As time goes by we hear or read about how certain things we eat or that compose a part of what we eat affect our health. One example is coffee. There have been times when we are told that coffee is not good for us. Then we are told that nutritionists have found that it is good for us. The latest is sugar. I have read that sugar is the major cause of cancer. It certainly is a problem for diabetics, of which I am one. I have to be very careful to limit carbohydrates, including sugar, to prevent all the horrible results of diabetes. Another problem is salt. I could go on and on. Too much is bad stuff.
On the other hand, there are two things–not food–that cause serious physical problems: a lack of forgiveness and a lack of thankfulness. Books have been written describing how physical illnesses are very often caused by emotion, worry, fear, etc. If you are a believer in what the Bible has to say about these two issues, you will agree. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Why? Because it is God’s will. One reason is that in spite of the fact that we live in a dark and evil world God is at work. Today the culture calls evil good and good evil, but the Bible says that God takes evil and uses it for good. We don’t always know why or how, but if we know God at all, we know it’s true. He took the evil desire of the Jewish leaders to be rid of Jesus and used it to complete His purpose of providing salvation for all who believe. Thankfulness is a connection to the One who loves us. This leads to forgiveness. Do you find it difficult to forgive someone who has mistreated or insulted you? Do you ever think about what Jesus did for us on the cross? He gave His life as the penalty for our sin. He forgave us. Why? Because He loves us and wants all people to be a part of His family. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Jesus said as He was dying in unbelievable suffering on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Amazing, but true. Can we do any better?
I started turning wood a few years ago when my son offered me a lathe at a very reasonable price. About two years ago I got serious about learning to do a good job at it. Like anything, practice makes perfect. Well, hardly perfect, but with much improvement in the quality of my creations. Turning wood is kind of like the Christian life. Study and practice is important in both. To turn a chunk of wood into a beautiful bowl or a vase requires following certain procedures. Living for Christ requires knowing through His Word and practicing His desire and will. It results in a beautiful relationship. It turns darkness into light. Yesterday I was nearly finished with a bowl that was different than any I had ever made. The reason was that I had some new scrapers that made it possible to do something different. Suddenly I had a “catch.” A catch occurs when the gouge or chisel catches on the spinning wood and you lose control of it. The result can be disastrous. At the very least, the smooth cuts you are making on the wood are scratched, torn, even ruined. It happens because you aren’t making the proper contact with wood. My wood was not harmed, but the base of the tool rest broke off, making the lathe useless. I was doing it my way and not following the procedure that prevents such errors. Kind of like our Christian life when we do things on our own self sufficiency or trusting ourselves. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has prepared the work for us to do. Amazingly, when He calls us to do something, He enables and prepares us to do it right–as He wants the work done. As far as my problem with the lathe, I prayed that God would help me fix the problem. Guess what? I got online and found on eBay the tool rest base, the exact one for that model of lathe. The amazing thing is that my lathe is very old and replacement parts are not available–except on eBay. When we need what we don’t have spiritually, don’t turn to eBay, but to the Creator and Sustainer of all things. All things are possible with Him.
Years ago I worked in a mine in Northern Idaho. One day I was working alone and the thought came to me: What would it be like if I didn’t have light. The only light I had was a head lamp. I switched it off. The darkness was like a gigantic black weight falling on me. I waited for my eyes to adjust. It suddenly dawned on me that there was nothing to adjust to. There was no light to adjust to.
The day I made the choice of accepting Jesus as my Savior was the day I moved from darkness into light. My life changed immediately. I had no more desire for alcohol. I began to think differently. My life is still changing and will continue to do so. There is no end to learning from the Word of God. I find something new repeatedly. One of the things I realized long ago is that Jesus not only becomes my Savior, but must become my Lord. That is a difficult thing for many, including myself at times. We are so self important, so self sufficient, so prideful. We don’t need any help. We belong to Jesus. We were bought with a price, His death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, which are many. Can you imagine a holy, sinless God sacrificing Himself for the sins of people who don’t deserve what He did? Some think that we must do good things to earn our salvation. Think about it. How could we give or do anything that would excel what God has done. It’s impossible. Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do what I commanded you?” A good and serious question. His command is to love Him, that is God, and to love our neighbors. Not only that, we are to love those who persecute us or are our enemies.
Some would reject the idea of becoming the servant of God, but Jesus laid aside His Glory and came to earth to die for us. He came in an attitude of humility, doing nothing except what His Father told him to do. In the end He was exalted and we are promised the same. God doesn’t make promises that He doesn’t fulfill. Jesus is the light of life and promises eternal life, beginning now and going on forever in the perfect way that He originally created to be. Think about it.
I have found that writing a book, getting it published and marketing it is very challenging. However it is also very rewarding when readers tell me that they benefited from from what they read. Since a third of my book, Transformation The Servants Heart–A Life of Faith is about pride, I have to be careful about how I relate that people were benefited. I am very grateful that that is the case for some. However, I have learned also that if I were to rewrite the book I would make some drastic changes, not because there was anything wrong about the subjects, but that there would be so much more to be added that would strengthen these subjects. I am humbled as I read the Bible and discover more and different scriptures that would have added new meaning to each of the issues, Anxiety, Hypocritical love and Humility. I’m sure that everyone who reads this has heard the statement that the more we think we know, the less we actually know; the more there is to learn. That applies not only to writers, but to almost everyone who’s involved in anything: politics, business, teaching, etc. I am presently involved in Bible Study Fellowship. We are studying the Gospel of John. If you are familiar with the method of study in BSF, you know that we study each lesson in four different ways. In the study of John, I’ve felt there is so much more to learn than appears on the service. As I was having difficulty answering the lesson questions, I discovered a statement about the book of John by J. Sidlow Baxter, who wrote in his Explore the Book that there is no end to the learning in that scripture. I felt better, knowing that a scholar like Baxter felt the same. So, I can say then, if you read my book I hope it will lead you to a more profound and deep study of the Word of God, the Bible. God is good.
The book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith is the first step to a higher level. It speaks of three issues that every person in the world faces at least part of the time. Christians are included, and that is who the focus is pointed toward. Why? Because believers in Christ have no excuse for living with these issues in their lives. The three are Anxiety, Insincere Love, and Pride. All three are expressions of sin. For a non-believer to acknowledge this is the first step toward salvation. For the believer they are the first step toward a realistic relationship with God. The higher level I mentioned is God’s Word. In no way does Transformation compare to the Word of God, but it is an effort for the reader to realize his or her need for dealing with the three issues. All three issues are crucial to a good relationship with God or any relationship at all. Anxiety is a block against trusting God. Insincere love is a violation of the greatest commandment as identified by Jesus: Loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving our neighbors, including our enemies. Pride is probably the greatest barrier to any relationship with God there is. Self importance denies the sovereignty of the Lord. Transformation is only a starting point, on the edge. God’s Word, the Bible is the fulfillment of truth. God comes first–always. I encourage anyone to read Transformation and to think seriously about what it says and how it refers to attitudes that maim and destroy. Christmas is coming. Think about this book as a useful and enjoyable present. Many readers have said this book has changed their lives. For that I am grateful. My hope is that many more will have the same experience. Thanks be to God.
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.
A recent lesson in our church talked about what James said in his letter about boasting about what we’re planning to do in the future and not including God in the plan (James 4:13-17). I guess he told us that because we are prone to do that very thing. With a small amount of honest thought we all know that we can make all the plans we want, but we really don’t know what is going to happen, even in the next minute. My wife and I have been invited three times to the home of a friend who has been in Israel several times and has developed a study about Eastern beliefs in comparison to the West. Each time has been canceled because of something happening in the family. We concluded that it wasn’t God’s will to have this meeting, at least not at this time. I think about the fight to gain the nomination for the presidency. I believe it’s safe to say that each candidate, Democrat or Republican, has made statements about how they are going to straighten out the problems of our country. Little if anything has been said about seeking God’s will in the process. It seems likely that a few of the candidates have prayed about their gaining the position. How much better it would be if God was included in the process. Seems like those days are gone. I guess I could be criticized by trying to connect church and state, but it is a personal matter. I have my own problems because I make plans on my own. Sometimes they work out; sometimes they don’t. I know what I’m supposed to do. Then do it, James says. James is pretty serious about what he says.
Although my book, Transformation, is not a best seller (I wish), it has done in part what I intended and hoped for. One reader called me and wanted to talk about the content of the book and ended up accepting Christ as his Savior. We have become good friends as brothers in Christ. Another friend, who is serving a life sentence for murder, called the book a “Forever Book” because the content is such that it will never lose its value in the life of a believer. This man has been a Christian for 20 years in 28 years of imprisonment and uses Transformation as a study for other inmates. I am grateful for both of these men. The book has been used in two Bible studies and I’ve been asked to create a study guide for other groups that might want to do the same thing. There are other stories I could tell, but these are the best. My prison friend recently was transferred to another prison because of problems where he was. His new abode is not where he wanted to be and he was discouraged when he found he had to transfer. However, he is ecstatic because he has an opportunity to share the gospel with countless men who need to hear it desperately. I think of Paul, whose ministry was multiplied in prison, even to “Caesar’s household.” I refer to the book as “our book” because without the help of the Lord and several friends it wouldn’t exist. Also, those who have benefited from it are also a part of it.
This morning as I was preparing to start my morning prayer time, I was thinking about a list of people, friends and relatives, whom I see as needing a living relationship with the Lord, or a better one. I was suddenly aware that I needed to pray for myself in that regard. The truth is that I need a better relationship with Jesus. Frankly, I need to know Him better–much better. I may be correct in seeing the needs of others, but I definitely need to deal with my own problems first. In John 17, Jesus prayed for His disciples and then for “those who will believe in Me through their message (us).” However, Jesus prayed for Himself first, before He prayed for us. He thanked God for their relationship and prayed that we would have the same relationship with Him as He had with His Father, that we would be one with Him. What an awesome thought. God is to be trusted to point us in the right direction if we will pay attention. I’m glad he did what He did this morning. He cares about our relationship with Him, all of us.