Where is the Wise Leader We Need in America Today?

 

In this season of elections, candidates are trying to convince us that their characteristics are worthy of our vote.  Are they portraying the kind of wisdom we need in this time of history?

What is the Wisdom from Heaven?

James 3:17 is the Bible verse that describes wisdom from heaven.  The description breaks down and defines wisdom while providing a hierarchy and/or blueprint of how this wisdom is constructed.  This description is valuable because it is dynamic.  It reveals the ongoing action necessary to maintain and exhibit wise leadership without corruption that frequently defiles leaders.  Let’s look at the verse more closely:

:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  [NIV] 

We need to break this verse down piece by piece to catch the nuance locked within.   It describes a number of characteristics that the wisdom has.   

  • Wisdom is ranked first as described in the verse.  First of all pure:  free from carnality, faultless, clean, immaculate
  • Peaceable – loving peace, not squabbling or whiny
  • easily entreated – compliant, able to be persuaded [not closed-minded]
  • full of mercy  (eleos)– has manifest pity on those needing it and it has resources to fulfill those needs
  • good- pleasant    fruit – deeds (outcomes)
  • without partiality – unambiguous, without uncertainty  
  • without hypocrisy – sincere, not fake

 If these are the characteristics of leadership wisdom, what is the evidence of it?   We must return to verse 13 to find traits of this wise leader

What is the Evidence of a Wise Leader?

:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.  [KJV] 

  • endued with knowledge – has knowledge of an expert
  • good conversation – manner of life or lifestyle
  • meekness of wisdom (adding detail from Vines Expository Dictionary: The meaning of (prautes)  {Greek term} “is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity . . . It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power.”)

Therefore, before you cast your vote, ask yourself “do these candidates portray what I want to see?”

Parable of the Sower [Part 2]

 
4 One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they look, they won’t really see.
    When they hear, they won’t understand.’
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
 
Newly born-again Christians come into the Kingdom only knowing how to navigate this current world.  They (we) are susceptible to loss from exposure to fleeting attractions that they had fallen prey to.  Christians mature by walking with Christ and over time learning several important lessons:
  • that the things that seem good to you may not good for you.    
  • Money cannot handle all of the problems of life
  • the LOVE of money is the root of all evil
  • Worry and fear are to be dissected and eliminated; they potentially can be crippling
  • No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.  I Cor 10:13  [NET]
 
This parable does not require much explanation but some people do seem unable to grasp how deceptive the cares, riches and pleasures of this life tend to be.  We can be deceived and ultimately live beneath our privilege as children of the King.   

 

Amos’ Conversation with the Nation [and with us]

It is uncanny that the inspiration of an earlier day re-emerged on the day of John Lewis’ funeral.  This version of Amos’ dissertation to his people.  This version is Eugene Peterson’s translation known as “The Message”.  This version is different from the King James Version that was made famous in Martin King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.  Where Dr. King implores as did Amos ” . . . But let justice run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”  [5:24]
 
The Message Version
This version in its plain, almost colloquial English reveals the callousness of the divided Hebrew kingdom at that time.  But as we’ve learned so assuredly through the years, the word of God is not some vacuous dead declaration.  The Word lives and reaches through the years to speak to an unimagined modern America.  The word lives and speaks to convict those actively working to oppress the people.  
Re-reading these words will speak again to us and will hopefully ignite the passion to fight injustice as it dares rear its head in the year 2020 to vex those in high office in these United States and beyond.  These words don’t stop at international boundaries or wide oceans.  These words stand staunchly against hypocrisy and haughtiness.  These are the words of Amos to us in this present day from  chapter 5 verses 10-13 and 21-24. 
 
 
People hate this kind of talk.
    Raw truth is never popular.
But here it is, bluntly spoken:
    Because you run roughshod over the poor
    and take the bread right out of their mouths,
You’re never going to move into
    the luxury homes you have built.
You’re never going to drink wine
    from the expensive vineyards you’ve planted.
I know precisely the extent of your violations,
    the enormity of your sins. Appalling!
 
You bully right-living people,  
taking bribes right and left and kicking the poor when they’re down.
 Justice is a lost cause. Evil is epidemic.
    Decent people throw up their hands.
Protest and rebuke are useless, a waste of breath.
 
 
“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
    I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
    your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
    your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
    I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want.
That’s all  I want.
Amos

Thessaloniki

Paul addressed the church he began in Thessalonika with the epistle known as 1 Thessalonians.  This is the same city he was urged to travel to in Acts 16 that was crying out to him through the Holy Spirit.  According to Matthew Henry, this was the first epistle he wrote to any of the churches being written in 51 A.D.  The significance of this being Paul’s first letter of endorsement and encouragement to any of the churches he started and important to understanding his approach to establishing them.
Paul shares from his heart about how the church began and their progress but the enduring, most memorable chapter is the fourth.  My wife and I heard about an acquaintance who is a Christian and who was reacting very badly to the loss of a loved one.   Yes, the Bible says grieve with those who grieve, but in the fourth chapter we find words that describe a faith-filled reaction to the loss of a saint.  There may be instances in these current times of calamity where some may sleep in the Lord.  What will our reaction be?  We are reminded that this situation was not an emergency in Heaven.  The Father was not taken aback by the virus.  


13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

There is no clear reaction by anyone in a loss. When we lost our mother some years ago, my immediate reaction was that of sheer terror and shock.  She was an absolute sainted woman.  Once reality sets in, we have a chance to react knowing we will see our loved ones again!  No one can say what their first reaction to a catastrophic loss will be but in this we have been assured: 

15 For we say this to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are still alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede [into His presence] those [believers] who have fallen asleep [in death]. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the [blast of the] trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain [on the earth] will simultaneously be caught up together with them [the resurrected ones] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord! 18 Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words [concerning our reunion with believers who have died].
If we are not resting in His everlasting arms, are we flailing about on our own?  Are we like these described in James 1:6b Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. 7 Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything.  [VOICE]

 God is still seated on the throne; we’re going to be alright!

Before You Turn On the News; A Reminder!

With all the coverage about the Corona Virus, there must be people cowering in fear in China, Italy and various places in between. They like the rest of the world need prayer. Prayer for the knowledge to get past this, prayer for those suffering, prayer for those who are helping and prayer for the anxious.

The disciples asked Jesus “What will be the signs of your return? He told them several signs of his pending return.  

See Luke 21:25-26

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
Note carefully that previously in verse 21, He said:  ‘In your patience possess ye your souls‘ [KJV].   Even with the worldwide audience anxious about the Corona virus, the household of faith cannot allow itself to be thrown off balance by signs in the sky or sea.  We are not to be anxious about anything. [Phil. 4:6] as God has made exceedingly great and precious promises for us to hold on to.  For such a moment as this, I place before you dear reader, Psalm 91: verses 1-10 from The Passion Translation:

1 When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High.

2 He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me the only God for me, and my great confidence.

3 He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy, and he will protect you from false accusation and any deadly curse.

His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you. You can run under his covering of majesty and hide. His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.

You will never worry about an attack of demonic forces at night nor have to fear a spirit of darkness coming against you.

Don’t fear a thing! Whether by night or by day, demonic danger will not trouble you, nor will the powers of evil launched against you.

Even in a time of disaster, with thousands and thousands being killed, you will remain unscathed and unharmed.

8 you will be a spectator as the wicked perish in judgment, for they will be paid back for what they have done!

9–10 When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us?

When the Cloud Lifts {part 1}

Exodus 13:20-22

21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

We are fortunate to live in a time when there is a great deal of nature programming available that showcases the wonder and beauty of creation in all immense glory and meticulous detail.  One can imagine what it was like when there were fewer people and larger swaths of unspoiled wilderness.  One feature showed an enormous school of anchovies swimming in what is known as a bait bell, swirling as does a storm.  The swirl is huge and as predators look to attack, all they can see is the huge swirl of fish bodies.  The fish swim within the swirl where they are protected by reason of sheer number.  This is the similar behavior of herds of wildebeest.  As long as they are in the flow of the movement, they are following their destiny. Psalm 91 is rich with promises and provisions given to believers.  Verse 1 provides one of the main conditions under which the ensuing promises are met.  “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty”;  that is, as one remains in His presence – presumably close enough to be in His shadow, all of the conditions for the promises will be met. 

Clouds are symbolic of several things in scripture as Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/cloud they are so amazing and beautiful that we must continue this study soon.

Love Unknown . . .

Watching Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” series is at once a celebration and glimpse of melancholy.  Reflecting on the CNN series has allowed me to revel in the profound depth of diversity that exists on our planet while I marvel at the commonality we share as humans in a big world that has never been smaller.
Many have written and commented on the life and sudden demise of the popular chef and host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown“.  He was rich, famous and dashing.  He had the world on a string.  Were there signs of depression or hopelessness in those last episodes?  Didn’t his producer or crew see it coming?  Were there no harbingers of hope or purveyors of the gospel near?
Bourdain stands stoically as journalist; the famous CNN reporter asking the hard questions and pushing boundaries.  He frequently looks gaunt and even frail wandering about distant and isolated cities, sometimes looking as if he’s coming off a bender.
He was incredible at aiming fresh eyes at locales and cultures.   He found the features and areas that were off the “beaten path” and described cultures and cultural artifacts in a way that was astute and timely.  His sensibilities were never cliche.  He was not susceptible to trending opinion or easy answers.  His show displayed and proclaimed unique and honest integrity from all corners of the world without preference to colonialist or nationalist persuasion.
His instinct for cuisine and his appetite was open to indigenous and ancient palettes.  It never seemed that he was trying new tastes, it was as if he had sampled everything and knew when he was tasting the best.  As a chef, he was bold and at least on camera would taste anything.
There was an episode where a Brazilian madman was randomly shooting toward a restaurant where he was dining.  His cameraman and producer both dived in to protect him.  He was not impressed, nor did he seem grateful.  This was his real penchant, after all his accomplishment, fame and acclaim, he did not seem hungry for more nor ingratiated by his outcome[s].  In hindsight, he had frequently told his viewers that he traveled 50 weeks a year.
Life lost is always a shame, but when it appears that one has chosen suicide out of desperation it is dreadful.  Considering the pain Bourdain had experienced, made it seem so much worse.  I’m reminded that this life is merely as stage upon which we prepare for eternity.  Even someone who seemingly has it all, felt that life was meaningless.  He was quoted to say that though his father was Jewish, “I have never been in a synagogue . . .  “

Marah

Exodus 15:22-25a
 And Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. 23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25 And he cried unto Jehovah; and Jehovah showed him a tree, and he cast it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet . . . [ASV]
These verses describe the scene early after the Israelites departed Egypt.  The exhilaration of their escape had faded.  They were far from Egypt and found themselves in a wilderness.  Their water supplies were spent, they were tired, and needed refreshing.
They found water after arriving at Marah, but it couldn’t be consumed because it was too bitter.  They started a complaint campaign against Moses.  I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to endure the grumbling and complaining of millions of people thirsty and irritated.  They looked at the water and it probably looked inviting but when they tasted it; it was overwhelmingly bitter.   Undoubtedly they bathed in it, but they couldn’t drink it.  After this went on for a while, the complaint campaign escalated in earnest.  Moses then knew he had to talk to God.
Moses had no solution.  Bitterness is impossible to overcome. God had always provided an escape.  Would He do it again this time?  He showed Moses the remedy for the situation.  He showed Moses a tree to be cut down and cast into the water.
This story is a metaphor, I was told years ago.  The waters are a symbol for life in this world.  The waters were bitter and life in this world is bitter for those who do not know Christ.  In the middle of the bitterness, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for a solution.  He is so rich toward us that He always gives us what we need.  He showed Moses a tree that was to be thrown into the water.   The tree is a symbol for Christ.
By obedience, the BITTERNESS was taken from the water making it sweet.   Life in darkness is bitter, no joy, no peace – but God who is rich in mercy, hears us and gave us His son.  What He gave was beyond our comprehension.   He was slain for our good, He is the answer to our prayers.
 

Pretty is . . .

My grandmother had lots of maxims.  Some might call them proverbs or wise sayings.  She shared them with my mother who would then share and explain them to us kids.  We would hear them and they were part of us but we as with all things of value, they needed to stay with us for awhile until we learned their depth and validity. 

I was talking to one of my students, a lovely bright-eyed Latina, and told her “Pretty is, as pretty does”.  She said okay but I could tell that she didn’t really hear it.   I asked her if she understood, she later confessed that she didn’t.  I began explaining about my grandmother’s maxims.  How they were illustrative of greater truth but had to be lived and experienced to bear the fruit of their contained wisdom.  

“Pretty is, as pretty does” literally describes how pretty people (male or female) are only as pretty externally as their behavior matches.  Just because you are appealing to the eye doesn’t make you beautiful.  Your demeanor, personality and actions must align.  Compare with the following proverb:

Proverbs 11:22
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful face on an empty head
[MSG.]

dedicated to the memory of Myrtle Mullens

Conflictual

 
  
 
 
 
 

People who don’t know the Lord lose perspective as they navigate life’s conflicts.  We often conflict with others including bosses, card playing buddies, or even mothers-in-law.  Conflict often arises with circumstances beyond our control with work issues, traffic, the economy or the lack (or overabundance) of rain.  Finally, we face conflict in the daily effort to achieve finances that include the press of competition, access to commodities, and ill will due to greed.

Conflicts face forward and confront obstacles that impede progress.  The world teaches that we should pin our ears back and stare until we beat these obstacles.  Face-to-face confrontation forces us to look at the obstacle and measure up to it.  This is the perspective by which the battles are lost.  Simply put, by looking at the obstacle, it’s easy to be overwhelmed looking squarely at it.  The devil is in the detail as you scan every nuance and distortion seeming amplified and bigger than life.
 
No one feels comfortable confronting their obstacle alone no matter what the old school conquistadors have to say.  There are those who say that seeking help from God is a cheat, the real fighter does battle alone. How ironic does the Apostle Paul appear when he says “ . . . when I am weak, then am I strong (II Cor. 12:10 ) 
 
 
Being aligned and allied with God allows me to see everything from its proper prospective.  I see my boss, mother-in-law, the economy and even the country’s problems in light of the Lord’s ruling presence.  He shows me the people, the bills, the floods and storms of this life and reassures me that even with them all,  He will NEVER leave me alone to deal with them. I am not overwhelmed by circumstances, because I am not alone.