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Favoritism

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FavoritismAll of us have favorite things. Favorite foods, favorite cars and favorite books, are some possessions we might hold in special regard.  We even have favorite people in our lives. They could be a teacher, a kind aunt or uncle, or even a trusty local car mechanic. The question is, when it comes to people, is there anything wrong with showing favoritism? After all, we hear all the time on blogs, Facebook, and in classrooms that favoritism is wrong.

We are all different in many ways. Jesus highlighted this when He taught the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25.14-30). Peter and Paul spoke of rich men, poor men, governors, kings, apostles and preachers, all of whom play a part in the world and in the kingdom of God and are special in their own way.

Christ’s apostle Paul might seem to be saying that ‘God sees no one as special’ when he writes, “But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.” (Gal 2.6) But is that what the apostle was really thinking?

If it is true that God shows no favoritism at all, then wouldn’t it be a sin if Christians did?  What about Jesus, didn’t He have a special group of friends (apostles) that He treated differently than others? Consider also Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2.9 where Christians are called God’s “own special people.” Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?

Perhaps it is not the fact of having a favorite or special something or someone that is the issue at all. The real problem is one of value. It is impossible to keep from recognizing differences in people, and it is not wrong to do so. Favoritism becomes sinful when we value someone in such a way that we give them special privileges not offered to the rest. This is the type of thing James cries out against:

For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, “‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (Jas 2.2-4)

Does God value a poor man’s soul less than a rich man? No. All are made in His image (Gen 1.27). He is not partial (Rom 2.11). Jesus came to save all who will follow Him (1 Tim 1.15).

The problem with favoritism rests firmly within us. Our selfishness, pride, and ego’s cause us to treat men unequally. Jude says we do this so that we can gain advantage over others, “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.” (Jude 1.16)

The next time we are tempted to raise one soul unjustly above another or give preference to someone (especially ourselves) so that we will have something to gain, perhaps we should first consider the words of Christ.

Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mar 10.43-45)

Think about it.

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Words To Live By

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                From time to time I have had the privilege of looking through a ‘preacher’s Bible’. I am referring to that Bible which has been used by a preacher for many years. They are often easy to pick out among others. One of the first things you might notice is the duck-tape holding the cover together or the rubber bands around the outside to keep notes, bookmarks, and even pages from falling out. Speaking of pages, they are stained along the edges from many years of fingers seeking knowledge of God. You will not hear the crinkle of a ‘new Bible’ here.

OldBible2

                This Bible has circles and arrows pointing out one verse from another. Some places are underlined and others highlighted. CIA code breakers would have a hard time figuring out the pattern of how verses are marked and referenced. Greek words are scattered everywhere. So many notes can be found in the margins that you might think a whole book could be written from them alone. In fact, some have; Wayne Jackson wrote a book titled Notes from the Margin of My Bible.

                Thumbing through a Bible such as this is humbling. It becomes a diary and testament to one man’s love for his God. The weight and responsibility of a teacher of God’s word can be felt within the lovingly worn pages. I asked once, “how do you decide what verses to highlight? Are they just special to you or do you have some other pattern?” You see, I was interested so I too could have an impressive looking Bible. How foolish, how selfish of me.

                This kind, older preacher smiled and then chuckled. He went over to his desk and pulled out a stack of index cards three or four inches thick. They too were stained with age and use. He explained that when he was a young preacher his friend and mentor told him to begin memorizing scripture. “You’ll ne-er regret et”, he mimicked. The handwritten cards helped him memorize and keep scripture fixed in his mind. Only then would he highlight them in his Bible. I swallowed a lump in my throat as I flipped the pages. There was not a single opening without verses highlighted in one color or another, some in colored pencil, others in marker. Here in my hands was a lifetime spent following in the footsteps of the savior. My eyes tear up just contemplating the sacrifices he must have made through the years and the number of souls that will one day be in heaven due to one man’s humble dedication to God.

                I have fondly recalled all of that to hopefully encourage you in this; teachers, preachers, dads, moms, Christians, we all grow weary from time to time. Life presents us with trials that will test our faith. Sometimes we just seem to run into a case of writer’s block that lasts longer than we hoped, and other times we are afraid to become more for God than who we are now. During those times, might I suggest, if you can, look at an old duck-taped, rubber-banded, circled, arrowed, and edge darkened ‘preacher’s Bible’ and consider that God has blessed us with a great gift…His word, direction, and love, all waiting for us to simply reach out and accept it. You just may be awed at how humbling and inspiring it can be.

Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. (Jer 15:16)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall 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.  (Jos 1:8)

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psa 1:1-3)

Are We Men of Honor?

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MedalOfHonorHonor is honesty, fairness, and integrity.

Honor is having a high respect for someone because we see their worth.

Honor goes hand in hand with ‘glory’ when we talk about the glory of God (Mt 6.13, 16.27, 19.28, Heb 2.7). 

And…

Honor is greatly lacking within our culture, nor is it taught to our young men enough.

                Perhaps you have seen the movie The Last Samurai, where Tom Cruise plays Captain Woodrow Algrin, a celebrated Civil War hero. Due to the atrocities of war he has both witnessed and participated in, Algrin is obliged to drink himself into an endless stupor in an attempt to forget war’s horrors. Interestingly, the Japanese government hires Algrin to teach modern warfare to His Majesty’s poorly equipped army, where he is captured in their first battle by the last band of remaining Samurai warriors.

                The word samurai literally means “ones who serve”, and they follow a strict code of ethics called bushido or “the way of the warrior.” The life of the samurai was one of physical hardship, absolute devotion to duty, and above else, honesty and bravery in all things.

                Algrin is enamored with the samurai lifestyle and it’s unique code of conduct. After a winter living with the samurai where he sobers up and faces his demons, Captain Algrin joins these last remaining noble men in their honorable cause. One scene in particular sums up his belief in the importance of the samurai code. The leader of these brave men, seeing that defeat was imminent, considers taking his own life rather than suffer the shame defeat would bring.

                “Shame?”, Algrin says, “Shame for a life of service, discipline, compassion?”

                “The way of the samurai is not necessary anymore.”

                To which the captain responds, “Necessary? What could be more necessary?”

                Although this is simply a movie, there is truth in that statement. Consider that the very life of Christ was filled to overflowing with service both to God and to men. He taught the importance of self-control and self-denial when it comes to our lusts, while encouraging us to be steadfast and constant toward God. Additionally, can you find any greater example of compassion than that of Christ? Our creator came to earth as a man and offered His life, taken in the cruelest way possible, in order to redeem each and every one of us; and to give us the hope and surety of eternal life with Him.

Necessary? What could be more necessary? 

                Jesus was the living definition of honor. I want my son to be an honorable man. I want him to stand strong against the evils of the world and be prepared to weather the storms of adversity. I wish for him to cherish, protect, and value women and children. To stand with God while the world ridicules and abandons Him.

How about you? What do you want people to see or to think when your son’s name is spoken?

What are you willing to sacrifice in order to teach him that?

I’m Just Joking!

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        How many times have you said or heard these words, “If I have to tell you one more time”, or “Mom, he’s crossing the line”, and “If I have to stop this car, I’m going to…”? These ageless phrases, familiar to us all, can generate smiles of nostalgia or bring to mind stressful times.

        One phrase that seems to fly out of many mouths, no matter what age we are is: “I’m just joking!” It pops up everywhere; after playing a practical joke, when we harmlessly tease a friend, even when we have purposefully said spiteful comments. These three simple words are often uttered when we have hurt someone’s feelings or taken a joke just a little too far. We use this phrase to lessen our responsibility for what we have said or how we have acted. “I’m just joking” is not an apology.

        Christians have a responsibility to be sure that our speech is not hurtful, even if we are “just joking”.God’s word is full of scripture that talks about the use of the tongue.

He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is likeone who takes a dog by the ears. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, Is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “I was only joking!”  (Pro 26:18-19 NKJV) 

        As we go through our daily routines, let us all take time to look for opportunities to be an encouragement to others. A simple, sincere compliment to someone today can bring warmth to a hurting heart. Kind words can build strong relationships. A Christ-like tongue can save souls.

Stop, Look and Listen

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How many times have you heard one of these sayings in your life? ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’ or ‘If your friend jumps off of a bridge, are you going to do it too?’ and ‘The early bird gets the worm’. Sayings such as these are said so often that they sometimes seem trivial. Yet there are still valuable lessons to be remembered no matter how many times we roll our eyes when we hear them.

                I recently received an email from a friend, the type that floods your mailbox and tries to get you to forward it to everyone you know. This one in particular vividly portrayed the courageous actions of an eleven year old girl who protected herself and her home from intrusion by two violent, illegal aliens. In the end, the heroic actions and sharp shooting skills of this young woman really tugged at the heart strings. The email then encouraged all people who ‘loved the United States’ to pass the message along. I love my country. I am a patriot. I felt an emotional need to share this story, to press the send to all button. As I started to forward the message I remembered these words.

                “Before you cross the street, be sure to stop, look, and listen.”

                Pausing for a moment, I reread the email. Something just seemed ‘too good to be true’. A quick search on a couple of internet rumor sites proved this story to be completely made up! It was nothing more than a good bit of emotional fiction. I was duped! Just before deleting this colorful story, I sent a note of caution to the friend who had passed it along to me.

                Christians, we have a responsibility to be sure that what we tell others is true, whether it be around the lunch table or through email. You are a light that cannot be hidden, an example to the world of just who Christ truly is.

                Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.  (Psa 19:14 NKJV)