Category Archives: Courage

The Pitfalls of Being a “Self- Made” Man

James HJames Mom%20%26%20Jamesallmark is a good friend of mine…and I am proud to call him”friend.”  He is a pioneer in television in these parts beginning his work with KRBC when it was tiny studio up in the hills of the Callahan Divide overlooking Abilene.  We found we had a lot in common having both begun work when TV was just a kid.  I was on the “floor crew” at KMID, in 1960 moving cables and cameras around.  James was beginning his career as an announcer and doing voice over for commercials.  He has been responsible for telethons every year…hard, detailed work.  But best of all he is a strong, faithful, committed Christian.  He writes a great article nearly every week as you will find out when you read the post below

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” Someone once used these words to describe a man that he knew. Cutting but true! The world has convinced mankind that a self-motivated, self-serving lifestyle is his right and obligation. The self-worshipper is “full of himself” and thinks nothing of ignoring others and even God, if they stand in the way of his agenda and human nature’s desires. He deliberately keeps God and others at arm’s  length. The Apostle Paul described the self-driven lifestyle in these words: “And that means killing off everything connected  with this way of death: sexual promiscuity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like It, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. “That’s a life shaped by feelings and things instead of by God” (Colossians 3:7 MSG).

Let’s dig down deep and see if we can discover our spiritual enemy and how he has always worked his will in our lives. Let’s set aside the image of Satan as having horns, wearing a red suit (fire resistant I presume), and carrying a pitchfork. He is the general on the battlefield of our spiritual life, who dispatches his army of demons to torment us and take us as prisoners of war. Satan ensnares us by manipulating the man of flesh that resides deep within each of us. This man of sin is easy pickings for Satan and his hordes.

Self-control is the only weapon we have fight off the enemy. The problem that we have is that most of us don’t have sufficient ammunition to fight off the invaders. Their concept of self-control is that they, themselves, control our lives and actions. And, of course we as human beings excuse our bad behavior with the lame blaming that “after all we are only human”.   That leaves us holding the bag!

Self-control means that somehow we must exercise control of our choices. Let’s look in the mirror and see our ego-centric self is what we must overcome, and we have to be able to admit that it is out of control and uncontrollable without divine help. The truth of the matter is that until we can overcome the influence of our human nature that rules in our lives. our lives can only get worse…never better!

Several years ago I discovered that hyphenated words that start with “self” run up a red flag. I’m talking about words like self-indulgence, self-fulfillment, self-absorbed, self-motivated, self-love, self-driven, self-pity, self-centered, to mention just a few. I’m sure that others may come to mind. Our problem is that many of these appear to be good characteristics that we have been taught to nurture. Now, substitute “God” for “self” in each of these words and you may be surprised at the cleverness of our enemy. Replacing “self” with “God” brings into sharp focus the kind of live we are prone to live, left to our own devices, and the real life that God offers. It has been suggested to me that sin is a perversion of God-given. When our instincts for security cross an invisible line it can morph onto pride, greed, and envy and anger. Our human need for companionship can turn into lust and lust into sexual impurity. Our need for self-preservation can find expression in angry outbursts and gossip. It has occurred to me that all of my unacceptable behavior can be traced back to my self-centered distortion of legitimate human needs that are carried too far. My responsibility is to learn the difference between my “wants and “needs.” He leaves the choice with us. Do you want to be a self-made man or the Creator’s creation?

A few years ago, a commercial ran on national television that really caught my eye. It was a commercial for the Edward Jones financial people. It opened at a nurses’ station at a hospital. A doctor is on the phone with a patient, who is at home. Try to visualize this scene. The doctor is instructing his patient on how to do surgery on himself. The doctor said: “Now, make an incision about six inches long between your third and fourth rib.” The camera cuts to a very distraught man standing in his kitchen with shirt unbuttoned. In his hand is a butcher knife from the kitchen. He had broken out in a cold sweat, and muttered nervously: “Doc, shouldn’t you be doing this?” The spiritual surgery that must be performed to set a person free from himself is drastic and painful, but absolutely necessary. You must decide whether you want a scalpel, or do you want the Great Physician to take over?

Archbishop Fenelon was a spiritual advisor in the court of King Louis the XIV in France some three hundred years ago. He ministered to a small group of faithful Catholics and often wrote letters to them to encourage and instruct them. Here is an excerpt from one of the letters. “The death that God brings pierces deep within. Soul and spirit will be divided. He sees all in you that you cannot see. He knows exactly where the fatal blows should fall. He heads straight for that which you are most reluctant to give up. Pain is only felt where there is life. And in this situation is precisely the place where death is needed.”(The Seeking Heart-Fenelon, pg 5).

The Christian life was never meant to be a self-improvement program because it requires that we nail our old self to the cross of Christ. When we have carried out this self-crucifixion, God immediately goes to work recreating man in the image of his Son. As Peter wrote, “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust” (II Peter 3-4 MSG). Read Peter’s words again and absorb the significance of what they mean about the daily, intimate relationship that our supernatural God wants to have with each of us.

It boils down to choosing whom we will believe. We have to decide whether we will believe the lies of the father of lies, or take the word of the One who created the universe and mankind. Many years ago I put my trust in God, and have never regretted my decision. I have even begun to experience God working in my life, and that brings me peace, and hope that the world cannot comprehend. I am not willing to be a self-made man any longer, I much prefer becoming A God-fashioned man.

I am content to be the clay and put myself in the hands of the Master Potter to turn a pile of mud like me into something beautiful.

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Filed under Awareness, Christlikeness, conversion, Courage, Culture Wars, Discernment, discipleship, Encouragement, Heart, Holy Spirit, Initiative, Integrity, Jesus Christ, Life, Meaning of Life, Mind, morality, Peace, Persuasion, Philosophy, Redemption, Religion, Scripture, Selflessness, Supernatural, Trust

Political Peer Pressure

Apparently our two party system puts a tremendous strain on individual integrity.  Only the strong survive.  We observe a congress where the members vote along party lines regardless of their true convictions or the wishes of their constituency.  The pressure must be intense.  I say this because most Republicans and Democrats are swept along with the tide of their leadership’s agenda instead of standing on principle, truth or, sadly, logic and common sense.  This means if the leadership is idiotic, those who cannot resist the pressure of their peers will decide to be idiotic also!  They will “go along to get along.”

Is anyone left who will stand for what they believe regardless?  Is there anyone left who will truly represent those who elected him or her?  If they are “out there,” let’s find them and elevate them to leadership in our poor, confused, declining nation.  Looking critically at our sacred three-branched government, I don’t think we’ve found them yet.

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Filed under Courage, Culture Wars, Current Events, Discernment, honor, Incompetence, independence, Initiative, Integrity, Politics, Ron Paul, Trust

A Note to Politicians, Especially Current Candidates

I would exhort you to be brave enough to be true to what you know is right and wrong (that some of you don’t seem to know the difference is troubling).  When November comes, I intend to vote my conscience.  I hope it has been trained to discern right from wrong.  I intend to vote for the person who, in the face of pressure from special interest groups (be they national or international), the press and the pollsters, holds firmly to his or her beliefs.

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled (Titus 1:15).

If you messed up in the past, come clean about it!  No one is perfect or has a pristine record so don’t try to justify yourself.  I intend to cast my vote for the person who is honest enough to, in the face of contrary evidence, admit his or her mistakes.

It may well be that there are enough ethical Americans to respect that kind of openness, honesty and courage and put such a brave man or woman into high office.

James Freeman Clarke (1810 – 1888) US minister, theologian, author.  “Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.”

 

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Filed under Courage, Culture Wars, Discernment, Good & Evil, honor, Hypocrisy, Integrity, morality, Philosophy, Politics, Revolution, Trust

The Grassroots Imperative

Big “agribusiness” is not about to change its ways.  They are greedy profit-driven monsters with enough lobbyists in Washington and courtroom lawyers to keep the government and the courts off their backs.  They are big bullies that are too powerful to defeat.

Just think about it.  To put these bullies in their place would require equal justice in the courts and a majority of ethical senators and representatives.  Don’t hold your breath!

So, what’s left?  Only ourselves and our small farms and backyard gardens.  We must start growing as much of our own food as possible.  Take out those lawns and put in fruits and vegetables.  Get some chickens for eggs and maybe some meat and, if you have room, a milk cow or goat.  Get the rest from local farmers and organic food stores.

If you can’t defeat them, desert them.

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Filed under Awareness, Courage, Culture Wars, Current Events, Economics, Food, Freedom, Good & Evil, Home and Garden, independence, Initiative, Integrity, Organic, Politics, Vegetable Gardening

Heroes and Heroism

When Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry received the Medal of Honor recently, it set me to thinking about heroes.  You may be aware of the actions that caused him to lose his right hand but save his fellow-soldiers. As Fox News reporter Justin Fishel wrote, “Shot once in each leg and laying wounded behind a chicken coup (sic) in an insurgent compound, Petry saved the lives of two fellow Rangers when he sacrificed his own hand to throw away an enemy grenade that could have killed them all.”

So, I asked myself, what is heroism?  Though probably not exhaustive, I came up with this list of characteristics of heroism.

Selflessness: This is one of the basic characteristics of a hero and drives most of the other characteristics.  The hero is selfless to the point of personal sacrifice, cost, inconvenience and suffering.  Heroes don’t stop to consider the personal cost of their actions, they just act.  A hero thinks first of others in a crisis.

Awareness: The hero is not off in his or her own little world.  They are aware of the world around them and its challenges and needs.  They automatically take note of opportunities to serve and assist and do so without hesitation.

Perseverance and persistence: the hero does not give up until forced to do so.  Only then does the hero quit.  Heroes have to eventually ask, “Can I accomplish anything more in this situation?”  They know that the time eventually comes when one must pray Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Initiative: The hero does not wait for others or to be asked or forced to act.  The hero sees the challenge/problem and responds with his own gumption.  This describes Petry’s response perfectly.  According to Karen Parrish, an American Forces Press Service reporter, he described his action this way, “I immediately knew it wasn’t one of ours, because we haven’t used ‘pineapple’ grenades in quite some time,” he said. “[My] immediate reaction was, get it out of here.”

Courage: This almost goes without saying.  This is the impulse that drives initiative.  Heroes do not hesitate to act in the face of danger, hazard or peril.  Their response is reflexive.  It is a “knee-jerk” reaction where guts overrule logic.  They charge machinegun nests, they storm beaches, they run into burning buildings, they go back under fire to carry out wounded buddies and, of course, they deal with enemy grenades.  Without hesitation they get involved in the troubles of others.  They pick up wee hour phone calls to comfort and encourage.  They stop to help.  They shell out cash to questionable strangers.  On and on we could go.

Integrity: True heroes will always choose the high road, the moral course, even in the face of temptation and opportunity to do otherwise.  We are all sinners, and heroes are no different.  But, faced with a crisis their inward righteousness prevails.

As you will notice, physical characteristics have nothing to do with heroism.  One of my favorite authors is the late writer of western novels, Elmer Kelton.  When asked why his characters were not the movie-star-leading-man type (John Wayne comes to mind), Kelton replied, “Those are seven feet tall and invincible.  My characters are five-eight and nervous.”  Well, I’m not quite that short, but “nervous” sure fits.  I believe a realistic hero is an ordinary person behaving in an extraordinary way.

As I was composing this article, I came to realize that I am married to a hero.  Every characteristic of heroism fits my beloved Brenda like a glove.  She is all these things in spite of a compromised immune system and subsequent frequent illnesses.  As I watch her frequent suffering, I have to wonder how I would conduct myself in similar circumstances.  Her life, like all heroes, is a beacon and example in this often difficult and troubled landscape of life.

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