Southside Church Of Christ Blog

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PRODUCTIVE FOR GOD OR PRODUCTIVE FOR SATAN

I’ve been studying and writing on this article for some time. It’s going to be long, so I decided the best thing is to publish it in two parts. The following is part one.

 

FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT

As I look at my life, I’m either productive for God or productive for Satan. It’s impossible to be both at the same time.  As you study Paul’s writings in Galatians 5, he outlines our choices as works of the flesh, Satan’s path or God’s path, the fruits of the Spirit. He writes that these are in conflict with each other. There are decisions and choices we must make. There is implied expectation that we use these gifts for God’s glory. God wants us to grow our relationship with Him by having and using the fruits. Our use of the fruits will influence others with their relationship with God as they watch us. If I’m not allowing the Holy Spirit to produce the fruits in me then I’m being unproductive for God and productive for Satan. God knows that we will not be productive for Him every minute of every day. He understands at times we will be productive for Satan. That’s why He brought Jesus into the world.

Galatians 5:22-25 New International Version (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25 The Message (MSG)

22-25 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Galatians 5:22-25 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

22-25 The Spirit, however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.

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I used different translations to get a better understanding of how the fruits enter our lives and what the they are intended to represent. Each of the translations indicates that the fruits belong to the Holy Spirit. Philips uses the expression: “The Spirit produces in human life” and the MSG uses the expression “when we live God’s way”. You’ve heard people use the expression, “that’s his or her nature” when talking about others. It’s only his or her nature as provided by the Spirit. The point here is that the Holy Spirit maintains control of the fruits.  In order to have these positive characteristics, we must belong to Christ and invite and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. Otherwise how can we have use of these positive attitudes and actions in order to be productive for God?

I’m using three commentators primarily in this study: William Barclay, Albert Barnes and Barton Warren Johnson.

Barnes writes: “But the fruit of the Spirit - That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word "Spirit" here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices* above enumerated are the proper "works" or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence - the agency of the Holy Spirit. Hence, Paul does not trace them to our own hearts, even when renewed. He says that they are to be regarded as the proper result of the Spirit's operations on the soul.” * In verses 19-21, Paul lists what he refers to works of the flesh or sins.

Johnson writes: “The fruits named are not our fruits, but the Spirit in us. If we bear these fruits, we show that we have the Spirit.”

Barclay does not make a point that the fruits belong to the Spirit but does use the phrase “of the Spirit” as he writes.

Love – There are four different Greek words for love. The word used here is agape which means a strong and deliberate feeling of benevolence for all people. We must love regardless of how a person has treated us. Our love must be unconditional. Do not expect anything in return. A difficult task at times, yes, but attainable through the Holy Spirit.

As a child, this concept of love was difficult to understand. My thoughts were, “I really don’t like that person so how can I love them?” There is one person in your life that comes to mind that you despise but we are directed in both Romans 12 and Luke 6 to pray for them which is deliberate love.

Many people demonstrated love during my strokes and knee surgery by providing food and cards which Kay and I really appreciated. The words I most appreciated were, “I’m praying for you!” To tell someone that you are spending your time with God asking Him to bless you is one of the finest loves I can imagine.

Joy – The word is used as a basis of joy in being a Christian not that life is going your way or joy of having earthly things but the happiness of being a Christian.  Even though life is often hard and difficult, you find your joy in knowing God is there with you.

The MSG translation uses “exuberance for life” for joy. If we have exuberance for life because we are Christians, others will notice and be influenced in their relationship with Christ. Others do watch us!

Peace – If you have peace in life, then you have tranquility or serenity. It doesn’t mean the lack of troubles, no disappointments or no heartaches in your life. It does mean you are aware of the presence of God in your life and that He has your back.

The MSG translation uses the word “serenity”. David Young, minister at North Boulevard, has a sermon series entitled Peace of Mind. He says that thirty percent of people have an issue with anxiety. Anxiety is the absence of peace. It is manageable by seeking the peace described in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The following is an excerpt from Allen Jackson’s book, Standing Firm: “We post a photo of our supper on social media and panic when not when not enough “friends” say they “like” it. Some fears are more serious than others, but it is true that fear- both real and imagined - is very real in our society. Thankfully, there is no fear that cannot be overcome with the peace that Jesus gives us. If Jesus said we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to be. If Jesus gives me His peace, that’s good enough for me.”

Allen ends each day’s devotion with a prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank You that in this troubled world You provide peace, security, and abundant life through the cross of Jesus Christ. May Your Holy Spirit counsel me daily in Your peace. When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Patience – If you refer to a Thesaurus, you’ll find words like endurance, tolerance, persistence, fortitude, forbearance, etc. Some of these words are used in regard to things or events. The MSG translation uses “willingness to stick with things.” Barclay is fully convinced that Paul’s writing is about patience or tolerance for other people. He writes about God’s patience with our sinning and encourages us to demonstrate the same patience to one another as God does to us.

Allen Jackson has a couple of thoughts on patience. He believes that some people use anger as opposed to patience to manipulate people. He illustrates with Proverbs 16:32: “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”

Allen also writes about our patience with God. He says that waiting on God to deliver him from some situation can be trying. “Sometimes God wants us to wait on Him, and continue to call on Him, so that we will know that our deliverance is from Him alone. He hears us and intends to rescue us. When He does, we will have new reasons to praise Him, and others will be able to see what He has done for us.”

Kindness – Barclay writes that the Greek word can be translated as sweetness. Probably, most macho men don’t see sweetness as a strength. The Bible seems to think it is important: Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Matthew 9:13 “Go and learn what this means, he commands I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices”. Most translations use the word mercy as opposed to kindness, but the words are interchangeable.

You may have kindness but if you don’t use it, that’s not good enough. I pray daily that God will improve my speech. It’s better than it was five years ago, but it still is frustrating for the person I’m speaking with and me.  The Holy Spirit reminds me to express my appreciation for people’s patience with me. When I think to express my appreciation, they often have a look on their face, “somebody noticed my efforts to be kind to them.” They seem to have a sense of accomplishment.

I also pray daily that I will become more aware of my need for the Holy Spirit.  He’s always present but I need a “thump on the head” as a reminder to use one of the fruits.

An example of love and kindness: David Young says that he and another member at North Boulevard often have lunch together. As the server delivers their meal, his friend will say, “We are going to give thanks for our food, is there anything you would like us to pray about?” Most often they say, “no thank you” but at one meal the young lady said “yes” and expressed a need. She sat down with them while he prayed with her.  A great use of the fruits!

Thanks

Mike

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Standing Firm – Finding Courage in the Word Of God written by Allen Jackson – 2018 – Published by Intend Publishing – Used with permission

Quotes from David Young’s sermon series Peace of Mind used with permission

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Trust God’s Training


 

Each day has a pop quiz, and some seasons are like final exams.  Brutal, sudden pitfalls of stress, sickness, or sadness.  What is the purpose of the test?  James 1:3-4 says, “For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.”  Test, test, test!

This chapter in your life may look like rehab, smell like unemployment, sound like a hospital, but you’re in training.  God hasn’t forgotten you, just the opposite.  He has chosen to train you. Forget the notion that God doesn’t see your struggle.  Quite the contrary—God is fully engaged.  He is the Potter, we are the clay.  He’s the Shepherd, we’re the sheep.  He’s the Teacher, we’re the students.  Trust His training.  You’ll get through this.

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You Are God’s First Choice by Max Lucado

 
 I’m entering my fourth decade as a pastor, and I’ve learned the question to ask.  If we were having this talk over coffee and you were telling me about your tough times, I’d lean across the table and say, “What do you still have that you cannot lose?”  The difficulties have taken much away, I get that.  But there’s one gift your troubles cannot touch—your destiny.  Can we talk about it?

You are God’s child.  He saw you, picked you, and placed you.  Jesus said, “You did not choose Me.  I chose you.”  I remember a groom once leaned over, just minutes before the ceremony, and told me, “You weren’t my first choice.”  “I wasn’t?”  He said, “No, the preacher I wanted couldn’t make it.”  “Oh.”  “But thanks for filling in.”

Hey, you’ll never hear such words from God.  He chose you.  Replacement or fill-in?  Hardly.  You’re His first choice.  His open, willful, voluntary choice.  “This child is mine!”  His child forever, that’s who you are.

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Just Like Jesus Fixing Your Eyes On Jesus

Ephesians 1:18 “May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit.” Most commentators agree “enlighten the eyes of our minds” is the understanding that God is calling us to be Christians. To be a Christian we must be focused on and truly see Jesus.

Max begins this chapter with the following comments: “We’ve spent the last twelve chapters looking at what it means to be just like Jesus. The world has never known a heart so pure, a character so flawless. His spiritual hearing was so keen he never missed a heavenly whisper. His mercy so abundant he never missed a chance to forgive. No lie left his lips, no distraction marred his vision. He touched when others recoiled. He endured when others quit. Jesus is the ultimate model for every person. And what we have done in these pages is precisely what God invites you to do with the rest of your life. He urges you to fix your eyes upon Jesus. Heaven invites you to set the lens of your heart on the heart of the Savior and make him the object of your life. For that reason, I want us to close our time together with this question: What does it mean to see Jesus?”

Throughout the book, Max has used the wording, “the rest of your life.” No matter what your present state, it’s never too late to see Jesus nor have you wandered too far from him that you can’t still be like Jesus! Fixing your eyes on Jesus will change everything. Look up the hymn, Lord, I’m Coming Home. It’s excellent encouragement!

The shepherds, the Magi and Simeon all wanted to see this new baby, Jesus, once he was born. In Luke 2:29-30 MSG vision Simeon prayed: “God, you can now release your servant, release me as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation.” Simeon saw more than just a new baby; he saw the savior for the world. He saw your savior!

Max writes about the men who became apostles once they encountered Jesus. They did not want to just physically see Jesus but wanted to spend time with him to understand his teachings. Zacchaeus was willing to climb a tree in order to see the teacher and to hear him. To these men Jesus was not some sports hero or rock star they wanted to see and get an autograph, he held the key to salvation. They wanted to know him and his teachings.

Matthew 19:16 records the question the rich young ruler asked Jesus: “Teacher what good thing must I do to have life forever?” Unlike the apostles and Zacchaeus who wanted to know Jesus he wanted the short answer without details. Max writes about the young ruler: “Bottom line sort of fellow, this ruler. No time for formalities or conversations. ‘Let’s get right to the issue. Your schedule is busy; so is mine. Tell me how I get saved, and I’ll leave you alone’.”

“There is nothing wrong with his question, but there was a problem with his heart. Contrast his desire with that of Zacchaeus, ‘Can I make it up that tree?’ The apostles wanted to spend time with Jesus.”

Max continues: “See the difference? The rich, young ruler wanted medicine. The others wanted the Physician. The ruler wanted an answer to the quiz. They wanted the teacher. They wanted more than salvation. They wanted the Savior. They wanted to see Jesus.” When the young man understood Jesus’ answer to his question, he went away sad. He did not intend to give his riches to the poor nor to follow Jesus. He wanted the quick fix. He was not interested in being just like Jesus.

Max points us to Hebrews 11:6: “God … rewards those who earnestly seek him” NIV translation

“God rewards those who search for him.” Phillips translation

“God …. Rewards those who sincerely look for him.” TLB translation

“He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” King James version.

Max: “Diligently---what a great word. Be diligent in your search. Be diligent in your quest, relentless in your pilgrimage. Let this book be but one of dozens you read about Jesus and this hour be one of hundreds in which you seek him. Step away from the puny pursuits of possessions and positions and seek your king.”

There are so many distractions in our daily lives that it is easy for Jesus to get pushed down our list of priorities. Careers, our spouses and their needs, our children and their activities, then grandchildren, our hobbies and other interests too often take precedence over our relationship building with Jesus. Precious little time is spent in studying about Jesus and in prayer to become more like him. Some believe: “I go to Sunday school and the worship service on Sunday morning and Sunday night then Bible study on Wednesday night. Doesn’t that prove I’m just like Jesus?” No, Jesus was about so much more. He focused on serving people. God gave us talents so we can serve people in order to be just like Jesus. He has made an investment in us with his blessings. He wants us to enjoy our blessings, but he also expects us to use them to serve him and glorify his name.

Max: “God rewards those who seek him. Not those who seek doctrine or religion or systems or creeds. Many seek for those lesser passions, but the reward goes to those who settle for nothing less than Jesus himself. And what is the reward? What awaits those who seek Jesus? Nothing short of the heart of Jesus. “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him” 2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB.”

Max writes in his book, Stronger In The Broken Places: “How does a person get relief?”

Which, in turn, takes us to one of the kindest verses in the Bible, “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light” (Matt. 11:28—30).

Max continues: “You knew I was going to say that. I can see you holding this book and shaking your head.  “I’ve tried that. I’ve read the Bible; I’ve sat on the pew—but I’ve never received relief.”  If that is the case, could I ask a delicate but deliberate question? Could it be that you went to religion and didn’t go to God? Could it be that you went to a church, but never saw Christ?” “Come to me,” the verse reads.” Christ does not ask us to come to religion but to him.”

Some will have issue with what I’m writing here but please give thought to these viewpoints. Many focus time and thought on making sure their doctrine and their religion are “perfect”, and too little time trying to be Just Like Jesus. If “perfect doctrine and religion” are a condition of our salvation, then we have a problem. Nothing about us is perfect! Not our interpretations, our actions or even our intentions to be like Jesus. If we fail God with lying, alcohol, pride, gossip, and other sins, what makes us think that our doctrine is perfect?

Some examples to think on:

  • At one time, it was believed that the King James version was the only version of the Bible we could trust.
  • Prayers used the old English reference of “thee” and “thou” when addressing God. Use of “you” was not respectful.
  • Gyms or fellowship halls were frowned on as misuse of God’s money.
  • Even though there are references in the Bible, (I Timothy 2:8 and all through Psalm) to lifting hands during worship, some frown on the idea.
  • Praise teams are generally a soprano, alto, tenor and bass with microphones. They assist the song leader. A number of people have a problem with using this in worship because the Bible does not authorize the use. Where does the Bible authorize a song leader? At North Boulevard, the praise team is in the balcony so as not to draw attention. I’m not a good singer and the team makes it much more meaningful for me.

I believe these are examples of Jesus words in Matthew 23:24: “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

These are just a few of the changes I’ve seen in my life. My questions: Are these matters of our salvation or our own personal preferences and comfort level? Do we spend as much thought and effort trying to be Just Like Jesus, as we do making our own personal doctrine perfect? I’m not being critical of those who believe in these things. If you want to believe in these things, that’s fine there’s wrong with them. But don’t make them conditions of your acceptance of others. If you do, you are focused on yourself and not seeing Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24 (NIV): “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” The verses say we ALL sin and have redemption through Christ not our religion nor doctrine.

In a recent obituary: “She was a true Christian, living every minute of every day in the manner she believed he intended.” Sounds like she had her eyes on Jesus.

Max closes with these thoughts: “Can you think of a greater gift than to be like Jesus? Christ felt no guilt; God wants to banish yours. Jesus had no bad habits; God wants to remove yours. Jesus had no fear of death; God wants you to be fearless. Jesus had kindness for the diseased and mercy for the rebellious and courage for the challenges. God wants you to have the same.”

“He loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”

From Meeting God in Quiet Places by F. LaGard Smith: “Our greatest gift from God was Jesus “the Lamb.” The pure Lamb. The righteous Lamb in whom was no sin. The lamb on whom we can fix our eyes and whom we can imitate freely with the confident assurance of being transformed into the likeness of his glory!”

Thanks!

Mike Clement    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I encourage you to share your thinking. Let hear from you.

Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

 

 

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Interesting Prayer Thought

Your Problem is a Prayer-Sized Challenge

 Today's Devotion from Max Lucado

Praying specifically about a problem creates a lighter load.  Many of our anxieties are threatening because they are ill-defined and vague.  If we can distill the challenge into a phrase, we bring it down to size. It’s one thing to pray, “Lord, please bless my meeting tomorrow.”

It’s another thing to pray, “I have a conference with my supervisor at 2:00 PM tomorrow.  She intimidates me.  Would you please grant me a spirit of peace so I can sleep well tonight?  Grant me wisdom so I can enter the meeting prepared.  And would you soften her heart toward me and give her a generous spirit?  Help us have a gracious conversation in which both of us benefit and your name is honored.”

There!  You have reduced the problem into a prayer-sized challenge.  As God’s children we honor him when we tell him exactly what we need.

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Just Like Jesus An Enduring Heart

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”   Max likes the wording, “and never give up” for perseverance. The Contemporary English version for sin says, “especially that the sin that just won’t let go.” God’s Word translation reads, “especially sin that distracts us.” I believe we can relate to this verse. We have at least one sin that’s a real struggle for us. Throwing the sin off is not easy. Satan is coming after us constantly with that particular temptation or temptations in my case. He wants us to give up. The enduring heart keeps on fighting Satan and running the race.

Some people never realize there is a race. Some realize there is a race but don’t care to join it. Others enter in the race then quit or give up. Our race is living our life for God and building a strong relationship with Him and Christ by serving Him. Satan wants us out of the relationship and the race!

If you have a relationship with God but it’s not as good as it once was, God did not change it. You did! Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When something bad happens in their lives, some people blame God and let that experience control their relationship with God. They quit the race. Others are too easily discouraged and don’t maintain their relationship. We need to take control and manage our relationship with God. Don’t let Satan have control or you will be out of the race.  Be honest in analyzing the cause of the change in the relationship and pray for God’s help to return the race.

Please forgive this personal reference but I hope it will help others. During my late teens and early twenties, I gave up! I quit the race! I let what I saw as pious (making hypocritical display of virtue) people have too much effect on me. During the first week of my freshman year in college, five of us had one beer which was against the school rules. One of the five was a preacher student. The next night he went forward to confess his sin. The dean of students sent the dorm mother her to investigate why Gary had gone forward. After talking with Gary, the dorm mother called the rest of us in for a meeting. Gary’s story placed all the blame on the rest of us. I don’t remember what the dorm mother told the dean, but she did not give him the complete details. Later that semester another preacher student was kicked out of school and he spilled the beans about us. After a lengthy meeting with the discipline committee we were not kicked out. We were happy! There were five men on the committee, so we referred to them as the DC 5 but not to their face. The DC 5 were a popular singing group. Our attitude towards them and the school was in question!!!

The two main reasons we were not kicked out was Gary was a favorite of the dean and Monte was with us. Monte’s father was a well-known preacher and supporter of the college. We begin to pay attention to other discipline committee decisions in case we needed it in the future. Regardless of what the rule book said, who you or your parents were was the real decision maker about your continued stay with the college. Gary, the fine upstanding preacher student lied his way out of trouble. We also noted other discrepancies in applying discipline which I will not go into all of them. But students were rewarded for spying on others and turning their transgressions in to the dean.

My attitude at this point was that if this is a mecca of Christendom, then being a Christian is not for me. I did not return to regular church attendance until our son was four years old, about six years after leaving that school. The problem was mine. I let the dean, members of the committee and others have influence over my relationship with God and Christ. I did not have an enduring heart to run the race. Do not let others take you out of the race! Your relationship with God is not through other people but through Jesus. Fortunately, God was patient and allowed me time to return to the race. Max writes about finishing our race strong in this chapter.

Max talks about not completing things we start such as workout programs, diets or supplements that supposedly improve us. “You know as well as I, it’s one thing to start something. It’s something else entirely to complete it. My desire is not to convince you to finish everything. My desire is to encourage you to finish the right thing. Certain races are optional----like washboard abs and speed reading. Other races are essential---like the race of faith.”

Max writes:” The word race is from the Greek agon, from which we get the word agony. The Christian’s race is not a jog but rather a demanding and grueling, sometimes agonizing race. It takes a massive effort to finish strong.” We would do well to make sure people understand Max’s point, especially our children. At times, they commit before they really understand what they are committing to. There will be struggles! We will fail at times! Being a Christian is not for sissies, especially with the devil working against you!!

Max continues on finishing strong: “Likely you’ve noticed that many don’t? Surely, you’ve observed there are many on the side of the trail. They used to be running. There was a time they kept the pace. But then weariness set in. They didn’t think the run would be this tough. Or they were discouraged by a bump and daunted by a fellow runner. Whatever the reason, they don’t run anymore. They may be Christians. They may come to church. They may put a buck in the plate and warm a pew, but their hearts aren’t in the race. They retired before their time. Unless something changes, their best work will have been their first work, and they will finish with a whimper.” Do not spend any effort trying to think about others that Max’s description may fit! Spend time thinking about whether or not it fits you!

Are these people Max describes the same ones John describes in Revelation 3:15-16 ESV “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” If these descriptions are about the same people and I believe they are, recommitment to the race is necessary before you try to join it again! Don’t have an attitude that God will let me coast for the rest of the race. Pray for forgiveness and show recommitment! “Don't worry about having the right words; worry more about having the right heart. It's not eloquence he seeks, just honesty.” *

Max believes that Jesus is the classic example of one who endured. Hebrews 12:3, NIV: "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Max maintains that during the temptation of Christ in the desert Satan tried him every minute of the forty days. “Satan got on Jesus like a shirt and refused to leave. Every step, whispering in his ear. Every turn of the path, sowing doubt. A war raged within. Stress stormed without. And since he was tempted, he could have quit the race. But he didn’t. He kept on running.” Does Max’s description of Satan’s temptations of Christ sound familiar to his treatment of you?

Max uses John chapter 8 as further evidence for what Jesus endured for us. Jesus was going about his ministry of teaching when the Jews were claiming he was demon possessed. Luke 4 records an instance when Jesus’s teachings caused the people to try to throw him from a cliff. A lot of verbal badgering and discouragement for him to endure

Max continues his thought: Hebrews 12:1-3 9 (The Message Version) “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

What kept Jesus going during his temptation? Why didn’t he quit the race? Some writers believe Jesus used his supernatural powers in his battle with Satan. Others believe he used what God gives all of us, our will, determination and faith to serve him. They see it as an example and encouragement for us to stay in the race.

Max writes: “How? How did he endure such disgrace? What gave Jesus the strength to the shame of all the world? We need an answer, don’t we? Like Jesus we are tempted. Like Jesus we are accused. Like Jesus we are shamed. But unlike Jesus, we give up. We give out. We sit down. How can we keep running as Jesus did? How can our hearts have the endurance Jesus had?”

Max’s answer, “By focusing where Jesus focused: on ‘the joy that God had put before him’ Hebrews 12:2”. He focused on the prize of heaven. By focusing on the prize, he was not only able to finish the race but to finish it strong.”

Max closes the chapter writing about all the projects/races we run in our lives. One of his projects is writing one book each year then celebrating the completion of the race in various ways. One of them is to enjoy a great meal. He writes how Jesus focused on the feast that awaited him. Max: “Such a moment awaits us. In a world oblivious to power abs and speed reading, we’ll take our place at the table. In an hour that has no end, we will rest. Surrounded by saints and engulfed by Jesus himself, the work will, indeed, be finished. The final harvest will have been gathered, we will be seated, and Christ will christen the meal with these words: Well done, good and faithful servant” Matthew 25:23 KJV.

If focusing on the prize and looking forward to hearing Jesus’ words “well done” is not enough to keep you in the race, then you need a complete evaluation of what’s important to you. Try a prayer partner. Choose someone you respect and trust. Ask them to pray about your race.

Allen Jackson uses Hebrews 12:1 to write about our race in his daily devotional book, Standing Firm, Finding Courage in the Word of God.  Allen writes: “This verse reminds us that sin is not something that we can easily walk into and out of-it entangles us. Sin reminds me of a cobweb. If you’re like me, you’ve walked into more than a few cobwebs that you didn’t see. In an instant, it seems, sticky filaments are wrapped around you. The threads are hard to find and difficult to pull off when they stick to your fingers. Very often you get more than a sticky web; you get the dead insects that got caught and came to a sticky end. If we had seen those webs, we would have avoided them; but we weren’t paying attention, and we walked into a mess. If we are to run our life’s race successfully, we need to keep our eyes open for sin that is waiting to entangle us. It’s much easier to avoid the sticky web completely than to clean ourselves up after we walk into it.”

“Have there been times when you have seen the web of sin in front of you but walked into it anyway? What was the result?”

Allen ends his thoughts with a prayer: “Heavenly Father, help me discard all that prevents me from persevering and running the race You have marked out for me. Help me increasingly gain the freedoms available to me, purchased through the cross and Jesus’ shed blood. In Jesus’ name, amen”

1. Question asked by a teen years ago: Do I get any credit for effort? First, you must have the desire for heaven. For me, no desire for something means every little if any effort. I don’t have an exact answer to the question, but I found this answer interesting:

The following is from an article in the Christian Examiner written by Mark Klages: “God knows the compounding damage sin has on our lives. He knows that repetitive sin hardens our hearts and damages our relationship with Him. He knows the longer and deeper we dive into a life of repetitive sin, the stronger the habit of sin becomes, and the harder it is for us to climb up out of that hole into His presence. The harder we cling to our selfish sins, the more likely we are to follow them away from God's burning holy light. So, God does acknowledge the little victories, the daily effort we give in contrast with the daily sin we suffer, on our journey to become more like Him. But He would rather we succeed.”

2. Question by a teen: Does God grade on the curve? I believe Revelation 3:15-16 answers the question: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

3. Yes, Mike, but you see I’m not as strong spiritually as others! I keep trying and failing! Then I become discouraged!  What will God do? 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. This verse should provide encouragement.

You must build and maintain a close, loving and obedient relationship with God, then follow these two verses: “I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God's heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 Good News Translation

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  

Thanks

Mike   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

Standing Firm – Finding Courage in the Word Of God written by Allen Jackson – 2018 - Published by Intend Publishing – Used with permission

*Max Lucado, Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God

  

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When Heaven Celebrates

Just Like Jesus

Max opens this chapter with this thought: “In one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, Luke 15, he tells three stories. Each story tells of something lost and something found.  A lost sheep. A lost coin. And a lost son. And at the end of each one, Jesus describes a party, a celebration. The shepherd throws the party for the lost-now-found sheep. The housewife throws a party because of the lost-now-found coin. And the father throws a party in honor of his lost-now-found son.”

He continues with the parables: “The point is clear. Jesus is happiest when the lost are found. For him, no moment compares to the moment of salvation. Max quotes verse 10: There is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner changes his heart and life”.

Note what Christ is looking for, “a change of heart and life”. Based on my study of the scripture, I believe baptism is a condition of salvation. There is nothing in the water itself that saves us but the act of obedience does. A change of heart and life is also essential. Whatever your beliefs on salvation are without committing to the necessary changes in your heart and life, your other actions may be for naught. Christ is not looking for a single action of baptism but also an absolute commitment to him. For most people this requires some change in your lifestyle and attitudes by yielding your will to his.

A number of people believe in the doctrine of “once saved always saved”. You can find many discussions on this subject on the internet. I do not believe that once you are saved you are always saved so Luke 10 also applies the Christian who departed from his/her commitment to Christ. A condition of returning to Christ is having the change of heart and life then there will be the joy Luke 15:10 describes.

Max writes: “How do we explain such joy? Why such a stir? You’ve got to admit the excitement is a bit curious. We aren’t  talking about a nation of people or even a city of souls; we are talking about joy when one sinner changes his heart and life. How could one person create that much excitement?”

Max continues: “When a soul is saved, the heart of Jesus becomes the night sky on the Fourth of July, radiant with explosions of cheer. Can the same be said about us? Perhaps this is one area where our hearts could use some attention.”

In church services, we talk about the plurality of people being saved which is to be expected. If you want to have the personal feeling that this is about YOU, go to the internet and search for the song, “When He Was On The Cross, I Was On His Mind” sung by the Florida Boys. Listening to this song and/or reading the words gives me that feeling of a very personal love and relationship with Jesus.

Some people have a problem with the term in describing Jesus as “my personal Lord and savior”. Maybe it appears egotistical. I don’t use the term but don’t have a problem with it. No one else can be saved for me nor can anyone else build my relationship with Christ. When I pray about sin, they are my sins he died for. When I pray about serving the Lord, it’s my service not anyone else’s.

Max suggests that Jesus and his angels excitement is created by them knowing what heaven holds for us. “They can’t wait to see your face when you arrive. Better still, they can’t wait to see you.”

Matt writes: “Of all the blessings in heaven, one of the greatest will be you. At last, you will have a heart like his. You will be just like Jesus. Heaven is populated by those who let God change them.” This change is not an instantaneous event. You don’t go from whatever you were at the time of your commitment to having a heart like Jesus. But you will have an attitude and desire to turn away from sin. You will be a work in progress daily having to recommit. Satan will  be working against you. Ask God to help you as you face off with the evil one.

Max continues: “There is yet another reason for the celebration. Part of the excitement is from our arrival. The other part is from our deliverance. Jesus rejoices that we are headed to heaven, but he equally rejoices that we are saved from hell.”

As I think about Jesus’ joy when we get to heaven, I also think about what he suffered through for us to be in heaven with him. He experienced immense mental anguish when he prayed in the garden for God to deliver him from what he was about to experience. The crowd mocked and cursed him which was mental cruelty. Then from the cross before he died, he asked God why he had forsaken him.

The pain Christ suffered is almost unimaginable: Isaiah wrote in  52:14: "... Just as there were many who were appalled at him -- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness--".  They spit in his face, hit him with their hands/fists, flogged him with whips that had bones or stones tied in the ends. Nails or spikes were driven through his hands and feet. He hung from the cross, which was excruciating, when thirsty, they game him vinegar to drink then speared him in the side.

I believed God suffered right along with Jesus. Imagine watching your own child as he suffered the anguish and pain then to hear him ask you why you abandon him. After this horrible few hours, no wonder a celebration is held as we commit our hearts and lives to God and Jesus.

Max: “According to Jesus hell knows only one sound, ‘the weeping and gnashing of teeth’ Matt 22:13. From hell comes a woeful, unending moan as its inhabitants realize the opportunity they missed. What they would give for one more chance. But that chance is gone (Hebrews 9:27).”

Max states that after the sinking of the Titanic that on shore the names of the passengers were posted in two columns---saved and lost. “God’s list is equally simple”.

Max uses 2 Corinthians 5:16 (Phillips translation) as a basis for his next point: “Our knowledge of man can no longer be based on their outward lives”. Max’s point is that our ledger with God does not have unnecessary columns such as wealth, education, and color of our skin because these are irrelevant. God looks to see if we are more like Jesus.

As Max closes this chapter, he challenges us: “ Ask God to help you have his eternal view of the world. Every person you meet has been given an invitation to dinner. When one says yes, celebrate! And when one acts sluggish, stir him up and urge him to get ready. It’s almost time for the party, and you don’t want him to miss it.”

I’ve written before that when we give an account of our lives to God, there are two questions that concern me: “Who is a Christian because of you? And who is not a Christian because of you?”

A few questions for you to think about: has there been a celebration over you because you have been baptized and made a change of heart and life? Is there another celebration in heaven coming when you die? If not why?

Some Christians will answer they hope there is a celebration in heaven when they die because they are headed there. By using the word hope that indicates there is doubt in their mind. What’s creating the doubt? Probably some part of them believes they must earn heaven. “I’m not sure I’ve been good enough!” Others who have not made the necessary change and commitments to a relationship with Christ really have no basis for any expectations. Have confidence in God’s promises!

Thanks!

Mike   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

An additional thought:

“He saw you cast into a river of life you didn't request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your own garden of Gethsemane and he didn't want you to be alone ... He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you.”

― Max Lucado

 

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He is Our Refuge and Strength

In this season, talk of shortages is everywhere we turn. A shortage of hospital beds. A shortage of supplies in the grocery stores. A shortage of the needed vaccine. A shortage of answers for the questions everyone is asking.

But with all the talk of shortages, there is one thing of which we will never run short… We will never run short of God’s love.  He is with us. He loves us. He is strengthening us. And he is watching over us. When it feels like we don’t have what we need, God promises to provide for us. When it feels like things are falling apart, God promises to be there for us.

What is God saying in this time? Among the answers must be this promise from Psalm 46:1:  “He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”  Turn to Him today.

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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A Hope-Filled Heart

Just Like Jesus

Put the needs of human beings in your search engine and endless articles come up. Anywhere from Maslow’s writings about what our physical needs are for survival to Anthony Robbins’ writings about our emotional needs. His list includes the need for safety, stability, security, comfort, order, predictability, control and consistency. The word “hope” itself does not appear in Robbins’ writings. You might surmise that “hope” is implied in these needs listed. “I have hope for these things!” A Biblical search of the word hope gives the following: “To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.” I’ve always believed and still do that “Hope” in something is a very basic emotional necessity for all humans . Hope in God and his promises is the ultimate hope.

People have different thoughts about where to place their hope. We place hope in others like our spouse or significant other, our children, careers and many have great hopes in material things. Time after time it has been proven these are not always trustworthy. People die, they betray you, children disappoint, careers can get derailed through no fault of your own and money is not always stable. Being a Christian does not make us immune from problems. I’m concerned that this idea is what we try to portray to people: “become a Christian and everything will be alright!” Has not happened in my life. At times it’s seemed like problems are abundant.

Max opens this chapter writing about a Harvard-educated researcher, William Rathje,  who studies garbage. He learns a lot about man by studying his junk. Max writes: “Don’t you endure your share of rubbish? Snarled traffic. Computer foul-ups. Postponed vacations. And then there are days that a Dumpster couldn’t hold all the garbage we face: hospital bills, divorce papers, pay cuts and betrayals. What do you do when an entire truck of sorrow is dumped on you?” Max’s question is one that we all have to deal with at one time or maybe several times in our lives.

Max continues his thoughts: “On the night before his death, a veritable landfill of woes tumbled in on Jesus. Somewhere between the Gethsemane prayer and the mock trail is what has to be the darkest scene in the history of the human drama. What you will find is a compost heap of deceit and betrayal.”

Jesus had just asked God, his Father, to deliver him from the torture and death he faced. Max refers to this as a dilemma of an unanswered prayer. Then Judas shows up with an army of people to arrest Jesus and begin the absolute worst hours of his life. Add to this mound of garbage Matthew’s writing: “All of Jesus’ followers left him and ran away (26:56).  Max writes: “From a human point of view, Jesus’ world has collapsed. No answer from heaven, no help from the people, no loyalty from his friends.” Ever had that feeling?

Max believes Jesus was able to see good in the bad, the purpose in the pain and God’s presence in the problem. Jesus referred to Judas as friend. Max and other commentators agree that Jesus’ use of “friend” was not sarcastic but a recognition of their relationship. Max points out that of the ninety-eight of the words Jesus spoke at his arrest, thirty refer to the purpose of God. Max writes: “Jesus choose to see his immediate struggle as a necessary part of a greater plan. He reviewed the Gethsemane conflict as an important but singular act in the grand manuscript of God’s drama. His suffering was necessary to fulfill prophecy, and his sacrifice to fulfill the law.”

Max: “Wouldn’t you love to have a hope-filled heart? Wouldn’t you love to see the world through the eyes of Jesus? Where we see unanswered pray, Jesus saw answered prayer. Where we see the absence of God, Jesus saw the plan of God. Note Jesus comment in Matthew 26:53: ‘ Surely you know that I could ask my Father, and He would give me more than twelve armies of angels’. Of all the treasures Jesus saw in the trash, this was the most significant.”

Max continues: “Sure Max but Jesus was God. He could see the unseen. He had eyes for heaven and a vision for the supernatural. I can’t see the way he saw.”  Max’s response: “Not yet maybe, but don’t underestimate God’s power. He can change the way you look at life.” I believe that Max is thinking about our faith and trust in God because no where in the Scriptures do I read that God has or will equip us the ability to foresee the future.

Max uses the story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings: 6 as his proof that God can change how we look at life. An angry king sent out his army to surround the city of Dothan. Elisha’s servant was afraid and asked what they could do. Elisha assured his servant that the army that fought for them was larger. Elisha prayed that God open his servant’s eyes and the young man then was able to see the angels who were there to fight for them.

I’m finding it difficult to relate Elisha’s story to my life. Kay and I have had garbage in our lives from losing a baby in the early stages of pregnancy, our son in his late teens using drugs for a short period of time to our daughters unwed pregnancy and my stroke which left my speech really messed up. Yes, we prayed and had hope for positive outcomes and they happened for the most part. But we had no preview of the outcomes. We could not see the “angels” waiting to help through these struggles. Were we as equally equipped as Christ as experienced these things? Again it seems to me that faith and trust in God are required.

Max continues his thoughts: “God never promises to remove us from our struggles. He does promise, however, to change the way we look at them.” Paul writes:

Romans 8:35-39 New International Version (NIV)

35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I really like the Message translation: Romans 8:35-39 The Message (MSG)

35-39 “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.“

Our hope comes through the faith and belief that God has our back!

Max writes that Paul uses the phrase “through God” but we would prefer another preposition to through. ”We’d opt for ‘apart from all these things, or away from all these things, or even without all these things. But Paul says in all these things. The solution is not to avoid trouble but to change the way we see our troubles.” Through our HOPE in Him!

Max makes the statement: “God can correct your vision.” He closes by using the examples of Balaam seeing the angel, Elisha seeing the army, Jacob seeing the ladder, Saul seeing the Savior and finally the blind man in Mark 10:51 requesting that he have sight. Max says: “More than one have made the request of the blind man. And more than one have walked away with clear vision. Who is to say God won’t do the same for you?”

At times I struggle with hope because my faith and trust are weak which to me are the basis of hope. It’s hard to find God’s purpose in the death of the four-year-old in the tornado in Putnam County last week. Why must my friend struggle with dementia? At times I believe dementia is worse on the caregiver so why does she have to struggle. I pray for certain things for people then worry about it. I have no doubt that God can do what I ask for but worry about whether he will.

Think about these internet writings:

“Hope and trust are two words that are associated with optimism. ... The key difference between hope and trust is their base; trust is based on reliability, confidence or belief in someone else whereas hope is not based on such qualities. Hope is merely a desire and expectation for a particular thing to happen.”

“When it comes to God the relationship is that if we trust Him (action), the effect will be that we have hope. While hope is also a verb which implies that we can simply hope for something, trusting in God makes that hope more attainable. It is not simply luck, or chance that something good can happen to us.”

“One cannot have hope without faith. ... When people have hope they have faith, because they hold a belief that says, “I believe that the future will be better.” And while they have no grounds to “prove” the hopeful assumption, they have faith in it. While faith without hope is possible, hope without faith is not.”

Paul’s writing in Romans sums it up: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Romans 15:13 (NLT)

Thanks!

Mike   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

 

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A Pure Heart

Just Like Jesus

A Heart  Pure

In the last article, the meaning of “heart” was defined as the spiritual control center with the components of soul, mind, emotion, will and conscience.  IT’S WHO WE REALLY ARE!

1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”     

Satan is forever looking for those who are not pure in the heart. He’s going to tempt us today and every day. He’s not going to tempt us where we are strong and pure but where he knows we are most likely to give in. Pure is not perfect. The following are thoughts of commentators:

  • The Greek word for “pure” in Matthew 5:8 is katharos. It means to be “clean, blameless, unstained from guilt.”
  • A pure heart is a single heart without mixture, a heart that seeks only the Lord and takes the Lord as the unique goal.
  • To be pure in heart is to be single in purpose, to have the single goal of accomplishing God’s will for God’s glory.
  • When we’re pure in heart we seek the Lord only.

Max writes that we must cultivate our heart like we cultivate a garden. People harvest only what they plant. Galatians 6:7 NIV  “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

Max continues: “If the heart is a greenhouse and our thoughts are seeds, shouldn’t we be careful about what we sow? Isn’t guarding the heart a strategic task?” He uses the following verse to make his point: Proverbs 4:23 NIV “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Or as another translation reads: Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”

We can’t control the thoughts the devil pushes into our mind. We can however control what our mind cultivates. Just the same as you would pull a weed in the garden, get the impure thought out immediately. It’s not a sin to be tempted by the thought but it is a sin to cultivate the thought and allow it to grow.

Max writes: “You’ve got to admit some of our hearts are trashed out. Let any riffraff knock on the door, and we throw it open. Anger shows up, and we let him in. Revenge needs a place to stay, so we have him pull up a chair. Pity wants to have a party, so we show him the kitchen. Lust rings the bell, and we change the sheets on the bed. Don’t we know how to say no?”

Max: “Jesus guarded his heart. If he did shouldn’t we do the same? Jesus wants your heart to be fertile and fruitful. He wants your heart to be like his. That’s God’s goal for you. But how? The answer is surprising simple. We can be transformed if we make one decision: I will submit my thoughts to the authority of Jesus.”

Matthew 28:18 – Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Max: “To have a pure heart, we must submit all thoughts to the authority of Christ. If we are willing to do that, he will change us to be like him.”  For me, the key words in Max’s statement are “if we are willing”. God nor Jesus is going to force anything on us. They must have a willing heart to work with. One of our biggest problems is our need to justify our anger, revenge, pity or any other thought! We struggle with letting go and admitting our sin.  If we are working on justification for our action then God/Jesus does not have a willing heart.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 Phillips translation “The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.”

Max’s point in using these versus: The Holy Spirit is always ready to help you manage and filter the thoughts that try to enter. He can help you guard your heart. You “fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.” The key is inviting and allowing the Holy Spirit to help you.

One example Max uses is that the devil tells you are a loser, always have been and always will be. “You’ve blown relationships and jobs and ambitions. You might as well write the word bum on your resume, for that is what you are.” What are you going to do with this thought? Are you going to allow it to grow or let the Holy Spirit help you deal with it. Many of the teens I work with through CASA think this way. Mom and Dad are this way so I am and will be. Getting them to break this view and convince them they can be different is difficult.

If you think this way about yourself, pray for help and even ask someone you view as spiritual for prayers. If you believe Jesus agrees with this assessment, read Ephesians 2:10 NIV  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Jesus Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Does it sound like Jesus agrees with Satan. Based on this verse, I believe God is insulted if we cultivate negative thoughts like this. Do not ever compare yourself with others. Paul does not say we are all equipped the same. Take whatever God gave you and use it to his glory.

The reverse side of the loser thinking is the, “I’m so great” or “the world is lucky to have me”. Max’s reply to this thinking is to point us to the following verses: Romans 12:3 Phillips translation “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance.” Galatians 6:14 NIV “The cross of our Lord Jesus is my only reason for bragging.”  Do not cultivate these type of thoughts either.

Max’s closing thoughts: “The point is this. Guard the doorway of your heart. Submit your thoughts to the authority of Christ. The more selective you are about seeds, the more delighted you will be about the crop.”

How do I accomplish a pure heart? An honest desire to be pure!

You need the knowledge of what God expects from you!

Clarke's Commentary on the Bible: 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God - Endeavour so to cultivate and improve thy heart and mind, that thou mayest not be a reproach to him from whom thou professes to receive thy commission.”

Constant prayer: Romans 12:12, NIV: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Some translations say “consistent”

When I was young, we were told that sin was not fun. This was an allusion Satan used to deceive us into sinning. So don’t give in to the temptations because you are really not having fun. This did not process well for me. If it seems like I’m having fun then…. I tried to teach my children and Sunday school classes that yes some sins are fun or we would not fall for temptations. You have a choice to make. Accept the temptations, allow them to cultivate in your life and live for Satan. Your other choice is submit them to the authority of Christ and be Just Like Jesus.

Thanks

Mike  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

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Just Like Jesus - An Honest Heart

Before we look at what Max writes, let’s look at two verses:

Proverbs 23:7 (NIV) for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. "Eat and drink," he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

Proverbs 23:7 (NKJ) For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you.

Proverbs 4:23  (NIV) Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

What is the meaning of “heart” ? Of course it’s not our physical heart. A compilation of commentators thinking is that’s the spiritual control center with the components of soul, mind, emotion, will and conscience. That’s why the Bible mentions the heart between 800-1,000 times. IT’S WHO WE REALLY ARE!

There are many views to the definition of truth and honesty.  We have the ability to bend our own definition around the situation so that it fits our need at that time, situation ethics.

“There is no good reason to hurt his/her feelings so the situation calls for that “little white lie”. God understands there will be mitigating circumstances in which stretching the truth is necessary based on the situation so it’s not a sin. Really? Can you provide the scriptures that led you to that conclusion. But, it’s just good sense! Tell God about good sense. Intentions are the guiding factor. If your intentions are good and pure, you are OK. If your intentions are to deceive and gain from that white lie, then it’s not OK.” I’ve actually witnessed this debate in a Sunday school class. Neither side convinced the other. This article may or may not convince you either way.

Max writes about our legal system where we as witnesses are required to pledge to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If we do not tell the truth, the outcome of the trail will be tainted. More debate: “Yes, but there is no comparison between the two examples. In the above the situation, no one is hurt and the person is actually spared being emotionally hurt. At trail severe damage can happen.  I completely understand your train of thought but aren’t we guilty of selective interpretation caused by situation ethics?”

Max points out that a witness in court eventually steps down from the witness chair but Christians never do: “For the Christian, deception is never an option. It wasn’t an option for Christ.”  I Peter 2:22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."

Look at Max’s points: “From Genesis to Revelation, the theme is the same: God loves the truth and hates deceit. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul lists the type of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. The covey he portrays is a ragged assortment of those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, sell their bodies, get drunk, rob people, and---there it is---lie about others.”

Max’s writes: “Such rigor may surprise you. You mean my fibbing and flattering stir the same heavenly anger as adultery and aggravated assault? Apparently so. God views fudging on income tax the same way he views kneeling before idols.”

The Lord hates those who tell lies but is pleased with those who keep their promises.     Proverbs 12:22

The Lord hates…a lying tongue. Proverbs 6:16-17

Max continues: “Why? Why the hard line? Why the tough stance? Dishonesty is absolutely contrary to the character of God. According to Hebrews 16:18, it is impossible for God to lie. It’s not that God will not lie or that he has chosen not to lie---he cannot lie.”

“Satan, on the other hand, finds it impossible to tell the truth. According to Jesus, the devil is ‘the father of lies John 8:44”  When we tell even a white lie, we are practicing the same ways of Satan.

The debate over whether telling white lies to save the feelings of another is a sin or not will live on forever. There are probably many husbands who saved their wives’ feelings by saying “ no, that brand new outfit does not make your rear end look big.” May have saved a marriage or two.

Let’s take a look at some more obvious examples of deceit from Max. “According to a Psychology Today survey, the devil is spinning webs, and we are still plucking fruit.

  • More people say they have cheated on their marriage partner than on their tax returns or expense accounts
  • More than half say that if their tax returns were audited, they would probably owe the government money.
  • About one out of three people admits to deceiving a best friend about something within the last year; 96 percent of them feel guilty about it.
  • Nearly half predict that if they scratched another car in the parking lot, they would drive away without leaving a note---although the vast majority (89 percent) agree that would be immoral.

Jeremiah 17:9 points out “The heart is deceitful above all things.”

Max says we do not always like the truth and backs that up with the story about a husband/wife phone conversation. The wife is about to board a plane home from Europe when she inquires about the cat. The husband bluntly replies that the cat is dead. The wife chastises the husband for being so honest and ruining her trip. She suggests he should have broken the news slowly. The initial response to the cat’s condition should be that he’s on the roof. When she called from Paris, tell her the cat is sluggish and then from London the cat is sick. Upon researching New York, the cat would be at the vet and finally when home, give her the bad news. The wife then asks how her mother is doing. After a long silence, the husband replies that her mom is on the roof.

Max believes that from an early age we found out that the truth will make us squirm. “Did you do that?” Pick whatever misdeed you want and our “heart” says tell them no and look like you mean it even if they saw you do it. Then we learn not to trust the truth because in Max’s words, “it seems inadequate to do what we need done.”

“We want our bosses to like us so flatter them which we call polishing the apple. We want people to admire us, so we exaggerate. We call it stretching the truth. We want people to respect us, so we live in houses we can’t afford and charge bills we can’t pay. We call it the American way. God calls all three a lie!”

Max writes about Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deceit. They told Peter and the apostles that they gave all the proceeds from a land sale to the church which in fact they gave only half the proceeds. They were struck dead not for withholding half the money but for their deceit. Deceit will not be punishable by death for us but can kill a marriage, kill a conscience by making the next lie easier to tell, or maybe even a career just ask the person who got fired for embezzlement. It can even kill our faith. “Those fluent in the language of falsehood find terms like confession and repentance hard to pronounce.”

Max writes: “Perhaps the most tragic death that occurs from deceit is our own witness. Do we think our coworkers will believe our words about Christ when they can’t even believe our words about how we handled our expense account?”

Max brings the study to a close with a challenge for us to examine our heart and ask our self some tough questions about our honesty in dealings. “Are you completely honest with everyone? Do you tell the truth…always?”

I want to ask one. You have a friend whose been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has no family. Will he/she pick you as a conservator of their estate?

Thanks

Mike

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Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

Have you ever willfully plan to commit a sin with the thought that later on you will confess and then ask for God’s forgiveness?  How does God look at that? What do you think?

 

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A Focused Heart

Hello! I’m three weeks past my knee replacement surgery and now believe that I’ll live. First two nights, it was up for grabs. The nerve block wore off and the pain was released. I grossly underestimated the effect the surgery would have on my body. Thank God for Kay!! This was tough on her. 

My plans were to take therapy three times per week and write. The pain killers only dulled the pain in the knee and dulled the mind. For you comics out there, I know the mind was already pretty dull!

Thank you for your prayers and please continue them for Kay and me.

Just Like Jesus

A Focused Heart

On the introduction page to this chapter, Max quotes Ephesians 1:17 from the Message translation: ”I ask---ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory---to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do.” Remember that we are not call to do the same thing!

Max writes: “One of the incredible abilities about Jesus was to stay on target. He never got off track. He had no money, no computers, no jets, no administrative assistants or staff; yet Jesus  did what many of us fail to do. He kept his life on course.”

Max’s four questions in this chapter: Am I fitting into God’s plan? What are my longings? What are my abilities? Am I serving God now?

Jesus had many talents and could have done anything with them he wanted. But in the end he chose to be a Savior and save souls. “The Son of Man did not come to  be served. He came to serve others and gave his life as a ransom for many people.” Mark 10:45

Max: “The  heart of Christ was restlessly focused on one task----the cross of Calvary. He was so focused that his final words were, It is finished (John19:30).”

We are not to be as focused as Jesus. There are so many diversions in our life that our focus is scattered. Families, jobs, hobbies etc. distract us from focusing our hearts on God if we allow them to. We seem to view these undertakings as separate from our Christian lives as though they are totally different. Being a focused Christian in every undertaking is what God wants from us. As we function in these roles, we must strive to be a Christian spouse, Christian parent, Christian employee etc.

Max continues: “God’s plan is to save his children, The first step for focusing your heart is to ask this question: Am I fitting into God’s plan?” 2 Peter 3:9 tells us: “He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants all to turn away from their sins.”

Max asks how each one of us can contribute to God’s plan and what is our specific assignment and contribution. There are some who do not really care if they are fitting into God’s plan. They are focused on what they want for themselves out of life and very little else. If they are contributing, then great but if not then that’s the way it is. Self-examine your heart with as much honesty as you possibly can and decide how you are in helping others with their salvation.

Max continues: “Where are my longings? The question may surprise you. Perhaps you thought your longings had nothing to do with keeping your life on track. I couldn’t disagree more. Your heart is crucial. Psalms 37:4 says  ‘Enjoy serving the Lord, and he will give you what you want.’ When we submit to God’s plans, we can trust our desires. Our assignment is found at the intersection of God’s plan and our pleasures. What do you love to do? What brings you joy? What gives you a sense of satisfaction?”

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.

Max: “The longings of your heart, then, are not incidental; they are critical messages. The desires of your heart are not to be ignored; they are to be consulted. God is too gracious to ask you to do something you hate.”

I’ve known people who believe the only service to God must include self-sacrifice. Philippians 2:3-4 ESV says: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Paul tells us to look at our own interest but not to exclude others. Service does not have to be through self-sacrifice.

Always be aware that Satan is against you focusing your heart for God. His desire is  to keep you as far away from God’s plan as possible. Satan will throw every distraction he can at you so that you and others will spend eternity with him!

Max advises that we should discover our abilities. Roman 12:3 “Have a sane estimate of your capabilities.” (Phillips) “Failing to focus on our strengths may prevent us from accomplishing the unique tasks God has called us to do.” He says that once you have discovered your true abilities, stay focused on them. “We cannot meet every need in the world. We cannot satisfy every request in the world. But some us try. Have a sane estimate of your abilities and stick to them.”

When I attended Freed Hardeman, we were to be in chapel every day. If your assigned seat was empty more than three times per semester in whichever chapel you were assigned, you received a “nasty” little note to explain your absence to the Dean. Offering your body to fill a seat for someone was a service to others but not one God probably condoned. Anyway, we witnessed many young men, we called “preacher students”,  during chapel who had ambitions to preach, be a missionary or to be a worship leader. They wanted to be “world beaters” for God. You could admire their desires, their study and efforts for preparation but a number of them needed to refocus their hearts. They were not blessed with that particular talent. Professors counseled these young man to refocus their hearts where they could still contribute to God’s plan. You do not have to be a world beater to serve God. Be open to letting people give you advice on your talents.

Max’s next question is: “Am I Serving God Now?” That calls for another self-evaluation. What do your spouse and children see at home? What do the people at your place of business and the customers, friends etc. see? Do they view you as a servant for God?

Max in his book, On The Anvil, writes in chapter 24 “A Good Heart, But’” The congregation is having silent prayer time when Max tells God that he wants to do great things. He wants to teach millions and wants the world to know God’s saving power. God tells Max that’s great and he can use him right after church. Max says he’s ready for some radio and TV spots or to even speak to Congress but God has something different in mind. The man sitting next to Max needs a ride home. One of the elderly ladies needs a refrigerator moved. Max is disappointed and asks God about the needs of the world. God’s reply: “Think about it.”

Max’s point here is that performing seemingly small tasks for the world is a key to fitting into God’s plan. Don’t let your ego and pride keep your heart from being focused on God! Do the simple things for God and your efforts will be blessed. Send a card, take a meal, bake cookies or let people know that they are in your prayers.

Max closes out his thoughts by suggesting we ask ourselves the four questions and evaluating our direction. 1 Peter 4:2 TEV “From now on, then, you must live the rest of your earthly lives controlled by God’s will and not by human desires.”

He continues: “Circle the words from now on. God will give you a fresh scorecard. Regardless of what has controlled you in the past, it’s never too late to get your life on course and be a part of God’s P.L.A.N.”

One of my frustrations in trying to serve God is the inability to see results of my efforts NOW. My career was based on making things happen and seeing the results NOW. Corporate’s question was “What have you done for us TODAY? When I began volunteering with CASA, it did not take long to realize that results were not going to happen NOW or maybe NEVER. The CASA supervisors keep trying to temper my impatience. They still have to remind me on occasion: “Your efforts today may not show results for years and you will not see them. It’s in God’s hands.” With whatever service you are involved in for God, serve then pray and TRUST him.

From On The Anvil: “This, my God, is my prayer. Draw me from your fire, form me on your anvil, shape me with your hands, and let me be your tool.” This is a prayer we all should pray!!

Thanks

Mike

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Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

On The Anvil written by Max Lucado, Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. – 1985 – Used with permission  The description of the book reads “Thoughts On Being Shaped Into God’s Image” It’s a great read. It will make you think!

 

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Just Like Jesus

 

A Changed Face and a Set of Wings

Max compares airline passengers to people sitting in a pew. Both are looking for a satisfying and predictable experience. Some, however, are looking for more. They want a wide-eyed experience of meeting the pilot himself.

In Matthew 16, the Pharisees and Sadducees were testing Jesus by asking him for a sign that he was of God.

Matthew 17: 1-5

“1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Max writes: “The words of Matthew presuppose a decision on the part of Jesus to stand in the presence of God. The simple fact that he chose his companions and went up on a mountain suggests this was nor spur-of-the-moment action. Jesus prepared for worship.”

“Do you prepare for worship? My hunch is many of us simply wake up and show up. We’re sadly casual when it comes to meeting God.”

Max is writing about our worship services. He continues: “Let me urge you to come prepared to worship. Come hungry. Come willing. Come expecting God to speak. Come asking, even as you walk through the door, can I see God today”.

Does that casualness Max speaks of follow us into the building and continue during our time of worship? We sing to God’s glory, in prayer we offer our thankfulness and ask for his continued blessings, we focus on what Christ did for us to wash away our sins which is our only hope. Let’s not forget that we are directed in Hebrews 10:25 to encourage one another when we meet. For those of you at Southside, I believe Steve Clanton is a great example of encouragement. He shakes hands and give hugs to all he can reach. For me, it’s the real deal not the handshake of a politician. You can see in his eyes that he cares!

Max believes the purpose of worship is to change the face of the worshippers similar to what Matthew writes in 17:2 about Jesus. “His face became bright like the sun.” “God desires to take our faces, this exposed and memorable part of our bodies, and use them to reflect his goodness. God invites us to see his face so he can change ours. He uses our uncovered faces to display his glory. Shadows of shame and doubt become portraits of grace and trust, He relaxes clenched jaws and smooths furrowed brows. His touch can remove the bags of exhaustion from beneath the eyes and turn tears of despair into tears of peace. How? Through worship.”

“God is in the business of changing the face of the world. Not only does God change the face of those who worship, he changes those who watch us worship. Paul told the Corinthian church to worship in such a clear way that if an unbeliever entered, he would declare that God was amongst us. Our heartfelt worship is a missionary appeal.”

Think about these words. If a nonbeliever came into our worship and saw your or my face, would he believe God was with us? Would he see us going through the motions and our boredom? Would they catch us paying more attention to the clock on our phone rather than our act of worship? Would he see us dozing? (Jeff can tell you that I’m guilty) We tend to place the success of our worship more on the worship leader than on our own attitude. Well, I didn’t like…… Pick a reason, the songs, the number of verses, the leader, what he said didn’t do it for me, or he spoke too long. We are not in worship to be entertained or served. We are in worship to do just that and encourage one another!

Max asks a question: “Parents what are your children learning from your worship?” Do they see the same excitement as when you go home to watch a ball game? Do they see you prepare for worship with the same excitement as you do for other events in your life?

Max urges: “Prepare your heart for worship. Let God change your face through worship. Demonstrate the power of worship.”

Keep in the mind the following verses:

Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Romans 12:1-21 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

A closing thought. People invest their money in stocks of companies expecting a return on their investment. God makes an investment in us through material, spiritual and talent blessings expecting a return on his investment by our use of these gifts to bless others. How is God’s return on his investment doing with you?

Thanks

Mike

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Comments on the article Things I Wonder About

 
The following comments were offered by David Sanders. Thanks David!
 
1) Why does God allow things to happen? God made us in a way that enables us to worship him. That is, we’re free to make choices. I think there are indications that God doesn’t know what we will choose to do! For instance, it “repented” him that he had created man in the days of Noah. 
 
Also: Jeremiah 32:35 (NKJV)

35‘And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

“...nor did it come into my mind...” This sounds like that God can be surprised by our choices. He created us this way. Human choices often determine the course of events. If a congregation splits, it wasn’t God’s will - it came about because of human decisions. Sometimes an innocent person is killed because of decisions that other people made. 

How does prayer fit into this? When we pray, we ask God (sometimes) to thwart humans’ ability to choose their own behavior. I know God can do this, but if he does, he is interceding and changing something that he has created. I think that when a person, or people, decide a course of action that it would be rare for God to take away their free will. 

 

3

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Things I Wonder About

I’ve decided to take one article off from Just Like Jesus.

You might think at my age  there is extraordinarily little that I wonder about. Not true! I do not understand the mind of God. I do not believe he meant for us to always understand his thinking or his ways. The fact that we are created in his image does not mean that God thinks like we do. Thank goodness for that fact. This is where we must depend on our faith which is what he wants and expects from us.

Also, I do not always see everything as black and white. Some do. I wonder if God does.

1. I took a position a number of years ago during a very difficult time for the congregation we attended in Memphis that if the matter at issue had nothing to do with our salvation then I did not care to argue about it.  Argue is not too strong a word. Let’s agree to disagree and love one another. An elder in class took great offense to my statement and told me that God was not happy with me. The difficulty was over worship style. It had nothing to do with an instrument but it was about a praise team, clapping during a song and the raising of hands during the singing. Some wanted to have the freedom to use these in worship and others were determined not to allow such things. We went to two services to try to make as many people as possible happy. Two separate services did not work.  Most everyone agreed none of the issues were going to cause anyone to lose their soul so why are we coming apart?. 

One Sunday in class with people from both sides of the issue in class, I said “folks we are coming apart. Can’t we sit down and work through this?” One of the “No” group said, “we’ve tried and they will not do it our way, the way we are supposed to conduct services”. The congregation actually dissolved over what I felt was man’s traditions and egos!

I still wonder why God let this happen to a congregation that had been in existence for over 75 years. What purpose did this serve? I must have faith in God’s decision because no answer has ever helped me understand! It would seem that God was disappointed in us for choosing up sides, going to war and allowing this happen!

2. Can I express to God my disappointment in the manner which he answered a prayer?  I have been assured by some more learned than I that it is NOT ok to voice my disappointment to God.

As long as I am respectful in my approach to God, it seems ok to express my disappointment in the way he answered my prayer. God already knows of the disappointment in my heart. You cannot hide how you feel from God. Expressing it in prayer and asking him to help me deal with the disappointment seems logical to me in maintaining my relationship with him. Otherwise, I might grow bitter like the man in the following story.

Several years ago Kay and I were witness to a single car accident. The man ran off the road into a shallow ditch with his car hitting a culvert under a concrete driveway. The man was unhurt. While I was trying to determine if his car was drivable and it was not he began to yell while standing in the middle, of HWY 82, “I hate you“ over and over while shaking his fist skyward. He had lost his job; his prayers had not been answered and now this. Kay nor I had ever witnessed this kind of behavior before nor since. This is not what I call respectful! This man did not want understanding, he wanted to fix blame on someone and God was a handy target! I’ve often thought about him and wonder if he ever came to terms with God.

3. James 5:14-15: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”

I’ve only known of this occurring one time. Lige was an elder of the church. He had been terribly ill for some time. Eventually his doctors suggested he get his life in order because they could do no more for him. At this point, Lige asked his fellow elders to anoint him with oil and pray. Unfortunately, a short time later Lige passed away.

It’s very Biblical so why don’t we practice this? Maybe it is practiced more than I know. If Lige had asked for this to done at the beginning of his illness instead of as a last resort, would he have been healed? Is our lack of faith the reason we don’t practice this? God has the capability of doing ANYTHING we ask. It’s not necessary we know how he does it but believe that he can.

Max Lucado writes: ” What causes us to think of prayer as the last option rather than the first? I can think of two reasons: feelings of independence and feelings of insignificance.  Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” I don’t believe God is looking for flowery woods nor a smooth talker. He wants  honest, sincere, trusting hearts to come to him in prayer.

4. What to ask for in prayer? Some actual examples: A young man, approximate age 16 has been paralyzed from the waist down for several years as a result of an auto accident. The doctors say that medically they can do no more to enable him to walk. Do you pray for a “miracle” that God will help him walk again or simply thank God for sparing his life and to bless his health?

Similar example with a woman whose mind is scrambled due to an accident. The doctors see no medical manner in which her mind will be restored. She is functional but has a terrible time with memory and judgement. You can look into her eyes and see great confusion.

A man in his mid-70’s has dementia. He’s often very confused and must have a family member with him at all times. The doctors offer no hope of medical reversal. His wife reports that his condition is not worsening. Pray for God’s “miracle” or thank God that his condition is not getting worse?

I believe in thanking God for what positive he’s done in people’s lives and asking him to continue to bless these people with more healing. The family caring for these people also need our prayers. I thank God daily that I’ve lived through four strokes and am not an invalid. My prayers also include a plea that my speech will improve. Every doctor and speech therapist I’ve seen assure me it ain’t going to happen. God can if he chooses to make it happen. Is it troublesome to God that I ask him every day to improve my speech?

However God chooses to answer our prayers, we must continue to love him and have faith in him. If his answers are not what we requested, it does not mean he doesn’t love us. It means his grace is sufficient.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. His power is made perfect in my weakness because I must rely on him. My imperfect speech means I must rely on his guidance and help as I serve him!

Admission: As I managed people who reported to me, I tried to coach them in their career to help them be successful. I do the same now with the CASA families. When I pray, I have been guilty of trying to coach God how to  get things done so I have to watch myself. He knows how to accomplish the results so I just need to ask and then let him!!

5 A. We are embroiled in our society today with the question of immigration. It’s not just the USA but many European countries also wrestle with this issue. For me this is not just a black/white political issue. I claim no political party but I am a conservative most of the time which causes both family and friends and especially Facebook friends great frustration. I find that many of them believe their party is always correct! That frustrates me! My quandary comes from the Bible teachings as I understand them:

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9

 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” — 1 John 3:17

There are many more verses that can be used here.

There are also verses that tell us who we should not help:

2 Thessalonians 3:10-15

10 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.”

 “The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.” Proverbs 21:25

 “The one who works his field will have plenty of food, but whoever chases daydreams lacks wisdom. The wicked person desires a stronghold, but the righteous root endures.” Proverbs 12:11-12  

5 B. I believe our government for the most part has been a poor administrator of our immigration and benevolence programs. This why we must pray for the government leaders at every level.

Romans 13:1-7

“1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, the honor.”

1 Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way

There are differing opinions on the meaning of these verses. Some writers believe that God established the office but did not place a particular person in office. Others look at it as though God did allow a particular person to rule. What’s your thinking?

“LORD, I know that people's lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.” Jeremiah 10:23

Thanks!

Mike – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BTW – I’m having knee replacement surgery January 8. I ask for your prayers for Kay and me. She’s the one the Dr. Barrett is counting on to make sure I follow the post-surgery rules.

 

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Just Like Jesus

Being Led By An Unseen Hand

Max makes an interesting comment to open this chapter “It’s a wonderful day indeed when we stop working for God and begin working with God.” He has always looked at God as the CEO to whom he reports. Max acts a sales representative. God was back at the office just a phone call away but never in the field with him. Max writes after he thinks about 2 Corinthians 6:1-“As God’s fellow workers…” He continues that God is always with us: “We are always in the presence of God. His presence never diminishes. Our awareness of his presence may falter, but the reality of his presence never changes.”

Max asks a question: “If God is perpetually present, is it possible to enjoy unceasing communion with him? What if our daily communion never ceased? Would it be possible to live—minute by minute---in the presence of God? Is such intimacy even possible?”

Max writes about Frank Laubach who in the 1930’s was a missionary to the illiterate. He was dissatisfied by his spiritual life so he “resolved to live in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will.”

Mr. Laubach kept a diary of his actions and feelings during his experiment. He was widely respected across the world for his techniques for communion with God. “The desire of his heart was not recognition, however, but unbroken communion with the Father.”    

As we conduct the responsibilities of our daily lives, how can we achieve this constant communication with God? I’ve been retired for over nine years, but still have memories of requirements placed on me by bosses and their bosses and our clients. My thoughts about these requirements were not always Godly. Thinking back on this makes me wonder what if anything could have been different! Did the people who reported to me feel the same way? Maybe if I felt the constant commune with God, I would have been a better employee, leader and Christian. What can I do now to improve my communion with God and have a positive effect on others?

Max’s questions: “Can we have that contact with God all the time? All the time awake, fall asleep in His arms, and awaken in His presence? Can we attain that? Is such a goal realistic? Or do you think the idea of constant fellowship with God is somewhat fanatical, even extreme?”

Max says Mr. Laubach’s observation was that “Jesus enjoyed unbroken communication with God. And if we are to be just like Jesus, you and I will strive to do the same.”

I do not believe it’s fanatical but for me to obtain this kind of relationship it will take concentrated effort and prayer. Attention deficit will take me off in the middle of prayers. When praying about somebody or something, my thoughts turn to; “if I try this or that maybe it will help”. At times, I quit praying to make note of a thought for articles. If I don’t jot it down, it may be lost. Thoughts often wonder off. I’ve always thought God was present but was relying on him to start the communication in place of me seeking him.    

What does God want? Max says, “God desires the same abiding intimacy with you that he has with his son. We are NEVER away from God! He is NEVER away from us---not even for a moment. God does not come to us on Sunday mornings and then exit on Sunday afternoons. He remains within us, continually present in our lives.”

Psalm 100:3 – “Even though I walk through a very dark valley, I will not be afraid, because you are with me.” As you think about the very dark valleys of your life, have you thought about this verse? Did you communicate with God and invite him into your life or did you just expect him to be there? Some people believe God will not intervene in our lives unless he’s invited. In our day to day lives many of our problems are created because of the lack of effective communication between one another. Invite God to communicate and intervene.

Max continues: “Here is how King David described the most intimate of all relationships:

Psalm 139: 1-6 Message – “I’m, an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassurance presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in!”

Paul wrote in I Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”, in Romans to “be constant in prayer” and in Ephesians to “pray in the Spirit at all times”. God is always there waiting to hear from us. Whatever the situation we face he wants to hear from us. Philippians 4:6 “In everything…let your request be made known to God.” He also wants to hear “thank you” from us!!

Max continues: If constant communication seems daunting and complicated that “God intends that unceasing prayer lighten our load---not heighten our load.”

“The more we search the Bible, the more we realize that unbroken communication with God is the intent not the exception. Within the reach of every Christian is the unending presence of God.”

  1. S. Lewis wrote: “The moment you wake up each morning…[all] your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists of shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”

Max suggests we give God our waiting thoughts and spend time with him in silence. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Max concludes this chapter: “Give God your waning thoughts. At the end of the day, let your mind settle of him. Conclude the day as you began it: talking to God. Thank him for the good parts. Question him about the hard parts. Seek his mercy. Seek his strength. And as you close your eyes, take assurance in the promise: “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber not sleep” Psalm 121:4. If you fall asleep as you pray, don’t worry. What better place to doze off than in the arms of your father?”

Thank you!

Mike

Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

In Rutherford County Juvenile Detention: Please spend time with your Children. So we don’t have to.

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JUST LIKE JESUS - Hearing God’s Music

 

A Listening Heart

Before the main text, I want to say something. Life is often extremely hard. Robert Drawdy works with young people through Truth and Nails. He helps them learn a trade but more importantly he teaches about Christ. His son, Logan, attends college in Greeneville. Sunday, October 27, Logan fell off his skateboard and suffered severe brain damage. He died from his injuries this week. Mary Funes a close friend of our daughter, Meg, lost her 15-year-old daughter to suicide on Tuesday. Pray for these families. Let your children and grandchildren know how much you love them!!!

“Let he who has ears to hear, use them.” Max says these words are used eight times in the Gospels and eight times in Revelation. He continues: “We are reminded that it’s not enough to just have ears—it’s necessary to use them.”

Max believes that in Jesus’ parable about seed falling on the soil, that our ears are comparable to the soil. He writes: “Please note in all four cases the seed is the same seed. The sower is the same. What’s different is not the message or the messenger—it’s the listener. And if the ratio in the story is significant, three-fourths of the world isn’t listening to God’s voice. Whether the cause be hard hearts, shallow lives, or anxious minds, 75 percent of us are missing the message.”

Max asks: “How long since you gave him a portion of undiluted, uninterrupted time listening for his voice? Apparently Jesus did. He made a deliberate effort to spend time with God.” How many excuses or reasons did you come up with to Max’s question? If you did not have enough, I can lend you some of mine. How many of those do you believe God accepts? He must be disappointed when we ignore him!

Max writes: “Let me ask the obvious. If Jesus, the Son of God, the sinless Savior of mankind, thought it worthwhile to clear his calendar to pray, wouldn’t we be wise to do the same?”

“If we are to be just like Jesus—if we are to have ears that hear God’s voice—then we have just found two habits worth imitating: the habits of prayer and Bible reading. Consider these verses:

“Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently; steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer.” Romans12:12 - Phillips translation

“The man that looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who hears and forgets. He puts the law into practice, and he wins true happiness.” James 1:25 – Phillips translation.

“If we are to be just like Jesus, we must have a regular time of talking to God and listening to his Word.”

Max talks about our reluctance to set aside time for prayer and Bible study. Maybe you have tried it and for some reason it didn’t work. We make a conscious decision to benefit from others experience. Max says: “after all isn’t that why we pay preachers?” The congregation has Sunday school teachers who are supposed to spend time preparing lessons so that we can learn about God’s word. Max believes that if this is our approach to grow our relationship with God then we are using secondhand experiences. A secondhand relationship with God is NOT what he wants! He deserves to be firsthand with us. After all he created us and then sacrificed his son so we can have a firsthand relationship with him.

As you continue to read this article, perform a self-evaluation. Are you spending time praying and reading your Bible? That’s going to be Max’s line of thought. Just saying I listen to a sermon almost every Sunday is not enough. Many people base their religious beliefs on the preacher or Sunday school teacher. When asked what scripture they base a belief on they have no idea. “Well, that’s what they preacher or teacher said!” On judgement day you cannot hang your deficiencies of your relationship with God on the preacher or Sunday school teachers.

Max’s writes that we do not let people eat, take vacations or do many things for us. “Certain things no one can do for you. And one of those is spending time with God.” You cannot grow a close, loving, obedient relationship with God if you ignore him and his word!!!

Self-discipline is a requirement for study and prayer! Set aside a time and place to read and pray. Maybe first thing in the morning before you begin your day, during lunch time, or just before you go to bed but whatever works for you stay with it. It could be that short devotions several times through the day may work. I don’t believe lengthy devotionals are necessary. Quality not quantity is much more important!! Think about the following verses:

Romans 12:12 NCV - continuing instant in prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:17 NVV - Pray without ceasing

Be thoughtful for prayer several times through the day!

Max’s points to John 14:26 NCV – “But the helper will teach you everything and will cause you to remember all that I told you. The Helper is the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name.” Max continues his thought: “Before reading the Bible, pray. Don’t go to Scripture looking for your own idea; go searching for God’s.”

James 1:25: NCV - “The man who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty and makes a habit of doing so, is not the man who hears and forgets. He puts the law into practice, and he wins true happiness.”

Max asks, “How long since you let God love you?” From his experiences, he writes there are people who believe they are not worthy of God’s love. Their study and prayer life are hindered by this this thought. Max points to these verses:

Jeremiah 31:3 NIV - “ I have loved you with everlasting love.”

Romans 8:39 NCV – “Nothing… will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ.”

Zephaniah 3:17 NCV – The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you.” Think about the fact that God rejoices over us!

Max ends this thought with: “Besides, who are we to determine if we are worthy? Our job is to simply be still long enough to let him have us and let him love us.”

Max brings this chapter to an end with the following: “ Let God have you, let God love you—and don’t be surprised if your heart begins to hear music you’ve never heard before.”

Study guide: Max challenges us to spend as much time reading the Bible as we do with the paper or TV. I believe we should add our time on the internet as well. Then record the differences it makes in our lives. This challenge is huge for most of us, especially me. I have no doubt that our relationship with God will grow unbelievably if we practice his suggestion.

Spending time with God in scripture and prayer should be the priority in our lives . I have admitted in articles that I did not make these things the priority. I originally wrote “a” then thought better and wrote “the”. God deserves to be “the” not “a” priority in our lives. I believe my relationship with God has grown through more study and prayer.

Max writes: "God already knows what you’re thinking, wanting, and doing. Realize that he wants to hear from you, so begin talking to him as if he were on the car seat beside you in the morning, standing in the line at the bank or sitting at the next desk. He’s not interested in flowery phrases or pious sounding words—he just wants you.”

From God’s Little Devotional Book: “Most men forget God all day long and ask Him to remember them at night.”

From : Daily Reflections "NewCREEations Ministries" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; “The more thoroughly steeped we are in the scriptures, and the more intimately familiar we are with God's word, the more accurately we will reflect His character. We have good news to share. Some may be offended by that news. Even so, we never should use that potential rejection as an excuse to become mean or condemning as we share the truth. Besides, condemnation isn't good news anyway. When we do make pleasing God the focus of what we share with others, then we will ultimately find we reach more people in the end. God promotes those He finds faithful and trustworthy to carry out His assignments here on earth. You get to choose how faithful you will be.

"NewCREEations Ministries" This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Used by permission

Thanks

Mike

Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

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Just Like Jesus - The Touch of God

Max encourages us to think about our hands. “All of us learned early that the hand is suited for more than survival—it’s a tool of emotional expression. The same hand can help or hurt, extend or clench, lift someone up or shove someone down.”

“Oh, the power of our hands. Leave them unmanaged and they become weapons: clawing for power, strangling for survival, seducing for pleasure. But manage them and our hands become instruments of grace—not just tools in the hands of God, but God’s very hands. Surrender them and these five-fingered appendages become the hands of heaven.”

Max says that Jesus completely surrendered his hands to God. In Matthew 8 a leper called out to Jesus “Lord, you can heal me if you will.” Jesus could have just spoken a word and the leper would have been healed but he chose to reach out his hand to heal his loneliness as well.

Max wonders what the leper was thinking. “For five years no one touched me. No one. Not one person. Not my wife. Not my child. Not my friends. No one touched me.”

“I was untouchable. I was a leper. And no one touched me. Until today.”

“What is common to you, I coveted. Handshakes. Warm embraces. Small moments were taken from my world. Even the rabbis kept their distance from me. I was not permitted in the synagogue. Not even in my own house.”

“In scripture the leper is symbolic of the ultimate outcast: infected by a condition he did not ask seek, rejected by those he knew, avoided by people he did not know, condemned to a future he could not bear. And in the memory of each outcast must have been the day he was forced to face the truth: life would never be the same.”

Max tells a childhood story of regret. A friend’s father was a drunk and that fact became an issue with all of his friends. Max writes: “Jerry, the son of a drunk. Kids can be hard, and for some reason we were hard on Jerry. He was infected. Like the leper, he suffered from a condition he didn’t create. Like the leper, he was put outside the village.” In today’s environment too many kids know about bullying.

“The divorced know this feeling. So do the handicapped. The unemployed have felt it, as have the less educated. Some shun the unmarried moms. We keep our distance from the depressed and avoid the terminally ill.”

“Only God knows how many Jerrys are in voluntary exile—individuals living quiet, lonely lives infected by their fear of rejection and their memories of the last time they tried. They choose not to be touched at all rather than being hurt again.”

Max says the touch did not heal the leprosy, but Jesus’s words did the healing of the disease. “The loneliness, however, was treated by a touch from Jesus.”

“Oh, the power of a godly touch. Haven’t you known it? The doctor who treated you, or the teacher who dried your tears? Was there a hand holding yours at a funeral? Another on your shoulder during a trial? A handshake of welcome at a new job? A pastoral prayer for healing? Haven’t we know the power of a godly touch?” Our primary care physician has often placed his hand on my shoulder and prayed for my health.

“Can’t we offer the same?”

“Many of you already do. Some of you have the master touch of the Physician himself. You use your hands to pray over the sick and minister to the weak. If you aren’t touching them personally, your hands are writing letters, dialing phones*, baking pies. You have learned the power of a touch.”

“But others of us tend to forget. Our hearts are good: it’s just that our memories are bad. We forget how significant one touch can be. We fear saying the wrong thing or using the wrong tone or acting the wrong way. So rather than do it incorrectly, we do nothing at all.”

I gave the paragraph above emphasis because it describes me so well. I’ve used this as an excuse to do nothing for way too long. Along with this excuse I’ve used, “God did not give me this talent” or “Well I do other things” and “Bob really has the talent for doing that, so I’ll leave it up to him”. The odds are that you cannot give me an excuse I haven’t used. Think about James 4:17, NLT: "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it."

The following quote is from Dean Omish in his book, Love and Survival: “Anything that promotes feelings of love and intimacy is healing; anything that promotes isolation, separation, loneliness, loss, hostility, anger, cynicism, depression, alienation, and related feelings often leads to suffering, disease, and premature death from all causes”

I’m working on correcting this part of my life. First, I suspect that Satan has a hand in my lack of action, so I pray for God’s help. I have begun to produce greeting cards on my computer. They aren’t slick, shiny nor in color. Using quotes from online are much better than any I can come up with. It’s sitting in the out mail now because I’m wondering if I selected the right quote. Will it hit a nerve, etc. This is NOT easy but it’s necessary. Thanks to Paula Smith, who has her own card ministry, for sharing ideas with me and providing encouragement.

Max closes the chapter with the following; “Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t make the same mistake? If your fear of doing the wrong thing prevents you from doing anything, keep in mind the perspective of the lepers of the world. They aren’t picky. They aren’t finicky. They’re just lonely. They are yearning for a godly touch.”

“Jesus touched the untouchables of the world. Will you do the same?”

*This book was written in 1998. There are stories of showing today’s kids a rotary phone and they have no idea what they are. I’m so old that I remember in Paris, TN we would pick up the phone and the operator would say “number, please” . Our number was 169. We went to rotary phones in about 1963.

Max’s Study Guide:

Spend a few minutes thanking the Lord for those who have taken the time to show you compassion or kindness when you needed it most. Bring them by name before the Lord. Then tell them personally, through a note or phone call, what their ministry to you has meant.

Ask God to show you someone that needs that special “Godly touch.” Chances are you already know who it is. If you sense some resistance on your part (“ Not him/her! Not me—I can’t”), ask the Lord to make your hands into his and surrender them to him.

Thanks

Mike

Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission

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Just Like Jesus Loving the People You Are Stuck With

Max opens this chapter with the story of receiving his first pet, Liz, a Chinese pug. His parents made it plain that Liz was his responsibility. After a few days, he realized he was stuck with Liz. Max says: “Liz went from an option to an obligation, from a pet to a chore, from someone to play with to someone to care for.”

Max continues: “Chances are you know the claustrophobia that comes with commitment. Only instead of being reminded she’s your dog, it’s your husband, wife, child, parent, employee, boss or roommate or any other relationship that requires loyalty for survival .”

If you think about that first child, you are so excited that you are about to have that precious little bundle to love. Then, with dirty diapers, middle of the night crying and feedings the reality of the responsibility hits home. During the years I have had several young people who worked with me experience their first baby. Kay and I could not afford disposable diapers, so I could not resist telling them about cloth diapers and how you emptied them and the odor that comes from the diaper pail. Some of them got green around the gills. Only those who are older can appreciate this experience. Young folks be thankful for disposable diapers. After all the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, being asked “why” nine million times they turn into teenagers. We love them anyway!!

Max invented a word to go along with the relationship that requires loyalty, “stuckitits”. “Stuck meaning trapped. Itits being the six letters you tag on to any word you want to sound impressive.” Max says “there is only three ways to cope with stuckitits: flee, fight or forgive. My manual has no model for how forgiveness occurs, but the Bible does.”

Max goes on to talk about Jesus knowing the feeling of being stuck with someone. Jesus was around his apostles for three years day in and day out. “Think about it. He could hear their unspoken thoughts. He knew their private doubts. Not only that, he knew their future doubts. What if you knew every mistake you loved ones had ever made and every mistake they would ever make? What if you knew every thought, they would have about you, every irritation, every dislike, every betrayal?”

Max describes the last event that Christ had with his apostles all together. It was the upper room where Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper. Before they took the bread and the wine, Jesus washed the feet of the apostles, an act usually reserved for the lowest of servants. Max writes: “You can be sure Jesus knows the future of these feet he is washing. These twenty- four feet will not spend the next day following their master, defending his cause. These feet will dash for cover at the flash of a Roman sword. Only one pair of feet won’t abandon him in the garden. One disciple won’t desert him at Gethsemane---Judas won’t make it that far! He will abandon Jesus that very night at the table.” Think about Peter who cursed and denied him, apostles arguing about who among them was the best and Thomas who questioned his resurrection.

Max goes on to say that he looked for a Bible translation that reads that Jesus washed all the feet except for Judas’. He further talks about what a passionate moment when Jesus lifts Judas’, his betrayer, feet and washes them. “Remarkable. He forgave their sin before they even committed it. He offered mercy before they even sought it.”

Max continues: “Oh I could never do that you object. The hurt is so deep. The wounds are so numerous. Just seeing the person causes me to cringe. Perhaps that is your problem. Perhaps you are seeing the wrong person or at least too much of the wrong person. Remember, the secret of being just like Jesus is fixing our eyes on him. Try shifting your glance away from the one who hurt you and setting your eyes on the one who has saved you.”

“Our savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says, ‘I can clean that if you want.’ And from the basin of his grace, he scoops a palm full of mercy and washes our sin away.”

“Because he lives in us, you and I can do the same. Because he has forgiven us, we can forgive others. Because he has a forgiving heart, we can have a forgiving heart. We have a heart like his.”

“Jesus washes our feet for two reasons. The first is to give us mercy; the second is to give a message, and that message is simply this: Jesus offers us unconditional grace; we are to offer unconditional grace.” This may be one of the more difficult attitudes for us to adopt in our lives.

Max says we often rebel at the idea of giving unconditional grace. I did not do anything wrong!! He/she is the guilty party! Max’s answer: “Of all the men in that room, only one was worthy of having his feet washed. And he was the one who washed their feet. The one worthy of being served, served others. The one who is innocent is the one who makes the gesture.” Max believes that if the innocent party “washes the feet” of the guilty party then both parties wind up on their knees. Max follows with an absolute truth:

“Please understand. Relationships don’t thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful!”

All too often we are not happy until the other person is appropriately punished and then and only then I might forgive. Is there ever a justification, good reason or just an excuse for not loving and forgiving? In our minds the answer is “yes” but in the mind of God and Christ the answer is “no”. Match the sins you’ve committed against God with the sins committed against you. Which ones are more grievous?

Do I really want to be Just Like Jesus or just talk a good game? Christ does not say it will be as easy for us as it is for him but that’s no excuse. Let’s face it, if we refuse to forgive then we’re not trying to be like Jesus! Pray, pray and pray about it. Don’t take the attitude that God will just have to live with it!

Max concludes this chapter: “Certain conflicts can be resolved only with a basin of water. Are any relationships in your world thirsty for mercy? Are there any sitting around your table who need to be assured of your grace? Jesus made sure his disciples had no reason to doubt his love. Why don’t you do the same?”

Max’s Study Guide:

Do you feel you have stuckititus with someone right now? Do you want to flee, fight or forgive? Do you think anyone feels the same about you?

Read Colossians 3:12-17 and Ephesians 4:32 and 5:1-2 These verses outline Max’s thoughts in this chapter.

How grimy did God get when he reached down to clean you up? How grimy are you willing to get in order to be an imitator of God?

My comments:

Be completely honest with yourself as you evaluate Max’s writings.

Can you have Biblical love for someone and detest their personality?

God bless us in our efforts to forgive and to love!

Thanks

Mike

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Just Like Jesus

 

Before retirement, I did not study the Bible like I should unless I was preparing to lead class discussion. If I was not leading a class, my efforts to study to grow my relationship with God and Christ left much to be desired. Other things took over my priorities. There may be folks who struggle with study because of careers, raising children or other priorities. We just don’t take or make the time to grow with God. The only way to improve our relationships with God and Christ is study and prayer. Some people believe that the only book we should study is the Bible and their point is understandable. However, writers can cause me to think differently about what I always thought the Bible has to say. These writers are an aid to a more in-depth study.

If you have read any of my articles, you probably know that Max Lucado is my favorite writer. He can write things in such a way that they have an effect on me. I’ve contacted other writers to get permission to use their material, but some have not responded. If they give permission, their material will also be in future articles.

I would like to try something. For those who struggle with finding time to study, I would like to write a synopsis of Max Lucado’s book, Just Like Jesus. The reading time should be short, but hopefully will generate a great deal of reflection. This book was published by Word Publishing in 1998. I use with permission from Mr. Lucado. This synopsis cannot and will not do justice to the book!! You can buy Max Lucado books from his website or any book sellers for a deeper study.

During my English education in high school and business writing classes in college, it was driven into my head that using the word “I” too frequently was not appropriate. At times, I spend more time trying to avoid using “I” than its worth. I’m too old so, excuse my use of “I”. There are going be references to my experiences. They are the only experiences I can completely relate to so they are used only in hopes you can use them to avoid the same mistakes.

It seems that many writers are all about making us feel good about ourselves. Romans 3:23 New Living Translation (NLT): “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” lets us know the truth about our lives. We need to improve! Try to measure yourself objectively as you read the articles. It helps my growth to be realistic about my life.

In the foreword, Max writes: “My prayer for all who read these words is simple. May God open your eyes so that you can see Jesus. And in seeing Jesus, may you see what you are called to be.”

Chapter One – A Heart Like His

Max asks: “What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? What if, for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with his heart? What would you be like? Would people notice a change?”

Max challenges us to spend some time focusing on what effect the change of having Jesus’ heart in us would have on our lives. Will our stress, our anger, our mood swings, obligations, time commitments, etc. change? My reply: Without a doubt!!

Max continues: “What you see is what God wants. He wants you to think and act like Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). God wants you to be just like Jesus. He wants you have a heart like Jesus.”

“ God loves you the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”

Max says: “Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one. Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart just like his. Can you imagine a better offer?”

Max writes about the heart of Christ: “The heart of Jesus was pure. Jesus’ heart was peaceful. His heart was purposeful. How pleasant were his thoughts! But the crowning attribute of Christ was this: His heart was spiritual. His thoughts reflected his intimate relationship with the Father. I am in the Father and the Father is in me, he stated in John 14:11. Jesus took his instructions from God.” These thoughts make it easy to see why God would want our hearts to be like Jesus.

Max continues with thoughts on the heart of humanity: “Our hearts seem so far from his. How could we ever hope to have the heart of Jesus? Ready for a surprise? You already have the heart of Christ. If you are in Christ, you already have the heart of Christ. He has made your heart his home. Christ lives in me. Gal 2:20 MSG”.

“If I have the mind of Jesus, why do I still think so much like me? If I have the heart of Christ, why do I still have the hang-ups of Max?”

“With our souls saved but our hearts unchanged---are connected but not altered. Trusting Christ for salvation but resisting transformation.” Does this describe me?

“If you have given your life to Jesus, Jesus has given himself to you. He has moved in and unpacked his bags and is ready to change you into ‘into his likeness from one degree of glory to another’ 2 Cor. 3;18 RSV. No doubt about it: God has ambitious plans for us. The same one who saved your soul longs to remake your heart.”

“God is willing to change us into the likeness of the Savior. Shall we accept his offer? Let’s imagine what it means to be just like Jesus. Let’s look long into the heart of Christ. Let’s spend some chapters considering his compassion, reflecting upon his intimacy with the Father, admiring his focus, pondering his endurance. How did he forgive? When did he pray? What him so pleasant? Why didn’t he give up? Let’s ‘fix our eyes on Jesus Heb. 12:2 NIV. Perhaps in seeing him, we will see what we can become.”

You may be thinking, if God wants us to be like Jesus, why didn’t he make us that way as he brought us into the world? God wants us to be like Jesus through our choice. One commentator believes that only love that comes from a free will is true love. Love isn't genuine if it’s the only choice we have.

As I read Max’s writings the following comes to mind: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”. Romans 7:15 This is so true of my life! Satan always stands ready to come between God, Christ and us. Hopefully, studying Just Like Jesus will help!

Max offers a Study Guide following each chapter. Here are a few of his thoughts and questions:

  1. What things would you expect to change if Jesus came into your heart? Are you willing?
  2. Philippians 2:5-13 describes Christ’s attitude and directs us to continue to work out our salvation. How much effort are you willing to expend to comply with this passage? Think about what your answer says about you.
  3. Keep in mind Colossians 3:9-10: “… since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the imagine of its Creator.”

My thoughts:

Years ago I tried to teach junior high classes in Sunday School. It seemed like more time was spent asking them to sit-up, stop talking and pay attention. Every once in a while they did come up with good questions. During a discussion about being more like Jesus, the question was asked: "Does God really expect us to be like Jesus?"  h expects our very best effort but realizes we are not perfect like Jesus so that's why he offered Jesus as the sacrifice. The follow-up question: "Does God give credit for effort or does he grade on the curve?" Gods knows our heart and sees what effort we are making ro be like Jesus. Given God's wisdom and knowledge, I do not believe he finds it necessary to grade on the curve. I wanted to say that grading on the curve would indicate degrees of heaven and hell. NOT GOING THERE!!!

Thanks

Mike

                                              

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