Southside Church Of Christ Blog

Southside is a loving, vigorous, and growing congregation in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Our vision is toward the future: Our Children, Our Ministry, and Our Outreach. Our goal is to embrace all people in our hearts and fellowship as we strive together to support Christ’s mission on earth.

Judas

 

When you think about Judas, probably the first thought is of a purely evil man who betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver. Thirty pieces of silver today would probably be worth $3,000 which does not seem like a huge amount to betray the Son of God.

There is not a great deal known about Judas. He was one of the twelve apostles chosen, so he had some redeeming qualities. He was given the same spiritual gifts as the other eleven apostles. Judas could drive out demons, cure disease and preach. When Jesus told the apostles one of them would betray him, the other apostles did not look at Judas in an accusing manner but hey begin asking one another which one it might be. Judas certainly did not admit to anything but played his part.

Judas was the treasurer for the apostles so you would think he was trustworthy. However, John12 relates the story of Mary pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Judas objected and wanted to know why the perfume was not sold and given to the poor. Verse six states: “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the bag, he used it to help himself to what was put into to it.” Wonder how many times he embezzled for his own use but continued to play his part as an apostle?

Judas spent three years of his apostleship with Jesus. Colin Smith writes: “Judas heard all the teaching of Jesus. He heard the Sermon on the Mount, so he knew there was a narrow road that leads to life and a broad road that leads to destruction. He heard the warnings Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, so he knew there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain. He heard the parable of the prodigal son, so he knew God is ready to welcome and forgive those who wasted themselves in sin.”

So, what happened with Judas to make him betray Jesus? Smith continues: “Judas teaches us that even the best example, the most compelling evidences, and the finest teaching --- the ultimate environment for incubating faith --- cannot, in and of themselves, change the human heart.” Luke 22:3 reports that “Satan entered Judas.”    Judas did not simply sin, but he hid his sin of embezzlement. His sin to betray Jesus did not just happen but was well planned out. Judas freely opened his heart and invited Satan in. That’s what happened to Judas. Judas played his part as an apostle.

Some commentators believe that Judas was predestined to betray Jesus because of David’s writings in Psalm 41:9 “Even my close friend, whom I have trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” They also point out in Acts 17 that Peter referred to David’s words about Judas’ betrayal. John 6:64 states that Jesus had known from the beginning Judas would betray him. John 17 records Jesus’ prayer for himself. In verse 12, he tells God that he has protected the apostles so that ”None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” These verses speak about foreknowledge, not predestination. Even after Jesus told the twelve one of them would betray him Judas asked, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” His heart was elsewhere. Judas was acting his part.

Max Lucado writes in his book, On The Anvil, “As Satan worked his way around the table in the Upper Room, he needed a special kind of man to betray our Lord. He needed a man who had seen Jesus but did not know him. He needed a man who knew the actions of Jesus but missed out on the mission of Jesus. Judas was the man. He knew the empire but had never known the Man.”

“We learn the timeless lesson from the betrayer. Satan’s best tools of destruction are not from outside the church; they are within the church. A church will never die from the immorality in Hollywood or the corruption in Washington. But it will die from corrosion within ---from those who bear the name of Jesus but have never met him, and from those who have religion, but no relationship. Judas bore the cloak of religion, but he never knew the heart of Jesus.”

Mr. Lucado is somewhat correct. While serving as an apostle, Judas did not relate to Jesus. But, when Judas realized that Jesus was condemned to die, the Bible records that he was “seized with remorse.” He then tried to return the silver and stated: “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood.” Judas, because of his great remorse hanged himself. It appears all that he had heard and witnessed with Jesus affected him but too late.

Satan found in Judas a receptive heart to temptations. He understood Judas’ weaknesses and continued to bombard him just as he does us. Mr. Smith writes: “Satan doesn’t gain a foothold in the lives of people who are walking in the light with Jesus. He only gains access when we open the door.”

Klass Schilder, the author of Christ His Sufferings, writes: “It is the peculiar majesty of Jesus that he can conquer man without man’s first approaching him. But Satan’s frailty is provided by this, that he cannot approach a soul unless that soul has first turned to him.” I was not sure I agreed with the second part of Mr. Schilder’s premise, so I searched the scriptures and do not believe I can disprove him. James 1:14 says “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” seems to add validity to his belief.

Let’s not play the part of being religious as Judas did. Let’s be real, know the heart of Jesus and have an honest relationship. Let’s not be like Judas and open our hearts to Satan.

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

Thought from a church marquee: Time and money spent serving God are never wasted!

My kind of humor from FB: The next time you are in the checkout line, and the clerk asks if you found everything you were looking for. Reply, why, are you hiding some things?

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Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness

This book was published in 1993. It does not claim to be a Christian publication but gives good thoughts on how we as Christians can demonstrate kindness in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-23 lays out the fruits of the spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If you are performing acts of kindness you are demonstrating love; you are in peace; it’s hard not to have joy as you show kindness, to be kind sometimes shows great patience; you are faithful as you serve others, and gentleness and self-control are part of kindness. Think about this as you read these thoughts on acts of kindness.

+ A small boy was struggling with leukemia, and when he was discouraged or particularly sick, a package would arrive with a little toy or book from the Magic Dragon to cheer him up. No one knew the identity of the Magic Dragon. After the little boy died the parents were sure the Dragon would reveal him or herself, but that never happened. The writer of this story vowed to become a Magic Dragon for some little child struggling with life. Who better to demonstrate Christian kindness to than a child?

+ ” I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw Read the statement again and insert “God” for “community”! Matthew 5:14-16 tells us to let our light shine that people may see our good works and praise God.

+One author wrote a story about while jogging every day he noticed an older woman sitting on the park bench with an even older dog. One day he noticed the dog was not with the woman, so he stopped to inquire about the dog and the woman begin to cry. The dog died the night before. The runner sat down to visit with her for over an hour. Each day the man and woman would greet one another, and he would stop on occasion to visit. The woman was very lonely but also very strong. Even though she was strong, she still needed someone to show her that she mattered. The author thinks about her when he is sad then smiles at the memory of her.

Taking the opportunity to show that people matter will bless us as much as the other person.

+ “Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.” Theodore Issac Rubin

+ ” For one week act on every single thought of generosity that arises spontaneously in your heart and notice what happens as a consequence.”

+ Ecclesiastes 11:6 “Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow---perhaps it all will.” The seed of kindness can work wonders.

+ In an Oakland, California, neighbors watched as Mary’s house and yard slowly decayed. Mary was an elderly, wheelchair-bound widow who could no longer take proper care of her house and yard. Two of Mary ’s neighbors went to the city’s Office of Community Development to get enough paint and supplies for her house. After painting the house, they took care of the yard. Performing this type of kindness takes a commitment and clearly shows the Christian spirit of a light shining for God.

+ “Little kindnesses will broaden your heart, and slowly you will habituate yourself to helping your fellow man in many ways.” Zadik

I’m not going to use any more examples of acts of kindness because we all know things we could do, but for whatever reason, we don’t. Maybe the reason is that we are so focused on ourselves we don't notice someone else’s needs. Maybe we don’t want to get involved. Could it be that we don’t want to take the time? Read the following quotes and think about the points these writers are making.

+ “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa

+ “Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind.” Henri Frederick Amiel

+ “No joy can equal the joy of serving others.” Sai Baba

+ “Kindness makes the difference between passion and caring. Kindness is tenderness; kindness is love, perhaps greater than love…kindness is goodwill, kindness says “I want you to be happy.” Kindness comes very close to the benevolence of God.” Randolf Ray

+ “If there is any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now and not deter or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” William Penn

+ “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motive. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.” Mother Teresa

About 30 years ago Larry West*, a personal evangelist, came to our congregation in Memphis to hold a personal evangelism class. His approach was to ask a simple question, “ if you died today, do you have any doubts about where you would spend eternity?” That seemed easy enough, so I asked that question to a young man who came with his girlfriend to our young singles class. His answer was “yes” so I ask him to if we could study and again he said “yes.” He never came to church again. I offered the young lady and her mother an apology, but they insisted no apology was needed. They felt like the young man showed his true colors, but that left a terrible memory in my mind.

We have a responsibility to help people build a relationship with God and Christ. I am not comfortable with trying to act as a personal evangelist. Demonstrating kindness can others build a relationship with God. There is a saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you open the door with acts of kindness and don’t feel comfortable conducting a study, many other people will lead the study. You can be an evangelist through an act of kindness.

Max Lucado in his book, On The Anvil, writes about a conversation with God while in silent prayer in church. He tells God he wants to do great things for him by teaching millions, do TV and radio work and speak to Congress. God comes back to Max and tells him to notice the fellow sitting next to him. He needs a ride home from church. Also, an older lady sitting near him needs a refrigerator moved. Max says but God “what about the world”? God’s answer, “Think about it!”

Please share a story about your acts of kindness and their success at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

*Larry West is the father of Missy Robertson on Duck Dynasty.

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Where is God in My Storm?

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

This song was written by Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers in 1945. Hammerstein wrote the words. There does not seem to be factual history as to why Hammerstein wrote the song. Some historians believe he wrote it to bring comfort to war-torn Europe. Some historians have referred to it as a hymn. Where do we find the “hope in your heart” that Hammerstein refers to? It’s got to be from God! Where else?

Matthew 28:20 … And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Hebrews 13:5 … Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.

*T. D. Jakes states in his sermon title referenced above that we have bought into the belief that if God were really with us, we would not have any storms. If God were really with us, everything would go smoothly, how could God be with us and we have financial problems or suffer through a divorce. How could God be with me when my child died. How could God be with me and I have cancer.

I’m not sure how people came to believe that as Christians we should expect a life that has no storms. There are no references in the Bible that even appear to give us that idea. If you trace the history of man back to Adam, you’ll see all men dealt with storms through time. Even Christ, the son of God, suffered through storms. He tried to teach people and was ridiculed, rejected and finally crucified. He suffered physically and mentally on the cross.

Job 8 - Job wants to know how all these terrible things could happen to him, and God was with him. Job looked for God everywhere but could not find God in his storms. Jakes says we cannot see in a storm; that’s why God tells us to walk by faith, not by sight. II Corinthians 5:7.

The fact that we are in a storm does not indicate the absence of God. Jakes believes that God will not make us comfortable in our storm. Psalm 46 tells us that God promises that he will be our ever-present help in trouble. We may not see God or sense God in any way, but we must rely on his promise that he’s there with us from beginning to end. Don’t be so aware of the storm that you lose awareness of God’s presence. God wants us to rely on his promise.

In Meeting God ln Quiet Places, LaGard Smith writes: “We should not be surprised when our own pain and suffering is accompanied by what seems to be an ominous silence from heaven. If we call for answers and don’t hear any, it doesn’t mean there are no answers. If we cry out for healing and healing never comes, it doesn’t mean that God is insensitive. Heart to heart, he suffers with us in silence.”

“God’s comfort does not always come in the form of healing. It doesn’t always take away the pain or change the circumstances. But just knowing that God is with us, whatever the circumstances, is enough for me.”

Mr. Smith’s words require a great amount of faith. You mean if I lose my home to bankruptcy, it’s alright. If my child dies, I'm supposed to be Ok with that? But, I don’t want God to suffer with me. I want him to stop the storm and make everything come out the way I want it! I want an outcome that will make me happy! He never promised us that everything would come out as we want. In II Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh” or “his storm” and his pleading three times for God to remove the thorn. God told him that his grace was sufficient. Is God telling me the same thing during my storms? I believe the answer is a resounding “YES.”

Jakes asks a question: Are you steering your life on what you see or what you believe? He continues: I don’t know the details of how it will happen, but I will come out of this storm. I may have to wait, I may have to crawl, I may have to cry, I may have to suffer, but in the end, I will come out. He challenges people to make that statement in the face of Satan. Satan wants us to doubt God and to make that statement is a statement of faith!

I knew a preacher one time who would drift off his topic just a little, and he referred to it as “chasing a rabbit.” So let’s chase the rabbit.

Kay and I have been through our storms: a baby lost during pregnancy, our son experimenting with drugs as a college freshman, our daughter’s pregnancy just out of high school, the death of my sister in her mid-fifties, the suicide of Kay’s youngest brother and our health problems. Even though we might not have seen God as we went through these struggles, we can now look back and see that he was with us. You have had your storms as well. We all understand that we have had and will have storms and we came out of them OK.

Be ready to serve other people by being there for them during their storm. You cannot take away the storm for them so don’t even try! During our struggles, many people made gestures to encourage us. Many let us know that they were praying for us. An elder told us, “there but by the grace of God could be one of my children.” Don’t discount someone else’s storm by comparing it to yours. “Well, you think you have troubles but let me tell you what I went through!” Just a word of kindness like an expression of concern or “I will pray for you” is excellent.

When I’m studying a topic, the Bible is my main book, but I also use the thinking of religious writers to expand my thoughts. Some people believe the Bible is the only book you need, but I find the thoughts of others can give me a meaningful perspective. You’ve already read one from LeGard Smith so here are a few to close out on this study.

Max Lucado, On the Anvil, “God sees our life from the beginning to end. He may lead us through s storm at age thirty, so we can endure a hurricane at age sixty.”

Mike Cope and Rubel Shelley, What would Jesus Do Today? “Suffering, or the prospect of suffering, can throw our lives into confusion. It was the prospect of being separated from the Father and Holy Spirit on the cross that had Jesus in anguish in Gethsemane. Heaven sent an angel to minister to Jesus that night, and who is to say that he would do any less for you?”

God’s Little Devotional Book, “You should never let adversity get you down-except on your knees.”

Dan Stevers, Where is God in the Storm? – Dan Stevers Videos, paraphrased – “I know the storms that will come. You’ll feel helpless and abandoned and wonder where I am. I know this is not the way you thought our relationship would work. When you shout and ask where I am, know that I’m right behind you with my arms wrapped tightly around you whispering that I will never let go. There will come a day when I will quiet every storm and wipe away every tear, and that day there will be no pain or death, and I will be your anchor.”

God’s got your back!

Mike

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QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS

+ Why don’t we fast or talk about fasting?

There are a number of Biblical references to fasting. Matthew 6:16-18 – Christ says “When you fast” which to me is an implication that we should practice fasting. Christ does not say “if you fast.” or, “if you think it’s a good idea.” but when. One commentator says Christ does not teach us that we should fast in this scripture because he assumes that we will fast, rather he is teaching us how to fast.

Some commentators point out that fasting is not meant to manipulate God but to show a heart that is humble and ready for guidance.

The following are other new testament examples of fasting:

Luke 4:2-4 - During the temptation of Christ he fasted for 40 days;

Acts 13:2-4 – Men in the church in Antioch prayed and fasted before sending Barnabas and Saul on the missionary journey;

Acts 14:23 – Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in Lystra, Iconium and Lystra with prayer and fasting;

Looking at these events surrounding the fasting and praying: Christ suffering through temptation, the beginning of a missionary journey and appointing elders leads me to believe that fasting and praying is the Biblical beginning to an undertaking.

I admit that I have never fasted. A friend of mine practices fasting and encouraged me to fast. I told Chuck that it’s not doing without food or drink for 24 hours, but it’s my short attention span that causes me a problem. Chuck responded that he does drink water during his fast. He does not read scripture and pray during the entire time. He takes the opportunity several times during the day of his fast to read a scripture that relates to a decision he needs to make, a problem he’s facing or a sin he’s struggling with then prays. He says that it’s remarkable the peace and guidance he feels he receives. Based on studying what the Bible says about fasting and Chuck’s peace I am going to choose a day for fasting.

If you have fasted, please share your method and the results. Sharing with others could be helpful.

+ Questions on judgment day.

In Matt 12:36, Romans 14:12, and Hebrews 4:13, we are told that we must give an account of our lives on judgment day. God already knows everything about me and every sin I’ve committed whether I have confessed them or not. There’s absolutely nothing I can tell God that he doesn’t already know, so for what am I giving an accounting? There are a couple of questions that I dread if they are asked: who is a Christian because of you and who is not a Christian because of you?

Hopefully, I ‘ve had a positive influence on others. To think that something I’ve should have done and neglected to do so or something I’ve said or done would cause them to lose their sole is a horrible thought.

+ What’s my Christian responsibility in today’s government environment?

I believe like my grandparents and parents did as they became older. The world is going to the dogs! This article has nothing to do with any political party. We have allowed the government to declare that abortions can be performed in various number of circumstances. The rights of gays have been greatly expanded including marriage in some states. Some Christian businesses are punished because of denying gays marriage services that offend the business owners’ beliefs. Some liberalists are now pushing a socialist state. One of the beliefs in a socialist state is to provide each person an income whether or not they will work.

Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” For me, that tells me that I was a human being when conceived! What makes it OK to kill me?

I Corinthians 6 states that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. (I have Grammarly on my system to make corrections in my writing, and it just told me the word “homosexual” is outdated. Now, I’m aggravated. God’s word is not outdated!!) Kay and I have known many gay people through the antique business, and one niece practices a gay lifestyle. We do not condone the gay lifestyle, but we do care about and love these people. But, God’s word still stands!

II Thessalonians 3:10 says if a man will not work then he should not eat. This is a refusal to work not incapability to work.

Many religious leaders who believe in God and Christ have called us to action to turn things around. So, I repeat my question on my individual responsibility.

Many people insist that no one has the right to tell a woman when she can abort a baby. These same people assert that gay people should have the right to marry whomever they love. Paying all people an income will eliminate hunger, homelessness, etc. Their final word is “you have no right to force your religious beliefs on me.”

In Matthew 10, Jesus gave his disciples instructions as he sent them out: verse 14: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” This verse means that the people have been taught but refused the teachings. If Jesus is telling the disciples not to “force” Christianity on anyone, should we try to legislate Christian beliefs?

Once again, what action do I personally take to this call to action? So far, I’ve voted for people who appear to take God’s word into consideration. I also pray for our elected officials each day, but I do not feel that’s enough.

Your thoughts, please!! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mike

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THOUGHTS ABOUT COMMUNION

+ It’s been written that God needs absolutely nothing form us, but he wants our love, appreciation, and worship, etc. I know that without the sacrifice of Jesus body and his blood I would have no hope of heaven when death comes. It seems very little to ask that during the communion or Lord’s supper that I focus on just what the greatness of these actions means for me.

+ I’ve heard people express what they believe are the appropriate personal acts and thoughts during communion. Several years ago, a preacher stated that we could not pray during the taking of communion. His statement was a matter of fact, and he did not offer any scripture to support his statement nor any reasoning for his belief. I’ve never figured out his reasoning. Often, I do pray with very much thanksgiving for such an act of love. We each must use our own way of showing our sincere love for the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and his blood.

+ When our son, Chad, was 3 or 4 years old, his pediatrician thought he had allergies, so we took him to an allergist. The doctor wanted to test him for seasonal and food allergies. Each one of the tests needed about 20-30 needle pricks on his back then serum was placed on each prick site to determine what he made him allergic. He cried and cried while I held him down, but we both lived through it. Only the seasonal test was conducted on the first visit, so a second visit was required for food allergies. As we headed for the second visit, Chad soon figured out where we were going and begin to cry and beg me not to make him go through it again. My heart nearly broke. I think about what God’s agony the last few hours of His Son’s life.

He saw him as he fell to the ground and then heard his crying and pleading that he not have to suffer the things to come. God watched as the people begin to savagely beat him, spit on him, mock him and shove the crown of thorns on his head. God may have flinched as they drove the nails into Christ. As they pushed the cross into the hole, it bounced around before it finally settled, tearing Jesus’s flesh. As Jeff indicated, a few Sundays ago, the physiological aspect of the cross was for the victim to suffocate. As the upper body sagged, the lungs could not bring in enough air, so the victim would push up with his legs to take in enough air. Jesus suffered long hours on the cross as the crowds continued to mock him. Just before death, Jesus asked His Father, “My God, My God; why have you forsaken me?”. Could you bear to listen to that cry from your child? Could you stand to watch while your child suffered through his final hours on the cross? Sorry, I would not be able to put my own son through this torture and death to save the world. How can I not be grateful to a God who watched His son endure so much to rescue me from hell?

+ Peter denied Christ three times even swearing that he did not know him. After the rooster crowed the third time, Christ looked through the crowd of people right at Peter. One author asked in his book; what was the expression on Christ’s face, anger, frustration, or disappointment? The author believes that Christ expressed none of these but showed love and understanding for Peter. Peter wept bitterly at his denial of Christ. Sometimes when taking the bread and juice, I think about Christ looking at me because of my betrayal of him through my sins. I appreciate the same love he showed Peter.

+ We usually talk about Jesus’s sacrifice in a global sense, John 3:16. He died for the whole world, but sometimes I think about this hymn:

When He Was The Cross I Was On His Mind:

 

“He knew me, yet He loved me;

He whose glory makes the heavens shine;

I’m so unworthy of such mercy yet;

When He was on the cross, I was on His mind.”

+ In 1 Peter 3: 15, we are told: “always to be prepared to give the reason for the hope that we have.” While taking communion, I’m reminded that my hope is grounded in the sacrifice of Jesus’s body and blood, his death and resurrection. He’s the ONLY hope I have!

+ I want to close with some humor. LaGard Smith spends time in England writing. When there, he attends a small congregation who use one cup for the communion. He always tries to get there early, so fewer people have drunk from the cup. Some time ago during one particularly bad flu season, LaGard wondered about partaking of communion. Two older ladies were sitting down the pew from him, and when the cup reached them, they both reached into their purses and took out their straws and proceeded to take the juice.

Thanks, to God and Jesus!

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I Have Sinned but I Have Several Excellent Excuses

YES, LORD, I HAVE SINNED, BUT I

HAVE SEVERAL EXCELLENT EXCUSES!

BOOK BY JAMES W. MOORE

Some people think their sins can be explained away with excuses. “Well, you see God. I really did not sin because……” This book addresses our attitude toward sin.

Mr. Moore writes the following: “In Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace, the main character Pierre is forced to face himself and make an honest analysis of his life. And he says it for all of us: Yes, Lord, I have sinned, but I have several excellent excuses!”

Mr. Moore continues: “I don’t know if you have noticed this, but we are living in very frank times! Nothing is kept under wraps anymore; we will admit to almost anything. We see people on national television laughing at their numerous marriage failures, admitting they are living together without being married, having children out of wedlock, openly telling of their use of drugs and alcohol. And are you ready for this? - the audience laughs and applauds! Our problem is not that we hesitate to admit anything; our problem is that we are learning how to justify everything! We have excellent excuses for anything we want to do!”

As human beings, we have an uncanny ability to rationalize anything. When I've had a good day, chocolate cookies are a good celebration, and likewise, when a bad day comes along, cookies are a good consolation. In the meantime, my weight continues to be a problem as I rationalize. We say that the circumstances justify or excuse our behavior. Read Luke 14: 15-23, Jesus’ parable of the banquet. Notice the excuses and justifications offered by those who were invited to the banquet but declined the invitation. I know a man who is self-employed and wants to be paid in cash, so the money he makes does not reduce his Social Security check. His justification, “I’ve worked long and hard for these benefits, so I do not want the government taking away some of my money”! He is a Christian and serves as a leader in his church but feels justified in lying to the government. Am I guilty of the same thing in other ways? I can see the sin in him but am I willing to examine myself closely and admit my sin to God?

In Romans 7:14-25, Paul describes the struggle we go through in life with good versus evil. The devil knows where we are weakest, and I believe we each have at least one sin in our lives that’s a struggle for us. It seems like the devil spends all his time throwing that temptation at us. I Peter 5:8 advises us to be on guard or to be alert for our enemy, Satan. Sometimes Satan’s assaults are head-on then other times he sneaks in and before we know it, we have sinned.

I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that when we are tempted that God will provide a way out. In I Thessalonian 5:17 we are told to pray without ceasing. The Greek word for “without ceasing” does not mean nonstop but means “constantly recurring.” When we recognize the temptation, a quick prayer for God’s help fits this verse.

Many people rationalize that the moral behavior outlined in the Bible may have been appropriate back then, but times have changed, and those principles don’t apply to the present day. Ethics is not controlled by the teachings in the Bible, but the situation controls ethics. Situation ethics allows us to come up with almost any excuse. Sometimes, I’m guilty. God in all his wisdom is trying to keep us away from the disasters in our lives because of the consequences of sin. The consequences were the same when he inspired the Bible as they are today.

Mr. Moore talks about leading a discussion centered around some of Jesus’s teachings; “Turn the other cheek”; “Love your enemies”; “Go the second mile”; and “Pray for those who persecute you.”

He wrote: “One young man said, The teachings of Jesus are difficult for me because I’m not sure I understand them.” Another young man said, “I see it just the other way around. They are difficult for me because I think I do understand them, but I’m not so sure I want to do them.” The latter young man was honest about his struggle. He did not try to justify nor make some excuse for his feelings.

In II Timothy 4:47-8, Paul says he has fought the good fight, kept the faith, and there is a crown waiting for him. He is addressing all the obstacles that interfered with his work to teach the gospel. Satan was at work against Paul the same that he works against us. He will try to steer us away from anything that is righteous!

 

We are in a war with satan for our souls. He wants us to keep on sinning and making excuses so that he can drag us down to hell. God is not looking for our rationalization nor excuses to explain away our sins. He expects us to own up to our sins, confess them to Him and repent! There is no acceptable excuse for our sins, but if we confess them and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive. I John 1:9

 

Yea, but what if I sin and do not confess and plead for forgiveness? For me, that’s when grace takes over!

This edition was the book’s third printing in 1991. Here we are 28 years later, and the problems we face do not change all that much. People are still trying to explain away their sins.

Question: Does God have a hierarchy of sins? Our legal system has a hierarchy, but I cannot find one in the Bible. James 2:10 seems to teach that a sinner is a sinner.

If you have some “yes, buts” about this article, please send me your thoughts to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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How Do I Help Myself or Others Find Hope?

I do not believe you can actually “give” someone else hope, but you can help them find hope. There must be some level of hope in them and you are helping restore it. If you personally are running low on hope, consider the following ideas.

This is written in hopes that I may learn the answer myself. You may remember in the post on Hope, Kay’s brother took his own life. We did not know he had lost hope but if we had known then how could we have helped Brian? That has haunted me for twenty years.

I also need the answer for volunteer work in which I’m involved. Court Appointed Special Advocate, CASA, works with children who have been placed in State custody because of abuse or abandonment. Most of these children are placed with foster parents and sometimes with relatives. Some of the older children are placed in State custody because they broke the law. These children are often placed in private institutions with lock down facilities. The State has an advocate, an attorney, and the parents sometimes have an attorney who is an advocate for them. Many juvinile court systems, including Tennessee, believe the child should also have an advocate, CASA.

If relatives are an option for the children, then we find out from the child their preference and why. If a foster home is the best option, then we monitor the child in that home. Discussions with the child are about how things are going wherever they are placed, proper behavior, doing their best in school, etc. We also assure they receive social services that are needed such as counseling.

Many times, one or both parents have a drug problem, alcohol dependency and have been in jail or prison. These children have watched mom’s and dad’s life style, so sometimes they tend to walk in their footprints. CASA volunteers are not mentors but at times act in that capacity. In one hundred percent of the cases, the children need HOPE for a brighter future. Very few have a relationship with God or have had any spiritual guidance. When asked if they believe in God the typical answer is “Yea, I guess so!” Although most CASA volunteers if not all of us are believers, we are not to be evangelists. It’s acceptable to let the children know we pray for them, but not to carry it further. I tell my children at every meeting that I’m praying for them and ask if they have any request. They just stare at me. God has very little meaning for them. I’m struggling with helping these children find hope.

One case is very difficult for me. When I first met JD, he was 17 and one of three brothers I was trying to help. He was housed in a lock down facility about one hundred miles from Bedford County. He came into the first meeting in shackles because he had run away so many times. JD was about to be released to foster parents who also housed his brothers. Six months later he ran away. He wound up in Rutherford County in a drug deal gone bad. One man was killed and another one wounded. JD was arrested in January of 2018 with charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and three other felony charges. He’s now been bound over to adult court. JD is claiming self-defense, but it seems no one is buying it including is former attorney. The district attorney is not seeking the death penalty, but his attorney informed me that he believes JD is “looking at many decades in prison”. The visitation at the jail is at a kiosk through a computer screen and the typical phone receiver. Written communication is limited to a page or two and copied to a computer screen for him to read. Any contact is very impersonal. His parents either can’t visit him because of their own prior convictions or choose not to visit. JD has some emotional issues. He’s attempted suicide twice that I’m aware of and has had to fight off inmates on two different occasions that wanted have sex with him.

You may be asking why I’m trying to help a murderer find hope and that’s not an unfair question. Years ago, there would not have been any effort on my part. I believe JD must deal with the legal system and take his punishment! He’s still a child of God and deserves an opportunity to have hope for the future days in prison and hope of salvation. He tells me he’s attending a Bible class every Monday, so I hope he’s finding direction there. Matthew 25:31-46 lays out Jesus’s return to earth and judging our works. One of the works listed in verse 36 is “visiting those in prison”. Some people believe that it only refers to visiting Christians imprisoned because they are Christians. I cannot reconcile that it refers to only Christians.

How do I help a 19-year-old possibly facing 50 years in prison or the child uncertain where his or her future with their parents find hope for daily life? The following are thoughts are from Christian writers.

From the ministerial point of view, Rick Warren believes that being in a small group of Christians is vital to helping others find hope. The prayers of a small group can achieve success with the following characteristics:

  • Compassion from others who are not too preoccupied with their own problems.
  • Faith- In Luke 5:20 a paralytic man’s friends took him up on the roof and let him down so Jesus could heal him. It was the faith of the friends that helped heal him.
  • Willingness to intervene otherwise nothing may take place.
  • Persistence to not give-up
  • Innovative in a willingness to try different methods
  • Cooperation with those who are helping
  • Sacrificing one’s time, money or whatever to make the process work.

It seems this method can be helpful but the person struggling must be a willing active participant by allowing people into their lives. Some people will be willing to share with another individual but not in a group setting.

Dr. Larry Crabb and Dr. Dan B. Allender (I’ll refer to them as the Doctors) are Christians with PhD’s in Psychology. Their book, Hope When You’re Hurting, looks at psychological, medical and spiritual methods of addressing help. The docs say that when we struggle with life, we ask four basic questions:

  • What’s wrong?
  • Who can help?
  • What will the helper do?
  • What can I hope for if I do seek help?

“When we hurt, we ask these questions. And we insist that someone be able to answer them. How we answer those four questions determines what we do and where we go to find help when we hurt.”

The Doctors believe that, “We’re not nearly so bothered by the size of the problem as we are by it’s degree of mystery. It’s not knowing what’s wrong that arouses the worst terror. Mystery scares us because it puts us out of control and leaves us with an option we don’t naturally like---- to trust someone besides ourselves.”

The Doctors suggest six different explanations to what’s wrong:

  • Spiritual warfare – The cause is demonic
  • Dysfunctional background - The cause is psychological
  • Personal sin – The cause is moral
  • Biomedical disorder – The cause is medical
  • Undisciplined living - The cause is weakness
  • Deficient spirituality – The cause is distance from God

The book goes in deep detail about each of these causes. Some of their analysis is too deep for me and there is not enough room to write about it all. If you would like to borrow the book, let me know.

The doctors suggest four resources that may be useful:

  • The individual – Responsibility for change falls largely on the individual’s shoulders
  • Natural community – Support from family, friends, and ministers/elders might help
  • God – The individual must tap into God’s sufficient power. He is all the individual needs.
  • Professional help – Trained professionals may be necessary

They remind us that the way the individual answers the first question determines who we depend on for help.

As I researched helping people find hope, I was though there would be a much simpler answer. The following is what I took away from talks with others and reading.

A Christian man who is involved in prison ministry fulltime encouraged me to let JD know that I’m praying for him. He also believes the more people that write him the more encouraged he will be and hope can grow. An ex-inmate who attends Riverdale Church of Christ in Murfreesboro meets with inmates on a regular basis. Larry advises that JD must take it on his own shoulders for keeping hope. Praying for him and contact with him will help.

With the limited contact CASA volunteers have with the children, letting them know you are praying for them and offering encouragement seem to be the best course of action. Helping them make plans for a brighter future creates hope. They need to know someone cares about them! The power of prayer is not in the person praying but the power is in the one listening, God.

The Bedford County CASA received eight new appointments for families last month but I’m not sure how many children that includes. There aren’t enough volunteers! If you think you might have an interest in helping children through CASA, let me know. You do not have to be professionally trained, just have a heart for children. CASA staff will give you all the training initially and then hands on experience and God’s guidance will take over.

God Bless!

Mike

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HOPE

HOPE

Webster defines hope: Desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment, to expect with confidence. We often use hope as a wish as oppose to an expectation. “I hope everything comes out alright”.

The word for hope in Hebrew in the Old Testament is closely associated with trust. The Greek word in the New Testament is also associated with trust along with eager expectation.

In Max Lucado’s book: God Came Near, he describes hope as: “Hope is not what you expect, it is what you would never dream. Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It’s a dependence on God who loves you.”

In his book, Hope Again, Charles Swindoll writes: “Hope isn’t merely a nice option that helps us temporarily clear a hurdle. It’s essential to our survival. Hope is a wonderful gift from God, a source of strength and courage in the face of life’s harshest trials. Put simply, when life hurts and dreams fade, nothing helps like hope. Hope plays a vital role in life.”

Mr. Swindoll continues with examples of trials where hope provides strength and courage:

  • When we are trapped in a tunnel of misery, hope points to the light at the end.
  • When we are discouraged, hope lifts our spirits
  • When we struggle with a crippling disease or a lingering illness, hope helps us persevere beyond the pain.
  • When we fear the worst, hope brings reminders that God is still in control.
  • When we must endure the consequences of bad decisions, hope fuels our recovery.
  • When we feel rejected and abandoned, hope reminds us we are not alone…we will make it.
  • When we say our final farewell to someone we love, hope in the life beyond gets us through our grief.

As I thought about his points, the words belief, relationship, trust, and faith kept coming into my mind. In order to have hope, we must believe in God, have a close relationship with him and place total trust and faith in him. But what is the source of hope for people who do not believe in God or have no relationship with him? Their hope is in themselves, other people, natural circumstances in the world, money, other possessions, and technologies like medicine. These play a part in hope but without God behind them, they are without certainty. We experience our own failures, people that we place hope in disappoint us, money and possessions are very uncertain, medicine sometimes fails us. Think about these verses and think about where your hope lies.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you …...to give you hope and a future

Psalm 42:5 - … Put your hope in God

Psalm 62:5 - …. My hope comes from him

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart…

Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope…

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope….

I Timothy 6:17 - …. not to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain but to put their hope in God

Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is being sure of what we hope form and certain of what we do not see.

God and Christ will always endure as our hope!

We all have hopes for a good life, a wonderful marriage, children and hopes for them, and for successful careers and so on, all earthly hopes. What about eternal hopes? Mr. Swindoll asks: “How can we concern ourselves that much over what happens on this temporary planet when we know that it is all leading us to our eternal destination?” The Bible has several verses that give hope for heaven.

I Ephesians 1:18 - … you may know the hope which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance …

Colossians 1:27 - ……which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Titus 2:13 - … While we wait for the blessed hope---the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ ….

Hebrews 6:19 - … We have this hope as an anchor for the soul….

I Peter:3-5 - … he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

I Peter 3:15 - … …Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone that asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Our lives hold hope for things both on earth and in heaven. What if my hope dims or I lose all hope? We all probably know people who have lost hope. Kay’s youngest brother, Brian, did. From an early age he struggled with what we now believe was bipolar. Brian tended to hear a different drummer. In his early twenties he rode a motorcycle from southern California to Memphis in the dead of winter. He was struggling with his way of life and what he thought Christianity demanded of him, so he was not around the family very much. Later, we found out he was an alcoholic, but when he graduated from the AA program things were looking up. He started working for a casino outside Memphis and soon became a highly respected backroom poker dealer for the rich customers. In the fall of 1998, Brian lost hope and took his own life. As we went through his personal things, we found liquor bottles stashed all over the house and learned from his girlfriend that he had a total relapse. She also informed us that he had a serious gambling problem. Brian could not reconcile his Christian up bringing with his failures and the expectation of others, so he lost hope of living the Christian life.

George Weinberg, psychologist, writes: “Hope never abandons you, you abandon it!”

Mr. Swindoll writes: “Two words will help you when you run low on hope: accept and trust. Accept the mystery of hardship, suffering, misfortune, or mistreatment. Don’t try to understand it or explain it. Accept it. Then, deliberately trust God to protect you by his power from this very moment to the drawing of eternity.”

What actions should I peruse if I or someone I know are struggling with hope?

  • Double down on your prayer life.
  • Pray with trust and expectation that God will recue you.
  • Get a prayer partner who will pray with you and for you with the same trust and expectation.
  • Pray with the elders, James 5:16 tells us the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
  • The first answer therapist and counselors give is to seek professional help. That’s good but do not leave out the first four. Choose a Christian counselor!

The premise of God Came Near is that Jesus is always in our lives especially at our greatest times of need, if we look for him. To paraphrase: Jesus does his best work at moments when we face trials. “Just when the truth about life sinks in, his truth starts to surface. He takes us by the hand and dares us not to sweep the facts under the rug but to confront them with him at our side.”

“Funerals, divorces, illnesses, and stays in the hospital-----you can’t lie about life at such times. Maybe that’s why he’s always present at such moments.”

“The next time you find yourself alone in a dark alley facing the undeniables of life, don’t cover them with a blanket, or ignore them with a nervous grin. Don’t turn up, the TV and pretend they aren’t there. Instead, stand still, whisper his name, and listen. He is nearer than you think.”    

Jesus is near so that’s HOPE!

Thanks!

Mike

Next: How can I help someone find hope?

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Relationship with God

 Early in my career a boss gave me his philosophy of keeping a good relationship with his boss: “Whatever my boss thinks is important, I think is important. “ He practiced that faithfully and of course, he was giving me advice as to how to manage a good relationship with him. Another one of his philosophies was: “If your attitude is good, I can forgive mistakes.” I worked hard making sure that I understood what Bill thought was important and maintaining the right attitude.

I thought a lot about these philosophies in terms of my relationship with God. Generally, your boss has control over your future within that company, so you strive to make him/her happy with your performance. It plays a very important part in pay increases, promotions, benefits, etc. So, I worked to keep the boss happy, BUT did I give the same consideration and effort to my relationship with God? He created me, provides blessings, forgives my sins and decides where I will spend eternity which is far more important! Now that I’m older*, I’m pretty sure God did not get the same effort that Bill did. I went to church and went through the motions of being a Christian, looked the part, but did not give whole heart.

Conversations with folks I’ve known:

Q: How’s your relationship with God?

A: Yes, I believe in God.

Q: That’s great but how’s your relationship?

A: Everything is OK, I guess!

Q: Do you pray, read your Bible, go to church and serve Him to grow your relationship?

A: Well, no but I don’t believe you need all that to keep a good relationship with Him. Afterall, He loves me the way I am.

Q: How’s your relationship with God?

A: To be honest it’s not as good as it once was!

Q: You must have moved away because God didn’t move away from you. What happened?

A: Well, I had the following happen________________. I feel like God let me down!

The blank can be filled in with most any struggle in life we are experiencing now or have experienced. All of us have had our struggles, but we should not use those struggles as the excuse for the lack of our relationship with God.

For any relationship to thrive, attention must be paid to it. Typical answer is: “Yes, but we both are trying to move ahead in our careers, we have two kids and they are involved in school, sports and scouts, etc. I’m also involved with Rotary, Lions club (take your choice) and I’m serving people through them. GOD UNDERSTANDS!”

There is absolutely nothing God does not understand but he is a jealous God and expects to be our number one priority. Let’s see, God came in after careers, kids, school, sports, scouts and a civic club at best! He’s probably disappointed with the relationship!

Max Lucado is the author of On The Anvil. He describes the book as thoughts on being shaped into God’s image. He believes that our relationship with God is like a tool’s relationship with the blacksmith. There are several verses in Bible that refer to us as instruments/tools. Acts 9:15, John 15:16 and Romans 6:15. The best one for me is II Timothy 2:21 “… an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to do any good work”

Max writes: “We are all somewhere in the blacksmith’s shop. We are either on the scrap pile, on the anvil, in the Master’s hands or in the tool chest. (Some of us have been in all three.)”

“Anvil time reminds us of who we are and who God is. We should not try to escape it. God sees our life from beginning to end. He may lead us through a storm at thirty so we can endure a hurricane at age sixty. An instrument is useful only if it’s in the right shape. A dull ax or a bent screwdriver needs attention, and so do we. A good blacksmith keeps his tools in shape. So does God. Should God place you on his anvil, be thankful. It means he thinks you’re still worth reshaping.”

How do I know if I’m on the anvil? Read I Peter 1:6-7

I’m paraphrasing here: Time on God’s anvil clarifies and defines God’s evaluation of our relationship with Him. If you feel you are on the anvil, step back and take time to consider why you are there. I believe that much of our relationship with God is about carrying out His business.

*I do not use the term “elderly” to describe myself. Elderly is for those older than me!?!?

When I led Sunday School classes, its success depended on discussion from the class members. I would like for the blog to be as interactive as possible so please share your ideas and comments @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Need prayers for yourself or someone else, let me know. Know anyone that needs a short visit to be encouraged let me know.

Thanks

Mike

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