Sharing the love of Jesus with one another & the world

Category: From The Pastor’s Desk

Marriage and the Bathroom

Surely, Jim Class isn’t going to contain bathroom humor this week?

He wouldn’t resort to that would he?

The answers to both of those questions are yes. But to clarify the last one, it isn’t really a last resort or some desperate attempt to gain readership or grow the church. It just works with the topic.

I don’t think I could even begin to put a number on the hours of pre-marital counseling I have conducted. I have officiated close to a hundred weddings. I usually have couples attend four to six sessions of about an hour each (there are exceptions and difficulties that have lessened those numbers, but rarely).

On top of that, I worked as an associate pastor at one church where I did all of the premarital counseling for the entire staff, whether I actually conducted the wedding or not (due to the fact that I have a number of years working in the mental health field).  

That means that throughout my 22 years of ministry and through my time working as a liaison for the court system at a marriage and family therapy clinic, I have read many books, attended countless seminars, was enrolled in several  classes, and received a number of certifications in the area of marriage and family counseling.

When I read the Bible or other Christian publications with a message that relates to this area, my ears perk up. I’m always looking for new ideas, good object lessons, and unique ways to incorporate Biblical principles in an attempt to enhance my counseling sessions.  

I have recently sent my curriculum off to a publisher for review, but I am still looking for new ideas, and recently I found one. It was in daily devotional series that I use called, “Sparkling Gems from the Greek” by Rick Renner.

I have read many of Brother Renner’s books, articles, and watched or listened to a countless number of his sermons. From my perspective, he has one of the best grasps of the Greek language, particularly as it pertains to the New Testament, of any modern Greek scholar.

On the 13th of October Renner referred to the following verse:

I Peter 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: (NKJV)

As he expounded on this verse, he revealed some very eye-opening and insightful tidbits concerning the word compassion. Which led me to the inspiration for today’s Jim Class.

As I work with couples on planning a marriage (the wedding is a very small part of the marriage), I broach the subject of differences and difficulties they might encounter early on in their married life. And the bathroom does come up.

I talk about courtesy in the little things, like rolling the toothpaste up from the end as opposed to squeezing it in the middle, or putting the toilet seat down, and the maybe most dubious faux pas of all, deciding with way the toilet paper should come off the roll – over or under?

All of these bathroom disagreements have led to tension in marriages. Hopefully they have been overcome, but they can still create unwanted moments if they aren’t anticipated and effectively dealt with.

As you have likely deduced, these are not the subjects that inspired me this week as it is obvious that I have dealt with them many times in the past, long before I read the Sparkling Gem from the 13th.

The word that I am inspired by this week is pitiful. This is a word that we have all used from time to time, usually in the context of having sympathy or empathy for a given person or group of people. And, that is an accurate use of the word, particularly in the Greek rather than the English etymology. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, eusplagchnos, G2155)

The word pitiful is a compound word in the Greek and Renner pulled out a much “deeper” meaning than I had ever heard before. The first word is “eu” and means well or good or pleased about something. The second part of the word is “splagchnos,” and is the part of the word I want to discuss with you this week. (Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Rick Renner, October 13th entry.)

The word “splagchnos” is the word for “intestines” (Renner and Strong’s). Renner expounded on the word more than Strong. He said that is used to describe deeply felt affections.

This is the same word that Paul uses to describe his feeling for Onesimus in Philemon 1:12 and that is used in reference to Jesus when he felt “compassion” in Matthew 14”14, 15:32, and Mark 1:41and other places in the Bible. These references translate the word as pitiful and as compassion, but it is the same Greek word, “eusplagchnos,” (Renner).

Here comes the bathroom reference. These feelings of compassion referenced using this word “eusplagchnos” are so strong within a person toward another, that it can be said to resemble an urgent bowel movement (Renner).

The takeaway is this, that the desire to help in a given situation is so strong that a person would have to try very hard to ignore this intense, inward desire.

I don’t mean to be gross or irreverent, but we all know what would happen if we began ignoring what our physical bodies are telling us when it is time to “hit the head,” or “powder one’s nose,” or even, “use the restroom,’ – there could very well be dire consequences.

Let’s stop here and reflect. In this section of scripture, Peter is talking to husbands and wives. The focus of his use of the word “eusplagchnos” is directed at married couples. Meaning we should be having this strong, deep felt desire to do good toward the one we are married to, and not leave it undone.

The ramifications of ignoring spiritual urgings could also be dire (especially in a marriage relationship). Someone may miss the opportunity to hear the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Another might not get the counsel they need in a difficult circumstance, or may not hear a sermon they needed because we decided not to offer them a ride to church.

These urgings are as immediately noticeable physically, but could very well be just as costly, or more so, spiritually. How many times have we ignored the small prompts we get to help or say something nice? These urgings might be hindering us from developing our spiritual sensitivity to the point that we don’t even hear or sense those urgings.

But how much more fulfilling could our Christian experience begin to be if we train ourselves to follow that leading to help someone load their groceries, or buy someone’s lunch, or tell someone about our experience with Jesus.

We are made in the image of God and that means spiritually and physically. We are to train ourselves in His ways from an early age. That tells me that like training for a sport, or a specific type of work we could become more and more proficient at any endeavor with practice.

I am a strong believer that those practices could be spiritual as well. Simply by listening to that still small voice inside of us is a form of training or practice. And each time we give in to the “urge” to do what God is telling us, the more likely we will be to, not only get more urgings but possibly receive more impactful ones and be led to do more for Him than we ever thought possible.

In other words, spend more time doing spiritual toilet training!  

Don’t Take the Bait!

Jim Class – Period 11

Don’t Take the Bait

Luke 17:1 Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! (NKJV)

One of the biggest problems in the church today is offense. People get offended over big things and little. The Bible has a lot to say on this subject, and I am barely going to scratch the surface of that material.

I have heard other pastors tell horrific stories of congregation members leaving their churches because of the color of the carpet or the fact that they allowed someone to play a guitar in church, and even more ridiculous things that those two.

It’s time for the church to get a hold of this dilemma and see (and preach) what the Bible has to say about the subject.

I am beginning Jim Class this week with a Bible verse. Be prepared – I am going to refer to this verse in several translations. I chose this translation first because the word “offense” is used.

We have all been offended by something. My grandpa always said, “Never discuss religion or politics in a crowd.” I have heard many variations on that saying over the years.

The reason behind avoiding these topics is a two-edged sword. In one respect you don’t want to say something that is offensive to someone that might start a heated argument or even a fist fight.

The other edge is the possibility that things will never get discussed, and go on and on in a given situation (work, family, and friendships) and possibly come up at the wrong time and create an even bigger problem than it would have had it been brought up in a more controlled and civil environment.

Hard topics are going to raise people’s dander regardless of the circumstances under which they come up. The issue, from my perspective, isn’t the topic as much as it is an offense resulting from the subject being discussed.

Luke 17:1 One day Jesus taught his disciples this: “Betrayals are inevitable, but great devastation will come to the one guilty of betraying others. (TPT)

The word offense, as it’s used in the Biblical (New Testament) context, is the Greek word, “skandalon – the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick, a. trap, snare,” (The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon).

I have heard the “moveable stick or trigger of a trap,” referred to as a “bait-stick.”

I have seen this mechanism in use from the time I was seven-years-old, which was when I first saw Foghorn Leghorn use a large bone as a bait- stick to lure George P. Dog, a.k.a. Barnyard Dawg, (warnerbros.fandom.com), into a trap so Foghorn could continue his rivalrous feud with Henery Hawk, the infamous chicken hawk of Looney Tunes lore (ibid).

Luke 17:1 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! (NLT)

If you look closely at the Greek word, skandalon it is very easy to see that our English word, scandal, has its origins there (Merriam-Webster.com). Webster listed another definition for skandalon as “stumbling block.”

There has always been one aspect of this verse in Luke 17 that has stood out to me, “but woe to him through whom they do come!” (NKJV)”

The message Jesus seems to be conveying is that the person who delivers the offense, or the offensive act is going to carry the brunt of the blame for what happens.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines the words “him through whom,” in this passage as, “A primary preposition denoting the channel of an act.

A channel is a path through which something is carried, usually in reference to a creek or a canal of some type which has a flow of water. In this scenario the liquid is the offense flowing from one person to another.

Even though this is clearly what Jesus was talking about, for an offense to be truly damaging it has not only to be delivered – it has to be taken.

The trap has to be set and triggered to be fully effective (if we want to use that word).

Luke 17:1 He said to his disciples, “Hard trials and temptations are bound to come, but too bad for whoever brings them on! (MSG)

I am familiar with a story that helps illustrate the damage offense can bring. It centers around a primitive tribe of people in the heart of Africa.

This particular group depended upon a certain type of monkey for meat. The specific breed escapes me, but it seems as though it was small, fast-moving, and very agile – like a spider or a rhesus monkey.

Whatever the breed, these primates were very difficult to catch, shoot with a bow, or hit with a spear. The hunters in the tribe would stay gone for days and weeks because if they were to come home empty handed it would be a sign of failure to the whole community and they would be outcasts.

While out on a hunting excursion, one hunter was struck with a genius idea. He cut a hole in a coconut, hollowed it out, buried it in the ground up to the hole, and placed a banana inside the empty husk.

This wise hunter discovered when the monkeys found the coconut they would reach in and grab the banana and try to pull it out. But couldn’t because the hole had been cut so small as to barely allow the monkey’s hand to fit inside.

The monkeys would become frantic and jump up and down, screech, and throw fits when they realized they could not get their hands out while holding the banana (I’ve seen humans go into similar fits).

The monkeys would not let go – regardless of the cost!

That allowed the hunter to walk right up to the trap and clobber the animal in the head with a stick and kill it. This act help give him the reputation as a great hunter and he received high accolades upon returning to the village.

The banana in this story is the offense. So many times a person will become offended by a slight or a difference (and possibly even a slight difference) to the point that they refuse to let go. The resulting ramifications can range for momentary discomfort to a lifetime of inner turmoil.  

Offense can stew and fester and reach a crescendo that won’t allow the offended party to have even a moment’s peace. It isn’t uncommon in these situations for the person with whom they are offended to be completely oblivious to the difficulties it has caused.

The Old Testament has something to say about offense as well.

Proverbs 25:19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble
[is] like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint. (NKJV)
The phrase “an unfaithful man” in this passage is translated “offended” as in, “an offended man.” Strong’s. Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (NKJV)

The Hebrew definition of the word for offense means, “to rush upon.” (Strong’s)

The idea of rushing upon someone brought back memories of my time working in juvenile correctional facilities. The kids had a term for attacking someone on the street (a term commonly used in reference to their home neighborhood) or a gang fight.

When someone was attacked unexpectedly, they called it, “bum rushing.” For example, “When I entered the rival gang’s territory, several of the opposing gang members “bum rushed” me and beat me down.”

In my estimation this sums up the meaning of offense in the Hebrew. When someone is overcome by an offense, whether intentional or not, it can feel like an unexpected attack.

The idea that we are left with is this – don’t deliberately try to offend someone – regardless of how much you were wronged, or how right you feel you are, it will not be well with you until you make it right. Jesus told us as much in the next few verses of Luke 17.

Luke 17:1 Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sin against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. (NKJV)

And, if you are on the receiving end of an offense and you’re being bum rushed, don’t allow it, or, in other words, “Don’t take the bait!”

You Become What you Behold

I have heard the statement, “You become what you behold,” many times in my life and ministry. The first few times I’m not sure I fully understood what it meant.

 But as I have aged (there are varying opinions on whether or not I’ve matured) I have come to find this statement profound. That is going to be the focus of Jim Class this week, “You Become What You Behold!”

I have reverted to my childhood nearly every week in this blog. As we all do, we can learn valuable lessons as to why we did certain things, or why we believed certain ways based on our experiences. This week is no exception.

I remember what year it was in my life based on where I lived. I can also remember what year a particular song was popular on the radio based on where I lived when I first heard it played on the radio. This is a good frame of reference for me. 

There were periods that we moved annually (or more) but we really did move about every year to year-and-a-half from the time I was born until I was married (almost 50 times total). As a pastor that moving hasn’t stopped – it has slowed down, thank God!

The story I am going to relay today took place on a picnic table across the street from our house in Avon, Indiana. I lived there from late kindergarten to the summer before my second-grade year in elementary school.

There was a cartoon on at the time called, The Mighty Heroes. My brother and I, along with all the neighborhood boys, watched it, “religiously,” every Saturday morning. “The Mighty Heroes” consisted of a group of five superheroes, Diaper Man, Strong Man, Cuckoo Man, Tornado Man, and Rope Man.

As I researched the cartoon, I found that it only ran for one season in 1966, which would have been my first-grade year. I am sure they ran in syndication after that, but I was surprised to learn that such a clever program only aired for one year.

The picnic table belonged to the two brothers who lived across the street, Timmy and Randy. We would lay on our stomachs, three abreast on the top of the table, and one each per bench.

Our arms would be stretched out in front of us as if we were flying, and we all had a towel or blanket draped around our necks like capes.

I remember arguments over who got to be Strong Manand Diaper Man and who had to be Rope Manand Cuckoo Man. Diaper Man was the leader, a baby with the voice of a grown man, and Strong Man was an auto-mechanic with a Lil’ Abner air about him.

Rope Man and Cuckoo Man were less desirable, a dock worker (Rope Man), and a pet shop owner (Cuckoo Man). Tornado Man (a TV weatherman) was okay, but we all settled on something so we could take our place at the table (so to speak).

What I look back on with amazement is that a group of 5-7-year-olds could, in character, lay there and recite the stories we had seen on TV, seemingly verbatim, like a narrator on a news broadcast.

Through my older (maybe more mature) eyes I can see that it is no wonder we could do that, considering how much time we spent in front of the TV watching superhero cartoons. And, during the ‘60s and ‘70s all superhero shows had a deep throated newscaster telling the story over the top of the cartoon itself. \

This story came to mind after I read a selection of scripture in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (NKJV)

The phrase, “beholding as in a mirror,” has been translated to mean, “you become what you behold.” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the Bible).  

Here we see a Godly principle that explains what we were doing as kids, and what we continue to do (all of us) as adults. We look at something so long and so intently that we become, to varying degrees, what we watch, see, or intentionally put in front of our faces.

There’s the old tale that I heard Bill Behrman recount on a recent video blog. It is the story of a little boy (to hold with my theme) who came home covered, from head to toe, in some type of foul substance. When his mother asked what happened, the lad’s response was, “I must have got too close to what I got in!”

The idea that is conveyed from 2 Corinthians 3:18, is that God’s Glory acts as a mirror to transform us into the image of God by the Holy Spirit. But to get there we have to spend some time looking into (and practicing) the things of God.

Another verse that conveys a similar message is in Romans 12.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)

Here we see another reference to change, “be transformed,” giving us the impression that we need to put something else in our head besides the things of this world (which includes, The Mighty Heroes). There is also an offering of hope, in that a change for the better is possible.

I looked at over ten different translations of 2 Corinthians 3:18, and all of them used either the word, “changed,” or the word, “transformed,” in our key text this week.

So, maybe, just maybe, instead of becoming Diaper Man on a picnic table, we could become a Transformer (and I don’t mean Optimus Prime) at the table of the Lord!

Jim Class – Period 9

“I Will if I Want To!”

I can’t even begin to fathom how many times I have heard (or said) the phrase, “I will if I want to,” in my life.

It was usually directed at a sibling or a close friend.

I do recall trying to fit my G.I. Joe doll into my sister’s Barbie Dune Buggy. Joe was taller and thicker than Barbie (and Ken) and would not readily fit into the accoutrements that were designed for the more slight in stature.

However, my brother and I would often attempt to use Barbie’s gear for our G.I. Joe excursions.

Joe didn’t fit in the camper, the house, or any of Ken’s clothes. Those inconvenient facts were not a deterrent for the Clayton boys when we wanted to field a football team. We would take our plastic NFL football helmets (which we purchased for a quarter in a gum-ball-type machine) and force them on Joe’s head and loosely place them on Ken and Barbie’s.

Then we would throw them head to head at each other and try to knock the helmets off each other’s dolls. The Joes invariably won due to their extra head girth making the helmets fit more tightly. I don’t remember the exact scoring system, but there were points for knocking the helmets off and points for knocking the facemask off the helmet.

The point of this tale is to highlight the fact that every time my brother and I did this my sister could be heard in the background yelling, “You can’t play with my toys!” Our reply, nearly every single time, was the salvo (pun intended) I referenced in the opening, and the theme of this week’s Jim Class –I will if I want to!

Meaning, in the language of 8-12-year-old children of the 70s, “I can do whatever I want, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me!” Pretty tough talk for a 12-year-old boy, especially when directed at an eight-year-old girl!

These exchanges with my sister remind me of a subject that I have always tried to pay close attention to and make sure I understand from a Biblical perspective.

That subject? The Will of God.

Not that God is cavalier with His will, but more that we tend to be less than understanding with our attitudes toward His.

I honestly believe our biggest problem, in relation to God’s Will, is that we do, in fact, have a cavalier attitude when it comes to wanting things our way. That perspective often casts a pall over our ability to clearly comprehend what God’s Will truly is.

John 5:30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (NKJV)

This verse contains the words of Jesus. Our prime example of how to live. Our only perfect example. Even Jesus didn’t allow Himself to bend to His own will. We have another good example of this in the Book of Matthew.

Matthew 26:39  “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”” (NKJV)

As Christians we know that He didn’t give in to His own will because, to quote Paul Harvey, we “know the rest of the story.”

The most common argument I hear in regard to following God’s Will for our lives is that it is so hard to know. Or even that we can’t possibly know because it is a great mystery hidden from us.

I have also heard people say that if we knew God’s Will we wouldn’t be able to understand it or to follow it properly.

I beg to differ. I did a rudimentary internet search using the search phrase, “what does the Bible say about the Will of God.” The first site I went to was The Open Bible (https://www.openbible.info/topics/will_of_god), and on that link I found nearly 100 different Bible verses that reference the Will of God.

If God’s Will is hidden from us, it shouldn’t be so easy to find.

Romans 12:1 I beseechyou therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)

Verse two tells us that we must sacrifice our flesh and renew our minds so that we, “you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” That seems to go right in the face of the concept that we can’t know or understand the Will of God.

The Greek word for “prove” (dokimazō, “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, G1383) means, “to test (literally or figuratively); by implication, to approve:-allow, discern, examine.” This leads me to believe, coupled with the fact that the Bible points out what it is and how to apply it to our lives.

The word, “will” means, “what one wishes or has determined shall be done. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance G2307)

If we put those two words together a loose definition of “proving God’s will,” Would be “to test or discern what God has determined shall be done.”

There is no where in the Bible that says God’s will changes, becomes different based on circumstances, or is called different things based on what happens in the world that we might deem contrary.

I have heard God’s Will referenced with a couple of different modifiers – God’s permissive will and God’s allowable will. Both mean essentially the same thing. “Oh, that accident must have been in God’s permissive will,” or “He needed another angel in heaven, so He allowed that to happen.”

God’s Will is God’s Will.

If something in our lives, or the life of a loved one, doesn’t go as well as we would have liked for it to, God’s Will doesn’t change or became less that He ever intended it to.

Here is a short list of God’s Will referenced in the Bible:

I Thessalonians 5: 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (NKJV)

I Peter 2: 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— (NKJV)

Isaiah 41: I have chosen you and have not cast you away: 10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (NKJV)

God’s Will for us is to follow His precepts and commands to the best of our understanding. His Grace will always abound, but His Will remains His Will.

Anything that we see as counter is not due to His changing, it is due to the fact that there is another will (small ‘w’) at work, our own. When we want an answer to tough questions, it is often our tactic to add ‘permissive’ or ‘allowable’ to the front of God’s Will, when in reality the disparity is in our own will.

Too many times we want a scapegoat, and that far too often involves one of God’s creatures not being willing to take responsibility for their own actions. When we can’t find another human to blame and we aren’t willing to blame ourselves, that’s when we manipulate God’s Will.

Brothers and sisters, this ought not be so.

God gave us the ability to choose. To choose Him or something else. To live a life of Biblical piety, or something less.

We all make wrong choices; we have all dealt with less than desirable outcomes. But when we mess up, sin, do wrong and have to stand up to the consequences of our own actions, we should do just that.

Anything less would sound something like, “I will if I want to!”

If God’s will doesn’t fit your situation, the problem isn’t with God. If it’s too loose or too tight we have to alter our understanding, not change God and His Will to fit our circumstances and make ourselves feel better.

I will leave you with this. When times are hard, things don’t seem to be going well, we have a choice.

Proverbs 3:5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding.6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (ESV)

Jim Class Period 8

Virus or Revival

I often recall instruction I received as a child, even into my teens and twenties. I had adults in my life giving me advice that I took with varying levels of acceptance. Meaning, the older I got the more I thought I knew and the less likely I became to hear what these wise sages had to offer.

I regret not paying better attention to most of that advice, at least what I remember.

Things like, “With every paycheck, make sure you pay yourself.”

My dad told me over and over again that I should set an amount or a percentage of my paycheck each week to put into a savings account. I did not take that advice right away.

As a matter of fact, the paychecks from my first job (dishwasher at the Sheraton Inn in Terre Haute, Ind.) were largely spent on two things, albums, and cigarettes. Neither of which turned out to be a particularly good investment.

The albums, two completely packed peach crates (close to 500), I left with a girl when I went to basic training at 19 years old. I haven’t seen her (or the albums) since.

The cigarettes did nothing but make me smell funny and were harmful to my health. I quit and have no adverse effects today, thank God!

But neither of those investments are paying dividends for me today. If I had taken Dad’s advice and saved, even 5 percent of my checks I would have had a healthy nest egg a lot sooner.

Jesus said something that I believe parallels this type of behavior very well.

Matthew 7:24“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (NKJV)

Putting money in the bank would have been like building on the rock. What I did was building on sand.

I also found that I developed some practices around my bad habits that I didn’t realize I had. When I bought an album, I became enamored (at least) with the music, the band, the liner notes, and everything I could about each of those categories.

I read magazines, went to concerts, put posters of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith on my walls. I got to the point that I could tell you (and still can to a large degree) who sang a song, who wrote the song, what album it was on (side and track number), and what year it was released.

This obsession did two primary things. It made me talk about rock and roll music all the time. I got to the point that it was beyond trivial knowledge – the stuff in my head was extreme minutiae.

Besides talking about music all the time, I became compelled to continue to buy albums. I had the best record collection of any of my peers and they came to me for advice on good albums, what’s good for a party, what’s good for a date, what’s good to dance to – from heavy metal to mellow easy listening and everything in between – Clemmy-J (my high school nickname which was eventually shortened to Clem) had the answer.

The satisfaction I received was fleeting. Especially from human interaction. At the end of the day I still didn’t have my own car. My grandpa, whom I lived with, drove me to work or I took the bus or hitchhiked.

I was still the tall string-bean with long wavy hair who was awkward around girls, not terribly athletic (I could swim and roller skate), and with no particular direction for my life. But I could tell you who Russ Kunkel and Richie Furay were!

My point it this. My obsession, preoccupation, compulsion, or whatever you want to call it, with modern music shaped what I said and who I became in the eyes of others (and in my own eyes as well).

My question is, “How did I get there?” The answer to this can also be found in the words of Jesus.

Mark 11:22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (NKJV)

Jesus tells us that what we believe and what we say have a correlation. It seems that it is likely that people more readily talk about what they believe.

I believed for many years that a particular type of music was my escape, my refuge, even my salvation. I could escape the difficulties and drudgeries in the world, I could gain peer acceptance, and I could fill my time with something that wasn’t harming me – all with Rock and Roll.

Looking backward I can see that I talked about music…A LOT! At parties, on the phone, at school, with my friends, and at work. And, as I talked about it, things in my life transformed to accommodate what I was saying.

The acceptance, the popularity, the way to break the ice with girls (Bobby Sherman’s hair was a good opener), all happened because of music. But no one would have known that I had this inside of me had I not talked about it.

I am seeing some similarities in the world today that are a good tie-in.

I realize there are a myriad of different outlooks on the Corona Virus, and I am not going to try to explain them all, nor am I writing a treatise on who is ultimately right or wrong.

But I do see a parallel in what Jesus said in Mark 11:23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (NKJV)

I realize that the reference to mountain is likely figurative, but literal in the sense that Jesus was in a mountainous region and probably pointing to a specific mountain as He spoke for emphasis.

The mountain is widely understood to be symbolic for the big things in our lives, not that God is incapable of helping us move literal mountains (likely a seldom used skill). The Corona Virus has become a mountain.

A mountain that cost a lot of money. A mountain that has fostered insecurities. A mountain that filled many heads with a large amount of, ultimately, unnecessary, and confusing knowledge.

I’d say the largest portion of society (around the world) are accessing information concerning the pandemic from three or four primary sources of intelligence. Those sources are, the news media, the medical field, political leaders, and, the least reliable – social media.

Compare the Corona Virus to other situations that have taken place in the world. There are reports that influenza is just as devastating. There are also reports that there have been other epidemic/pandemic situations that wreaked more havoc.

I have read and seen what most would call reliable sources diligently and painstakingly present every aspect of every side of these comparisons. To the point that I don’t have a worldly source for information. But I have noticed that there are a lot more people talking about Corona that any of the others, exponentially so.

What if?

What if the Christian community on Earth made a concerted effort to begin to talk about the real answer to the Corona Virus, which is God Himself!

What if instead of saying, “Wear you mask,” we said, “Praise the Lord!”?

What if instead of saying, “Wash your hands,” we said, “Read your Bible!”?

What if instead of saying, “Be afraid,” we said, “Fear not!

The list of Christian replacement phrases goes on and on. If we said what we know to be true in the Bible and there was as much talk about Jesus as there is about the virus, we would have a revival like the world has never seen.

Just like if had spent as much time talking about the Psalms of God (building on rock) as I did about the songs of Jackson Browne (building on sand) my life would have been a lot different a lot sooner than it eventually became.

So, instead of pouting the latest updates from the CDC, why not say what the Bible says, “By His stripes we were healed,” (I Peter 2:24), or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13), and top it off with, “No evil thing shall befall me, nor come near my dwelling place,” (Psalm 91:10).

Jim Class – Period 7

All our lives we have heard about the importance of the basics.

“Keep your eye on the ball!”

“Use both hands to catch the ball!”

“Run through the base!”

I was asked to take a coaching position a few years back (I was unable to do it because of my schedule) and I instantly began formulating a coaching strategy. I decided it would be my goal to drill three things into the hearts and minds of the team.

  • Sportsmanship above all else. No disrespecting the other team, no back-talking to coaches or refs, shaking hands with the other team (win or lose), and even complimenting the other team or assisting them if they fell or were injured.
  • Fundamentals in everything. The ABC’s. Like Norman Dale in the movie Hoosiers. Drill, drill, drill. It was even in my head not to let them touch a basketball for the first two weeks of practice. To run and condition without the ball. That would really test their meddle.
  • Playing mistake free. Don’t make bad passes, only shoot when you’re open, pass the ball four times on every offensive possession.

These are largely foreign practices in sports today, particularly at the college and professional level. I am convinced that if those concepts were followed any team, in any sport, at any level would show noticeable improvement.

I don’t think the idea of learning the fundamentals is lost as a concept, but it sure seems to have been put on the back burner when it comes to practical application.

I am going to visit the idea of Christian Fundamentals this week in Jim Class this week.

Last Sunday during my sermon I made a statement that I’m confident was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

I said, “You will not be able to do what Jesus did until you do what Jesus did!”

I referenced John 14:12 in my sermon, which tells us, John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (NKJV)

I wholeheartedly believe this to be true, but I don’t believe people are going to get there by osmosis. You can’t just rub the Bible on your forehead and have the truth of God’s Word jump into your memory banks.

We’re told repeatedly to study and meditate on the scriptures, Joshua 1:8 being the preeminent reference, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but youshall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (NKJV)

(Also see II Timothy 2:15 and Philippians 4:8-9)

My point is this, Jesus must have had some practices in His life on Earth that enabled Him to be able to tap into what God has clearly provided for His people. Let’s look at three of those practices (pun intended) and call them the base paths.

Luke 4: 31 Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. 32 And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority. (NKJV)

Luke 2: 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  (NKJV)

Why were the people astonished at the words of Jesus? Even the leaders of the temple found what He said as an eleven-year-old to be impressive.

What draws you to certain preachers and teachers? For me it is usually a mastery of the Bible. I’m drawn to their ability to expound on things in scripture and make them interesting and, more importantly, make me want to hear more.

I believe it’s clear that Jesus had a deeper understanding of the scriptures. Not because He was the Son of God, but because He spent time meditating on God’s Word, as we all should.

I emphatically believe that time in God’s Word is required to walk the walk to which we are called as Christians. This has to be first base. But there are other factors as well.

Luke 4: 16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. (NKJV)

Second base is church attendance. Jesus wnet to church, “as His custom was.” We could also say, “as He regularly did,” or “as His habit was.” This verse also combines point one, “and (He) stood up to read.”

I don’t think it highly likely Jesus would have been given the opportunity to stand up and read in the synagogue had He not been known to have a good grasp of the scriptures.

We’ve rounded second and are heading toward the hot corner.

Luke 5:15 However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. 16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. (NKJV)

This tells us that He ‘often’ went into the wilderness to pray. The word wilderness here means, “solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited,” according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

He spent the vast majority of His waking hours around people. It would seem that there were commonly thousands of people around Him to hear His teachings or to receive a healing touch from Him or, in the case of the ruling council of the day, to catch Him in some sort of wrongdoing

This had to be exhausting. But His solution wasn’t an afternoon nap, or a stroll on the beach. He intentionally went off to an isolated place and spent some time in prayer. In communication with His father. Talking to God.

So, to continue the baseball analogy, third base is prayer. And, if first and second are going to church and reading/studying the Bible, what is home?

From my perspective, and to thoroughly overuse baseball analogies, home plate is filling the seats. Reaching the people with the Gospel in order to rescue as many as possible from the depths of Hell.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson used an excellent tie-in along these lines when he eulogized the great Jackie Robinson who accomplished much as a professional baseball player.

One of those accomplishments is that he is in the top ten for most times stealing home, the hardest base to steal. He is also the only Major Leaguer to steal home in a World Series.

Rev. Jackson made the comment during Robinson’s funeral that he was, “safe at home.”

Our goal as Christians should be to get as many people as we can, “safe at home.” And, to get home, you have to cross first, second, and third!

Don’t Be Selfish

Jim Class Period 4 07022020

I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8a Love never fails. (NKJV)

One of the most often repeated clichés in any type of family counseling is, “The biggest problem in relationships is communication!” This statement has been made so many times and has become so ingrained in the ideals of those doing the counseling that it has become what I like to call, ‘counseling gospel’. It is not gospel, and communication isn’t the biggest problem in relationships.

The biggest problem in every relationship you will ever have is … selfishness. Being selfish is the opposite of being relational. If we are going to build relationships of any kind, we have to put self on the back burner. This is never truer than in the early stages of a relationship.

The second biggest problem in a relationship is that we are traditionally taught that communication is the biggest problem when it isn’t! Communication is critical in every relationship. But what we need to do is learn how to be effective communicators and that takes sacrifice. We must understand that not everyone communicates the same way. More importantly we must understand that many people communicate better than you do!

Realizing that you may not be the best communicator in the room is the first step toward selflessness (the opposite of selfishness). Coming to grips with the fact that people may not understand what you are saying because you could be saying it better will change the way you communicate.

We learn from an early age how to be effective communicators. It starts with our first words, and our first teachers are our parents. When a baby is learning its first words mom and dad are right there to repeat it back (over and over and over). And when they repeat it back, they usually do it a little louder than the baby did, and they always (especially moms) take the time to enunciate the word properly. So, instantly, we learn that we are not pronouncing the word right, and we are not saying it loud enough.

As silly as mom and dad sound when baby starts speaking, they really are helping that child become a better communicator. When my daughters first said, “Daddy.” I wanted them to say it loud and clear. But we are teaching an element of speech that we may not even be aware of during those precious moments. We are introducing our children to the nuances of nonverbal communication.

There have been many studies done on this subject. I used to be a trainer at a group homes where I worked. One of the courses I was certified to train was called C.A.P.E. (Controlling Aggression in the Patient’s Environment).

It was a therapeutic restraint technique used in situations where one of our charges was getting out of control physically and was a threat to harm themselves or others. We would wrap them up in a bear hug type hold and carefully lower them to the ground and continue to hold them until they were in a calm state.

The only way we would know that the child was calming down was through nonverbal cues they would give us throughout the episode. Their breathing rate would decrease, their pulse would decrease, they would become less rigid and more relaxed, they may even begin crying or fall asleep, all nonverbal signs that they were becoming less agitated.

The curriculum for this course stated that 97 percent of all communication is nonverbal. The message was, that through inflection, volume, body-language, and eye-contact the speaker could communicate opposite messages using the same words.

My tactic was to pick the person that had been most disruptive in the class and have them stand up. Then I would compliment them, usually on something they were wearing, “Wow, Bill (not a real person), that is a very nice sweater you’re wearing.”

I would use a very polite tone with a bit of a lilt, I would make good eye-contact while looking at the sweater a couple of times, the expression on my face would be pleasant and smiling. “Bill” would say, ‘Thank you’ and be taken aback that I complimented him.

Then I would turn the tables, I would use the same words, “Wow, Bill, that is a very nice sweater you’re wearing.” But with a sarcastic tone, my arms crossed, not eye-contact (I would usually roll my eyes in a dramatic fashion) and say it a little bit louder so everyone could hear. This clearly made the point about nonverbal cues and ‘Bill’ tended to be less disruptive for the rest of the class.

The point I want to make is this. Look at 1 Corinthians 13:408a. There are several statements in those verses that point to the fact that love, real love, is unselfish.

I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8a Love never fails. (NKJV)

Being patient, kind, and not envying takes an unselfish person. It is hard for an unselfish person not to boast or be proud, the two seem closely connected.

Acting in a dishonorable fashion or seeking your own ways are also selfish.

I contend that every adjective used to describe love in this passage can also be used to define unselfishness. I encourage you to look through these verses and see if you arrive at the same conclusion.

If you do, and you see that you are not walking in these attributes, well, you could say your being selfish!

In Christ,

Jim

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Philippians 4:13

Pastor Jim