A Simple Faith

I read about a very religious father whose son was studying for the ministry. The boy had decided to go to Europe for an advanced degree, and the father worried that his simple faith would be spoiled by sophisticated, unbelieving professors. “Don’t let the take Jonah away from you,” he admonished, figuring the swallowed-by-a-great-fish story might be the first part of the Bible to go. Two years later when the son returned, the father asked, “Do you still have Jonah in your Bible?”

The son laughed. “Jonah! That story isn’t even in your Bible.”

The father replied, “It certainly is! What do you mean?”

Again the son laughed and insisted, “It’s not in your Bible. God ahead, show it to me.”

The old man fumbled through his Bible, looking for the Book of Jonah, but he couldn’t find it. At last he checked the table of contents for the prophet page. When he turned there, he discovered the three pages composing Jonah had ben carefully cut from his Bible.

“I did it before I went away,” said the son. “What’s the difference between my losing the Book of Jonah through studying under non-believers or your losing it through neglect? 

Someone has observed that the worst dust storm in history would happen if all church members who were neglecting their Bibles dusted them off simultaneously. 

Sometimes I Don’t Enjoy Praying

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-dont-enjoy-praying/

Before I was born again prayer was non-existent in my life

Oh, I prayed the prayers along with everyone else from the book of prayers during the Sunday morning service

Prayers that 50+ years later I can still repeat by memory (head) – but not from my heart

Then I met Jesus and prayer took on whole new dynamic (November 9th, 1976)

It was a very personal and private conversation between Jesus and me 

A time for solitude and stillness when I reconnected with my own heart and the heart of the Father who loves me unconditionally

A very special – and sometimes quiet – time when I experienced God’s peace and His presence that was different than what I experienced during any other time  Read more

    Sometimes It Is Hard To Be Civil

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimesits-hard-tobe-civil/

A pastor writes …

I received a message on Instagram from someone I didn’t know. Many people follow me who I don’t really know. And I follow many people who I don’t know hoping to have an opportunity to impact them with the Gospel.

One day he sent me the following message:

So umm… I see that you are following me, but I don’t understand why? I’m like a homosexual Satanist and I don’t believe in fairy tales — *cough, God, * cough

So, um yeah … unless you want something else from me … I would suggest blocking me.

If you had received this message, what would you have done? 

How would you have responded?

I wanted to say something that wouldn’t turn him away.

Something that would keep the conversation going.

I thought for a moment, started to type, and hit enter.

Why do you consider yourself a Satanist??

I just kind of skipped over the homosexual part and got right to the heart of the matter. And he responded by saying:

Just kidding. I’m an atheist.

Then I wrote:

So you are a comedic atheist?

He replied:

I guess … haha!

The next day I received this message from the guy:

What do you get from God? What does He do for you?

Wow, did I answer that question with joy! One of the many things I shared was:

I feel like I’m never alone. That I am blessed by God and that He has a plan, a direction for my life. I look up at the stars and think there must be a Creator; that none of this is an accident. And I just read the Bible, and it rang true. 

And then I challenged him to try to read the Bible. I figured he probably didn’t own a Bible, so I wrote:

Google “James 1” and read it, and you will see how cool it is — and wise.

He wrote back:

I said … I don’t read fairy tales

So then I prayed, “Lord give me the perfect answer to pique his interest,” and I sent him this message:

James is a history book! Try just one chapter. What would it hurt? What if it was a vast treasure just at your fingertips? If … after reading one chapter, you think it’s meaningless, then I’ll understand.

A couple of days went by, and I received a new message in my inbox from him. It read in all caps:

BEST READ OF MY LIFE!

This pastor was working hard to be civil … and it is not always easy

But, often the best way to open the door to sharing Jesus with someone is to begin a civil conversation

This means we maintain a sincere, kind, and respectful tone as we dialogue

Not preach at, not monolog as we share, but discuss and dialogue

It also means praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what to say, including when and how to say it

Many Christians fall into one of two categories – two different extremes

1> There are some who don’t engage with nonbelievers at all about spiritual matters because they feel afraid, intimidated, or ill-equipped

2> there are others who do engage with nonbelievers, but it can be in a manner that is obnoxious or argumentative; critical and judgmental

The solution or remedy to both of these extremes is found in 1 Peter 3:15

“… but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV)

“Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” (MSG)

Our effectiveness for the Gospel begins with a reverence for Jesus as Lord in our hearts

And we are called to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask us the reason why we have hope

This must be done with gentleness and respect – in a civil manner -because it is coming from your heart which, as the verse states, is focused on Jesus

What the world needs now, more than ever before, is for believers to be open, engaging, and available to engage in civil conversations 

Often difficult in a culture where people are becoming more and more hostile to Christianity — and to each other — and there are so many different ‘camps’

Just look at any comments section of a social media post or news article online

It can be the simplest topic to the most controversial — It doesn’t matter

In just about every instance, you will have people who disagree with one another and begin labeling and attacking without a filter

Civil discourse seems to have left the building

Having a civil conversation with someone when you disagree seems almost impossible

And, I admit, “sometimes it is hard to be civil”

And, we Christians are just as guilty of this as nonbelievers

The truth is:

We are not going to win anyone or convince anyone of anything with our harsh and obnoxious Facebook posts over petty differences

We are not going to argue anyone into God’s Kingdom

Instead, we need to engage in civil dialogues and civil conversations with those who do not know Jesus … and those who do, for that matter!

Throughout Scripture, almost every conversion story began with some type of civil conversation

In Acts 8, Philip had a conversation with an Ethiopian who ended up getting baptized

In Acts 10, Peter and a man named Cornelius had a conversation, and the next thing you know, Cornelius and his family surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ

It was in Acts 16:13-14, during a conversation with Paul and his companions, that a woman named Lydia opened her heart to receive Christ as Lord

Jesus peached and taught the people but in His one-on-one conversations we see that He would often take on a different approach by being civil, conversing and asking questions

One of the best examples of this is recorded in the third chapter of John

A man named Nicodemus had an encounter with Jesus — and his life was forever changed.

John 3:1-15 “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Nicodemus was someone you might meet fo the first time and think, He’ll never become Christian

The guy had political influence and clout

He represented the status quo

He was wealthy

A guardian of the rules

A keeper of the laws

Nicodemus subscribed to all kinds of unwritten laws as a teacher of Israel

He represents the people who believe that by keeping all the rules they are somehow saved or made righteous

And yet Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he was very intrigued by Him

He wanted to learn more about Him and the things He had been teaching, the healings, the signs and wonders

So, Nicodemus said, “Rabbi,” which means “teacher, “ and the conversation begins.

John 3:2 “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Some things to note within Jesus’ and Nicodemus’s exchange that will be immensely helpful to you and me as we share our faithshare in a civil manner

1> Straight to the point

Jesus was willing to have a civil conversation with Nicodemus, but He also got straight to the point

John 3:3 “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

It could have been because it was late at night and Jesus was tired after a long day … and small talk was not something Jesus wanted to engage in

But it most likely had more to do with Jesus’s desire to see Nicodemus saved

He didn’t pull any punches

He did not shy away from this opportunity to speak openly and honestly with one of Israel’s most important and religious leaders

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

That’s pretty direct

“Truly, truly” means “Listen carefully, I’m not lying”

Nicodemus heard this phrase born again and he couldn’t figure it out

He didn’t understand it

So he asked the question:

“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4)

Jesus answered, and once again, He did not mince words:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…”

Of course, we know what this meant but Nicodemus didn’t…

What Jesus meant was that Nicodemus had already been born physically; he needed to be born spiritually

But Nicodemus did not get it

But to fair, consider where we are in history:

Jesus has not died on the cross yet

The Day of Pentecost was still three years away

The Church had not started yet

There were no pastors

No church buildings on the corner of the street

No crosses on church buildings

Jesus was speaking prophetically when He pointed out the truth about being born of water and the Spirit

No wonder Nicodemus didn’t understand

I’m not sure that at this point in the conversation he was suppose to understand

And Jesus might have been thinking ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ … But He laid everything out directly anyways

Sometimes when believers are talking with someone who doesn’t know Christ, we beat around the bush

We use too many words

We preface or sugarcoat or water down the message

Jesus’s civil conversation with Nicodemus teaches us that sometimes we need to get straight to the point.

This does not mean you should be frantic, rude, or abrupt

Jesus was gentle and at ease as He shared the truth

It may not be comfortable to confront someone’s beliefs, but you can learn to do it

As we practice sharing our testimony and the Gospel message, we must learn to cut out all the hemming and hawing and get down to what’s most important

The simple story of Christ’s transforming love

2> The Spirit is there and is always moving (ministering)

Next Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Nicodemus ask, “How can this be?” (John 3:9)

The reason he asked this question is because he was convinced that the law was what saved a person

But since the law cannot save, there was a restlessness in Nicodemus’s soul

Despite the fact that he was a “law man” — and had money, fame, power, position, and religion — he was empty inside

He didn’t know why he was feeling what he was feeling

He was searching

He didn’t know what he was searching for

But, he was searching – or else he would not have come to Jesus in the first place

I think Jesus was trying to quiet all the noise in Nicodemus’s mind and heart by saying,

“Shh, Listen to the sound of the wind. The Holy Spirit of God is drawing you toward something that can save”

And here is the best part:

Even though Nicodemus came searching for Jesus that night, it was actually Jesus via the Holy Spirit who was searching for Nicodemus

Do you remember the story in the Bible about a man named Zacchaeus who was a short little guy?

He climbed a tree to look for Jesus, who was passing through the town of Jericho

Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5)

Let me ask you a question:

Was Zacchaeus searching for Jesus, or was Jesus searching for Zacchaeus?

Even though Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, a “sinner” by everyone else’s account, he was valuable to the Lord

Jesus was looking for him and wanted to be a guest in his home

After encountering the Lord, Zacchaeus repented of his sins, vowing to give half of what he owned to the poor and to pay restitution to anyone he cheated in the past

If there was any doubt that Jesus was in fact looking for Zacchaeus, what the Lord declared next should clear things up:

Luke 19:9-10 ““Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The Spirit of God moved in the heart of a wealthy tax collector to climb that tree in Jericho in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world

God’s Spirit also moved in the heart of Nicodemus to seek out Jesus for the answers to his questions

Behind the scenes, this very moment, the Spirit of God is moving!

He blows wherever He wants to

As you approach casual conversations with others, take comfort in the fact that God’s Spirit is always moving and wooing — even in folks you think would never be saved

John 14:17 “…He is with you, and will be in you

John16:7-11 “… convict the world (the unsaved) of sin, righteousness, and judgment”

There is a blogger named Russell Moore and he wrote:

“The next Billy Graham might be passed our drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now. But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so.”

Don’t ever doubt whom God can reach and whom God can save!

So, when speaking to anyone and everyone – be civil, polite, gentle, kind, and get to the point so the Holy Spirit can do His work

You share the truth of the Gospel 

The Holy Spirit convicts them of sin and moves in their heart to receive Jesus

Here is what I know is true:

Right now there are people in your life — and perhaps even folks you have not met yet — who are restless in their heart and soul just like Nicodemus and Zacchaeus

They are wondering what it means to be alive – what’s my purpose and reason for living?

There is an emptiness in their hearts that the law, or self-righteousness, or money, or power, or fame, or sex, or relationships, or drugs, or alcohol cannot fill

The Spirit of God could be reaching out to them through you

Let that amazing truth be your confidence as you initiate civil conversations with them about matters of the faith

1> Straight to the point

2> The Spirit is always moving

3> Patience — even when they don’t understand

After Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” Jesus continued to talk with him and explained Himself is quite some detail

Even though Nicodemus was a teacher of the law and should have been able to grasp these concepts

Even though, by all appearances, the conversation is going nowhere and his conversion is nowhere in sight

And what we learn from Christ’s approach and demeanour is that we must be patient with others, even when they don’t understand

Jesus patiently took Nicodemus back to a familiar story in Numbers, chapter 21 to explain salvation

The people of God were complaining when they should have been rejoicing because God had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and was leading them to the promised land

They questioned Moses’s leadership abilities

They didn’t like the monotonous and dry food God was supplying daily

They began to infect the camp with poisonous words

So the Lord sent real, live snakes into their midst, to do literally the very thing the people were guilty of doing figuratively: poisoning

Many of the Israelites died

Those who were left realized their sin and went to Moses to repent

They knew they were doomed and beyond hope

In recounting this story, Jesus reminded Nicodemus how Moses lifted up a bronze snake on a pole and whoever looked upon that snake would live

Just as He did with His “born again” statement earlier, Jesus was pointing out the spiritual with the physical

In fact, He told Nicodemus that He was speaking of heavenly things:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus was patient with Nicodemus as He led him to the truth of the Gospel

We are called to do the same in our civil conversations with others

It may look like they don’t understand

It may look like they are never going to receive the message

But God has called us to lift up Jesus so that He can draw all people to Him (John 12:32)

That is our only job

That is all we have to be focused on

More and more every day, our world is becoming so divided and confused and poisoned 

Like the Israelites who had snakes in the midst of their camp, it may seem as though we are all doomed

Our only hope is Jesus Christ

In everything we do

In every conversation we have

We believers must be loving, patient, truthful, and above all, lift up Jesus so that the entire world will believe.

1> Straight to the point

2> The Spirit is always moving

3> Patience — even when they don’t understand

CONCLUSION:

As I attempt to put myself in Nicodemus’s sandals after this fascinating conversation with the Saviour of the world, her is what I imagine Nicodemus saying or thinking:

“Jesus, everything that You’re saying has completely turned my thought process upside down. Everything I have ever been taught since I was a child is that the law is what saves! You come along with these miracles and signs that force me to listen to You. You tell me I have to be born again of water and the Spirit. And that the Son of Man must be lifted up.”

I imagine him continuing, “Jesus, I’m an educated man, but I need You to simplify this for me. I’m very interested — but I don’t understand. I know the Scriptures front and back. I know what the rabbis have taught for thousands of years, but … I have no idea what You are saying.”

Then, in perhaps the greatest verse in John’s entire Gospel, Jesus really did simplify it all for Nicodemus when He declared:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

People can keep all the laws, but the laws can’t save

They can be leaders among leaders, but fame and recognition can’t save

They can be wealthy, but material possessions cannot save

Only knowing the Son Of God — Jesus — can save a person

Christ went to the Cross and died for the sins of the world

All who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life!

As Jesus spoke in a very civil and friendly manner with Nicodemus, we can can show others through patient, civil conversations that it was all part of God’s plan

      • God’s story
      • God’s love
      • God’s Spirit
      • God’s calling
      • God’s Son
      • God’s salvation

Any time you see people getting saved, lives being changes, miracles and signs, and people moving from darkness to light — it is all God

Anything good you see is because God is at work around the world to redeem humankind before Jesus returns

Unbelievers may not understand this, but we can help them. However, “Sometimes it is hard to be civil.”

Sometimes I Lose My Spiritual Center

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-loose-my-spiritual-center/

 

I want to talk about finding and keeping a “spiritual center” in your life

We are going to look at: 

The art of heaven-based thinking. 

You could also call it:

The practice of the presence of God.

Our Scripture passage:

Colossians 3:1-4 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

TPT “Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection too. This is why we are to yearn for all that is above, for that’s where Christ sits enthroned at the place of all power, honour, and authority! Yes, feast on all the treasures of the heavenly realm and fill your thoughts with heavenly realities, and not with the distractions of the natural realm. Your crucifixion with Christ has severed the tie to this life, and now your true life is hidden away in God in Christ. And as Christ himself is seen for who he really is, who you really are will also be revealed, for you are now one with him in his glory! Read more

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-deceive-myself/

 

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

Slogan: Deception Infection

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do watch on You Tube parts of American Idol

I am careful, since it does sound kind of … idolatrous

If you were to watch the first few shows of the season — when the judges travel around the country for auditions

You soon become aware of how easily people are self-deceived

You watch people trying out for a spot on the show when competition starts in ernest

It is seriously difficult to comprehend how many horrifically bad singers truly believe they deserve to be the next vocal superstar! Read more

SOMETIMES THE FIRE DIES

Sometimes The Fire Dies

 

The Scriptures frequently comment on living the Christian faith with passion

It is very clear that as believers we cannot be passive

We must embrace the truth and engage with the world for that truth

Jude 3b “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” 

TPT “(I) felt the need … to challenge you to vigorously defend and contend for the beliefs that we cherish. For God, through the apostles, has once for all entrusted these truths to his holy believers.”

“vigorously defend and contend…”

My personal favourite Scripture regarding living the faith with passion – serving Jesus with my heart and soul 

God spoke it to me … planted it deeply in my heart in July of 2007

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” Read more

Retire? You Must Be Joking! – Part Two

We are to run the race and cross the finish line. The key to running the race well, to finishing well: Don’t finish. Always be looking forward to what the Lord has for you next.

It doesn’t take a deep dive into secular history or the Bible to discover that many great things are accomplished by people past the age of retirement.

Pianist-comedian Victor Borge, “the Clown Prince of Denmark,” continued to delight huge audiences until his death at age ninety-one. Tony Bennett, singer and performer, was still singing at ninety-three and left his heart not only in San Francisco but also in many other cities where he performed.

At ninety years old master cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he kept practicing eight hours a day. He replied, “I think I’m improving.”

The apostle Paul was over sixty when he made his gruelling voyage to Rome, where he preached, wrote, and taught until his execution four years later. He had no intention of slowing down, much less retiring to rest on his laurels. At his miraculous conversion thirty years earlier, Paul had found his life’s passion. He was doing exactly what he was called to do, what he loved to do, and it absorbed him completely.

Pearl Buck, the famous writer and the daughter of missionaries to China, said, “I have reached an honourable position in life because I am old and no longer young. I am a far more useful person than I was fifty years ago, or forty years ago, or thirty, twenty, or even ten. I have learned so much since I was seventy.”

So, don’t give up on yourself too early. Don’t deprive yourself of the many blessings God wants to bestow upon you in what the world would call your post-retirement years. Change what you do if you must, but don’t stop serving the Lord. 

Nine times in the Bible (ESV) we find the words old and advanced in years. I’ve always thought this phrase was an illustration of unnecessary redundancy. If you say someone is old, you shouldn’t have to add the words advanced in years. That seems like piling on.

But every word in the Bible is important, and one day I noticed something fascinating. Many of the times when that redundant phrase appears in the Bible, it’s a description of a person who is about to experience something astonishing. For example:

      • Abraham (100 years old) and Sarah (90 years old) were “old, well advanced in age” as they  are about to become the parents of Isaac (Genesis 18:11).
      • Zacharias and Elizabeth were “old and advanced in years” before they gave birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1:18).
      • Joshua is also described this way before he received his marching orders to enter the land of God’s promise: “Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the Lord said to him: ‘You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much yet to be possessed’” (Joshua 13:1).

Here are some verses to encourage you to keep on keeping on. They were given to us by our gracious God to keep us faithful throughout our lives. These verses show us: “If you’re not dead, you’re not done!”

      • Psalm 92:12-14 (NCV) “But good people will grow like palm trees; they will be tall like the cedars of Lebanon. Like trees planted in the Temple of the LORD, they will grow strong in the courtyards of our God. When they are old, they will still produce fruit; they will be healthy and fresh.”
      • Isaiah 46:4 (NKJ) “Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
      • Psalm 71:18 (NKJ) “ Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.”

Preach To Yourself!

Sometimes we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves, saying something like: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Try saying that aloud with enthusiasm upon rising each day. It will make a difference to the way your day unfolds because you are looking at your day in a positive light.

Outside of praying, your most important words are the ones you say to yourself. These words are most often silent but significant. Pop psychologists call this positive self-talk, but I’m going to skip the trends and go straight to Scripture. Did Paul, the apostle who wrote over 1/3 of the New Testament, ever talk to himself?

He said he strove to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). He said, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22 NIV). He said, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). And, he also was the one who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

One of my mentors long ago preached a sermon on how to handle negative thoughts, and I still remember the outline (and can actually locate my notes): Don’t curse them; Don’t nurse them; Don’t rehearse them; Disperse them. That’s still a good formula! Push out your negative thoughts — worry, anxiety, fear, pessimism — by filling your mind with God’s Word, the Scriptures, especially His promises. And then preach those promises to yourself. 

A medical doctor who is also a world-class athlete was asked how he accomplished all that he did even when approaching the age of 60 (including running triathlons). He said, “I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself. If I listen to myself, I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I’m too tired, too old, too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself, I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”

In Psalm 42 the psalmist said to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verse 11).

We don’t know the author of Psalm 42, but it might have been King David, because he knew how to preach to himself when needed. As a younger man, a series of disastrous problems had befallen David in a town called Ziklag. His family and the families of his men had been kidnapped, and even his own men we’re turning on him and talking about stoning him to death. 

What did David do? He preached to himself. He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). And in that strength he rose up to tackle his problems with a positive spirit that came from his belief in God’s watchful care of his life. 

Jeremiah did the same. After watching his city go up in flames and his nation go down in defeat, he said in Lamentations 3:21-23: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

This is what we must do. If we listen to the negative tapes looping around in our thoughts, we’ll sink into the pessimism of the devil. How could I have been so stupid? What’s wrong with me? Everything is falling apart. This is a disaster. Why is this happening to me? 

Stop the tape! Here’s a better one: I know in Whom I believe, and I am persuaded He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. Why are you cast down? Hope in God. I’ll soon be praising Him again, for He is the health of my countenance. I’m going to recall something and keep it in mind — the Lord is merciful, and His compassions won’t fail me. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

We are constantly processing thoughts. Depending on how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. Whew! It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind.

To complicate our minds more, not all these are conscious thoughts, and sometimes they pass so fleetingly we barely notice them. However, every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body … Each thought sets of a biological process — about 400 billion at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through the body, producing electromagnetic waves. These set off emotions, which affect how we behave. Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: we are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts. 

So, you should be careful what you think and what “preach to yourself.” As Ephesians 4:29 NLT advises: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” This, of course, includes the words that only you hear as you speak to yourself. 

RIP … Maybe

You have seen it a thousand times. Well, I have seen it a thousand times. Especially when a celebrity athlete, musician, or actor “passes”. You know, dies. I hate that word “passes.” I prefer to face the reality of the fact that they did not pass ( I pass cars on the highway, pass gas on occasion, past the salt to the other end of the table.) Let’s just say it – they “died.” 

When someone dies – immediately, a barrage of epitaphs are posted on social media with the acronym RIP. Which, of course, means “rest in peace.” I’m always amazed at how many Christians post this without really considering what they’re saying or what their friends and coworkers will read in their sentiment. Now, we all know that no one can truly see what is in another person’s heart. It is very possible that a particular celebrity did have a relationships with Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. However, I can think of rimes when an athlete passed away who was a very outspoken follower of a religion other than Christianity, or a musician dies whose lifestyle was the opposite of how the Bible describes an authentic follower of Jesus. Yet even from Christians, the RIP statements were ever flowing.

But if we’re going to commit to the truth, then we’ve got to be all in. The whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Especially in difficult moments of sadness and grief, people often check their faith at the door. However, it’s in these moments when we need the truth of Scripture and the freedom it provides.

Truthfully, according to the Bible, the only ones who will get to rest in peace are those who have an authentic relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Sadly, for those who have lived life without knowing Jesus as Lord and never had His Spirit dwell inside them, there will be no eternal rest. As gut wrenching as it is to write, their eternity will be marked by the very opposite of rest. Just as heaven is real, so also is hell.

Jesus Himself often used the word Gehenna to describe hell. The word literally meant “the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.” It is just south of Jerusalem. It is known as a cursed place. Some of the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to false gods by burning them alive in this valley (see 2 Chronicles 28:33; Jeremiah 19). In Jesus’s day, it continued to be an unclean place used as the city dump. Gehenna was always on fire from the burning of trash. It was a place that people didn’t even like to discuss because it was marked by sadness, maggots, fire, and curses. 

One day, Jesus used an extreme illustration to show how serious sin is and how we must do everything necessary to avoid hell: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). Of course, Jesus is not asking you to literally cut your hand off to keep from sinning. Besides, sin is a heart issue, not a hand issue. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). However, He is so serious about sin that you also must take sin seriously enough to turn your heart over to Him.

Jesus also described hell as “outer darkness,” a place of extreme sadness and torment. “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). The worst thing about this place is the separation from anything good. For all eternity, there is now a chasm between God and everyone in this “outer darkness.” It wasn’t created for humans. It was created and reserved for the devil and his fallen angels: “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). 

As heartbreaking as it is, hell will be the eternal home for all those whose name is not found in the Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). If you live your whole God-given life and exhale your last breath without ever turning to Him as the Saviour from your sins, you’ll miss out on His saving grace, be left out of His Book of Life, and be trapped in an eternity of separation. 

The irony of life is that you can have a great name here on earth. Your name can be on the sides of buildings and in history books, but the only thing that matters is whether your name is in the Book of Life. Arrogantly, some say, “I don’t care if I end up in hell, because all my friends will be there anyway. We’ll have a heck of a party.” How stupid. There is nothing fun about this place. There is nothing to celebrate there. Nobody to turn to, nobody to talk to, and never-ending loneliness. People in hell endure constant suffering and remorse, knowing they had the opportunity to enter heaven with God but turned it down. There is no exit, no way out, no second chance, no redo, no mulligan. There is absolutely no rest in hell. There is no peace there. Anyone who ends up there will not be resting in peace. RIP does not exist for those there. 

As awful as this place sounds, the good news is that the Lord does not desire any human being to be there. He desires all those made in His image to have their namers in His Book of Life. This means you. Yes, even you. You may say, “You don’t know what I’ve done. There is no way He wants me in His Book of Life.” I am telling you in love that you can’t out-sin His power of grace and forgiveness if you turn to Him in faith. His grace is more than sufficient to cover your mistakes. His desire is that none would perish and that all would come to a saving knowledge of truth. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “[He] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). 

Only when you have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord is your name written in the Book of Life. Only then will you enter heaven when you die. And, in heaven, you will be so busy celebrating and living life to the fullest as it is meant to be lived that you won’t even consider the letters RIP as a description of what you are experiencing. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Five

“And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Because God loves us, we can love our neighbours!

I’m confident that every believer knows that we Christians are commanded to love our neighbour. And most understand that this does not mean just the family next door. Who does it include? When Jesus was asked that question, He answered by telling the parable of the good Samaritan. Your neighbour is anyone you encounter who has a need that you can fulfill.

Here Jesus greatly expands the field on which our love is to operate. Love is not limited to God, yourself, your family, or your church. It must be freely extended to everyone you encounter. No longer must you confine your love only to those who love you and can repay it; it must be given even to those who can never repay it. 

Godly love changes the rules for loving one another. We don’t worry about the results because we have no motive other than to spread the love that God has given to us. We are not manipulating or trying to earn points or even loving for our own personal gratification. We are simply treating others in the light of how God sees them. We can love from sheer bounty, just as we have been loved. We become channels of this new living water.

The apostle Paul knew just how critical our neighbour is to the authenticity of our Christian life. He twice repeated Jesus’ command in his letters. To the Romans he wrote, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Romans 13:8-9). And to the Galatians, he stressed the overarching importance of this command: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14)

As we end the week, let’s review …

Because God loves us…

    • We can love Him
    • We can love ourselves
    • We can love one another
    • We can love our neighbours 

We still have one more to go … Because God loves us, we can love our enemies. A blog posting for Monday.