A Couple of Breaks

It’s not April 15th, and there are no elections on the immediate horizon, so why did I preach about God and Country last Sunday morning?

Obviously the answer is that in our study of Romans, we came to the 13th chapter. It’s there that Paul speaks of God’s role in the establishment of civil governments and of our responsibilities to those in authority over us. But what Paul had to say was in response to questions that the believers in Rome were struggling with at the time. So shouldn’t we wait until we are struggling with similar questions before looking at Paul’s instruction on the matter?

True, it would seem more relevant if I preached on this when we were all thinking about taxes and elections. But then again, shouldn’t we know what God expects of us long before we are faced with an immediate decision? It certainly wouldn’t be wise to wait until we were in the heat of an argument to find out what God has to say about murder, or in the heat of passion to consider what He has to say about adultery. It’s vital that we know what God has to say long before we’re called upon to make a decision.

I had written the above on Monday, before leaving for a dental appointment after breaking a tooth on Sunday. The break was welcomed, in writing the article of course, not the tooth, because I wasn’t sure how I was going to finish it. I was, however, giving thought to how our Sunday School program prepares children for life by grounding them in God’s Word. Then this morning I read the following in The Daily Message. It’s from the 119th Psalm, and finishes my article perfectly.

How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you’ve done it.
I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.

God Bless, Rick

Social Media

3,000 year old wisdom from the Book of Proverbs about the use of social media.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”25:11

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,” 10:11

“Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad.”12:25

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” 12:18

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” 10:19

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.”21:23

“The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly.” 15:14

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” 26:4

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” 15:28

“He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” 17:27

“He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” 17:9

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” 15:1

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” 26:20

God Bless, Rick

Maintaining Manhood

“Toxic masculinity” seems to be the new way to describe the behavior of males when they do something unacceptable, and the governor of California even said it was the cause of recent mass shootings.

Upon hearing that, I recalled an article I had read in Touchstone entitled “Manhood Is Not Natural.” Some final thoughts in the article include this: “True masculinity is not and cannot ever be toxic. Masculinity is a personal and social virtue. Those who use the word ‘toxic’ are confusing masculine with macho and male pathology.” The thesis of the article can be summarized by the following quotes.

“Womanhood is a natural phenomenon. A female’s biological make-up usually ensures that she will grow into a healthy woman. Leave her to herself, and she is much more likely than her male peers to move into mature adulthood. It’s why the phrases ‘Woman up,’ ‘Be a woman,’ or ‘Make a woman out of her’ don’t exist.”

“The opposite is true of manhood. Manhood is not natural. It must be socially constructed. Unlike a woman, a man has no civilized role or agenda inscribed in his body. The boy has no onboard GPS directing him toward his future. His manhood does not exist within himself, as womanhood does in a girl.”

“His movement into manhood can only come into being if he has a pilot, a director, to guide him toward that destination. Doing this is the significant, intentional work of older men around him, starting with his father. As a behavior and a status, manhood must be learned, earned, demonstrated, and proven by the growing boy over the years. As an identity, manhood must be bestowed by a boy’s father and the community’s larger fraternity of men. His mother can only affirm it. She cannot bequeath it.”

“Manhood is not a status to be achieved, but a reputation to be maintained, for one can lose it at any time. The captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship lost his in an instant. Yes, maleness just happens. Manhood does not and cannot. The first is a biological event. The second is a carefully developed character quality.”

May God help us raise up a generation of real men.

God Bless, Rick

Castles and Coveting

I warned you. I told you I had alot of pictures. And three hours sitting in a pew certainly make the occasional sermon that stretches to a half hour seem short.

While I realize that showing pictures of your vacation can seem like flaunting your experience, I trust no one felt that way. I viewed it as simply sharing with family something we enjoyed, and thought some might enjoy as well. And I do think that even those who didn’t endure to the end enjoyed the pictures. Maybe they even learned something, as I did while taking them.

I had a particular aha moment while looking at the castles perched on the hills that line the Rhine. They weren’t built there to attract tourists, they were built to protect the people who lived in the valleys below them.

Our guide pointed out that people who lived elsewhere would decide they wanted what someone had, and would attempt to take it. My first thought was why? Why didn’t they just stay where they were, and farm their own piece of land? Then it hit me; they coveted what their neighbor had.

Obviously I’m well aware that the 10th commandment is “You shall not covet.” I do, however, have to admit that I generally thought of it as the least important of the commandments; almost like an after-thought. Oh, and by the way, don’t even covet. Now I see it not at the bottom of the list, but as foundational to all the rest.

Coveting is a sin of the heart that leads to sinful activity. If you don’t covet your neighbor’s possessions, you won’t lie, steal, or kill to get them. If you don’t covet his wife, you won’t commit adultery. If you don’t covet the silver spoon in someone’s mouth, you will honor your own parents. And if you don’t think you’ve been short-changed by God, you won’t bad-mouth Him, or look for another.

The wars that fashioned Europe into what it is today were caused by coveting, and the horrible things we do to each other are fundamentally caused by it as well. Oh that we, like Paul, could learn the secret of contentment, and simply live in gratitude for all God has done, and has promised to do for us.

God Bless, Rick