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Archive for September, 2018

A Word to the Wise

9-28-2018 – Personal History – The news headlines lately has brought up for me a very painful experience that occurred some 50 years ago at this time of year, and experience which was to have a profound effect on my direction in life.

I had just graduated from graduate school. I accepted a ministerial position at a small church in northern Arkansas. Been there about three months when a woman in the church accused me of making obscene phone calls too her ( Of all the evil deeds I had consider doing in my life, even had done, making such phone calls never entered my mind).

It was assumed that I was guilty regardless that a polygraph showed that I was innocent and investigation showed I was eight hundred miles away at the time.

However, as is mostly the case with slander the truth is not important and people believe the accuser regardless of the facts. Even the school that I had graduated from believed the lies.

My faith in people was crushed and within a year I quit preaching altogether. Took a job at Terrell State Hospital, and joined the Dallas Police Department as a reserve officer.

I learned a few important lessons though. It really is unimportant what people think of you, and more importantly the only thing that is really important is whether the Lord is pleased with you.

Another discovery was the real pleasure one receives from putting evil doers in jail. I guess only police officers can identify with that experience. Because I worked where really bad people committed really horrible crimes I never tired of hauling the evil ones to jail. I never arrested someone who was innocent or failed to jail the guilty.

Sometimes late at night I wonder is the world better off for the 200 or so I brought to the Lord, or of the thousands I put in jail?

As for the counseling, I do not know how to judge its value or purpose. I really cannot take credit for it because it is more the Lord’s doing.

The Lord shows me what is in the heart of the person, and guides my words to them, so I cannot really take credit for the 11,000 or so I have worked with in the last 30 years. Only He is able to judge which activity pleased Him. Regardless, I do hope I have pleased Him for that is really the only reason for being here; to please the Lord.

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A Word to the Wise

9-24-2018 – A Word to the Wise: To sin, to really sin wounds the soul so deeply that no salve can redeem the pain.

Yet it is the one who suffers such wounds, who knows, really knows the price of forgiveness.

For the one who escapes such depravity they have no reason to know the futility of sin, and the cost of personal failure.

Perhaps, then when we behold those who have suffered the loss of everything, we learn the deeper lessons of persistence, courage, and dignity, and discover for ourselves the price we must pay if we are to escape the ravages of sin.

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A Word to the Wise

9-21-2018 – A Word to the Wise: THE POWER OF OBEDIENCE? IT WOULD HAVE SAVE 2 MILLION PEOPLE THIS YEAR ALONE

Over 93,000 deaths each year are due to preventable accidents caused by disobedience, or neglect of some rule, law, or order. Nearly 2 million in the US will die this year because they fail to observe warnings from parents, doctors, ministers, the government or the Word of God.

THERE ARE TWO MAJOR STUDIES WHICH FURTHER DETAIL THE IMPORTANT OF OBEDIENCE

The first study involves a 75 year study called the Terman Life-Cycle Study. The study started in 1921 with 856 boys and 672 girls. The participants have been followed at 5 and 10 year intervals for 75 years.

The results were startling. Two major points are made in this article; divorce in childhood is a predictor of a shortened life span, and degree of conscientiousness in childhood is a predictor of longer life.

The one factor found to be a consistent predictor of greater longevity in this group was a factor the investigators called ‘conscientiousness. What did the investigators define as conscientiousness? They define it as prudence, truthfulness and social dependability. Factors the researchers expected to account for a longer life such as sociability, high self-esteem, optimism, high energy, and permanency of mood, all failed as indicators.

The sole predictor outweighing all of the others was the trait of conscientiousness. What difference exists in the length of the participant’s lifespan? One study indicates at least six years difference been the attainable age, that is 74 for unconscientious males and 81 for conscientious males.

Simply obeying the rules results in an increased life span. Violation of our body by improper diet, inadequate exercise and the use of known harmful substances accounts for a majority of admissions to medical and psychiatric facilities.

Most violations are of known rules, laws, ordinances and instructions. Thus, one readily sees why disobedience to authority, whether toward a parent, government or biblical laws, results in a shortened life span.

Only a willful rejection of disobedience will bring about the ability to live longer. It is God’s promise regardless of one’s color, creed, or sex. Respect for God’s creation and obedience to His laws lay the foundation for obedience to those who have the rule over us. The second study? We will see what scripture says about obedience.

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A Word to the Wise

9-19-2018 – A Word to the Wise: FEAR OF THE LORD

Acquisition of the fear of the Lord might be compared with putting on a heavy coat in mid-winter or an armored vest worn by a police officer or combat soldier. Fear of the Lord is a protective coat that protects us from evil and dangerous temptations.

The Scriptures tell us that understanding the fear of the Lord and how it is acquired is one of the most profitable endeavors that man can undertake. When reverence and respect are terms used in the sense that recognizes the tremendous power of God, then they most certainly become good synonyms for the Greek and Hebrew words that describe the experience that one is to have before God Almighty.

Perhaps the following experience from the life of Isaiah gives us a more accurate view of reverence.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’). Isaiah 6:1-6

Oh yes. I strongly suspect that this experience defines reverence rather nicely, particularly when the earthquake occurred. Any idea what it would be like to experience a force ten earthquakes? I do imagine the experience would put the fear of God in you. It most certainly has others.

But we do not like thinking of God as one to be feared. We wish to use words like love, kindness, and gentleness to describe what we feel, and who He is. If we see reverence as a bit of patriotism as when one salutes the flag at the playing of the national anthem, then we miss the point.

I doubt that anyone near Mount St. Helens, when it exploded with a force of 27,000 atom bombs, felt anything but pure terror. One can hardly sit in a cellar while an F-5 tornado sweeps away everything in its path without shuttering—so it is with the reverence or fear before God. No matter how righteous one may be. Even Moses and Daniel quaked with fear before the living God.

So how does one learn how to fear God? Fear of the Lord is grounded in laws, ordinances, and statutes. Fundamentally, fear of God is rooted in authority. This is significant when we see how difficult it is for some to fear God. They might love, adore, believe, trust, but somehow they find it difficult to fear. That is because we tend to be a rebellious people. Rebellion is against authority, and fear of God is fear of authority. Authority is established by God

Fear of the holy one is not something that is acquired accidentally, or inborn in the nature of a person. Teaching is a must.

Acquisition of the fear of the Lord is essential to our warfare against the authority and power of Satan. The fear of the Lord defends against destruction by the enemy. It protects the heart by humility and the spirit by meekness.

Studying the fear of the Lord is in itself protective and beneficial. One of the assignments I use with clients who suffer from panic attacks is founded in studying the fear of the Lord. Any time we fear anything, some of the physiological experiences attending the fear may be shortness of breath, dizziness, faintness, smothering sensation, palpitations, trembling, shaking, sweating, choking, nausea, numbness, discomfort in the chest and other similar symptoms. These symptoms are experienced in varying degrees of intensity, depending on the object which we fear. Sometimes only one symptom may be present, at other times several.

Now the unique thing about these symptoms is that as one begins to read, write, or study the passages on the fear of the Lord, the symptoms begin to abate. The books of Psalms and Proverbs are filled with passages which instruct in the acquiring this holy fear.

Another way of expressing this is that if we fear anything other than God, we experience a physical discomfort. Fear of the Lord brings a sense of peace and well-being even in the midst of chaos.

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A Word to the Wise

9-18-2018 – A Word to the Wise: More On Wisdom

Wisdom is a social gift. It is not given to be exercised on one’s self. It is a gift for the whole community. If a person truly believes, then that faith will be illuminated by the things she does. In the same way if one is wise, wisdom will be shown by her good deeds and wise behavior.

The best way to maintain wisdom is to guard diligently ones response to foolish statements. Silence is the second-most important quality of wisdom following the fear of the Lord. Silence alone may be mistaken for wisdom.

Arguing, in contrast is like trying to stop a flood of water. “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.”

Perhaps my most famous reference comes from Proverbs 9:7-8. I recount this passage over and over to those I counsel:

HE WHO CORRECTS A SCOFFER, GETS HIMSELF ABUSE, AND HE WHO REPROVES A WICKED MAN INCURS INJURY. DO NOT REPROVE A SCOFFER, OR HE WILL HATE YOU, REPROVE A WISE MAN AND HE WILL LOVE YOU.

There has been many times that I would correct a person for opening their mouth, quote this passage, and have them turn and continue to rave on as if nothing was said. So, yes I too need to heed the passage.

So if silence is called for, what is to be heard?

What does one listen for? A person’s character is the sum total of all that he thinks. What a person thinks is exhibited in what he says and in what he does. The wise person listens to what flows from the mouth.

The purpose of silence is to listen. One cannot talk and listen at the same time. Silence is not withdrawal, nor is it inattentiveness.

Silence with no intent to speak intensifies the hearing process.

What a person says gives insight into what motivates that person to change. These jewels are useless if we do not hear them. There is a time to speak, but never before you have heard.

Silence must reign if one hopes to acquire wisdom. “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise,” a wise person must be silent.

Why is silence so important? Because the tongue is the source of foolishness, to restrain one’s words, to limit them to the bare necessity, is prudent for it limits one’s opportunities to speak inappropriately.

What does wise speech sound like? Look closely at how the Proverbs are written. Do you notice that they are short pithy statements, not paragraphs. The less spoken, the better chance it will be heard.

There are no long sermons here just a few words on each subject that get to the point.

We tend to think of wisdom as a thought process rather than a heart process, yet scripture plainly states that wisdom resides in the heart. Wisdom is not related to intelligence, for even the intellectually slow may be wise.

Finally, wisdom is the chief testimony for God’s existence and His intervention in the affairs of men. Solomon says obtaining wisdom surpasses any other goal one could hope to achieve. Ultimately, the wisdom received will glorify the Lord and not ourselves.

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A Word to the Wise

9-15-2018 – A Word to the Wise: COURAGE

Men of courage and women as well are found throughout scripture. The Old Testament is filled with stories of individuals who stir the emotions and challenge the warrior.

In Hebrew 11:34 scripture refers to an ancient incident which one may easily pass over. It says referring to men of faith who “became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” I can think of no better illustration of this than the battle of Michmash.

Michmash? I have never heard of it. It is the story of two Old Testament warriors a story which should strengthens us during the dark night of the soul.

Jonathan was an adventurer. A man of honor filled with courage. His nation was being occupied by the Philistines. A loathsome enemy who successfully subjugated Israel.

The enemy established a garrison at Michmash which controlled the surrounding mountainous area in central Israel.

Jonathan observed one of the Philistine outpost occupied by twenty of the enemy. He reasoned with his armor-bearer that the Lord could overcome whether few or many.

So the two go behind the garrison outpost and climb up behind the enemy. The text says they climb up the high hill on their hands and knees. Looking at the area where the battle took place all one sees is rocks, boulders, and a very steep climb.

Reaching the top Jonathan and his companion attack the unsuspecting enemy and quickly kill 20 of them.

Let the eyes of your mind behold the sight. Watch as two men in close hand to hand combat armed with only a single sword slay 20 in just the space of a few minutes.

The result is incredible. The enemy in a large formation watching from a distance are thrown into panic. In the resulting chaos the Philistine army composed of many different mercenaries start killing each other.

King Saul sees the battle ensuing and joins the melee. The enemy is driven from the area and many are killed in the ensuing rout.

This major battle is started by two brave, courageous, god fearing men and it results in a major defeat for the enemy. Two men induced 30,000 of the enemy to flee. There is a lesson for us in this battle.

Really there is a miracle transpiring. Jonathan is using a form of combat that was unknown at the time. The Lord shows Jonathan this form of combat and Jonathan and his companion practice it.

Normally in a fight a person is both offensive and defensive. Attacking the enemy and defending or protecting self.

The key to understanding the scene is the word armor-bearer. What is that? Someone who carries a sword or spear? No, not at all.

Jonathan’s companion carried a medium size shield and he shielded Jonathan and himself from the enemy blows. This freed Jonathan to attack with two hands on the sword. It was a very effective form of combat impossible to overcome. It is rare because two had to think as one. These two had practiced it until they were two working as one.

It is certain that courage in the face of the enemy is the key to winning intense spiritual battles. A courage rooted in the fear of the Lord ensures that one will not run and hide, nor cave in when the enemy comes in like a flood.

When the dark night of the soul sets in, when others quake in fear, when surrounded with the night terrors or overwhelmed with the most intense pain, when calamity is to be found at every turn, when the storms of life drown us in sorrow beyond measure, even then one cannot be induced to run and hide or curse there God.

Buried in the midst of overwhelming difficulties complacence does not set in, rather the paths of justice are guarded with even greater zeal. This is the heritage of the God trained warrior. One, who in the words of John, “does not cling to life even in the face of death.” One who is clothed in the armor of the Lord.

It is the example the Lord reveals to each of us. Our companion is the Lord and together we attack the enemy in every form whether addiction, fear, anxiety, depression, or the evil ones who rebel against the living God.

That is the heart and intent of Eph. 6:10ff.

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A Word to the Wise

9-14-2018 – A Word to the Wise:  We have this fixed false belief that life is supposed to be easy, everyday a new vacation. Well it is not. From the day of my birth life has been a struggle. But it is out of these struggles and yes failures that the Lord is able to bring a touch of peace to others.

I think we misread Mark 6:45ff. We see Jesus walking on the sea and suppose it was just a regular hop, skip, and jump for Him. It was not. He had just as much trouble with the sea as His disciples, He just was not fighting it like they were doing.

We must understand that life is difficult for a reason. It trains our bodies, hearts, minds, and yes our spirits to fight the good fight. Otherwise we find ourselves sitting on the side lines while others do our work.

Instead of running away from the difficult situation in life, our task is to learn to depend on the Lord for answers, directions, and to open doors that are sealed shut. Life demands strength and the only way to get it is to daily face the difficulties before us with the Lord by our sides and are hands to the plow.

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