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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Money Talks, Bullshit Walks

[Money Talks, Bullshit Walks means] that cheap talk will get you nowhere, while money will persuade people to do as you like.

James 2:14-26 New International Version (NIV)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Actually, bullshit blathers but money walks--money puts legs beneath our dreams and desires.  Money is the great facilitator--leveraging our desires into action.  Most recently I wanted to take a course at the University of South Florida (Saint Petersburg).  My desire for education alone without money to pay for tuition and books had no legs to get me where I wanted to go. It was not until I wrote a check that I became enrolled in the course.  Lets' face it, you've got to love any tool that has the capacity to move forward your deepest desires.  But like any well-designed tool, it is indifferent to how it is used.  Like a hatchet, it can be wielded for good or ill.  I've grown to love money for its facilitating qualities.  Yet how it is actually used is dependent upon the user's spiritual core--not on the mere tool which has no meaning apart from the human mind and spirit that wields it.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Reliable Forecast

In terms of a weather report, how would you describe your life at present? Your life five years ago? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1564).

I have a friend I see often.  When I ask how he's doing he reliably replies "Sunny to partly cloudy."  That sums up well the reality of life as I generally find it--life is by its very nature a combination of the sweet and sour--life is reliably bitter-sweet.  Thus to pretend that it's all "sunny side up" seems unrealistic; but unrelieved gloom seems somehow self-indulgent and unrealistic too--as if you demand unrelieved sunshine in an inherently sunny to partly cloudy world.

Anxiety, stress, and worry hovering like gloomy clouds will be dispersed most effectively by action--we can't do everything, but we can enlist help and together do the best that we can do.  It is remarkable how often the "best possible" slides into home as more than sufficient.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Dead-Ringer for a Heretic

How do you handle situations where your faith is criticized or questioned?.... (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1562).

I am a Methodist so am well acquainted with having my faith questioned--not by agnostics or atheists--but by my fellow Christians.  They may not flat-out tell me they think I'm the devil's tool, but they have a deep conviction that all main-line Christians are lost; I am Methodist--ergo I am lost.  As dead-on evidence, they may cite that Methodist allow female ministers which is outrageously unbiblical.

Since I am of the conviction that only God knows fully the human heart--even my own--I always feel a little vulnerable to such divining of my deeply sequestered heresy and the accompanying vague look of patronizing pity in the eyes of the righteous.  The piercing certitude that accompanies having a lock on the Holy Spirit is an awesome thing to behold.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Beneath the Labels

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. (--Abraham Lincoln).

I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving...(Oliver Wendell Holmes quoted by Joshua Dubois in The President's Devotional, August 28)

There is a saying "Where one stands depends on where one sits."  Yet it can be quite true that where one sits and where one stands can hide rather than elucidate motives and aspirations. Most especially where one stands invites judgment from others--sometimes greatly oversimplified judgement, stereotyped and hence unfair.  As none of us wish to be so summarily judged, we should first seek to acquaint ourselves with the intent, motives, and aspirations of others. I found this to be true when imprisoned during the 60's for refusing induction into the armed services.  It was not uncommon for people to attribute all kinds of characteristics to me that had no basis in fact.  A major guiding principle should be to rend confusion and glib assumptions from drawn conclusions.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Fears When Speaking Before a Group

What do you fear most about speaking before a group? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1562).

When I speak before a group the thing I fear most is a lack of fluidity of speech.  There is a sense in which it is better to be glib rather than to be tongue-tied.  It's that terrifying moment when I go to access my mental data banks and draw a total blank.  Sitting in a room alone that is no problem--just a little Alzheimer's I tell myself.  But in front of a group such moments are very uncomfortable for everybody.

My second fear is that I will have nothing useful to say--speaking just vacuous nonsense; or worse, making sense but contrary to the disciplines of love as set forth by the will of God.

My third fear is to look out upon the audience and when focusing upon individual faces seeing nothing but abject boredom or hostility.  This can be a call to assess what I'm saying to see if I have misspoken.  But if everything is on-track, it indicates that my best offerings are uninteresting or are being met with hostility.  In this we must always remember our Lord who spoke from perfect love but occasionally met hostility.

The final thing I fear is during a question and answer session being dealt a "got you" question; for example, before an honors theology class being asked to talk on the third commandment--when I don't have a clue which commandment was the third, fourth, or fifth. 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Energizing Lights

How has Christ brought light into your life? How can you pass on that light to someone else this week? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1562).

Purpose acts very much like a light.  You may be in some obscure, dark corner working on excruciating details that are frustrating, involuted, and complex.  A close-up snapshot of you there might suggest that anxiety and depression are appropriate.  But vision of a broader purpose that supports even wider purposes can redeem such moments of confinement in which claustrophobia seems determinant.  For example, I am taking a course at the University of South Florida (St. Petersburg) in the Foundations of Special Education.  Part of this course requires familiarization with enacted laws pertaining to children with special needs.  Obviously, delving into arcane government statutes seems remote from a broadly direct purpose, but actually it is not.  The time dwelling on such particulars can be redeemed by envisioning yourself now freshly enabled more adroitly serving the needs of children in the best way possible--finding yourself one-on-one with a student in a sun-lit classroom opening up doors of opportunity.  Such a redeeming purpose serves even broader eternal Christian purposes by serving God through action.  Therefore the light of purpose energizes everything.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Circular Dilemma--Nurtured by Our Own Experiences

How does verse 18 [quoted below] fit as a description of your spiritual journey?  Which other images describe what coming to faith was like for you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1562).

Acts 26:17-18  (NIV)

...I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

A key to understanding human behavior is that we are nurtured by our own experiences.  Our experiences tend to delimit our vision. It is frequently the case that when we are in error, we are in error not so much by willful determination but by the limited experiences upon which we draw.  That is, experiences have a profound impact upon our perception in toto--intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Shortcomings therefore are not so much a matter of will as perceptual barriers inevitably wrought by our idiosyncratic experiences.  God's grace takes this into account and is not preoccupied with guilt so much as changed behavior based upon new creative insights.  This requires a self-imposed excommunication from our institutionalized past and a courageous leap of faith into liberty of thought and perception--a very risky thing to do save for the love of God.  That is, the Creator understands the inevitable need for forgiveness; forgiveness (by which we are allowed to drop our defensiveness) makes possible transformative lights of fresh perspectives. 

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Democratic Theocracy

William Blake - The Creator

Luke 20:17-19 (NIV)

Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone’?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Jesus by his grace brought the possibility of theocracy to spacious democracy.  The cornerstone represented by Jesus by which all things are to be aligned is steadfast love.  Therefore, a theocracy of Jesus has no similarity with theocracies based upon fiats of irrationality and hatred.  Rather than imprisonment, democratic theocracies introduce blessed portals to freedom possible only within the context of justice and love.  This alignment begins in the commonweal with mutual respect and the blessings of constitutional rights.  They extent outward to the freedom of all persons to practice the Golden Rule in all affairs thus creating justice, charity, and goodwill.  Democracies by their very nature are contentious for they faithfully reflect the forever human struggle in all matters great and small to resolve the conflict of selfish self-interest vis-à-vis justice and charity.  In the context of democracy, the Prince of Peace assures eternal conflict as structural alignments are continuously made.  

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Immediate Action If I Were King

If you could be king or queen for a day, what new law would you enact? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1560).

I would decree that  a minimum wage be immediately established tied to the cost of living.  This due to abundant evidence that unjust wages tend to be allocated from capitalistic revenues when not guided by political action.  I would address disproportionate wealth by developing a fair payback schedule for those reaping egregious wealth from our social/political/economic infrastructure.   A strident chorus would immediately arise from the gold nugget gallery: "Off with his head!!!"  I would simply reply: "This time the King is not naked but your motives are." 

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Wellsprings of Unity

For over seven hundred years, racial hostility existed between Samaritans and Jews. But a thousand years before that, Jacob, a common ancestor, had dug a well from which they both drank. If we go back far enough in history, we find sources of common heritage. (Eugene Peterson in A Year with Jesus, page 248).

...we react quite differently to aspirations, which are very difficult to argue with.  Each of us is wired to champion others' deeply felt aspirations. Consider, for example, how frequently you have automatically rooted for total strangers you've read about or watched in a movie who are passionately pursuing an aspiration. There is a whole lot of common ground at the aspiration level. (Shirzad Chamine in Positive Intelligence, page 172).

Empathy and compassion in the end are what diverse humanity depends upon for mutual survival.  It is, after all, that which makes us feel really good about ourselves--the cheering on of our fellow humans in their striving to fulfill aspirations rooted in the soul of man.  Dig deep enough beneath strife and conflict and you will find an aquifer of common aspirations that unite us in empathy and understanding.... so long as we avoid the declensions of selfishness and fear--depressive byproducts of competition convoluted upon itself in coils of perversion.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Golden Rule Impediment

What laws conflict with your efforts to emulate Jesus Christ?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1560).

The Golden Rule (So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 NIV)) has few impediments in the United States built as it is upon respect, equality, and freedom. Any generous, charitable act I choose to do today, I might do--save one.  The rules of capitalism prevent me from assuring the money I spend on lunch today will be proportioned so as to pay the employees who prepared it a livable wage.  That can only done through the rather cumbersome and uncertain device of indirect political action and the vote.  This is regrettable for the employees who prepared my lunch today will be paid in a week or so (and have bills constantly accruing now)--not years from now.  Thus, the laws of capitalism and the fiction of private property keep me from practicing the Golden Rule over today's lunch hour.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Getting One's Ass Kissed vs Kissing Ass

I have learned of late that intense interest is growing across campuses nationwide in a new field of study--Leadership.  Everyone wants to be a leader getting  their ass kissed and no one a servant kissing ass.

Of course the first essential misconception that must be addressed is the one so delicately expressed above.  Leadership and servanthood are both alike more about creativity than pecking order.  Therefore I propose a new unitary field of study--Leadership/Servanthood in entirety a function of creativity.  This may well serve to dampen prurient demand for the study.  

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Wayward Wayne

Name three laws or rules you have never broken. (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1560).

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV).

If I have violated the first two commandments above, I have violated all laws and rules in one way or another. And such is the case.  Someone might say, "That simply isn't so Wayne, you have not committed murder, you have not committed theft."  I reply, "Have you not read the Scripture, if one is angry with his brother that amounts to murder, and what constitutes envy or an overbearing sense of entitlement but a form of theft  in the heart?"  Thus we can see that rather than it being a matter of finding one or two laws I haven't broken, I find it impossible to name all I have.  And that, unfortunately, is one negative reason "all men are equal."

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More than a Matter of Taste

Judgment is not an arbitrary lashing out from a despotic deity; it is self-inflicted. (A Year with Jesus by Eugene Peterson, page 244).

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:22).

We have to scan our lives to see if there are items within them not of God. Are we watching, consuming, or participating in things that the enemy can use for our destruction? If so, we have to leave them behind--not only for our sake, but for our children, and our children's children. (The President's Devotional by Joshua Dubois, August 19).

We have learned the hard way that censorship does not work.  For example, the discernment of whether a movie has a negative or positive influence upon us is really our decision to make.  For a third party to impose their values on us as adults regarding movie tastes would soon degenerate into absurdity.  For example, violence is a part of both helpful movies as well as those that are harmful trash.   But which is which can be debated endlessly without resolution. 

Therefore the high responsibility redounds to each of us to discern those things which will enrich our lives rather than impoverish them.  Wrong decisions will result in self-inflicted wounds scarring the minds, hearts, and spirits of ourselves and others.  

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Bribe Me

If someone were to bribe you to do a favor for them, what's the most effective incentive they could use: A return favor? Your favorite meal? Free babysitting? Money? Flattery? Other? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1559).

Money is the crassest bribe one can think of.  It lacks imagination and leaves little "wiggle room" should it be discovered by one's opponents.  It is the bribe that when discovered claims the most head shaking and tongue wagging.  Thus it comes as an immense relief when the one bribing you shows a little class. Criticism is increasingly blunted the further away from facile conversion to the money equivalent is maintained.  It is also a curious fact that feelings of indebtedness need not be proportional to the size of the monetary gift.  Last evening a group of my neighbors stopped by my house to sing me a carol.   I feel much more indebted to them by this sweet gesture than should they have handed me a $20 bill.  If they had done both and I had an opportunity to do them a favor in return, surely I would find greater impetus in the carol's intangible emotional content rather than the $20 bill with its literal value and overt presentation.  I suppose based on the above question, a favorite meal would be best to bribe me--uncomplicated as it is by the need to adjudge the sincerity of flattery.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Art of Compliance

Where should you show your support for government authority? Where should you challenge it? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1559).

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:18-20).

The default position should be to respect and obey civil authority.  Yet we know as in the American Revolution for Independence there can be times when we are constrained by reason and a sense of what's right to declare operative and decisive independent judgment.  Personally, I did this in 1968 when I violated Federal law by refusing induction into the armed services (to wage the Vietnam War).  Government can have limited insight as to the full implications of a policy (in fact this is generally the case).  Therefore, it should not be surprising that some matters taken for granted in policy formulation raise resistance by various degrees as initial assumptions prove in policy promulgation to be presumptive and intrusive finally encroaching beyond narrow self-interest upon the sphere of sacred moral conscience. 

Thus, the default position of respect and deference to civil authority is not without limits set by the greater claims of conscience and the non-negotiable disciplines of love.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Seductive Silence

What risks did Paul's nephew take in this story [Acts 23:12-22]? How might you be called upon this week to take a risk and stand up for someone whom others dislike? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1558).

The temptation to betray someone--even a friend-- in the name of personal social approval and acceptance is great.  The greatest temptation is merely to say nothing while a group of one's peers assassinates the character and reputation of another.  In the news of late is a police chief highly vulnerable to stereotypical allegations in which any type of empathy shown for him is met with disgust and ridicule.  Lynch mentality and "tar and feather" impulses impose their censorship on even a tad of charity and compassion.  In times like these we see that self-righteousness creates a volatile and consuming fuel even among those professionally dedicated to truth.

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Friday, August 15, 2014


Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).

There are always reasons to pick from, viable excuses to leave the presence of God.  And they always lead to destruction. (Joshua Dubois in The President's Devotional, August 14).

"Kumbaya" or "Kumbayah" or "Cumbaya" (Gullah, "Come By Here" — "Kum ba yah") — is a spiritual song first recorded in the 1920s. It became a standard campfire song in Scouting and summer camps, and enjoyed broader popularity during the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s.

The song is originally a simple appeal to a deity to come and help those in need, but more recently, it also is cited or alluded to in satirical or cynical ways that suggest false moralizing, hypocrisy, or naively optimistic views of the world and human nature. (

This morning speaking of the relatively peaceful night in the wake of the slaying of 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Rev. Al Sharpton warned that emotions and feelings of injustice are deep and should not be overly discounted.  He warned against too easily finding the night of relative peace a cause to make facile shifts to kumbaya--that is, don't be fickle in embracing optimism.  We are left to conclude that being a Christian does not mean you must be flat-out silly.  A genuine call for kumbaya is too momentous and serious for that.  The verse from Ephesians quoted above says "...forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  Surely God was realistic and inclusive in comprehending Christ's suffering.  We must sometimes come to kumbaya down a painful trail of tears.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Abysmal Days

How has the Lord encouraged you during hard times? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1558).

I must admit there have been times that I have been disconsolate. At these times the sky clouds over and the walls close in.  There is frustration and a sense of imprisonment.  The situation and circumstances are outside my control--even minimal influence. Happiness and hope are utter strangers there and time seems to stand dead still.  I feel ready to explode--not from anger but with tightly pressurized angst oozing from above and without.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Facing Death

When facing death, what duty do you want to have fulfilled before God? How can you pursue that course this week? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1558).

I have learned that I cannot be the judge of my success or failures.  What I see as a failure, God might see as a success; and what I see as a shinning success, God might see as a failure.  The final standard for me involves the quest to do the best I can given my earnest searching for the discernment of God's will.  As my daddy said, that is really all any mortal can ask.  I am severely limited by my perception--so what I should do and the extent that I should do it is less than always precise or clear.  I am called to lean upon the leadings of the Spirit and move forward sometimes within a context of vast ambiguity.  Fast forwarding to my day of death, the question to be asked is "Did I maintain integrity given my perception of the righteous course set before me?"  An auxiliary question is "Did I seek to hone my perception to the best of my ability given my understanding of how that should be achieved?"  To the extent that I can answer these questions with positive assurance, I shall remain content.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Science and Religion Rapprochement

What group is critical of the church today? How might the church provoke this group? What could be done to lesson this animosity?  What can you do to help? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1556).

Let me first explain how in my own mind I have accepted Scripture as inerrant while concurrently accepting the integrity of science regarding the age of the universe and the process of life development. I do this by accepting that although the Bible is not a book of science, it is always spiritually true.  The Bible posits a future (goal) of perfection and happiness.  I know very few individuals who would disagree that this referent faithfully describes the spiritual pursuit of humanity, nor would they deny that for most of us this is a formidable goal--the pursuit of the goal often confounded by the complexities of our own flawed character and nature.  Look at the world this morning and honestly assess the present perfection of mankind while acknowledging that the human heart yearns for peace and happiness--in fact most of the spiritual atrocities we commit are in the name of exalted goals.  Thus, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that paradox lies at the heart of human history--in the name of peace we make war; in the name of good we do evil; in the name of kindness we kill; in the name of happiness we rage.

So the Bible deals with a very hard subject to deal with--the facts of our own lives and hearts and that of exasperating human history.  Now the text of science (when not assailed by the negatives of the human spirit) is quite different.  Today I type this blog using a computer complete with word processor and spelling checker--altogether based on the facts of physics.  It is clean and pristine compared with the shenanigans of what must be called the political nature of man.  Thus, a rapprochement between science and religion must begin with an understanding that science stands ready to assist religion in the painful task of human redemption.  (For example, in the realm of good health.) Certainly, it is a task that can use loving, widespread concerted effort.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

A Man of Principle?--Not So Much

How do you decide when you should bend for the sake of others, and when you should stand for your principles? (Serendipity Bible 1998, page 1555).

I am not a man of principle so much as a man of tone. No matter what can be enunciated verbally as principle, if the tone is not right – in some sense bizarre – I then do not act on principle but prefer responding to the nonverbal chiaroscuro of tone.

Let me give an example. On principle, a man should not make egregiously risky loans.  However there have been times when I have made them anyway because to abide by principle would have seemed not right--there was a nonverbal tonality that took precedence over rationality. Another case can be when "good advice" is being meted out but in a tone that reflects insufferable self-righteousness and lack of compassion. Clearly tone trumps strictly principled verbal sense by leagues and bounds.  The same violation of compassionate atmospherics can occur in a business setting when an employee is being "counseled for their own good" but it is clear that intimidation is the real intent accentuated by structural power configurations of furniture, violations of attendee proportionality, and the like.

It is because of this that I have in time grown suspicious of principle and opt for a loving, synchronous tonality.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

No Lock on the Holy Spirit

[Peter explains his actions to his critics:]  “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:15-17 NIV).

I wear a necklace in honor of all who may not call themselves Christian but who exemplify the fruit of the Spirit.  (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.... Galatians 5:22-23 NIV.) I wear this mainly as a personal reminder that I do not have a lock on the Holy Spirit, but that acts of God regularly (even typically) exceed human understanding.  Therefore it would be at the jeopardy of my own soul should I attempt to closely apply any legalistic stipulations and limitations on the Holy Spirit.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

At Any Cost

How would you complete this sentence: "The one thing I must accomplish at any cost is _________?"  How does it relate to Paul's goal in verse 24 [quoted next]? (Serendipity Bible 1998, page 1554).

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.  (Acts 20:24  NIV).

For a Christian this must always be the final answer--to testify "to the good news of God's grace."  This extends to testimony employing thoughts, words, and deeds.  The reason is that this end assumes the ultimate place of allegiance and forms the anchor for all behavior. It is the standard by which all other behavior is rationalized.  There are no petty activities when seen in the light of this end--whether washing dishes, doing laundry, or leading a critical "secular" program.  It goes without saying that this does not merely apply to explicit Christian testimony, but to each and every act whether explicit or implicit.  It is the characteristic of human nature  to autonomously attach symbolism to action.  Thus, it is particularly critical that even "small matters" not be ignored.  We can all testify to the "little acts" that were infused with such nonverbal significance that we carry them in memory throughout our lives.

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