A Commitment To Excellence


Published on February 15th, 2017
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Several years ago I read an interview with Mary Crowley, the highly successful developer and owner of the Home Interiors enterprise.  The question was asked, “What are some of the basic principles of how you approach your work and how you approach your life that have made you more and more successfully.”  Her answer was simple: “I have a commitment to excellence, and never give up.  Whatever the job is, do it the best you can, and make it shine.”  With this she also imparts her deep feeling that everyone is on the team, and everyone is serving others, not just doing a job.  Over a period of 25 years, her initial investment of $5,000.00 had grown to over $400 million that year.

This interview gave way to an interesting thought and challenge.  In Luke we find the story of a business enterprise.  Luke 15:8 makes a blunt statement:  “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”  According to Romans (chapters 10 and 11), God can use means outside the confines of our churches to provoke us to action.  Success of material enterprises, which are a result of disciplined hard work, creative planning with purposeful strategy, strong faith in accepting a challenge and a commitment to excellence, provoke me to excel in the Kingdom enterprises in which I am involved.  Whatever elements of success I see in others that are not contrary to Christian character I will strive to attain.  My commitment must be to give my utmost for His highest in everything I do, from the most menial to the most prominent of my responsibilities!

May I suggest that there may be more than we usually reckon within the scriptural declaration that an excellent spirit was in Daniel?  (Daniel 6:3).  Somehow we have so spiritualized this that we have missed the practical importance.  Perhaps it will speak more plainly to us to say that a spirit of excellence was in Daniel.  To emphasize this point, I make a few observations from a recent study of Daniel’s excellence.

Daniel was well read, an ardently studious man, with a disciplined mind and a teachable nature.  “Skillful in wisdom, cunning in knowledge, understanding science – had ability – whom they might teach” (Daniel 1:4).  He “understood by books” (Daniel 9:2).

He was in control of himself physically, his appetites, his time and emotions.  He restricted his eating, was regular with prayer, fasted for periods of time, did not panic in a crisis, understood the importance of timing, held his ego in close check, humbled himself to confession and repentance.   (Read Daniel 1, 2, 5 and 9).  He excelled in personal relationships.  Even his captors loved him (Daniel 1:9.  He could meditate and motivate even among godless people (Daniel 2:14-30; 4:24-27, 37).    He was a man of excellence in spirit, knowledge, understanding, explanations and knotty problems (Daniel 5:12).  He was committed to excellence – not only in spirit, but in everything in which he was involved.

Whatever I do that is Kingdom related, from the keeping of my own temple, to the keeping of the church in my house, to the interior and exterior of His house, to the responsibilities of my position as Ambassador to the people e of this world from His Kingdom – whatever the job is, I must do it the very best I can, and make it shine.  I have a commitment to excellence for His Excellency, my Lord and His Kingdom.

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Blessed Are The Merciful


Published on February 1st, 2017
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Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

The law of sowing and reaping is often quoted in reference to bad behaviors and the end result of a sinful life.  However, it also refers to the sowing and reaping of good things.  True, you can sow unhappiness and reap a lifetime of it for yourself.  But, by the same token, you can sow happiness and ultimately reap happiness in your own life.

This beatitude that promises mercy for mercy reflects that law in the best of terms.  If you and I can learn to practice mercy toward others, we will, when it is needed in our own lives, find that mercy is granted to us.  Long ago, dealing with a particular situation involving a couple of church families, I heard a pastor say, “If I am going to make a mistake with an individual, I would rather err on the side of mercy than ever on the side of judgement.”  He has lived that – and lived to reap that.  We cannot expect to set ourselves up to harshly judge others and expect, when our time comes, to receive great mercy from those same individuals in our own situations.

Mercy is a Christ-like characteristic.  Mercy says, “I will treat her better than she deserves.”  Mercy walks hand-in-hand with forgiveness – and so does offering aid and assistance to someone we have no obligation to help.

Mercy and love were the driving force of the incarnation of Jesus Christ – His death, burial, and resurrection. He came to save us – to forgive us – to redeem us – driven by one force – His love for us.

William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew states regarding this word:

“It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for some in trouble. Chesedh, mercy, means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.

Clearly this is much more than an emotional wave of pity; clearly this demands a quite deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy which is not given, as it were, from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with the other person, until we see things as he sees them, and feel things as he feels them. This is sympathy in the literal sense of the word. Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what he is going through. (p. 103)”

Mercy is not an easy thing to practice.  In the day in which we live, it seems much easier to focus on our own journey than to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes.  Yet, mercy at its finest, doesn’t just say, “I know where you are…” it says, “Let me walk with you.”

The result of showing mercy – extending mercy in every possible situation – is that we will, ourselves in our own lives, at the point of our own need for it – will find mercy extended to us.

Blessed are the merciful . . .for they shall obtain mercy.

Published in categories: T.F. Tenney

Blessed Are The Hungry & Thirsty


Published on January 15th, 2017
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Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:

for they shall be filled.

Have you ever had one of those conversations with your spouse or kids?

“I’m hungry . . .”

“Okay, let’s see . . . What are you hungry for?”

“I don’t know really . . . I’m just hungry. . .”

“How about Mexican?”

“No, anything but Mexican. . .”

“What about trying the new Italian place?”

“No, that doesn’t really sound good to me . . .”

“So, you choose . . . What about just ordering pizza?”

“No . . .let me think about it . . .” and they wander off into another room.

Meanwhile, by now you’re hungry, too, and they can’t make up their mind so you’re at their mercy.

Jesus was very clear that the blessing came not in just being hungry or thirsty.  That happens to everyone.  What He specified was that blessing would rest on those who made the choice – whose decisions were clear and unwavering.  They are hungry and thirsty, all right – but for righteousness.

Blessing comes to those whose hunger and thirst is directed at the things of God, not the things of this world.  William Barclay, in his Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew describes this hunger and thirst in this way:  “It is the hunger of the man who is starving for food, and the thirst of the man who will die unless he drinks” (pp. 99-100).

We hear and feel this kind of hunger and thirst in the writings of the Psalmist:

Psalm 42:1-2: As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 63:1: O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.

This hunger and thirst for righteousness is as vital to our spiritual life and strength as the human flesh that hungers after food and drink for the sustenance of life. We must seek after His righteousness not our own.  We must be thirsty for He who said, “Ho, everyone that thirsteth. Come ye to the waters!” We must hunger for the Bread of Life.

And when we are hungering and thirsting – when we are passionately pursuing Him and His presence and His righteousness in our lives . . . the promise is there: “they shall be filled.”

There have been great theological discussions and attempts to define righteousness.  In the most simple of explanations, to follow the word used in this passage to its root, it is the holiness of God.  So what does hungering and thirsting after righteousness/holiness look like?  It is answering the call of I Peter 1:15-16:  “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”  An individual who is actively hungering and thirsting after righteousness will be a person who is living in pursuit of the holiness of God.  The writings of Peter were a reference to a passage in Leviticus (20:7, 8):  “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God.  And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you.”

We live in a world that centers itself on itself, that focuses attention on the power of the individual encouraging everyone to just “be yourself!”  The idea of doing whatever you want to do with no thought for the consequences and ramifications of your behavior has wreaked havoc on our society.  This beatitude – this blessing – comes from turning completely away from the world and facing head-on the holiness and righteousness of God.  We will echo the words of Isaiah when He saw the Lord high and lifted up, His train filling the temple:  “Woe is me! for I am undone …”  Gone will be the self-seeking and self-serving of the age in which we live.  A hunger and thirst for righteousness – and the promised filling that comes with it – will bring a new lifestyle of God-centered words and deeds.

Published in categories: T.F. Tenney

The Confusion Of Christmas


Published on December 15th, 2016
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Man’s mind is a significant skirmish field for the emotions.  The constant tug-o-war between what we ought to do and what we do, how we ought to feel and how we feel interjects confusion compounded with guilt into the maze of life.  Those who are trained in the science of the mind and emotions tell us that the Christmas holiday season is one of the peak times for upset emotions.  Many reasons make up the basis for this.  The contrast of memories of carefree childhood holidays versus the pressure of the adult world of holidays can cause confusion by the paradox of how we would like to feel and how we feel.  Peaceful and happy holiday scenes and melodious strains of “sleep in heavenly peace” contrast drastically with the hectic holiday pace, late hours, pressure and frayed nerves.  However, a real look at the first Christmas reveals a great similarity between their day and ours.

Briefly take a look with me at the real Christmas.  It consisted of two people under immense pressure, trusting, believing, with a long wait before they saw their faith become proof.  They were vulnerable to criticisms, hurt, and misunderstandings among friends and family.  They fellowshipped fear and lived with pressure.

A lot of strange stories were circulating and strange events were happening.  Zacharias had lost his ability to speak after a strange spiritual experience.  Old Elizabeth was carrying a baby with the dangers of delivery of a first child at her advanced age.  Lots of talk and strained, strange expectations were held in tension by long periods of waiting for whatever the outcome would be.

There was political and ecclesiastical unrest and corruption.  There was economic pressure.  There was spiritual confusion.  If they were God’s chosen people, what was the explanation for their position in current events?

Then the proverbial “last straw” was added to their already stressed lives.  Federal intervention – a census involving an involuntary, hard trip at an inconvenient time, an additional tax on a strained budget.  How will these two very human people make it through this season?  Topping the last hill, Bethlehem looked good – a little respite was in sight.  However, there were no rooms and further complications developed in the form of real physical pain.  The baby wasn’t going to wait until they got back home.  He was coming and he was coming now.

Lonely, rejected, depressed, desperate – where was God in all of this?  There had been promises given –   You are favored of God – God is with you – The Holy Ghost is doing a work.  They were far off voices from a peaceful past.  The angel had come uninvited, interrupting the routine of their lives.  That angel was now long gone and where was God in all this confusion?  Right in the middle of it!

“Emmanuel, God with us!”  God interjected Himself into the mainstream of human life. The lyrics of an old song come to mind:  “Without reluctance, human form His substance, our God and Savior came, and Jesus was His name.”

One of the important aspects of Christmas is that the first Christmas involved normal people coping with all of the conflicts of life and God came right into the middle of it.

So, here we are – Christmas 2016 – Pressure, problems, fears, and failures.  We are often surrounded with strange, unexplainable, not-easy-to-see-God-in events.  We are confronted with economic pressure and governmental uncertainty.  In many ways we are forced to wait long for our trust, faith, and belief to turn to proof.  The necessary risks are sometimes frightening.  In the course of events we become weary and wonder, we ponder and are encouraged, we suffer back-sets and become confused, we are familiar with loneliness, rejection, and pain.  Take heart, though – He is still “Emmanuel, God with us”!  In the middle of it all, it’s the message of Christmas, He is here!

 

Published in categories: Thetus Tenney

Blessed Are The Meek


Published on December 1st, 2016
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Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Meek.  It’s not a word we hear very often anymore.  And, when we do, it’s usually not considered a compliment.  Biblically, the word means “humble.”  Another word, not necessarily considered a positive attribute in our “dog-eat-dog” world where aggressiveness and brashness are rewarded.

Yet, meekness was a characteristic Jesus used to describe Himself.  Matthew records this:  “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).  In II Corinthians 10:1 Paul referred to “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” It is in I Peter 3:4, we read that the true adorning is said to be that of “a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.”

Meekness should not be interpreted as weakness.  One commentary observes, “Toward men this disposition is the opposite of high-mindedness, and a quarrelsome and revengeful spirit; it “rather takes wrong, and suffers itself to be defrauded” (1 Corinthians 6:7); it “avenges not itself, but rather gives place unto wrath” (Romans 12:19); like the meek One, “when reviled, it reviles not again; when it suffers, it threatens not; but commits itself to Him that judgeth righteously” (I Peter 2:19-22).

One writer made these observations about this third beatitude:

“The third beatitude puzzles many people in the workplace, in part because they don’t understand what it means to be meek. Many assume the term means weak, tame, or deficient in courage. But the biblical understanding of meekness is power under control. In the Old Testament, Moses was described as the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3, KJV). Jesus described himself as “meek and lowly” (Matthew 11:28-29, KJV), which was consistent with his vigorous action in cleansing the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). Power under God’s control means two things: (1) refusal to inflate our own self-estimation; and (2) reticence to assert ourselves for ourselves. Paul captures the first aspect perfectly in Romans 12:3. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

It is the meek among us who are able to see themselves realistically and intentionally as servants of God and people, careful in how they esteem themselves.  Meekness allows a person to understand and accept their own limitations, define their own strengths.  Meekness does not demand, however, that skills, abilities, and strengths are to be denied. Instead, they are to be used in service to God and others.

Now, about this “inheriting the earth…”  Sometimes we would look around and see the sin and insanity that is rampant along with the diminishing natural resources and the increasing list of endangered species – including unborn humans –and the question is viable – who wants to inherit this?

To understand the intent of these words rather than the literalness of them, we must go back to the Psalm containing the same reference.  Psalm 37:3 reads, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”  This inheritance of the Lord is not the physical earth; it is the benefits of His Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God is not for the proud and the haughty, the condescending and critical ones.  The Kingdom of God is given as an inheritance to those who trust Him and depend on Him – the meek.  The poor in spirit, who know their need of God, the mourning ones who look to Him for comfort, those who are meek in spirit, action, and attitude will possess the Kingdom because of God’s grace toward them.

One writer observed,

“Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth, they will inherit the land. Knowing our spiritual poverty turns us toward Jesus, mourning for our sins and the suffering of the world causes us to look for the comfort of God’s presence and being meek causes us to trust God’s sovereignty, trusting that He will do what He has said He will do. So we keep on waiting and doing the things we know God calls us to do; deepen our love for God deepen our love for one another and deepen our care for justice and the least. It allows us to treat people with grace and forgiveness, gentleness and patience. We find meekness leads to peace because in the end it deals with trusting God to be God and with not trying to do His job.”

Published in categories: T.F. Tenney

Blessed Are They That Mourn


Published on November 11th, 2016
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“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” -Mat 5:4

Loss is a fact of life.  It seems to be a part of us from the earliest of our human experience.

There is a seemingly constant cycle of physical losses.  A newborn baby – though welcomed into a whole new world of existence – loses the quiet comfort of its mother’s womb. The toddler loses his or her “baby fat.”  Baby teeth are replaced by permanent teeth.  And so it goes . . . until we find ourselves as our human lives are winding down and we lose things like our hair and our hearing, our memory and our mobility.  We learn to try not to focus on what we’ve lost, but to celebrate what is left.

With life, also comes the loss of relationships.  There are childhood friendship that are affected when one family or the other moves to another state or another neighborhood, when different schools are assigned or even different classrooms in the same school.  In our teens, there are dating relationships that never become permanent.  As adults, divorce may come uninvited into our life story.  Spouses pass away suddenly from accidents or illnesses.  The unthinkable comes to us when we lose a child.  We lose our parents.  Our siblings go into eternity before us.  Mourning comes to rest within us and we are not sure what to do with it. Read more

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Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit


Published on February 1st, 2016
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Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,

and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Let’s be honest. No one aspires to be poor. No one relishes being poor. No one does a happy dance when they are out of money and go to the mailbox to find one more bill to pay. No one is happy when there are children without enough food to eat. Elders without enough money to cover the cost of their medication or their simple living expenses are not happy elders. Obligations to meet or miss can be overwhelming. However, that’s not the kind of poor Jesus was referring to in this passage. He didn’t say the blessed are the financially challenged, nor did He mean that. Being poor in spirit is a different kind of poor-ness – that isn’t about poverty. Read more

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A New Year


Published on January 1st, 2016
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There is something about the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one that causes a pause in life’s machinery for most of us.  It provides us with just enough time for a little introspection.  This affects us in various ways – from a sigh of relief that the old year is passed, hope at the promise of a new year, a creeping dread that this year may not be much different than last, or it may be a time of anticipation and hope as exciting plans are made for the future.  Some of us may end up with just a good case of the “I’m so tired” blahs as we slide from one year to the next.

However, through the years, I have become increasingly aware of the fact that if I will approach this final holiday of the holiday season with faith and hope, it can truly make all the difference in the world.  If my evaluation of the previous year – and my anticipation for the coming year – are both filled with thanksgiving I become more and more aware of the gifts God has given me.

Being “New Year” conscious, I want to share a few personal musings for this time of year.  Several years ago, in a simple way, I analyzed and evaluated where I was in life, what I had done so far, and what I wanted to do.  I identified the areas in my life I felt I needed to shape up.  I calculated that within two years I could catch up, grow enough, and make my way to a more productive phase of life.  In reality, it took more time than I thought.  Retrospective, it required more discipline than I anticipated.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I did a lot of catching up.  I reached many goals and solved a lot of problems, dispelled a lot of fears, and increased my faith.  Believe me, though, I learned in the process that there are still things to be conquered, still tasks to be accomplished, still goals to be reached.  Sometimes life really is like the carrot hanging from a stick – you keep moving toward it, and it keeps being just beyond our reach.  However, it is in the striving – the reaching – the stretching and growing – that His will and work is accomplished in us.

If you have experienced these feelings, let me share with you the scriptures that ease my anxiety.  Exodus 23:29-30 says this:  “I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.”

What would life be without goals to accomplish, areas to be conquered, things to do, and yes, even pressure to get it done?  It would not be blissful – more likely boring and rather desolate.  Even now, when others might say, as my husband and I are in our 80s, we cannot imagine sitting in our recliners and rocking the rest of our lives away.  There are still dreams to make come true, goals to be reached, changes to be facilitated, work to be done.  We are not through learning and growing.  Neither are you.

Take a little time out this and contemplate this New Year.  Take a deep breath.  Face the future – with all the changes and challenges it will bring – and take the leap!  He is with you . . .and “little by little” all things will be accomplished.

Published in categories: Thetus Tenney

Blessed Are…


Published on January 1st, 2016
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Probably the most popular Biblical passage containing the words, “Blessed are . . .” is what we have called The Beatitudes of Jesus. However, before those nine “blessed ares” there are seven Old Testament verses that bear reference and study.

The rule of first occurrence comes to play when we look at the closing sentence of the second Psalm. “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” The literal meaning of the Hebrew word esher translated blessed in this first verse of reference is “how happy!” It is derived from the originating word, ashar, which is “to be straight (used in the widest sense, especially to be level, right, happy); figuratively, to go forward, be honest, proper.” So we can surmise that this term “blessed” is a continual state of mind and heart – a levelness of commitment, a levelness of honesty, a levelness of pressing forward. Read more

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The Promise Keeper


Published on December 6th, 2015
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Christmas reminds us we serve a God who keeps His promises. What He says He will do; it will be accomplished in His time and His way. If He says it, you and I can build our faith on the fact He is a never-failing God.

We see in the Christmas story more than enough “proof” of the fact that He is a Promise Keeper. The prophecies of old were one-by-one fulfilled as the virgin brought forth a son. A child born of the tribe of Judah, a descendant of David, born in the city of David. Isaiah said his name would be “God with us” centuries before the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and was instructed to call His name Jesus. Read more

Published in categories: T.F. Tenney