Archive for October, 2021

Happiness Is a Beautiful By-Product

Count Leo Tolstoy, one of the all time scholars of Russia, struggled in his search for happiness. Once while going through a very difficult time (sound familiar?) He went for a long walk in a deep forest. There he found an old peasant sitting on a log, eating a meager lunch of black bread. After sitting together for a while, Tolstoy said, “My friend I have been looking for a happy man, and I believe I have found him in you.” Then Tolstoy inquired further, “Where did you find such happiness.”

In an instant the old man became the tutor and the brilliant Tolstoy the pupil, as he mused: “Sir, I found it in the only place where you can find it in this troublesome world. I found it in God. You find God, Sir, and you will be alive and vital and happy.”

Try an instant replay: “alive, and vital, and happy.”

In the unconditional surrender of your life to Jesus Christ you will find unconditional happiness. Thereafter search the New Testament, and you will find the teachings that will enable you to grow in grace and knowledge. Be patient and persistent in doing so.

As an athlete playing basketball in Brazil an elderly missionary gave me a book in which she inscribed, “One can’t expect to amount to much for God who isn’t often, and long alone with Him.”

That is an often overlooked essential.

Judge Not

“Judge not” (Matthew 1:7) is the mandate of many seeking to vindicate themselves. Some interpret it as an appeal to Jesus to accept any lifestyle. It is often used by individuals who don’t understand the true meaning of this statement by Jesus Christ.

Christ’s initial statement about judgment cannot be ripped out of context to stand on its own. We must understand it considering His whole explanation, which includes recognition of others’ sins and their disposition.

In this same passage He gives instruction to discern people by the fruit of their life (Matthew 7: 15, 16). This necessitates discerning assessment, that is, sound judgment. 

Jesus commands unconditional love. He does not demand unconditional acceptance of all actions. However, it is often difficult for a person engaged in self-exoneration to comprehend being loved without their actions be approved.

The Greek word for “judge” is krino, means to condemn, avenge, damn, sentence, or levy a punishment. It does not mean not to discern.

In context proper evaluation of other’s conduct is essential so that a proper understanding is gained and justice is done.

We are to discern—judge—what is right or wrong, based on God’s standard as revealed in His Word.

Hebrews 5:14 exhorts believers to exercise good sense “…to discern both good and evil.”

An understanding of what Christ meant by not judging is gained by noting two instructions He gave in the same passage which require judgment.

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine….” (Matthew 7:6)

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7: 15, 16)

Jesus commanded us to know ourselves and others by the fruit of their life, and some sort of assessment is necessary for that. The Christian is called to show unconditional love. But the Christian is not called to unconditional approval.

Both of these require discerning judgment.

For emphasis Christ repeats a significant teaching twice in this passage: “…by their fruits you will know them.”  (Verses 16 & 20).

In this same chapter Christ instructs individuals to judge themselves according to God’s word and not to rationalize or excuse their own sins. He uses a bit of Eastern humor by encouraging individuals to get the 2×4 out of their own eye before trying to get a speck out of the eye of another person. Honest self-judgment using God’s standards is constructive.

What a Mighty God We Serve 8/20/00

Hebrews 13:5-6

Jesus Christ wants you to accept Him as your constant companion and unfailing guide. When I travel to an unknown country I make arrangements in advance for a guide. The first person I look for when I get there is my guide. I then commit myself into his care. This gives me confidence and a sense of security.

When Alexander the Great and his army came to the Khyber Pass he called for his map makers and requested maps of the territory beyond. They informed him all maps stopped at the pass. When he and his army marched through the Khyber Pass, they were literally marching off the map. Our loving Lord often puts us in a position where we are required to march into unknown territory.

At such times we need a good guide.

Our text identifies our constant companion and competent guide. Athletes often use a term we need to apply to our faith. That expression is: “We have got to stay focused.” Keep your eye on your guide.

Have confidence in His – – – –

Do you ever feel like God is out to lunch. He is no where to be found. Most of us have had those moments when we awoke and could have easily prayed: “Dear God, I don’t feel like you are here. I feel so all alone.” Pray that prayer when you feel like it, BUT don’t stop there. Continue, “Though I don’t feel like you are with me I thank you for the fact you are with me. You said you would never leave me nor forsake me. Thanks for being here even when I don’t feel like it. Now let’s you and me go get ‘um.”

Feelings fluctuate, they are fickle, they fool us. Facts are constant. Your feelings may be temporarily influenced by circumstances, diet, or even climate. Facts don’t change.

To be emphatic regarding His presence the Lord compacts into a single expression five compounding negatives in Hebrews 13:5. This passage consists of what is known as synergistic compounding negatives.

He said: “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU…” This is a forever never that has no exceptions. It literally means, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you.” Included in forever is NOW. The expression “leave you” means: “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, or send you back.”

He further says, “NOR FORSAKE YOU” This means, “I will never, no not ever, no never cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”

Now let’s string them all together: “I will never, no not ever, no never abandon you, give up on you, send you back, cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”

If you feel as though He has called your emotions a liar and God’s Word truth. Let your feelings be converted by the facts. Pretty emphatic isn’t it. It is a fact. Don’t let your feelings argue with this fact. Facts are faithful, feelings are fickle.

What is said is important. Who says it is even more important. Consider the source. God Almighty authored that statement for Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Observe, “He Himself” said it. Who is He?

He is all powerful. To use the theological term He is omnipotent meaning, all powerful. He has the power to do what He says He will do. He is all present. Again the theological term is omnipresent meaning, all present. He is present to perform.

He is all knowing. Once again a theological term is omniscient meaning, he is all knowing. He has the knowledge to know what to do.

Do you ever feel like you just don’t have strength to go on? Do you ever feel like you are all alone?
Do you ever feel like you don’t know what to do?
When you feel like you don’t have the strength to go on? Remember it is the all POWERFUL, the omnipotent, God who said, “I will never, no not ever, no never abandon you, give up on you, send you back, cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”

When you feel all alone remember it is the OMNIPRESENT, all present God who said, “I will never, no not ever, no never abandon you, give up on you, send you back, cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.

When you simply don’t know what to do remember it is the OMNISCIENT, the all knowing God who said, “I will never, no not ever, no never abandon you, give up on you, send you back, cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”


When David was instructing Solomon on building the temple he said to him: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (I Chronicles 28:20).

Practice the presence behind the promise.

This portion of verse 5 begins with “I” and ends with “you.” Ours is an “I-you” relationship. It is to be relied on in times of crisis.

It was when Arthur Ray Ebersol drowned. Paramedics were working over him with a sense of urgency. His dad was pleading with his son to start breathing. Then in the background could be heard a voice singing. It was the mother of Arthur sitting in the paramedics van singing:
“I’ve seen the lightening flashing
I’ve heard the thunder roll,
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing.
Trying to conquer my soul.
I heard the voice of Jesus
Telling me still to fight on
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.
No never alone.
No! Never alone.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.”

“The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

This we can say “boldly.” The word “boldly” means “to say with confidence.” It is the opposite of the word “fear” used in the last part of this verse.

We don’t need to fear because we can say, “The Lord is my helper…”
The word “helper” depicts one ready to run to the aid of a friend at the earliest sign of need. The Greek word translated “helper” is BOETHOS. Used as a naval term it meant the tightening of a tackle to hold something secure against a storm. As our helper He holds all secure against the storms of life.

God is our “helper.” As such He expects and deserves our very best personal efforts.


I have a beloved friend, Claude McBride, who for many years has served as chaplain for the University of Georgia football teams. Dr. McBride is a master of homespun humor. As a banquet speaker he assumes the role of a character called “Happy.” Happy is a rather unrefined exponent of sage wisdom. Using language of the old south Happy shares with his pastor in Possum Gap and the newly organized church choir. The choir consists of a completely inexperienced group of non-musicians. In explaining the dynamics involved in singing a “CAN-ta-ta,” Happy defines three terms.
“Pianissimo, y’all, means sing out so ever’body can hear ya, but jus’ barely.
“Crescendo, hear’, means sing out a li’l more, but keep holdin’ back some.”
“Fortissimo! means gimme everythang you got right now!”
Jesus Christ wants you to live a Fortissimo life. He appeals to us, “gimme everythang you got right now!”
“I will not fear. What can man do to me.”

Courage against man consequents from confidence in God.

We live in a frightful and frightening world. Secular circumstances will scare you witless unless you have a stabilizing faith in Christ. There are numerous waves of fright that periodically roll across our society like tidal waves.

Have the numerous public panic parties taught us anything?

In 1979 NASA warned of potential danger resulting from the deterioration in space of the Skylab satellite. The FAA closed airspace, state and local governments went on alert; companies sold helmets. Skylab burned up July 11, 1979, over the Indian Ocean. All that fear for nothing.

New Mexico scientist Iben Browning projected a major earthquake would devastate much of the mid-U.S. Many people prepared for the worst. Schools in parts of five states dismissed. Disaster drills were conducted. Sales of bottled water, canned food, and earthquake insurance soared. There was no earthquake. All that fear was unnecessary.

New Age astrologers warned of a harmonic convergence that would produce chaos all over the world on August 16, 1987. Nothing happened.

For several years fear virtually choked many Americans as the year 2000 approached. Regrettably much of the Y2K bug fear was fostered by members of the Christian community. The stroke of midnight came and was virtually insignificant. Again, mass fear was wasted.

“What can man do to me?” A lot! This does not say we will not suffer. It means we have no cause to fear. Biblically we have been forewarned in this world we are going to have tribulation. But Christ who has overcome gives cause for good cheer.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”

Prior to chapter 13 of Hebrews comes a passage pregnant with illustrations of individuals who through the years had found God faithful. They are described as a “great cloud of witnesses.” By being witnesses we tend to think of them as observers of us. Actually as witnesses it means their life examples witness to us of the faithfulness of our consistent God.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That means He is ever the same, constantly true to Himself.

It has another application also.

“Yesterday” He served as Redeemer on earth.
“Today” He is fulfilling His role as Intercessor in heaven.
“Forever” refers to the eternal Almighty God.
To the artist He is the One altogether lovely (Sol. 5:16).
To the architect He is the Chief Cornerstone (I Pet. 2:6).
To the astronomer He is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2).
To the baker He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
To the banker He is the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44).
To the builder He is the sure foundation (Isa. 28:16).
To the carpenter He is the door (John 10:7).
To the doctor He is the Great Physician (Jer. 8:22).
To the educator He is the new and living way (Heb. 10:20).
To the farmer He is the Lord of Harvest (Luke 10:2).
One of the principle roles of our Lord is Savior. He always has been.

Years ago there lived a devout scholar named Jerome. One of his primary accomplishments was to translate the Bible from Greek into Latin. This he did mostly in a cave which interlocked with the cave in which Christ was born. In his later years he had a dream while there. In the dream the Christ child appeared to him. He was so inspired by Christ he offered him money saying, “Here, this is yours.” Christ refused saying, “I don’t want it.”

Jerome brought some of his most cherished possessions and offered them. Again Christ refused them.

Then submissively Jerome said, “If there is anything in the world I can give you, tell me what it is. Tell me! What do you want? What do you want me to give you?” He said that in his dream Christ looked at him and said: “Give me your sin! That is what I came for.”

That is what Christ came for — to take away our sin.

The writer of the Revelation confirms Christ as the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).


Mercy is the outward expression of concern and compassion by one who has the capacity to provide a need and exercises it. In us God saw the need for salvation, and having the capacity to provide it, mercifully provided it.

We are saved “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us….” (Titus 3:5)

We are to pray for mercy for ourselves:

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

If we need it, and we do, so do others. therefore we are to show mercy and pray for it for others:

“for judgement is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.” (James 2:13)

“God is the father of mercies” (II Cor. 1:3). Of Him it is said, “The Lord is very compassionate and merciful…” (James 5:11). As his children we must be like our Heavenly Father and show it.

“Therefore if there is an consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Phil. 2:1, 2)

In most Scripture the word “mercy” is in the active voice. It is not just something you know about, it is something you show.

To obtain it show it. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

What Peter Says About Paul Says More About Peter Than About Paul

Some stand ready to judge and unwilling to show little mercy. Jesus said, “Judge not that you be not judged for with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 5:1, 2).

What this means is that if you see or hear of a person doing a certain thing and you make a judgement as to why you are saying, “If I were in that person’s situation this is what I would be doing.”

An example of this involved a friend of mine. Someone saw him coming out of a bar in New Orleans at 2:00 AM. They broadly told others he was seen coming out of the bar where he had been drinking most of the night. What the person who made that judgement didn’t know was the man had been in many bars that night looking for his alcoholic brother.

What the accuser was confessing is that if it had been him coming out of a bar at that hour, he would have been there drinking. Judge not lest you be judged.

In that same message Jesus said, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). Translated this means “the unforgiving are unforgiven because they are unforgivable.” 

With the judgment you judge you will be judged.

What Peter says about Paul, says more about Peter than it does about Paul.