Success According to Psalm 147

There are many activities which are good if allowed a small portion of one’s time and attention but bad if given too much time and attention. That is my assessment of the quest to make my life productive. I suppose that asking whether my life is productive is inherent to life as designed by God. Furthermore, the question is prompted by the parable of the talents in Matthew 25: 14-30. Reading that parable prompts one to ask himself if he is a profitable servant. Am I making good use of the abilities and opportunities given to me? However, attention to that question needs to be limited by the fact that my life is not about me. It is about God. My effectiveness and my role is a small issue in comparison to the much larger issue of whether God is being honored.  When I focus on my effectiveness Psalm 147:11 seems a good measure. “The LORD takes pleasure ….” The ultimate human success is for God to take pleasure in me. And how does it happen that God takes pleasure in someone? “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” To fear God is an attitude. To hope in His mercy is an expectation. Together they make me a source of pleasure for God.

Receive, Yet Restrain

According to God’s design I celebrate pleasure and welcome comfort (I Timothy 4:3-4).  Nonetheless, it is impossible that my human pleasure and comfort will not need to be restrained. 

Ephesians 4:19  “… being past feeling, have given themselves over to [excess, absence of restraint]1 to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

I Peter 4:3-4  “the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in [excess, absence of restraint]1 ….   …they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation2 ….”

Jude 4  “For certain men … turn the grace of our God into [excess, absence of restraint]1  ….”

1 The Greek word used here, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary,  “denotes excess” and “absence of restraint ….”

2 “Dissipation”  means wasteful or squandering and is the word used in the  NKJV, NASB, and the NIV of I Peter 4:4.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,  W.E. Vine, MacDonald Publishing Co.,, McLean, VA, p. 650


Moral Inconsistency

Moral inconsistency is pathetic, despicable, and difficult to avoid.  You may be a victim of moral inconsistency.  For denouncing some offences you are labeled morally courageous and heroic and commended for taking the role of a prophet.  But similar discussion of other vices brings charges of being judgmental and legalistic.  Audience response is not the measure of Spirit-filled preaching.

Guests, From His Experience

The Bible calls for Christians, and especially church overseers, to be hospitable.

This couple, with three young children, were missionaries in Europe.  Temporarily back in the United States,  they described their work.  They slept Saturday night in our home.  We were eating Sunday morning breakfast when their little boy asked his mother, “Are the guests going to Sunday School too?”

We chuckled and his mother explained, “We are the guests.”

Sold me.

When We Disagree

There are issues and questions over which godly, intelligent, and studious Christians have disagreed for decades and generations.  Many, if not most, of us are troubled by the disagreement.

Some react with vigorous debate, attempting to prove the right answer.  Some withdraw, guessing that if the issue has not been resolved after years of discussion,  most likely a clear answer does not exist.  So they are not interested.

It seems that different conclusions reached by godly, gifted, and experienced Bible students come not from stupidity, perversity, or ignorance, but because they assign different weight to the items of evidence.

Suggestions for proceeding:  1)  I will beware of “foolish, ignorant disputes.”  I Timothy 2: 14,24.    2)  If a question or issue is prompted by Scripture, I should be interested.   3)  I will not quarrel. I Timothy  2: 24    4) I may retreat to Psalm 131, “Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.”  5) No one lives long enough to thoroughly review every issue.  For some subjects I will trust my elders.


Scripture taken from the New King James Version, Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Who is Influencing Whom?

American Christians today like to glory in a bygone era when, we are told, Christianity prevailed politically, judicially, socially, and culturally.  We pray, give, work, and organize for Christian influence.  It seems obvious from current experience and history that Christian influence makes life better.

But a contrary thought enters my mind.  A combination of history and theology suggests that any church that so prevails among the unredeemed is a weak and polluted church.  I’m suggesting that the forces of evil will not cooperate with nor tolerate a healthy church.  Healthy churches are normally attacked.

Forty years ago numerous Evangelical voices lamented that we were not using our numerical strength. We were a minority – but a sizeable one.  We were urged to consider the examples of dedicated minorities who had influence far beyond their number.  So many Evangelicals became more active politically and socially.  We wrote to our Congress members.   Many Evangelicals ran for office and were elected.  Christian organizations lobbied and worked to rally Evangelical voters.  We marched for life and created crisis pregnancy centers.

I think we caught the non-Christian world by surprise.  We won some victories and still do.  But the secular world has awakened; it has been aroused.  The forces of darkness are using their majority status.  They have more lawyers and judges than we do.

Shall we stop lobbying and preaching about moral causes?  No.  We, like prophets, should urge repentance.  However, we must accept the fact that prophets are often irritating.  They are killed or run out of town.  We should expect the same.

It is ironic that during the same years we engaged in culture wars our Christian culture has been compromised with darkness.  Our worldliness is widespread.  We need more internal prophets.

Pharoah refused Moses.  But Ahasuerus sided with Esther.  Was that because Esther was wiser than Moses? I don’t think so.  Perhaps we should concentrate on righteousness, holiness, other fruit of the Spirit, and evangelism; then simply accept whatever level of influence emerges.


Second Amendment Reality

In my experience, most discussions of the 2nd amendment weigh the rights of hunters, home protectors, and gun hobbyists against the effort to reduce the likelihood that a criminal, a political or Islamic radical, or a madman can obtain a gun.

But the original intent of the second amendment looms quietly.  A letter to the editor in a July 24, 2016 newspaper interrupted the silence.  Heidi Smith wrote, “Every U.S. citizen is the organized militia.  It is our responsibility to take up arms against any force that would try to dismantle the Constitution. …[I]f we ever do need to rise up, remember this:  our enemy won’t be using pop guns; they’ll be using AK’s and AR’s.”

That may explain opposition to compromises that outlaw AK’s and AR’s.  The Second Amendment begins “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State ….”  A “militia” is an army of citizens, not professional soldiers, called upon in an emergency.

Joseph Story, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, wrote in a law textbook, in 1833, that “the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms”… is a safeguard “of the liberties of the republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpations and arbitrary power of rulers; and it will … enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

I take that to mean that if a second American Revolution is needed, U.S. citizens should have sufficient firepower, including AK’s and AR’s, to threaten the professional army.  Which collection of modern citizens do we trust to stockpile such weapons?

Compare current conditions to 1776.  Are “the liberties of the republic” less infringed today than then?  Have we witnessed or can we envision upcoming “usurpations and arbitrary power of rulers?”

I can think of previous attempts to resist and triumph over “arbitrary power of rulers.”  The Whiskey Rebellion was squelched by an army led by George Washington.  In recent time attacks upon police by individuals and groups have been widely approved.  Our prominent attempt to resist and triumph over a federal government’s usurpation and arbitrary power was the Civil War.

Those who hint of readiness for another American revolution need to remember the Civil War and ask  “Am I ready for that?”

I think highly of the U.S. Constitution.  I regret its progressive deterioration.  But responsibility for its dismantling will not belong to one president, one congress, or one Supreme Court.  The undermining of the Constitution has been and will be the work of many judges, educated in American law schools, appointed by presidents elected and often re-elected by U.S. citizens.  The process has been widely approved by citizen communicators, teachers, business leaders, and lobbyists.

To initiate a war because another straw is laid on the camel’s back hardly seems prudent.  Furthermore, if the constitution loyalists are out-numbered and out-weighed, they would probably lose the war.  If they were not out-numbered and out-weighed, the deterioration would not have occurred.

Do I think the situation is hopeless?  Yes and No

No, because widespread rejection of violent entertainment on television, movies, and computer games would change our culture.  There would be fewer criminals, radicals, and madmen.  And those that existed would be less acclimated to violence.

Yes, because I don’t think Americans will make the change.

So do I intend to emigrate?  No, I don’t for at least three reasons.  One, where would I go? Two, the people to whom I am attached live here.  Three, I’ve decided to willfully own the pledge which I was led to repeat before I understood.  I pledged allegiance to the American republic:  one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.  If need be I can argue that that nation has ceased to exist.  We no longer are characteristically “under God, with liberty and justice for all.”  Such religion, liberty, and justice for Christians are eroding.

Let me explain my claim to be a patriot.  My loyalty to the United States is not contingent on it being the greatest nation on earth.  Even if it is, that may change.  My loyalty is not contingent on a history of righteousness.  Our treatment of “native Americans” and others whose property we desired, our status as a leader in the dissemination of pornography, and our market for harmful drugs are among the facts making that claim shaky.  My loyalty is not dependent upon my agreement with our founding values.  I am not convinced that our perception of  oppression by the British justified violating Biblically prescribed submission to “the authorities that exist.”

There is much about the United States, historically and currently, that is noble.  But the most important reason for my patriotism, for my sense of responsibility to the United States is simply because it is my home.  My loyalty and sense of responsibility to my family is not dependent upon its members being the greatest, most noble, or most anything.  The bottom line is they are my family.  And the United States is my country.

 Falling In Love Advice

“There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand… the way of a man with a virgin.”  Proverbs 30: 18-19.

We are fascinated with “falling in love.”  I can’t nor want to eliminate all its mystery.  But I can offer some insight.

“Falling in love” describes an entrance into the enjoyment of romance.  Romance is good; not the same as sacrificial love or affection, but good. It is a mood and a feeling.  A person can never have a girlfriend or boyfriend and never marry and still enjoy romance.  There is romance in beautiful scenery, in quiet moments, and family gatherings.  Romance is the sense that I am in the midst of something wonderful.  Romance then may be experienced more often by those who are sensitive, unhurried, and grateful.  And the “way of a man with a virgin” is so exotic that most anyone can catch the romance of it.

Romance should be the beautiful accompaniment to a blessed relationship.  It should prompt us to praise God.  It can stimulate us to prepare to serve loved ones.  And romance is just plain enjoyable.

But relationship romance can be dangerous.  It is sometimes generated when a suitable relationship doesn’t exist.  Someone  can mistakenly identify  a live person as the daydream person with whom he or she “fell in love” long before.  Then the romance is taken as grounds for a serious relationship.

Daydreams, like guesses, should be educated.  Learn from wise people the qualities you’ll need to sustain a healthy, pleasant relationship. Let them help you identify those qualities in others.  Take time for a mature knowledge of yourself, time to adequately know another person, and time for the “fruit of the Spirit” to grow in you.

It’s humorous to think that “falling in love” is like “falling asleep.  Falling asleep seems to be an unconscious, somewhat involuntary activity.  We cannot cause it to happen instantly.  It sneaks up on us.  We are not conscious of the moment it takes over.  But falling asleep generally happens to people who want to be asleep, at approximately the time they planned for it to occur, and it is most likely to occur when the person enters conducive conditions (darkness, warmth, soft pillow, etc.).  Also, the process can be resisted and postponed (Ever stay up all night?).

Likewise “falling in love” seems to be an unconscious, somewhat involuntary activity.  It doesn’t happen instantly.  It seems to sneak up on us.  We may not be conscious of the moment it takes over.  But “falling in love” generally happens to people who want to be “in love,” near the time they assumed it would, when they enter conditions conducive to its occurrence, and the process can be resisted with amazing success.

The point of this analogy is that you must accept responsibility for your romantic involvement.  Do not become romantically involved with the wrong person.  Should you find yourself slipping into an inappropriate relationship, take steps to end it.

Romance is like the aroma of meat on the stove. That aroma is  splendid  along with tasty meat.  But it is not sustaining.  If the meat burns, the aroma leaves disappointment.

A sweetheart relationship makes for romance.  But romance by itself doesn’t make a good relationship.  Caution is required because it’s possible to have a romance without the framework of a healthy relationship.  Romanticizing a poor relationship is like eating globs of frosting without any cake. It’s sweet for a while, but you will be left unnourished, unfulfilled, and maybe with a stomachache.  Make sure the “cake” (the relationship) agrees with you, then enjoy the frosting as part of the cake.

Most any heart can taste romance.  It takes wisdom to (1) recognize the potential, and (2) construct the framework for a good marriage.  A major source for this wisdom is parents.  It is wise to establish dating relationships under their guidance.  Parents should try to establish the assumption that they will help guide relationship choices.  Young people should seek parental guidance.

Relationship romance:  maybe so, maybe no, take it slow.  Sweetheart romance is one of the many and varied gifts God gives.  Think of it like the ability to carry a tune, which is a gift – calling for praise to God.  But don’t treat it as the key to a happy life.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself if you don’t have it.  You have too many other good things to enjoy to lament over one you don’t have.

Although I have a high regard for the ability to carry a tune and have sometimes wished I could more consistently, it has occurred to me to be glad that I can’t.  For my time and attention has often been crowded with trying to utilize to the fullest the opportunities and capacities I have.  Another capacity could add to a sense of unfulfilled possibilities and distract from specializations appropriate for me.  This, it seems to me, is akin to the message of I Corinthians 7: 32-35.

Be cautious about romance attached to premature and inappropriate relationships.  Try to avoid prompting someone to give you his or her deep emotional devotion unless you are prepared to return that devotion in marriage.  Be slow to express special affection.  A young person typically “falls in love” with the idea of marriage long before he or she is ready to select a mate.  During the intervening years of maturing, the young person should be learning more about himself and about the opposite gender.  During these years he or she may decide that he(she) prefers one kind of person.  However, his specific favorite may change periodically.  That is typical and should be harmless.  But announcing the identity of the current favorite can be more trouble than it’s worth.

Even when a mutual attraction is obvious to all concerned, don’t make the relationship binding or “steady” unnecessarily or prematurely.  Be slow to turn attractions into proclamations or friendships into alliances.  Savor the romance that comes with a good relationship.  Don’t lick the frosting before the cake has baked.