The way my mind works is that I need to analyze to understand the how’s and why’s things are the way they are but not from a technical basis. I don’t care how a car runs just that it does. As a kid when my grandparents were visiting, my grandmother would tell my grandfather “Bob, we better go before it gets too dark.” Finally late one afternoon I asked, “When exactly is “too dark”? I got in trouble with my mother for asking the question. She thought I was being a smart mouth. I really wanted to understand what my grandmother meant. Never did find out.
The answers, “that’s just the way it is”, “that’s the way life works”, or “that’s the way we’ve always done it” frustrates me. Yes, I’ve given my children and grandchildren these answers mostly out of exasperation because I can’t really explain things. Early in my career I had a boss tell me to never give the answer “that’s the way our company has always done it”. My clients never heard that answer from me because it’s not a satisfactory answer.
My logic does not always seem to be on target with others. Whenever green beans were served, I was made to eat some. “Just try some!” I had already tried them hundreds of times. I just did not like them. But, according to Mom they were good for me and the starving children of Africa, China or take your pick of countries would love to have them. One night at dinner I had a revelation, “I do not like them, and the starving children wanted them so let’s ship them to those children.” My Mother was not happy with my logic and turned to my Father for help. He just shrugged his shoulders. I thought we solved the problem! Those kids are still looking for the green bean shipment.
By the way, when I was in the rehab hospital, the therapist said I was ready to graduate from soup three times per day to pureed food. I was really looking forward to the change. The first morning oatmeal was for breakfast, good start! Some kind of pureed meat, mashed potatoes and pureed green beans were for lunch. The hospital must have bought a train car of green beans because they were served each day at lunch or dinner. To honor my Mother I did try them, but pureed green beans are not any better. I figure Mother was not just smiling from heaven but laughing out loud.
I had a boss, Bill, who told me to never bring him a problem without also bringing him a potential solution. He also told me to view them as “opportunities” not problems. That’s what I am trying to accomplish in this article. These are not problems nor worries but just what I wonder and think about. Included is what I believe the answer should be. Let me know what your answer is! PLEASE!
1. While talking with a gentleman recently, he told me he was trying to digest something I had written on the blog. He wasn’t telling me my logic was absolutely wrong but was not sure he agreed with it. I had asked a question about why we think our doctrine must be pure, and perfect without fault, when we don’t live a pure and perfect life. We sin in a number of different ways and believe God will forgive us if we confess and tell him we are sorry. So, if I am in error concerning my beliefs about singing with or without instruments, orphans’ homes, Sunday school, drinking alcohol, etc. am I hell bound? I do not believe I am because my intent is to follow the Bible in all things. If my intent is to go through the Bible to dismiss parts because they don’t suit me or have not kept up with times or social correctness, then I believe I have a problem. My ego has gotten in the way of what the Bible says. Intent is important!
Revelation 22:18-19: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
Example of my thoughts: Barnes seems to believe these verses are about the writing in Revelation only, but Johnson believes the verses are about the entire Bible. Which one is correct in his interpretation?
The elders have allowed me to write articles on the blog for approximately eighteen months. It’s a very serious responsibility so every morning I pray for God’s guidance. No God does not inspire me, but he will lend guidance and understanding if my intent is to use the Bible as a guide.
2. Why does the scripture record that Jesus cried out in a loud voice asking God, His Father, why he had forsaken Him? Are the writers just reporting the “news of the event” or does it have some meaning? One interpretation is that Jesus’ crying out is taken by some as an abandonment of the Son by the Father. Another interpretation holds that at the moment when Jesus took upon himself the sins of humanity, the Father had to turn away from the Son because the Father is "of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong" (Habakkuk 1:13).
I believe this was recorded to help us have a deeper appreciation for Christ’s suffering. Not only did he suffer extreme physical pain but harsh mental anguish. I’ve never felt abandoned by anyone especially not a parent, but Jesus did feel abandon by God, His Father. We tend to focus on his physical suffering but don’t overlook his emotional suffering. I know people who suffer with anxiety and depression. It’s real and terrible.
3. Jesus promises that God will provide our needs in Matthew 6:25-34. The promise includes food and clothes then why are people, especially children, going without? Is there a qualification we need to meet? Most commentators write that we must be a believer and “seek first His kingdom and His righteous” and then we will have these blessings. But what do children understand about seeking Him? Are these children going without because of their parent’s lack of seeking God? The only answer I have is Matthew 26:11 “The poor you will always have with you”. This doesn’t really satisfy me.
In Matthew 6:11, the “Lord’s prayer”, we are instructed to ask God to give us “our daily bread”. Why do we need to ask for something he promises us just a few verses later? Some commentators believe that God wants our prayers as a reminder that He is the giver and wants us to continually be reminded that all blessings come from Him.
Philippians 4:19 – “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Jesus Christ.” When I was growing up, a need and a want were the same thing for me. My “need” was for good reliable transportation to and from school and work. My “want” was for a black Dodge Charger! My grandfather gave me his 1957 Chevy. Wished I still had that car! We should keep the difference between a true need and a want in mind as we pray for God’s blessings.
4. How long will God hang in there with you? Does he ever just give up on us? Most of my effort with CASA has been with teenage boys. I admit to having the feeling of great frustration with them and their parents. Why am I bothering? Just give up! One young man has been in jail for over three years and another one is headed there on multiple charges and a third is back in jail. But God reminds me of his promise: Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV: “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” If He’s not willing to give up on His children, why should I? I can’t walk away because I believe I would be giving on God!! He’s hanging in there on these young men.
There were times in my teens and young adulthood that my relationship with God was strained to the max because of the way I was living. I tell Him in my prayers everyday how grateful I am that He hung in there with me. One author wrote, “You will give up on yourself long before God will ever give up on you!” Sorry but I don’t remember the name of the author. If I were God, I would have gotten tired of me a long time ago and let go but praise Him because He hung in there with me! He’ll do the same for you!
5. Do we believe or understand what we sing in worship and why? Is it possible that we are just going through the motions? Sometimes, I’m just calling words.
For me, How Great Thou Art, is a perfect praise song to God. Read the words.
Read the following two verses:
Colossians 3:16 ESV “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.”
Ephesians 5:19 ESV “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”.
It’s not just an opportunity to sing to God, it’s a responsibility to sing to one another! Do You Know My Jesus? is a great song to sing to one another. Near to the Heart of God is comforting to sing to one another and also a request for Jesus’ help.
Be with Me, Lord by L.O. Sanderson, a minister of the Church of Christ for many years is an excellent form of a prayer song. I cannot sing but by joining with others, hopefully others are encouraged.
We visited a congregation of about one hundred people in a Harding Academy school building one Sunday. The congregation was being criticized by other congregations for doing a number of things during worship. The only one they were guilty of was setting in two semi circles facing each other. They were trying to practice Colossians and Ephesians. When you are facing your brothers and sisters to encourage them, it’s very difficult to avoid singing. Yes, it was intimidating at first, but it brings you to the realization of the value of encouraging one another in song and hymns.
6. Sometimes being a Christian is a tall task! The Bible tells us we are to love everybody, even our enemies without exception. I Corinthians 13 describes what love is and is not without exception. We are to pray for our enemies without exception. The only exceptions come from our great ability to rationalize and justify. One of my justifications is people with huge egos who think rules, laws, etc. are meant for you and me certainly NOT them. Many times their arrogance causes me not to love.
This is not a real scenario but very plausible. You are driving on 231 North and you see Filbert, who is an ego maniac, standing by his car looking at a flat tire. Do you stop to see if you can be of assistance or just drive on? You notice Filbert is on a cell phone probably calling for roadside assistance, so you turn your head and speed up hoping he doesn’t see you. Some of us might smile and wave as we drive by enjoying his problem! Did you demonstrate Christian love? Would you have stopped if it had been Mrs. Filbert? Just how far do we have to take “love”? As far as God does!
Will God not allow me just a few exceptions every once in a while? Seems like a reasonable request! I don’t believe he does. Remember the Bible records no exceptions nor justifications.
This post is because we are living in the most uncertain times in my 70 years. On top of this terrible virus our church bulletin always has requests for prayer needs. Think about what Max writes.
"When I was a high schooler, my friends and I spent a Friday night in a part of the county where we did not belong. As far as my parents knew, I was at the local ice creamery enjoying a treat with my friends. Actually, we were twenty miles away from home, in the country, looking for fun on a country road. We didn’t have fun. Instead, we had a flat. The spare tire was flat, too. We had no other option except to call my dad. I rousted him out of bed at the midnight hour.
He drove his truck out into the back roads and found us. We fixed the tire and drove home. When we reached the house he sat me down in the living room and gave me a good talk. He took away my car keys. He took away my privileges. But then, surprisingly, he took away my fear by saying, “Max, I’m upset with you. But I understand the temptations. I remember what it is like to be a teenager.”
Dad, a teen? Shocking thought. But he remembered.
God, a human? Stunning truth. But he remembers. “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 MSG) There is never a time that he responds to your prayer with this thought: “I just don’t get it.”
He knows how you feel.
And, this is huge, “he knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt. 6:8) You don’t have to write your own prescription. God doesn’t need our counsel or advice. “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.” (Isa. 65:24)
People sometimes say, “Be careful what you pray for, God will give it to you.” Hogwash. If you don’t need it, he won’t give it. He loves you too much to give you the wrong answer. Is God no more than a computer, programmed to respond to the data you enter? By no means! He is your Father who says: “I know the thoughts I think towards you…thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope…call upon me and pray to me and I will listen to you.” (Jer. 29:11)
Prayer is only as good as God is. Since he is good, so is prayer. Prayer works because he does. Prayer changes things because God changes things. Prayer makes a difference because God has determined to make a difference. Prayer matters because you matter to God."
© 2012 Max Lucado
I am prefacing this article by stating that I belong to neither political party. There is good and bad about both. I have relatives and friends who believe their political party of choice can do no wrong. I’m pretty sick and tired of both of them. They need to be spanked and sent to bed!
In 1960 when John F. Kennedy was running for president, a number of preachers spoke from the pulpit against Mr. Kennedy not because he was a Democrat but because he was a Catholic. Their tactic to sway their congregation’s vote was to claim the Pope would be running the United States. In making your voting decisions, do not allow the media, a politician nor a minister to have undue influence on your thoughts about government leaders. Most people are selling their own agenda. I hope to be guided by my study of the Bible and the government leaders adherence to the Bible principles.
One commentator believes God will only intervene in our lives at our request. No scripture was given as supporting evidence. Assuming the writer is correct, and I do not believe he is, then we need to be busy asking God for His intervention in our government. Romans 13:1 ESV “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” If I’m subject to them the I need to be praying for them, 1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV - “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
An elder of a church we attended at one time has been posting parts of the following document on Facebook. Many of you were not alive in 1963 or too young to have any knowledge of the document. This is the first knowledge I’ve had of it. As I read the goals, I was alarmed at the number of the goals the Communist party has been successful at achieving. We have set by and allowed their success because they have bullied us with assertions of not being politically correct. A number of the accomplishments attack the roots of our Christian beliefs. It’s time to let our elected officials know of our concerns and dissatisfaction. Please take the opportunity to express your views by writing to your elected officials federal, state and local. Their addresses can be found online.
Pray for God’s intervention!
THE 45 COMMUNIST GOALS AS READ INTO THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, 1963
By Donna Calvin
Watchwoman: In addition to reading this, the 45 communist goals, click here to read “The 10 Planks of Karl Marx, ‘The Communist Manifesto.’ ” America has already fulfilled 90% of them.
Congressional Record–Appendix, pp. A34-A35
January 10, 1963
Current Communist Goals
EXTENSION OF REMARKS OF HON. A. S. HERLONG, JR. OF FLORIDA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, January 10, 1963
Mr. HERLONG. Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Nordman of De Land, Fla., is an ardent and articulate opponent of communism, and until recently published the De Land Courier, which she dedicated to the purpose of alerting the public to the dangers of communism in America.
At Mrs. Nordman’s request, I include in the RECORD, under unanimous consent, the following “Current Communist Goals,” which she identifies as an excerpt from “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen:
U. S. Congressional Seal [From “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen]
CURRENT COMMUNIST GOALS
1. U.S. acceptance of coexistence as the only alternative to atomic war.
2. U.S. willingness to capitulate in preference to engaging in atomic war.
3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament [by] the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.
4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.
5. Extension of long-term loans to Russia and Soviet satellites.
6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.
7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.
8. Set up East and West Germany as separate states in spite of Khrushchev’s promise in 1955 to settle the German question by free elections under supervision of the U.N.
9. Prolong the conferences to ban atomic tests because the United States has agreed to suspend tests as long as negotiations are in progress.
10. Allow all Soviet satellites individual representation in the U.N.
11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily by the U.N. as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)
12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.
13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.
14. Continue giving Russia access to the U.S. Patent Office.
15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.
16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.
17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.
18. Gain control of all student newspapers.
19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.
20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policymaking positions.
21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”
23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”
24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.
25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.
26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”
27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”
28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”
29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.
30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”
31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the “big picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.
32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.
33. Eliminate all laws or procedures which interfere with the operation of the Communist apparatus.
34. Eliminate the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
35. Discredit and eventually dismantle the FBI.
36. Infiltrate and gain control of more unions.
37. Infiltrate and gain control of big business.
38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand [or treat].
39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.
40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.
41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.
42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use [“]united force[“] to solve economic, political or social problems.
43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.
44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.
45. Repeal the Connally reservation so the United States cannot prevent the World Court
Goodness – Websters defines goodness as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. The Biblical commentators make note that the Greek words for kindness and goodness are often interchangeable. It seems odd that Paul would use two words that have exactly the same meaning. Barclay points out that the Greek word for goodness has the connotation of “might and could rebuke and discipline with kindness”. The Greek word just previously used for kindness can only help others and does not rebuke or discipline others. Barclay believes we often need discipline with the type of goodness that can be kind and strong at the same time.
The MSG uses “sense of compassion in the Heart”. Other commentators write that the word “goodness” senses compassion as we rebuke others. Paul was writing this letter because of the way the Jews were treating with the Gentiles and encouraging the Jews to show compassion. So as we have an occasion to rebuke others, our attitude needs to be one with compassion not harshness.
Faithfulness – The MSG translation uses the words “loyal commitment” and Phillips translation uses “fidelity” which are closely related but “loyal commitment” for me is stronger. Barclay writes that the Greek word means “trustworthiness”.
I put a request on the internet asking for commentator’s thoughts on the faithfulness used in this verse. One commentator wrote in his thinking: “Faithfulness requires us to submit our ways to God. It comes from a place of realizing that we need a Savior and that He is in control of our lives.” Is Paul writing about our faithfulness to God? Other writers believe the faithfulness used is our faithfulness to one another.
As Paul writes to the Galatians, his apostleship is under attack from some of the Jews and they also are not accepting the Gentiles. So it seems highly likely that the verses 22-25 are written more for our relationship with one another. We are to have a loyal commitment, faithfulness to one another and a true fidelity to each other. This includes those you do not like. We should have faithfulness especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ. How, by living a Christian life and being ready to help them in their life.
Gentleness - The Phillips translation uses the word “tolerance”. Barclay writes the Greek word used here is the most untranslatable of words. He believes it has three meanings: submissive to the will of God; being teachable, not too proud to learn and most often has the meaning of being considerate. I believe Paul’s use of the word is for consideration of others.
Other commentators and a Biblical dictionary point to attitude, compassion, concern, humility, meekness and kindness as acts of gentleness. One description is that gentleness is being a little kinder than we have to be.
It seems to me that in today’s world we have lost gentleness for others. The political parties blame one another for our countries’ problems and do so hatefully. Racial tension continues in our society. What a great time for Christians to be very strong in our beliefs but show gentleness.
I want to chase a rabbit for a thought about gentleness. For the most part, I feel like God has been gentle with me during my life. Max Lucado asks a question in A Gentle Thunder: “How far do you want God to go in getting your attention? If God has to choose between your eternal safety and your earthly comfort, which do you hope he chooses? Don’t answer too quickly. Give it some thought.” Interesting.
Self-control – The MSG version uses the phrase, “direct energies wisely”. Barclay writes that the Greek word has a meaning of “self-mastery”. Most of the commentators believe the self-control Paul writes about is related to sex. Paul writes about “sinful nature with its passions and desires”. These passions and desires extend to other things like food, alcohol, gambling, even anger and much more.
Given the context of the events in Galatia, I believe the Jews’ anger towards the Gentiles could be important here. The Jews were trying to force the Gentiles to adhere to the law of circumcision. Some Jews probably became angry when the Gentiles weren’t going along. Paul even mentions “fits of rage” as one of acts of the sinful nature.
Allen Jackson writes in his book, Standing Firm: “Throughout life we will encounter those who will push or pull us toward or away from the Lord. But the processing of maturing as Jesus-followers means that we must exert the self-discipline necessary to own our choices and outcomes. We ask the Holy Spirit to give us self-control, which we practice in our daily lives.”
Thoughts on Galatians 5:22-25: Why did Paul write to the Galatians? As mentioned before the Jews were trying to force the Gentile Christians to hold on to the old law, especially circumcision. I believe at times we are guilty of trying to make people hold to man’s customs creating divisions between Christians. Paul is asking the people to step back and think about the law versus the fruits. The present-day church needs to take the same steps. Is what I’m holding on to have a Biblical basis or it is just a custom I’m holding on to?
Why did Paul select the word “fruits” to express himself? Fruits are enjoyable and good for you. According to Strong's Greek Lexicon, the Greek word listed in the verse has a meaning of 'joy', 'gladness', or 'a source of joy'. My life will be full of joy and gladness and hopefully a source of joy to others if I have and use the fruits.
We each have standards by which we judge other peoples’ behavior. For discussion sake, let’s use the fruits of the Spirit as those standards:
Most of us if we’re completely honest will choose 1-4. If you chose #5, you are not being completely honest. If #4 was included in your answer, do you allow others their exceptions? Please point out Paul’s list of acceptable exceptions to the fruits of the Spirit! There ain’t none.
Is Paul’s list of fruits all inclusive? I don’t think it is. He’s trying to put out a fire in Antioch, so he used these characteristics for the Christians to think on. He lets them know that these don’t have a matter of law. If you could add one “fruit” to the list, what would it be and why? Forgiveness! People seem to struggle with displaying forgiveness.
Keep in your heart that commentators say these fruits are not our nature! We must invite the Holy Spirit to bring the fruits into our life then make a choice to use them for our own benefit and the benefit of others!
The following is a description of on a web page for Max Lucado: “Does God still free hearts, minds and bodies from the ravages of sin and poverty? The answer is yes! He does it through you. In Outlive Your Life, Lucado challenges you to make a difference that will last beyond your time on earth.”
The following is from Max Lucado’s book, When God Whispers Your Name: These are his thoughts on the fruits of the Spirit:
“IT’S QUIET. It’s early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming.
In a few moments, the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met.
For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice. Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose.
I choose love . . .
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.
I choose joy . . .
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical . . . the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I choose peace . . .
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.
I choose patience . . .
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.
I choose kindness . . .
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I choose goodness . . .
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.
I choose faithfulness . . .
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.
I choose gentleness . . .
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I choose self-control . . .
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 choose self-control. 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.
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.”
When God Whispers Your Name Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 1994) Max Lucado Used with permission
Standing Firm by Allen Jackson Copyright 2018 Intend Publishing Used with permission
A Gentle Thunder by Max Lucado – 1995 - Published by Word Publishing – Used with permission
Yes, I use a lot of Max Lucado’s writings because he is my favorite writer and he’s one of only two that have granted me permission to use from their collection of writings. Occasionally, I’ll receive permission on a selected article by others.
I’ve tried twice to get permission from F LaGard Smith via his email system with no answer. He spends a certain amount of the year in Murfreesboro then the remainder in England. He also is a good writer so hopefully I’ll receive his permission.
I’ve been studying and writing on this article for some time. It’s going to be long, so I decided the best thing is to publish it in two parts. The following is part one.
FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT
As I look at my life, I’m either productive for God or productive for Satan. It’s impossible to be both at the same time. As you study Paul’s writings in Galatians 5, he outlines our choices as works of the flesh, Satan’s path or God’s path, the fruits of the Spirit. He writes that these are in conflict with each other. There are decisions and choices we must make. There is implied expectation that we use these gifts for God’s glory. God wants us to grow our relationship with Him by having and using the fruits. Our use of the fruits will influence others with their relationship with God as they watch us. If I’m not allowing the Holy Spirit to produce the fruits in me then I’m being unproductive for God and productive for Satan. God knows that we will not be productive for Him every minute of every day. He understands at times we will be productive for Satan. That’s why He brought Jesus into the world.
Galatians 5:22-25 New International Version (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25 The Message (MSG)
22-25 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Galatians 5:22-25 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
22-25 The Spirit, however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.
I used different translations to get a better understanding of how the fruits enter our lives and what the they are intended to represent. Each of the translations indicates that the fruits belong to the Holy Spirit. Philips uses the expression: “The Spirit produces in human life” and the MSG uses the expression “when we live God’s way”. You’ve heard people use the expression, “that’s his or her nature” when talking about others. It’s only his or her nature as provided by the Spirit. The point here is that the Holy Spirit maintains control of the fruits. In order to have these positive characteristics, we must belong to Christ and invite and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. Otherwise how can we have use of these positive attitudes and actions in order to be productive for God?
I’m using three commentators primarily in this study: William Barclay, Albert Barnes and Barton Warren Johnson.
Barnes writes: “But the fruit of the Spirit - That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word "Spirit" here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices* above enumerated are the proper "works" or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence - the agency of the Holy Spirit. Hence, Paul does not trace them to our own hearts, even when renewed. He says that they are to be regarded as the proper result of the Spirit's operations on the soul.” * In verses 19-21, Paul lists what he refers to works of the flesh or sins.
Johnson writes: “The fruits named are not our fruits, but the Spirit in us. If we bear these fruits, we show that we have the Spirit.”
Barclay does not make a point that the fruits belong to the Spirit but does use the phrase “of the Spirit” as he writes.
Love – There are four different Greek words for love. The word used here is agape which means a strong and deliberate feeling of benevolence for all people. We must love regardless of how a person has treated us. Our love must be unconditional. Do not expect anything in return. A difficult task at times, yes, but attainable through the Holy Spirit.
As a child, this concept of love was difficult to understand. My thoughts were, “I really don’t like that person so how can I love them?” There is one person in your life that comes to mind that you despise but we are directed in both Romans 12 and Luke 6 to pray for them which is deliberate love.
Many people demonstrated love during my strokes and knee surgery by providing food and cards which Kay and I really appreciated. The words I most appreciated were, “I’m praying for you!” To tell someone that you are spending your time with God asking Him to bless you is one of the finest loves I can imagine.
Joy – The word is used as a basis of joy in being a Christian not that life is going your way or joy of having earthly things but the happiness of being a Christian. Even though life is often hard and difficult, you find your joy in knowing God is there with you.
The MSG translation uses “exuberance for life” for joy. If we have exuberance for life because we are Christians, others will notice and be influenced in their relationship with Christ. Others do watch us!
Peace – If you have peace in life, then you have tranquility or serenity. It doesn’t mean the lack of troubles, no disappointments or no heartaches in your life. It does mean you are aware of the presence of God in your life and that He has your back.
The MSG translation uses the word “serenity”. David Young, minister at North Boulevard, has a sermon series entitled Peace of Mind. He says that thirty percent of people have an issue with anxiety. Anxiety is the absence of peace. It is manageable by seeking the peace described in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The following is an excerpt from Allen Jackson’s book, Standing Firm: “We post a photo of our supper on social media and panic when not when not enough “friends” say they “like” it. Some fears are more serious than others, but it is true that fear- both real and imagined - is very real in our society. Thankfully, there is no fear that cannot be overcome with the peace that Jesus gives us. If Jesus said we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to be. If Jesus gives me His peace, that’s good enough for me.”
Allen ends each day’s devotion with a prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank You that in this troubled world You provide peace, security, and abundant life through the cross of Jesus Christ. May Your Holy Spirit counsel me daily in Your peace. When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Patience – If you refer to a Thesaurus, you’ll find words like endurance, tolerance, persistence, fortitude, forbearance, etc. Some of these words are used in regard to things or events. The MSG translation uses “willingness to stick with things.” Barclay is fully convinced that Paul’s writing is about patience or tolerance for other people. He writes about God’s patience with our sinning and encourages us to demonstrate the same patience to one another as God does to us.
Allen Jackson has a couple of thoughts on patience. He believes that some people use anger as opposed to patience to manipulate people. He illustrates with Proverbs 16:32: “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”
Allen also writes about our patience with God. He says that waiting on God to deliver him from some situation can be trying. “Sometimes God wants us to wait on Him, and continue to call on Him, so that we will know that our deliverance is from Him alone. He hears us and intends to rescue us. When He does, we will have new reasons to praise Him, and others will be able to see what He has done for us.”
Kindness – Barclay writes that the Greek word can be translated as sweetness. Probably, most macho men don’t see sweetness as a strength. The Bible seems to think it is important: Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Matthew 9:13 “Go and learn what this means, he commands I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices”. Most translations use the word mercy as opposed to kindness, but the words are interchangeable.
You may have kindness but if you don’t use it, that’s not good enough. I pray daily that God will improve my speech. It’s better than it was five years ago, but it still is frustrating for the person I’m speaking with and me. The Holy Spirit reminds me to express my appreciation for people’s patience with me. When I think to express my appreciation, they often have a look on their face, “somebody noticed my efforts to be kind to them.” They seem to have a sense of accomplishment.
I also pray daily that I will become more aware of my need for the Holy Spirit. He’s always present but I need a “thump on the head” as a reminder to use one of the fruits.
An example of love and kindness: David Young says that he and another member at North Boulevard often have lunch together. As the server delivers their meal, his friend will say, “We are going to give thanks for our food, is there anything you would like us to pray about?” Most often they say, “no thank you” but at one meal the young lady said “yes” and expressed a need. She sat down with them while he prayed with her. A great use of the fruits!
Standing Firm – Finding Courage in the Word Of God written by Allen Jackson – 2018 – Published by Intend Publishing – Used with permission
Quotes from David Young’s sermon series Peace of Mind used with permission
Ephesians 1:18 “May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit.” Most commentators agree “enlighten the eyes of our minds” is the understanding that God is calling us to be Christians. To be a Christian we must be focused on and truly see Jesus.
Max begins this chapter with the following comments: “We’ve spent the last twelve chapters looking at what it means to be just like Jesus. The world has never known a heart so pure, a character so flawless. His spiritual hearing was so keen he never missed a heavenly whisper. His mercy so abundant he never missed a chance to forgive. No lie left his lips, no distraction marred his vision. He touched when others recoiled. He endured when others quit. Jesus is the ultimate model for every person. And what we have done in these pages is precisely what God invites you to do with the rest of your life. He urges you to fix your eyes upon Jesus. Heaven invites you to set the lens of your heart on the heart of the Savior and make him the object of your life. For that reason, I want us to close our time together with this question: What does it mean to see Jesus?”
Throughout the book, Max has used the wording, “the rest of your life.” No matter what your present state, it’s never too late to see Jesus nor have you wandered too far from him that you can’t still be like Jesus! Fixing your eyes on Jesus will change everything. Look up the hymn, Lord, I’m Coming Home. It’s excellent encouragement!
The shepherds, the Magi and Simeon all wanted to see this new baby, Jesus, once he was born. In Luke 2:29-30 MSG vision Simeon prayed: “God, you can now release your servant, release me as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation.” Simeon saw more than just a new baby; he saw the savior for the world. He saw your savior!
Max writes about the men who became apostles once they encountered Jesus. They did not want to just physically see Jesus but wanted to spend time with him to understand his teachings. Zacchaeus was willing to climb a tree in order to see the teacher and to hear him. To these men Jesus was not some sports hero or rock star they wanted to see and get an autograph, he held the key to salvation. They wanted to know him and his teachings.
Matthew 19:16 records the question the rich young ruler asked Jesus: “Teacher what good thing must I do to have life forever?” Unlike the apostles and Zacchaeus who wanted to know Jesus he wanted the short answer without details. Max writes about the young ruler: “Bottom line sort of fellow, this ruler. No time for formalities or conversations. ‘Let’s get right to the issue. Your schedule is busy; so is mine. Tell me how I get saved, and I’ll leave you alone’.”
“There is nothing wrong with his question, but there was a problem with his heart. Contrast his desire with that of Zacchaeus, ‘Can I make it up that tree?’ The apostles wanted to spend time with Jesus.”
Max continues: “See the difference? The rich, young ruler wanted medicine. The others wanted the Physician. The ruler wanted an answer to the quiz. They wanted the teacher. They wanted more than salvation. They wanted the Savior. They wanted to see Jesus.” When the young man understood Jesus’ answer to his question, he went away sad. He did not intend to give his riches to the poor nor to follow Jesus. He wanted the quick fix. He was not interested in being just like Jesus.
Max points us to Hebrews 11:6: “God … rewards those who earnestly seek him” NIV translation
“God rewards those who search for him.” Phillips translation
“God …. Rewards those who sincerely look for him.” TLB translation
“He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” King James version.
Max: “Diligently---what a great word. Be diligent in your search. Be diligent in your quest, relentless in your pilgrimage. Let this book be but one of dozens you read about Jesus and this hour be one of hundreds in which you seek him. Step away from the puny pursuits of possessions and positions and seek your king.”
There are so many distractions in our daily lives that it is easy for Jesus to get pushed down our list of priorities. Careers, our spouses and their needs, our children and their activities, then grandchildren, our hobbies and other interests too often take precedence over our relationship building with Jesus. Precious little time is spent in studying about Jesus and in prayer to become more like him. Some believe: “I go to Sunday school and the worship service on Sunday morning and Sunday night then Bible study on Wednesday night. Doesn’t that prove I’m just like Jesus?” No, Jesus was about so much more. He focused on serving people. God gave us talents so we can serve people in order to be just like Jesus. He has made an investment in us with his blessings. He wants us to enjoy our blessings, but he also expects us to use them to serve him and glorify his name.
Max: “God rewards those who seek him. Not those who seek doctrine or religion or systems or creeds. Many seek for those lesser passions, but the reward goes to those who settle for nothing less than Jesus himself. And what is the reward? What awaits those who seek Jesus? Nothing short of the heart of Jesus. “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him” 2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB.”
Max writes in his book, Stronger In The Broken Places: “How does a person get relief?”
Which, in turn, takes us to one of the kindest verses in the Bible, “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light” (Matt. 11:28—30).
Max continues: “You knew I was going to say that. I can see you holding this book and shaking your head. “I’ve tried that. I’ve read the Bible; I’ve sat on the pew—but I’ve never received relief.” If that is the case, could I ask a delicate but deliberate question? Could it be that you went to religion and didn’t go to God? Could it be that you went to a church, but never saw Christ?” “Come to me,” the verse reads.” Christ does not ask us to come to religion but to him.”
Some will have issue with what I’m writing here but please give thought to these viewpoints. Many focus time and thought on making sure their doctrine and their religion are “perfect”, and too little time trying to be Just Like Jesus. If “perfect doctrine and religion” are a condition of our salvation, then we have a problem. Nothing about us is perfect! Not our interpretations, our actions or even our intentions to be like Jesus. If we fail God with lying, alcohol, pride, gossip, and other sins, what makes us think that our doctrine is perfect?
Some examples to think on:
I believe these are examples of Jesus words in Matthew 23:24: “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
These are just a few of the changes I’ve seen in my life. My questions: Are these matters of our salvation or our own personal preferences and comfort level? Do we spend as much thought and effort trying to be Just Like Jesus, as we do making our own personal doctrine perfect? I’m not being critical of those who believe in these things. If you want to believe in these things, that’s fine there’s wrong with them. But don’t make them conditions of your acceptance of others. If you do, you are focused on yourself and not seeing Jesus.
Romans 3:23-24 (NIV): “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” The verses say we ALL sin and have redemption through Christ not our religion nor doctrine.
In a recent obituary: “She was a true Christian, living every minute of every day in the manner she believed he intended.” Sounds like she had her eyes on Jesus.
Max closes with these thoughts: “Can you think of a greater gift than to be like Jesus? Christ felt no guilt; God wants to banish yours. Jesus had no bad habits; God wants to remove yours. Jesus had no fear of death; God wants you to be fearless. Jesus had kindness for the diseased and mercy for the rebellious and courage for the challenges. God wants you to have the same.”
“He loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”
From Meeting God in Quiet Places by F. LaGard Smith: “Our greatest gift from God was Jesus “the Lamb.” The pure Lamb. The righteous Lamb in whom was no sin. The lamb on whom we can fix our eyes and whom we can imitate freely with the confident assurance of being transformed into the likeness of his glory!”
I encourage you to share your thinking. Let hear from you.
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
Your Problem is a Prayer-Sized Challenge
Today's Devotion from Max Lucado
Praying specifically about a problem creates a lighter load. Many of our anxieties are threatening because they are ill-defined and vague. If we can distill the challenge into a phrase, we bring it down to size. It’s one thing to pray, “Lord, please bless my meeting tomorrow.”
It’s another thing to pray, “I have a conference with my supervisor at 2:00 PM tomorrow. She intimidates me. Would you please grant me a spirit of peace so I can sleep well tonight? Grant me wisdom so I can enter the meeting prepared. And would you soften her heart toward me and give her a generous spirit? Help us have a gracious conversation in which both of us benefit and your name is honored.”
There! You have reduced the problem into a prayer-sized challenge. As God’s children we honor him when we tell him exactly what we need.
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Max likes the wording, “and never give up” for perseverance. The Contemporary English version for sin says, “especially that the sin that just won’t let go.” God’s Word translation reads, “especially sin that distracts us.” I believe we can relate to this verse. We have at least one sin that’s a real struggle for us. Throwing the sin off is not easy. Satan is coming after us constantly with that particular temptation or temptations in my case. He wants us to give up. The enduring heart keeps on fighting Satan and running the race.
Some people never realize there is a race. Some realize there is a race but don’t care to join it. Others enter in the race then quit or give up. Our race is living our life for God and building a strong relationship with Him and Christ by serving Him. Satan wants us out of the relationship and the race!
If you have a relationship with God but it’s not as good as it once was, God did not change it. You did! Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When something bad happens in their lives, some people blame God and let that experience control their relationship with God. They quit the race. Others are too easily discouraged and don’t maintain their relationship. We need to take control and manage our relationship with God. Don’t let Satan have control or you will be out of the race. Be honest in analyzing the cause of the change in the relationship and pray for God’s help to return the race.
Please forgive this personal reference but I hope it will help others. During my late teens and early twenties, I gave up! I quit the race! I let what I saw as pious (making hypocritical display of virtue) people have too much effect on me. During the first week of my freshman year in college, five of us had one beer which was against the school rules. One of the five was a preacher student. The next night he went forward to confess his sin. The dean of students sent the dorm mother her to investigate why Gary had gone forward. After talking with Gary, the dorm mother called the rest of us in for a meeting. Gary’s story placed all the blame on the rest of us. I don’t remember what the dorm mother told the dean, but she did not give him the complete details. Later that semester another preacher student was kicked out of school and he spilled the beans about us. After a lengthy meeting with the discipline committee we were not kicked out. We were happy! There were five men on the committee, so we referred to them as the DC 5 but not to their face. The DC 5 were a popular singing group. Our attitude towards them and the school was in question!!!
The two main reasons we were not kicked out was Gary was a favorite of the dean and Monte was with us. Monte’s father was a well-known preacher and supporter of the college. We begin to pay attention to other discipline committee decisions in case we needed it in the future. Regardless of what the rule book said, who you or your parents were was the real decision maker about your continued stay with the college. Gary, the fine upstanding preacher student lied his way out of trouble. We also noted other discrepancies in applying discipline which I will not go into all of them. But students were rewarded for spying on others and turning their transgressions in to the dean.
My attitude at this point was that if this is a mecca of Christendom, then being a Christian is not for me. I did not return to regular church attendance until our son was four years old, about six years after leaving that school. The problem was mine. I let the dean, members of the committee and others have influence over my relationship with God and Christ. I did not have an enduring heart to run the race. Do not let others take you out of the race! Your relationship with God is not through other people but through Jesus. Fortunately, God was patient and allowed me time to return to the race. Max writes about finishing our race strong in this chapter.
Max talks about not completing things we start such as workout programs, diets or supplements that supposedly improve us. “You know as well as I, it’s one thing to start something. It’s something else entirely to complete it. My desire is not to convince you to finish everything. My desire is to encourage you to finish the right thing. Certain races are optional----like washboard abs and speed reading. Other races are essential---like the race of faith.”
Max writes:” The word race is from the Greek agon, from which we get the word agony. The Christian’s race is not a jog but rather a demanding and grueling, sometimes agonizing race. It takes a massive effort to finish strong.” We would do well to make sure people understand Max’s point, especially our children. At times, they commit before they really understand what they are committing to. There will be struggles! We will fail at times! Being a Christian is not for sissies, especially with the devil working against you!!
Max continues on finishing strong: “Likely you’ve noticed that many don’t? Surely, you’ve observed there are many on the side of the trail. They used to be running. There was a time they kept the pace. But then weariness set in. They didn’t think the run would be this tough. Or they were discouraged by a bump and daunted by a fellow runner. Whatever the reason, they don’t run anymore. They may be Christians. They may come to church. They may put a buck in the plate and warm a pew, but their hearts aren’t in the race. They retired before their time. Unless something changes, their best work will have been their first work, and they will finish with a whimper.” Do not spend any effort trying to think about others that Max’s description may fit! Spend time thinking about whether or not it fits you!
Are these people Max describes the same ones John describes in Revelation 3:15-16 ESV “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” If these descriptions are about the same people and I believe they are, recommitment to the race is necessary before you try to join it again! Don’t have an attitude that God will let me coast for the rest of the race. Pray for forgiveness and show recommitment! “Don't worry about having the right words; worry more about having the right heart. It's not eloquence he seeks, just honesty.” *
Max believes that Jesus is the classic example of one who endured. Hebrews 12:3, NIV: "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Max maintains that during the temptation of Christ in the desert Satan tried him every minute of the forty days. “Satan got on Jesus like a shirt and refused to leave. Every step, whispering in his ear. Every turn of the path, sowing doubt. A war raged within. Stress stormed without. And since he was tempted, he could have quit the race. But he didn’t. He kept on running.” Does Max’s description of Satan’s temptations of Christ sound familiar to his treatment of you?
Max uses John chapter 8 as further evidence for what Jesus endured for us. Jesus was going about his ministry of teaching when the Jews were claiming he was demon possessed. Luke 4 records an instance when Jesus’s teachings caused the people to try to throw him from a cliff. A lot of verbal badgering and discouragement for him to endure
Max continues his thought: Hebrews 12:1-3 9 (The Message Version) “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”
What kept Jesus going during his temptation? Why didn’t he quit the race? Some writers believe Jesus used his supernatural powers in his battle with Satan. Others believe he used what God gives all of us, our will, determination and faith to serve him. They see it as an example and encouragement for us to stay in the race.
Max writes: “How? How did he endure such disgrace? What gave Jesus the strength to the shame of all the world? We need an answer, don’t we? Like Jesus we are tempted. Like Jesus we are accused. Like Jesus we are shamed. But unlike Jesus, we give up. We give out. We sit down. How can we keep running as Jesus did? How can our hearts have the endurance Jesus had?”
Max’s answer, “By focusing where Jesus focused: on ‘the joy that God had put before him’ Hebrews 12:2”. He focused on the prize of heaven. By focusing on the prize, he was not only able to finish the race but to finish it strong.”
Max closes the chapter writing about all the projects/races we run in our lives. One of his projects is writing one book each year then celebrating the completion of the race in various ways. One of them is to enjoy a great meal. He writes how Jesus focused on the feast that awaited him. Max: “Such a moment awaits us. In a world oblivious to power abs and speed reading, we’ll take our place at the table. In an hour that has no end, we will rest. Surrounded by saints and engulfed by Jesus himself, the work will, indeed, be finished. The final harvest will have been gathered, we will be seated, and Christ will christen the meal with these words: Well done, good and faithful servant” Matthew 25:23 KJV.
If focusing on the prize and looking forward to hearing Jesus’ words “well done” is not enough to keep you in the race, then you need a complete evaluation of what’s important to you. Try a prayer partner. Choose someone you respect and trust. Ask them to pray about your race.
Allen Jackson uses Hebrews 12:1 to write about our race in his daily devotional book, Standing Firm, Finding Courage in the Word of God. Allen writes: “This verse reminds us that sin is not something that we can easily walk into and out of-it entangles us. Sin reminds me of a cobweb. If you’re like me, you’ve walked into more than a few cobwebs that you didn’t see. In an instant, it seems, sticky filaments are wrapped around you. The threads are hard to find and difficult to pull off when they stick to your fingers. Very often you get more than a sticky web; you get the dead insects that got caught and came to a sticky end. If we had seen those webs, we would have avoided them; but we weren’t paying attention, and we walked into a mess. If we are to run our life’s race successfully, we need to keep our eyes open for sin that is waiting to entangle us. It’s much easier to avoid the sticky web completely than to clean ourselves up after we walk into it.”
“Have there been times when you have seen the web of sin in front of you but walked into it anyway? What was the result?”
Allen ends his thoughts with a prayer: “Heavenly Father, help me discard all that prevents me from persevering and running the race You have marked out for me. Help me increasingly gain the freedoms available to me, purchased through the cross and Jesus’ shed blood. In Jesus’ name, amen”
1. Question asked by a teen years ago: Do I get any credit for effort? First, you must have the desire for heaven. For me, no desire for something means every little if any effort. I don’t have an exact answer to the question, but I found this answer interesting:
The following is from an article in the Christian Examiner written by Mark Klages: “God knows the compounding damage sin has on our lives. He knows that repetitive sin hardens our hearts and damages our relationship with Him. He knows the longer and deeper we dive into a life of repetitive sin, the stronger the habit of sin becomes, and the harder it is for us to climb up out of that hole into His presence. The harder we cling to our selfish sins, the more likely we are to follow them away from God's burning holy light. So, God does acknowledge the little victories, the daily effort we give in contrast with the daily sin we suffer, on our journey to become more like Him. But He would rather we succeed.”
2. Question by a teen: Does God grade on the curve? I believe Revelation 3:15-16 answers the question: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
3. Yes, Mike, but you see I’m not as strong spiritually as others! I keep trying and failing! Then I become discouraged! What will God do? 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. This verse should provide encouragement.
You must build and maintain a close, loving and obedient relationship with God, then follow these two verses: “I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God's heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 Good News Translation
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
Standing Firm – Finding Courage in the Word Of God written by Allen Jackson – 2018 - Published by Intend Publishing – Used with permission
*Max Lucado, Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God
Just Like Jesus
Max opens this chapter with this thought: “In one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, Luke 15, he tells three stories. Each story tells of something lost and something found. A lost sheep. A lost coin. And a lost son. And at the end of each one, Jesus describes a party, a celebration. The shepherd throws the party for the lost-now-found sheep. The housewife throws a party because of the lost-now-found coin. And the father throws a party in honor of his lost-now-found son.”
He continues with the parables: “The point is clear. Jesus is happiest when the lost are found. For him, no moment compares to the moment of salvation. Max quotes verse 10: There is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner changes his heart and life”.
Note what Christ is looking for, “a change of heart and life”. Based on my study of the scripture, I believe baptism is a condition of salvation. There is nothing in the water itself that saves us but the act of obedience does. A change of heart and life is also essential. Whatever your beliefs on salvation are without committing to the necessary changes in your heart and life, your other actions may be for naught. Christ is not looking for a single action of baptism but also an absolute commitment to him. For most people this requires some change in your lifestyle and attitudes by yielding your will to his.
A number of people believe in the doctrine of “once saved always saved”. You can find many discussions on this subject on the internet. I do not believe that once you are saved you are always saved so Luke 10 also applies the Christian who departed from his/her commitment to Christ. A condition of returning to Christ is having the change of heart and life then there will be the joy Luke 15:10 describes.
Max writes: “How do we explain such joy? Why such a stir? You’ve got to admit the excitement is a bit curious. We aren’t talking about a nation of people or even a city of souls; we are talking about joy when one sinner changes his heart and life. How could one person create that much excitement?”
Max continues: “When a soul is saved, the heart of Jesus becomes the night sky on the Fourth of July, radiant with explosions of cheer. Can the same be said about us? Perhaps this is one area where our hearts could use some attention.”
In church services, we talk about the plurality of people being saved which is to be expected. If you want to have the personal feeling that this is about YOU, go to the internet and search for the song, “When He Was On The Cross, I Was On His Mind” sung by the Florida Boys. Listening to this song and/or reading the words gives me that feeling of a very personal love and relationship with Jesus.
Some people have a problem with the term in describing Jesus as “my personal Lord and savior”. Maybe it appears egotistical. I don’t use the term but don’t have a problem with it. No one else can be saved for me nor can anyone else build my relationship with Christ. When I pray about sin, they are my sins he died for. When I pray about serving the Lord, it’s my service not anyone else’s.
Max suggests that Jesus and his angels excitement is created by them knowing what heaven holds for us. “They can’t wait to see your face when you arrive. Better still, they can’t wait to see you.”
Matt writes: “Of all the blessings in heaven, one of the greatest will be you. At last, you will have a heart like his. You will be just like Jesus. Heaven is populated by those who let God change them.” This change is not an instantaneous event. You don’t go from whatever you were at the time of your commitment to having a heart like Jesus. But you will have an attitude and desire to turn away from sin. You will be a work in progress daily having to recommit. Satan will be working against you. Ask God to help you as you face off with the evil one.
Max continues: “There is yet another reason for the celebration. Part of the excitement is from our arrival. The other part is from our deliverance. Jesus rejoices that we are headed to heaven, but he equally rejoices that we are saved from hell.”
As I think about Jesus’ joy when we get to heaven, I also think about what he suffered through for us to be in heaven with him. He experienced immense mental anguish when he prayed in the garden for God to deliver him from what he was about to experience. The crowd mocked and cursed him which was mental cruelty. Then from the cross before he died, he asked God why he had forsaken him.
The pain Christ suffered is almost unimaginable: Isaiah wrote in 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--". They spit in his face, hit him with their hands/fists, flogged him with whips that had bones or stones tied in the ends. Nails or spikes were driven through his hands and feet. He hung from the cross, which was excruciating, when thirsty, they game him vinegar to drink then speared him in the side.
I believed God suffered right along with Jesus. Imagine watching your own child as he suffered the anguish and pain then to hear him ask you why you abandon him. After this horrible few hours, no wonder a celebration is held as we commit our hearts and lives to God and Jesus.
Max: “According to Jesus hell knows only one sound, ‘the weeping and gnashing of teeth’ Matt 22:13. From hell comes a woeful, unending moan as its inhabitants realize the opportunity they missed. What they would give for one more chance. But that chance is gone (Hebrews 9:27).”
Max states that after the sinking of the Titanic that on shore the names of the passengers were posted in two columns---saved and lost. “God’s list is equally simple”.
Max uses 2 Corinthians 5:16 (Phillips translation) as a basis for his next point: “Our knowledge of man can no longer be based on their outward lives”. Max’s point is that our ledger with God does not have unnecessary columns such as wealth, education, and color of our skin because these are irrelevant. God looks to see if we are more like Jesus.
As Max closes this chapter, he challenges us: “ Ask God to help you have his eternal view of the world. Every person you meet has been given an invitation to dinner. When one says yes, celebrate! And when one acts sluggish, stir him up and urge him to get ready. It’s almost time for the party, and you don’t want him to miss it.”
I’ve written before that when we give an account of our lives to God, there are two questions that concern me: “Who is a Christian because of you? And who is not a Christian because of you?”
A few questions for you to think about: has there been a celebration over you because you have been baptized and made a change of heart and life? Is there another celebration in heaven coming when you die? If not why?
Some Christians will answer they hope there is a celebration in heaven when they die because they are headed there. By using the word hope that indicates there is doubt in their mind. What’s creating the doubt? Probably some part of them believes they must earn heaven. “I’m not sure I’ve been good enough!” Others who have not made the necessary change and commitments to a relationship with Christ really have no basis for any expectations. Have confidence in God’s promises!
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
An additional thought:
“He saw you cast into a river of life you didn't request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your own garden of Gethsemane and he didn't want you to be alone ... He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you.”
― Max Lucado
In this season, talk of shortages is everywhere we turn. A shortage of hospital beds. A shortage of supplies in the grocery stores. A shortage of the needed vaccine. A shortage of answers for the questions everyone is asking.
But with all the talk of shortages, there is one thing of which we will never run short… We will never run short of God’s love. He is with us. He loves us. He is strengthening us. And he is watching over us. When it feels like we don’t have what we need, God promises to provide for us. When it feels like things are falling apart, God promises to be there for us.
What is God saying in this time? Among the answers must be this promise from Psalm 46:1: “He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” Turn to Him today.
For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.
Just Like Jesus
Put the needs of human beings in your search engine and endless articles come up. Anywhere from Maslow’s writings about what our physical needs are for survival to Anthony Robbins’ writings about our emotional needs. His list includes the need for safety, stability, security, comfort, order, predictability, control and consistency. The word “hope” itself does not appear in Robbins’ writings. You might surmise that “hope” is implied in these needs listed. “I have hope for these things!” A Biblical search of the word hope gives the following: “To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.” I’ve always believed and still do that “Hope” in something is a very basic emotional necessity for all humans . Hope in God and his promises is the ultimate hope.
People have different thoughts about where to place their hope. We place hope in others like our spouse or significant other, our children, careers and many have great hopes in material things. Time after time it has been proven these are not always trustworthy. People die, they betray you, children disappoint, careers can get derailed through no fault of your own and money is not always stable. Being a Christian does not make us immune from problems. I’m concerned that this idea is what we try to portray to people: “become a Christian and everything will be alright!” Has not happened in my life. At times it’s seemed like problems are abundant.
Max opens this chapter writing about a Harvard-educated researcher, William Rathje, who studies garbage. He learns a lot about man by studying his junk. Max writes: “Don’t you endure your share of rubbish? Snarled traffic. Computer foul-ups. Postponed vacations. And then there are days that a Dumpster couldn’t hold all the garbage we face: hospital bills, divorce papers, pay cuts and betrayals. What do you do when an entire truck of sorrow is dumped on you?” Max’s question is one that we all have to deal with at one time or maybe several times in our lives.
Max continues his thoughts: “On the night before his death, a veritable landfill of woes tumbled in on Jesus. Somewhere between the Gethsemane prayer and the mock trail is what has to be the darkest scene in the history of the human drama. What you will find is a compost heap of deceit and betrayal.”
Jesus had just asked God, his Father, to deliver him from the torture and death he faced. Max refers to this as a dilemma of an unanswered prayer. Then Judas shows up with an army of people to arrest Jesus and begin the absolute worst hours of his life. Add to this mound of garbage Matthew’s writing: “All of Jesus’ followers left him and ran away (26:56). Max writes: “From a human point of view, Jesus’ world has collapsed. No answer from heaven, no help from the people, no loyalty from his friends.” Ever had that feeling?
Max believes Jesus was able to see good in the bad, the purpose in the pain and God’s presence in the problem. Jesus referred to Judas as friend. Max and other commentators agree that Jesus’ use of “friend” was not sarcastic but a recognition of their relationship. Max points out that of the ninety-eight of the words Jesus spoke at his arrest, thirty refer to the purpose of God. Max writes: “Jesus choose to see his immediate struggle as a necessary part of a greater plan. He reviewed the Gethsemane conflict as an important but singular act in the grand manuscript of God’s drama. His suffering was necessary to fulfill prophecy, and his sacrifice to fulfill the law.”
Max: “Wouldn’t you love to have a hope-filled heart? Wouldn’t you love to see the world through the eyes of Jesus? Where we see unanswered pray, Jesus saw answered prayer. Where we see the absence of God, Jesus saw the plan of God. Note Jesus comment in Matthew 26:53: ‘ Surely you know that I could ask my Father, and He would give me more than twelve armies of angels’. Of all the treasures Jesus saw in the trash, this was the most significant.”
Max continues: “Sure Max but Jesus was God. He could see the unseen. He had eyes for heaven and a vision for the supernatural. I can’t see the way he saw.” Max’s response: “Not yet maybe, but don’t underestimate God’s power. He can change the way you look at life.” I believe that Max is thinking about our faith and trust in God because no where in the Scriptures do I read that God has or will equip us the ability to foresee the future.
Max uses the story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings: 6 as his proof that God can change how we look at life. An angry king sent out his army to surround the city of Dothan. Elisha’s servant was afraid and asked what they could do. Elisha assured his servant that the army that fought for them was larger. Elisha prayed that God open his servant’s eyes and the young man then was able to see the angels who were there to fight for them.
I’m finding it difficult to relate Elisha’s story to my life. Kay and I have had garbage in our lives from losing a baby in the early stages of pregnancy, our son in his late teens using drugs for a short period of time to our daughters unwed pregnancy and my stroke which left my speech really messed up. Yes, we prayed and had hope for positive outcomes and they happened for the most part. But we had no preview of the outcomes. We could not see the “angels” waiting to help through these struggles. Were we as equally equipped as Christ as experienced these things? Again it seems to me that faith and trust in God are required.
Max continues his thoughts: “God never promises to remove us from our struggles. He does promise, however, to change the way we look at them.” Paul writes:
Romans 8:35-39 New International Version (NIV)
35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I really like the Message translation: Romans 8:35-39 The Message (MSG)
35-39 “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.“
Our hope comes through the faith and belief that God has our back!
Max writes that Paul uses the phrase “through God” but we would prefer another preposition to through. ”We’d opt for ‘apart from all these things, or away from all these things, or even without all these things. But Paul says in all these things. The solution is not to avoid trouble but to change the way we see our troubles.” Through our HOPE in Him!
Max makes the statement: “God can correct your vision.” He closes by using the examples of Balaam seeing the angel, Elisha seeing the army, Jacob seeing the ladder, Saul seeing the Savior and finally the blind man in Mark 10:51 requesting that he have sight. Max says: “More than one have made the request of the blind man. And more than one have walked away with clear vision. Who is to say God won’t do the same for you?”
At times I struggle with hope because my faith and trust are weak which to me are the basis of hope. It’s hard to find God’s purpose in the death of the four-year-old in the tornado in Putnam County last week. Why must my friend struggle with dementia? At times I believe dementia is worse on the caregiver so why does she have to struggle. I pray for certain things for people then worry about it. I have no doubt that God can do what I ask for but worry about whether he will.
Think about these internet writings:
“Hope and trust are two words that are associated with optimism. ... The key difference between hope and trust is their base; trust is based on reliability, confidence or belief in someone else whereas hope is not based on such qualities. Hope is merely a desire and expectation for a particular thing to happen.”
“When it comes to God the relationship is that if we trust Him (action), the effect will be that we have hope. While hope is also a verb which implies that we can simply hope for something, trusting in God makes that hope more attainable. It is not simply luck, or chance that something good can happen to us.”
“One cannot have hope without faith. ... When people have hope they have faith, because they hold a belief that says, “I believe that the future will be better.” And while they have no grounds to “prove” the hopeful assumption, they have faith in it. While faith without hope is possible, hope without faith is not.”
Paul’s writing in Romans sums it up: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Romans 15:13 (NLT)
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
Just Like Jesus
A Heart Pure
In the last article, the meaning of “heart” was defined as the spiritual control center with the components of soul, mind, emotion, will and conscience. IT’S WHO WE REALLY ARE!
1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”
Satan is forever looking for those who are not pure in the heart. He’s going to tempt us today and every day. He’s not going to tempt us where we are strong and pure but where he knows we are most likely to give in. Pure is not perfect. The following are thoughts of commentators:
Max writes that we must cultivate our heart like we cultivate a garden. People harvest only what they plant. Galatians 6:7 NIV “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
Max continues: “If the heart is a greenhouse and our thoughts are seeds, shouldn’t we be careful about what we sow? Isn’t guarding the heart a strategic task?” He uses the following verse to make his point: Proverbs 4:23 NIV “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Or as another translation reads: Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”
We can’t control the thoughts the devil pushes into our mind. We can however control what our mind cultivates. Just the same as you would pull a weed in the garden, get the impure thought out immediately. It’s not a sin to be tempted by the thought but it is a sin to cultivate the thought and allow it to grow.
Max writes: “You’ve got to admit some of our hearts are trashed out. Let any riffraff knock on the door, and we throw it open. Anger shows up, and we let him in. Revenge needs a place to stay, so we have him pull up a chair. Pity wants to have a party, so we show him the kitchen. Lust rings the bell, and we change the sheets on the bed. Don’t we know how to say no?”
Max: “Jesus guarded his heart. If he did shouldn’t we do the same? Jesus wants your heart to be fertile and fruitful. He wants your heart to be like his. That’s God’s goal for you. But how? The answer is surprising simple. We can be transformed if we make one decision: I will submit my thoughts to the authority of Jesus.”
Matthew 28:18 – Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Max: “To have a pure heart, we must submit all thoughts to the authority of Christ. If we are willing to do that, he will change us to be like him.” For me, the key words in Max’s statement are “if we are willing”. God nor Jesus is going to force anything on us. They must have a willing heart to work with. One of our biggest problems is our need to justify our anger, revenge, pity or any other thought! We struggle with letting go and admitting our sin. If we are working on justification for our action then God/Jesus does not have a willing heart.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 Phillips translation “The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.”
Max’s point in using these versus: The Holy Spirit is always ready to help you manage and filter the thoughts that try to enter. He can help you guard your heart. You “fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.” The key is inviting and allowing the Holy Spirit to help you.
One example Max uses is that the devil tells you are a loser, always have been and always will be. “You’ve blown relationships and jobs and ambitions. You might as well write the word bum on your resume, for that is what you are.” What are you going to do with this thought? Are you going to allow it to grow or let the Holy Spirit help you deal with it. Many of the teens I work with through CASA think this way. Mom and Dad are this way so I am and will be. Getting them to break this view and convince them they can be different is difficult.
If you think this way about yourself, pray for help and even ask someone you view as spiritual for prayers. If you believe Jesus agrees with this assessment, read Ephesians 2:10 NIV “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Jesus Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Does it sound like Jesus agrees with Satan. Based on this verse, I believe God is insulted if we cultivate negative thoughts like this. Do not ever compare yourself with others. Paul does not say we are all equipped the same. Take whatever God gave you and use it to his glory.
The reverse side of the loser thinking is the, “I’m so great” or “the world is lucky to have me”. Max’s reply to this thinking is to point us to the following verses: Romans 12:3 Phillips translation “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance.” Galatians 6:14 NIV “The cross of our Lord Jesus is my only reason for bragging.” Do not cultivate these type of thoughts either.
Max’s closing thoughts: “The point is this. Guard the doorway of your heart. Submit your thoughts to the authority of Christ. The more selective you are about seeds, the more delighted you will be about the crop.”
How do I accomplish a pure heart? An honest desire to be pure!
You need the knowledge of what God expects from you!
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible: 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God - Endeavour so to cultivate and improve thy heart and mind, that thou mayest not be a reproach to him from whom thou professes to receive thy commission.”
Constant prayer: Romans 12:12, NIV: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Some translations say “consistent”
When I was young, we were told that sin was not fun. This was an allusion Satan used to deceive us into sinning. So don’t give in to the temptations because you are really not having fun. This did not process well for me. If it seems like I’m having fun then…. I tried to teach my children and Sunday school classes that yes some sins are fun or we would not fall for temptations. You have a choice to make. Accept the temptations, allow them to cultivate in your life and live for Satan. Your other choice is submit them to the authority of Christ and be Just Like Jesus.
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
Before we look at what Max writes, let’s look at two verses:
Proverbs 23:7 (NIV) for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. "Eat and drink," he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
Proverbs 23:7 (NKJ) For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
What is the meaning of “heart” ? Of course it’s not our physical heart. A compilation of commentators thinking is that’s the spiritual control center with the components of soul, mind, emotion, will and conscience. That’s why the Bible mentions the heart between 800-1,000 times. IT’S WHO WE REALLY ARE!
There are many views to the definition of truth and honesty. We have the ability to bend our own definition around the situation so that it fits our need at that time, situation ethics.
“There is no good reason to hurt his/her feelings so the situation calls for that “little white lie”. God understands there will be mitigating circumstances in which stretching the truth is necessary based on the situation so it’s not a sin. Really? Can you provide the scriptures that led you to that conclusion. But, it’s just good sense! Tell God about good sense. Intentions are the guiding factor. If your intentions are good and pure, you are OK. If your intentions are to deceive and gain from that white lie, then it’s not OK.” I’ve actually witnessed this debate in a Sunday school class. Neither side convinced the other. This article may or may not convince you either way.
Max writes about our legal system where we as witnesses are required to pledge to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If we do not tell the truth, the outcome of the trail will be tainted. More debate: “Yes, but there is no comparison between the two examples. In the above the situation, no one is hurt and the person is actually spared being emotionally hurt. At trail severe damage can happen. I completely understand your train of thought but aren’t we guilty of selective interpretation caused by situation ethics?”
Max points out that a witness in court eventually steps down from the witness chair but Christians never do: “For the Christian, deception is never an option. It wasn’t an option for Christ.” I Peter 2:22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
Look at Max’s points: “From Genesis to Revelation, the theme is the same: God loves the truth and hates deceit. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul lists the type of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. The covey he portrays is a ragged assortment of those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, sell their bodies, get drunk, rob people, and---there it is---lie about others.”
Max’s writes: “Such rigor may surprise you. You mean my fibbing and flattering stir the same heavenly anger as adultery and aggravated assault? Apparently so. God views fudging on income tax the same way he views kneeling before idols.”
The Lord hates those who tell lies but is pleased with those who keep their promises. Proverbs 12:22
The Lord hates…a lying tongue. Proverbs 6:16-17
Max continues: “Why? Why the hard line? Why the tough stance? Dishonesty is absolutely contrary to the character of God. According to Hebrews 16:18, it is impossible for God to lie. It’s not that God will not lie or that he has chosen not to lie---he cannot lie.”
“Satan, on the other hand, finds it impossible to tell the truth. According to Jesus, the devil is ‘the father of lies John 8:44” When we tell even a white lie, we are practicing the same ways of Satan.
The debate over whether telling white lies to save the feelings of another is a sin or not will live on forever. There are probably many husbands who saved their wives’ feelings by saying “ no, that brand new outfit does not make your rear end look big.” May have saved a marriage or two.
Let’s take a look at some more obvious examples of deceit from Max. “According to a Psychology Today survey, the devil is spinning webs, and we are still plucking fruit.
Jeremiah 17:9 points out “The heart is deceitful above all things.”
Max says we do not always like the truth and backs that up with the story about a husband/wife phone conversation. The wife is about to board a plane home from Europe when she inquires about the cat. The husband bluntly replies that the cat is dead. The wife chastises the husband for being so honest and ruining her trip. She suggests he should have broken the news slowly. The initial response to the cat’s condition should be that he’s on the roof. When she called from Paris, tell her the cat is sluggish and then from London the cat is sick. Upon researching New York, the cat would be at the vet and finally when home, give her the bad news. The wife then asks how her mother is doing. After a long silence, the husband replies that her mom is on the roof.
Max believes that from an early age we found out that the truth will make us squirm. “Did you do that?” Pick whatever misdeed you want and our “heart” says tell them no and look like you mean it even if they saw you do it. Then we learn not to trust the truth because in Max’s words, “it seems inadequate to do what we need done.”
“We want our bosses to like us so flatter them which we call polishing the apple. We want people to admire us, so we exaggerate. We call it stretching the truth. We want people to respect us, so we live in houses we can’t afford and charge bills we can’t pay. We call it the American way. God calls all three a lie!”
Max writes about Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deceit. They told Peter and the apostles that they gave all the proceeds from a land sale to the church which in fact they gave only half the proceeds. They were struck dead not for withholding half the money but for their deceit. Deceit will not be punishable by death for us but can kill a marriage, kill a conscience by making the next lie easier to tell, or maybe even a career just ask the person who got fired for embezzlement. It can even kill our faith. “Those fluent in the language of falsehood find terms like confession and repentance hard to pronounce.”
Max writes: “Perhaps the most tragic death that occurs from deceit is our own witness. Do we think our coworkers will believe our words about Christ when they can’t even believe our words about how we handled our expense account?”
Max brings the study to a close with a challenge for us to examine our heart and ask our self some tough questions about our honesty in dealings. “Are you completely honest with everyone? Do you tell the truth…always?”
I want to ask one. You have a friend whose been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has no family. Will he/she pick you as a conservator of their estate?
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
Have you ever willfully plan to commit a sin with the thought that later on you will confess and then ask for God’s forgiveness? How does God look at that? What do you think?
Hello! I’m three weeks past my knee replacement surgery and now believe that I’ll live. First two nights, it was up for grabs. The nerve block wore off and the pain was released. I grossly underestimated the effect the surgery would have on my body. Thank God for Kay!! This was tough on her.
My plans were to take therapy three times per week and write. The pain killers only dulled the pain in the knee and dulled the mind. For you comics out there, I know the mind was already pretty dull!
Thank you for your prayers and please continue them for Kay and me.
Just Like Jesus
A Focused Heart
On the introduction page to this chapter, Max quotes Ephesians 1:17 from the Message translation: ”I ask---ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory---to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do.” Remember that we are not call to do the same thing!
Max writes: “One of the incredible abilities about Jesus was to stay on target. He never got off track. He had no money, no computers, no jets, no administrative assistants or staff; yet Jesus did what many of us fail to do. He kept his life on course.”
Max’s four questions in this chapter: Am I fitting into God’s plan? What are my longings? What are my abilities? Am I serving God now?
Jesus had many talents and could have done anything with them he wanted. But in the end he chose to be a Savior and save souls. “The Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and gave his life as a ransom for many people.” Mark 10:45
Max: “The heart of Christ was restlessly focused on one task----the cross of Calvary. He was so focused that his final words were, It is finished (John19:30).”
We are not to be as focused as Jesus. There are so many diversions in our life that our focus is scattered. Families, jobs, hobbies etc. distract us from focusing our hearts on God if we allow them to. We seem to view these undertakings as separate from our Christian lives as though they are totally different. Being a focused Christian in every undertaking is what God wants from us. As we function in these roles, we must strive to be a Christian spouse, Christian parent, Christian employee etc.
Max continues: “God’s plan is to save his children, The first step for focusing your heart is to ask this question: Am I fitting into God’s plan?” 2 Peter 3:9 tells us: “He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants all to turn away from their sins.”
Max asks how each one of us can contribute to God’s plan and what is our specific assignment and contribution. There are some who do not really care if they are fitting into God’s plan. They are focused on what they want for themselves out of life and very little else. If they are contributing, then great but if not then that’s the way it is. Self-examine your heart with as much honesty as you possibly can and decide how you are in helping others with their salvation.
Max continues: “Where are my longings? The question may surprise you. Perhaps you thought your longings had nothing to do with keeping your life on track. I couldn’t disagree more. Your heart is crucial. Psalms 37:4 says ‘Enjoy serving the Lord, and he will give you what you want.’ When we submit to God’s plans, we can trust our desires. Our assignment is found at the intersection of God’s plan and our pleasures. What do you love to do? What brings you joy? What gives you a sense of satisfaction?”
“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.
Max: “The longings of your heart, then, are not incidental; they are critical messages. The desires of your heart are not to be ignored; they are to be consulted. God is too gracious to ask you to do something you hate.”
I’ve known people who believe the only service to God must include self-sacrifice. Philippians 2:3-4 ESV says: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Paul tells us to look at our own interest but not to exclude others. Service does not have to be through self-sacrifice.
Always be aware that Satan is against you focusing your heart for God. His desire is to keep you as far away from God’s plan as possible. Satan will throw every distraction he can at you so that you and others will spend eternity with him!
Max advises that we should discover our abilities. Roman 12:3 “Have a sane estimate of your capabilities.” (Phillips) “Failing to focus on our strengths may prevent us from accomplishing the unique tasks God has called us to do.” He says that once you have discovered your true abilities, stay focused on them. “We cannot meet every need in the world. We cannot satisfy every request in the world. But some us try. Have a sane estimate of your abilities and stick to them.”
When I attended Freed Hardeman, we were to be in chapel every day. If your assigned seat was empty more than three times per semester in whichever chapel you were assigned, you received a “nasty” little note to explain your absence to the Dean. Offering your body to fill a seat for someone was a service to others but not one God probably condoned. Anyway, we witnessed many young men, we called “preacher students”, during chapel who had ambitions to preach, be a missionary or to be a worship leader. They wanted to be “world beaters” for God. You could admire their desires, their study and efforts for preparation but a number of them needed to refocus their hearts. They were not blessed with that particular talent. Professors counseled these young man to refocus their hearts where they could still contribute to God’s plan. You do not have to be a world beater to serve God. Be open to letting people give you advice on your talents.
Max’s next question is: “Am I Serving God Now?” That calls for another self-evaluation. What do your spouse and children see at home? What do the people at your place of business and the customers, friends etc. see? Do they view you as a servant for God?
Max in his book, On The Anvil, writes in chapter 24 “A Good Heart, But’” The congregation is having silent prayer time when Max tells God that he wants to do great things. He wants to teach millions and wants the world to know God’s saving power. God tells Max that’s great and he can use him right after church. Max says he’s ready for some radio and TV spots or to even speak to Congress but God has something different in mind. The man sitting next to Max needs a ride home. One of the elderly ladies needs a refrigerator moved. Max is disappointed and asks God about the needs of the world. God’s reply: “Think about it.”
Max’s point here is that performing seemingly small tasks for the world is a key to fitting into God’s plan. Don’t let your ego and pride keep your heart from being focused on God! Do the simple things for God and your efforts will be blessed. Send a card, take a meal, bake cookies or let people know that they are in your prayers.
Max closes out his thoughts by suggesting we ask ourselves the four questions and evaluating our direction. 1 Peter 4:2 TEV “From now on, then, you must live the rest of your earthly lives controlled by God’s will and not by human desires.”
He continues: “Circle the words from now on. God will give you a fresh scorecard. Regardless of what has controlled you in the past, it’s never too late to get your life on course and be a part of God’s P.L.A.N.”
One of my frustrations in trying to serve God is the inability to see results of my efforts NOW. My career was based on making things happen and seeing the results NOW. Corporate’s question was “What have you done for us TODAY? When I began volunteering with CASA, it did not take long to realize that results were not going to happen NOW or maybe NEVER. The CASA supervisors keep trying to temper my impatience. They still have to remind me on occasion: “Your efforts today may not show results for years and you will not see them. It’s in God’s hands.” With whatever service you are involved in for God, serve then pray and TRUST him.
From On The Anvil: “This, my God, is my prayer. Draw me from your fire, form me on your anvil, shape me with your hands, and let me be your tool.” This is a prayer we all should pray!!
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
On The Anvil written by Max Lucado, Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. – 1985 – Used with permission The description of the book reads “Thoughts On Being Shaped Into God’s Image” It’s a great read. It will make you think!
A Changed Face and a Set of Wings
Max compares airline passengers to people sitting in a pew. Both are looking for a satisfying and predictable experience. Some, however, are looking for more. They want a wide-eyed experience of meeting the pilot himself.
In Matthew 16, the Pharisees and Sadducees were testing Jesus by asking him for a sign that he was of God.
Matthew 17: 1-5
“1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Max writes: “The words of Matthew presuppose a decision on the part of Jesus to stand in the presence of God. The simple fact that he chose his companions and went up on a mountain suggests this was nor spur-of-the-moment action. Jesus prepared for worship.”
“Do you prepare for worship? My hunch is many of us simply wake up and show up. We’re sadly casual when it comes to meeting God.”
Max is writing about our worship services. He continues: “Let me urge you to come prepared to worship. Come hungry. Come willing. Come expecting God to speak. Come asking, even as you walk through the door, can I see God today”.
Does that casualness Max speaks of follow us into the building and continue during our time of worship? We sing to God’s glory, in prayer we offer our thankfulness and ask for his continued blessings, we focus on what Christ did for us to wash away our sins which is our only hope. Let’s not forget that we are directed in Hebrews 10:25 to encourage one another when we meet. For those of you at Southside, I believe Steve Clanton is a great example of encouragement. He shakes hands and give hugs to all he can reach. For me, it’s the real deal not the handshake of a politician. You can see in his eyes that he cares!
Max believes the purpose of worship is to change the face of the worshippers similar to what Matthew writes in 17:2 about Jesus. “His face became bright like the sun.” “God desires to take our faces, this exposed and memorable part of our bodies, and use them to reflect his goodness. God invites us to see his face so he can change ours. He uses our uncovered faces to display his glory. Shadows of shame and doubt become portraits of grace and trust, He relaxes clenched jaws and smooths furrowed brows. His touch can remove the bags of exhaustion from beneath the eyes and turn tears of despair into tears of peace. How? Through worship.”
“God is in the business of changing the face of the world. Not only does God change the face of those who worship, he changes those who watch us worship. Paul told the Corinthian church to worship in such a clear way that if an unbeliever entered, he would declare that God was amongst us. Our heartfelt worship is a missionary appeal.”
Think about these words. If a nonbeliever came into our worship and saw your or my face, would he believe God was with us? Would he see us going through the motions and our boredom? Would they catch us paying more attention to the clock on our phone rather than our act of worship? Would he see us dozing? (Jeff can tell you that I’m guilty) We tend to place the success of our worship more on the worship leader than on our own attitude. Well, I didn’t like…… Pick a reason, the songs, the number of verses, the leader, what he said didn’t do it for me, or he spoke too long. We are not in worship to be entertained or served. We are in worship to do just that and encourage one another!
Max asks a question: “Parents what are your children learning from your worship?” Do they see the same excitement as when you go home to watch a ball game? Do they see you prepare for worship with the same excitement as you do for other events in your life?
Max urges: “Prepare your heart for worship. Let God change your face through worship. Demonstrate the power of worship.”
Keep in the mind the following verses:
Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Romans 12:1-21 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
A closing thought. People invest their money in stocks of companies expecting a return on their investment. God makes an investment in us through material, spiritual and talent blessings expecting a return on his investment by our use of these gifts to bless others. How is God’s return on his investment doing with you?