Avoiding Bad Decisions

In 1962, Brian Epstein, manager of a then-unknown rock and roll band called The Beatles, arranged for the band to audition for Decca Records producer Tony Meehan. A tape was made of the audition and, one month later, that audition tape was heard by Dick Rowe, an executive at Decca Records. Dick Rowe made a decision that day he would soon live to regret. He turned down the opportunity to sign The Beatles, saying, “Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein.” It was also reported that Rowe said, “Not to mince words, Mr. Epstein, but we don’t like your boys’ sound.” The Beatles signed with the Parlophone label of EMI Records and went on to become one of the, if not the, most popular rock and roll bands ever. And Dick Rowe went on to be known as the record company executive who made one of the worst decisions ever.

Throughout our lives, we likely will make millions of decisions, some trivial and minor, but some that may have a great impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. Sometimes the decision we make will be a good one, and we will look back and feel happy that we made that decision. That’s how I feel about having made a decision to follow Jesus. I’m sure that you can look at some decisions you have made in life and know that they were good ones. A good decision is usually the right decision. But have you ever made the wrong decision? A bad decision that you eventually came to regret? I know I have. It’s probably safe to say that all of us have made a bad decision at least once in our lives.

Mark Twain once said, “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” It’s true that experience helps us to make good decisions at times and we can definitely learn from making a bad decision. But, sometimes even experience doesn’t keep us from making bad decisions. Sometimes bad decisions are made because we just don’t have enough knowledge, we have a lack of wisdom. But how do we get wisdom? The answer to that question is found in the letter of James.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

The wisdom that we need to help us to make good decisions comes from God. All we need to do is ask for it. God is more than willing to give us the wisdom to make the right decisions in life. But it’s important that when we ask Him for it, we ask in faith. We must believe that He will give us that wisdom and not doubt (James 1:6), for if we doubt that we will receive that wisdom from God, it will be like a self-fulfilling prophecy. We will not receive it.

Do you want to make the right decisions in life? Go to the source of wisdom. Seek God’s guidance. If we seek His guidance and His wisdom, by studying His Word and seeking Him in prayer, bad decisions in our lives will be greatly reduced!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd

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One of the most well-known and loved psalms in the Bible is Psalm 23, a psalm of David. Before defeating Goliath and before becoming the king of Israel, David was a shepherd, and so he completely understood the importance that a shepherd plays in the lives of his sheep. In this beautiful psalm, David uses the metaphor of a shepherd to describe the Lord and all that the Lord does for us, His flock.

The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1–3)

David knew that the role of a shepherd was to provide for his flock. The shepherd loved and cared for his sheep. He guarded them and protected them from harm, he provided them with food and water, he took care of them when they were sick or tired, and he searched for them if they strayed. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), and He does the same for those who follow Him, who belong to His flock. He knows our needs and will provide for them when we seek Him and follow Him (Matthew 6:33). When we hear His voice and follow Him, we will not hunger or thirst. He will give us peace and guide us on the right path.

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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows. (Psalm 23:4–5)

When we follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we can walk through life’s dark valleys and not fear. Why? Because He is with us. He is there to lead the way for us and to calm our fears. When a shepherd leads his flock, he carries with him a rod and a staff. The staff was used to keep the sheep together, but the rod was a heavy stick that the shepherd could use to protect his flock from the attacks of predators. In defending his flock against these enemies, a shepherd would willingly lay down his own life. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus willingly gave His life for His sheep, freeing us from our sin. We can take great comfort in knowing that Jesus is with us in the trials and tribulations of life and that, when we follow Him, He will keep us free from our enemy.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)

When we choose to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we live with the promise that His goodness and His love are with us, following us all the days of our lives. And when we follow Him, when we are part of His flock, we have the promise of eternal life. We will dwell with Him and the Father forever.

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Lessons from a Marathon

NYC Marathon 1993

More than once, the apostle Paul compares our walk of faith to a foot race. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, he says that all the runners in a race compete, but only one wins, and then he says we should run to win. And in 2 Timothy 4:7, he states that he has competed well, finishing the race and keeping the faith. Having run the New York City Marathon in 1993, I can relate to Paul’s analogy. Although it has been almost 25 years since I ran that race, there are many faith lessons that I can take from it. When I look back on that time of my life, I see three things that were important to completing the race – preparation, people, and perseverance.

To be able to finish a marathon, to endure 26.2 miles, I needed preparation. I had to prepare my body to run that long distance. To finish the race of faith as Paul did, we also need preparation. We need to prepare our souls. For a marathon, I needed to nourish and fuel my body by eating right. For the race of faith, we also need food – spiritual food – and that food is the Word of God. We need to feed our minds and souls with God’s Word, spending time reading it and meditating on it daily. In preparing for a marathon, I had to gradually build up my endurance with regular times of running, as well as regular times of rest. In our race of faith, there must be times of “doing,” of serving God and others, but there also must be times of rest, times spent in prayer and in God’s presence.

One of the most important lessons I learned in running the marathon was the need for people. Running long distances can be difficult and, at times, lonely. For that reason, it is important to have people who are there to encourage you. I remember that, as I ran the marathon, when there were crowds along the course cheering the runners on, shouting words of encouragement, it made the running a little easier. But, in the areas (like bridges) where there were no crowds, running became a little harder. In our race of faith, we need people around us to encourage us along the way. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says that we are to “encourage one another” and “build each other up.”

Finally, completing a marathon requires perseverance. 26.2 miles is a long distance. When I ran it in 1993, there were times that I wanted to give up. The day before I ran, I developed a small blister on my heel that got larger as I ran the marathon. I need to stop twice to have it attended to at first aid stations. But I kept on running. I persevered. When I reached 20 miles, I hit a “wall.” I felt like I could not continue. But I kept on running. I persevered. In our race of faith, there is an enemy who wants nothing more than to make us give up, to stop running the race. He will throw things at us, things like doubts, frustration, worry, fear, and other trials. But rather than giving up and turning from our faith, we need perseverance. We need to heed the words of James 1:2 and consider it joy when we face these trials. When we do, our faith will produce endurance (James 1:3).

I finished my marathon in 1993. Despite being tired and despite some pain, I ran across the finish line. As I did, I was handed a finisher’s medal which is now proudly displayed in my den. When we prepare well, surround ourselves with people who share our faith and will encourage us, and persevere through trials, we will run the race of faith with endurance and we will finish strong. And, when we do, we will hear those words that are more valuable than any medal, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 

 

Watch Your Thoughts

Sow a thought, reap an action.

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. – Unknown

Our thoughts are important. Although they can’t be seen or heard by others, they are still quite real and can have a powerful effect on our lives and the lives of those around us. The things that occupy our thoughts can affect our lives in ways that can build us up or tear us down. They can lead us down the path that leads to peace, or they can take us down the road to destruction. Thoughts eventually become words and words become actions. Actions lead to habits, which eventually become our character, and our character has a profound effect on the path that our lives will take. That is why it is so important that we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

When we give in to wrong thinking, we are walking down a path that leads to wrong feelings. Wrong thinking, focusing on the wrong things, can lead us to worry, to anxiety, to broken relationships, and, ultimately, it can destroy us by tearing us up inside, pulling apart our hearts and our minds. Where wrong thinking does not lead us is to peace. Perfect peace comes from God, and it involves our hearts and our minds. In his letter to the believers in Philippi, the apostle Paul was clear about what we need to focus our thoughts on to experience that peace. We must think about those things that are excellent and praiseworthy, things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8).

Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He will always try to get us to buy into his lies, to control our minds and pull us away from the peace of God. But God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), and we must keep our thoughts focused on the truth of His Word. We must also think about things that are noble and right. These are things that are worthy of respect, things that are worthy of honor. We must focus on these things rather than on things that are dishonorable and displeasing to God. We must also think about things that are pure, lovely, and admirable. That means keeping our thoughts away from things that we know are morally wrong, such as sexual impurity, focusing rather on things that are beautiful in the eyes of God, things that are worth talking about. Our thoughts should be high and noble rather than the base thoughts of the world.

As followers of Christ, we should not waste our thoughts on things that would tear down us and those around us if we were to share those thoughts with them. Instead, we should focus our thoughts on God by filling our hearts and our minds with His Word. When we focus on God, when we fix our eyes on Him, not only will He keep us in His perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3), but He will also enable us to easily detect wrong thoughts when they try to creep into our minds.

Whose Strength are You Leaning On?

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But those who wait for the LORD’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired. (Isaiah 40:31, NET)

This is for all the men out there. Raise your hand if you are a doer, if you look at a problem and immediately look to your own strength to solve it. I believe there are lots of raised hands right now (and ladies, I see some of your hands raised as well!).

Most men, whether they admit it or not, want to solve problems. When there’s a problem with plumbing, men want to fix it. When the car won’t start, men want to figure out why and get the car running again. And, truthfully, these things are okay. But men often apply the same thinking to problems in the family or with spiritual problems. We want to fix the relationships between us and our kids. We want to solve the problems in our marriages. These things are okay, too.

But here’s the thing. Men look to do all of these things in their own strength. When it comes to broken pipes or a faulty engine, we can look to our own strength. But when it comes to our relationships, when it comes to problems of an emotional nature or of a spiritual nature, trying to solve the problems in our own strength will make the problems worse, and will cause us to grow frustrated and weary, or both. So, what should we do? The answer to that question is that we must wait on the Lord and put all of our hope and trust in Him (Isaiah 40:31). The Lord does not grow tired. He does not grow weary. And He has the strength that we need.

“But I can’t wait,” you may say, “I can’t just sit around and do nothing!” I get it. Waiting is hard. It goes against our DNA as men. But waiting on the Lord does not mean sitting around and doing nothing. It requires action on our part. Waiting on the Lord means meditating on His character and His promises, on who He is, what He can do, and what we mean to Him. Waiting on the Lord means praying, lifting up the problem and asking Him for help. And waiting on the Lord means giving Him the glory He is due, worshipping Him with our hearts, minds, and strength.

God promises to renew our strength when we wait on Him, when we put our trust and our hope in Him, rather than trying to solve our problems on our own. How? In Isaiah 40:31, the Hebrew word translated as “renew” means to change, alter, or replace. When we wait on the Lord, when we seek His help with our problems, He replaces our weakness with His strength. As a result, we will rise up on wings like an eagle, able to run without growing weary and to walk without becoming faint. His strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He will show us the way in which to tackle the problem at hand, He will remove the obstacles in our path (Psalm 18:32).

When you face a problem in your marriage, when a crisis arises involving your kids, don’t lean on your own strength. Wait on the Lord, meditating on who He is and what He has promised. Pray for His help, and, most importantly, give Him the glory He is due by worshipping Him. When you wait on Him and lean on His strength, He will be there to help you through the problem.

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from The NET Bible®
Copyright © 2005 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. www.netbible.com. All rights reserved.

 

When We are “Tuned” to Jesus, We are “In Tune” with Each Other

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“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one—I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.”  (John 17:20–23, NET)

Jesus prayed for believers to be one, to be unified so that the world will know that He was sent to us by God and that God has loved us just as He loved Jesus. Unity among believers is important and it can be attained and demonstrated in many ways. One way by which we, as believers, can be one is through our corporate worship. When we gather as a group of believers to worship and together focus our hearts and our minds on Jesus, we become one in heart and mind. In those moments of corporate worship, our hearts become closer than they could ever be by just trying to focus our thoughts and our efforts on working toward unity.

American pastor and author, A.W. Tozer once said, “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.” When a group of believers is “tuned” to Jesus, they will be of one accord, they will be “in tune” with each other. The unity that results from worshipping together comes not because we are “tuned” to each other but rather because we are “tuned” to Jesus. Worship will bring us into unity with each other when we remember the words of Psalm 95:6 (NLT), “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker.” When we submit our hearts, our minds, and our lives to Him together, we are “in tune” with each other and one in Him.

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from The NET Bible® Copyright © 2005 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. www.bible.org All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

My Conversation with God

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Wednesday nights are wonderful nights of prayer at our church, filled with expectation that God will meet us there and that our prayers will be heard. During a time of pre-service prayer last night, I sat in our chapel waiting on the Lord. As I sat there, I picked up my Bible and opened it. The book opened to the 50th chapter of the book of Isaiah and my eyes were drawn to the following verses (Isaiah 50:10-11, ESV):

10  Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
11  Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.

As I read through these verses, I felt God was trying to say something to me through them. Verse 10 begins with a question, “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant?” I know from Proverbs 1:7 that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. As a believer, I must have that fear of the Lord. My life must reflect the reverence that is due Him and we must obey His Word. The verse then says that a person who walks in darkness, perhaps because of frustration, injustice, or persecution, needs to trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God. I get that and try to live that out in my life.

When I got to verse 11, I started wondering what God was trying to say to me through it. I thought, “Why was I brought to this verse? Is God trying to tell me something?” And that’s when my conversation with God began.

God:  “What do you think I’m trying to tell you?”

Me:  “Well, Jesus is the light of the world and when we follow Him, we become that light, as well. We kindle the fire of the Holy Spirit in us and equip ourselves with the light of Jesus so that we can walk in it. So, I think you are telling me that we need to walk by the light of Jesus, not by our own light.  But what are You saying to me when You say, “and by the torches you have kindled?”

God:  “You need to pass the flame to others.”

Me:  “Okay, so that means we are supposed to take the light of Jesus to others, right? We need to spread the Gospel.”

God:  “Yes. But, I’m talking to you, not ‘we.’ Are you doing your part? Are you kindling the torches of others with Jesus’ light?”

Me:  “I think so. I’m doing it through my blog.”

God:  “True. But I need you to do more.”

Me:  “Oh!” (I didn’t really know what else to say!)

As followers of Christ, we are given a mission, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world. We all need to do our part. God told me that He wants me to do more. Maybe that speaks to you, as well. If it does, pray that God shows you what He wants you to do. And rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to help you to do it (Acts 1:8). I know that’s what I need to do!

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Dry Bones

Dry Bones

Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and tell them: ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. (Ezekiel 37:4, NET).

Have you ever been in a dry season in your walk of faith? I know that I have. More than once. Dry seasons are times when we feel far from God. It seems like God is far away, maybe even like He has abandoned us. The truth is that, when we feel far from God, it’s more than likely because we have moved away from Him. God is always with us. He’s always there, waiting to listen to us, waiting to speak to us. But sometimes, perhaps because of a difficult circumstance, or because of fatigue or illness, our hearts may become hardened and we may move away from God. The result is a season of dryness, a season in which it seems that all of the life has gone out of us.

In Ezekiel 37, the hand of God was on Ezekiel and the prophet was brought by the Spirit of God to a valley filled with bones. As Ezekiel walked through the valley, he saw that not only were there a large number of bones there, but also that the bones were very dry. There was no life in them. God asked Ezekiel if the dry bones could live. Not knowing the answer to that question, Ezekiel replied, “Lord, you know.” Ezekiel very likely understood that life returning to those dry bones was dependent on God. God had the power to bring life where life has gone. God told Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones, to declare His word to them. His word was that He would breathe life into them. With God’s breath in them, the bones would live, flesh would return to them, and they would know that God is Lord (Ezekiel 37:1-6).

God may use a dry season to teach us. He may want us to learn to surrender to Him, to put our complete trust in Him. And God also has the power to pull us out of that dry season, to restore life to our “dry bones.” We need to reach out to Him in prayer, we need to look to His Word and to “hear” it. We need to allow the Spirit of God to breathe life into us. If our hearts have become hardened, we need to allow Him to soften our hearts. In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God promises to give us a new heart, to put a new spirit within us. He will remove the heart of stone from our bodies and replace it with a heart of flesh. He will bring life to our “dry bones”. He will bring refreshing in our dry season by putting His Spirit within us.

Ezekiel prophesied over the bones as God told him to do. Flesh and breath returned to those dry bones and they stood to their feet and lived. When we allow God’s Word and His Holy Spirit to speak into our lives during a dry season, we will be lifted out of that dryness. We will once again draw close to Him and will stand to our feet and walk with Him right beside us.

Hindrances to Prayer

Hindrances to Prayer

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)

Prayer is powerful. Through prayer, faith is strengthened, shackles are broken, and sickness is healed. Through prayer, wisdom is given, peace is felt, and fear is eliminated. And through prayer, we draw closer to God. In the fifth chapter of the letter of James, we read that prayers offered by a righteous person have great effectiveness. Scripture tells us that God hears our prayers (Jeremiah 29:12). Jesus taught that whatever we ask for in prayer, we will receive if we believe (Mark 11:24). But if this is so, why do some prayers go unanswered? What are the hindrances to prayer?

There are a number of things that can hinder our prayers – actions, attitudes, and motives that lead to our prayers being unanswered. Sin hinders our prayers. So does selfishness. James 4:3 makes it clear that at times, when we ask and do not receive, it is because we are asking wrongly, looking to satisfy our own passions rather than looking to satisfy God’s will. Selfishness is expressed through greed, ambition, and boastfulness. When we are seeking things from God that would satisfy any of these things, our prayers will go unanswered. But when we seek His will above our own, He will hear our prayers and supply the things that we need (Matthew 6:33).

Another hindrance to prayer is injustice or indifference to the needs of others. Proverbs 21:13 says that those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will not receive an answer to their own cries. We must show mercy, concern, and caring for those around us who are in need. In Isaiah 1:17, we are told to “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” We must always seek the good of others, placing the needs of others before our own needs. When we do, God hears our prayers and will answer.

Do your prayers seem to be going unanswered? If so, it may mean that God wants you to examine your heart, to see if there is something in you that is hindering your prayer. It is at these times that you need to cry out to God as the psalmist did in Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” When you ask God to search your heart, He will reveal the things that you need to deal with, the things that are hindrances to your prayers.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

“Advantage, Hezekiah!”

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“Advantage, Nadal!”

In the sport of tennis, a player must win a game by two points. So, let’s say that Rafael Nadal is playing against Andy Murray. The score is tied 40-40 (called “deuce”) and Nadal wins the next point. At that point, the chair umpire will call out “Advantage, Nadal!” In that particular game, Nadal is considered to have the advantage because he is one point away from winning, while Murray must win three points in order to win. So, obviously, Nadal, by going ahead of Murray by one point, has the “advantage.”

In 2 Chronicles, chapter 32, we see that King Sennacherib of Assyria had invaded Judah and besieged its fortified cities with the intent of seizing them. Hezekiah, the king of Judah, seeing that Sennacherib was intending to attack Jerusalem, rebuilt the broken walls of the city, had many weapons and shields made, and gathered his army to prepare for battle. Perhaps these efforts would have given Hezekiah and his army a fighting chance against the massive Assyrian army, but when Hezekiah addressed the army of Judah, what he said showed that they did not just have a fighting chance, they had the advantage. These are Hezekiah’s words found in 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 (NET):

“Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic because of the king of Assyria and this huge army that is with him! We have with us one who is stronger than those who are with him. He has with him mere human strength, but the LORD our God is with us to help us and fight our battles!”

Advantage, Hezekiah! The Assyrian army, though greater in number than that of Judah, was an army possessed with mere human strength. But on the side of the army of Judah, was the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the Lord would be there to help Hezekiah and the army of Judah have victory over Sennacherib and the Assyrian army. Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed and cried out to the Lord, and the Lord sent a messenger to wipe out the soldiers, princes, and officers of the Assyrian army. Humiliated, Sennacherib returned home, where he was killed by some of his own sons. Hezekiah and the residents of Jerusalem were delivered from the power of their enemies and made secure on every side (2 Chronicles 32:20-22).

As followers of Christ, we have an enemy who is always looking to defeat us, to invade our lives and our families, and to separate us from God. He will do anything in his power to take us down. But just as Hezekiah and the army of Judah had an advantage over their enemies, so do we. When we have Christ in our lives, when we have surrendered our lives to Him and made a decision to follow Him, then we have the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on our side. And with the Lord on our side, the enemy cannot stand against us. With the Lord God on our side, though the enemy may try, he will not defeat us. As it says in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We have the advantage!

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from The NET Bible® Copyright © 2005 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. www.bible.org All rights reserved.

Power Under Control

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On October 3, 2003, the popular Las Vegas duo of Siegfried & Roy were in the middle of their act, which combined illusion with white lions and white tigers, when one of the tigers, named Montecore, attacked Roy, leaving him critically injured. During the act, Montecore apparently became distracted and began moving toward the edge of the stage. Since there was no barrier between the stage and the audience, Roy quickly put himself between the Montecore and the audience and commanded the tiger to lie down. Montecore did not listen and instead attacked Roy, who had lost control of the tiger, a powerful animal that possessed great strength. An investigation into this unfortunate accident was unable to determine the cause of the attack. They were never able to determine why Montecore, who had always demonstrated gentleness towards Roy, suddenly turned on him.

Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. The word translated as gentleness in Galatians 5:23 can also mean meekness or humility. The worldview of meekness is weakness or timidity. But, the meekness or gentleness that we are called to have as believers is anything but. Gentleness, meekness, and humility are not weakness. They are power under control. They are shown when we fully submit our own power to God’s plan. There is no greater example of this than the example of Jesus. Scripture tells us that Jesus possessed gentleness (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus also possessed great power. While He was fully human, Jesus was also fully divine. He had the power to raise the dead back to life (John 11:43-44). He had the power to calm a storm (Luke 8:22-25). He had the power to multiply a young boy’s small lunch into a meal for thousands of people (John 6:8-13). On the night that He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus could have called down an army of angels to set Himself free from those who were leading Him to His death (Matthew 26:53). Jesus had the power to do that. But Jesus submitted His power to God’s plan (Matthew 26:39,42) so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled and God’s promise of a Redeemer and Savior would be realized (Matthew 26:54).

When Montecore attacked Roy, it was an example of power that was no longer under control. This animal, who had previously displayed gentleness, now demonstrated his own unbridled power. In that moment, the tiger was no longer submitting its power to its master, and the result was, for Roy, catastrophic. How catastrophic would it have been for all of us had Jesus not displayed gentleness in submitting to God’s will and plan and instead used His power to avoid going to the cross? We can rejoice in the fact that Jesus chose not to use His divine power for His own good but, in humility, put our need for salvation above His own life and suffered death on a cross that we may have eternal life with the Father in heaven (Philippians 2:5-8). As followers of Jesus, therefore, we must seek the help of the Holy Spirit so that we can cultivate the fruit of gentleness, of power under control, in our own lives.

 

The Most Important Relationship

relationships

Relationships are important. In the Creation story, God made that clear when He said it was not good for the man, Adam, to be alone (Genesis 2:18). And so God created woman. From the relationship between man and woman, came children, and the world became populated with people, people who needed and desired the relationship of others. Relationships can be found in the form of close and long-lasting friendships, they can be found in the form of the intimate relationship between spouses, and they can be found in the close-knit relationship of families. All these relationships are both necessary and good. But what is the most important relationship?

In Mark 3:31-35, Jesus was sitting with a crowd of people when His mother and His brothers came seeking Him. People in the crowd brought this to Jesus’ attention, probably assuming that He would get up and go to them. Jesus’ response likely took them by surprise. Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? And, who are my brothers?” He then looked at His closest disciples who were sitting around Him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does God’s will is my brother and my sister and my mother.” In Luke 14:26, Jesus said that if anyone comes to Him but does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, and sisters and brothers, that person cannot be His disciple. So, is Jesus saying that our relationships with our families and our friends are not important? Not at all!

In Matthew 15:4, referring to God’s commandments Jesus said that we need to honor our parents. In John 15:12-13, He taught that we must love another and that there is no greater love that someone can show than to lay down his life for his friends. Jesus placed high value on the relationships that we have with our family and with our friends. Jesus expects us to love our families, to love our friends. He expects us to cherish the relationships in our lives. But, if we are truly His disciples, then we must cherish our relationship with Him, our relationship with God, above all others. And we do that by always seeking to do His will in our lives.

All of our relationships are important, but our most important relationship is our relationship with Jesus.

 

 

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