Spurs

Wednesday, Oct. 1

Yesterday I used Goethe’s statement in connection with witnessing to an unbeliever. There’s another application to make with his statement. It has to do with my relationship to a believer. I have a responsibility to a fellow believer on two counts; for his own spiritual well being and for the witness of the church. In terms of sin issues, the application is very much the same—prayer, the Holy Spirit, love, right attitude, and gentleness. Scripture gives more specific instructions on this, for example Mt. 18:15-20. But our responsibility toward a brother or sister in the Lord doesn’t stop with dealing with sin issues. We are told in Heb. 10:24 to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” This fits beautifully with Goethe’s statement. I need to consider what a fellow believer can become. His potential may be much greater than he realizes. This is especially pertinent, but not limited to, our younger believers. Advice or encouragement can be used of the Lord to strengthen the church and the impact of the church on the unbelieving world. Barnabas encouraged Paul to get involved in the church in Antioch and you know the rest of the story. And let’s not forget our own children and grandchildren. John and Charles Wesley were prepared for their future ministries by a dedicated, praying mother. D. L. Moody was challenged first by his mother, and then by a Sunday School teacher, both of whom had lasting effects on his life. We need a few more Barnabases. You could be one, you know. Why not take a look at your believing acquaintances, consider their potential and make a specific effort to nudge them to greater things?

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Handle With Care

Tuesday, Sept. 30
“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.”—Goethe. This is much like the commonly expressed statement that we love the sinner but not the sin. But Goethe’s statement seems to have an added element. Loving the sinner and hating the sin is a rational position and does not necessarily imply that we are responsible for how we treat the sinner. Goethe gets at the nature of the relationship, which is critical in our being a witness for Christ. Our secular world doesn’t call on us to reach out to sinners. It’s more “live and let live” or “I’m OK, you’re OK” Phrases such as “I’m as good as the next guy” or “Everyone’s doing it” reflects this pattern. But for the Christian, it’s not that simple. So how we respond to unbelievers is really important. I don’t want to gloss over sin an though it doesn’t matter, but on the other hand, I don’t want an unbeliever to think that he’s acceptable to God or that he will go to heaven because God loves him. He has to know he’s lost and he has to know how to be re-instated with God. This seems like a fine line to draw, but a necessary one. I’m not sure just what Goethe meant by “what you are capable of becoming,” but for me it means becoming a Christian. How I can help a person come to that life changing position is the issue, and I believe that I need the Holy Spirit’s guidance, along with a demonstrated love attitude and a good deal of gentleness. Perhaps above all else, I need to pray.

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A Lifetime Vow

Monday, Sept. 29

Ps. 23:6. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This is a fitting climax to Psalm 23. After describing in lofty terms the benefits of being cared for by the Good Shepherd, David responds. The idea that the Lord’s goodness and mercy will continue throughout his life is more than a statement of fact; it is part of the commitment he makes in the next statement. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” simply means that his choice is to never leave the presence of God. [Mere presence in a temple (or church building) is not the issue.] He is vowing to never stray away from God. This choice is the logical response to the truths he learned about God during his life. It is not only a logical commitment; it is voluntary, deliberate, resolute, and complete. You might imagine him signing a contract on the dotted line. The two statements go together. “Because God is who He is and because of the way He cares for His sheep, I choose to be a sheep throughout the rest of my days.” The “rest of the story” is that David completed his part of the contract. I think you know that God took care of his part. What an example for us! Where’s that contract? I’m ready to sign.

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Certainties and Uncertainties

Sunday, Sept. 28 “One of the certainties of life is uncertainties.”—Rob Buhl. We all would say a hearty “Amen” to that. Most of us start a day with certain goals in mind. Some of those goals are routine—going to work, cleaning the house. Some we delight in—eating out, going to a movie. Some are odious but necessary—shoveling snow, fixing a clogged drain. Some things are special—a birthday, a day at the beach. Most of us have these things in mind as we start our day Some of us are more orderly about it than others. For some there’s a meticulous regimen, a scheduled time for each event. Others take a “laissez faire” attitude. It’s the unscheduled things that bug us. They catch us by surprise. And then there are the occasional days that appear to be nothing but things that we didn’t plan for. I had a day like that this last week. I had MY goals for the day, and NONE of them were started, let alone finished. I told my wife that it was a wasted day, but as soon as I said it, I knew it was the wrong thing to say. My day is only wasted if I spend the time on selfish pleasures. I think God delights in throwing curves at us to check our attitude. How we respond to the “uncertainties” is the issue. We can accept them as opportunities or relegate them to ”wasted time.” I think I know which one God prefers. In fact, I’m certain of it.

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Losing Heart

Saturday, Sept. 27

“He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he who loses courage loses all.”—Cervantes. There’s a good deal of truth here. Courage is an interesting topic in the Bible. Joshua was instructed to be courageous as he entered the promised land. Jeremiah was on the verge of despair because no one paid any attention to his message. He lost all of his friends because of it, with the possible exception of his scribe, Baruch. God had to intervene. He provided a fire within Jeremiah that could not be quenched. Jer. 20:9. Job lost all his wealth. Then he lost his children and their spouses and a host of servants. Job was not helped by his friends who made false accusations. But Job passed the test and God blessed him with more children and greater riches than before. Job 42:12-17. Paul showed a good deal of courage throughout his first missionary trip, enduring persecution wherever he went. But there came a time in Corinth on his second trip that Paul got discouraged. God appeared to him there to tell him not to be afraid and promised to protect him. Acts 18:9. So while Cervantes’ statement is true it does not account for a loving, caring God. When one of God’s servants loses heart, God is there to meet the need. He encourages, He promises, He protects. So if you are in a “downer” right now, don’t wallow in self pity or lose hope. Call on God. He’s a short prayer away. He may change the situation as He did with Job or He may change your attitude as He did with Jeremiah and Paul.

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In the Midst of Evil

Friday, Sept. 26

Ps. 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . . .” It’s interesting that David does not suggest that God will destroy evil here. In fact, evil is on all sides. But the Good Shepherd leads the way protecting the sheep in the midst of evil. We would like to eradicate evil or at least minimizing it to some degree. We get depressed and disillusioned because evil seems to increase day by day. We can’t seem to get rid of it or keep it in check. And those who are purportedly fighting evil become a part of it. Corrupt police, politicians, military leaders, teachers. I’m not suggesting that we abandon the fight against evil, but Psalm 23 teaches us that although evil is a present reality, God will take care of His own. In addition to that, we need to make sure we don’t join the evil crowd. It is so easy to let little things slip into our lives that are not quite free from evil. It may not be big enough to be hauled into court. Perhaps it’s fudging a bit with the truth or laughing at a crude joke. As the Scripture says, “ . . .a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (1 Cor. 5:6 The context is how one person’s sin can affect many others if not dealt with. The admonition which follows is to “ get rid of the old yeast.” So before you throw the first stone at a politician or corrupt police officer, check yourself. By the way, the Bible says that evil will get worse and worse in the end days, so it should be no surprise. And we are assured that in the end evil will be swallowed up in victory and we will enter heaven where evil will be abolished.
Ps. 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . . .” It’s interesting that David does not suggest that God will destroy evil here. In fact, evil is on all sides. But the Good Shepherd leads the way protecting the sheep in the midst of evil. We would like to eradicate evil or at least minimizing it to some degree. We get depressed and disillusioned because evil seems to increase day by day. We can’t seem to get rid of it or keep it in check. And those who are purportedly fighting evil become a part of it. Corrupt police, politicians, military leaders, teachers. I’m not suggesting that we abandon the fight against evil, but Psalm 23 teaches us that although evil is a present reality, God will take care of His own. In addition to that, we need to make sure we don’t join the evil crowd. It is so easy to let little things slip into our lives that are not quite free from evil. It may not be big enough to be hauled into court. Perhaps it’s fudging a bit with the truth or laughing at a crude joke. As the Scripture says, “ . . .a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (1 Cor. 5:6 The context is how one person’s sin can affect many others if not dealt with. The admonition which follows is to “ get rid of the old yeast.” So before you throw the first stone at a politician or corrupt police officer, check yourself. By the way, the Bible says that evil will get worse and worse in the end days, so it should be no surprise. And we are assured that in the end evil will be swallowed up in victory and we will enter heaven where evil will be abolished.

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Old Dogs and New Tricks

Thursday, Sept. 25 T
his matter of meditation has become a focus for me in recent months. Some months back, I found myself unable to sleep. My mind seemed to want to keep going even though my body wanted to rest. Sometimes, I would even wake up in the middle of the night and begin to think about things. At first, this was a bit of an annoyance to me. I even took aspirin to try to get to sleep. Eventually, I realized that some of my thoughts were productive. I often got out of bed in the middle of the night to write down something that came to me, things that were meaningful enough that I wanted to make sure I still had them when morning came. I’m a slow learner, so it took a few weeks to come to the conclusion that God was at work. I finally concluded that He was trying to get through to me at night because I was too busy during the day to give Him a chance to communicate with me. Once I caught on, it entirely changed my attitude toward my night time adventures. So God took the initiative to teach me something about meditation. I now spend more time meditating on Scripture during the day time, and I just now realized that my night time meditations have tailed off a bit. Maybe I’m not too old to learn—despite being an “old dog.”

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