We may fail to obey, giving way to passion by the allurements of temptation; but we know that we ought to obey righteousness. The great crises of life arise when conscience is issuing one command, while self-interest, or passion issues another. The question (which must be decided) is which of the two is to be obeyed. But how does anyone know which of the choices is the right and which is wrong? Folks, the heart (the conscience – the dominate spirit) can only give back what it has been fed! ---- “Thy word [the truth] have I laid up in my heart, That I might not sin against thee. (Psa 119:11).
The other day I saw some children at play on a large vacant lot where someone had dumped a mound of dirt. They were playing the greatest of kid games: King of the Mountain. The rules are as simple as they are brutal: fight your way to the top, and shove off anyone who threatens to take your spot.
Versions of King of the Mountain are played in every dormitory, classroom, boardroom, and bedroom. And since mountaintop real estate is limited, people tend to get shoved around. Mark it down: if you want to be king, someone is going to suffer. Your arrogance might prompt a broken marriage, an estranged friendship, or a divided office.
Pride comes at a high price. Don’t pay it. Consider the counsel of the apostle Paul: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” (Romans 12:3).
From Mike: We all know someone that Max's writing describes. My question is: Does it describe me? I need to think deeply and be honest with myself. Do I need to make changes?
Do his thoughts describe you?
“Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard” (Daniel 10:12). Those words were spoken by an angel to the prophet Daniel. The moment Daniel began praying, the answer was issued. Demonic forces blocked the pathway of the angel. The impasse lasted a full three weeks until the archangel Michael arrived on the scene with his superior authority. The standoff was ended, and the prayer was answered
Have your prayers been met with a silent sky? Have you prayed and heard nothing? Are you floundering in the land between an offered and an answered prayer? If so, I beg you, don’t give up. What the angel said to Daniel, God says to you. You have been heard in Heaven. Angelic armies have been dispatched. Reinforcements have been rallied. Do what Daniel did – remain before the Lord.
From Mike: When I pray about people and their circumstances but nothing happens, I wonder about that. I've been praying for one of the CASA families for at least three years. The father and the boys keep getting in trouble with the law because of drugs. Is it time to shake the dust off my feet and move on? It seems that Max's last paragraph may be the answer. Keep praying, be patient and wait of the Lord!
Albert delivers more than mail. He delivers happiness. I’d like to challenge you to do the same. Set out to alter the joy level of a hundred people over the next forty days. Pray for people, serve more, practice patience, and bring out the best in people. Keep a journal to describe the encounters and what you learned. At the end of forty days, would your world be different? Would you be different? I took the challenge, and I certainly am.
From Mike: A very good challenge, especially if you are having difficulty with finding your way to serve God. Albert not only brought happiness and goodness to others but to himself as well. I'm not good at journals and maybe you are not either but we shouldn't let that stop us. Let's try it!!
GRANDPA SAYS – “THINK ON THESE THINGS”: “
“THERE ARE OBSTACLES IN OUR DAILY LIVES THAT CAN ENCUMBER OUR MINDS AND HINDER OUR SPIRITUAL PROGRESS, BUT ONLY IF WE LET THEM.”
Christians are --- “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Eph 2:10). These last four words --- “to do good works” epitomize the behavior that glorifies God and makes Christ real to others. Granted, there are obstacles in our daily lives that can encumber our minds and hinder our spiritual progress, but only if we let them. Nonetheless, Christians are called to live lives that are --- “holy and pleasing to God” (Rom 12:1).
Faith must be proven by actions. Christians are a chosen people, belonging to God so that we may declare His praises (1 Pet 2:9). To “declare His praises,” it is essential that we spend time in His Word so we can learn how to behave in Christian fashion. However, knowledge alone is not enough; we are called to do more than to know and believe. Christians are to be --- “doers of the Word” (Jam 1:22). As the apostle James informs us, we are deceiving ourselves if we think we are spiritual by only hearing the Word. Hearing is not the same as doing --- “Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead [by] itself.” (Jas 2:17).
Folks, it is easy to show love to those who walk as we do. It’s not always so easy to be kind to those who ridicule our beliefs, show contempt for our Savior, or make a mockery of the principles that Christians hold sacred. Yet Christ taught us to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us. Recall how He dealt with the woman caught in adultery. Her captors wanted her dead; our Savior showed compassion even though He was the One who would die for her sinful behavior (John 8:11).
Christian behavior includes heeding Jesus’ call for us to be His witnesses to --- “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are to share the gospel, which Paul defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:1-4). The validity of our witness is in how we live our lives.
We are to --- “offer your bodies as living sacrifices” (Rom 12:2). This, ultimately, is the essence of true Christian behavior – surrendering our hearts and yielding our bodies to Christ so He might continue God’s work through us. We are to be beacons of light in a dark world.
From Mike: Some have the attitude, "Look I have a hard enough time taking care of me and mine so don't lay the responsibility on me about others! As far as "good works", I do the best I can so that will have to do! God understands!" Yes He understands but He expects more.
John's third paragraph is a strong reminder for me. Christians are under attack from a great many in our society so loving our detractors is a challenge for me, especially our elected leaders. I remember the church sign that offered this thought: "Love everyone and let God separate them!" A great idea to practice.
Hopefully, as you read John's article you conducted a realistic inventory of yourself and didn't rationalize your failings. The Holy Spirit will helps us if we allow him to guide us. As John says, "Think on these things"!
“This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
"A divine spark indwells you. When you say yes to God he blows on that holy ember, and it begins to flame. It grows day by day within you. Are you perfect? No. But you are being made perfect. And he has a wild and inexplicable love for you. You are God’s idea, God’s child."
"You were loved in heaven before you were known on earth. You aren’t an accident. You are being made into God’s image. You are a diamond, a rose, and a jewel, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. In the eyes of God you are worth dying for. Would you let this truth find its way into your heart?"
From Mike: Notice Max writes that "when" we say "yes" to God he will stoke our fire. Saying "yes" to God is not just a one time action but an everyday event. I'm finding that many people believe a one time statement of belief will carry them forever. A fire not tendered will extinguish itself. Don't allow yours to go out! Nurture your fire with scripture reading and prayer!
The following article was written by John Gray and published on the preaching group that offers these articles.
As you read the article, examine your life. Do you always make your “deals” with God, or do you occasionally work a side deal with Satan? We can rationalize that a deal with Satan every once in a while won’t do damage or will it. If that’s your attitude, pay close attention to John’s fourth paragraph. Once you make one side deal with Satan it becomes easier to make more and more until you are only dealing with Satan. This article is a good reminder for everyone and excellent reading for young people.
GRANDPA SAYS – “THINK ON THESE THINGS”: The road best traveled is the road less traveled --- “Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it.” (Mat 7:13-14).
DEVOTION ASSERTIONS: (1) Good times tend to make us hard of hearing. We learn more in hard times because we are more ready to learn. (2) Choose wisely who you are going to partner and dance through life with because it is a decision with eternal consequences. (3) Satan is the father of lies and deception – “… for he is a liar, and the father thereof.” (Joh 8:44).
Since the dawn of creation, mankind has always wanted to do things their own way. Folks, going your own way without the right compass can have disastrous side effects which not only impact us directly, but also our loved ones and others we encounter - choices have consequences.
Every day there is someone who enters into a pact with the devil and believes that it will be the best thing that ever happened to them. Making a pact with the devil may seem like a good decision at first. But eventually, payment will be demanded (by Satan) as we painfully realize that the price which must be paid is much greater than the promised benefits --- “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mar 8:36). Satan is good at blinding us with the promises and pleasures of sin – for a season (Heb 11:25).
Folks, God loves us so much that He offers us a “Sincere Deal”. He will save our souls, giving us everything our hearts truly needs for eternity, in exchange for nothing but our obedient faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. In a great exchange, Jesus has appeased God’s wrath for us, taking our sin and its penalty upon Himself (1 John 4:10; 1 Pet 2:24). In Christ, God will make us alive, and He will fill our futile lives (on this side of eternity) with meaningful work and joyful anticipation of eternal bliss.
Before we are saved, we are all in bondage to the devil, as 1 John 5:19 says --- “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Praise the Lord, we have a new Master, One who can break the chains of any sin and set us free (1 Cor 6:9-11; Mark 5:1-15).
Let us make all or our “Deals” with God! He keeps his promises!
From Mike: In one fashion or another many people are facing struggles in life. Health, marriage, children, older parents, spouses health, struggling with the death of a loved one, job, drugs etc. The last paragraph is a message we need to carry with us at all times. You don't have to go to the church building to worship Him! In your prayers give appraise and thanks!
"God’s answer for troubled times has always been the same: heaven has an occupied throne."
"During the eighth century BC, ancient Judah enjoyed a time of relative peace, thanks to the steady leadership of King Uzziah. He kept enemies at bay for fifty-two years, then Uzziah died. Isaiah the prophet was worried. What would happen now that Uzziah was gone?"
"Or, in your case, what will happen now that your job is gone? Or your health has diminished? Does God have a message for his people when calamity strikes? He certainly had a word for Isaiah. The prophet wrote, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up…” (Isaiah 6:1). Uzziah’s throne was empty, but God’s was occupied. He was, and is, alive, on the throne, and worthy of our endless worship."
"We did a lot of shouting on our elementary school playground. All the boys marched around the playground shouting, “Boys are better than girls!” In response, the girls paraded around the school announcing, “Girls are better than boys.” We were a happy campus."
"Shouting feels good. But does it do any good? It seems to me there is a lot of shouting going on. On the airwaves, on bumper stickers, on social media."
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). It is one thing to have an opinion; it’s something else to have a fight. Let’s reason together. Let’s work together. And if discussion fails, let love succeed. If love covers a multitude of sins, can it not cover a multitude of opinions? Resist the urge to shout."
From Mike: Our politicans are acting just like they are on the playground!! I'm afraid that's leaking over to some Christians. We cannot control how the politicians act but sure must contol ourselves as Christians. We must show "deep love to everybody". We are to pray for the politicians even those that we abhor! Think about it!
If you want to see believers search for words, ask, “Who is the Holy Spirit?”
The Bible makes more than a hundred references to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said more about the Holy Spirit than he did about the church or marriage. The Holy Spirit is central to the life of the Christian. Everything from Acts to Revelation is a result of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came alongside the disciples, indwelled them, and gave the early church the push they needed to face the challenges ahead.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit became the primary agent of the Trinity on earth. He will complete what was begun by the Father and the Son. “Keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). He directs and leads; you must obey and follow.
From Mike: Max's closing statement is absolutley correct but we must allow His direction and leadership. He is not going to force his guidance on us. Don't just give the Spirit lip service but actively seek His help as we live our lives. He loves us and cares about us. Trust Him!
Odds are that you know what it means to be at home somewhere. To be at home is to feel safe. The residence is a place of refuge and security. To be at home is to be comfortable. You can pad around wearing slippers and a robe. To be at home is to be familiar. When you enter the door, you needn’t consult the blueprint to find the kitchen.
Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4). Our aim is to be at home in Christ. He is our place of refuge and security. We are comfortable in his presence, free to be our authentic selves. His roof of grace protects us from storms of guilt. His walls of providence secure us from destructive winds. His fireplace warms us during the lonely winters of life. He is our home.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
from Begin Again
Water. All Noah can see is water. Water to the north. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the west. Water. For forty days it has rained. For months they have floated. For weeks Noah has been wondering, How long is this going to last? Can God re-create this world? Is he able to start over? Can he, and we, begin again?
Finally the boat bumped, and the rocking stopped. The hull of the ark was resting on ground, but the ground was still surrounded by water.
Noah sent a raven on a scouting mission; it never returned. He sent a dove. It came back shivering and spent. Then, he pulled a dove out of the bowels of the ark and ascended the ladder. With a prayer he let it go and watched until the bird was no bigger than a speck.
All day he looked for the dove’s return but all he sees is water. Water to the north. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the . . .
You know the feeling. You have stood where Noah stood. You’ve known your share of floods. Flooded by sorrow at the cemetery, anger at the disability in your body, fear of the uncertainty of a pandemic. You’ve been on Noah’s boat. And you’ve needed what Noah needed: hope.
Hope doesn’t promise an instant solution but rather the possibility of an eventual one. Sometimes all we need is a little hope. That’s all Noah needed. And that’s what Noah received.
This is how the Bible describes the moment: “When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!” (Gen. 8:11).
An olive leaf. This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise. The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope. For isn’t that what hope is? Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after a flood. Proof to the dreamer that dreaming is worth the risk.
To all the Noahs of the world, to all who search the horizon for a glimpse of hope, God proclaims, “Yes!” And he comes. He comes as a dove. He comes bearing fruit from a distant land, from our future home. He comes with a leaf of promise that he can make all things new.
God didn’t tell me, “Clean up before you come in.” He offered, “Come in and I’ll clean you up.” It’s not my grip on him that matters but his grip on me. And his grip is sure. So is his presence in my life. Christmas presents from Santa? That’s nice. But the perpetual presence of Christ? That’s life changing.
God is always near us. Always for us. Always in us. We may forget him, but God will never forget us. We are forever on his mind and in his plans. He called himself “‘Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23).
Not just “God made us.” Not just “God thinks of us.” But God with us. God where we are: at the office, in the kitchen, on the plane. He breathed our air and walked this earth. God…with…us!
In all abide, in all abound.” ~ (Thomas Gibbons)
God knows what it is like to be a human.
When I talk to him about deadlines or long lines or tough times, he understands. He’s been there. He’s been here. Because of Bethlehem, I have a friend in heaven.
Because of Bethlehem, I have a Savior in heaven. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross. And because he did, there are no marks on my record. Just grace. His offer has no fine print.
He didn’t tell me, “Clean up before you come in.” He offered, “Come in and I’ll clean you up.” It’s not my grip on him that matters but his grip on me. And his grip is sure.
So is his presence in my life. Christmas presents from Santa? That’s nice. But the perpetual presence of Christ? That’s life changing.
God is always near us. Always for us. Always in us. We may forget him, but God will never forget us. We are forever on his mind and in his plans. He called himself “‘Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matt. 1:23).
Not just “God made us.”
Not just “God thinks of us.”
Not just “God above us.”
But God with us. God where we are: at the office, in the kitchen, on the plane. He breathed our air and walked this earth. God . . . with . . . us!
I’ve known people who like to go through life asking, “What if?” Going through the exercise of asking the question much of the time is worthless. You can’t change the past this way. Asking the question to make an analysis for future decisions can be useful.
Matthew 26 records Christ’s three prayers requesting for God to deliver Him from the crucifixion. Each time Christ ended His prayer asking that God’s will be done not His. What if Christ had stuck to His guns and demanded that He not go through the awful crucifixion? Would God have honored Christ’s prayer? What about our hope if Christ was not crucified. Would God have found a different way to save us? I’m sure He could have but not one that would have not been as meaningful.
The giving of His Son was the ultimate act of love! Christ’s manner of death was a demonstration of just how much love God has for us. Would you give your only child to go through the same death for the world? Probably not! Be thankful for not having to ask, “what if”! It’s a worthless question in this case! Spend your time giving praise, glory and honor to God and Christ!
A Time to KIll
In the movie by the same title, Matthew McConaughy, the attorney, used a very effective means of getting the jury to consider their verdict. He got them to close their eyes and picture in their minds the molestation of the little girl.
Try the same method as you think about Christ’s crucifixion. My mind sees Christ walk into the garden, fall to His knees then to His face and cry. He pleads with God, His Father, to not make Him go through the crucifixion. Picture your own child with the same pleas.
They put Christ on trial telling lies about Him. When He refuses to answer their lies, they begin beating Him. They beat Him till His face is misshapen. I believe His face was a bloody pulp then they spit in His face. For me, there is no greater show of disrespect than to spit on someone, especially in the face.
The whips come out creating more pain and blood. A crown of thorns is crammed down on His head, and He is mocked as “King of the Jews”. Thorns are extremely painful, and the scalp is very tender.
The cross, about 180 pounds, is laid on His back with orders to march. People surround Him jeering, mocking and cursing. He’s too weak to make it all the way so the Roman’s spare Him until they reach Golgotha. Once there He’s laid on the cross and nails are pounded through His hands and feet. They raise the cross to shove it in the hole jarring the cross and ripping His flesh.
While He suffers, the mocking and cursing continues. He asks for something to drink and to further mock Him they give a mixture of vinegar and other bitter drink. He hung there for six hours which seems like forever when you are suffering and dying.
Finally, Christ dies but not before He cries out in a loud voice asking God why He has forsaken Him. Christ not only suffered physically but emotionally. To feel alone and forsaken especially while suffering death is indescribable and unimaginable.
God did not sit in heaven watching and listening Christ’s execution without also suffering right along with His Son maybe even shedding a tear.
In the movie one of the jurors shed a tear as Matthew described the little girl’s molestation. It’s ok to shed one as you think about Christ’s molestation after all His molestation was for YOU!
Christ then spent three days in the tomb but then was raised to increase our HOPE!
Praise God and Christ!
This probably seems like a strange subject for the Christmas season but this the result of a conversation this past week. A lady thinks that COVID is happening because God is unhappy with us. I agree that God is most likely unhappy and disappointed given the shape of the world, but I do not believe he is the author of this terrible disease. It seems very possible that Satan is using it to his advantage.
My assumption is that if you are reading this you are already a Christian or at least say you are. Hopefully, this is an encouragement to you in the war for your soul.
Who is Satan? Why does he hate me so much that he wants to drag me down to hell to be with him for eternity? Most leaders in the world, especially military leaders, believe that you should know your enemy and know what he/she is capable of so you can defeat them. If someone were out to destroy you and your family, you would do everything in your power to find out about them in order to defeat them. Well, that person exist, Satan, Lucifer, the devil or whatever name you choose, he is real and wants to destroy you. 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
I thought writing this would be easy, short and sweet but found out different. When the subject of the devil is Googled, the science of the devil comes out immediately. Data about his reality and his believers came out initially and it took several clicks to find a Biblical and commentator discussion about the subject.
The Hebrew name Satan (pronounced SA-tan) actually means "adversary", Greek diabolos, also means "adversary". So, he’s NOT your friend.
References to Satan: Genesis 3:14 - “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly, and you will eat dust all the days of your life”
Isaiah 14:12 outlines the destruction of Babylon and its wicked king: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”
Revelation 12:9 “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
Satan is God’s enemy, but he cannot attack God directly, so he attacks those made in God’s image, and dearly loved by him. Satan knows his doom is sure, and wants to bring as many people down with him as he can.
The Bible describes him as crafty, sneaky, clever, cunning, subtle, intelligent and shrewd. Satan is a clever devil who is very good at what he does. Satan never takes a holiday like Christmas. I even wonder if he doubles his efforts when we are trying to come closer to God.
Here is Max Lucado’s description of satan:
“Want to read his rap sheet?”
“Satan . . . incited David” (1 Chron. 21:1 NIV).
“Satan has asked . . . to sift you [Simon] like wheat” (Luke 22:31 TLB).
“The devil . . . persuaded Judas Iscariot . . . to turn against Jesus” (John 13:2 NCV).
“This woman . . . Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years” (Luke 13:16 NIV).
“He has “blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. As a result, they don’t see the light of the Good News” (2 Cor. 4:4 GOD’S WORD).”
“He rules the world, and his spirit has power over everyone who doesn’t obey God” (Eph. 2:2 CEV).
“Satan incites, sifts, persuades, binds, blinds, and rules.”
The following is a paraphrase from the internet: “The devil is responsible for all the sin, sickness, sorrow, suffering, crime, poverty and death on this earth. Everlasting fire is prepared for the devil and his angels. Evil men and women are his angels and do his bidding. Look at any news headline whether TV or computer and there’s no doubt that evil things are happening all over the world. And despite our desire for peace, evil seems to be increasing day by day.“ I’m not comfortable with idea that Satan is responsible for all sickness. In searching for a Bible verses that clearly gives that thought, I could not find one. The theologians have very different views about the origin of sickness.
Ok, you already knew all this, so this is a reminder of both our war and who the enemy is, Satan. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
So how I do I win the war with Satan? The beginning is found in Acts 2:38 – “And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you qin the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit is a gift because he ALWAYS stands ready with us to defeat Satan.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). The word “if” is very important because we must live by Him not just say we do. We must walk the walk! “With so much soap, why are there so many dirty people in the world? Christianity, like soap, must be personally applied if it is to make a difference in our lives.” Billy Graham
Pray without ceasing! Invite the Spirit to control your life always! You have to care and want to win! This war you don’t want to lose!
FYI - Max Lucado’s Daily Devotional for December 16. 2021:
We Know He Came
Spiritual beings populate the stories of Scripture. Angels singing. Demons infecting. Heavenly hosts fighting. Ignore the armies of God and you ignore the heart of Scripture. Ever since the snake tempted Eve in Eden, we’ve known there is more to this world than meets the eye.
We know less than we desire about these beings. Their strategies and plans we can only imagine. If Satan could preempt Christ in the cradle, there’d be no Christ on the cross. Don’t you think he tried?
The conflict was, no doubt, far grander and more dramatic than anything we can fictionalize. But while we can only imagine if such a war occurred, we can be sure of this: we know who won. Because we know he came.
“There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The Greek word used in this verse is Kyrios. It signifies one who rightfully holds a position of authority. Jesus was born with this title. He has a lawful right to rule over every sphere, star, galaxy, and gulf. He is the Lord of legislators, liberators, light bearers, and laborers. He bears the signet of the highest office and wears the insignia of “Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9).
"Congress doesn’t run the world. Cancer doesn’t control your destiny. Death doesn’t have the last word. The faceless hand of fate isn’t directing history. The Lord Jesus is. You have a Lord to lead you."
From Mike: I'm very grateful for what Max wrote in the last paragraph! Just need to keep that mind every day!