MAINTAIN A GOOD NAME

In the summer of 1976 my parents visited Manitoba, Canada and took a number of pictures of fascinating things and places.  One picture that really tickled my fancy was that of Josiah Flintabbatey Flontain, (Flinty for short) a fictional character for whom the town of Flin Flon was named.  

flintabbatey-flonatin-monument-in-manitoba
The image of Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin graces the community in a monument to the town’s founder..

According to an “official” website, the town began with a prospector’s claim and a dime store novel.  Flinty, was the hero of a science fiction novel that was found in the wilderness by gold prospectors in the early 1900s.  When the prospectors found gold in 1914, they remembered the story of Flinty and called their claim Flin Flon. 

flin-flon-manitoba-canada
The community known as Flin Flon in Manitoba, Canada, as seen in 1976.

The name stuck, and Flin Flon became one of Manitoba’s largest cities. See the town’s website for more information on this unique community to our North.  See http://www.cityofflinflon.ca/tourist-bureau-park-campground-museum 

The name of Flin Flon had its genesis in a fictional character who was much beloved by the people in the area and they were willing to be known by his name.  Names are important.  They say something about who we are.  Names identify us and distinguish us from other people.  (Remember when you first learned of someone else who had “your” first name?  Takes some getting used to when you are a young child!) 

While Flinty was a fictional character, another One whose name we follow was not fictional.  Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and resurrected from the grave.  All this is written in the Holy Bible and is fact, not fiction.  He ascended into heaven where He lives to intercede on behalf of those who claim His name in faith and who have received the gift of salvation. Also fact, not fiction.

The Greek word for Christ is Christos meaning “anointed”, and “The Christ” was the anointed one of God, the Messiah, and the Son of God.  It follows from this that a believer in Jesus Christ would be called Christianos or a “follower of Christ”.  And that is exactly what the first believers were called as noted in the book of Acts:

… And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”

Acts 11:26 ESV

 

They learned Jesus’ teachings, His way of life, His relationship with God, His desires for them to be witnesses to others, and much more.  Jesus is not physically here right now to teach us, but we are not left to wonder what a His disciple should do.  He expressed what discipleship was on many occasions, but in Matthew it is stated as follows:

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. …”  

Matthew 10:24-25 ESV

We as believers carry Christ’s name.  As Christians, we are to be like Him. But, we cannot be like Him if we don’t learn of Him by studying His Word, by worshiping with other believers, by praying and by listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and who is charged with the job of growing us into the likeness of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. 

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV  

Your name is much more than just the moniker that you use to sign checks or the letters you print on the Welcome name tag at a conference.  When someone says “Look, there is [your name]”, they are not speaking of your signature – they are speaking of you and all the aspects of you that they know.  Your name encompasses your life activities, your behavior, your words, your demeanor, your personality, your character and your witness.

That is why, in Proverbs 22:1, we read:

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

The application to believers in Christ is clear.  Your name should be honorable, your conduct should be gracious and there should be none of the debauchery that is so prevalent in today’s fallen, godless world.  A Christian must never rank the approval of man over the truth of God and His Word.

Your name, your personal choice to honor God and live for Him, may be the witness that will be used by the Holy Spirit to draw people to God and His life-giving hope.

Choose a good name above all else – be a Christian disciple, learner, pupil of our Lord and seek Him all your days.  You will be blessed both now and in eternity.

 

Lord, help me to see You in all things.  Where there is anxiety, let me put my head on Your breast and let me hear Your heart of love reminding me that You are in control even when my world is falling apart.  Where there is fear, let me put my hands in Yours and so I can see the scars from the nails where You sacrificed Your life in payment of my sins.  Holy Spirit, guide my steps and my words so that I can be an effective witness for my Lord and Savior.

 

 

TO GRIT OR NOT TO GRIT — THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Okay, I will admit that I was born and raised North of the Mason-Dixon Line and that I had never had grits until I was in the process of moving from Chicago to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I had stopped for the night, somewhere between Nashville and Chattanooga, and had breakfast at the restaurant adjacent to the motel.

When ordering breakfast, I asked for “milk”.  Does anyone know what “sweet milk” is?  The waitress, for clarification of my request for “milk,” asked if I wanted “sweet milk”.   After declining either chocolate milk or milk that had added sugar in it, the waitress walked away.  There clearly was a failure to communicate.  I am confident that she was thinking “Bless her heart”, in the southern way that means “poor, pitiful person!”

(I have since learned that in the South, at least when this occurred, restaurants would have buttermilk available for their patrons, so to distinguish between it and what would be regular milk in the North, non-buttermilk was often referred to as “sweet milk.”)

When the meal came, I saw a serving of eggs, bacon, toast, and oatmeal on the plate with white milk as the beverage.   Now, I was not used to eating oatmeal on a plate – we always used bowls.  But, I was moving into the South, so I attributed it to different customs, etc.

So, after eating the rest of the meal, I poured cream onto the oatmeal and after a bit of swishing it around, I took a bite.  It really did not taste like oatmeal to me – it wasn’t bad, just really odd oatmeal.

When the waitress came back, I asked why the oatmeal was served on a plate because it made it very difficult to eat.  You can understand, it ran all over the plate and couldn’t be corralled onto my spoon.

The waitress said “Oatmeal?  Did you want oatmeal too?”  I responded “No, I had not asked for it but it was on the plate.”  To which she grinned and said with a voice that sounded like the quintessential southern belle:

“Honey, that wasn’t oatmeal – that was grits!”

Who knew?  In the South, at least 40 years ago, you got grits whether you ordered them or not … they were the ubiquitous food made from ground corn that just showed up on your plate.

Obviously, my introduction to grits was not particularly formal or well-timed, although it was apparently humorous as I recall people in the restaurant watching me slurp my “oatmeal” all around the plate.  I am sure they knew I was not “from ‘round here” when I said “GRITS?!” a bit too loud to be proper.

After four decades, I have grown in my culinary skills and tastes so that now I will even order grits, on purpose, when eating out.  I have made instant grits at home (even though “No real southerner would dream of eating instant grits”, a comment that calls to mind the cook at the diner in the movie My Cousin Vinny.)

Proof of this transformation can be found in the fact that I just downloaded a recipe for cooking stone ground grits in the slow cooker – here is the picture of the grits from this recipe, in a cup I might add!  [http://addapinch.com/cooking/easyrecipe-print/2224-0]  Apparently, I have morphed into a quasi-southern girl, I guess!

Picture of grits that were prepared in a slow cooker.
Picture of grits that were prepared in a slow cooker.

I am at a loss, though, about one question … can you eat just one (1) grit?   Who would want to … it certainly would not fill you up.  But you never hear that “a grit” was served at the meal.  You only hear of “grits”, plural.  As a collection of grits, they are beneficial and healthy; and, with some cheese melted into them, they taste incredible.  In short, grits are better when there is more than one.

Moving to the spiritual plain, I think grits are somewhat like Christians.  I am not talking about being in a commune or cult, nor am I advocating withdrawal from society to be with your group alone.

You certainly can be a Christian all alone, and indeed, your relationship with Jesus Christ as a child of His is intensely personal.  No two people come to the Lord in the same way, and He ministers in and through His people in unique ways equipping them with various abilities, all for His purposes.

But, Christians are called to meet together for teaching, preaching, fellowship, and ministry.  While our faith in Jesus is personal, it is not in isolation. We come together as a family of believers and worship our God and His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..  Some of our houses of worship are large and grand.

Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!
Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!

Some are not are grandiose, or as ancient.

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC
Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

Some are more rustic, but the Spirit of our Lord resides within the believer and, when we come together, there is the Spirit of the Lord.

Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

And sometimes we even come together in our homes, to study the Bible, pray and fellowship with each other.  We come together as did the early church in Acts 2:42, 27:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The writer of Hebrews said:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

We do not become Christians simply by being around Christians.  We must have our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ for that new birth transformation to occur.  But, we will have a hard time staying on the path of Christ if we do not avail ourselves of one of the means of grace provided by our Father, His Son and The Holy Spirit – the Body of Christ, the Church.

A grit will still be a bit of ground corn even if it is not with any other bits of corn.  But it will not serve its purpose until and unless it is with a group of other grits; and then it will become nourishment for those who consume them.

A coal burning brightly in the fireplace will still be a coal even when it is taken out of the fire and put on the side.  But it will go out without the nourishment of the fire.  It will not be doing that which it was created to do unless and until it is returned to the fire so that it can burn hot and provide light and heat to those around it.

A Christian can be a Christian without being an active part in the Church; but the likelihood is that the light will become dull and the witness will be shallow and undernourished without regular intentional fellowship, worship, teaching, studying, serving and communion with fellow Christians in the Church.

Father, thank you for the lesson of grits.  May I determine to be part of a Bible believing church that follows the pattern of Act 2 in learning the Scripture and the apostles’ teaching, in prayers with and for others, in fellowship with Christians who worship and serve my Lord Jesus Christ, and in regularly sharing communion with fellow believers as we remember the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  Thank you for the means of grace you so marvelously provided.  Forgive me when I have either ignored them or taken them for granted.  Such arrogance is sin and I ask forgiveness, in my Lord Jesus’ Name.

HAPPY 239TH BIRTHDAY, AMERICA – WE ARE PRAYING FOR YOU.

Yes, I know that today is July 5th and I am one day late for posting about our national celebration of independence – I should have posted this on July 4th.   But I couldn’t do it for a variety of reasons, the most significant of which was that I could not come up with a way to express my thoughts this Independence Day.

Patriotic Trifle
Patriotic Trifle

As a family, we have a proud heritage as Americans. My paternal ancestors came from Germany, and my maternal ancestors originated in England. I am a Daughter of the American Revolution, meaning that one of my ancestors fought in the war for our freedom from the English King. My mother’s sister enlisted in The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve during World War II and both of our fathers fought in that war, surviving by the grace of God so that we, their progeny, would have life and freedom from tyranny. Our son is currently serving in the USMC as well.

When I was a child, there was no need to discuss whether we could talk about God in school or in public arenas – America was identified as a Christian country; thus it was understandable that we would communicate with God, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. Today, if you hear the name of Jesus on the television, in music on the iPod, on YouTube, or out in public areas, it is likely being used as a curse and not as the name of our Lord and Savior.

The opening lines of the Declaration of Independence declares that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” and we were taught that this foundational document recognized that God was the underpinning of our nation. Today, the “all men are created equal” is much talked about by advocates for change and in the media, but the role of the Creator in our country’s founding is ignored.

I fear that this 239th birthday finds our country’s Christian foundation in serious trouble. Indeed, it seems as though we are trying to eradicate all vestiges of Christianity from its conscience so that America will be turned completely away from Christianity. The argument, in very simple terms, seems to be that, since the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state, the church and especially the Christian’s God must not enter into the equation for resolution of any issue, consideration of any question, or discussion of any policy for the nation, or even for the individual or family. Thus, there can be no prayer to God in schools or at the athletic competition; there are no Ten Commandments in public buildings. The Bible is not taught as a book containing the Word of God … it may be moralistic but so is Aesop’s Fables.

The argument continues that the Christian’s God is not necessary because we are Americans … we can go to the moon or create babies in test tubes. We are independent, fully sufficient for anything … God is simply irrelevant and a waste of time. He is not necessarily dead (a philosophy popular several decades ago) but we certainly don’t need Him around and we really don’t need to worship a deity that is irrelevant.

The building for the Supreme Court of the United States
The building for the Supreme Court of the United States

The catastrophic shift in the accepted point of view was illustrated by the Supreme Court’s recent decision about gay marriage. The decision was hailed as a progressive move by some and was received with saddened hearts by many others.

Symbols of Justice at The Supreme Court Building
Symbols of Justice at The Supreme Court Building

I am an attorney, and I know that a single fact can change the result of a case or the fashioning of the appellate argument can focus the bench in various ways, depending on the argument. Thus, I am not going to analyze or comment on the decision itself.

My difficulty in fashioning my thoughts about Independence Day is based purely on what appears to be the systematic removal of God from our nation’s life.

In an article published on July 4, 2015 in the Washington Post and various other media, including The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, Newt Gingrich countered “Five myths about the Founding Fathers.” The first myth noted is that our Founding Fathers wanted to have a secular nation. Gingrich cites several of our Founding Fathers who firmly believed that God was the foundation upon which this country rested.

The Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC
The Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC
  • Jefferson who asked: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?”
The Washington Monument, Washington, DC
The Washington Monument, Washington, DC
  • George Washington who thought that religion was essential to supply a higher authority for the rule of law. In Washington’s Farewell Address he stated that “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
  • Alexander Hamilton wrote, “The politician who loves liberty … knows that morality overthrown (and morality must fall with religion), the terrors of despotism can alone curb the impetuous passions of man.” [My own translation of Hamilton’s quote is “when morality and religion are gone, so is freedom because we will have traded freedom for rule by a despot.]

I hate “gloom and doom” thoughts – I know my Lord is Sovereign. Even when I am confused and at a loss for words (which does not happen often, as you can see by the length of this post), He is in control and He has me in His hands, so I don’t have to worry!   But, watching my country turn its back on God is distressing.

In Jeremiah 11:14, when the people were being disciplined for trading God for the idols of the heathen societies around them, God instructed the prophet: “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.”

It appears that this is what America is in the process of doing/has done. So, what as Christians can we do?

PRAY!

This is not a cop-out or platitude – it is a call to action. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says:

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In James 5:16, we read:

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Prayers by the Christian sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, through His Son and our Lord, Jesus Christ, will accomplish much for our country.

The Presidential Prayer Team Seal
The Presidential Prayer Team Seal

For your prayer effort on behalf of our country, I would highly commend to you the Internet organization entitled Presidential Prayer Team. It is not a church and membership in their website is free. Here is a quote from their web page about PPT:

We are a national ministry dedicated to a focused mission of encouraging, inspiring and practicing PRAYER on behalf of our President, nation’s leaders and our troops. We also seek to be a catalyst in the development of a robust prayer lifestyle. We do this by finding and PROVIDING tools to encourage prayer – through email, web, mobile phones and other communication tools. Ultimately, we believe that prayer will TRANSFORM our nation, one heart at a time.

The website address is http://www.presidentialprayerteam.com/index.php. Please take some time and look at this website – it offers many historical insights about our country and God, and it identifies specific people and issues to be in prayer about for each day. If you feel led to pray for our country, you can sign up on this site and you will receive information to remind you to pray for America.

The Presidential Prayer Team notes that the Founding Fathers were not all Christians, but they “were firmly committed to biblical morality, to public prayer and praise, and to the conviction that God is the Creator of liberty.”

I challenge you to be a 2 Chronicles 7:14 praying Christian.

Blessings to you and our country.  May God bless America!