The Human Heart Problem - Max Lucado 's Daily Devotional

 
 

Christmas commemorates the day and the way God saved us from ourselves. The angel speaking to Mary in Matthew 1:21 says, “…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Each of us entered the world with a sin nature. Each of us entered the world with a sin nature; God entered the world to take it away.

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Look into God’s Face

 
 Covid seems to be getting worse. With people sick and dying this maybe a very difficult Christmas. Read what Max Lucado has to say in his Daily Devotional.

Would you like to see God? Take a look at Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 says, “Jesus radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God.” In John 14:9 Jesus himself said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Anyone who has seen me weep has seen the Father weep. Anyone who has seen me laugh has seen the Father laugh. Anyone who has seen me determined has seen the Father determined.

Everything changes when we see the face of God. He came with tears, too. He knows the burden of a broken heart. He knows the sorrow life can bring. He could have come as a shining light or a voice in the clouds, but he came as a person. Does God understand you? Look into God’s face and be assured. Find the answer in Bethlehem.

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Good Story on Facebook

A good friend just posted this. It really touched my heart ❤ I have no idea who wrote this but it sure is powerful & beautiful. ❤
In 1979, I was managing a Wendy's in Port Richey Florida. Unlike today, staffing was never a real problem, but I was searching for a someone to work three hours a day only at lunch.
I went thru all my applications and most were all looking for full time or at least 20 hours per week. I found one however, buried at the bottom of a four-inch stack that was only looking for lunch part-time. His name was Nicky. Hadn't met him but thought I would give him a call and see if he could stop by for an interview. When I called, he wasn't in but his mom said she would make sure he would be there.
At the accorded time, Nicky walked in. One of those moments when my heart went in my throat. Nicky suffered from Downs Syndrome. His physical appearance was a giveaway and his speech only reinforced the obvious.
I was young and sheltered. Had never interacted on a professional level with a developmentally disabled person. I had no clue what to do, so I went ahead and interviewed him.
He was a wonderful young man. Great outlook. Task focused. Excited to be alive. For only reasons God knew at that time, I hired him. 3 hours a day, 3 days a week to run a grill.
I let the staff know what to expect. Predictably the crew made sure I got the message, "no one wants to work with "HIM." We had a crew meeting, cleared the air, and prepared for his arrival.
Nicky showed up for work right on time. He was so excited to be working. He stood at the time clock literally shaking with anticipation. He clocked in and started his training. Couldn't multi task, but was a machine on the grill.
Now for the fascinating part.....
Back in that day, there were no computer screens to work from. Every order was called by the cashier. It required a great deal of concentration on the part of all production staff to get the order right. While Nicky was training during his first shift, the sandwich maker next to him asked the grillman/trainer what was on the next sandwich. Nicky replied,"single, no pickle no onion." A few minutes later it happened again. It was then that we discovered Nicky had a hidden and valuable skill.
He memorized everything he heard! Photographic hearing! WHAT A SKILL SET. It took 3 days and every sandwich maker requested to work with Nicky. He immediately was accepted by the entire crew.
After his shift he would join the rest of his crew family, drinking Coke like it was water! It was then that they discovered another Rainman-esque trait. Nicky was a walking/talking perpetual calendar!
With a perpetual calendar as a reference, they would sit for hours asking him what day of the week was December 22, 1847. He never missed. This uncanny trait mesmerized the crew.
His mom would come in at 2 to pick him up. More times than not, the crew would be back there with him hamming it up. As I went to get him from the back, his mom said something I will never forget. "Let him stay there as long as he wants. He has never been accepted anywhere like he has been here." I excused myself and dried my eyes, humbled and broken hearted at the lesson I just learned.
Nicky had a profound impact on that store. His presence changed a lot of people. Today I believe with every fiber of my body that Nicky's hiring was no accident. God's timing and will is perfect.
This Christmas, I hope we all understand what we are celebrating. We are all like Nicky. We each have our shortcomings. We each have our strong points. But we are all of value. God made us that way and God doesn't make mistakes. Nicky certainly wasn't a mistake. He was a valuable gift that I am forever grateful for.
We are celebrating the birth of the ONE that leveled the playing field for all of us. God doesn't care if you are rich or poor, republican or democrat or black or white. He doesn't care if your chromosome structure is perfect. He doesn't care what level of education you have attained.
He cares about your heart. He wants us all to love and appreciate the gift HE gave us on Christmas, His son, the Savior, our salvation. His Son that was born to die for our sins. To pay our debt. To provide us a path for eternity.
So this Christmas, let’s check our hearts. There is a little bit of Nicky in all of us and I suspect there is a Nicky somewhere in your life that is looking for the chance to be embraced. Thank God for that. Thank God for His perfect gift, Christ Jesus.
Kindness is FREE!
 
 
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Is God Fair?

As a child, I had my own concept of fairness. A spanking was unfair! Well, not every time. My mother telling me how disappointed she was in me was really playing dirty. Taking away what I judged as rights which were actually privileges was totally unfair. My father’s and mother’s response to my charges of unfairness was the classic, “life is not always fair, accept that and move on.”

As I matured, I accepted that people were sometimes unfair and learned to live with it. I still struggled with God’s fairness. He is God so He should always be fair! In the fifth grade my good friend, Jerry, died. He and his father were shooting roman candles around Christmas time. Jerry’s father held the candle by the stick to light it. Jerry copied him only to have the stick fire back into his abdomen. He was treated at the emergency room and released. A few days later Jerry died from an infection. As I looked at Jerry lying in the casket I thought “Why God?” Jerry’s death was totally unfair!! By my standards God had failed in the fairness department!!

Webster’s definition of fairness as an adjective is in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate. As an adverb means it is without cheating or trying to achieve unjust advantage. We each have our own version and standards of fair.

Webster’s definitions don’t always match ours. We develop our own set of standards from life’s experiences. We at times even try to judge God’s fairness by our own standards. Do we have a right to judge God’s fairness? No, He’s God! He is the standard! God should not and cannot held to our standards.

Jesus is God’s son, and He did not try to judge God’s fairness. In the face of the awful death He was facing, He did ask God to deliver Him but there was no charge of unfairness. There was no whining. Jesus knew that whether it was fair or not he had to endure for our sakes!

Recently I experienced the God is “unfair” attitude with one of my CASA boys. I asked him and the foster parent at the end of our visit if we could pray. The foster parent said “yes” but the boy gave an emphatic “NO”. God had let his Nana die. Nana had taken care of him and acted as his parent. That was unfair and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with God. He is angry with God, the foster parent, me and you if you met him!

Since that meeting I’ve thought about how I could answer the teenager to hopefully help him. I have struggled for a long time with the charges that God is unfair. So what should I say to people who have that attitude? Sometimes it just takes a great deal of faith and trust to live with God’s ways.  Accepting God’s decisions can be very difficult, and our faith is the one thing that pulls us through.

The author, Daniel Darling, from NRB wrote an article Is God Fair? Maybe Not, but He's Right. Mr. Darling writes about the parable in Matthew 20 where the workers that came in the last hour of the day received the same pay as those that started work the first hour. As you read what he has to say, think about your attitude.

Mr. Darling: “Sadly, many Christians in America, walk around feeling as though they’ve been cheated. They ask questions like, “Why can’t I be healthy like others?” or “Why does God allow him or her to be married?” or “Why couldn’t have I been born into a wealthy family?”

“Unfortunately, the church itself has become an unwitting accomplice in this unbiblical thought process. We’ve tried to market Christianity as the better alternative, where life will be more successful. This may be true, but we must realize that Christianity is not about benefiting and taking and getting more of what we want out of a cosmic, vending-machine God. It’s about worshipping a God who has given us far more grace than we deserve. It’s about following the example of Jesus in sacrificing for the good of others.”

“We should view everything we’ve got in life as a gift from God, not complain when things don’t go our way. Because thankfully, we don’t have a God who is fair, but a Heavenly Father who is always right.” 

“Grace gives us the proper perspective on life’s seeming injustices. As hard as it is to fathom, the most tragedy-struck Christian has tasted overwhelming amounts of God’s grace. More than even that soul deserved.”

“So if we were to be completely honest, we wouldn’t want God to be fair. If He was, then He wouldn’t have sent Jesus to pay for our sins and we would be bound for a hopeless eternity. And He wouldn’t walk beside us daily, giving us strength. He wouldn’t extend His hand of forgiveness when we fail.”

“Instead, we should be glad we serve a God who is right. Because we’re not getting what we deserve. Nobody who walks this earth is. Instead, we’re getting something far greater. His grace.”

Recently, I quoted a prayer from Allen Jackson where he says to God “you’ve never failed me.” Can you say Amen to that? I try to say that but do not always make it. We need to practice what Mr. Darling writes, keep our perspective and have the same attitude as Mr. Jackson.

“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.” ― Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones: Everyone Needs a Miracle – Used by permission

Thanks

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

Daniel Darling, NRB  Is God Fair? Maybe Not, but He's Right.  Used by permission.

Standing Firm  Allan Jackson - Intend Publishing – 2018 – Used by permission

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You Will Overcome by Max Lucado

 
 

God’s word to Joshua is God’s word to us: “Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:6). Do not cower before your woes. Take the land God has given to you to possess. “And the Lord said to Joshua: ‘See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor’” (Joshua 6:2). God did not say, “Joshua, take the city.” God said, “Joshua, receive the city I have taken.” Joshua did not go forth hoping to win; he knew that God had already won.

The same can be said about you and your challenge. God says, “Receive the blessing of my victory.” You see, the question is not will you overcome? It is when will you overcome? Life will always bring challenges, but God will always give strength to face them.

Read more God Is with You Every Day

We studied about being bold in prayer now pray about being bold, "strong and of good courage", concerning our challenges. We will not win every challenge as we wish but with God's help we will endure.

Mike

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God Will Help by Max Lucado

 
 

When you feel helpless, where can you turn?  I suggest you turn to one of Jesus’ most intriguing teachings about prayer!

Luke tells the story of a persistent neighbor looking to borrow bread at midnight (Luke 11:5 -13).  Imagine it’s you ringing the doorbell.  The door opens. “What are you doing here?” he asks. “A friend of mine has arrived for a visit, and I’ve nothing for him to eat,” you answer. The homeowner grumbles but finally takes you to his pantry.  And, as a result, your surprise guest doesn’t have to go to bed hungry.  All because you spoke up on behalf of someone else.

This is intercessory prayer at its purest.  This prayer gets God’s attention. If your cranky and disgruntled neighbor will help you out, how much more will God do?

Read more God Is with You Every Day

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Dare to Pray Boldly

 

Max Lucado writes in his Daily Devotional:

“When Martin Luther’s co-worker became ill, the reformer prayed boldly for healing.  “I besought the Almighty with great vigor,” he wrote.”

“As John Wesley was crossing the Atlantic Ocean, contrary winds came up.  And when he learned the winds were knocking the ship off course, he responded in prayer. “Almighty and everlasting God…command these winds and these waves that they obey thee, and take us speedily and safely to the haven whither we would go.”

“Boldness in prayer is an uncomfortable thought for many.  Storming the heavens with prayers? God has invited us to pray as such!  Scripture says, “So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  Dare to pray boldly!”

Some of the Bible translations use the word “bold” and others use “confidence”.  Here are two thoughts from commentaries:

“We are not to cower anxiously before His magnificent presence. Rather, we are encouraged to come to Him and to keep on coming to His throne, without fear or doubt. We are to come to Him freely, constantly, ceaselessly, and persistently.”

“Now boldly is a somewhat incongruous word; it neither conveys the original, nor does it correspond to our sense of propriety. The thought would be far more beautiful and far more naturally represented by a more literal translation - ‘Let us come with frank confidence’ to the throne of grace. The word literally means, if we go to the etymology of it, speaking everything. You can easily understand how naturally that becomes an expression for the unembarrassed, unrestrained full out-pouring of a heart. You cannot pour out your heart in the fullest confidence to a person you do not respect, but if you get with someone you entirely trust, how swiftly the words flow. and how very easy it is to tell out the whole heart. Just so with this great word of the writer of this Epistle, descriptive of the temper and disposition with which men are to go to God - with confidence, full, cheerful, and unembarrassed, and which expresses itself in full trust, exactly as one of the old Psalms says - ‘Ye people, pour out your heart before Him.’”

Based on the happenings in our world today we do need to approach God often with boldness and confidence. This does not mean we are disrespectful or have to cower either but to tell Him what is on our hearts. Read carefully: Philippians 4:6-7

English Standard Version

“6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.”

As you talk to God, remember you can take everything to Him. Always give Him the praise and thanks He deserves!

Thanks

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

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Grace Comes After Us by Max Lucado

 
 

The wasted years of life.  The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word:  Grace!

Grace. We know the word. The bank gives us a grace period.  The seedy politician falls from grace.  Grace shares the church parsonage with its cousins: forgiveness, faith, and fellowship. But do we really understand it? We’ve settled for wimpy grace.  It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn and fits nicely on a church sign.

Have you been changed by grace?  Shaped by grace?  Strengthened by grace?  Softened by grace? God’s grace has a drenching about it.  A wildness about it. Grace comes after you.  From insecure to God secure. From afraid-to-die to ready-to-fly. Grace is the word that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off!

Read more God Is with You Every Day
God Is with You Every Day

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Hallowed Be Your Name by Max Lucado

 
 

"Jesus taught us to pray with reverence when he modeled for us “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). His phrase is a petition, not a proclamation. A request, not an announcement. “Be hallowed, Lord.” Do whatever it takes to be holy in my life. Exalt yourself. Glorify yourself. You be Lord, and I’ll be quiet."

"The psalm that says, “Be still and know that I am God” contains a command with a promise. The command? Be still, cover your mouth, bend your knees. The promise? You will know that I am God. In the midst of your family storms, and in this storm that has swept over our country and the entire world, make it a point to be still. Set your sights on him. Let God be God. Be open and willing. Allow God to be hallowedholy in your life."

 

 

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Kindness

I found the following on Facebook:

“You never really know the true impact you have on those around you. You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them. You never know how much your kindness turned someone’s entire life around. You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk. So don’t wait to be kind. Don’t wait for someone else to be kind first. Don’t wait for better circumstances or someone to change. Just be kind because you never know how  much someone needs it.”

Nikki Banas

We all have the capability to be kind but get so busy with ourselves that we don’t think about it or work at it. Children really need us to be kind to them. Too often their parents abuse and neglect them. They need us to be kind.

All people need to be kind, especially Christians. If others see kindness in us, they can be influenced for Christ. If they see unkindness, they can be turned off towards Christ. Work at and practice kindness. Your life will be better, and you will be blessed!

Thanks

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

 

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The Message of this Miracle by Max Lucado

 
 Jesus told them to roll the stone away. He offered a prayer of gratitude, and “then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out, with his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth” (John 11:43–44). The Resurrection and the Life issued a command into the cavern of death. Somewhere in heaven an angel heard the familiar voice of the Shepherd and smiled. Somewhere in hell a fallen angel mumbled, “Oh no.”

And Lazarus? He didn’t want to go back to earth, of that I’m certain. But when Jesus commands, his disciples obey. Of that Lazarus was certain. Don’t miss the message of this miracle, my friend. You are never alone. Jesus meets us, even in the cemeteries of life. Whether we are there to say goodbye or to be buried, we can count on the presence of God.

Read more You Are Never Alone: Trust in the Miracle of God's Presence & Power

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Do We Get In God’s Way Sometimes?

There are those that will assure you a verse is in the Bible that reads: “God helps those who help themselves.” I’ve never been able to locate it nor can those who quote the phrase, but many will declare it is there!  Sounds reasonable and there may be some truth in the saying.

The phrase originated as the moral to one of Aesop's Fables.  It has been commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin as well.

The internet gives three thoughts to the phrase’s meaning. Depending on self is key!

(1.) to be able to come out of a bad situation by self-help rather than hoping for divine intervention

(2.)to be able to help one's own self

(3.)to make a plan to help your own self out of a situation

Read the following by Max Lucado: “So the sisters of Lazarus simply wrapped their concern in a sentence, and they left it with Jesus. They did not tell him how to respond. No presumption. A lesson for us perhaps? Christ responded to the crisis of health with a promise of help. “‘Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death.’” (John 11:4 NLT). Lazarus, we learn, will find himself in the valley of death, but he will not stay there. Because Christ was with him. Remember, friends, you are never alone.”

In place of relying on “self” do we ask God’s help in resolving our problems and issues then meddle in them by telling Him how to go about taking care of them. If we ask God for His help, then do not provide multiple choice options for Him. He’s got this! Trust and have faith! Let Him have the problem or issue and be patient. For those of us who have a patience problem read the following verses:

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

Psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.”

Isaiah 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, ”declares the Lord.”

Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

 Exodus 14:14 “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Now, practice these verses!

*Consider this prayer by Alan Jackson: “Heavenly Father, I admit that I at times been impatient and have doubted that You were listening to my prayers. I know that I ought to trust You now as I have in the past. You have never failed me or let me down. Your love has been poured out in my life many times. Help me, Lord, to be still and wait on your answer. In Jesus’ name, amen".

Thanks!

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

*Standing Firm – Alan Jackson  - Intend Publishing 2018

 

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Our Vision Matters to Jesus

 
 

If God tested your spiritual vision, would you pass it? Can you see the meaning of life? Have you caught a vision for eternity? Most of all, can you see God’s great love for you? The hand you sense on your face is his. The voice you hear is his. Our vision matters to Jesus, and He will do whatever it takes to help us see how to see. Remember, my friend, you are never alone.

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Miracle Mud

 
 

“After saying this, Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes” (John 9:6). Now there’s something you don’t expect to read in the Bible: Jesus spitting. A prayer would’ve seemed appropriate, perhaps a “hallelujah!” But who expected a heavenly spit into the dirt? The God who sent manna and fire dispatched a blob of saliva. And as calmly as a painter spackles a hole in the wall, Jesus streaked miracle mud on the man’s eyes.

Sometimes God uses the less-than-pleasant. He initiates the miracle through “mud moments”: layoffs, letdowns, and bouts of loneliness. Can you relate? If so, do not assume that Jesus is absent or oblivious to your struggle. Just the opposite. He is using it to reveal himself to you. He wants you to see him. Remember friend, you are never alone."

We all have had these events in our lives and you may be experiencing one now. Focus on what Max writes about never being alone. Jesus is there! Hang on to that thought! Find comfort in it!

 

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When We Disagree

First, I want to thank Kevin Collier for his lesson today on unity and give him and his lesson an Amen! I’ve been writing on this article for a while. His lesson helped me finish my thoughts. You can see and hear his lesson on our website.

Disagreements have probably existed since Adam and Eve. There was most likely a huge one after they were exiled from the garden. Abraham, Moses and Noah differed with people. Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” over who they would take on a journey. Even the apostles asked for Christ to solve the disagreement about who was the greatest among them. People can disagree with God. They accuse Him of not answering prayers in the manner they requested.

Husband and wives, parents and children, especially teenagers, friends, bosses, colleagues, and just about any number of people can disagree.  We disagree on ball teams and the officials calls during a game. If you don’t believe me, go to a little league game sometime and watch the actions of some of the “adults”.

Disagreements are inevitable. I even disagree with myself sometimes after I reflect on something I did or said! It’s not the disagreeing that is a problem but our actions and attitudes that cause problems. Some  people have a real knack for raising the level from simply a disagreement to a harsh conflict.

I’m on Facebook but don’t participate on Twitter or any of the other social media outlets. Many of the writers on FB are really vicious in attacking those who differ with them on their political ideology and Biblical beliefs. It seems in today’s society that differing with others results in an attitude that you are a terrible and evil person. People write vicious things under the cover of social media they would not say to someone else face to face. Is social media to blame for these things? No, because the person is expressing what’s really in their heart!

I’ve unfollowed some relatives on FB who believe if you are not liberal like them then you are ignorant, an idiot or just pick a demeaning word of your choice to describe yourself. There is a man on FB who is so conservative that you are just an evil  person and are trying to ruin our country if you differ from him. It’s ok to feel strongly about your political philosophy but it’s not ok to be like the following description In Ephesians 4. Notice my emphasis of “all”.

Ephesians 4:31-5:2 ESV – “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The same verse is also true about disagreements concerning your religious beliefs. People feel and express the following at times: “If you disagree with my Biblical beliefs then you are hell bound.” I’m aware of a man who spends time on an internet Bible discussion group of being told he is hell bound. He believes the water Jesus turned to wine was alcoholic and the other person told him he was going to hell for believing that. Read Romans 14:1 ESV – “Accept the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” The emphasis is mine.

Kay and I were members of a congregation in Memphis that totally dissolved over worship style after 50+ years of existence. The disagreements were over a worship team, raising hands during songs and clapping hands while singing. The elders tried two worship services but that created more disagreements. I will not write about all the different actions and reactions of the members but do believe that God was sad and very unhappy.

Some individuals  all to eagerly announce eternal judgement on others who disagree with them. Whether the wine was alcoholic are not is a matter of opinion to me. Why do people believe God gave them perfect interpretation of the scriptures? My intent is do as the Bible directs but I’m capable of being incorrect. To think you have perfect interpretation is arrogant. I do not intend to offend anyone but think about your treatment of and attitude towards others when you disagree on what the scriptures say. Loving others is important with your relationship with God. Some people spend very little time in Bible study relying on their parents, spouse, ministers and others to develop their beliefs. This is dangerous to your salvation! Read and pray about 2 Timothy 2:15 – ESV – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

There are disagreements concerning our salvation which will clearly be a deciding factor on judgement day but remember the marque on a church: “Love everyone and let God separate them!”

              

Max Lucado writes: “We can be respectful. We do not have the right to be arrogant and to point a finger. Of all the people who should not be arrogant it is those of us who believe we are saved by grace.”  Quoted from an article: The Beauty of Disagreeing Agreeably from a Jen Hatmaker Podcast

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”

 Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name - Published June 4, 1999 by W Publishing Group

We need to maintain our love for one another as we disagree. Jesus still loves us through all things! Pray for unity!

Thanks

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

 

 

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Sins of The Heart

As a youngster I remember men leading public prays asking for God to forgive us of our sins both of commission and omission. At that time, my thinking was that commission meant an outward act. Sins of omission were services  we should have performed for God but neglected. As I matured, I begin to understand that all sins are developed in my heart and it did not take an outward act to commit sin.

Quotes from writers on the internet. Some are unknown:

“The heart, according to the Bible, is part of man's spiritual makeup. It is the place where emotions and desires begin; it is that which drives the will of man towards action.”

“The seed of every sin known to man is in my heart.” ― Robert Murray McCheyne

“In a religious context, sin is a transgression against divine law. Each culture has its own interpretation of what it means to commit a sin. While sins are generally actions, any thought, word, or act considered immoral, selfish, shameful, harmful, or alienating might be termed "sinful".”

“Thoughts become sin when we nurture them, dwell on them, allow them to lead us down a path of more thoughts that are wrong. They are sinful when we allow them to inspire sinful attitudes and they are especially sinful when they compel us to act in a sinful way.”

Scriptures tell us that the heart or our spiritual makeup is where sin first manifests itself. People blame God for their sins. “He made me this way so I’m not responsible for my sins.” God did not make us to sin but did give us a free will to act however we choose. 

A variety of people believe that it does take an outward action before we sin. Their thinking is that if they have an attitude or thought but do not act on them, then they have not sinned.  Read the following scriptures about actions, thoughts and attitudes fostered in our hearts:

Matthew 5:28 – “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Matthew 15:19 - “For out of the heart come evil thoughts--murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, said he to you; but his heart is not with you.”

Genesis 6:5 – “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”

Mark 7:21-23  “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

So if the sin begins in my heart, what action do I take to fight sin? Proverbs tells us to guard our hearts: Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” What does it mean to guard your heart? How do I guard my heart? The Hebrew word for guard or keep means to set a watchman over it. God and the Holy Spirit are the watchmen. Through our following His direction in the Bible and through much time in prayers our hearts will be guarded. When the sinful thoughts or attitudes enter your heart instead of nurturing them ask for help in resisting.

In addition we need to start by following Deuteronomy 6:5 – NIV “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” If you don’t love the Lord with every ounce of your being, don’t expect much help in your war with Satan.

Do not try to fool God: Galatians 6:7 ESV – “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

Psalm 119:9 NIV – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”

Proverbs 4: 20-21 NIV – “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.

Do not let them out of your sight keep them within your heart.”

Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV – “I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and to carefully observe My ordinances.”

We are all tempted and that is not a sin but when we cultivate the temptations in our heart they grow into sin. I read an article on the website Unlocking the Bible. Sophie McDonald’s, “How Do You Guard Your Heart”. The following is an excerpt from the article:

“What does this mean for us? Consider the following questions as we seek the Lord for his Spirit’s help in aligning our lives with his Word”:

“Are you actively setting the Word of God as a watchman over your soul by reading it and hearing it preached?”

“Are you filtering your circumstances, decisions, thoughts, and responses through what God’s Word says?”

“Do you prayerfully seek the Lord, trusting the One who gave you a new heart to protect it?”

“Are you trying to guard your heart in your own strength, or acknowledging your weakness and trusting the all-sufficient One to be your defender?”

There was a period of time in my life during college and for a while after that I did not guard my heart. I always knew God was there, but no cultivation of our relationship was happening. I did none of the things Ms. MacDonald suggested! Fortunately, I’m an example of God’s love and patience. He hung with me in times I moved away from Him. I believe he will do the same for anyone, but you have to make the move to come to Him with a totally new attitude.  There is a quote from the author Clausewitz about war in a novel I’m reading: ”you must prepare for the enemy’s capabilities, rather than his intentions.” We know Satan’s intentions so now we must recognize that he is capable of anything to separate us from God. Always be prepared for the devils onslaught. Ephesians 6:13 ESV – “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

“The Divine Artist isn’t finished. The earth is his studio. Every person on earth is one of his projects. Every event on earth is a part of his great mural. He is not finished. The scripture says in Philippians 1, “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again.” Remember, friends, you are never alone.” from Max Lucado’s Daily Devotional

He’s always there for us when our heart is ready for Him!

“God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn Him. Ignore Him. Reject Him. Despise Him. Disobey Him. He will not change!”

“Our hearts seem so far from His. He is pure; we are greedy. He is peaceful; we are hassled. He is purposeful; we are distracted. He is pleasant; we are cranky. He is spiritual; we are earthbound. The distance between our hearts and His seems so immense. How could we ever hope to have the heart of Jesus?”

Max Lucado – From his article A Heart Like Jesus, March 19, 2014

Thanks

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

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What’s in Your Basket?

 
 

"Do you face fifteen thousand problems?  Before you count yourself out, turn and look at the One standing next to you!  Christ can help you do the impossible.  You simply need to give him what you have and watch him work."

"John 6:11 says, “Jesus took the loaves…”  This is the story of the day Jesus fed the five thousand men, plus women and children.  He didn’t have to use the loaves.  He made manna fall for the Israelites.  Instead, he chose to use the single basket of a small boy."

"What’s in your basket?  All you have is a wimpy prayer?  Give it.  All you have is a meager skill?  Use it.  All you have is strength for one step?  Take it.  God used three nails and a crude cross to redeem humanity.  If God can turn a basket into a buffet, don’t you think he can do something with your five loaves and two fishes of faith?  Remember, you are never alone."

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Stand Up, Take Up, and Walk

 
 

"He certainly gave a bright future to the Bethesda beggar.  “And immediately the man was made well” (John 5:9).  Jesus did nothing but speak, and the miracle was accomplished. What will God do for you?  I cannot say.  God’s help, while ever present, is ever specific.  It is not ours to say what God will do.  Our job is to believe he will do something.  It simply falls to us to stand up, take up, and walk.  Remember, friends, You are never alone."

From Mike: When you are down for whatever reason, it is comforting to know that Jesus believes in you! It's encouraging to know that God has plans for you! We don't know what those plans are. We may be frustrated that we don't know and must wait on God. Be patient, trust in God and as Max says "You are never alone!"

 

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Not-Yet-Answered Prayers

 

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 "The Gospel of John tells a story about a man from Capernaum who approached Jesus in Cana. “Come heal my son?” the man asked. And Jesus said the boy would be healed, and the man set out for Capernaum. Do you find yourself somewhere between Cana and Capernaum? Like the official, you begged Jesus for help, and like the official, you didn’t receive the answer in the way you wanted. This is the issue of not-yet-answered prayer or the not-answered-in-the-way-I-asked prayer. How should we react?"

 "I’m sorry that the job did not materialize or the cancer chose to metastasize. Life has its share of dark, dank moments. Read the Bible from the table of contents in the front to the maps in the back, and you will not find any promise of a pain-free life on this side of heaven. But you will find this assurance: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV). You are never alone"

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Capitalism  vs Socialism

What does the Bible Say?

I have been writing on this topic since last spring. It proved much more difficult than I imagined. The more I studied and read the more complicated it became. It’s by no means complete so I hope it encourages you to study the subject for yourself.

It would be very presumptuous of anyone to label God either a capitalist or a socialist although some do say God is in one camp or the other.  He’s neither! He is GOD! This article is not a politically based writing. I was raised to be against socialism and continue to maintain that belief but why?  We should reexamine our beliefs occasionally to confirm or change them.  A number of political leaders are in favor of socialism and are pushing our country towards that goal. In light of their effort, I felt the need to study the subject. I don’t want to be like the politician who came out with the position: “some of my friends are for it and some of my friends are against it, and well, I’m for my friends.” I want to be able to support the reasons I am against socialism. Let’s look what the Bible has to say. The Bible needs to be my guide in ALL matters. I cannot find either word in the Bible.

The New Deal was an amalgam of dozens of programs and agencies created by the Roosevelt Administration and the Congress.. These programs held many aspects of socialism in the U.S. FDR was elected president four times so his ideas and programs were popular. The New Deal was born as the result of the depression. The Social Security Act was signed in 1935. In the early 1970’s, I attended a financial seminar on investments. The speaker illustrated that investing the money you contributed to Social Security into a fund that earned a moderate interest rate  would give you a much better  benefit than Social Security. The problem with his idea is that too many people simply do not have the self-discipline to act responsibly. In other words they are not good stewards of God’s blessings. Many socialists do not believe individuals should not have to be self-disciplined.

The following are comments and descriptions of socialism and capitalism from the internet:

“Socialism is an economic and political system under which the means of production are publicly owned. Capitalism is an economic system under which the means of production are privately owned. Production and consumer prices are based on a free-market system of “supply and demand.”

“Capitalism and socialism are so different that they're often seen as diametrically opposed. Capitalism is based on individual initiative and favors market mechanisms over government intervention, while socialism is based on government planning and limitations on private control of resources assigned exclusively to either its “capitalist” or “socialist” components, or to the fact that the system is mixed rather than purely one thing or the other. The real debate, as Williamson* goes on to suggest, concerns the structure, balance, and integration of the elements that make up our political economy.” * Kevin Williamson, Deputy Managing Editor of National Review

“Socialism, strictly defined, is an economic theory which proposes the abolition of private capital and the substitution of collective ownership in carrying on the industrial work of the world. This collective ownership is to extend to all the material instruments of production; these are to be publicly operated, and the products to be equitably distributed. The government is to be wholly in the hands of the people, and it is to assign to each individual his task and to determine his wage. Every citizen is to be actually a government employee.”

“Many Christian socialists believe capitalism to be idolatrous and rooted in the sin of greed. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online, socialism is a "social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources.”

An opposing view is interesting reading: 5 Reasons Socialism Is Not Christian By Julie Roys, CP Op-Ed Contributor, The Christian Post

1. Socialism is Based on a Materialistic Worldview,

2. Socialism Punishes Virtue,

3. Socialism Endorses Stealing,

4. Socialism Encourages Envy and Class Warfare,

5. Socialism Seeks to Destroy Marriage & Family.

Read her explanation for each of these reasons.

Former Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham stated that the rise of the Democratic Party’s socialist left to a list of concerns like abortion and same-sex marriage on the line in “a battle for the soul of our nation.”

Graham continues: “Socialism is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview and seeks to suppress all peoples in support of the state,” Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, said in a televised sermon on Sunday. “No one serious about their Christian faith can be serious about socialism.”

There is a “movement” known as Bruderhof which is a communal form of life. No one owns anything. They share everything for the good of the community. It’s not a government system based on elected leaders based but the self-appointed leaders of the commune make the decision for the whole.

I do not believe these descriptions are all inclusive. When people use the term socialism it’s difficult to know exactly what they mean because there are different degrees and types of socialism. In researching the topic, I discovered that it is much more complicated than I thought. Some want to pull issues like abortion and same-sex marriage into socialism which I do not believe belong there. People bring issues into or leave them out based on their need to prove their points. An article by William Wilkinson written August 16, 2018 maintains that is conceivable to have capitalism and socialism  both combined. I willing admit that I don’t fully understand everything he wrote. Read the article for yourself. “Socialism” vs. “capitalism”: what left and right get wrong about the debate – Vox.

In one form of socialism, the government takes control of everything. I’m opposed to this form because I do not trust the politicians nor the government administrators! My biggest concern is their lack of seeking God’s guidance. They are relying too much on their own ideas but then again capitalists are guilty of the same thing. Maybe I’m wrong but it does not seem many of the government leaders ask God to be a part of guiding them. Also, the more we rely on the government administration and politicians the more rights it seems we have to forfeit.

Some socialists believe in creating equality of income. Their belief is that there should not be a large gap in the  income of people. During the pandemic layoffs, I heard a gentleman comment that he was being called back to work and was not pleased. He was making as much by not working as he was when he worked. One lady related the story about how her daughter and son-in-law were both laid off, but they were spending a lot of money. Turns out they were making more money than when they were working. If the government controls income and guarantees all people a minimum income, then more people are incentivized to remain jobless. To me this what happens under socialism when the government guarantees incomes to everyone.

My daughter has a degree in social work. She started her degree at the University of Memphis. The instructors there taught students to focus on the number of government programs available to their “clients” and to instruct them on how avail themselves of as many government handouts as possible. After we moved to Bell Buckle, she continued to work on her degree at MTSU. The instructors at MTSU taught her how help “clients” to use as few government programs as possible and teach them how to become independent. A huge difference in the two philosophies. I believe MTSU”s teaching is much sounder and more Biblical.

What does the Bible say about the poor and needy?

Proverbs 31:9 ESV  “Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Matthew 26:11. NIV “The poor you will always have with you.”

Proverbs 14:31 ESV “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

Proverbs 28:27 ESV “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”

Luke 14:12-14 ESV “He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Hebrews 13:16 ESV “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

1 Timothy 5:8 ESV “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

1 John 3:17-18 ESV “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but indeed and in truth.”

Luke 3:11 ESV  “And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

Proverbs 14:31 ESV “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

Matthew 25:37-40 ESV “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

There are many more scriptures directing us to help the poor and needy. How can you read these scriptures and not understand God’s direction? Some believe that by giving to the church they have satisfied their duty. I disagree! These verses are written about MY duties. In Acts chapters four and six you find that the deacons did act as a way of distributing money for the needs of people. They did this so that the apostles could continue with preaching and teaching about Christ. That does not absolve us of our duties. None of the verses quoted directs us to solely use the deacons of the church to help the poor and needy.

The Bible does not teach us to take care of people through the government, but neither can I find where it specifically condemns it. Many who are in favor of a socialist government claim that Christians have not performed our duty by helping those in need. Those claims are not without basis. We tend to attach requirements to our assistance that I cannot find in the Bible. Church attendance has been one of those requirements. I understand the thinking about church attendance but none of the Bible verses requires church attendance. A hungry child needs to be fed and properly clothed whether his or her parents take him to church or not. The benevolence program at Southside does a great job in following the Bible.

Our judgement about the worthiness of those in need help sometimes enters into consideration. I must confess to judging at times. For the past 2-3 years Rafe Woodard and I have delivered meals for the Senior Citizens Meals on Wheels Program, a government sponsored program. At times I have doubts on whether some of the people are worthy based on their home, cars and what I see as their life styles. But I do not know the whole story on these people. I do not believe that these elderly people are capable of working.

What does the Bible say about those who will not work? The only qualification for providing assistance I find is in 2 Thessalonians 3:10  “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

Other Bible verses describing the lazy:

1 Thessalonians 4:12 ESV “So that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

Proverbs 21:25 ESV “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.”

Proverbs 18:9 ESV “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.”

Proverbs 19:15 MSG “Life collapses on loafers; lazybones go hungry.”

I do not believe these verses are about being judgmental or vindictive. The principle taught is practical, spiritual, and loving. Giving to those who want to live off of others or the government enables a spiritually harmful attitude.

The school system in Bedford County provides free breakfast and lunch to all children without qualification. The meals are subsidized by the USAD. Bedford County is considered a poor county. Is this program “socialism”? Some say ”yes” because it is sponsored by the government. If it is socialism, then I’m ok with it.

There is also a program called “Backpack” that provides canned food for children to take home over the weekend. Many children may go hungry if not for this program. For the most part “Backpack” depends on donations. Some money comes through United Way and some from individuals.  Many of the teachers help out of their pockets.

The form of “socialism” I believe in is what the Bible describes as our responsibilities to feed and clothe the poor and needy.  I will be interested in reading your thoughts and comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you write me, please include your approval for me to post your thoughts and comments.

Thanks!

Mike

 

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