Category Archives: Christian Living

We’ll See

“Most things I worry about never happen anyway.” ~Tom Petty

I recently read an anecdote about a wise farmer who had tended his farm for many years. One day his horse unexpectedly ran away into the mountains. Upon hearing the news, the farmer’s neighbors came to visit.

“How terrible,” they told him.

“We’ll see,” the wise farmer replied.

The next morning, to the farmer’s surprise, the horse returned, bringing with it three wild horses.

“How wonderful. You are very lucky,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“We’ll see,” replied the farmer.

The following day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses. The horse was untamed and the boy was thrown and fell hard, breaking his leg.

“How sad,” the neighbors said, offering sympathy for the farmer’s misfortune.

“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.

The next day, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“We’ll see,” the farmer said.

This little story shows us the wisdom of not jumping to conclusions. How often do we worry about something only to find out later that all of our worry and stress was for nothing? Our minds are naturally afraid of the unknown, so we tend to jump to conclusions so we can have some (albeit false) sense of security and certainty.

We never can know what the future will hold for us. Yet often we let fear convince us to believe in both present circumstances and future outcomes that are totally untrue. This is the basis of worry. Worry is the way our mind can satisfy itself with an answer—any answer, no matter how irrational it is.

Worry is wishing for what you don’t want. -Rita Roninki

When we worry, we over-think. We make up scenarios in our mind and convince ourselves that these scenarios are true and then act upon those realities until they become true in our mind.

When we make assumptions, we make mistakes. When we give into the fear of what negative things *may* happen, we often ignore the positive possibilities, and often ignore the present reality as well.

Thoughts are magnets that attract our reality. Peaceful thoughts create a peaceful reality. Fearful thoughts create a fearful reality.

A thought repeated on a regular basis becomes a habit. When a thought becomes a habit, it forms a belief. When a thought forms a belief, it attracts external events that align with your internal state.

You are responsible for the seeds you plant, not the results. When you place your attention on the present moment, without attachment to the past or worry about the future, and plant seeds according to your highest intentions, the results will fall into place.

Our focus forms our future. Concentrate on thoughts you want to actualize. The next time you find yourself worrying, take a pause and tell yourself, “we’ll see…”

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Flavor of Reality

Do you view the glass as half-full, or half-empty? Perhaps you subscribe to one of the two main perspectives on this, or perhaps you deviate from the standard and think of some other clever way to look at it.  The amount of liquid in the container was never important, but rather how we perceived the reality of it.  

So what is reality? Is it subjective? Is it simply truth? Is reality different for you than it is for me? Is it absolute?

Our brains are wonderfully powerful and complex machines. For centuries, people have understood that changing your perspective on something can have very real physical and physiological effects.  This principle runs in the veins of phrases like “mind over matter,” “fake it till you make it,” and “the power of positivity.”

So this should be simple, right? Just take a sad song, and make it better!  When you’re feeling blue, just switch up, look at things different, and see the bigger picture, right?

Well, it’s not so easy when all the signals filling our brain are telling us to be sad, angry, jealous, or discouraged. Ask anyone who has been through depression, and they will tell you that it does not seem like a choice at all!

I think the big problem with the power of our perspective is that is can blind us to the ACTUAL reality of a situation.  This was best illustrated to me in an obscure scene from a great movie entitled “Meet the Robinsons.”  

Our main character had a childhood friend named “Goob.”  In a flashback to Goob’s origin story of sorts, we are taken to the eve of a big baseball game where Goob was kept up all night by his friend loudly working on an invention.  The next day, due to his sleep deprivation, Goob fell asleep in the outfield and missed the catch that could have won the game.  The next scene shows Goob walking through the halls of his school the next few days. Despite many of his classmates saying “hi” and trying to engage in friendly banter with him, Goob narrated the experience by saying “they all hated me!”

This struck me!  His classmates were clearly trying to be friendly and include him, but he was convinced that they all hated him!  His projected reality became more real than actual reality!

Do we ever do this?  I know I have.  It is far too easy to be led by our fears until they become our reality.  We are in danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy when we act upon a certain notion long enough that, while it was not true initially, it becomes true.    

Think about it – If we believe something to be true, even if it is just in our mind, we act upon it as though it were true. Naturally, others then react to our actions and assume it to be true as well, which further cements the true nature of the idea in our minds until we’ve essentially made our fears come true in some negative-feedback-loop-social-placebo-effect-of-doom! [Bonus points for hyphen-ization-ness-ity]

However, fear is not unconquerable.  I often think of fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real” because that is all it is.  False realities often present themselves to us, and all too often we listen, and panic at the thought of them coming true. An itsy-bitsy spider will not destroy you and all your family simply by crawling on you, yet so many people have an irrational fear of those cute little arachnids.

Many movies have played into this faux-reality concept: Divergent, The Matrix, Inception, etc… They also seem huge and life-altering, whereas outside of phobias, most of the time we don’t even notice or care that we accept small false realities in our lives.

We need to guard and control what thoughts go in and out of our mind. Any castle would have had giant fortified walls. These walls serve to keep things out and to keep things in. Our minds are similar.  However, not everything we have let inside our minds is good, and not everything outside of our minds is bad.   Thus we need a gate.

Our perspective is a big part of an effective gate. What things do we consider good to let in? Often, the majority rule applies: if we’ve let a lot of negative in, our brain sees more negativity as suitable to enter, while ignoring the positive, because it doesn’t match up with our reality.

Thus sometimes we think just like Eeyore! His reality is that life is inevitably going to be terrible.  His fatalist mentality tells him that even good things can turn into depressing things.  “Oh bother, the others are probably going to try to get me to come outside.  Not like it matters anyway…”

What would happen if Eeyore were thankful all the time?  How would that change his reality? “Oh bother, I’ve got friends who care about me and accept me the way I am without expecting me to change… Oh bother, I’ve got an intelligent vocabulary for a donkey….”  It wouldn’t work!

With time, determination, help, prayer, and donkey-like stubbornness, I believe it is possible to reshape a negative reality.

So, is the glass half full or half empty?

Perhaps the one who sees it as half empty is actually the optimist, since that means you can fill it with more stuff, whereas anyone who is satisfied with just half a glass of water is a pessimist? Perhaps you see it as completely full, half with air and half with water. Perhaps just you wonder who drank the other half?

Goob’s reality was that everyone hated him.  Maybe Ida’s reality is that she will never be lovable. Evinrude’s reality is that he will never amount to anything in life.  

What are the false realities that you’ve agreed with?  
Today, like every day, you can choose the flavor of your reality. Choose wisely.

When You Feel Forgotten By God

This is a 7 day sample of a 31-day devotional:

Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of heartache and pain, you can find the hope and courage to go on. With God’s help, the help of caring family members and friends, and the encouragement found in the Bible and other resources, you will receive the necessary strength to overcome.

You may be thinking, I don’t know how I could ever get through this. Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy.

But as difficult as this life storm may be, you are not alone. God is with you always. He loves you, and cares about what is going on in your life. He hears your cries and sees your pain. Moreover, He understands.

The Bible says, “And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God … For since He himself has now been through suffering … He knows what it is like when we suffer … and He is wonderfully able to help us” (Hebrews 2:17-18 TLB). Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.

God Has Not Forgotten You is a 31-day devotional with inspirational readings that contain life application steps to draw you closer to God and to encourage you to rely on Him to bring you safely through this present “storm” in your life. The following 7-day devotional is a portion of the full version; if you find this free sample encouraging, we recommend you work through the entire resource, which you can find by visiting our online store and searching for: God Has Not Forgotten You.

It is our prayer that this devotional will provide comfort, strength, encouragement, and healing for you and your family, and that through its pages you will discover extraordinary hope and the blessing of victory that only He can give. May God bless you and keep you always in His care, on this journey and beyond. 

Day 1: You Are Not Alone

For he himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5c)

On the morning of October 29, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States faced their worst nightmare … “Superstorm Sandy.” This post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds and its unusual merge with a frontal system affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, leaving death, injuries, and utter destruction in its wake. Families everywhere, especially in hard hit New Jersey and New York, were jolted out of normalcy and the comfort and security of the homes and communities they once knew. They were thrust suddenly and unwillingly into the darkness and despair of loss.

If you and your family have ever been affected by a natural disaster like this, you may feel as if you’ve been abandoned by God. However, if trouble has hit your life in some other disaster or form of tragedy—the death of a loved one, a dreaded medical diagnosis, the loss of home and property, or the loss of your job, you are experiencing your own superstorm. You may feel as if your whole world has been turned upside down and wonder how you can possibly survive the loss. In times like these, you can feel very much alone.

But you are not alone. In the midst of unspeakable sorrow, God is with you. Even if you do not feel Him near, God is there. He promises to never leave you alone. Therefore, wherever you are, God is. He is with you before, during, and after the storm, never losing sight of you, or your suffering. Even as you ponder how you will begin picking up the pieces of your life, God is there … loving you beyond understanding, holding you up, and making a way where it seems there is no way. Reach out for Him today. He is a very present help in times of trouble (see Psalm 46:1).

Taking back your life …

  1. Psalm 139:7-10 says, “I can never be lost to Your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, You are there. If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, Your strength will support me” (TLB). What assurance can you find in these verses of Scripture when you are feeling as if God has forgotten you?
  2. In Psalm 23, David pictures the Lord as the Great Shepherd who provides for and protects His sheep (His children). In verse 4, he says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” A shepherd uses his rod to protect his sheep (by using it to beat off wild beasts), and he uses his staff to guide them. What comfort can you find in knowing that God will protect and guide you during this difficult time?
  3. In addition to needing God’s presence in our lives, we also need each other. Talk with your family or friends about the way you are feeling, so that you can share one another’s burdens, and not feel so alone in your suffering.

Additional Scripture reading:

  • Deuteronomy 31:8
  • Psalm 91:15-16
  • Matthew 28:20

 

Day 2: He Sees and Understands Your Pain

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. (Psalm 34:15)

God knows in great detail the devastation caused by tragedy. He understands the pain and sorrow acquainted with grief and loss. He understands because He is all knowing. Furthermore, Jesus endured suffering (see Isaiah 53) and experienced pain—even the pain of feeling abandoned (see Matthew 27:46). And because God is with you always, He knows that you are hurting. He sees your pain, and hears the cries of your heart. You are not alone in your suffering; He is there for you.

God cares very deeply about you, and is attentive to every detail of your life—even those things that burden your heart. First Peter 5:7 says that you should cast “all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” Isn’t it comforting to know that God Almighty cares about you! It may seem like your life has been shaken to the core, but His love for you is never shaken. “‘For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ says the Lord who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).

No matter how bad things may seem, God is in control. Nothing happens without His knowledge. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall without your Father knowing it. … So don’t worry! You are more valuable to Him than many sparrows.” If God’s eye is on the sparrow, He’s most certainly watching you. In the midst of sadness and uncertainty, His hand is there to guide you; His strength is there to support you. You are never out of His reach.

Taking back your life …

  1. Look again at Isaiah 54:10 (above). How does this Scripture apply to you and help to make your current circumstances bearable?
  2. The writer of Psalm 121 says this of God in verse 8, ” He keeps His eye upon you as you come and go and always guards you” (TLB). How does it feel to know that God keeps watch over you and is attentive to every detail of your life?
  3. In Psalm 138:8, the writer, offering thanksgiving and praise to God, said confidently, “The Lord will work out His plans for my life—for Your loving-kindness, Lord, continues forever.” (TLB). Why not take a few moments to express to God your confidence in Him to work out His plans for your life?

Additional Scripture reading:

  • Psalm 41:1
  • Psalm 121:3
  • Psalm 139:7-12,17,18

Day 3: Pouring Out Your Heart

The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17)

One of the most difficult things we can face in life is loss, and in the aftermath of a tragedy, the pain of loss can be very difficult to cope with. At times, it may even seem unbearable. Because God made us with feelings, there are many other difficult emotions we may experience when grieving or facing tough circumstances. We can feel hopeless, helpless, confused, fearful, anxious, and even angry. Recognizing these emotions, and releasing them in healthy ways, is extremely important in the journey toward healing and wellness. Ignoring or suppressing them can be very destructive, crippling to say the least.

What emotions do you feel in your heart? Heartache and pain are undoubtedly among them. You’re probably hurting so badly that all you really want to do is cry. And that’s okay! Even the Lord Jesus Christ wept when faced with the tragedy and sorrow of death (see John 11:35). He was so deeply moved within because of the sorrow resulting from Lazarus’ death that He began to weep.

Sure, it’s good to be strong in the midst of difficult circumstances, but it is also important to acknowledge the emotions that pain, suffering, and loss can bring. Think about it. How can your heart truly heal if you don’t acknowledge that you’re hurting? So take the first step. Get alone with God, and tell Him honestly how badly you are hurting. Cry if you want to. Cry out to Him, “God, help me!” You will find that as you pour out your heart to the Lord, you’ll begin to feel the burdens of your soul roll away.

Taking back your life …

  1. In Psalm 56:8 (TLB), David says of God, “You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.” How does it make you feel to know how important your tears are to God?
  2. Consider what you have lost in the aftermath of tragedy. As you pour out your heart and acknowledge the emotions you are working through, you can find comfort in the following Scriptures for …
  • The death of a loved one: Matthew 5:4; Psalm 116:15; 2 Corinthians 5:8
  • Facing a terrible illness: Psalm 103:3; Isaiah 53:5; Jeremiah 17:14; Matthew 26:39
  • The separation of family members: Ephesians 3:20
  • The loss of your job, home, and other possessions: Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:31-34
  • Financial troubles: Psalm 34:10; Joshua 1:8; Luke 6:38
  • The fear of all you have yet to deal with: Isaiah 41:10
  • The destruction of your beloved city or community: Isaiah 58:12

Additional Scripture reading:

  • 2 Kings 20:5b
  • Psalm 34:6
  • 1 Peter 5:7

Day 4: Passing Through Deep Waters 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and though the rivers, they will not overflow you. … For I am the Lord your God …” (Isaiah 43:2-3a)

In a desperate fight for survival, many people passed through the floodwaters left by Hurricane Katrina in a frantic search for higher ground. It had to be a frightening experience to wade, and in some areas, swim, through the murky, contaminated waters to save self, family members, neighbors, family pets, and in some cases, total strangers. But in the midst of fear, desperation, and uncertainty, many passed through the deep waters courageously, and were eventually rescued and taken to safety.

As you pass through the deep waters of your circumstances, you may be wondering,Who can rescue me from this? Be encouraged! Even in the deepest of waters, God promises to be with the one who trusts in Him. He alone can truly rescue you and keep you from drowning. Just as Jesus rescued Peter when He invited him to walk on water in the midst of a storm (see Matthew 14:22-33). At first, Peter trusted Jesus and joined Him on the water, but as soon as he began to focus on the storm, and give in to the fear of it, he began to sink. Still, when he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 12:30), Jesus stretched out His hand and rescued Peter.

He can rescue you too. All you need do is take a deep breath of faith, reach out, and take hold of the mighty hand of God. Do not fear the deep, murky waters of uncertainty surrounding you. Though the way seems difficult, and at times impossible, you can be confident in this, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Taking back your life …

  1. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.” What encouragement can you find in this Scripture, when your situation seems too difficult?
  2. Write down everything that seems impossible about your situation. Next to each item write, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Spend a few minutes in prayer about the items on your list, and be sure to thank God that none of those things are too big or too hard for Him to handle.
  3. Commit Luke 1:37 to memory, and every time your situation seems too difficult or impossible, speak it to yourself, as a reminder that God can handle whatever is troubling you. As opportunities arise, you can encourage others using this verse as well.

Additional Scripture reading:

  • Psalm 9:9-10
  • Psalm 37:40
  • Isaiah 26:3

Day 5: Finding Hope in God   

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

Take from a man his wealth, and you hinder him; take from him his purpose, and you slow him down. But take from man his hope, and you stop him. He can go on without wealth, and even without purpose, for a while. But he will not go on without hope. —C. Neil Strait (1)

As you think about your own circumstances, you may feel completely discouraged. The reality of what you are facing can seem so overwhelming that you might feel like giving up. But don’t give up. The circumstances may be too difficult in human terms, but in Christ there is always hope. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope'” (Jeremiah 29:11, TLB).

When you consider all that you are facing, ask yourself, “Is there anything too hard for God?” (See Jeremiah 32:17). Absolutely nothing! No matter what is going on in your life, you can trust that He is in control, and is working everything out for your good (see Romans 8:28). When you wake up in the morning and wonder how you will face the day, God is working it out. When you wonder how you can get through and overcome this difficult time, God is working it out. And when you lay down at night, wondering how you will face the challenges of tomorrow, whatever they may be, God is already working it out. God knows intimately the concerns of your heart (see Psalm 139:1-3), and can provide all the peace, strength, and courage you need. So don’t give up! Confidently hope in Him. Hope … and persevere!

Taking back your life …

  1. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” What hope does this Scripture give you in the midst of tragedy, loss, and uncertainty?
  2. Discuss as a family (or with a friend) how God has worked things out for your good in past times of difficulty.
  3. Pray with someone else who shares your sorrow. Take turns praying for one another that God will encourage your hearts and give you hope.

Additional Scripture reading:

  • Psalm 31:24
  • Romans 15:13
  • Ephesians 3:20-21

Day 6: A Constant Place of Refuge

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents found themselves taking refuge in shelters all over the United States. Three weeks later, Hurricane Rita cut a new path of destruction through the Gulf Coast, forcing those who found refuge in Houston and other areas near the coast to participate in yet another evacuation. Then on the heels of Rita came the wildfires in Southern California, the earthquake in Pakistan, and the mudslides in Guatemala, displacing even more families.

If you and your family have been displaced as a result of tragedy you may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, insecurity, uncertainty, and more. Or if you are facing death or disease you may feel like running for shelter … a place to hide. There is a place where anyone facing tragedy can go—a place that provides our spirits never-ending shelter from danger, and offers powerful strength to weatherany storm life may bring our way. That place is in God. In Psalm 32:7, David says this of God, “You are my hiding place; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Though life is sometimes difficult and painful, when we take shelter in Him, His help is always ready, has been proven time and time again, and is completely reliable. In Psalm 62:7-8 (TLB), David wrote, “He is my refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust Him all the time. Pour out your longings before Him, for He can help!” Like David, you can take shelter in His protective presence. There you will find peace for today, strength for tomorrow, and hope for a brighter future.

Taking back your life …

  1. In Psalm 57:1-2 David prayed, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. I will cry to God most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me.” How can you use or apply this prayer to your circumstances today?
  2. How does it feel to know that you can find permanent shelter in God, where everything you need (peace, joy, strength, protection, hope, etc.) is provided?
  3. When you have some time, open a Bible and read Psalm 91 to learn more about the blessings of taking refuge in God.

Additional Scripture reading:

  • Deuteronomy 33:27
  • 2 Samuel 22:2-3
  • Psalm 32:7
  • Psalm 61:3-4

Day 7: Tapping into the Power of Prayer 

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. … This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. (Psalm 34:4,6)

Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that our prayers are very important to Him. He loves for us to talk with Him, just as we would our closest friend, and promises to be there for us whenever we call. He says, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

He wants you to tell Him about your burdens, and to give Him all your cares, so that He can bring hope to your heart, peace to your soul, and strength to your life (see 1 Peter 5:7). But even when you’re at a loss for words, and don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit Himself speaks on your behalf (see Romans 8:26). Yet God is not only interested in your struggles. He wants you to talk with Him about everything, from your smallest victories to your greatest fears and all things in between.

Isn’t it good to know that you have a direct line to God? That He is available to talk to you anytime, day or night? In fact, you can talk to Him right now. Tell Him how you’re feeling; that you’re hurting. Tell Him about your disappointment. Talk to Him about your anger and your pain. Tell Him how you love Him and need Him so. He hears your weeping, your requests, your praise, and thanksgiving. Prayer moves God. And when He moves in your life, you will feel His presence, experience His peace, and draw from His strength in ways you never thought possible! (2)

Taking back your life …

  1. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God actually invites us to spend time in His presence to communicate with Him. Will you accept His invitation?
  2. In 1 Thessalonians5:17, we are told to “Pray without ceasing.” How can you stay in constant communication with God? Why is this communication so important?
  3. Start a prayer journal today. You don’t have to use a fancy notebook. Any paper that you can find will work. Use the journal to write down your feelings, emotions, and struggles as if you are writing letters to God. List your specific requests at the end of each page, and as God answers your prayers, be sure to write down the date and the way in which He answered you.

Additional Scripture reading:

  • Psalm 61:1-4
  • Psalm 138:3
  • 1 John 5:14-15

THINK

We have all heard the phrase “Think BEFORE you speak.” Does anyone really do that perfectly?

James 3:2, we read “For we all stumble in many things.  If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. “   

The challenge is to learn to control our words and use them effectively in dealing with others.

God created in man the ability to communicate with the spoken and written word.  A lot of communication on a daily basis is electronic: texting, tweeting, blogging, email, chat rooms and other methods.  Many cell phones are used more to text than to speak to another person.

Proverbs 18:21  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it shall eat the fruit of it.

Its kind of a BIG DEAL, but it seems impossible!

Well stay tuned. I have a handy ACRONYM to help us to work on this!

Before You Speak, THINK.

Letter T – Is it TRUE?

Sure, it’s true… I think

This seems simple, yet often is the fundamental principle overlooked by most people.

What is truth?  God’s Word is TRUTH. [John 17:17]

Proverbs 12:17 He who speaks truth declares righteousness, But a false witness, deceit.

As a Christian, we should want to speak righteousness and not false witness.  It’s important for us to know the truth of what we speak (or write) to others. We’re not going to converse solely in quoting God’s truth, so in the day-to-day, we should be able to discern what is true with the help of God’s spirit.

In the world we see all kinds of accusations, rumors, hearsay, and lies being placed on politicians, coaches, teachers and entire demographics. We all seem to think we know the truth behind something just because the bits and pieces we’ve heard make sense to us.  Others have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, but often are not too concerned with the factual reality of it.

Recent political speeches have pushed the boundaries of how much ‘untruth’ can be crammed into a small time frame.  Yet people determine what truth is in their own eyes based on what they want to believe, and spread that around all too easily.

As Christians we must be very careful to speak or write only those things we KNOW to be true and proven.

Repeating a matter, gossip, spreading ‘new truth’ and applying motives to people can lead to broken friendships, trust, church splits, and even violence.

Letter H – Is it HELPFUL?

Sure, to someone… maybe.

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.  Yummy,

As Christians we need to question if what we are about to say or write will be helpful.

Some people have a knack for this: encouraging people who are hurting or sick. Others have some room to grow.  And grow silently for others’ sake.

And certainly on the Sabbath, our fellowship should involve us speaking of ways to help one another and those in the community as well.  Another way to be helpful is to make people laugh.  We have several good joke tellers in our congregation and Proverbs teaches us that a merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, and when you look around after services there a many cheerful countenances!

Another aspect of being helpful is to speak about the word of GOD to one another and to those in the world who ask us of our hope! To do this we must study to be ready to answer.

Letter I – Is it INSPIRING?  

It could be to someone… maybe

Proverbs 10:11 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but crookedness in it is a break in the spirit.

As Christians we should be aspiring to that level of communication, spoken or written, where we can inspire others.  The scriptures make it clear that both physical and spiritual health stem from the proper use of the tongue.

We have a special calling to be a special and peculiar people.  We have a unique opportunity to see God’s hand in our lives and to share those stories with one another.

We’re preparing for Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day and will be filled with inspiration from sermons, fellowship and stories of God’s intervention and marvelous works

Letter N – Is it NECESSARY?

If they don’t hear about this, then… well their lives will be about the same.

Proverbs 10:19.   In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking; but he who holds back his lips is wise.

On the authority of Proverbs, I advise you to shut up sometimes!

We shouldn’t be long-winded or monopolize a conversation. Listen, and be ready to give a right answer.

For some it is hard to keep comments and stories short and to the point – and only offer the things that are truly necessary.  We should try to say nothing in ignorance.  If we are unsure about what to say we should keep it to ourselves.

Letter K.  – Is it KIND?  

Kind of…

Proverbs 25:11.  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Our kind words can affect many in a positive way and are valued as apples of gold in setting of silver.  Does our communication come across that way? Are we constantly [jokingly] mean or sarcastic?

I’ve seen derogatory comics posted online of President Obama and they are certainly not kind and very demeaning.  As Christians, we need to be careful of what we say or write and make sure that it comes across as well intentioned and kind.

The scriptures tell us that “what is desired in a man is kindness”.  Additionally, the virtuous woman described in Prov 31 “opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Conclusion

The power of the word (or speech) printed or spoken can be used to heal or destroy. We need to guard our tongues.  We can look to the wisdom of the proverbs for spiritual lessons and guidance in guarding our tongues, and using them to convey words of truth, hope, encouragement, wisdom and love.

Brethren let us guard our tongues and remember:

T is it TRUE?
H is it helpful?
I is it inspiring?
N is it necessary?
K is it KIND?

BEFORE WE SPEAK, THINK

False Evidence Appearing Real

I don’t know about you, but I live a life of scurry, hurry, and worry! I am always stressed about something.

The Bible says be anxious for nothing… and I am: I am anxious for nothing! I am just anxious all the time, and I can’t even tell you what about. I don’t think that’s really what it means however…

Recently someone asked me a simple, yet powerful question: What would you do if you had no fear?

A simple, but powerful question.

Maybe you would go back to school. Quit your job. Ask the pretty girl on a date. Forgive someone. Forgive yourself.  Move to a new location. It could look like many things in life.

I shot off some silly answer at time, but I knew I needed to take a hard look at my life and ponder this regularly.

So often I experience “analysis paralysis” in that I overthink things seven times over!  [cut to scene from Fiddler on the Roof:  “on the other hand… but on the other hand, etc…”] What it boils down to is that I fear that I will fear that I made the wrong choice, so I am afraid to choose. Whether it is a big thing or small, I feel like I would then be judged and face the consequences of making a poor choice from God and man.

When you think about it, fear isn’t real. So should we really fear fear itself?  What would the opposite of fear looks like?

Fear is not real, but the side effects are killer

I once heard fear defined via an acronym: False Evidence  Appearing  Real.

This is a simple, yet deep way of looking at it. When we are afraid, we are making something that is not happening  reality in our minds. The movie “After Earth” touched on this concept that fear is not real:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity Kitai. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story and that day mine changed.”

Danger is real.  And I guess one needs to distinguish between health fears (common sense) and irrational or out of control fears. We would have a fear of walking off of a cliff because of what we fear would happen.  Yet, often we have the same certainty in our minds that a similarly traumatic and unpleasant outcome would come of [insert “xyz” situation of trivial importance or danger] occurring.

In the recently popularized Divergent series, we can also see the power of fear portrayed. In this post-apocalyptic dystopia, a faction /caste system is put in place to ensure a productive and protected society. They way you were told what faction you naturally belonged to, they ran a simulation of your worst fears and gauged how you responded to them; thus placing you in one of the main categories. However, if you could control your fear (divergents), the system couldn’t control you, which was a problem for those who held power.

Well, on a spiritual level, is this not the very story we are in?  If we can control our fear, that means the enemy cannot control us, which makes us dangerous!

In one scene, the main character realizes she is in a simulation while she was in it, and started to take control of the reality around her.  When she did, things started to break and fall apart. She simply said “this isn’t real” and her reality changed.  Sounds so simple, right?  Well, she’s a hero in a movie, and we are not always as strong willed as they portray characters?

But why can’t we be?

Managing, and controlling fear is a big deal.  Studies have been conducted for years showing a link between stress (which is often based on fear), fear, anxiety, etc.. to Physical/emotional trauma and disease.

God says don’t live in fear. I think this is a double whammy: we trust God, the only one who is ultimately worthy of trust, and we don’t have to deal with ulcers and gut issues from all the physical ramifications and side effect of living in fear!

It is claimed that there are 365 different verses that reference  fear, or some derivation of that concept. I have not verified this, and I think this number includes “the fear of the Lord” which is different than living in fear, but there are certainly a good number of verses that do say “do not fear.” If it is that’s important, should we be afraid of fear?

Fearing fear itself

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”

If we shouldn’t fear, then why fear fear? (That’s like saying “never say never” – you just said the thing you’re not supposed to say.  Too much recursion. Mirror maze. Inception. Mind blown)

Maybe we’re not to fear fear, but simply conquer it.  Obviously simply doesn’t mean “easily,” but the concept is simple.

Cast down those fearful and anxious thoughts is not always possible on our own, but is possible with a spirit of power:

2 Tim 1:7 For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

We are not built to experience constant fear.  It does bad stuff to us! Should we then fear it? We should acknowledge the negative power it wields, like we do with sin, and endeavor to avoid it.

Rom 8:15  For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!

Living in the opposite of fear:

So, this question of “what would you do if you had no fear” leads me then to ponder what that would entail overall.  What does a life not lived in fear look like?

What is the opposite or antonym of fear? Freedom? Faith? Peace? Assurance?

Perhaps your definition of the opposite of fear would be different than mine, based on what that fear obfuscates or prevents in our lives respectively.

We live in a mix of good and evil. We can experience a mix of fear and faith, or fear and freedom simultaneously, even though we want just the positive.

For me, given that I define fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real,” I tend to think of faith as the positive corollary: both fear and faith take something that is not and act on it as though it is.  The substance is the same, or lack thereof, but the perspective and thus outcome are very different; one leading to sickness, and the other leading to hope.

When people are labeled a pessimist, they often make the negative fear their reality, whereas an optimist internalizes faith.  Those who proclaim themselves “realists” just experience some mix of the two.

But do we sometimes fear not fearing? Are we afraid to not be afraid? If freedom is your antonym of fear, are you kept back from freedom because of fear? (The general concept, not in the details of the things keeping you from breaking free)  Growing up in a conservative church, I’ve been afraid of the word “freedom” when used in religious context, because people have taken this too far and claimed they were free to do whatever they wished, and their standing with God was unaffected.  So my struggle has been finding the balance between following God’s law, and knowing what freedom for believers should actually look like.  But I am limited by a fear of taking it too far, so I don’t move at all.

Are there examples of people you feel “have it figured out” in terms of fear management? Kind David seemed to… half of the time.

Yet courage is not what send fear packing, but love:

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has torment. He who fears has not been perfected in love.

I ask you the question now. Take a long hard look at your life and try to get a picture of what would it look like/what would you do if you had no fear?

We know that fear is not real, yet it has real consequences to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. We should not even fear fear itself, for we have been given a spirit of power, love and a sound mind, and that perfect love casts out fear.  So now we should learn to live in the opposite of fear. Faith, love, assurance, peace, or you fill in the blank.

What would YOU do if you had no fear?

The Body and Eagles?

Often I like to give a fun, easy-to-remember posts through rhyming or alliterations (actually, alliterations are always acceptable and awesome… ?) But one of the other purposes for me brainstorming is to give a simple message (at church) that will focus on a ‘difficult scripture’ and attempt to shed some light on it.

I had heard this scripture-in-question a few weeks ago in passing in a sermon, and it reminded me that I still didn’t really “get it.”

So today, you will discover the TRUE identity of the two witnesses!  Just kidding!

For real though, we read in the gospels parallel account of the disciples asking Jesus what would be the sign of his coming. We are told to not be deceived when people say Jesus is “here” or “there” and that some will be taken and others left.  This concept would be a great topic to cover, but I am not even talking about that! But rather what comes right afterwards. Regarding the account in Luke:

“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.  I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” Luke 17:31-37

Many people have different ideas about the potential meaning.  In some online forums, many simply say it just means “it will be obvious” when the time comes, and/or akin to “where there is smoke there’s fire” but is there more to it? Stay tuned as we discover:

What did Jesus mean in Luke 17:37 about the eagles gathered around the body?

When answering the question of what Jesus meant, we must first ask ourselves if there any other verses in the Bible that might help answer this question.

In this case, yes there are. A parallel account of this was recorded in Matthew:24:28, and in both places, it appears that Jesus was paraphrasing the inspired words of Job: 39:27-30

“Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high? On the rocks it dwells and resides, on the crag of the rock and the stronghold. From there it spies out the prey; its eyes observe from afar. Its young ones suck up blood; and where the slain are, there it is” (Job:39:27-30).

(Some translations say “vulture” but the word allows for a large winged soaring bird.)

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for “slain” in this verse is chalal, which can be translated “pierced to death.” (Not to be confused with “Halal,” the attribute ascribed to Satan, the word from which the Latin derived “Lucifer,” which is merely a translation of an adjective, not a name… but I digress.)

Pierced to death.  At the risk of reading too much into this, I think this is significant. The symbolism in this allegory of Job may well be linked to the message the Messiah gave many years later. Other scriptures show by analogy, metaphor, or allegory what “eagles” can symbolize. Isaiah spoke of eagles as an allegory of God’s faithful people:

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah:40:31).

Where does Job say the eagle dwells? On the rocks, when using the symbolism of Gods people, points to Jesus Christ, who is our spiritual Rock (1 Corinthians:10:4).

What is the “prey,” which is “afar off” that the “eagles” seek? The answer is found in Matthew:6:33—the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Going with this understanding and interpretation of the symbolic meaning of Job:39:27-30,  we need to re-read Christ’s statement in Luke:17:37 and Matthew:24:28 and ask what the context surrounding these verses is;

In both accounts, the context is about the coming Kingdom of God on Earth. Notice how right before Luke:17:37 in verses 24-36, Jesus prophesies the events immediately preceding His return to this earth and the resurrection of God’s faithful people:

“For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day…Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke:17:24, Luke:17:35-36).

The same is true in the verses right before Matthew:24:28. So the context of the statement is of the end of the age, just preceding Christ’s return and the resurrection of Gods people.

We can now understand that Jesus Christ is the “body” around whom the “eagles” (the Church, His faithful people) will congregate at the resurrection when Jesus returns to this world to rule over all the nations as King of Kings (Revelation:11:15, Zechariah:14:9, Revelation:5:10).

It was our Savior Jesus Christ who allowed Himself to be pierced and bleed to death to become a “carcass” before He was resurrected. He was dead for three days and three nights and did not go to His Father in heaven during His time in the grave.

Did the faithful “eagles (Gods faithful disciples) gather around Jesus Christ when He was resurrected then? Yes they certainly did. Paul recorded how Jesus was seen by over 500 brethren during the 40 days He revealed Himself after His resurrection to life again (1 Corinthians:15:6).

Further, will God’s faithful people be resurrected in the end of the age and gather around the “body” of the returning Jesus Christ? Yes, indeed they will:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians:4:16-17).

We too can be considered by God to be worthy “eagles” in that resurrection, to be with the “body” of Jesus Christ when He returns in power to set up His Kingdom on Earth, and to rule over all the nations with His faithful people.

Sorry, I can’t identify by name the Two Witnesses, but this was just something I found interesting and wanted to share!

Deception

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me

When I first heard this phrase, I didn’t like it, as I figured the shame should be on the deceiver the first and second (and really EVERY time) because deceiving people is bad!

I wanted the saying to read, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, more shame on you!”

I later realized the point was that we shouldn’t let someone fool us twice; that we should learn to be wary and keep ourselves from being tricked once we know the person to be devious.

In our legal system [correct me if I am wrong!], contracts can be nullified if information was falsified; the victim of deception gets off the hook.  But does it always work that way?

God’s instruction book shows us that we should be honest. We should not go around deceiving people! Logically it would follow that those who deceive others should be punished, and the victims of trickery should receive mercy, or in essence a “free pass,” right?

Sometimes God’s sense of justice has a different timescale and end result than our sense of justice does. Throughout the bible, we read numerous examples of what seems like ‘injustice’ to us in that the deceiver is not punished, while the deceived has to deal with the consequences of the deception.

Recently I’ve been given some perspective on some things I might be deceived on; things I was starting to get comfortable with that I shouldn’t have been. It served as a reminder that we have to keep watch vigilantly, especially in these times, as many false prophets and teachings are flowing like a fire hose all around us!

Involuntary deception goes not give you a “get out of jail” card.  This was true in many cases in the Torah, as well as in Jesus’ day and the 1st century church, and it will be true in the end times.

Wayback examples

Gen 27:19  And Jacob said to his father, I am Esau your first-born. I have done as you asked me. Arise, I pray you, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.

Gen 27:35  And he said, Your brother came with deceit, and has taken away your blessing.

In the historical narrative of the bible, we follow Jacob (later Israel) as the “good guy” that we root for, even though we see his flaws. Yet, I can help but feel bad for Esau here!

He was the proxy victim of the deception. Isaac did not undo his blessing because of the trickery. Later Jacob sees the other side of trickery and deception with Laban, and had to deal with the consequences (working 7 more years for his intended bride)

Abraham deceived Pharaoh about Sarah and Pharaoh had to deal with the consequences, even though it wasn’t his fault!

Sisera fell for “one of the oldest tricks in the book”: [Judges 4]

Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.
Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.
“I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.
“Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’ ”
But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

Ehud tricked a man while going for a handshake and stabbing him with his left hand, Tamar tricked Judah, etc…

Let’s not forget the actual oldest trick in the book: the serpent deceived Eve into thinking that her sin would not lead to death. Did Eve get to say “well, I was deceived, so it doesn’t count!”

God doesn’t want robots. He wants children that choose to follow and love Him – a process that involves avoiding deception of the enemy (which can come in various forms through deceived folks, media, thoughts, etc..)

New testament examples

We see many warnings in Jesus’ teachings about avoiding deception.

Matt 24 is a very full chapter that speaks of things that were soon to unfold, and others which will occur in the end times. This is how he starts off his answer:

Matt 24:4 take heed that no one deceives you!

Dotting the landscape of the new testament are rebukes and warnings for hypocrites, rich men, Jews, and others who were deceived.  They were in for a bad fate because they were in opposition to God’s truth. Granted, sometimes their hearts were not in the right place, but one of the greatest deceptions in today’s churches is that ‘just a feeling in your heart is enough’ or that if you just ‘accept Jesus in your heart’ you have no obligation to avoid sin, deception, stagnation, etc… Christianity is a verb, and spiritual vegetables will not be “approved workers”

1 Cor 15:33 – be not deceived, bad company corrupts good behavior. Why are we not to be deceived? Because we will bear the consequences if we do!  Unrighteous behavior is not acceptable

It doesn’t matter (well, sort of – in that God searches the heart) whether the people who are deceived know they’re going against God’s word or not, the consequences are the same.

Say you were born on a spaceship and taught that gravity doesn’t exist on earth. Upon your first visit to Earth, you decide to dive out of the spaceship and twirl through the air, but instead fall flat on your face and break your nose.  You were deceived. Do God’s laws of physics care? Does your sob story make a difference for the cause and effect system God put in place? Nope.

Similarly, we see so many warnings in Jesus’ ministry about not being deceived. It was well understood that we’re accountable for what we believe (in the confines of God’s calling) and that if we believe in a lie, we will suffer the consequences of the lie, and sometimes the liar seems to get off the hook.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. -Gal 6:7

Do not be deceived on this topic: God is not mocked so what they sow, they will reap God will have justice in His time for the liars and deceiving.  For now, our concern is to avoid deception!

The end times

In Revelation, we read that Satan deceives the whole world.  Those who are deceived and receive the mark of the beast and worship its image… Well, they don’t get a free pass because they were lied to about this fun Beast program they opted into without reading the fine print and ‘terms of agreement.’

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience Eph 5:6

If we are in the Laodicean era of Revelation 3, we need to take heed lest we deceive ourselves!

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Cor 10:12
Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. Luke 11:35

In the end times, there will be many false teachers, performing signs and wonders.  We read this and think, “well, sure that’ll be easy to spot,” yet there are many dangerous things already happening that millions of people follow so passionately.

The enemy knows he can’t trick many people by blatantly selling a lie, so he masquerades as various spiritual movements that lead people away from the truth of the bible, which is THE ONLY source of truth (John 17:17)

But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 1 Cor 11:4

There is a dangerous movement still gaining momentum that seeks to bind “the body” together by a common spiritual experience instead of having doctrinal unity. The bible is often neglected, as people see signs and wonders, and follow extra-biblical revelations and misapplied claims of spiritual gifts.

Some may notice that shrieking uncontrollably, foaming at the mouth, rolling around on the ground, soaking up ‘anointing’ from graves and tombstones, speaking ‘gibberish’ that no one understands, and numerous other new age mystical practices are not from God and have no biblical precedent, yet many are gladly taking baby steps toward these “manifestations of the spirit.”   For the sake of this common “experience” doctrine and the scriptures necessarily have to take a backseat.  We are accountable to seek truth from the bible, and need to make sure we are not lead astray by feelings and experiences!  We don’t get a free pass for deception.

The day of salvation is now sooner than when we first believed. Now is a pretty good time to prove all things, test the spirit of what you surround yourself with, and take heed that you be not deceived!

You can’t handle the tooth!

Our bodies are wonderfully and fearfully made.  They are self-healing, growing, adapting machines; the likes of which no human invention will ever come close to!  God made our bodies wonderful, but still temporary and with some limitations.

10 years ago, I had the displeasure of cracking a tooth via another tooth.  I had apparently been grinding my teeth due to stress and damaged a molar. I received a root canal, and two days later was on a 14 hour flight for a previously planned trip. No pain killers. Not pleasant.

Recently my crown fell off.  Before getting it glued back on permanently, I decided to see a specialist about my tooth, as it had been giving me pain off and on for several years. The specialist noted that the root canal was in bad shape – the tooth, canals, the bone, and pockets around the root showed signs of infection. He recommended a re-treatment of the root canal, though there was no guarantee it would remove all infection permanently, but upon much counsel and a variety of factors, I decided that I will have the stinker removed.

This is not a rant about what the bible says about dental care, and while I have learned some dangers of root canals, I mean not to broach that topic.  (Asking two people their advise would render 3 answers anyway…) Instead through this ordeal, I tried to see if there were any spiritual analogies.

My tooth, and most of the roots that once held it in place are dead. Synthetic goo is holding what remains of my natural tooth in place while a crown is glued on top. What was once a living member of my body is no longer functioning as it was meant to.

So the question I ask today to myself, and to you, is this:
What dead things in my life stand in the way of abundant life? 

Do we hold on for dear life to the things that are dead in our life? Squeeze to death things which have no life?

Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, the Life” and yet if we’re honest with ourselves we can see things in our lives that do not produce positive fruit, or any fruit at all.

These “things” might be activities, possessions, words, media, focus, and actions that are not glaringly “wrong,” (not murder, stealing) yet are not the types of things that lead us to life.

Watching TV is not inherently wrong. Watching seven hours of TV a day while we don’t spend one moment in God’s word? That is a problem.

Perhaps an exit checklist I should be using when gauging what should stay or go in my life is:

  1. Does it bear negative or no fruit?
  2. Does it help us fit synergistically into the body of Christ?
    Then:
  3.  Does it need to be amputated?

Does it bear any fruit?

We read in Matt 7:19 that “every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

We may think that simply not bearing bad fruit is good enough, yet in John 15 we see a different story. In John 15 verse 2, we see that simply bearing no fruit is not good enough.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

God does not take kindly to us being stagnant.  Going back to the analogy of the body – why would we put in effort to support and maintain a member of our body that won’t ever do anything? It seems a lot of effort for nothing.  Likewise, why would God want children in His Kingdom who do not bear any fruit at all? Why would we maintain things in our lives, things that we cherished before we became a new creation in Christ, that have no life in them?

Even neutrality is an enemy of progress.  Revelation warns of the danger of being lukewarm, noting that “hot or cold” is preferable.  Perhaps that’s why Paul was chosen for his important role in the church – it is much easier to change directions of a moving train than to get it started.  Paul had fruits, though they were misguided and against the church, but Christ was able to steer him in a different direction without a loss of momentum.  We need to bear fruit, and that fruit must be good.  While we’re not saved by our own works, its clear that we will be held accountable for the fruit we bear.

Does it help us to fit neatly into the body?

Eph 4:16 is a familiar passage showing how the body of Christ should work together like cogs in a machine – with every part serving a purpose for the greater synergistic whole.

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

A dead member of the body, or dead works in our life, can be compared to a tooth with rotting roots. It may look shiny on the outside, but bring nothing to the table.

The body is made up of many members, and if one is not up to snuff, the other members can share the load, but this is not meant to be a permanent situation!  After a while, the dead cog in the machine will start to wear down the surrounding parts.

Does it need to be amputated?

Matt 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

This seems like one of the greatest “overstatements” in the bible. Cutting off a part of the body on the chance it could cause us to sin? Yet, we know that God doesn’t mess around with sin.

In my tooth situation, it may seem a stretch to apply this to a tooth, yet my infected root canal is causing harm to my body, and until the source of the infection is completely removed, there is always a chance it will come back.

When any part of our body dies, we cut it off, so the “deadness” doesn’t spread. Infection, disease, and other issues arise from a dead member.  As is the case with many physical issues, there is a spiritual parallel.

What spiritual infections may result from keeping things in our lives that have no life in them?

Keeping these things around can be a distraction, or they could cause infection that spreads to the healthy parts of our life! Hence the need for amputation for the greater good!

Men and brethren, what shall we do?

It is very easy to think we’re doing alright simply avoiding breaking the commandments, yet we’re called to an even higher standard of bearing positive fruit, and removing the things that do not.  It is easy to think we’re alright because we avoid murder and grand theft, but there is more expected of us than just passing with a “C” grade.

Take a look at individual things in your life, and ask:

  • Does it bear any fruit?
  • Does it help me fit into the body?
  • Does it need to be amputated?

Let us remove anything “dead” standing in the way of life.

A and B the C of D

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

I have been out of college for a few years now, but I have found that attitudes in the “real world” work force are not much different than those prevalent in school.  To many students college (and really all levels of learning) is all about doing the minimum amount of work, and bragging about getting away with it. Just getting by and feeling alright is the goal for many.  This will follow into the work world, and produce a generation of unmotivated workers.  Still, the few who do actually take the initiative to give 100% get noticed. Even more so are the ones who give 110% – basically those who go the extra mile.

There are several scriptures that tell us to go the extra mile, to do all that we do with all our might and to do it to God’s glory.  But one aspect of this principle, A and B the C of D (above and beyond the call of duty), is that it is tied into gaining more faith.  There are two sections of scripture that show us how this is done, and some examples of it in action.

Faith connection

I wouldn’t normally connect the two concepts of ‘going the extra mile’ and ‘faith’ but this analogy has been made before. The context of Luke 17 was in Jesus teaching about forgiveness and not offending one another. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they asked Jesus for more faith:

Luk 17:5  And the apostles said to the Lord, Give us more faith.
Luk 17:6  And the Lord said, If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this sycamine tree, Be rooted up and be planted in the sea! And it would obey you.
Luk 17:7  But which of you who has a servant plowing or feeding will say to him immediately after he has come from the field, Come, recline?Luk 17:8  Will he not say to him, Prepare something so that I may eat, and gird yourself and serve me until I eat and drink. And afterward you shall eat and drink.
Luk 17:9  Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.
Luk 17:10  So likewise you, when you shall have done all the things commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, for we have done what we ought to do.

Jesus responds with a teaching about going above and beyond.  This didn’t really make sense to me at first, but perhaps there is a connection to doing more than just our duty that can lead to more faith.

The analogy here shows that just doing what we must is not profitable. This is not to say that we wouldn’t be profitable to other people in doing our duty to others, but that we cannot expect to just barely “pass the class” in life and our Christian walk.  In college, you can ‘pass’ all your classes with a C.  This is not ideal, nor does it show your willingness to work for a better grade.

God looks at our attitude. If we just want to get by with doing what we have to do, God is in no way bound to ‘thank us’ and much less give us salvation and eternal life.

Doing more than was even asked of you is advantageous not only in personal satisfaction, but in some ways it can help build your faith:

Action

Faith and action are no strangers to each other.  James tells us that faith without works is dead. There’s also a proverb that speaks to this effect:

Prov 16:3– Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.

When we trust God and follow His ways, our purpose/thoughts will follow automatically.  He will add to our faith.  Faith is trusting in God, and committing our works, and our 110% effort shows and produces it.

We can put our whole heart into doing what is required, and other things that may be implied by the heart of the matter, knowing that doing any task with all of our might would be pleasing to the Master.

Prov 16:9 – A man’s heart plans his way, but Jehovah directs his steps.

We must ask God for faith, and know that it does come from Him, but we need to do our part as well, to show God we have the heart to handle such faith. We need to allow God to direct our steps!

David and That Big Dude

David and Goliath is the most familiar example of how committing our works and going that extra mile will add to our faith; as they are all interconnected.

In the account of David facing Goliath, we obviously get the impression that David was not lacking in faith.  He boldly went before a giant, most likely twice his size, and proclaimed that this ‘uncircumcised Philistine’ would fall before the armies of the Lord!  That takes a certain level of faith to do that.

But the part of the account that some feel David lacked some faith in would be the question of why he took 5 stones instead of one.  Was David afraid he was going to miss?  Is “five” significant of other principles of Christianity? .

There were 5 cities of Philistia that had united to come up to defy the army of Israel: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath.

Until the Philistines were removed, they would be a stumbling block to Israel being united, prosperous and strong. We’re told in 2 Sam 21:15-22 that there were 4 other giants that were later killed (once David was king).

2Sa 21:22  These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.

Some speculation on my part perhaps, but I believe that David would have known about these other giants, and would have prepared to face them if needed.  David knew that taking out Goliath would not wipe out the entire Philistine threat.

I believe that David went the extra mile in this scenario.  In battle he ran full force towards Goliath.  I believe he knew his first stone would hit the target, and I believe he was prepared to go the extra mile.

Which came first, his faith, or his willingness to go above and beyond duty?  Faith and willingness to go 110% to do God’s will go hand in hand…

Conclusion of the matter

The scriptures in Luke, and the example of David are good things to remember in whatever we’re doing in life. For some of you, the tasks at hand may be at work,  school, numerous tasks in the home, or various other endeavors we may engage in.  Let us all remember to show we can do more than just ‘pass the class,’ to allow God to direct our steps by putting our works into God’s hands, and remember the example of David who was asked to kill one giant, but was ready to take on five.  In doing these things, we are showing God we are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty!

AAA Guarantee

God Always Authors or Allows things to happen in our lives.

Once upon a time, I was driving down to the Detroit airport to pick up a friend coming in to town on a fine chilly Saturday morning.  We planned to have had ample time to make it to church and even time for a cup of tea beforehand.  Upon locking the doors  and leaving my car (this is Detroit after all) I then realize how cold it was and went to go back in the car to get a jacket so I could stand outside and wait for my friend.  This is the point of the story when I saw my keys still in the ignition.  “No worries,” said I as I went to the airport security and called for the airport tow truck. My friend found me and after 2 hours, I decided to call AAA for the second time and request a tow with much vigor. Long story short, we stood in the cold waiting for a truck to unlock the car for 4 hours (total). 4 HOURS!!

Now AAA has been a life-line to me in the past, and I shan’t complain about it, but often times we trust a whole lot in services like AAA to save us when anything happens. This AAA guarantee is fallible, as people who created and operate it, are indeed fallible and imperfect.  There is another AAA guarantee that we should trust in and be at peace because of:  God’s AAA.

God Always Authors or Allows.

God ALWAYS AUTHORS or ALLOWS the trials, blessings, and overall circumstances that we go through.

The questions of why God allows suffering, and whether or not God is a wrathful God who smites at random have perplexed humanity for ages, and has unfortunately caused many to not believe in the true living and loving God that created them.  But God always authors or allows events in our lives to transpire.

How do we know what is authored by God rather than just allowed?

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 1 Cor 14:33

In our lives we know that the chaos, confusion, and sinful temptations are not AUTHORED by God.

In some situations, God will allow us to be tempted, molded, sharpened, or refined through mild or fiery trials. Other times, we see that sin will have ‘natural consequences.’ We can find this in Num 14:18:

Jehovah is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation.

Often we can get caught up in having to know the “why’s” of life and concern ourselves with the vast meaning of various happenings in life.  No doubt this is natural, especially with major things in our lives, yet we are not always going to understand everything – just what we NEED do. Inherent in man’s heart is definitely a sense of “a bigger picture” and “some form of a higher power out there,” but we must not be so consumed with finding out the “why” that it prevents us from moving forward with our own lives and pressing on towards the mark for the prize of the upward calling of God in Jesus Christ.

A famous verse, Rom 8:28, says that we should trust that God will take situations and use them for good

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

In my situation in the airport I asked myself, and God, why this happened at that time.  We ended up missing all of church and I couldn’t see how this was working out for good.  (This of course more of a minor trial in the grand scheme of things) I can see now things that I learned from the experience (other than having a spare key in my wallet now), such as how I dealt with stress and the AAA representatives, and how I interacted with my friend who was equally distressed at the situation. Was that part of the reason I was allowed to go through this adventure? Perhaps, perhaps not.  Perhaps something down the road will have been affected by this event. Perhaps I will forget it, and so will anyone else involved.   The point is that we don’t know the “why” every time,  and we don’t have to always know why things happen, just what we can learn from it.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isa 55:9

The next time, and there will be times, that you find yourself in a “why?” situation, remember that God will not tempt you beyond what you are able to handle, God will never leave your or forsake you, and that God Always Authors or Allows everything that happens to us in this life!