Category Archives: self-worth

Different Metal, Different Furnace

Without a doubt, there is someone who needs to read this today. I know I did.

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts. – Proverbs 17:3 NKJV

Gold or Silver

In case you were not aware, there is a difference between gold and silver (Well, duh!). Seriously, there is a difference between the two, and that fact should not be taken lightly. Gold is gold, and silver is silver. Obvious stuff, right?

Well, sometimes the obvious is profoundly important.

Gold is extremely valuable but is soft and pliable. Silver is not as valuable per ounce but is nevertheless a harder precious metal. Gold is highly sought after and coveted; silver is more common but is still critically important for a wide range of applications, everything from electronics to medicine.

How one refines gold, compared with silver, is not the same. What’s more, the temperatures of the refiner’s fire is hotter for one than the other.

What R You?

When I read Proverbs 17:3 yesterday during a Sunday School class I teach, something obvious proved to be very profound: depending on how God wants us to be used, each one’s trial by fire will vary in intensity, the heat of which will determine what metal we are made of.

gold furnace

Source: The Australian

Unlike gold and silver, we are human; our qualities and usefulness change. Some days we are made of gold, while other days we are silver, but most of the time it is hard to determine which. That’s when the Refiner turns up the heat.

There is a lot to refining gold and silver. Not only is there heat involved, but various acids, too. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when God not only allows us to endure intense pressure (heat), but permits the caustic, painful situations of life to eat away the impurities within us.

God is the refiner of hearts.

Iron Man

But, you know what? Gold and silver, while both rare and beautiful, will never make good axes, swords, cannons, I-beams for skyscrapers, or bridges across raging streams.

Sometimes there are jobs that can only be done with iron.

Don’t feel special? Don’t think of yourself as gold-like? That’s OK! You’re important, too! As a matter of fact, the melting point of iron is nearly double that of gold.

You may think what you are going through right now is far tougher than anything a “golden saint” might deserve. Don’t lose hope; the fires forging you are instilling a strength that may be needed to wage war against the Enemy, support the heavy loads of many, or bridge the gap between understanding and ignorance.

Don’t curse the furnace. Let the Refiner do His work.

 

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Doing, Being, and Identity

Two Questions

Would you take just a second and think about something? Take a second and think about the following two questions:

  1. “What do you want to be?”
  2. “What do you do?”

When would you ask these questions? I bet I can answer that for you.

The first question (“What do you want to be?“) is one that you would pose to a young child. It would be asked with the qualifier of “when you grow up.” I’ve asked kids this question many, many times, and the answers are always entertaining. Children want to be things like firemen, doctors, cowboys, baseball stars, movie stars, even school bus drivers. Some even want to become the mythical, like super heroes, monsters, or unicorns.

When you ask a child what he wants to be when he grows up, all you are doing is opening up before him a world of possibility – the sky’s the limit. The question doesn’t limit him in any way. On the contrary, it affirms his potential to be anything he wants to be.

The second question (What do you do?) is one that you would likely ask an adult. Think about it, you wouldn’t ask a 10-year-old, “What do you do for a living?” Obviously, the child is just a student and preparing for the riggers of future employment as a “safe space” attorney, not an actual lawyer, or doctor, or super model.

But when you pose this question to an adult, instead of offering him the opportunity to dream big and affirming his ambitions, you cause him to face the here and now, the cold reality, the fact of what his childhood dreams have turned into. Unfortunately, affirming and praising one’s potential is a whole lot easier than affirming one’s present state.

When you ask a child what she wants to be when she grows up there is the possibility her dreams will come true. When you ask someone what he does for a living the answer is what he is doing, not what he is dreaming, and what he is doing might be all he ever does.

Is Doing Being?

I have always struggled with the temptation to find my identity in what I “do.” In other words, I’ve never wanted to just do things, I’ve always prided myself in being things. Do any of you feel the same way?

I have been a pest control technician, an industrial engine builder, a Sunday School teacher, an adjunct professor, a Level I Nuclear Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Technician, a sales manager, an eyeglass maker, an insurance salesman, a preacher, a pastor, a chaplain, a song writer, and an author. I’ve been a school bus driver. Right now I am an agent with Aflac, along with being a bi-vocational pastor.

No, I wasn’t a pilot. I just flew a lot when I worked in the nuclear field. (circa 1989)

I have always liked name tags, badges, lapel pins, and titles…because they give me identity.

But in reality, honestly, none of those things are really me, are they? They are only what I do. If I were to quit pastoring or driving a bus, would I cease to exist? Of course not! Even if  you were to take away my freedom, I might be labeled an “inmate” or “refugee,” but not even those labels would be me, only the condition of my existence.

Yet, I still find my deepest self wanting to be identified with something, to be known for something, to have a title, to find worth in what I have done or am doing.

I do what I do, but I am what I am. On the other hand, I do what I do because I am what I am. So, what am I to make of it?

What I Am

I am created in the image of Almighty God, so I am intrinsically valuable – my value is based on Who made me.

I am loved beyond measure, first by my Lord Jesus Christ (because He loved us first), then by my family.

I am a child of God, not by my own works, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ – that is my identity.

I am a soldier in the army of God, for He called me to serve in battle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in high places.

I am a Christian, because I’ve been given that title as one who identifies with Christ.

I am priceless, because of the price that was paid on the Cross to redeem me.

What I do doesn’t make me a child of God, a saint, or anything of the sort, but what Jesus did for me, on my behalf, thereby crediting those works to my account, is what makes me those things.

And all the things I do – whether it be drive a bus, be a husband, preach a sermon, mow a yard, or be a dad – I do for the sake of the one Who makes me His own, and I do it in His strength.

So, ask me what I do, and no matter what I end up telling you, I will no longer stress over the answer, for what I do is not what I am…

I do what I do because I am what I am, because of the Great I AM; my identity is found in Him.

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I Did the Crane Kick. Yes, I did!

I’m still going to do a review of “Cobra Kai” on YouTube and then post it here on my blog, but first, this

The Karate Kid

Did you go see “The Karate Kid” back when it came out? I did! As a matter of fact, I went on opening day, June 22, 1984. Believe me when I say it made a profound impact on my life.

“Cobra Kai” just came out on YouTube last month (May 2), and it is worth subscribing to YoutTube Red just to watch all 10 episodes of the first season (I’ll talk more about that in the video). But before my youngest daughter was able to appreciate “Cobra Kai,” she needed to watch “The Karate Kid.” After that, she got a better sense for why “Cobra Kai” got me so pumped.

But what my daughters can never fully understand is what I felt when that movie came out. To them, it’s just a movie, but to me, it was a lot like real life…because I was a Karate Kid.

The Karate Me

Back around 1982, I think (maybe ’81), I started taking martial arts. My first lessons came from a man who worked at the hospital with my mother. As a favor (even though he did charge a fee), he took me on as his only student. For several months I trained with him at his house in a big room where he also sewed sails for sailboats.

The first style of martial art I studied was not Karate, but Hawaiian Kenpo. Training would start with a run through the neighborhood and then some wooded area, then some stretching. After that, we would work on various techniques meant to harm one’s attacker. Enough said.

After a few months with my initial instructor, he moved away and left me starting over. It was shortly after that that in 1983, a new Karate dojo opened up about two miles from my home. Walter Ward, a Marine combat veteran from the Vietnam War, became my new instructor (sensei). He was affiliated with Ben Kiker’s United Karate Studios in Dalton, Georga (Great people, btw. Highly recommend them).

I was Mr. Ward’s first paying student. The only other students at the time were his niece and another kid (if I remember correctly), and they went for free. This is one reason why “Cobra Kai” resonates with me, but you’ll need to watch the first episodes on YouTube to understand.

Real Tournaments

You may not have known this, but in order to make the movie set appear more realistic, the people who made “The Karate Kid” actually held a real Karate tournament during the filming of the last scenes. The “extras” in the crowd not only came to see a movie be made but to watch their own kids participate in a real competition!

Therefore, when I went to see the movie, so much of the tournament part struck a chord with me. You see, I had already been competing in martial arts tournaments and had won several awards. And, as a matter of fact, I had already been training for a tournament that was to take place the very next day!

Now, About That Kick

According to the directors, producers, actors, and stunt coordinators (including the guy who played the part of the main referee, Pat Johnson…9th-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do and affiliate of Chuck Norris), the “crane kick” was totally “bogus.” In other words, it was a made-up kick meant to look good on screen.

In other words, it wasn’t supposed to work in a real-life competition.

But it did.

Remember that tournament I was supposed to go to on Saturday, June 23, 1984? The tournament that took place one day after the opening day for “The Karate Kid”? Well, evidently one of my opponents hadn’t yet seen the movie… mwwahahaha!

Sooooo… Right off the bat, as soon as I squared off with my opponent and the judge said, “Fight!”, I made use of what has now become cinema legend. I took the position of the crane stance, one leg lifted, then waited for the unsuspecting fool to walk right into a front snap kick to the chest (no, I didn’t kick him in the face – that would have been illegal).

I scored the point and later won the fight! It was awesome!

Then everybody saw the movie.

Oh, well. It worked once, though 🙂


NOTE: As I mentioned above, I did most of my martial arts training with United Karate Studios. My dojo was in Chattanooga, but the main dojo was/is in Dalton, GA. I wanted to give them a shout-out. With UKS I learned respect and self-control. I learned how to fight, but I never had to – because I also learned how to walk away from one. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve worked out like back in those days, but what was instilled in my mind can be drawn upon in an instant.

It’s been a long time, but people with true character never change. I’ve got a feeling that Ben Kiker’s United Karate is still every bit the real-life “Miyagi-do” it was when I did that fantastic crane kick 🙂

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What’s Your Life Worth?

Someone needs to read this. Is it you?

What would you die for?

What is so valuable that you would risk or even sacrifice your own life? Have you ever stopped to think about that? You should.

The typical things in life that are considered so valuable, when put in perspective, aren’t really worth that much. Even the most “priceless” treasures are not worth your life – or are they? Would you fight a thief for your purse or car? Then you are saying those things are more valuable than your life, for you are willing to risk your life to keep them. It is how people die every day in the pursuit of, and the keeping of earthly possessions. Foolish, frankly.

Even more than concrete items, some value their pride more than life. They are willing to fight to the death, or kill others when insulted or “dissed.” Perception is NOT reality, just as integrity is not determined by opinion; yet, some would rather risk death than be thought of wrongly. So many have yet to learn that what people think of them does not determine the reality of who they are.

From the perspective of family, I would say that most believe life is worth risking life. If my loved ones were in danger, then it would be natural to put my life on the line. Really, there is no argument against this one. But on the other hand, society is very fickled when it comes to how it determines the value of one life. One life is not as valuable as another, after all. Life is not as valuable to some if convenience or personal pleasure is at stake.  I would die for my children, but many kill their own children before birth.  It seems to me that values gold more consistently than life itself.

What about beliefs? Are you willing to die for what you believe? Now, this, I know, could open up a whole can of worms; but that’s ok. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Do you believe in anything so much that it is worth more than your own life? When your life is on the line, knowing the difference between what you believe and what is only opinion is of key importance. A martyr is one who will die for what they believe, rather than deny it.  Is your faith worth dying for?  If not, then how much do you really believe?

But here’s one more thought…how much is YOUR life worth?

Value is determined by what someone is willing to give for it, right? That’s typically the way it goes. So, if nothing on earth is more valuable than your life, does that make your life valuable? Well, maybe to you.

Think about it, to someone else your life might not be as valuable as their own. Would you value the life of a total stranger so much that you would offer your own in exchange? I mean, really? Someone may even be willing to give all of the world’s riches in order to obtain your life, but are you worth it? Who would even have that kind of wealth? That leaves you with nothing more than your sense of value compared to another’s. Your worth against theirs.

Value is relative to the thing for which the buyer will exchange.  That’s a disturbing thought, isn’t it?

On the other hand, what if the Creator of the universe offered to die for you?

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:8 NIV

That would make you of incalculable worth! The King of Heaven, the Son of God, gave His own life in exchange for yours, even accepting your guilts and failures as His own, and paying the death penalty for sin on your behalf.

For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2Corinthians 5:21 KJV

That makes you valuable. That makes Jesus pretty unique. How many others have done what He has for you? Most of us would die for our children or spouse.  Some of us would die for a friend or maybe a good person.  But how many of us would give our own life to purchase the life of a stranger, much less a convict, drug dealer, murderer, etc?  Jesus did.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:6-8 NIV

That’s the whole reason for Christmas, you know.  Jesus had to come to earth as a baby to grow into the Man that would willingly go to a cruel cross.  The gift of Christmas is the gift of life, purchased with the life of the Giver of Life. How ironic is that; and how wonderful?

What is your life worth?  It was worth the Messiah suffering the most excruciating death Rome could conceive.  It was worth the Prince of Peace being shredded by a “cat of nine tails.” It was worth God becoming flesh so that we could know Him.  If you are worth that much, and if that kind of price was paid, don’t you think giving your life to Jesus is a fair exchange?

If you would like to know more about Jesus, and how he loves you and died for you, then call this number, 1-800-NEED-HIM. Or, if you would like to talk with me, just send me an email.

Your life is worth it.

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Barriers to Church Growth. #2

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss some of these barriers.

“Pastors are more concerned about self-interests than about God and His people (Philippians 2:21).”

 “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” – Philippians 2:21

How sad is it to think that you can’t trust a man of God? Very! But, obviously, there are many men out there who care more about their own interests than for the church.

In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul was faced with this problem. According to the Apostle, Timothy was the only one he could trust with the care of this church, because all the others sought their own, “not the thing’s of Jesus Christ.” Imagine, there were others capable of doing the work, but only Timothy proved selfless.

What an indictment! What a troubling accusation to cast upon men of God! Shouldn’t the very fact that we are called and equipped for the task of shepherding sheep qualify us for the work? Not if the work is only a tool for self-gratification or gain.

Humility Needed

What kind of pastor was Paul looking for when he finally decided on Timothy? All one has to do is examine the previous verses and see that he was looking for a man with a heart and mind like that of the Savior. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who…made himself of no reputation, and took upon the form of a servant…humbled himself…unto death (2:5-8).”

Jesus was the highest example of a man who could have taken advantage of His position; yet, He was the one who washed others’ feet; wore the same clothes; never demanded special treatment; allowed Himself to be abused and mistreated; even went to a cross. How would modern pastors fare if asked to be more like Him?

The Man Paul Picked

Think about Timothy for a moment. When you do, what kind of mental picture comes to mind? Did he wear the nicest suit? Did he drive a new car? Did he publish a new book every week, or host 15 conferences listing his name on neon parchment?

Did Timothy get offended when not addressed by the correct title? Did Timothy have an “earned doctorate?” Would you have had to make an appointment to see him in his office? If you did, would you have felt intimidated by his presence and demeanor? I don’t get this picture when I think of Timothy, but I do about a lot of preachers.

Self-Examination

What kind of pastor am I? Am I a barrier to church growth? This is a question I have to ask myself, even though it may dig up some stuff of which I am ashamed.

You see, the church is more important than my ego. It is more important than what people think of me. The church was not put here for my benefit. I was sent to care for them. I was sent to feed and protect the sheep, not sell them off to make a profit. They don’t belong to me. They belong to Jesus Christ.

Do I look at every church as a stepping stone? Do I view people as objects, or worse, servants? Am I willing to sacrifice my pride, even my life, for the sake of those for whom Christ died? If not, then I don’t deserve this “good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). Unless I want to be like Christ, as modeled in the life of Paul and Timothy, then I desire the work for the wrong reasons, which would make me a “barrier to church growth.”

Dear friend in ministry, whatever your role, are you more concerned with self? Go back and read Philippians 2 and see how your intentions stack up. Like me, you may find some barriers that need to be torn down.

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Don’t Be Intimidated

Some of you might be feeling discouraged, afraid, worn out, or intimidated by the Enemy and his minions. I hope this helps.


Don’t be intimidated… into silence with regards to your faith – share it anyway.

Don’t be intimidated… by those who want to deny the reality or historicity of your faith, especially when the best arguments they have were learned in Philosophy 101, or from so-called atheists who only want to justify their lusts – their arguments aren’t as strong as they think.

Don’t be intimidated… by politicians and political hacks, especially those who support every kind of deviancy known to man – they will have to answer to the High King of Heaven one day.

Don’t be intimidated… by an increase in unexplained phenomena – the universe, and ALL that is in it was created by God for His glory. Genesis wasn’t just an Earth thing.

Don’t be intimidated… by those who believe truth is relative and morality is based on the flip of a coin – they’re afraid of a higher law.

Don’t be intimidated… by children who think they know everything – cause they don’t.

Don’t be intimidated… by a lack of experience or knowledge – get it.

Don’t be intimidated… by a mountain – it can either be climbed or tunneled through…or moved.

Don’t be intimidated… by the strength of others – if God be for us, who can be against us.

Don’t be intimidated… by the unknown – it’s not.

1Pe 3:14-16  – But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy [are ye]: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; (15) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (16) Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

Rom 8:38,39  – For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2Ti 1:12  – For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

I don’t know what you’ve been going through, or what you’ve been facing, but I hope this helps. May the Holy Spirit use these words to minister to you, as they have to me, and give you strength to stand.

Don’t be intimidated… “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, the words of Jesus).

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Keep Silent and Hate Your Soul

“Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.” – Proverbs 29:24

Bewrayeth

When was the last time you used “bewrayeth” in a conversation? I don’t know if I have ever even seen it in a crossword puzzle. But before we go any further, let’s make sure we understand this old English word.

According to Strong’s Concordance,  the Hebrew נָגַד (nagad ) occurs 370 times in the King James Version. Besides “bewrayeth,” nagad is translated most often as “tell,” “declare,” and “shew.” Therefore, it is safe to conclude that “bewrayeth” carries with it the idea of making something known or telling it the way it is.

So, then, what does “bewrayeth’ have to do with partnering with a thief and hating one’s soul?

Partners

First, it must be understood that a partner in crime is just as guilty as his other partner in crime. The one driving the getaway car and the one laundering the money are just as guilty of bank robbery as the one who takes the bag of cash from the safe.

Are you a partner with a thief? Do you recoil at that question? Stop and consider that if you know of someone committing a crime, no matter how small, then you are just as guilty if you keep silent. For instance, do you know of a man who beats his wife and yet have never reported the abuse? If so, then you are enabling him to do his dirty work, which makes you his partner in crime.

Self-Haters

The hard thing to grasp is that when we try to stay out of something by remaining silent, we are not doing ourselves a favor. So many people will witness a wrong or learn of a crime, but keep silent in order to protect themselves. But even though one may stay out of the spotlight or courtroom, the one that “bewrayeth it not” hates his own soul.

What is a worse form of hate: to hate one’s body, or hate one’s soul? Which is worse, the fear of jail time or eternal damnation? Simply put, there are deeper consequences for “not getting involved” than for speaking out in the face of evil.

 

(The previous was adapted from a post I wrote on 1/01/14 for ProverbialThought.com entitled “When Silence is Self-Hate.”)

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