Be Bold For Change

I read a short article (actually, a devotion) on a blog last night and I said, “I must share it!” Not only is it short (most folks like short articles) but, as is the case with so many of my blog posts, it is written by someone who is famous and a lot more knowledgeable then I am, and he’s also a friend of mine. He was a pastor for 25 years, and he is a radio talk show host (among other things), and he’s written many books over the years, too. In fact, I’ve written about two of them previously on these two blog posts: Three Free Sins–Say What?” (published on August 5, 2012) on his book titled, Three Free Sins,” and True Colors (published on April 29, 2016) on his last book titled, Hidden Agendas: Dropping the Masks that Keep Us Apart.” And, he’s currently working on a new book, too.

His name is Dr. Steve Brown (but don’t call him doctor; call him Steve), and if you know him or have listened to him talk in a myriad of venues including his radio program, you know that he has a very deep voice and a delightful sense of humor. He’s also honest to the bone. And, he is, without a doubt, one of a kind. Steve is a former pastor and professor emeritus, founder of Key Life Networka Bible teacher, and he is a frequent and much sought-after speaker at conferences and in other settings.

Steve writes a regular devotional on his KeyLife website, and I want to share the devotion that was just published on March 27, 2017 as it speaks to an issue that is so prevalent in our society and world today. It is titled, The Problem with Religion,” and here is what Steve has to say on the topic (quote source: KeyLife):

The Problem with Religion

Do you sometimes grow tired of religious people? Do you ever want to just grunt, scream and spit? I know I do.

Sometimes I just want to say something shocking. And once that’s done, I’ll think, “There, I did it and I’m glad!” I try to stifle those feelings because, of course, no real Christian would even think such things. That is what I thought until I read Christ’s words in Matthew 6:1-8 and 16-18.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. . . . And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

The fact is, you can always tell when someone is religious . . . but you can’t always tell when someone is a Christian. One of the most dangerous things we do in the church is to confuse sanctimony with saintliness. That is the problem Jesus addresses in Matthew 6.

So we need to be careful.

Watch Out For Religious Exhibitionism.

Someone has said that true religion is what you do when no one sees.

Jesus makes the point that if you don’t do it privately, for God’s sake, don’t do it publicly. If you don’t believe it in your heart, for God’s sake, don’t do it in your life. If it isn’t real to you when you’re by yourself, for God’s sake, don’t say it is real when you’re with others. Sometimes the more the outward piety, the less the inward reality. That is why you have to watch those who say and do religious things.

Are you sometimes intimidated by the religious folks who do so much religious stuff? They are always faithful, they memorize Scripture all the time, they talk only about God and they know the creeds backwards.

Watch Out For Religious Words.

There is a direct correlation between the reality you know and the number of words you have to use to communicate that reality to others. The more words, the less the reality.

You should have heard all the religious clichés that surrounded my father on his deathbed. In contrast, the doctor who led him to Christ was very brief and very clear. He said, “Mr. Brown, you have cancer and three months to live. We’re going to have a prayer and then I’m going to tell you something more important than what I just told you.” They prayed and then in a very simple way that doctor led my father to Christ.

It takes many words to keep a sinking religious ship afloat. Most of us have a problem with keeping quiet . . . I know I do.

Are you sometimes intimidated by those who know so much and make it sound so complex?

Watch Out For Religious Condemnation.

You can tell how guilty a person is by asking how guilty you feel in that person’s presence.

How surprising of God to sanctify the tears of the thief and judge the silent condemnation of the religious judge. How surprising of God, in the midst of proper worship, correct theology and strict Sabbath keeping, to simply leave the building.

Do you sometimes wonder if you’re the real thing because you get so much wrong and they point it out?

Watch Out For Religious Solemnity.

Sometimes I get tickled at the seriousness of the church. If there weren’t a God, I would understand. But last time I checked, God was still there and had not, as yet, gone into a panic.

When Jesus is present, there is joy, freedom and release. Under the watchful eye of a sovereign God, we can rejoice in the laughter of the redeemed.

Do you ever get the giggles in the wrong place, are criticized and then question your salvation?

I’ve got some good news for you.

Jesus says twice, “They have their reward.” When people tell me that I’m spiritual, it often worries me. I would rather receive my reward from God than from them.

I have a friend who says that the difference between believers and unbelievers is that Christians know the rules and how to play the game. Therefore we can fake it better.

In Luke 18 Jesus told a story about a Pharisee who knew the rules. He went to the temple to pray and looked down on the tax collector who was also praying. The Pharisee rejoiced before God that he was not like the tax collector.

The Pharisee told God that he was not like other men. The Pharisee told God that he wasn’t an adulterer . . . and he wasn’t. The Pharisee told God that he wasn’t a tax collector who stole money from God’s people . . . and he wasn’t. The Pharisee told God that he fasted twice a week . . . and he did. The Pharisee told God that he tithed all of his possessions . . . and he did.

The tax collector, on the other hand, barely looked up. Instead, he pled for desperately needed mercy . . . and received it.

The rest of the story? When the Pharisee left the temple, the religious folks told him how much they appreciated his help in building the temple. After all, he was a benefactor. The religious folks went on to admire him for his fasting, praying, purity and commitment. As a result, the Pharisee felt good about himself.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge him.

According to Jesus, that’s all he got.

Time To Draw Away

Read Luke 18:9-14 Romans 8

Are you intimidated by religious folk . . . so much so that you begin to doubt your salvation? Don’t let that happen. You belong to God. So rest and relax in his love, mercy and grace. It’s already yours. (Quote source: “The Problem with Religion” on KeyLife).

I titled this blog post, Be Bold for Change,” as we who are part of the Church (see definition at this link) need to be far less religious and far more loving. We need to be far less self-righteous and far more genuine about our concerns for others (as in all others). We need to be far less concerned about materialism and far more concerned about those in need. We need to be far less judgmental and far more understanding of others. And we need be far less concerned about our “legacy” and far more concerned with trusting God and not ourselves and our own resources.

If we want to know just how “religious” we are at any given moment, just think about someone we don’t like very much. That’s all it takes. The example of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Jesus’s story quoted above in the devotion says it all. As Steve wrote:

He [the Pharisee] went to the temple to pray and looked down on the tax collector who was also praying. The Pharisee rejoiced before God that he was not like the tax collector.

The Pharisee told God that he was not like other men. The Pharisee told God that he wasn’t an adulterer . . . and he wasn’t. The Pharisee told God that he wasn’t a tax collector who stole money from God’s people . . . and he wasn’t. The Pharisee told God that he fasted twice a week . . . and he did. The Pharisee told God that he tithed all of his possessions . . . and he did.

The tax collector, on the other hand, barely looked up. Instead, he pled for desperately needed mercy . . . and received it.

And we all do it, too . . . judge others (and ourselves) according to our own measuring stick. That is why Jesus made it so clear that we should not judge others (and he knew our proclivity to do just that very thing, too) in Matthew 7:1-5 when he stated:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

The Pharisee paid no attention to “the plank in his own eye.” He thought he was righteous before God in the things that he did (or didn’t) do. He justified himself; whereas the tax collector humbled himself before God and acknowledged that he was a sinner, and asked for (and received) mercy. The difference between the two is huge.

It’s far too easy to play a religious game and miss the whole point of who Jesus really is. And it’s too easy to point fingers at others and mock or make fun of those we don’t know or understand–we do it all the time whether outwardly or in our thoughts (and God knows our thoughts even if others don’t). As Steve said about a friend he knew in the devotion above:

I have a friend who says that the difference between believers and unbelievers is that Christians know the rules and how to play the game. Therefore we can fake it better.

And we can fake it so well, too (or at least we think we fake it well). It’s often why some people leave the church and never come back. They can smell fake a mile away.

The answer? It’s found in Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly  with your God.

And that’s as simple as it gets . . . .

Act justly . . .

Love mercy . . .

And walk humbly . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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Chasing Lions

I come from the world of academia. For over twenty years I worked in higher education at colleges and universities, large and small, public and private, secular and Christian, and all except one was nonprofit. My area of expertise is in Student Affairs, and I held professional staff positions ranging from Academic Advisor to Coordinator to Director. I also worked with a variety of students (primarily adult students and graduate students) as well as staff, faculty, and administrators; and I also fulfilled numerous other responsibilities.

Eight years ago I lost a job that sent me into the world of long-term unemployment. While undertaking a major job search, I found that the longer I went without finding another job, the more I needed to find some kind of creative outlet to keep the creative juices flowing, and that is when this blog was created back in July 2010. I was new to blogging back then, and I spent the first several months experimenting with it. I ended up deleting the posts I had written up through April 2011 as there was no common theme linking the individual posts together. However, three months later in July 2011, I fired my blog back up and this time it just took off. I mean it seriously took off and it has been going strong all this time. In fact, I’m close to a mile-marker as I will soon have 500 blog posts published on this blog at some point this year (this is blog post #481).

I have always been an avid reader, mostly of nonfiction. And as my readers know, I quote heavily from other authors, mostly famous authors, past and present, as I’ve never been one to think I needed to “reinvent the wheel” with my own words on a topic that others have expressed far more eloquently (and in many cases with more knowledge and experience) then I could do. I always give credit where credit is due, and the great thing about blog writing is one can instantly “link” to the author and source of the quotes and articles. Had I not been living in the age of the internet, none of this would have been possible.

I mention this bit of personal background as I am aware that there are many different “thoughts” on Christian living outside of the realm of the essentials of the Christian faith (the “essentials” are the core beliefs of Christianity). And I am aware that some of what I post may cause some disagreement. However, my intent has always been to bring up topics as they come to mind, and I often quote others more knowledgeable than myself when writing about them. More than anything, I want the posts to be challenging and/or informative as that comes from my academic background.

With that in mind, yesterday I received a 40% off coupon from LifeWay in my email, so I went looking for a book to use it on. With only one coupon, it was hard to narrow it down to the book I wanted to buy (I had several in mind when I arrived at the store). Mark Batterson‘s latest book, Catch the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small,” (published in September 2016) is one of the books on my list, but I also realized it is sort of a “sequel” to his very first book that was published back in 2006 titled, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars.” While Catch the Lion stands on it’s own without having to read the previous book first, after much thought on which one to spend my coupon on, I decided to go with In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” which has been republished in August 2016 with some additional bonus material.

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, which also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse, Ebenezers Coffeehouse, on Capitol Hill. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University and he is also a New York Times bestselling author. The title of the book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” as Batterson states in his opening paragraph in Chapter 1 titled, “Locking Eyes with Your Lion,” comes from 2 Samuel 23:20-21 (NIV):

Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.

Batterson gives the reader a movie script picture of Benaiah with the lion in the pit that he killed on a snowy day (which I will leave in the book for readers to read). To sum it up, Benaiah does what none of us would do if we came face-to-face with a lion. We’d run . . . . as far away as we could get; but Benaiah didn’t run. Batterson states the following on pp. 16-18:

Right at the outset, let me share one of my core convictions: God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ. God is awfully good at getting us where He wants us to go. But there’s the catch: The right place often seems like the wrong place.

Can I understate the obvious?

Encountering a lion in the wild is typically a bad thing. A really bad thing! Finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day generally qualifies as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. That combination of circumstances usually spells one thing: death.

I don’t think anyone would have bet on Benaiah winning this fight–probably not even the riskiest of gamblers. He had to be at least a one-hundred-to-one underdog. And the snowy conditions on game day didn’t help his chances.

Scripture doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what happened in that pit. All we know is that when the snow settled, the lion was dead and Benaiah was alive. . . .

Now fast-forward two verses and look at what happened in the next scene.

Second Samuel 23:23 says: “And [King] David put [Benaiah] in charge of his bodyguard.”

I can’t think of too many places I’d rather not be than in a pit with a lion on a snowy day. Can you? Getting stuck in a pit with a lion on a snowy day isn’t on anybody’s wish list. It’s a death wish. But you’ve got to admit something: “I killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day” looks pretty impressive on your résumé if you’re applying for a bodyguard position with the King of Israel! . . .

Most people would have seen the lion as a five-hundred-pound problem, but not Benaiah. For most people, finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day would qualify as bad luck. But can you see how God turned what could have been considered a bad break into a big break? Benaiah was chasing a position in David’s administration.

Here’s the point: God is in the résumé-building business. He is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities. But those God-given opportunities often come disguised as man-eating lions. And how we react when we encounter those lions will determine our destiny. We can cower in fear and run away from our greatest challenges, or we can chase our God-ordained destiny by seizing the God-ordained opportunity. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” pp.16-18.)

And that is the basic premise of this book. As Batterson states on pp. 19-20:

There is an old aphorism: “No guts, no glory.” When we don’t have the guts to step out in faith and chase lions, then God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.

Is anybody else tired of reactive Christianity that is more known for what it’s against than what it’s for? We’ve become far too defensive. We’ve become far too passive. Lion chasers are proactive. They know that playing it safe is risky. Lion chasers are always on the lookout for God-ordained opportunities.

Maybe we’ve measured spiritual maturity the wrong way. Maybe following Christ isn’t supposed to be as safe or as civilized as we’ve been led to believe. Maybe Christ is more dangerous and uncivilized than our Sunday-school flannelgraphs portrayed. Maybe God is raising up a generation of lion chasers. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” pp.19-20.)

The book is filled with stories of “lion chasers” like a Georgetown lawyer who put his law practice on hold to shoot a documentary film about human trafficking in Uganda; and a tenured professor who gave up his chair to pursue a dot-com dream. There’s the man in an executive-level position at Microsoft with a six-figure salary and million-dollar stock options who gave it all up to plant a church; and a political neophyte who decided to run for Congress. Also, there’s a woman church member who lead a mission trip to Ethiopia despite her many fears, just to name a few of the many stories in this book. As Batterson states regarding these folks and others on page 20:

The lion chasers you’ll meet in this book are ordinary people. They put their pants on one leg at a time like everybody else. Most of them were scared to death when they bought the plane ticket or handed in their resignation. Weighing the pros and cons caused some ulcers along the way. And at times it felt like they were the ones cornered by the lion in the snowy pit.

I wish I could tell you that every lion chase ends with a lion skin hanging on the wall, but it doesn’t. The dot-com dreamer is successful beyond his wildest dreams, but the guy with the political aspirations lost the election. However, both of them are lion chasers in my book. What sets lion chasers apart isn’t the outcome. It’s the courage to chase God-sized dreams. Lion chasers don’t let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” p. 20.)

Now let’s go back to the story about Benaiah (page 21):

Benaiah went on to have a brilliant military career. In fact, he climbed all the way up the chain of command to chief of Israel’s army. But it all started with what many would consider being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His genealogy of success can be traced all the way back to a life-or-death encounter with a man-eating lion. It was fight of flight. Benaiah was faced with a choice that would determine his destiny: run away or give chase.

Not much has changed in the past three thousand years. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” p. 21.)

One more quote from Chapter 5 titled, “Guaranteed Uncertainty,” and then you’ll have to get the book to read the rest! Regarding the story of Benaiah, Batterson states (pp. 83-86):

It is so easy to read about an incident that occurred three thousand years ago and fail to appreciate the element of surprise, because we know how the story ends. We read the story and think the outcome was inevitable. Psychologists call it “hindsight bias.” It is an exaggerated feeling of having been able to predict an event before it actually happened. We play the role of Monday-morning quarterback when we read Scripture. But to really appreciate the faith of Benaiah, you’ve got to feel what he felt before he killed the lion. . . .

There are a thousand variables, and they all add up to one thing: an uncertain outcome. It could have gone either way. Heads or tails.

I’m sure Benaiah had a sense of destiny. But that sense of destiny was coupled with a degree of uncertainty. Benaiah didn’t know if he’d win or lose, live or die. But he knew that God was with him.

Benaiah could have run away from the lion. And running away would have reduced uncertainty and increased security. But lion chasers are counterintuitive. They aren’t afraid of venturing off the map into terra incognita. The unknown doesn’t scare them. It beckons them like a long-lost love or childhood dream. In a sense, security scares lion chasers more than uncertainty. . . .

I know that different people have different callings. I know different people have different personalities. But I also know that embracing uncertainty is one dimension of faith. And regardless of your vocational calling or relationship status, you have to do something counterintuitive if you want to reach your God-given potential and fulfill your God-given destiny. Sometimes you have to run away from security and chase uncertainty.

Isn’t that what Jonathan did when he left the safety of the Israelite camp and climbed a cliff? The military stalemate was driving him crazy, so he decided to pick a fight with the Philistines. I love his modus operandi: “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf” (I Samuel 14:6).

Isn’t that what Abraham did when he left his family and his country to pursue the promise of God? In a day and age when the average person never traveled outside a thirty-mile radius of their birthplace, Abraham embraced uncertainty and ventured into terra incognita. “He went without knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

Isn’t that what Noah did when he built the Ark? Noah was a laughingstock for 120 years, but he embraced the uncertainty of a divine weather forecast. “Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded  him” (Genesis 6:22).

Lion chasers challenge the status quo. They climb cliffs, move to foreign countries, and build boats in the desert. Lion chasers are often considered crazy, but they are able to do these things because they aren’t afraid of uncertainty. They don’t need to know what is coming next because they know that God knows. They don’t need explanations for every disappointment because they know God has a plan. Lion chasers refuse to settle down because they want to experience every divine twist and turn that God has in store for them. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” pp. 83-86.)

So how’s that for some encouragement if you are in need of it today? I’m glad I got this book first as it will make his latest offering (which is a continuation of In the Pit written ten years later) titled, Catch the Lion,” all the more enjoyable and meaningful, too. And who doesn’t like to read about inspiring people and their stories and the God who leads them onward!

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus that I quoted in my last blog post found in Mark 11:22-24“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Whether we are facing lions or mountains, there’s our answer. Have faith in God (and in His timing, too). . . .

And whatever we ask for . . .

Believing we have receive it . . .

It will be ours . . . . 

YouTube Video: “Feel It” by TobyMac ft. Mr. Talkbox:

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Game On

In the movie, Bridge of Spies (2015), based on a true story that started in 1957 during the Cold War (1947-1991–the Cold War ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991), an American lawyer, James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel (played by Mark Rylance) in court, and then helps the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers (played by Austin Stowell). Abel is convicted and sentenced to 30 years in a Federal prison (much to the chagrin of the general public who wanted him executed; however, Donovan stated to the judge that he might be of use in a prisoner exchange in the foreseeable future if one of our spies was caught by the Soviet Union).

While Abel is in prison, Donovan visits Abel and brings him a letter that Donovan received from a woman in East Germany pretending to be Abel’s wife (she sent the letter thanking Donovan for his kind treatment of Abel)–East Berlin and East Germany were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945 at the end of WWII. Donovan asks Abel if he should respond, and Abel indicates yes, and states, “What’s the next move when you don’t know what the game is?” 

At this point, an American spy pilot (Powers) was recently shot down over Soviet territory and captured by the Soviets and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The letter Donovan received from the woman pretending to be Abel’s wife in East Germany turns out to be the beginning point of the him helping the CIA facilitate a prisoner exchange of Abel for Powers and another young American graduate student named Frederic Pryor (played by Will Rogers) who was recently captured and being held by the East Germans. However, at the time Donovan received the letter, neither Donovan nor Abel knew that it would eventually result in a prisoner exchange involving Abel. That’s when Abel responded with the following question:

“What’s the next move when you don’t know what the game is?”

While situations vary, it is hard to know what to do when one doesn’t know what the game is that is being played. On the surface it might look to be quite different from what is actually going on beneath the surface and behind the scene.

Often when we encounter situations we don’t fully understand, we like to think that we are “in charge” of our situation and that all it takes is the right amount of “positive thinking” to get the results we want or to get back on track. I’m not quite sure where “positive thinking” as a “cure all” got it’s start (actually, I think it got it’s start in 1952 with the publication of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale‘s book, The Power of Positive Thinking) but we have been fed a line of thinking for several decades now that says we are pretty much the captain of our own ship, and we can have or change anything we want if we just “think positively” enough and acquire the right connections in the process. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a positive mental attitude, we have too often elevated “positive thinking” on a throne of it’s own and as a panacea for all difficulties or diseases.

In answer to the question, “Is there any power in positive thinking?” answers it by stating:

One definition for “positive thinking” is “the act of reviewing thought processes in order to identify areas that need improvement, and then using the appropriate tools to change those thoughts in a positive, goal-oriented way.” Of course, thinking positively is not wrong. The problem associated with “positive thinking” is in believing that there is some kind of supernatural power in positive thinking. In this age of rampant false doctrine and watered-down theology, the power of positive thinking has stood out as one of the more popular errors. False doctrines are similar in that they are human ideas masquerading as the truth. One such human idea is the power of positive thinking.

The idea of the power of positive thinking was popularized by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale in his book “The Power of Positive Thinking” (1952). According to Peale, people can change future outcomes and events by “thinking” them into existence. The power of positive thinking promotes self-confidence and faith in oneself; it leads naturally to a false belief in thelaw of attraction,” as Peale wrote, “When you expect the best, you release a magnetic force in your mind which by a law of attraction tends to bring the best to you.” Of course, there is nothing biblical about one’s mind emanating a “magnetic force” that pulls good things into one’s orbit. In fact, there is much unbiblical about such a notion.

In “The Power of Positive Thinking,” Peale used flawed religious concepts and subjective psychological theories to advance a false version of faith and hope. His theory is part of the “self-help” movement whereby a person tries to create his own reality with human effort, proper mental images, and willpower. But reality is truth, and the truth is found in the Bible. People cannot create their own reality by fantasizing or thinking it into existence. Peale’s theory is flawed because he did not base it on truth.

Proponents of the power of positive thinking claim their research supports the validity of the theory. However, the body of data is widely debated. Some of the findings suggest there is a positive correlation between a positive outlook and performance, but this is a far cry from positive thoughts ‘creating’ an outcome. The research suggests that people who have positive attitudes tend to have higher self-esteem and better experiences as compared to people who have pessimistic outlooks. On the other hand, there is no substantiated evidence to support the idea that thoughts can control outcomes. Positive thinking has no inherent power to change the future.

Every good gift is from God above (James 1:17), not from the power of positive thinking. The best gift of all is the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). The Bible says that man cannot be “good” on his own (Isaiah 64:6). The only good in us comes from the righteousness of Jesus Christ applied to our account (Ephesians 2:1–5; Philippians 3:9). Once the Holy Spirit indwells us, He begins the process of sanctification, in which the transformative power of the Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus.

If we want to better ourselves and make positive changes, we need to have more than the power of positive thinking. True spirituality will always start and end with our relationship to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who is the key to changing one’s life, not our thoughts, and not our effort alone. As we actively yield to the Spirit, He will transform us. Rather than seek help from psycho-babble, pseudo-religious books, or a self-generated power of positive thinking, we should rely on what God has already given us through His Spirit: “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). (Quote source here.)

Often we confuse positive thinking with faith. Genuine faith believes in God for the outcome, not in positive thinking for the outcome. describes faith as follows:

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of the Christian life is more important than faith. We cannot purchase it, sell it or give it to our friends. So what is faith and what role does faith play in the Christian life? The dictionary defines faith as “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It also defines faith as “belief in and devotion to God.” The Bible has much more to say about faith and how important it is. In fact, it is so important that, without faith, we have no place with God, and it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). According to the Bible, faith is belief in the one, true God without actually seeing Him.

Where does faith come from? Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in study or pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, not because we deserve it, have earned it, or are worthy to have it. It is not from ourselves; it is from God. It is not obtained by our power or our free will. Faith is simply given to us by God, along with His grace and mercy, according to His holy plan and purpose, and because of that, He gets all the glory.

Why have faith? God designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to Him and those who don’t, and it is called faith. Very simply, we need faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. A key part of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This is not to say that we have faith in God just to get something from Him. However, God loves to bless those who are obedient and faithful. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 7:50. Jesus is engaged in dialog with a sinful woman when He gives us a glimpse of why faith is so rewarding. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman believed in Jesus Christ by faith, and He rewarded her for it. Finally, faith is what sustains us to the end, knowing that by faith we will be in heaven with God for all eternity. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Examples of faith. Hebrews Chapter 11 is known as the “faith chapter” because in it great deeds of faith are described. By faith Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord (v. 4); by faith Noah prepared the ark in a time when rain was unknown (v. 7); by faith Abraham left his home and obeyed God’s command to go he knew not where, then willingly offered up his only son (vv. 8-10, 17); by faith Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (vv. 23-29); by faith Rahab received the spies of Israel and saved her life (v. 31). Many more heroes of the faith are mentioned “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (vv. 33-34). Clearly, the existence of faith is demonstrated by action.

According to the Bible, faith is essential to Christianity. Without demonstrating faith and trust in God, we have no place with Him. We believe in God’s existence by faith. Most people have a vague, disjointed notion of who God is but lack the reverence necessary for His exalted position in their lives. These people lack the true faith needed to have an eternal relationship with the God who loves them. Our faith can falter at times, but because it is the gift of God, given to His children, He provides times of trial and testing in order to prove that our faith is real and to sharpen and strengthen it. This is why James tells us to consider it “pure joy” when we fall into trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and matures us, providing the evidence that our faith is real (James 1:2-4). (Quote source here.)

So let’s go back to Abel’s original question,“What’s the next move when you don’t know what the game is?” Again, while situations vary, it is hard to know what to do when one doesn’t know what the game is (or, worst yet, when one doesn’t even know there is a game until it’s too late–I think back to when I lost that job eight years ago as an example in my own life). And history is replete with examples large scale and small of “man’s inhumanity to man.” I think of all the innocent victims who have died in wars, or closer to home, people who have lost jobs through no fault of their own. And I think of the millions around the world and here in America who live in poverty and can’t just “positively think” their way out of it. It goes beyond us and our own “thoughts” to include the motives and hidden agendas of all the “others” out there, too (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Only God sees the whole picture. We barely see even a tiny fraction of it. So . . . .

“What’s the next move when you don’t know what the game is?”

Proverbs 3:5-6 holds the answer:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. . . .

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig and Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Passing On Kindness

There’s a story in the Old Testament about a friendship that went beyond the grave. It is a story many of us are familiar with, but the lasting effects of that friendship might not be as well known. It is the friendship between David and Jonathan, who was the son of King Saul, the first King of Israel. The story is found in 1 Samuel 17-20, and opens with the story of David, as a teenage shepherd boy, slaying the Philistine giant known as Goliath. David’s popularity among the people after he slew Goliath created much jealousy in King Saul, who then tried to kill David over the next several years. In the midst of this situation is Jonathan, King Saul’s son, who became a very close friend with David.

In an article titled, Epics Friendships: David and Jonathan,” by Cecily Paterson, an author and editor, she gives us a brief description of the history of their friendship:

One of the most famous friendships of the Bible has to be that of David and Jonathan. When they met, David [a young shepherd boy] had been chosen by God to be the future king of the Israelites, but Jonathan’s father (Saul) who was the king at the time, wanted to kill David.

However, Jonathan took a real liking to David.  He made a promise to him, he loved him, he gave him presents and provided for him. He warned David about plots against him by his father, he spoke out for him to his father and he used his influence to keep him safe.

Friendship requires self-sacrifice.

It’s not surprising that Jonathan was the main player in the relationship at first, because as the son of the king, he was the one with the power in this relationship.

But it is a power that he used for the good of his friend – and at a cost to himself. Every time he kept David safe or promoted his interests, he was destroying his own chances of inheriting his father’s throne. Jonathan’s friendship with David was at the cost of his own career and reputation!

Friendship requires loyalty.

Jonathan was a friend with some pretty impressive qualities. His loyalty to David, and courage in the face of political pressure, and an angry, murderous father was unquestioned. He had the humility to say openly that he would never be king. He followed up his commitments, he was generous and he did it all ‘before the Lord’. He showed genuine affection, loyalty and openness. He was the friend everyone would love to have!

But David was not just a passive ‘taker’ in all of this either. As time went on their friendship grew so that by the end it was definitely a two-way relationship between equals.  When the pair had to part, the story says that David ‘wept the most’. At Jonathan’s death, David showed immense grief.

Friendship requires real commitment.

One of the particularly beautiful aspects of this friendship was the way David and Jonathan promised to do good to each other’s family and descendents. They knew that as technical rivals to the same throne, it was more than likely that their families and heirs could grow to hate each other and try to eliminate their opponents. They took steps to stop the cycle of rivalry and hate – and as time went on, it worked. . . .

Most of us today are unlikely to be in a situation where we become best friends with our greatest rivals, but we may stand to lose status, money, or power because of a friendship. Are we willing to put our friends first? (Quote source here.)

The story of King Saul’s jealousy of David starts from the time David slew Goliath (1 Samuel 17) when he was a teenager, and lasts until King Saul’s death by suicide in a battle that kills his sons, including Jonathan (see 1 Samuel 31). During those years from the time David was a teenager until he took the throne of Israel at the age of 30 (see 2 Samuel 5:4), King Saul had tried a number of times to kill David, and twice David had the chance to kill King Saul but he didn’t take it as David always viewed King Saul as “God’s anointed.” The entire story is found in 1 Samuel 17-31.

David laments the death of King Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:17-27, and David is anointed King over the tribe of Judah at which time a war breaks out between the House of David and the House of Saul (see 2 Samuel 2-4). In 2 Samuel 5 David becomes King over Israel and conquers Jerusalem and defeats the Philistines.

At this point I want to bring the story back to the friendship between David and Jonathan. As noted in the story above, “One of the particularly beautiful aspects of this friendship was the way David and Jonathan promised to do good to each other’s family and descendents. They knew that as technical rivals to the same throne, it was more than likely that their families and heirs could grow to hate each other and try to eliminate their opponents. They took steps to stop the cycle of rivalry and hate – and as time went on, it worked.” That story is found in 2 Samuel 9.

In 2 Samuel 9:1, King David asks, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Kevin Gerald, founder and lead pastor of Champions Centre in Tacoma, Washington, has written about the kindness of King David that extends beyond the graves of both Jonathan and King Saul in his book titled, Good Things: Seeing Your Life Through the Lens of God’s Favor,” (2015). In Chapter 14 titled, “Favor Forward,” he writes (pp. 115-117):

There’s an illustration of this kind of above-and-beyond caring for others in the life of the great King David.

The thoughts of David, once only a lowly shepherd boy, were swimming in pools of remembrance. The story seemed almost too good to be true–where he was now compared to where he was then–staggering! Somehow a dynasty reserved only for those in the bloodline of royalty had opened up to include him. He knew the events that had led up to his becoming the king of Judah [and Israel], but he was still incredibly fascinated by how it had all happened.

Obviously, God’s favor was on his life.

Perhaps that’s what he was thinking about on this day when waves of gratitude overwhelmed him and he suddenly blurted out a question, which caused all of those around him to scurry in search of an answer. It was an unexpected, spontaneous question prompted in a moment of reflection, and no one in his immediate airspace knew the answer. So they went looking for someone who did, and it wasn’t long until a man named Ziba came to stand before the king. David asked him the same question: “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1).

We’ve all experienced some unsolicited kindness, when for some reason people wanted to show us kindness, to grace us with their favor–perhaps parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, relatives, neighbors, pastors, and friends who played significant role in helping us get to where we are today. They showed us favor we had not earned, and maybe now because we’ve lost touch with them, it’s impossible to thank them personally. Or maybe it’s just hard emotionally to express accurately the gratitude we feel.

So the greatest expression of gratitude we may have available to us now is to pay it forward–to pass on kindness to another person.

This is exactly the state of mind David was in as he remembered his friend Jonathan, the son of the previous king, Saul. Jonathan had been the heir apparent to the throne David now occupied. Their relationship had been cemented by an agreement to preserve and protect each other no matter what. This is what David was recalling that day when he asked his question. He was on a mission that no one in the palace could fully understand or comprehend.

I love the simplicity of David’s question. He did not ask, “Is there anyone who is deserving? Is there anyone who could help me in the business of the kingdom? Is there anyone with skills? Is there anyone who is qualified to lead our military?” No, he simply asked, “Is there anyone? Just anyone of the house of Saul?”

Ziba, the servant who had been summoned, knew about only one son of Jonathan–a young man who had suffered a severe fall that left him crippled for life. Ziba said, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet” (2 Samuel 9:3).

Why did Ziba add the information about the injured feet? Maybe he thought this deformity would eliminate that son as a candidate for the king’s kindness. Perhaps he thought the king would be embarrassed in some way by having a crippled man in his presence.

But the words were hardly out of Ziba’s mouth when King David quickly asked another question: “Where is he?”

“He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar,” Ziba answered (verse 4).

Lo Debar was a desolate place, known for its extreme poverty and barely survivable conditions. Now all the personal, unpleasant, and unappealing information that Ziba knew was out on the table. This son of Jonathan was definitely not the kind of person one would expect a king to be interested in. But David never showed an ounce of hesitation.

So King David had him brought from Lo Debar from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table” (verses 5-7).

The difference a day can make! The marginalized, disenfranchised, socially excluded Mephibosheth had been lifted out of Lo Debar by the extravagant kindness of the king. Typically, when we consider kindness, we think of offering greetings and smiles, opening doors, buying someone coffee. But when David said he wanted to show someone kindness, he was thinking way outside our normal box. To David kindness meant much more than a small act. To him it was a complete game-changing, life-altering demonstration of favor that would impact the recipient’s life continually from that day forward. (Quote source, Good Things,” pp. 115-117).

From this story we get a clear picture that one act of kindness can sometimes lead to some incredible places and life changes. However, I don’t want us to get our normal concept of “being nice” (which is way too common today and requires nothing from us personally including any real compassion on our part) as being confused with or as a substitute for “being kind.” The two concepts are diametrically opposed.

Here’s a second story taken from Harvard Business Review titled,Why Is it So Hard to Be Nice?” (2010) by William C. (Bill) Taylor, a writer, speaker, cofounder and founding editor of Fast Companythat speaks to the issue of kindness from a business perspective:

Every so often, you have a small experience in business that teaches big lessons about what really separates winners from losers. I had one of those experiences a few weeks ago, and I think the story is worth telling, not because it is so exciting or dramatic, but because it is so true to how the world really works — and because it underscores how those of us who think about business often make things more complicated than they are.

So here’s the story…

Two weeks ago, my father turned 75. I wanted to give him a special gift to mark the milestone, and I got an idea. How does a red-blooded American male do something nice for his Dad? Why, he buys him a Cadillac, of course! So I called my father, whose 2001 Cadillac was showing its age, and gave him the news: You visit the showroom, pick the model, negotiate the price (that’s half the fun, right?) and I’ll take care of the rest.

He was thrilled. So he drove his old Cadillac to the dealer, test-drove the new models, chose the options he wanted, and started talking price. Towards the end of those discussions, he reminded the dealer that he’d received a $1,000 customer-loyalty discount in the mail, which he planned to apply to the car. This was on a Friday afternoon. Turns out, the dealer told him, the loyalty discount had expired — on Thursday, less than 24 hours before the visit. “But I assume you’ll honor it anyway,” my father said. “I’m a loyal Cadillac customer.” Sorry, the dealer told him, but the terms are the terms.

Needless to say, that reaction stalled the conversation. My father drove away, a little confused and very disappointed, and decided to look around more — not at other Cadillac dealers, but at other brands. The next Friday, he drove by a Buick dealership and decided to stop in. A Buick Lacrosse — which, it turns out, is a super-popular model right now — caught his eye, and he struck up a conversation with the dealer. He told the story of his expired loyalty certificate. The dealer checked the computer and confirmed that the certificate had indeed expired. “But no problem,” he said, “we’ll honor it. We’ll knock a thousand bucks off whatever price we agree to.”

Impressed, my father decided to take the Lacrosse for a ride. He liked the experience, but he told the dealer he wished he had stopped by earlier in the day, so he could drive it longer. “Then take the car with you for the weekend,” the dealer said. “Bring it back on Monday and we’ll go from there.”

It was a great plan, until Monday rolled around and my father found himself being rushed not to the dealer but to the hospital, with what turned out to be a medical problem that required surgery (he’s doing great now, thanks.) As he was lying in his hospital bed, thinking about whatever it is we think about in these moments, he realized that the Buick Lacrosse was sitting in his garage! So he called the dealer from the hospital and asked how he could get the car back. “Don’t worry about the car,” he said. “Just get better.” And the next morning, what should arrive at the hospital but a lovely bouquet of flowers and a nice note from the Buick dealer!

So here’s the first question: Which car do you think my father bought? If you said the Buick Lacrosse, you would be correct. Here’s the second question: Since that purchase, what do you think one my father’s favorite topics of conversation with friends, associates, and me has been? If you said, the incredible treatment he received from the Buick dealer, you would be correct again.

Now here’s the third question: Why is it so rare for businesspeople to behave like the Buick dealer, and so common for businesspeople to behave like the Cadillac dealer? It’s a mystery to me, but there’s nothing mysterious about the results of those contrasting behaviors. Success today is about so much more than just price, quality, reliability — pure economic value. It is about passion, emotion, identity — sharing your values.

Nobody is opposed to a good bottom-line deal — “cold beer at a reasonable price,” in the immortal words of Bruce Springsteen, who prefers his Cadillacs pink. But what we remember and what we prize are small gestures of connection and compassion that introduce a touch of humanity into the dollars-and-cents world in which we spend most of our time. Translation: The ROI on that bouquet of flowers and the thought behind them was pretty darn high.

Last spring, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gave the Baccalaureate address to Princeton University’s Class of 2010. He told a little story of his own, about how a 10-year-old Jeff Bezos showed his grandparents how smart he was, in a way that upset his grandmother. His grandfather pulled young Jeff aside. “My grandfather looked at me,” the now-billionaire CEO recalled, “and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, ‘Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.’”

That sounds like a good takeaway from the story of my father’s new car. What is it about business that makes it so hard to be kind? And what kind of businesspeople have we become when small acts of kindness feel so rare? (Quote source here.)

As Jeff Bezos’ grandfather stated to him, “It’s harder to be kind than clever.” It’s also harder to be kind than nice. So why is it, as Bill Taylor stated at the end of his article, that “small acts of kindness feel so rare?” Is it because we just don’t care anymore? That can come with a pretty big price tag. “One act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” ~Aesop.

And one act of kindness. . .

Can change. . .

The world. . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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

I Shall Not Want

possessionsThe above picture looks like many of our basements, storage units, spare rooms, or garages, doesn’t it? We accumulate, but instead of getting rid of what we no longer need, we just find a place to store it for that “rainy day” that never seems to arrive. And our obsession with our possessions over the past several decades created a whole new industry: the storage center industry–which makes millions (maybe billions) off of us so we can keep all that stuff we will probably never use again since we, obviously, aren’t using it now.

Who of us living in America does not recognize the following words that open the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The Lord, of course, is the God of the Bible. However, it seems as if our “wanter” has gotten a bit out of control. We might try to rationalize all that stuff we have by saying we “need” it; but the reality is that most of the time it is not a necessity of life–it is just stuff we “want,” so we buy it, and when we are done with it, we store it just in case we might need it again for that “rainy day.”

And our “wanter” isn’t just for physical possessions. Perhaps it is a job we want that someone else has, or someone’s husband or wife that is appealing to us, or something someone else has that we want, and we don’t much care how we get it. Or maybe we want fame, prestige, power, money . . . . Our list of “wants” is pretty much endless, isn’t it?

In a chapter titled “David–I Shall Not Want” in the book, 21 Seconds to Change Your World (2016), the author, Dr. Mark Rutland, addresses the primary difference between “want” and “need.”  Dr. Rutland is “a pastor, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author and columnist for Ministry Today magazine. He is president of both the National Institute of Christian Leadership and Global Servants, and he also serves on the preaching team at Jentezen Franklin’s Free Chapel Church. He is a frequent guest on The 700 Club, TBN, James Robison’s LIFE Today, Daystar, and 100 Huntley Street. His radio program is the number one Christian teaching broadcast in Atlanta.” (Quote source here). Dr Rutland is also the former president of two Christian universities from 1999-2013 (source here). Dr. Rutland states the following from his book (pp. 79-81):

There is a difference between want and need. Though it is translated “want,” in the first verse of Psalm 23, David is most probably dealing with the issue of “need.” St. Paul speaks to the same issue in Philippians 4:19: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” The great apostle is reminding us that we can trust God to meet us at the point of our need. Some have refashioned this verse to mean that God will supply all they could ever want. That perverts the text and may lead to all kinds of error and excess.

One man even told me that God wanted him to leave his wife for his lover. He twisted two verses of Scripture in a most convenient way using Philippians 4:19 (above) and Psalm 37:4 to justify adultery, desertion, and remarriage. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

“My wife is no longer the desire of my heart,” he said. “I need this woman. Not want, but need. God has put a desire for her in my heart and a need that He will meet.”

No amount of explanation or exposition on the real meaning of those two verses would dissuade him. He had the whole story and his own heart so twisted up that he was absolutely blinded to the truth. He intended to leave his wife for his lover and he eventually did, using Scripture to salve his conscience, that is, if he still had one.

It is not God’s perfect will for His children to languish in penurious deprivation. Poverty, hunger, and want in that sense are never the will of a loving and good God. He is a God of blessing. He enjoys blessing His children. Genesis 22:17 says, “In blessing I will bless thee.”

David’s declaration of faith [in Psalm 23] is therefore a good and pure statement of God’s dependability. David is simply finding another way of saying, “God will take care of me.”

But “I shall not want” in no way means I will never have to do without anything I want. I am made of earth, and that earth raises its ugly head every so often. I have, in my own life, wanted things, wrong things, things that could hurt me and others. I have proven to myself my seemingly inexhaustible capacity to lust for the baubles and pleasures of earth. There is something inside the earth of us that is bent toward a wrongful wanting. Putting that to death is not an event but a long and painful process. Which of us has not stumbled along the way? Why? Because we want stuff. David wanted stuff. Bathsheba, for example. She was not God’s will for David, nor was David God’s will for her. Their wanting was the cause of so much sin and suffering that the story is still a living cautionary tale after three thousand years. “I shall not want” cannot be construed to mean that God will give me everything my sinful heart could ever desire.

Furthermore, there are also things that are not, in themselves, bad for me, but the earth of me needs limitations. Have you ever walked through a store with your children and heard them tick off the items without which they simply could not live another day? There were times when my wife and I told our children no about things we could have afforded, things that were not even bad for them. We did this because it is not good for us to have everything we want immediately when we want it. Sometimes not having things, or not having them now, is good for us. A life without limits becomes a life without maturity, and that is never the will of God for me.

God is a good God. His will for me is good, and He does not will for me to live my life in grinding poverty. He does not will that my children suffer hunger. God is a God of abundance and mercy and generosity. He teaches me to live in contentment, but He does not oppress me with want. (Quote source: “21 Second to Change Your World,” pp. 79-81).

lord-is-my-shepherdHere is another take on “I shall not want,” from an online devotional titled, I Shall Not Want,” by Dr. James MacDonald, who is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel; leads the church planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship; and teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio broadcast, and who is also a gifted author and speaker. Dr. MacDonald has included a “Journal” section and “Pray” section for consideration at the end of his devotion:

When David wrote in his famous psalm, “I shall not want,” it was the summary of the result of having the Lord as his shepherd. What does it mean not to want? First, it means we will not lack the basic needs of life—the big three: food, shelter, clothing. You don’t need to be anxious about those things. God promises over and over He will meet those needs in our lives.

Our initial response to this promise is often skepticism. “What about those who are hungry and homeless? There seem to be a lot of them. How does God meet their needs?” The answer comes to us in His Word, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way…” (2 Corinthians 9:11). When God supplies abundantly to us, He expects us to share with others. God uses His people to spread His blessings. You can probably think of occasions when God has helped others through you and when He has helped you through others.

And there is something deeper than the basic needs of life in the words, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” Make note of this: I shall not want another shepherd. I shall not seek another Master. The expert care of my Master Jesus is all I desire. I am completely content with His management of my life. Though my life is not perfect, He has never failed me. While there have been disappointments and difficulties, He has always kept His promises. When I have sought Him, I have found in Him all I need. The Lord is my shepherd, and I don’t want another.

“I shall not want” is also a statement about self-control. Think about all the pain in life that is caused by wanting: “I want this,” and “I want to go there,” and “I want to experience that.” Too many of life’s hurts come from wanting what we do not have.

Here is a personal example: I have always wanted to be a fisherman. I can’t begin to tell you the aggravation and heartache that have come into my life from wanting this! Oh, the stories of trips I’ve gone on and promises that were made. “You’re going to catch so many fish, you will be amazed!” Instead, I discovered there’s a reason it’s called fishing and not catching. All I caught was frustration—from wanting.

But the longer I live with the Lord as my Shepherd, the more I experience the profound ways the truth “I shall not want” can radically alter every day. 

Loved one, no matter what the circumstance, you and I already have everything we really need in Christ. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Lay hold of this powerful truth in your life today.


  • Based on today’s reading, does “not wanting” mean a change in what you “need” or does it mean seeing your “needs” in the light of God’s wise provision?
  • What has taken on the character of “wants” in your life and needs to be surrendered to the Shepherd for His timing and supply?


Lord, forgive me for the times I let the optional and incidental things from this world become unhealthy wants and needs in my life. When I stop long enough to consider all You have done for me, those earthly priorities vanish before Your glory. Help me today to be still and know You are God, my Shepherd, in whom I have everything I need. Thank You for summing up Your abundant supply in the person of Your Son, Jesus, in whose name I pray, Amen. (Quote source here.)

I’d like to include one more thought on the phrase, “I shall not want.” This one comes from a blog post on Living Proof Ministries which was founded by Beth Moore, and the post was written by Lindsee(a young woman who used to work at LPM) titled, I Shall Not Want.” Beth Moore is a widely recognized evangelist, prolific author, Bible teacher, and founder of Living Proof Ministries, a Bible-based organization for women based in Houston, Texas.

Every morning while I am getting ready for the day, I listen to either a podcast or music. I go in and out of seasons with podcasts and right now, they’re on the back-burner while my music has made a comeback. I typically put on a worship CD of some sort, but other times I press shuffle and let my iPod do the leading. That’s always an interesting mix, but it’s fun nonetheless.

This morning I put on my “Recently Played” playlist and let that shuffle. I think there are nearly 100 songs on that particular playlist, and since my taste in music is pretty eclectic, it’s a fairly random assortment and one that keeps me guessing as to what song will come on next.

Not to my surprise, Audrey Assad usually ends up on this playlist and this morning I was struck afresh with “I Shall Not Want,” a song from her most recent album and inspired from Psalm 23. It is my second favorite, next to “Good to Me,” which I actually wrote about here. (I’d just like to go ahead and apologize for every blog post that is birthed from a song. It’s how I roll.)

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God

The reason it’s my second favorite is because it confronts me in my uncomfortable places and convicts me on issues I’d rather suppress and ignore. It’s one of those songs that just gets all up in your business, hence my love/hate relationship with it. I mean, from the need to be understood, accepted and fear of being lonely? Ouch. I’m telling you the truth when I say that so often her lyrics leave me speechless. Speechless or thankful because she has a gift in putting words to what I’m feeling. . . .

We started Bible study this past Tuesday and one thing that stuck out to me while I was reading earlier this week was the word “dependencies.” Our current and brand new series is called “Breath” and it is all about the Holy Spirit. We’re barely getting started but the word Beth brought to us on Tuesday was stunning to say the least. I’m not going to even try and recap for fear of obliterating the entire series, but I can say that we’re praying for miracles and salvations to blow through Bible study these next six weeks.

I think the reason the word dependencies jumped out at me is because, if I can be so honest, in my own personal life, I’ve noticed that the Lord has been removing all manner of dependencies from my life. Dependencies that distract me from Jesus himself. And while it’s not a fun process in the least, and even hurts most times, it’s a good thing. I said to a friend the other day that when we have no where to go but to Jesus, it’s a good place to be. Yes, I have the sweetest friends and the most caring family, but even when we have all of the above, there are just some things that only Jesus can tend to. There are some places that only He can fill because truly, there are intimate things that only He knows. Even in marriage our spouse wasn’t meant to be a God to us, but a helpmate. If some of us were honest, we’d could say that some of our dependencies are secrets only He knows about, but we’ve never spoken them aloud to anybody, let alone Him. But as a God who is intimately acquainted with you, He knows, He sees, He doesn’t require you to change before you come to Him and He still pursues you with His perfect and unconditional love.

Can we just all be real here and ask God to deliver us from our enemies? Our dependencies? And then all agree with each other in Jesus’ name? We can even speak it anonymously if need be. I know it’s Friday and Monday is the day for starting over (do you sense my sarcasm?), but let’s not wait until Monday, let it be today! After all, Jesus came “not to call the righteous ones to repentance, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) That’s good news to those of us today who are erring on the side of sin. Erring on the side of dependency of the things that make us weak and sick. Erring on the church-lady taboo that we’re all strong and well. Jesus is good news, indeed. (Quote source here.)

These three different views by the three different authors on the phrase “I shall not want” should give us plenty of “food for thought” on the meaning of “I shall not want” in our own lives. Also, I’ve included the Audrey Assad song, I Shall Not Want,” referenced above in the blog post by Lindsee, as the YouTube Video for this blog post (see below). And I’ll end this post with those famous opening words from King David in Psalm 23. . .

The Lord. . .

Is my Shepherd. . .

I shall not want. . . .

YouTube Video: “I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here