, as well as reflection, to conquer the corroding bitterness that deformity engenders in the mind, and which, while preying on itself, sours one toward all the world.”

David’s desire to help the sons of Jonathan (1Sam. 20:14-16; 23:18; 2Sam. 21:7) and especially Mephibosheth (2Sam. 9:3-13) is positive Bible example of how we should respond to deformity.

Another positive example are the lepers sent by God (2Kings 7) to deliver the message that the enemy had fled, and that food had become available in abundance to the starving multitudes of Samaria, as he had promised through his servant Elisha.

“The inconspicuous have their inning, the incompetent make their contribution, the unsightly serve their God and fellow men, and the handicapped help open windows in heaven! (Erdman, p.75)

John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress presents a picture where Greatheart and his courageous companions were on their way to the City of The Great King where they met Mr. Feeble-mind. Mr. Feeble-mind was hesitant to accompany such accomplished pilgrims because he was week and feeble. “In the midst of their discussion, ‘Mr. Ready-to-halt came by with his crutches in his hands and was also going on a pilgrimage.’ To him spoke the weak Christian, ‘I was but now complaining that I had not a suitable companion, but thou art according to my wish”; To which Mr. Ready-to-halt replied with gracious spirit and offered him one of his crutches” (Erdman, p.76).

“Seeing in the shadow of blindness, singing in the sadness of sorrow, serving in the loneliness of lameness, strengthened in the grace that is sufficient; this is the discipline of deformity that makes sweet our spirit, and strengthens that of others.” (Erdman, p. 77)

Disability

Life can get us down if we focus on the negative. “So much of life seems utterly meaningless, even miserable, without rhyme or reason, right or wrong and justice, least of all. There is abundance everywhere of turmoil and trouble, tragedy and tears, inhumanity and injustice, sickness and sorrow, so that anyone without would could reason that the universe is entirely unreasonable, a miserable mess, a ghastly joke. There is so much that just ‘happens,’ no apparent plan nor purpose, only pathos, pain and perplexity, loneliness instead of love, handicaps instead of help, false hopes instead of far horizons, pain instead of pleasure, inactivity instead of activity, sobs instead of song, for walls instead of for freedoms, darkness instead of daylight, futility instead of fulfillment: these happen to all of us. This is life but not all of it” (Erdman, p. 151).

But, on the positive side … “There is the discipline of disability that brings singing for sighing, serving for sitting, gladness for gloom, assurance for ashes, melody for mourning, usefulness for uselessness, duty for dungeons.” (IBID)

Consider some Bible examples …

Joseph knew this discipline. He was the subject of the envy by elder brothers (Gen. 37). In Potiphar’s household, he was misrepresented and suffered a miscarriage of justice (Gen. 39). He was forgotten and forsaken in prison (Gen. 40).

However, brighter days came! The opening of prison doors (Gen. 41:1), service in high places (Gen. 41:43), blessed with a son (Manasseh) (Gen. 41:53) that made him forget all his toil, birth of another son (Ephraim)(Gen. 41:52) that reminded him of God’s allowing him to be fruitful in the land of his affliction, and finally, the bowing down of his brothers to him (42:6; 43:26; 44:14).

Job knew this discipline. He was happy, healthy, “a perfect and upright man” (Job 1:8). In a brief time there came loss of loved ones, wealth, and health, everything. His friends became “miserable comforters” blaming his misfortunes on his supposed sins. “…in the book of Job, God is teaching us an even dozen lessons: there can be sorrow without sin, darkness without disobedience, inequity without iniquity, mourning without merit, chaos without cause, judgment without justice. The innocent suffer because of the folly of the fathers, the greed of the grafters, the arrogance of the autocrats, the laxity of the laws, the inhumanity of the uninhibited, the treachery of the tyrants, the wickedness of war, the fatality of fortune, the godlessness of the ungodly” (p.153)

Jonah knew this discipline. Jonah’s problems came upon him because of his disobedience (1:3). As a result, he found himself in the “belly of hell” (2:2-9). Repentant, he returned to the Lord who delivered him (2:10). God calls him the second time (3:1). The discipline of Jonah was relatively brief, compared to Job’s.

The Apostle Paul knew this discipline. At Damascus’ gate he is called by Jesus (Acts 9:3-6; 26:12-20). He went from city to city preaching, suffered many things. But even after all this there was no respite (Acts 21:27-22:24; 23:23-26:32). Even so his attitude continued to be positive (Phil. 1:12). Incidents in his early ministry taught him this discipline: the plot against his life (Acts 9:22-25, the perversity of the sorcerer (13:6-12), the persecution at Antioch (13:44-49), the prison of Philippi (16:25-34). Then there was the imprisonment in Rome where he provided effective witness to the guard (Phil. 1:13), gave encouragement to believers (1:14), shed light on the deepest truth of the gospel (1:21), and was provided the opportunity to write the prison epistles.

Conclusion

Declining Days, Deformity, and Disability are disciplines that we may need to apply at various stages of our lives. With the help of God, we can respond appropriately with the discipline we have gained though focus on our Christian growth.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Erdman, pp. 45-53, 71-77, 151-157)

Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 1, August 31, 2018, Theme: Thoughts From Hebrews

In This Issue

 

  • “Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings (1:1–2:18)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Warning, a Rest for the People of God (3:7-4:13)” by David Bushnaq
  • “The High Priesthood of Jesus (4:14-10:18)” by Dillon Jarrett
  • “The Full Assurance of Faith (10:19-39)” by Hannah Clark
  • “Sacrifices Pleasing to God (13:1-19)” by John Crawford
  • “Thoughts From Hebrews 13 by William C. Sexton (Reprint)

 

 

“Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings” (Hebrews 1:1 – 2:18)

By

Randy Sexton

 

Roger Shouse states, in his excellent class material on the book of Hebrews, “Hebrews is considered by many to rank with Romans and Revelation as difficult to understand. Certainly the writer himself believed what he was writing was for the spiritually mature (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). The book contains what is probably the most sustained argument in Scripture. The author makes extensive use of Old Testament quotations and an understanding of the Jewish Scriptures is essential to understanding the book.”

The Hebrew epistle does not tell us who wrote it and various commentators and writers have differing opinions as to authorship. Some believe it was authored by Paul, others Apollos, and still others Clement, or Luke, or Barnabas. Neither does the author of this epistle clearly designate his audience. But he does seem “to be targeting a group of Jewish converts who are facing the temptation of returning to Judaism. The author seeks to show the superiority of the new convenant over the old. The author knows the recipients (Hebrews 5:11f; 10:24f; 1317f), who are clearly a certain group of Hebrew Christians rather than Hebrews in general” (Shouse).

The theme of this entire epistle is that the New Covenant is better than the Old. A Key Verse is Hebrews 8:6: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.”

“Jews who became Christians faced many hardships. Think about it. Just leaving behind all of the rituals of Old Testament worship would have been hard. They had been doing these things their entire lives. Some were treated as outcasts by their friends and family. Others were persecuted. Because of all these hardships, some considered turning away from Jesus and going back to the Old Law.” (David Banning, A Quick Look at Each New Testament Letter, p. 18)

The primary thoughts in this section of the epistle could be captured under the headings: the supremacy of God’s Son, Warning Against Neglecting Salvation, and the Founder of Salvation. Let us examine these thoughts as presented by the writer of the Hebrew letter.

The Supremacy of God’s Son (1:1-14)

Although God has spoken to His people throughout the ages, the instrumentality He has chosen has varied. And in our case, He has saved the best until last. In these last days He speaks to us through His Son. We may sometimes lose sight of how blessed we are to sit where we do in the “stream of time” and to benefit from those who have lived before us and from the things that “have been written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4).

Warning Against Neglecting Salvation (2:1-4)

To avoid drifting away from our salvation, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” Because we are prone, as humans, to act from what our hearts and minds dwell on, we cannot NEGLECT what we have learned, and still remain steadfast.

The Founder of Salvation (2:5-18)

The writer of this epistle shows the tremendous things that Jesus has done for us in order to demonstrate the value of remaining faithful. Nothing else can compart to Him. The fact that Jesus left heaven to become a man should make us so very grateful for the benefits that accrued to us.

 

 

Warning, a Rest for the People of God” (Hebrews 3:7-4:13)

By

David Bushnaq

Hebrews 3 shows us that there are two types of people, those who will enter God’s rest and those who will not. We also find just how those who failed to enter God’s rest earned that state. Starting in verse 7…

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”

We as children of God know that we too, as those who were lead out by Moses can rebel against God if we wish, however as hindsight is 20/20 we also know what awaits us.

Could you believe the nerve of those following Moses? They saw the plagues, they saw the sea separating right and left so they could walk on dry land, but as soon as things got tough, they wished to return to the Egyptians, undoing all the good God and Moses did for them.

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

This passage warns, and rightly so, that we can depart from the Living God. In doing so, we lose our salvation, or rest, when this life is over. Not only must we watch out for ourselves, but those in the household of God as well.

We do not have Moses, as they did, but we do have something better. We have God’s holy word and the best defense against deceit is, as Jesus said “it is written.” We must realize where our salvation comes from, and live lives accordingly- steadfast until the end.

Now there is a command for us, we must “hear his voice” and remain open, receptive to it. After all, starting in verse 16 we find that just hearing isn’t enough.

“For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

This is the finality of life. All will cease- from this life that is. I guess in that regard all will rest, physically, but that’s not the end of it. If we rebel, as those did, our state would be like those who fell in the wilderness. Worse than that, we incur God’s wrath. A wrath there will be no rest from once we die.

So once again, there are two types of people, those who will obey and those who will not. I ask you then, which will you be? We learn that not all died in those 40 years, those who remained faithful did enter the promised rest, everyone else, however, as Matthew 7 states

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

 

http://www.achristiansvoice.com/remembering-my-creator-volume-4-number-1-august-31-2018-theme-thoughts-from-hebrews/high-priesthood-of-jesus-by-dillion-jarrett/             
 Call to Faith and Endurance – The Full Assurance of Faith” (Hebrews 10:19-39)

Thoughts by Hannah Clark

For the passage listed in the title, my Bible contains two division titles, “Hold Fast Your Confession” and “The Just Live by Faith.” I have separated my thoughts to coincide with these headings and hope they will make it easier as you follow along in your Bible.

Hold Fast Your Confession

We are to emulate Christ and one of the characteristics of our Father is that He Himself is faithful. One of the promises made to Abraham was that “all of the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) Throughout the Old Testament we can see prophecies that foretell the coming of Christ in whom we have salvation. The Hebrew writer even states in chapter 10 verse 23 that “He who promised is faithful.” What a comfort to know that the living God we serve will not forsake us despite how imperfect we are. In this, we can have assurance that our trust in Him will not be misplaced but lead to everlasting life.

The Just Live by Faith

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward.” (Heb. 10:35) Our faith will be tested and tried in various ways but in turning to the scriptures, we are warned not to give in. The Hebrew writer includes a warning for those that would turn away in that there is no salvation from sin outside of Christ.

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29)

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31)

Joshua stated in the Old Testament “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The first century Christians felt a sense of urgency that has been lost over time. They were awaiting the coming of Christ again and preparing His coming. They knew that their earthly possessions were of little value compared to their home in heaven (Heb. 10:34). The Hebrew writer says that they “…see the Day approaching” and that “for yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:25, 37)  Our lives on this earth may seem long and full of years but that is nothing compared to the expanse of eternity. With the assurance of faith we have in the Lord, we ought to be preparing ourselves for Christ to come again and be waiting to “see the Day approaching.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

 

 

“Thoughts on Hebrews 13″               

By

William C. Sexton (Reprint)

 

Introduction: This last chapter of the book to the Hebrews begins with the directions to let brotherly love continue, looking back and remembering, not forgetting some who entertained strangers.

Remembering faithful Christians in “bonds,” is a commendable thing to do. Marriage is described as be “honorable in all,” while the violators of God’s rules in this matter shall be “judged.”(Heb. 13:1-4)

Covetousness is to be avoided, as we are to be “content” with such things as we have. This can be done, if we remember that God has promised that He’ll not leave nor forsake us. Whit that promise, we can know by faith the Lord is our helper, so we’ll not fear what men can do to us (Heb. 13:5-6).

Remember, in the sense that we respect them who have the rule over us. Each of us ought to appreciate the people God has set forth in His church to rule in the sense they are concerned for our souls and are willing to guide us in that which has been revealed, knowing that God knows best and is interested in our well-being! These people have spoken the message from heaven and provide example worthy of imitating, following. We need to look at the results of such living (Heb. 13:7)

We need to recognize the unchangeableness of Jesus, and thus be not carried away with doctrines that are not what God has revealed. The heart needs to be established on the grace of God, rather than being obsessed with carnal matters. In contrast with those who are trying to hold on to the Old Covenant, we have an altar on which they have no right to partake. Those animal sacrifices are no longer doing what they once signified, for Jesus has come and fulfilled His mission. He has accomplished what those offerings of Old could only point to. The appeal is made then for us to go forth committed to Jesus, and humbly carry any and all reproaches that result from our behavior and commitment to Christ. (Heb. 13:8-13).

Christians here are not looking for an earthly city; rather, we are looking for that heavenly place. The “sacrifice” we offer is “Praise to God,” the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Doing good is to ever be before us. That included understanding what respect we need to give to the elders who watch for our souls. We need to pray for all the servants of God. (Heb. 13:14-19).

Now the God of peace who brought Jesus forth from the dead can make us “perfect in every good work,” as we do His will. The writer appeals to them to accept the word of exhortation, and to “know” brethren who have been “set at liberty.” Salute all them who rule. Grace be with us all. (Heb. 13:20-25)

Questions:

  1. What are we told to continue and remember (Heb. 13:1-2)?
  2. How is marriage described, contrasted with violations of the marriage vowel (Heb. 13:4)?
  3. What is said about covetousness and contentment and why (Heb. 13:5-6)?
  4. What is said relative to them who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:7, 17)?
  5. What is said about Jesus and being carried away with strange doctrine (Heb. 13:8-9))?
  6. What is said about the “altar” we have contrasted with the Old one (Heb. 13:10-13))?
  7. What is said about a city, as distinct to what we are looking for and doing (Heb. 13:14-16)?
  8. What is said about prayer, conscience, and honestly (Heb. 13:18-19)?
  9. What has the “God of peace” done and can and will make you (Heb. 13:20-21)?
  10. What is said about exhortation, knowing certain brethren, and saluting (Heb. 13:22-25)

A Christian’s Voice From Van Buren: Volume 7, September 4, 2005 Number 42

Editors Note: With the Labor Day Weekend upon us, I thought it appropriate to reprint the last Labor Day edition of A Christian’s Voice From Van Buren that my father ever wrote. He published this bulletin on Labor Day 2005 and passed from this life the following May. In it you will find, among other things, a short piece he wrote reflecting upon the tendency to travel far and wide on this holiday, but he asks us to reflect upon how much thought we give to ensuring that our surroundings are spiritually uplifting. How much planning do we put into ensuring that we will be with God’s people on the First Day of the week? Also in this issue is a poem that he wrote, Labor Day – a Christian’s View of labor. I commend it to your reading.

A Christian’s Voice From Van Buren: Man uses his voice and pen to convey thoughts. Paul mentions using words that by his voice he might “teach others” (1 Cor. 14:19). John says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17). My aim is to challenge, inform, and invite – us all to Listen to the VOICE of God. Editor Bill Sexton. 802 Adeline Lane, Van Buren, AR 72956-3530. Phone 479-474-2617. Car phone: 479-650-8399>>> I Have Voice Mail, call me and I can pick it up

Volume 7, September 4,  2005 Number 42

 

This Week’s Challenges

We are practicing: Memory, Meditation, and Application

  1. Memorize (Isa 28:16)
  2. Meditation: Who is that foundation, searching the New Testament one will se that it is Christ
  3. Application: How wonderful to see that the foundation stone is secure, and we can and should build on it (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:19020)

 

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.  There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody even got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

~Author Unknown~

     Labor Day weekend, how many people will be traveling, even with the HIGH gas prices, Etc.!?

This is another holiday and we Americans have the habit of traveling far and near, changing places to spend our time. How many will plan ahead about their worship of God, meeting with the saints (Heb. 10:24), studying the message from heaven to be lifted up spiritually?

It is wonderful to have the opportunity, means and freedom that we do have in our land to travel, go places and see things, and visit with relatives, etc. Yet, do we THINK as much about the type of environment we are in? THINK about the benefit of meeting our brothers and sister in the Lord, and how we SHOULD enjoy their company, and how beneficial it is to us to get to know more of our brother and sisters.

Beloved, let us see the NEED to place God first in our lives, and see the benefit of doing so (Matt. 6:33). However, in this busy work, with all the opportunities to travel, communicate, and be entertained, we are likely to spend the greater portion of our resources on the WRONG thing, in the place that is not appropriate to our spiritual growth, safety, and spiritual health. Let us be wise, loyal to the Lord and demonstrate to those observing our behavior that we are TRULY Christians, belonging to Christ. He is our Lord!

 

Labor Day – a Christian’s View of labor

 Work is a four letter word many dislike

Yet, we all know that it is necessary and good

If we are active in the right things

Then to the work, to the work, we can/do sing!

 

So let us THINK on the right tract,

See God’s word on this and other matters of fact

If we are doing the Lord’s work all will be fine

There’s plenty to do, looking in His word we find

 

Labor is wonderful to be able to do

This day we may honor by looking at it truly

God has ordained that man be busy as he could

In his daily activity, for his own good

Jn. 9:4; 1 Cor. 15:58

Bill Sexton, 8-31-2005

     Today’s Schedule for Yours Truly: !0:20A.M. Preaching at Van Buren, Sermons: The Storms Of Life Sermon –Lk. 8:22-25; Matt. 8:24-27). Tonight at 6:00 PM Singing at Van Buren

 

Excuses for departing from God’s graceful Path

In most any city one can find a number of people who began to serve the Lord some time ago, but now are out of service. Why? The reasons given may be many. In truth, however, all of them are excuses, only! There is no real reason for one to fall away (Lk. 14:15-24). Satan has a hand in each, but none can rightful blame him; each must accept personal responsibility for one’s action. Warning after warning is given (Cf.1 Cor. 10:12-13; Heb. 3:12).

Each of us needs to recognize that we may contribute to discouragement, etc., and be careful that we do not lend a hand to Satan to distract and destroy, because he has and will use every device (2 Cor. 2:11).

Each of us may be tempted to turn aside in some fashion, being influenced in one way or another, but let us be honest enough with ourselves to admit we are responsible! We’ll have to pay! There are all types of rationalizations one can make in trying to get around our personal responsibility. Yet, let us all remember that if we really want to be saved eternally, we’d better meet the standard ( Jn. 12:28; Rom. 2:16), to be recipients of God’s grace.

Perhaps there is not enough time spent on considering various factors that may influence us to turn aside, back, or around. Prayerful consideration should be given to the matter.

Likewise, there is likely not enough effort made to see that we do not discourage one another, so that Satan may deceive us into giving in to something (2 Cor. 11:1-3) that will destroy us.

Yet, we need to have indelible stamped on our brain — we DO NOT HAVE TO YIELD to any of these influences (Jas. 4:7).

Let us look at a few people who may be -instrumental in causing others to turn aside.

1. Preachers are to be examples ( 1 Tim. 4:12), but they can lead others astray –or give them cause to distrust and play into the hand of the evil one. How many people are out of service, partly, because they trusted a preacher and then had him betray their trust? Peter was instrumental in influencing Barnabas to “be carried away” with dissimulation, participate in something that deserved rebuking (Gal. 2:11-13).

2. Elders and deacons can fail to lead and serve to the extent that some members become discouraged, and think “what’s the use,” and yield to weaknesses.

3. Being overly concern with and involvement in everyday activities of “making a living,” paying the bills, educating and entertaining our children, can take us away from our duty of attending all the services, participating in Bible classes, spending time to invite others into our homes, spend valuable time with others to influence for good!

4. Family demands are many, to be sure and they are very important, yet they must not be allowed to derail our train of service to God (Matt 10:37-39; Lk. 14:25-33).

Yes, beloved, there are many avenues of influence that are away from God and His Son Jesus Christ. Let us first be convinced that we, individually are responsible because we are able capable of resisting the temptations — with God’s help and grace and mercy! (Phil. 1:12-13).

Let us look at a few things that may turn us/others aside.       1. Immorality –we may come to think that life is too dull serving the Lord, and determine to “enjoy life,” as seen through the blinders Satan provides.

2. Wealth may come to attract our attention and cause us to give too much of our time in obtaining it.

3. Laziness –we may decide we want to REST when we should be practicing our religion — attending services, helping others, taking time to teach others the gospel of Christ!                                        –William C. “Bill” Sexton

 

 

MIS-USED WORDS

There are many words which are miss-used In today’s religious world.  When teaching the truth, I am accused-And hateful, angry words are hurled.

One word, of which I speak, is “Pastor”, Used by ‘most every denomination. The way it is used is truly a disaster and causes God much consternation.

Pastor simply means “to feed”, Acts 14:23 Acts 20:17, 28 and referred to a plural group of men. I Pt. 5:1-4 The “Elders” were responsible for the “seed”, which would guard their flock from sin.(Singular)

“Reverend” is another miss-used word—It was never applied to any man. To make that application is absurd—It was never a part of God’s holy plan. Holy and “Reverend” is HIS name, And that applies only to almighty GOD. Ps. 111:9. Man’s using it for himself is a shame, For, before the almighty, man is only a clod.

When Christ said, “I will build my ‘church’ “— To a physical structure He didn’t make mention. If, the scriptures, you will thoroughly search, You will find, that was not His intention.

“Church” simple means ‘those who are called out’ I Thes. 2:12; II Thes. 2:14; Rm 8:30 .Coming from darkness, into the kingdom of light.. A “spiritual house” are all the devout,  I Pt. 2:5, 9 Who have left the darkness and sinful blight.

And, what a miss-use of the word “priest”, This, too, is such a sinful shame. With Christ the old system of priesthood ceased; Heb. 11:7-8; Rev.1:6Now, every Christian is called by that name.  I Pt. 2:5, 9; Rm.12:1

The next I would mention is the word “baptize”. It is a word which means to “immerse”.  And most do not seem to realize. Without immersion, they are under God’s curse. But it must be for the remission of sins, Acts 2:38. That, as for Paul, they would be washed away. Acts 22:16. That is the ONLY way that Christ will cleanse  Rm.6:3-5 And lead you into the light of day.  There are many such words in the bible which man, in his foolishness, miss-uses. When, in truth, he is committing libel. When, the gospel of Christ he, thus, abuses.

Oh, well meaning but foolish, religious man, Mt. 7:21-23. Please consider the use in the gospel of Christ. Don’t try to change it, but yield to His plan. For nothing else has ever sufficed –By L. B. Strawn May 11 & 12, 1998 *****

Editor’s Note: There are so many Bible words that are misused, perhaps the above will assist in keeping some of them before our mind! Let each of us labor to call Bible things by Bible names, as well as do Bible things in Bible ways! For, you see, some day we’ll stand before the Lord (Matt 7:21-23). How terrible if we have spent so much time, effort and resources misusing what the Lord  provided us with and then hear: “ I never knew you: Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

I know that to some people this is “Legalism,” but I had rather be accepted by the Lord, even though I’m classified by man in various uncomplimentary fashions (Matt. 5:11-12), than to avoid their criticism and be rejected by the Lord.

I remember that the people Paul spoke of in (Romans 1:18-32,) professed themselves to be “wise,” when in fact they were very foolish. Shall we be as they were? Or, shall we be seen as “foolish” by man while we embrace the “wisdom of God” (Cf. 1 Cor. 1:23-25)? Beloved, I prefer to be seen as foolish by my fellow man, wordily creatures than to be thus seen and classified by my Lord and Maker. I challenge each of us to look carefully at the words used in the New Testament and let the Lord’s meaning be established in our mind.   William C. “Bill” Sexton

Reprinted from Van BurenVanGuardin 1998

 

BOOK OF 1 TIMOTHY – Chapter 2.

Introduction: In the second chapter of this book, Paul begins by expressing his desire that prayer be made for various people. Also, there are various types of prayer. God’s desire relative to all men is expressed. He points to the proper position of women, looking back to the deception of Eve.

His exhortation is that as a “first” order of priority supplication, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. Thus we see that it is proper to pray for all persons, but each category will have different needs, and we should recognize and comply with that fact. Then he identifies one category of men: kings, and all that are in authority. We should recognize that these people affect our lives, and we should see the need to pray that they would perform so that we can receive benefit from their rule. The benefit we should desire and pray for is: “we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

The inspired apostle shows why the prayer and benefit we may receive is: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” For he shows that God would have all to be saved, by coming to the knowledge of truth. That involved some fundamental facts: That is only ONE God and One MEDIATOR who can legitimately and effectively come “between” God and man –Jesus Christ, who was deity and man! He gave himself a ransom for all men everywhere, to “be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:3-6)

In face of the facts just stated, Paul claims that he was “ordained a preacher, and an apostle,” also a “teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”  As he preaches the truth in Christ, he speaks of the need for men to pray, with “holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” In similar fashion, he wants women to “adorn themselves properly in “modest apparel,” and that is with shamefacedness and sobriety. The attention is not to be given by the hair, jewelry of gold, pearls and expensive clothing.  Their conduct is to manifest itself in professed godliness accompanied with good works (1 Tim. 2:7-10).

He points to the subjection of women –they should learn in respectable submission. Women are limited in their realm of teaching. She is NOT to “usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” The basis for this goes back to the early behavior of the woman, Eve. She was deceived by the serpent and persuaded her husband to be involved in “transgression,”: although he was not deceived. Yet we need to understand, woman can still be saved. One of her functions is “childbearing.” She needs to “continue in faith,” as well as in charity/love, holiness/being set aside for God’s service, and doing this with “sobriety.” (1 Tim. 2:11-15).

 

QUESTIONS:

  1. In light of what does he “therefore,” exhort be done “first” (1 Tim. 2:1)?

 

  1. Name differ kinds of speaking to God are called for and for whom (1 Tim. 2:1-2)?

 

  1. What is the aim of prayers in man’s benefit (1 Tim. 2:2)

 

  1. What is “good and acceptable” to God and His desire concerning “all men” (1 Tim. 2:3-4)?

 

  1. What is the function of a “mediator” and who meets that requirement (1 Tim. 2:5-6)?

 

  1. What is Paul “ordained’ to and his “will” for men (1 Tim. 2:7-8)?

 

  1. “In like manner” what is his will that women will “adorn” themselves (1 Tim. 2:9-10)?

 

  1. How are women to be in and manifest their “subjection” (1 Tim. 2:11-12)?

 

10.What basis is  given for this subjective position  and how is she to “continue” (1 Tim. 2:13-15)

 

_________________________________________

A Christians’ Voice

802 Adeline Lane

Van Buren, AR 72956-3530

 

 

 

Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be: Volume 3, Number 1, August 24, 2018: Integrity, Character, and Rebuilding Trust

What is Integrity and Character?

Much has been written about integrity and character. Coach John Wooden told his players, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are” (Quoted by Brian Biro in Beyond Success, p. 38).

 

The Heart of a Champion Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Colleyville, TX, that offers educators an innovative and effective approach to developing character in the lives of their students, says, “Character is the inward motivation to do what is right according to the highest standards of behavior in every situation. Character is the combination of qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her responses regardless of the circumstances. Character is what you do when no one is watching. And character comes from your heart …. You have the power to be a person of character; to affect your future and realize your destiny. No other person can make that happen in your life. You alone are responsible for rising to the challenge of being a true champion. Achievements, accolades, appearances, and performances will one day fade away! Ultimately, your character is the one thing that will last, and the one way people will identify you. Dive into this program and be a true champion” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program).

 

John Maxwell in his excellent book 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader says that there are four things that every person must know about character:

  • Character is more than talk
  • Talent is a gift but character is a choice
  • Character brings lasting success with people
  • Leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character

 

How is Character Improved?

Maxwell also offers a four-step plan for improving character:

  1. “Search for the cracks. Spend some time looking at the major areas of your life (work, marriage, family, service, etc.) and identify anywhere you might have cut corner, compromised or let people down.

 

  1. Look for patterns. Examine the responses that you just wrote down. Is there a particular area where you have a weakness, or do you have a type of problem that keeps surfacing?

 

  1. Face the music. The beginning of character repair comes when you face your flaws, apologize, and deal with the consequences of your actions.

 

  1. Rebuild. It’s one thing to face up to your past actions. It’s another to build a new future. Now that you’ve identified any areas of weakness, create a plan that will prevent you from making the same mistakes again.”

(Maxwell, pp. 1-7)

 

What Responsibility Has God Charged Us With?

If we are to be the men that God wants us to be, we must be men of integrity and character. God has charged us with the responsibility of being the spiritual leaders of our families and in order to do that we must be genuine and authentic. One author likens this role to a “point man” who takes up his position on the front lines of battle. I have used this quote before in this column, but read again what he says, “It’s a Herculean task to lead a family, but with the power of God supporting you, it is a tremendous privilege. If we are willing to become the point man in our families, we can count on God’s support and power. He’s looking for men who will follow Jesus Christ and burn their ships behind them. When He finds those men, He will take extraordinary measures to buttress, bolster and carry them along in His limitless strength (2Chronicles 16:9). May we be those men! And may He give us the strength to withstand the onslaught of His blessing” (Steve Farrar, Point Man, p. 231).

 

What Do the Scriptures say about Integrity and Character?

Men face many challenges in today’s culture. Satan has many devices to hinder our ability and our desire to be that influence that desires for us to be. The Scriptures are full of passages dealing with integrity and character. Notice a few of them:

Proverbs 10:9 “He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known.”

1 Kings 9:4 “Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’”

Job 2:3 “Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

Job 31:6 “Let me be weighed on honest scales, That God may know my integrity.”

Proverbs 20:7 “The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.”

Titus 2:7 “…in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,”

Philippians 2:22 “But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”

Rom. 5:3-4 “…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

How May Integrity Be Rebuilt?

God said that David walked in integrity of heart. And yet David was tempted when he saw Bathsheba bathing, he yielded to that temptation and he sinned. So it was necessary for David to rebuild his integrity. In doing so, he asked God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalms 51:10-11). We can all learn from Job’s example. He said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” (Job 31:1, NLT).

 

The Bible plan for forgiveness of sin for the Christian is simple: repent, ask forgiveness from the one(s) against whom the sin was committed, and pray to God for His forgiveness and for His help in the rebuilding process (Mt. 18:15-17 and Acts 8:18-24). But when trust has been broken and the marriage relationship has been shattered, the rebuilding process becomes much more complex. During the fifty-six years that I have been a Christian, I have witnessed TV evangelists, personally known preachers and elders, and friends succumb to this sin.

 

Much has been written to help those who find themselves in such a situation. One writer suggests, “I don’t know of any assignment more difficult (but more worthwhile) than the job of regaining a wife’s trust. She trusted you enough to marry you, but the bond of trust has been broken. So many men just walk away when they have failed and broken the heart of a loving spouse…. They walk away and take their shame and the knowledge that they walked away when they most needed to step up” (Stephen Arterburn and Jason B. Martinkus, Worthy of Her Trust, p. xi) (emphasis mine).

 

Arterburn and Martinkus outline a plan for rebuilding trust that involves nine “non-negotiables.” If these aren’t present of if they’re deficient, it will be incredibly difficult for one’s relationship to be restored. These items are: Spiritual Commitment, Honesty, Transparency, True Intimacy, Accountability, Open Review of Computer/Internet Use, Sexual Integrity in the Workplace, Restitution, and No Self-Pity.

They also recommend several “tools” to assist the rebuilding process. These include: The Five-Minute Rule, T-30 Journal, Financial Accountability, Twenty-Four Hour Disclosure Rule, GPS Tracking, and Wifecam. I highly recommend this book as is an excellent resource for any man attempting to regain his wife’s trust after admitting to sexual integrity issues (e.g., pornography, affair, etc.).

One of the key concepts that resonated with me and that is repeated throughout this book is the idea of being “intentional.” For example, “When it comes to trust building, free time can be detrimental. We must begin to use our time intentionally and channel it toward a goal” (p.105). In regard to setting boundaries on the job, “Because the work environment can change our persona, we have to be diligent in preserving our sense of authenticity and self. Your new self must be careful with boundaries, intentional with words, and conscientious about how interactions can affect your wife’s heart” (pp. 110-111). In regard to a husband keeping his word they write, “It is incredibly important for you as a husband to be intentional about what you commit to and how you communicate that commitment to your wife” (p.128). And finally, “The journey you’re on is changing you from the inside out. Character and integrity are being woven into the fabric of your being. As such, things will get easier. Truth, trust, and redemption will be more natural and will flow out of who you are, rather than having to be an intentional thing that you do” (p. 191).

 

If we are to become the men that God wants us to be, we must be intentional in building integrity and character. If we stumble and fall along the way, we must be diligent in rebuilding that character and integrity. Our eternal security depends upon it! Thanks for reading and sharing this website with others.

 

–Randy Sexton

The Old Man in The Mirror

Editors Note: I just found this poem among the files on a flash drive that belonged to my father. The occasion was his 75th birthday in 2003. Looking back with much fondness now, and knowing that he would pass from this life on May 8, 2006, I am filled with great joy. For this poem embodies so much of the spirit of the man that I knew as Dad, and that others knew as “Bill” Sexton.

 

The Old Man in The Mirror

 

Seventy Five years old, surely that’s NOT me

A Short time ago, I was a boy plowing the field, it seems.

Wanting to hurry up and be a big man so others could see

As an adult I could explore the world, perhaps even sail the sea

 

Yes, when I look in the mirror, sometime I see

An old man looking back at me

I wonder how that old frame in my mirror me could be

For In my mind a younger man should be smiling  at me

 

Surely seventy Five years could not have passed so fast

Leaving the old figure in the mirror I observe when I pass

For I’m still young at heart,

From that young age I’m not ready to depart

 

How old is seventy five years anyway

When one is young that age seems so far away

Someone once said he/she is just as old as they feel

So, beloved, In my heart I’m still YOUNG enough to climb a hill

 

Please don’t write me off as being old just yet

The Lord surely knows how much time I have left

But while He allows me to live, love and laugh

I’m young in mind, enjoying youth while He allows it to last

O, yes another year is just about to end

Seems just the other day it only began

Which indicates we need to be busy all the time

Doing things, by looking back, will bring joy to our mind

 

Bill Sexton, December 23, 2003

 

 

 

December 25, 1928 —-2003

Reprints of Works by William C. Sexton

Posts in this category will be articles, sermon outlines, and various other works of William C. Sexton. Brother sexton was born in Cameron, Oklahoma on December 25, 1928 and died in Fort Smith, Arkansas on May 8, 2006.

He was a minister for churches of Christ for 49 years, serving churches in Kearney, MO; Lowell, IN; St. Joseph, MO.; Wichita, KS; Manhattan, KS; Kansas City, MO; Van Buren, AR; as well as many other communities. He was also a prolific writer, being published in brotherhood papers, Guardian of Truth, The Preceptor, Searching the Scriptures and many others. He also edited and published church bulletins for local churches with which he worked. During the latter years of his life he published an electronic bulletin that he called A Christians Voice. He emailed ACV to individual Christians and small congregations with whom he was working at the time of his death.

 

The Disciplines of Life: Discernment, Decision and Duty

This is the fourth article in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude, Discipleship and Dependability & Determination thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this article, we want to look at the disciplines of discernment, decision, and duty.

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). Please consider …

 

Discernment

One of the disciplines of life that we must develop is that of discernment. As we go through life, we are impacted by people, places and events. We might consider those things stimuli (i.e. something that incites to action or exertion or quickens action, feeling, thought, etc.). As Christians, it is important that we exercise discernment in determining the source of those stimuli; are they of God or of Satan?

 

The writer of the Hebrew letter tells us that we must be disciplined to discern both good and evil and that this is a work of spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:11-14). One who has not fed upon the Word of God, first with the “milk,” and then progressing to the “strong meat” (KJV) of the Word is NOT able to properly make these right decisions!

Think about the contrast we see between the actions of God vs. actions of Satan upon our lives:

Area of Influence God Satan
Our Mistakes Offers the blood of Jesus that washes whiter than snow (Isa. 1:18; 1Jn. 1:9) Takes pleasure in them, especially if his “wiles” have contributed (Eph. 6:11)
Our Motivations Points us to the pathway of self-denial and selfless service (Mt. 16:24-26 Tempts us with self-interests, physical needs, social position, etc. (Mt. 4:3, 8; 16:23
Our Perspective Exalts the present help of the Lord (Ps. 46:1). Reminds us of the promises, whereby we can hope against hope (Rom. 5:3-5). Emphasizes the past, with its mistakes and heartaches. Magnifies our problems, by showing their hoplessness, impossibility, and pail
Our Guide Walk by faith (2Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:6). Forget the past and reach forward (Phil. 3:13-14). Walk by sight and earthly wisdom (“the counsel of the ungodly” Ps. 1:1).

 

It is so very important, as we attempt to live for Jesus here, that we focus our attention on developing the discipline of discernment. Won’t you be persuaded, dear friend, to do that?

 

 Decision

Secondly, consider the discipline of decision. In the course of a lifetime there are many decisions to be made. Some of these decisions seem very trivial at the time and others may weigh on us because of their importance in setting the future course of our lives.  The Scriptures promise guidance in these decisions to the trusting Christian (Ps. 32:8; 25:9). The “way which you should go” often become more clear after meditation and prayer! Seeking guidance from God before making a decision is never a bad thing!

Of particular interest in considering this discipline is Jeremiah 42:3-10. First consider the context of this passage. “Jeremiah lived during troubled times. He became a prophet during Josiah’s reign (640-609 B.C.). Josiah was the last faithful king in Judah’s history (2Kings 22:1-23:7). His death (2Kings 23:28-30) marked the beginning of the last years of the nation of Judah…. Jeremiah was a biblical theologian…. Whom the Holy Spirit inspired to write fresh treatments of old themes and some ideas that were new when Jeremiah penned them…. the prophet asks people over 100 times to ‘turn around’ or ‘repent.’ ” (ESV Study Bible, pp. 1364-1367).   From this passage we glean three outstanding factors that determine the discipline of decision:

  1. Willingness to ask guidance from God (vv3 and 6, Js. 1:5). They said, “Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God…” We have many examples in Scripture of those who were willing to seek guidance from God before embarking on an important activity: “Moses at the Red Sea, Joshua at passage of the Jordan, Ruth in the village of Bethlehem, David in the wilderness, Nehemiah in the court of the king, Jeremiah in the prison, Peter on the housetop, and Paul on board the storm-tossed sailing craft” (Erdman, p. 40)
  2. Willingness to wait for God’s guidance (v7). They had to wait for ten days for the word of the Lord to come to Jeremiah after he asked God on their behalf. There is a song by Stuart Hamblen that speaks to the need to wait for God. The lyrics of that song are as follows:

Teach Me Lord to Wait

Teach me Lord to wait right down on my knees,
Till in Your own good time You answer my pleas;
Teach me not to rely on what others do,
But to wait in prayer for an answer from You.

 

Refrain:

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
Teach me Lord, teach me Lorde, to wait

 

Teach me Lord to wait while hearts are a-flame,
Let me humble my price and call on your name.
Keep my faith renewed, my eyes on Thee,
Let me be on this earth what you want me to be

 

  1. Willingness to obey the will of God (v. 10). The word from Jeremiah to the people was, “If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you.” This was not really what they wanted to hear. Secretly they desired to flee into the land of Egypt where they would not see pestilence nor warfare; but they wanted God’s approval of their preference.

 

Sadly, in the following chapter we find the description of their failure to obey, “Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You are not to enter Egypt to reside there’; 3 but Baruch the son of Neriah is inciting you against us to give us over into the hand of the Chaldeans, so they will put us to death or exile us to Babylon.” 4 So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the [a]commanders of the forces, and all the people, did not obey the voice of the Lord to stay in the land of Judah” (Jer. 43:2-4).

 

The question for all of us is, are we willing to obey the voice of the Lord “whether it be good or whether it be evil.”

 

Duty

“Is there delight deeper or more delectable than that of duty diligently done? To know one’s responsibility, to face its circumstances, both favorable and unfavorable, to follow the line of duty without deviation caused by difficulties or distraction, and to fulfill the task as assigned – all this brings great joy. Between finding out our task and fulfilling the same there lies the discipline of duty, often arduous and difficult, even to the point of impossibility”

(Edman, p. 247).

 

We have many Bible examples of those who responded when the will of God called them to duty. The Apostle Paul obeyed when he was called to bear witness in Rome (Acts 23:11). Abraham went when called to go out to a land that he knew nothing about and had not seen with the promise that he would inherit that land (Gen. 12). Joseph responded to God’s call to become the ruler and benefactor of his brethren (Gen. 39). Moses, though feeling unqualified followed God’s direction to lead his enslaved people from the iron furnace of Egypt (Ex. 3). David said “yes” when God called him to leave his duties as a shepherd boy to become king over Israel (1Sam. 16). Cyrus the Persian became God’s hands and feet to order the restoration of Jerusalem (Ezra 1). Mary humbled herself to become the mother of the messiah, to see the performance of those things told her from the Lord (Lk. 1:26ff).

 

Forces that may oppose our performance of Duty include the wrath of men, the waste of years, the waves of despair, and the wickedness of the Adversary.

 

  1. The Wrath of Men

They plotted to take Paul’s life the morning after the Lord called him to witness at Rome (Acts 23:12-13).  When David became King, the Philistines came up to seek him to thwart that from happening (2Sam. 5:17). When Nehemiah sought to rebuild his city, the adversaries were present with intimidation, innuendo, intrigue, and insinuation, to resist his efforts.

 

  1. Waste of Years

“Paul was taken from Jerusalem to Caesarea on his way to Rome, only to languish for an undefined and interminable period. There was no case against him, but he had no friends at court, nor would he stoop to bribery (Acts 24:26); with the result that he remained immobile in the dungeon. His soul entered into delay and darkness, caused by the negligence and selfishness of others” (Erdman, p. 250). Moses was rejected by his people and spent 40 years in the wilderness. David was hunted by an insanely jealous Saul and spent years fleeing to escape his attempts to kill him. Elijah sat by the brook when Ahab ruled the land.

 

  1. Waves of Despair

Paul did not perish in prison. He was compelled to appeal to Caesar. The indifference on the part of others comes to an end. Moses is called by God to go down into Egypt. Elijah is sent to Ahab. Paul at Tarsus is called to Antioch. “When God’s hour strikes, you will go forward into His will. Not perhaps as you had planned but in a way which He sees is best for you.” (Erdman, p. 251). The Lord often takes the storm out of the life of His children before He takes them out of the storm.

 

  1. The Wickedness of the Adversary

And then sometimes when all of the other forces have failed to hinder the performance of duty, the adversary makes a direct attack. Sometime that may come by sickness (Lk. 13:16), other times by self-pity (Mt. 16:21-25) or by self-sufficiency (1Tim. 3:6).

 

“The Discipline of Duty is not easy nor light, its performance is painful and perilous, but its culmination is delight” (Erdman. P. 253)

 

Conclusion:

Discernment, Decision, and Duty are disciplines worthy of our pursuit! Do you possess them? If not won’t you consider carefully what we have said and determine to grow by adding them to your character?

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Erdman, pp. 39–43, 167–171, 247-253)

The Disciplines of Life: Dependability & Determination

Dependability and Determination are key disciplines that should be prevalent in the life of the Christian. This is the third lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude and Discipleship thus far. In this lesson we want to look at the disciplines of dependability and diligence.

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 also been pointing out the exhortations found in scripture. Paul told the Corinthians, “I discipline my body …” (2Cor. 9:27). Peter wrote to those Christians who were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, “…prepare your minds for action …” (1Pet. 1:13)

Please  Consider …

Dependability (Lamentations 3:27)

The Strength or Weakness of Mature Years is Determined Largely in the Days of Youth. This includes the following features of one’s character:

  1. The dependability or irresponsibility,
  2. The sturdiness or vacillation of character,
  3. The sunshine or shadow of personality,
  4. The strength or weakness of body

God needs strong men and women, who can bear heavy burdens in dark and difficult days; and they can do so, if they have borne the yoke in their youth”  (Erdman, p. 91).

Dependable Performance of Duties Helps Prepare for the Stirring Service of God

Though sometimes these duties may be “boring” they discipline for further service. Thought they sometimes may be outside our “comfort zones” they stimulate growth. Dependable performance of duties from a young age helps to prepare for the stern realities of life.

What it means to bear the Yoke in one’s Youth

Bearing the yoke in one’s youth means to become accustomed early to do with cheerfulness one’s share of duties, however small that may be at first. It also means to complete one’s assignment conscientiously and thoroughly, even though no one sees us. It means to profit by one’s mistakes and to take correction gratefully. It means to serve for the love of service rather than for reward. To bear the yoke in youth is to be able to bear burdens in later years, and to bring glory to God in doing so.

Bible Example: David

David had a heart that loved God (1Sam 13:14; Ps. 89:20; Acts 13:22; 1Sam. 16:7, 12). He knew his future clearly (1Sam. 16:13).

“David was faithful in the tasks assigned to him, and in the extra opportunities which were available. He was required to care for his father’s sheep, a menial and uninspiring routine. He practiced on his harp upon his own initiative; and he applied himself with good zeal to both opportunities. We know something of his faithfulness to his father in his fearlessness of the lion and bear that attacked his flock (I Sam. 17:34, 35). We need more of that devotion in the duties assigned to children and young people, devotion that will stick to the job despite lions of laziness and bears of boredom. Loyalty to parents and employers, at the risk of loss to ourselves, leads to gain over Goliaths in the large conflicts of later life (I Sam. 17:36-51).”

 Others have as well:

  1. Joseph – called to be a statesman (Gen. 37:5-11).
  2. Joshua – called to be a military leader (Gen. 27: 18-23).
  3. John – called to be a forerunner for Jesus (Lk. 1:76-77; Jn. 1:22-23)

Others did not learn until late in life (but in plenty of time for their real service):

  1. Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:1-10).
  2. Simon Peter on the beach of Bethsaida (Luke 5:1-11).
  3. Saul of Tarsus at the Damascus gate (Acts 9:1-6).

Whether they know their life’s calling or not, the most important consideration about the future is to do faithfully what is before them today, for the discipline of dependability demands tasks thoroughly done” (Erdman, p. 95).

Doing their duty today will not leave them in darkness indefinitely. The light will come! (Psalm 112:4; Job 22:28; 23:8-12).Faithfulness leads to fulfillment of dreams, not futility; dependability, to delight of duty.

Now consider another discipline to be developed by all Christians …

Determination (Eph. 6:13)

The story is told that Henry Ford, the pioneer auto manufacturer, was often asked by young people, “How can I make my life a success?” His response was always, “If you start a thing, finish it!” He would then illustrate with a personal example:

“Plausible reasons for quitting are always at hand. Mr. Ford told us one day that when he was making his first car in that little brick building on the alley in the rear of his home, he work away with all the ardor of young enthusiasm looking forward to great results. Then the thrill and interest simply evaporated. Why? He said he had gone far enough on that first car to see how he could build a second and a better one, and the glowing new vision got in the way of his work. What was the use of finishing the car he had started? Some untaught inner wisdom must have warned him, for he forced himself on. He soon discovered he was learning more and more about his second car by going on to complete his first…. Following faithfully on never leads anyone into permanent darkness. But for the quitter, all he is likely to get is a stronger habit of quitting and a lower place to begin again. The man who will not give up, even if he fail of his objective, is led through to another objective; the man who hangs on as if he were paid to hang on can always start again at par or better – he has strengthened himself….Quitting makes a dead end of any road—often just as it was ready to open. Transfer if you must; catch another wavelength; change your level to a higher one, but don’t quit—it is always too soon to quit.”” (“Too Soon To Quit,” W. J. Cameron, the Ford Sunday Evening Hour, January 10, 1937. Quoted by V. Raymond Edmon on pp. 137-140 of The Disciplines of Life.)

Determination to finish what we have begun is a discipline we need!

This discipline is exemplified in the life of our Lord Jesus. At an early age He was about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49). In the strength of manhood He declared, ”My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and finish his work” (John 4:34). When His earthly service was complete He could pray, ”I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4); and from Calvary’s Cross rang out His triumph, ”It is finished” (John 19:30).

“Can we not follow His footsteps, filled with His Spirit, to finish the task appointed, with heart aglow and hurrying feet, with strong hands and steady mind, with shield of faith and sword of Spirit, with patience to run the race that is set before us? Can we not trust Him for grace that is sufficient, for strength that is perfected in weakness, for help that is sure, and for faithfulness that will not fail, in order that we may know the discipline of doing our duty? Then it is always too soon to quit” (Erdman, p. 141).

Conclusion:

  1. These are the fundamentals in the deep discipline of dependability”
  • A heart that loves God
  • Confidence of a future life that is in His hands
  • Faithfulness in duty
  • Fearlessness before dangers, in associations, and in the fiery trial of envy of elders
  1. Determination to faithfully run the race that is set before us is a needed discipline.
  2. Dependability and determination go hand in hand to equip the Christian for all good works! May we ever strive to develop them as part of our character.

(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 91-99, 137-141)