Beware the Brambles

Jesus Christ said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) In this Jesus was appealing to His followers to be the best citizens possible. There is an Old Testament parable of how leadership is forfeited and when it is what the results are.

Gideon died.  A shuffle for leadership resulted.  Abimelech campaigned to be the leader in Shechem who followed Gideon. As an evil leader he formed a small band of guards and went to the town of Ophrah and killed all seventy of Gideon’s sons on one rock.  He slaughtered all but the youngest son of Gideon named Jotham. When Jotham heard it, he went up on the summit of the high mountain of Gerizim and shouted out the parable recorded in Judges 9: 7 – 15.  In it the trees needed a leader.  They appealed to the olive tree, the fig, and then the grapevine to be their leader.  All refused.  Then the trees said to the bramble, “Be our leader.” The bramble said, “Then come and take shelter in my shade.” (Joshua 9:15)

That parable is the story of how leadership is forfeited.  The same principle is true in national and local government as well as in church life.  Brambles are aggressive.  They were the kudzu of the Old Testament era. When there are trees, good leaders, who will not or cannot lead, there is always a bramble to say, “Come and take shelter in my shade.” Once such persons are in leadership they are at liberty to do their dastardly and devious deeds.

In America when this country was about to be swept into the atheistic gutter by Deists, Universalists, and Transcendentalists Andrew Jackson sought and finally won the presidency.  A young law student emerging.  His genius was obvious.  As he studied his law books, he was fascinated by the Scripture often referred to therein.  In 1824, the year Andrew Jackson ran for President that young law student, Charles Finney, was saved and immediately called to preach.  The Finney-led revivals of that era turned America back to their evangelical roots.  God raised up a tree at a time when the brambles were saying, “Come and take shelter in my shade.”

Are you personally or are we collectively as a nation seeking to take shelter in the shade of a bramble?  In deciding whether to allow one of these brambles to rule your life, remember Jotham spoke of fire coming out of the brambles to devour the strongest of trees; then known, the Cedars of Lebanon (9:15).  If you or a nation choose a bramble, you can expect the fire.

America was founded and developed by Sequoias, towering leaders who at the risk of their lives led. They willingly pledged to each other their “lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” All fifty-six signers put their lives on the line to preserve and protect the freedoms they felt were the God-given unalienable rights of all people. 

God grew a grove of trees to make America possible.  Sequoia tree-like men prevailed in leading America to independence.  They crowded out the brambles and with faith in “Divine Providence” forged a new nation under God. In this day may we so labor and pray for God to forgive our sins as to avoid being one nation under God’s judgment. May there be a spiritual awakening. May new trees emerge.

In the meantime, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight…” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

Hope Sustains, Worry Doesn’t

Where do we go from here? The primary crescendo of hate began with the outcome of the presidential election in 2016.  It then festered as bitterness toward  one person. It has since grown to grip our entire culture.

The scary point is this is the way every revolution and degradation in the world has started. Do we have the morality and fortitude to stop it? The answer to that determines where we go from here. Are our institutions viable and resolute enough to foster a return to civility such as we once enjoyed? Pray that the answer to that is a hearty yes.

I ask the question regarding institutions because they are the voices that reach the masses.

In speaking of revolution Vladimir Lenin spoke of controlling two institutions. He said for a revolution to succeed it must take the high grounds of education and entertainment. Make your own assessment of these two areas of our culture. 

Yet, another factor in the success of a revolution, as with Nazism in Germany, is the wakening and eventually muting of the churches. Again make your own assessment of today’s churches and in what direction they are tending. In doing so consider what influence has the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel had on the spiritual vitality of church. Compounding that, are pulpits addressing the spiritual and moral decay of society?

The reactionary hate vented in Washington on January 6, 2021, has not gone away. It is still there smoldering quietly for a time. The counter cultural hate that burned our cities last year is dormant for a season, but still there. 

Has the rhetoric of many elected officials had a calming influence in society? Are political opponents and their followers vitriolically vilified? Who runs on their own merits not the amplified presumed weakness of their opponent?

Instead of torching each other we must become torchbearers of sanity, morality, and spiritual vitality. Not only does the last not have a broad base of advocates, it is a hush-hush topic. It is the only topic about which it is said, “Don’t offend anybody.”Offense has license in other venues. 

There is a broad base of support for the idea of personal stockpiling non-perishable foods for the conflict to come. That implies what direction those people think we are going.

Here is a novel idea. Instead of just stockpiling food, how about personally building a bounty of morality, virtue, civility, grace, and here it is again, spirituality. While not giving up on institutions, work on yourself and then them. Become an advocate for good.

If an organization of any kind insists on it working for the general good of society. There is bigotry and hate in every phase of life. Oppose the principles among all. Don’t simply become an advocate of some group. You can be assured there is a need for every group to be purged of impropriety. 

Remember that little tune: “It’s love, it’s love that makes the world go around.” Well if that wheel hasn’t stopped it sure has slowed dramatically. 

Now what? Keep the faith. It is good to be concerned. It is bad to get discouraged and start worrying. The ancient palmist wrote: 

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.” (Psalm 42: 5)

Happiness Is… 1/31/99

John 13:17
Page 1577 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ said, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”

Jesus did not say, “If you possess these things you will be happy.” Howard Hughes was long considered the world’s richest man. Just before his death he was asked if he was happy. He replied, “No!” If money made a person happy he would have been giddy.

Until you make peace with who you are you will never be content with what you have.

You are a wonderful, unique person.
You are a once-in-all-history individual.
It is more than a right to be who you are, it is a duty.
That life isn’t a problem to be solved, but a gift to be cherished.

If you so believe you will be able to stay up on what used to get you down.

Nor did Christ say, “If you go to these places you will be happy.” Some persons seem to think that they need to go somewhere to be happy. You will never be happy anywhere until you are happy where you are. It is you, not the place that makes for happiness.

I’ve just returned from Paradise, Hawaii. Once there we encountered a couple coming out of their hotel room. As the man slammed the door of this luxury hotel he said, “Let’s get out of this place, I am disgusted and want to get out of here.” I got the impression he plays that record where ever he is. He carries his unhappiness inside himself.

He didn’t say, “Get a certain job and you will be happy.”

A Princeton, New Jersey, psychologist, Dr. Herbert M. Greenberg, has done revealing study in this field. He interviewed over 250,000 employees from 4,000 firms. Every part of the country was represented as was every job category and educational group. His findings revealed 80% of all workers at all levels are unhappy and frustrated. Imagine, four out of every five are unhappy. One of the biggest markets in America today is for happiness.

Likewise, He didn’t say, “Be part of the “in crowd” and you will be happy.”

He said there are certain things you need to know and when you know them if you do them happiness is the natural consequence. Thus, happiness consists of “knowing” and “doing.”

He makes it almost sound like a science anyone can master. It is —- and you can.

Eudaemonics is defined by Webster as the science of happiness. Christianity is much more than a code of ethics but it is also a code of ethics. Science is a study dealing with a body of facts. The body of facts taught and demonstrated by Christ when applied results in happiness. Various laws of physics and chemistry have been demonstrated and proven inflexible for years. The truths taught by Christ are just as exact and always produce the same by-product – happiness.

Having noted Christianity is more than ethics I want to establish on what the ethics of Christianity are based. They are based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. This relationship must first be willfully established before seeking to apply the ethic. To reverse the order is to experience frustration. To get them in the proper order is to experience happiness.

The relationship consists of letting Christ be your Savior and Master. As Savior He cleanses and forgives of sin. Having paid the price for our sins by dying on Calvary it remains for us to respond in faith. When we do then the forgiveness is applied personally. Simultaneously with His forgiveness and His becoming our Savior He becomes our Master. That is, the one in charge of our new relationship.

Our eastern mystical religious friends speak reverently of their “master.” Their gurus are called their “master.” Christ is our Master. That is He is the one who teaches us. That is where the principles of happiness come into play. He is the Master we are the disciples. That is, learners. The more and the better we learn the happier we are. It works.

Once you trust Christ as Savior and respond to Him as Master you are FDIC Insured —
Father’s Divine Immortal Compassion.”

In considering happiness some basics need understanding. First, no emotion can be maintained indefinitely. Even as Christ spoke of happiness He became troubled in His spirit as He thought of the dastardly deed Judas was about to perform (John 13:21). A shiver went through the soul of Jesus and His disciples as He spoke of His pending betrayal. Not a happy moment. Not all are. Don’t expect it.

That night in the upper room the hearts of the disciples were filled with a medley of emotions:
They were sad because of the prospect of Christ’s departure.
They were ashamed because they had acted selfishly.
They were perplexed because of the prediction one of them would betray Christ.
They were wavering in their faith, though hoping against hope.

All that was put in perspective when Christ said, “Let not your hearts be troubled….”

This was not simply cheery talk at a pep-rally. He gave assurance as to why they should cease being disturbed. In essence Christ said, “Continue to trust in God, also in Me continue to trust. I will supply your needs. Let not your hearts any longer be troubled.”

A person can’t stay sad, glad, mad, joyous, dejected, or happy all the time. However, you can maintain a predisposition toward happiness. That is it can be your nature to be inclined toward happiness. Have you ever heard it said of a little child he is so full of happiness? Or he has a happy disposition. You can be one who predetermines to interpret the events of life in the happiest light.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

The seeds of happiness are sown in the soil of every soul, attitude and disposition are the environment in which they do or don’t germinate.

Happiness is a choice not an automatic response.

There is a little couplet that speaks of two persons having different views of the same situation: “Two men looked out of prison bars. One saw mud the other stars.” Which are you?

Happiness is not something to be sought or bought. It is a beautiful by-product of a job well done. It is, as Christ said, the result of doing those things as he taught them.

It often comes into ones life through doors we don’t even remember leaving open.

If a person seeks happiness as an end in itself they are likely to find it as the old man did his glasses for which he had long looked. Right on the tip of his nose.

Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Happiness is like a butterfly. Try to grasp it and you will frighten it away. Sit down quietly and it may alight on your shoulder.”

I find it like a cat. Try to attract it and it will ignore you. Leave it alone and it will come and rub up against you and purr.

I know some persons who will never be happy. They may experience brief bursts of happiness. However, their inner orientation is such that they are predisposed to be unhappy. Are you such a person? You can change. A change of environment, social status, economic standing or any other outward change won’t bring about happiness. It has to come from personal internal orientation. Make a mental note of some of these ideals and apply them.

Consider four factors enabling you to have happiness.

Let me share a verse that is of all verses one of the greatest stimuli to happiness. “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU!” (HEBREWS 13:5B)

He said “NEVER.” This is a compound of five negatives. That doesn’t each is added to the other, it means each is multiplied by the other. “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you…”

It is a forever never with no exceptions.

If God will never leave you He has not now left you for “never” means “now.”

“LEAVE” translates aniemi meaning, “to leave behind, to abandon, to give up on, to send back.” Get it!

“I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, or send you back.”

If you ever emotionally feel as though He has call your emotions a liar.

Then He said He would never “FORSAKE” you.

To forsake means to leave one in a helpless state, to disregard. Thus, He said: “I will never, no not ever, no never, leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, leave you in a helpless state, or disregard you.”

Who said it? God!

The omnipotent God said it. The God who is all powerful.
The omnipresent God said it. The God who is all present.
The omniscient God said it. The God who is all knowing.

When you are inclined to say, “I don’t have strength to go on,” remember the all powerful God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, leave you in a helpless state, or disregard you.”

When you are inclined to say, “I am so lonely.” Remember the all present God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind….”

When you are disposed to say, “I don’t know what to do.” Remember the all knowing God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never ….”

Practice the presence behind the promise. Note, the verse begins “I” and ends, “you.” This is the basic “I-you” relationship that produces happiness.

Want it? Get it, and you got it!

Start every day with the confidence you and your Master can achieve. Together you can search the unsearchable, know the unknowable, and do the undoable.

Realize you have an invisible companion in all of life.

“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The difference Christ makes in our world is not that He said, “You MUST” with more force than anyone else, but that He said, “With Me, you CAN.”

Don’t let your feelings govern you attitude. Let faith and facts determine your outlook. When you awake in the morning you might in all honesty be able to say, “Dear Lord I don’t feel like you are here with me.” Any one of many things may cause such a downer. You may have eaten Paul Revere Pizza the night before and it got you up in the middle of the night.

The fact is you don’t feel like the Lord is within a country mile of you and is looking the other direction. In a moment like that be honest with the Lord. You might well pray:
“Dear Lord, I don’t feel like you are here with
me. However, Lord in your Word you said you would
never leave me not forsake me. Therefore, in spite
of my feelings I thank you for the fact you are here
with me. Let’s you and me go get ‘um.”

Continue with enthusiasm, “Lord, I’ve never
lived this day before and I will never live it
again. Help me to live it to the fullest in such a
way that I won’t long to live it over or have to
live it down. There will not be instant replay or
rerun so help me to live it up to your standard.”

Live each day with a purpose. That purpose being to do all within your power to see to it that in your life His will is done. He’ll help you.

In his work History of European Morals, Leaky spoke of Christianity as “the most powerful moral lever that has ever been applied to the affairs of men.”

Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom. It was primarily a reference to rule and realm. When He rules us He shares with us His power.

In searching for happiness keep in mind it is a beautiful by-product of a job well done. The initial and primary job that must be well done is to establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”

The apostle Paul exhorted his friend Timothy and through him shared the same encouragement with us: “…give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine ….Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (I Timothy 4:15).

Meditation is a lost art among most Christians. New Age afficionados have given a bad reputation to the art. However, the Psalmist spoke 14 times of meditating. The word means to make an image. New Age teaching is that we create our own reality. That is so close to the truth as to be deceptive. It is not truth however.

Biblical meditation is taking a concept and dwelling on it until we become absorbed in it. Before he wrote of them David made a mental image of: a shepherd and his fold, green grass and a stream, the cup and oil, and fellowship with God.

Mentally armed with such thought he faced lions and giants.

When he failed to engage in such meditation and instead went up on the roof top and committed Transidential Adultery he lost spiritual battles that caused himself and others much unhappiness.

Meditation on the Word of God enables one to replace subconscious conflicts with spiritual truths which produce peace and a stable personality.

“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”

You Are An Encourager

Study the life of the Bible character Barnabas and ask God to make you like him. Barnabas was originally named Joses, which is the same as Joseph, but the apostles gave him a new name—Barnabas. This name means son of encouragement. (Acts 4: 36) His kind are needed today. Maybe you?

He was the kind of person you would have wanted around you. As Barnabas is studied throughout Acts of the Apostles, it is clear that he played a predominant role in the early Christian church; he was truly the “son of encouragement.” There is not a lot said of specific ministries he personally performed, but much is said of how he encouraged and hence expanded the work of others, particularly Paul. He opened the door of ministry for Paul when others were skeptical. “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9: 26, 27)In his life he traveled the known world with Paul and John Mark.

Have you ever thought how nice it would be to have such a person in your life? You can be assured there are people around you who have had that thought. Have you thought of being such a person for them? You, a son or daughter of encouragement! What an important role.

The Church in Jerusalem sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.

“When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” (Acts 11: 22 – 24)

With all the factors at work in our society we all need a little, make that a lot, or encouragement. Where are they going to get if not from someone like you?

Here is a good thing about giving encouragement. There is no time when it is more blessed to give than to receive. It is in giving you receive more than you give.

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15: 1, 2)

Andy Andrews wrote “Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely. Don’t squander your words or your thoughts. Consider that even the simplest actions you take for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever.”


There are three destructive schools of thought prominent in our culture, This addresses the third. They are relativism, tolerance, and subjectivism. They will be addressed in three sequential Posts. Third, Subjectivism.

How are believers to live in a world where subjectivism has replaced objectivism? Subjectivism means I am the subject. Objectivism means there is an object other than self. In this consideration the Bible is the object.

In Christian ethics and morals the Lord as revealed through the Bible has been the object affording us the standard for right and wrong.

Now the source of right or wrong has shifted from the object, the Bible, to the individual “I.”

“I” am the authority for right or wrong. That brings us back to absolutes. “I,” the subject has no absolutes, everything is relative.

This leaves a conscience free of conviction. The individual becomes “god.” When the moral compass of Scripture is replaced by the will of the individual, direction is lost in life. Every person does that which is right in his or her own sight. 

Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) are popular. It is a simple little device that is locked on to a satellite. It can tell you where on earth you are within a matter of inches.

If lost you might not like what the GPC shows. You might dispute it and decide to go the direction you desire rather than the one indicated to be correct. The standard remains. You don’t judge the standard, it judges you.

How are we to live in such a culture?

1. When you blow it, confess your sin quickly and repentantly return to the Lord in faith and obedience.

2. Build your faith through the study of God’s Word and prayer.  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”  (Romans 10:17).

3. Be prepared for spiritual conflict against:

A. The world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever”  (I John 2: 15, 17).

B. The flesh.   “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish”  (Galatians 5:16,17).

C. Satan. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  (I Peter 5:8, 9).