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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Used to Rule the World

What-HappenedI read an interesting article this morning titled, The Rise and Fall of Wealthy Nations, published in U.S. News and World Report on November 12, 2012. It is actually a fifth blog in a series on the world’s next potential superpowers (previous blogs have covered the European Union, Russia, and Turkey, and ensuing blogs will be about India, Brazil, and China). Part of the blog post concerned “wealth cycles.” Here’s a quote from the article:

“An excellent place to look at these wealth cycles is Ray Dalio’s “Why Countries Succeed and Fail Economically(PDF file). His work spans back to the 1500s as he tries to observe the patterns of wealth in the rise and decline of nations. According to this study countries typically go through five cycles/stages of growth:

  • “Stage 1: Countries Are Poor And Think They Are Poor.” The country is underdeveloped and people work hard but have very low income and cannot save—thus, they don’t waste money. The government does not have any real investments as private capital markets do not lend to them.
  • “Stage 2: Countries Are Getting Rich Quickly But Still Think They Are Poor.” The courtiers are getting rich and productivity is increasing. People are still working hard but now they are making more money and can save it but they still behave like people in Stage 1—they do not waste money. In this stage of development a country’s savings and investments experience rapid expansion and private money is flowing into these emerging markets.
  • “Stage 3: Countries Are Rich And Think Of Themselves As Rich.” “Economic decadence” sets in and people and their governments focus more on enjoying the fruits of their past labor instead of working, producing, and saving. Countries that are large are typically economic and military superpowers during this stage. This is when importing and debt rises simultaneously for both the government and its people. No one is saving and money is being “wasted” on so called non-essentials.
  • “Stage 4: Countries Become Poorer And Still Think Of Themselves As Rich.” As people and their governments try to retain their level of standards of living, rising debt is accompanied by excessive leveraging.
  • “Stage 5: Countries Go Through Deleveraging And Relative Decline, Which They Are Slow To Accept.” Governments begin to print money as asset values and net worth declines both of the people and the government. These previous economic and military superpowers begin to see their influence decline.

“China is in Stage 2 and there is much debate about whether the United States is in Stage 4 (somewhere between Stage 3 and 5 depending on whom you believe). Perhaps both new governments of China and the United States should remember that in the end large debt and excessive leveraging coupled with wars speeds up the march to Stage 5 (quote source here).

Did you notice what it said about the United States? It said there is much debate about whether the United States is in Stage 4 (somewhere between Stage 3 and 5 depending on whom you believe). Let’s see . . . Stage 4. What’s our national debt right now? As of this moment (and it just passed), it was $16,492,434,000,000. That’s almost 16.5 TRILLION dollars of debt. You can see it for yourself at the U.S. National Debt Clock (click here for link).

I don’t know why there is so much debate about it. I realize I’m not an economist but that’s a heck of a lot of national debt by anyone’s standard. And what does the article say about “Stage 4? It’s states, “As people and their governments try to retain their level of standards of living, rising debt is accompanied by excessive leveraging.” And what happens in “Stage 5? “Governments begin to print money as asset values and net worth declines both of the people and the government. These previous economic and military superpowers begin to see their influence decline.”

Hmmm . . . does that sound like what has been happening in the United States over the past decade or so? As our nation becomes poorer every single day we still think we are rich. And, our government has printed massive amounts of money over the past decade or so to try to stimulate the economy. Did it work? Look at the U.S. National Debt Clock again. No, it didn’t work, and it never will.

Now before I go any further, I want to make it clear that this is not a politically motivated post. While both parties have contributed significantly to the problem, it isn’t specifically “owned” by either political party or any administration past or present. The information presented above is for your information and consideration. As a nation, we are in serious economic trouble and other superpowers are emerging around the world and we need to pay attention.

I’d like to go back two thousand years and take a look at the political/cultural/religious setting that Jesus Christ grew up in and where He ministered during his last three years before his crucifixion (and resurrection). In an article titled, Life of Jesus–First Century Context of Palestine (Israel), a description of the political setting is as follows:

“For thousands of years, the Jewish people were primarily subject to foreign rule (Egyptian, Syrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, etc.), with only brief periods of independence. In the first century, Romans ruled the Mediterranean area known as Palestine (modern day Israel), where Jesus was born and lived his life. In the hierarchy of power, the Jewish self-government reported to the authority of the local Roman government (King Herod), which reported to Rome (Emperor Caesar)” (quote source here).

Jesus’ world was nothing like our own here in America. The Roman Empire was in full swing, and the local government under King Herod reported directly to the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who was emperor until his death in 14AD. If you want to know more about King Herod, also known as a ruthless king of the Jews and enemy of Jesus Christ, you can read an article titled, Herod the Great–Ruthless King of the Jews,” at Christianity.about.com.

The cultural setting of Nazareth and the surrounding area where Jesus spent most of his life was a farming village “similar to many farming villages throughout the world where life was patterned after traditions, roles and rituals passed down from many generations beforehand” (quote source here). As for the religious setting “Jewish leaders fought for the purity of their belief in one God in the face of conflicting foreign religions. Yet at the same time, they fragmented into sects divided over variations of the Jewish law:

  • The Jewish people believed in one God (monotheism) who was invisible and could not be portrayed. In contrast, the surrounding cultures believed in many gods (polytheism) who could be represented by images or idols.
  • Jewish tradition was centered on the Sabbath Day – the day began on Friday at sundown and ended at Saturday sundown. Sabbath was started with prayer, the lighting of the candles by the wife of the household, followed by a joyful Friday supper. Sabbath was considered to be a day of rest and worship, where everything one did was in honor of God.
  • The Jewish people were seeking a “Messiah” or savior – they were waiting for the leader God had promised who, according to their understanding, would bring them spiritual renewal and political freedom from centuries of foreign oppression, currently from the Roman Empire.
  • The culture of first century Israel was very interested in the supernatural – it was common for people to believe in curses and be controlled by superstitions.
  • The major religious holiday during the Jewish year was the Passover feast celebrating the deliverance of the Jewish people from their slavery in Egypt. During the Passover, many Jews would travel to Jerusalem in order to celebrate in the holy city. This is why Jesus and his disciples traveled to Jerusalem for their last supper together – they were celebrating the Passover. This is also the tradition that caused so many Jews to be present in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion” (quote source here).

Jesus’ mission during his time on earth was not to overthrow the current political setting that was many times very unjust and cruel, although many who believed in and followed Him thought that was His mission at the time. No . . . . His first public statement (after John the Baptist was arrested) is found in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 

And after His crucifixion and resurrection, His Great Commissiongiven to His disciples, found in Matt. 28:18-20, was (and still is) “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus did not come the first time to set up His own kingdom here on earth, but to proclaim that “the kingdom of God is at hand and to repent and believe in the gospel.” For those of us who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, that mission has not changed. “Repent and believe in the gospel” is the message that still rings out loud and clear in our nation today as well as the rest of the world regardless of the political climate we may find ourselves living under. For further information, Dr. Mark D. Roberts has written an excellent article titled, What Was the Message of Jesus? that includes an in-depth discussion on the mission and message of Jesus to include what Jesus meant when He proclaimed that the kingdom of God is at hand (click here for link to his article).

groundzerocrossHere in America, we mix Jesus with politics extensively to the point that the real message of Jesus gets heavily diluted. Jesus did not try to change the political climate of His day. He proclaimed that the kingdom of God is at hand, a kingdom not built by human hands or political systems. We get so wrapped up in railing against the political and cultural climate here in America that we forget the REAL message–the kingdom of God.

Kingdoms (and political systems) built by human beings, even on a small scale to include building our own little kingdoms in our own personal lives, will never stand the test of time. In America we can still vote for our politicians and representatives as we do not live under a dictatorship, but all human political systems are inherently flawed because, as Jesus stated, it’s about the kingdom of God that is at hand, not an established kingdom or political system already in existence.

Regardless of the political climate or the culture around us wherever we find ourselves on this planet of ours, our mission as Christians is the same today as Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection in Matt. 28:18-20“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

That is our true calling. Nations and empires have come and gone across the centuries, but the kingdom of God lasts forever. Jesus stated that He is coming back again soon to set up His kingdom in Revelation 22:12-13, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

So let’s never forget our real reason for being here . . . .

It’s about Jesus Christ.

YouTube Video: “Used to Rule the World” (2012) sung by Bonnie Raitt on her CD, “Slipstream”:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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Rescued

Rescued1Remember all those “damsel in distress” fairy tales from childhood (especially if you’re a Baby Boomer or older)? You know, like Cinderella or Rapunzel or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.” Seems there was always some harrowing experience that the damsel needed to be rescued from, and after much turmoil and some terrifying experiences with various villain types (you know, the “bad guys”), there was always a Prince Charming” type who showed up at exactly the right time and rescued them, and they lived “happily ever after.” Many a young girl in my generation grew up on such fairy tales and dreamed of finding their own “Prince Charming” when they became adults, only to find out that most men are, well, just regular guys, and not magical fairy tale characters who came into their lives to “rescue” them.

Unfortunately, this type of thinking was so pervasive among young women then (and now) that Lee Ezell wrote a book titled, The Cinderella Syndrome: Discovering God’s Plan When Your Dreams Don’t Come True,” (1994, republished in 2001) that combined “personal anecdotes and vivid case histories with advice from scripture . . . designed to help women burst the bubble of ‘fairy tale thinking’–waiting endlessly for the right someone or something to change their lives–and learn how to live happy, truly fulfilling lives–even in this less than perfect world” (quote source here).

If you are familiar with my posts or perhaps read my page titled, A Little About Me,” you’ll know that I’ve never been married. I didn’t set out to be single all of my life, and I came close twice to getting married (in my early 20’s and again in my early 30’s), but I have never been “in love,” not even with those two fellows, and because I have grown up in a generation where divorce has exploded all over the place (and my own parents divorced when I was a young girl even before divorce went “mainstream” in the culture), I never wanted to marry until I knew I was in love with a man. That’s the simplest and most basic answer I give to people who are curious as to why I’ve never been married. And you should see some of the looks I get (like they don’t believe me or something). Sigh . . . .

But back to the “Prince Charming” syndrome . . . I have known enough single women over the years to know that there are definitely stress points (like turning 30, or 35, or, egad . . . even 40) where women will sometimes make very foolish decisions that include marrying someone just to be “married” because of the stigma–and the feminist movement never really put much of a dent in this stigma in our society–of being–insert loud shrieking noise here“an older, unmarried woman.” It’s like it’s a plague or something.

As I’ve gotten older, I do get tired of having to explain myself (it’s like I have to apologize for being this age and never married) so I’ve stopped. If people can’t accept that I’ve never been married and want to think the worst (why is that anyway???), then so be it. Many times, I find more acceptance outside of Christian circles then inside them. And it shouldn’t be that way, either. Being divorced carries less stigma than being a never-married woman. Yet when I remind folks that the apostle Paul was never married, that doesn’t seem to matter to them. For some inexplicable reason, the stigma doesn’t stick to never-married men. Go figure . . . .

Well, as we all know, there is no “Prince Charming” nor is there any “Cinderella” for “Prince Charming.” There are just men and women doing the best (or maybe not the best) they can with the life they’ve been given. And the divorce rate is pretty high among Christians as well as the rest of the folks in our society (50%). So it’s pretty clear that nobody is being “rescued” by anybody out there. And we are all swimming in the same ocean.

I ran across a devotion that really started me thinking about all of this in Our Daily Bread titled Rescued.” It puts the perspective of “being rescued” back where it belongs. Let’s read it:

Rescued

Read: I Corinthians 15:1-4, 20-25

Manuel Gonzalez was the first rescue worker to reach the 33 miners trapped for 69 days in a Chilean mine explosion in 2010. At great risk to his own life, he went underground more than 2,000 feet to bring the trapped men back to the surface. The world watched in amazement as one by one each miner was rescued and transported to freedom.

The Bible tells us of an even more amazing rescue. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, all of mankind is trapped in sin (Gen. 2:17; 3:6,19; Rom. 5:12). Unable to break free, everyone faces certain death—physically and eternally. But God has provided a Rescuer—Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Everyone who accepts the free gift of salvation offered through His death and resurrection is freed from sin’s grip and its resulting death penalty (Rom. 5:8-11; 10:9-11; Eph. 2:1-10).

Jesus Christ is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). He was the first to be raised from the dead, never to die again. Likewise, all will be given life who put their faith in Christ (Rom. 8:11).

Are you still trapped in your sins? Accept Jesus’ gift of salvation and enjoy the freedom of life in Christ and eternity with Him (Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). ~C. P. Hia

~Thinking It Over~
What keeps you from calling out to God for spiritual rescue?
Do you fear that you are too bad for God’s grace?
Read and think about Romans 3:23-26.

Through His cross, Jesus rescues and redeems.

If we are looking for any human being to rescue us from a life going nowhere fast, it isn’t going to happen. The kind of “rescue” we need is only found in one Person, God’s only Son who became a man and walked among us–Jesus Christ. Not only can He rescue us from a life going nowhere fast, but He changes our destiny and gives us eternal life once this life of ours is over. It seems especially nowadays that nobody thinks about what’s going to happen when we die. No, we’re just concerned about today and getting everything we can get anyway we can get it. We are easily deceived when we only look at life from a human perspective and the “here and now” instead of from an eternal perspective. And folks, we are going to be in eternity a whole lot longer–forever–then we ever spent time here on this earth.

121014_tacoma_fireboat_660Four years and four months ago I started on a journey out of spiritual lethargy that I didn’t even realize had happened until I landed in Houston to start that ill-fated job. There is so much is our culture that has invaded our view of Christianity that if we are not studying the Bible regularly and praying and really developing our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not just what we get from a “Sunday morning” sermon with everyone else in church, we will just coast along and get sucked into anything that comes along. We can’t have an effective Christian life if we are not actively pursuing our relationship with Jesus Christ, and that doesn’t mean praying just when we need something. It means developing a relationship with Him, just like we would with a spouse or a friend, or anyone else we really care about. If we ignore any relationship we have, it will die, and it’s the same with our relationship with Jesus Christ. He doesn’t leave us. No, we leave Him by seeking out everything our society has to offer us to make us “happy” and then think going to church on Sunday morning is going to solve the problem when we haven’t given Him any quality time at all the rest of the week and maybe not even on Sunday morning, either.

In short, it’s not about us and what we want. It’s about Him and what He wants for us–the kind of life He wants to give us–a life that isn’t selfish and self-consumed and grasping for “more, more, more” of whatever or whoever it is we think will make us happy. It’s a lie and from the pit of hell. So why don’t we believe it?

Since I started off this post reminiscing about my childhood, I’ll end it with a saying that was popular years ago. I ran across it written on a plaque I found not long ago in some things from my childhood that used to hang on my bedroom wall when I was a little girl. If you’re around my age or older, you’ll recognize it immediately. It goes like this:

“Only one life it will soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Don’t let the things of this world blind you to the reality of eternity. Life is, indeed, short, and we never know when it will end. Don’t spend your time so focused on what you can get in the “here and now” that you totally miss out on what Jesus Christ wants to give you . . . life, real life, and not the world’s substitute.

“In the time of My favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you,
Now is the time of God’s favor,
Now is the time of salvation.”
~2 Corinthians 6:2

YouTube Video: “He’ll Do It Again,” sung by Shirley Caesar:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Unstoppable

Salmon Swimming UpstreamHave you ever tried to do something you knew you needed to do, yet every time you tried to do it it felt like you were swimming upstream? Well, that’s how I feel about my job search after almost four years. It’s not like I don’t have a network of professional colleagues who personally know me and my work after working in higher education for twenty years. So what gives?

Am I the only living, breathing, and well qualified person out there in higher education who can’t find a job anywhere? It sure feels like it. And everything I’ve read lately has stated that one of the fields where jobs have really been opening up especially over the past couple of years or so is in higher education. And I see the increase in the number of openings in my field of work every time I go looking for a job to apply for in Student Affairs/Student Services. And when I apply, I hear nothing. So what gives?

What gives? Can you sense my frustration?

This morning I looked ahead a few days in a devotional booklet I read regularly and came upon a devotion that gave me something to think about (well, they all do, actually), and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s titled, Unstoppable and is found in Our Daily Bread:

Unstoppable

Read: Numbers 22:10-34

“Under it. Over it. Around it. Through it. Nothing will stop me from doing it.” I often hear people express this kind of attitude when they get an idea or see an opportunity that seems good or profitable. They devote all of their resources to getting it done.

As evidence that this way of thinking may be flawed, I call as my witness a donkey—a donkey belonging to a man named Balaam.

Balaam was offered a profitable assignment from a neighboring king, and he inquired of God for permission to accept it (Num. 22). When God said no, the king’s representatives made a better offer. Thinking God might change His mind, Balaam asked again. God granted permission for Balaam to go with them but with strict conditions. God knew Balaam’s heart and was not pleased with him, so He placed His Angel in the way. Balaam couldn’t see the Angel but his donkey could. When the donkey refused to continue, Balaam became angry with the animal for blocking his progress.

Balaam’s story teaches us that not every obstacle is meant to be overcome. Some are placed by God to keep us from doing something foolish. When our plans are hindered, we shouldn’t assume that it’s Satan trying to stop us. It might be God trying to protect us.  ~Julie Ackerman Link

Let Your wisdom guide me ever,
For I dare not trust my own;
Lead me, Lord, in tender mercy,
Leave me not to walk alone. ~Reed

God is always protecting us—
even when we don’t realize we need it.

The story of Balaam is one we all should heed if we are trying to do something that is just not working out and/or from selfish motives. Sure, there are times when we can force our own way, like taking a job we shouldn’t have taken or buying a house or car that didn’t seem quite right. And, I’ve known some single women in years past who got married just to be married because they were tired of being single and had reached “a certain age” and the result was less than satisfactory. God knows our heart condition, and He also knows what is going on “out there” that we can’t see. But first off, we need to be right with the Lord–in right standing with Him with nothing standing between Him and us–not a job, or a house, or a car, or a spouse, or a money-making scheme, or material possessions, or sex, or (fill in the blank). As Jeremiah 17:9-10 (MSG) states, “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

God is the only One who knows how to get to the heart of each one of us. Oh, we can cover up just about anything with others but God knows our heart and the real condition that is within our heart and our mind. There is no “pretense” with Him. He sees it all. As the following verses in Jeremiah 17:11-14 (MSG) state, “Like a cowbird that cheats by laying its eggs in another bird’s nest is the person who gets rich by cheating. When the eggs hatch, the deceit is exposed. What a fool he’ll look like then! From early on your Sanctuary was set high, a throne of glory, exalted! O God, you’re the hope of Israel. All who leave you end up as fools, deserters with nothing to show for their lives, who walk off from God, fountain of living waters–and wind up dead! God, pick up the pieces. Put me back together again. You are my praise!”

Trust in the Lord @ www.vinyl-wall-decals.comWhen this journey of mine started four years and four months ago when I accepted that ill-fated job and moved to Houston at the end of September 2008, my spiritual condition was less than satisfactory but I didn’t even realize it. My life didn’t look any different from the other folks I lived and worked around who considered themselves to be Christian. And to this day I do not consider it a mistake that I accepted that job nor do I believe that God merely permitted me to take it against His will. No . . . . God has His reasons and it was to get to the heart of the matter which was my waning spiritual life. In other words, did I want life according to His plan for me or according to my own plan while I asked Him to bless my plan.

Many Christians in America have a tendency to do just that–make our own plans and then ask God to bless those plans. And, while we may get by with that type of thinking for a while, if we truly belong to Him we will eventually reach a point where the rubber meets the road. It’s at that point that we have to either make a decision to follow Him or to continue following what we want while asking Him to bless our own plans. It’s really a matter of the will–His will or our own will. And many folks continue on with their own will never heeding the call back to Him who is our source for everything we need (not want).

I was clearly faced with that choice back in late September 2008 when I landed in Houston, and I made a decision at that very moment when I understood it was His way or my way to relinquish my own plans for my life and follow Him. And while my life got very bumpy at times in the midst of a very messy situation, He protected me and got me out of it in His way (when I lost that job), and from that point on it’s been a very unique journey with many ups and downs since then but with a steady progression of moving forward in the right direction this time–in His direction–and not mine. That is not to say that I don’t get frustrated after all of this time of unemployment and not being able to understand why it doesn’t end. I do. But believe me when I say that the last thing I want is a job I’m not supposed to have just because someone offers it to me. I’d rather continue to remain unemployed until God opens the right door whether it leads to being employed in another job or leads in an entirely different direction. In fact, just this morning He reminded me again to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) and to stop trying to rush out ahead of Him because I am frustrated or bored.

As the author of the devotion above stated in the last paragraph, “Balaam’s story teaches us that not every obstacle is meant to be overcome. Some are placed by God to keep us from doing something foolish. When our plans are hindered, we shouldn’t assume that it’s Satan trying to stop us. It might be God trying to protect us.”

God knew Balaam’s heart, and He knows ours, too. So the next time we get frustrated about a situation or circumstance in our life and are tempted to try to force the issue on our own terms, think about Balaam. God knows our heart and why we are trying to force the issue. And He’s protecting us from future heartache that we don’t know about and can’t see. But will we listen?

We need to listen . . . .

YouTube Video: “Draw Me Close – Thy Will Be Done” sung by Marvin Winans:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Getting Out of Our Own Way

The just will live by faithEugene Peterson, in his introduction to the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament in The Message Bible, writes: “It seems odd to have to say so, but too much religion is a bad thing. We can’t get too much of God, can’t get too much faith and obedience, can’t get too much love and worship. But religion–the well-intentioned efforts we make to ‘get it all together for God’ –can very well get in the way of what God is doing for us. The main and central action is everywhere and always what God had done, is doing, and will do for us. Jesus is the revelation of that action. Our main and central task is to live in responsive obedience to God’s action revealed in Jesus. Our part in the action is the act of faith.

“But more often than not we become impatiently self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents’ worth. We add on, we supplement, we embellish. But instead of improving on the purity and simplicity of Jesus, we dilute the purity, clutter the simplicity. We become fussily religious, or anxiously religious. We get in the way.

“That’s when it’s time to read and pray our way through the letter to the Hebrews again, written for “too religious” Christians, for “Jesus and” Christians. In the letter, it is Jesus-and-angels, or Jesus-and-Moses, or Jesus-and-priesthood. In our time it is more likely to be Jesus-and-politics, or Jesus-and-education, or Jesus-and-Buddha. This letter deletes the hyphens, the add-ons. The focus because clear and sharp again: God’s action in Jesus. And we are free once more for the act of faith, the one  human action in which we don’t get in the way but on the Way.”

You can read the entire thirteen chapters in Hebrews in either the NIV 1984, NASB, NKJV or MSG by clicking here. The first several chapters tell us exactly who Jesus is and that He is the Centerpiece of everything we believe. If you have any doubts about Him, read the book of Hebrews to clear up any misconceptions you may have regarding Him.

For this post, I want to focus on the last two chapters, Chapters 12 and 13, and will be quoting directly from NIV 1984 version of the Bible. The chapter preceding these two chapters, Chapter 11, is known as the “Great Hall of Faith” chapter of the entire Bible. It starts out with these words:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 1:1-3).

Then it goes on to list the numerous folks from the past who lived by faith:

“By faith Abel . . .” (v. 4)
“By faith Enoch  . . .” (v. 5) with the addition in v. 6 of the following “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
“By faith Noah . . .”
(v. 7)
“By faith Abraham . . .” (v. 8-12)

An important statement is made in vv. 13-16 that I don’t want you to miss: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

The list continues with:

“By faith Abraham . . . “ (a continuation from vv. 8-12 in vv. 17-19)
“By faith Isaac . . .” (v. 20)
“By faith Jacob . . .” (v. 21)
“By faith Joseph . . .” (v. 22)
“By faith Moses’ parents . . .” (v. 23)
“By faith Moses . . .” (v. 24-28)
“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea . . .” (v. 29)
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell . . .” (v. 30)
“By faith the prostitute Rahab . . .” (v. 31)
And numerous others are mentioned in vv. 32-38, ending in v. 38 with the statement that “the world was not worthy of them . . . .”

The last two verses in Hebrews 11 (v. 39-40) state: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us [Jesus] so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Understanding the background of Chapter 11 clears the way for the last two chapters in Hebrews, Chapters 12 and 13. These chapters are not often spoken of in sermons today, yet the truth of them rings out loud and clear. Let’s read them (from NIV 1984):

God Disciplines His Sons (Chapter 12)

12: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Warning Against Refusing God

14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Concluding Exhortations (Chapter 13)

13 Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

20 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

22 Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.

23 [Ending remarks of his letter] I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. 24 Greet all your leaders and all God’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.

25 Grace be with you all.

As I mentioned in my last post, Running to Win the Prize,” discipleship (to include discipline) is not often spoken of in our churches today. I also cited an article titled, What Happened to Discipleship?” in The Christian Post which states, “There is a growing body of research demonstrating that there is a significant disconnect between professing faith in Jesus Christ and actually following Jesus.” The article continues, “The ‘modern’ idea of church . . . is that the church exists as a venue to ‘attract’ the lost through dynamic programs, performances and events–the more dynamic the better. . . . The problem with emphasizing this approach exclusively is that a disproportionate amount of the church’s time and resources go into these efforts at the expense of discipleship and training the already saved. The result is the proverbial church that ‘is a mile wide and inch deep.’ Yes, the local church may grow in numbers but rarely in spiritual maturity and the witness of the Church is often rendered lackluster” [Emphasis mine].

“A mile wide and and inch deep . . . .” The Christian life is not about “getting saved” and then just coasting along for the ride. Not at all . . . . And the Book of Hebrews cures that erroneous assumption if only we will heed what it says.

So the question is, will we heed what it says?

If only . . . .

Keep your lives free from the love of money
and be content with what you have
because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”
~Hebrews 13:5-6

and

Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday
and
today
and
FOREVER!
~Hebrews 13:8

YouTube Video: “By Faith” (2009) by Keith and Kristyn Getty:

Photo credit here

Running to Win the Prize

running the raceImagine for a few minutes that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ back during the time when He actually walked on this earth, and you were there in the crowd when He was crucified, shattering all of the hopes and dreams you placed in Him even though He explained to you that this very thing —His crucifixion— was going to happened to Him but that He would also rise again from the dead on the third day (see Matthew 16:21-25). As the stone cold reality of His death on that cross standing before you sends a shock wave through your mind and a dagger through your heart, somehow His words that He would rise again on the third day are totally lost, and your hope died on that cross with Him. Shattered, you leave the scene in despair. However, that is only the beginning of the story . . . .

Read the account of what happened next in Matthew 28:1-10:

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb [where Jesus was buried].

“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.’

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”

Once the women announce to you what they have seen and heard, you shake your head in disbelief and wonder if this could really be true. And at this point you head off to Galilee with the others to see if Jesus is really there. After all, you just witnessed his death two days earlier. How could this be?

Let’s pick up the story from there (Matthew 28:16-20):

Running-uphill“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Did you notice that when they saw Him, they immediately worshiped Him, but some doubted–some doubtedas in “How could this be? We just witnessed his crucifixion two days earlier.” Undaunted, Jesus made an amazing proclamation to them . . .

All . . . authority . . . in heaven and on earth . . . has been given to me. Therefore go . . . and make disciples of all nations . . . baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In evangelical circles across our nation today we hear a lot about the need to get people “saved” but not so much about making them “disciples.” In fact the whole topic of discipleship gets lost in the mix of getting people “saved,” yet Jesus was clear in His “Great Commission” above that He was commissioning and sending out His disciples to make “disciples” of all nations, not just converts. Today, most of the time we stop at the point of conversion. Why is that? Perhaps it is because our own personal lives have grown cold towards Jesus Christ and what He taught us about living this life as one of His followers on a daily basis and not just on Sunday morning in church or listening to the latest worship tunes on our drive to work.

A “disciple” is defined as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; a follower” (source: Dictionary.com). If we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ, then we should be adhering to what He taught us on how we should live our lives and how to conduct ourselves in our interactions with others (see Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount,” for example). Yet most of us can’t even name one or two of the items listed in the Sermon on the Mount,” (Matthew 5-7), let alone actually live them out in our daily lives.

So what exactly happened to discipleship in America? An article titled, What Happened to Discipleship?” in The Christian Post states, “There is a growing body of research demonstrating that there is a significant disconnect between professing faith in Jesus Christ and actually following Jesus.The article continues, “The ‘modern’ idea of church . . . is that the church exists as a venue to ‘attract’ the lost through dynamic programs, performances and events–the more dynamic the better. . . . The problem with emphasizing this approach exclusively is that a disproportionate amount of the church’s time and resources go into these efforts at the expense of discipleship and training the already saved. The result is the proverbial church that ‘is a mile wide and inch deep.’ Yes, the local church may grow in numbers but rarely in spiritual maturity and the witness of the Church is often rendered lackluster” [Emphasis mine].

In another article titled, Mass Exodus: Staggering Numbers of America’s Young People are Rejecting the Christian Faith,” published in The Truth,” the author states, “The truth is that the United States is quickly becoming a highly secularized nation. Europe has already been down this road, and now America is rapidly following . . . . But the most frightening thing of all is that we are losing almost an entire generation to the world.  Never before in U.S. history has an entire generation rejected the gospel as much as this one has. America’s young people are rejecting the Christian faith, and yet the Christian establishment keeps running around and telling everyone that everything is fine. Everything is NOT fine. The Church in America is broken. It is very rare to find a church where authentic Christianity is being practiced anymore. Our young people are not stupid. They know what is real and what is not. If the Church in America would repent and turn back to real, authentic Christianity at least we would have a chance of capturing the attention of those young Americans who are honestly looking for the truth.”

So is anybody in the Church today listening? We have so acclimated to the culture around us and become so much a part of it that we fail to see the truth right before our eyes. Not only are we not disciples ourselves, but our example and the way we live our lives is losing an entire generation of young people because they can see right through the hypocrisy in our own lives. We divorce at the same rate as our culture; we want more and more material possessions or money just like the rest of our culture; sex outside of marriage or adultery inside marriage is hardly even blinked at anymore and even if it is, lust is still a huge problem; and we aren’t particularly kind to strangers in our midst except on a surface level and if they are willing to become just like us.

sleepyheadAmerica needs a serious wake-up call. And it called discipleship. If we’re “saved,” we need prove it by the way we live our lives on a daily basis. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 9:23? “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Well, we have it backwards–we deny Him by following ourselves and what we want in this life. And attending church on Sunday morning and living the rest of the week any way we like isn’t going to fix that problem. No wonder we are losing the younger generation.

The apostle Paul compared this life in Christ to running a race. In I Corinthians 9:24-27, he states, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” And the author of Hebrews reminds us that . . . since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

So, the question is this . . . are we serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ, and if so, how does it play out in our daily lives and interactions with others and not just with family and friends but with coworkers, strangers and even our enemies? My generation (the Baby Boomers–born between 1946-1964) has played around with church for so long that not only are we lost, but we’re losing an entire generation of young people because of the blatant hypocrisy in our own lives. And it’s time to clean up our act . . . .

Or will we just roll over and hit that snooze button one more time?

“Go and make disciples . . .
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age”
~Jesus Christ

YouTube Video: “Here Am I, Send Me” by Keith Green (1953-1982):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

A Song To Remember

Sing a song“When you feel down and out, sing a song (it’ll make your day). Here’s a time to shout, sing a song (it’ll make a way). Sometimes it’s hard to care, sing a song (it’ll make your day). A smile so hard to bear, sing a song (it’ll make a way) . . . .” Those are the words in the first verse of “Sing A Song” by Earth, Wind and Fire (YouTube Video below).

There’s just something about happy music that puts a smile on my face, a spring in my step, and makes the worst of days so much better, and I bet it does the same for you, too, providing you like music–well, happy music. And who doesn’t? Music is the universal language of the world, and while it can bring us happy feelings, it can also instill sadness and fear (source here). However, one of it’s greatest attributes is that it can bring us great comfort in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances.

Three thousand years ago King David was known for his song writing abilities, and we have the words to many of His songs (psalms) in the Book of Psalms (over half of the psalms are attributed to him), as well as other writers known and unknown. Music and praise took him from the deepest pits of despair to the very throne of God in the midst of very trying and sometimes terrifying circumstances that didn’t immediately change, either. But he knew that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah (Selah means “pause and think about that”). Those words are from Psalm 46:1-3 composed by the Sons of Korah, yet they were also etched on the heart of David.

Get lost in the momentI must confess that one of the constants in my life during this very long ordeal with unemployment has been the power of music to lift me out of the doldrums and despair when the full force of almost four years of searching for that job that never seems to materialize gets the better of me. And, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, especially those with YouTube videos attached at the end of the post, you’ll know that my love of music extents way beyond Christian music to include the music from the era I grew up in (60’s & 70’s) and other contemporary secular music, too.

Christian music has a specific role, for the most part, of leading us to the worship of God and Jesus Christ, yet I have found many times in secular music there are profound truths in the words that the artists have composed regarding not only the nature of God (indirectly, of course) but a yearning for something more but written within the realm of human understanding as most of those composers do not acknowledge Christianity as a guiding force in their lives. Yet, as King Solomon (David’s son by Bathsheba and also considered to be the wisest man who ever lived) stated, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Eternity is set in the heart of every human being who has ever walked this earth right up to today whether or not we (or those who have gone before us) choose to acknowledge God (some do, many do not).

There is a great divide in the Church today regarding the secular and the sacred, especially when it comes to music. To get you thinking about this divide, you can read an article published in Relevant Magazine titled, When the Secular is Sacred.” While everything in this world can be used for either good or for evil and that includes music, when we listen to music that inspires us or makes us think about choices we have made or can make in a positive manner, or that inspires hope, the separation between secular and sacred diminishes somewhat. Yes, there is specific music (sacred music) that is specific to a church or Christian setting, particularly during worship times in church or religious settings, yet “out in the world” where we live and breathe for the rest of our week there is a whole variety of music that inspires us, too. After all, as Ecclesiastes 3:11 states, God has set eternity in the hearts of each and every one of us whether we acknowledge it (and Him) or not.

God gives His gifts to everyone, not just those who choose to believe in Him. And He doesn’t take that gift away from people just because they don’t use it to glorify Him in the way that many Christians think about music. The incredible variety of music we have in our world today is a testament to that very fact. The vast creativity of God is found, for example, in the wide variety of music in the many cultures that circle our globe, and that great variety is absolutely breath-taking. Music is, indeed, a universal language.

God cannot be pigeon-holed. We cannot put God in a box (see article here). And I’m not referring to plurialism, either. After all, Jesus Christ clearly states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father [God] except through me” (John 14:6). However, many Christians today do put God in a box of their own making, and anything that doesn’t fit in that box is suspect. Music is a great example of that. Yet God is sovereign over everything that happens on this earth and in the universe. His creative abilities are not limited in any way by our own prejudices. He is God! He does as He wishes and uses folks all the time to accomplish His will, even when they don’t recognize it or Him.

Having said all of that, there is still an element of music that is very specific to the worship of God, and that music lifts us to the very throne of God in the midst of all kinds of trials we face here in earth. The devotion for today in Our Daily Bread expresses this idea clearly:

A Song To Remember

Deuteronomy 31:16-22

I was delighted when I received a free gift in the mail—a CD of Scripture set to music. After listening to it several times, some of the melodies took root in my mind. Before long, I could sing the words to a couple of verses in the book of Psalms without the help of the recording.

Music can help us recall words and ideas we might otherwise forget. God knew that the Israelites would forget Him when they entered the Promised Land (Deut. 31:20). They would forsake Him, turn to idols, and trouble would follow (vv.16-18). Because of this, He asked Moses to compose a song and teach it to the Israelites so they could remember their past closeness with Him and the sin that hurt their relationship (31:19-22). Perhaps most important, God wanted His nation to recall His character: “[God] is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (32:4).

Consider what God might want you to remember about Him today. Is it His power, His holiness, His love, or His faithfulness? Can you think of a song that celebrates God’s character? Sing it in your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19). ~Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Give me a spirit of praise, dear Lord,
That I may adore Your name,
Sing praises from the depths of a grateful heart
To the One who is always the same. ~Dawe

Remembering God’s goodness puts a song in your heart.

I started out this post with the words to the first verse in “Sing A Song” by Earth, Wind and Fire, and I’ll end it with the last verse: “Bring your heart to believing, sing a song (it’ll make your day). Life ain’t about retrieving, sing a song (it’ll make a way). Give yourself what you need, sing a song (it’ll make your day). Smile, smile, smile and believe, sing a song (it’ll make a way).”

What (or rather Who) we need is Jesus Christ. So “smile, smile, smile and believe, sing a song (it’ll make a way)”–the only Way there is through Jesus Christ.

And that’s a song that will take you right on through this life to eternity!

YouTube Video: “Sing A Song” (1975) by Earth, Wind, and Fire:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Trouble Ahead

goodintentionsbadresultsIt is now a little over two weeks into a new year. Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? If so, how are you doing at this point in time? Good? Not so good? Well, we all start with good intentions, don’t we? We make resolutions to eat healthier, lose weight, start an exercise program, or maybe set some financial goals, like putting X number of dollars in a savings account each payday. We make it through the first week or two and so far so good, right? So maybe we’ll even make it through the first month (hard to say at this point since there are still another two weeks left in the month). Old habits are hard to break. Old habits are very, very, very hard to break.

Most of us look to a new year as a fresh start–a chance to try to get it right one more time (since it hasn’t worked so far). We look back at the past year with a sigh, thankful that it is over, and somehow at the magic hour of midnight on New Year’s Eve, we think it will all change for the better. Actually, it is just another day only with a new number for the new year attached to it, but it’s really no different then the previous 365 days in the old year. Yet, hope springs eternal that this will be “our” year for success. “Out with the old, in with the new,” we say. And here we are, seventeen days into a new year and, well, what has really changed? Anything?

Personally, I’m hoping this long saga of unemployment will finally end early on into this year. It would be nice after lasting almost four years at this point in time. But will it? Who knows? I’d also like to lose 50 lbs in a week (and so would the other 35% of Americans considered to be obese–that’s 78 million people according to an article in The Huffington Post. Both are pretty daunting goals (the second one definitely unreachable in a week but over a year it’s certainly possible). The first one I have no control over at this point in time (not that I ever did have any control over it), but I know Who holds the answer and He has His reasons for this very extended time of unemployment in my life. But I’ll tell you one thing–it’s been a real blessing to be away from office politics.

The author of the devotion for today in Our Daily Bread expressed the same great hope that the beginning of a new year brings, but as the year unfolded, it was more of the same. Let’s read it:

Trouble

Read John 16:25-33

I was glad to see the final days of the year draw to a close. It had held so much sorrow, sickness, and sadness. I was ready to welcome January with its very own brass band!

But as the first month of the new year arrived, so did one bit of sad news after another. Several friends lost their parents. My dad’s brother slipped away in his sleep. Friends discovered they had cancer. A colleague’s brother and a friend’s son both died tragically and abruptly. Rather than the sad times ceasing, the new year seemed to bring a whole new tsunami of sorrow.

John 16:33 tells us, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Even God’s children are not promised a life of ease, of prosperity, nor of good health. Yet we are never alone in our trouble. Isaiah 43:2 reminds us that when we pass through deep waters, God is with us. Although we don’t always understand God’s purposes in the trials we experience, we can trust His heart because we know Him.

Our God is a God of abundant love and “neither death nor life. . . nor things present nor things to come [will ever] separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). When trouble comes, His presence is His promise. ~Cindy Hess Kasper

Swift cometh His answer, so clear and so sweet;
“Yea, I will be with thee, thy troubles to meet;
I will not forget thee, nor fail thee, nor grieve;
I will not forsake thee, I never will leave.” ~Flint

Faith is believing that God is present
when all we hear is silence.

Life has a way of “getting in the way” of what we want, doesn’t it? We’ve been sold a bill of goods over the years that if we belong to God, we can expect certain things, like prosperity, or good health, or an easier life. However, Jesus clearly said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and yet when trouble comes our way we are surprised and wonder where God is in the midst of it and where is that peace He promised us?

Trouble aheadJames 1:2-4 makes it very clear that we will have trials of many kinds in this life, and James gives us the reason for it,  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” So why do many Christians at least here in America complain bitterly under trials? We are clearly told the reason for the trials–it is to test our faith and to develop perseverance so that we can be mature and complete, not lacking anything (and that’s not talking about materials possessions, either).

We live in an instant society. Athletes may be good at perseverance but the rest of us get upset the minute we stub our toe. The race we excel at is complaining, grumbling, and crying out to God to relieve us now. Our five-minute attention span can’t handle a long term trial of any kind, and if we have to endure it, we’ll do it complaining and grumbling all the way. We even get into “top this” misery stories with each other. And we have to look up perseverance in the dictionary to even understand what it is (but we’d rather complain and wallow in our misery, thank you very much). Maybe we get more attention that way. After all, misery loves company.

So, if we don’t understand what perseverance really is and what purpose it serves then we aren’t ever going to be “mature and complete” which is the goal of every trial we go through. Did you get that? Every trial has a God-given purpose in our lives–every single one. He doesn’t make mistakes. And it’s to make us “mature and complete” in Jesus Christ.

If you don’t know how to do it, James 1:5-8 has the answer, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

There are a lot of “doubters” sitting in church pews today. They trust in themselves far more then they trust in God. They trust in their own abilities to keep their lives on track and have little room for “God’s intervention.” When a trial comes up in their lives, they are quick to try to find the solution, many times running to and fro in a futile attempt to solve the problem on their own. Whatever happened to asking God for wisdom when a trial comes up and waiting for His answer instead of rushing ahead with our own solution? He clearly states that He will give it to us generously and without finding fault (a true blessing since humans like finding fault with each other all the time).

But here’s the rub . . . in order to get that kind of wisdom we must truly believe that He will give it and not doubt. We must have faith in Him and not in ourselves. And that means waiting for His answer and not pushing ahead with our own solution to the problem. If we force the issue and try to do it on our own, God has clearly stated that we cannot expect anything from Him because we doubt Him and His working in our lives.

I must confess that during this very lengthy time of unemployment there has been one time about a year and a half ago when I tried to push God’s hand in the matter. And with my own very limited understanding I even found myself trying to bargain with Him. The result was not pleasant but I got the message loud and clear–He knows better than I do, and He only had to show me that once. But as I have continued to ask for wisdom during this time and have not doubted that He would give it to me–and He did give me wisdom that one time when I thought I understood what was going on (but didn’t) to help me understand the error of my way–He has given me the wisdom to understand things on a moment-by-moment, daily basis that I never would or could have understood on my own, and that I would have totally missed out on if I had forced my own way to try to end this trial of mine prematurely.

That is not to say that I don’t get weary from it. But I don’t complain, and if I find myself starting to complain I stop as soon as I realize I’m doing it. And, I don’t try to tell God how to solve it, either. He knows what He is doing far better then I do, and He has His reasons which I may or may not eventually know this side of Heaven. I have to trust Him completely with my life even when the going gets very, very rough. He’s my anchor, and I’ll continue to ride out the storm with Him in control.

So, seventeen days into a new year, if things aren’t going quite like you had hoped they would, why not ask God for His wisdom for the road ahead, and take your own hands off the steering wheel. And even if it’s a bumpy ride, if you trust Him and don’t doubt, He can and will take you through anything.

Do you believe it?

Trust in the Lord @ www.vinyl-wall-decals.com

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.
~Proverbs 3:5-6

YouTube Video: “I Never Lost My Praise” by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

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Do It Now

Do not worry about tomorrow . . . ~Jesus Christ (Matt. 6:34)406057_496245937092834_1637305393_nJesus Christ said it best (and He always does), “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:34 MSG, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount).

Worry is endemic in our American culture. And it seems the more we have or want or think we need and/or must have, the more we worry about what we have (or don’t have), whether it’s money and/or possessions, or our jobs, or our spouse and/or children (if married), or our significant others (if not married but in some type of relationship), or our friends, or even our enemies (gee, what are they up to???) or our government, or our economy (at this point you can complete your own list). And we worry about what is going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year and we try to plan for it in any way that we can.

Worry, worry, worry . . . it dominates our lives . . . . And it takes away from living life fully today . . . in the “here and now.” We spend so much time right now thinking about tomorrow or next week or next month or next year and planning for “future events” that may or may not happen that we lose our effectiveness and our focus in dealing with what’s going on right now–today.

Well, I have some news for you and it’s found in James 4:14, “. . . you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” The Message Bible states that verse along with two surrounding verses (vv 13-15) like this, “And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, ‘Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.’ You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, ‘If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.’” 

An old friend of mine that I was out of contact with for a little over three years recently reminded me of the way I used to be when he knew me before the time of our last email correspondence. We had been out of contact since our last email communication nine days before I was fired from my job in Houston (April 2009). However, due to a comment from a mutual friend of ours this past May (2012), I decided to try to get back in touch this him this past summer. The biggest reason I had not contacted him during those three years was that the whole issue surrounding my unemployment and the sheer length of the unemployment situation itself was embarrassing to me and I wanted to wait to contact him until I was employed again. Well, as you know, I’d still be waiting if that was the case.

When I got back in touch with him this past summer it was like no time had passed at all since our last communication over three years earlier. I told him that after all this time I was still unemployed and that my unemployment benefits ended in May 2011 after collecting all 99 weeks but that I wasn’t broke and God had clearly provided for my needs through a small retirement account I had accumulated from my years of working in higher education. As we communicated through the summer and fall, he told me he noticed a big change in me from when he knew me before I lost my job in Houston. He said it was quite apparent that I was much happier, more content, and the worry about money that consumed my life before was now gone. None of that had actually crossed my mind until he mentioned it, but he was absolutely right. And he asked me if I remembered how consumed I was about money issues. Now, mind you, I never made a lot money in most of the jobs I’ve had over my lifetime but enough to pay bills, keep a roof over my head, and have a few extras like books, music, techy stuff, etc., but basically I lived “paycheck to paycheck” like a lot of other folks but managed to save some money and put a small amount into a retirement account. And, I’ve stayed out of debt, too. I never spent beyond what I earned and at the time I lost my job in Houston my only debt was the last six payments on my car which I paid off in October 2009.

Still, my friend’s comment gave me pause for thought. He was right, of course. For years I was consumed with worry about “tomorrow” with all of the “what if’s” that come from worrying about something I had little or no control over. And once I got into my 50’s I worried about having enough money in my “retirement years.” I even remember the fear that came over me when I left my job in Florida to move to Houston to start my new job as there were several days between my last day at the job in Florida and my first day at the new job in Houston when I was essentially “unemployed” and not receiving a wage for those few days. I say all of that to let you know how absolutely consumed I was with worry about money issues.

When I first lost my job in Houston, I was terrified, yet because I had started taking my relationship with Jesus Christ very seriously after years of semi-neglect when I arrived in Houston to start my new job seven months earlier, there was a very real underlying sense of His presence in my life that I had not felt in years. After receiving my last paycheck, it took me a month to get through the paperwork process before I received my first unemployment check ($550 for two weeks at $275/wk before taxes were taken out). Before I got fired, I was making $1500 every two weeks after taxes (that is the most I ever made at any job in my entire life).

I remember the day I received that first unemployment check and how incredibly grateful I was to receive it. I think I cried and thanked God profusely for it. At the time my apartment rent in Houston was $845/mo. and the lease wasn’t up until the end of September 2009, and with all of the rest of my monthly payments–car payment, cell phone & internet, electricity, water, etc.–my bills alone came to $1400/mo. before adding in other expenses like gas, food, and other essentials. The $1100/mo. I received from unemployment benefits didn’t cover it all, but my small savings paid off the rest each month and I learned to cut way back on my spending on food items in the grocery store and in other areas, too. At the end of my apartment lease I left Houston as I couldn’t afford to stay there living on Florida unemployment benefits and I came back to Florida. And by returning to Florida I was able to receive extended unemployment benefits which I would not have received had I stayed in Houston (although I didn’t know that at the time I left Houston).

Dont-You-Worry-'Bout-a-thing @ httpandys-backing-tracks.webs.comIncognito-Dont-You-Worry-'Bout-a-thing.jpgLong story short, over the course of all of this time of unemployment, and totally trusting in the Lord to keep me going (with much fear and trembling in the beginning and at varying times throughout), I have experienced one miracle after another in seeing God provide for me during this time. And slowly (yes, it was slowly at first), He has taken that horrible compulsion of fear and worry away from me. But that’s not all He’s done. He has awakened in me the ability to see the world as it is, right now, and not just my own small world but the world at large. When I move about my day I pay attention to almost everything around me. I pay attention to what I read on the internet. I pay attention to a million things now that passed me by when I was working and consumed with work and worry. And, my life has gone from being “dull gray” to being filled with brilliant colors in high definition.

In short, what has happened to me in the past four plus years since I landed in Houston for that job in September 2008 that I lost seven months later is nothing short of remarkable–actually, it’s a miracle. God allowed the one thing I feared most in life–long-term unemployment and a consuming fear of not having enough money–to happen to me to show me that HE is enough and that HE will provide as long as I keep trusting in Him completely with every area of my life.

What I learned is that we can’t have the kind of relationship with Jesus Christ that totally changes every area of our lives by sitting in a pew once a week listening to a sermon or reading the latest Christian book to come off the press thinking that’s all we need to get us through this life. No . . . .  It’s about a living, breathing, vital, life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ and getting into His Word (the Bible) regularly and praying (and not just when we need something) to really, truly begin to understand what this life is all about from His perspective and not from ours. For me, long-term unemployment has been the best gift He could have ever given me because it caused me to finally take my eyes off of myself and my own small world, and see Him and this world through His eyes and not just my own.

So, do you want to stop the compulsive fear/worry cycle in your own life? Then get to really know Him, and start now. You’ll be absolutely amazed at what He will teach you and bring into your life if you do this, but you have to give Him total control, and stop trying to control things on your own.

So do it now . . . .

You’ll never regret it . . . .

YouTube Video: “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing” (1973) by Stevie Wonder:

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Making It Right

do_the_right_thingMost of us like to think we are honest and ethical people. We want to believe that we always, or almost always, do the right thing when we are faced with a compromising situation–adultery, for example, or cheating on your taxes. A couple of questions might get to the truth a little faster if you don’t mind squirming a bit.

If you travel in your work (assuming you work), have you ever padded your expense account? Ever add extra miles to the mileage report? Ever fudge in other ways to get more money in your pocket at the expense of your employer? According to a New York Times article titled, A Little Extra on the Road,” padding expense accounts is nothing new, and “Corporate accountants have long known that otherwise law-abiding people commit travel expense fraud. . . . ‘I don’t think people always take the view that falsifying expense claims is a criminal act,’ said John Verver, vice president for services and product strategy at ACL Services, a provider of financial monitoring software and expertise.” The article goes on to state:

“While there are no hard figures on the costs of travel expense fraud to American companies and organizations, estimates range as high as billions of dollars a year. A report last year by the Inc. Business Owners Council, an organization of family business owners, found that business fraud, over all, increased by two-thirds from 2006 to 2009. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reported earlier this year [2010] that the typical company lost 5 percent of its annual revenue to employee fraud and abuse and 15 percent of that was tied to expense reporting fraud.

For many companies, it’s like being nibbled away by little piranhas rather than being eaten by a big shark,’ Mr. Verver said.”

Little piranhas . . . not exactly an attractive description but worth thinking about the next time one might be tempted to pad their expense account. For those who don’t mind the label, it’s also illegal, but most people doing it don’t think they’ll ever get caught.

Okay, here’s the second question. Do you ever gossip about others behind their backs? Ah, now that one hits closer to home, doesn’t it? There probably isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t gossiped about others and many times on a regular basis. If fact, in America, we’ve made gossip into a “fun” sport by glamorizing it in many books, magazines, movies and on TV. There’s even a current television series titled, Gossip Girl.” Cutsey, right? But where is the honesty and ethics in that?

Oh, but we love our gossip . . . until it happens to us.

The damage brought on by gossip can and does destroy people. It destroys reputations, careers (many times leading to unemployment and even long-term unemployment), marriages, relationships, friendships–the list is long and tragic. In fact, it can make a person’s life a living hell. But it’s all done in good, clean fun, right?

In the workplace, for example, “‘Gossip usually is intended to undermine another person and make him ineffectual in his job,’ Indiana University sociologist Tim Hallett said. Malicious gossip, such as that someone is involved in criminal acts or using drugs, damages careers, reputations and even health. It can result in lawsuits for defamation, invasion of privacy, harassment and malicious interference with employability. Both the employer and employees who gossip can be held liable for damages. Gossip also could result in workers’ compensation claims for physical and emotional injury, according to attorney Bob Gregg of the Boardman Law Firm” (quote source here). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg called gossip.

Let’s read a poem titled, My Name is Gossip (author unknown):

My name is Gossip.
I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing.
I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless.
They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible.
The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses.
I AM CALLED GOSSIP.
(Source here.)

Good clean fun, right? Right???

Until it happens to us . . . .

The following devotion, while not specifically addressing the issues of padding expense accounts or gossiping, does address the issue of restitution. It’s titled, Making It Right published in Our Daily Bread for January 9, 2013:

Making It Right

Luke 19:1-10

It was a perfect day for our garage sale—bright and warm. People rummaged through clothing, paperbacks, and mismatched dishes. I noticed a young woman looking at a string of white beads. A few minutes later, the necklace vanished along with its admirer. I spotted her in the street, jogged the length of my driveway, and discovered the missing jewelry nestled in her palm. As we faced each other with the knowledge of what had happened, she volunteered to pay for the stolen item.

Zacchaeus, the tree-climbing tax collector, met Jesus and was changed. He vowed to repay four times the amount of money he had dishonestly taken from others (Luke 19:8). In those days, tax collectors frequently overcharged citizens and then pocketed the extra funds. Zacchaeus’ eagerness to pay back the money and to donate half of what he owned to the poor showed a significant change of heart. He had once been a taker, but after meeting Jesus he was determined to make restoration and be a giver.

Zacchaeus’ example can inspire us to make the same kind of change. When God reminds us about items we have taken, taxes left unpaid, or ways we have wronged others, we can honor Him by making it right. ~Jennifer Benson Schuldt 

Help me, dear Lord, to be honest and true
In all that I say and all that I do;
Give me the courage to do what is right
To bring to the world a glimpse of Your light. ~Fasick

A debt is never too old for an honest person to pay.

An encounter with Jesus Christ changed a tax collector named Zacchaeus from a dishonest man to an honest one, to the point where he vowed to repay four times the amount of money he had dishonestly taken from others (Luke 19:8). As the author of the devotion stated, “Zacchaeus’ example can inspire us to make the same kind of change.”

Unfortunately, that’s not so easy to do when it comes to gossip. For the Christian, gossip is sin. Period. And it’s one sin that is impossible to make restitution for as it spreads like wildfire. While it’s true (and absolutely necessary) that if we confess this sin to God (I John 1:9), He will forgive us, it is one sin where the damage caused by it (gossip) cannot be undone to the person we gossiped about–it is irreparable (Proverbs 16:28). Irreparable, because the gossip has spread far and wide and we can’t take it back.

So the next time we think about passing on some juicy bit of gossip, DON’T DO IT. Not only can we not undo the damage we’ve caused by spreading it, it might backfire on us and cause us damage, too.

James 3:5-6 (MSG) states, “A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”

Read that last sentence again and let it sink in. That is some serious, serious stuff, folks . . . and it’s from the pit of hell. Gossip is not “cutesy,” it’s deadly, and it can take us down with it if we do it. And there is no “making it right” once it’s done.

We can only “make it right” by not doing it in the first place . . . .

Is anybody listening?

YouTube Video: “Rumors” (1986) by Timex Social Club:

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Not A Tame Lion

Not a tame lion @ dylanoneil.blogspot.comOne of the more familiar quotes in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia (specifically in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) is “Of course, He’s good. But He’s not safe. He’s not a tame lion.” “He,” of course, is Aslan, the Great Lion, who represents Jesus Christ throughout all seven volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia.”

There is a side to Jesus Christ that most people tend to ignore. There are several incidents in the New Testament where this side comes out, but one that makes very clear how He feels about the religious elite is found in Matthew 23. At the beginning of the chapter he is addressing his disciples and the crowd that had gathered with them and a few verses later he strikes out at the religious elite–the religion scholars and Pharisees. Let’s read it from The Message Bible:

Religious Fashion Shows

23 1-3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.

4-7 “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’

8-10 “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

11-12 “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

Frauds!

13 “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.

15 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

16-22 “You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious’? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

23-24 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

25-26 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

27-28 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.

29-32 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You’re cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.

33-34 “Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It’s on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation—and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse.

35-36 “You can’t squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah’s son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I’m telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation.

37-39 “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God’s news! How often I’ve ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn’t let me. And now you’re so desolate, nothing but a ghost town. What is there left to say? Only this: I’m out of here soon. The next time you see me you’ll say, ‘Oh, God has blessed him! He’s come, bringing God’s rule!’”

As you can see, Jesus Christ is not tame. And He could not tolerate religious pretense and games . . . not back in His day, and not now, either. At the beginning of the chapter when He was addressing his disciples and the crowd, He stated that “the religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer” (Matt. 23:2-3). The religion scholars and Pharisees were competent teachers, but “they don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior.” In other words, they didn’t walk the talk; they didn’t practice what they preached, but they expected those listening to them to follow what they said. And Jesus said, “be careful about following them.”

Fast forward 2000 years later . . . does any of this sound familiar? Scandals have rocked the evangelical world in the past century right up through today. Here’s a lengthy list on Wikipedia.com that have rocked our world in recent years just to name a few (well, more than a few). Times haven’t changed much since Jesus gave His advice to be careful about following after folks who don’t walk the talk, who don’t practice what they preach. Yet many follow after these folks like moths to a light.

Spiritual discernment is in short supply today. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that we don’t take time to read and study the Bible for ourselves and instead we depend on pastors or teachers to give us everything we think we need. Of course, not all pastors or teachers fall into the category that Jesus described in Matthew 23, but if you don’t develop your own relationship with Jesus Christ and get to know Him personally through prayer and Bible study, you’ll start worshiping at an altar other than His, and that’s idolatry.

In Matt. 23:8-12 Jesus said, “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.”

Whether you’re a religious leader or a person sitting in the pews, don’t draw attention to yourself. Walk the talk, practice what you preach, and take a back seat. Be a servant, and don’t follow the crowd or worship at the altar of anyone other than Jesus Christ.

Jesus gave us His warning for good reason . . . .

Are we listening?

YouTube Video: “Takin’ It To The Streets,” Michael McDonald & the Doobie Brothers:

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bonhoefferblog

Can Dietrich Bonhoeffer make a difference in twenty-first century preachers and preaching?

The Nerdy Lion

Lions can wear glasses too

natsab

Here I stand.

The Daniel Fast

Consecrate yourself unto the Lord through extended prayer and fasting.

Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

It's a God thing...

Unpacking the baggage of life, love, and spirituality

drcristy

Dystopian Fiction Writer | Doctor | Wife | Mom

Reformedish

incompletely reformed thoughts on God, ministry, and life

lovelyseasonscomeandgo

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Messianic Sabbath

A daily break in your day to celebrate our salvation in Yeshua (Jesus) and our abundant life through the Torah

For Such A Time As This

"...who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14

The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Disciples of hope

Living the hope that comes from Christ

daily meditation

daily thoughts on scriptures

The Minstrel's Wife

A worship leader's missus and her views from the pew

From the Wisdom of our Founders

Important Quotations to Instruct and Inspire

Growing Forward

a blog for those seeking personal change for God's glory

The Old Guys

Quotes & Resources From... The Old Guys

Prime Reality Ministries

God is the Real Reality!

Flotsam and Jetsam

Random thoughts and commentaries on God's Word

Sara's Musings

Living It Out. . . on WordPress.com

Don Sweeting

Reflections on theology, worship, culture, history and the church

What's The Good Word?

Reflections on daily readings from the Scriptures

A DEVOTED LIFE

Practical Daily Devotions for the Real World

The Daily Way

A Daily Devotional from Dr. Michael Youssef

Jean Huang Photography - Los Angeles Custom Portraiture and Fine Art Photographer

"Transformational Beauty" "Maternity" "Newborn" "Children" "FineArt" Photography

Life in the Boomer Lane

Musings of a former hula hoop champion

Laura's Lens

Taking a look at the beauty around us

Perception

Photography. Life.

ILLUSTRATION AGE

THE ULTIMATE RESOURCE FOR ILLUSTRATORS

The Elliptical Saloon

Weblog for WhiteHouseMuseum.org

Thought For the Day

Bringing whatever stirs my heart

A Breath of Fresh Air

"Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God." Philippians 2:15

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Tracking events and trends in Israel, the U.S., Russia and throughout the Epicenter (the Middle East & North Africa)

ForeWords

Lectionary Musings within the Community of Christ

Of Dust & Kings

Empowering Faith. Transforming Culture.

A MINIATURE CLAY POT

"We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives" 2 Corinthians 4:7 The Message

gracefully50

On your birthday: count your candles, count your years, count your blessings.

lilies, sparrows and grass

"That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works." Psalm 26:7

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