Archive for June, 2021

Set Your Standard

Isaiah gives a description of a group of ancient “wise men,” sophists, who were making a case for their deviate actions. “Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitterness for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) 

Against Isaiah’s warning of “woe” we go along our merry way as though the warning does not apply to us. The consequence has always been as natural as it is for one plus one to equal two. That conduct always naturally results in what is summed up in the word “woe.” It always has and always will.

The ancient Greek Thucydides described this spirit in the Peloponnesian war when rashness was called courage; prudence, timidity; treachery, cleverness; and honesty, stupidity. He was describing a group of moral dissidents. Such distortion in all ages is the natural progression of a culture that doesn’t acknowledge God’s standards, and always ends in what is summed up in the little word “woe.” It is still part of the life equation.

The Bible speaks of a time when “Men will become utterly self–centered … full of big words … passionate and unprincipled … self-willed and conceited … loving all the time what gives them pleasure instead of loving God.” (II Timothy 3:2,4, Phillips)

Are we there yet?

Accepting that to be our culture does not mean we approve, or that it identifies us. How then shall we live?

First, dethrone the world’s standard of morality.

Second, accept God’s standard for virtue and morality.

Third, don’t put yourself in the way of temptation.

Have a little talk with yourself regarding those standards. If you agree with them, commit yourself to them saying, “Here I stand and will not waver.” Then no matter what the world throws at you, you have already prepared yourself for it.

Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher said, “You will never find peace and happiness until you are ready to commit yourself to something worth dying for.”

Scripture exhorts us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

The Art of Problem Solving

Most problems can be overcome, even the big ones.

We lived a block from the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Our children were small then. We would take them to the levee for play time. I marveled at how wide it was and what an effort it would be to cross it.

Years lapsed and my wife and I had a challenging thrill by driving the Lemhi Pass, the trail used by Lewis and Clark to cross the Rockies. We noticed there were no tire tracks on the “road.” It dawned on us that although we were on the trail, we were off road. Right at the highest point there is a small park with a tiny spring, the water from which flows across most of America and eventually down the Mississippi River past New Orleans. Knowing this I straddled the water flowing from the spring so I could say I stood on both banks of the Father of Waters at the same time.

If you have a big problem, look upstream for its origin and begin searching for the solution there. Scripture gives pointers in problem solving.

First, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6) Do that before going further. This is not directly related to the problem, but it is conditioning you to have a clear mind.

Next, pray. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Then read God’s Word. You might not find a text that applies directly, but it will open your mind enabling you to think creatively.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Relax, even get away from the problem for a short time if possible.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

This process can help you get to the root of the problem and find an answer.

How Can You Trust a Person?

The question is asked, “How much can you trust a person?” The answer goes back, “You can only trust someone as much as you know them.”

That explains why some people don’t trust God. They don’t know Him and therefore have a misconception of Him. Through David God explains why some don’t trust Him, “You thought I was altogether like you.” (Psalms 50:21)

Daniel revealed, “…the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)

James tells us how to know Him better and get close to Him: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) There are many ways to do that. I am going to focus on one. He said, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Solitude is the incubator in which the fertile Word of God has time to develop Christlike characteristics. Fenelon, a voice from yesteryear wrote: “How rare it is to find a soul quiet enough to hear God speak.”

Time alone with God helps us to see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.

Designate a time and place when you are alone with Him and His word.

Several years I have been blessed to work with college students on a very large Montana ranch. One day they arise early and have a light breakfast. Each puts their cell phone in a paper bag which is stapled. They are given a bottle of water. We then spread them out on the high desert some distance apart where no one can see them, but from which they never lose sight of the ranch house. They have only their cell phone sealed in the bag to be used only for an emergency, their Bible and a bottle of water.

They are instructed to gather large stones and make a circle in which they are to remain all day except to relieve themselves. They are encouraged to spend the day reading their Bible and praying. They are told that at the end of the day they are to get a big stone to represent the sins they have confessed and leave it in the circle.

Back at the ranch in the early evening, around a much appreciated meal, they speak of their experiences. Some said it was the first time in their life they had been alone. Most spoke of what a transitional day it had been for them.

If you will provide time to systematically be alone with Him in His word you will know Him better, love Him more, and serve Him more enjoyably.

“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength….”

Habits Good and Bad

Scripture teaches us we should love and serve the Lord with fear and trembling —- and we should. That sounds foreboding, but it is simply a reference to a reverent and healthy respect, not a reference to a nervous apprehension. It is not alarm, but awe.

Habits shape our thoughts and behavior instinctively. Really we are captive to them. Is today the day you should start breaking some old bad habits and start some good ones? You can.

Og Mandino in his book “The Greatest Salesman in the World” tells the story of a man named Hafif to whom was given some scrolls containing principles that would make him the greatest salesman in the world. Principle number one was, “I will form good habits and become their slaves.” This led him to conclude, “In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference in their habits.”

Here is where God enters the equation. You can’t do it. That is, you can’t do it in your own power. 

A good example helps, but Mark Twain observed, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” What this means is it is taxing to try to imitate a good example. What we need is not imitation, but incarnation.

Jesus is a good example, actually the best example, but to try to imitate Him is impossible. It is Christ in you that is the hope of glory. Once you focus on His presence in you, then He begins to work in you. Our word “energy” comes from the Greek word often translated “works.” He actually energizes you, making it possible to break bad habits and form new ones. God uses three things to energize us.

First is the Bible. This is true if accepted as “the truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (I Thessalonians 2:13)

First you appreciate it, then you appropriate it, and next you apply it.

Second to the Bible is prayer. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)

The third is undesired, but meaningful. It is suffering. Philippians 3:10 speaks of being in the “fellowship of His suffering.” That brings us back to the Bible and prayer, hence to God. Our suffering, small or great, makes us mindful of our need for God who energizes us, enabling us to break old bad habits and start new positive ones.

Do you have any habits that need breaking or new ones needing to be started? In prayer, start the process now.

Joy, Peace, Hope

“The reproach of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Reading in the New King James version of the Bible one might gloss over it. A modern translation like the NIV might awaken us: “The insults of those who insulted you, O God, have fallen on me.” (Romans 15:3)

Now it becomes relevant as applied to the treatment given Christianity in today’s hostile environment. How then are we to respond? Romans 15:13 reads: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Three traits are to identify us: JOY, PEACE, and HOPE.

The first part of the verse coupled with the concluding part explains how this is possible. “May the God of hope … by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Notice you are to be “filled.” Pleroo is the Greek word translated “filled.” It means to fill to the brim. Joy is the holy optimism that keeps us going in spite of circumstance. May that result in you being filled with joy. 

Remember: THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH. Flex your joy muscle!

This joy is not the absence of problems, it is the presence of the Lord.

The Greek word for joy is chara meaning “gladness” or “delight.”

Our second dispositional trait is peace. When most folks think of peace they think of serenity. Today as in the era of the Bible, there are two primary challenges to peace. One is inner tensions. They are caused by distractions. The word “distract” means to “pull apart.” We are pulled apart when the worldly spirit engages us in a civil war with the spirit of the Lord. May the spirit of the Lord enable you to overcome the spirit of the world. 

The second threat to peace is external worries. Worry is said to be the official emotion of our generation. Christ only can enable us to respond positively to those things that wound our hearts and baffle our minds. The more you fill your mind with the knowledge of the Lord the more likely you are to overcome today’s attitude. 

A moment of reality! This is talking about our response to our hostility.

Joy and peace are yours “…that you may abound in hope.” That means we are to be bubbling over with hope. Why? Because “a merry heart does good like a medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)

Hope defined as a verb means to desire with expectation of obtaining, or to expect with optimism. Our English word hope means to desire with expectation.

David asks and answers for us: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5) Get in the Scripture “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of Scripture might have hope.”

Whenever a person with the spirit of the world starts complaining they are opening the door for you to witness by expressing these traits: JOY, PEACE, and HOPE.

Spiritual Bankruptcy

The last word in the Old Testament is “curse.” It is fitting that the New Testament should begin with “Blessed.”

Moses, on a mountain some years before, accompanied by lightning and thunder left humankind under a terrifying condemnation. Now Jesus Christ on a mountainside speaks from one of the most effective natural altars on earth so all can hear truths that thrill – – – –

“BLESSED. .BLESSED. .BLESSED. . .”

His message is called the Sermon on the Mount. He spoke of eight qualities leading to happiness. The first was “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3)

I rejoice with those who know and experience the truth of which Christ spoke and who are truly poor in spirit, but rich in the faith. To be poor in spirit means to bring ego under control and enthrone a spirit filled temperament. “Blessed,” “Congratulations,” “Joyous,” “Fulfilled,” “Well-being” is the person in whose heart God dwells.

There has never been a supremely happy egotist. The cavernous capacity of a narcissist for recognition is like a bottomless pit. The consuming lust for self-elevating flattery depletes one’s friends.

Jesus said true happiness is not dependent on externals, but internal values. Faith is superior to circumstances. The rewards for faith are promised to those who are financially rich or poor.

We have our values confused. The world is like a storefront window in which some prankster has changed price tags and put the cheap prices on the wrong things.

We are all poor in spirit whether we acknowledge it and deal with it or not. One must be poor in spirit to be happy, regardless of finances. Those who readily admit it and become reliant on the Lord for spiritual riches are those blessed. To be candid, if you get too big for your britches, you will be exposed in the end.

The poor (PTOCHOS) are beggars of God who can make them blessed (MACARIA). He can give to the poor in spirit all that they require and desire. That is true happiness.

Acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy is the beginning of spiritual nobility. This poverty of spirit results in reliance on Christ.

The poor in spirit realize themselves to be conductors of praise on its way to the supreme source — Christ.

In unconditional surrender the assets of the victor, Jesus, become those of the one surrendering, you. 

This is an opportune moment for you to acknowledge your spiritual poverty by humbling yourself before the Lord, begging His forgiveness, and asking His enrichment.

Spiritual Warfare

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19)

Do you ever feel that way? Dear God, I’ve done it again. That sin which so easily ensnares me has won again. Why?

Paul admits that “the trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.” (Romans 7:14)

We live engaged in spiritual warfare. We have been saved and given a new spiritual nature, BUT residually a degree of the old sin nature resides in us.

We have three basic opponents in our spiritual warfare. One, the devil and/or his demonic horde. The devil affects us but minimally. He has demonic agents to do his dirty work. We often give them more credit than they deserve.

The second enemy is the world around us which wars against us. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (I John 5:4)

The third one causing most of our moral and spiritual failures is (drum roll) our old sin nature. We all have an old sin nature which lives in every cell of our body. There is nothing good that can come from the old sin nature.

How are we to combat it? I Peter 1:13 tells us “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”

In Romans 7:14-25 Paul talks about an internal battle with sin, with sin forcing him to act contrary to his desires. And then in Romans 8:5 he says that “Those who live according to the flesh [sin] have their minds set on what the flesh [sin] desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” You choose.

Roman soldiers wore attractive long tunics. In battle they would have been a liability. Therefore, before going into battle they would gather up the tunic and tuck it into their belt. They were girding up their loins preparing for battle. The instruction is to gather up everything that hinders us in our spiritual warfare and tuck it away. Only you know what personally hinders you in your spiritual warfare. Tuck it away before the battle (temptation). What is it in your life?

Scripture says, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

This means you have one weakness that is greater than any other. Do you know what it is? Satan does.

I have a childish mental picture of this. If you are not going into the house stay off the porch. The Bible says we are to “flee” sin. That means run from the temptation so fast as to kick-up dust.

Then reflect on what Calvary cost, and what it has provided for you. Keep in mental reserve a Scripture or Scriptures you can recall as a defense against any attack. When under attack, immerse your thoughts in Jesus. 

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Your Unexplored Gold Mine

In Queensland, Australia some poor workmen tried to eke out a living on their plot of land. They lived in poverty, not knowing that there on Mount Morgan beneath their feet was one of the largest gold deposits in the world. They lived in bread lines with gold of inestimable value being theirs.

Many Christians live as spiritual paupers because they fail to mine their greatest asset —- prayer.

Trials and tribulations are gold mines from which we get some of life’s greatest treasures.

Often we pray: “Lord, when am I going to get out of this?,” instead of “Lord, what am I going to get out of this?”

Helplessness is rarely seen as a blessing. When it is realized, it often drives us to prayer, which otherwise might have been neglected.

It often appears we are surrounded by unimaginable blessings which come disguised as overwhelming obstacles. Prayer is the means of taking advantage of those unimaginable blessings.

Prayer gives us the ability to face the unfaceable, to bear the unbearable, to pass the breaking point without breaking.

Scripture reminds us, “You have not because you ask not.”

I sometimes pray, “Lord, you taught me to ask, and I am about to do so, leaving the result to you.”

Remember, prayer is not a supernatural credit card, an opiate to tranquilize nervous Christians, a campaign to persuade God to do something, or a magic wand to keep evil away.

Keep in mind respectfully the one to whom you are praying.

Be mindful of in whose name you are praying. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray what you believe Jesus would pray were He there praying; You are His proxy.

Young Robert Louis Stevenson said to his mother, “You can’t be good without praying.” She asked how he knew. He said, “Because I’ve tried.”

If you are not praying you are staying.

Don’t harbor a secret sympathy for sin.

Now get out there in your spiritual gold mind and start digging — pray.

Bee, Bee Bumble Bee, Don’t Be a Bee

We were having lunch at Mt. Vernon, the former home of George Washington, when I noticed an exhausted bee futilely buzzing against a window. I had read that bees only take enough “fuel” with them to get to where they are going and to get back. If they get trapped in a car or against a window they could die. However, if sugar were dissolved in a spoonful of water and offered, it could sip and be reenergized. I tried it and it worked. He buzzed around and came back and stung me. Ingrate. How like a bee are we? We get depleted, defeated, or discouraged and the Lord renews us. Then we forget to say thank you. Remember, “thanks” is a prayer also.

Are you there now, about out of fuel and needing to be renewed? Are you afraid you just can’t hold out or overcome your problems?

Don’t subscribe to this old axiom, “When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”

Instead rely on the truth in this statement by George MacDonald who wrote,

This is a sane, wholesome, practical, working faith. That it is a person’s business to do the will of God; second, that God Himself takes care of that person; and third, that therefore that person ought never to be afraid of anything.”

In light of that we can say to the Lord, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

Accept this invitation from the Lord, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

That is good news, but notice in the statement by MacDonald “it is a person’s business to do the will of God.” Get involved in doing it and you can be assured He will keep His part of the deal. Then rather than being an ingrate, glorify Him.

God’s Judgment of Nations

This post is offered in answer to the many who have asked whether God judges nations. In search of the answer, the Bible was my source.

In working on a computer there is a background screen enabling a clearer view. Let God’s love be your background screen. 

The primary city on which these thoughts are based is Nineveh in the country of Assyria. The source is the little Old Testament book of Nahum. It opens identifying God’s disposition.

“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked.” (Nahum 1:3) He is not a capricious God. There is a pattern that precedes His judgment: God warns, God waits, God acts. 

That was the pattern used by three prophets who wrote of cultures God judged: Nahum against Assyria, Obadiah against Edom, and Habakkuk against Babylon. Ezekiel Chapters 25-28 gives a list of nations God had judged to that date. The Philistines are noted as an example: “I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance on them.”

This pattern of God’s patience is noted in the New Testament. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9) This takes into account some will discount and make light of warnings.

Scripture warns of serious consequences that result from disobedience. This is heavy: “If you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandments of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers.” (II Samuel 12:15)

Inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial are these words of Jefferson:

God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

My conclusion is that God does judge nations, all nations.

I am going to personally take heart in this promise. “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

God is not selfish and overbearing in wanting obedience. He wants us to be obedient for our own sake as well as His. He set the standards for good and evil and knows the consequence of both. It is to our advantage to be obedient because inherent in such conduct are blessings. At variance with this is the fact that disobedience has intrinsic in it the seed of spiritual and moral debilitation and ultimate destruction. Disobedience is not just bad, it is simply bad for us. God desires our best, therefore He appeals for us to be obedient.

My favorite verse in Nahum is 1:7, “The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.”

This is perhaps the most serious post I have ever written. It is done with the prayer that it might make the issue clear and be met with a positive response.

There is a grievous aspect to national judgment. Within a population consisting of mostly disobedient people that comprise an ungodly nation are some godly people. Collateral judgment falls on them also. The good are victims of the discipline deserved by the bad. Even then their God loves them and will give them spiritual blessings to sustain them.

The Search for Happiness

Finding true happiness apart from fulfilling service in Jesus’ name is as impossible as finding a black palomino. Our society tends to cause a person to turn inward rather than turning loose. Doing so results in stagnation rather than flowing with life. Created to give of ourselves, many have instead become emotional statuary looking for a pedestal. Remember, a faith that works is a faith that works.

A servant temperament more than any other makes for a productive person. When this beautiful principle is elevated to apply to our Lord, it takes on an even greater meaning.

The more we depend on the Lord, the more dependable we find Him to be. The more dependable we find Him to be, the more we depend on him. The breakdown is that we want Him to prove Himself dependable before we depend upon Him. That is like saying to a stove you give me heat and then I will give you fuel.

Focus on who He is.

He is not a rabbit’s foot to rub for good luck.

He is not a spare tire to be used when all else fails.

He is not a parachute to enable us to bail out when we are about to crash.

He is not a humorist to entertain us in our melancholy moments.

He is our Lord and Master.

An athlete would not call a person coach and not run the plays he calls.

An employee would not call a person boss and not obey his will.

A soldier would not call a person commander and not do his will.

Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) Consider that as if He is presently asking you that question.

Albert Schweitzer, a lettered man with a servant temperament, said, “The only ones among us who will be really happy are those who will have found how to serve.”  

Have you found it? If not, are you willing to look for it – starting now?

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

You Have Potential

You have potential. Regardless of your past successes or failures, you have potential. Lift up your chin, your fallen gaze, and your slumped shoulders, take a deep breath and consider an example of untapped potential, perhaps not all together unlike you. You have potential, believe it.

God delivered the somber news to His people Israel, “Moses is dead.” 

Joshua’s moment had come. He was thrust into the leadership role, bringing with him memories of all his past failures and criticism. Evidently he was looking back on Moses and his monolithic leadership and feeling very inferior.

Have you ever felt that way? Many adults carry with them into adulthood memories of their failures and putdowns. 

In saying “Moses my servant is dead,” God was saying, “Joshua forget your past failures – you are my man.” It was time for Joshua to admit God’s great investment in him. He must now put the past behind.

In effect God was looking Joshua straight in the eyes and saying “You have potential.” The same is true of you, regardless of past failures and criticism.

Jesus put it this way, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Paul expressed it, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13, 14)

Think for a moment of God’s investment in YOU.

If He could use a second grade follower to lead His people that proves He can use you and thankfully me. Us!

That should give you pride. There are two kinds of pride. One is egotism, arrogance. There is no room for that. The other kind is the kind where you are ashamed not to be your best.

Pause and pray, “Here I am Lord, use me.” Leave the result to Him.

He will give you grace for the disappointments, strength for the trials, and hope for the end of life.

Now go out there and live up to your potential. Enjoy!

What Benefits Are Your Doubts?

Which apostle do you think gets the worst rap, the one who needs a good PR agent?

My preference for this award goes to Thomas, Didymus, whose name means twin. He is known for one statement of incredulity. The resurrected Jesus appeared to the other apostles in the upper room. Thomas missed the first Sunday night church service. That left him with a steep learning curve. The other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” Being a pragmatist he wanted proof. His response to them was, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) That is about all most know about Thomas.

Soon thereafter Jesus appeared again. This time Thomas was present. Jesus offered this proof to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas didn’t do it, instead he fell on his face before Jesus and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26 – 28) Thomas fought with His fears and faith won.

Wow! Thomas became the first apostle to call Jesus, God. No doubt there.

On an earlier occasion Thomas expressed great faith. Jesus told His disciples He was going to Jerusalem. They pleaded with Him not to go because they knew the Jews sought to stone Him. Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16) Now, that is faith. 

Thomas struggled his way through the forest of his doubts to become a giant of the faith.

Secular records indicate Thomas took Jesus at His word to go to all nations and went to India where he established churches, suffering greatly as he did. One day while he was on his knees praying soldiers of King Mizdi allegedly thrust a lance through him.

To simply label Thomas a doubter is neither fair to him, nor does it take into full account the Scriptural teaching regarding him. I can not consider him a doubter because he expressed doubt on one occasion. He doubted, but he was not a doubter.

Candidly, I never doubt, but I do have many questions for which I seek answers, all the while having complete faith there are answers. I just don’t have the answers yet. Questions can purify and enrich our faith.

If you have doubts, keep struggling your way through them. Metaphorically speaking, Jesus will show you his nail prints. 

This is shared in order to pose the question, what acts of devotion are you engaging in that demonstrate your faith. How are you known?

My Favorite Apostle

Who is your favorite apostle? Mine was the Rodney Dangerfield of the apostles. In Scripture the only references to him is that he was an apostle called James the Less. He is also called “the Minor”, “the Little”, “the Lesser”, or “the Younger” according to the translation. He and Matthew were two of three sets of brothers who were apostles.

There are no notable deeds or eloquent words attributed to him, just that he was an apostle, BUT he was an apostle. Knowing what the apostles were appointed to be and do makes him significant in a notable cause. For example, he was among the apostles who came back on a mission on which they were sent by Jesus and it is said that even demons were subject to them. James the Lesser was one of those.

Jesus saw their rejoicing and said, “…rejoice rather that your name is written in heaven.”

Alfred Adler, one of the founders of modern psychiatry, said one of a human being’s strongest urges is the desire to be significant. James the Lesser was satisfied with obscurity in order to help further a cause that was greater than he.

James the Lesser is proof there is room for lessers in the service of our Lord. He is an example of the fact you can’t have a greater without a lesser. You can’t have a book without a chapter, you can’t have a chapter without a paragraph, you can’t have a paragraph without a sentence, you can’t have a sentence without a word, and you can’t have a word without the letters of the alphabet. You can’t have a greater without a lesser. Whatever he did it was essential to the role of the apostles. He walked with giants, and was a companion of Jesus.

If you feel like you are a nobody, get over it. In reality there are no nobodies in the cause of Christ. Nobody? There stands the cross proving you really are somebody. Now get out there and fulfill the cause for which you were called. May you find fulfillment in your calling. You really do matter.

Used Heaping Coals of Fire on an Enemy

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Romans 12:20

In the Bible era an extremely important matter was the ability to provide fire. Such fires were often started by a single coal. 

Before going further it should be noted there are commands in the Bible that relate to persons and others that relate to governments. This one relates to persons.

In this narrative an enemy has a need for a coal. To illustrate the way to respond to an enemy in need, that of a coal is used. The proportionate response was to give the enemies so many coals they had to be carried in a receptacle on his head. Carrying weights in such a way was common in the Bible era.

The story is a metaphor advocating repaying a wrong with a right. Generosity is encouraged by the instruction to give your enemy more than requested, surely more than deserved.

By abundantly giving an adversary more than needed it is equivalent to giving a person in need of a single coal so many he has to carry them on his head.

This is a hard command. Perhaps you, as I, have found it very hard at times. However, you can see it would go a long way in conflict resolution. In doing so we are modeling Jesus who gave us, His one time enemy, what we didn’t deserve, and more. Let your adversary know it is being done in Jesus’ name.

Formerly we sang, “Let others see Jesus in you…” Compliance with this instruction would surely go a long way toward doing so.

It might help if after doing so you went back to Jesus in prayer and said, “That’s one for you.”

Oh, note the last line in the above text.

“And the Lord will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21, 22)

What Is Your Primary Purpose?

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Victor Franklin, the internationally renowned Austrian psychologist, wrote: “Life has meaning only if there is a purpose, a life task. The more difficult the task, the more meaningful the life.”

The Apostle Paul in summarizing his life in part said, “I have fought the good fight.”  That did not just mean I have fought well, which he had, but it meant, “I have fought a good fight worth fighting.” Emphasis, it was a fight worth fighting.

Most would agree a purpose enriches life. Jesus was right in His Matthew 6:33 exhortation.

Don’t get disillusioned if you don’t have a headline popular cause. Most of us don’t, but everyone has a cause, everyone. Fight yours well.

Don’t get discouraged if yours is hard. If it is worth fighting, find it gratifying regardless of how menial, fulfilling. After all, God hasn’t asked us to be the best at anything, He just wants us to be our best at everything.

A Billy Graham Crusade was coming to New Orleans when I was a young pastor there. In a planning meeting of ministers, Dr. J. D. Gray, the preeminent pastor in New Orleans who had taken me, a kid, under his wing challenged me. In the discussion to select a person to head the promotional team said metaphorically, “We need someone who won’t just buy the gift, but he won’t stop until he has put the bow on it.” He paused and continued, “Someone like Price.” I knew in my youth that wasn’t me, but because of who said it, it became me. He appointed me to a hard and worthy cause, and I fought it as best as I could. New Orleans was saturated with news of the crusade, and God blessed.

You may not feel up to the task God has assigned you, but because of who assigned it, give it your very best without complaining.

The theme test of my life, one I keep posted in a prominent place is: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23) Know you have an abiding overseer, the Lord. Please Him, and you have every right to be fulfilled.

French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre observed, “You will never find peace and happiness until you are ready to commit yourself to something worth dying for.”

Give yourself away. Give yourself to the Lord. If not literally, at least figuratively, give each new day to the Lord singing, “O happy day.”

On Being Whole Hearted

It is said of God that “He will strengthen your heart.” (Psalm 27:14)

The physical heart is a marvel. This four-chambered, four-valved pump moves 5,000 gallons of blood a day through 12,000 miles of vessels. 

Reading this will be a bit weighty, but hopefully will give you a better understanding of just what it means for God to “strengthen your heart.”

The meaning of this has been veiled for years. Without awareness of this promise British researcher Dr. Alan Watkins has pulled back the veil on a fuller meaning. He speaks of the heart as the body’s powerhouse which has a “hitherto unrecognized role in balancing the entire human system.” He says the heart produces fifty times more electrical energy than the brain, and a thousand times more electro-magnetic energy. As the strongest power source in the body, it coordinates all the other body systems, including the brain, commonly thought to be the dominant organ. It produces harmony throughout the body called entraining. 

Entraining is illustrated as seeing a large flock of birds swooping in flight moving in and out of the swarm while moving as one. So the heart sets the pattern in the body for all systems. When there is a positive emotional state these systems entrain harmoniously. When this happens the brain works better, the immune system functions better, and your hormonal system is at its best.

When our Lord says He will strengthen our heart He is saying He will help our brain, immune system, and hormones work together to their fullest advantage. All of this happens when the Lord is allowed to strengthen our heart by us thinking with the mind of Christ; that is, thinking as He would under our circumstances. That is accomplished if you let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. Doing so impacts the entire body.

That is why you must “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)

Only when the primary thing is in place (Jesus) do secondary things matter.

Jesus offered this encouraging word, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” Why?

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory….” (II Corinthians 4:16, 17)

A Human Becoming

You are a human BECOMING. We are called human beings. 

The term “human being” refers to genetics.

The expression “human becoming” is a reference to development. We are constantly under development mentally, emotionally, dispositionally, etc.

We are constantly becoming more nearly what our Lord wants to craft us to be. God is not through with you yet. Be patient with Him.

He enlightens and empowers us. He reveals His will and He gives resources for doing it. Therefore, don’t argue with God: “Do all without murmuring and disputing” (Philippians 2:14).

The Lord does ALL things decently and in order.

Instead of arguing with God, work with the conviction that the promises of God are true. Mountain climbers seeking the summits of the Himalayan Mountains hire Sherpa guides to assist them. They are hardy local people who live in the mountains and are acclimated to the altitude and familiar with the terrain. 

In addition to showing climbers the way, they provide all their needs. Wouldn’t it be absurd for one of us low-landers to get in a quarrel with our Shirpa at 20,000 feet with a storm moving in?

Yet, we dispute our spiritual Sherpa, Jesus Christ. That is even more absurd.

Don’t flippantly pray that line from the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done.” Pray it with heartfelt meaning.

Do you remember these words from a song of yesteryear?

“He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me
There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don’t judge him yet, there’s an unfinished part.”

Trusting in Him gives peace, knowing the master craftsman is working on you. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson says the capacity to trust is the very foundation of emotional health. He is so emphatic as to say that unless a person can have this basic inward peace and confidence about life and its outcome, he or she will never achieve emotional maturity and wholeness.

Resign as a self-designer and give the chisel to Jesus.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Enjoy the Benefits of Trusting in the Lord

Late in his life, after the un-Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman had a life transforming experience and wrote Reverend DeWitt Talmadge, the Billy Graham of his day, the following:

I am sure that you know the God who created the minnow, and who has molded the rose and the carnation giving each its sweet fragrance, will provide for those mortal men who strive to do right in this world which He Himself has stocked with birds, animals, and men. At all events I will trust Him with absolute confidence.

You too can enjoy that same stabilizing confidence by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior, and by drawing on the inherent spiritual assets. Consider this providential promise: “…My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19). Not might, or perhaps will, but “shall provide.”

Put this in your basket of promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (II Corinthians 12:9).

Don’t discount this proof if His desires to bless and guide you. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

There is a contingency. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

All this is based on our trust in Him. The word translated “trust” had a secondary use in that day. It was used in wrestling to describe a contestant holding on to a competitor firmly. Describing our trust of God it means to grab hold on Him firmly, that is to uncompromisingly trust Him. It is a metaphor for relying on Him.

Now you know of His love and desire for you. What difference will it make in your life? Start now, what difference will it make in your life today. May you be blessed and know it.

Persistence in Prayer

“You ought always to pray.”

Jesus taught us to pray. When you pray be more mindful of the One to whom you are praying than that about what you are praying. When you start, “Our Father…” pause and focus on to Whom it is you are praying. 

If it helps you to envision Him as you address Him just focus on Him as a cloud of light, after all that is a description given Him in the Bible. Jesus is spoken of as the Light of the World. Once you are focused on the One being addressed, continue your prayer as addressing Him personally.

Some of His responses must be:

Which one of us is God?

You’ve got to be kidding.

And the saddest of all, I thought you would never ask.

Pray for Him to reveal His will to you, knowing He will once He sees in you the will to do it. Pray:

“Lord guide me, the sea is so big and my boat is so small.”

Often God guides through long and uncertain pathways. However, if we will follow, He will guide.

“Lord, free me from the pressure of doing great things in the world by being great in doing small things for you.
Help me to persist even though I want to give up.
Help me to keep trying even though I can’t see what good it does.
Help me to keep praying although at times I’m not sure You hear me.
Help me to keep living in a way that seeks to please You.
Help me to know when to lead and when to follow.
Help me to know when to speak and when to keep silent.
Help me to know when to wait and when to act.
Lord, please help me to hang on.
Please don’t let me give up.
Help me to remember that,
like the sun in the morning,
You come when it is time.”

Persist in prayer.

How to Encourage Yourself

Jesus Christ is the world’s greatest encourager. Even on the eve of His execution He encouraged them saying: “Let not your hearts be troubled….”

There are times we all need encouragement.

The Latin word for “courage” is “cour.” It is a reference to the condition of the heart. The devil comes along and puts a prefix, “dis” before courage. God has a big eraser. He erases the “dis” and replaces it with “en.” Hence, encouraged.

King David is a case study in discouragement and resulting encouragement.

David had made a series of serious mistakes. The situation is described in I Samuel 30. David was back-slidden, out of fellowship, and wayward. Without the guidance of the Lord, David made some critically disastrous decisions.

He was turned down by the Philistines when he tried to make a pact with them. His army was defeated, his home town burned, and the wives and children carried off. Then his army murmured about killing him. What is a person to do under those conditions?  First Samuel 30:6 tells what David did and I commend it to you: “David encouraged (strengthened) himself in the Lord his God.”

How did David encourage himself? The same way you can be encouraged.

Encouragement comes when we open God’s Word and He shows us everything is going to be alright. 

Proverbs 12:25 tells us that “anxiety in the heart of a man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”  Scripture affords such good words. 

Scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

When you do, you will know “God is our refuge and strength…” (Psalm 46:1)

Encouragement needs good memories the same way a muscle needs exercise, the same way music needs notes.

Grateful memories of good things past feed encouragement.

Our encouragement in the present is rooted in our memories of the past.

You can be restored and\or renewed using this same technique.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 ESV

How to Better Petition God

Following are Cliff Notes on Prayer 101.

Jesus said “When you pray…” That means do it, pray. Then He gave a model for prayer. It is not necessary that those exact words be prayed, but they serve as a model. It is also good to often pray the actual words on occasion. I pray them six or more times a day.

When you pray He said to pray, “Our Father….” We do not pray to God the Holy Spirit nor to God Jesus Christ, but to God the Father. There are all sorts of times, places, and forms of prayer. There should at least be a couple of times a day we engage in focused prayer. 

No person knows what God looks like. Not having seen Him we can at best compare Him to something in our world of experience, a person. Envision yourself in the actual presence of God. He is spoken of in I Timothy 6:16 as God “who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.”

Take time to do what the Quakers call “centering down.” I hear some people say “let’s just have a little prayer,” and they jump in with no focus. In centering down consider bringing into focus a brilliant glow that symbolizes His presence. 

The most important thing I can tell you regarding prayer is concentration on the One to whom you are praying, not the thing about which you are praying. Envision yourself as being humbly in His presence respectfully talking to Him.

Jesus’ Model Prayer included these elements worthy of your inclusion.

PRAISE: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as in heaven.”
PETITION: “Give us this day our daily bread.” 
PARDON: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
PROTECTION: “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
PROFESSION: “For yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

He answers every prayer. One response might very well be, “Wait, which one of us is God.” You are after all petitioning Him, that is asking Him, not mandating Him.

Having a sense of humor He might answer some prayers, “You have got to be kidding.”

One response might be, “Wait a while.” Give God time to be God. Often the wait draws us closer to Him than the answer.

The saddest of all responses must be, “I thought you would never ask.”

At times we think God has not answered our prayers, forgetting “No” is an answer. Some of His best answers to some of my prayers has been no. When He says no I say thank you that in your love and wisdom you knew that was not best for me, so thank You for Your no.

Prayer can be offered in many different ways under various circumstances. The important thing is to pray. Pause now and commit yourself to Him as one resolute on purposefully praying to Him using these guidelines.

How Do You Know There Is a God?

Everybody has a sense of God consciousness. Oh, yes they do. Some believe in Him and sense a personal relationship with Him.

Others spend their time trying to deny His very existence. They can’t according to a basic law of logic which states you can’t prove a negative. To prove God doesn’t exist you would have to know all there is to know about everything and know that in that body of knowledge there is no God. 

Suppose you knew ninety percent of all there is to know. Would it not be possible that in the unknown ten percent He exists? Even if you knew ninety-nine percent there is still the possibility of His existence in the unknown.

No one knows one hundred percent of all there is to know. Some persons indicate they are all-knowing and profess God does not exist. I know some such people and respect their opinion. They are gracious in response. A minority of such people attack the intellect and assault the very character of those who disagree with them. These are the evangelicals of no faith. 

I had a friend who owned a large trucking company. He told me he required every potential driver to take a lie detector test before being employed. One question always asked was do you believe in God? He said there never was a person who said no that the test didn’t indicate they were lying.

God cannot be proven to exist. However, He has given us lines of logic leading to conclusions only answerable by His existence. Some are:

Where there is a law there is a law giver. Highway speed laws indicate someone made the law. 

Inertia, gravity, and thermodynamics are laws in nature indicating there is a Lawgiver. Bio means life. Genesis means life. There is an irrefutable law of biogenetics that says life only comes from life. The existence of life indicates there is a Lifegiver.

Where there is design there must be a designer. The design of the human body indicates there is a Designer. The design of the universe such as the precise revolution of planets in orbit, and the earth’s rotation on its axis reveals design which demands a Designer.

The law of cause and effect speaks of God. For every effect there must be an equal or greater cause. The universe is the effect. It shouts of a greater cause —- God.

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematician/philosopher renowned for his work in calculus and author of the famed Pascal Wager. He held that the prudent person torn between atheism and belief should “bet” on the existence of God. The reason: If God exists, at death the prudent person will get a heavenly reward. If God does not exist, well, no harm done. If one bets against God’s existence and He does exist, well ….

You Have Not Because You Ask Not

Let me tell you a wonderful story regarding the answer to prayer. Stay with me, it will take a bit of time to share a related story.

Today I was looking through some things in a drawer and found a little booklet given to me by Bruce Bickel and signed, “I am glad we were called to serve Him together.” Bruce played quarterback at Navy following Roger Stauback and broke some of Roger’s records. Bruce and I met when he was on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) staff in Chicago and I on the FCA National Board.

One night he was out for a walk with his Doberman on an isolated street when he saw four thugs closing in on him. He prayed for help. As Bruce tells it, the dog was a big sissy, overly friendly. Nevertheless Bruce reached down, caught the dog by the collar, and stood him up on his back legs resulting in the dog panting for air. To the thugs it looked like the dog was panting trying to break free to attack them. They fled. Prayer answered.

Bruce was on a rather small FCA staff salary and Roger was getting very wealthy playing quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

Bruce needed a car and was telling no one while praying for a miracle. Bruce and Roger talked frequently as Bruce taught Roger the Bible. Bruce never hinted at his need for a new car.

One night Roger called and told Bruce he had been given a new car as the NFL Player of the Year, and had just been given another as being named the Player of the Game in the Super Bowl. He asked Bruce if he could use a car. Prayer answered. 

That is a wonderful way to pray at times. You don’t need to advertise for an item when you can go directly to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. I have done so many times when God said no to my petition. I accepted the facts knowing God knew better than I. There have been numerous times when God said yes.

All prayer doesn’t need to be secret, but some should be.

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6)

Like Bruce, I have done it many times and seen its effect. As a satisfied customer I recommend it. There are occasions when “You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2)

Mind Over What Matters

Two attitudes wrestle for mastery in every event of life. One will prevail and that will be your mental attitude and action.

One response to the events of life is thanksgiving. It will prevail if we consider events in accord with the ancient Anglo-Saxon spelling: “thinksgiving.” If we consider them with the mind of Christ we can see the good in even the worst. The Greek word for think carries the idea of reasoning through a matter logically and carefully. 

The British author George MacDonald wrote:

This is a sane, wholesome, practical, working faith: first, that it is a man’s business to do the will of God; second, that God takes on Himself the special care of that man; third, therefore, that man ought never to be afraid of anything.

Thanksgiving is a reaction of joy. A thankful heart will enable the lips of laughter to overflow again.

A mind fixed on Christ is stable and secure. A divided mind is the breeding ground for the other potential response, anxiety. Anxiety, that is, worry, makes the heart nervous and even neurotic. It eats the soul out of one’s personality and makes that person a torture to self and a torment to others.

When we fail to reason from a biblical, Christ-like attitude, anxiety is inevitable. To drown out anxiety, flood your mind with Bible concepts. Therefore, memorize Scripture. Start by memorizing a new text every other day. In one month you will have memorized fifteen texts. I recite myself to sleep by recalling them. If you do, you will fall asleep before recalling all of them.

The same event met with thanksgiving can be met with anxiety. A bee finds nectar in the same flower from which a spider gains its substance for poison. It is a matter of the will. You chose. The person who prays about everything worries about nothing. A word of thanksgiving or a song of praise can unlock the prison of anxiety.

Goth, the 18th century German writer, beautifully describes two mutually exclusive responses:

“We always hope; and 
in all things it is
better to hope
than to despair.

When we return to
really trust in God, 
there will no
longer be room
in our soul for fear.”

Do You Ever Feel Like a Butterfly in the Rain?

What happens to a butterfly when it rains? An average monarch butterfly weighs roughly 500 milligrams and large raindrops have a mass of 70 milligrams or more. According to Scientific American, a raindrop this size striking a monarch would be equivalent to a human being pelted with water balloons weighing as much as two bowling balls.

Therefore butterflies seek protection when it rains. Some hide under large leaves, some crawl down into dense leaves or under rocks, and some just sit head down on grass stems or bushes with wings held tightly. Without shelter, when it rains exceptionally hard or of long duration many of the butterflies become tattered or die.

That process can be spiritually applied to us when in one of life’s storms. Shelter is essential. Face it, “storms” are inevitable. Examples of storms are the loss of a job, sickness or death, divorce, or injury.

Prepare your shelter in advance. Perhaps one is needed now. Therefore, consider this bouquet of blessings, my fellow butterfly:

“Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “You are my place of safety and protection. You are my God and I trust you.” (Psalm 91:1-4)

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:114)  Hide His word in your heart in advance in order to be assured.

“Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12-14) Wisdom is knowing how to apply God’s word.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) With confidence you can be assured He cares for you. Therefore, talk to Him, pray.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Don’t act like He is present, act because He is present. Claim it.

The option is to neglect His shelter, and like the unsheltered butterfly, suffer the consequence. Begin today to build your shelter. Review those texts and one by one evaluate how you are going to apply them.

Is It Time to Renew?

“… THOSE WHO WAIT ON THE LORD SHALL RENEW THEIR STRENGTH…” (Isaiah 40:31)

Let’s focus principally on one word in that text, “renew.”

Through the psalmist, God gave us insight into what causes a lot of our problems: “You thought I was altogether like you.” (Psalms 50:21)

The French atheist Voltaire said, “The Bible says, ‘God created man in His image,’ and now man has returned the favor, and created God in man’s image.”

Fortunately God is not like man. The constant challenge of each of us is trying to personally become more like God. That requires renewal.

The Hebrew word for “renew” means they shall exchange their weakness for His strength. Well might we pray, “God I will provide the weakness, if you will provide the strength.”

Renewal necessitates that we: See Him more clearly. Love Him more dearly. Follow Him more nearly.

Would you really like to live closer to God? There is a simple equation explaining how you can: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

David identifies the starting point: “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew wording means “stop striving.”

Felon, a voice from yesteryear wrote: “How rare it is to find a soul quiet enough to hear God speak.”

Most want more emotion and sensationalism in their religion today. We need to invest more time in developing the virtue of personal holiness. Yes, holiness.

Solitude is the incubator in which the fertile Word of God has time to develop intimacy with God. Consider designating a time and place where every day you spend time alone with God. 

Years ago while touring South America as a member of a basketball team, a missionary named Rosalee Mills Appleby gave me a book inscribed, “One can not expect to amount to much for God without often spending time alone with God.”

Through the years I have found that to be true. Try it.

Are You a Creature of Habits?

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”
(Romans 7:15)

The Apostle Paul was a new creature in Christ, yet even he struggled with his old habits. In most he was victorious, but initially he was still losing some battles in his spiritual warfare. His struggle was typical. It is hard to break old habits.

To the world you may be one person, to one person you may be the world. Therefore, search the Scripture to find out just what God desires of you. You can’t do it by imitation, but by incarnation. Philippians 2:13 speaks of the “God which works within you.” Our word “energy” comes from the Greek word translated “works.” In other words, God energizes you. Realizing your energizing God lives inside you helps overcome any tendency toward laziness. 

Principally God uses three things to energize us.

I had a letter from a young person who had been working with youth all summer. She said what she wanted to do was inspire them to chase after God all of their life. You might phrase it differently, but that is really what we should do. 

“The Greatest Salesman in the World,” authored by Og Mandino makes this statement regarding forming habits. “I will form good habits and become their slave.” He reached this conclusion, ”In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits.”

As you unfold an area of life requiring obedience, pause and commit yourself to doing it. Ask the Lord to help you become so familiar with it that it will become an instinctive habit. Consider starting by listing four new habits you know you need to form. Then concentrate on developing only one for a week. Then the second week concentrate on developing the second, and so on.

Now the fun begins by you praying, “Lord help me to be all you can help me become. Please energize me.”

Our All Sufficient God

“GOD WILL GIVE YOU GRACE NECESSARY 
TO ENDURE ALL SUFFERING.”
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my grace is made perfect in weakness.”
II Corinthians 12:9

Can I get a testify? I can give one regarding His all sufficient grace.

Not long ago a spent five weeks in the hospital suffering from the compounding of five fatal diseases at once: sepsis, staph infection, two blood clots in my lungs, pneumonia, and recovering from a heart valve replacement. To top it off there was a major virus which made the bottom third of my face look and feel like one large fever blister. Most of this I was not conscious enough to know of for a few days. One doctor said he left the hospital three nights thinking ‘he will see Jesus tonight.’ There were times I thought I very well might.

Nights were especially torturous. Needs were often unmet.

One doctor told my wife to find a long term care facility for me to go to upon being discharged. She said, “He won’t like that,” and the doctor replied, “He won’t know it.”

Writing this is not an appeal for sympathy, it is a testimony of God’s grace. I am not trying to be sensational, I am just acknowledging His sufficiency. I am not the hero in this story, God is.

He was with me. No, there was no apparition, no phantom vision. There was simply an awareness of His presence. I was strengthened by a knowledge that He who promised He would never leave me had not. I flooded my mind with Scripture and reminded Him of His promises, as though He needed reminding.

He brought me through that hospital stay and a long way on the road to recovery. There still is not a day without pain, but He has not promised to immune me from pain or exempt me from problems, but He has promised to be with me, to bless me, to strengthen me, and He is doing it. Remember we walk by faith, not by sight or feelings.

My dear friend, Jerry Clower, wrote a book the title of which says it all, “Ain’t God good!” The resounding answer, “Yes!”

Forget about my experience, but don’t forget the theme of it:

“God will give you the graces necessary to endure all suffering.” II Corinthians 12:9

The Golden Rule

As early as 1674 there has been an axiom known as the Golden Law, now the Golden Rule. Its existence over many years and in various cultures is supported by the fact there are Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, it is one.  Many persons not of the faith community advocate Natural Law. It is the source of all value judgments. It predates Christianity and exists in non-Christian societies. Consider this cursory history of the Golden Rule. It has been around in a variety of forms longer than is known.

The Greek, Herodotus, attributed it to Maeandrus: “I will not myself do that which I account blameworthy in my neighbor.”

Another ancient phrase said: “I won’t do what I criticize in you.”

Around 500 B.C Thelese, one of the Seven Wise Men of ancient Greece, when asked how people might live together best replied: “If we never do ourselves what we blame in others.”

Even before that Isocrates wrote: “You should be such in your dealing with others as you expect me to be in my dealing with you.”

Confucius phrased it: “…do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you.” 

A 16th Century source said: “Treat others as thou wouldst be treated thyself.”

Other ancient writings variously state the Golden Rule:

“Judge your neighbors feelings by your own.”

“What you hate do not do to anyone.”

In the first quarter of the 1st Century A.D. the scholar Hellel, when asked to recite the entire Jewish Torah said: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”

Jesus said: “…whatever you want others to do to you, do also to them…”  One of the best current phrasing is: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” The Golden Rule does not always pay off as it did in the following story, but it does pay off.

It was a rainy day when a young man working in a store saw a little old lady come in out of the rain looking forlorn. The clerk offered her a chair and spoke kindly to her. When she started to leave she thanked him and asked his name.

A few days later the manager of the store received a letter asking that this young man be sent to Scotland to take an order for the furnishings of a house.

The store manager wrote back explaining the young man was not in furnishings and stated he would be pleased to send an experienced representative.

Back came a letter stating no other person would do. The letter was signed by Andrew Carnegie. The house was Skibo Castle. The elderly lady was Carnegie’s mother.

The young man went and did a splendid job. He later became half owner of the store.  He had simply done for the elderly lady what he would have liked someone do for him.

Are You a “Yes, Butter?”

“THEREFORE, TO HIM WHO KNOWS TO DO GOOD
AND DOES NOT DO IT, TO HIM IT IS SIN.” (JAMES 4:17)

Are you a person who upon hearing a statement often agrees with it, but responds, “Yes, but….”? If so, you are a yes “But ‘er.” If so, read once more the above text. “Yes, but ‘er”is the expression of a hesitant person.

By agreeing with a statement and offering an excuse for not doing it, you are conflicting yourself. If you agree that it is right, offering an excuse for not complying with it does not make the ‘er a legitimate reason for not doing it. “Yes, but… people” are defeatist. Their favorite sport is introducing obstacles. They are good at making up excuses, while concealing their own thoughts.

Excuses for not doing what is right are:

“You just don’t understand.” 

“Someone told me I didn’t have to.”

“That is just too difficult.”

“You don’t always do it.”

“I didn’t think it was important.”

There is never a legitimate excuse for not doing what is right. If you do the right thing and things go wrong, be sure you don’t go with them.

William Penn said, “Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”

Other sage wisdom is “Never do wrong in order to be able to do right.” Doing a bad thing for a good end just sullies the good.

Doing the right thing even when no one is looking is easy if you remember that you are not in this life alone and that your task is to please God… not people.

You know you have done the right thing when you have peace about doing it.

Don’t be afraid to do the right thing if you value your integrity, but if you do, be prepared to take abuse from those who have no integrity.

We often have the choice between saying “yes, but” or “yes and” it’s your choice.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
(Colossians 3:17)

Worry Doesn’t Work

Let’s simply let God’s Word be our Post for the day. Pause before reading further and open your mind to this, His vital teaching.

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit1 to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

1Matthew 6:27 About 18 inches

Laws of Nature and Nature’s God

Christianity is more than personal piety – it is a comprehensive worldview. That worldview is as natural in the faith community as gravity is in the physical world. It is inherent in Christianity, yet exists apart from Christianity. It is a part of Christianity though Christianity is far more. It is Natural Law. For ages it has been known by various names: Practical Reason, First Principles, Traditional Morality, and more recently simply as Tao. 

Examples of Natural Law and Christianity running on parallel tracks are: private property rights, standards for social decency, values of compassion, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, prohibitions against lying, murdering, cheating, and stealing. These are but a few of the parallel truths. Many persons not of the faith community advocate Natural Law. It is the source of all value judgments. It predates Christianity and exists in non-Christian societies.

Much of the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates are based on them. Roman Emperor Cicero (106 – 43 BC) wrote of them saying, “true law is right reason consonant with nature, diffused among all men, constant and eternal.” He wrote of its benefits being “the safety of citizens … and the tranquility and happiness of human life.” He also wrote of true justice as being rooted in divinely-established universal principles, that is Natural Law.

John Adams, in the Federalist Papers argues the Laws of Nature and of nature’s God are the same in this statement: “In the Declaration of Independence the Laws of Nature are announced and appealed to as identical with the laws of nature’s God, and as the foundation of all obligatory human laws.”

The next time a new Jurist of the Supreme Court is nominated, observe the fight by the left to avoid the appointment of one who believes in the Laws of Nature.

Often today when a Christian advocates a Natural Law in the public arena it is shouted down under the guise of separation of Church and State. Humanists have made great progress in recent years by defying Natural Laws regarding marriage and sex in general.

This modern translation of God’s Word speaks of Natural Law in these words: “When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong.” (Romans 2:14,15)

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

“A MERRY HEART DOES GOOD LIKE A MEDICINE, 
BUT A BROKEN SPIRIT DRIES THE BONES.”
Proverbs 17:22

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven … a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4

There are some things too serious and somber to be laughed about. It is sometimes inappropriate to laugh. Make your list of things that are inappropriate, but be cautious not to make that list too long.

Got a problem you can’t seem to solve? The next best thing to solving a problem is finding humor in it.

“All things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Do you believe that? If so, act like it.

The more secure you are in your beliefs, the easier it becomes to see the comic side of life. Let out a loud laugh coming from the depth of your soul and thank God He is your best friend.

“…a broken spirit dries the bones,” means stress saps the immune system. Feelings are chemical; they can kill you or cure you.

Laughter is an instant vacation. Along life’s pathway steal a little victory by laughing at defeat. Laughing ignites a chemical reaction in the body. Dopamine, Serotonin, and Endorphins are chemicals responsible for your happiness. Many situations, such as laughter, can trigger these neurotransmitters. They reduce stress hormones that can, over time, damage the brain (such as cortisol and epinephrine).

Modern brain imaging offers insights and shows that “laughter is the best medicine” isn’t just a cliché. It works.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphin and serotonin, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. They promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. The absence of them causes depression. Negative feelings also have a chemical effect.. Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.

Learn to laugh at trouble. If you don’t, you won’t have anything to laugh about when you get old.

Often an opportunity to laugh is a choice, a mind set. The more negative you are the more negative associated brain chemicals there are, and that causes you to become even more negative. The more negative you become, the more chemicals there are. It is a bootstrap effect. Consider these contrasts.

“For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15 NLT)

“But the one who rules in heaven laughs.” (Psalm 2:4) If God laughs, that is reason enough for us to laugh. Ask yourself this question: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again.” (Psalm 42:5) 

“A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:13 NLT)  

Put on your happy face and see how it helps you.

The Beatitudes Part 8: For Goodness’ Sake

Note: This post is part eight in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.

FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE
MATTHEW 5:10
“BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED FOR 
RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”

Jesus Christ, speaking virtually in the shadow of the cross, said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, therefore, the world hates you.  If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”  (John 15:20)

A program as radical and revolutionary as Christ has proposed in these Beatitudes will face opposition.  The total discipleship He requires is sure to evoke sharp opposition. In light of this, it seems strange to frequently hear Christians with whiny voices say, “It isn’t easy being a Christian.”  The Christian way is so different at its core that it is sure to incur the wrath of the world that resents it.

Yet, of such persons Christ said, “Blessed,” that is, happy, joyous, to be congratulated.  This beatitude forcefully dramatizes the fact that the kind of happiness of which Christ spoke was not dependent on circumstances, but character.

The Greek word translated persecuted, dioko, means to put to flight.  It literally means to harass.  Imagine, “the harassed shall be happy.”  Notice, they don’t harass you because they hate you.  It is for “righteousness sake.”  It is Christ in you that the world hates.  We should love and pity anyone who hates Him.

You are blessed when you decide to live in harmony with God’s holy will for you and resolve to fulfill it against any odds.  It should be remembered, however, that there are persons who can’t tolerate people who God considers “righteous.”  

Unlike the other seven Beatitudes, this one does not deal with the internal character of the individual believer, but with the conditions that can be expected.  He changes from “those” to “you.”  In Vs. 11, it turns to use “you.”  It is as though He is saying “My followers in every generation may suffer persecution.” Persecution became so consistent that by the end of the first century the word for witness and martyr were the same.

Paul wrote of “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed we entreat.” 
(I Corinthians 4:12)

Reviled: Affronted to your face, openly snubbed, insulted, or jeered at.  An all-out verbal assault on your values.

Persecuted: Harassed, annoyed, tormented, or involved in severe punishment.  It involves physical, emotional and economic hurt.

Defamed: Behind your back people have said all manner of evil against you falsely. It means to slander, maligning one’s reputation, clouding one’s motives.

How are we to respond? Jesus said when you are persecuted “rejoice.”  The Greek word is chairo, which literally means “to be really glad.”

Then the text says “be exceedingly glad.”  The Greek word agalliasthe for “glad” means “to run, jump, skip, and shout for joy.”

“Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven is not so much a region as a reign.

The way to heaven is through heaven, and all the way to heaven is heaven, and only the heavenly enters heaven.

Then all reviling, persecution, and maligning will seem so inconsequential.

Buckle up!