When “God Bless You” is Nonsense

homelessWednesday of this week was a busy day, and I really didn’t think I had the time to deal with the situation at hand. I had been “rushed” all day long, and I still had work to do before I’d be ready for two more meetings.

Even if I took the time, money was going to be an i$$ue. The church had already helped several people, and when this happens money can do an abrupt disappearing act.

So what do you say when you hear a trouble voice on the other end of the phone say: “I have no money. I have no food. I have no place to sleep tonight. If you could help me with a place to stay for just tonight, I’d really be grateful.”

The funds were low, my preparation time was almost gone, and I was ready to say: “My heart goes out to you, but due to limited resources we just can’t help you now.” In fact, I did say it. Then I quickly said: “Go ahead and come to my office. I’ll figure out some way to take care of the bill.”

I did more than pay for a night in a hotel, I also arranged for her to get food for supper; but, what meant the most to her was that I listened to her as she told her story. She was then willing to listen to me as I told the story of God’s love for her.

Now here is the reason I couldn’t deny her request: While I was listening to her with my left ear, I was hearing the words of James in my right ear: “Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense (James 2:14-17)?”

“God bless you” to this woman would have been God-talk without God-acts, and it would have been nonsense—I’m glad James whispered in my ear.

Cultural Icons

social-network23-01-111413-2435Children and adults alike seem to idolize cultural icons. There is a tendency to focus far too much attention on sports figures, musicians, comedians, and actors. The death this week of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall are good examples of the adoration of public figures.

Some people think this is a modern phenomenon, but I don’t think this is the case. I think social media and technology flood us with the glitz and glamour of the famous and it makes it easier to become star-struck.

Some 800 year before Christ, there was a cultural icon named Absalom. This son of King David is described in the Old Testament as being the most handsome man in Israel, highly praised; and, that “from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him (2 Samuel 14:25).”

Absalom was more than just handsome. He was also smart, clever, cunning and crafty. He had the power of persuasion, a great personality and was quite the charmer. On top of all of this, he was also the son of the king which meant he had power, prestige, and wealth.

It’s no wonder people idolized him, but all of this fanfare didn’t keep Absalom, like many of the rich and famous today, from becoming a tragic figure. His bad choices and unwise behavior made a mess out of his life.

To live a balanced life, you need to feed both the physical and the spiritual. If you starve either one, a crisis in your health will quickly appear. Absalom was more focused on the physical than he was on the spiritual, and this is what led to his downfall.

Even Samuel had to be reminded to focus on the right qualities: “The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7).”

Deep down in the soul of man, I believe there is a hunger and longing that can only be satisfied through a relationship with God. All the laughter in the world cannot bring lasting happiness, nor can all the money in the world buy fulfillment. The answer to that emptiness is a five letter word: Jesus.

I’m glad He came to seek and to save the lost, and that He found me on that October day in 1972.

Hope 134

hope-handThe landscape of religion experienced a seismic shift in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenburg. After an in-depth study of the book of Romans, Luther believed that the just should live by faith, and that the selling of “indulgences” was contrary to the teachings of the Bible.

Like many Christians, Luther’s life had its highs and low. These peaks and valleys prompted him to say: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

In regard to hope, Rick Warren has said: “What gives me the most hope every day is God’s grace; knowing that his grace is going to give me the strength for whatever I face, knowing that nothing is a surprise to God.”

Hope is a frequent theme found throughout the New Testament:

• In Romans 12:12, we are told to rejoice in hope, to be patient in tribulation, and to continue steadfastly in prayer
• A prayer of Paul in Romans 15 was, “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
• In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul said: “we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith”
• Peter reveals the source of our hope in I Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”

I’ve never claimed to be a mathematical genius, but I do know a simple equation that forms the basis of our hope: 1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given. Hope 134 can make a seismic shift in your life.

Like the old gospel hymn says: My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.

Are You A Stooper Downer?

helpinghandWhat do you do when you see someone struggling because the circumstances of their life are almost unbearable? Do you help bear their burdens?

One of the clear precepts of Paul on this subject is found in Galatians 6:1-3: “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” ~The Message

I hope this Scripture challenges you to make today the day that you will be the Good Samaritan to the hapless and helpless, and to those who need a helping hand. Stoop down and reach out to them and share their burdens. Bolster their courage, lighten their load, strengthen them in their struggle, and share the love of Christ with them.

Seeing and not doing is not sharing. Observing and ministering is embracing the vision of Christ: “When Jesus saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few; therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Read the verses above one more time and listen intently and carefully to what you hear. Is it a whisper or a shout? To me, it sounds like Jesus is saying, “I need more people to labor in the harvest—more people who are willing to stoop down, reach out, and lighten the heavy load of their friends, neighbors, and complete strangers.”

Don’t deny it. Don’t turn a deaf ear to it. I know you can hear it. Jesus is saying: “I need you!”


chain_reactionHave you ever poured yourself a drink and made a mess when you overfilled the glass? Have you been distracted and let the bathtub overflow? It’s safe to say that overflows are usually mistakes?

While this is usually the case, Paul says God purposely overflows us: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).” Look at Paul’s description of God—“the God of hope.” Because He is a God of “hope,” you can be filled with “all joy and peace.”

This verse speaks of chain-reaction-Christianity: It starts with the hope of God, leads to joy and peace, the focus on joy and peace, causes you to “overflow with hope,” and this is the result of the “power of the Holy Spirit” living within you.

Overflows are generally wasteful, but God turns the spigot on and calibrates it so you will overflow. His design and purpose is for you to overflow with hope so you can flow over into the life of another person.

Chain-reaction-Christianity begins when your thoughts are in tune with Christ. Look at the picture at the top left of this page. What is you first assumption? Do you see a sequence of one person knocking down the next person? If so, reorient and refocus. Look at the picture from another perspective. I see a sequence of each person lifting up the person in front of him.

To be a chain-reaction-Christian don’t restrain your hope—unchain it and proclaim it.

Tidy Tongues

tongue-4I’ve heard it said more than once that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. While it’s true that the tongue is a muscle, it isn’t a single muscle. Instead, it consists of a group of muscles that help us taste our food, swallow, and talk.

According to WebMD, “a healthy tongue is pink and covered with small nodules called papillae.” If, however, your tongue is discolored or painful, it may signal problems with your health. WebMD linked tongue problems to possible conditions like “vitamin deficiencies, AIDS, or oral cancer. For this reason, it is important to seek medical advice if you have any ongoing problems with your tongue.”

The last sentence above reminds me of something written in the book of James: “ If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well . . . the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze. And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence—and is set on fire by hell.”

James tells us that the tongue has the power to:
• Direct (3:3-4)
• Destroy (3:5-8)
• Delight (3:9-12)

When you think of your tongue, think of it as the index to your heart. With this in mind, what does you tongue say about the health of your heart?

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking: Are you tongue tied or do you have a tidy tongue?

Do Dollars and Cents Equal Good Sense?

moneyThe year was 1976, the band was ABBA, and the song was Money Money Money. The song perpetuated the myth that all you have to do to be happy is to have a lot of money and accumulate many possessions.
The first stanza of the song says:

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
That’s too bad
In my dreams I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work at all, I’d fool around and have a ball…

I’m not criticizing wealth, but I do not believe a hefty bank account guarantees happiness. Let me give you a contrast:

• If you are looking for a home, I hope you realize you cannot buy one. You can buy a house, but your family makes the home.
• If you get sick, you can buy the most expensive medicine in the world, but you still can’t buy health.
• You can buy the best seats at a sporting arena, but that does not mean you can purchase friendship.
• People invest a small fortune in a good bed, but the newly purchased mattress can’t guarantee a good night’s sleep.

Things or possessions will never replace relationships and wanting more will never be as satisfying as a fulfilling relationship with God.

I’ll wrap this up with three quotes that address the issue of wisdom, wealth, and good sense:

• Will Rogers: “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”
• Solomon: “How much better it is to acquire wisdom than gold, and to acquire understanding is more desirable than silver (Proverbs 16:16).”
• Epictetus: “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

He-Man Principles

Have you ever heard of Samson? How about Hercules or Arnold Schwarzenegger? Amazing strength, bulging biceps, and a powerful He-man” physique come to mind when I think of these men.

All three of these men are wimps in comparison to the God of Psalm 23. Pay attention to the four uses of the word “He in the verses below:
• He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
• He leads me beside the still waters.
• He restores my soul;
• He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake

Notice the position of God in the second and fourth points above: “He leads me.” He isn’t pushing you from behind, and He isn’t ridiculing from the sideline. He already sees what you’re seeking, and He already knows what you’re wondering. He is out in front and leading the way.

As I was thinking about these verses from Psalm 23, I remembered an old Gospel hymn called He Leadeth Me. I encourage you to listen to it by clicking here.

The ISM Prism

prismThe answer to the question is Psalm 23. More often than not, when I ask a family what Scripture they would like read at the funeral of their loved one, they reply: “Psalms 23.”

While this Psalm is very poetic, it is much more than that—it is also jam-packed full of promises! The six verses of this Psalm is vivid imagery that presents God in the language of a caring and loving shepherd, and it offers hope to God’s struggling sheep in their darkest hours.

The first three words speak of God’s eternal presence: “The Lord is.” The word “is” is present tense. The verse does not say the Lord “was,” or the Lord “has been,” or “might possible be.” It tells us that the desire of God is to be your personal Shepherd at this exact moment and in every future second, minute, hour, and day of your life.

God is present now and with Him is the essence of His attributes. He is present with His empowering grace, abundant mercy, and His loving-kindness. He is present in His awesome greatness, His truth, and in His almighty strength.

Because sheep have a tendency wander off and get lost, He is also present to light the path you walk and to shine as a lamp to your feet. He is the ever-ready, ever present, power-packed God.

Whatever your task might be for today and whatever the trial may be, remember these three words: The Lord is. To really embrace the truth of this, drop the “the” and replace it with “my.” Say it now: “My Lord is.”

When you get a chance, put a smile on your Shepherd’s face, and shout it out: “My Lord is!” This “ism” is a beautiful prism that opens new possibilities to enhance your relationship with your Shepherd.

The Secret of Joy

How would you feel if you were separated from your family and friends; punished for doing what is right; living your life to the best of your ability; and, thrown in jail? I’m not sure how I would react, but I do know what Paul did, He said we should “rejoice.”

Paul maintained an attitude of joy and contentment in a life that was often characterized by difficult circumstances.

In the midst of a difficult period in his life, Nehemiah reminded his followers that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Instead of taking a short-sighted view of life, Nehemiah challenged the people to see God’s presence, perceive His power, and to focus on His plan for their lives.

When things in your life are not going as you planned, remember that God has a timetable for you. Sometimes you may not understand the bumps in the road or the slow pace of the uncertainties, but God is still working, and He is executing His plan for the greatest good of all.

While speaking about Moses, Chuck Swindoll once said: When you trust the Lord to give you the next step, when you wait in humility upon Him, He will open the doors or close them, and you’ll get to rest and relax until He says ‘Go.” This was a guiding principle of Paul, and it is why he rejoiced even while in prison.

And, this is the secret of joy.