Rest From Labor

In 1844, President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a Federal Holiday.  “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of our country” (History of Labor Day, dol.gov).

 American workers are consistently listed as among the most productive in the world.  In 2017, the United States ranked fourth in GDP per hour worked ($72).  This was behind Ireland ($99.5), Norway ($83.1), and Germany ($72.2); but ahead of the rest of the world including – Canada ($55.2), Japan ($46.2), South Korea ($37) and Mexico ($21.6), according to Forbes (Where Labor Productivity is Highest by Niall McCarthy, February 05, 2019, Forbes.com).

The country music group Alabama paid tribute to the American worker in the song, “40 Hour Week (For A Livin’).”  The song closes with these words, “Hello America, let me thank you for your time.”

Here are some thoughts on work.

1.  Let us remember for whom we ultimately work.

Christians ultimately serve the Lord.  Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, do it heartily  as to the Lord and not to men… for you serve the Lord” (Colossians 3:23-24 cf. Ephesians 6:5-8).  Let us honor Him in what we do.

2.  Let us give our best.

Our service should be done “Heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). Our work ethic should be one of integrity and sincerity, and “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers” (Colossians 3:22 cf. Ephesians 6:6).

 If we are going to do a work, let us give our best.  Martin Luther King Jr. said this to a group of street sweepers in Memphis, Tennessee on March 18, 1968, “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well’” (William J. Bennett, The Book of Man, p. 92).

3.  Let us give our best when doing spiritual work, or work in and for the church.

 Let us be “fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).  Roy Deaver commented, “‘Fervent in spirit’ is the very phrase used in Acts 18:25 to describe Apollos.  Christians are to be earnest, sincere, devoted, dedicated, zealous in the Lord’s work.  They are not to be cold; they are not to be indifferent” (Deaver, Romans: God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p. 476).

Bible class teachers should give their best.  Time should be spent in prayer, study, and meditation on the text.  The teacher should be enthused about teaching.  If the teacher is not enthused, likely the students will not be.

Preachers should give their best.  Hours should be spent in prayer, study, and meditation about the lesson.  I have known of preachers who get their sermons word for word off the internet.  I am not talking about a sermon idea or outline.  I am talking about word for word, even the “personal” references, and stories.  I was told by a preacher about another preacher who calls him on Saturday night asking for a sermon manuscript to preach the next day.  This disgusts me.  Paul told Timothy, “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13), “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15), “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Song leaders should give their best.  They really set the tone (pun intended!).  They should know the song before leading it (note: I am not speaking of a singing in which new songs are tried).  I heard a song leader apologize to a guest speaker saying, “I am sorry, the members did not know the song.”  The guest preacher replied, “neither did you!”  He had the words all wrong.  The words of the song should be carefully considered.  Thought should be given to the song selection.

 Those who lead prayers and serve on the table should give their best.  All should make effort to be holy (1 Timothy 2:8) and faithful (2 Timothy 2:2).  Thought should be given to what is said.  Vain repetition should be avoided (Matthew 6:7).

Those who publicly read scripture should give their best.  The scripture should be read beforehand and pondered.  Pronunciation should be considered.  Punctuation should be observed.  They should make effort to “read distinctly from the book” (Nehemiah 8:8).

Those in supporting roles (A\V, custodial, deacons) and all members should give their best.  We should be one body working together for the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12).

4.  The rest is to come.

Sometimes we do need a break.  Jesus told the apostles, “Come aside by yourselves to a desert place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 cf. Luke 5:15-16).

However, no Christian should retire from duty in this life.  We are able to “be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58 cf. Galatians 6:9).  We are to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).  We are to be careful “to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8, 14).  The rest is yet to come (Hebrews 4:9-10).

5.  In the words of the song, “let me thank you for your time.”

I sincerely wish to express my appreciation to all who labor with me in the Lord, in church of Christ Youngsport.  Any good that we are doing in Youngsport, Killeen, Central Texas and beyond is being done together.  Your work is important, and appreciated. Moreover, we are told, “God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).

Note: I wrote this for Labor Day. However, I believe that it is appropriate to publish this at this time. Things are beginning to open up in Texas following shelter in place orders. What now? Let’s cautiously and wisely get to work, and let’s give our best. Church, we have work to do.  Let’s give our best.  “To the work! to the work! We are servants of God, Let us follow the path that our Master has trod; With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew, Let us do with our might what our hands to do. Toiling on, toiling on, Toiling on, toiling on, Let us hope and trust, Let us watch and pray, And labor till the Master comes”(Song: To The Work by Fanny Crosby).

 

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Men Like Trees Walking

An unusual miracle is described in Mark 8:22-25.  A blind man was healed in two steps.  First, Jesus restored sight.  He asked the man if he saw anything.  The man answered, “I see men like trees walking.”  Second, Jesus restored the man to clear sight.

This miracle is unique for two reasons.  First, it is found only in Mark, not in the other gospel accounts.  Second, this is the only time recorded of a miracle of Jesus involving more than one step.  There must be a significance, one would think.

Why two steps?  This has puzzled more than a few Bible students.  A common explanation is that this is designed to teach a lesson about spiritual sight.  One commentator explains, “The disciples had begun to gain spiritual insight but still did not understand clearly.  They needed to continue their diligence to gain a second touch, to see adequately Who and What Jesus was” (Ancil Jenkins, Mark, p. 80).  It is true that clear spiritual sight, and insight, does not come all at once.  We must grow (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 5:12-14).  Is this the contextual point?   (cf. Mark 8:13-21).  Perhaps, but this is not very clear to me.

There is another possible explanation.  It may be that both the eyes and the brain needed Jesus’ touch.  Moreover, Jesus, by using two steps, may have provided us with faith-building accuracy.

In 1689, an Irish philosopher named William Molyneux set forth a question: If a man born blind can feel the differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he, if given the ability to see, distinguish those objects by sight alone.  This is known as “Molyneux’s problem.”  Some philosophers answered “yes” and others “no” (e.g. John Locke) to this question.  The issue was not resolved.

Flash forward to 2011.  “That year, per the New York Times, ‘researchers tested five subjects from rural northern India, four boys and a girl ages 8 to 17, all of whom had been ‘blind since birth.’  But had these children grown up in a more developed area, their vision would have been improved through advances in medicine.  The subjects’ blindness was caused by cataracts (or in one case, a damaged cornea), and the researchers were able to improve their vision – and did.  The Times explains: “Before their operation they could perceive light, and two could discern its direction, but none could see objects.  Afterward, they all had vision measured at 20/160 or better, good enough to distinguish objects and carry out the tasks of daily living.”  That improvement included giving them the ability to see the shapes – spheres and cubes – that they could previously not discern.  As a result, we were able to put Molyneux’s to the test.  And it turns out that Locke was right.  The children couldn’t tell the difference between shapes by sight alone” (The Solution to an Unanswerable Question, Now I Know, May 16, 2018, nowiknow.com).

Our brother Steven Lloyd wrote an article entitled “A Two-Fold Miracle” which appeared in the Gospel Journal, May 2000.  He wrote, “Dr. Sacks compares learning how to depend on sight – after being blind all one’s life – to learning a language for the first time, not learning a second language, but learning to speak for the first time.”  He quoted from Keith Mano, who said of Mark 8, “A faker, not knowing about post-blind syndrome would have reported that Jesus had given him perfect vision.”  Again, “The blind man must be taught (in one miraculous instance) what you and I have known since childhood – how to see.”

Jesus could have cured the man in one step.  He did not.  I believe that this provides us with subtle evidence for authenticity.

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Sunk Cost and Counting Cost

There were many food trucks options at the Texas Book Festival.  However, I wanted empanadas.

Therefore, Melinda and I, and our son Jasper waited in what appeared to be the longest food truck line.  As we neared the half-way point in line, two women in front of us left the line to go elsewhere for food.  I said, “it is too bad that they wasted all that time just to walk away.”  Jasper replied, “Sunk cost.”

His point was that the cost already spent should not be the determining factor. Prospective (future) cost should be considered.  If they decided the future time in line was not worth the investment to them, then why not walk away?  No disagreement from me.

However, it seems to me that sometimes people walk away from things without really considering the future cost.  They simply grow impatient, or become weary.

Here are a couple of applications in the spiritual realm.  (1) Sunk cost should not be the determining factor.  Future cost should be considered.  I have met those who will not walk away from a religious system, which they understand to be in error, because of sunk cost.  (a) Paul was of different assessment.  He said, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7).  Early Christians said of him, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23).  (b) Brethren at Thessalonica were of different assessment.  Paul said that others told him how they had, “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).  (c) Brethren in Ephesus had a different assessment.  They fully rejected their past practices.  We are told, “Many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.  And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver” (Acts 19:19).

(2) One should not walk away without soberly considering future cost.  I have known those who have walked away from living the Christian life, after years of living it.  I wonder if they have really counted the cost.  (a) There is a cost to self.  Peter warned, “if after they have escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21, cf. Luke 12:42-48).  The pleasures of sins are short-lived (Hebrews 11:24-26).  “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:2-3).  (b) There is a potential cost to others.  One may negatively influence others (1 Corinthians 5:6b; 15:33; Proverbs 13:20).  One’s lack of faithfulness may affect family members.  A lack of attendance may lead one’s children or spouse down the same path.  One’s actions may harm the church.  Some members’ actions harm the church’s influence in the community.  A lack of attendance hinders potential edification.  A preacher’s or elder’s infidelity may cause some members to give up.  “It is impossible that no offense should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:1-2).

Let us finish faithfully.  “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).  “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:7).  “Be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  May we, as Paul, come to the end of this earthly life saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

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Wrestling With God

Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.  Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.  And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’  But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’  So he said to him, ‘What is your name?  He said, ‘Jacob.’  And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed’” (Genesis 32:24-28).

    The context concerns Jacob’s return to Canaan land, after 20 years in Haran (cf. Genesis 31:38-41).  The LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3).  When he had left Canaan, two decades earlier, God had promised him, “The land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.  Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Genesis 28:13-15).  However, as he journeyed home, Jacob heard that Esau was coming to meet him, and that 400 men were with him (Genesis 32:6).  “Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:7).  Jacob prayed for the LORD for deliverance (Genesis 32:9-12).  In this prayer, Jacob reminded God of the promise He had made to him, years earlier.  Next, he sent presents, by servants, ahead for Esau (Genesis 32:13-21).  This was no small offering.  Nearly 600 animals were sent.  Finally, Jacob wrestled with a mysterious man.  At some point, Jacob realized that he was actually wrestling with God.  This was a theophany.  Jacob was hurt, but he refused to let loose of God until he was blessed.

What is the significance of this strange wrestling match?  (1) There are struggles in life.  Jacob feared Esau.  He needed to trust God.  This struggle was within Jacob.  We all have our own struggles.  (2) We need to hold on to God, and trust in Him.  At some point, Jacob realized that this man was actually God.  Therefore, he refused to turn loose until he received His blessing.  We need to hold tightly to God, when struggling with issues in life.  (3) We need to spend time alone with God.  Jacob was alone when he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:24).   Jesus spent time alone in prayer [Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Mark 645-46 (Matthew 14:22-23); Luke 9:18; Mark 14:32-42 (Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46)].  He also taught this (Matthew 6:6).

The wrestling match changed Jacob.  (1) It strengthened him.  Jamison, Fausset, and Brown comments, “The moral design of it was to revive the sinking spirit of the patriarch and to arm him with confidence in God” (JFB, p. 38).  He was weakened in body but strengthened in faith.  God appeared to him in the form of a man.  This one had the power to dislocate his hip with just a touch.  He could have killed him, but instead He blessed him.  (2) It resulted in a new name being given.  The name “Jacob” means “one who takes by the heel” or “supplanter” (Genesis 25:26 cf. 27:36; See Truth For Today Commentary, p. 249; The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 398).  The meaning of the name “Israel” is disputed.  Some believe that it means “He who struggles with God” (Genesis 32:28; 35:10; See: Truth For Today Commentary, p. 249; The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 398).  Others believe that it means, “Ruling with God” (Young’s Concordance).  The reason given for the name is stated: “For you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).  William Grasham comments on verse 28, saying “The meaning of ‘Israel’ is paradoxical: only when Jacob was willing to submit to God and allow Him to be prevalent in his life was he able to prevail over his circumstances” (Truth for Today Commentary, p. 249).

Yes, we may wrestle with God at times; but let us never give up.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Those who trust in Him will not be disappointed, or put to shame for doing so in the end (Romans 10:11).

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Your Brother’s Bloods

God said to Cain, “What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10).

The literal language is “bloods” (plural), not “blood (singular).  What is the significance?  (1) Does it refer to future descendants? Consider this comment, “The Talmud interpreted ‘bloods’ as referring not just to Abel’s blood, but to the blood of all his potential descendants who will now never be born.  When one person kills another, he has not only killed that person but also all those who would have descended from him” (Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible: Genesis, p. 70).  This is an ancient interpretation.  From this, the Israelites would write, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world.  And whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved an entire world (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).  This concept is referenced in the movie Schindler’s List.  The Quran even recognized that this was a teaching given to the Israelites, saying – “We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being, except as a punishment for murder or other villainy in the land, shall be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as though he had saved all mankind” (5:32), though some ignore the context and credit this teaching to Islam. (2) Does it refer to current dependents or family? Adam Clarke comments, “Some think…Abel’s widow and children are to be understood” (Clarke’s Vol 1, p.60). If he had a wife and children they lost a husband and father.

Whatever the significance, it is a serious thing to take a human life.  There may be many unforeseen consequences.  Dennis Prager writes,  “Some years ago, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz was giving a talk to lawyers in Hamburg and asked the audience members, ‘How many of you have suffered from the Holocaust?’  A few hands of several elderly lawyers were raised.  Dershowitz then asked, ‘How many of you or your family members have had cancer, coronary problems, diabetes, or a stroke?’  This time, nearly every hand was raised.  Dershowitz paused, and then asked, ‘How can you be sure that the cures for those diseases did not go up in the smoke of Auschwitz or Treblinka?’  There was stunned silence.  ‘Following my talk,’ Dershowitz recalled, ‘Dozens of these German lawyers came up to me and said, ‘We too have suffered from the Holocaust’” (Prager, p. 71).  There may be world consequences to taking innocent life.  Life should be held as precious.

However, it is not only the taking of life that may have enduring consequences.  Influence and actions of all sorts affect others.  The proverb says, “Like mother, like daughter” (Ezekiel 16:44).  May we each soberly ponder: What affect am I having on the future of this world?

 

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All in All

                                                  You are my strength when I am weak                                                                                                       You are the treasure that I seek                                                           You are my all in all.

                                                      Seeking You as a precious jewel                                                                                                               Lord, to give up I’d be a fool                                                              You are My all in all.

                                         (Song: You Are My All in All by Dennis Jernigan)

The phrase “all in all” occurs four times in the New Testament.  Let’s notice:

1.  Colossians 3:11, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”

Biblical unity is a result of Christ being “all and in all.”  (a) Christ is to be “all.”  He is to be our focus (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He is to be our pattern of life (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21).  (b) Christ is to be “in all.”  He dwells in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17).  His will is to live within us (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:15).  Relationships should be Christ-centered.

2.  Ephesians 1:22-23, “He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

The church is, in God’s plan, to be filled with His fullness.  A.T. Robertson explains, “We see in Ephesians the Dignity of the Body of Christ which is ultimately to be filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19) when it grows up in the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13; 4:16)” (A.T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, studylight.org).  Albert Barnes comments, “Mr. Locke renders it, ‘which is his body, which is completed by him alone,’ and supposes it means that Christ is the head, who perfects the church by supplying all things to all its members which they need” (Barnes’ Notes, studylight.org).  Both of these views take “fullness” in the passive sense (that which is filled) and as modifying its immediate antecedent – “body” (Gary Workman, The Book of Ephesians, Spiritual Sword Lectureship book, editors Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren).  Either way – whether Christ or God is doing the filling – the church’s fullness comes from its connection with the divine.

Even today, spiritual life, maturity, and success can be found only through this connection.  God’s word was given so that we “may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We “are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10).  Jesus told the disciples that it’s vital that they abide in Him (John 15:1-8).  The church and Christians should be Christ-centered and connected with God and His will.

3.  1 Corinthians 12:6, “And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

The context concerns miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-31).  Some at Corinth were arrogant, puffed up, over the miraculous abilities which they had received (1 Corinthians 4:6-7).

Here is what they needed to appreciate.  (a) The gifts that they had were from God (1 Corinthians 4:6-7; 12:6, 11, 18).  (1) God worked “all.”  He was the source of this power, not they, themselves.  (2) He worked all “in all.”  He distributed the gifts according to His will and wisdom (1 Corinthians 14:6, 11, 18).  (b) These gifts were to be used to profit the whole church (1 Corinthians 12:7, 12-27; 14:26b; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

There is still an application.  Instead of being arrogant, let us use whatever abilities we have to do the work of the church, to edify the body, to minister one to another, and ultimately to glorify God (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11).  Christians who are Christ-centered seek to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Philippians 1:19-21). They realize that what ever abilities or talents which they possess are from Him, and ultimate credit belongs to Him.

4.  1 Corinthians 15:28, “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

How do we understand this?  There are passages that seem to indicate that there will be no end to the reign of Christ (Luke 1:33; Revelation 1:6; 3:21; 11:15).  However, this passage speaks of the Son being subject to God.

(a) Some believe that this has to do with Christ’s redemptive reign.  (1) Wayne Jackson explains, “There is no problem if we recognize that the term ‘reign’ can be employed in different senses.  In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle is discussing the Lord’s present reign as mediator between God and man – His redemptive reign (1 Corinthians 15:25 – B.H.).  On the other hand, other passages address Christ’s regal glory as a divine being.  In that sense – as deity – His will reign forever” (Wayne Jackson, Will Christ Reign Forever? Christiancourier.com).   (2) Jim McGuiggan offers this explanation.  “God gave glory and dominion to man but man refused to recognize his subservience to God.  Man rebelled, refused to acknowledge God as his sovereign and  sought to please himself… The ‘new’ Man (Jesus) will carry out God’s loving purpose and will at the same time acknowledge this submission to his Father by surrendering the royal power when he has completed the Father’s work (1 Corinthians 15:28)… This Man, acknowledged that his dominion was delegated to him!… What he surrenders is ‘delegated’ authority (it was ‘given’ to him; Matthew 28:18; John 17:2 and elsewhere).  He does not now reign by virtue of his Godhead.  When he complete the task of ‘delegated reign’ he will surrender that authority and reign by virtue of his deity!” [Drew Leonard, A.D. 70: Taking a Look at Hyper-Preterism, pp.157-158 (quoting Jim McGuiggan, The Reign of God, pp. 96-97)].  Again, “At present he reigns with delegated authority.  It isn’t primal authority, it is given to him.  Prior to his incarnation, the word reigned by virtue of his Godhood.  Having been made flesh, he takes the place of a servant and from that time to this he has exercised only what power that has been given to him.  When the end comes… he will end that kind of rule.  What happens then is another matter.  Paul doesn’t go into it” (Jim McGuiggan, The Book of 1 Corinthians, p. 195).

(b) Some believe that the Son will continue in a role of subordination, even in the hereafter.  Wayne Jackson writes, Christ was not subject to the Father before the incarnation (cf. Philippians 2:5-ff); he will be in some sense after his second coming.  Why?  The answer is not supplied.  It could reflect a deeper level of devotion to humanity than anyone can possibly imagine from our vantage point – forever identified with the redeemed!” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 336).  Much of what is to come remains a mystery.

There is a point that is being made that is not so difficult to understand.  God will be exalted.  The N.I.V. Study Bible understood this to mean, “The triune God will be shown to be supreme and sovereign in all things.”

Jesus lived a life on earth which glorified God (John 1:18; 17:4).  He is still working towards this end.  Let us be like Christ.

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Are You A Connector and a Maven?

Connectors.  Some people seem to know, have contact, or be connected in some way with everybody.  They have hundreds of phone numbers in their phones, and hundreds of friends on social media.  I have a friend who does “fill-in preaching” for many different congregations.  He stays in contact with many preachers and congregations week to week.  If you are seeking current news or information in the brotherhood, he probably has it.  Do you know any connectors?  Are you one?

There is a game called, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  The aim of the game is to link any actor, through movie connections, in six links to Kevin Bacon.  Brett Tjaden, a computer scientist at the University of Virginia found that any actor who had been in a television film or major motion picture can be connected with Kevin Bacon in 2.8312 steps.  He also calculated this for all actors in television films and major motion pictures.  Bacon ranked 669th in connectivity.  John Wayne ranked 116th.  Rod Steiger came in first (Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point, pp. 46-47).  The best connected were in many different types of films.  How well connected are you with other people?  Do you participate in many different things?  How many worlds do you touch?

Mavens.  Mavens gather information, and pass it on.  They distribute coupons.  They tell you where to go to get the best deals.  “The critical thing about mavens… is that they aren’t passive collectors of information.  It isn’t just that they are obsessed with how to get the best deal on a can of coffee.  What sets them apart is that once they figure out how to get that deal, they want to tell you about it too” (Gladwell, p. 62).  Do you know anyone that can be described as a maven?  Are you one?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, The Tipping Point, suggests that epidemics and cultural trends spread for similar reasons.  One of these reasons is the power of some people to affect (or infect) so many others. [Believe it or not this article was written long before the coronavirus pandemic. The thoughts of this article should be especially meaningful to us now.]

The church needs connectors.  Many of the Bible studies that I have had, occurred through a connector.  Christians are to be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  Salt cannot preserve, unless it makes contact with the meat.  Light cannot show the way, unless it is seen. Christians may have a preserving influence. However, they need some kind of contact. They need to be visible, not hid under a basket.  Jesus did not pray that we be taken out of the world (John 17:15). He did not want us to live as hermits, isolated from the world [Preachers, while study is to be valued, I am concerned about balance. It seems to me that too many of us live in our offices with little contact with others, while there is a lost and dying world with whom we need to make contact, and brethren who need edification.  I am also concerned about some church members. I have heard some say, “I have no one to invite to the Gospel Meeting. I don’t know anyone other than church members.” How can we reach out to others, if we have no connection with others?]

The church needs mavens.  Andrew “found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘we have found the Messiah’… And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:40-42).  “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.’  And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’  Philip said to him, ‘Come and see!” (John 1:45-46).  Are you using your contact to tell others about Jesus? The early church “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:5).

Whether you’re a connector or a maven, you could be helpful in reaching the lost, and spreading the Gospel of Christ.  Connectors, mavens and teachers should work together to bring souls to Christ.  Let us do so this year. [Even in this time of pandemic, we can stay connected with others via phone, text, email, Skype etc. We should do so. Many are thinking about their mortality more than ever. Let’s use this sobering fact to talk with them about eternal matters. This past Sunday there was a baptism following our Facebook Live sermon. This is not the time to disconnect.  We need to ever be trying to connect, even if in alternative ways.]

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