SLOW TO ANGER & IT’S ALL ABOUT ME

The Kingdom of Me. It’s all about me. Didn’t you know that? It’s not about you … not about us … just about me. Your role? Well, obviously, to satisfy my desires!

• Proverbs 19:11 (ESV): “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

• James 1:19 (CSB): “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

• Ephesians 4:26 (NIV): “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

• PHILIPPIANS 2:4 (NKJV): “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

AVOID SENSELESS ARGUMENTS

THE KINGDOM OF ME. It’s all about me. Didn’t you know that? It’s not about you … not about us … just about me. Your role? Well, to satisfy my needs, to make me happy.

You say: What a terribly egocentric, anti-social, narcissistic mindset. No thought for anyone else, just yourself.

I agree with you. My statement of personal interest is everything selfish you said it is.

However, now that I’m a born-again Christian, the Holy Spirit works within me to change all of that, to make certain I don’t consider myself “more highly than I ought” (see Rom. 12:3) and that I should consider others needs “more important” than my own (see Phil. 2:3).

But what about those who aren’t born-again Christians? According to the Bible, most of the people we encounter are not born-again Christians, as Jesus defined the term “born again” (see John 3).

IT’S ALL ABOUT ME

YOU ASK, “HOW DOES this ‘all about me’ stuff impact your meditation topic, avoiding arguments? What’s the connection?”

Great question!

I’ve been meditating and praying a lot in recent weeks about the connection because — this is just what I think happens — arguments erupt when two or more people interact in such a way that each one requires — no, insists on — winning his or her point.

It doesn’t necessarily start off that way. An argument can materialize out of a simple conversation, or maybe an innocent question, or even an off-hand remark that means nothing to the speaker but is dynamite to the listener.

The Bible tells us to avoid such tiffs. In addition to our four text sources above, here are some other gems:

• Proverbs 20:3 (NKJV): “[It is] honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel.”

• Proverbs 21:23 (ESV): “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

• James 3:6a (NIV): “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.”

• Proverbs 15:1 (CSB): “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”

TRIPPING OVER PRIDE

THE WAY IT SEEMS to go is that our pride gets in the way of our conversation. Someone’s comment does not square with our reality, so we want to ensure that our perspective — which we insist is objectively based — prevails.

For Christians, the most important topics focus on faith issues, whether it’s abortion or same-sex marriage or euthanasia — or a host of other topics — we often believe we are “witnessing” for our faith when we make our point, but before too long, we restate it, then we dig in our heels, then raise our voice, then make bold judgmental comments.

***

The late Dr. Everett L. Cattell, former president of Malone College in Canton, Ohio, had this to say about arguing as it relates to Christian witness:

“Witnessing is not arguing. I used to get a thrill of self-statisfaction when, with fellow university students, I found I could hold my own arguing an evangelical faith. But nobody got converted by it. Whenever I find myself arguing religion with any one now, I know I am failing. In witnessing, there is no argument. It is sharing, and if the thing you share is not real, it is false witnessing.”

CATTELL, SPIRIT OF HOLINESS, P. 19)

Instead of demanding recognition of your point, no matter how valid you believe it to be, perhaps sprinkle your speech with salt.

The Bible tells us in Colossians 4:6 (ESV): “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

KINGDOM OF SELF

LET’S FINISH WITH a word of advice from Pastor and Author Paul David Tripp, who speaks of “The Kingdom of Self” and it’s fight with God’s Kingdom.

Tripp gives us five questions to ask in self-examination to highlight how sin tarnishes our motives, words, and actions from the high-minded ideal we hold to the way it gets played out.

  • 1. SELF-FOCUS: Before making a decision, do you think, “What’s in it for me?” or do you freely sacrifice for the good of another without expecting a return?
  • 2. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS: Are you more concerned with, and on the lookout for, the sin, weakness, and moral failure of others than you are your own?
  • 3. SELF-SATISFACTION: Do you regularly feel discontent, always looking for something new to satisfy you, instead of being satisfied with a God-honoring life?
  • 4. SELF-RELIANCE: Do you avoid living in intrusive and intentional relationships, where others admit their need for grace and seek the help of biblical community?
  • 5. SELF-RULE: Which law gets the most attention and the quickest response in your life and relationships, the Word of God or your own desires?

POSTSCRIPT

PAUL DAVID TRIPP points out that Jesus showed anger when someone violated God’s laws, but men and women show anger when someone violates their laws. This is especially true, he said, for married couples, who constantly navigate the petit irritations of close living.

In his book Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs asks us to imagine that Jesus is standing behind the person we’re disputing with, saying, “I created this person in My image. Whatever you say to him (or her), you’re saying to Me.”

Well, that would shut us up fast! At least it would encourage us to tone down our rhetoric, maybe cause us to lead with our ears over our tongues.

Here’s the apostle Paul’s exhortation to his disciple Timothy in his ministry:

Remind them of these things, and solemnly exhort them in the presence of God not to dispute about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the listeners.”

2 TIMOTHY 2:14 (NASB20)

PRAYER

OUR MOST GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL FATHER, we humbly come to You in repentance of our sin, of arrogance and pride, of selfishness and lack of compassion, of judgment and condemnation of others. O Lord, You made us in Your image and yet we flop around in our sin, living a life ruled by distorted vision of Your design. Forgive us, O Lord, and claim us as Your own, washing our sin away by the Lamb’s blood, and giving us the assurance that no one can snatch us from Your hand. In Jesus’ glorious name we pray. AMEN

LIVING A JOY-FILLED LIFE

If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our lives should be testimonies of joy, peace, and gratitude. When, then, do so many of us grumble about our hardships when God is calling us to receive our blessings with joy … and spread the overflow to those around us.

  • Romans 15:13 (CSB): “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18 (NKJV): “Rejoice always … in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

BEING A BLESSING TO OTHERS

BY THIS TIME, Danny and Marcy were tearing their hair out … and about ready to tear out each other’s hair!

Call it a day of “First World Problems,” if you want, it was still frustrating, and both of them felt justified in their anger.

“Danny! The garbage disposal isn’t working.” Marcy shouted. “Do something! I need to get rid of these left-overs.”

“Stop annoying me!” Danny responded from a nearby room, where he sat hunched over his computer. “The internet is out, and I can’t complete my project.”

OUR DAILY STRUGGLES

THE EVERYDAY CHALLENGES that dot our lives, testing our resolve to be more patient, to be kinder and more loving, to be considerate of others.

Didn’t we just make that pledge Sunday morning during worship? Weren’t we led to believe that blissful state of being bathed by the Holy Spirit was ours to carry through the week, only to see it leak from our grasp by Monday morning?

How far removed are Danny and Marcy from living out the Gospel as a blessing to those around them, to bear the “Good Fruit” of Christian values, when they can’t get past noon the next day without bickering and quarreling.

While Danny and Marcy are fictional characters, they stand in very nicely for some people I know all too well … like me and just about everyone I know.

HOPE IS AVAILABLE

JESUS TOLD US He is the vine and we’re the branches, and that we must “abide in Him.” Why? “Because,” He said, “without Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NKJV)

Every day we fail to live out our faith, every time we “quench” the Holy Spirit, whenever we fail to show the “Fruit of the Spirit,” we are reminded that without the guiding, sustaining light of Jesus Christ, we will fail.

We are living testaments of the apostle Paul’s lament in Romans 7:15 (NASB20), when he complained about doing those things he hates: “for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Yup. Got it. That’s not just Paul. That’s me, too.

JESUS IS THE ANSWER

THERE IS A BETTER WAY, and we know that. Our text source gives us the answer. The God of hope and joy can so fill our hearts with peace that the overflow, the excess, the over abundance that God gifts us can reach everyone around us.

We can’t help it. If our hearts are filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, “the peace that passes all understanding,” then even in the worst circumstances of daily living, we should feel God’s presence, and our lives should shine in the darkness.

Paul tells us in Romans 12:12 (ESV): “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Again, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NET): “Constantly pray.”

Just a quick, “Help me, Lord Jesus. I need patience.” “Help me, Lord, to feel the joy of your presence.” “Be with me now, Father God. I need to feel bathed in Your love.”

ASKING A QUICK PRAYER

WITH JUST A TWEAK, Danny and Marcy can rescue their morning.

“Danny! The gar—” Marcy starts, then stops to shoot up a short plea: “O God, my Savior, quiet my soul.” Then, she says, “Danny, Honey, can you check this garbage disposal for me? It’s not working.”

“Not now!” Danny exclaims, cursing under his breath. Then he stops and prays: “Lord, give me patience. I love my wife.” Now, he can say: “I’ll be right in.”

He can leave the Internet problem alone for the moment. With a heart filled with Grace, he’ll prefer helping his wife with her needs. The Internet can wait.

POSTLUDE

THERE’S A NEW SONG in the Contemporary Christian Music field, called “Make Room,” featuring Elyssa Smith & Community Music (©2020, Curb|Word Entertainment). Here is the refrain:

“And I will make room for you. To do whatever You want to. To do whatever you want to. This is where I lay it down. You are all I’m chasing now. This is my surrender. This is my surrender.”

I like this song because, well, the melody is hypnotically peaceful, and the lyrics call me to “lay it down,” and tell me “this is my surrender.”

When I surrender, I live in harmony with the Holy Spirit within me, and that gives Him the room to bless me to overflowing, so that, out of His abundance, I can share my blessing with others, to be a blessing to them.

Without Him, as Jesus constantly reminds me, I can do nothing.

PRAYER

Dear Heavenly Father, our creator, our sustainer, our source of anything and everything that is good in our lives, we praise You, we bless You, we adore You. Thank You, Lord of all, for Your love and Your forgiveness and mercy. Help us to shine in the darkness, dear Lord, spilling over in compassion and love, forgiveness and grace so that we can touch the lives around us, to be a blessing to them as You have blessed us. We lift this prayer in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. AMEN

GIVE WILLINGLY, GRACIOUSLY

As Christians, we are quick to lay claims to God’s promises to us, where He promises to guide us and comfort us and give us eternal security, but how quick are we to give back to Him … and to others … from our bounty? God wants us to give with the same sacrificial love that He gives to us.

  • I Chronicles 29:9a (NKJV): “Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord.”
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV): “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

WHAT’S IN YOUR HEART?

HOW WILLING ARE YOU to give of your time and  your talents? Really give, unselfishly give, without counting the cost to you, giving because we serve a God who willingly and graciously gave His life for us?

Hmm?

In a recent devotional, I read the story of Israel’s King David offering his possessions for building the Temple to honor God, when he asked the assembly, “Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?” (1 Chron. 29:5b NASB20)

The text tells us the assembly leaders responded first and did so willingly, and then the entire assembly responded willingly. As a result, the entire country, from king to leaders to the assembly, rejoiced because they had responded willingly.

God uses the word “willing,” “willingly,” or a substitute term, liked “rejoiced” five times  within five verses — three times in one verse — to underscore His point.

It’s not enough, He says, to do something unselfishly, it must be done willingly.

TRYING TO FAKE IT

 THERE’S NO USE trying to fake it, either. 

The Bible tells us that while we might fool one another by smiling through clenched teeth or covering our discontent with a heartier-than-necessary “of course I’ll do it,” we won’t fool our Creator.

Consider these verses:

  • 1 Samuel 16:9b (ESV): “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
  • Psalm 44:21 (NASB20): “Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.”
  • Luke 16:15 (NIV): “And He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.’”
  • John 2:25 (NLT): “No one needed to tell him [Jesus] about human nature, for He knew what was in each person’s heart.”
  • Acts 15:8 (CSB):  “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us.”

There are more verses, but those make the point, don’t they?

REAPING THE BENEFITS

DON’T MISS THIS PART. God imparts a blessing when we give willingly and graciously.

Nehemiah 2:18 (NKJV): “And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work.”

Nehemiah 4:9 (ESV): “And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.”

In both of those verses, taken from Nehemiah’s account of the post-exilic Jews rebuilding the Jerusalem wall, we see the faithful (1) praying to God for help, strength, and direction, and (2) acting in concert with God’s will. 

It’s not enough to have “good thoughts” and wonderful intentions, our God wants us to call out to Him, to be in fellowship with Him, and to fulfill His design for us, His will for us, by acting.

It’s in the acting that we receive the blessing.

Check out this promise from God recorded in Malachi 4:10 (NASB95):

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

Here’s how author Henry Blackaby describes it:

“When you trust that God always gives His best, you will devote your heart to whatever assignment God gives because you know in that role you can experience everything God has in His heart for you.” Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God. Kindle, Loc. 431.

RESPONDING IN FAITH

NOW, IT’S UP TO US. What are we going to do with the gift of love that our Lord has lavished on us? Are we going to be obedient servants and follow through, or are we going to chart our own course? 

To word it another way, how do the experiences of David and Nehemiah and Malachi, as interesting as they may be, relate to our lives today, to your life and my life?

You can see how it relates to you as I share how it relates to me:

In my life, where I’m called to live out what I write about in my blogs, I must confess I often struggle. In my current situation, where my wife’s heart tells her we must relocate from South Carolina to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to be closer to her family and mine, I have been dragging my feet.

Not only that, and to my shame, I’ve made it a point to tell everyone that I am not pleased with the situation. Recently, my wife scolded me, saying she’s tired of hearing what a martyr I am for giving up my life and my dream to move farther South, when she insists we relocate to the North Pole (my sarcasm) just to chase her dream that (in my view) is not likely to materialize.

You can see my struggle to being obedient to the Lord.

As I gather in prayer each day, petitioning the Lord to change my heart, I find a growing countercurrent, bringing me closer to my wife, to our shared experience, and to my Lord’s guiding touch. 

SENDING REINFORCEMENTS

IT’S NOT BY ACCIDENT that a Christian friend reminded me just days ago of a Henry Blackaby book, Experiencing God, he gave me, which I’m now re-reading.

I’m now on the section where the author points out that God loves us and that His commandments are designed to benefit us and give us the abundant lives He offers.

1 John 5:3 (HCSB): “For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden.”

(See Jeremiah 29:11 and John 10:10 for additional Scriptural support.)

If we know God, Blackaby tells us, we’ll love Him, trust Him, and obey Him. (Blackaby, Experiencing God, Kindle Loc. 485)

The next section of Blackaby’s book capsulizes the point we’re exploring perfectly: “God is all-knowing — His directions are always right.”

It’s not for us to crow when we obey. Our salvation is assured through grace, not our good works, but we do have this assurance: We will have done our jobs.

Listen to what our Lord says:

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” — Luke 17:10 (NIV)

PRAYER

FATHER GOD, our Creator and Sustainer, we thank You for being a gracious giver, who gives willingly to mankind, created in Your image. How shagrined we are, O Lord, to admit we are not as gracious in response with our time and our treasure and our talents — all of which You gave us to glorify You. Please forgive us and empower us to be worthy servants, just doing our duty. In the name of our Savior, Jesus the Christ, we pray, AMEN.

‘MAY I OFFER YOU GOD’S WORD?’

God’s Word is His inspired sermon to us, His creation. In it, He tells us the answers to our most pressing questions: “Who are we?” “How did we get here?” and “What, if anything, does my life mean?” If we neglect His gift, we shortchange ourselves and risk losing the abundant life He offers. However, if we grab hold of His Word, absorb it, and let it course through our bodies like blood, we will be blessed.

ISAIAH 55:1 (ESV): “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

JOHN 1:1 (NKJV): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

DISTRIBUTING GOD’S HOLY WORD

LET ME TELL YOU a tale about eight simple words: “May I offer you the Word of God?”

Recently, I had the good fortune to join Gideons International.

Those are the Bible people — the folks who place the Holy Bible in the motel/hotel rooms in a bed stand near where you’ll sleep. Perhaps you’ve reached into the drawer to read the Bible or, like me, you bring your own.

We also present the Bible to military bases, hospitals, prisons, colleges, churches, medical offices, and various public events.

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE

My first adventure was passing out small Bibles to  students, faculty, and staff at a local university. My anxiety level was high whenever someone — usually a student — approached my “zone,” the sidewalk assigned to me.

Mustering up my courage, I would utter those eight simple words, “May I offer you the Word of God,” and extend my hand with the Bible.

***

Most students kept walking, some taking a Bible, others refusing with a short wave of their hand. Never was I able to go through the basic Gospel message or God’s plan of salvation. People were busy, and we were asking them to take a moment from pressing matters.

While I had hope for even a few conversations with someone who really was searching for answers to life’s basic questions — like ‘Who are we?’ ‘How did we get here?’ and ‘What, if anything, does my life mean?’ — it never happened.

This probably was not the best place or the right time.

OFFERING ETERNAL LIFE

“May I offer you the Word of God?” the faithful servant presents a gift so precious, so faithful, so rewarding … yet so few will take it.

  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It is the Bible, the Holy Word of God, given to us for instruction, for peace and comfort, for forgiveness of sins, for the promise of eternity with our Creator.
  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It is the salve that heals, caffeine for our souls, batteries for our zeal.
  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It is the answer to life’s perplexing questions, the crooked path made straight, the narrow gate, the difficult road.
  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It’s thinking of other’s needs above our own, of not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought, of discarding the past and running the race set before us.
  • “May I offer you the Word of God?” It’s being given the crown of life, a house with many rooms, streets of gold, and the river of life.

***

“May I offer you the Word of God?”

No, you say? Okay, I understand. God still loves you, and I’ll pray for you. My prayer will be that someday, maybe in a hotel lobby, or a hospital ward, or a military base, or a prison cell … in a church or even in your home, you’ll reach out for the Word of God.

It could save your soul.

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

If you are a Christian, you should take every opportunity God gives you to introduce someone to God’s Word. Jesus calls it being “fishers of men.”

Prayerfully reading God’s Holy Word keeps us in His will.

If you are not yet a believer, but you “attend” church, you should take the opportunity God gives you right now to read His Word, to savor its message, and to let it sink into your heart.

If you are agnostic or atheist or follow another religious tradition, may I offer you the Word of God? It is the Creator’s own message to His creation, the men and women He fashioned in His image.

***

If you read His Word and believe His Word, you will be eternally grateful.

Seriously. Eternally grateful.

Let’s join together in singing a hymn of praise to our Lord:

PSALMS 30:11-12 (NIV): “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”

PRAYER

Joining corporately and humbly before God’s throne.

ABBA FATHER, LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, we humbly bow before Your throne. You who made the Heavens and the Earth, the sun to rule by day and the moon and stars to rule by night, who merely spoke the words, and it was so. In the beginning, before the creation, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Then, God created. Lord, equip us to be Your faithful servants, extending our fellowship, witnessing to Your saving grace, and asking those we meet, “May I offer you the Word of God?” In the mighty name of Jesus, Your Son, our Lord, we lift our prayer. AMEN

The Meaning of Life – An Open Letter

(This devotion is an adaption of a letter I wrote to my adult daughters. I have massaged it to hide their identities and to make it useful to a general audience. May God bless you as you read through it and pray with me at the end. WP)

  • “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NKJV)
  • “Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15 NIV)

A MESSAGE BORN OF LOVE

WITH THE INCREASING TURMOIL in today’s world, this is an excellent time to reflect on the meaning of life. Since I am not a recognized spiritual “expert,” it’s easy to tune me out (😑), but I hope you’ll suffer through a few minutes, if only because I’m sharing from my heart.

GOD establishes His supreme authority very the very beginning, “In the beginning, God created …”

This is a message born out of love and concern, not from one (me) who has gotten everything right in life but one (me) who has had to learn some very tough lessons. Unfortunately, until I learned them, I may well have damaged other people along the way, but that’s what gives this message its impact.

It’s about God’s grace, not my accomplishments.

The text source above gives us two purposes for family as God designed us: one, that He created us male and female for marriage; and two, that He wants us to raise “Godly offspring,” that is, children who know the Lord.

When I was a young man busy with career and family, I did not know the Lord. Now, I do, and I want to tell others about Him because He has brought peace and joy to my life.

OUR INTERCONNECTEDNESS

You (my reader) and I together have experienced the ups and downs of a world connected through mass media and the internet, so a royal wedding in England and a typhoon in Asia are shared by billions around the globe.

GOD designed marriage as a physical, emotional, and spiritual union of male and female to begin families and provide the foundation for orderly society.

We experience it all: mass shootings here, an act of bravery and sacrifice there; devastating illness in one family, joy and thanksgiving in another.

With this perplexing puzzle and the ever present news feed, it’s no wonder so many today feel confused, disoriented, discouraged, and resentful.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. God — our Creator — has graciously provided us a way out.

We are called to join those of faith who, as one church elder phrased it, “praise God in the good times and praise Him in the bad times.”

More than anything else, I wish you would take your spiritual lives seriously and search into the claims the Lord makes for Himself, to see if they are true.

Jesus (God in human form) says He is God.

That makes him one of three things: a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. If He’s one of the first two, we can safely ignore Him.

However, if He’s the third, the Lord — the only other option — then we must worship Him.

WE HAVE CHOICES

God has given each of us a choice, with consequences, in our response. My prayer each day is that those we love — independently and with conviction — will seek the Lord’s guidance in their lives and then teach this to others, especially their children:

GOD designed the man (husband, father) to lead the family in devotions; He created the woman (wife, mother) to raise the children and encourage her husband’s leadership.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NKJV)

You, dear reader, may well be an accomplished and capable man or woman, making it very easy — seductively easy — to rest in the falsehood that your success is strictly your own doing and that you owe God nothing, that He has done nothing for you.

A quick list of God’s blessings starts with the fact that He created us, that He gave us life. He did that for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify Himself and to have Fellowship with us. That is the greatest blessing in life, to be in Fellowship with our Creator.

Don’t let another day go by without taking advantage of that free gift of God’s grace. If you are a husband and father, lead your family to worship the Lord and walk with Him daily; if you are a wife and mother, encourage your husband to start leading you and your children so they will become the “Godly offspring” your Creator desires.

The husband’s job is to lead the family; the wife’s job is to ensure he does it!

SHARING OUR GRATITUDE

Finally, I am grateful for my wife being in my life — she is my third wife but my first and only Christian wife. Despite our joy in being together, we see the hurts and sorrows that divorce brings. She and I both suffer from our divorces, and we can see our children accommodating to it in their lives.

GOD desires my worship, praise, and adoration.

Both of us love our collected children and grandchildren, and we’re both trying to present the message of redemption, fellowship, healing, and life to each of them.

God gives each of us the freedom to make our choices. However, there are consequences for our eternal destination. Either we will continue in Fellowship with the Lord forever, or we will be separated from Him forever.

You, dear reader, should not want separation from the Lord for yourself. You should want Fellowship with the Lord. He tells us to “choose life.”

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV)

Two choices: one is foolish, one is wise. Please choose the wise one for you and your families.

________

PRAYER


GOD’S holy and inspired Word guides us, comforts us, leads us, sustains us, and calls us to Him

ABBA, FATHER, we come to You, O Lord, in humility and  repentance, knowing we are unworthy to approach the throne of grace except through the blood of Jesus Christ. We ask forgiveness for our pride and waywardness and seek Your mercy, O Lord, as You reconcile us to Yourself and lead us in all righteousness for Your name sake. Lord, bring a saving grace to a darkened world and may we, Your servants, not be a stumbling block but a light in that task. We ask this in the mighty name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN

PROCLAIMING GOD’S TRUTH … WITH LOVE (Part 1 of 2)

The Bible—God’s Holy Word—reveals God’s Truth to mankind. While written by men, each word is inspired by God, according to its own claim, with more than 300 Old Testament prophesies already fulfilled. Its chief prophecy was the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. To thwart God’s plan to redeem mankind, Satan deceives and distorts God’s Word. Faithful Christians must be aware of that and must defend the Bible’s truth claims against false teaching.

2 Cor. 10:5 (NLT): “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

Titus 2:1 (NIV): You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”

James 3:1 (NET): “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.

John 17:17 (NASB2020): “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

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 FIGHTING AGAINST FALSE TEACHING

THE BODY OF CHRIST is under assault. That assault naturally comes from outside the church as Satan tries to thwart God’s plan to redeem fallen mankind.

More dangerous, however, is the daily assault from within the church. That danger is “false doctrine,” being preached from the pulpits in many churches.

That false doctrine comes under the heading of “Jesus Is Love,” which is true, but the false message being preached is that “Love” fully describes Jesus, when He described Himself as “Holy.”

The difference? “Holy” includes “Love,” but it also includes “Just.”

HOLINESS VERSUS SIN

A HOLY GOD cannot abide sin, and, yes, sin is real, and the Bible — God’s inspired and true Word — clearly spells out sin  as “actions, words, and thoughts that violate God’s commandments.”

Let’s examine some of the sins God names: drunkenness, slander, envy/jealousy, bearing false witness (lying), disrespect toward one’s parents, disobedience to governing authorities, and sexual sin.

Sexual sin, the Bible notes, covers sexual acts involving children; family members or close relatives; the neighbor, co-worker, or total strangers; and animals.

Then, there’s one more category, one that God highlights throughout the sacred text: physical relations with someone of the same sex.

Instead, God’s Word proclaims that proper sexual unions are confined to marriage partners, where one partner is male and one is female.

SAME-SEX ATTRACTION

SAME-SEX ATTRACTION has been siphoned out of the list of biblically named vices and presented, even within some churches, as an alternate “life choice,” considered to be as valid a  choice as opposite-sex monogamy.

In fact, many churches are teaching that the body of Christ must accept and validate behavior that the Bible clearly labels “deviant” and “unnatural.”

Churches that do so are peddling the false doctrine that God will condone homosexual behavior because “God is love,” and He wants His creatures to be happy and connected physically and emotionally with “the one they love.”

Some churches even teach that God’s Word is not to be taken “literally” and, thus, can be revised by the reader, according to his reason and experiences.

However, the Bible warns teachers not to deviate from “sound doctrine” nor to teach a false message, one contrary to God’s clear teaching (Titus 2:1 NIV). In his letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul said those teaching a false message should be “accursed” (Galatians 1:9 NKJV).

This is God’s teaching about sexual sin, through Paul’s writing:

1 Thessalonians 4:3,8 (NLT): “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. … Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

LEADING CONGREGATIONS ASTRAY

HOW DO OTHERWISE well-meaning people go astray? How? Little by little, one step at a time … until the apostasy goes unnoticed. 

The apostasy starts in the pulpit and radiates out to encompass the congregation and, from there, spreads out to the community. 

The writer Brandon Medina, in his TheologyThink Tank article “Is the Bible the Literal Word of God?” poses the question rhetorically of whether anyone rationally believes the Bible is the “literal word of God.” He then says:

“This is a common refrain Bible-believing Christians hear, usually from the unsaved but increasingly from those even inside the church community: pastors, seminary teachers, and laypeople alike.”

Don’t miss that point: “Increasingly from those even inside the church community: pastors, seminary teachers, and laypeople alike.” 

Those “laypeople,” to be influential, are the elders, deacons, teachers, home group leaders, and other respected members of the local assembly. They may be the business leaders or other accomplished persons, at least by worldly standards. 

POSTSCRIPT

FOR THOSE WHO WANT to sound the alarm against false teaching, the Bible clearly says we must do so with love and gentleness, and for those of us who are not Jesus, that balance often is difficult (or nearly impossible) to do well. He did it perfectly; we’re called to imitate Him.

That makes it doubly important that we “pray in” so we’ll be connected to the Holy Spirit and then we can approach our brothers and sisters in an act of love.

May the Lord’s blessing rest upon those who obey His command to avoid sexual sin and may it rest upon those who, in love, speak the truth to those violating God’s order.

(Part 2 will be published after Christmas)

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PRAYER

HOLY AND MIGHTY GOD, please forgive us who claim to belong to the body of Christ for our sin. While some in our midst teach, or practice, false doctrine, others of us fail to call them to account. 

MANY, EVEN IN the church, sin by following, promoting, or teaching false doctrine, especially in the area of sexual sin; while others of us sin in our pride, arrogance, and judgmental attitude when pointing it out, as though we, ourselves, are without sin.

BECAUSE OF our sin, our message of repentance often goes unheard. This allows those who practice sexual sin, whether same-sex or opposite-sex behavior, to continue in their deviant and disobedient actions because our testimony is tainted. Lord, only You can save Your children. Only You can calm the storm and right the ship.

WE PRAY, LORD, that You will charge us who follow correct teaching to do so with humility and compassion and for those who promote and participate in a false doctrine to find a loving home within the body of Christ for them to return and to do so soon. 

LORD, WE LIFT this pray in the loving, holy, and just name of Jesus Christ. AMEN

GUARDING OUR TONGUES

What we say can get us into so much trouble. Not only the words we utter, but also our tone of voice and who we share with can hurt others and ourselves. The Bible tells us the tongue “is a fire, a world of iniquity … and it is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6 NKJV) Those are strong words, yet 2,000 years later, so many of us wish we had been more careful more often with more people. Mankind cannot tame the tongue, the Bible says, so we need the power of God’s Holy Spirit to keep us from this sin.

 

  • Psalm 141:3 (NKJV): “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”
  • James 3:8 (NASB): “But no one can tame the tongue;  it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

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MY LIFELONG STRUGGLE

WATCHING MY TONGUE is a life-long struggle.57.Tongue-fire

Early in my life, I said whatever I wanted to, as bluntly as I knew how, disregarding any consequences.

Yes, I paid a price for loose lips, although, at the time, I don’t recall ever seeing a direct correlation between my actions and the resulting consequences. I was not a Christian then, so I did not have the Bible’s wisdom to guide and correct me.

To the extent that I did recognize my own shortcomings, I must have simply shrugged my shoulders and toughened my skin.

That has changed.

God has changed me.

ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT

IN NOVEMBER 2010, — 10 years ago this month — led by the Holy Spirit, I surrendered my life to Almighty God.

72. Man_Tape_TongueHe placed it upon my heart to watch my tongue, that my  very words belonged to Him, and I was to begin seeing myself as “salt and light” to a sin-filled world.

Another way of stating it is that I was blessed by God to be a blessing to others.

There’s no way I could accomplish that role without being more careful about what I said and how I said it.

Jesus even reminded us of that in Matthew 12:36 (ESV):

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”

Although the Lord didn’t add these words, He could have: “That means you … and it means You … and it means YOU!”

ENTER A CHRISTIAN WOMAN

TWO YEARS AFTER coming to faith, the Lord brought a Christian woman into my life, and we married 2 1/2 years later.

She is my true *ezer kenegdo,* chastising me when I make judgmental comments or hurtful criticisms or just flat-out plain and stupid foolishness. Unfortunately, she’s been kept busy in that role. I must be a slow learner.FEMALE_SILHOUETTE

The difference in me now is that I care.

I want to do better.

I am grieved whenever I grieve the Holy Spirit;

Ephesians 4:30 (NIV): “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

I am grieved whenever I grieve my wife.

1 Peter 3:7 (NASB): “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

God is serious about this tongue business.

  ENTER GOD’S GRACE

THE GOD OF MERCY AND GRACE loves me, as He loves each and every one of His children. He chastises me when He needs to, and He forgives me (thankfully!) whenever I repent.

God's Glory Fills the HillsIn gratitude and joy, I should and must become more diligent in watching my speech.

The angels are watching, other men and women are watching, and my Lord and Savior is watching.

Here are just three reminders:

    • “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”  — 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV)
    • ”Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” — Hebrews 4:13 (NIV)
    • ”The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good.”Proverbs 15:3 (CSB)

POSTSCRIPT

GOD, IN HIS MERCY AND GRACE, saved me from destruction through the life blood of His Son.

In turn, giving thanks to Him, I must be determined, I am determined, and with His help and guidance, I will be determined to watch my tongue.

It pains me to realize I will slip up, but as a child of God, I will be rebuked by the Holy Spirit, and through repentance, restored to fellowship with the eternal and loving God.

“LET THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ACCEPTABLE IN YOUR SIGHT, O LORD, MY ROCK AND MY REDEEMER.” — PSALM 19:14 (ESV)

PRAYER

THANK YOU, LORD JESUS, that You have called me from out of the darkness into the light,image-5  that You have plucked me up from the garbage of my sin-filled life and restored my soul. Now, O Lord, continue Your work in me until completion that I may be a blessing to others as You have blessed me. O Lord, help me guard my tongue … and my thoughts. Thank You, Lord Jesus! In Your holy and majestic name I lift this prayer … we lift this prayer … as one. AMEN

THE ELECTION & THE AFTERMATH

Now that the US election 2020 is over, except for the lawsuits and mandatory recounts, what is the role the body of Christ should take in word and deed to bring glory to God and distinguish ourselves from unbelievers in both major parties? Jesus told us to be His witnesses and assured us of His continued presence in our lives, so our marching orders are clear: We are to stay “in His will,” remaining in prayer, and testifying by word and deed what the Lord has done for us.

Romans 13:1 (NASB): “Each person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority  except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”

Daniel 2:21 (NKJV): “He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

Romans 14:12 (ESV): “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

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GLORIFYING GOD EVEN IN DEFEAT

NOW THAT THE VOTING IS OVER for the President/Vice President in the 2020 US election, how should the body of Christ react when many of us believe the wrong team won?

In the flesh, we’re as capable of temper tantrums as our non-believing neighbors, but as voting_signfollowers of Jesus Christ, we are called to a higher standard.

He told us that the world would know we are His flock if we love one another (John 13:35; John 15:17). He told us we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). He told us to care for the least of these (Matt. 25:40), to proclaim the Good News (Matt. 28:19), and to store our treasures in Heaven, where they will not be stolen or damaged (Matt. 6:19-20).

He also told us (John 15:5) we would not be able to do any of that in our own power. We would need His help.

DISCERNING GOD’S WILL FOR US

SO, NOW WE’RE ABOUT the job of discerning the Lord’s will. We read in Daniel 2:21 that God “changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings,” and we wonder, Did God just remove the king and replace him with another?

Wasn’t it just four years ago that we praised God for raising up a president and vice imagepresident who pledged to honor the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, to honor marriage as a gift from God uniting female and male into one unit, and to proclaim not just the freedom to worship but also the freedom to live out our faith?

If so, then, what happened?

Did God change His mind? Not likely.

Did God give us a brief window to get serious about our faith and find us wanting? Maybe.

Why would God elevate to the highest two offices in the land a duo committed to:

    • extending abortion to include allowing born babies to die,
    • extending LGBTQ+ rights over the rights of normal males and females,
    • quenching religious liberty in subjection to the state, and
    • upending the first institution installed by God, that of marriage between a man and a woman?

WHY??

Why, Lord, why?

STAYING FAITHFUL DURING TRIALS

AT THE MOMENT, I feel sick. I see the country I used to love and still have hopes for turning into a hate-filled narcissistic shell of its former self.

Yes, I see the threats launched from the victorious forces declaring their desire to silence opposition to their rule, to continue their assault on our civil liberties, and, if necessary, to destroy us.

Yet, God tells us to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16), to “give thanks” in all situations (1 Thess. 5:18), and even to rejoice and persevere in “tribulation” (Rom. 12:12).

Okay, we’re there. Tribulation, defeat, rejection. We’re there, Lord. Now we’re supposed to be patient and … what? Quietly endure? Suffer? Seek revenge?

No, our Lord answers. Keep praying, He says (1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12; James 1:2-3). Besides, our trials are nothing compared with what the apostles suffered. Check out Paul’s trials (2 Cor. 11:24-28).

BELIEVING GOD’S PLAN IS GOOD 

NOT ONLY MUST WE focus on God’s plan being good, we must realize that His timing is not the same as ours. We want answers yesterday; He provides them 500 years later … or 50 years … or maybe five years.

He has to prepare people for the future He has willed. Moses needed 40 years growing up in Pharaoh’s court, 40 years tending sheep in the wilderness, and then enduring the trials of facing Pharaoh with a series of plagues before God considered him ready to lead His people out of bondage.

So, why should we expect an immediate answer to all of our questions by the evening news or tomorrow’s newspaper?

The answers are in His Book, and we can sustain ourselves by reading it and learning from it.

My conclusion: Stay in the Word, remain in prayer, fellowship with the saints, and testify to the world that God is in control, and His plan will occur in the timing that He decrees.

POSTSCRIPT

I DON’T KNOW WHAT the Lord is doing in this election. He doesn’t owe me an explanation. However, I thoroughly trust His judgment and His plan for my life. He will let it develop in His time, and I might live long enough to see some of it play out.

What is very clear to me is that I am to call on the name of the Lord everyday, to seek my refuge in Him, to confess my sins to Him, to ask His will for my life, to engage in intercessory prayer, to be temperate in my comments, to be patient in my demeanor, and to show love and compassion to my fellow man, even those I dislike.

38. God's.MercyThat looks like a pretty full plate, and, no, I am not capable of doing half of that well without the strong arm of Jesus Christ wrapped around my shoulders and the Holy Spirit indwelling my heart.

May my heart cry mimic the covenant prayer of Pastor John Wesley 250 years ago: “I am no longer my own, but thine; Put me to what thou wilt; rank me with whom thou wilt; Put me to doing; put me to suffering. … So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen”

Those are amazing words and an awesome responsibility. I am not up to it, but the God I serve is bigger than any obstacle I face. May His grace lead me and sustain me during the trials ahead.

I’m going to need His love to get me through until the next election … and beyond.

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PRAYER

O LORD GOD, our merciful Father, we come to You humbly and repentant. We know that image-17we have failed to proclaim the Good News as vigorously or as often as we ought. We know You will confront us with our failures when we reach Glory. Help us to see clearly the pathway You’ve laid out for us to follow and give us the strength, and the desire, to obey. Your way is perfect at all times, and we rest comfortably knowing You, Lord, are in control. May we be Your faithful servants. In the loving and mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ we lift this prayer. AMEN

OBEYING THE LORD’S COMMANDS

The Lord has created us with a perfect plan to glorify Him and to enjoy fellowship with Him and each other. His rules for our lives are designed to help us, not to harm us or destroy our enjoyment. Instead, He promises His prescriptions will give us life and that in abundance. We disobey Him at our loss.

1 Kings 2:3 (CEV):Do what the Lord your God commands and follow his teachings.”

John 14:15a (TLB):If you love me, obey me.”

Luke 2:52 (CSB): “Jesus increased in wisdom and  stature, and in favor with God and with people.”

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LEARNING TO BE OBEDIENT

WHEN WE WERE children, our mother would tell us to “go to the bathroom” before we went anywhere in the car.

Of course, that would mean leaving our toys and other play things, so naturally we would respond, “I don’t have to go.”Boys_Playing_Blocks

After she told us another time or two, with each time our refusing to budge, our father would bellow, “Obey your mother!”

Suddenly, we had to use the bathroom and would race one another to get there first.

In many ways, that is how many Christians treat the Lord’s commands.

We know that He loves us and that He’ll forgive us, so we’re lax when it comes to obeying Him.

What too many Christians are prone to forget is that He also judges us and is not pleased when we disobey Him.

LEARNING GOD’S COMMANDS

WHAT ARE SOME of the commandments the Lord requires us to obey?

The first and primary commandment, as Jesus described it, is to love the Lord your God with your entire body, mind, and soul. The second commandment, He said, is to love our neighbor as ourself. (Matt. 22:37-40)

god-is-sovereignHe also commanded us to obey the Ten Commandments or Law of Moses. The first four commandments are to love God first, to worship only God, do not take His name in vain, and to honor the Sabbath Day, a requirement for ancient Israel that was replaced after Jesus’ resurrection with honoring the Lord’s Day.

The next six commandments regulated our interaction with our neighbors and were based entirely on mutual love and respect for others created in God’s image.

We readily recognize those “love” commandments as mandates from God, but there are others that we must acknowledge and obey:

        • You must be born again
        • Let people see your good works
        • Abide in Him
        • Forgive your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
        • Tell others about Him and baptize them in His name
        • Get rid of anything that causes you to sin
        • Store up your treasures in Heaven
        • Observe communion in remembrance of Him
        • Be humble, not proud
        • Do not lust after women (or men)
        • Be merciful.

OBEYING GOD’S COMMANDS

NOW, THE BIG QUESTION:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT LIST?

How many of them are you missing? Are you obeying each of them?

A few of them are one-time only, like being born again, but most of the list is ongoing, a way of life. If we are dedicated and consistent, we will live God-honoring lives that will make for a powerful testimony to the Lord’s saving grace.image-2

When we realize that we cannot fulfill the list under our own  power, we can lay claim to one of the more compelling commandments in the list, to “abide” in Jesus.

When we do that, He promises to “abide” in us and assures that, without Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)

POSTSCRIPT

GOD’S COMMANDMENTS are requirements, not requests or suggestions. He wants us to obey Him because His commandments are good for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Those plans conform to God’s design for our lives. We not only are wise if we obey them, but we will be much happier and peaceful. (Proverbs 1:7; John 10:10)

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PRAYER

OUR GRACIOUS AND LOVING Heavenly Father, we  confess to You so often we have lone_crossfailed to obey Your design for our lives, substituting our own desires for Your commands. We have treated Your commands as worthy suggestions, but often ignore them for what they are: directives. Forgive us, Lord, and encourage us through the Holy Spirit to live our lives as a living testament to Your power and Your goodness. In Jesus’ redeeming name we pray. AMEN

 

GIDEON: OUR MIGHTY WARRIOR

God knows that each one of us is weak, yet He has chosen to work through us to reach broken humanity. We cannot do it on our own, but He does not expect us to. Instead, He will empower us through the Holy Spirit. In His Bible, He shows us how He can take a simple man like Gideon and turn him into a mighty warrior.

Judges 6:12 (NIV): “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’”

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV): “But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

James 4:10 (CSB): “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

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GOD WORKS WITH THE HUMBLE

GIDEON — yes, that Gideon of the Bible —  was not anyone’s idea of a gifted leader. Yet, we read that an angel of the LORD appeared to him one day and called him “mighty warrior.”62. Gideon_And_Angel

When Gideon heard this word of affirmation, he replied with that famous battle cry: “Pardon me, my lord.”

Hmm.

Not too commanding, was he?

“Pardon me, my lord” was the ancient world’s equivalent of our “Say what? You talkin’ to me?”

WATCHING GIDEON VACILLATE

LET’S GO BACK to the scene.

Our hero, Gideon, is busy with the post-harvest chore of separating the wheat from the chaff.

The best way the ancient world had for doing this was labor-intensive: the farmer stuck a pitchfork into the bale and threw it into the air, where the wind current would blow the lighter chaff away, thus separating it from the heavier wheat, which would fall into a heap.

Normally, this was done in a location where the wind currents were felt.

But Gideon was found in a winepress, which is a depression out of sight of those on the ground. The wind currents were not very strong there, but it afforded him sight protection from the enemy Midianites, who were prowling about.

Gideon no doubt feared if they saw him, they would run him through with a sword and take the wheat.

“I AM” IS SENDING YOU

HERE’S GIDEON HIDING from the Midianites, when an angel of the LORD comes down and sits under an oak tree. His greeting? “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

i-am“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

At this point, Gideon chides the angel, reminding him that if the LORD were watching over Israel, if the LORD were doing His job the way Gideon thought He should, then why were the Israelites afraid for their lives. Heck, why was Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress?

Here’s the angel’s response: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of the Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Hold onto that question for a moment: “Am I not sending you?”

Where have we heard that one before?

Was it not Moses at the burning bush asking the LORD who should he say was sending him to free the Israelites from Egypt, and the LORD replied, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14)

GOD’S COMMANDS AND GRACE

GOD’S COMMANDS to us are accompanied by His grace.

He never sends us out without promising to be with us.

The LORD requires us to speak, think, and act according to His will. Our job, according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), is to teach others that God has come into the world to save us from our rebellion, our hardness of heart, our human pride.62. Redemption

Then, we are to take the message of redemption and forgiveness to a broken world.

All the while, He promises this: “Remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” (v. 20 GW)

Often we fail. Some of us, quite often. Even when we do the right thing(s), our hearts might be looking for our glory, not His. So we repent, He forgives, He toughens us up, and we grow. Next time around, we do better. We’re stronger … until, again, we fail. The process repeats itself until we’re in glory with our LORD.

How comforting to hear our LORD’s promise to sustain us. He will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) nor leave us as orphans (John 14:18). He tells us not to be afraid because He will hold us up (Isaiah 41:13). When He has commanded us to do something, He says He will be with us while we do it (Joshua 1:9).

Our faith is essential to this process (Hebrews 11:1) for without faith, we cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

TRANSFORMING A WEAK MAN

GOD CAN TAKE a weak man like Gideon and turn him into a mighty warrior, a warrior mighty in battle (Psalm 24:8). God’s will will prevail. His word goes out and accomplishes all that He has tasked it with. It will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Now, it becomes our turn to go, to be obedient, to share the Word of the LORD, to encourage others—in the name of Jesus Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. When the LORD asks whom shall He send, let us be like the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV).

Well, Gideon was no Isaiah, so he didn’t quite say, “Okay, I’m your man.” Instead, he said, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh [one of 12 Israeli tribes], and I am the least in my family.”

That is where many of us stay. We know there’s Kingdom work to be done, but too often we feel we’re just not qualified to do it. The Lord certainly knows our limitations.

Most of us, if pressed, could readily point to someone else to take our place, someone else whom we think is much better equipped to handle the task the LORD has laid on our shoulders. In fact, we’re very eager to supply names, e-mail addresses, and mobile phone numbers—just to help out. We can be very helpful that way.

STUDYING THE BIBLE’S LEADERS

WHEN WE LOOK to the Bible’s list of great leaders— Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, Daniel, Peter, John, James, Paul—we find that each one of them was prepared by the LORD to handle the task he was given before the task was assigned.

It’s not our position or title in a group that makes us a leader — not any more than expensive sneakers makes us an NBA star or nifty skates takes us to the Stanley Cup.

image-19What makes a leader is character, and character is developed over time, usually starting with a vision, then denting that vision with adversity, then wrapping the result around perseverance. (Romans 5:3-5) (James 1:2-4)

Other examples of “leaders” were of lesser stuff. We think immediately of Barak, who would lead Israel into battle only if the female judge Deborah accompanied him.

Then, of course, there’s Gideon.

PREPARING GIDEON FOR BATTLE

THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNT of Gideon’s transformation is an interesting story.

First, Gideon places God’s messenger under a variety of tests or “proofs” that he is, indeed, sent from God. Of course, the angel passes every test with ease.

Then the LORD tells Gideon to assemble an army. He adds a caveat that if Gideon wants further proof that he was anointed by God, he could sneak up on the Midianites’ compound. When Gideon does — with a companion, of course — he hears the Midianites proclaiming their fear of Gideon and his army!

Yes, there’s also the winnowing down of Gideon’s troops from 30,000 to 300 because God said He wanted Gideon and the Israelites to know that it was He, the God of the Israelites, that delivered the enemy over, not the might of the Israelite army. (Judges 7:2)

First, God let every man afraid to go into battle to leave — that dropped the total by two-thirds — then He wanted only the men who lapped water by scooping it up in their hands instead of sticking their faces in the drink — that whittled most of the rest of them.

With 300 men, Gideon was fodder for a slaughter … except that the LORD’s mighty sword was raised on behalf of His people. They “won” the skirmish without fighting. The Midianites slaughtered one another.

After the battle, the Israelites wanted to crown Gideon their king, but he would have none of it. Not only would he not rule over them, he said, but neither would his son. “The Lord will rule over you,” he said. (Judges 8:23 NIV)

That often happens, too, with leadership.

Once you take the reins for a time or two, the job is yours forever. People are quite content to let someone else handle the chores.

WE CAN ALL BE LEADERS

EACH ONE OF US can be a leader. To do that, we need to take ownership of our jobs. Of who we are and what we can do.

So, what is leadership?

Leadership is character. It is not about being the boss or having one’s way. Sometimes, leadership is nothing more than looking around and seeing what needs to be done … and then offering to do it.60. Faith

A leader — or one who aspires to be a leader — must dig into areas of character, priorities, attitude, and vision.

A leader has to discipline himself not only to set the agenda but sometimes to set the table for others to succeed.

Leadership is not just about our own enhancement or our position or our glory. It is not about attaining our will. It’s about sacrificial service.

Remember our LORD at the Last Supper when he got up from the table, wrapped his cloak around his waist, filled the wash basin, and kneeled down to wash the feet of His disciples — including, we presume, the feet of the man who, within hours, would betray Him.

THE LORD’S CALL FOR US

WHAT IS THE CALL IN OUR LIVES?

Has the LORD been laying on your heart a task you think is too big for you, has He given you a word of encouragement that you’ve been hesitant to deliver, has He prepared you for a role in your life that He’s starting to unveil to you?

What does it take for you, for us, to take that first step of  obedience?

62. Bible_LeadersJohn C. Maxwell, author of the book, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, tells us this:

1. There are never enough leaders.

2. Every leader needs development.

  • Moses spent 40 years being educated in Pharaoh’s house, plus 40 years of tending sheep in the desert;
  • Joseph spent years in servitude to the Egyptian hierarchy and many years in prison;
  • Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the Babylonian king;
  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee before he was knocked to the ground by a bolt of light; and
  • Jesus was … well, He had spent forever in the Trinity and then 40 days and nights being tempted by Satan.

Every leader needs encouragement, training, prayer, support. Are we giving each other that kind of encouragement? Are we coming alongside each of our brothers in prayer?

If we heed these lessons well, no one will end 2020 asking:

  • “Where have all the good leaders gone?”

Instead, they’ll ask:

  • “Where have all these good leaders come from,” and
  • “How can I become one of them?”
POSTSCRIPT

APPLICATION:

  1. When the LORD calls on us, He will provide the margin of victory;
  2. We may well face opposition;
  3. We are called to leadership, even if it’s just ownership of ourselves;
  4. We need to have faith that it is the LORD calling. The test is:
      • whether the request is biblical as to goal;
      • whether the request is biblical as to means.

PRAYER

Cross Over BibleLORD, ALMIGHTY GOD, Creator of heaven and earth and all creation, we give You all the honor and praise; O LORD, we take joy in worshipping You. Forgive us weaknesses, Father God; forgive us our hesitation to spread the Gospel of redemption; forgive us when we fail to honor You with our words and our deeds … knowing, O Father God, that at the root of this is our failure to honor You in our hearts. Equip us, O LORD, to be mighty warriors for the Kingdom, knowing that You’ll part the waters for us, that You’ll give us the words to say, and that You’ll hold our hands through every task, every abuse, every questions, every prayer request, every plea for understanding and help. LORD, love on us so mightily that we will love on those you place in our way. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen