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


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!



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.


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!!


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.”


Matt Nelson thoughts printed by permission.

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

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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.



*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.



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

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What God Calls Us to Be


This study calls for objectivity in self-examination. Satan will skew our objectivity because he does not want us to grow and improve as Christians. Be honest with yourself and especially with God. He will bless your efforts to be what he wants us to be! There are over fifty characteristics, attitudes, and responsibilities of our faith written about in the Bible.  

Think about the following questions as you study this list. Are these characteristics God’s wish list or expectations? Why does he want me to have and use these? Does he expect me to be able to achieve every one of these? Do they all hold equal value to God? Why are these so important to him?

As you read these characteristics and actions, measure yourself, not your spouse nor anyone else. Do not compare yourself with some else, “Well, I know I’m better than…”. God will not compare your successes or failures to another one of his children. We stand on our own. The following is from NewCREEation Ministries:

“Comparing yourself with others to measure your success is unwise. It can puff you up with pride, lull you into complacency, or lead you into discouragement and depression. Besides, you don't know what's going on in that other person's heart. From God's perspective, they may be doing much better or worse than it appears to you. The only accurate way to measure your success is to use God's standard: faithfulness. Are you doing what you know God told you to do? Your responsibility is to be faithful and obedient. God is the one who provides the increase. So, the results are on Him anyway. Check your focus. Are you looking at those who are way ahead, or way behind you? Instead, fix your eyes on Jesus, the author, and finisher of your faith.”

For we dare not count or compare ourselves with those, who commend themselves. They who measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another are not wise. — 2 Corinthians 10:12 (MEV)

Many of these characteristics are laid out as fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”

The fruits of the spirit are the Holy Spirit’s cultivation of character in our heart. He is working to make us more Christ-like.  Some of the writers were very adamant that we must CHOOSE to have and demonstrate these characteristics in our lives. To claim we have these in our heart without demonstrating them is of no value to God or ourselves.

Love: Matthew 22:37-39 – Jesus instructs the apostles that love for God is the greatest commandment then love for our neighbor comes right after that. The Greek word used in Matthew and Galatians is agape, which is unconditional love. Many commentators believe it also means a powerful love that calls for action and sacrifice on behalf of others. This love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling in our heart, hoping for the best for others but requires us to take action on someone else’s behalf. That’s easy to do for our family and friends but what about that person that we detest?  Some people in our lives are arrogant, selfish, mean spirited, and the list can go on, but there is no list of exceptions that excuses us from loving. The best way to love those you dislike is to pray for them. It’s hard not to have a love for people while praying for them. Then pray for your attitude about love.  You still may have a problem liking them, but maybe your prayers will help you both change.

Joy: The word used here is not the joy we receive from earthly pleasures but is the joy we receive from a loving and obedient relationship with God. Psalms 94:19 - “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” If you don’t have joy in your heart from being a Christian, then examine yourself to find out why. Something needs fixing!

Peace: The word means the tranquility of our heart, which comes from knowing that our lives are in the hands of God. This tranquility is not a feeling that sorrow will never come into our lives, but the peace of knowing God cares for us and has a plan for us. If we do not have this peace, then maybe our relationship with God and willingness to accept his will needs our attention with prayer.

Patience: KJV uses the word long-suffering. It comes from the Greek word generally used not for patience regarding things or events but regarding people. We are not to live in agitation biding our time until we can get revenge. William Barclay comments: “If God had been a man, he would have wiped out this world long ago; but he has that patience which bears with all our sinning and will not cast us off.” Some people require a great deal more of our patience than others but then again maybe you do too.

Kindness: This word has the meaning of tender concern, even sweetness. Kindness is the characteristic that God demonstrated when he arranged salvation for us. Christ showed kindness to the sinning woman who anointed his feet.  Christ demonstrated the greatest kindness by allowing the sacrifice of his body and blood for our sins.

Goodness: The word means beneficial results. Goodness is virtue and holiness when we act selflessly on someone else’s behalf. Consider the goodness we receive from God every day. If he is good to me, an unworthy sinner, who am I to not “pay it forward”? It also focuses on our morality, which influences others for God.

Faithfulness: The Greek word used here is the characteristic of someone trustworthy, careful with what they have been entrusted with, steadfast, and constant. We are faithful in the knowledge that God is who he says he is and that his word is our guide despite what the world says. I know with all my heart that I can count on God to be faithful to me, but can God count on me? Can others count on me?

Gentleness: There is a difference of opinion among commentators about the meaning of the Greek word here. One writer states that it is not acting in tenderness or a soft way controlling physical strength for the benefit of another. He believes it is submitting to God’s plan with a humble and peaceful heart. Other writers believe it has to do with our restrained behavior towards others.

This following was taken from the website, Got Questions:

“Every person is powerful. We can speak words that influence others; we can act in ways that help or hurt; and we can choose what influences will inform our words and actions. Gentleness constrains and channels that power. To be gentle is to recognize that God's ways and thoughts are high above our own (Isaiah 55:9). It is to humbly realize that our worldviews are shaped by exposure to sin and the misinterpretation of experience. It is to accept God's worldview, reflecting truth about the spiritual and the material worlds.”

Got Questions thinking fits the context of Galatians better for me.

Self-control: The word used in the KJV is temperance, which means the ability to control yourself by using restraint and moderation. William Barclay comments that in secular Greek, the word was used to describe an Emperor who does not allow his personal interest to influence his government of the people. If only all our elected government leaders would practice the same.

We’ve looked at what the Bible has to say about the fruits of the spirit with the interpretations of the meaning of Galatians 5:22. Let’s think about the applications of these verses. For me, knowledge for knowledge sake is not enough; there needs to be an application to my life. I went to Freed-Hardeman for four semesters and each semester in Bible class we had to memorize fifty Bible verses. Not one of the four professors told us why they selected the verses they assigned to the class, nor did they discuss the application. II Timothy 2:15 directs us to study to show ourselves approved. This verse means more than to simply understand the words; we must make an application.

As we look at the application of each spirit, I am borrowing from Max Lucado’s book, When God Whispers Your Name. Max is one of those writers who believes that we must make a conscious choice to display the fruits of the spirit in our life. In my words, “It ain’t going to happen unless you CHOOSE for it to happen!” The Holy Spirit will not shove the fruits down our throats!

Love calls for actions on someone’s behalf. It does not have to be a grandiose action. Offer encouragement by speaking a kind word, send a note, let them know you are praying for them. When others are sick, cook a meal, mow a yard, take someone elderly person grocery shopping. Almost without fail, there are people in retirement and nursing homes that do not see their family for whatever reason. Run by at lunchtime to let them know that they matter and are loved.  Max writes, “No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.”

Joy, in knowing that God desires a relationship with us is a positive influence in our life. Max: “I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God”. If others see this joy in our lives because of a relationship with God, we have become an encouragement for them to have a relationship with God.

Peace – Others can detect whether we are at peace or in distress. It’s difficult to always have peace when challenging times come. Through prayer, our faith can overcome stress and demonstrate to others that our peace is because of our relationship with God. Max relates our peace to God’s forgiveness in our lives: “I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live”. Peace is living with the knowledge of our salvation always in our mind!

Patience with people is often a struggle for me. Because it is a struggle is no excuse, nor can I pass it off it as “God did not grant me much patience.”  Max believes patience is to be demonstrated in every situation: “I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place. I’ll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage”.

Kindness – God demonstrates his great kindness to us in many ways every day. His greatest kindness came when he watched as Christ was beaten, spit on, mocked, nailed to the cross, suffered while he hung on the cross, and speared in the side. These would be heartbreaking for a parent to watch but to have then your child ask why you forsook them would be the most grueling of all. How can I choose not to show kindness to others? Max: “I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. Kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me”.

Goodness – As the Holy Spirit works in our heart, our character changes and goodness becomes a way of life. We choose the fruits of the spirit and act in ways that are beneficial to others. We rid ourselves of selfishness, anger, spite, revenge, etc. and become focused on goodness. Max – “I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I boast. I will confess before I accuse”.

Faithfulness – We are entrusted with so much in our lives. Each of us has been given a talent to use to influence others for God. Our children count on us to take care of them in every way, physically and spiritually. Our employers count on us to be faithful in completing our work. Are we faithful to them in such a way to be an influence for God? Max writes: “Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.”

Gentleness is being able to restrain myself in either action or word. From Got Questions: “Gentleness, also translated “meekness,” does not mean weakness. Rather, it involves humility and thankfulness toward God, and polite, restrained behavior toward others. The opposites of gentleness are anger, a desire for revenge, and self-aggrandizement.”

Galatians 6:1 instructs us to go to someone in sin and restore them in gentleness. Even in difficult times, we are to remain gentle. Max: “Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raised my voice, may it only be in praise. If I clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it only be of myself”. Ok, Max but what about Jesus running the money changers out of the temple? He was not gentle! Agreed! But he is the son of God. I’m not!

Self-control is not the most important fruit but is of great importance. Without self-control, the other fruits are much more difficult to maintain. Satan will use any means to tempt us, and he knows where we are the weakest. He will not waste his time and effort, tempting you with alcohol if it is not a weakness for you. We have to rely on God’s promise that he will provide a way out for us: I Corinthians 10:13 from God’s Word translation: “But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape.” Our ability to escape is using our self-control. Max: “I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control”.

In the second paragraph, there were questions to consider as you studied the fruits of the spirit. I believe these are the answers to the questions. The fruits are God’s expectations of us, not merely his wish list. He expects us to have these characteristics to influence others, but he also knows they will make our lives more fulfilling. He understands we may be stronger in some than others, but he expects us to work with the Holy Spirit to mature in them all. I believe they are of equal value to him. They are all interrelated, and each one supports the others. They are all important to God because we are his workman, servants, and we need to lead others to him. He wants us all to be in heaven with him.

Max writes: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these, I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest”.

Whether we like to admit it or not people watch us because they know we are Christians. Some are truly interested in us as examples while others are waiting to find blame when we fail. As you can imagine, I do not always demonstrate the fruits in my behavior. Satan gets to me and I fail God. It’s not just failing God in our relationship that bothers me but the fact that I fail those that look for me to set the Christian example. We hold great influence with others in their relationship with God. We should ask God daily to strengthen us to demonstrate each of the fruits in our lives.

Practice Galatians 5:22, and I Corinthians 13.  Watch how much better your life and the lives of those around for you become.



Material used by Max Lucado: When God Whispers Your Name

Publisher: Word Publishing  - Copyright by,Max Lucado 1994

Used by Permission


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Lessons in Humor and Tragedy

As I’ve researched the internet for information on topics, these two items stuck in my mind, so I wanted to share them.

One Sunday morning at a small southern church. The new pastor called on one of his older deacons to lead the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said, “Lord, I hate buttermilk.” The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going. The deacon continued, “Lord, I hate lard.” Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, “Lord, I ain’t too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix 'em all together and bake ’em in a hot oven, I just love biscuits. Lord help us to realize when life gets hard when things come up that we don’t like, whenever we don’t understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You are making. After You get through mixing and baking, it’ll probably be something even better than biscuits. Amen”

Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 12:12 -Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Psalm 27:14 – Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Looking through The Christian Chronicle, I noticed an obituary and wondered why this young lady’s death had been listed. On March 8, 2019, Mary Jo Ueberlien, age 20, and her sister were headed home to Wildwood, MO. for spring break from Harding University.

There was a terrible wreck, and Mary Jo was critically injured, but her sister only suffered a concussion. After eight days in the intensive care unit, Mary Jo could not overcome her injuries, and she passed away.

Mary Jo was a junior nursing student. Many of her fellow students wrote how much she loved and cared about others. A number of them wrote to The Chronicle letting them know that her organs had been donated to help others. She was a member of the Layfette Church of Christ in Ballwin, MO. The congregation posted a poem she wrote honor of her life:

Because of Jesus:

You are enough.

You are secure.

You are cared for.

You are seen.

You are forgiven.

You are free.

You have hope. And you are made to be His beloved.

It’s easy to understand why The Chronicle posted her obituary.

Through the humor of the deacon’s prayer, we learn to trust God and wait on Him. Through the tragic death of a young Christian lady, we learn that we can and do affect others in the way we live our lives.

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God's Will

In studying for this article, I read and listened to many commentator’s views. I do not necessarily agree with all their opinions, but their writings cause me to reconfirm or to rethink my beliefs. One thing that most writers agree on is that there are many different views on God’s will. I apologize for the length of this article, but I found that the subject could not be covered in a couple of pages. The following is what I took away from the study.

Some writers believe that God’s will breaks down in two categories; his sovereign will or purpose and his moral will which is his command to conduct our lives by the teachings in the Bible. God does not intend for us to know most of his sovereign will ahead of time. Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may follow all the words of his law.” Acts 1:7 … “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority……” God’s will requires that we have complete faith and trust him.

The term “God’s will” is used with different implications in the Bible. It’s used to mean the plan of God, the counsel of God, the decrees of God, the disposition or attitude of God. It is also be looked at in the active tense as his conscious deciding, willing, and choosing to do something.

Philip H. Towner’s thought: “Obedience to the will of God challenges and supersedes legalistic obedience to religious rules which through concretization have become meaningless and even hinder the pursuit of a knowledge of God. Ultimately, the readiness of an individual to acknowledge and then do God’s will determines whether that person will be able to apprehend the truth of Jesus.” He uses John 17:7 as his reference: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”

Think about God’s will as the plan by which everything is designed. He has laid out his blueprint for the entire world as well as for us individually. He expects us to align ourselves within that blueprint. Mr. Towner continues: “The will of God as a superstructure of God’s intervention in the affairs of humankind and for all of life was a belief that shaped much of the early church’s outlook on theology and life. Jesus’ own life, ministry, and teaching undoubtedly provided a formative influence.” The Bible is our resource for God’s blueprint to carefully study, understand and then execute his plan. It’s not a plan that God intends for us to pick and choose what we like and cast aside those portions we don’t like. We have a choice to make!

God’s will includes his plan of salvation. I Timothy 2:4 tells us that God’s global plan wants all men to be saved by coming to a knowledge of the truth. People disagree on exactly what God’s plan of salvation requires of us. I’m convinced many people’s religious beliefs are not based on their own search of the scriptures. They have accepted their parent’s beliefs, the beliefs of a minister or accepted the faith of their spouse. Understanding God’s will requires time spent in self-study. Do not set back with the idea of waiting on God to reveal his will to you by osmosis. There is not enough space or time in this article for me to share what I believe about God’s plan of salvation, but I will be happy to share with you at any time.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has plans for us as individuals: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Psalms 57:2: “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” How do I determine God’s plan or his purpose for me?  

Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God --- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is --- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In the Old Testament, God’s people offered animals to him as sacrifices for their sins. Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 that given God’s enormous sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, his purpose is that he now wants us to be living sacrifices and give ourselves in service to him. We are no longer to allow the world to influence the way we live, but we are to have a renewed mind or change of heart to live for God. Some writers believe this change is influenced and led by the Holy Spirit. The word “test” used in the NIV was “prove” in the KJV. The word was used to mean the transformed person would demonstrate or show the will of God by the way he lives.

In some ways, God’s plan for me is a mystery. I don’t always fully understand his intent for me. Here are a few verses that give us an idea of God’s purpose for us:

  • Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells us that fearing God and keeping his commandments is my whole duty;
  • Ephesians 2:8-10 says we were created in Jesus for good works;
  • II Thessalonians 1:12 tells us that we are to glorify God in our lives;
  • I Corinthians 12:7-11 and I Peter 4:10-11 says we each have gifts to serve God
  • In John 15:12 Jesus commands that we love one another as he has loved us.

Boyd Bailey offers these thoughts on understanding God’s will:

  • Search the scriptures for the basics of being a follower of Christ. If we follow Christ’s teachings, we will always be in God’s will.
  • Find objective counsel. Proverbs 15:22 “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Listen to believers who will not just tell you what you want to hear. They can assist you in self-evaluation. If they tell you something is God’s will, ask for Bible references then study for yourself.
  • Find peace. Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” For me, this one is difficult. I’m impatient always trying to make things happen. If I can sit quietly “listening” to God, he usually “speaks” to me. No, I do not believe that God supernaturally talks to me, but somehow looking for his peace and guidance helps. Being patient and waiting on God helps you understand his will.
  • Prayer should be a constant in trying to understand God’s will for our lives. Surrendering to God’s plan not asking him to match our plan is vital. It’s ok to ask God for his help with what we would like to see happen, but his plan comes first, always. Do not expect him to yield to your plan.

We should always keep these things in our heart as our purpose. The best way to determine what he expects of us is to study and determine what gift he has given us to serve him. Prayer is vital to discover our gift.

God’s counsel can be sought through study and prayer. If we are truly trying to seek and follow his will, he will bless our efforts. I John 5:14 tells that “if we ask God anything according to his will, he hears us.” What happens if I pray for something that is not in his will? God will not bless something that is evil or requests that are made with the wrong motive.

The decrees of God are his declarations and pronouncements that he has made within his plan. They declare his purposes under his will. They are also considered his counsel.

God’s disposition or attitude tells us God’s thinking and feelings on matters of morality and how he wants them handled. Once again, his disposition and attitude are in the Bible. They are found in the teachings of Christ as the inspired word of God.

God’s conscious deciding, willing, and choosing to do something maybe the concept of God’s will that people will discuss and disagree on the most. This happens especially when it’s used to decide whether God caused something to happen. When a tragic event happens, some people declare it God’s will and others will counter with God did not cause or make that happen. I do not doubt that God allows tragedy to come into our lives, but I have trouble believing that he caused that four-year-old child to be brutally beaten and killed. Some of the writers make an absolute statement that he will not cause events like this. Others believe that God will use anything to serve his purposes. My question is: What purpose did the death of that child serve? I don’t know!

How does God’s will and our free will work together? Scripture from the very beginning of time shows that humans have minds and wills of their own. Consider Adam and Eve. II Chronicles 12:14 points out that Rehoboam “did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.” Luke 6 says that a good man brings out the good in his heart but that the evil man brings out evil things. God wants us to choose to do his will but is not going to shove it down our throats. That is free will.

Does God have a will over everything in my life? Here again, there are different answers to this question. I believe his will covers my entire life, but I cannot find his guidance to everything in the Bible. It’s estimated that the average person makes about 35,000 decisions each day. The answers for some of our decisions are not always found in the Bible. We decide about job changes, who to marry etc. and you cannot find a verse that gives a direct answer in the Bible. If you are seeking to find God’s will, pray for guidance and “be still and listen.”

Verses relating directly to morality are found in the Bible. Every question relating to our morality is there if you look for it. That part of God’s will is spelled out.

Kay and I made a decision ten years ago to retire and move from Memphis to Bell Buckle. We prayed long and often about the decision. Everything was fitting together for the relocation, so we believed it was God’s will. Why was it God’s will and what was his purpose? To this day we have no idea the answer to that question. Has his will already been served or is it still to happen? We may never know, but we have faith that our move was within his will.

How’s your faith in accepting God’s will? Mine is often weak and not what it should be. I pray to God about many things but still worry. I don’t worry because I doubt his power and abilities but what if his will does not match my request. Death visits each of us at one time or another. Hebrews 9:27 “Just as people are destined to die once….” Death is a part of God’s will. A few days ago eight children were shot at a school in Colorado with one 18-year-old dying. Why? Because bad people do bad things is the answer.

We have all prayed for the sick people in our lives with success and failure. The most difficult death is that of a child. There is no explanation that soothes our anguish. After the birth of his daughter four years ago, my son told me how difficult it would be for his relationship with God if something happened to Kinleigh. The reply to his comment is “have faith in God.” but that seems to be an easy answer at a very difficult time.

John Mark Hicks, a professor at Harding Graduate School and now at Lipscomb, advises not to tell someone after the death of a loved one “it’s God’s will.” He does not believe that offers the comfort intended and can offend. There is nothing we can say to remove the feeling of someone who has lost a loved one. Just being there for them and telling them you are sorry for their loss is the best we can do.

It’s time to close this study! There is no way this article answered all the questions you may have concerning God’s will. Hopefully, it helped you in your efforts to learn God’s will for your life. Study the Bible, pray for God’s guidance, and grow your faith!

Please share your beliefs on God’s will at mikeclement@ charter.net.



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God's Discipline

God loves and cares about us. He wants us to be happy even though it may not always fell that way. He like any good parent is going to discipline us when we stray from the way he wants us to live. He does not discipline us out of anger but from love. We’ve sinned, and he wants us to repent and turn from our sins. Sometimes, he needs to get our attention.

Rick Warren writes: “God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.”

The following verses assure us of what God’s discipline means for us:

Job 5:17-18 – Blessed is the man who God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.

Proverbs 3:11-12 – My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.,

Proverbs 10:17 - He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Proverbs 12:1 – Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

Hebrews12:7 – Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.

Hebrews 12:10-11 – Our fathers discipline us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Revelations 3:19 – Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

The discipline I received as a child took on different forms, sometimes a spanking, other times being deprived of the TV, as I grew older grounding to the house was used. The discipline that I hated most was being told how disappointed my Mother was in me. The discipline was meant to be both punishment and character building. I believe I can feel God’s disappointment when I’ve sinned.

God’s discipline does not take the form of punishment! Billy Graham writes: “God does not discipline us to subdue us but to condition us for a life of usefulness and blessedness.  In his wisdom, he knows that an uncontrolled life is an unhappy life, so he puts reins on our wayward souls that they may be directed into the paths of righteousness.”    

One commentator looks at God’s discipline as three forms: warning, disciplining and chastening which he believes are all somewhat different. I looked up the dictionary definition of disciplining and chastening.  They are very similar, but discipline can be used to mean training while chastening can be used to mean rebuking. Regardless, the outcome of God’s discipline is to create a change in us.

1 Peter 1 starting in verse 3 tells us that God has given us a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Verse 6: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith …. may be proved genuine….”

What trials does God use to discipline us? The commentators offer many different thoughts, but most agree that he will use anything to discipline us. The following is a collection of their thoughts:

+ Paul had a thorn in his flesh that he asked God three times to remove. God told Paul that his grace was sufficient and did not remove the thorn. Some believe that the thorn was a speech impediment while others believe it was some other physical problem. Some believe that Paul’s struggle with those who tried everything or anything to stop his ministry were his thorn causing him great stress. Most of them agree that it was due to Paul’s pride. God wanted him more humble.

+ One writer believes God uses financial burdens to discipline those that are not good stewards. A couple with a lot of debt came to him for counseling. His first question was the amount of their contribution to the church. They were not contributing anything to the collection plate on Sunday. This minister believes God was using the financial burden to get their attention. The couple gladly accepted his blessings, and he wanted better stewardship.

+ Another commentator believes God will use shattered relationships as a form of discipline. You may have a friend that’s hurting your relationship with God. It could be a spouse that’s causing you to turn from God. It seems extreme to think that divorce, breaking up a family, would be used but we must trust God’s discipline.

+ Will God use our health as a form to disciple us? Sometimes the disease is just a natural result of life, but writers do believe God will use poor health to get our attention.

Please forgive the personal reference but over the past four years, I have given a lot of thought to this question. The stroke could have killed me which Kay thought was going to be the result. Over the four days of the stroke, I got worse every day. It could have ended with me being an invalid. On day five, my speech was unintelligible; the only thing that I could swallow with difficulty was liquids, and I had no control over my right side. After a long period of inpatient and outpatient rehab, I can eat solid foods, about 80% of the use of my right side has returned, and my speech even though still difficult to understand is better. Was the stroke meant for a warning, discipline or chastening? I do not know. I will confess though; I’ve never been one to tell others about what God has done for me in my life. Now I freely share with people that I am blessed because of what could have happened. God rescued from death and from being an invalid! Maybe God’s intent was for me to share with others what a great God he is!

+ One thought offered is that God uses other people to administer his discipline. Proverbs 27:6 tells us that wounds from a friend can be trusted. Maybe we should listen carefully when friends try to counsel us. It could be God!

One of my favorite books is On The Anvil by Max Lucado. It compares discipline in our lives to the tools that a blacksmith creates and reshapes on the anvil to make them useful. God’s discipline is to make us useful in his kingdom. “Anvil time” is God’s discipline.

He writes: “Time on God’s anvil should clarify our mission and define our purpose. When a tool emerges from a blacksmith’s anvil, there is no question as to what is for. As a human being emerges from the anvil of God, the same should be true. Being tested by God reminds us that our function and task is to be about his business; that our purpose is to be an extension of his nature, an ambassador of his throne room, and a proclaimer of his message. We should exit the shop with no question as to why God made us. We know our purpose.”

“In a world of confused identity, in a world of wavering commitments and foggy futures, let us be firm in our role. Society is in dire need of a quorum of people whose task is clear and whose determination is unquenchable.”

Take time to consider the hardships you are enduring. Is God sending me a message that I need to make corrections in my life? Is he steering me to be more productive in his kingdom? Pray that you may clearly understand his discipline. Then ask for his guidance and strength to take his correction and direction. God is channeling our lives for his and our good!



On The Anvil by Max Lucado

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright 1985 - Max Lucado

Used by permission

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Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where is God in My Storm?

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

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

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

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

You'll never walk alone

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

You'll never walk alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s got your back!


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

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

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

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

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

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

When He Was The Cross I Was On His Mind:


“He knew me, yet He loved me;

He whose glory makes the heavens shine;

I’m so unworthy of such mercy yet;

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

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

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

Thanks, to God and Jesus!

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I Have Sinned but I Have Several Excellent Excuses




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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How Do I Help Myself or Others Find Hope?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The doctors suggest four resources that may be useful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 42:5 - … Put your hope in God

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

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

Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope…

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope….

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

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

God and Christ will always endure as our hope!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is near so that’s HOPE!



Next: How can I help someone find hope?

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Relationship with God

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

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

Conversations with folks I’ve known:

Q: How’s your relationship with God?

A: Yes, I believe in God.

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

A: Everything is OK, I guess!

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

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

Q: How’s your relationship with God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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