Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I pray all is well with those who read my blog. I want to use my blog to help teach the truth in God's holy word. As long as it is beneficial, I will continue. This is my last blog until the new year. I might get one in next week, but Resa and I are leaving for Texas today to see our parents for the holidays. It is time for us to do this. It has been a few years since going back and we need to.
I want to say a final word ending this year, and Lord willing, starting a new year. I implore each of you...SERVE! We are called to serve. We have gifts that differ but no matter what gift we have, how large or small, use your gift to serve! (I Pet. 4:10) When you look at John 13, our Lord lovingly washed the feet of His disciples, even the disciple that turned on Him and Jesus knew He would. What was Jesus teaching? I've heard many say different ideas, all of which are good, but one thing stands out to me. That is the demonstration of acceptance. When Jesus got on his knees washing their feet, Jesus was claiming those disciples as His own. He was accepting them. In turn, when you and I serve another, we demonstrate our loving acceptance of them, that they are part of us. We are called to serve. It doesn't matter where. Just serve! Wherever you are right now...serve! You may be downtrodden or feeling well, no matter what, take the heart of a servant and serve. Your service to another speaks volumes about your relationship to the Lord and reaches out in acceptance to your brothers and sisters who wear His name that we are one and we accept one another in that relationship because we are Christ's. SERVE! SERVE! SERVE!

Monday, December 22, 2008

"A Word About Hope"

People need hope! But most do not know the hope from the Lord. Most hope is nothing more than a 'wishing' or 'good luck' type of hope. It is based on nothing in the mind other than a positive wishing that nothing bad will happen. Simply put, most people's hope is in fate.
We need hope, real genuine, life sustaining hope and if you are in Christ, you have it! Hope is not mere wishing or longing but expecting, a confident expecting. When one has hope, there is a sense of assurance and confidence because they know that whatever the conclusion is, it will be completely satisfying. How can we have such assurance? Listen carefully: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (I Pet. 1:3) We will face difficulties but none more difficult than what our Lord faced. Our hope should not be weak because nothing we face are like the mockings that Jesus our Lord heard while hanging on the cross. The powers that stood against Him are greater than anything that we will ever stand against, even when facing difficult health and situations of life. Christ rose in victory for our assurance! That's hope, our hope!! "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16 33) Jesus knew His victory because of the hope set before Him. He had hope before He was taken to death. Take courage!
To know He is victorious on our behalf lifts our hearts. One day, all these struggles we face will be nothing but a mere shadow of what is ours! We have a reason to hope and our hope is based on His resurrection which gives us a great expectation. He won our victory. He overcame life's difficulties and He is ours!!! I know things we see will affect us and sometimes will be an emotional downer, but Christ is alive and is our Lord. He is alive and has been raised, not only because God promised Him, but He promised us. If Christ really raised to a glorious life after His death, that single fact should be enough to offset the difficulties in our personal lives. Bottom line: if Christ has truly risen, the rest really doesn't matter, does it?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Let's Talk About Worship"

I was sent a question asking, "What is your view of instrumental music in worship?". It is seemingly becoming a more and more hot topic. I think I have heard just about every argument for and against it. You throw in the mix 'praise teams' and special singing groups and it really becomes a boiling pot. Let me start with this, what seems to be addressed in the majority of cases is the instrument, praise team and singing groups and not worship. That's where we seem to get off track. We need to address worship and what God, not me or someones personal feelings, deems as acceptable. Understanding worship will give us the answer to all of the above.
What is worship about? That must be answered! Who is central in worship? God or man? Carefully read John 4 where Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman. I know you know what it says, but read it with care and faith! In this discussion with her, Jesus gives great insight about genuine acceptable worship. She thinks it is location that makes worship acceptable (John 4:20-22). Jesus assures her that a change is taking place and worship will no longer be confined to a location. True worshipers, He teaches, worship in spirit and truth, not in one city or a temple (John 4:23). The spirit and truth issue are the two key elements for acceptable worship before God. To worship in spirit is to worship from within the depth of your being, coming from the heart and it is all bound by the truth. Look closely at the word "must" which is emphatic in the Greek.
What does all this teach us? For worship to be acceptable, and is that not what we are speaking about, it "must" be God and Christ centered! Paul brings this idea to life to the Philippians about worship that those who "worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus put no confidence in the flesh!" (Phil. 3:3) NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH! To worship from within the heart and the sphere of God and Christ, that eliminates man's fleshly desires and personal interests! Otherwise, worship is useless in the eyes of God because it is man centered, man pleasing and caters to mans wants and feelings. The center of our worship should be God and He is Spirit. The way we touch God's world is worshiping from our spirit side! Just like walking faithfully in Christ, we need to learn to be led by the Spirit and not our fleshly thinking and feelings, which comes from our physical side. Our new birth was spiritual, not physical. It came from within, not without! If one does not revere God and hold Him in awe (Heb. 12:28-29), then our worship will be centered around our personal desires and feelings, in which the externals are emphasized. We will cater to things that make us feel good and that's what all this issue is about. We are turning worship into a society accepted production that moves us emotionally and our spiritual side (which some cannot distinguish what that is other than their feelings) is left untouched. Emotions can be stirred in worship, but they are stirred from being God centered, not man made things to move us or excite us!
Peter speaks of proclaiming the excellencies of God because we have been brought out of darkness into His light (I Pet. 2:9). Worship is about proclaiming His excellencies, not us! Peter continues to teach that we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (I Pet. 2:5). Acceptable sacrifices, which is what worship is about, are offered to God because of Christ and are acceptable if they are spiritual, not physical. This is the truth that worshipers need to grasp and God seeks true worshipers! It amazes me how few who have been in Christ for many years have no clue what is spiritual and what is fleshly.
Where does all this leave instrumental music, praise teams and special singing groups? I must say, not in true worship in spirit! These things have no part of acceptable worship to God. It might make us "enjoy" worship, but then we make worship about us and our feelings. God is 'dethroned' in the heart. God is spoken about, but not the center because those who want to be moved always speak of what they feel and how they are stirred rather than what God is looking for. The instrument, praise team and groups are for us...let's just be honest and stop playing the game! They have no appeal to God!!! God is spirit and seeks spiritual worshipers, who worship in the realm of truth from the depth of their beings, not the external of something man invented!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"I Stand At the Door"

We have a picture of Jesus when we read the words: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." (Rev. 3:20) Can you see Jesus in your mind, standing, knocking softly, wanting entrance into one's heart and no one answers the door? He speaks but no one is paying attention.
A man took a little girl to an art gallery. She had little interest at all until they came to on particular painting of a tired looking man, knocking and knocking on a door. The picture showed people on the other side and they looked as if they had no plans to open it. She starred at the picture with amazement. "Who is that?" she asked her dad. Her heart was wrestling with a deep sense of concern. "It's Jesus" he heard himself say with a slight edge to his voice. A pause and still pondering, the little girl asked, "Won't they let him in?" The dad began to grow a little uneasy as he tried to brush off her questions, so he quietly said, "No they won't let him in!" As soon as the words came from his mouth, she asked, "Is he a bad man?" He shot back quickly, "No! He isn't bad!" Faster she states, "Well, then, why won't they let him in?" The heat was turned up on the dad and he took her hand and just walked away from the picture. His tone changed to an irritation, "How do I know?" The little girl sensed her dads tension and said no more. Every once in a while, her big, dark brown eyes glanced at him and the direction of the picture. She knew her dad wasn't telling her everything.
That night at supper, no word was uttered about the picture but this little girls eyes kept talking. Later, she prepared for bed after brushing her teeth and putting her pj's on, she climbed up on the lap of her dad, hugging his neck and kissing him. As she headed for her bedroom, she stopped, turned around and said: "We'd let him in, wouldn't we dad?" Then off she went. That night this man went sleepless as all he could see was his little girls eyes and hear the questions over and over.
Kind of strikes us, doesn't it? Jesus standing at the door and so few open up their heart. People knowing they need to open up and let the Lord in but would rather keep it shut and stay in their sins. People seem to love sin more than the Lord! God used something from a child's words to pry open a heart that refused to yield before that night! He let Jesus in!!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"The Morning Snow"

I sat at my kitchen table this morning, looking outside watching the snow as it fell. I am not a winter person. I don't like coats and the cold! However, for some reason I really enjoy the anticipation of the first snow fall. The beauty of it amazes me. As I watched this morning, the purity of it caught my attention. It is completely undefiled! My mind shifted to David in Psa. 51 when he appealed to God for forgiveness, "Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." To be cleansed by God and be whiter than snow is an awesome thought that my mind has difficulty comprehending. As I sat there, my mind focused on the Scriptures. "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool." (Isa. 1:18)
"Whiter than snow" shifted my mind to Jesus. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (II Cor. 5:21) For us to stand before God, pure and undefiled, He became our sin. He took our stains, our dirty, vile and filthy lives, and laid it all on Himself. The blood scrubbed and washed every ouch of defilement from our lives. Jesus paid it all! God is holy, pure and undefiled and He took His pure, holy, undefiled Son and offered Him to make us "whiter than snow" before Him
I continued looking at the snow and my thoughts centered around the covenant we remember every first day of the week. An agreement, a binding contract and will taken on by God that He will never break. When we entered Jesus through baptism, He became our righteousness before God. And the covenant spoke: "For I will be merciful to their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more." (Heb. 8:12) "Merciful!" That is what God's covenant speaks to us. "I remember their sins no more!" I remember my sins but knowing God's covenant with me says He doesn't, it cause tears and great joy. I did nothing to earn my standing before God. We stand in His covenant and I remember it every first day of the week.
As I went outside, I picked up a handful of snow. I stared at it for a brief moment. I could eat it because it was pure and undefiled. No one had touched it to defile it. That's exactly how God views me! That is a gift beyond my thought process. My mind reflected on the thought of a free gift from God. I realized there is nothing really free! There is always a cost to someone. The free gift of God was at the cost of His Son. His love was offered as a free gift from Him to me. That's a love I cannot understand.
As I looked at the snow, my mind shifted to others around me. I realized no one has to lose their soul! It's not the choice of God. He gave the ultimate, free gift. People don't have to destroy one another with hate and sin. It's not God's choice. As I settled in my vehicle, it all became clear: if someone ends up burning in the flames of hell, having the eternal worm gnawing at them forever, that will not be God's choice, that will be our choice because we have rejected the cleansing and relationship. We reject His offer of the covenant. As I drove down the road and prayed for a moment, thankfully I am saved.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"He Is Not Ashamed"

I will never forget a story that I heard from a friend of mine, Jim McGuiggan. It went something like this and I will make a point with it:
There was a fellow who was an alcoholic. He lived on the street with other street people down and out. He begged for money from anyone and would use what he obtained for buying more booze. He smelled bad, looked bad, dressed bad and had the shakes, but he always bragged to others about his better days. He told of stories how he was respected and had influential friends from the area. His fellow boozers and street dwellers never believed a word he said. The would tell him, "You were always nothing, you are nothing now and you will always be nothing!" The more they poured it on and scorned him, the more he felt the need to spread his stories. One day while he was talking about his respectable past and the others were mocking him, he looked across the street and saw a well dressed, well known man of the community who was successful in business. In desperation, the man on "skid row" bellowed out to the others he knew the man and in former years they were best friends! Suddenly, his fellow boozers called his hand, calling him a liar and urged him to prove his claims by going over and speaking with this respectable man. What was the alcoholic to do now? He felt he had no option. He walked across the street and with a soft tone and a hurtful look on his face said, "Sir, I am so sorry to bother you. I do not want money. Please, please, will you pretend you know me?" The well dressed stranger quickly sized up the situation, looking across the street at the other fellows and in one quick, loud move, he let out a "where have you been?" and threw his arms around him, shaking his hand. He put his arm around his shoulder and said loudly enough, "I haven't seen you in years. I wondered what happened to you and where you were." They slowly walked down the street together and the complete stranger took him into a place to get him cleaned up, had his hair cut, put new clothes on him, fed him and put some money in his pocket. Finally, the respectable man went on his way and the alcoholic went back to "skid row" but now he had some substance to his stories. Someone refused to be ashamed of him!
I really like that story! It tells us something of ourselves. Too many of us make life too complicated and we are too busy to step back and take notice of who we really are and what has happened to us. We think we are strong or well off, when we are really a lot like the man on "skid row." Oh, we may not be an alcoholic but we live lives that are weak and frittering away only wishing we had something better. Open your eyes of faith and look. Open your spiritual ears to allow the word to effect the heart and listen. There came One refusing to be ashamed of us. This One does not offer us material things and a temporary relief. He offers us His name! He gives us a permanent cleansing and a permanent home. He offers to give us riches beyond money and homes. We are the instruments of his compassion and rescue. Yet for so many, they love to be cleaned up...for a while, they love the attention given...for a while...they love the new name they live with...for a while and then go right back to living on "skid row" with just nothing but memories that will one day fade away. Too many live weak and shallow lives forgetting that "He is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Heb. 2:11)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Love Is"

We look around us and no one has to convince us in any shape there is evil! Read the headline news, listen to the radio and watch those you work around. Look at your family and reflect on how you have been affected by some display of evil. Crime rates soar, prisons are overflowing, nations are brutalizing one another, children are being abused even before they are born as well as after, murder is common, pornography rears its ugly head on the television, movie theaters and the Internet, divorce is acceptable and the hate that is spewed from it, adultery is glamorized and greed is stealing the hearts of multitudes. People berate one another as we live in a dog-eat-dog world. People are takers! Children have learned to be unthankful and always want more as they learned from the parents. You hear, "Don't get mad, get even!" attitudes that come from the lips of so many. Books are written about marital infidelities and become best sellers, soap operas glue people's attention to find out who is having an affair with whom and jealously rages forward. The sleazy bars, drug barons and those addicted to drugs and alcohol seem to be unending. Injustice in our courts and the corruption in the government seems to be the norm. Prolonged suffering for some robs them of their sanity to commit crimes of horrid proportion. Children kill their parents and parents kill their children. It's all depressing wouldn't you say?
Let me give you some amazing news: LOVE IS! In all the above we read and see, isn't it still amazing that love has not and cannot be killed? In all this world of evil, love does not beg for room, it does scream to be heard and it doesn't act like it has no right to be here. Rather than force it's way into lives, it just quietly walks right in the middle of all the garbage and junk and amazingly survives. I'm not speaking of the feeling, tingly natural human love. I am speaking of the self sacrificing love that only comes from above. I am speaking of a sacrificing love of a person who endures the torment of alcoholism from a family member doing everything they can to help while taking abuse on a level no one understands but God. The love that is seen in the wife who can forgive from the heart marital infidelity while the husband shrugs it off as meaning little, wanting to "forget about it and move on" attitude and she faithfully moves forward in her life enduring a pain in her heart while sacrificing love motivates her. The sacrificing love of woman working diligently because of a husband that is too lazy and is always taking.The love that causes men and women to live sacrificially and joyfully, filling their world with the things of God. The love that sacrifices to keep a mate at home when there is no possibility to regain health, but they want to care for that mate day in and day out. A sacrificing love to assemble to worship when a mate is rebellious toward the Lord and does whatever they can to diminish the glory of God. Yes....LOVE IS! As long as there is Jesus...LOVE IS! This sacrificing love is quietly seen in such a world of ours and speaks, telling us that God is in control!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Opportunity or Complain?"

We are becoming more and more a nation that does whatever is needed to avoid suffering. Any and everything is done so we will not feel the pain. We also are a nation that is over-run with psychologists and they are thriving more than ever. (I could make a good living if I were licensed by the state!) I look at the church and I see many (especially preachers) that run for the nearest pill or support group because they simply cannot cope. I want you to know I am sensitive toward my brethren and their pain. Pain can crush and brutalize people. But the kind of pain most of us face is real and sharp and sometimes prolonged, but it can be overcome. I wonder what we are really doing in light of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
We are asked to consider our trials that come into our lives as joy (Jam. 1:2-4). It serves a great purpose for those in Christ. Trials that cause us misery are used to help our faith reach to the Lord and His strength, not withdraw into ourselves and live pitiful, miserable lives. God uses trials, not that He causes them, but uses them to our advantage if we will just have the right attitude and use them as stepping stones toward Him. If we are sinful in our attitudes or our lives are practicing things that are contrary to that of what God desires, He will bring pain into our lives to discipline us to get us back on the path (Heb. 12:4-13). Our Lord uses various difficulties to help our faith and causes pain to keep us pure. That's why we need a proper attitude and view in our suffering. Christian's do not suffer needlessly!!
He was a 7 year old boy that began his day by falling off the school bus and cutting his head. It required two stitches. Upon his return to school, at recess, he collided with another little boy splitting his lip. After lunch he fell and injured his arm so the school principal decided to send him home for the day. The principal put the boy in his car to drive him home. As they drove, the principal noticed him clutching something in his hand. He asked, "What do you have there?" The little boy looked at the principal and became all smiles, showing him a shiny quarter. "Where did you get that?" asked the principal. The boy told him he found it on the playground, then he joyfully let out the words, "I've never found a quarter before. This is the luckiest day ever for me!"
This is what the Lord means when we count things as joy. People find the real reason to rejoice because they know the relationship they have with the Lord and He will use their difficulties to bring good into their faith to strengthen it. We don't deny the pain or act like fools thinking you can't or won't hurt. To consider it as joy when your heart is hurting or you have been disciplined by the Lord means the difficulty is not your lord and master! It keeps one from self pity and taking them into the ruins of depression. I am not trying to be calloused toward those who have a deep trial or feel the pain at the loss of someone they loved. I am trying to get us to focus on the Lord and His intentions in all our struggles. It's easy to be happy, whistle a tune and go about enthusiastically when things are well, but what do we do with those difficult, dark times in our lives? What does the Lord want us to do? If we are in sin....repent and return! If we are hit with some various trial, consider it as joy knowing the Lord will use it for your strengthening! All of this takes a genuine faith. Bottom line, do we see our difficulties as an opportunity to grow or complain?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Parents Step Forward

Parents...the cry is out for parents. God fearing, Bible reading, daily praying parents. I call on mothers and fathers to examine their lives with the Lord and bring that relationship to their children. I have heard too many over the years state when they were growing up, they were not really taught much about their Creator and heavenly Father. Simply put, they were not taught Scriptures! I hear people speak of 'going to church' when they were younger but rarely do I hear that a mother or father spent time examining, explaining and teaching godly principles to their children. I hear, "Say your prayers" or "Be nice" but what about learning about the Father to whom we pray and live for? The value and greatness of such a God who we call upon and gives thanks to, where is that teaching? Why do we live so differently than those around us? Or do we? Somewhere we have come up with the idea that taking a child to the assemblies is what it is all about. Oh, we need the assemblies and bible classes but we need to understand the deeper things involved, their real purposes and goals.
When my children were growing up, I made mistakes in training them. Sometimes I was over-bearing and sometimes I wasn't always right but there is one thing for certain, I had their spiritual welfare at heart! I applied the word of God to my life so I could apply it to theirs! We don't need parents who are indifferent, having little interest in the eternal things or doing things by habit. Children with such parents will place little value on their eternal destiny and love the world more than the Lord. They learn little on what to value and honor. We need mothers and fathers who know about the Lord, teach about the Lord and show the Lord before the eyes of their children. We don't need parents who run a 'boot camp' environment! Children need to be instructed in the love of Christ, shown mercy and grace and see the value of their soul. They need to be corrected when wrong and shown gratitude when they go beyond what is expected. We need parents who teach their children not to follow the traditions of the world but follow Christ and His teachings.
I know I stay concerned for children. I watch my grandchildren and it stays on my heart for their spiritual well being. I pray for my grandchildren and children each and every day! One thing has become clear: parents, you must do the training and teaching in their first six years of life to set in order the path for the rest of their life! What you place in their hearts early on will be what they become later in life. One day when they set out starting their own homes, they will develop a deeper faith provided you have given them the basis for that faith to deepen. They will develop their personal faith and convictions and much of it will come from the things you pointed them toward and taught them. The church of the future is in the hands of parents today. What are you training your children in? Do they gain spiritual insight or just have some little 'lesson' that is cute and nice without coming to an understanding of the heavenly Father who gave His all for their spiritual well being? Parents...please step forward!

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Little Steps"

When my grandson and granddaughter was learning to walk recently, it was something to watch. Little Whitney or Carter would be at our house and I noticed how their mother and father would encourage them to walk on their on. I am an observer of others. Whitney made her steps. Carter made it from one chair to another. I watched the parents of both, looking with glee and pride in their children. Grandmother Resa and grandpa Brent sat there watching with a thrill. I am so thankful to God for Whitney and Carter because they are blessed. They have parents around them that are committed to them. Their parents rejoiced in their success (and they always will)! They counted each step taken on their own. As I watched, my mind shifted for a few moments of wondering how many times my grandchildren had fallen and needed to be helped back up. It was probably a silly thought as I am certain the parents had no clue how many times they had fallen. They don't count the falls. They only wanted to see the steps made forward.
Two thoughts crossed my mind that evening. First, Hebrews 12:1 tells us, implores us to run the race set before us with endurance. We need to lay aside the things that hold us back! We allow too much world, too much influence of other things into our lives that detour us spiritually. We need to run the course the Lord has put each of us on. Secondly, the truth of I Corinthians 13:5 came before my eyes: "[Love] does not take into account a wrong suffered." We have too many who claim to belong to Christ that keep an accurate account of every wrong that someone has done to them. They can recall dates, times and events like they were a CPA with an accountants degree. When people sin, love will confront them with their sin but love keeps no records of that wrong! Those who really care for your eternal well being will gently rebuke you when necessary, but they will never, ever keep an account of your failures to hold a grudge.
I watched Whitney and Carter as they fell time and time again. They were encouraged. What do we do with those around us who seem to fall? Do you ever consider that you too are sinful from time to time? What do we do with ourselves? Looking to the Christ, it should keep us alert and awake to never keep a record. There is One who sees us all for who and what we really are rather than what we think we are or even wish were were. And can you believe it, He won't keep a record of your wrongs if you are honest and humble before Him! Let's learn a lesson...

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Brief Thought

Sin ruins peoples lives! It makes them miserable, deceives themselves and is the leading cause to depression. It produces a spiritual darkness in the heart and blinds the sight of those involved in sin. People in sin think they are fooling others not realizing how easy it is to see into their lives by their attitudes and actions.
"He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." (Prov. 28:13) Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to find contentment and peace in your life? Are you holding to sin? Some people it seems fight to stay in their sins. They don't want to give it up even though they know they should. That's what creates the misery and pain in their heart. Sin means more to them than the Lord! That should scare us. You want to find compassion? You want to find real joy and contentment? You need to be honest about your sins, confess them to the Lord and forsake walking in sins paths! We each must decide. One decision leads to life. The other will keep us in death which will keep us miserable and unhappy and yet, the answer is right before our eyes. The real question is do we really want the freedom found in Jesus? Do we really believe?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Bruised Reeds/Smoldering Wicks"

Isaiah speaks of Jesus, 700 years before His arrival: "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish." (Isa. 42:3) Matthew records this verse in Matthew 12:20 in speaking of Jesus. We are getting a description of Jesus and His character. What does this reveal to us?
We are all weak in many ways. Some are more fragile than others. It amazes me how many do not see this. Many, especially in the church, think everyone should be this "super Christian" that feels no burdens and if there is worry, they lack a great deal of faith and are condemned. We seem to squelch those who struggle with weakness by showing such "super Christian faith" and it makes those weak hide in shame thinking they are rejected by God and forsaken because they struggle. Let me try to give some encouraging words to those who have struggles who read this blog.
In ancient times, there was a reed called kaneh in Hebrew. It grew up to fifteen feet tall. If one cut it in the proper way, it could be used as a measuring rod or walking staff. It was also used to offer up heavy sponges filled with vinegar to a poor sufferer on a cross! But these reeds were also hollow and had to be dealt with carefully. If bent too far, they would break or if they were bruised, they would snap them off at the bruise to try to use the rest. Sometimes the bruised reed was considered as useless.
Here is the good part...Jesus is revealed as a Savior and Lord that when people find themselves bruised, beaten down and weak, He will not break them off or discard them. Jesus is for each of us that are weak and bruised from life's attacks. We find ourselves looking at us, how weak we are, our failures and how much we lack, yet here is Jesus who will not lean too hard and will not discard you because of a struggle.
They also used lamps that had a small strip of flax in it. When the oil of those lamps got low, the flax would start drying out and give off an irritating smoke. The natural thing to do was reach over with your fingers and poof! - a dead wick that was no longer a bother.
Jesus is shown to us as our Savior that is aware that sometimes, we have failed and struggled with things, where our flame is almost exhausted. We think, "The Lord must surely be tired of me. I should be doing better!" What does Jesus do? He doesn't smother you out. No, gently and carefully He places in new oil, fanning it until it grows into a light again. Jesus is for the weak and fragile people that He died for! That means He is for me. Why is it so hard for us to believe that? Because we always look at us and not Him!!!
Isn't it an amazing description of our Lord? We need to know how much He wants us in heaven. He did not give His life for us to be overcome and lose our souls. He desires beyond words for us to make it. If your faith is weak or stuggles wear on you, Jesus is not discarding you. He will do whatever it takes to help. What's more amazing, before His death His crown was thorns and in His right hand He was given...no less a reed for a scepter and even beat Him on the head with that reed (Matt. 27:29-31). And we question if He really wants us? A bruised reed and a smoldering wick He will not despise....may we give thanks with a renewed faith.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Sticking Up For the Underbird"

In a Charlie Brown cartoon years back, Charlie was hard at work building a birdhouse. Here comes Lucy along and Charlie Brown says, "This birdhouse is going to be for sparrows only!" She grates back at him, "For sparrows? Nobody builds birdhouses for sparrows, Charlie Brown!" He dismisses her statement and with a glee remarks, "I do! I always stick up for the underbird!!"
Sparrows are everywhere. While I was in Nigeria, there were these plain, dull looking sparrows. We had a group of sparrows on our bird feeder outside our window the other morning and I noticed they chirped and jumped about, but there was little beauty to them compared to other birds. They are just...well dull, common and sometime a bother.
Sparrows were back in the times of Jesus and Jesus used them to reveal a major truth. "Are not sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father...so do not fear; you are more valuable than sparrows." (Matt. 10:29,31) What comforting words from our Lord. Today we live in a society that steps on one another. Some will not rub shoulders with people who they feel are beneath them. People come from all avenues of life. Some barely eek out a living while others just have difficulty finding their place in life. People are pretty, ugly, nice and mean. We pick out those who are like us! We think of our nice homes and good upright behavior makes us somebody and we dare not touch those who are less than that. You see it in the church when someone comes in a little dirty, a little smelly and we avoid them but someone comes in dressed nicely, we immediately go to them and make ourselves known. (I believe James 2 addresses this issue.) In all our judgments between us and others , we seem to miss the teachings of Jesus. It's those poor, dirty clothed, not as well dressed, plain common folks that so many avoid that Jesus does not! He does not despise them or place them in a category by themselves. No, our Lord and Master loves humans, all humans! Those self righteous who think they are better than others share in common with those who they feel are beneath them. We all share in the power of sin and in need of the death of Jesus to free us from that. No one is exempt!
We need to realize Jesus died for us ungodly, filthy people. While on earth, Jesus was around the lame, sick and hurting people. He condemned those who thought they were better because they had greater opportunities in life. If God knows when a small, plain, ordinary, easily over-looked sparrow falls to the ground, that shows us that God is for the 'underbird!' We need to stick up for the 'underbird' knowing they too are in need of redemption. No matter your lot in life, Jesus cares for each of us and wants us in heaven. From that we should draw comfort and reach out to all!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"What's Wrong With Me?"

He was an angry man. He had a wife and family but he lived his life in turmoil, creating heartache for his wife and children. There was little joy found in him. When he was around others, he could put on the front that made him look like he was pleasant but it didn't take long in conversation to hear his negative tones and cutting demeanor come out. When he would come home from his work, he talked down to his wife, treating her with contempt when she had done nothing. He created misery for himself and his family. Those that should be the dearest and find peace, happiness and companionship was nothing but an empty, hollow, lifeless shell. Simply put, he just didn't seem to care about anyone. He was a loner, misable and a complainer. People often wonder how those who call themselves Christians can live such lives. It is easy and the explanation might surprise you.
"There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. 2:9-10) Here is the reality to the soul of every person. A person that is troubled and distressed, that causes havoc in the lives of others, is a person who is hiding some kind of evil in their lives. The sin they are hiding has taken hold within their soul and they in turn take that guilty pain and spew it on others. On the other side, you take someone who loves and lives for the Lord, they are humble and repentant, have much peace in their souls and that peace shows itself by living honorable lives that glorify the Lord. Their family is blessed! These are the two types of people. I sat with a Christian mother, who shared with me how awful she has treated her husband over the last year. She would snap his head off for no reason and constantly attacked him by calling him names, especially when he would do her good. She could not take that. It took 14 months for her to admit openly that she had a secret affair going on and she knew it was wrong but the thrill of the secret drove her to continue. Sin had overtaken her life and the turmoil ensued while she deceived herself into thinking is was alright to do. We deal with a real, eternal God who knows and sees it all. He will give to each one according to the life they live and it will reach their soul.
God is a God of peace and when people spew hateful, bad attitudes around those they "supposedly" love, something is wrong in their soul. Go back to the garden and see how sin entered into Adam and Eve's lives. The moment sin entered, the hiding started. The hiding led to blaming everyone and never standing and confessing their sins in the presence of God. As a result, they were driven from the garden and the presence of the Lord. What is worse is that the longer one stays in their sins, it only grows stronger and the conscience and life become hardened. The result is hateful, belittling attitude, unloving toward their mates and children, no care for the brotherhood and no love for the Lord. To mistreat your mate will cut you off from the Lord! Paul told Timothy that these kind of people only "hold to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power." (II Tim. 3:5) We then learn that "evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (II Tim. 3:13) Many times they admit they aren't happy but refuse the Lord's way to find peace and happiness. They won't get better until they decide to confess and forsake their sins! That takes an honest and good heart but the longer one stays in their sins, the heart erodes into evil and it becomes very difficult to find your way back. (You can get to the point of no return because of a stubborn, unrepentant heart!) The heart that was once moved by love has become black and hard. Now that should concern us!

Monday, December 1, 2008


People that are sincere in their faith and have a serious attitude and desire for the Lord will tell you when they speak about the love of God, well...there is not a lot to say. People who seem to play the religious game speak of the love (and grace) as a free stamp of approval to practice whatever it is they do with little desire to change their thinking or ways. They seem to use statements like: "God doesn't make junk!" or "He's not done with me yet!"If we are honest in our thinking, we probably would have to admit we know little about the love of God. Maybe that's just me and I need some help from you to know His love better.
When Paul spoke of the love of Christ, he said it surpassed knowledge (Eph. 3:19). Christ's love goes beyond our knowledge, our sense of how precious it is. Paul's prayer was that each and everyone of us be rooted and grounded it love, to be able to comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth of His love (Eph. 3:17-18). I am not sure what to do with all the above but I know one thing, we seem to miss the power and awesomeness of the love of Christ. How little effect it has on our minds. How little the love of Christ helps us make decisions and choices in life. The love of Christ is great and wonderful in sermons and bible classes, but when someone steps on our toes, disagrees with our thoughts or corrects us, watch out...love is out the door! Fences go up, the defense mechanisms start sounding and we put up barriers so we will not be hurt. That demonstrates how little we really know about love. I am speaking of the love that goes beyond our knowledge. It is a practiced love, as seen in Christ for us. It is an undeserving love, as seen in Christ for us. It is a love that puts up no barriers, as seen in the love of Christ for us. It is a love that motivates one to move forward when there is no reason to move forward, as seen in the love of Christ for us.
Love is beyond our thinking. It is so high, so deep, so wide and long that...well, I just don't really understand it. But I do understand this, His love is to be the determining factor in all my decisions, my actions and that the love of Christ is to control us (II Cor. 5:14). Now that is something to think about! May God open the eyes of our hearts to grasp hold of His love, forgiving as He forgave me. That's where it begins!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


This will be my last post until after Thanksgiving and can you believe it is a Thanksgiving post? I really enjoy this holiday. It is one that is not filled with money, endless ads on buying this and that and reminder to each to be thankful.
On the flip side, it is a really sad state of mind when we have to be reminded to be thankful. The pulpits were filled with sermons on thankfulness, (which is not wrong, I just choose not to allow the world to dictate what needs to be preached), and everyone sends e-mails on being thankful and the list goes on and on. God's word reminds us to be thankful as that is the attitude of a saint (Eph. 5:3-4). The saved should always give thanks for all things (Eph. 5:20). We have been qualified by the blood of Christ to share in the inheritance for which we are to be thankful (Col. 1:12). Our lips that give thanks to his name is a sacrifice offered to God (Heb. 13:15). The bottom line is the saved are thankful because they are saved! Difficulties arise in our lives, but the blood of Christ and His salvation remains. People want to try to hurt or destroy us, but the atoning sacrifice and cleansing keep us safe in God's hands. Times may get rough, jobs may get scarce but the salvation of God does not become distracted toward us. Saved people live saved lives and saved lives are demonstrated by always giving thanks through His name. This time of year should help us see that thankfulness is not seasonal, but eternal!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"The Delight of God"

Have you ever thought about God delighting in you? Maybe our picture of God is this harsh, unrelenting Father, sitting there waiting for you to mess up so He can slap you down!? People think so many things of God and I am afraid it is the preachers who bend our minds and hearts to seeing who He really is. God is a just God! He is the Almighty! He does not look upon sin favorably! He does not tolerate straight out rebellion on the part of His children! He will discipline those He loves by bringing pain into their lives! All of these things are part of love and holiness. We just do not understand God very well because we do not look to Him and His ways many times. We are too busy skimming the Scriptures with fleshly thinking and ideas.
One thing we need to know about God is that He delights in forgiving us! Yes, you heard me right. He delights in forgiving. Not only does God offer an abundance of forgiveness, (we don't believe that either at times), He offers it with great delight! Listen carefully and accept it: "Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love." (Micah 7:18) Why does God pardon? Because it is His delight to have this unchanging love. Notice Micah praises God, not for His creation but for the delight He has in His love to forgive.
Sometimes people think delight is a lot like joy! Joy is a much deeper word in the Hebrew and Greek than delight. Delight is more of a surface emotion. The Hebrew word "delight" is really stressing God's emotional involvement in forgiving. In other words, it thrills God to extend His forgiveness to the confessed sinner!! There is the joy in heaven, but it "delights" Him to forgive.
I can remember my son, when he hit his first home run as a kid playing little league baseball. That ball travelled past the outfielders in the air and I want you to know that my son "delighted" in that home run. It was all he talked about for weeks on end. That is similar to how God reacts when He extends forgiveness! The prodigal that came home (Luke 15) and the father immediately went into banquet mode because of the delight of his sons return. The young lady, who just received that engagement ring, flashes that ring in delight with an excited smile! It's what a father feels when someone speaks to him about his children on their conduct and respect. We father's delight in hearing that. It thrills us to no end. Well, that's how God feels to extend His lovingkindness and forgiveness.
If we would only realize our unconfessed sins are destroying us and making us miserable, while God is wanting, desiring and waiting to offer to us His forgiveness. If we would only give Him the opportunity to forgive us by being honest and humble, to confess our sins, He would "delight" to forgive us. Why are we so reluctant? Do we love our sins more than the God of all grace who delights in forgiveness? Maybe that is what we need to ask ourselves!

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Simply Amazing!"

As one reads their Bible, you find God express Himself in different ways. Sometimes He used His power to get across a point to man through natural calamities. At times God revealed Himself in Majesty as in dealing with Isaiah (Isa. 6). The apostles saw the power and might of God in Jesus as He rebuked the wind, walked on the water and raised the dead.
There was one apostle named Thomas that saw Jesus one day in the upper room. There was no power, no ground shaking or defying nature. A Savior that stood in front of Thomas quietly and humbly with visible wounds. The words came to his ears, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." (John 20:27) Thomas, in his amazement said, "My Lord and my God!" What a staggering confession! It was more than, "Hey, you're alive after all!" It even went beyond, "Now I believe!"
We miss the depths so many times because we simply do not look at our Savior and Lord. Let me see if I can draw your mind to open up and see what I think I see. We just read words and plod right along missing the insight to God. It is not that Thomas identified Jesus as God, which is profound in itself. Listen closely: it is the kind of God that stood before Thomas that amazes the mind! Here is a God that spoke this world into existence, that could remove mountains, who knows each star in the heavens by name and all the nations of this world are a mere drop of water from a bucket before Him - that kind of God was standing before Thomas. A God that was beaten, whipped and cut, standing quietly before Thomas, with all of the doubts Thomas had, asking him to "reach here." He is a God that gave Himself up to lowly, dust made, selfish and brutal man whom He had created standing before Thomas. Yes, it was the Almighty that made Himself vulnerable in mans hands and for what reason? Because His love would have it no other way! Now that's simply amazing to me!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"The Golden Rule"

We all know the 'Golden Rule.' "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you." (Luke 6:31) (Actually I memorized it from the King James Version, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.") I learned that from childhood and still hear many people today use it as a pattern to live by. But wait, I need you to listen carefully and think about this. Sometimes we follow something so long, we never give thought to why other than someone taught us that. Jesus spoke this "Golden Rule" to those who were under the old covenant, the law of Moses, prior to His death. The law of Moses was based on "loving your neighbors as you love yourself." (Lev. 19:18) It was also based on "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." (Ex. 21:24)
As Jesus was facing the cross, He was privately meeting with His disciples. His teaching came forth: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34) There was a change in direction and depth. Jesus brought in "a new commandment." No longer were things based on "self" but on the basis of His loving death. We are not called to treat others as we would want them to treat us. We are to treat others as God has already treated us in Christ Jesus! "Self" is taken out of the way. Christ has taken our place.
Christ did not intend the "Golden Rule" to be the ultimate expression of our lives and love. He sacrificed for us and we are to take His sacrifice and use it on behalf of others. We love because He first loved us! We treat one another the way God has already treated us! That is our calling in Christ Jesus. We are to behave toward others as God has already behaved toward us in Christ. We have been called into His holiness. "But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior." (I Pet. 1:15) Maybe we need to rethink the standard of living by which we live and it might open our eyes to why we live such shallow and weak lives rather than drawing from the power of our heavenly Father through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Same God of the OT and NT?"

Someone asked why it seems God is so wrathful in the OT and much softer and kind in the NT? It's a great question and I pray I can give a decent explanation. The OT is much larger in volume than the NT. It involves the history of man, particularly the nation of Israel. But more to the point, the OT central concern is God working with a sinful and disobedient Israel, the people He delivered from bondage and brought to Himself, and the sinful nations around. The NT central concern is God's work in and through Jesus Christ on behalf of all mankind. You see this particularly in the gospel accounts and Acts. We see the result of the work of Christ Jesus in the rest of the NT. What we must not overlook is there is wrath expressed from and about God in the NT.
There was a little girl who was asked why God was so wrathful in the OT than in the NT. The little girl sat and thought for a moment, then she spoke, "That was before God became a Christian!" I am afraid there are people in our society that believe that very thing!
God sent His wrath on Israel because of their continually rebelling against Him. He loved this nation and He called them His children. They constantly went astray in their hearts and the love of God could not allow them to be so evil without inflicting pain upon them to get their attention. The surrounding nations tried every thing they could to kill and destroy the nation of Israel, so God had to protect His own people by inflicting pain upon the other nations to get them to see that Israel was loved by God. What many fail to realize is that love does involve punishment! We can learn that just as parents. Why do we punish our children? Because we hate them and are wrathful toward them? No because we love them and when they go astray in their heart to do things that are not proper, we need to get their attention and show them there is pain involved in sin! When we inflict pain upon a child, that shows the child that love is making its presence felt and it is a visible love. The same with God punishing Israel in the OT.
The NT reveals the redeeming work of Christ on behalf of all mankind. God has not changed from the OT, but God is showing man His love for all in the work of Christ. There are stern warnings that go out to those who never come to God through Christ and those that come to Christ and fall away. We need to study and read our Bibles and see God's love, knowing His wrath is a wrath because of His work on behalf of mankind. You think about it and if I have missed something, please help me see!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Hijacking God"

It is hard to believe that we can destroy our own studies and worship. We take a verse or verses, begin to read them and then it is off to the races for many. The focus can turn quickly to how blessed we are and we share that openly. That really can't be wrong, can it? Then it is over to some self based stories that opens the door to more self based stories. Next thing you know, we are talking about things that have nothing to do with the study of the truth from God's word and it has become a self based study, with self thoughts. Many times, the majority never realize what is happening. This is what lends us to fleshly thinking and actions.
But that isn't all. We follow our study with our singing praises to God. That is fitting for Christian's, isn't it? We are told about our pitches, our harmony and we seem to love the sound of our voices. We are caught up in the beauty. The singing has become a self pleasing sound and we enjoy it!
What am I saying? I am trying to get us to realize that too many times, we 'hijack God' with all our self gazing! We gather to hear God further to reveal Himself, but we end with all this self reflecting and self gazing stories. We listen to the gift of some of the voices and we end up drowning out the voice of God who wanted to say something to us. Our gifts get in the way of our listening to what He wanted to reveal to us about Himself. Preachers allow it to happen, elders allow it to happen and members have difficulty at telling the difference.
Praising God is fitting for those in Christ Jesus! But so is listening to God!! Our studies, our praise will be more "awe filled" when we draw near to listen to God rather than turning things toward us. We need to prepare our hearts to listen, allowing Him to speak to us from His word. We need teachers that help us, lead us into listening to the Lord, drawing out rich teachings from His word so He speaks to us. The bottom line is many times our studies and worship are nothing more than self seeking moral instructions and lovely sounds. We just don't seem to hear God! That's why our teaching/preaching at times is so shallow.
I ask you to pray that God will raise up more teachers/preachers and wise leaders that can keep us from walking in self made circles, who can deliver us from self gazing by offering to us the Almighty Father who can enrich us and speaks to us. Look away from self and let's stop 'hijacking God!'

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Unforgiving Hearts"

It still amazes me how people, who claim Jesus as their Lord, who claim they read their bible daily, pray with fervency and have a deep love for the Lord cannot forgive from the heart when they feel they were wronged! It makes me wonder what 'word' they read and 'who' they pray to. To hold to grudges reveals deeper seated spiritual problems and how little trust is really placed in our Lord.
Was it not Jesus who said if we do not forgive we are not forgiven? Does that not impact us? Yet we move along, with little thought how we treat others who have wronged us. Sometimes our emotional hurt is much greater than our faith in the word of the Lord. If you come to the cross, it calls us into a world of forgiveness and compassion. It changes our lives and outlook toward others who have hurt us. The cross shows us the depth of man's sins and the price that had to be paid to free us from the strangling power of sin. People become enslaved and desparately want to be free but sin holds them in its grasp until they can break to Jesus. Your forgiveness was not cheap. It came at a high price that no person on this earth would be willing to offer. The heart of God becomes exposed when He sends His own personal Son at our expense. The times we have walked over God, spoke His name is vile and unholy ways, rebelled by shaking our fists in His face that no one was going to tell us what to do and so thankless for the blessings we have been bestowed only to complain because things aren't working out the way we planned. In all this, God reached out, willingly and lovingly offered us 100% pardon at the cost of the blood of His Son. It should shame us as well as bring us to our senses to rejoice. We assemble to give thanks to His name, take His supper and hear Him proclaimed. But then it happens...someone hurts our feelings or something from our past reminds us of how we have been hurt and we hold to that. The person who hurt us becomes stuck in our mind and they are so arrogant and unrepentant. Resentment wells up, our hearts become darkened and our minds are wanting justice and accountability. It doesn't come so we become more embittered! On the flip side, we still attend the worship to our Lord, speak lovely things of His name and share in His supper not giving one thought that we are deceiving ourselves, becoming more corrupt within our hearts and walking a road of hypocrisy. We don't reveal that openly but God sees it all. He must shake His head in shame and then the words of Jesus fall on our ears: "Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way I had mercy on you? And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

Thursday, November 13, 2008


This might be a little long, but I need to write it. Submission is a word that really sets us off sometimes. Some view it as weak or something you do when one cannot do any better because you are forced. However, God's word speaks often of submission. Wives are told to submit to their husbands and Peter says even if the husband is disobedient to the word (I Pet. 3:1). We are told to submit to one another, to submit to human institutions, governments and masters. Why would the apostles Peter and Paul call us to submission? Could it be there is something wrong with our view toward submission?
Let me say that when we are told to submit, the Lord is speaking to His chosen people that are alive in His name, redeemed and full of joy and share in the glory of Christ. We are people who are wonderfully, marvelously saved and freed from the bonds of sin. We are His children and He loves us deeply. Having said that, here are some truths I have observed...
(1) Everyone on earth submits to someone each and every day! We submit to Christian's and non-Christian's alike. On our jobs, helping out someone in need, even the driving of our vehicles, we submit to someone.
(2) Submission is something we choose. Our employers may ask something of us and we may not like it, but we submit! Our doctors might tell us to change our diet or give us advice when we are ill and we submit. A teacher asks certain things in order to finish a course and we submit. We choose to submit in these cases and there are other cases too.
(3) Submission can become more difficult if someone is causing us stress or pain. When we suffer because of someones unkindness toward us, our attention begins to be drawn to how we are being treated and the blessings we have in Christ seem to fall in the background. Submission becomes more difficult because we choose something different in our hearts. We want to eliminate the stress and pain and take our own action to do so. The danger becomes we may be creating more difficulties in our lives rather than relieve the situation.
(4) Submission is easier or harder depending on the source of stress or pain. You see families caring for a sick child and there is no question to submit to whatever it takes for their well being. You feel the stress because of the pain the child is in or what they are going through because they belong to you and your love for the child strengthens you to carry the burden. You make the choice to submit. Take a marriage that is strained. Submission becomes a greater challenge because we might feel bullied or taken advantage of and it does not suit us. This is probably the situation most find themselves when choosing not to submit. We see little reward to submitting to someone who hurts us or takes advantage of us. It applies to the law of the land also.
To submit to someone or an injustice, we must take great care in looking at our attitudes. What we have to keep in mind is life is not about our "rights". We gave Jesus our every right to allow Him to have first place in everything we do and think. When Peter asks us to submit (I Pet. 2:13-25), he is not forcing us. He is showing us because of our relationship to the Creator of the world, who is our Lord and Master, submit and with a right attitude! He has it all under control. We are serving Him by submitting. Why would the Lord ask such of us, especially when someone is taking advantage of us? Because attitudes of the Lord transforms situations and soften hearts! If our heart will submit to the Lord, then what gets our heart will get our energy! Whoever has your love has your service! And I hear Christian's advising other Christian's, "You don't have to put up with that nonsense!!! I would..." or "I would leave them if they treated me that way!" Maybe we really need to re-examine our relationship to the Lord. Are we really saved and in a safe haven? Who is really getting our love and devotion?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"A Word on Christmas"

I am not a man of controversy. I do not believe it does anyone any good except create hard feelings. This little writing has no intention of creating controversy but to explain some things from the heart of God speaking to the tradition of man.
We are coming up on a time of year where you will hear slogans and Christmas songs fill the airwaves about the birth of Christ. One such slogan is, "Jesus, the reason for the season." As a Christian that loves the Lord and heeds His word, let's examine and see if He really is the reason for the season.
Jesus had a strong teaching in Matt. 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." What is the point of our Lord? The will of God must be at the heart of a follower of Christ. That means there is no room to follow ones own desires and thinking. In Matt. 17:1-8, we have written for us the transfiguration of Jesus before the eyes of Peter, James and John. Upon seeing Moses and Elijah appearing with Jesus, Peter wants to make three tabernacles for each one. Peter was making Jesus equal to Moses and Elijah. God spoke up and said, "NO!" The point was being made that one doesn't make Christ common to blend with everyone or everything else around. We need to listen to Jesus and not bring him down to man's level. Paul reminded the brethren at Colossae, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Col. 2:8) He says, "See to it!" Make certain we aren't taken captive by man and his thinking or traditions. We must make certain that our teaching, the will of God comes according to Christ, not men.
Having said the above, what about Christmas being tied to "Jesus is the reason for the season?" Where did we come up with that? Who invented the Christmas idea? Was it a teaching of Christ and His apostles or an elementary principle of the world? The birth of Jesus was never preached after the resurrected Christ! Jesus sent His apostles into all the world to preach the gospel, the death, burial and resurrected Christ (I Cor. 15:1-4) No man is saved by His birth but only through the resurrected Christ will anyone be saved. We are too easily caught up in man's traditions, the elementary principles of the world and Christ never taught or asked to teach on something made up by man. The tradition of men draws attention world wide to honor Christ twice a year: Christmas and Easter. What about the rest of the time? That should get our attention as we live for the Lord each and every day. Man is the reason for the season and to make the season look spiritual, man tied Jesus to Christmas. Even the word 'Christmas' shows us it is man originated! If one would think, you would find that Dec. 25 was not His birth because in that part of the world, they are having winter like we. They do not tend to flocks in the pastures as the sheep are put up in pens until the spring!
Someones asks, "Is it wrong to give gifts, have a Christmas tree and lights?" Those too are traditions of men. However, they are not religious! There is nothing wrong with enjoying a season. Romans 14 speaks of using days individually and they are fine. Just don't tie it to a religious service or to Christ! We need to do what we do according to Christ and hold fast to Him. To enjoy family times, gift giving and the twinkling of lights, there is nothing condemning in those. Keep Christ and His death, burial and resurrection at heart. Ignore the religious pomp of the world and whatever you do, do not be taken captive!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Conduct Yourself With Fear"

Peter tells us, "And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth." (I Pet. 1:17) Do you call God your Father? If you call God your Father, should there be some respect as a Father? We learn that God our Father will impartially judge each of us according to our personal work. He will impartially judge in two areas of our lives. Let's take a look at this closely.
"Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose to motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God." (I Cor. 4:5) When the Lord comes, there are two things that are going to be revealed: (1) He will bring to light the things hidden. Jesus is going to expose open for all to see the things done in secret. When people do things in secret, there is a reason for their secrecy. In most cases, when people 'sneak' around, they have no intention of changing. That's why they do things in secret. Jesus is going to bring those secret things to light. If one address God as their Father, they need to realize Jesus is going to bring their hidden things out for all to see. No one will hide anything from the Lord! (2) He will disclose the motives of the heart. Why we do what we do is most important to the Lord. One can do good for the wrong motives. It may be to gain praise or recognition for themselves. It may be to get something in return from another. Sometimes it can be a 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' motive. Our motives are going to be disclosed. Can you imagine that no one will ever know your intentions, but one day, in front of all, the Lord will disclose openly your motives for all you did. This will lead to whether we get praise from the Lord or condemnation. Notice in the verse we read..."and then each man's praise will come to him from God." After bringing things hidden to light and disclosing motives, then the Lord will praise you unless you aren't living an honest life.
If we address God as our Father, we need to live our lives in a reverence, respect for who He is and what He will do. He is impartial. It doesn't matter if your a minister, rich or poor, God is not partial. He will deal with each of us and that should put a fear/reverence in our heart by addressing Him as Father. That alone should affect our conduct!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Personal testimonies are becoming more and more common place in the religious arena, especially in the assemblies. People want to speak about the wonderful things that God has done for them. They "testify" to power changing moments in their lives and some of the stories are moving. It brings excitement and an experience like none other. Is this really good? Is this what we need to be doing? It all depends on whom you ask. Some say there is nothing wrong with this as it excites people to hear that God is working and alive. Others do not know what to think and still others are left feeling like they and God are so far apart, that nothing could bring them together because they have never had such experiences. I recently had someone suggest to me that I need to have personal testimonies on my radio program to help get the community to see God at work.
When one is honest with Scripture, we do not find personal testimonies, even though Paul at times went through some of his life experiences. He had to because of his former life as a persecutor and his life as an apostle. Some people were having difficulty believing he could be a preacher and an apostle. Please read carefully and listen: no recounting of one's personal experiences brought anyone to the Lord! I sure haven't found it in Scriptures. When Paul was at Corinth with all their parading their favorite preacher, Paul reminded them,"And when I came 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." (I Cor. 2:1-2) He proclaimed the testimony of God! And what was that testimony? Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Paul later reminds them, "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord..." (II Cor. 4:5) The brethren at Colossae were taught that everything was about Jesus and Him alone. Just read the first chapter. Christ was the mystery of God and the riches of knowing "Christ in you, the hope of glory" was what was preached! (Col. 1:27) Paul said that it is Christ that is proclaimed and taught to every man (Col. 1:28). It is in Jesus that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col. 2:3). We are instructed to walk in Christ, rooted and established in Him (Col. 2:6-7). What does all this teach us? There is no room to teach us or proclaim anything about us! The power of God and the wisdom of God are found in Christ and proclaiming Him.
No one will ever find a relationship with the Lord based on some man or woman's personal testimony. There is no power in man. While stories may move our emotions, faith cannot be built! When people face extreme difficulties in their lives, I have never had one person share with me, "This is difficult but I remember so and so and their personal experience they shared is helping me get through this!" People long and look for the true answers only found in Christ. They need assurance from the Lord. It might do us good to rethink what we are promoting and listening to and then see why so many lives are lived with few real answers. God placed all of Himself in Jesus which means if we look or promote anyone besides Him, our lives will become nothing more than an emotional roller coaster, always needing the next man-made thing to prop us up only to let us down in time of need.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"The Soul That Pants"

The Psalmist paints for us a vivid picture of a persons soul that pants for God in the 42nd Psalm. He uses a deer that pants for water. The deer may have been on the run like a runaway train. The miles that were covered fleeing for his life and his lungs are hurting because of the sucking in of air deeply. His mouth is dry and parched and his throat seems to be on fire. He can wait no longer! Danger or not, he must find the nearest stream and drink or he will die. He pants for water! He finds a stream and licks up the cold water with life saving gulps. That's what I picture when I read this Psalm. "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul longs for You, O God."
The soul, the deep inner part of man, seems in despair and hurting. You can hear the writer groan and hurt as things in his life have worn him down and driven him to the edge and he feels it deep in his soul. We have had times in life where we are like that, haven't we? We have gone through things where it looks as if everything stands against us and wants us to drown in misery or loneliness. "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?" The tears seem to flow easily and others just do not understand the pain felt in the soul. A pain that no person on earth can take away. "These things I remember and I pour out of my soul within me." Memories of the past are longed for and the days of joy and thankfulness are desired but at the present, we find our souls hurting and needing to find strength.
Here is the deer, at the limit of his endurance and it knows one thing: "Find water!" Here we are as humans hurting and despairing and there is only one thing we need to know: "Find God!" For it is only in God that we have a reason to hope and move forward! You hear, "Here, over here, let me give you some good advice and counsel!" Will it help me find God? "Here, over here is my friendship!" Will it help me see the face of God? "Here, over here is a place you can run to and lay down to rest for a while." Will I find God there? "Here, over here is a book that really helped me in my time of need!" Will it lead me into the presence of God? "Here, over here is a seminar you should attend or a support group that you need. Will they bring me to God? The troubled, hurting soul needs one thing and that is God! "The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life." The soul that pants for God and Him alone will find relief in the presence of God. What does your soul pant for when you become wearied and weak?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Worshipping or Worship?"

I read more and more about congregations that go toward the 'contemporary' worship style. Please do not misunderstand, this is not about bashing. This is about worship! The more I hear and witness, it seems we are recklessly pursuing "the feeling of being blessed." What I mean by that is the central element of worship is how worship is structured. Worship becomes designed to bring out emotional responses to make us feel something. That seems to be what so many are looking for. There is also another side and that is the "this is how we have always done things" attitude. That too can be destructive in our worship. Because of the last statement, that is what is leading so many to want to "feel blessed" and being moved by something in worship. I had a fellow preacher tell me that the reason he likes the contemporary style is because he "felt so blessed the first time he was involved, he would keep doing it!" I guess I am left out because I do not pursue a "feeling of blessed." One cannot feel spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). They are only in Christ and are ours based on faith, not feeling. (How do I know I have been redeemed? I can't feel it but I believe it because in Christ we have redemption.)
Let me make a quick point and I will end this and hush. I want us to think and be honest with Scripture. Worship (even bad worship) does things to a worshiper. We need to realize that. Biblical, true worship is the faithful response of the people of God to God! Biblical, God centered worship is intended to edify and bless the worshiper but that's not the goal! To make us the goal, what we get out of it, is self worship, not God centered. I know this is touchy with some, but we need to realize in true worship, God is the worshiped, the Majesty, not some moving by our external things! Too many are trying to create an atomosphere which makes that the center and goal. God is the center! God is at the heart! Not some moving "blessed feeling" or some stirring feeling in the heart. Let's be honest and study holy Scripture. True heart worship has God at the center, not some contemporary idea. In fact, why is is called 'contemporary'? What is that saying? God centered or something else? Biblically rich teachings and people that are communing with the Lord they love and adore will lead to heart, God centered worship and there will be no distractions or taking another road to stir something. Maybe we need to ask are we worshiping our worship or really worshiping God? I have to think about that, don't you?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Church Shopping"

Whether we like it or not, people church shop. Many have no clue what that means and too many have wrong motives for their "church shopping." Some look because they have some unresolved bitterness in their heart toward someone. That's unacceptable to God and "church shopping" will not change their relationship or status with the Lord. Some shop because they want something they are comfortable with. That too is unacceptable as the Lord does not want us self centered and self seeking but looking to His ways. Still others "church shop" because they feel they aren't being used in their talents as they see fit. That too can be a wrong motive because those with this mind set may think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Many "church shop" simply because there is no feeding, no richness from God's word and that's a good motive.
Where does all this leave us? First, we need to realize one church is not as good as another. The church, the church of the New Testament, is steeped in Scriptures and the truth is maintained. The church focuses on the gospel of God. That brings about understanding what is and is not to be. For those "church shopping", make certain you are fed on the living bread of Christ and His truth. Not some "worldly" ideas and events taken from Hollywood to draw people in. Stay away from the entertainment mode, which is a draw for many but will lead one away from the word of the Lord. When looking for the church, look for the teachers that take their calling seriously and work with the holy Scriptures to shape and form each member of Christ for service in a body that loves Christ and His body.
Be thankful and rejoice that you hunger, "church shopping" for the right reasons. In trusting repentance, you were united with Christ in baptism and placed in His body. You belong to Him so trust Him to help you find such a place that holds to the truth and gospel of Jesus Christ. Rejoice that you hunger for the rich truth from God's word and allow God to work in you while praying fervently seeking. Listen carefully, while looking, what is taught in classes and from the pulpits and you will find out if the congregation is self parading, self seeking and self entertained or holding and looking to the Master and Lord Jesus Christ. Listen carefully to see if the congregation is always "issue" oriented, endlessly raking others over the coals or lifting itself up above others. Make certain money is not driving the leadership, always asking for money. Listen to see if there is a care and concern for the lost, reaching out to those separated from Christ. Bottom line, if you hear and see brethren reaching out, giving, teaching and preaching that is all fueled by the rich truth from the gospel of Jesus Christ, thank God and stick to that people like glue and allow God to use you to help the body to grow. Keep praying and be honest between you and the Lord if you are "church shopping."

Monday, November 3, 2008


I am not a political person. Many of our politicians are so corrupt and power hungry, it drives them to depths of deceit and arrogance. Someone asks, "If you're not political, then why this blog today?" Here is the answer: I have received several personal e-mails asking how to determine who to vote for. I am very cautious when it comes to giving my opinion about things in a public manner and this is no different.
What seems to escape the notice of so many, especially among those who claim Christ, is the lack of looking to God and His righteousness for their answers. Too many get caught up in the smooth and flattering speech and taken in by that deceit. Too many are easily taken captive because of a smooth talker, never looking at anything deeper. Even in the church, Paul warned the Roman brethren: "For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Jesus Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting." (Rom. 16:18) I realize Paul is speaking about those in the church who cause hindrances and dissensions, but the application can be made here too.
Here is what God's word says about nations: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Prov. 14:34) Our nation is definitely not a nation of righteousness. I'll share that in a moment. God spoke through Isaiah, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isa. 5:20) What is this all about? In selecting who to vote for, you better consider which person stands closer toward the principles of God's righteousness. I am neither Republican nor Democrat. I am simply a child of God that prays for our nation. We are a nation on the decline because of our ungodliness and arrogance. Righteousness exalts a nation! Sin ruins a nation! We have become a nation that is voting to defend gay rights, something the Lord abhors. We have become a nation that kills babies! For Senator Obama, he has already taken California because they always go for the Democrat the majority of the time. Since he has an over-whelming lead there, he is now running ads (I have a cousin who preaches/lives in California) to push the people to vote 'yes' on one of their amendments to repeal the state constitution law on marriage and change it to same sex marriage. The Lord must be disgusted! Our nation has been over-run with the idea of accepting gay marriage. If that offends, God's word says that homosexuality has no part in the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9-10). Secondly, the abortion issue. The killing of little babies is abhorred by God and Senator Obama supports it!
Based on these two principles alone, take a hard look at the righteousness of God. Vote on the righteousness of God, upholding God's values, not man's! It amazes me how little people look to God and His word when deciding things in life. God designed marriage between a man and a woman. Children are a gift of God (Psa. 127:3) and we should not murder them. For any person to support what the Lord abhors, that person will never get my vote. Hold to God, listen to God and look to God. He will have the ultimate say in our nation. In the meantime, pray for those in authority so we can live a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and dignity! (I Tim. 2:2)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Faith Comes By Hearing"

I receive many e-mails of heart moving stories as I am sure you receive them too. Some are touching and can stir our senses. One of the top sellers in books is called, "Chicken Soup For The Soul." Maybe you have it or heard excerpts from it. It is a book filled with stories that are heart warming. However, we need to realize these "feel good" stories, even though they may speak of Jesus or God, are not faith building stories. I know there may be some who do not like hearing that, but we need to understand the nature of real, genuine, saving faith! Many are equating faith with an emotional stirring of the heart but God's word does not do that. Too many cannot distinguish the difference between real, saving faith and an emotional stirring!
Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). For saving faith to take hold in us, it must come from Him. He followed the voice and the will of God all His days on this earth. It was God's interest that came first. Jesus hurt and wept over situations, but He never called that faith. It is God's design that saving faith can only come from His word and nowhere else. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17) Notice there are two key ingredients to saving faith: (1) "Faith comes from hearing." The word "hearing" is not the physical sense of hearing but the internal, spiritual heart, accepting and receiving what God says. When Peter and the apostles spoke on that day of Pentecost to the lost nation of Israel, they were speaking God's word. Some were "hearers" but the majority were not. "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41) Notice they "received" the word. They heard it, accepted it and brought it into their heart by responding. They had ears to hear and it brought about saving faith. (2) "Hearing comes by the word of Christ." We can hear a lot of things around us, but only by the word can faith increase. God planned it that way. It doesn't come from man's word or stories but only His word. God's word is living and active (Heb. 4:12). Faith in God's word is produced in the heart (Rom. 10:10). To try to obtain saving faith through any other means shows a lack of reverence and love for God's word.
Paul told Timothy to preach the word (II Tim. 4:2). Not some moving story, or read from a man written book or teach some pop psychology. The purpose was to create saving faith. There is nothing wrong with emotional stories just to read, but never equate them with faith that moves the heart. I have never seen anyone, in a time of difficulty be moved by some heart warming story to overcome their circumstances, but I have seen people with a genuine saving faith move forward, relying on God and His word in such circumstances. Have you ever wondered why so many are moved by man's stories but the word of God seems to do little for us? I wonder what that is saying about us?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"What Does Your Heart Treasure?"

Whatever one stores in their heart, that is what they speak about. Whatever one speaks about, comes from the treasure of their heart (Matt. 12:34-37). Treasure in the heart is what you deem as valuable and most important. Give me 5 minutes with anyone and I can tell you what they love the most. The mouth speaks that which fills the heart! If one loves sports, that is what they will spend the majority of their time engaging in conversation. If one loves crafts or 'blogging', that is what they will speak about. There is no getting around it.
Do you ever wonder why we have so little to say about the Lord? What kind of things about Jesus are we treasuring in our hearts? I am not trying to 'bully' us into speaking about the Lord. Our relationship with the Lord should lead us into a newness and freedom that only those who know the Christ and have been set free from their sins understand that freedom. It is a freedom that takes hold in the heart and creates an awareness of our relationship to Him. Our desires from the heart change and we want to speak about Him, serve Him and love Him. People tire of religious talk! It grates on people to hear how one church is competing with another, like we are going to convert someone because of that! People use stats to prove one road is better than another. The spoken message from the heart of those converted is not a message of: "Look how the Lord changed me!" or a message of what the Lord has done for me. That's just as empty. The message proclaimed by God's people centered on Jesus Christ and Him crucified! It was about Him and His relationship to God on our behalf. Recently, while preparing a radio program, a dear brother in Christ came up to me and said, "I have a great idea for your radio program!" I gave him my attention. He then proceeded, "Why don't you let some of us members come on and give a testimonial of how the Lord changed us because many in this city know how bad I was growing up!" I gave little response but it made my mind think. Have our hearts become "us" centered? "Testimonials" never changed one person and cannot lead anyone in the power of the resurrected Christ! To speak about us only waters down and weakens the power of Christ! It might make us feel good, but it makes us more self centered and self conscious.
God's word tells us plainly, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom so that we may present every man complete in Christ." (Col. 1:28) It is about "...Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) Our speaking, our hearts should be wrapped up in Jesus because all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him (Col. 2:3). No one on earth can bring life changing power to the heart like Jesus!
Where's your heart? What and who do you love the most? Just listen to your conversations and it might surprise you. We need Jesus and Him crucified to fulfill every purpose and thought in our lives. He along brings life giving change and that comes from the inside out. Do you know Jesus?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"It's Not About Me!"

We put too much confidence in us! We have skills and smarts and we rely on them. The problem comes when our skills and smarts out-smart us and we miss Jesus. We think too much and try to reason our way through life. Our lives become empty shells, just going through the motioins. We depend on who we are rather than who "HE" is! No wonder our lives are so weak and sometimes, such a mess.
Paul found himself a man with smarts and a heritage beyond most of his contemporaries. If anyone could put confidence in his skills and smarts, it was Paul. Just read Phil. 3:2-6. But there is one thing Paul makes very clear, that he does not put any confidence in his flesh (Phil. 3:3). He glories in Christ Jesus and looks to Christ for His power. Paul surrendered himself completely into the hands of the Lord Jesus. His attitude toward his heritage, his skills and his smarts are summed up like this: "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ." (Phil. 3:7-8) How many of us look at us and our accomplishments in our flesh as rubbish? (Paul actually uses the Greek word 'skubalon' which means refuse, excrement from the body!) He gave his all into the hands of the Lord. Why? So he could be found in Jesus, not being self maintained or self righteous because he was following external commands but wanted the righteousness of Christ placed on him and to know the power of being resurrected into His life. (Phil 3:9-10)
What do we learn? This gives us great insight as to why we struggle so. We do not see Jesus for who He is. We never grasp His resurrected life that gives us His power and life. Think about this: the very power it took to raise up the dead body of Jesus to life, that same life giving, life resurrecting Spirit dwells in those in Christ Jesus! (Rom. 8:11) How much power does it take to raise someone from the dead? That's the power available to us! When we surrender ourselves completely into the hands of Jesus, that life giving power begins to work within. Our lives take on new meaning, new hope and a new direction. The things that once dominated us are overcome because Christ overcame and He lives in us. Maybe we need to read again Paul's words of encouragement written to the Philippians and realize by us living for us, we are cheating ourselves out of the life and power of the Lord! Maybe that's why so many fake it?!

Monday, October 27, 2008


"In Hebrew, it is called "seper tehillim". It means "the book of praises." ("seper" is book/ "tehillim" is praises) That is the Hebrew title of what we call the Psalms. The book was written by individuals under different circumstances. Some were written from the wonderful things the Lord provided. Others were from the hearts of anguish and pain.
When you take a close look reading the Psalms, you will find great insight to the things of God. People hurting from disappointments. Some were bewildered that they felt themselves cut off from mankind. Here is what is remarkable...they did not go off somewhere, finding another person to sit and pour their heart out to. They did not find support groups in which they could share their innermost turmoils. They didn't find someone they could sit and both bash the difficult circumstances caused by others around them. They didn't spread their stories of their heartache so others would "feel" for them. What did they do? They brought their heartaches, their disappointments, their confusion into the presence of the Almighty as part of their trust in Him! Their complaints and worried hearts, their adoration were poured out toward the Lord and the Lord heard and responded!
But even more remarkable, these are "tehillim", praises that were sung! These wonderful teachings were sung by the writers and by the "church" over the many years. There was no looking around to see if the harmony was right or if people were on key. It was not to prove anything other than broken hearts singing out, crying out to the Almighty Lord God that had the right to hear all their complaints, praises and hurts first hand! There were wonderfully happy "tehillim" that were sung and those downtrodden could sing right along with them in the "church". When the hurting "tehillim" were sung, those happy sang along with their hurting brothers and sisters. The lonely people and those under pressure were not left to sing alone. They sang the hurt of others to God! Their brothers and sisters added their voices of the anguished and carried those words to the throne of God.
The "book of praises" was the songbook of the Jewish nation. The people of Israel by the Spirit of God and in light of their history put all their songs together, put them in a hymnbook and stamped across the cover "seper tehillim". Maybe we need to learn some lessons and do more reading of the Psalms.