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Facing Your Giants - Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Max begins with the story of Uzzah. The ark of the covenant is a very holy item commissioned by Moses. It contains a gold jar of unspoiled manna, Aaron’s walking stick and the precious stone tablets that God engraved with his finger. These were used by the priest to worship and honor God. No one was to touch the ark except the priest at the holiest of times. David wants the ark of the covenant brought back to Jerusalem in a parade of people rejoicing.  He puts Abinadab, a priest in charge of the move.  Abinadab tells his two sons, Uzzah and Ahio, to load the ark on an ox-driven wagon and start the journey. It was only about a seven mile move and thought to be safe but one of the ox stumbled and Uzzah reached out to keep the ark from falling. God struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark!

Max continues: “This will dampen a parade real quick. Everyone goes home. Deeply distressed, David returns to Jerusalem. The ark is kept at the home of Obed-Edom while David sorts things out. Apparently, he succeeds, because at the end of three months David returns, reclaims the ark, and resumes the parade. This time there is no death. There is dancing. David enters Jerusalem with rejoicing.”

“Uzzah’s tragedy teaches this: God comes to us on his own terms. He gave specific instructions as to the care and transport of the ark. Only the priests could draw near it. Uzzah should have known this because he was a priest.”

God killing Uzzah for righting the ark seems totally unfair, but the ark was to be transported by using poles only with priests carrying it. God was angry because they totally set aside his instructions and did what they wanted not what he commanded.

But did God really have to kill Uzzah?  Max reminds us: “God comes, mind you.  BUT HE COMES ON HIS OWN TERMS! He comes when commands are revered, hearts are clean, and confession is made.”

“God’s greatest gift is himself.  Sunsets steal our breath. Caribbean blue stills our hearts. Newborn babies stir our tears. Lifelong love bejewels our lives. But take all these away and we still have reason to be happy. Because God is with us.”

“God loves you too much to leave you alone, so he hasn’t. He hasn’t left you alone with your fears, your worries, your disease, or your death. So, kick up your heals for joy.”

“Uzzah’s lifeless body cautions against his irreverence. No awe of God leads to the death of man. God won’t be cajoled, commanded, conjured up, or called down. He is a personal God who loves and heals and helps and intervenes. He doesn’t respond to magic potions or clever slogans. He looks for more. He looks for reverence, obedience, and God-hungry hearts. When he sees these, he comes.”

Facing Your Giants – Max Lucado – 2006 – Thomas Nelson Publishing – Used by Permission

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Anxiety by John Gray- Ideas on preaching

We all have probably struggled with anxiety at some point in our lives. There are folks who struggle with anxiety daily. We know someome who does. I admit that I don't understand it but as John says it is real. His article will help but only if you give your anxiety up to God. It is not easy but God will provide the Holy Spirit to help us if we let Him. Open your heart to God and ask Him for that help. Ask another believer to pray with you. Be one of those believers someone will ask you pray with and for anxious people.
 
GRANDPA SAYS – “THINK ON THESE THINGS”: “Why me? Sometimes the reason good things are not happening to you is because you are the good thing that needs to be happening to other people.”
 
“EVERY TOMORROW HAS TWO HANDLES. WE CAN TAKE HOLD OF TOMORROW WITH THE HANDLE OF ‘ANXIETY’ OR THE HANDLE OF ‘TRUSTING FAITH’.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
 
 “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” (Php 4:6-7).
 
Christians are not immune to anxiety. Often, we are made anxious by our thoughts. We get anxious - we worry and obsess about --- well, you name it! This is one reason we are wise to heed God’s command to take our thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5). When we are aware of what we are thinking and can evaluate those thoughts based on the truth of the Bible, we will not be defeated by our thoughts. Rather than sitting in “The rocking chair of worry going nowhere”, we will recognize the anxious thought and claim victory over it by the power of Christ and our trust in His loving care.
 
Jesus, unlike the world, can provide His disciples with a certain and trustworthy peace. He provides the real solution to anxiety, worry, loneliness, and other things that would make us insecure and disturb us. Specifically, the solution (John 14:26) was that Jesus would always be with his disciples. Even when He was physically apart from them, He would be with them because His Spirit would live in them. The Holy Spirit would uniquely empower and comfort them - bringing to their memory all that Jesus had said.
 
Jesus taught the disciples that peace doesn't come from the absence of difficult circumstances. Instead, peace comes from knowing that the Lord is with us - and in us (through His Spirit) if we have believed in Him. Because of that, we can have real peace, and instead of spending our time and energies being worried and anxious, we can do what He has designed for us to do - live in and walk with Him (John 15:1–11) - and love one another (John 15:12, 17).
 
-o-
“We Have an Anchor That Keeps the Soul” | Priscilla J. Owens, 1882
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
 
Thanks
 
Mike Clement
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GRANDPA SAYS – “THINK ON THESE THINGS”: “Is your heart as beautiful as an old barn?”

John Grey, a minister, writes on a Facebook page labeled, Preaching Ideas. He uses the theme “Grandpa Says”. Being an old man, I found his writing about the old barn had meaning for me!

Thanks!

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

SOMETIMES PEOPLE ARE BEAUTIFUL. NOT IN WHAT THEY SAY. JUST IN WHAT THEY ARE. BEAUTY IS ABOUT HAVING A PRETTY HEART. REAL BEAUTY IS A LIGHT IN THE HEART THAT IS ALWAYS ON.”

No one defines for God His concept of beauty. If a person is beautiful to God, he fits God’s concept of beauty.  God told Samuel --- “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Nothing in a person’s outward appearance impresses God. God looks upon the inner beauty, the beauty of one’s heart.

Sure, an old barn was a handsome building in its day. But the passing seasons have beat down on that old barn till all the paint's gone, and the wood has turned silver-gray. Now the old building leans a good deal, looking kind of tired. Yet, it has a beauty that can only come with the passing of time.  Only years of standing in the weather, bearing the storms, and scorching sun, can produce the beauty of persistent endurance.

You know, we're a lot like that old barn.  Only it's on the inside that the beauty grows with us. Sure we turn silver-gray too... and lean a bit more than we did when we were young and full of sap.  But the Good Lord knows what He's doing. And as the years pass, He's busy using the hard weather of our lives, the dry spells, and the stormy seasons to do a job of beautifying our souls that nothing else can produce. It is in our faithfulness that God sees beauty.

Spiritual beauty must never be taken for granted or be neglected. We must remember that just as it is possible to be one of society’s most impressive people and be ugly in the eyes of God, it is also possible to be an unknown in society and to be radiantly beautiful in His eyes.

Someday the old barn will fall down. And I reckon someday you and I will fall down and finish our journey to Heaven. And I suspect we'll be more beautiful in our glorified bodies because of the seasons we've been through here. 

Hold to God’s unchanging hand my friend!

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BE AN AGENT OF HAPPINESS - May 10, 2021 by Max Lucado

Be an Agent of Happiness 

Jesus wants to bring joy to the people of this generation, and he has enlisted some special agents of happiness to do the job: you and me.

Not an easy task. The people in our world can be moody, fickle, and stubborn. And that just describes my wife’s husband. Nah, if we are going to find the joy that comes through giving joy away, we need instruction. No wonder the Bible has so much to say about finding joy in the act of sharing it. The New Testament contains more than fifty “one another” statements.

You and I indwell a lonely planet. We cannot solve every problem in society, but we can bring smiles to a few faces. And who knows? If you brighten your corner of the world and I do the same in mine, a quiet revolution of joy might break out. It can be how happiness happens.

 
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Chapter 11 & 12 of Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado

Chapter 11

 Max opens this chapter with thoughts of navigating through our lives: “We’ve all scratched our heads a time or two, if not at highway intersections, at least at the crossroads of life. The best of navigators have wondered, do I…

  • take the job or leave it?
  • accept the marriage proposal or pass?
  • leave home or remain?
  • build or buy?”

“One of life’s giant-sized questions is: How can I know what God wants me to do?” The answer to this question is troubling because God is not going to give an answer by speaking directly to you.  There is no magic nor easy way.  His answer can be found in the Bible and in prayer. Consider God’s promises: Hebrews 13:5 NLT: I will never fail you. I will never forsake you. Philippians 4:6 NIV: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Max’s advice: “Don’t make a decision, whether large or small, without sitting before God with an open Bible, open heart, open ears, imitating the prayer of Samuel: Your servant is listening. I Samuel 3:10 NLT.”

In case you are wondering, there is no index in the Bible that will lead you to a list of your questions and God’s subsequent answer. You must study the Bible.

Max continues: “You aren’t the first to face your problem. Others have stood where you stand and wondered what you wonder. Seek their advice. Hebrews 13:7 NRSV: Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

This verse helps us to understand the importance of having a church family to help guide us when in need.

God will lead you through the Bible and the advice of the church family, but he will not lead us to violate his Word.

Max writes: “You have all you need to face the giant-sized questions of your life. Most of all you have a God who loves you too much to let you wander. Trust him!”

 

Chapter 12

 This chapter deals with our failures.  Everyone has at least one sin that he or she must deal with daily or maybe even several times each day.

Max questions: “Does one prevailing problem leech your life? Some are prone to cheat. Others are quick to doubt. Maybe you worry. Yes, everyone worries some, but you own the national distributorship of anxiety. Perhaps you are judgmental. Sure, everybody can be critical, but you pass more judgments than a federal judge.”

“What is that one weakness, bad habit, rotten attitude? Where does Satan have a stronghold within you? Ahh, there is a fitting word---stronghold: a fortress, citadel, thick walls, tall gates. It’s as if the devil stakes a claim on one weakness and constructed a rampart around it. You ain’t touching this flaw, he defies heaven, placing himself squarely between God’s help and your explosive temper, fragile self-image, freezer-size appetite or distrust for authority.”

Satan is not going away. He wants to keep a stronghold on your life. Max describes this stronghold as: “Strong enough to grip like a vise and stubborn enough to hold on. He clamps like a bear trap---the harder you shake, the more it hurts.”

David faces a stronghold in his desire to take over Jerusalem from the Jebusites. They scorned David by taunting him, “You shall not come in here, but the blind and the lame will repel you.” David ignored their taunts and took over Jerusalem.

Max writes: “The Jebusites pour scorn on David like Satan dumps buckets of discouragement on you:

  • You’ll never overcome your bad habits.
  • Born white trash; gonna die white trash.
  • Think you can overcome your addiction? Think again.”

In spite of the scorn David received, the Bible says in II Samuel 5:7 Nevertheless, David took the stronghold…  Max continues: “Wouldn’t you love for God to write a nevertheless in your biography? Born to alcoholics, nevertheless, she led a sober life. Never went to college, nevertheless, he mastered a trade. Didn’t read the Bible until retirement age, nevertheless, he came to a deep and abiding faith.”

Max says that we all need a nevertheless in our lives and God has plenty of them to go around.  We need to do what David did, turn to God for help.  He writes: “Two types of thoughts continually vie for your attention. One says, ‘Yes you can’. The other says, ‘No you can’t.’ One proclaims God’s strength; the other lists your failures. One longs to build you up; the other seeks to tear you down. And here is the great news: you select the voice you hear. Why listen to the mockers? Why give ears to the pea-brains and scoffers when you can, with the same ear, listen to the voice of God?”

“Do what David did. Turn a deaf ear to old voices. And, as you do. Open your eyes to new choices. Your nevertheless awaits you!”

Facing Your Giants – Max Lucado – 2006 – Thomas Nelson Publishing – Used by Permission

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Listening

The past twelve months has been a troubled time for us all. COVID has taken loved ones, taken away jobs and income and disrupted lives in general. We’ve had very contentious elections and are not dealing very well with our differences. Patience, understanding and love for each other is at an all-time low. Mr. Potato Head is creating a disturbance for some while a song nominated as number one is full of vulgarities. It’s time for the world to return to listening for God’s and our Savior’s voice.

F. LaGard Smith spends time each year in the Cotswolds’ of England. His book, Meeting God in Quiet Places, was written while there. One chapter he labels  “Lambing Time” is in the book. He begins the chapter with a quote from Job 34:4, “Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.”

Mr. Smith finds joy in the lambing time. The shepherd makes sure the ewes bind with her lambs by putting the mom in a yoke while the lamb feeds off of her. This assures the maternal instincts are created. Smith writes: “As much a matter of security as feeding, the mother lets her lambs know that they are alright, and then walks ahead of them, leading them out harm’s way.”

Smith continues: “From what I am told, with lambs it’s not a matter of sight, but sound. Apparently the lamb recognizes its mother’s distinctive voice. Of course there is yet another voice that sheep come to recognize---the shepherd. Perhaps that is due to the sense of security which the shepherd provides. Should it be any surprise, then, that we have a spiritual parallel in Jesus?”

“Jesus, of course, is the perfect, the quintessential Shepherd. At first not even His disciples understood this. So he said to them, ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Smith writes: “Surely that is what Jesus meant when he said that his sheep know his voice. As Jesus’ disciples—as his sheep—we don’t literally hear Jesus talking to us. Jesus’ voice hasn’t been heard on earth since the first century. But as Christians we have a relationship with the Good Shepherd that permits us to know his inner being. As a people of faith, we know how he thinks. We know what he believes. We know what he stands for.” I believe Smith makes the assumption that “people of faith” have studied the gospels so we can know his thinking and beliefs. This understanding does not come by osmosis but by study.

Smith points out that sheep have “the ability to recognize when it is not the shepherd’s voice calling. In fact they run headlong away from strangers—back to the voice they can depend on!”

Smith continues: “Whose voice are we listening to? Do we act as if there are no enemies prowling about—no need to stay near to him who protects us? Are we listening to voices that would lure us away from his care? Voices that seem more exciting, more sophisticated?” Let’s face it Satan has some tantalizing offers for us and he is not bashful about making them readily available. He is always calling us and is delighted when we listen for his voice not Jesus’ voice!!

He goes on: “Like sheep the only way to truly know the voice of God is to make sure that we have gone through the process of “mothering”. Without our own spiritual commitment to obediently follow God’s leading, even the Scriptures can be the instrument of counterfeit voices.”

“Hearing God’s voice is principally a matter of spiritual discernment. ‘The man without the spirit’, says Paul, ‘does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”. Smith points out that “hearing God’s voice is not always easy”. He says: “But as believers born of the Spirit, we are able to discern.” It seems that we must have a true desire to discern and to believe the Spirit can and will guide us. Otherwise, we will keep listening to Satan and following him.

Smith offers this thought: “How sad it is that we too often turn to God only when something frightening happens to us. At those times, if no other, we recognize our complete dependence on God for, our very survival. If only we could realize how absolutely essential it is that we turn to God daily, aware that there is simply nowhere else to go. That there is no other worthy explanation, no other encouragement, no other hope. That he alone is the One who leads us out of harm’s way.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could begin each day recognizing our great need for spiritual nourishment and strength, and praising him for being the true source of our life, the One in whose image we want to continually re-created.”

“The more we come to know God, the more we appreciate how much he desires to satisfy our hearts with their very longing and need. Nothing is too much for us to ask. Certainly, he is our Source, but even more, he is our Sustainer. He suckles us with life and loved.”

“If wet and wobbly lambs are lovable because they are so dependent and vulnerable, how much more lovable we must be the heart of God! That thought alone ought to send us running to h is open arms. And he isn’t hard to find. Just listen to his voice. Over and over he calls to us.”

As I think about Smith’s ideas, it seems obvious that a successful relationship with God takes efforts on my part. Number one: I must CHOOSE to listen for his voice not Satan’s. If I make that choice, the Holy Spirit will make himself available to help me fight Satan’s offerings.  Number two: God is waiting for me to make my choice with open arms and heart. He wants me but it’s MY choice! Number three: If I choose to listen to Satan’s voice, God will be sad but will let me go. However, he always has open arms if I repent of my choice and listen for him.

Smith did not write about my next point in this chapter, but I really believe it deserves our consideration. If we are listening to the Good Shepherd, others will take note of our life and hopefully want to know about listening to God/Christ!

Additional verses about listening to God:

John 10:17 – “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

John 8:47 – “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Romans 10:17 -  “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Isaiah 30:21 – “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Psalm 32:8 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Thanks!

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

Taken from: Meeting God in Quiet Places by F. LaGrard Smith – Copyright 1992- Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 97408 – www.harvesthousepublishers.com

 

 

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How Wide Is God’s Love by Max Lucado

 

It’s nice to be included. You aren’t always. Universities exclude you if you aren’t smart enough. Businesses exclude you if you aren’t qualified enough. And sadly, some churches exclude you if you aren’t good enough. But though they may exclude you, Christ includes you. When asked to describe the width of his love, he stretched one hand to the right and the other hand to the left and had them nailed in that position so you would know he died loving you.

Surely there has to be a limit to this love. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But David the adulterer never found it. Paul the murderer never found it. Peter the liar never found it. When it came to life, they hit bottom. But when it came to God’s love, they never did. How wide is God’s love? Wide enough for the whole world, and you’re included.

Read more He Chose the Nails: What God Did to Win Your Heart

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Facing Your Giants - Chapters 9 & 10

Chapter 9

Max tells a story about watching a lady trying to walk her dog on a hot day.  The dog plopped down in the cool grass and refused to take one more step.

Max asks: “Have you ever reached your “plopping point?” You can’t do one more thing. That’s absolutely it.

After finding the village burned and their families kidnapped, David’s men threaten to stone him.  David found strength in God and leads his six hundred men to chase after the Philistines. Max goes on: “How essential that we learn to do the same. Support systems don’t always support. Friends aren’t always friendly. Pastors wander off base and churches get out of touch. When no one can help, we have to do what David does here. He turns to God.”

David and his men continue their chase and arrive at a brook called Besor. They rest for a brief period and press on but two hundred of the men plop down and cannot continue with the others even though their families are still being held, hostage.

Max believes the present-day church also so has its share of folks who plop down. He illustrates:” Maybe it is a defeating string of defeats. Divorce can leave you at the brook. Addiction can as well. Whatever the reason, the church has its share of people who just sit and rest.”

David’s army continues the chase and finds an Egyptian servant who is disabled and the Philistines have left behind to die. The Egyptian shows them the campsite of the Philistines.  David and his army overcome the Philistines and all the families being held hostage are rescued.

As the rescued families begin to look for their warrior imagine their feelings as they discover he stayed behind at Besor to rest. Some of David’s men became angry with their comrades who stayed behind. They refused to share to the spoils captured at the Philistines’ camp.

David convinced the angry soldiers that those who remained at Besor served a purpose by protecting the supplies left with them. This was probably the noblest act David ever accomplished. David’s words: “Don’t do that after what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and given us the enemy who attacked us. Who will then listen to what you have to say? The share will be the same for the one who stayed with the supplies as for the one who went into battle. All will share alike.” I Samuel 30: 23-24 NCV

Max ends with these thoughts; “Are you weary? Catch your breath. Are you strong? Reserve passing judgment on the tired. Odds are, you’ll need to plop down yourself. And when you do, Belsor is a good story to know.”

 

Chapter 10

Max devotes this chapter to dealing with grief.  People get bad news from policeman explaining that your loved one died in an accident, a surgeon delivers bad news, or a soldier knocks on your door to explain how your soldier died in the war.

David’s bad news comes from another soldier that Saul and Jonathan have been killed in a battle with the Philistines. Saul was God’s chosen king and Jonathan was closer than a best friend, he was like a brother. About Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths Max writes: “Leaving David to face yet another giant---the giant of grief. And we, like David face, have two choices: flee or face the giant.” “What else can you do? The grave stirs such unspeakable hurt and unanswerable questions, we’re tempted to turn and walk. Change the subject, avoid the issue. Work hard. Drink harder. Stay busy. Stay distant. Head north and don’t look back.”

“Yet we pay a high price when we do. Bereavement comes from the word “reave”. Look up “reave” in the dictionary, and you’ll read “to take away by force, plunder, rob”. Death robs you. The grave plunders moments, memories not yet shared: birthdays, vacations, lazy walks, talks over tea. You are bereaved because you’ve been robbed.”

There are constant reminders of the one you lost. Favorite places to eat, songs and many other things that will make you grieve again and again.

Max advises: “Understand the gravity of your loss. You didn’t lose at Monopoly or misplace your keys. You can’t walk away from this. At some point, within minutes or months, you need to do what David did. Face your grief.” David wept, ripped his clothes and fasted the rest of the day.  “You need to do the same. Flush the hurt out of your heart and when the hurt returns, flush it again.”

Max quotes from Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV – There is…. a time to mourn. “Give yourself some. Face your grief with tears, time, and—and once more—face your grief with truth. God has the last word on death. And, if you listen, he will tell you the truth about your loved ones. You miss them like crazy, but can you deny the truth? They have no pain, doubt, or struggle. They really are happier in heaven.”

Max’s conclusion: “So go ahead, face your grief. Give yourself time. Permit yourself tears. God understands. He knows the sorrow of a grave. He buried his son. But he also knows the joy of resurrection. And, by his power, you will too.”

Although I’ve never experienced a divorce, many people who have tell me it’s feels like death has happened.  On occasion, folks will do something stupid and run afoul of the law.  I know a man who became involved with a scam and even though he denied knowledge of wrong doing, he spent over a year in jail. He and his family were devastated.  These types of events may also need some time to grieve.  Go ahead if you need to grieve, it’s OK.

Facing Your Giants – Max Lucado – 2006 – Thomas Nelson Publishing – Used by Permission

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Chapters 7 & 8 Facing Your Giants

Chapter 7

Max relates the story of Ernest Gordon who was a prisoner of war in World War II. Ernest was held in the Death House of Chungkai, Burma is known for the extreme cruelty of the Japanese guards.  Life was “every man for himself” amongst the Allied prisoners. They stole food from one another, robbed the dying men and generally acted like barbarians.

Max states: “Selfishness, hatred, and pride-you don’t have to go to a POW camp to find them.  A dormitory will do just fine. As will the boardroom of a corporation or the bedroom of a marriage or the backwoods of a country.  The code of the jungle is alive and well. Every man for himself. Get all you can and can all you get. Survival of the fittest.”

David had the same experience with Nabal, an extremely wealthy man, who lived in the desert of Maon where David had lead his people. Nabal was a complete jerk and never had a thought of sharing with anyone. Max says of David and Nabal: “They cohabitated the territory with the harmony of two bulls in the same pasture. Both strong-headed. It was just a matter of time before they collided.”

David and his men provided protection for Nabal’s crops and flocks of sheep from the Bedouins and other robbers. At harvest and shearing time Nabal threw a huge party and David felt that his men deserved to attend. When David sent ten of his men to make his expectations known, Nabal acted as though he did not know any David. Of course, this infuriates David, so he takes four hundred of his men to enforce his will. Before he can arrive, Abigail, the very beautiful wife of Nabal intercepts David carrying meat and bread for his men. She agrees that Nabal is a jerk and asked David to leave Nabal’s fate to God. David agrees to her request and returns to his camp.

Abigail returns to Nabal to let him know how she saved his life from David’s anger. Upon hearing this, Nabal has a heart attack and dies ten days later. When David learned of Nabal’s death he could not forget how beautiful Abigail was and marries her. Max analyzes the story of David and Nabal: “Meekness saved the day that day. Abigail’s gentleness reversed a river of anger. Humility has such power. Apologies can disarm arguments. Contrition can defuse rage. Olive branches do more good than battle-axes ever will.”  Soft speech can crush strong opposition. Proverbs 25:15

 Max continues: “Abigail teaches so much. The contagious power of kindness. The strength of a gentle heart.  Her greatest lesson, however, is taking our eyes from her beauty and set them on someone else’s. She lifts our thoughts from a rural trail to a Jerusalem cross. Abigail never knew Jesus. She lived a thousand years before his sacrifice. Nevertheless, her story prefigures his life.”

“Abigail placed herself between David and Nabal. Jesus placed himself between God and us.  Abigail volunteered to be punished for Nabal’s sins. Jesus allowed heaven to punish him for yours and mine. Abigail turned away the anger of David. Didn’t Christ shield you from God’s?”

Jesus is our mediator, the one who stands between God and us. Max points out: “And what did Christ do but stand between God’s anger and our punishment? Christ intercepted the wrath of heaven.” God has piled all our sins, everything we have done wrong, on him, on him,” Isaiah 53:6 MSG

 Max finishes this chapter: “Do you find your Nabal world hard to stomach? Then do what David did: stop staring at Nabal. Shift your gaze to Christ. Look more at the Mediator and less at the troublemakers.”

Chapter 8

 Max opens this chapter by describing what he calls a “slump gun”. “It fires, not bullets, but sadness.  It takes, not lives, but smiles. It inflicts, not flesh wounds, but faith wounds.” Nothing seems to go right.  For every step forward, you take at least two back.

David feels as though Saul is using a “slump gun” on him. David is constantly on the run hiding from Saul in the hills, sleeping in caves and trying to care for six hundred men and their families. David says: “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” I Samuel 27:1 NIV   

Max’s comment: “Confused? David talked to God. Challenged? He talked to God. Afraid? He talked to God…. most of the time. But not this time. On this occasion, he talks to himself. He doesn’t even seek the counsel of his advisors. When Saul first lashed out, David turned to Samuel. As the attacks continued, David asked Jonathan for advice. When weaponless and breadless, he took refuge among the priests of Nob. In this case, however, David consults David.”

David forgets that God has been his strength during this whole ordeal, and he seeks comfort with the enemy. This only brings about temporary relief from Saul. Max’s observation: “Stop resisting alcohol, and you’ll laugh---for a while. Move out on your spouse, and you’ll relax---for a time. Indulge in porn, and you’ll be entertained---for a season.”  He offers Proverbs 14:12-13 MSG: “There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again-it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.”

The Philistines decide to attack Saul and David leads them to believe he is on their side. He and his men turn and fight the Philistines.  When David’s warriors return with him to their village, they find that everything has been burned and the Philistines have kidnapped their families. David’s men turn on him with threats of stoning him to death. The “slump gun” has hit David again.

Max offers this: “How we handle our tough times stays with us for a long time.  How do you handle yours? When you are tired of trying, tired of forgiving, tired of hard weeks, or hardheaded people…. how do you manage your dark days?”

“With a bottle of pills or scotch? With an hour at the bar, a day at the spa, or a week at the coast? Many opt for such treatments. So many, in fact, that we assume they reenergize the sad life. But do they? No one denies that they help for a while, but over the long haul?  They numb the pain, but do they remove it?”

If these things are not the solution, then what is? Prayer!  Max says: “Be quick to pray, seek healthy counsel, and don’t give up. God is never downcast, never tires of your down days!”

Max closes with I Samuel 30:6 NIV - David found strength in the Lord his God.

Facing Your Giants - Max Lucado - 2006 - Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

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The Fruit of Sin by Max Lucado

 The 04/06/2021 edition:

 
 
 What is the fruit of sin? Step into the briar patch of humanity and feel a few thistles. Shame. Fear. Disgrace. Discouragement. Anxiety. Haven’t our hearts been caught in these brambles? The heart of Jesus, however, had not. He had never been cut by the thorns of sin. Anxiety? He never worried. Guilt? He was never guilty. Fear? He never left the presence God. He never knew the fruits of sin until he became sin for us.

And when He did, He felt anxious, guilty, and alone. Can’t you hear the emotion in His prayer? “My God, my God, why have you rejected me?” These are not the words of a saint; this is the cry of a sinner. And these are words that we should say, but these are words we don’t have to say because Jesus said them for us. He took on the fruit of sin so that we could enjoy the fruit of eternal life.

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God’s Suffering

Some have the picture of God as stoic with no emotions except anger. God and Christ are one in the same and John 11:35 tells us that Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. God made us in his own image, so he has emotions especially as he watched his Son suffer.

As I pray each day, I am very thankful for Christ’s suffering for me. As a father myself, I believe God was suffering along with his son. I don’t believe he could watch and hear Christ’s suffering without being distressed.

Think about your emotions as you witnessed and heard the following if it was your own son:

  • Your son falls to the ground and cries and pleads for you to deliver him from the crucifixion three times but thankfully he requests your will be done not his;
  • Watch as he is beaten until his face was disfigured and a made a bloody pulp;
  • Watch as he is flogged with a whip made with bone and stone in the tips;
  • Hear them curse and mock him;
  • Watch as they spit in his face;
  • Watch him wince as they push the crown of thorns down on his head;
  • Watch him struggle to drag about 180-pound cross through a crowd of people cursing and laughing at him;
  • Watch the pain in his face as they drive the nails into his hands and feet;
  • See the anguish in his face as the cross bangs around while settling in the hole ripping his flesh;
  • Watch as he tries to push his torso up so his lungs can get some air;
  • Hear him ask for something to drink and see him take a sip of vinegar;
  • Watch and hear the total disrespect for your son;
  • Then finally hear him ask you why you had forsaken him! This would be the final straw that would break my heart!

Some do not understand why we take communion every Sunday. They think that every Sunday causes communion to become mundane. How could it become mundane when you genuinely think about what God/Christ suffered for you. Would it be mundane if it were your son?

Most of the Christian world will celebrate Easter this Sunday. The focus will be on Christ’s crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection that gives us hope!

Concentrate on the suffering and be grateful because it’s the only hope you have!

Thanks

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

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AN EASTER HALLELUJAH

The original Hallelujah song was written by Leonard Cohen in 1984.The Easter version words are credited to Kelley Mooney to Cohen’s music. To listen to a beautiful version push control and click on the website below, The lyrics are posted below that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j3NZEdHQaI

A crown of thorns placed on His head

He knew that He would soon be dead

He said, "Did you forget me, Father did you?"

They nailed Him to a wooden cross

Soon all the world would feel the loss

Of Christ the King before His Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

He hung His head and prepared to die

Then lifted His face up to the sky

Said, "I am coming home now Father, to you"

A reed which held His final sip

Was gently lifted to his lips

He drank His last and gave His soul to glory

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The soldier who had used his sword

To pierce the body of our Lord

Said, "Truly, this was Jesus Christ our Savior"

He looked with fear upon his sword

Then turned to face his Christ and Lord

Fell to his knees crying Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Took from his head the thorny crown

And wrapped him in a linen gown

Then laid him down to rest inside the tomb

The holes in his hands, his feet and side

Now in our hearts we know he died

To save us from ourselves, oh Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Three days went by, again they came

To move the stone, to bless the slain

With oil and spice anointing Hallelujah

But as they went to move the stone

They saw that they were not alone

For Jesus Christ has risen, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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The Dwelling Place of God by Max Lucado

'Do-it-yourself Christianity isn’t much encouragement to the done-in and worn-out. “Try a little harder” is little encouragement for the abused. At some point we need more than good advice; we need help. Somewhere on this journey we realize that the fifty-fifty proposition is too little. We need help from the inside out. The kind of help Jesus promised. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it does not see him or know him. But know him, because he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).'

'Note the dwelling place of God: in you. Not near us, above us. But in us. In the hidden recesses of our beings dwells not an angel, not a philosophy, not a genie, but God. Imagine that."

Mike: This one hits home beause of my work with CASA children who are abused and/or abondoned. The young ones are confused. One 8 year old ask his mother why she gave him away. The older ones are angry. They need to understand Max's lesson. These children are all over Bedford County. Please pray for the children of our county!

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Chapeters 5 & 6 of Facing Your Giants

 Chapter 5

Max describes David’s status as: “No place in court. No position in the army. No wife, no priest, no friend. Nothing to do but run. Wilderness begins with disconnections. It continues in deceit.”  David’s wilderness is having no one he can go to or count on for support in his time of need.

All David can see is wilderness, he can’t see God, so he decides to take matters in his own hands.  He goes to Gath, the hometown of Goliath, hoping to be accepted. He continues to deceive people. David pretends to be insane and feigns epilepsy. The Gittites fear epilepsy so they threw him out of the city.

David is all alone but with nowhere to turn He remembers he is not alone.  He prays:

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!

For my soul trusts in You;

And in the shadow of Your wings, I will make my refuge!”

Max continues: “Make God your refuge. Not your job, not your spouse, your reputation, or your retirement account. Make God your refuge. Let him encircle you.”

Max shares a story of a man, Whit, raised in a Christian home.  He was married with a good family and became a leader in his church. He was sucked into gambling where he lost much more than he won. His wilderness became gambling, so his escape was to embezzle from the bank that employed him.  After an audit, the bank called Whit in for a meeting. He knew he was caught, and his planned escape was suicide. The police caught up to Whit before he could pull the trigger. He turned back to his faith while in prison and returned to church work after his release. After a period of a few years, a congregation asked Whit to serve as their senior minister.

Max encourages: “Are you in the wilderness? Crawl into God the way a fugitive would a cave. Find refuge in God’s presence.  Find comfort is his people. Cast your hat in a congregation of folks who are one gift of grace removed from tragedy, addiction, and disaster.  Seek community in God’s church.  Refuge in God’s presence. Comfort in God’s people. Your keys for wilderness survival.”

Let’s close with this thought from Max: “You’ll never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”

Chapter 6

The saga of David versus Saul continues with David on the run. David has amassed several hundred people who are loyal to him. With Saul right on his heels, David and his followers seek refuge in a cave. Saul and his men decide to take a rest stop just outside the cave.

Saul enters the mouth of the cave and Max writes: “David and his men were hiding far back in the cave. With eyes dulled from the desert sun, the king fails to notice the silent figures who line the walls.  But don’t you know they see him. Their minds race, and hands reach for daggers. One thrust of the blade will bring Saul’s tyranny and their running to an end. But David signals for his men to hold back. He edges along the wall, unsheathes his knife, and cuts not the flesh but the robe of Saul.  David then creeps back into the recesses of the cave.”

“David’s men can’t believe what their leader has done. Neither can David. Yet his feelings don’t reflect theirs. They think he has done too little; he thinks he has done too much. Rather than gloat, he regrets:”

“Later David felt guilty because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, May the Lord keep me from doing such a thing to my master! Saul is the Lord’s appointed king. I should not do anything against him, because he is the Lord’s appointed king.” I Samuel 24:19

                                                                                                   

After Saul exits the cave, David holds up the piece of cloth and shouts to Saul, “I could have killed you, but I didn’t.”  Saul’s stunned response is “If a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely?” This is not the last time David gives Saul grace.

Saul continues his hunt for David. While Saul and his army are camped, David and one of his soldiers sneak into Saul’s tent and take his spear and water jug. The soldier begs him to kill Saul but David refuses. David retreats to a safe distance and shouts to Saul: “God put your life in my hands today, but I wasn’t willing to lift a finger against God’s anointed.” Once again David grants Saul grace.

Max goes on: “Once again, we think about the purveyors of pain in our own lives. It’s one thing to give grace to friends, but to give grace to those that give us grief? Could you? Given a few uninterrupted moments with Darth Vader of your days, could you imitate David?”

Maybe you can because we seem able to overlook the small stuff most of the time. But those who commit that grievous wrong and are repeat offenders? “The Sauls who take our youth, retirement, or health? Could you forgive the scum who hurt you?”

Max writes: “Vengeance fixes your attention at life’s ugliest moments. Score- settling freezes your stare at cruel events of your past. Is this where you want to look? Will rehearsing and reliving your hurts make you a better person? By no means. It will destroy you.”

David did not look at Saul as an attacker but saw him as a child of God. Max explains: “Your enemies still figure into God’s plan. Their pulse is proof: God hasn’t given up on them. They may be out of God’s will, but not out of his reach. You honor God when you see them, not as his failures, but as his projects.” YOU ARE ALSO GOD’S PROJECT!!

 Seeking revenge on those who have harmed you is no way to spend your life. Jesus did not: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to who judges justly.”  I Peter 2:23 NIV

Max advises: “God dispenses perfect judgments. Vengeance is his job. Leave your enemies in his hands. You are not endorsing their misbehavior when you do. You can hate what someone did without letting hatred consume you.  Forgiveness is not excusing.”

“To forgive is to move on, not to think about the offense anymore. You don’t excuse him, endorse her, or embrace them. You just route thoughts about them through heaven. You see your enemies as God’s child and revenge as God’s job.”

“Forgiveness is choosing to see your offender with different eyes. We give grace because we’ve been given grace.”

 

Facing Your Giants - Max Lucado - 2006 -Thomas Nelson Publisher

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The Song He Longs to Hear

 

 

"In his later years Beethoven spent hours playing a broken harpsichord. The instrument was worthless. Keys were missing, strings stretched. It was out of tune, harsh on the ears. Nonetheless, the great pianist would play till tears came down his cheeks. You’d think he was hearing the sublime, and he was. He was deaf. Beethoven was hearing the sound the instrument should make, not the one it did make."

"Maybe you feel like Beethoven’s harpsichord. Out of tune, inadequate. Your service ill-timed, insignificant. Ever wonder what God does when the instrument is broken? How does the Master respond when the keys don’t work? Does he demand a replacement? Or does he patiently tune until he hears the song he longs to hear? I want you to know that the Master Musician fixes what we can’t and hears music when we don’t. And he loves to hear the music that comes from your life."

Mike: God does know our worth because He knows our heart but like the old saying, "if you keep doing the same thing, why expect a different outcome?" Pray, then don't fight Him but let the Master take control. He's given us the Spirit to guide us so make use of Him!

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The Price Is Too High

 
 

In the days when I was a missionary in Brazil I once went to visit one of our church leaders. We hadn’t seen him for several Sundays. Friends told me he had inherited three hundred dollars, and he was constructing, by hand, a one-room house. When he gave me a tour of the project, it took about twenty seconds. I told him we’d missed him, that the church needed him back. He grew quiet and turned and looked at his house. His eyes were moist. “You’re right, Max,” he confessed. “I guess I got just too greedy.”

“Greedy?” I wanted to say, “You’re building a hut in a swamp and you call it greed?” But he was right. Greed is relative. Greed is not defined by what something costs; it is measured by what it costs you. If anything costs you your family, or your faith, the price is too high.

Read more When God Whispers Your Name

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What’s Your Price?

Listen to Today's Devotion by Max Lucado

“Some years ago, I read a study of what most Americans would do in exchange for ten million dollars. Among the options were abandon their family, abandon their church, give up their citizenship, leave their spouse or their children. It’s not surprising to me what someone would do for ten million dollars. What’s surprising is that most would do something. What would you do? Or better, what are you doing?:

“Get real, Max,” you’re saying, “I’ve never had a shot at ten million.” The amount may not have been the same, but the choices are. And some people are willing to give up their family, faith, or morals for far less than ten million dollars. Jesus had a word for that: greed. He called it the practice of measuring life by possessions (Luke 12:15). Jesus cautioned against “all kinds of greed.” What’s your price?”

Max asks a very valid question. Too many people can be bought cheaply. Satan is behind every thought and idea urging us to take his deals. His “Price is Right” game is not a game we want to play. The ultimate reward of playing his game is an eternity separated from God who loves you.  Satan does not love you and never will so ask the Holy Spirit to help you fight off greed and remain true to God!

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Chapter 3 & 4 of Facing Your Giants

Chapter 3

 Saul explodes in anger when he learns that David was to be anointed, King. He orders his servants and his son, Jonathan, to kill David but they refuse.  Saul tries himself to murder David with a spear but misses so he sends his men to kill him and once again David escapes.

David asks Jonathan, “What have I done?  What is my iniquity, and what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” I Samuel 20:1 Jonathan has no explanation for David and has every right to wish David dead because he was in line to be king when Saul dies. Jonathan remains a true friend and protects David.  “Who can justify the rage of Saul?” Max asked.

There are Sauls in our life.  Max writes: “Who knows why a father torments a child, a wife belittles her husband, a boss pits employees against each other? But they do.”  “How does God respond in such cases? Nuke the nemesis? We may want him to. How will he treat yours; I can’t say.  But how will he treat you, I can.  He will send you a Jonathan.”

“Major in your evil emperor if you chose. Paint horns on his picture. Throw darts at her portrait. Make and memorize a list of everything the Spam-brain took: your childhood, career, marriage, health. Live a Saul saturated life. Wallow in the sludge of pain. You’ll feel better, won’t you?” Or will you? Linger too long in the stench of your hurt and you’ll smell like the toxin you despise.”

“Oh, to have a friend like Jonathan. A soul mate who protects you, who seeks nothing but your interest, wants nothing but your happiness.  You feel safe with that person. God gave David such a friend.  He gave you one as well.  You can find that friend in Jesus Christ. Among Jesus final words: “I am with you always, even until the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20)

 

Max concludes this chapter: “Your Saul took much, but Jesus Christ gave you more. Let Jesus be your friend. Talk to him. Spare no detail. Disclose your fear and describe your dread.  Will your Saul disappear? Who knows? And in a sense, does it matter?  You just found a friend for life. What could be better than that?”

Chapter 4

Max begins: “The desperate man sits in the corner of the church assembly. Dry mouth, moist palms. He scarcely moves. He feels out of place in a room of disciples, but where else can he go? He just violated every belief he cherished. Hurt every person he loves. Spent a night doing what he swore he he’d never do. And now on Sunday, he sits and stares. He doesn’t speak.  If these people knew what I did…”

“Scared, guilty and alone. He could be an addict, a thief, a child-beater, a wife-cheater. He could be she-single, pregnant, confused. He could be any number of people, for any number of people come to God’s people in his condition-hopeless, hapless, helpless.”

“How will the congregation react?  Criticism or compassion? Rejection or acceptance? Raised eyebrows or extended hands?”

I want to interject a thought here. Sometimes we Christians can get self- righteous.  My sins are NOT as bad as his or hers.  Romans 3:23 tells us: “for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.  I Corinthians 13 illustrates love: “it is not self-seeking; it keeps no record of wrongs.”

David goes on the run after Saul tries six times to have him killed. He runs to the small town of Nob seeking sanctuary and lies to Ahimelech the priest of that town. David begins a series of lies by telling the priest he’s on a secret mission for Saul. He tells the priest that is ok for him and his men to eat the holy bread. He lies again when he tells the priest he has no weapon to defend himself and takes the very sword with which he killed Goliath. “David has lost his God focus.”

Max continues: “Where can the desperate go? They can go to a sanctuary. God’s church. They can look for an Ahimelech, a church leader with a heart for desperate souls.”

The church is NOT the building on the corner, but it is the group of people who seek refuge and to worship there.

“Bread and blades. Food and equipment. The church exists to provide both. Does she succeed in doing so? Not always. People-helping is never a tidy trade because people who need help don’t lead tidy lives. They enter the church as fugitives, seeking shelter from angry Sauls in some cases, bad decisions in others.”

“David teaches the desperate to seek help amidst God’s people. David stumbles in this story. Desperate souls always do. But at least he stumbles into the right place—into God’s sanctuary, where God meets and ministers to hopeless hearts.”

If you need sanctuary go and find that church to help you.  If you are part of that church, be willing to help God administer his love.

Facing Your Giants - Max Lucado - 2006 - Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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God Is Doing a Good Work

 
 
Daily Devotional by Max Lucado

Changing direction in life is not tragic, but losing passion in life is. Something happens along the way. Convictions to change the world downgrade to commitments to pay the bills. Rather than make a difference, we make a salary. Rather than look outward, we look inward. And we don’t like what we see.

But God is not finished with you yet. Oh you may think he is. You may think you’ve peaked. You may think he’s got someone else to do the job. If so, think again! The Bible says that “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again” (Philippians 1:6). Did you see what God is doing? A good work in you. Did you see when he’ll be finished? When Jesus Christ comes again. May I spell out the message? God ain’t finished with you yet!

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Grace Delivered Us from Fear

 

Daily Devotional by Max Lucado

God’s grace delivered us from fear, but how quickly we return. Grace told us we didn’t have to spend our lives looking over our shoulders, but look at us glancing backward. Look at us with guilt on our consciences.

Why are we so quick to revert back to our old ways? Or as Paul candidly wrote, “What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death?” (Romans 7:24). Simply stated: we are helpless to battle sin alone. Aren’t we glad Paul answered his own question? “I thank God for saving me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).

The same one who saved us first is there to save us still. Such is the message of grace. You are saved, not because of what you do, but because of what Christ did! And you are special because of whose you are.

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