Sharpen Your Saw | Firm Foundation Inspiration Minute for May 18, 2022


  

(“Firm Foundation Inspiration Minute” is a weekly encouragement. Subscribe to this blog to stay connected.)

Have you ever woke up feeling tired? Do you feel tired and tense over all?

Ecclesiastes 10:10 reads, "If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success."

Imagine if you needed to cut wood with an ax or a saw. A dull tool would make that task more difficult and tiring. We know what it is like to use a dull knife in the kitchen, which can be a little dangerous. There was a dialogue between two people that went like this:

“How long have you been sawing that tree?"
"A long time!"
"Why don’t you sharpen your saw?"
"I’ve been too busy sawing!”


Sharpening your saw, resting well, and taking care of yourself, is one of the best things you can do to overcome the feeling of tiredness and tenseness. As Solomon said, "If the ax is dull, then he must use more strength." What we need is the strength of better habits and God's grace helping.

We read in Psalms, "He makes me lie down in green pastures." Think about this as an invitation, not something we have to do because of a crisis. As Solomon said, "Wisdom brings success."

Sharpen your saw. Some things you can do to help yourself includes getting good rest and developing better habits.

For your encouragement, I've included a link to my teaching entitled "Habit: The Faithful Servant - Seven Key Habits"

God Bless and Be Encouraged!
~ Pastor Bryan Hudson, D.Min.
________________


Donate to New Covenant Churchhttps://cash.app/$newcovenantindy









Habit: The Faithful Servant - Seven Key Habits




LISTEN TO PODCAST


Your Constant Companion

“I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am at your command. Half of the tasks that you do you may just as well turnover to me and I will do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed, you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done. After a few lessons I will do it automatically.”

I am the servant of all great people, and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. And those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, but I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a person. You may run me for profit or run me for ruin, it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will lay the work at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I? I am called habit. Habit is my name.” (author unknown)

"A habit is the intersection between knowledge, skill and desire.Common sense is not always common practice." Stephen Covey, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”

"Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters." ~ Nathaniel Emmon

Having an appreciation of time is a good habit.
chronos (clock time) and kairos (opportunity time)
Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV, Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity [Kairos], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE
By Stephen Covey

1. Be proactive, not reactive
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put First Things First
4. Think Win Win
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen the Saw
"If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success. "Eccl. 10:10

Inspired by Mothers and Mother-Like-Ones | Firm Foundation Inspiration Minute for May 11, 2022


  

(“Firm Foundation Inspiration Minute” is a weekly encouragement. Subscribe to this blog to stay connected.)

Mothers are so inspiring! On Mother's Day in our service, we listened to reflections from mothers and adult children about their mothers. Here is a YouTube link to those talks

We also reflected on those whom we call in our community, “mother-like-ones.” Those are aunts, grandmothers, and mentors will fill the voids in a child's life who did not have the presence of their mother.

My mother, Gaynell Hudson, passed away 20 years ago, at what we now consider the young age of 65. As I shared last week, she was a towering figure of compassion and love, with this words, “Be Encouraged!” Last November I celebrated my 65th birthday. 

 All the inspiring reflections caused all who were gathered together, and who watched on live stream, to reflect on our mothers and motherhood.

One major blessing of having been mothered, is a deeper sense of care and compassion for others. There is also the strong sense feeling protected and, and the willingness to do anything for your child, and for other loved ones.

One of our young mothers reflected on the parallel between how a mother loves her child and how Christ loves us. She shared how much more clear God's love became after giving birth to her own child.

Maya Angelou wrote: “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”

This captures the almost indescribable impact of mothers, and mother like ones. We love our mothers and their memory.

God Bless and Be Encouraged!
~ Pastor Bryan Hudson, D.Min.
________________


Donate to New Covenant Churchhttps://cash.app/$newcovenantindy









Looking at the Heavens, A Lifelong Passion

 

In recent months, I embarked upon an endeavor called “Astro Photography.” There has been a lifelong interest in looking at the heavens and studying all things related to astronomy. As a teenager, my parents purchased one of those telescopes we've all seen in stores, that end up at Goodwill and in garage sales after loss of interest. However, my interest never waned. Before my cheap telescope broke, observing craters on the moon, stars, and the fuzzy outline of Saturn's rings was enough to get me hooked. This was called “Visual Astronomy” because no photographs were taken, only observations of bright objects in the night sky.

Growing up in the city, I had no real appreciation of the night sky, as city lights (also called “light pollution”) prevented observing objects such as the Milky Way. It was not until I visited family in rural Tennessee that I encountered the night sky without city lights. It was an overwhelming experience! I saw a haze in the sky that I later learned was the Milky Way. Later still I learned that the Milky Way is an arm of the galaxy in which we live, of which our Sun (a "yellow dwarf") is only one of millions of other suns.

Our high school had a planetarium, which was remarkable for an urban high school. I was one of the few kids that was actually interested in the teacher's presentation of constellations and heavenly bodies projected on the dome ceiling in the darkened room.

These experiences shaped a lifelong interest in astronomy. The same experiences affirmed a strong sense of the reality and power of God. Long before I became a follower of Christ, given what I understood about the universe, I could not conceive of anybody not believing in God. Of course, I learned later that many people explain the creation of the universe as a result of chance, matter, and gravity. That still seems like nonsense to me, though I do not subscribe to the notion that the entire universe is only 6000 years old. (And I fully understand fundamentalist biblical arguments to the contrary)

As a Christ follower for the past 44 years and as an avid photographer, my experiences photographing nature for decades and now astro photography have elevated my appreciation for God's creation! The video below is a compilation of some of my best astro and landscape photography since 2017. In August of that year I saw the greatest thing in nature I had ever seen, a solar eclipse. I traveled to Nashville Tennessee to witness and photograph the total eclipse of the Sun by the Moon (here's a video of that experience).  

Compilation of Astro Landscape Photography 

The Politicization of Abortion


PHOTO CREDIT: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

[NOTE This article was written in August of October of 2020]

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19) 

For Christ Followers, the issue of abortion is front of mind. It is part of the discussion about biblical justice and social justice.

In the 1990's, many of us participated in activities to discourage the option of abortion and to encourage choosing life. Unfortunately, what we thought was a “Pro-life” movement was actually a political movement in disguise. In 1979, Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority. This was an American political organization that Falwell described as pro-family and pro-American. 1 They talked about promoting Christian conservative social values, notably outlawing abortion, pornography, and gay rights. The Moral Majority disbanded in 1989, but the movement served to establish Conservative Christians as a force in American partisan politics.

During that time, I was among those who considered any “morality” movement a necessary alternative (in hindsight, because being Christ’s Church was not enough). The Moral Majority tapped the "moral outrage" part of my self-righteous mindset. I later learned that moral outrage was highly selective in nature. High profile concerns were addressed, while other less visible concerns such as domestic abuse and systemic racism were overlooked by groups such as the Moral Majority. These movements proved to be politically motivated, more than focused on biblical righteousness (justice).

Context always brings clarity

Only weeks after “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, during which peaceful protesters who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge were beaten by State Troopers, Rev. Jerry Falwell gave his response during a sermon;

“Believing the Bible as I do, I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ and begin doing anything else—including the fighting of Communism, or participating in the civil rights reform...Preachers are not called to be politicians, but to be soul winners.” 2

This was the position of many conservative Christians of the era, including those who opposed the efforts of Dr. King, the Civil Rights movement, and the pursuit of Black Americans seeking equal rights. Later, Jerry Falwell reversed course and stated; 

“The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.”  3

The Moral Majority was founded on the idea that engagement in politics and influencing government to do the bidding of Christians was the way to “save” America. Many might disagree with my assessment, but this became my conclusion after years of engagement with persons involved with the Moral Majority and related movements in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Since the demise of the Moral Majority, the focus of politically motivated Christians has remained the same. The aim seems to be “run the country” using partisan political action and developing systems such as “Christian worldview” based curriculum to inculcate their values into traditional and non-traditional education. It is the right and duty of all American citizens to participate in politics, but in the 21st Century, conservative Christians became increasingly intertwined with the Republican Party, white supremacists (wittingly and unwittingly), and partners with immoral persons such as Donald J. Trump. Voting for Republican candidates and against Democratic Party candidates became an article of faith.

Within this context, we return to the issue of abortion. My anecdotal evidence of many years engaging with conservative Christians suggested that the embrace of saying, “I am Pro-life" did not focus on saving unborn lives, but a strategy to gain and hold political power. When engaging in discussions with persons who claim to be “Pro-life,” it is my practice to inquire about what actions are taken to prevent abortion. The response usually only amounts to voting for Republican Party candidates, something which suggests that the premise of using the tragic issue of abortion is for political gain.

After 1973 when the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide (it had previously been a state-by-state matter), political activism on the part of politicalized Christians went into high gear.

The stated goal of conservative Christians has been to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal. The strategy has been to “stack the Supreme Court” with justices who are persuaded by Republican politics. It is not certain if this strategy will succeed in creating a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade since Supreme Court justices sometimes become unpredictable. What seems certain is that conservative Christians will bind themselves to a single political party and to its candidates regardless of their personal morality, competence, or harmful positions on other important matters.

The Presidency of Donald Trump from 2016 to 2020 exposed conservative Christians in this regard (he received votes from 81% of such persons). The term Evangelical Christian became conjoined with a single political party (leaders in the Civil Rights Movement did not make that mistake). Because of this politicization, many with the wider society reject the Evangelical Christian part of the church. This partisan political fixation, to the exclusion of many other important issues, has damaged their witness for Christ among the unchurched and groups such as millennials and African Americans.

No Christ Follower favors abortion. For this author, the political tactics employed by conservative Christians have been disappointing and have not dramatically reduced abortion rates according to reports compiled by the Centers for Disease and Control that track legally induced abortions. 4 From 2008 to 2016, the rate of abortions declined 25% (interestingly, during the presidency of Barack Obama). The decline was attributed to improvements in access to healthcare and better use of contraceptives. 5 The decision to abort is often linked to the prospect of a lack of affordable healthcare.

Non Partisan Actions to Save the Unborn

Escaping the politicization of abortion by politically motivated Christians must first involve answering the question: What is the most effective strategy for saving the lives of the unborn?

Those who hope to overturn Roe v. Wade and who say abortion is “murder” must resolve what to do with women who obtain abortions. I know of one Christian attorney who says women who get abortions deserve the death penalty after conviction. This is a contradiction to the “Pro-life” moniker, but as stated earlier, the objective of conservative Christians seems to be gaining political power more than exhibiting Christlikeness.

Voting for a Republican candidate may not prevent abortions, but it will likely garner financial support, put persons into positions of power (some of whom may not otherwise be qualified to govern), and provide a career with great employment benefits.

What Actions Save Unborn Lives Today?
1. Teaching young people and all people to live right, serve God, and not to engage in illicit sexual activity. 

2. For women who experience an unwanted pregnancy, counsel them to “choose life” by not getting an abortion. 

3. Assist those who “choose life” with their healthcare, pre-natal, and post-natal care. 

4. Help mothers and their children to be productive and fulfilled. Mentor the children.

5. Hold young men and men accountable to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions. 

6. Support Crisis Pregnancy Centers as front line people and organizations that provide alternatives to abortion. 

7. Because abortion is legal, it is a choice. Helping people “choose life” is vital. 

8. Focusing on making abortion illegal is impractical in the short term and making it illegal is not the final solution in the long term. If or when abortion becomes illegal, many women will seek to self-abort or resort to other methods of abortion. 

9.  Teaching people to value life is the best solution. This is what conservative Christians should focus on doing rather than wasting their time and forfeiting their credibility, compromising with politicians.

Article Addition, May 5, 2022:

As I write, there has been an unprecedented leak from the United States Supreme Court of a draft of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade. What is unfortunate about the leak is the  politicization of the Supreme Court, which had been regarded as non-partisan. In light of President Donald Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell's efforts in “stacking” the court with three appointees (notably the unconstitutional denial of President Obama's right to appoint a Justice after the death of Antonin Scalia), it is more likely the Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

Many Christians regard this possibility as a “victory.” I regard this as the fulfillment of a long game strategy to use our government, law, and courts to do the bidding of political/conservative/Republican Christianity. This is especially apparent when we consider that many of these same people only view “pro-life” within the context of political party affiliation, not within the context of personal actions taken to save the unborn and support the born (examples cited above).

The current celebration regarding the possibility of “victory” in overturning Roe has come at the cost of moral compromise of biblical values, supporting immoral people, remaining silent to other social ills such as systemic racism, ends-justifying-means tactics, and using government/law/courts to punish sinners and enforce “Christian liberty.” This is far from "pro-life."

It is sad to view focus shifting from Christians actually working to save unborn lives by personal persuasion to “choose life,” and supporting those who are born, to seeking to use our government, law, and courts to impose punitive measures for sinful actions. Moralistic positions often have a repressive side beyond any apparent “triumph over evil.” 

Overturning Roe v. Wade sends the matter back to the states, as was the status before 1973. You can be sure that none of the culture warriors of political/conservative/Republican Christianity will be content to allow states to decide on abortion. If successful in overturning Roe, these Culture Warriors (and former promoters of the Gospel) will be emboldened to use their new found influence over government/law/courts to punish sinners and impose Christian Nationalist values at every possible station of life. 

I've had a disturbing thought in light of recent actions to curtail the teaching of uncomfortable aspects of American history (especially as it relates to the systemic mistreatment of Black people):  It seems to me there are some who would have no objection to the imposition of a Christian form of Islamic sharia law in the United States.  Before dismissing this outcome as impossible:

•  Consider uninformed and irrational legislation enacted against Critical Race Theory, resulting in the deletion of historical facts from school curriculum. 
•  Consider recent actions to repress minority voters.
•  Consider the Donald Trump inspired insurrection of our US Capitol on January 6, 2021 to stop the Constitutional certification of the 2020 presidential election. 
•  Consider that 81% of White Evangelicals supported Trump in 2016 and 2020---Most still support him to this day. Trump exhibits a non-Constitutional, autocratic philosophy. I think that some in the political/conservative/Republican church hold a theocratic view of national government, not government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

When the philosophy is, the-ends-justify-the-means, any wrong thing is possible.

I hope for better outcomes, but only time will tell.

________

1  Moral Majority | Definition, History, Mission, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Moral-Majority

2  Jones, Robert P.. White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity (p. 103). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

3 Ibid

4  Abortion | Data and Statistics | Reproductive Health | CDC. www.cdc.gov.

5   Cha, A. (2017). U.S. Abortion rate fell 25 percent from 2008 to 2014; one in four women have an abortion. Washington Post. https://tinyurl.com/y63caphv