Does Your Work Really Matter?

By Paul J. Dean
Pastor, Counselor & Professor

Does your work really matter? Alissa Clark of Relevant Magazine.com poses this question in essence with her provocative article titled "Seeing God's Hand." In wrestling with writer's block, Clark begins to share her heart a bit when it comes to the issue of, dare I say, relevance. No doubt she expresses what many of us often feel. She says her problem is not simply writer's block. She becomes transparent and reveals, "I am scared to fail. I am afraid that I will pour out my heart and thoughts to you, but it won't make an iota of difference to you. There's a blinding fear that what I write will not matter. And even worse, there's that nagging feeling that what I do in my life, ultimately, will not matter."

Now that's transparency and honesty. But, she gets even more honest. In her words, "To be honest, this goes far beyond my writing. My 'day job' is mundane -- technology in the world of investment banking. I'm not likely to change anyone's life or make a real difference in the world by sitting behind a desk and answering e-mails all day. I struggle with knowing why I've been placed here, when there seem to be so many people out there doing interesting things that make a difference."

She notes that she cannot be the only one who harbors such feelings. And she is right. The question of whether or not we are or even can make a difference in this world plagues most of us. No doubt thoughtful Christians wonder just how they can make such a difference in the work-a-day world of their 9 to 5 lives (8 to 6, etc.). Of course, God does have something to say to us that ought to encourage our hearts.

Work is Worship

First, your work matters because its part of your relationship with God. Work is part of your relationship to God because it is an act of worship. We are given this counsel: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)." That command puts all of life in the context of worship. We glorify God, that is, we put His character on display when we work. He worked. He worked in creation and redemption to name the big two.

When we work, we reflect His glory and we further derive joy in doing what He's called us to do. To the extent that we enjoy being where God wants us to be, and sometimes that's in the mundane or difficult circumstances of work related drudgery as a result of the curse, we enjoy God by virtue of our redemption in Christ. We find satisfaction in work as we find satisfaction in God. As we find satisfaction in God, we glorify Him. "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (John Piper)."

Work is part of your relationship to God because God has given you the ability to work. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave where you are going (Ecc. 9:10)." Among other things, this verse speaks to the fact that we have a limited time on this earth. God has given us certain things to do while we are here. Because they have been given to us by God, we need to pursue them with all of our might in the time allotted. In addition to giving us a sense of purpose and urgency, this commitment to diligence and excellence also glorifies God.

Work is part of your relationship to God because it reveals your character. "He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster (Prov. 18:9)." Part of who we are before God and man is revealed in the attitude we have toward work and the getting of that work done.

At the same time, work is part of your relationship to God because it is part of God's provision for you. "Prepare your work without, and make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterwards build your house (Prov. 24:27)." Diligent work pays off.

Work is Witness

Further, diligent work pays off as a means of witness when God provides. Our Christian ethic is on display as it were. Paul admonished, "Study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that you may have lack of nothing (1 Thes. 4:11-12)." Negatively, Paul reminded: "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread (2 Thes. 3:10)."

If there were no other purpose for our work than for it to be a proving ground or a development ground or a place of obedience to God, it would still matter in an eternally significant way. And yet, there are other reasons your work matters.

Second, your work matters because it's a place of witness for Christ. We're all familiar with the Great Commission. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20)." Yet, there is some popular confusion regarding Christ's imperative command here.

It is a well known fact that while God calls missionaries to go to foreign fields, the imperative command here is "make disciples." The word translated "go" is a participle in the original language and would be better translated "as you go" or "as you are going." By inference, we could translate it thusly: "as you are going about the everyday business of your lives, make disciples." What this text means is that we are to make disciples wherever God has placed us, including our places of work. You are on mission with God at work. What an encouragement. Of course your work matters!

At the same time, let us not think that we must confront every one of our co-workers with the four spiritual laws. How about the issue of biblical counsel? Has anyone ever come to you with a problem? Can you give a biblical word that might lead into a discussion of the all-sufficiency of Christ in every area of life? Paul said, "Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another (Rom. 15:14)." Loving, gentle, biblical counsel leads us to speak of Christ to others.

Salt & Light

Third, by way of extension, your work matters because there you can be salt and light. The Lord Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:13-16)." As your co-workers see your good work and know why you do good work, they will glorify your Father in heaven. That's purpose. That's meaning. And again, that's worship.

Fourth, let's put it another way. Your work matters because it puts our Lord Jesus on display. "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time (Col. 4:5)." In other words, at work, be wise in front of your lost co-workers and make the most of every opportunity God gives you there for the sake of the gospel. How can you do that?

Do your work with excellence, for it shows the excellence of our God. "O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth (Ps. 8:9)!" Put God on display through your work ethic.

Put God on display in the product you produce whether it be a car, a magazine, or good investment advice. This dynamic will demonstrate the order and beauty of our God: not to mention the manifold benefits He bestows upon us. "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork." You reflect that revelatory aspect of God in your handiwork, for you are an ambassador of Christ in all that you do.

Work with Integrity

Do your work with integrity. Some people may not appreciate your commitment to Christ or your commitment to excellence. Yet, they will in some way at some point be moved to glorify God because of you. Peter commanded, "Have your conduct honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Pet. 2:12)."

Fifth, your work matters because it helps you fulfill the cultural mandate. In Gen 1:28, we read: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Don't miss the commands to replenish, subdue, and have dominion over the earth. These dynamics relate to gospel influence in the world; in the culture; in the communities in which God has placed us.

Historically, Christians led the way in the development of hospitals, the university system, the arts, scientific endeavor, and technology. This reality is connected to God's general revelation of Himself as pointed out in Ps. 19:1 previously. Christians seek to discover all of that which God has revealed and put it on display to make a difference in this world that He might be praised among the nations. Cultures influenced by the gospel have always advanced in these key areas and more. Cultures in which gospel influence has waned also see a declining effect in those same areas.

In other words, with your work, while Christ and the other world is ultimate, we are commanded to impact this world for Christ. That means not only individual salvation but social and structural transformation, though again, not divorced from the gospel. But, that does in fact mean that with your work, you make the world a better place. We can see this cultural/dominion mandate in Paul's command to Titus: "This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (Titus. 3:8)." Paul says our good works/work is profitable to men. Here he means the world in general.

Influence Society

With your work, you provide an exemplary influence in society. Again, Paul exhorts, "Let no man despise your youth; but you be an example of the believers, in word, in conduct, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12)." Yes, this command is in the context of Timoth's pastoral ministry, but the application is appropriate. Christians are examples for others to follow in general and in terms of work ethic. You will compel others to do well by your good example. You will not only influence the culture at large, but you will influence your own work culture.

Sixth, your work matters because you show people that Christians are different. We've already noted that we should do whatever we do with all of our might (Ecc. 9:10). That is certainly a different approach to work than most display.

Further, Paul says, "Do all things without complaining and disputing (Phil. 2:14)." That too is different.

How about this? "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:4-5)." Would people see you as being different form the average worker with an attitude like that?

And did I mention diligence? "And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you (2 Cor. 8:22)."

Can you be different in how you react to adversity at work and make an impact in so being? "For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content (Phil. 4:11)."

How about giving to others as a result of your work? Your work will be different if you engage in it with a view toward having extra to give to others. Paul encouraged, "Let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need." People will be grateful, and they will see Christ in you.

Of course, in your dialogue about work itself, you could speak of these things and then use them as an opportunity to segue into those things which are ultimate. This work is indeed temporary, but the work you do in the midst of it and behind it is eternal.

We could go on. This little sketch is but a cursory overview. Suffice it to say that we should be encouraged by these things, in these things, and to these things. May your heart be filled with love for Christ and others as you put Him on display in the work place. May you make a difference and see that difference for your own sense of purpose and joy in Christ. And remember:

Yes Alissa, your work matters.


Relativism 101: A Brief, Objective Guide

By Carl E. Olson

It is, according to Pope Benedict XVI, "the most profound difficulty of our time." Pope John Paul II said it is a leading cause for lack of evangelistic and missionary zeal. And the late Allan Bloom, author of the controversial bestseller The Closing of the American Mind, said it is the only thing that many university students believe in.

Defining Relativism

All three are referring to relativism, the belief that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Relativism insists that morality, cultures, and beliefs are all of equal value, meaning, and worth. It asserts that what is true for one person might not be true for another, and each person can decide for himself what is true, good, and right. Popular expressions of relativism include comments such as, "This is true for me -- and so I believe it" and "What's right for you might not be right for me."

In his homily at the Mass preceding the conclave that quickly elected him Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Ratzinger said that "relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching,’ looks like the only attitude [acceptable] to today’s standards." He warned: "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires."

Relativism comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, cultural relativism holds that "truth" is merely the creation of a particular culture and what is "true" for for one culture is not necessarily "true" for other cultures. There is moral relativism, the belief that morality is a subjective social creation of a particular people in a certain time and place -- and that morality can be changed as desired or needed.

Situational relativism asserts that what is "right" and "wrong" depends on the specifics of each situation -- not upon objective, transcendent morality. And cognitive relativism is the philosophical belief that truth, rationality, and knowledge are relative -- there is not such thing as objective, definitive truth.

The Roots of Relativism

Bloom, who taught at the University of Chicago for many years, wrote, "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative." He explained that for such students this relativity of truth is "not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of a free society." For many people today, this belief in the relative nature of truth is a primary virtue -- perhaps the only virtue.

Although there is evidence of relativism among the ancient Greek sophists, fully developed relativism appeared much later in Western thought. Some scholars have located its modern beginnings in nominalism, a philosophical position claiming that reality cannot be comprehended through the use of universal and abstract concepts, but only through the study of specific, individual objects. It was William of Ockham (1298-1347), a Catholic philosopher, who set forth nominalistic thought in its most comprehensive form over against the realism of St. Thomas Aquinas. This move towards a subjective and intuitive knowledge, opposed to abstract and universal knowledge, led to later, more radical propositions in the realms of theology and morality.

Although Hegel, Kant, Marx, and others played significant roles in the development of relativistic thought, special mention goes to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Niezsche wrote that "the value of truth must for once be experimentally called into question." He insisted, "There are no facts, only interpretations" -- a pithy summary of the relativistic mentality, echoed by the common refrain heard in many corners of contemporary culture, "There is no truth, only opinions."

Cultural critic Roger Kimball, in Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age, states, "Nietzche's influence on contemporary intellectual life can hardly be overstated." Those influenced include Jacques Derrida and Michael Foucault, two intellectuals whose subversive, relativistic thought has itself had an enormous impact on academic thought and popular culture for over three decades.

Derrida's work in deconstruction -- which claims that truth cannot be known and that words have no real meaning -- was a type of hyper-nominalism As Kimball notes, Derrida's famous statement that "there is nothing outside the text" is "short hand for denying that words can refer to a reality beyond words, for denying that truth has its measure in something beyond the web of our language games." Or, put in more popular terms: "Words don't mean anything."

The Cardinal, the Pope, and Relativism

In Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, then-Cardinal Ratzinger addresses relativistic assaults on truth and meaning. He is especially critical of the commonly held belief that truth cannot be known -- or, if it can, it can only be "true" for certain people, not for everyone. He writes that "to lay claim to truth for one religion's particular expressions of faith appears today, not merely presumptuous, but an indication of insufficient enlightenment." And he adds that this relativism "is the most profound difficulty of our age."

In a fitting turn of phrase, he describes this as "the dogma of relativism" -- a dogma that despises the Judeo-Christian tradition. A dogmatic dislike of orthodox Christianity is, of course, prevalent in Western culture. As Benedict XVI points out at length, it poses many challenges, especially when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel. It's one thing to argue that Christianity it true when the culture accepts that truth can be known; it's another matter altogether when many people believe (often absolutely) that absolute truth is about as real as Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.

Increasingly, those who proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church are fitted with tidy labels in an attempt to dismiss them from the public square. The Holy Father observes that "the belief that there is indeed truth, valid and binding truth, within history itself, in the person of Jesus Christ and in the faith of the Church, is referred to as fundamentalism." He states, "The Christian has to resist this ideology" of false equality, relativism, and bigotry.

Moral relativism is certainly not limited to the non-Catholic realm. Many within the Catholic Church have fallen prey to the seductive call of relativism. This has led to a serious crisis among certain moral theologians who have embraced the separation between will and act, resulting in a morality essentially free of the reality of sin, shot through with "sincerity" and coated in talk of "complexity."

In turn, some Catholics have concluded that "freedom" involves choosing for oneself what is true or false. Pope John Paul II addressed this misreading of truth and morality in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"), where he stated:

This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself... In this way, any reference to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life. (par 20)

The Way, the Truth, and the Cure

In Dominus Iesus ("On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church"), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made special mention of the challenge of relativism. It did not provide easy answers, but instead insisted that the only real cure was the clear and unwavering proclamation of the Gospel: "As a remedy for this relativistic mentality, which is becoming ever more common, it is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ" (par 5).

In a world filled with doubt about the existence of truth, the Church and her members must continually introduce the seeking and the lost to the One who is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14:6). And Pope Benedict XVI will undoubtedly be leading the way in confronting the dictatorship of relativism with the freedom of Truth.

Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.

He is the co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code and author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?

He resides in a top secret location in the Northwest somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. Visit his personal web site at www.carl-olson.com.


Lifting the Level of Our Prayer

By Charles Stanley

Do you pray for friends and family only when there is a crucial need, or do you ask God to show you how to pray for those around you on a daily basis? Many people wait to pray until there is an emergency - a death, a serious illness, or a crucial decision. The apostle Paul was aware of the physical needs of the early church yet he chose to pray most intensely for their spiritual growth and well being.

I'm sure he prayed many times for their physical care. No one was more sensitive to the needs of the early church than Paul. He heard the accounts of abuse at the hands of the Roman and Jewish officials. However, in the opening chapter of Ephesians we find Paul praying for something greater than deliverance in suffering - that they would gain wisdom and a revelation of God's character. He asks the Father to give these early believers and us insight and knowledge that exceeds anything we have ever known.

"For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe?" (Ephesians 1:15-19)

When overwhelming trials come, and they come to all of us, the one thing that saves us from mental collapse is the knowledge that God is with us. We can withstand anything when we realize that God will never forsake us, never leave us, never walk away, and never stop loving us. Paul's prayer was a prayer of power and of specific direction. It went straight to the point.

Many times we wander around in prayer, "God, please bless Aunt Martha and keep Uncle Joe safe." Those prayers are nice, but they lack depth and energy. It is much more powerful to ask God to infuse His wisdom and strength into the lives of those around us.

God gives direction to our prayers as we ask Him to show us how to pray for others. He gives both wisdom and discernment as we submit to His leadership. He uses prayers to meet needs, open doors, change attitudes, and mend broken relationships. The potential of prayer is limitless when guided by the Spirit of God.

All of us need prayer. We all need someone to pray for us because we live in a fallen world where temptation lurks on every side.

Praying with Power and Direction The first step to praying effectively for another person is to pray specifically. For years people have written or called to share how they are praying for me. Many times their prayers are right on target with something that I am facing. I think, "Lord, You knew exactly what I needed, and You have guided this person to pray according to Your will for my life."

God is a God of specifics. His desire is that we would learn to pray specifically for the needs and spiritual growth of others. Paul's prayer was very specific and very powerful. In a short amount of space he asks God to do something absolutely life changing in the lives of the Ephesians.

For some time now, I have kept a written diary of my prayers for other people. It helps me examine my prayers, the needs of the people around me, and the way God is working in their lives. The most powerful activity you can participate in is prayer. That is why you need to think through what you are praying for another individual. Nothing so moves the circumstances of life as prayer does.

Prayer motivates God to accomplish His will. Of course, He can do this without our prayers; but we miss a tremendous lesson of faith. It takes faith to ask God to work in another person's life. People who have a hard time believing God for answered prayer usually have weak faith. Great faith looks to God for His best and His direction.

Making Big Requests Paul's prayers were comprehensive and rich in quality. They were not loaded up with large words and theological terms but dealt directly with spiritual issues critical to the life of the early church. They contained ideas that made a difference in the early believer's personal walk with the Lord.

When you pray for others, do you visualize God working to bring that person or persons into closer fellowship with Him? Paul wanted believers everywhere to experience a fullness in Jesus Christ.

The third aspect of Paul's prayers was the magnitude of what he prayed for. He asked for big things. He prayed for the believers in Colossae to be strengthened and empowered according to God's glorious might. He never prayed, "God, just strengthen these people so they can go through this difficult time." No. He prayed for a specific need.

Faith motivates prayer, and prayer motivates God. "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light" (Colossians 1:9-12).

Paul is caught up in the truth of God and not the hardship of his surroundings. He wrote the Ephesians and Colossians during a very difficult time in his own life. He was in prison in Rome, but he never mentions his suffering. There is no hint of self pity. His understanding of God is so mighty and with such magnitude that he knew the quality of his prayers must reflect the quality of God's desire for His people.

God is still in the process of answering the prayers of the apostle Paul today. We are discovering the will of God, learning to walk after the pattern of the Lord, bearing spiritual fruit, growing in our knowledge of God, and coming into a complete understanding of His power and strength. If we teach our children how to pray for specific needs and they teach their children the same thing, imagine the magnitude of godly power that will be released. Prayer is the greatest force on earth. Nothing is greater than talking to a sovereign God. You and I have the greatest opportunity in existence. The prayer of one man or woman can move almighty God to do what nothing else will.

Prayer Evokes Power The emphasis of Paul's prayers to the Colossians and Ephesians is on power. Paul wanted the people to experience in a practical way the surpassing, indescribable greatness of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. He prayed that they would walk relying upon the supernatural strength and energy of the Holy Spirit.

Many people have to get up courage to ask God for something really big. When He answers their prayers they are shocked. We look at other people who spend a large amount of time praying and think the power of God is so visible in their lives. The truth is the same power of the Holy Spirit living in them abides in each one of us.

The difference is the quality, magnitude, and emphasis of prayer. When you pray, ask God to show you how to pray for another person. Then trust Him for the outcome. All prayer comes down to a matter of faith. Do you truly believe God for the things He promises in His Word, or do you think He only answers the prayers of others?

The level of our prayers is lifted the moment we begin praying that God will bring us and those we are around into a new understanding of His wisdom and knowledge. Jesus Christ should always be the focus of all our prayers for others. Paul's prayers glorified God. He based his prayers on God's truth. The one thing that elevates the level of our prayers is the knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. Paul always linked his requests to God's truth.

When you begin praying as Paul did in Colossians 1:9-12, your love and worship of Jesus Christ increase dramatically. You will fall in love with Him in a fresh new way. Never allow yourself to think that your prayers won't make a difference. You have the same God, the same position in Christ, and the same ability that the apostle Paul had. You just have a different role to fulfill in this life.

If you don't know how to pray for someone, begin with the prayer in Colossians 1:9-12. God is committed to answering that prayer. When you pray it for a friend, family member, or co-worker, you can count on God to work in that person's life. When we get serious about prayer, God notices and blessings are sure to come. (James 5:16)

The level of our prayer determines how high are we soaring in the level of our spirituality. Are you still praying for yourself only or are you praying for others too -- especially those who harbor enmity with you? Do you ask more for material things or do you pray for spiritual matters? How high can soar in your prayer especially during times of storms in your life?


Words That Can Make the Difference

By Dr. Jehan Sadat
Condensed from the Philippine Star

This is a commencement address delivered at the University of Maryland and reprinted in the column of Mrs. Arabella H. Driscoll of the Philippine Star. Mrs. Sadat was the wife of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.

I will never forget the first thing I learned from Anwar Sadat, because it may have been the most important thing he ever taught me. It was many years ago, so long ago in fact, that it was before he was even my husband. It was when he was to meet my mother for the very first time.

You must understand that I was born of a mixed marriage - my mother was English and my father was Egyptian. And like many other English women of that time, my mother, who was a teacher all her life, worshipped Winston Churchill, whom she believed to be the greatest living English statesman.

You may not remember that from 1882 until 1952, Egypt was, for all intents and purposes, a British colony, controlled by British interests.

And so that first meeting between my mother and the man who was to become my husband went smoothly enough, until my mother got around to asking Anwar, "So, what do you think about Winston Churchill?" My husband did not pause for a moment. "Madame," he said, "I think he is a thief."

Well, as you can imagine, that was about the end of the meeting, and it was nearly the end of the marriage. I was distraught. Several days later, I called Anwar and asked him why - why did he have to tell my mother what he really thought about Churchill. Why couldn't he just have lied? Anwar said to me, "I will never lie in that way. I will never pretend to feelings and loyalties that are against all I believe."

That day I learned something, not just about my husband, but about what was important - what was truly important - in life.

Beware of common sense. For you see, any one with common sense would have told my husband, you can't say that Winston Churchill is a thief and still expect to marry this young girl that you love. But he said, yes I can - I can speak the truth as I understand it and still win the respect and admiration, even of those who disagree. He said yes I can - and he did.

Now it is nearly 16 years since the Camp David accords, and today we are seeing the Palestinians and the Israelis at last in pursuit of peace. Many people around Arafat said, you cannot make peace with the Israelis. But he said yes I can go to Jerusalem, and he did.

And in 1978, when my husband and the Israeli prime minister were here in Maryland, at Camp David, trying to find a way to make a permanent and lasting peace, many advisors and people around Prime Minister Begin said you cannot agree to this treaty. But Prime Minister Begin said, "Yes, I can make peace with those who were once our enemies." And he did.

And two years ago, when Israel and the PLO first began to talk to one another, there were many, many voices on both sides that said, you cannot do this, you cannot talk to our enemies, to those we hate. But Arafat and Rabin said, yes we can talk, we can begin to learn to live together.

And for decades in South Africa, many voices spoke to Nelson Mandela, saying, you cannot hope to have free and fair elections or share power with the whites, we must rise up and kill them all. But Mandela said, yes we can bring about change, we can end apartheid by the ballot, not the bullet. And he has.

So much common sense said all these things were impossible. So many facts and figures and statistics said it could never be so. Do not trust the common sense that says differences are irreconcilable and peace is impossible. When your heart and your spirit and your soul tell you there is a better way, listen to them. There is. It has been said that we live in an age awash in knowledge, but bereft of wisdom. Perhaps this is so.

The computer that sits on your desk today can hold more information than the fabled library of Alexandria, the greatest repository of knowledge in the ancient world. But surely we cannot believe that someone who simply buys a computer thereby gains the wisdom of Socrates, the sagacity of Maimonides, the insight of Al-Kindi.

All the knowledge you have worked so hard to gather does not necessarily make you wise. Knowledge and wisdom are separate and distinct; never confuse the two. Knowledge can be had by any fool; wisdom comes only to those humble enough to be willing to admit all that they do not know.

Knowledge tells us anything can be had for a price. Wisdom teaches us that if the price is loss of honesty, integrity and self-respect, then the thing may not be worth having.

Knowledge tells us that we must first learn to love ourselves, before we can learn to love others. Wisdom tells us that self-love can easily turn into a lifetime occupation, and only by giving to others do we eventually receive ourselves.

Knowledge tells us that power and military forces are indisputable, and that he with the most guns and the biggest armies must invariably win. Wisdom teaches us that all the guns and armies of the world cannot stop an individual with an idea whose time has come.

And so my friends, as you go through life, let this be a warning to you. From this day forth you will meet many knowledgeable people. They will tell you that it's impossible, that it can't be done. Do not believe them if your heart tells you otherwise.

I invite you to remember a story from my own culture, a story so right, and true and correct that it has become a maxim here in your own land: If the prophet cannot go to the mountain, then the mountain will go to the prophet. There is a way. There is always a way for love, dignity, honor and peace.

My husband knew that peace was the way, and he decided that if peace would not come to him, then he would go to peace. Many around him said that it could not be done, and both he and I knew from the beginning that he might pay a terrible price for what he did. But he knew as well, that he had to do it.

And now, 16 years later, the peace that my husband gave his life for is still here, and those who said, for so long and so loud, that it cannot be done, that it was impossible, those names have faded into obscurity.

My dear fellow students in life, my respected colleagues in learning (for let me be the first to address you so):

Each of you, in the lives that now stretch out before you, will face a similar moment of truth. It may not be as big, or as public, or involve the destiny of nations or fate of millions. But it will be no less important.

Earlier, I said there were just three words I wished to tell you today. Those three words that can change the world. Those three words are: yes, I can.

All the knowledge in the world may tell you otherwise. There will be those who doubt, those who say it cannot be done, those who may even threaten to kill you if you dare to attempt it. But never forget those three words: yes, I can. They are immensely powerful. They will bring you to the mountain to you.

My mother would be immensely happy this afternoon, because I will leave you with the words of her hero, Sir Winston Churchill. "Courage is the greatest virtue, for without the courage of your convictions, all the other virtues are meaningless."

And my mother would be immensely proud this afternoon, not just for me, but of my husband as well, a man who had the courage in his life to say, "Yes, I can."


Beyond Words

What You Don't Say Says a Lot
By Ariel L. Noble
Health & Home, Jul-Aug 2000 Issue

In a conversation, a very large portion of the meaning of what we say is communicated nonverbally. Nonverbal cues can send the wrong signal to the listeners.

At a dinner party held in their grandparents' home, Edward commented about his cousin Albert's new girlfriend. "So you're seeing Irene?" he said, breaking into a smile that had an air of a sneer in it. "They say she changes boyfriends as often as she changes her clothes. Better watch out, kid."

Feeling insulted, Albert retorted, "So what! Who asked your opinion anyway?" He unceremoniously dropped his plate and walked out, leaving a waft of animosity hanging in the air.

Since their verbal tussle, Albert has refused to see or talk to Edward. Perhaps all Edward wanted was to give his cousin a fair warning. Instead, he reaped rancor, and his supposedly fraternal advice was taken as malicious blabber.

What went wrong? Edward's intentions for warning Albert must have been, to say the least, noble. The most civil act that his cousin could have done was to keep cool and give him the benefit of the doubt. But what angered Albert wasn't entirely the message; the way Edward delivered it did him in. the advice wasn't bad - it was simply ill-timed and communicated badly.

At some point in time, you must have been in the same boat as Edward was. Unwittingly, you must have said something with a grimace or a leer, a slumping posture, a very piercing look that gave the wrong impression to others. As Norwegian dramatist and poet Henrik Ibsen aptly put it: "A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed." In conversations, the meanings we attach to the messages we receive, more often that not, depend on the sender's actions, no matter how inconspicuous or harmless these may seem.

It's How You Say It

What's in a message that could mean one thing other than what you had intended it to mean? A lot.

What we communicate consists of two parts: the verbal and the nonverbal. The verbal element pertains to the spoken part while the nonverbal portion refers to the silent cues that we either knowingly or unknowingly convey when we open our mouths to speak.

In their book, Communication Works, Teri Gamble and Michael Gamble used the phrase "nonverbal communication" to refer to "all kinds of human responses not expressed in words." Our gestures, our facial expressions, our eye movements, the way we stand, our distance from the other person - all these and more form part of our nonverbal cues.

Experts say that in a typical conversation between two people, "the verbal channel carries less than 35 percent of a message's social meaning." In other words, a very large proportion of the meaning of what we say is communicated nonverbally. Indeed, actions speak louder than words. We should therefore pay attention to the message we convey as well as the manner by which we convey it. Otherwise, we'd be misunderstood by others.

Forms of Nonverbal Communication

Authorities on the subject have classified nonverbal cues into several categories. Most common among these are kinesics, paralanguage, proxemics, and tactile communication.

Kinesics, popularly known as body motion or body language, includes gestures, body movements, facial expressions, eye movements, and stance or posture. Unfortunately, there are people who have trouble controlling their body movements during a conversation and suiting their gestures with their words. So they end up being accused of feelings they didn't feel, simply because their actions are incongruous with what they say.

Paralanguage, or voice, pertains to the vocal cues that accompany spoken language such as pitch (highness or lowness of the voice), rate (speed at which you talk), hesitations and pauses.

Proxemics is defined as "the use of space by human beings." Douglas Ehninger and others noted that it is "one of the most important but perhaps the least recognized aspects of nonverbal communication."

According to Gamble and Gamble, the term proxemics was coined by Edward Hall in his book The Hidden Dimension. The duo described it as the "space that exists between us as we talk and relate to each other as well as the way we organize the space around us in our homes, offices and communities."

How close we are to people during a conversation manifests the extent of our involvement and concern for them. Hall identifies four types of human distances: intimate (zero to 18 inches); personal (18 inches to four feet); social (four to 12 feet); and public (12 feet up to the limit of sight).

Tactile communication, or touch, is one of the most basic forms of human communication. Our use of touch when we communicate tells a lot about us - our status, attitudes, needs. It sends many meanings to the person we make contact with. Some respond quickly to touch. Depending on the degree of our intimacy to them, coddling, caressing, patting and smooching are some tactile strokes that we can do to comfort them, express our love, and show that we care for them.

Watch Out for Those Nonverbal Cues

Below are some pointers on nonverbal communication that you should keep in mind when engaged in human interaction.

1. Be careful with your body language. Learn to match your verbal message with appropriate head and hand gestures. Nod your head when you agree to or understand what the other person said. Touch him or her to show your sympathy, appreciation or understanding. Quirks and mannerisms, no matter how innocuous they are to you, can distract, intimidate or turn off the other person. Clenching your fists manifests anger. Snickering while somebody is saying something serious is rude. Tapping your feet, drumming your fingers, glancing frequently at your watch, or scratching the back of your head suggests irritation or impatience. Pointing your finger at a person to emphasize something is not only insulting but also demeaning. Control these as much as you can.

2. Watch out for the tone of your voice. Vary your tone when you speak. Speaking in a monotone will bore the other person. It's the surest way to lose your listener's attention. Adjust your tone to suit the message you are imparting. Too loud a voice suggests arrogance and aggressiveness, giving the impression that you want to dominate the conversation. Avoid mumbling, a very soft voice implies that you are timid, incommunicative, uninterested or guilty of something. Speak in a pleasantly audible voice. Don't talk too fast. Give the other party a chance to grasp the meaning of your speech and absorb your ideas. Radiate enthusiasm, sincerity and certainty in your talk.

3. Be aware of your facial expressions. Normally, our expressions correspond to what we say. There are times, however, when people misinterpret us because of the way we look when we talk. Among others, squinting your eyes, batting those eyelashes, smirking, frowning, raising your eyebrows, rolling your eyeballs, staring at nowhere, and yawning can be misconstrued as signs of impatience, boredom, contempt, doubt or annoyance even if they're not. Convey your interest to your listener by maintaining eye contact. Smile whenever he or she says something pleasant and favorable.

4. Mind your posture and position. Avoid crossing your arms or placing them on your hips. You risk being misconstrued as arrogant or imperious. Lean slightly forward to make the other person feel that you're listening intently to him or her. Stand straight, placing your weight equally on both legs. Don't stand too close for comfort to the person you are talking to (unless you are that intimate with each other). This can be interpreted as an aggressive stance. Don't stand too far away from him or her either. He or she might take this as a sign of evasion or indifference.

From now on, observe the way you converse with people and set out to correct those obtrusive nonverbal cues that get in the way of your efforts to be understood. Be conscious with what you say. But be very cautious with the way you say it. It could mean a lot to others whether you say a few words or a mouthful. Finally, keep these words in mind: "Kind words are like honey - sweet to the taste and good for your health" (Proverbs 16:24).

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. -- Billy Graham


Christianity is for Losers

By Ray Comfort, WayOfTheMaster.com

If you have ever preached in the open air, you will know that there are a number of fears you have to overcome. There is your own natural fear -- that your mind may go blank and you will make a fool of yourself in front of a crowd of people. There's the fear of being asked a question you can't answer, or of attracting an angry heckler. But there is actually a bigger fear you will have to learn to live with.

It's the fear of having a crowd gather and then scattering them as soon as they hear what you have to say.

It's disheartening to pray for listeners, have them gather, and then watch them walk away while you are still speaking. That's why I pray for a good heckler. A good (angry) heckler can take a crowd of three people and make them three hundred in a matter of three minutes; and if you learn to handle yourself and the heckler right, the crowd will stay.

There are some people who think differently. They don't mind standing up publicly, opening a Bible, and talking to no one. However, that doesn't look good, and it confirms in the mind of those that pass by that open air preachers are weirdos. They talk to themselves. Publicly. Sadly, much of the reproach leveled at open air preachers has nothing to do with the message they preach, but rather how they present themselves.

The problem is that the modern day open air preacher in the United States carries a lot of unwanted baggage. The moment he/she stands up to preach with a Bible in hand, he becomes the victim of prejudice. He is immediately lumped in with the wide-eyed sign-carrying "The end is nigh" folks, or the money-hungry televangelists, pedophile priests, simple-minded Bible-quoting creationists and snake-handling fanatics. That's why I don't hold a Bible in my hand when I preach, and why I rarely mention spiritual things when I begin speaking. Scripture warns us that the ungodly think that spiritual things are foolish (1 Corinthians 2:14), so if I want them to gather and then stay to listen to the gospel, I have to know how to hold their interest.

There are learned skills involved in fishing, and perhaps one of the first is to use good bait and to know how to use that bait to disguise the hook. The average fish isn't stupid.

A year or so ago, someone gave us hundreds of brand new stuffed toys, so we began using them to attract fish. We would stand up with a hand full of toys, ask trivia questions, and give them away to those who gave the correct answers. Then, after gaining a semblance of credibility with the crowd, we would swing to spiritual things, and more than often the crowd would stay and listen to the gospel.

There are some that would say that using stuffed toys to attract a crowd is the old "bait and switch" trick. I suppose you could call it that. We begin with the "bait" of toys, and then we "switch" to the things of God. Most of our tracts do that. They begin in the natural realm before they swing to the spiritual. Jesus did that with the woman at the well in John chapter four. He didn't sit on the well and tell her that she would have to drink His blood and eat His flesh to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. She may have thought that that sounded a little strange. Instead He spoke to her about water. That was something she could understand. Then He swung to the topic of her salvation. That wasn't deceitful. It wasn't a "bait and switch" con trick. That was wise. It was exercising discretion.

I love what someone who shared his faith said, when he was criticized by someone who wasn't involved in evangelism. He gently replied, "Well, I like the way I do it better than the way you don't."

Water Running Uphill

The day before Christmas, 2006, I did things a little differently. When someone answered a trivia question incorrectly I had the thought that it was Christmas -- the season of giving -- so I said, "That's wrong," and threw him the toy. That made the crowd laugh.

I asked another question. "What is the most common food people choke to death on in U.S. restaurants?" Someone called out "Steak!" I called back "Wrong! Have a bear," and tossed out another stuffed toy. I then noticed a mom quickly coaxing her four children to step forward, so I asked the question again. One of the kids called out "Ice cream!" I said, "Wrong! Have a bear," and threw out another one. The crowd laughed again. The same thing happened with the other three children, much to their delight. This not only gathered a crowd, made kids and parents happy, it made the crowd happy enough to stay and listen.

I was aware that there was something very weird about what I was doing. Life in this world isn't like that. Losers don't get the prize. Ever. It's like water running uphill. But that's what it's like in the Kingdom of God. Christians are losers. They were at war with God and His Law. They were morally bankrupt and heading for Hell. But instead of trying to justify their guilt or hide their sin, they justified God. They said, "I am wrong and God is right. The battle is over. I surrender. He wins, and I lose."

In doing so, the sinner then gains the greatest gift of all -- eternal life. He didn't earn it, and he didn't deserve it. He can't boast of his achievements. He can only boast of God's kindness in the gospel, where the last become the first, the first became last, and the losers become winners.


Before You Blog that Rumor

By Kelly Boggs

Most everything has a downside. While oversized SUVs provide comfort and a measure of safety, they only get a few miles per gallon. The convenience of a backyard pool is offset by perpetual daily maintenance. Flying may be the quickest and most efficient way to travel but it comes with delays, probing security checks and overpriced food.

Even the Internet, with all of its positive contributions to the world, has a downside. The World Wide Web is a medium that has become saturated with pornography, gambling, predators and scammers.

While electronic mail has made communication more efficient and cost-effective, it also has made it much easier to spread gossip. Add weblogs, known as blogs, to the mix and the Internet has become a virtual hothouse in which rumor, hearsay and outright lies thrive.

Many bloggers utilize the Internet in positive ways. They disseminate news, informed opinion and helpful facts. Some use the medium as nothing more than personal diaries. However, there is a growing number of blogs that seem dedicated to nothing more than character assassination.

Rumor-mongering blogs have operated with impunity. A recent USA Today report, however, has raised the legal implications of negative blogging.

It seems people who have been smeared on the Internet are fighting back by taking their attackers to court. While no significant judgment has yet been leveled against any blogger, most legal analysts believe it is just a matter of time.

"It hasn’t happened yet, but soon, there will be a blogger who is successfully sued and who loses his home," Robert Cox, founder and president of the Media Bloggers Association, told USA Today. "That will be the shot heard round the blogosphere."

Beyond the legal issue of libel, there are ethical considerations, especially for those who care about such things. Sadly, after several years of Internet use, I have concluded that many bloggers and e-mail gossipers simply aren’t concerned with ethics.

Who among us has not received an e-mail containing ominous information about a ring of medical school dropouts roaming the country stealing kidneys or Madelyn Murray O’Hair’s effort to remove Christian programming from the airwaves? Both are urban legends.

On occasion I have responded to the sender of false information with a Web link pointing out the bogus nature of the e-mail they had transmitted. More times than not, I have received a reply that amounted to "so what."

One person I e-mailed indicated that he did not have time to check out the truthfulness of such information. He simply sent it on because it could possibly be true. Ethics? Forget about it, I’m busy.

Forwarding e-mail containing an urban legend might not cause anyone harm, but information that attacks someone’s character is a different matter entirely.

"The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom," said Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show." He may be right, but if the intent of the "note" is to defame or destroy, it is wrong whether it takes the form of a blog or an e-mail.

I am not exactly sure what motivates someone to post a libelous blog or send a malicious e-mail. Perhaps it is jealousy, envy, bitterness or the desire for revenge. No matter the reason, it is always unethical.

If you have any exposure to the Internet, whether you surf the World Wide Web or only utilize e-mail, you will encounter negative and nasty communications. Consider the following as you assess the information:

"Gossip need not be false to be evil -- there is a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around", someone has observed. No matter how noble the blogger/e-mailer seems to be, it is wise to consider that there could be an underlying negative motivation for the information.

Remember, an expert gossiper knows just how much to leave out of his or her communication. What is the blogger/e-mailer not telling you?

"Vilify, vilify, some of it will always stick," French playwright Pierre De Beaumarchais once said. British physician Thomas Fuller once observed, "Even doubtful accusations leave a stain behind them." Character assassins, whether they attack with a blog or via e-mail, know the aforementioned all too well.

The writer of Proverbs states, "He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends." Nothing good can come from disseminating gossip, whether electronically or otherwise.

When it comes to the downside of Internet gossip, remember the lyrics from I Heard It Through the Grapevine crooned by Marvin Gaye: "People say believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear."


Use Means, But Don't Trust in Them

Trust in God
By John Piper

This sounds so simple. In principle it is. But in practice we sinners are wired to trust in means, not God. Over and over I devise plans, and then find my initial enthusiasm rise or fall as the plan seems smart or not. This is trust in plans, not trust in God. There is no doubt God wants us to use means to get his work done. But just as clearly he wants us not to trust in these means. "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD" (Proverbs 21:31). Therefore, our confidence should not be in the horse, but in the Lord. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7).

George Mueller's life was devoted to vindicating this truth. He explained once how it relates to our vocation. We should work to earn a living and supply our needs, but we should not trust in our work but in God. Otherwise we will be ever anxious that our needs will not be met if we can't work. But if we are trusting God, not our work, then if God ordains that we lose our job, we can be confident he will meet our needs, and so we do not need to be anxious. Here is the way he put it.

"Why do I carry on this business, or why am I engaged in this trade or profession?" In most instances, so far as my experience goes, which I have gathered in my service among the saints during the last fifty-one years and a half, I believe the answer would be: "I am engaged in my earthly calling, that I may earn the means of obtaining the necessaries of life for myself and family." Here is the chief error from which almost all the rest of the errors, which are entertained by children of God, relative to their calling, spring. It is no right and Scriptural motive, to be engaged in a trade, or business, or profession, merely in order to earn the means for the obtaining of the necessaries of life for ourselves and family; but we should work, because it is the Lord's will concerning us. This is plain from the following passages; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 2 Thess. 3:10-12; Eph. 4:28.

It is quite true that, in general, the Lord provides the necessaries of life by means of our ordinary calling; but that that is not THE REASON why we should work, is plain enough from the consideration, that if our possessing the necessaries of life depended upon our ability of working, we could never have freedom from anxiety, for we should always have to say to ourselves, and what shall I do when I am too old to work? or when by reason of sickness I am unable to earn my bread? But if on the other hand, we are engaged in our earthly calling, because it is the will of the Lord concerning us that we should work, and that thus laboring we may provide for our families and also be able to support the weak, the sick, the aged, and the needy, then we have good and scriptural reason to say to ourselves: should it please the Lord to lay me on a bed of sickness, or keep me otherwise by reason of infirmity or old age, or want of employment, from earning my bread by means of the labor of my hands, or my business, or my profession, He will yet provide for me. (A Narrative of Some of the Lord's Dealing with George Muller, Written by Himself, Jehovah Magnified. Addresses by George Muller Complete and Unabridged, Vol. 1, [Muskegon, Mich.: Dust and Ashes Publications, 2003], p. 393)

This truth applies not only to our vocation but to all areas of life. Moment by moment we use means to keep us alive and accomplish the purposes of God (food, houses, phones, cars, medicines, doctors, builders, advisers, etc). The lesson we need to learn is not to trust in these things when we use them, but to trust wholly in God. This applies also to planning for our church. We plan. We budget. We teach and preach and counsel. The temptation continually is to trust in these things and not in God to work in and through and without these things. So as we dream toward ministry and missions and a permanent North Campus, let us use means, but let us trust God. His promises are the only sure thing. All our means are fallible.

Mueller summed up the principle like this: "This is one of the great secrets in connection with successful service for the Lord; to work as if everything depended upon our diligence, and yet not to rest in the least upon our exertions, but upon the blessing of the Lord." (Narrative, vol. 2, p. 290). Or, as the Bible more carefully says it: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). Even more to the point, Paul says: "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

May the Lord grant us freedom from all anxiety as we trust Him, not means.


Are You the Missing Piece?

By Chuck Betters

My wife's mother, Eleanor, loved jigsaw puzzles; she thought looking at the puzzle picture on the box was cheating and instead loved to solve the mystery without help. She loved puzzles. I loved to tease her. So, as this patient and meticulous woman carefully assembled an extremely challenging puzzle, "Snow White without the Seven Dwarfs" (a circular, completely white puzzle with well over a thousand pieces), I hid one small piece of the puzzle in my pocket. How disappointed she was when she could not have the satisfaction of seeing her project really finished. The first question of everyone who saw her puzzle was, "Where's the missing piece?" I finally handed over the missing piece and, after she soundly rebuked me for my misbehavior, she put it in place, sat back and smiled at a job well done.

How many "incomplete puzzles" are there today in the ministry of local churches because the children of God refuse to bring their "puzzle pieces," their special gifts and abilities, to the table of ministry? Instead, they hide them in their pockets and then join the chorus of critics who ask, "Why isn't this church meeting those needs?" -- when all the while they themselves are holding the missing pieces.

God's confrontation with the Old Testament patriarch, Moses, gives us a glimpse into our own hearts and often excuses for turning down God's invitation to partner with Him by using our own gifts to introduce others to His son, Jesus.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Moses, when given the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, objected strenuously (Exodus 3:1 - 4:17).

First, Moses questioned, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

God responded, "I will be with you," the very promise He made to Abraham (and to us, Matthew 28:28).

Second, Moses objected, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is Him name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

God responded, in effect, "Tell them that Jehovah, the faithful and trustworthy God of their fathers, has sent you."

Third, Moses doubted. "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you'?" Moses probably remembered his earlier rejection by his people and questioned why this time would be any different.

Throw Down Your Staff

God responded that Moses should throw down his staff, the symbol of his identity as a working shepherd. Without his staff he could not take care of the sheep or protect himself. God changed the staff into a snake, the national symbol of Pharaoh's alleged sovereign power. God changed it back into a staff when Moses obediently picked it up. This was no magic trick; it underscored God's power and authority over Pharaoh. Moses had to surrender his shepherd's calling in order to accept God's commissioning. Though Moses carried the simple staff of a shepherd, God had invested it, as indeed He had invested Moses, with a power far beyond its humble appearance.

Fourth, Moses continued to object, claiming he was not a man of words. "O Lord," he complained, "I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since You have spoken to Your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."

God responded, reassuring Moses and promising him that the Lord Himself would help him speak and teach him what to say. As with Moses, God also promises to give us the strength and abilities we need. As it says in the book of Ephesians, every child of God is "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (2:10).

Fifth, Moses decided he wasn't the best man for the job. God's promise of His presence, power, and authority was apparently not enough for Moses. He desperately exclaimed, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it" (Exodus 4:13).

This is the first time during this encounter that God actually became angry with Moses. He bluntly told Moses that his eloquent brother Aaron would serve as Moses' spokesman.

Moses at last acquiesced and obeyed. On his long journey back to Egypt and into the jaws of his enemy, however, Moses did not travel alone, for God was with him.

Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt -- to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

Everyone who answers God's call to know Him intimately must confront His call to courageously serve as Moses did.

Look around your local church. Are you the missing piece needed to reflect God's compassion and mercy in a broken world? Which of Moses' excuses is your favorite one behind which you hide?

What gift, talent, or resource are you hiding in your pocket? Are YOU the missing piece in your local church?

This article is adapted from Treasures of Faith, Living Bolding in View of God's Promises by Chuck and Sharon Betters. Visit any bookstore or www.markinc.org to order Treasures of Faith for personal or group study. A Leader's Guide is also available.


Working for the Lord

By Charles Stanley

When I was a boy, I used to get up at 5 AM to deliver newspapers. It was always pitch black outside. Sometimes it would be very cold, raining, or even snowing heavily. I remember lying in my comfortable bed and telling God how much I dreaded going outside. I didn't want to get wet. I didn't want to be cold. Worse yet, I was afraid of the dark!

Yet God worked in my heart to help me see the situation differently. I began to say, "I'm not delivering these newspapers for my customers. I'm doing it for Jesus. He's going to receive this paper."

Suddenly my attitude turned around. I would get started no matter what the time or weather! In my own childish way, I had stumbled on the secret of success in the Christian life, the key to fruitful service: Whatever you are doing, do it as if you are doing it for the Lord.

In the sixth chapter of Ephesians, Paul tells us "With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men..." In Colossians 3:23, he says it again: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men..."

In other words, it doesn't matter if you are leading a corporation or mopping its floors-you are called to serve God in and through everything you do. Once you adopt this attitude, once you learn to focus on Whom you are serving instead of what you are doing, amazing changes will happen:

* The quality of your work will improve. After all, now you are not working for an earthly boss, but for your Father in heaven.

* You will be protected from discouragement. It does not matter whether or not you've been complimented or thanked for your work-because you already know how much He approves of you and loves you.

* You will grow in self-esteem. We all have a need to feel competent, important and worthy. God always rewards us for our service with a sense of satisfaction and belonging we will not find any other way.

* You will not be afraid to fail. In fact, when we serve God we cannot fail because true service is not something we do for God, but rather something God does through us.

In First Thessalonians 5:24, Paul says, "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." God assumes full responsibility for enabling us to carry out the work He's called us to do, whatever that may be!

This truth provides us with incredible comfort. It certainly is to me. Consider that InTouch Ministries is preaching the Gospel in more than 100 languages to millions of people around the world every day. If I thought for one moment that I had to accomplish this in my own strength, we would be in real trouble! The truth is that you and I should never feel pressured to accomplish great things for God-it is up to Him to accomplish great things through us!

I'll never forget the job I had during my seminary years. I mopped and swept the floor in a food shop. Parts of it -- especially the area behind the meat counter -- were a real mess. I didn't like the working conditions, and for the first few days my heart was full of complaints. Eventually I realized that complaining wasn't going to help. I decided to approach the job just as I had when I was a young paperboy. I decided I was sweeping for Jesus. One day I was sweeping near my boss when he turned to someone and said, "Don't get in Stanley's way. He'll sweep you right out of the store!" I may have been cleaning floors, but I was motivated, I was fulfilled, I was dedicated to doing a great job!

My friend, I challenge you to do everything as unto the Lord. When you clean your home, clean it as if Christ lived there. When you prepare a meal, imagine that the Lord is sitting at your table. When you serve a client or customer, behave as if that customer was Jesus. If you take this simple step, it will be one of the most rewarding changes of your life.


The Call to Serve

By Beverly Rose

As Christians, we are citizens of a Kingdom on the ethereal edge between this world and the next -- in a thin place. Our true home is not here but in a far different place, for we are born of God and will return to him. We may live our lives looking forward to heaven, but we also look backward from it: seeing ourselves through God’s eyes, not our own; living by faith, not by sight.

I’ll never forget the movie E.T. In a classic scene, E.T. tries to make a device to signal the spaceship that left without him, all the while mumbling, "E.T. phone home." When I pray, I sometimes think, "BJ [my nickname] phone home." Yet unlike E.T., we need not signal our home base. God knows where we are. He only hopes that, as Kingdom dwellers, we remember where we are.

As citizens of the Kingdom, we are to model ourselves after Jesus -- a King who was a servant -- for he asks no less of us. As Jesus said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35). Just as Jesus spent his life in service, we are called to adopt service as a lifestyle, submitting not only to God but also to each other. In the process, we free ourselves from the tyranny of our own needs to value the hopes and dreams of others.

As I came to know Dave better, I was struck by his steadfast commitment to service. He reached out not only to me in my solitude but also to many others who were alone in the world. For years he had kept in touch with a prisoner who, because of Dave’s faithful visits, had become a Christian in prison. Often Dave would read Steve’s poignant letters from prison to the congregation. It was clear that while Steve’s body may have been imprisoned, his soul had been freed. Dave had also kept in touch with a fireman who tragically had contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease in his forties. John had not been much of a believer, but Dave was undaunted. When no one else would visit, Dave was there, literally to the end. Dave was also there for an old congregant who could no longer attend church. An avid Red Sox fan, Mary had always told Dave that she wouldn’t die until the Red Sox were victorious. After the Red Sox won the World Series, Dave visited Mary in the nursing home. There she sat, at the age of ninety-three, restrained to a chair, barely able to communicate, receiving with joy Dave’s gift of a Red Sox World Series championship cup.

Serving others may not always be an easy task, but fortunately we need not bear these burdens alone. We can lay them at the feet of Jesus, who beckons to the burdened and weary to find rest in him.

It would be wonderful if all we needed to do is rest in Jesus. Yet as members of a divine Kingdom, straddling the ethereal border between this world and the next, we are called to do far more than rest. As Philip Yancey observes, "Jesus offers a peace that involves new turmoil, a rest that involves new tasks. The ‘peace of God, which transcends all understanding’ promised in the New Testament is a peace in the midst of warfare, a calmness in the midst of fear, a confidence in the midst of doubt. Living as resident aliens in a strange land, citizens of a secret kingdom, what other kind of peace should we expect? In this world restlessness, and not contentment, is a sign of health."

The war rages on between good and evil, and we are foot soldiers on the front lines in a cosmic battle. How can we, as mere fallen mortals, begin to fight the overwhelming evil in this fallen world? We can if we begin with ourselves, actively turning toward God to repent of our sins, while turning away from our own petty concerns to help others. In committing ourselves to doing God’s will, we can serve as God’s instruments, helping to make his Kingdom on earth a living, breathing reality in our lives and the lives of others.

It is our choice to make. We may choose to follow the crowd or a higher power. We may make ourselves the center of our universe or make God our center. We may become enamored solely with the things of this world or choose what endures in eternity. We may strive for success, money, and fame for our own glory, or we may use them for the glory of God. We may love like mere humans or learn to love like God loves, not with self-interest, but with the selfless love of Jesus Christ.

I experienced that love again several years ago, when shortly before Christmas, I received a letter in the mail from my church regarding the Christmas offering. As I read it, I was surprised to find that it was about my need for a computer. A month later, Dave called, telling me that the congregation had raised almost six thousand dollars to buy me "the best computer money could buy." My heart was so full of gratitude that I could hardly speak. If I could have spoken, however, I know I would not have asked why the congregation had given me such a generous gift. I already knew.

By grace, Jesus will return to establish the undisputed reign of God forever. For now, we live between this world and the next. How much easier it would be to proceed directly to heaven rather than toil in his Kingdom on earth, where we are called to be light in the midst of darkness. How hard it is to stand up for what is right in a fallen world, when the moral fabric of society seems to be unraveling all around us. We strive to confidently fight the good fight, in Jesus. We struggle to strike a balance in our hectic lives as we endeavor to make a good home in this far-from-perfect world -- far from our true home. It’s far from easy. Some of us may be tempted to ask, "What’s the point of remaining here when it’s so much better there?" Peter Kreeft may offer the best answer: "The point of our lives in this world is not comfort, security, or even happiness, but training; not fulfillment but preparation. It’s a lousy home, but it’s a fine gymnasium... For we misunderstand where we are if we believe in earthly utopias. The universe is a soul-making machine, a womb, an egg. Jesus didn’t make it into a rose garden when he came, though he could have. Rather, he wore the thorns from this world’s gardens."

In this world we may have trouble, but we can take heart, for God is with us in our struggle for peace and justice, and he will prevail. Jesus overcame the world, and so will we -- in him.

We do not have to wait for that final victory in order for us to be victorious, however. We can win every day by becoming "thin places" for each other, allowing the loving light of God to shine through us. The veil between heaven and earth thins every time we love each other as ourselves; reach out to the lonely, sick, poor, and forgotten; place the needs of others above our own; and answer evil with good. And what is most amazing is that we who give are the ones who are most blessed.

For when we reach out to all in love, we affirm that, as citizens of God’s Kingdom, each one of us matters -- no matter what.

Excerpted from So Close I Can Feel God's Breath, by Dr. Beverly Rose, (Tyndale, 2006). Dr. Beverly Rose earned a doctorate in clinical psychology and held an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School. Author of Mothers Never Die and So Close I Can Feel God's Breath, Dr. Rose has appeared nationally on radio and television. Raised in the Jewish faith, she is now a faithful follower of Jesus. Despite the daily trials of living with a neuromuscular disease, Dr. Rose experiences great joy and hope in her walk with the Lord. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona.


Parables of Leadership

By W. Chan Kim & Renee A. Mauborgne

Students of management have sought for years to understand why the very same activities lead to renewal in one company and to more of the same performance in another. Almost always the answer that is given is LEADERSHIP, the ability to inspire confidence and support among the men and women on whose competence and commitment performance depends. Yet while we intuitively recognize leaders whenever we meet them, it has never been easy to answer the question: What is leadership?

The essence of leadership cannot be reduced to a series of personal attributes nor confined to a set of particular roles and activities. It is like the challenge of describing a bowl: we can describe a bowl in terms of the clay from which it is made. But a true picture must include the hollow that is carved into the clay - the unseen space that defines the bowl's shape and capacity.

We have searched for ways to capture the unseen space of leadership. The longer this search went on, the more we found ourselves talking about lessons which one of us first heard as a youth in the temples of Kyung Nam, province of Korea. These lessons came from Oriental masters who taught the wisdom of life through parables, and they gave us a fresh understanding of the essence of leadership. They provided us with the inspiration and insights we needed to create parables that could capture the unseen space of leadership.

The parables that follow show the essential qualities of leadership and the acts that define a leader; the ability to hear what is left unspoken, humility, commitment, the value of looking at reality from many vantage points, the ability to create an organization that draws out the unique strengths of every member. These parables provide an occasion for reflecting on the essence of leadership as well as on one's own work and life.

W. Chan Kim is associate professor of strategy and international management and Renee A. Mauborgne is research associate of management and international business at The European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD), Fontainebleau, France.

The Sound of the Forest

Back in the third century A.D., the King Ts'ao sent his son, Prince T'ai, to the temple to study under the great master Pan Ku. Because Prince T'ai was to succeed his father as king, Pan Ku was to teach the boy the basics of being a good ruler.

When the prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After one year, the prince was to return to the temple to describe the sound of the forest.

When Prince T'ai returned, Pan Ku asked the boy to describe all that he could hear.

"Master," replied the prince, "I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler."

When the prince had finished, the master told him to go back to the forest to listen to what more he could hear. The prince was puzzled by the master's request.

Had he not discerned every sound already?

For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. The feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy.

"These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern," he reflected.

When Prince T'ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard.

"Master," responded the prince reverently, "when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard - the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew."

The master nodded approvingly. "To hear the unheard," remarked Pan Ku, "is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people's hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens. The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and do not penetrate deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings, and desires."

Fire and Water

In the fourth century B.C., hidden within the state of Lu, lay the district over which Duke Chuang governed. The district, though small, had prospered exceedingly well under Chuang's predecessor. But since Chuang's appointment to the post, its affairs had deteriorated markedly. Taken aback by the sad turn of events, Chuang set out to the Han mountain to seek the wisdom of the great master Mu-sun.

When the duke arrived at the mountain, he found the great master sitting peacefully on a small rock looking out at the adjoining valley.

After the duke had explained his situation to Mu-sun, he waited with bated breath for the great master to speak. Contrary to Chuang's expectation, however, the master whispered not a word. Rather, he smiled softly and gestured to the duke to follow him.

Silently they walked until before them lay the Tan Fu River, whose end could not be seen, it was so long and broad. After meditating on the river, Mu-sun set out to build a fire. When at last it was lit and the flames were aglow, the master had Chuang sit by his side. There they sat for hours on end as the fire burned brilliantly into the night.

With the coming of dawn, when the flames no longer danced, Mu-sun pointed to the river. Then, for the first time since the duke's arrival, the great master spoke, "Now do you understand why you are unable to do as your predecessor did -- to sustain the greatness of your district?"

Chuang looked perplexed; he understood now no better than before. Slowly shame enveloped the duke.

"Great master," he said, "forgive my ignorance, for the wisdom you impart I cannot comprehend." Mu-sun then spoke for the second time. Reflect, Chuang, "on the nature of the fire as it burned before us last night. It was strong and powerful. Its flames leapt upward as they danced and cried in vainglorious pride. No strong trees nor wild beasts could have matched its mighty force. With ease it could have conquered all that lay in its path."

"In contrast, Chuang, consider the river. It starts as but a small stream in the distant mountains. Sometimes it flows slowly, sometimes quickly, but always it sails downward, taking the low ground as its course. It willingly permeates every crack in the earth and willingly embraces every crevice in the land, so humble is its nature. When we listen to the water, it can scarcely be heard. When we touch it, it can scarcely be felt, so gentle is its nature.

"Yet in the end, what is left of the once mighty fire? Only a handful of ashes. For the fire is so strong, Chuang, that it not only destroys all that lies in its path but eventually falls prey to its own strength and is consumed. It is not so with the calm and quiet river. For as it was, so it is, so it will always be: forever flowing, growing deeper, broader, ever more powerful as it journeys down to the unfathomable ocean, providing life and sustenance to all."

After a moment of silence, Mu-sun turned to the duke. "As it is with nature, Chuang, so it is with rulers. For as it is not fire but water that envelops all and is the well of life, so it is not mighty and authoritative rulers but rulers with humbleness and deep-reaching inner strength who capture the people's hearts and are springs of prosperity to their states. Reflect, Chuang," continued the master, "on what type of ruler you are. Perhaps the answer that you seek will lie there."

Like a flash of lightning, the truth seized the duke's heart. No longer proud but embarrassed and uncertain, he looked up with his enlightened eye. Chuang was now blind to all but the sun rising over the river.

The Lesson of the Babbling Brook

The time was the fourth century B.C., the period of the Warring States in China. The grand general of the Chin State was seated in his chamber in the king's palace with Meung, the soon-to-be-appointed general of the Third Division, at his side. A messenger, Lieutenant Yu, had just arrived with a report on the logistics of the upcoming battle between General Li's First Division and the Second Division of the Wei State, led by General Su.

"Grand General," said Lieutenant Yu, "I bring good news. The First Division enjoys a significant advantage - our troops outnumber the Second Division's four to one, weaponry is in abundant supply, and the regiment remains well fed. General Li bids me assure you that victory will be ours, the Chin flag will fly forever." As the grand general glanced at the report, a look of anguish came over his face. He clenched his fists and ordered Lieutenant Yu to dispatch reinforcements and return to the battlefield at once.

After the lieutenant had fled, the grand general walked over the balcony and looked out to the horizon. "Alas," he said to Meung, "yet another division of our state will fall."

Meung was perplexed. "Grand General," he said, "forgive my impudence, but I fail to understand your conviction. General Li's division has many times the manpower and weaponry of General Su's division, and yet you are convinced victory will not be ours. How can this be?"

The grand general looked somberly at Meung but did not answer. Instead, he brought Meung to a large lake behind the palace. When the grand general and Meung were seated on a rock, the general threw a small piece of paper into the water. It did not move but simply floated on one spot. After observing the still piece of paper for some time, Meung became restless and inquired again: "Grand General, what does this mean? I have meditated on the paper for more than one hour, and your lesson has not enlightened me nor provided the answer to my question."

Once again, the general did not respond but had Meung follow him. They walked until they came to a very narrow, babbling brook. Again the grand general threw a small piece of paper unto the water. This time it did not stand still but sailed swiftly along and vanished. The grand general turned to Meung, "Now do you understand why General Su's regiment will carry the day and not ours?"

Meung, still perplexed, asked the grand general to explain further. "Meung," said the general, "the first regiment is like the lake, large with much weaponry. But note General Li's position. He so arrogantly assumes victory that he does not fight. He has stationed himself behind the back line. It is not so with General Su. He is in the front line, side by side with his troops, and he has placed the rear of his regiment next to the river. His commitment to die in order to win will beget the troops' commitment in turn. Just as the babbling brook, which rushes in one direction, carries the paper easily while the large lake cannot, so it is that a regiment small in size but unified in commitment will win. Remember, weaponry and manpower are important, but it is the general's commitment that determines victory."

Four days later, Lieutenant Yu and his reinforcements arrived at the site of the battle. The Wei not the Chin flag graced the sky. The First Division had been defeated.

Source: Harvard Business Review/mbb


Traits Of A Wise Man

By Connie Giordano

"The one who has wisdom in his head and heart does not need to shout at others." - Spiros Zodhiates

A young man was promoted to fill the position of a senior officer with a brilliant record who had just retired from the company. The young man asked his predecessor for the secret to his success. The old man answered, ' Two words: right decisions.' The young man then asked, 'But how do you make right decisions?' Again the older man answered, this time even more tersely than before, 'Experience.' 'And how do you get this experience?' The young man asked once more. 'Two words...', answered the older man, 'Wrong Decisions.' - Encyclopedia Of Sermon Illustrations

In James 3:13, the Apostle James asked the question, "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?"

So many have their own opinions about what constitutes a "wise man." Nonetheless, how do the Scriptures define him? God's Word speaks repeatedly about this topic. In this message, we would like to look at ten characteristic features of the "wise man" and see how we compare.

1. A Wise Man Has The Power To Hear

Proverbs 1:5 says, "A wise man will hear..." In other words, he hears with attention and interest; he has the power to hear. How important is it that we hear? Very Important!

Luke 8:18 - The Lord Jesus told us on two separate occasions, "Take heed therefore how ye hear..."

Mark 4:24 - and "Take heed what ye hear..." Throughout the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; Jesus repeatedly is recorded as saying, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

How is your hearing today? Do you pay close attention to what is being said to you by others? Do you listen with attention and interest?

2. A Wise Man Is Always Growing And Increasing

Proverbs 1:5 - "A wise man...will increase learning."
Proverbs 9:9 - "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser..."

Amos 6:1 - He is never "at ease in Zion." He is always growing in grace and increasing in the knowledge of God. He readily receives instruction, and resultantly, adds to his learning, insight, instruction, and teaching-power.

How about you? Are you further along in your knowledge of the Word, for instance, than you were a year ago? What do you do with the godly instruction that comes your way? Do you apply it to your life and make yourself wise in mind, word, and act? With all of the instruction that you have received over the years, are you able to teach others, or are you still having to be taught the first principles - "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat"(Hebrews 5:12).

3. A Wise Man Accepts And Obeys The Commandments

Proverbs 10:8 - "The wise in heart will receive commandments..."

He that is wise lays hold of and accepts God's precepts from His Word. He understands that his life is not his own and that he lives not unto himself, but unto Him that died for him.

How about you? How do you respond when God gives you a command? Is your attitude like that of Mary - "...be it unto me according to Thy Word..."(Luke 1:38) - or like that of the citizens in the Parable Of The Talents - "...We will not have this man to reign over us"(Luke 19:14).

Your reaction will determine whether or not you are a wise man or woman.

4. A Wise Man Stores Up Knowledge

Proverbs 10:14 - "Wise men lay up knowledge..."

A truly wise man hides wisdom and understanding from God's Word in his heart and mind.

James 1:19 - He is "swift to hear"and "slow to speak" - reserving his words for the right time, place, and audience.

How about you? Are you storing up God's Word in your heart for Him to then release you at the right time and in the right place to the right people?

Matthew 12:35 says - "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things..."

5. A Wise Man Has Discernment

Proverbs 16:21 - "The wise in heart shall be called prudent..."

Those who are learned, shrewd, crafty, cunning, and intelligent will be recognized for their discernment, insight, and understanding in the matters of life. These are the ones with wisdom from God. How about you? Do others recognize your keen sense of discernment?

Hebrews 5:14 - Do you have your "senses exercised to discern both good and evil"?
Hebrews 5:13 - Or are you still a babe on milk - controlled by emotions, whims, and fancies?

Ephesians 4:14 - Are you still like a little child "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness..."?

6. A Wise Man Easily Receives Correction

Proverbs 9:8 says - "...rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee."

In other words, reprove and correct a wise man, and he will have affection for you, truly love you, and consider you as his friend.

How about you? Are you like this wise man? How do you react to the correction of the brethren?

David welcomed reproof from the brethren.
Psalm 141:5 - In fact, he considered it as something desirable - "a kindness" and an "excellent oil" - "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil..."

Is this how you feel when someone comes along and corrects you?
Proverbs 27:17 - Do you love those whom God sends to sharpen you as iron?
Proverbs 9:8 - Or are you as the scorner who hates those who reprove him?
Proverbs 12:15 says - "...he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise."

7. A Wise Man Is Remembered For His Words

Proverbs 15:7 says - "The lips of the wise disperse knowledge..."

A wise man is always scattering or spreading out wisdom and understanding wherever he goes. However, his perception and understanding is not tossed about at random.

Proverbs 15:2 tells us - "The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright..."
In other words, his knowledge is well placed - spoken at the right time in the right place and to the right people.

Proverbs 14:3 - As this knowledge spreads forth, it brings forth two results - it guards, protects, and keeps the wise man - "...the lips of the wise shall preserve them."

Proverbs 12:18 - It also serves as a medicine, cure, or remedy for the recipients needing wholeness and restoration - "...the tongue of the wise is health."

How about you?

Proverbs 10:21 - Do your lips "feed many" with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding from God's Word?

Isaiah 50:4 - Do you have the "tongue of the learned" where you speak a "word in season" to those who are weary?

Isaiah 54:17 - Do your words protect you against every tongue that rises against you in judgment?
Are your words medicine for the sin-sick or the sick in body?

8. A Wise Man Is A Holy Man

Proverbs 14:16 tells us - "A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil..."

This man lives under the holy restraint of the fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 4:14 - Resultantly, he avoids the "path of the wicked;" he does not travel on it; he turns from it and passes away.

How about you?
Proverbs 16:6 - Do you fear God enough in your life to depart from all evil?
Proverbs 16:17 - Are you walking on the "highway of the upright" -
1 Thessalonians 5:22 - abstaining from even the appearance of evil?

9. A Wise Man Is Influential

Proverbs 13:20 says - "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise..."

The wise man leaves a marked impression on all.
Hebrews 10:24 - He provokes those about him to love and to good works.
Proverbs 2:20 - He walks in the "way of good men" and keeps the "paths of the righteous" and influences others to do likewise.

How about you?
Psalm 119:63 - Are you a companion of all those who fear God and obey His commands? What kind of company do you keep? Are you influencing others for Christ or are others influencing you for the world, the flesh, and the devil?
Someone once said - "Show me his company, and I'll tell you the man." Another said - "Let me know the company he keeps, and I shall easily guess his moral character."

10. A Wise Man Wins Souls

Proverbs 11:30 tells us - "...he that winneth souls is wise."

His measure of influence reaches far beyond the four walls of the Church building.
Proverbs 24:5 says - " A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength." This man is bold, loud, mighty, and powerful. Because of his knowledge of the Word, he is alert, brave, courageous, determined, and solid in his faith as he goes forth into all of the world as a mighty witness for the Lord.

How about you?
Ephesians 6:10 - Are you "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might"?
Acts 18:24 - Are you "mighty in the Scriptures"?
Acts 17:6 - Are you turning the world upside down for Jesus...winning souls for the Kingdom of God?

James 3:13 - The Apostle James asked the very pertinent question - "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?"

We have examined 10 basic traits from the Scriptures which depict the wise man.

Using these characteristics as a criteria of judgment, on a scale of 1-10, how do you score?
How many match your life? 9 out of 10? 5 out of 10? 2 out of 10?

Whatever the results of our personal survey, may we all go before the Lord and cry out to Him for His enabling grace to be that "wise man" to whom the Apostle James referred in Chapter 3 of his Book.

May the Lord take the areas of our weaknesses and make them our greatest strengths.