Monday, July 23, 2018

"A More Excellent Way that Never Fails"

1st Corinthians 13.8 NIV

“Love never fails.”

Paul begins his treatment of the “the greatest” (13.13) of all human qualities in his letter to the Corinthian church with a promise show us “a still more excellent way” (12.31)… the way of love.

I possess a sensitive and finely tuned sense of personal justice which instantly activates when I encounter people or situations that are not to my liking. As the oldest of three, I was the subject of my mom and dad’s early parenting experiments. They would be the first to admit they made mistakes and later acknowledged their expectations of me as a child were often too high. My little psyche understood what my brain and mouth could not articulate. I thought I was unfairly treated, especially when my younger siblings later received leniency for similar infractions. I rebelled for reasons I thought were justifiable.

Unquestionably, my parents did the best they could. However, I am left today with an excessively high view of justice causing an immediate visceral reaction when I witness anyone being mistreated, especially when the object of mistreatment is me!

I must overcome this demon of self-defensivism. When my ire rises at the first indication of a minor injustice, I must depend on Jesus for a “more excellent way” which “never fails.”
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”  (vv. 4-8a)

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Do it with Love"

1st Corinthians 12.31 NASU

“But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I will show you a more excellent way.

This is a transition verse connecting two unique biblical themes...
  1. The right use of spiritual gifts.
  2. Our expression of God’s love.
In chapter 12, Paul concludes his remarks on how to properly express spiritual gifts in the church. These gifts are called 'manifestations of the Spirit' (v.7) and include the demonstration of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. The Apostle further clarifies that these gifts are imparted by God for the benefit of the whole body. “Greater gifts” then would be those which more greatly benefit the greater portion of the body of Christ.

The author shifts his emphasis in chapter 13 to a “more excellent way” which, of course, is the way of love. Love’s expression to those around us becomes the ultimate test of a man or woman’s devotion to Christ.

In the preceding chapter 12, Paul deals with giftedness, passion, and desire to perform the will of God in the body of Christ. Paul tells readers to “earnestly desire” to perform the will of God according to the gifts and talents Jesus has given them.

Chapter 13 centers on the “more excellent way” of love which must become the motivating principle behind every use of the spiritual gifts. Believers must never confuse inactivity or passivity with love, but proactively fulfill their calling with the gifts God has given them, and always do so in the spirit of love.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Proclaim His Death"

1st Corinthians 11.26

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

Death is the single, inevitable fact of life. Life will end. All good things stop, sometimes suddenly. People die and so will I. My mortality and weakening body hovers as a dark reminder of my death sentence. I will soon no longer exist as I now do. I was born to die. Jesus commands me to “proclaim... death,” but to shift my focus on life’s end from mine to His. I am called to herald Christ’s death until His return, which may take a while. I could, and probably will, die before His 2nd coming. I have a job to do until He comes again or until I die, whichever comes first...

“Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”

My father died almost exactly thirteen years ago on July 23rd, 2005.  I still miss him. Our last years together were the best ones. I was there when he took his last breath. I loved him and he loved me. My mother died November 10th, 2010, nearly eight years ago. I love and miss her too. 

“Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”

It has fallen to me to suffer another death, the death of my dear wife of twenty years. Adonica lost her ten month battle with Leukemia two years and eleven months ago on August 30th, 2015. It still hurts, but not quite as badly. The kids and I are doing well, but I wish she was here by my side. I shall always love my Adonica. 

“Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”

I am not comfortable with my own departure. I am afraid of growing old and will likely do so un-gracefully, with less than the appropriate amount of dignity. I don’t want to leave my children without a dad. Paradoxically, my most common and fervent (and selfish) prayer is that all my kids will outlive me. The pain of their early demise would probably kill me.

“Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”

As foreign as the concept is, I am compelled to obey the cause and advance message of Christ’s death until He comes again. This is one death that contains an element of hope. Jesus died and rose from the dead. The message of death and resurrection is worth proclaiming.

“Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”

I will proclaim the Lord’s death until I meet Jesus in my death, or His return. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"God's Wisdom is not Conventional Wisdom"

1st Corinthians 10.32a, 33 NASU

Give no offense… just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.”

Paul’s remark to “give no offense” flies in the face of conventional wisdom. It appears to accomplish exactly the opposite of its intent. The expectation to “give no offense” is itself offensive! Paul appears to violate several principles of popular thought in his mandate to the Corinthians.
Paul: “give no offense”
Conventional Wisdom: ‘You will occasionally offend someone. That is their problem, not yours.’

Paul: “please all men”
Conventional Wisdom: ‘Don’t be a people pleaser.’

Paul: “not seeking my own profit but the profit of many”
Conventional Wisdom: ‘Establish good personal boundaries and watch out for yourself. You cannot love others if you you don’t first love yourself.’

Paul: “so that they may be saved”
Conventional Wisdom: ‘You can’t change anyone but yourself.’
So-called conventional wisdom may be just another name for the “worldly wisdom” Paul shunned and warned us against.

“…we have conducted ourselves in the world... not according
to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace.”
2nd Corinthians 1.12 NIV

I must take a closer look at Paul’s message. I do not want to face my Maker on judgment day being more familiar with conventional wisdom than the wisdom was found in His Word.

“...guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty
chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’
- which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith."
1st Timothy 6.20-21 NASU

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"They Must"

1st Corinthians 9.16b

“…for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” NASU

“I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t!” The Message


Preachers can’t help themselves. They have to preach. They are “under compulsion.” They have no choice! Moved by an inner voice urging them forward, preachers must tell others about the saving power of Jesus Christ. That's what preachers do. They preach!

Men and women of God so compelled feel most alive when they are talking, writing, or otherwise sharing insights God allows them to discover in His Word. Preachers live to preach. It is their destiny. They must follow their preaching passion for each one of their fleeting years on earth. The calling tugs at the heart with a force known to all those who are so called. The burden of non-compliance is too heavy to bear. Preachers must preach like...

  • Paul who explained, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.”
  • Jeremiah who cried, “My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart! My heart is pounding in me; I cannot be silent,” (Jeremiah 4.19).
  • Job’s antagonist Elihu, who could not stop himself: “For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply,” (Job 32.18-20).
  • John who, after eating the little book that made his stomach bitter, his angels told him, “Again you must speak what God has revealed...,” (Revelation 10.10-11).

Preachers are Word Travelers. They have embarked on a journey through the pages of the Bible and experience together with all who will follow, the mysterious presence and undeniable power of Jesus.

I know a boy who, at the age of seventeen, informed his pastor that he wanted to go to seminary and learn to preach. His elder offered sound wisdom: “I will give you my blessing under one condition… you absolutely must go and cannot possibly stop yourself.” The boy had to preach. Nothing could stop him. Forty-eight years later, he’s still preaching.

Monday, July 16, 2018

"What Really Matters"

1st Corinthians 8.1b-3 NIV

“We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 

But the man who loves God is known by God.

What is “knowledge?” Paul argued, “the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know.” Apparently, if I think I have knowledge, I don’t.

But even if I did possess a little knowledge, what good would it do? According to the Bible, knowledge makes me arrogant, proud, and ‘puffed up.’ What use is that? A ‘puffed up’ guy becomes a target for anyone with a sharp witted pin. He is quickly deflated to nothing more than limp and colorful latex with a gaping hole, thus fulfilling the biblical adage... “Pride goeth before... a fall” (Proverbs 16.18 KJV).

Lord, deliver me from becoming ‘puffed up’ by the small amount of knowledge I possess. If I must focus upon self-improvement, then I should concentrate on increasing love rather than knowledge.
  • Knowledge is self-centered, but love is others-centered.
  • Knowledge puffs self up with arrogance. Love builds others up with hope.
  • Knowledge is about self. Love is about others.
Love has another benefit. When directed toward God, love apparently increases His knowledge base. Small acts of real love get God’s attention. Loving behavior mysteriously expands His omniscience-capacity and makes the loving human “known by God” in a new way. I would rather be “known by God” than be in 'trivial pursuit' of additional facts about Him.

The best knowledge one may possess is the simple knowledge that small acts of love toward others matter to Jesus.
______________

“Stack of old books” (2003) at the top of this post is by Toronto photographer Quin Liam (http://www.fromoldbooks.org/pictures-of-old-books/). Mr. Liam’s images are “out of copyright” and he graciously offers permission for use of his photographs.

Friday, July 13, 2018

"Undistracted Devotion to Me"

1st Corinthians 7.32-34a, 35 NASU

“But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided…. This I say... to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

[I wrote this blog entry four years ago, in July 2014, just weeks before my precious wife, Adonica, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I have been single again for nearly three years, since this vile disease took her life. I could not have then imagined my life without her, and now all I have left are pleasant memories like the ones in this article. I miss her and sill occasionally shed bitter tears, but I have our two beautiful children who remind me every day of the woman I cherished for twenty years. Today is my new opportunity “to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

Periodically my wife leaves me! It’s a good thing. She and the children get an early start on a family vacation and I catch up after a few days. After years of happy marriage, I anticipate times of separation with mixed emotions. Besides the incredible intimacy we often enjoy and the fact that clean socks magically appear in my dresser drawer, there is the family routine I’d prefer not to alter. I like reading to the kids before bedtime, eating dinner as a family, having someone to talk to, touch, and hold. When she leaves, I get lonely.

On the positive side, I fill the empty hours with lesser priority, but still enjoyable activities like longer office hours, more television, time with buddies, a little more junk food, and a couple of videos I’ve been waiting to see. Hmmm. Sounds like a watered down version of my old single life.

There is little doubt that I spend many hours of my life being ‘concerned about how I may please my wife.’ Why wouldn’t I? The love of a good woman far outweighs the cost of the emotional investment a man must pay to have her. Nevertheless the Bible says a married man’s “interests are divided.” Divided from what? Let’s be honest. From “…undistracted devotion to the Lord” or “undistracted devotion” to himself?

Someday I may be single again. I hope not, but it could happen. “Till death do us part” may involve hers before mine! I cannot predict the future. My marital bliss (and bliss it is) is a temporary gift. Besides inspiring me to treat my wife with respect and appreciation during the fleeting moments we share together on earth, the notion of “till death do us part” reminds me I may face life again someday alone. I did not do single very well the first time and would do no better if it happened again.

As a long-term married guy, brief times of separation are good practice for me in learning to “secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

"That"

1st Corinthians 6.9b-11 NIV

“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

“And that is what some of you were.

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

“And that is what some of you were.” It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was “that.” I cannot deny that the “that” to which Paul referred included me! I did not do everything on the “that” list:
  • sexually immoral
  • idolaters
  • adulterers
  • male prostitutes
  • homosexual offenders
  • thieves
  • greedy
  • drunkards
  • slanderers
  • swindlers
But it would be fair to say I committed (or thought about and wanted to commit) at least eight on the list of ten. I was batting 800 on Satan’s baseball team. I was what Martha said about her dead brother’s decaying body...


“Lord... he stinketh”!
John 11.39 KJV

“That” is what I was. I stunketh to high heaven (or low hell) and desperately needed a spiritual bath. By God’s undeserved grace and mercy, I got one! I was cleansed, “washed… in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”


“…for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then,
you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus...”
1st Corinthians 6.11 “The Message”

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"One Bad Apple"

1st Corinthians 5.6-7, 11 NASU

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. 

“...I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler...


According to the writer Paul,  “one bad apple spoils the barrel.”  Be careful with whom you associate. Sin is infectious. Even “a little leaven leavens the whole lump!” You may think it does not matter whom you choose as a friend, but that’s not true...

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”
Psalm 1.1 NIV

We tend to overestimate our innate goodness. We minimize our propensity toward self-centeredness. Most people think of themselves as “a good person” in direct contrast to what God’s Word teaches:

“Don't imagine yourself to be quite presentable
when you haven't had a bath in weeks.
Prov 30:12 The Message

“There is none righteous, not even one...
There is not who does good, there is not even one.”
Romans 3.10b; 12b NAS

“...all our righteous acts are like filthy rags
Isaiah 64.6 NIV

Besides our own innate goodness, we also tend to overestimate the goodness of others or our ability to positively influence those we deem good-less. Unfortunately, moral influence normally follows the path of lower, not higher, values. We who thought of ourselves as good people move imperceptibly toward the lesser standards of those with whom we associate. It happens slowly and unintentionally. 

“Be very circumspect in the choice of thy company. In the society of thine equals thou shalt enjoy more pleasure; in the society of thy superiors thou shalt find more profit. To be the best in the company is the way to grow worse; the best means to grow better is to be the worst there.” [1]

How did we get to where we are? It was the company we kept.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’”
1st Corinthians 15.33 NAS


____________________

[1] Unsourced quote from Francis Quarles, 17th Century English poet.

The funny image at the top of this post is entitled "One bad apple..." and used by permission of English photographer Linda Scannell whose work you can view at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindascannell.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"Self-Consciousness is Self-ish"

1st Corinthians 4:3b-5a

“...I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time,…”



Can personal effectiveness be swallowed up by too much introspection? Could one’s destiny be sadly altered and negatively determined by his own limited (but finely-tuned) low opinion of self? Is it possible to be too self-aware?

If I begin with the premise that I am not all-knowing then judgment of anyone, including myself, is, at best, incomplete. Conclusions drawn from an incomplete analysis set the stage for bad decisions and failure. Should I, like Paul, learn to become “conscious of nothing against myself?”

The concept is foreign to me and requires almost supernatural strength to overcome the common motivations of guilt and shame. In the real world of service to others, I have little time to consider the wider impact of my actions. I must get in the moment according to the need of the moment and sometimes act quickly without regard for the opinion of self and others. Paradoxically, this often turns out to be the best thing I can do for those around me.

Reducing self-consciousness in my behavior toward
others is the most self-less and Christ-centered thing I can do.

To be “conscious of nothing against myself” is not an excuse for sin. Like Paul, “I am not by this acquitted.” But its practice does direct my attention away from relentless introspection which, while appearing spiritual on the surface, masks an unhealthy fear of others and drives me toward the false goal of perfectionism.

Instead of focusing on my sin, becoming “conscious of nothing against myself” places the responsibility for my examination in the hands of Him who is both caring and capable enough to render true judgment about me. It also frees me to become more effective in my service of others.
________________

Artist of drawing above unknown. I cannot decipher the signature or locate the artist, but would like to obtain permission and give proper credit for this amazing drawing.

Monday, July 09, 2018

"A 50 Year Old Infant?"

1st Corinthians 3.1 NASU

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.”

I want to be a spiritual man, not a man “of flesh.” According to his first letter to the church at Corinth around twenty-five years after the crucifixion of Jesus, Paul described “men of flesh” as nothing more than “infants in Christ.” Apparently, a believer’s maturity has little to do with time logged as a believer. Maturity in Christ should not be measured by the number of church services attended, ministry involvements, Bible knowledge, positions or church offices held, size of charitable donations, Christian labels, jewelry, or lingo.

True spirituality has less to do with outward indicators and everything to do with deeper and less noticeable concepts like quiet suffering, hard choices, self-denial, delayed gratification, personal endurance, reliance on God, faith, obedience, discipline, and sacrifice. There is no easy way to grow up. Spiritual adulthood is developed in the trenches of temptation and hardship. There we find strength to trust Someone bigger than ourselves and make decisions that shape our destinies.

A true ‘man of God’ must prepare to suffer. He will remain ‘an infant in Christ’ if he consistently chooses the easy path, harbors secret sin, and nurses on the milk of self-centeredness. No matter how established he may appear, a man is only as ‘grown up’ as the depth of his relationship with Jesus who said,

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
Luke 9.23 NASB

Brand new believers can quickly grow into a spiritual adults if, by virtue of true repentance, they submit themselves to the authority of Christ. Conversely, devoted followers of Christ can easily fall backward toward ‘spiritual infancy’ by consistently succumbing to the voice of temptation. In Christ, it is possible to be a fifty year old spiritual infant or a brand new Christian man of God!

“So, if you think you are standing firm,
be careful that you don’t fall.
1st Corinthians 10.12 NASU
_______________________

The photograph above of a man crying is called "Big Baby" by Canadian photographer Jean-François Thériault http://www.flickr.com/photos/66757701@N00 who kindly gave me permission to use the photo with these important words: "Lots of photographers find their pictures used around the web without any credits or any kind of compensation. I'm very happy to see there is still good people around here that are aware of our hard work."

Friday, July 06, 2018

"Knowing Nothing is Harder Than it Looks"

1st Corinthians 2.1-2 NASU

“When I cam to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Paul was a smart man, an actual scholar. Trained by the famous Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22.3), The Apostle was highly educated according to the strictest sect of his religion (Acts 26.5). He was “a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee… as for legalistic righteousness, faultless,” (Philippians 3.5-6). If anyone had reason to boast in his knowledge, Paul did. He could have ‘wow’-ed any audience with his intellectual grasp of theological concepts. Yet, this amazing man of faith was “determined to know nothing… except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Why?

Most of us spend our lives acquiring knowledge. Culture attaches a premium to good schooling and rewards the well-educated. A young professional in any industry can easily rack up over twenty consecutive years in the classroom (from Kindergarten through post-graduate studies). That's a lot of preparation; and for what reason? Blind Bluegrass guitarist, Doc Watson, once recorded a tune about it [1]…
“You can go to your college,
  You can go to your school;
  But if you ain’t got Jesus
  You’re an educated fool.”
There’s only one thing harder than acquiring knowledge and that’s learning to put it aside  once we have it when it is not needed. It takes serious determination and true humility, not to mention a revelation from God, to clear our minds and make room for truth.

“For I determined to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
________________

The image "Clear Minded" was used by permission of by Jakes Jacobs from the Republic of South Africa (http://www.flickr.com/photos/koosroos). 

[1] This verse may have originated from the old blues tune "Denomination Blues" which was probably authored and first recorded in 1929 by Washington Philips. Doc Watson likely heard this song growing up in the 1930's. It has been recorded by other notable guitar masters like Ry Cooder and Mark Knofler.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

"God's Foolish Plan"

1st Corinthians 1.18; 26-27 NIV

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

I am the opposite of God. I value strength and wisdom, power and intelligence, beauty, brains and brawn. He, on the other hand, elevates the simple, foolish, weak things of this world to demonstrate His character and convey His message. I would do it differently. I would select smart, good-looking, super-fit, and successful people to prove my point. To achieve my objective to inspire the masses and win a following, I would utilize individuals who already command universal respect… movie stars, political leaders, war heroes, famous artists, beautiful models, rock icons, the filthy rich, and big name authors.

By contrast, God chose me and people like me. He chose complete unknowns to promote the most important message in the universe. This strategy seems questionable to me.

“God deliberately chose men and women that the culture
over-looks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to
expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’”.
1st Corinthians 1.27 “The Message”

God chose shame as the pathway to salvation. I would rather use inspiration. Shame seems so, well, shameful. For me the way up is the way up. For God, the way up is the way down. Humility, weakness, human frailty have no place in my plan. But God used weak and foolish people to shame the proud, powerful, popular, and pretty. I would have paid the proud, powerful, popular, and pretty to reach everyone else. Apparently, God and I are very different.

At the beginning of time the members of the Trinity consulted together and formulated a plan to reach the world with the message of God’s love. Jesus agreed to die on a cross. They knew it would seem foolish to everyone else. They did not consult me. I would have voted against this foolish plan. It is a very good thing that I am not God.

_________________

The beautiful shot of big hands cradling a tiny foot is called "daffodil" by Pawel Loj (http://www.flickr.com/photos/48745248@N00/).

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

"Satan Crusher"

Romans 16.20 NIV

“And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”


I have an enemy. He hates me and has a plan for the destruction of my life. His name is Satan. He is older, smarter, and stronger than me. Like me, he knows and believes in God (James 2.19). Unlike me, God does not dwell with him.

What an amazing thought... God lives inside of me!

With God in me I am able to overcome the enemy of my soul. I am assured of this by the promise of Scripture:


“…greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”
1st John 4.4 NIV

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
2nd Kings 6.16 NASB

Jesus and His angels are greater than all the demonic forces of hell. You can endure anything Satan throws your way because…

“…the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

________________

The photo above is called "Chris Stomping" by Brunswick, Georgia photographer Amanda Moncus (http://www.flickr.com/photos/amandamoncus/). Chris is Amanda's husband and they gave me permission to use their photo in this post.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

"Keeping Hope Alive"

Romans 15.4 NASB

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Our existence depends on hope... hope for a future filled with fun, love, adventure, peace and security. We possess an incredible capacity for patience in difficult situations as long as hope is alive. But when the flame dims and hope is extinguished, it’s all over. We engage in a process of slow death grasping at habit-forming activities and their false promise of a life with meaning. We want truth that “will set you free” (John 8.32). Instead, we settle for a 'B.T.N.' (better than nothing), lesser truth. It’s counterfeit truth, but it’s all (we think) we have. Our bad situations turn worse and misguided actions escalate in our desperate search for hope in all the wrong places

Many nine-to-fivers live for the weekend in hope of filling the space of forty-eight hours with enough television, recreation, sex, food, sleep, and alcohol to sustain them for another five days of drudgery at meaningless jobs. The overachiever falls into exactly the same trap. As a 'successful professional,' he gropes for significance and he trades his family and faith for a career promising status, peer approval, and the finer things only high salaries can provide. But hope is not a commodity. It cannot be bought even with hyper-dedication toward a temporal goal.

Hope begins at a particular point… the point of truth. It’s more than theological truth. It’s the truth about you… your calling, your important responsibilities, your God-given design, purpose, and dreams, your right standing before God. You must be clear, very clear on the truth about you. Get to know and appreciate this truth. Don’t sell out for a lesser truth or another person’s truth. Find your own truth. Keep searching until you peel away every layer of false hope and find the real, naked, and unencumbered you. Jesus will meet you there. He’ll take you by the hand and show you the worlds you must conquer. He’ll reveal your original destiny. He’ll impart a single-minded focus-ability empowering you to drive with all your might “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3.14). This is your truth and it’s the only place to find lasting hope. This is the hope worth living for because it’s based on a truth worth dying for. Once you get this hope, never lose it. Keep hope alive...

“...through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures”.
_______________

The image of the child looking through the curtains is called "3\365 a new hOpe" and used here by permission of an artist from Kuwait by the name "Anwaar." Find more of her creative photography at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sadfeeling/.

The portrait "Hope" is by photographer Ferran Jordà of Queralbs, Catalonia, Spain, whose work can be found at http://www.bw-color.com/fotos-245-hope.htm. Ferran gave me permission to post this beautifully expressive photo here.

Monday, July 02, 2018

"My Account of Me"

Romans 14.10b; 12-13a NIV

“For we will all stand before God's judgment seat…. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.”

Twelve years ago I stood before a judge at Beaverton Municipal court. On May 26th, 2006, I failed to notice the reduced school speed limit and was photographed driving 32 MPH in a 20 MPH zone. The judge asked me to “give an account.” This was my account: “I thought I was going the speed limit of around 35 MPH. I was right about my speed but wrong about the limit. I was driving 32 MPH in a 20 MPH zone… just like the ticket says. I’m sorry and will try not to let it happen again.” The infraction cost me time and money. I was lucky, though. The judge was gracious and reduced my ticketed fine of $242.00 to $192.00.

Someday, I will “stand before God’s judgment seat.” There I will be required to “give an account” of myself to Heaven’s Judge. This is a sobering thought. I was not overly worried about my first speeding ticket in many years. But what will I say on the day I face my Creator? I deserve the eternal death penalty for the sins I have committed. I am indescribably grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which covers the price of my offenses. His blood pays the debt for my sin. But I cannot avoid a personal appearance at the “judgment seat.” I will stand before God and “give an account” of me. What will I say? How will it go? The text offers a small clue that may help things go a little better for me on the Last Day…

“Let us stop passing judgment on one another.”

I cannot live a sin-free existence. There will be an accounting to make. But I can work on being less judgmental of others. I can learn to more quickly walk away from another person’s crime scene when Jesus quietly reminds me, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…" (John 8.7). Extending mercy to others now will make things go better for me then.

“For judgment will be merciless for one who has
shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
James 2.13 NASU

Friday, June 29, 2018

"My Parent Paul"

Romans 13.14 NASU

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

“Put on your coat,” I used to holler at my kids when they ran outside to play on a cold day. Why did I care? They obviously didn’t know any better. They were so intent on playing with their little friends that they easily forgot the essentials… shoes, coats, going potty, etc. I cared about their welfare more than they did. That’s a parent’s job.

Today, Paul is my parent and reminds me to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I become so intent...
obsessed, hell-bent, preoccupied, fixated

...on playing with my little friends...
work, money, busy schedules, television, unending list of distractions, etc.


...that I can easily forget the essentials.
relationship with Jesus, prayer, Bible, seeking God, loving others, etc.

Sometime in my very near future, I will go outside and face cruel and wild forces of adversity, cold winds of failure, sub-zero temptations of the flesh, and the freezing power of fear. I should anticipate the conditions and listen to my parent Paul...

“Put on Jesus”!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

"Choose Your Pathy"

Romans 12.15 NASU

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

What ‘pathy’ am I on?
  • A-pathy ~ I could not care less. I feel nothing toward you.

  • Sym-pathy ~ I understand you are experiencing pain or joy. I express my understanding and acknowledge your feelings, but remain emotionally distant.

  • Em-pathy ~ I allow myself to feel and express emotion when you do.
Am I empathetic, sympathetic, apathetic, or plain pathetic? I certainly can’t fake it. There are times when I simply don’t care and wish to ignore the subtle request for a shoulder to cry on. I may not want to laugh at a silly joke. I often deem myself incapable or unqualified to enter the ‘feeling realm.’ with another. I cannot respond to every cry for help, so I erect an emotional wall shielding me from all but the most urgent, or, in my opinion, the most legitimate needs. This selection process allows me to honestly later say, “I didn’t know.” But the real question is:  Should I have known? Or, would I have known if I had wanted to?

Empathy is a choice. If I am to shed tears when others cry or truly enjoy their happiness, then I must try to become empathetic. I must develop a well-functioning emotional radar and learn to read the signals. Without a finely tuned personal sensitivity meter, I may miss a chance meeting when I am most needed and waste my energy on low priority, safe, sterile, and comfortable caring gestures. 

What a waste! I may never share another’s sorrow when he learns his wife has terminal cancer. I may miss the opportunity to celebrate when a friend is promoted to the position he always wanted. I may miss a connection with a person whose contact would enrich us both. I might not “have shown hospitality to angels” (Hebrews 13.2).

Without empathy, I am a lesser man.


Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
________________

The wonderful images entitled "Empathy" and "Empathy x3" are used here by permission of Swedish photographer Per Jorisch (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jorisch/).