Category Archives: How should we then live

The Parable of the Hole

Portia Nelson penned a brief story that will be familiar to many of us. The moral of the story lines up with the instructions of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5. In the Sermon on Image result for the parable of the holethe Mount, Christ tells us regarding lust, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

What is Christ suggesting here? I believe it safe to say that he is presenting options to us. We can continue to sin and miss the glory of heaven or remove those things that cause us to sin and be welcomed into the presence of God.

It would definitely be true that to lose an eye or a hand would be better than for our souls to end up in hell and miss spending eternity with God in the new heaven and the new earth. There is nothing here on this earth worth missing out on the treasure of that hope.

In the bigger picture, however, Christ is telling us that if we frequent a particular coffee shop so that we can lay eyes on an attractive woman who works there with the fantasy that her favors might be ours, quit going to that coffee shop. If you find ways to spend time with a particular colleague with the same intent, set different habits that will remove those tempting thoughts. Or consider something that an increasing problem, internet pornography, which devalues both the men and the women who lead us into a fantasy world.

In other areas of life, we can choose to associate with those who propose a different view of truth and the origin of things than what God has given us, thus opening ourselves to accepting their views. Or the even more subtle, “You have your truth and I have mine.” This ends of with neither one of you being right. The point is that we have choices to make regarding the voices we will take in on a regular basis.

With this concept in mind, Portia Nelson wrote The Parable of the Hole. It goes like this.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.
I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same
place, but it’s still not my fault. It still takes a long time getting out.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it
is there, but I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where
I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down a different street.

Proverbs 25:28 tells us that a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. That is quite a word picture. In those days, a city without walls was defenseless. The walls were not intended to keep people in, but rather to keep invading marauders out. The gates to the city were the only path into the city and could easily be defended. In the same way, we as God’s people need to recognize that we are in a battle.

Remember the battle of Jericho when the people of Israel began to take the land of Canaan after their journeys in the wilderness. The key to the battle was to take the walls down. Many years later, God used Nehemiah to lead the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem because that city was lying defenseless. The walls of the city were instrumental to the safety of its inhabitants.

In the same way, a man or woman who does not prepare for upright living by taking in the teaching of wisdom, by listening to what God has to say about all that the world throws at us, is leaving themselves open to the situational ethics proposed by the world. As we have seen in our short lives, the lines between right and wrong have all but vanished and ethical behavior is being redefined by the loudest voices in our society. Truth, like beauty, is thought to be found in the mind of the beholder.

Peter writes, in his first letter to the churches, that we are to be sober-minded and watchful because our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for those of us who have let our walls fall into disrepair, because that person is an easy target and defenseless. Without a foundation of truth we’ll buy into whatever someone thinks is right.

Let’s be men and women who chose on each and every day, to focus our minds on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. And if there is anything that is excellent or worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8) Solomon reminds us that the path of wisdom is to keep our hearts with all vigilance. James reminds us that if any of us lacks wisdom we simply need to ask God who will give us wisdom.

Follow the path of wisdom, know where your holes are, and walk down another street.

Never Better

Our pastor has the license plate NVRBTR and if you ask how he is doing, his response is consistently, “Never better.” These two words describe a world view. It is a view that Displaying 20170202_130217.jpgconfidently proclaims that the day of Christ’s return is closer today than it was yesterday, so without a doubt, we have never been in better position. Many, if not most of us could learn from that perspective. We could learn that no matter what is going on in our personal worlds, keeping in mind that Christ’s return is one day closer, should be an encouragement to us. As men and women of faith, this is our ultimate hope … the Day of Christ, the Day of His return, when we will be caught up with him in the clouds into a glorious eternity that God has promised for us.

God told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that because they followed the lies of the serpent (Satan), life would be hard. It would be much harder than just caring for the garden. Weeds would begin to grow, there would now be a conflict in marriage that would be a struggle for leadership for the rest of man’s days on this earth, there would be incredible pain in childbirth, and our children would be in conflict with one another. The challenges of family are not new to our society or our culture. Yes, some of the things we do, like pushing God out of our lives, exacerbate the problems, but the problems we see today, began with the first man and woman on this earth, the real first family.

This did not catch God by surprise and God told Adam and Eve that he had a plan to make a way for us to have eternal life. This was first told when God confronted Satan, Eve, and Adam after the fall and that is found in Genesis 3:15. From the beginning of time, God had a plan. This is in line with my previous blog referencing Isaiah 44-46, Be Strong and Courageous. God created everyone of us with a plan for each of us. Some of us have chosen to identify with “The Way” and others are still looking to define our own way. Those who have taken God’s Way, are in a position to live rewarding lives fulfilling God’s plan for us. I can promise you that nothing is more satisfying than to watch how God guides us in his steps and helps us fulfill our mission here on earth.

All to say that for those who are following “The Way” and are filled with the hope that really is eternal, this life is always better today than it was yesterday, because we’re one day closer to The Day!

Here’s hoping and praying that you have never been better and are experiencing the blessing of living the life God had planned for you!

Generational Gifts

I’ve talked about this in the past and will likely talk about it again in the future, because it is a subject that is near to my heart. We often talk about heritage and legacy. For centuries Image result for family faithpast we have been a world that has lived in close proximity as families and as communities. We were able to walk from our homes to the homes of other family members. Speaking from my personal family history, my parents with their siblings and their parents, with few exceptions, lived in close geographic proximity. Uncles, and aunts and cousins lived across the street from our house. In fact, at one point, our family shared a house with my father’s sister and her family.

I know from talking with friends, that our experience was not unique. Neighborhoods even in New York City were filled with family networks throughout the neighborhoods. This level of living in proximity facilitated the passing down of family traditions, customs, and generational values that most often were and are interlaced with values of faith, or lack thereof. We sing a song titled “Faith of our Fathers” which talks of that faith living still, and our children dying for that faith. The concept of which we sing is that of passing our faith and system of truth along to the next generation. It is indeed one generation’s gift to the next.

In the sixth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses says that this is the commandment that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you … that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son … that your days may be long. He goes on to write, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise … You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” In other words, show the next generations, first of all, your faith in God, and because of that how they should live. Pass these values along at every opportunity when you are with your children whether in the house or at play or walking along the path as you work.

In our world, proximity is a rare commodity. Our families are spread across hundreds and thousands of miles. Passing along these generational gifts becomes more challenging but technology gives us many opportunities to cross the miles to influence the next generations. This blog is an example of that. It will be left behind for my children and grandchildren to read and reflect on the words recorded here. I have the opportunity to talk about God’s word across the miles and into the future for the generations that I may never meet until we see each other in heaven.

In many cases, we awaken to the faith long after our children have left our homes and have settled in other parts of our world. We ought not to live in regret, but rather in thankfulness that we have awakened to the need for influencing the next generations. Galatians 6:10 provides this counsel, “And let us not grow weary of doing good for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” And again in Ephesians 5:15-16 Paul tells us that regardless of where we find ourselves, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” So, as an encouragement, at such a point in time when we awaken to God’s call on our lives, we have the opportunity to begin walking as wise people, sharing the wisdom of God’s truths with our children, so that they too will be able to see the love that God has for them.

We all love to give good gifts to our children. What greater gift can one give to the generations that follow but to create an environment that holds the opportunity for that generation to take hold of the faith that is to love and know the Lord our God, which is indeed an eternal gift. The choice is their’s whether they accept the gift or not. Our opportunity is to extend to them graciously and lovingly the gift that we have received from our Father in heaven. Can there be a better time to give such a gift but during this time when we celebrate Jesus, God Himself coming to earth as a baby? Let’s make the most of every opportunity, and let God do the work that He has promised He will do.

Set the table, my friends.

Cheers

Some time ago there was a television show called Cheers. The setting was a neighborhood Image result for friendshipbar and the by-line was “Where everybody knows your name.” The idea was that a wide variety of people from the neighborhood would stop in, not so much to wet their whistles, but more for the conversation that would happen there.

Having lived in eight different communities, I have to say that each city, each neighborhood, each circle of friends have brought different things to my life. There were communities within the communities. We have community with our colleagues in our work, with those in our neighborhood, and among those with whom we worship. But one is forced to ask, why do we have so many lonely people in this world? How is it that we know people, but don’t have any relationships or friends?

As humans we are made to need and to have relationships. A relationship with God first, and then relationships with each other. When we don’t have those relationships, we have a sense that something is missing. We are unique among all of creation, because we alone have the need and capacity for selective relationships.

If this is a basic part of who we are, why are so many of us lonely? Might it be that we will not give others the opportunity to love us for who we are? Might it be that we hold back feeling that we may not be accepted? Maybe it is because we live in a closed garage door world. We go to work, are cordial but not really friendly with our co-workers, then go home, drive into the garage and close the door until we start the cycle all over again.

Now, I’m not so naive to think that this isn’t a gross oversimplification. But I do think it worthwhile to consider whether there aren’t some simple things we can do to know and be known, love and be loved.

Suppose for a moment that you would pick one day in a week when you reach out to a neighbor, yes, that one that you would like to get to know, or that one that you are thinking needs a friend. What if you reached out just to invite for a cup of coffee, or you found a reason to talk to that person on the phone. The worst that could happen is that they are not available or just hang up on you. What have you lost? Nothing. You have the satisfaction of having reached out. You may have to reach out to multiple people before you get a taker. Don’t give up on inviting others into your world.

Now someone accepts your invitation. Now what? A great place to start is to ask the other person about who they are, where did they grow up, what hobbies do they have, what about their family, what makes them really happy? Perhaps there is something that you could really use their input on. Think about it. Do you really have all of life figured out? With minimal thought, there are questions we could pose. You’ll be surprised how many things you’ll find that are common concerns, common viewpoints, or common interests.

This is the beginning. The next time you see that person you greet one another, exchange pleasantries, and ask about that thing that was a concern for that person. No need to make a federal case about it. Just show the other person that you’re interested in them and the things that concern them. Even something as simple as remembering names. I met a couple in church one Sunday. A week later, they came back and I greeted them by name. This simple act made them feel like they mattered. After all, isn’t that we all want? We want to know that we matter to someone? It’s even true of God. We want to know that we matter to God. When he answers our prayers, our deepest heart cries, we then know that we matter to him.

The fact that other people know our names gives us a connection. It is the beginning of relationship. Hey, I know who you are, and it matters to me. I am blessed to live in a neighborhood community where neighbors connect at an uncommon level. We care for one another, pray for one another, have meals together, support one another in causes that are important, not necessarily to me, but to different ones. We’re learning how to carry each others’ burdens.

I write this just to encourage you to sit back to think about how you might encourage your neighbors and colleagues or even family members who have become distant. We’re all on a journey. Some make friends easily, others not so much, but we’re learning. What if you joined with that neighbor to do a good deed for someone? None of us was made to do life alone. Find a way to connect with someone who needs a friend. For all the people in this world there is no need for anyone to be lonely.

Can’t We Just Get Along?

Many people are really getting tired of all the verbal dart throwing that is dominating our news feeds on social media and the news feeds from the so called news media. Several in Image result for loving vs judgingmy circle of friends have recently posted in social media that they just want us all to get along with each other. During the Christmas season we are longing for the promise of the angels, “peace on earth, good will to all men.”

As much as our world wants to believe that mankind is inherently good and that our world is improving and will continue to improve, reality is not showing that to be true. Instead, tensions seem to be increasing and our respective views are being used for division rather than building unity. Forgiveness and understanding seem to be in short supply. Many seem to be wandering into their own peculiar world of isolationism alienating those who disagree and even casting doubt on the intelligence, integrity and even the character and faith of “those people.”

I have come to believe that as much as many of us really do want to get along with the rest of the world, somehow the world of dialog has been reconfigured for us. It seems that it is socially acceptable to love our neighbor so long as they agree with us. Love is a choice, therefore, the prevailing patterns show that we will love those who agree with us and castigate and eviscerate all who disagree, or at the very least avoid interactions with them. It is as though there are other forces at work in our world. As many as there are that say they just want to get along, it seems that lines are being drawn for us that are beyond our control or at least at work in our subconscious. Those lines tell us that as long as you agree with me, we can get along. It is not even alignment of truth systems that matter. If you can’t support my train of thought or behavior, we can’t have rational discussion or cordial relationship, and I may even take you to court. Even though we profess to value congeniality, we seem to have lost our ability to disagree with civility.

I am going to suggest that we need to be careful about discerning what is going on in our world. As much as we claim to be in control of ourselves and our destinies, the Bible tells us that there are other forces at work. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We need to keep in mind at all times, who and what we’re really fighting against.

It is not “those guys.” There is a spiritual battle that is being waged and, if we allow it, we will be pawns in the battle between good and evil. The end result that until Christ returns to this earth, the purposes of evil will sway heavily in our world. The Apostle Paul wrote that we once lived following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. What Paul is saying here is that the world is and has been following the lead of Satan (the prince of the power of the air) and that pursuit takes us in a downward spiral. We need to acknowledge that.

Our current mindset and behavior does not line up with the teachings of Jesus, nor should it be representative of Christians or evangelicals, Catholics or whatever brand a person of faith has these days. How can I say this? Jesus was criticized by the Jewish leaders for having dinner and socializing with those who didn’t live up to the standards the leaders of the faith had interpreted from the Scriptures. To be sure, some of them had made up a lot of rules that were not part of God’s word, and they replaced the relationship that God desires to have with us with a code of rules upon which man would be able to assess our true spirituality. When asked which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:34-40) Think relationship, not works, not rules.

In another scene, the Jewish leaders challenged the disciples because Jesus was dining with “tax collectors and sinners.” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:9-13) How would Christ hope to draw sinners to himself if he disassociated himself from any who sinned? The reality is that he would not have come to this world because we are all sinners. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He paid the ultimate sacrifice of love before we believed and while we were still sinners. The self-righteous condemnation of others has no place in Christian circles. It only plays into the hands of the forces of evil engaged in the heavenly battle. It destroys the message of love that Christ brought into this world when he came as a baby, and died on the cross, out of love, for our sins. We are the sick and the sinners that Jesus came to call, and continues to call.

So why can’t we all get along? There is a very real battle being waged for the minds and souls of mankind. In his first letter to the early church, the apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him …” (1 Peter 5:8) It is a battle of good and evil that was set before this world was created when Lucifer, now known as Satan, rebelled against God and led a group of angels to challenge God. This battle is ongoing and is being waged over the souls of mankind. It is interesting to note that God could have obviated this battle over the souls of men by creating us to be automatically obedient to him. But he loved us so much that he created the human species to be unique among all of creation as the only beings capable of making choices of love, hate, indifference, conscious obedience, or rejection. He wanted us to have the ability to love him in return and that ability also required giving us a choice for obedience or rejection of our Creator.

We need to discern and acknowledge which battle we are fighting. It is not against “those guys.” People who make different choices than some of us have made, have ultimately been directly or indirectly influenced by the rulers and powers playing in the heavenly battle over our souls. When all is said and done, we are all human beings put here on this earth for a purpose. Those of us who love God (the first great commandment) need to learn how to pass along the love with which God has loved us to love our neighbors as he has loved us. Does this mean that all of our behaviors are in keeping with his commandments? No, but it means that we still need to love each other so that we aren’t inhibiting others from seeing the God who loves us all, and gave himself up for us.

Would I like to see us all get along? Absolutely. Do I acknowledge that there are forces at work dividing us as people? Yes, for sure. Are there behavior patterns that go against God’s design for us? Yes, there are. Is it my job to poke a finger in your eye to point out those behaviors? No. It is God’s job to judge. It is my job to love the person next to me so that they can see God through me. It is God’s truth that brings light to our path. Don’t take the toothpick out of your brother’s eye before you have taken the log out of your own eye.

Yes, many, if not most, will not accept the truth of God’s word. But let’s not put ourselves in the position of being the arbiters of who has and who has found grace under his truths. Scripture tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is taking the log out of your own eye before worrying about the speck in your neighbor’s eye. I have many logs to remove. Perhaps you do as well. Let’s learn how to love one another and be distributors of God’s grace in generous amounts as has been given to us. Let’s help our neighbors see who God really is.

On Being Thankful

All around the USA today will be a day when we pause to give thanks. We know that those who traveled here from Europe in the 17th century, together with their Native American Image result for thanksgivingfriends, paused to give thanks to God for their first harvest in this new land. George Washington issued a proclamation of thanksgiving during his Presidency. In 1863, with a country torn apart by the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared a national day set aside for “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” The setting is an interesting one for the declaration of a day of thanksgiving.

In case you were wondering, we are not the only country that takes a day to give thanks. At least 11 other countries have similar holidays. It is important to have a thankful heart. We need a time when we can set aside our anxieties and remember to give thanks. A time when we can give thanks to God for each other. A time when we can give thanks for life itself. Yes, even a time when we can give thanks for those things that God has provided for us.

I think it is no stretch to say that a thankful heart makes us glad. Happy people tend to live longer. There is another side to it as well. It’s been said, “Harboring bitterness (not being thankful) is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” A thankful heart is a healthy heart. We have so much for which to be thankful. According to a February 11, 2016 Time magazine article, happy people are not as prone to sickness, are healthier over all, and as a result live longer.

Thankfulness is an attitude of the heart. In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul writes about thankfulness and contentment. He writes, “The Lord is at hand: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Nearly all of us face some sort of personal challenge on a regular basis, whether it be sickness, financial, work, or relationships. Yet even in this we can give thanks. Give thanks to a God who will carry us through these times. There are people in this world who are much worse off than nearly any American but they have learned how to be thankful. There is an old Dutch proverb that says, “They are not poor that have little, but they that desire much. The richest man, whatever his lot, is the one who’s content with his lot.” Where do we find our contentment? How many of us grew up dirt poor, but we were rich because we didn’t know we were poor.

Paul wrote this, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” What is that secret?

I go back to the two great commandments which are that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. That secret is buried in these two great commandments. The first helps us know that there is a God who is sovereign, who created the universe, and cares about us at an individual level, and we love and worship Him. The second helps us take our eyes off of ourselves and our own pity party and look out for the needs of others. No matter how bad our situation, we can always find those who are in a worse position than the one we are in. In that fourth chapter of the letter to the church at Philippi, Paul gives us the foundation for his contentment and thankful heart. In verse 19 he writes, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Can we take that promise by faith. Can we believe that the God who created this universe, the far reaches of which are still being discovered, cares enough to meet your needs and my needs? If we can do that, we can live a life of thanksgiving. We can be thankful that we know our God who rules this mighty universe cares about you and me enough to make sure that all our needs are covered. Let’s choose to be thankful this holiday season.

Thanks for taking time to read today’s ramblings.

Another World?

Today I began a journey of a different sort. I disconnected from Facebook and am opting, instead, to express my thoughts on platforms that give the opportunity for legacy and Image result for sword and trowelmeaningful discourse. At the same time, I am acknowledging that I am a stranger and alien in this world (Eph 2:12-19) and that the dialog in that particular public square is more about “civilian affairs” (2Tim 2:4) than things that matter for the generations that follow, and indeed, for eternity.

Am I backing away from the public square? No. I continue to believe that we should be in the world but not of the world. Yet, as I told a dear friend, posting words of wisdom is quickly lost in the haystack of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD). Those who would spread FUD without wisely discerning the truth of what they’re posting have begun to far outweigh the caring and personal touches that once were the hallmark of this platform. The vitriol has reached such a noise level that truth is impossible to discern. I believe that the rhetoric is being used by the principalities of the air to create confusion even among those who want to follow Jesus as the Truth, the Way, and the Life.

In another transition of leadership thousands of years ago, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1) He repeated this message several times until Joshua got it. God told him that I will never leave you or forsake you, so be strong and courageous. This is a message that is decried in our society today. A life with God is not a FUD life, but rather one of being strong and courageous. A life of faith requires conviction and confidence. God has told us that he has put government leaders into place (Rom 13). We can choose to believe that our God is sovereign over all of his creation … or not. If, indeed, God does rule over his creation, then what have we to fear. We should go forward being strong and courageous!

School break is a wonderful thing and it afforded me the opportunity to have coffee yesterday with two of my grandsons. We just hung out and talked about life. One is a gifted writer who will be a spokesman for others one day. He writes with a passion not often found in today’s young people. The other is three years further on in life and looking for answers on such things as work/life balance. Wow! Where have the years gone? This is a world to which I am choosing to dedicate my energies. Teaching the next generation what it means to live a life that is pleasing to God. Christ’s half-brother James, led by the Holy Spirit, wrote these words in chapter 1 of James, “26  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. The prophet Micah wrote similarly in chapter 6 verse 8, “He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Teaching this world, one person at a time, the meaning of the two great commandments is a mission upon which I have set myself years ago and one that I must once again take up renewing my energy with strength and courage. The next generation will lead in a very different world, but a world, that is no less under the sovereign watchful eye of the God of the universe. The efficacy of Christ’s work on the cross is not fading. It is and will be as powerful as it was in the days of the early church.

So, at least for the moment, I must focus my energies on building up the next generation and put aside the civilian cares of this world, pressing on to the mark of the high calling to which we have all been called.

In the picture with this post you’ll see a sword and a trowel. Nehemiah took on the mission to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. His workers needed a sword to defend themselves from the attackers and a trowel to continue building the wall. Nehemiah 4:17-18 says, “Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped to his side while he built.” In the same way we need to be about the business of defending the faith while building up and preparing the next generation to carry on the work to with we have been called.

God bless you all and let’s prepare today’s world for the world to come.

Why Do I Do The Things I Don’t Want To Do?

Romans 7 is a classic passage for those who fight against our human reactions and responses to different situations. The Apostle Paul begins by telling us that the wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (6:23). None of us wants to sin, but as long as we’re in these earthly bodies and until we inherit our glorified bodies we will have a battle with sin. Paul says beginning in 7:18, For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So what’s the point? This week I received an article regarding a well known golfer who, while he is a believer, is known for brash comments, angry reactions to poorly played golf shots, and a reputation in the club house of being less than cordial at times. The media have pretty much diminished this man’s Christian witness by pointing out his judgmental and behavioral shortcomings as a juxtaposition against his claims of faith. It is a sad situation, indeed, when the media pick up on such things to point out our behaviors that don’t honor God. Yet, if we all lived in the public eye as this man does, how would we be appraised in the public square?

I, for one, am reluctant to pass judgment on such a man because I too have banged my club to the ground when a golf shot is poorly hit. No, I’m not a professional like he is, but at times, I experience the same frustration. The frustration is unwarranted because I don’t commit the time to the game that might limit the number of errant golf shots. In this arena and others, I find Paul’s words to be so appropriate for me and my life. I am just glad that I’m not in the public eye like the tour pro is. But wait! Is that the end of the story? Is this all there is to the story of redemption and forgiveness that we find in Christ? To use the words of Paul again, may it never be!

This same Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi (3:12 ff), not that I’m already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus has made me his own. I forget what is behind me and strain forward to what lies ahead. Let those of us who are mature think like this. Let’s not be discouraged by our past failures. Let’s press on, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into right thinking and the resulting behavior. Let’s grab hold of the progress we’ve already made and claim that land.

Now here’s a bold statement, Paul tells the Philippians to imitate him. Imitate those who are following our example. Don’t follow those who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end is destruction. Don’t follow those who celebrate their accumulated wealth, or are proud of their “don’t give a damn” attitude and lifestyle. Live as a citizen of heaven whose priorities are aligned with the teachings of Scripture.

Paul writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.” (3:20-21) We ought to live as though we are anticipating the arrival of Jesus returning to take the people who have placed their faith in him, to heaven to be with him for eternity.

Are you living in expectation? Are you living in realistic anticipation, believing that he will come like a thief in the night, knowing that he will come without two weeks notice? None of us is perfect, but are we confessing our sins so that he can forgive our sins as he has promised? (1 Jn 1:9) You know confession is good for the soul. It keeps us mindful of our true condition as unworthy recipients of God’s grace. At some point we’ll talk about not living in a perpetual pity party, but for now let us understand that it is healthy for us to understand what we have done … or not … to deserve our salvation. God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) It is by grace (undeserved favor) we have been saved, through faith. And this (faith) is not of our own doing, it is the gift of God.

My friends and family, please let us live lives in such a way as to express our love and appreciation for the love that was so lavished on us.

Grace and Peace …

Preparing the Next Generation

This past Sunday evening I had the privilege of participating in a rare type of ceremony. Six men had gathered together to welcome one of my grandsons to manhood on the eve of


his 18th birthday. We had held a similar event for his brother three years ago on his 18th birthday. The young mens’ father believes strongly in positioning men for success in all aspects of life, including how to be a man who is successful in life.

In this circle of men were gathered, both of his grandfathers, his brother, his uncle, his track coach, and his dad. These are all men who are committed to helping Matt succeed in life. Such success begins with a thirst and search for wisdom. These men are available to Matt as resources from whom to draw wise counsel and direction when confronting decisions that we all know he will face. This special evening generated some reflection on how we prepare the next generation for the world they will face. Some of those thoughts would be:

  1. Without a biblical worldview and a level of absolute truth they will be tossed about by the leanings of the loudest voices in their world. We all know how stable those voices will be in providing a foundation for truth and values. Even churches who profess to value tradition find themselves being tossed to and fro as the demands of society weigh on those traditions.
  2. An intentional committed group of mentors and elders will be an invaluable resource for someone figuring out his or her role in life. Breaking down barriers to communications across the generations is essential to the success of learning from the wisdom of our forefathers.
  3. A peer group firmly grounded in a biblical worldview with a firm grip on an eternal truth system is essential. There is a reason that the Bible continues to be the best selling book year after year, generation after generation. There really are  eternal absolute truths and values. Choose your friends well.

Understanding our world from God’s view is essential to navigating the challenges put before us in a fallen world. Man was created in the image of God. In this image he has the ability to make choices. From the very first man and woman (Adam and Eve) the choices we’ve made have strayed from God’s desires and wishes for our welfare.

God gave us Scripture so that we could know Him better and learn from the way He has loved us and given Himself for us. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof and  correction. If indeed Scripture is God-breathed, wouldn’t it be prudent to develop our worldview around His instructions?

As we prepare our children and grandchildren to lead in their world we should position them to win with truth and commitment to being available as counselors to help guide them until our days are completed. We need to make the most of every opportunity to invest in the future leaders of the world we will leave behind. We need to teach them to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. We need to help them change the trajectory of relative truth to a system where there are some foundational truths that are not circumstantial nor do they have the flexibility of bending with the loudest voices or even the vast majority of voices.

I consider it an honor to have been invited into my grandson’s world through his celebration of his 18th birthday and launching into manhood. I hope and pray that I made the most of that opportunity.

I would urge all my readers to consider by what vehicle, event, or method they will launch their successor generations into responsible manhood and womanhood.

Preach the Gospel …

There is an old saying that counsels us as believers to preach the gospel and if necessary to Image result for Word of Goduse words. Christ advised that the two great commandments were (1) that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and (2) that we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Christ later challenged us to love our neighbors in the same way that He loved us. So what are we to do with these commands? How then, should we preach the gospel?

First of all, we need to have the word of God hidden in our hearts so that we would not sin against God (Ps 119:11). With God’s word as a foundation and guide for our lives, we have a body of truth on which we can conduct lives and interactions with others. Following God’s word we will do such things as leaving the judging of the world to God. We will do everything in our power to point people to Jesus in such a way as to not be a hindrance to God’s desire to draw all men to Himself (Jn 12:32). I’ve told this story before, but there was a time when I carried the burden of being God’s salesman. One day He showed me that no one comes to the Father unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44). This changed my entire approach. This gave me the freedom to set aside my agenda and focus on being a friend and pray earnestly that God would use our interactions to draw my friends. It really is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that opens the eyes of our hearts to the truth of the gospel and the battle that we are waging against evil.

Secondly, when Christ was dealing with the world, he knew their hearts and knew how to address their heart needs. In the same way, we need to know our audience. We need to learn to speak God’s word in such a way that will shed light rather than confuse. Remember we are to be salt and light in this world. Our job is to facilitate the seeing of God’s truth and through our love to help others see God. The Bible calls this speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Recent history is filled with stories where well-intentioned Christians simply point hurting people to scripture, without loving them first and guiding them to the truth of scripture later. Yes, we know what the Bible says, but the writer of the book of Hebrews penned these words, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Heb 5:12-13). And the Peter wrote in his letter to the church, “Like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

So we see that we are all on a journey. Some of us are ready for the meat of the word  but others who are just beginning, are needing the milk to nurture their growth into salvation. Children, grandchildren and friends, let us be men and women who, under the power of the Holy Spirit, are able to discern the needs of those with whom we come in contact and communicate Gods’ word (truth) in love. Jesus said in his prayer recorded in John 17, “Your word is truth.” Communicating the truth in love does not mean hiding the truth. It means speaking God’s word like we believe that it is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword penetrating to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Allow God’s word to flow through you by your actions and allow it to flow in love.

Hopefully this will help encourage us to rightly handle the word of Truth.