Should We Work?

There are several reasons to work: to provide for yourself and your family, to do good for the world, and to give God Glory. Whatever kind of work we do, as Christians, our work should always be done well. As we near the end of this earth as we know it, there are some who believe that we (followers of Christ) can just sit back and wait for Jesus to return. Don’t fall for it! Paul gave very specific instructions on this.

“Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

2 Thessalonians 3:110-‬13 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/2th.3.10-13.NLT

There were people in the church in Thessalonica who had become undisciplined and were not working, and instead, were being busybodies and stirring up trouble. All sin being equal,  then being a gossip or meddlesome is no better than being murderers and thieves! At the time Paul was writing this, Greek philosophy was prevalent in this society. The thoughts of Aristotle and Plato and the immaterial v. the material world. “Work” was for slaves, and the leisure life was for slave owners and those who could pay others to do their work. There was also the erroneous belief that the world was about to end anyway, so why bother working? Paul makes a point to remind them how he supported himself while he was with them, and he was very clear that if a person was able bodied and hungry, don’t give them food, give them work!

“For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.”
2 Thessalonians 3:7‭-‬9 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/2th.3.7-9.NLT

Paul’s example is of servant leaders who labor for the good of others. He practiced what he preached. When our motivation is to give God Glory, work is not a burden. He also wrote this to the Colossians about work.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Colossians 3:23 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/col.3.23.NLT

Paul has couched this letter in no uncertain terms: he starts in verse 6 with the word command. These are his (our) “brothers and sisters”, fellow Christians, the people who make up the church. Those among them (us) who defy this instruction are not to be associated with, but are to be warned. Shamed, NOT shaming. The goal is always restoration to fellowship and the LORD’S table.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. ….. Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.”
2 Thessalonians 3:6‭, ‬14‭-‬15 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/2th.3.6-15.NLT

Many thanks to Pastor Jay Risner of Faith Bible in Edmond Oklahoma for his sermon “A Busy Body or Busybodies “.

Stealing My Identity

Recently I was told that calling myself a native American was offensive. I was born in America; therefore, I am a “native”. I’m not Apache or Hualapai, or Choctaw or Sioux (although I do have some Cherokee and Delaware blood), so does that negate my native status? What am I, then, if not a native American? Am I “native” to another land?

When are we going to get over this obsession with labels? “Black” America…. why do you feel the need to identify by the color of your skin? If I call Navajo friends “Red” Americans or Indian Americans, would they be offended? Probably. How about calling my friends of Hispanic or Mexican descent my “Brown” American friends? Or my friends of European descent, my “White” friends? I think this would be considered wildly offensive by most people! I could say I’m a European American, but what is the point?

I’ve written about this before, but it is really going beyond any common sense. Congress is having laws introduced calling for segregation, and the Democratic “leadership” is actually considering it. What was the Civil War, that War between the States, fought for!? What did Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King die for? They died for freedom for all Americans of all colors, to end the disparity, and to unite us. Now people want to go backwards!

You may have dark skin or light skin; kinky hair or curly or straight – blonde, brown, red, black, and all colors in between; a big bent nose or a flat nose or a pointed nose, big ears or small; blue, green, brown, hazel, or black pupils; or your ancestors may have come over on the Mayflower, or by foot across a land bridge into the North American continent thousands of years ago. Here’s the truth, straight from the Word of the LORD:

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:27‭-‬28 NASB2020

https://bible.com/bible/2692/gen.1.27-28.NASB2020

We all share the common ancestry of the original man and woman. We are all one tribe! I am human, descended from the original couple, and I am a native American. I don’t claim membership in any particular tribe, but I don’t begrudge anyone for being proud of their ancestry, or for claiming it. My ancestry is such that I could claim to be a European American, or German American or Irish American, but I prefer to known as an AMERICAN. Proudly proclaim that you are Chickasaw or Choctaw or Paiute or Hopi, claim your Hadzabe or Zulu heritage, Kirwan or Osraige, Aniza or Saluba, but don’t tell me I’m not native American! I wasn’t born in any other country but America, and I am 100% American. By definition, I am native.

Native: (adjective) being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being: one’s native land.

Dictionary.com

There’s a song by Imagine Dragons that goes like this:

It’s been a long time coming, coming
Seeming like we all been running, running
Feeling like the wild west, gunning, gunning
Listen to our elders shunning, shunning

All we see is faces, color, color
All the other races, other, other
Why couldn’t you just be my brother, brother?
We don’t have to kill one another, kill one another
All around the world, we are one, we are one
All around the world, we are one

So where did we all go wrong?

“…. He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,”
Acts 17:25‭-‬26 NASB2020

https://bible.com/bible/2692/act.17.25-26.NASB2020

Can it be any clearer than that?

Peace On Earth

I read this statement this morning: “The New Testament does not say that the angels prophesied peace: they proclaimed peace—peace to men of goodwill toward God.” (Emphasis mine) It’s funny how you can know a thing, and yet read it again and suddenly it hits you. The angels weren’t saying that peace would come to the world, but that peace would be among those with whom He is well pleased. Compare these two versions of Luke 2:14.

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, good will toward men.

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;”
Ephesians 5:15‭-‬20 NASB1995

“From the least to the greatest, their lives are ruled by greed. From prophets to priests, they are all frauds. They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 6:13‭-‬15 NLT

I want to be among those people with whom He is pleased, careful of how I walk, filled with the Spirit, and always giving thanks for all things in the name of the LORD. I don’t like being ruled by greed, and it’s easy to fall into it with the materialism of the world so loud and pushy around us. I see so much of it around me, and the longing of wanting what I perceive as my right…. but is it, really? If I should receive what I truly deserve – if anyone got what they truly deserve, I don’t think we would like it very much!

Give thanks for all things. That’s the ticket to a true and happy, full, and rewarding life.

Remembering my Mom, Phyllis Henry

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:15‭-‬19 NASB1995

Today we are celebrating the life of our Mom. Her children and niece, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren, special friends, as many as can be here. It will be livestreaming, too, for you to see. Join us in celebration! http://www.faithbibleok.com at 11am CDT

Phyllis Henry lived a full, interesting life. She didn’t have an easy life, by any means, and she wasn’t perfect. Having a pastor for a husband and 6 children to deal with kept her running, but she found time to help in the nursery at church every Sunday, and to be involved with the WMU, church potlucks, hostessing get togethers and visiting missionaries and preachers, and keeping peace in the family. (You have to be a Southern Baptist to understand 🙂 ) Our house always had to present a put-together face for people to drop in, so that meant keeping kids and toys and the paraphernalia of life out of the living room, and ready to offer tea or coffee at a moments notice.

On top of all that, my Dad was diagnosed with a debilitating disease a few years into their marriage, and the medications prescribed caused serious side effects leading to angina (heart disease) and eventually type 2 diabetes. It didn’t stop him from pastoring full time, going to college at night for his doctorate, visiting the sick, and trying to be the husband and father he needed to be. Mom added nurse, dietitian, and driver to her resume.

Her kids didn’t make her life any easier. We did chores and helped cook and clean as we got older, but children can be pretty self centered and we weren’t that different. School, life, hobbies, church and school activities, music and art lessons, we all stayed busy, too. Add chauffeur and tutor to her list of duties.

There was a lot of rebellion from the middle 4 kids. One left home days before his 18th birthday. I dropped out of college after 2 years and rejected pretty much everything I had been taught. The next two had a lot of craziness in their lives, too. The thing is, no matter how far I went, where or how I got there, and knowing how hurt and disappointed Mom (and Dad) were, I knew they loved me. It wasn’t until years later, YEARS later, when I wrote to Mom to ask for forgiveness that I began to understand Agape love. Dad had been gone for several years, and she said this to me. “There were times when we didn’t like you” (I know it was probably most of the time) “but we never stopped loving you and praying for you.” It’s because of their examples that I have a relationship with my LORD. Their faithfulness, their forgiveness, their love and faith in the LORD Jesus Christ was the centerpiece of their lives.

That’s how God is, I think. As His children, His Creation, we hurt Him and disappoint Him, constantly. But know this. He never stops loving us. He loves you. Maybe your parents didn’t love you. Maybe they loved you enough to give you up for adoption (that’s a powerful love).

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NASB1995

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 NASB1995

Mom loved us, and Mom loved the people around her, because she knew God loved her. She showed that love to hundreds, maybe thousands, of people. She is missed by so many. Her ready smile, her refusal to complain, her ability to listen. I know the angels rejoiced when she joined them.

I’ll see her again, in heaven. Love you.

In The Storms

Michael W. Smith, in his devotional Still, writes this:

Recently when I went to the mountains, they were hidden by a thick layer of smoke from wildfires. Their beauty was concealed. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t see them! Then the next day it began to rain. The temperature suddenly dropped and the rain turned to snow. The strong winds blew the snowflakes around in heavy swirls. It looked like a blizzard in September! When the storm cleared away, the mountains were revealed in striking beauty. The smoke was gone. The trees and mountaintops were blanketed in white.
The following day, the snow melted and the green appeared. The birds sang, the creek flowed, and the sun warmed us. As the land appeared to wake from death to life, God spoke to me and awakened my heart.

What a beautiful and apt analogy of the some of the things we go through in our lives. We can be in the midst of the ‘fire’, in complete darkness and chaos in our lives, smothering in smoke and flame, thinking things can’t be any worse. We want to give up in despair and hopelessness. Then the rains come. These can be soothing, healing rains, dousing the flames and giving us hope, or it can be a deluge, causing us to feel as though the last of our hope is being washed away. Life can turn into a blizzard of confusion, where we can’t see our hand in front of our face, lost and not knowing where it is safe to step. Am I on the path, or am I about to step off a precipice?

God is there. He is with us throughout these disasters.

In a fire, even with all of their protective equipment and training, people who fight fires can get burned, sometimes badly. Fire can be deadly, even to the most well trained firefighters.

In floods, rescuers wear flotation gear and take precautions, yet some are injured or killed every year.

In blizzards and storms, in avalanches, rescuers have specialized gear and training, and still some sustain injuries and death.

The LORD God is our protection. He is our trainer. His Book provides us the training we need, and the Holy Spirit provides our protection. Learning God’s Word outfits us with our armor, the protective gear that we need to survive the attacks of the enemy.

I feel like a majority of my life has been spent in the fires and the storms of life, without a lot of calm. Many poor decisions on my part have contributed to this, and because of the long reaching consequences of some of those choices, I don’t expect that my life will ever be ‘easy’. Even knowing this, there are many opportunities for me to see the smoke clearing, the rain ceasing, and the beauty of God’s Creation. The green appears. The birds sing, the creeks flow, and the sun warms me. The land – my land, my life, wakes from apparent death to life; God speaks to me and awakens my heart to His Beauty. I may forget, momentarily, but He always reminds me.

For the last few days, my city and state have endured an historic ice storm. Thousands of trees (and consequently vehicles and houses) have been utterly crushed and destroyed. Fierce winds have broken branches and snapped telephone and electric lines. Thousands are still without power. Millions of dollars in damage. Where is the good in this? How can God possibly use this?

Even before the first 24 hours were up, people were posting on social media that they were willing and available to help anyone who needed it, to remove branches, cut down trees, carry debris to the curb. That’s the Spirit moving! Even non-Christians are caught up in it, even if they don’t understand it. What an opportunity for God’s people. In the middle of our personal storms, we have the opportunity to reach out to others and show God’s Love.

The temperature is rising, the rain is stopping, and the sun is coming out. Today will be a good day.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord , ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB1995

I don’t know God’s plans for you. I don’t even know what His plans are for me! What I do know is this. I have to rely on Him, because without Him, I am utterly and completely lost.

LOVE IS / IS NOT:

1 Corinthians 13: What is Love?

Love is not jealousy; a burning desire to have what someone else has, or resentment. Those things are an absence of love. When I have to win, and the other person has to lose, is jealousy. Resentment shows in how we respond to other’s success, just as much as how we handle our own.

Love is not bragging, boasting, or publicizing our own success/accomplishments. When we are full of arrogance and puffed up with self importance, we aren’t able to love others because all of our focus is on ourselves. Have you ever known someone who is truly humble? When someone is humble, you cannot humiliate them.

Love is not acting unbecomingly, it is not rude, or discourteous. It is kind and considerate, it is polite. Love is tactful, saying Please, thank you, excuse me. Do the little things.

Love is not self-seeking; it is not selfish. It is self sacrificing. The root of all problems is selfishness, so love is to be empty of ourselves and to look out for others over ourselves. When we allow ourselves to be provoked (i.e. irritable, sharp, prickly, touchy, grumpy, and quick to take offense), these show our failure to love. They are triggers to anger and a temperamental “blast off”, as opposed to a righteous anger or irritability (remember Jesus running the money changers and those turning His Father’s House into a place of business out of the Temple?) We must be at peace with God to prevent this.

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Don’t keep track of grudges and resentments! Love lets the past die, it absorbs the wrong. Good friends are good forgivers. Let it go. Choose to forgive. “I distinctly remember forgetting it.” – Sarah Barton, founder of the American Red Cross Ultimate forgiveness is shown by Jesus and His sacrifice. Knowing we were yet sinners, He left Heaven to die on the cross for our sins. For your sins. For my sins!

Love is not happy with sins or lies. It doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness. Love has boundaries. It is based in God’s Truth. Love doesn’t rejoice in it’s own sins. What of our entertainment choices? Our relationship choices? Are we leading other people into sin through those choices? Love supports the truth, and the TRUTH doesn’t change. It is the same today as it was yesterday or 2000 years ago, and it will be the same tomorrow, and it will still be the same in 20,000 years.

“When love is present, nothing else is needed.” Love is essential to anything I do. Without love, I’m just making noise. Remember this truth – No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. There is no real sacrifice without real love, true love, which is Agape love. This Love is produced ONLY by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, Who the church is based on. LOVE personified, the Cornerstone of the church.

Love rejoices with the truth; Love bears/carries, protects, supports, covers or shelters all. Love is everything both for us AND for others. In Genesis 9, when Noah’s sons realized their father was naked and they covered his nakedness without looking at him, that is Love. Real Love offers shelter and protection for our shortcomings and our faults without focusing on them.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NASB

Love believes – not in a gullible way, and not overly suspicious or cynical. Love is encouraging. It takes the best view of people and holds on to it, for as long as it is possible. Love believes in second chances. Love remembers that God isn’t finished with us yet!

Love hopes and doesn’t give up. It has desire with expectancy and it is realistic, but in the dark days it holds hands with Hope. When you get discouraged because life is overwhelming and everything seems to be falling apart, read the end of the Book. I love reading Revelations, because we win!

Love endures and will hold on until there is absolutely no hope left. It is patient and persevering in all circumstances. Love perseveres, it holds on, it endures.

Paul is saying to the Corinthians: “What LOVE is, you are not.” Will we be like the Corinthians, without Love, or will we search Scriptures and study to be more Christ-like and loving outside of ourselves and our own selfishness?

LORD, be with us, Your people during this unprecedented time. Help us all to not just hold on to Your promises, but give us the courage to live your Love and the Truth. Amen.

References: 1 Corinthians 1:26, 29; 4:7, 4:18-19, 8:1; Philippians 2:3, 5-8; Acts 17:16; Romans 4:8; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Hebrew 10:17; Matthew 18; Romans 5:8; 1 John 5:9; Proverbs 10:12; James 5:20; 1 Peter 7; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 15:13; John 13:1

Siblings

“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” ” Luke 10:38‭-‬42 NASB

The One Thing is JESUS.

Martha, the mistress of her house, was always working. Her tasks were good, but they were keeping her from Jesus, from being with Jesus. She’s probably the older sister, used to taking charge and taking care of everything and everyone. Then we have Mary – every time she is mentioned in scripture, she is at Jesus’ feet. At the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:32), when Jesus visited (Luke 10), and when she washed His feet with perfume (John 12:3). She’s probably the baby of the family, not so concerned about housework, and concentrating on being with Jesus. She recognized that He should be her focus. Tasks, and service, aren’t bad, unless they detract from the important thing, which is Jesus. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves more focused on serving Jesus than on being with Jesus Himself. To hear and learn the Word of God is the most important thing for Christians. It should be our number one priority. “But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28 NASB

Jesus is our life giving oxygen: He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of GOD.’ ” Matthew 4:4 NASB

“ONE THING I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.” Psalms 27:4 NASB

The GOOD THING is focusing on Jesus, being devoted to Him. It will never be taken away. KNOWING Christ must come before DOING for Christ. Make time. Choose “the good meal” every day; the ONE THING that should overtake the many things. The ONE THING that is necessary for real Life.

(Thankful for Pastor Mark Hitchcock of Faith Bible Church, Edmond OK for his sermon on Mother’s Day 2020, and the outline of my blog today!)

One Man, One People, One Race

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is LORD of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ ” Acts 17:24‭-‬28 NASB

Worship the Creator

“Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 66:1‭-‬2a NASB

Who are we to question the Creator? Who is man, to build fancy buildings and claim that they are GOD’S house? How do we become so arrogant as to believe that something we put together is sufficient for Him?

I have been blessed to be able to travel some in Europe, and see some of the stunning, soaring architectural features of many cathedrals. I’ve been in the backwoods of middle America, and in the Southwestern states, and witnessed majestic churches and humble adobe ones. The awe that I felt was the same for all. Stepping into a building that is dedicated to the LORD brings a sense of worship to me. I have felt His Presence.

BUT.

I have felt the majesty of my God even more profoundly out in His Creation. Have you ever stood on the edge of a mountain at sunrise, or sunset? Have you witnessed the unspeakable grandeur of the Grand Canyon? Have you stood in a creek at daybreak, witness to His creatures waking to a new dawn? Have you been in a field, listening to His breath as it brushes across your skin? Watching clouds as they appear to boil up on the horizon, or been caught out in a summer rain shower? It amazes me that anyone can see these things, and still refuse to acknowledge our Almighty God!

For all of history, man has been trying to impress God with buildings. I’m not against church buildings. They serve a necessary purpose for the gathering together of fellow believers. It’s when we try to out-majesty the Majesty of our God that we often begin to go astray. Are we trying to impress God, or people? I’m not against pretty churches. I attend a pretty (in my opinion) church. I have enjoyed visiting God’s church buildings across the U.S. and Europe. I’m just afraid that we get too caught up, sometimes, in “going” to church. Especially now, in this weird time of social distancing and not being able to join together in our usual manner, we have the opportunity to observe God in His Creation and worship with Him there.

If you are able, take your online worship outside. Use our Savior’s beautiful creation to enhance your time. I think He will be pleased with us. Even my humble backyard is a part of His glorious world.