Tag Archives: How should we then live

Word of the Day – Posterity

The last couple of entries posted here have been shared posts from other folks whose blogs I follow. The more I read, the more I see and know that others have insights worth Image result for posteritysharing here for my posterity. Most of us will have a posterity. Our posterity is that future generation which emanates from us, our children grandchildren and their children after them.

Our posterity will look for clues that would help define us long after we’re gone. I have spent some time understanding how my ancestors led their lives. I know that I am responsible for my own decisions, but we all have leanings and tendencies. Understanding my ancestors can, at times, help me understand how my family adopted the values and worldview with which I was raised.

God understood the importance of teaching truth to one’s posterity. In the book of Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 11, we see these words, “teach them diligently to your children,” and “teach them to your children.” The concept of teaching truth to our posterity will plant tendencies and leanings in their hearts. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.” So, in these passages, we see that God understands the importance of legacy and the promise that our posterity will look back to our generation for understanding. These days we refer to the reputation we leave for those who follow us as a legacy. Our posterity will look back to our legacy for instruction and a baseline of those things we held to be truths for our lives.

I like to think of it as “paying it forward” or a gift to my grandchildren and great grandchildren, including those I will never meet this side of heaven. The money we leave behind will provide short-term blessing and perhaps cover a few bills. The legacy we leave for our posterity will give them a foundation on which they will build their worldview or system of truth.

What happens in the event that the early years of our lives weren’t something that you’d want them to emulate? It is never too late. I had an uncle who accepted Christ in the final days of his life. Upon making that decision, he called his boys, who were already grown men, to his bedside and told them about a wasted life and implored them to take a different path. That single conversation changed the future for those men and their children. Granted, not all stories end so well, but God planted in my uncle the thought that this was a nugget of truth that must be passed along. Too many of us view our faith as a private matter, and so, are reluctant to discuss such things with others. Christ taught us to let our lights shine among others so that they too might believe.

Life is like a train rolling down the track. We all need the voices of people in our lives who will let us know there is trouble ahead. Sometimes it is a friend, many times, however, it is the voice of a parent calling across the years, a voice we long to hear once again. The other day a family member was feeling stress and I was able to share with my posterity a song that my mother would sing in times like these. Even though she is no longer with us, her voice and her solid foundation of faith still serve as an encouragement to me and my family.

I’m engaging in this blog so that one day my posterity will have something to look to as a reference point for what Papa would think or say during a particular situation. I’d encourage all of us to find ways to leave bits of wisdom and legacy for our posterity.

Here is a promise from the Lord: “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children.” (Psalm 103:17) Our God will honor those who love him to multiple generations that follow. We should use this to renew our commitment on behalf of our posterity. Just as I am a product of the faithfulness and prayers of my ancestors, I want my posterity to have that same blessing that will be carried on for generations of generations, until the Day of the Lord arrives

Victory Over Sin Isn’t An Event

One of the blessings of being part of a community of bloggers is that I get to read some thoughts and reflections that are expressed with crystal clarity on topics that need to be brought to our attention. God is very big on remembering. On many occasions throughout the journeys of the children of Israel, God would tell His people to have feasts and erect monuments for the purpose of remembering. In the same way, reading purposefully what God has put into the hearts of others, is a helpful way of calling our attention to the truths of His word, to take back to the Scriptures which help us remember who God is.

This issue of victory over sin is a reminder of God’s grace and never ending love for us. The apostle Paul lamented that sometimes he did the things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do the things he wanted to do. (Romans 7:7 ff)

Today I’m sharing the story of a woman who is deeply committed to following Jesus. Her thoughts about the journey here on earth are worth sharing with my readers. A helpful reminder of the grace and patience of our God.

While the original post can be found at Growing4Life, I’ve posted her comments here.   The words of Leslie …

When I was a young married woman, I had a big problem. Without going into details, worry was something I battled on an almost daily basis and it was strangling the life out of me. At least that is how it felt. I was able to function normally so I truly doubt most people knew the battle I faced every day.

But God graciously rescued me and He used two verses to help me–

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

and

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

He used the first verse to show me that I needed to take every thought captive in obedience to my Savior. This included all of my fretful thoughts that started with “but what if…” and I had a lot of those. And He used the second verse to remind me that my fear was a hopeless trap and that I could instead turn to the Lord, trust in Him, and be safe in His sovereign care.

It wasn’t instant and it took a lot of hard work (Philippians 2:12) but it was so worth it! I begged God to give me victory over this sin and He answered! I walked out of my prison of worry and into the bright light of freedom and trust in my sovereign, heavenly Father.

I very naively thought I had beat that horrible sin in my life. But I was wrong.

Fast forward many years. Life slowed down and, suddenly, I had that very precious commodity of time on my hands. My life that had basically been the same for so many years started changing… and changing… and changing. Questions and quandaries I had never really prepared for abounded. And, quite without warning, this terrible sin reared its ugly head and viciously attacked me. Well, let me rephrase that– as that makes me sound like the victim. In reality, I gave it an opening and it rushed in and almost ate me alive.

I am on my way to victory once again but it has been rough. I have struggled to not let the fear and worry control me but it has been quite a battle. And I have tried to understand why this sin came back without warning and with such a vengeance.

As I have thought about it (I know, I know–I just think wayyyy too much), I wonder if it isn’t for three reasons–

First, I believe I may have been so distracted during my very busy years of raising kids and running the business that I forgot I had this struggle. I had few moments to myself during that time and when a rare solitary half hour came I was too excited about it to spend even a precious second of it on worrying. Now that I have so much time alone– which leaves me with far too much time to think–I have found my mind wondering in the sinful directions of anxiety and worry.

Second, I naively (and perhaps proudly) believed that my battle with this particular sin was over. The return of this sin in my life has been a good and hard lesson for me. It has taught me that no sin is ever “conquered”, showing me that I must always be on guard since even “conquered” sins can sneak their way back into our lives if we aren’t careful. Victory over sin is not an event but is carefully maintained through humble examination throughout our lives.

Third, I am quite sure I didn’t (probably still don’t) have a proper view of God’s Sovereignty. This is really the root of almost all anxiety, fear, and worry. Every day we hear of the most horrible things that happen to people. Stories hit the news and we talk about them with our family and friends, reeling at the awfulness of them, knowing that the same thing could happen to us. Something I read by John Newton a month or two ago was instrumental in reminding me of one very important fact: Nothing can happen to me outside of God’s plan. Here is what he wrote–

“When believers die–whatever the accident or the illness may be–they are only the means, but not properly the cause of their death. They die because the time has come when He who loves them best, will have them with Him to behold His glory!

Until then, they are immortal. They recover from sickness, however threatening, and are preserved unhurt–in defiance of the greatest dangers! But when His appointed hour arrives–then they must depart. When He will have them with Him–we cannot detain them; nor ought we to wish it, though the flesh will feel the parting stroke.

None of us can be perfectly happy in this poor fleeting world. It is a state in which sin and sorrow will hunt us and pain us to the last step of life! Therefore, though we wish to keep those whom we love with us as long as we can–it is well both for us and them, that we cannot live here always. We are in the Lord’s hands–and He does all things wisely and well, at the right time and in the right manner.

Death is but a temporary separation. Those who are gone before us, are waiting for us. Oh! It will be a happy meeting before the throne of the Lamb–out of the reach of sin and sorrow, to meet and part no more!”

Oh, this is so true!

And as I have reflected on this sin that I thought had disappeared from my life forever, I realized that it had only lay dormant for many years, while I faced many battles with other sins, and then rushed back just when I least suspected.

And so I am back in the Word, re-memorizing the verses that were so helpful to me many years ago and finding new verses to memorize that will help me. And I am working very hard to take my thoughts captive–determinedly turning my brain from the worrisome, anxious thoughts before they spiral downward and out of control.

This is very personal to share this morning. But I share it here because I hope that this will encourage you, my readers, in several ways–

1. I hope it will remind you that our battles with sin are never over. They ebb and flow but we should never think we have beaten something completely. Knowing this will keep us on our guard against it and help us to maintain victory. Victory over sin is not an event but rather a lifetime of watchful maintenance.

2. If you are fighting against worry or anxiety–or any other sin, for that matter–I hope this encourages you, too, to take your thoughts captive. I hope that you will realize that you can win your battle with sin, through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. And I hope that God may use this post to keep you from throwing your hands up in despair and just giving up.

3. I hope this will remind you of the power of God’s Word in our lives as believers.  God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it is profitable for reproof and for correction (2 Timothy 3:16-17)–which is exactly what we need sometimes! The Bible is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) and without it, we are defenseless. May we remember this always but particularly in our fiercest battles.

Now go fight your personal battle with the sin that threatens to overtake you, relying on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for the strength and the wisdom you so desperately need. And stay watchful, because although the sin may disappear for awhile, it remains there waiting to pounce on you just when you least suspect it. We can stay spiritually strong and be prepared to fight by staying in the Word and walking closely with our heavenly Father–which is always our safest place.

Breaking the Code v. 4

Often we invite people to church and want and expect that they’ll feel comfortable in this place where we go to worship as a body of believers.

I’ll never forget my friend Joe (not his name) who was having trouble in his home and Image result for worshipgenuinely looking for answers. So I invited him to come to church with us and he agreed that maybe he’d find something there that would comfort and calm his storm. We walked in together and found a seat. Everything was good. Then the music started and everyone stood up. One song after another and by the middle of the third song, Joe’s eyes were as big as a full moon and it was obvious that he had no idea what was going on. I had not done a good job of preparing Joe for what was going to happen. Joe gave it one more chance, but could not absorb a service clearly aimed at mature believers. To this day I pray that God will have used that experience for good in Joe’s journey.

We Christians have this thing we do that is called worship. But what is worship? The first usage of this term is found in Genesis 22 where Abraham took his son Isaac up to the mountain to worship. The word means to prostrate one’s self before a divine being, or in Abraham’s case, to submit himself to the will of God. Other implications include to give reverence to, to pay honor to, to bow down humbly. From these various phrases, we come to understand that when we worship, we are bowing our hearts to God’s holiness and majesty. From this, we see the attitude with which we gather together each week for worship.

Worship is more than just the musical portion of the service, yet we have “worship leaders/pastors” who lead only in the music intended for us to sing praises to the Lord our God. I have concerns about this being another area where our terminology is being holy-hijacked by a group of well-meaning people. The worship portion of the service has come to mean the singing of songs of praises to God. The Lord gave us His hymnal in the book of Psalms to show that He wanted us to sing to Him. He tells us to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth.” (Psalm 100:1) Many of the songs we sing today contain key phrases from these ancient Psalms.

In many churches, we continue our worship by remembering the work of Christ through His death and resurrection, in the act of communion. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 tells us, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Some churches celebrate communion every week, some monthly, and some quarterly. But nearly all Christian churches celebrate communion as a part of their worship.

Bringing our tithes and offerings is another part of our declaring His provision and goodness by returning a portion of the blessings He has given to us. Malachi 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. And in 1 Corinthians 16:2 we read, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” We make a statement of honor and reverence when we return to Him a portion of what He has provided for us.

Listening to the teaching of His word, the Bible is another part of our act of worship. Something that those who love God want to hear is what He has to say to us as recorded by those He chose to receive His words through His Spirit breathing out what they should write. 2 Timothy 3:16 assures us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Listening to the teaching of Scripture bends our heart and will to His commands and instruction.

The worship service was somewhat described in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In chapter 3 verse 16 he writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” It is interesting to note that at the top of the list is the teaching of the word.

When you come to your next worship service keep in mind the many ways that we humble ourselves in reverence to our God. We submit to His word, we remember the work that Christ completed on the cross, we bring our tithes and offerings and we sing praises (most of us make a joyful noise) to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. (Psalm 95:6) If God is who we claim He is, He deserves our true worship, adoration, and obedience.

There are as many different styles of worship as there are churches. Find a church where the music connects your heart to God and the teaching stays true to the meaning of the Scriptures and focuses on pointing you to Jesus as the author and finisher of your faith.

Blessings!

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.

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.

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.