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Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).”

“Big Jim” Cole is not off to a great start.  He has inherited several hundred acres of prime land in Wyoming, but keeping it is another story.

First, there is the matter of the neighbor who is determined to take it away from him. Jed Curry lost the land to Big Jim’s grandpa in a poker game fair and square.

But Jed persistently angles to get it back for his sons. They are young men, but they are only adult in terms of their physiques.  They regularly harass Big Jim and his family.

Then, there is the old enemy who shows up in town.  Former lawman Big Jim sent Cass Dowdy (once a friend and on the right side of the law)  to jail and the latter aims to settle the score.

Finally, Big Jim has a wild beast to deal with. This animal  is destroying his new ranch piece by piece.

The human foes pale in comparison to this monster, Big Jim’s worst nightmare. His biggest problem is a grizzly bear appropriately named Satan.  The bear is the main focus of the story told in the movie “Night of the Grizzly”.

Satan is not just any grizzly. He is plum crazy. The bear  kills and destroys just because he can.

Satan wrecks Big Jim’s fences, kills the beautiful bull he had intended to use to populate his herd, and decimates his flock of sheep. While not pleased, Big Jim doesn’t plan to let the bear stand in his way. He goes after Satan, but fails, at least in the beginning.

Satan keeps on pillaging. He kills two men, including Big Jim’s longtime friend and employee  Sam Potts. The grizzly takes off the arm of another man.

The night before Big Jim’s decides to hunt and kill Satan once and for all, his wife Angela threatens to leave if he carries out his plan. She has had enough. She can’t really be blamed inasmuch as she has had plenty of sleepless nights in the past wondering if Big Jim would come home alive when he was chasing desperadoes.

Big Jim gives her the “a man’s gotta do what he has to do” speech. Not only will killing the grizzly rid them of their own personal problems, but the reward money will get them out of the debt they have incurred because of Satan’s evil activities.  However, Angela is not convinced and tells Big Jim that when he comes back, the rest of the family will be gone.

Unbeknownst to Big Jim and his wife, their son Charlie has overheard the whole spat. The boy is troubled by the conflict between his normally loving parents and decides to take matters into his own hands.

He sets out after Satan himself, with his gun and pint-sized dog in tow. Learning of this the next morning, Big Jim follows Charlie, intending to rescue him and knock off  Satan, too.

Before he can even get to the boy and the bear Big Jim has to engage in a gunfight with Cass, who is also after the reward. The latter is temporarily blinded during the shootout by a gunpowder flash and Big Jim continues on to the final battle with Satan.

In the final crisis, Satan comes close to winning. He  corners  Charlie in a tree and Big Jim in a hole.

However, Cass (who has recovered his vision) comes along and goes after the bear. He wants the money, but he also cares for Charlie and obviously doesn’t want harm to come to the boy.

In the chaos, Cass is killed by Satan. This, however, gives Big Jim the time and opportunity to finally gun the bear down

Big Jim’s battle with the appropriately named Satan is one of courage. His story reveals the nature of courage, which is that it  is a paradox. One aspect of a paradox, as defined by  Wikiquotes,  is that it is a “situation which defies logic or or intuition.”

The logical thing for Big Jim to do would have been to know when he had been licked and leave town. His wife’s intuition told her that “getting out of Dodge” was the sane and safe course of action. Right thinking would have meant that he would have listened to his wife.

However, Big Jim wanted a new life, one that had promise for him and his family.  Thus he made up his mind to fight for what he wanted despite the odds.

G.K.. Chesterton, “The Prince of Paradox”, wrote these words:

The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it.  

Chesterton further analyzed the nature of courage this way:

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers.

Jesus calls us at times to do the unreasonable or illogical thing.  Take for example His teaching in Matthew 6 in which he tells His followers to not worry about provision.

Jesus explains that worrying about things like food and clothing is the mark of a “pagan”, not of a believer.  He tells his disciples that if they live for Him and make His kingdom their primary concern that God will give them what they need from day to day. (See Matthew 6:31-33, Life Recovery Bible.)

This command goes against the grain of someone like me who has been raised in the materialistic American culture. “Why”, I tell myself. “I can’t (fill in the blank with a seemingly impossible task which involves putting Him first over my finances). We’ll go off the abyss.”

Yet, this is what Jesus tells me to do. I have to decide if I am going to overcome my fear and do it.

I am motivated by the idea that if I do what He commands, I will be rewarded. God  will open the floodgates of heaven for me (Malachi 3:10). He even wants me to put Him to the test, and counter the prevailing logic.

I am aware that standing next to those floodgates is my own personal grizzly who is also named Satan. He is far worse than anything Hollywood can create, AND he is real (I Peter 5:8).

My mind tells me to give up and go another direction. After all, when I encounter overwhelming opposition, isn’t this the wise course?

Not so. Like Big Jim, if I want to gain my inheritance and see the promises of God fulfilled in my life, then the only strategy is to go on the offensive and beat back old Satan. It’s paradoxical and even my body cries out in pain as I go about something that my intellect tells me is totally absurd.

I am encouraged in my fight  by what the apostle Paul wrote in relation to obstacles. He noted that we are like sheep being slaughtered, every single day. But Paul said that I  overwhelming victory will be  mine through Jesus Christ who loves me despite the dangers (Romans 8:37-39).

Time to lock and load.  Gotta go and get my 10-guage.

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The Lord is my shepherd;  I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;  he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name (Psalm 23:1-3).

These days of summer I am wont to taking a walk into my Virginia town of about 75 minutes. This journey takes me through the agricultural section of the local university, a large concern.

Every time I make this trek I see something different. For example, last week there were four young bulls playfully fighting, their heads focused inward toward each other. Their bodies jutted out from their heads, making the latter the center of a black kaleidoscope.

Yesterday I passed two flocks of sheep which I had not previously seen. I supposed that not having seen them before  was due to my having gotten out earlier this particular morning.

The sheep in the first flock ignored me, diligently munching on the green grass in their pasture. All except one that is.

This black-faced rogue stared through the fence at me, almost angrily. It was as if it was telling me to get them out of there, or to give them something more than the grass all around.

I thought,”Even for a sheep, the grass is always greener on the other side.” This sheep didn’t know what was good for them.

Here God had provided for their need that which was particularly suited for their position in life. Yet, this particular animal appeared to want something different, perhaps even wishing they were walking outside the fence with me on the way to the coffee shop instead of chewing on a blade of grass!

This sheep reminded me of Harvey Cheyne, a character from a Kipling novel. I learned of him from a  1996 movie called Captains Courageous, which adapted the story for television.

In this story Harvey is an extremely rich 16-year old who is also a self centered brat. On an ocean cruise he falls overboard and is seemingly lost.  However, he is picked up by a small fishing vessel captained by the demanding Captain Troop.

Harvey remains in character after his rescue, insisting on special treatment. He tries to bribe Captain Troop to take him back to shore. Troop tells him ‘no’, noting that they would be out to see for several months to fish, which was the crew’s livelihood.

Troop makes the boy work, something he is not accustomed to. Harvey refuses and hears from the captain,”You don’t work, you don’t eat.”

After a period of resistance, Harvey slowly comes around. He learns the fishing trade with the help of Dan, Captain Troop’s son. He also learns some life lessons and matures into a fine young man.

David Jeremiah tells a similar story of a man who is out to sea on a small raft when a storm hits. As much as he tries, the man cannot prevent the craft from sinking.

Like Harvey, he is picked up by another vessel, this time a large ship. The captain of this boat tells the man,”I’m sure you don’t mind helping out in the galley. We are short handed.”  Unlike Harvey, the man is so happy and grateful over being saved that he is willing to do anything.

David Jeremiah likens this to our salvation through Jesus Christ. We are in the place of rescue from our dire straits at the point of salvation, but we are not saved to inactivity. Jeremiah points out that we are saved by grace, but also for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

I see a lot of application to the stories of Harvey and the man on the raft. I too have been rescued.

During the previous year I was alone in a foreign country, with no family or Christian fellowship. I cried out for rescue from these lonely circumstances.

During this time I was tossed about as if I was on the ocean. I felt adrift and pleaded with the Lord.

Finally, this summer God heard my cry led me back home.  I am finally with my wife and children and ecstatic to be home and connected to my friends and church.

However, I am also currently unemployed. I can see from the episodes o f Harvey and the raft man that I have a choice to make in terms of how I view my new condition.

I have determined that I should not expect to sit around my house and do nothing as Harvey did.  The crew (my family) needs my help, not a freeloader.

Part of me does feels like Harvey did when he was first rescued. I have these thoughts of being too important or too “good” for certain tasks.

However, another part of me knows that I may have to take what seems to be an unpleasant job in order for me and my family to continue to survive. I am so grateful to be away from my own personal “ocean” that I am willing to do anything to avoid being tossed overboard again.

I have a suspicion that even work with menial tasks can teach me something new and lead to a broader ministry. In Captains Courageous, Harvey plans to build a hospital in Captain Troop’s hometown out of thanks and gratitude once he is back on shore.  He can do this because through his perseverance in his messy fishing job his life is restored.

I believe God can lead me in the same way, taking what appears to be a dead end job and make it into something special. Looking at others and thinking that they have it better than me, or that my little “pasture” is too beneath me misses the point of who I am and what God has created me to be for His glory.

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“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close (Psalm 27:10)”.

Francis Phelan is a bum. That’s what he calls himself and his comrades on the streets of Albany, New York. Today, we call people like Francis homeless.

Francis is the lead character in the book “Ironweed” by William Kennedy. The book won a Pulitzer Prize.

In addition, the story was made into a movie by the same name. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep were both nominated for Academy Awards for their roles as Francis and his girlfriend Helen.

The story is a moving and troubling one. It’s 1939 and Francis has been running from his past since 1910, when he dropped his infant son, resulting in his death.

His life had once been promising. Francis had even played Major League baseball.

Now he goes from place to place in Albany, trying to find a place to sleep for himself and Helen. Francis scrounges a dollar  or two out of odd jobs mainly to buy booze.

Helen is seemingly the more responsible of the two. She is better with money anyway, and chastizes Francis for his free ways with a buck.

Yet, she is also haunted by her past. Helen came from a good family and appeared to have a career as a singer or pianist in view.

However, she was eventually abandoned by her married piano teacher, a man who also seduced her. Helen, like Francis, ended up on the street.

“Ironweed” portrays the plight of the homeless from day to day. If it is true, as F. Scott Fitgerald wrote, that the rich are not like you and I,  then you could say the same about the homeless.

Out on the streets, it’s open season.  The hobos of Ironweed have a tough existence.

Before he returned to Albany, Francis rode the rails, a common occurrence in the Depression. During one episode in a boxcar, a man who admires his shoes tells Francis”I’m gonna cut off your feet” and proceeds to go after him with a meat cleaver.

Helen has her purse snatched on Halloween by a group of masked urchins. She had what amounted to her life savings in the bag -15 dollars.

Helen also suffers indignities no woman should have to face. Francis, seeking a place for her to sleep, puts her up in a car with a bum who spends his nights in an old wreck of a car.

Francis knows Helen will have to do more for the man than just be pleasant. However, in his mind he doesn’t have many options for her.

Both Francis and Helen are subject to incidents of mental illness. Francis hallucinates that the men he has killed in his travels, including the meat cleaver bearer, are in his presence taunting him.

Helen is invited to sing at a gin house by the bartender, a former renouned singer himself. As she sings, she imagines the audience is hailing her performance with cheers and great applause.

The truth is, when she finishes, Helen receives a mild clap or two. She idly leaves the stage with a sense of disappointment.

The life of the bum includes poverty, crime, mental disability and addictions. A good many of us have never experienced lives like those of Francis or Helen and can’t imagine having to live that way. However, in our current times  having to scramble hour after hour to exist isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

It’s not just the extremists and conspiracy theorists who are warning of potential economic collapse. Every day, I read some report in which a reputable government official or business  person  is decrying the state of the world economy and hinting at a future of economic hardhsip at least as difficult as the Depression.

I’ve never been homeless or extremely poor, although I’ve come close a time or two. It is a hopeless and powerless place to be.

At times I have been  poor enough not to be able to afford health coverage for my family, but with enough income to not be eligible for assistance from the government. During one of those periods, it was extremely frustrating to not be able to find medical care for a sick daughter at a free clinic because we didn’t live in the county offering it. (Our county was next door and didn’t offer such a service.)

When you are homeless and in poverty, or close to it, you feel abandoned. And you are to some degree.

In once scene from “Ironweed”, a drunken woman is sick and drunk outside a city mission. The preacher who runs it is a good man, but he refuses to  take people who are not sober in over night.

Francis tries to help her, but he is powerless except to ask for a blanket and some soup for the woman from the mission. When he returns, he and Helen find her being eaten by wild dogs.

The Bible describes such happenings. People in dire straits are subject to the attack of wild animals (Psalm 79:1-2).

Sometimes the predators are human.  Jesus desribed them as “dogs” (Psalm 22:16).”  Wild beasts of all varieties are out there who would like nothing better to make a feast of some vulnerable person on the street.

We may not have the greatest digs in the world, and might even end up homeless, but the person who follows Jesus can know one thing: they have not been abandoned.

In fact, every day we can live, at least spiritually, in a mansion. The Psalmist wrote:

“One thing I ask from the LORD,
   this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
   and to seek him in his temple. 
For in the day of trouble
   he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
   and set me high upon a rock.

  Then my head will be exalted
   above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
   I will sing and make music to the LORD. (Psalm 27:4-6)”

Governments, corporations and corrupt people may try to take away our dignity. That’s impossible though because the source of our self respect is in our relationship with God.

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matthew 5:43-46).”

 

We keep hearing about “the 1 percent” and “the 99 percent” these days. This is because of the “Occupy” movement, which is seeking to trumpet the growing disparity between the rich and the poor.

The gap in wealth between these two is said to be growing in these tough times.  Money isn’t the only thing that seems to seperate these two groups.

The rich seem to think of the occupiers as smelly unwashed deadbeats who should get a job. The 99 percenters think of the other 1 percent as greedy so and sos who came by their position in life unfairly.

This week a large number of Ferraris were involved in a rather high profile smash up in Japan. When I saw the images of these expensive vehicles showing how they had been mangled, I posted a story about them on my Facebook wall and noted,”I bet the 99 percent are clapping.”

You can’t get away from a discussion on the “percenter” these days. Even in Finland, the little country I presently work in, there was a story this week which published the names of the 100 richest people in the country.

What characterizes the debate is acrimony. The rich believe they have earned their money fair and square through hard work and effort and dismiss the 99 percenters as lazy riff raff who could join them if they only made the effort.

The 1 percenters, on the other hand, think the rich have been special privileges which gave them an advantage. They resent the fact that some people come by their money through inheritances, tax breaks or speculation.

One Newsweek article I glanced at asked the question whether or not all the hubub would cause the rich to stop spending their dough. Not hardly, said the magazine.

 The Occupy Wall Street website has this point of view:

“We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.”

I sympathize with these comments. Just about everything they describe above has happened to me.

It is easy to become envious when your friends are off to the Canary Islands during the holidays while you have the choice of paying your rent or the airfare needed to go see your family. This is the choice I had to make recently.

When you are poor, you dare not make a mistake. I lost my flat key yesterday.

It cost me 20 euros to replace it. That’s food money for me, man!

One friend has written a novel and wants me to write a review on Amazon for him.  “Just download it. It will cost you 3.99.” 

I think a lot of the 99 percenters know that 3.99 can sometimes be a lot of money. The wealthy just don’t get it.

The last time I was here in Finland, I left my little boring city twice in three years for a total of a day and a half. I couldn’t afford the transportation costs to go anywhere.

My summers were spent down at the harbor reading my books and living vicariously through the people on their lounging on their boats and drinking at the boat bars. I got the same ambience they did. I just didn’t pay as much!

I could go on and discuss “why” I am in the financial condition I am in and the 1 percenters are better off. I suppose I could find pros and cons when it comes to my own decisionmaking and theirs.

However, that’s not my purpose here. What I want to relay is what I see the Scriptures as having to say on this subject of being in the top echelons or as one belonging  to the group that barely scrapes by. There are some lessons on this in I and II Kings in the Old Testament.

The latter part otf I Kings describes the most wicked king Israel had had up to his reign. His name was Ahab (I Kings 16:29-30).

Ahab was king during a severe famine.Yet, he himself had plenty of livestock, silver and gold, and an apparently healthy family (I Kings 17:1, I Kings 18:1-6; I Kings 20:1-7).

Ahab was in the 1 percent. However, it wasn’t enough for him.

He wanted to buy a vineyard from a man named Naboth. However, the latter did not want to sell because it was part of the family farm handed down from generations.

When Ahab’s wife caught him sulking like an 8-year old over this rejection, she did something about it. Jezebel had Naboth killed so Ahab could take control of the property (I Kings 21:1-16).

At this point God had had enough of Ahab’s shenanigans and sent Elijah to pronounce judgement. However, a funny thing happened as a result of the prophet’s rebuke.

The wicked Ahab humbled himself before God.  As a result, God postponed the judgment to after Ahab’s death (I Kings 21:17-29).

If I were in the 99 percent back then, I would really be perturbed at God. “Why Lord, how could you let this greedy, murderous 1 percenter off because of a little sackloth and ashes?!”, I would say.

The thing here to acknowledge is that God loves the one percent, too. Jesus didn’t just die for the 99.

Indeed, he taught this lesson to his disciples. He told them:

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey popularized a song written about this passage in the late 19th century at their revivals:

 There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die;
Sick and helpless and ready to die.

“Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They are pierced tonight by many a thorn;
They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

And all through the mountains, thunder riven
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of Heaven,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!” (Words by Elizabeth C. Clephane)

If we are in the 99 percent, we ought to be praying for the 1 percenters. We can pray God sends an Elijah to them and they turn to God and do His will.

Lately  on my prayer list I have put a request that my ongoing financial struggles would end. I am tired of being a 99 percenter.

However, the Lord seems to be telling me that I am already loaded. I don’t have a huge nest egg or money under my pillow, though.

What He has reminded me is that I have access to Him, who is the richest and most powerful Being in the universe. It is nothing for Him to provide for me, or to even give me a little fun once in a while!

Look at what He did for the people in the time of Ahab’s and his wicked son. Through Elijah and Elisha he provided more than enough for those who came to them, knowing they were representatives of the Lord.

Through them God provided nutritious food, enough money and clean water. In addition, by the miracles of these godly men He protected them from the poor health their poverty could produce (I Kings 17:7-24;  II Kings 2:19-21; 4:1-7, 38-43; ).

However, God didn’t forget the 1 percent. He provided the best health care of a kind not even available to them. He brought a rich woman’s son back from the dead (II Kings 4:8-37).

The truth is that this woman supported Elisha, God’s prophet. She’s proof, you 99 percenters, that there are godly people among the 1 percent and that they suffer the world’s ills just as we do.

In God’s economy, there isn’t a 99 percent or a 1 percent. We’re His children and He takes care of us one way or another.

Perhaps if we thought that way in this day and age, we wouldn’t be doing so much shouting at each other.

 

    

 

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“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life Proverbs 31:10-12).”

Dear daughters,

I want you to know something. Despite all the mayhem around our house, I truly love your mother.

I think a singer from the 1960s named Percy Sledge knew what loving a woman was all about for a man. When he recorded his hit called “When a Man Loves a Woman”, the song had no title or no lyrics.

Percy Sledge was expected to improvise the lyrics as he went along. He used the melody to build the song.

Percy did such a good job everyone thought he had written the words down beforehand. It hit number one on the charts in 1966.

I was 11 years old then. I didn’t know a whole heckuva lot about women, and still don’t. But I do know some things about men, and how they feel about women.

Last night when I came home, I had a slew of bills in my hands. Your mother wanted them because she had spent an hour and a half on the phone trying to deal with them.

As we began to discuss our finances, I was getting really worried. However, your Mom, with her wisdom, began calculating and trying to figure a way.

When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Tryin’ to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be.

I can tell you that your Mom would NEVER want me to sleep out in the rain. Au contraire, she would insist on me taking care of myself.

In fact, one of the demands she has when I move overseas to provide for us all is that I eat one warm, healthy meal a day. What a great woman your Mom is!

Sure we fight. This is because we have trouble communicating.

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she plays him for a fool
He’s the last one to know
Lovin’ eyes can’t ever see.

One thing your mother has never done is made me feel stupid. She would never make me feel like a fool.

In fact, she tells me in a lot of ways how smart she thinks I am. However, she knows I am just not very practical.

As she says, I live between my ears. This is why she needs to take care of the bills.

I am so absent-minded and preoccupied that I forget to pay them or mishandle them. Your Mom knows me and she knows this, and intends to even pay my bills from 4,000 miles away.

I may have SOME brains, but not enough where it counts. I could do a better job  of making your Mom feel loved.

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found
If she’s bad he can’t see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he put her down.

I’m sorry, girls, if I have communicated anything but the utmost respect for your mother. It’s a cliche, but it’s me, not her. In other words, it’s my problem.

Sometimes men travel into a marriage with a lot of baggage in tow. I surely have gone over my limit in the amount I have brought to your Mom.

The wise man of Proverbs closed his book by putting down some instructions from a mother to her son. His name was Lemuel. She began this way:

“Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
   Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! 
Do not spend your strength on women,
   your vigor on those who ruin kings (Proverbs 31:2).”

Lemuel’s mom went on to desribe an excellent woman for him. She most likely fit the description herself. Lemuel’s mother commended to him the type of woman he should marry.

Matthew Henry, a well-known Bible commentator from long ago, summarized her thoughts:

 “She must be chaste and modest, diligent and frugal, dutiful to her husband, careful of her family, discreet in her discourse, and in the education of her children, and, above all, conscientious in her duty to God: such a one as this, if he can find her, will make him happy.”

This description fits your mother to a tee. I couldn’t do better.

I mentioned my “baggage” above. Your Mom didn’t deserve it, but she has had to live with it.

Well, this man loves a woman (your Mom)
I gave you everything I had
Tryin’ to hold on to your precious love
Baby, please don’t treat me bad.

In my own flawed way, I believe I have done the best I could to love your mother: not always mind you, but given the overall picture.

Your Mom is only human. She knows that I have a thick head and may not have always handled my behavior well, but who can blame her.

 Yes when a man loves a woman
I know exactly how he feels
‘Cause baby, baby, baby, you’re my world.

When your Mom and I were first courting, we did so by letter. She lived in her home country and I lived in mine.

When we finally got together, we hardly spent a day away from each other. We knew what seperation was like.

It looks like from all appearances that my move contradicts the feeling of this lyric, that your Mom is my world. Some would say I am running away.

I can tell you that my leaving is somehow in the providence of God. I am primarily going to support you all and keep things as stable as possible for the family.

I am hopeful that this parting will be used by God to make my relationship with your Mom stronger. It seems like it would function to do the opposite, but we have an incredibly wise God.

I just wanted you to know that even though I am going half way around the world that in my mind your Mom is still the center of it. I hope one day you find a man who feels the same way about you.

If I have anything to do with it, you will!

While I am gone, watch out for your Mom for me. Even more, observe her life and emulate it!

Love,

Dad

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“I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going      both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:1-7).”

I’ve got money on the mind these days. Times are tight.

In the last week or so little dribbles of cash have come my way. In my financial condition, I could surely have used the influx.

However, one truth has kept me from hanging on to this money. It’s not mine.

Yesterday, in a class I teach, a ten-dollar bill lay on an empty table in the classroom.  I asked my students if any of them had lost it. None claimed it.

At the end of the class one my students held the cash in her hand and looked longingly at it. I did too.

I told her I had better turn it into the office. I took it from her and stuck it in my pocket and later asked my boss what to do with it.

At the same time, I asked my boss what to do with the extra cash I had been given for a business trip. No one had approached me, asking about it.  Frankly, I probably could have pocketed it and no one would have remembered, except God, that is, and my conscience.

I have been reminded of a truth through these temptations. It’s deadly to seek to meet one’s own needs through bogus methods.

The poster children for this concept are Adam and Eve. One look at an apple led to one bite, which led to the fall of all mankind.

Provision is a trust issue. Who ultimately is responsible for giving me and mine what we need anyway? For me, the answer is God.

Sure, I have to do my part. I have to be gainfully employed. However, when the ends do not meet, I have to trust God to fill in the gaps. Stealing and other immoral schemes may seem convenient at the time, but engaging in them will lead to spiritual wrinkling.

The extra cash that came my way the last few days may have provided immediate gratification, but in the end the money would have been gone and I would have been dead inside. The wise man of Proverbs says this: ” A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare (Proverbs 21:6).”

There are some things which are more important than money. They include our relationship with God and our prospects for eternity.

This life is not all there is. The wise man Solomon wrote, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14).”

I could have kept the money. But who wants to face an unhappy God? Furthermore, who wants to displease the God you love?

What pleases Him I believe is that we trust in Him for our needs. After all, God has already provided salvation and eternal life.

I put my name in the following passage from Psalm 21 to bring this truth home to me:

 1 O LORD, TIM rejoices in your strength.
       How great is TIM’S joy in the victories you give!

 2 You have granted TIM the desire of his heart
       and have not withheld the request of his lips. 
       

 3 You welcomed TIM with rich blessings
       and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.

 4 TIM asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
       length of days, for ever and ever.

 5 Through the victories you gave, TIM’s glory is great;
       you have bestowed on TIM splendor and majesty.

 6 Surely you have granted TIM eternal blessings
       and made him glad with the joy of your presence.

 7 For TIM trusts in the LORD;
       through the unfailing love of the Most High
       TIM will not be shaken.

After the death of Jesus, His disciple Peter went back to his trade of fishing. In one case, He had worked all night with some other disciples and  had caught nothing.

Then, they encountered Jesus in their want:

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered.

He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish (John 21:4-6).” It was then that they realized it was the resurrected Jesus who had met their need.

I think we believers know when it is Jesus providing, and when it is the devil. One of my friends, after I had related the story of the money in the  classroom, jokingly said,”God wants  you  to have that money Tim.” That’s exactly what the  devil will whisper in my ear in cases like this one.

Jesus had something else in mind than a net full of fish, however, when He performed this miracle, Jesus was teaching Peter that he was to meet the needs of others and trust God to meet his own as he did so.

John tells  the story:

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”Yes, Lord,’ he said, “you know that I love you.’  Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs (John 21:15).’

 What’s comforting is that God not only will help me in my need, but that He reminds me through His Spirit to avoid helping myself to things that aren’t mine. What a loving God, who not only looks out for my physical need, but for my spiritual ones as well.

Paul McCartney penned the following lyrics about money and what it can and cannot provide.

“I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
‘Cause I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love

I’ll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too
I may not have a lot to give but what I got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love

Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so
Can’t buy me love, no no no, no

Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”

McCartney said of this song, “The idea behind it was that all these material possessions are all very well, but they won’t buy me what I really want.”

What I really want is the love of God and His spiritual blessing. This doesn’t come with money.

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 “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,  for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man… He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever (Psalm 112:4,9a).”

“The best way I can describe myself is that I ended up doing something I never intended to do”.  Those are the word of social entrepreneur Mohammed Yunus.

In the 1970s Yunus was teaching at Middle Tennessee State University when he decided to his native Bangladesh, which had just become independent. He wanted to see how he could be of service to his country.

When he returned, famine hit Bangladesh. Yunus says that it is a terrible thing to watch people starve.

One day he was walking through the village next to the school where he taught and spotted a woman in torn clothes. She was making attractive  bamboo stools. He was amazed at the contrast of poverty and beauty displayed in the work of this woman.

Yunus learned from her that she made 2 pennies a day. The reason was that the woman could not afford the bamboo needed to make her stools, so she had to resort to getting money from a money lender.

The moneylender agreed to lend her the money, but she had to sell the stools at the price he set, not what the market would bear.  Thus, the woman made very little profit.

Yunus thought,”Well, I could just give her the money”. However, he wanted to think over what his observations of this situation all meant.

The next day he toured the same village. He found others in the same fix. They were all at the mercy of the moneylenders.

When he learned that he could free all these people from what amounted to slavery for 27 dollars, he gave the people the money to pay off the moneylenders. The people were overjoyed.

Yunus thought that if he could make so many people so happy with so little, why not do more and more. This led to the concept of microfinance.

Microfinance is the provision of small loans and other financial services to low-income people.  The effort is meant to spur people out of poverty by promoting their entrepreneurial efforts.

Yunus founded Grammen Bank to help people through the use of microcredit. For his efforts, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Jesus once told a story in which a king left his own country for a while and left his servants with some money. “Put this money to work”, the king told them.

When he returned, he asked the servants for an accounting. He praised the ones who had done what he had told them, and rebuked one who didn’t (Luke 19:12-26).

Jesus also told of a man who was getting fired for poor management of his boss’s money.  In order to save his job, he went to those who had large accounts payable with his boss. He reduced their debt. As a result, his boss was pleased (Luke 16:1-8a).

Jesus noted that even wicked people knew how to make friends with money. They were better at it than the people of God, who should know better (Luke 16:8b).

Jesus wants us to use our money to make other people happy.  He has trusted us with His moolah to do just that. In fact, He said you didn’t have to have very much to do it (Luke 16:10).

Mohammed Yunus didn”t think so either. He saw a problem and he took what he had to make other people’s lives better.

Yunus told an interviewer,”I wanted to make myself useful”.  I have always disliked the phrase “make yourself useful” because my father used it toward me as a little boy in kind of an offhand way to push me to work. I vowed never to use it with my own kids.

Reflecting on it, my father was right. I do need to make myself useful. Mohammed Yunus also thought about it and realized he needed to do that, too.

I admire Yunus. He used his head (a phrase we DO use around our house) and thought how he could help others with what he had.

Yunus didn’t just jump to a helter skelter solution. He mused thougtfully on the issue at hand to understand it, investigated it further, and came up with an answer.

It’s curious that Jesus told his story of the the king’s servants and their handling of money right after having dined with a tax collector. This man,  fellow called Zacheus, had repented of his poor handling of money and determined to use it rightly (Luke 19:1-9).

With God’s help, I too want to change my ways in terms of handling what He has given me. I want to ask God to show me, with my limited  resources, how I can be part of solving my country’s problems. Yup, Father in Heaven, I want to make myself useful.

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