Archives for the month of: September, 2018

I do not understand all that I know. I wish I did.

I know laws of math and science but I do not understand all of them. I know psychological terms and principles but I do not understand all of them. I know the Bible and can quote much of the Scripture but I do not understand all of them.

I don’t understand why good people sometimes do bad things and bad people do good things. I don’t always understand why some people prosper and others perish. I don’t understand why bad things happen to good people. I don’t understand why people hate other people- for any reason. I don’t understand why God is so patient with us.

Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to meet and know people who do not think like me and many of them do not look like me. I have had the experience of traveling to places with customs and behaviors that are foreign to me. I live in a very diverse neighborhood with 81 other families. The folks who live near me come from all over the United States and several other countries.

I was brought up in a church that taught me the love of God and the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. I was taught to love God and love people. I understood that meant all people.

I listen to music on the first half of my morning walk and then on my return home I listen to an audio reading of the Bible. One recent morning the reading was from the Book of Acts. Chapter 10 tells the story of Peter, a Jew, and Cornelius, a Gentile. Jews of that time were not supposed to have anything to do with non-Jews (Gentiles) but a strange and wonderful thing happened.

Cornelius was a good and religious man who was neither Jewish nor Christian. Peter was a good Jew who had come to believe in Jesus and was a follower of The Way. God spoke to both of them and they both were obedient to the instructions given to them by God. The captain of the Italian Guard that was stationed in Caesarea had a vision and an angel of God, “as real as his next-door neighbor,” told him to send for Peter. So he sent three men to summon Peter from Joppa.

While Cornelius’ men are on the way Peter had a vision and God spoke to him with instructions that were contrary to his religious upbringing. This devout Jew struggled with what he was being told to do but finally gave in to what seemed right. So when these emissaries from Cornelius arrived Peter went with them.

When they arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius greeted Peter and invited him into his house. Peter said, “I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this—visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other.”

Peter asked Cornelius why he had sent for him and Cornelius explained the vision and instructions he had received from God. Then “Peter fairly exploded with his good news: ‘It is God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open’.” (Acts 10:34-36, The Message)

There is so much about this story that I don’t understand. But one thing that I do know- God can do what God wants to do and God loves everyone. One other thing- I am supposed to love everyone too.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. This childhood chant is reported to have appeared in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where it is presented as an “old adage.”

The purpose of this rhyme is to suggest that one should ignore name-calling or disparaging remarks and refrain from retaliation. It is to be used as a reply to an insult, indicating that the insult has been registered as such, but did not have any effect.

While this is an easily remembered childhood saying, it is not true. The truth is words can be terrific tools for good but they are also powerful instruments of pain as well as. Recovery from the physical injuries inflicted by sticks and stone- and other objects- is often much easier and more complete than healing from emotional and psychological wounds.

Words have a way of burrowing into your psyche. International speaker and author Yehuda Berg says, “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”

A decade after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison he said: “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If 27 years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are, and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”

Marvin Williams wrote in the devotional Our Daily Bread, “Words have the potential to produce positive or negative consequences. They have the power to give life through encouragement and honesty or to crush and kill through lies and gossip.”

King Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

“We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but the man who can claim that he never says the wrong thing can consider himself perfect, for if he can control his tongue he can control every other part of his personality! Men control the movements of a large animal like the horse with a tiny bit placed in its mouth. Ships too, for all their size and the momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, are controlled by a very small rudder according to the course chosen by the helmsman. The human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire, and the tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast potentialities for evil. It can poison the whole body, it can make the whole of life a blazing hell.” (James3:2-6, J.B. Phillips)

Maybe the prayer of the psalmist should be ours: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

I learned something in church a couple of weeks ago. That happens regularly for me. Although I have heard thousands of sermons, some very good and some very bad, I often hear something new or understand a well-known principle from a different and helpful perspective.

In his sermon the preacher mentioned an exercise that Stephen Covey suggested in his very influential book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, published 29 years ago. It has sold more than 25 million copies and continues to be one of the more significant offerings of the self-help genre.

Covey promotes what he labels “the character ethic“- aligning one’s internal and subjective values with external natural laws and timeless principles.  He insists that our values govern our behavior while principles, or natural laws, determine the consequences.

A key influence on Covey’s thinking was his study of American self-help books that he did for his doctoral dissertation. Most self-help books at the time focused on personality with an emphasis on public image, how you dress, how you perform in social interactions, positive mental attitude, skills and techniques to get people to behave in certain ways. He reacted to the emphasis on “the personality ethic.”

The author of this incredibly influential book believed that a person’s character rather than their personality was the driving force behind success. He suggested seven principles, or habits, that shape our lives.

Russell Marion Nelson Sr., an American religious leader and former surgeon, in a speech entitled “Begin With the End in Mind” speaking from his medical training said, “An elective incision is never made without planning to close it. The same principle is generally applicable in all fields, however. Track stars don’t begin a race without knowing the location of the finish line.” In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey agreed.

According to Covey, “Begin with the end in mind” is Habit #2 of highly effective people. In addressing this practice the author presents an intriguing exercise. He suggests that you imagine you are at your own funeral. There are four people that are going to be speaking about you at your funeral.  One is a close family member (brother, sister, son, daughter, etc.), one is a close friend, one is someone you worked closely with, and the last is someone from your community (charitable organization, church, local government, social club, etc.).

Now write down what you would want each person to say about you at your funeral.  Think about all the things for which you want to be remembered. The object of this exercise is begin at the end of life and work backwards. What are the qualities that you want people to remember after you are gone? Once you decide how you want to be remembered then you begin to let those values shape your everyday life.

In an interview promoting The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama said to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, his co-author and friend, “I imagine I will see your face at the moment of my death.” Archbishop Tutu had lived such a life that his friend would remember him with fondness.

As the Apostle Paul neared death he said, “I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, GNT). Is that the way you want to be remembered? Is that what you want people to say at your funeral? More importantly, is that what the God of all Creation will say?

Now is the time to assure that others will have good things to say about us and The Master will say, “Well done!” The best way to be sure is to begin with the end in mind.

Jamie Jenkins