Here it is, the last day of the year. As we look back we wonder if the next year with be any better…or will it be worse? As we see the world changing in frightening ways it’s difficult to view the future in a positive way. Need a new year’s resolution? Start with, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus. What we need to focus on is the reason for His birth. He became a man in order to pay the penalty of sinful man. Romans 5:8 says, “while we were yet sinners, He died for us.” The price He paid is beyond comprehension. We cannot, in any way, redeem ourselves. The reason He sacrificed Himself–the Son of God–was His incomprehensible love for us. The primary desire of God is for us to love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He died for us, He also was brought back to life that we might live in Him. This act of love was for nothing we deserved, but by God’s grace. We may not deserve a better year, but God still loves us. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to begin the year in a life of love? In John 15:9 Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus’ love is sincere and His joy is lasting. The apostle Paul summarizes love in 1 Corinthians 13. Whatever we do or say–without love–is nothing. He finalizes the chapter by saying, “…these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” There is so much more. Let’s enter 2018 in a life of love, a love that changes lives, not only those whom we love, but ours as well. Living is action. So is loving. Have a joyful New Year.
I have been attempting to sell my book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith, at my local Farmer’s Market. An interesting thing happened yesterday at the market. A man walked up, picked up two paperbacks, glared at the title and threw them back onto the table. As he walked away, he said, “Oh, it’s about the invisible man who flies in the sky.” I thought he was joking at first, soon realized from the look on his face that he was serious. I wanted to say something to him, but he was gone. The vendor next to me said the man comes almost every week, but he has never smiled. This morning as I was sitting down in church, a friend leaned over and whispered, “I just now reading your book and I love it.” You can imagine the different feelings I had. Transformation is a book that is aimed at believers who are serious about their relationship with God, and want to deal with anxiety, insincere love, and pride. Not all who claim the name of Jesus want to get involved, unfortunately. I’m grateful for those that do. I’m especially grateful for the influence that the book had on a man who ultimately gave his life to the Lord and became my friend. How we look at things has a great effect on how we live. It’s especially true for followers of Christ.
Today the message in my church had a great deal to say about being content. The Bible advises Christians to be thankful in all circumstances. To me that is one way of saying be content. For those who claim to be followers of Christ, being content and thankful cannot be avoided in all honesty. Having had the penalty for our sins paid for by the sacrificial blood of Jesus as an expression of His love should bring life to the concept of thankfulness and contentment. He has given us something that cannot be equated. If we have a loving relationship with Him, grumbling for more worldly things goes out of the picture. Nothing should mean more to us than His love. Jesus promised that if we would seek His kingdom and His righteousness he would provide everything else that we need. Need, not want! Unfortunately, getting older makes one think more along these lines. I can testify to that. I’ve got more clothes in my closet than I’ll ever wear in the few remaining years (or days) of my life. That is just one example. I confess that I am guilty of thinking how good it would be if I could just have this or that thing–things that I don’t need. I’m supposed to be reflecting the light of Christ in a dark world, not wanting more of this and that. When non-believers observe Christ followers they should see people who are thankful for the blessings that God had poured on them, people who are content with their lives, dependent on God, not on the stuff at the Mall. In addition to that, a lack of content can bring trouble. For example, getting into debt. I’ve been there and done that. Looking back, I know it didn’t make my life any better. Be thankful; be content. I would be more content if I could sell more copies of the book I wrote (more money), but if someone is helped by what I wrote, I am more than satisfied and very thankful.
Yesterday I heard something that really struck me as being the key to the Christian life. It not only confirms the truth, but challenges us to live as Jesus said. We were created in God’s image and lost it, but God’s desire is to restore us to that position.
A little girl went to Sunday school. The teacher taught that God is bigger than we are. After Sunday school was over she went to the church service with her parents. Included in the pastor’s teaching was the statement that God lives in us. The little girl was confused and when they got home she asked her mother how God can be bigger than we are and at the same time live in us. Before her mother could answer her she said, “If God lives in us and is bigger than we are, then people should see Him.” How much more is there to say?
I have heard or read about anxiety being just a normal thing we have to put up with now and then. According to the Bible it is not normal. At least, it shouldn’t be. Anxiety for many reasons breaks into our thinking often, I agree, but it doesn’t have to rule over us. My book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith speaks to this problem. A lesson I prepared for my cell group lead me to write the book. It begins with the solution for anxiety, fear and worry. The key is belief and trust in God. That might worry some, but it shouldn’t. Philippians 4:6, 7 tells us not to worry about anything–that’s right–not anything! There is an alternative. In every situation that may cause worry, we are to turn to God in prayer and supplication. That requires a relationship, one that is open to anyone who desires it. God invites us to bring the problem to Him. There is another key word. Come to Him with thanksgiving. In other words, come to Him in trust. Believe He will do what He says and thank Him for it. The result is peace of heart. This may sound strange, but God’s peace is described as being beyond our comprehension. A lot of God does is beyond our understanding, but He is trustworthy. The part of Transformation that talks about this subject goes deeper, laying a foundation for a knowing God and knowing Him better. God bless.
“Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, ‘This is my own, my native land.'” I don’t know if you have to be as old as I am to remember this poetic beginning. At my age I find myself having trouble remembering things, but this first liner I have never forgotten. In this age of confusion, contradiction and division it is something that everyone should cling to. It should be the foundation of how we feel about America. In spite of the endless trouble it is still our own, our native land. The meaning of the sentence is vital. Are we so dead that we have given up the positive possibilities? We may feel like we are standing on the edge of a rocky cliff, but is it more difficult to believe that we are on the edge of many good things that are happening everywhere? If you can’t think of anything else, pay attention to the generosity of the people who live in Magic Valley and in the rest of the State of Idaho too. Food by the tons are donated for families that are in dire need. Many organizations collect presents for children who otherwise might receive even one gift. The numbers are many. Give thanks, not just on the yearly holiday, but for the gifts we all receive in one way or another. The Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances. Some might wonder how that is to be accepted, but there is a God who cares about every human being on this planet and gave the greatest gift of all to any one who will accept it. Gifts aren’t worked for, and this one is far beyond any labor that could be added. Thank you.
I have been selling my book Transformation The Servant’s Heart — A Life of Faith at the local Farmer’s Market each Saturday morning for most of the summer. It hasn’t become a best seller, but I’m pleased with the sales. Each morning I pray that if it be God’s will, I sell at least one book. Today was the final day of the market. Yesterday it poured rain all day and into the night. The weather man said today would be sunny and nice with a little breeze. I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the chance. Following our Friday cell group, the men usually agree to have coffee together on Saturday morning. I decided to drop the Farmer’s Market if the guys invited me to have coffee. They didn’t, so I decided to go by the actual morning weather. I packed the car with the canopy, tables, etc., just in case. This morning’s sky was laden with stars, no breeze, and not too chilly. In the last hour of the market I sold two books. I also sell wooden items that I turn on my lathe. I’ve sold a lot of them, as amateurish as I am, and I know I have a long way to go to reach really good quality products. An elderly man stopped and looked at the wood items and began to talk about turning wood. He used some of my items to demonstrate how to do it better. I knew the problems he was talking about, and learned much by listening to him. He introduced himself. I knew of him and his many talents, but didn’t know he was a professional wood turner. He invited me to call for help and instruction any time. Another man stopped by and wanted to know something about my book. It is a Christian focused book and I was sure he wasn’t a Believer. He wondered how someone could write a book. I told him that God did most of it, because He answered my prayers when I lacked a word or an idea–every time. The man asked, “Is it some kind of meditation?” I explained that it was communication with a caring God and listening for His response. I felt I had told him something that made him think. Maybe a seed planted? Anyway, isn’t it amazing how the Lord works things out. What a day of blessing this has been!
Today my son and I delivered a piece of furniture that my wife and I had sold. The address of the buyer was four miles south and 3.23 miles east of a town that is 30 miles from where we live. We left assuming that my son’s GPS would tell us how to get there. It failed for some reason and we had to follow the road signs. We got there OK. It reminded me of something that I have been involved in for a few weeks. My pastor asked me to fill in for him by doing two sermons on the Wednesday night service. The first was based on the word, “assume” and several similar words that mean about the same. Notice that I said that we “assumed” that the GPS would get us where we wanted to go. It didn’t. The assumption failed. The second sermon was based on ” living by faith” and how God works in those who have faith in Him. The two kind of fit together. We trusted the GPS by a presupposition of faith in a technical device that didn’t work. As it turned out we could depend on an old, non-technical method of finding our way. Trusting God is like watching the signs. It’s simple, but trustworthy. He demonstrates that we need not trust in something that may not work, but that we can always depend on Him. He taught me that when I was writing the book Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith. I found that I couldn’t rely on myself. When I put things in His hands, He filled the empty spots.
My wife and I have belonged to a Christian cell group for many years. It began as a specific church, but now is composed of people from four different denominations. We also participate in a prayer group which is an extension of Franklin Graham’s Decision America. People from five different denominations meet together every week. I belong to a group of men who meet each week for breakfast. In our cell we fellowship together as friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. We worship and study the Bible together. In the prayer group we focus on the future of our country. In the men’s group, we not only enjoy each other’s company over breakfast, but we discuss the gospel, how to live for Christ and share our troubles and blessings. We have a time of prayer. In every case we may not agree with each other in all our beliefs, but one thing is certain. We all believe in the truth of our salvation by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We believe together in the essentials of the gospel. We do what I believe God wants us to do: think about His Word and all that it means to us and share with each other. We pray together. We meet in a fellowship of love in each group and in all the circumstances of our lives. In every case we try to follow Ephesians 4:2-6–Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of us all, who is over all and through all and in all. We’re not perfect, but God blesses each group in many ways. Shouldn’t we all strive for that unity of love, especially in the times that we find ourselves?
Thomas told the other disciples that he would not believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared unless he saw the nail marks in His hands and the wound in His side. When Jesus came a week later and Thomas saw and touched the wounds, his response was, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus commended those who believed without having seen. I have a friend in a prison thousands of miles from where I live. He has been in prison for 28 years. For 22 of those years he has been a follower of Christ. I have never seen him, but I know him. I know him because of the words he has spoken to me by phone or letter. He shares his life with me, and I with him. Jesus is doing the same thing with both of us. He shares Himself with us through His Word, the Bible. He speaks to us in various ways. I don’t need to see my friend to believe in him anymore than Thomas needed to. We know and cherish our friendship without seeing each other. One of the nicest things he has said to me was his response to my book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith. He calls it a “forever” book, because the three subjects: Anxiety, Hypocritical Love, and Pride are really a matter of relationships–with God and with each other. I want to know Jesus more and my friend more and that’s a forever thing. Jesus is always there, although I can’t see Him. My friend in prison will always be there and I can’t see him either.