Do. Create. Achieve.

A poem of encouragement for my daughters and any other woman who faces the doubts of worthiness. God loves you and you are worthy of His love and what He has called you to. Go in His strength.

She placed her wager, she placed her bid,

She thought she could and so she did.

Then fears and doubts raised their ugly head,

They filled her with anxiety, panic, worry, dread.

What if she faltered, perhaps even failed?

What if she worked so hard, but to no avail?

She was born for this, this she knew,

This was her destiny God called her to.

She felt her heart tug again, as a little girl,

“Follow me, my child, and change the world.

I have not called you this far to leave you alone,

You don’t have to change the world on your own.”

She dug deep, resolved to fight her way through.

With the strength of God, her belief renewed.

“I won’t give up!” she cried through her tears.

“I refuse to waste all this work, all these years.”

She checked her plans, she wrote her lists,

With inner strength and with clenched fists,

She faced her fears, she faced her doubt,

And punched them both in the mouth.

She knew she could, she still believed,

Now it was time to do, create, achieve.

Me, My Self, and I

Doing the “Right Things”

Recently, in a discussion, someone said they didn’t understand why they had this constant struggle as a Christian to do the right things. “I guess I am a bad Christian,” they said. Usually, there are the pat answers given to this statement. “You’re not praying enough. You don’t have enough faith or you haven’t given it to God.” I say these are pat answers since they seem to be all too common in Christian circles.

Now, before you feel I am being too harsh here to those who have said these things in response, know that I have said them many times myself and to myself. But I have come to realize that is where the problem lies: with the Self.

I am attempting to complete a devotional book that stemmed from me texting my children bible quotes and a little explanation as to what they meant and what I felt God was saying to me through those scriptures. They would send these to their friends and others would also begin to join the text list. Before I knew it I would spend fifteen to twenty minutes each time typing in the phone numbers for all the people who were following the texts. I would end the little devotion with the phrase: It’s a choice.

Hear Me Out

man wearing suit jacket sitting on chair in front of woman wearing eyeglasses

Doing the “right thing” is a choice. Please hear me out. It’s not always an easy choice, but it is a choice. A choice, a decision that you make. Each and every time. We are faced with thousands of choices every day and how we choose determines our results. I have heard it said, “You are where you are because of the choices you made.” Immediately, I can hear someone say “I didn’t choose for my parents to die…” or fill in any tragedy. True, but you choose how you respond and how you respond will determine where you will be. What about instinctive reactions?

Let me break it down like I did recently to a person who made something similar to my opening statement. That is, look at the Me, My Self, and I. Me is the combined Self and I working in unison. The “Self” is the body, the flesh, as the Apostle Paul put it. The “I” is the conscious thought or personality of the Person within the Self. Also called the Spirit. (Not to be confused with the Holy Spirit). The “I” cannot always control the Self, because the Self will do whatever comes naturally to the Self. Ah, but the “I” or the Spirit can train the Self.

Self and Spirit

gray and white short coated cat on brown wooden table top

Let’s say we could take the “I” or Spirit portion out of a human and put it in a cat, which, by-the-way spends two-thirds of its life sleeping. There may be a symbiotic relationship developed over time, but the cat is going to do what cats do. Ever try to control a cat? The Spirit could train the cat eventually, but it will always be a cat and will probably behave like a cat even when the Spirit works feverishly to train the cat. The first part of learning to train the cat would be for the Spirit to learn about cats and then work with the cat to a desired end, knowing all along that the cat will still sometimes act out of instinct.

Now, look at the human being in the same light. You have a depraved, fallen human who, though created in the image of God, acts like a depraved fallen human and in many respects as an animal. (See Galatians 5:19-21) This is the Self. Think of these phrases in this light:

  • I lost control of my Self.
  • I couldn’t help my Self.
  • I have really let my Self go.
  • Get a hold of your Self.
  • Would you look at your Self?
  • Get your Self some rest.
  • Get your Self something to eat.

Who lost control of the Self? The Spirit. The situation is even worse. Inside the Self resides a fallen, depraved, darkened, blinded Spirit. The Spirit inside the Self, which is a spark of the Divine, is dead, and the Self is only operating off training and instinct. Autopilot if you will. Subsequently, the Self will continue to act and behave like the depraved, fallen creature that it is. It should not surprise Christians when non-believers act the way they do. They are acting according to their nature and they cannot control nor help their Selves. They are slaves to this nature.

What is one to do?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

The Spirit within must be reborn. That spark of the Divine within must be quickened, as the Bible calls it. It must be exposed to the light of the transforming power of Jesus. It must be made alive. Jesus didn’t come to earth to make bad people good. No, He came to earth to make Spiritually dead people, alive. This is the only way the Self can be tamed and trained. And with the help of the Holy Spirit that now will be there within to help get the Self under control.

In this new state, the Spirit takes on the “new creation”, but the Self is still depraved and fallen. Yet, control can be exerted. Granted, the Self will still act up and do things that leave the Spirit wondering “what just happened or why did I say or do that?” However, the Spirit under the direction, leadership, and power of the Holy Spirit can take control. That is why it says in Galatians that one of the fruits of the (Holy) Spirit is “self-control.”

Summary – What Now?

Here are summary statements that I have found helpful.

  • You’re not going to get it right all the time. Even the Apostle Paul stated that he (the super saint) still did things that he did not want to. His Self still acted out. That’s why he said he buffeted his body. He was still struggling with his fallen Self even with a redeemed Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, for I John 1:9.
  • Seek to understand your Self with all its quirks, tendencies, traits, likes and dislikes. Your Self is unique and you have to understand the basic human first and then understand the Self in which you reside.
  • Cut your Self some slack. God does. That doesn’t mean you are to give the Self a pass. It means keep moving toward maturity under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but he does expect you to head in that direction.
  • When you fall, and you will, pick your Self back up and go again. Proverbs says a righteous man will fall seven times and get back up again. Don’t wallow in Self pity and feel sorry for your Self. You are a child of the King of the Universe.
  • Don’t beat your Self up for being its Self. You don’t beat your cat or dog for being a cat or a dog. You train them. Train your Self. It takes patience, time, and the help of the Holy Spirit Trainer to train your Self. Read the training manual used by the Trainer. It’s called the Bible and that is why it is there.
  • Love your Self. See your Self as God sees your Self. Worthy of loving and investing in. He sent His Son to reconcile you back to Him.

If you have not come to a place where you know for sure that your Spirit is made new. You can. God waits to renew your Spirit. Click here for more information.

How Did They Feel?

My Thoughts

Ever have one of those phrases get stuck in your head and wonder how it got there and why? I do. I have come to see it as the Holy Spirit speaking to mine to remind me of something or to teach me something. The phrase that has occupied my thoughts this week is: “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Of course, I had to wonder why this was haunting my thoughts. I couldn’t remember who said it or where I heard it.

Seasons of Life

back bus education school

As I am sure you know, life has seasons. Each culture seems to have these defined according to what is going on in that society. Currently, we are in the “back to school” season. We have had our share of this with four children through high school and college, but this year was a little different as our oldest daughter’s “back to school” would actually to be as the teacher.

Usually, my summers are consumed with work and working around the house to make repairs. There are a few trips to the beach with my wife and mini vacations. I might even have some sort of garden. This summer a good portion of my summer was spent helping my oldest daughter move from college to our house and then from our house to the new house for her to be on her own.

Children coming back home with all the stuff they have with them, in this case, to include two cats, can be challenging. To be honest, it has worn us out and taxed our patience. It was a break from our routine. I am a routine type of person, and I was definitely out of my routine this summer. Looking back though, it was a good summer.

This last weekend, we traveled one more time to help my daughter get established in her new home and role as teacher. She asked for help getting things to her classroom and setting things up. I could tell she was anxious about getting things ready. Today is her first day as teacher.

My wife and I were in the classroom waiting to assist where needed. We cut out wall hangings, sharpened pencils, moved furniture, but we also just sat there at times watching our grown-up daughter work through her paperwork for her students. Proud? Very.

During one of my tasks, I looked up and saw a small poster my daughter had hung near her desk. It read, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. – Carl W. Buechner.” I took a picture and wondered, how have I made my daughter feel this summer? I hope she felt encouraged, loved, appreciated, valued, and accepted.

20180730_180712At the end of my life, when folks gather around my graveside, I hope they remember good things of how being associated with me made them feel. That doesn’t mean life is all rainbows and unicorn cookies, holding hands and singing kumbaya. It does mean, even in challenging and difficult times and just doing life, we can, as the Apostle Paul says, carry each other burdens. That is, we can let people know that we cared enough to care how they feel.

Isn’t that how God deals with us? He cares for us during the ups and downs of life, through the hills and valleys, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life is messy, and even in the messiness of life, people need to know you care. It is important to wonder, “How did I make them feel?” I pray I make people feel and know I care.

Go Deeper

We are all much deeper than the layers of our skin,

Too often we judge by the outside, only by what we see.

Judging the book by the cover, assuming how things might be.

Will you choose to go deeper to know what goes on within?

 

How can we know the struggles, buried deep inside?

How can we know the depression or the mental wars?

How can we see the heartache and battle-weary scars?

How can we know the brokenness or tears of late nights cried?

 

We are all surely broken. It started at our birth,

But God so loved He sent His Son to heal, save, and set free.

He came and willingly chose to die, in place of you and me.

We are all broken, but can you understand our worth?

 

We often forget we’re a child of God, even as we struggle on.

We often get it wrong, hoping, believing in an instant cure.

We say, “Just pray enough, believe enough, it’ll work for sure.”

Child of God, the battles continue, it’s the war that’s been won.

 

Remember, you’re His child, remember He’s your Lord.

Especially in your brokenness, you are called to stand.

You’re not called to surrender, but to the battle at hand.

When you take your last breath, then lay down my sword.

 

Praise be to God, we are not alone in the stormy night.

Life will be a struggle as we head toward our home.

Truth is we are all on the journey, we are not alone.

We have His Spirit who is constantly with us in the fight.

 

Embrace the brokenness, embrace the clashes deep within,

Listen, heed the voice of God should you choose to hear it.

There is peace in the midst brought only by the Spirit.

Life struggles are to point us to trust and lean on Him.

Forgiveness – A Fruit of the Spirit?

The Question

portrait of white pigeon

In the book of Galatians, (Gal. 5:22-23) the Apostle Paul lists out nine proofs or fruits of the Spirit. These fruit show the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer who possesses these qualities. I have wondered why forgiveness is not listed here. Can one truly have the Spirit of God present in their lives without this one trait or asset? After all, it is one of the heavy hitters in the Christian walk and is sometimes mentioned more than some of the fruit.

The Simplest Answer

The most obvious and simplest answer is the list is not an exhaustive one, and forgiveness could be added. Just because it was not listed doesn’t mean that it is not a proof or a fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit has at least three lists in the Bible. Those three lists do not contain all the gifts, and it is argued that there are more gifts than those listed. So it would be for forgiveness. For example, other concepts like mercy, justice, humbleness, etc. are not listed either. It could be argued that these are fruits of the Spirit as well. But I believe there is more to it.

In-depth Answer

 

The more complicated and comprehensive answer when looking at a particular scripture is to look at the context of the speaker. What was said before and after the scripture on the fruit of the Spirit? Also, what is said in the Bible as a whole? Paul was using an opposite comparison when he listed the fruit. Before this section, he listed the “works of the flesh” which are in opposition to the fruit. One is physically focused, and the other is spiritual. One is natural and the other is supernatural.

woman putting red apple on green shopping basket

Paul tells us to separate the fruit from the works. This is a choice and must be practiced. The Spirit is the teacher, the mentor. This choice is simple, not always easy, but simple. We have to choose the Spirit to be able to cultivate and exhibit the fruit. There is a difference between the work of the Spirit and the work of the flesh. The flesh work comes naturally. Just let yourself go. Live the lowest level, almost animalistic life. That is not only simple but easy and guess what you will get? Natural, animalistic results.

clouds countryside daylight environment

However, if you choose and walk with the Spirit, you also choose the higher road. This road is not easy. Jesus said that this road is narrow and there are very few who not only find it but travel it. The Spirit is the teacher, comforter, and mentor. The Teacher uses the Bible as His textbook and life as His laboratory. It’s is just like being in school or college. You spend time in the classroom and then you get to spend time in the practicum. If you don’t attend either of these you fail the course. Too many Christians treat the Christian life as if it is party time at college rather than time to learn and grow. Then they wonder why their life as a Christian isn’t working. They have failed the course and too often blame the teacher for their failure. Paul calls this spiritual immaturity.

Forgiveness is not a fruit

So, what has this got to do with forgiveness as a fruit of the Spirit? Forgiveness is a course in the curriculum in the School of the Spirit. I believe it is an exercise in the laboratory of life. It is an instruction given in the classroom. It is practiced in the laboratory. You have to accept the assignment and if you fail the test, you get to take it again. If you fail the course, you get held back. Thank God for I John 1:9, and thank you Spirit for your patience and mentoring, because I cannot count how many times I have failed.

Endangered Christianity

The Statement

black microphone

I have heard it said by more than one person that “Christianity is only one generation away from being extinct.” Usually, the one speaking is trying to get across to their audience the necessity to reach out and share the good news of Jesus or Christianity will be gone. It’s a combination of a fear factor and a warning. The audience, I have been one, nods in agreement as the message sinks in. We had all better get busy winning souls or there will be no one left to carry on after we are gone.

Question Everything

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

Even though it sounds good, there seems to be a lingering thought somewhere on the periphery that tugs on the brain. It asks if the statement is true. Are things that desperate? I believe the statement is one of “truthiness,” as I have heard one public speaker call it. “Truthiness” is something that sounds true and logical, but when examined further, it doesn’t pass the litmus test.

Incorrect Presumptions

To accept the statement of “endangered Christianity” at face value is to agree to several basic, incorrect presumptions:

  1. It presumes the continuance of Christianity rest solely on the shoulders of the present generation, and without the evangelistic actions of that generation, Christianity is doomed. Yes, we are commanded to reach, teach, and disciple, but we plant the seed. God waters. The thinking that it all rests exclusively with man leaves God totally out the equation, which leads to the second presumption.
  2. The statement presumes God is not capable of sustaining the Christian faith. This is not biblical. Even in the darkest of times in history, God had a remnant of believers. Case in point is when Elisha ran from Jezebel and begged God to die. He complained that he was the only one in all of the land that followed God. God responded that He had 7,000 followers who did not bow to the state-sponsored religion. God is quite capable of maintaining a following. Further, even in the darkest times yet to come as spoken of in the book of Revelation, and during the Tribulation times, God will still maintain a remnant of followers.
  3. Another presumption is one that would be shared with the devil himself: somehow God can be defeated. This thought process leaves the Christian believing they are fighting a losing battle. They wring their hands while looking to the eastern sky chanting “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” They live a life of someone who is waiting to be rescued from a sinking ship rather than manning their battle stations on a spiritual destroyer.

There is, however, a danger to going to the opposite extreme. We can smugly sit around, not doing anything, “because Jesus has won the victory, therefore I do not need to fight at all.” This too is not biblical. We are commanded to act. In many places, we are ordered to reach the world around us – proclaiming the good news.

In the book of Jude, we are told to “snatch” the perishing as one would a stick from a fire. Paul said “blessed” are the feet of those who proclaim the message of salvation. In another spot, he says faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and hearing by someone telling. Jesus gave us the Great Commission in the 28th chapter of Mathew, to go into all the world. We, as the church, are expected to be obedient to the commands and calls.

The Conclusion

Truly, it is a joint venture with God and His church to continue what Jesus started. There will always be someone who responds to the love of Christ and then will be obedient to tell others, who then respond. There is no danger of the Church going anywhere. It might get lazy. It might get beat down. It might dwindle. It might even lose power, but the Bride of Christ will continue on until He says it’s the end of the age.

Unprofitable Servant

Learning Lessons

abc books chalk chalkboard

I have it said before “If you stop learning, you’re dead.” I suppose that is true. Even if it is only little trivial things, we learn something new each day. It never ceases to amaze me how God will work with His children to teach them. This is done by the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways.

“Wow!” You might say, “Are you telling me God audible speaks to you?”

My answer is that the voice of God is more than audible. I don’t want to get onto a discussion of how God speaks in this article. I will save that for another. Here, I want to give you an example of how God was dealing with me about something he wanted to reinforce.

Pondering

analysis blackboard board bubble

I awoke Monday morning with two words on my brain –“unprofitable servant.” I have to admit; I was scratching my head as my mind focused from sleep. Was God calling me this? Was there a lesson to learn? Was he reinforcing something I had learned? I mean, I had been reading the book of James, and I didn’t remember coming across that term or concept there.

As I went about my morning routine, the words would not go away. I poured a cup of coffee. I asked the Lord what he was trying to tell me because I was clueless. No answer. Well, ok. I went out to feed our animals. After everything had been fed, and still getting no answer to my musing, I just stopped and thought about what the phrase could mean. Not that my chickens had an answer. They are worse theologians than conversationalists.

I did what any modern-day Bible scholar would do – I googled it. The scripture passage Luke 17:7-10 came up in the search engine. In this passage, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and explains when a servant should come in from the field, the master would not tell him to sit at the table and be served. Rather, the master would instruct the servant to get cleaned up and serve the master. The master will not thank the servant for doing what his duty is – this is expected service. Jesus tells the disciples to be like the servant and do their duty because it is expected. Oh, and by the way, they shouldn’t expect anything more and to call themselves “unprofitable servants.”

“Okay, Lord.” I said, “Seems a little harsh, but I am still not sure where this is going. Was I expecting more from a situation than I should have?” As with any good study of any Bible passage, I looked at the scripture before and after. Before: Jesus is talking to the disciples about extending forgiveness. After: Luke tells the story of ten lepers who Jesus healed and only one came back to thank Jesus.

I read a few commentaries on the passage to get another view. The fog began to clear as I read on. Jesus told the disciples to extend forgiveness even if the person came to ask forgiveness seven times. The disciples responded with “increase our faith.” Jesus answered that they could do miraculous things like move mountains if they had the faith of a mustard seed.

In short, Jesus was saying “Guys it has nothing to do with faith. It has everything to do with obedience. You call yourselves servants of God (Christians)? To extend forgiveness is just your basic duty. This doesn’t require some great act of faith. It is part of the job. And you shouldn’t expect some great reward for doing it. That is true of this or anything else. In fact, your attitude should be such that it is a privilege and an honor to serve God. You should be grateful for the opportunity and recognize that without God you are unprofitable.”

The term unprofitable can also be translated as unworthy. When Jesus told the disciples to extend forgiveness, they responded as this was some lofty thing that they could only accomplish by great feats and faith, that surely only they could obtain. Jesus responded with the opposite extreme in an attempt to pull them to the middle.

In a sermon on this passage in Luke, Charles Spurgeon explains the reasonable duty of all Christians. He said that we are not to be too lofty or too lowly, but to stay in the middle. We are to be available to God to be used by God, and if we say we follow God, then we are his servants. Servants do their duty because that is part of the job and the servant shouldn’t expect anything beyond that. Christians likewise are obedient because they are servants and should have the attitude of a useful servant. When you enlist in God’s army, you are a soldier in that army and are to do what is your duty. End of story.

“Okay!” my flesh whined, “I get the point of the passage, but what has that to do with me? Was I being haughty or unworthy?”

I sat quietly – waiting.

Flashback

close up photography of woman in black long sleeved top

My mind wandered back to an incident the day before – Sunday. We had not gone to church that morning. We had been out of town and told folks we would probably not be back in time. My vehicle started to malfunction so we came back on Saturday night and Sunday morning, my daughter and I took my truck to drop it off at the shop for repair.

On the way home the sky looked stormy and threatened rain. A few miles from our house, the rain came in waves of water. My daughter slowed down, partly because of the rain and partly because we approached a truck with a camper attached sitting on the side of the road. The blown out tire in the middle of the road told the story.

“Should we stop and remove that from the road?” She asked. I paused. I knew we needed to extract the dead tire remnant safely, but I also wanted to offer assistance to the truck owners without endangering my daughter.

“Uh, yes,” I said. “Pull up, and I will get the tire. You stay in the car and out of the rain.” I don’t stop to help everyone, but I felt in my spirit this was a situation where I should offer help. As far as telling my daughter to stay in the car, the truth was, I used the rain to keep my daughter away from the truck and camper until I checked it out. Yes, I am a paranoid daddy. It’s my job. It’s what I do. Moving on.

I removed the blown out tread from the road and approached the truck. Inside was an elderly couple. She saw me first from the passenger side of the vehicle and motioned to her husband that I was at the window, which he rolled down. He had been looking at his phone.

“Do you need some help?” I asked.

“Well,” he answered, “We were trying to find someone to change the flat on the camper.”

“I’ll be right back,” I said and jogged to the car. I explained the situation to my daughter, and we obtained the scissor jack from her trunk.

Long story short – the jack barely lifted the camper. I had to strain to get it to work. Then I had to man-handle several of the lug nuts to get them off. They had obviously been put on with an air tool. Then all of them wouldn’t go back on, and I had to hand the gentleman one to have put on later. I did all this while kneeling on one of my flip-flops – in the rain; all the while knuckleheaded drivers whizzed by trying to avoid us and to pass others who were slowing down to either watch or be courteous.

When I stood up, the gentleman asked me what he owed me. I told him nothing and that I was sure someone would do the same for me someday. I put the dead tire in his truck. I cleaned up the jack and accessories, placing them in the trunk. I shook his hand and wished him well. He thanked me and then was on his way.

I was feeling pretty good as I sat down in the passenger seat of the car, except my back hurt. I thought about how our pastor had once said: “It’s okay to miss church if you are out being the church.” I was pretty pleased with myself and was wondering if this moment was a gold moment in my record. You know, the Apostle Paul said that the foundation of our Christian lives is Christ, but all that is built upon it (our actions) are wood, hay, stubble or gold, silver, or precious stones. I was jockeying for a gold moment here.

In the middle of remembering this moment from the day before, the Holy Spirit interrupted my thoughts. He tapped me on my spiritual shoulder (sometimes he thumps me in the spiritual forehead).

“Excuse me,” he said. “Weren’t you just being obedient in helping the couple? In fact, when your wife said you were a Good Samaritan, that’s what you told her.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t you agree that was a gold moment? Maybe at least it gets a silver?”

“Or maybe ‘So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

“I didn’t thank you for the opportunity, did I?”

“No.”

“Then when I thought I was being spiritual, I was really wanting extra and a pat on the back, wasn’t I?”

“Yep.”

“I was really wanting someone to notice my good deed and compliment me Matthew-chapter-five-style, wasn’t I?’

“Un-huh.”

“Man. Pride goes before a fall.”

“Yes, it does.”

“Will you forgive me for the wrong attitude I had toward helping that couple?”

“Seventy times seven.”

“Thanks, Lord for the lesson, your grace, mercy, and forgiveness.”

“Your welcome.”

“Do you still love me?”

“You have to ask?”