Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
If a person is described as being meek, we often picture a kind but timid, submissive, hand-wringing, non-confrontational, or powerless individual. Our idea of meekness doesn’t really work well with the biblical idea. Here are a few ways πραΰς (prah-oos) is used.
Not thinking too highly of self (Matthew 5.5; II Timothy 2.25; James 1.21) is one way to understand meekness. It doesn’t mean we undervalue or demean ourselves, but it does mean we keep our egos in check. In James 1.21, meekness means we have the good sense not to fight what God says and allow his Word to be part of us.
Meekness is also used to describe Jesus (Matthew 11.29; II Corinthians 10.1). If meekness is the absence of power, we have a problem. In contrast to a Pharisaical attitude, Jesus is gentle (πραΰς). Instead of summoning an angelic army to punish those who were about to kill him, Jesus allowed everything to happen (II Cor. 10.1).
Meekness is an attitude we must have when we face the unpleasant task of correcting a member. In Galatians 6.1, correcting is described as “fixing/mending” and must be done with a gentle disposition.
The word is used in several other passages, but we should understand it to mean “gentle” or “humble” or “lenient” (context is important). Meekness is when we value others above ourselves. A meek person is not necessarily a powerless person, but is one who doesn’t misuse the power they have.
David spoke of his tongue as a pen (Ps. 45:1) and his enemies’ tongues as sharp swords (Ps. 57:4). We learn that God hates a tongue which forms lies (Prov. 6:17). Isaiah prophesied a future time so happy that it would case “the tongue of the dumb [to] sing” (Isa. 35:6). The ungodly tongue is described by Jeremiah as a “deadly arrow” (Jer. 9:8). James calls the unruly tongue a “fire” (Js. 3:6).
The tongue is unique among the body’s members. It has so many uses. With taste buds, it judges the palatability of the food we consume. With sensitive nerves, it screens the temperatures of the food and drink which enter the mouth. William McPherson, who lost his sense of sight, hearing, and all four limbs in a mining explosion, used his tongue to read the Bible in Braille. Coordinating with brain and various, undergirding muscles, the tongue is that powerful tool of communication responsible for speech and song. Like so much of what God created, it is a neutral invention. According to how it is used, the tongue is either a blessing or curse upon families, communities, and nations. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” How can we identify a tongue positively used?
A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL NOT BACKBITE. Those who wield their tongues positively will say something nice, or at least say nothing at all, about an occupant on the “rumor mill.” in fact, we should use our tongues to stop the backbiting of others (Prov. 25:23). A Welsh proverb goes, “Lord, remind us often that a gossip’s mouth is the devil’s mailbag.” Remember, there’s only one thing more difficult than unscrambling an egg and that’s unspreading a rumor. We wish only the best for others. We don’t want to contribute to another’s harm or embarrassment by saying or repeating something evil about them behind their back (Ps. 15:1; Rom. 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20).
A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL SPEAK GOD’S WORD. On multiple occasions, the psalmist pledged to use his tongue this way (71:24; 119:172). When opportunities with our neighbors and friends clearly present themselves, how can we refrain our tongues from speaking Bible truth and divine expectations? When the Bible is disparaged in our presence, how can we hold back our tongues from defending words more precious than gold? God’s Word contain “glad tidings” (Acts 13:32; Lk. 8:1; Rom. 10:15).
A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL SPEAK WHOLESOME WORDS. The Bible praises those who use wholesome words (Prov. 15:4; 1 Tim. 6:5). Profanity, vulgar stories, suggestive language and sexual innuendos do not drop off of a positive, wholesome tongue. Instead, we speak words that improve and sustain our good character.
A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL BE BRIDLED. That’s how you know who is religious (Js. 1:26). A hot head and a positive tongue don’t rest in the same skull. A blessing tongue and a cursing tongue do not lead to the same end (1 Pet. 3:10-11). A hypocritical tongue and a sincere tongue cannot belong to the same individual (1 Jn. 3:18). Self-control includes tongue-control.
Someone has written, “To speak kindly does not hurt the tongue.” It may only be about three inches long, but it can be trained not to do miles of damage. It can be positively controlled. A bridle for the tongue is a necessary tool which, when used, will cause one to be a shining light in the house of God.
The FIBA basketball glossary defines an assist as a pass to a teammate that directly leads to a score by a field goal (a basket scored on any shot). When I was in High School and college, Duke University had a guard named Bobby Hurley who would break the all-time NCAA record for assists with 1076 in 140 games (sports-reference.com). That means an average of almost eight times per game, he gave up the ball to a teammate whose three-point shots, slam dunks, or other baskets made the crowds stand up and cheer. While knowledgeable enthusiasts of the game appreciate the importance of the “assist man,” the average fan may miss the vital contribution of the one making that assist. But the very concept suggests unselfishness and one with a team mentality. For them, satisfaction and enjoyment comes in a well-timed, well-placed contribution that allows others to get recognition and praise.
Scripture places a great premium on the person who assists others. Our first thought may be financially. Paul tells the Ephesian elders that he had taken care of his own financial needs (and of those with him) while doing missionary work, recalling words of Jesus not recorded in the gospels that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In the matter of “giving and receiving” (Phil. 4:15), Paul encouraged a mindset that applied to more than just monetary things. It was not a mind which sought “after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (2:21). It was a “humility of mind” that could “regard one another as more important than” themselves, that could “look out” not merely for their “own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:3-4). It is the Christ-like heart that chooses to “please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-3); cf. 1 Cor. 10:24,33). Oh, to say with Paul, “So then we pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19).
Would you like to be the assist-leader in your home, in your congregation, and in your community? Look for ways to put others in the spotlight for their efforts and kindness. That may mean reorienting how you see life, looking to give glory and not needing to have it. What a righteous revolution would occur when our focus would be on how to make others look good, helping others to be appreciated and recognized, and setting others up for praise and admiration. It will in no way hinder us from receiving the highest accolade of all, given by the most important witness–the One who sees all with perfect perspective (Ecc. 12:14). A “well done” from Him has eternal implications (Mat. 25:21,23). What more do we need than that?!
It was a dream, but it seemed so real to me
Hiking up a steep and rocky trail
Treacherous and hard, as far as eyes could see
So difficult, it seemed I’d fall and fail
But by my side, two men I knew so well,
My mother’s dad and one of my own elders
Their presence meant more than my lips could tell
Somehow I knew I’d make it with such helpers
We came upon a woman weathered by many years
Riddled by aches and pains and total blindness
Who told us a way to conquer foes and fears
Two words she kept repeating: “Kindness, kindness.”
It breaks the boulders of other travelers’ loads
And sweeps away all that trips and grabs
You give it freely as you climb such roads
And find it softens cruelest persecutors’ jabs.
We took her by the arm as we kept going,
Higher up this highway to our goal,
We sang a hymn and smiled with headwinds blowing
This cheered each heart and strengthened every soul.
It seemed no time the rocky stretch was traversed
The winds were calm, blue skies displayed God’s fineness
How did we keep the pace? No one reversed!
I knew full well, ’twas “kindness, kindness.”
Kindness given, kindness received, I know it!
Costs nothing to give, ’tis treasure to receive.
You’ll get much back if you’ll take the time to show it.
‘Twill give men faith and help them to believe.
Suddenly, my companions disappeared from view,
Awake, I pondered over such simple wiseness.
How can I ease your way to help and bless you?
I’ll show you nothing less than kindness, kindness!
The folks at Merriam-Webster define “common courtesy” as “politeness that people can usually be expected to show.” 1 One notes that courtesy doesn’t seem as ordinary as it once was, at least in the West. In the more collectivist societies of the East, people prize social harmony more than individualism. When you have millions of people packed into a metropolis, I suppose such a mindset is essential for survival. However, it translates into an attitude that suggests that I take great care not to upset or inconvenience the people around me.
I got to thinking about common courtesy as I was driving along a stretch of U.S. 129/U.S. 19 in the northeast Georgia mountains. Since slower traffic is expected, especially during tourist season, planners provided periodic passing lanes to allow for those conducting everyday business to pass the leaf-gawkers. For the spaces in between, these planners likewise added pull-offs for slower vehicles to pull off and let the faster traffic get by. Most of the time, this traffic arrangement works out nicely. However, you do encounter the occasional driver who lacks the aforementioned common courtesy, as I did when recently getting stuck behind a truck pulling a horse trailer hauling several horses.
As Christians, we are to extend courtesy as a matter of faith. Paul tells us that we are to esteem others before self and be as mindful of them as ourselves (Philippians 2.3-4). As lovely as that is when taking an earthly journey, we see how the mindset also benefits the heavenly journey. No, I am not saying that the act of utilizing a pull-off will win a lost soul to Christ. What I am suggesting, though, is that people take notice of how we conduct ourselves. As Edgar Guest famously stated, people desire sermons they can see. Since a courteous person is already mindful of others, it is but an extra step for him or her to adopt a servant’s heart. Note that following his admonition to esteem others first, Paul transitions to telling us about needing the servant-mind of Christ (Philippians 2.5-8).
With whom are you more likely to strike up a conversation? A rude person or a courteous one? Through the extension of common courtesy, you make yourself more amiable to others. And since common courtesy is no longer so common, you stand a better chance of making yourself stand out in a crowd. So, go the extra mile (cf. Matthew 5.38-42). Develop habits contributing to becoming more courteous and foster the heart of a servant within you.
1 “Common courtesy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/common%20courtesy. Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.
How important is encouragement? Winston Churchill understood its importance. It kept the morale of Great Britain high enough to not only survive the Blitzkrieg, but also link together as a country to defeat the Axis Powers. Hitler understood its importance – with it (by way of propaganda) he brought his country out of a decade or so long depression. Even the world’s worst people understood the value of encouragement.
In the church, it is no different. Only, instead of facing a corrupt and violent world power, we face the Father of Lies and his army. This is a much more daunting enemy – but that is not all. We face discouragement in the church, we face rivalries, bitter jealousy, division over doctrinal matters, personality clashes, etc.
Sometimes we find ourselves overwhelmed when we face these things – and for good reason! But this is why encouragement is so vital. England faced incendiary bombs and widespread death of their fellow countrymen. Germany faced severe poverty. What did it take to help these countries succeed? Encouragement. What will it take for us to overcome the challenges of being a Christian? Encouragement.
In all of these cases, boosting morale did not magically happen. A respected individual got in front of the people and commended and encouraged them – this made all of the difference. Notice how Britain did during Churchill’s time as Prime Minister: they rallied themselves and helped defeat the Axis Powers in a short period of time.
As Christians, we have to be the voice of encouragement for our brothers and sisters. When the church is unified toward a single cause and stands together for truth, she is far more successful than one bogged down in discouragement and strife.
As we go about our lives, let us employ the mindset of encouragement, while seeking to create unity and high morale among our family. It may just make the difference in the eternal state of many people.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 These. 5:11).
My dad has discovered YouTube. He had been using the service to watch streaming worship services during the height of the coronavirus lockdown; he has since noted its potential entertainment value. One of his favorite channels is one that plays classic country music from the 1950s and 1960s. Recently, however, he has been watching the videos of hikers along the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails. I use to enjoy hiking in my healthier days, so I have sat down to watch more than one of these videos with him. I have never even contemplated doing a thru-hike of one of the previously mentioned 1,000 mile plus trails, but have admired those who have completed them. As I watched one video of a hiker who undertook the Appalachian Trail to conquer his depression, I heard him use an unfamiliar term: “trail magic.” In another video, a young woman from Opelika, Alabama, used the words in regards to her trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. Curiosity compelled me to look that phrase up. The phenomenon originated on the Appalachian Trail but has since popped up along the other lengthy trails as well.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy defines trail magic as follows:
“1) Finding what you need most when you least expect it. 2) Experiencing something rare, extraordinary, or inspiring in nature. 3) Encountering unexpected acts of generosity, that restore one’s faith in humanity.” 1
As the videos demonstrated, trail magic presented itself in a cooler of cold drinks left at a taxing point in the trail. Or maybe a veteran thru-hiker set up a tent at a spot along the pathway to feed the hikers who came through. It could also be a person volunteering to provide a wearied hiker a ride to his or her nightly lodging when the trail came close to a town offering a hostel or hotel serving hikers. Thru-hikers have no reason to expect that any of these things will happen to them as they make their journey even though it happens enough to warrant a name (i.e., trail magic). That is why it is so appreciated.
When I read that, my mind immediately associated aspects of this phenomenon to what those of us who are Christians call “providence.” How often have we found something unexpected in our life, typically at the most opportune time, that screams “God” to us? In other words, a sudden something that points to God’s hand at work in our lives. No, providence is not a miracle, since it does not circumvent the laws of nature to occur. It works within the established framework around us, making it even more amazing since it can require God’s forethought rather than just a momentary expression of His unlimited power. Yet, it is as appreciated by us as any miracle would be since it satisfies our momentary need, whether remission from cancer or unexpected inflow of funds when presented with a financial crisis.
This characteristic of God has earned Him a unique name first applied by father Abraham, Jehovah-Jireh. Do you recall the reason Abraham called God by that name? God had asked him to offer his only son as a sacrifice. This son was the promised one for whom he had long waited. Yet, Abraham complied. When his son, Isaac, noticing a missing sacrifice, asked his father about it, he replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22.8 NASB). After nearly sacrificing his son, an angel stopped Abraham, and Abraham noted a ram with its head stuck in a nearby thicket. Abraham offered the ram as a sacrifice in place of his son and called the location “Jehovah-Jireh,” meaning “The Lord will provide.”
Our path to Heaven is strait and narrow (Matthew 7.13-14). It is, therefore, most welcome that as we make our way through this life that we encounter this celestial trail magic. Let us never fail to thank our God since He is also Jehovah-Jireh.
1 Bruffey, Daniel. “Trail Magic.” Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, appalachiantrail.org/explore/hike-the-a-t/thru-hiking/trail-magic/.
Gary Pollard III
Grace is a touchy subject. As with many other words commonly used in religious circles, it has potential to be misused or misunderstood. My hope is that this brief study on grace will shed some light on a confusing subject.
First, grace is possible for all men to have (Titus 2.11). It has been clearly displayed and advertised to everyone. The word “appeared” in that passage is epiphane, which means “to make an appearance.” No one is exempt from grace if they follow the right steps to receive it!
Second, grace keeps us in good standing with God if we are walking in the light (I John 1.7,8). In Acts 2.47, chairo (pronounced ky-roe) is translated “favor.” In Luke 6.32-34 Jesus uses it in a very interesting way. He says, “If you only love those who love you back, what credit is that to you?” Credit is charis, the word for grace.
So what is grace? What does it mean to you and me? If we are walking in the Light – trying our very best to follow God’s commands and allowing our faith to be the driving force of our lives – God takes care of our sin problem. When we slip up and make a mistake, God removes it from our record. This does NOT mean that we can sin all we want and God will just overlook it (see Romans 6.1,2). It does, however, mean that God is not waiting to strike us out of the book of life the moment we make a mistake.
Grace is what happens when God wants to do good for mankind. Luke 6.35 says, “Love your enemies, and do good, loan to others without expecting anything back; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” The word kind in the bolded phrase is charis: grace. It does not mean the same thing for evil men that it does for the Christian, but it does help us to get a better sense of what this word means.
God is rooting for His children (Christians). He WANTS us to get through this life and die in Him (Psalm 116;15). He isn’t our accuser waiting for us to slip up so He can condemn us. He helps us along the way, He shows good will to us, and He gives us His grace so that we can spend an eternity with Him as long as we are walking in the Light.