ENCOURAGEMENT FOR TODAY

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Biblically based virtues and values are worth learningVirtue is purity, strength, courage, uprightness of heart, and integrity. Values are those qualities commonly accepted among people as the minimum by which folks ought to live. Virtues and values are of great importance to everybody. They should be of special importance to Christians. The two are essentially the same thing. Both are concerned about our personal walk with the Lord "in paths of righteousness" and with our social behaviour in morally responsible ways.Robert Frost wrote in "The Road Not Taken" in 1916:Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

And the Bible reference is Jeremiah 6:16 (RSV), "Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." I would like to have a word to you today about choosing to walk in "the good way," in the way where God leads, in "paths of righteousness."

Today humanity is free-falling in an abyss of moral nihilism. Most folks don't really believe anything anymore. They spend their lives in frenzied activism to keep from looking down into this black hole of meaninglessness. Our world seems determined to try to live life without discipline, enjoy plenty without work, experience pleasure without pay, wallow in adultery without love, commit crime without punishment, revel in sin without judgment and play tennis with the net down. Our world does not believe you have to reap what you sow. What happened? Most of the important institutions in society have tended to focus almost all of their attention on reason rather than revelation, on things instead of persons, on the material rather than the spiritual. If people do not learn about virtues and values in the home, in the school, and in the media, then humanity will move away from civilization and down into the pit of lawlessness.

Virtues and values are the essential qualities for which Saint Augustine looked in vain when he said that Rome perished for want of order in the soul. Virtues and values have God as their source. Human reason does not fashion them or form them. Virtues and values were what Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. And the contents of those two tables of the law of God have been more engaging through the ages than all the health and wealth ever concocted.

I encourage you all today to affirm positive, Biblical virtues and values. Long ago, God's people were admonished to take the values and ideals of God, as communicated in His word, and to speak of them in the daily walks of life, to discuss them when sitting around the supper table, to have them in mind when going to bed at night, and to keep them in focus when rising up in the morning. This is the recipe for the food which our hungry world needs, indeed is starving for.

Biblically based virtues and values are worth learning. They are worth studying, teaching, preaching, and thinking about. And they are worth sharing. So, I end this column where I began it with the prophetic utterance from Jeremiah 6:16: "Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." We can all choose to walk where the good way is, where God leads, in paths of righteousness, in the road less traveled, in the way of virtues and values.

Our world seems determined to try to live life without discipline, enjoy plenty without work, experience pleasure without pay, wallow in adultery without love, commit crime without punishment, revel in sin without judgment and play tennis with the net down.

Geographic location: Saint Augustine, Rome, Mount Sinai

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