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. 

 

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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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Short Topics II

I have a favor to request. Last Monday, September 16, I struggled through another stroke. The effects, blurred vision in the right eye, speech more slurred than it is now and inability to call up the words that I wanted to use lasted about six hours then they were gone. Felt about “half a bubble off of plum” for a few more days but now I’m back. First, praise and thank God for my recovery then ask God to bless my health. This was exceedingly difficult for me to write but Sunday Gale Crump told me that I needed to open up and let people pray for me. Thanks for the encouragement Gale!!

Contentment

The Hebrew means simply "to be pleased." The Greek brings out the full force of the word in 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5. Contentment (1 Timothy 6:6) is more inward than satisfaction; the former is a habit or permanent state of mind, the latter has to do with some particular occurrence or object.

Webster’s definition: The state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things the way they are. It seems rare today that people are content with things in life. Career, finances, home, marriage, children, church, just life, in general, there is much to be desired. Our need for more or better tends to drive us. Contentment isn't getting what we want but being satisfied with what we have.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:11 that he had learned to be content no matter what. He uses the word "need," which appears to speak to basic physical needs. He also says, "no matter the circumstances". I believe we can take contentment to every blessing God has made for us. He blesses us with all our needs not necessarily all our wants. It’s good to try to better yourself in life but when your lack of contentment becomes an obsession, you are moving into dangerous territory. Don’t lose focus on what’s important, your relationship with God. Be content and wait on God.

Isaiah 40:31 ESV “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 27:14 ESV “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for

the Lord!”

Complacence

Why look at complacence just after writing about contentment? In his book, On The Anvil, Max Lucado writes that we must be careful not to allow satan to lull us into complacence which is quite different from contentment. Read what Max Lucado writes: “Complacence. Life with no questions. Blind acceptance. No probing. No searching. No yearning. We live in a world plagued by complacence. Complacent to God. Churchgoers pack the pews and sing to the back of someone’s head. Fellowship is lost in formality. One, two, three times a week people pay their dues by walking in the door, enduring a ritual, and walking out. Guilt is appeased. God is insulted. Are we so naïve as to think that he needs our attendance? Are we so ignorant that we put God in a box, thinking he can be taken in and out at our convenience? The most deadly trick of satan is not to rob us of answers. It’s to steal our questions.” We must not become complacent with our relationship with God. It must continually grow through fellowship with one another in worship, our own Bible study and prayer,

Is the Bible a set of rules or are a pattern for living life?

God initially gave the law or “rules” which he set forth in the Old Testament. He saw that people would not be successful keeping His laws. He took away the law with the death of Christ. The New Testament sets forth a guide for living a happy life. The Bible does not promise happiness in every situation.

Some writers believe that the Bible is not God’s “how to book” but rather is about what has been done in the sacrifice of Christ. They write that the Word of God is primarily and essentially about the saving revelation of the divine Word of God. No argument from me but Christ’s life while on earth was all about teaching what a Christian life meant. For me, the Bible outlines a happy life in Christ. Follow Christ’s teachings and life will not be perfect, but it will bring overall success and happiness.

Peer Pressure

Years ago, there was a drug presentation for high school students that addressed the peer pressure kids were under to use drugs. It started off using this thought: "I'm not what I think I am; I'm not what you think I am, but I am what I think you think I am". If you take a moment to think about the statement, you will agree that the statement has a lot of truth in it.

As a kid, I remember the pressure started as a dare: "I dare you to run into the fog of the mosquito truck". If that wasn't enough pressure, then the dreaded "double-dog dare" was put into play. Who could resist the double-dog dare? The pressure from other children was out front and almost never subtle.

As we grew older, the pressure seemed to grow into more severe actions. There was helping your best friend by lying to his parents to keep him out of trouble. Then there was helping that person you so desperately wanted to win as a best friend to cheat on a test. Take a drag off the cigarette to be seen as one of the cool people, drinking that first beer so as not to be a dork and finally a giant slide downward by trying that first drug, most likely marijuana. Hopefully, we became more resistant to peer pressure before hitting bottom.

We tend to think of peer pressure just being for children, but those thoughts fall short of the truth. Adults use more subtle ways, like manipulation to apply peer pressure. Your boss says: "Let's get this account no matter what". You know what “no matter what” means. Your best client has a filthy joke he can't wait to tell you. Do you listen?

I did business with a guy, AP, who was the master of manipulation. AP was highly intelligent using his mastery of the language and implied consent to win. He used words like trepidation instead of concern; incongruous for inconsistent and the master of all time was eleemosynary for charitable. It took me over five minutes to find that one in the dictionary. After demonstrating his mastery of the language, AP had you on the ropes, so he went for the implied consent: "Mike, I'm sure that you agree with me that…" AP's ideas weren't exactly illegal but sometimes shady.

Peer pressure or manipulation is why God wrote I Corinthians 15:33 "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." You can't always avoid bad company, but you can be aware and be ready.

Fear

In the deep, dark recesses of your mind or soul do you have fears and doubts? Something that not even your spouse or closest friends don’t know about? Maybe you think God does not know and believe you have been successful hiding them from him. Rest assured God knows and wants you to come to him in prayer about your fears and doubts. He wants to wrap his arms around you and let you know you are loved.

My father’s sister, Auntie, years ago became convinced that she had committed the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. No one understood what Auntie had done and she could not explain it but to her it was so real that she spent considerable time in the hospital.

I have a friend that deals with anxiety and depression most days. She functions quite well but the anxiety and depression haunt her.

I believe these problems are brought on by the devil. He knows where we are weakest both physically and mentally. II Corinthians 10:4 -“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” We need to have faith that God will help us fight all battles. His arms are there for us.

Song: Do You Know My Jesus? “Who knows your disappointments? Who hears each time you cry? Who understands your heartaches? Who dries then tears from your eyes?”

“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” John Piper

I would like for the writings on the blog to interactive. If you see something in a different light, let me know. Share with me your thinking and why you have that belief. Be nice, kind, and gentle when you share. I may share your feedback on the blog, but I will get your permission first. We can grow by being patient and understanding other's thoughts. This will NOT be a forum for debate. To me, the purpose of a debate is to declare a winner. It's my wish that we help one another in growing our relationship with God!

Send me your thoughts: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thanks

Mike

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Short Topics - I

One Sin Leads to Another

Ever think about how one sin leads to another sin? The first sin leads to a chain of further sinning. It can snowball on us if we are not cautious.

Romans 1:29–32 The New International Version

“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

People become impatient, which leads to anger that leads to saying or doing something that's not becoming of a Christian.

Some have greed for material things or power that leads them to do whatever it takes to get more money for bigger, finer possessions or gain more power. Greed for more possessions or power can lead to stealing, lying, injuring others and possibly even murder. I’m aware of one case that lead to murder.

The first lie often creates the need for a second and third lie to cover up for the first lie. It can lead to believing your lies. Leading a life of lies is headed for troubles. Eventually, it all unravels.

Pride leads us to think more highly of ourselves than we should. When your ego and pride gets out of hand, you lose focus on God, Christ and your family.

Gossip requires at least one partner, so we lead another to sin. It does not matter that you gossip with your wife or husband, it’s still sin! Gossip is vicious a great deal of the time ruining someone's reputation. Yes, I’m sorry to say that I have participated in gossip. If you only listen, you are still participating in gossip!

Not one time was gossip meant to build someone up. It appears that at times gossip is meant to tear someone else down, so that your problems don’t seem so bad. Do you enjoy other’s misery?

I was recently told that a congregation we formerly attended was way off track in certain aspects. The person began to list the wrongful acts she had HEARD the church was engaged in. I informed this person that was not what we experienced when we attended and our friends attending would not be worshipping there under those circumstances. The response, "well, that's what I heard". In this case the gossip hurts the Lord’s church.

There are more sins we could think about that leads to more sinning. The first thing to deal with sin is to admit you have them. I believe I'm in a constant war with satan and fight different battles of temptation all day, every day. If I can fight off the devil on the first temptation, then he may go away for a brief time, but he will be back. He is persistent and never doubt that he wants to win. I ask God to prepare me for the next battle so I will not be an such easy target for satan.

Faith and Trust vs. Worry

Scholars differ on whether the words faith and trust are interchangeable. I believe they are when it comes to God. If you ask God for a blessing then worry about whether he will grant your request, you don't trust God. You probably do not doubt his ability to deliver, but you struggle with accepting his will, if his answer is different than your request. Your faith that God ALWAYS knows what's best for your life is weak.

"Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up." From God's Little Devotional Book

Forgiveness for sin

Some believe that you must confess every single sin you've committed to receive forgiveness. They are using I John 1:9 as the text for their belief. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness". I believe in this verse as well. But what if I commit sin that I don't realize I've committed? This is where grace comes in to cover our sin. God knows your heart! There is no intent to refuse confession on your part.

What about unconfessed sin? I John 1 , says “if” we confess the sin in our lives he will forgive. Psalm 66:18-19 – “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Absolute refusal to confess sin means no forgiveness and Psalm indicates that God will not listen to prayers. Many commentators do not agree with the statements I just made.

Is exceeding the speed limit a sin that I need to confess?

Thorn in the flesh

In 2 Corinthians:7, Paul writes that he has a thorn in the flesh. Scholars have different thoughts on how Paul's thorn manifested itself. I don't believe how the thorn affected Paul is as important as why he had the thorn. The MSG translation says: "Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty!" It's important to know that God allowed the thorn. When Paul prayed for God to remove the thorn, God told Paul three times that "My grace is sufficient." God had a purpose for Paul's thorn.

Do you have a thorn in your flesh? It may not manifest as a physical aliment but as a limitation. You probably do but never thought of it that way. If you do have a thorn or limitation, why is it there and for what purpose? Ask God to help you deal with your thorn and understand it’s purpose. Then let him lead you!

Was it a bad day? Or was it a bad five minutes that you milked all day? From Save the Cowboy

I would like for the writings on the blog to interactive. If you see something in a different light, let me know. Share with me your thinking and why you have that belief. Be nice, kind, and gentle when you share. I may share your feedback on the blog, but I will get your permission first. We can grow by being patient and understanding other's thoughts. This will NOT be a forum for debate. To me, the purpose of a debate is to declare a winner. It's my wish that we help one another in growing our relationship with God!

Send me your thoughts: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thanks

Mike

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Observing Others

I love to observe people. How they dress in quite different fashions in the different environments. The choices of tattoos, piercings, and hairstyles. Their reactions to the circumstances they face. Their interactions with other people. Their driving habits!!!

The airport is one of the best places to observe people. You can see all shapes, sizes, nationalities, styles of dress, etc. Ladies wearing spike heels carrying large purses and carryon bags trying to run to make a flight. Parents are trying to get multiple kids to keep up and stay together. Then their efforts to keep them occupied and happy during the flight. After a Church of God In Christ convocation in Memphis, you saw more large hat boxes trying to be fit in an overhead bin than you can imagine. In Atlanta, you see families flying back in from the Caribbean Islands in tee shirts, shorts and sandals when the outside temperature is 40 degrees. New York has more diversity than any airport as far as nationalities and dress. In Augusta, just after 9/11 a lady in front of me in line was incredibly nervous as they examined our bags. This was her time to fly so that seemed to be the reason for her nerves. Finally, she turned to me and asked if the man going through the luggage was going to hold up her underwear. On the same flight, a middle eastern man wearing a turban was of great interest to everyone. He must have felt awkward. In my mind, I thought about what I would do if he got out of his seat during the flight. On one flight, a lady seated in the same row as me quietly sobbed the entire trip. Had she received sad news about her health, a death in the family, a recent divorce?

Being told your flight has been delayed or canceled really brings out people’s personalities, especially their egos. Some people in airports tend to be tense already, so bad news enhances their frustrations. Their demands and treatment of the airline employees tells you quite a bit about them. These are not some of their proudest moments.

For me, watching people is a way to occupy time and amuse myself. Guess what. We are being observed as well. Many times, it’s not to occupy other people’s time nor supply amusement but to make a note of how we manage our Christian lives. Some are genuinely interested in seeing our example. Others are waiting for the opportunity to be critical because we profess to be Christians but don’t always act like it. The thought that people are watching my example is unnerving.

I can remember three times when people admitted to me that they watched how I managed things. A lady who had recently placed membership at the congregation told me about seeing me in a recent Memphis traffic jam. My heart sank because Memphis traffic jams did not always bring out the best in me. Fortunately, I had allowed another driver to pull in front of me.

When our daughter, Meg, right out of high school, told us she was pregnant; her best friend came to talk with us. Sarah reported that all of Meg’s friends were watching how we handled this news. We asked for an explanation. Sarah explained that some of Meg’s friends thought we might send her off to have Seth or even throw her out of the house. Were we going be loving and supportive parents or abandon our daughter in her greatest time of need was their question? The thoughts of sending her away or throwing her out never crossed our minds.

A few weeks later Kay’s brother committed suicide. A young lady in the congregation wrote us a note. We barely knew this lady, so we were surprised when she handed us a note and walked away. She wrote that her faith had been strengthened because of our faith during these trying times. The note is over 21 years old, and I still carry it in my Bible. I read it on occasion to remind me that people are watching my example.

The purpose of relating these experiences is not to tell you that we did good but illustrate that people watch us and we are unaware! I’m very thankful that on these three occasions, we demonstrated our faith. But what about those times when I did not show my faith? Did I cause someone to stumble in their faith? I’ve written before about two questions that really cause me concern on judgment day: who is a Christian because of you and who is not a Christian because of you?

What does the Bible say about our influence over others?

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

1 Corinthians 8:9 “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”

Romans 14:13 “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

There is not much disagreement on the meanings of I Timothy and Matthew, but I Corinthians and Romans brings out some emotions. People are often uneasy with the thought that they must consider others as they live their lives. Some react strongly with an attitude that they have rights to conduct life as they want. We are very interested in protecting our rights and freedoms.

The following are excerpts from Stephen Altrogge writing Are You A Stumbling Block? What It REALLY Means (It’s Not What You Think) from the blazing center:

“We tell other Christians not to do certain things because they might become a stumbling block to someone else. Or we refrain from doing certain things because we are afraid, we might become a stumbling block.

Let me start by saying what it does not mean. Doing something other people think is wrong does not necessarily make you a stumbling block.

I’m NOT talking about areas not clearly spelled out in scripture. Lying, cheating, slandering, stealing, and sexual immorality are all clearly sin. If you do those things, you’re straight up sinning.

I’m talking about gray areas here.

Paul clearly addresses the idea of being a stumbling block in 1 Corinthians 8. The issue at hand is food offered to idols. The Corinthians, with their “superior” knowledge, knew that idols were not the true God. This knowledge led them to insist that it was perfectly fine for them to eat food offered to idols.

Paul, however, was concerned for those who had been saved out of idol worship. For these people, eating food offered to idols was akin to idol worship itself. They closely associate eating food offered to idols with worshiping the idols themselves.

This is the issue at the heart of the stumbling block issue. It’s all about other believers. It’s NOT about what people will think about me. If I do something that’s clearly not a sin, and a self-righteous person judges me for it, I’m not being a stumbling block to them.

Let me put a modern-day spin on it. Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s wrong to smoke cigars (within reason, attending to all the appropriate health concerns, making sure you don’t get addicted, etc.)

You, however, are convinced that smoking cigars is wrong. Maybe it’s due to your family history. Maybe you were brought up within a certain church tradition in which you were taught that smoking cigars is categorically wrong.

But no matter how much you search the Bible, you’re not going to find anything about cigars (or any kind of smoking, for that matter). It’s simply not there.

Do I have to stop all cigar smoking because I know you think I am doing something wrong? No. Scripture doesn’t forbid smoking cigars. My liberty in Christ is not restricted simply by what other people might think of me. If my behavior causes you to judge me, that’s not creating a stumbling block. That’s something you need to deal with before the Lord.

But (and this is really important), if I smoke a cigar around you and that, in turn, leads you to smoke a cigar even though you think it is sin, then I have become a stumbling block. My liberty in Christ has actually encouraged you to sin against your conscience. When our “rights” lead others to act against their consciences we have become stumbling blocks.

This fits perfectly in line with the commands of Jesus. He calls me to love others more than I love myself. To lay down my life for my brothers and sisters in Christ. To die to my own preferences.

And so, love for my brothers in Christ guides and restrains my liberty in Christ.

If smoking a cigar or watching a movie or listening to an album or reading a book will lead you to violate your conscience, then I will cheerfully give up that right when I am with you. Love always triumphs over liberty. Unity always triumphs over personal rights.

If I adamantly insist that I have every right to do something, even if it causes you to sin, I’m laying a stumbling block before you. I am prizing my rights in Christ more than your relationship with the Lord. This isn’t pleasing to God in any sense.

We are free to enjoy whatever scripture does not forbid. If a person thinks we’re wrong, so what? However, our freedom must always be wrapped in concern and care for others. If our freedom actually leads someone else to violate their conscience, then we have become a stumbling block.

So, let’s eat and drink and not eat and drink for the glory of God.”

The example Stephen chose was cigar smoking. He closed with “let’s eat and drink” so I’m going to expand to alcoholic beverages. Years ago, when I taught junior high and senior high school, the kids were always interested in a discussion about drinking beer. My first point was, I cannot direct you to a verse in the Bible that states, “Thou shall not partake of alcohol!” However, I can take you verses about drunkenness. Here are a few: I Peter 4:3, Ephesians 5:18, Romans 13:13 and Galatians 5:19-24. Drunkenness is created by drinking alcohol to excess.

Some verses point to drinking wine. I Timothy 5:23: "Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." It’s obvious that Timothy had a stomach problem, so Paul instructed him to use a little wine to help the problem. In I Timothy 3:8, one of the qualifications of a deacon is that he is not given to much wine. Some have written that the wine referred to in the Bible does not contain alcohol. If that be the case, why caution about the amount of wine that is consumed? I do believe that the wine referred to is alcohol.

Is drinking an alcoholic beverage a sin? Having an alcoholic beverage in the privacy of your home, I do not believe it is a sin. A couple of cautions: 1.) Everyone’s body reacts differently to alcohol so make sure you do not drink to excess; 2.) Teach your children and grandchildren about the use of alcohol.

What about drinking in front of others? If you can drink alcohol in front of family, friends, and others without causing them to stumble, that’s fine. My caution here is that although you may not cause the other person to drink to excess, what about your Christian influence. If I lose my Christian influence with another person because of drinking alcohol, I believe I must refrain. For me I Corinthians 10:23-24 covers that: “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” I believe God’s expectations of us are to think about others first.

You matter in this world. If you didn’t, God would have never put you here. You matter to other people, and they are observing you every day. Your children watch to see how Mom and Dad handle themselves because you are their model. The people you work with see how you handle hardship, what kind of jokes you tell, and especially your relationship with God. Other parents at sporting events watch your reactions to unfavorable calls or plays. You are being observed even though you may think otherwise. Yes, you have the right to live your life any way you want but be prayerful that you do not negatively affect people. You matter so much that God has entrusted other people to your influence. Let’s not disappoint God!

Thanks

Mike

Excerpts from Stephen Altrogge used by permission. His entire article can be read at https://theblazingcenter.com/2018/08/stumbling-block.html

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Hands

 

The following was in on my Facebook page this morning thanks to my neighbor, Jim Staiger. It’s a great read!

Mike

This is good. I'll never look at my hands the same! Grandpa, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. He didn't move, just sat with his head down staring at his hands. When I sat down beside him he didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat, I wondered if he was OK. Finally, not really wanting to disturb him but wanting to check on him at the same time, I asked him if he was OK. He raised his head and looked at me and smiled. "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you for asking," he said in a clear strong voice. "I didn't mean to disturb you, Grandpa, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK," I explained to him. "Have you ever looked at your hands," he asked. "I mean really looked at your hands?" I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point he was making. Grandpa smiled and related this story: "Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled, and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse and walked my daughter down the aisle. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day, when not much of anything else of me works real well, these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer. These hands are the mark of where I've been and the ruggedness of my life. But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ." I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my grandpa's hands and led him home. When my hands are hurt or sore I think of Grandpa. I know he has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God. I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel His hands upon my face. When you receive this, say a prayer for the person who sent it to you and watch God's answer to prayer work in your life. Let's continue praying for one another Passing this on to anyone you consider a friend will bless you both. Passing this on to one not considered a friend is something Christ would have done.

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The Suffering of Christ

 

This past fall, we spent a few days with friends from Memphis. Sharon asked if I thought about death much. I believe most people of our age think about death more than we ever have. Although I don’t look forward to leaving my family, I do have the comfort of believing what the future holds. That’s why each morning as I pray, I give many thanks for Christ’s suffering for me. The different ways and the degree to which he suffered give a much better appreciation of just what he did for me. I wish my writing could do the justice to Christ’s suffering that’s warranted. If you are reading this article, put everything else out your mind and concentrate on how much Christ suffered for you. This is a paraphrase of what a speaker once said: “If you were the only sinner in this world, Christ would have still endured the same terrible death for you alone!” As I’m writing this, I’m struggling with getting the order of events correct so I finally decided the order of his torture is not as important as our understanding of how much he suffered.

We don’t know for how long his abuse and death had weighed on Jesus’ mind but it’s clear that before Judas led the soldiers to him that his mental anguish started. As he instituted the Lord’s supper, he revealed to his apostles that he was about to be betrayed. After they took the supper, he led his apostles, except for Judas, to the garden. He took Peter, Andrew and John deeper into the garden with him. Matthew records that “he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” He admitted to the three apostles, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus fell face first to the ground and prayed that God delivers him from the torture and crucifixion. Did he fall face first out of his respect for God or his grief? Maybe, both. He prayed three times for God to spare him from the anguish and pain that were coming. Christ knew he was not only facing a cruel death but extreme abuse during the final six hours of his life. It’s recorded that his sweat became as great drops of blood. This phenomenon is called Hematidrosis, or bloody sweat is well documented. Under great emotional stress of the kind Christ suffered, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood and sweat. This process might well have produced great weakness and possible shock. Luke records that God sent an angel to strengthen Jesus.

Christ already knew his betrayer. Judas had been with Christ from the beginning of the apostles. He had heard Jesus’ teaching and seen the miracles he performed. Jesus even kneeled in front of Judas and washed his feet. Now Judas stood with him face to face and betrayed him with a kiss. What an emotional disappointment for Jesus! He was bound like a common criminal then led off for the trials and the abuse to begin.

The mental distress continued while Jesus waited in the courtyard of the high priest. His guards began to mock him. The physical pain started as the guards began to beat him. They hit with their fists and whips or flogs. The whips were made with pieces of bone and metal tied in the leather to make sure his flesh was torn. Most likely, Jesus was tied to a post where his back was exposed for the beating. Jewish law set the number of blows at 39 but the Romans had no such law, so we don’t know exactly how many blows he took. Many historians believe it was at least 39. During all this abuse, they added insult by spitting in Christ’s face. There is not much that would make me angrier than spitting in my face. It’s during this time in that courtyard that Peter denied three times he knew Christ. Although Jesus predicted Peter’s denial, it must have hurt emotionally.

The soldiers took Jesus away from Pilate to the Praetorium, where more soldiers continued to abuse him. It was here they placed a crown of thorns on his head. The crown was another way to mock Jesus’ sovereignty. The scholars disagree as to the number of thorns in the crown. Some say it makes absolutely no difference. Some writers say that the tradition in those times there were seventy-two thorns. If you’ve ever worked with bushes that have thorns, you can understand how much thorns hurt. The soldiers continued beating Jesus, especially on the head which drove the crown of thorns further into his scalp. They placed a scarlet robe on him and a staff in his hand to continue mocking him and spitting on him.

Not all the commentators agree that the following verses were written about Jesus, but, I think they were. The gospels did not report the severity of the beating Christ took but Isaiah 60:6 reports the following: "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting."

Isaiah 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--"

The words in Isaiah paint a very vivid picture of Christ’s suffering! The soldiers beat him so badly that his face was disfigured. It’s hard to imagine the pain endured from pulling his beard out.

John records that Jesus initially carried his own cross before they forced Simon to take it. It’s believed the cross was about 15 feet long and weighed 300 pounds. Some historians believe Jesus was carrying the crossbar of the cross (called a patibulum) across his shoulders. The crossbar probably weighed between 80 to 110 pounds. Either one was a huge load for a man who has been so severely beaten and lost so much blood. He was forced to walk 2.5 miles according to one historian, but others say just 695 yards before Simon took over. Some theorize that he may have fallen while going down the steps of the Antonio Fortress and it was then they pressed Simon to take over the carrying of the cross.

The historians differ on the size of the nails and the location on the body. The length was anywhere from 5 inches to 9 inches and about 3/8 of an inch in diameter. Medical historians believe the nails were driven between the two bones in the wrist while others stick to the palm of the hand. In ancient terminology the wrist was considered part of the hand. Some writers believe a nail was placed in each foot while others believe the feet overlapped and one nail was used. There are records of the nails being hammered through the heels. Regardless of the size and the placement of the nails, the pain must have been excruciating. After Jesus was nailed to the cross, the soldiers pushed it into the hole. It probably bounced around until it finally settled in the hole. The bouncing would have caused extreme anguish by tearing the flesh.

Some believe that death by crucifixion is the most painful death ever invented. It was used for the worst of the worst criminals. It was a horribly slow way to die. Psalm 22:14-15 tells us how bad Jesus’ physical shape was: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death." A potsherd is a broken piece of ceramic material, especially one found on an archaeological site. Jesus had no strength to deal with his pain.

When the cross was erected upright, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms, and shoulders, resulting in a dislocation of the shoulder and elbow joints. The arms, being held up and outward, held the rib cage in a fixed position which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. The sagging of his body made breathing extremely hard so he would try to push upwards with his legs to expand his diaphragm and catch a full breath. Jesus would only be able to take very shallow breaths. This may explain why Jesus made very short statements while on the cross. As time passed, the muscles, from the loss of blood, insufficient oxygen, and the fixed position of the body, would undergo severe cramps and spasmodic contractions. Eventually, fluid builds up in the lungs; the heart is stressed and eventually fails, ending Jesus’ life.

The scripture tell us that when the soldiers came to break Jesus legs to hasten his death, they found that he was already dead. They speared his side bringing out blood and water. Medical writers believe the spear was thrust into Jesus’s heart from the right side to insure death.

Having suffered severe blood losses from his numerous beatings and thus in a dehydrated state, Jesus, in one of his final statements, said: "I thirst." He was offered two drinks on the cross. The first, which he refused, was a drugged wine (mixed with myrrh). He chose to face death without a clouded mind.

Dr. Terasaka writes, "It was a merciful Jewish practice to give to those led to execution a draught of strong wine mixed with myrrh so as to deaden consciousness. The draught was offered to Jesus when He reached Golgotha. But having tasted it...He would not drink it.....He would meet Death, even in his sternest and fiercest mood, and conquer by submitting to the full..... The second drink, which He accepts moments before His death, is described as a wine vinegar.”

Isaiah 59:22: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” It seems as though as our sins fell on Jesus that God turned his face from Jesus, creating Jesus’ feelings of being forsaken. His feeling of being forsaken adds to the cruelty of the entire event for me.

Several verses in the Bible let us know that God has emotions. God watched the final six hours of his son’s life, causing him anguish. To hear your son ask why you forsook him must have broken his heart. It would have mine.

I Peter 3:15 tells us always to be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have. Most writers say that our hope comes from the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. I say that Christ’s extreme suffering, death, burial, and resurrection is my hope!

Enduring the savage treatment Christ received is almost unthinkable. He suffered all this for our sins. Be grateful!

I use to play a game with my children when they were young. I asked them how much I loved them placing my hands a foot apart and they said “No”. I continued moving my hands asking “this much” until they were as far out as I could reach before they finally said “Yes”. For Father’s day one year they gave a framed calligraphy which reads;

I asked Jesus

How much do

You love me?

And Jesus said

“this much”

and He stretched

out his arms

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In The Grip Of Grace

In an earlier article, we looked at the fact that God’s grace saves us. Now I want to look at grace from a different angle. As I research the internet, many religious leaders have passed their judgments on who receives God’s grace. On FaceBook, people do not just share their religious beliefs but pass harsh judgments on others for their beliefs. It seems as if some people view themselves as God’s advisors on granting grace. He is capable without our assistance.

How far does God’s grace reach? Some people believe it stretches far enough to cover themselves, families, and friends. They are not so sure who else it may stretch to cover but feel pretty comfortable that they personally are under the canopy of grace. They are not as willing to share God’s grace with others as much as I believe he is. Maybe, just maybe it covers you and me if we believe as they do.

I attended church several years ago with a man who I’ll describe as the ultimate legalist. I was using Max Lucado material in my classes to which he objected. Lucado taught too much error, according to Aubrey. Aubrey was a believer in using Johnson’s and Clarke’s commentaries as his reference material. I asked him if he ever thought these men might be wrong in their beliefs and interpretations of the Bible. The answer was, “yes.” My question to, Aubrey: “why would grace extend to Mr. Johnson and Mr. Clarke and not to Max Lucado?”

After a mission trip to Mexico, I told the class about the way the church there served communion. The leader handed the servers the bread, then prayed. Next, the cups were handed to the servers, and once again, the leader prayed before both the emblems were passed to the congregation at the same time. Aubrey said this was wrong and further explained that the church in Mexico should adopt the manner we used. The correct manner was to pray for the bread pass it to the congregation and then pray for the juice and pass it. He stated that the church in Mexico was in error.

After Aubrey’s comment on communion, we read Luke’s account of the last supper. Luke reports that Christ took the cup first and the bread second. Is God concerned with the order we pass the emblems or the condition of our hearts as we partake? He’s looking for praise and thankfulness for the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and his blood. I don’t believe he is disappointed by the order.

Aubrey was a good man, kind, a strong Christian in his convictions, but his reply to how far does God’s grace reach was, “not that far.” He tended to be selfish with God’s grace.

In The Grip Of Grace, Max Lucado writes about the conversion of Jefferey Dahmer. Mr. Dahmer was a vile human being if you can call him a human being. He was convicted of killing seventeen men and boys even cannibalizing some of his victims. Mr. Dahmer found God in prison, put his faith in Christ, and was baptized. Does God’s grace cover Jeffrey Dahmer? Max writes: “Our response? (Dare we say it?) We cross our arms and furrow our brows and say, God, won’t let you off that easy. Not after what you did. God is kind, but he’s no wimp. Grace is for the average sinners like me, not deviants like you.”

Paul writes to the church Rome about the wickedness of man. These wicked people knew God but had no relationship with him. Paul then, in Romans 2:1 cautions the church about passing judgment on others because they too are guilty of some of the same sins. Max says the church in Rome is “filtering God’s grace with their own opinion.” They are “diluting God’s mercy with their prejudice.” Max points out the prodigal son’s brother refused to attend his brother’s feast to celebrate his return. The attitude of the ten-hour worker was selfishness because the one-hour worker got the same wage. Judgment was passed on God’s grace by these two men. They decided that prodigal son and the one-hour worker were not worthy of God’s grace. None of us are that’s why it’s called grace.

Max writes: “The keyword here is judges. It’s one thing to have an opinion. It’s quite another to pass a verdict. It’s one thing to have a conviction; it’s another to convict the person. It’s one thing to be repulsed at the acts of Jeffrey Dahmer (and I am.) It’s another to entirely claim that I am superior (I’m not) or that he is beyond the grace of God (no one is.)”

I believe that baptism is essential to our salvation. A lady I worked with several years ago asked me about my religious beliefs. A brief version of what I told her is: God is the father, Jesus is his son and the only way to God, baptism is essential and commitment to serve God. Her reaction was: “you just told me that I’m going to hell because I’m not baptized.” My reply: “ NO! you asked me what I believed, and I told you. God is the only one that can decide where you spend eternity!” He alone decides how far his grace reaches.

When I was about 8 or 9 one of the elders’ sons, Derry, age 16, decided to be baptized. There was a complication. Derry was deathly afraid of water. Our baptistry held way too much water for Derry. One evening Derry’s father called all the other elders to his home to witness Derry’s baptism in their bathtub. Many people in the congregation did not accept Derry’s baptism because there was certainly no way his dad got his entire body under the water in a bathtub! The baptism was, therefore, not scriptural, and grace would not extend to Derry according to the legalist. I tell the story because of the impression it left on me. If one of Derry’s toes did not make it all the way under was there a problem? Is God that legalistic with his grace? If he is, then I wanted to make sure Brother James got every square inch of my body pushed under the water when he baptized me.

Baptism has much to do with the condition of the heart. The water holds no spiritual magic. The words pronounced before the immersion have no saving grace. Even the person performing the baptism holds no power of grace. My obedience to God in the act of baptism and my commitment to serve him invite his grace into my life. He alone decides about my grace! No one else holds that right!

I don’t know how far God’s grace extends, so I’m unwilling to make a judgment about what’s not mine to give. We need to teach about Jesus and his saving grace. Share with them our beliefs in love and let them reach their own decision to be a Christian. If God is unwilling to shove his grace down someone’s throat, then I am not willing. The Bible teaches us that when a brother strays to restore one another with gentleness, not with harsh judgment.

Be bold in telling the story of Jesus and him crucified for our sins, not in making a judgment. Study the Bible with them to help them grow their relationship with God and Christ! Let God decide on grace!

When we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised at some of the folks we see. And some of them will be surprised when they see us. Max Lucado

God Bless You!

Thanks!

Mike

In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado – Published by Word Publishing – Used with permission

His Grace Reaches Me

Deeper than the ocean and wider than the sea,

Is the grace of the Savior for sinners like me;

Sent from the Father and it thrills my soul,

Just to feel and to know

That His blood makes me whole.

Higher than the mountains and brighter than the sun,

It was offered at Calvary for everyone;

Greatest of treasures and it's mine today,

Though my sins were as scarlet,

He has washed them away.

Chorus:

His grace reaches me

And 'twill last thru eternity;

Now I'm under His control

And I'm happy in my soul,

Just to know that His grace reaches me.

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What Do You Get Out of Being a Christian?

I’ve written before about this young man, JD; I worked with through CASA. We met three years ago this month. He was brought to Murfreesboro from a lockdown facility to meet with his family. He was in leg irons. The DCS worker apologized for the leg irons, but JD had run on him several times.

In January 2017, JD and three friends were trying to buy drugs from two dealers. His story is that all six people involved were carrying guns. The two drug dealers pulled their guns first and fired on him and his friends. The result was one drug dealer killed by a shot to the head and the other one wounded in the leg. JD found himself in adult jail at age 17 charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and three other related felonies. When I asked his former attorney if the State would seek the death penalty, he gave me a frustrated look. His answer “not for killing a drug dealer.” JD has celebrated two birthdays in jail, fought off at least two attempted rapes, contemplated and tried suicide, and spent many days in solitary for bad behavior. About a month ago, the family of the man killed sent word to JD that as soon as he went to prison, they would have him killed.

During our visit last week, he had great news. The ballistics report had finally come back, and the bullets that killed the drug dealer did not come from JD’s gun. The dealer’s “homeboy” killed him. JD believes he’s going home soon. I did not have the heart to ask about the other charges which will probably stick. One of his charge partners relayed all this information to him. Why didn’t this news come from JD’s attorney? He asked me to put money in his phone account so that he could call his parents and his attorney. He claims his parents have not come for a visit since he’s been in jail. He only talks with them by phone when he has money in his phone account. They seem to have never put any money into his account.

From conversations with former inmates who now have a prison ministry, I’m suspicious that JD has found another way to ask for money for his phone account. The inmates pick up many additional bad habits in jail. They develop an attitude about “what’s in it for me.” His attorney has not answered my email, asking him to verify JD’s claims about the ballistics report. It may be a violation of attorney/client privileges.

When I left JD last week, he wanted assurance that I would visit him again. Two days later, one of his fellow inmates called me to let me know JD was in solitary. JD owed this guy money and requested that I put money in his commissary account to repay him. A scam? My prayers, visits, and encouragement in letters seem to have no effect. I talked to JD bout one of the ladies at church corresponding with him. She has a history of successfully working with inmates. He promised to respond. He never did! I’ve contemplated several times to stop writing and visiting JD. Are my contemplations the devil’s work? I just cannot seem to walk away from him!

How do I get JD to understand what being a Christian would do for him? At times, I believe we give people the wrong idea. “If you become a Christian, everything will be fine!” If he does build a relationship with God and Christ, he will still be in jail, celebrate more birthdays there, he’ll have to fight off rapists, and maybe he’ll contemplate and try suicide again, or maybe drug dealer’s family will still try to have him killed. Remember his attitude of “what’s in it for me” if I become a Christian? My simple answer is forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood, which means eternal life with God and Jesus. This requires faith! Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen according to Hebrews 11:1. Salvation is intangible, so there is nothing you can see or hold JD! There are many other advantages, but you must have faith! Bible study can help increase your faith.

JD has told me that he believes there is a God, but I have doubts that he has ever studied the Bible before jail. He says he attends a Bible study every week. The letters that I’ve sent have included Bible verses as an encouragement. The jail does not allow inmates to have the original letter. The inmates view it on a kiosk screen. There is a limit on how many pages the jailers will copy, but no one seems to know the magic number. It appears to be up to the jailer's discretion at the time. I’ve decided on my next visit to ask what he’s learned from his Bible study.

How would you answer the question? What Do You Get Out of Being a Christian? I decided to put this question into a search engine on the internet. The answers were very wide and some far fetched to me. Some listed the disadvantages as well. One article claimed that a gentleman in the late 1800s received the Holy Spirit and produced over 100,000 healings as a result.

I had planned to list several advantages for your consideration but changed my plans. I would like your input. I want to send a series of short “letters” to JD with the advantages you feel you received from being a Christian. Hopefully, knowing people responded just for him will encourage him. If I can use your name, that will add to the effect. If you prefer to be anonymous, that’s OK but at least let me use your initials. Please send me an email with your greatest advantage or advantages. I will print it and mail it right away. Your email address will not appear in the “letter” sent to him. Your email address will never be used again and will be deleted after I use it. If you prefer, send a note to my attention to Southside Church of Christ, 108 NARROWS ROAD, SHELBYVILLE TN 37160

A few weeks ago, I published an article on Boldness. I see this as an opportunity to be bold and affect a young man’s life. Please, please respond! What does JD need most? People who will influence him to have a close, loving, and obedient relationship with God!

Please pray for JD!!

Thanks!

Mike Clement

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Obstacles and Challenges to My Faith

Satan is ever present in our lives. Satan, the devil, the evil one, Beelzebub, Lucifer, or whatever you want to call him is at the root of all obstacles to our faith. He never takes a day off. Many times, it feels like he is working overtime on me. Sometimes he comes at us head-on, at times he sneaks into our minds and often he uses other people to do his work. He pleads his case by saying go ahead and sin, after all, it’s fun and makes us feel good. Unbelievers test our faith by insisting if there is a God, why does he let bad things happen to those who believe in him. Even believers create doubts when they maintain that some teachings in the Bible are outdated and do not apply to modern society. Satan’s sole desire is to come between God and us to drag us down to hell with him. The devil knows that being a committed Christian is often a struggle, and he uses those times to do much of his work. That’s why he spends so much time and energy on us. His disciples and those that do not want a relationship with God do not take much of his effort. He already has them headed down the road to hell. Romans 7:21, “So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good.”

Living a Christian life is sometimes complicated, and God understands that. Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The mind of God and his ways are sometimes mysterious to me. Understanding God’s mind and his ways are not necessary; all that’s needed is faith. We need to put our hearts in his hands and fully trust that he knows best. He always got our backs.

If a Christian life is what God wants for us, then why does he allow the devil to work against us? Testing us is a means of increasing our faith. 1 Peter 1:6-7 “… for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kind of trails. These come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” You may be thinking, “but, He is God and could have chosen an easier way to grow our faith.” The only explanation I can offer you is Isaiah 55, 1 Peter 1, and Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." FAITH!

Ever had doubts whether God really loves you? I’m in so much pain from this disease, my marriage is so unhappy, my children cause so much stress and disappointment, I have such a difficult time at work, bills keep mounting up, these drugs and alcohol are controlling my life. I live in anxiety, depression, and extreme frustration. Some people struggle with the permanence of a commitment to a wife, children, a job, and other relationships in their lives. They see these commitments as an obligation they must deal with every day. The relationship with God carries a heavy burden for them and they grow weary of what they see as the constant pressures of being a Christian. Satan throws obstacles in front of each of us without exception. No one is exempt. The person sitting on the same row as you, in front of you and behind you at church struggles with obstacles. Even the man standing in the pulpit faces his struggles. Satan is after everyone! The devil is at work, causing your doubts.

God never promises a painless, trouble-free life. He does promise in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you”; “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31: 8, The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” FAITH will discourage and defeat Satan temporality. Remember, he will keep coming after you with some obstacle to your faith. Luke 4 records the temptation of Christ. Versed 13 says: “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Satan returned in various ways through the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Satan filled people who challenged Christ. One commentator writes: “No matter how badly mauled Satan is, or however strongly he's opposed, he won't admit defeat and insists he can yet find a way to defeat us.”

The following are excerpts from an article written by Matt Nelson on the website Word on Fire.

“Remember: If our faith is weak, it may not be obvious when life is going smoothly, and we aren’t challenged in any way. But when hard times come, a weak faith will be revealed for what it really is: shallow and unable to help us through life’s difficulties. It may be anything: an unexpected illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of our job, or even a friend who turns against us. But when hard times happen, the true nature of our faith will be revealed.

None of us likes to go through hard times (and God isn’t necessarily behind them, even if He does allow them). But God can use them to show us our weaknesses. And when that happens, we need to ask God to help our faith grow. Testing should make us spiritually stronger — and it will as we turn it over to God. The Bible says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials … so that you may be mature and complete” (James 1:2, 4).

Christianity is hard because it aims to soften hearts. One of the tough facts of Christianity is that we must face up to the fact that we are fallen. We are often not what we ought to be. G.K. Chesterton writes: “One of the chief uses of religion is that it makes us remember our coming from darkness, the simple fact that we are created” (from The Boston Sunday Post).

What makes Christianity hard is that it reminds us of our imperfections. We are much too prideful to enjoy such a thing—and this, I fear, is where the skeptic checks out. The skeptic robs himself of the opportunity to encounter the Good News. Chesterton famously remarked: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” (Chapter 5, What’s Wrong with the World).

A Christian who thinks he can be a saint without suffering in this world is mistaken. This begs the question: “Who would choose such an unhappy life?” In God in the Dock, the former atheist C.S. Lewis responded to this question by remarking: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

It is true that Christianity does not exist to make us happy. But it does exist to make us joyful. Peter Kreeft, who some believe is the “C.S. Lewis of our times,” makes the following distinction: “Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart” (from Joy).

The Gospel is an invitation to life everlasting from the Everlasting Man—and with life everlasting comes joy everlasting. Christ promises us that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Even though I lay a great deal of the blame at the devil’s feet for the obstacles and struggles we face, we must be complicit with him for him to succeed to hinder us in our relationship with God. God allows the devil to throw the obstacles in our way. But God does restrict the devil: 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There isn't any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape”.

Satan is an opportunist and unfortunately a very good one. He knows where we are weakest and when he sees an opportunity, he jumps at the chance. We are in a war for our souls! What do I do about the obstacles and struggles that Satan puts in my way?

Study: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." Whatever your struggle, read the Scriptures that will help you get through this episode.

Pray: 1 Thessalonians 5:17 encourages us to pray without ceasing. In the different versions pray without ceasing, pray constantly, pray without stopping, pray continually are used. We obviously cannot pray 24/7, but we can have the attitude of prayer in our hearts and minds. Ask God to prepare you to fight Satan. When Satan throws up an obstacle, ask God for help finding the escape.

Surround yourself with Christians: 1Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Col 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” In times of weakness, we need to be able to lean on one another.

Get a prayer partner: I’m not writing from personal experience, but I’m praying about this. James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." I will confess to you all day long that I’m a sinner, but admitting what my sins are is a real problem. A prayer partner will provide encouragement knowing that someone is offering up a prayer for you when you struggle. I’ve never known anyone who has a prayer partner. If you have one now or have ever had one, please let me know about your experience.

Stop and realize what’s happening! In a previous paragraph, I wrote that for Satan to be effective that we must be complicit. If you have a struggle with alcohol, then do not put yourself in a position where Satan can work against you. That goes for every possible struggle whatever it may be. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 “Keep away from every kind of evil.”

As I look at our struggles and obstacles, we have two choices: fight Satan or give in to him. Often people grow weary with struggling against Satan. In his book “On the Anvil”, Max Lucado writes about former New York Supreme Court Judge name Joseph Crater who grew weary and disappeared one night. “Weariness is tough. I don’t mean the physical weariness that comes with mowing the lawn or the mental weariness that follows a hard day of decisions and thinking. No, the weariness that attacked Judge Carter is much worse. It’s the weariness just before you give up. The feeling of honest desperation. It’s the dispirited father, the abandoned child, or the retiree with time on his hands. It’s the stage in life when motivation disappears; the children grow up; a job lost; a wife dies. The result is weariness---deep, lonely, frustrated weariness.

Only one man in history has claimed to have an answer for it. He stands before all the Joseph Carters of the world with the same promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary… and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.”

Make a choice. One leads to an eternal life with God who loves us and the other leads to eternal life with satan who cares nothing about us.

If I can pray for you, send me an email. You do not have to provide the particulars. Just ask for prayers. It’s between you and me! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The elders at Southside would love the opportunity to pray with you and for you. Contact them and I guarantee you will have five men who will pray about your obstacles and struggles. During my health struggles, they have always prayed for me. James 5:16: “When a righteous person prays, that prayer carries great power.”

Thanks!

Matt Nelson thoughts printed by permission.

On the Anvil by Max Lucado – Tyndale House Publishing – 1985 – Used with permission

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BOLDNESS

There are several scriptures in the Bible, directing us to be bold in teaching the Word and influencing others for God. There are also references to boldness in approaching God in prayer.

Acts 4:31 Peter and John were released from the Sanhedrin council, prayed and then were filled with the Holy Spirit. They spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 28:31 “Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

2 Corinthians 3:12 “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are bold.”

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.”

Hebrews 4:16 “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Ephesians 3:12 “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” NIV

Ephesians 3:12 “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” NKJV

Thayer's Greek Lexicon gives the Greek word for bold as ̓parrhēsia and defines it:

1) freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech: 1a) openly, frankly, i.e., without concealment; 1b) without ambiguity or circumlocution; 2) free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.

Boldness, which literally means "freedom from timidity" or "liberty" according to Webster's 1828 dictionary, is a basic character trait every Christian should possess.

One commentator believes that the boldness spoken of in Hebrews 4 is approaching God with respect, but the boldness comes in by demanding he fulfill his promises. He writes that we should remind God of his promises, even quoting the scriptures to him. That stretches boldness too far for my comfort. Be bold in asking for God’s mercy and grace is what I get from Hebrews. Rick Renner writes that we should pray with boldness and confidence. He uses the NKJV. Being confident that God listens to us and making demands is very different

James 4:2-3 tells us that we do not receive because we do not ask, and we ask for the wrong motives. I believe we can be bold by asking God for anything, but we must have the right heart.

Boldness is an absolute necessity for us to be able to accomplish the things that God expects of us. It is needed when we attempt to teach about God and Jesus. It is necessary when we are going to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves.

Boldness about God and Christ is not an in your face attitude. Boldness is not rudeness by condemning others to hell to get their attention. That is self-righteousness thinking that you have the responsibility to judge others. That kind of “boldness” turns people away from what you have to say about God and Jesus.

You may be timid, shy, and awkward in social situations. Maybe you don't mix well in groups and are not outgoing. You are not the first to approach someone you don’t know. 2 Corinthians says because we have hope through Jesus, we can be bold when teaching about Him. 2 Timothy tells us that God did not give us timidity but power, love, and self-discipline when teaching about Jesus.

These verses do not mean that you must start walking up to everyone and telling them about Jesus. You do not have to shout from the mountain top about Jesus. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us always to be prepared to give people the reason for our hope. I believe God will provide opportunities to tell about our hope through Jesus, and we must be ready and be bold to explain our hope. Yes, you must overcome your timidity, shyness, awkwardness, and especially fear of rejection when serving God. Some people will not want to hear what you have to say. Always keep in your mind that Jesus was not timid as he suffered for you! Surely, we can suffer through some discomfort and uneasiness considering what he suffered.

Recent experiences with bold people:

I was buying a product in a retail store and needed some information about it. After apologizing for my speech, I asked my question, and the clerk answered it. She then wanted to know what happened to my speech. When she found out it was due to a stroke, she told me about her aunt, who was a stroke survivor. Her name was Brenda and wanted to know if it would be Ok to pray for me. She asked for my name. I told her “Mike, no not Mac so I spelled M I K E.” People often hear “Mac” when I pronounce my name. Many times, I just let it go, but if she is going to pray for me, I want to make she has the correct name! I said “sure” thinking she meant in her private prayers. Brenda began praying for me right at the checkout counter. Although somewhat taken back, I appreciated her boldness. She cares about God and his people.

I was standing outside the courtroom one morning talking with the father of one of my CASA boys. The boy had just been told that he had one more chance. This time he was going to a lockdown facility for boys. The next appearance before the judge for any violation would send him to prison. A lady interrupted our conversation. She wanted to know if he was just up in front of the judge with his son. I was aggravated at the interruption. The father said “yes,” then she asked for permission to pray for both the boy and the father. He gave her permission, and she immediately prayed. My aggravation left me, and I appreciated her boldness.

These two ladies did not ask about our religious beliefs nor ask for us to study the Bible with them but demonstrated that they are believers. Is this the kind of boldness that the Bible speaks about? I believe that it is a form of boldness. The apostles were bold in preaching about Christ. We all do not have that talent, but we can be bold in other means by demonstrating that we are believers. You might not be comfortable praying for someone in at the checkout counter or outside of court but letting them know they will be in your prayers does take boldness for some people.

I’m working on my boldness. When people ask about my speech, I tell them about the stroke. My speech was worse than it is now, I had no control over my right side, very little fine motor skills, could not walk, could not swallow anything but liquids, etc. I could have died or been an invalid, but God rescued me. I want them to know that God really blessed me! For me, this being bold.

At the conclusion of a meeting with my CASA families, I ask them if it’s alright to end the meeting with a prayer. This, for me, is boldness. This is not easy for me. Most of these people believe that there is a God but have no relationship with him. A number of these people have arrest records primarily for drugs and are hard as nails. I’m not physically intimidated, but often they sneer when I mention praying. At times I’ve allowed the previous sneers to keep me from praying again. After studying for this article, I decided not to let their attitudes keep from suggesting that we pray for them. I’m not where I hope to be, but I am working on my boldness. Sneers for me versus suffering on the cross for Jesus, I can take it!

We sing a song at Southside, “Do You Know My Jesus?” I especially appreciate the third verse: “Who knows your disappointments, Who hears each time you cry; Who understands your heartaches, Who dries the tears from your eyes?” The chorus asks: “Do you know my Jesus, Do you know my friend, Have you heard He loves you, And that He will abide till the end?” If someone I know answers these questions with a “No” then I have not been BOLD enough!

For those of you who have read other articles I have posted, you would be shocked if I did not use a Max Lucado quote. Here it is:

*“If you know God's grace, love boldly, live robustly. Swing from the trapeze; his safety net will break your fall. #LiveLoved” I need to remember this if I question whether or not to bold.

Thanks

Mike

*Printed by permission from Max Lucado’s website

 

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What’s My Responsibility to You?

 

This article is a follow-up to What God Calls Us To Be.

On August 18, 1988, George H. W. Bush received his party's nomination for president of the United States. In his acceptance speech, he calls for a "kinder, gentler nation." Unfortunately, over the past 30+ years, we have not become kinder nor gentler. The state of uncivility that presently exists seems to be worse than ever. At one time, you could read an article online about any subject of your choosing and then write your thoughts in the comments section. People are so intolerant of others; they have become nastier and nastier in their comments towards others. Sometimes calling people, they don’t even know names. Most of the news feeds have stopped allowing comments. People point their fingers at many different causes of uncivility, but regardless of where the blame is laid, we must accept responsibility for our actions, especially towards others.

It has been generally accepted by most people that we have a responsibility to respect one another and treat others like we want to be treated. When I was young, it was called the Golden Rule. This is the principle from the Bible: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

As Christians, we have a much deeper responsibility to one another than just being civil. We are to be God’s instruments; therefore, we have a duty to influence others for God. He expects this from us. God’s commands are our guidance for treatment of others. What does God say about our responsibility towards one another? Look at a few of God’s instructions in the following verses.

Matthew 22:37-39 – We are instructed by Jesus to love one another. There are many passages in the Bible about loving one another. A good one is I Corinthians 13. I can have all kinds of talents and gifts, but if I don’t love, it means nothing. Love is kind, patient, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, does not become angry easily, does not remember wrongs done to us, does not find joy in evil things, rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Love will never fail when I am trying to influence someone for God. I provide the love, and God will do the rest!

Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

This entire chapter is guidance to our relationship with others and our attitude toward our responsibilities. We constantly have opportunities to do good by displaying a Christian attitude to others every time we have contact with them. Paul says, to do good to ALL people. He does not make exceptions. Does Paul mean everybody? The only noted exception is to make sure to treat those who are believers as special people. At church, even though we may only have a moment with one another, that’s an important moment. Others note my presence to worship, and a warm greeting continues my positive influence. Why would I act otherwise; after all, they are in the family of believers?

Many commentators believe this verse is an instruction on helping those in need. At Southside, we help many people in need, but believers come first.

Colossians 3:12-17:  Paul’s instruction tells us that as God’s chosen people, we are to show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and to bear or put up with one another. (Kay tells me that putting up with me is a tall order). We are reminded to forgive one another as the Lord forgave us. If God can forgive a sinner like me, who am I not to forgive others? Show peace in our hearts and teach, admonish one another and whatever we do, commit it to the Lord Jesus. This is all about my responsibility to act as an influence on you as a Christian. If I demonstrate to you these characteristics with a commitment to God in my heart, what happens now is in God’s hands.

Matthew 7:1-5: Jesus instructs us on passing judgment on one another. Passing judgment means to declare someone guilty and pass on them a sentence – like a judge does in a court. Some people decide they need to help God and are willing to let you know that hell is in your future. This duty is reserved for God (James 4:12).

There are many passages offering instruction on admonishing one another, correcting one another and bringing someone back into the church. This a very delicate responsibility. Often when people are approached about correction they need in their lives, their response is Matthew 7, “Don’t you dare judge me until you take care of all your problems!” Frankly, we would have to be very close for me to approach you in this manner. I do not feel it’s a talent I have, so I would pray about you and let you know.  It’s very easy to rationalize my way out of responsibilities by claiming no talent. Is this a cop-out? Probably, so I need to be bold in Christ and approach you in love, not judgment. Otherwise, what do I tell God on judgment day?

Romans 12:9-21: Paul repeats several the Christian characteristics that we have already reviewed. He does add love must be sincere, honor one another above ourselves, practice hospitality, bless those who persecute us, be willing to associate with those in a low position, do not be conceited, do not look for revenge and live in peace with everyone.

1 Timothy 2:1: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

Matthew 5:44:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

The preceding verses teach me that you are to be in my prayers. If I am aware that you have a need, then I’m to go to God on your behalf. That’s a lot of responsibility, especially expecting me to pray for my enemies. As I think about my prayers, most are for my family, friends, and Southside members. There are maybe two folks I pray for who I do not like (no one at Southside). Thinking about people who are not my enemies and do not necessarily persecute me but are rude, egotistical, and sometimes hateful, I can expand my prayer list. This is a responsibility!

Should we treat people differently based on their relationship with us in life? Should our treatment of family differ from friends, fellow Christians, and work colleagues? What about those that are in authority? Does a person’s status in life make a difference in how we should treat them? 

The general answer is “NO” to all these questions but I Timothy 5:8 tells us – “But if any do not take care of their relatives, especially the members of their own family, they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever.” Responsibility for the family is a must!

This a lot of responsibility and yes, I fail in carrying these out. That’s Satan's work. But God’s work of sacrificing Jesus for my failures trumps Satan’s work!

We could look at many more verses that give more responsibilities to one another, but it’s time to bring this to a conclusion. What a wonderful world for us to live in if we accepted these responsibilities and put them into practice. Polls show that people select the church they attend because they are primarily looking for sermons straight from the Bible and about the same percentage say they are looking for the feeling of being accepted. I believe they get both at Southside. My question is: Am I living up to my responsibilities outlined in the verses given?

Folks, we need to fulfill our responsibilities to one another.

Consider the following words from Max Lucado:

Discover this mystery: as you help others face their days, you put life into your own. And life is exactly what many people need.

One of the secrets in life is that we really lead a better life when we're living for others than we do when we're living for ourselves, and I think that's the way for our creator intended for it to be, is that if we can live for other people, we really leave this world in a different way.

Thanks

Mike

Max Lucado quotes from this website: https://www.quotetab.com/quotes/by-max-lucado#S8jjgTIpY4jrLsRY.97

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