Archive for September, 2021

The Faith of a Sparrow

Having lived through five hurricanes in Louisiana/Mississippi, I never learned to enjoy them. I did, however, learn much from surviving them.

Hurricane Betsy was venting its full fury as we listened to hear the roof torn from the home of our neighbor. A young mother whose husband worked offshore on oil rigs was sheltering in our home that night. At the height of the storm, she began softly quoting to her small children the words of Elizabeth Cheney.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”

Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”

I don’t know if the children learned from it, but I gained confirming insight.

While engaging in the “storms” of life I have often reflected on that principle. In this unsettling time, I commend it to you.

A stabilizing influence in life is needed. When that factor is the Lord rather than the storm, there is an unexplainable  tranquility.

Program your mind on elevating thoughts. A classic source is Scripture. Reading the Bible is very much like eating fried chicken. There are some boney parts and some tasty parts. Don’t gnaw on the bony difficult to understand parts, savor the succulent to understand parts. As you read, resolve to apply it.

Study to show yourself a workman approved by God, and stabilized by His Word, fellow sparrows.

Jesus: When You Least Expect Him 4/30/00

Luke 24:13-32

Jesus Christ is often encountered in the most unlikely places at the most unexpected times. He is not only our guide to tomorrow and our ticket to eternity, but our companion on life’s road through the wilderness of bewilderment. He is the essential clue necessary to interpret the mystery of life.

Do you ever feel like you are all alone? Does loneliness ever engulf you? Have you ever looked at one of these street scenes from a major city with people walking shoulder to shoulder moving like a river of humanity? All crowded together yet many feeling all alone in the crowd. A sense of frustration and abandonment prevails in many lives. A gnawing sense of emptiness resulting from a feeling of disappointment is the norm for some. Having been let down dejection is dictated by defeat.

If you are ever described in that manner you might have been the companion of Cleopas as he walked the lonely road from Jerusalem to Emmaus the afternoon of the reported resurrection of the crucified Christ. Their great expectation regarding Christ had crashed at the cross. Now they were alone and dramatically disappointed in Christ. They needed a resurrection of hope and guidance for the moment.

They were DOUBTING what had happened.
They were BEWILDERED about what to do.
They were FEARFUL of what might happen.
Do you ever experience those emotions?

As children most of us were intrigued by the idea of supernatural power. That is why Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, and their companions have thrived. Youth have an innate desire to know secrets and tap into supernatural power. I was that type child and perhaps you are or were. I remember ordering Orphan Annie’s secret decoding ring so I could know in advance what was going to happen to Annie and Corntassel. I ordered Jack Armstong’s magic answer box in order to tell when a person was telling the truth or lying.

As adults we don’t grow out of our desire to believe there is a hidden factor into which we can tap and improve our destiny. Horoscopes are studied by many while others endeavor to engage in ESP, extrasensory perception.

With our annual date with the IRS just past one husband asked his wife to balance their account and prepare their tax return. After doing so she put the initials ESP at the bottom. When asked why she said, “That stands for Error Some Place.”

Most of us hope there is somebody out there — a force or power — trying to get through to us to improve our life. Unfortunately the last place many think to turn to find this mysterious power is Christianity. An all too well hidden fact is the most powerful force in the universe is present with us.

That is the message of the Emmaus Road story. Cleophas and his wife were walking alone when a third party joined them. After telling the unrecognized Christ of the crucifixion and exposing their bewilderment He explains the Scripture to them regarding the foretold resurrection. Later in their home as they dined together they recognized the risen Christ.

The event we call Easter can’t be reduced to a creed or philosophy. It is not simply believing the doctrine of the resurrection that empowers life. It is meeting the resurrected Christ that changes life. Faith moves us from belief in a doctrine to acquaintance with the person, Jesus Christ. Life takes on a whole new meaning when we can say as they, “We have met Him; He is alive.” As the two downcast believers walked alone they said, “We had hoped” (Vs. 21).

The good news which was to transcend lost hope was that Christ was there with them though unrecognized.

Many have been blessed by reading the insightful book by Charles Sheldon entitled In His Steps. It is the story of how lives were changed by asking before acting, ‘What would Jesus do? I want to do what He would do if He were here.”

Today many persons wear wrist bands with the letters “WWJD,” meaning, “What would Jesus do.” Push that a bit further by asking, “What should I do in that Jesus is here.”
What attitude adjustment would that produce?
What dynamic would that add to your life?
GOOD NEWS! He is here. He is your abiding companion.

In math there is the term, “Constant.” It means “a quantity that remains unchanged throughout a given discussion.” It is a principle on which one can confidently rely while trying to solve the mystery of a math problem. It is said to be permanent, unchanged, immutable. In algebra a variable is an unknown such as “X.” A constant is something that is always what it is. For example “1” is always one. Thus, Christ is a constant.

As in math so in all of life to find the unknown start with the known. Start and stay with Christ.

In life Christ is our “Constant” for solving life’s problems.

There is a moving scene in the dramatic play The Trial of Jesus by John Masefield where Longinus, a Roman centurion, reports to Pilate. After the report is given, Procula, Pilate’s wife, beckons the centurion and begs him to tell her of the prisoner’s death. After hearing him speak of the empty tomb, she asks, “Do you think He is dead?” Longinus answers, “No Lady, I don’t.” Impatiently, she implores, “Then where is He?” In awe Longinus answers, “Let loose in the world, Lady, where … where no one can … stop His truth.”

He is in your world. He wants to be your constant companion and guide.

In our text there are three things that enabled them to realize Christ was with them. These three elements today give us assurance of His presence.

To put their troubled hearts at ease “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Vs. 27). Prior to His crucifixion Christ noted an important potential: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…” (John 15:7).

Today’s Biblical ignorance is appalling. What are you doing to enhance your Bible knowledge? We say we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, and it is. Be real! How often do you read from it? What systematic program of Bible study do you have personally? Do you have a plan for memorizing strategic passages. For your intellectual and spiritual good you should. The mind is like a muscle, it must be exercised. Memorization is a marvelous way to improve your mental functionality.

Can you say with the Psalmist: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119: 105)? You can’t unless you can also say, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:11).

The two said of their experience in Emmaus when Christ opened the Scripture to their understanding: “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scripture to us? (Vs. 32). God’s word warmed their hearts, illumined their minds, and revived their hope. It still does the same. However, if you don’t know it you don’t know it does.

Christians need a Biblical world view. Unfortunately many have a secular world view shaped by novels, magazines, movies, TV, and carnal commentators. As a result in times of decisions they make a secular world view choice. That is, we act like non-believers.

Much is in the news these days about crime, violence, drug abuse, and immorality in the youth culture.

A recent study by “Whose Who” reveals that school is a very dangerous place. One-third knew someone who had brought a weapon to school. Forty-two percent of the boys had access to at least one gun. Five percent of the students reported there had been a shooting in their school. More than half reported frequent fights between students. One-third had seriously considered suicide. Various laws are being proposed to deal with it. Forget it! Laws won’t change it. The cause must be addressed. You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to understand why. Yet, society seems oblivious to the cause.

Ten million minors have a venereal disease. 1.5 million abortions occur annually. Many by teens. Could it just be that a contributing factor is that 88% of all sex depicted on TV is outside marriage. The entertainment media flaunts promiscuity and homosexuality as normal. Youth act it out and we wonder why.

Surveys reveal one-fourth of high school seniors get drunk at least once a week. Could a contributing fact be that their heros in entertainment consumed ten times as much alcohol in movies and on TV than other beverages? Various reports indicate that between 1/3 and 1?2 of all children will be involved in some serious chemical dependency problem. Their idols in music and the media flaunt drug use.

Contrast this with a recent Gallup Poll that reveals 65% of evangelical teens never read their Bible. One in ten is said to read the Bible daily.

To develop a Biblical world view one needs to know the Scripture. Then it is possible to look at life through God’s eyes and make valid choices as a result.

If you want to know WWJD read The Book.

There is a further essential step. There is a difference in studying the Scripture and spending time with the Author. Spend time with the Lord alone. Some years ago my study was here in the church building in a remote location to afford privacy and quiet. Some person learned where it was and when they wanted me they came knocking. I tacked the following note on the inside of the door addressed to myself: “Don’t answer any knock on this door when you have an appointment to be alone here with the Lord.”

Flash back with me to the statement by Christ regarding His Word abiding in us. He continued: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Fellowship with Him and compliance with His word are the two inseparable elements for a good prayer life.

Our Lord, knowing our need for fellowship designed the fellowship of the redeemed called the church. It isn’t a perfect fellowship but it is the best going at the time. It will do until by death we are initiated into the “Society of the Just Perfected.”

Dr. Jean Rosenbaum, psychiatrist and President of the New Mexico Psychoanalytic Association, observed: “Loneliness is one of man’s worst enemies. Since World War II it has spread like a plague. Chronic loneliness, or alienation, nowadays afflicts 75% to 90% of all Americans. It is the major cause of alcoholism and drug addiction in this country.” Independent sources record that 60% to 70% of all youth seeking medical care are really suffering from stress and emptiness resulting from seeking good relationships. The church must provide a loving receptive place to establish such.

Youth, please hear me, adolescence is a time when cliques are often formed. Please, I beg you, don’t form cliques within the church that excludes people needing your friendship. Expand the circumference of your friendships. Build your fellowship around fellowship with the Lord. His clique is defined by the word “whosoever” found in John 3: 16.

There is a third element essential for knowing the presence of the Lord.

Christ’s followers had their hoped dashed by the cruel crucifixion of Christ. Every expectation expired with His execution. In the following forty days they would be given a short course in trust — faith. They were being taught to trust Christ in all things. That is the same school in which He has enrolled you. Perhaps you feel you are taking a post graduate course in adversity management. In it all He is there to bless and guide you.

A popular Christian tune by Andrae Crouch reveals this great truth.

“I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow;
They’ve been times I didn’t know right from wrong;
But in every situation God gave blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong.”

“Through it all, Through it all,
O I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God;
Through it All, Through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”
The word used by Christ was “abide in Me.”

On the road to Emmaus Jesus indicated He was going further when Cleophas and his companion got to
their place. However, “they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us…’” (Luke 24:29).

He has said, “I will never leave you.” Do you ever feel He has? An honest answer will likely be “Yes.” He said, “I will be with you always.” Do you constantly feel He is? This time your honest answer may be, “No!” Those are secular world view feelings.

A Biblical world view keeps us aware He is constantly with us and won’t forsake us regardless of our feelings.

There is a classic poem that has been set to music entitled,

One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life
For each scene, he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand; one belonging to him and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of His life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the
very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned,
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome time in my life there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I needed
you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied,
“My precious, precious child,
I love you and would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints in the sand
it was then that I carried you.”

If you as a believer have felt all alone perhaps you have failed to recognize the form in which He has been present with you.

If you have not begun begin today your life’s pilgrimage with Him. He has been there all along.

Perhaps you, like the two on the road to Emmaus have just failed to recognize Him.

Jesus Died Twice

Jesus Died Twice. (One A Physical Death and One A Spiritual Death)

Jesus’ death on the cruel cross evokes such details of the physical pain He endured, we often overlook the spiritual agony He suffered. The gory brutality and inhuman mortification is not to be minimized. It was as hideous and despicable as imagined. However, it was only the background for His real suffering. The spiritual agony resulting from His separation from the Father was His primary suffering. It is summed up in His cry:

“My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?”

In that instance He was enduring spiritual separation from the Father. This He was experiencing for us. This was truly His substitutionary death for us. Salvation is based upon this premise. 

Scripture makes it clear He died physically. He “breathed His last” (Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46) and He “gave up His spirit” (Matthew 27:50; 19:30).

Physical darkness enshrouded the area “from the sixth hour until the ninth hour,” that is from 12:00 noon until 3:00 PM. These were the hours preceding His physical death. These were the hours during which He was separated from the Father, His spiritual death.

It was during this time He cried “I thirst.” He was suffering hell’s agony as had Lazarus, the rich man, when he begged for Lazarus to “dip the tip of his finger and cool my tongue.” 

This is not to say Jesus was in hell, but rather that He was suffering the agony of hell resulting from separation from the Father.

It was during this darkness Jesus was made sin for us. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

“Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished” (John 19:28) said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). This was a reference to His separation from the Father that was the reference, not His physical death, for it had not at that moment been accomplished. This cry in effect was the occasion of His spiritual reunion with the Father, that is, His spiritual resurrection.

He endured this separation that we might not have to. What has been your response to this loving provision? Pause and thank Him for this spiritual victory and commit yourself to Him.

The Son Rose Before Sunrise – Easter 4/23/00

Matthew 28:1-7

JESUS CHRIST arose from the tomb on that first Easter morning just before the sun edged above the horizon and its light ignited the indigo sky of a new day.

In that instant He brought into focus a whole new perception of human worth and wholeness. His resurrection emblazoned across the sky of history the final irrefutable evidence that Jesus Christ is Lord of death and Master of Life.

Revisit the scene where gloom had engulfed home, where death mocked life, where angels wept and demons laughed. Covert disciples who had been present and by their silence consented to His condemnation took his body for burial. Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus were the two who under the gaze of the Roman execution squad had buried Him.

His bewildered and despondent admirers having lost hope were disillusioned.

Early in the morning of the third day two grieving followers came to His tomb perplexed as towho might roll away the stone and allow the final preparation of His lifeless body for final and permanent entombment. Upon arrival they were greeted by a stunned detachment of Roman guards.

The stone, to them a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle, was a pebble to the Easter angel who had moved it away.

The correlation of the Greek texts of two different gospels reveals the stone had not simply been tilted away from the cave. It had been moved away a great distance uphill. These stones customarily weighed about three thousand pounds.

When God does something He does it right. He can roll away any stone in your path to spiritual truth and maturity.

Matthew says an angel, one, greeted them. John says there were two. Skeptics say there is a conflict. No there isn’t. This simply shows there was no collusion among the gospel writers. Had there been they would have both used the same number. John who in his writing is known for details gives the total number and Matthew simply focuses on the message of one of the two saying:

Christ alone is the Savior and Master who stands alone as a fulfilled testimony to His validity and worth.

Historian, Arnold Toynbee, in his monumental work entitled, The Study of History, devotes a chapter to saviors. He lists them in four categories:
The savior with a scepter —- the political savior.
The savior with a book —- the philosopher savior.
The savior with a sword —- the militant savior.
The man-god or god-man savior —- those of Greek mythology.

Professor Toynbee points out that each of these finally capitulates to the ultimate enemy, death. Politicians, kings, military leaders, philosophers all die. All of these demi-gods ultimately surrender to death. Then this imminent scholar concludes: “When the last civilization comes to the river of death, there on the other side filling the whole horizon with Himself will be the Savior.”

In the mind of this world renowned historian there is only one who qualifies as Savior who can save. His reason, Christ conquered death.

We call the day on which we celebrate the resurrection Easter without really knowing why. Though it has a pagan origin it has a very special application to the resurrection. Pagans throughout the Roman Empire believed in gods. They observed there was a great light that gave us day and a lesser light that shone at night. The sun rose each morning giving light and set in the evening ushering in darkness. They believed a goddess governed the light. They named her “Estera.” Her light was first seen on the early morning horizon so they called this area “the East,” meaning “the Eastera place,” or place of light. When many of these pagans were converted they associated the resurrection of Jesus with the dawning of light and called the resurrection celebration Easter. The day of the resurrection was the day —– THE SON ROSE BEFORE SUNRISE.

There are three statements in our text associated with His resurrection that can help us get life into perspective.

The Greek verb tense used means “stop being afraid.” All His little cadre of friends could say was, “We had HOPED that He was the one to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:21). Their hope had died. When hope died fear was given birth. In the moment of death everything seems frozen to those grieving. There is only yesterday – there is no tomorrow.

They were living on the wrong side of the resurrection. Today those who are still searching for some man-made, humanistic solution to our problem are living on the wrong side of the resurrection also. In the resurrection, the empire of joy, peace, and liberty was brought to light. Biblical Christianity is a faith of promise, not of nostalgia. Its thrust and momentum is always forward. It moves inexorably into the future. It calls us to what lies ahead in Christ.

This inspires and enables one to cope. This is the hope Easter inspires, there is reason to find out how to live through the resurrected Son of God who arose before sunrise.

Death had caused them great fear. It still strikes terror in the hearts of many.

What they were to see was very revealing. They had looked at the cross and saw man’s judgement on Christ. Looking at the empty tomb they saw God’s judgement on Christ.

The Scripture depicts John as looking in the tomb and “believing”. What caused his belief? It was not the empty tomb, but the empty grave clothes. For a short time they had been Christ’s wardrobe. For three days His lifeless body had awaited His new Easter outfit. The position and condition of the grave clothes was convincing. They remained like a balloon with the air let out. Grave clothes were put on with a gummy substance like tar or pitch. To remove them was to remove the skin. John saw the evidence of a miracle.

Later the disciples who were in the upper room when Thomas was absent and Christ appeared said to Him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:24, 25). They saw and believed.

A brilliant young advocate who was a member of the Supreme Court of the era named Saul was appointed by the tribunal to investigate the report of a resurrection. Note the record of that young investigative reporter appointed by the Supreme Court.

His assignment was to investigate the resurrection and prove it to be a hoax. After his extensive interrogation of believers under threat of their lives, he concluded “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (I Corinthians 15:3-8).

A creditable, available body of eye witnesses were still available to testify of having seen the resurrected Christ. Many of those in the first century were so fully accepting of the fact of His bodily resurrection that over 5,000,000 of them died as martyrs rather than disclaim it.

If these people were not absolutely certain of the resurrection they would not have allowed themselves to be tortured to death in order to proclaim it as fact.

Get the big picture. Look around you, not just your immediate setting or this moment in history but through the ages. You who follow Christ march with a mighty army. You will never be a part of anything as powerful and important as this. March with dignity and pride as you follow His wounded feet.

Paul wrote this passage in the life-time of persons who could verify it. Peter preached the resurrection within yards of where it happened days after it occurred to the very people who had been present at the crucifixion (Acts 2). The Jesus who was crucified under the eyes of His enemies was now known by many of them to be alive. Christianity is not the kind of nonsense of which fables, forgery, or fabrication is made. It is based on the empirical evidence sworn to by many eye witnesses.

If someone were to say to you they saw a dead man walking, you might think that person to be a candidate for residence on the “funny farm.” If five were to tell you that you might think it a joke. If ten bonded together with that story you might think it a conspiracy. If 500 said it, at the very least, don’t you think you ought to at least look in the coffin.

These did and so should we.

“Seen” as used in the texts means to behold. It can mean to comprehend. They had experienced the power of an elevating presence. Being in the presence of some persons is an elevating experience. Edmund Burke was a writer and statesman of great faith. It was said of him, “If you stand in a doorway to escape a passing shower with Edmund Burke, you would leave that doorway with your shoulders back and your head up and your heart uplifted to face the realities of life.” An encounter with Christ was even a more elevating impact.


This simple statement is Jesus’ intended post-Easter program. We are not simply to give to missions, we are to be on mission. Christianity is like a good disease, an infection that does not produce pain and death, but joy and life. We are to spread it.

The early Christian community was not a memorial society with its eyes fastened on the departed Master. It was a dynamic community created around a living and present Lord. Within seven weeks these hunted, frightened, and cowering fugitives had become flaming missionaries. They were willing martyrs ready to lay down their lives rather than deny the truth of His glorious resurrection and the resulting transforming power.

The highest principle of Christianity is that which happened in their lives can happen in yours. The resurrection gives proof that life is not to be lived as in a rudderless craft or a driver less car. It is to assure the believer of safety. In appealing to persons to give their lives to Christ, we often use the word “accept”. The Bible’s words are trust, commit, follow, and obey. The real issue is not, will you accept Him, but whether He will accept you. Your loving, faithful response to Him assures His acceptance by Him.

The resurrected Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live….” (John 11:5).

You too can join the legion who by faith in Christ have cheated death. You can become prepared today to join the loyalists who have joined the beloved Christ on the far bank of history — ALIVE.

Oh, earlier I said, “There are three statements in our text associated with His resurrection that can help us get life into perspective.” There are actually four. Note, Matthew 28: 9, Jesus Himself, the resurrected Christ gives us the fourth word: “R E J O I C E”

What was seen by those who came that early morning to the tomb gives reason to rejoice. The definitive John says they saw the facial napkin “folded together in a place by itself” (John 20:7).

Like a detective investigating a crime scene John scanned the chamber looking for clues. In that napkin he found a clue with a message. It was the custom of monarchs that upon the completion of a meal they would crumple their napkin and leave it on the table indicating they had finished and would not be back. If they were leaving the table with the intent of returning they folded the napkin and left it neatly in place. In that clue in the tomb Jesus was saying, “I will be back.” He said, “I will come again and receive you unto myself.”

That is reason to REJOICE! Keep your eye on the Eastern sky because the Son may rise before the next sun rise. Those who are ready for His return can and must live in a state of continual rejoicing. Those who do not know Him would do well this day to trust and commit to Him in preparation for that eventually.

An Open Door to a New Millennium 1/2/00

James 4:7-10

JESUS CHRIST, the resurrected Lord of new life, said to the church in Philadelphia, in ancient Greece, that which is applicable to our church today: “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it…” (Revelation 3:8).

Together, we the redeemed of the Lord who constitute the membership of this fellowship are called “the church”. What is applicable to the church is related to the individual. No person can shut the door opened by the Lord. We can with cowering and timid spirit fail to go through it. Our negative nature can cause us to question and quibble. We alone can cause what the Lord has in mind to fail. We are often our own worst enemies.

For over a year many persons have been worried they would not survive the millennium challenge. They worried about food, utilities, heat, and other essentials. One person allegedly said, “So many things have gone wrong that if any thing else bad happens it will be the middle of next week before I can worry about it.”

Well, our Lord has seen us through the mythical door of the millennium. Now awaits us the challenge of today. If we are going to be ready to move through the open door in this new year we need to be ready spiritually.

Two posters come to mind in facing the new millennium. One pictures a group of little yellow fuzzy ducklings walking through grass too tall for them with necks stuck out. The caption is “Go forth and conquer!” Let’s! As you enter the new millennium remember these basics:

  1. Anticipate difficulties. Realistic people anticipate they will encounter challenges. Those who do are more likely to work through them as expected opportunities to be an over comer. They know every obstacle is an opportunity disguised as an impossibility.
  2. Do an advantage analysis. What is to be gained?
  3. Take small steps. Life by the yard is hard, by the inch it is a cinch.
  4. Admit your negative thoughts. Don’t leave a topic on which you have been thinking negatively without superimposing a positive thought on the same subject
  5. Give yourself credit. Segment your work and allow time for celebration. That is why God worked at creation six days and rested the seventh. It was a celebration.

Another poster pictures a caterpillar looking up at a beautiful butterfly. The caption is: “You can fly but that cocoon has got to go.” You can reach new heights, but there are old limiting things in your life that have to go.

Will James, the father of modern psychology, said, “The greatest discovery of the Twentieth Century is that you can change your life by changing your mind.” In doing so, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ…” James 4:7-10 lists some steps of preparation we each need to take. Therefore, now comes the practical personal part of this new millennium year’s challenge.

To be ready to go through the open door of opportunity there must be:


A. First, positively. You must “Submit yourselves therefore to God.”
This calls for a conscious willful action on your behalf. It requires you making a choice. Some persons arrogantly refuse to submit themselves. Each of us must respond to the self asked question: “Whom shall I serve, God or myself? Shall I make it my chief concern to do the will of my Heavenly Father, or shall I demand and assert my own way?”

It is said that when Aaron Burr, one of the most controversial personalities in early American life, reached the age of 21, he squarely faced the issue of whom to serve. Resolutely he decided to turn his back on the God of his fathers. As a disgraced murderer and tried for treason his body was laid to rest at the foot of the grace of his grandfather, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was one of the most revered clergy/statesman of his era. The graves of the two illustrate the difference between one who seeks first the kingdom of God and who chooses slavery to self.

B. Second, negatively. “Resist the devil…”
The devil and his allies, the world and the flesh, have designed and do desire your spiritual destruction.

A couple of decades ago the concept of the devil was thought to be simply a clinical form of paranoia suffered by Christians. Today too much evidence exists regarding a personal devil. Devil worship even proliferates today. Its existence is a modern Frankenstein created by a society that decided it could go it alone without God. It should be expected for a decadent society always turns back to the gods of decadence. Foremost among them is devil worship.

You can’t please God while playing games with Satan. You can’t fly with the eagles by day and the owls by night. Resist the devil:
Through prayer
Bible study
Regular public worship
Association with friends who are committed Christians


A. “Cleanse your hands” = outward actions.
Review your lifestyle. What needs to be adjusted? Does Christ have first place in your life? Are you too busy for Him? If the devil can’t make you bad he will make you busy.

God’s will never includes more for you to do than the time allowed you will enable. If you are too busy for Him you are out of His will and out of your mind.

B. “Purify your hearts” = inward attitudes.
Medical science had not progressed in that day. A common concept was that blood carried in it ideas. They became conscious thoughts when the blood flowed through the brain. It was known that the heart pumped the blood. Therefore, it was thought that the heart was the point of origin of all creative thoughts. Hence, an appeal to cleanse the heart was a directive to change the thought pattern. Don’t let your mind dwell on evil ideas. Purify your thoughts by driving out the wrong concepts and ideas with Bible oriented ideas. A critical negative spirit is a common one which needs to be purified. If you are going to think Christ thoughts the mind must be purified of negativism. “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I John 3:2, 3).

There is a new book entitled “The Theory of Twenty-One.” The author shows as a result of research that out of every 21 people, 20 think negatively about everything. Only one is a positive person. In another book by a different author entitled “Hide-N-Seek”, persons are urged to inventory their 16 closest relatives. Be objective who among them was negative and who are positive. Most persons will conclude they were reared in a negative environment. Pray to be the “one” among 21.

C. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This is a wonderful invitation containing a wonderful promise. God has promised He won’t back off. This enables us to become more like Him.

These are three evidences of repentance. Don’t waste your pain. Let it be used of the Lord to draw you to Him.

Verse 9 in summary is speaking of repentance and a changed attitude. The expressions “laughter” and “joy” as used here are terms related to the temporary kicks a person without Christ gets out of sin. Often pious people pretend sin has no pleasures. The sinner knows better. The Bible puts it in perspective however: “the passing pleasures of sin,” (Hebrews 11:25).

Other translations refer to the temporary nature of sin’s pleasures in these ways: “The short-lived pleasures of sin,” and “the fleeting enjoyment of a sinful life.” Get the picture? Sin does afford kicks, but they have a kick-back. Whereas, in the will of the Lord there are pleasures forever more. Pick your pleasures: those with a kick-back or those providing a delight in the moment with lasting joy. In picking your pleasures be kind to your tomorrow self. Grant enjoyable memories to yourself free from regret.

The word “covenant” means an agreement or testimony. Actually, our Bible is divided into a New and Old Testament, literally, new and old covenants. A covenant is an agreement. Therefore, agree with the Lord that you are going to “humble yourself.” It can result in a new beginning. “The Land of Beginning Again” by Louise Fletcher Tarkington: So I wish that there were some wonderful place Called the Land of Beginning Again Where all out mistakes and all our heartaches, And all our poor selfish grief Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door And never put on again. A renewed covenant will result in guidance.

King George VI of England during World War II made the following words vital in his new year’s address: “I said to a man who stood at the gate of the year – ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'” The Lord will guide persons who make a covenant with Him.

Again I say this calls for a willful personal commitment from you. You are called on to make a choice.

George Beverly Shea, a name well known in Christian music, had to make such a decision as a young man. He was offered a significant secular recording contract and a major media job. During the time he was wrestling with this decision the Lord used his Godly mother to help make the decision. She copied two verses of Scripture and placed them on the piano. Shea came in and found them and sat for a time meditating on them. Slowly his fingers began to wander across the keyboard as ever so gradually his commitment as expressed in his newly emerging song beloved by millions.
He wrote and said:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-scared hand.

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Beverly Shea made a covenant with God. He decided to follow Jesus and that decision has influenced every other decision he has made.

Make your decision today. “Boast not thyself of tomorrow” (Proverbs 27).

God has set before us an open door, a new millennium. No person can shut it. You can refuse to go through it, however. Likewise, you can choose to go through it with Him.