Thursday, December 25, 2014


Even though I have been in ministry for many years, there are still some passages that I have not really “seen” and “comprehended”. God sometimes assigns someone else to introduce me to them. One such passage I read of in Mark Batterson’s book, “In a pit with a lion on a snowy day”.
The man’s name was Benaiah, who had the honor of being David’s personal body-guard. 2 Samuel 23 describes him as being “the son of a valiant man, . . . who had done many acts, including the slaughter of two lionlike men, and slaying a lion in a pit on a snowy day. He challenged a “good” Egyptian, (apparently one who trusted more in his spear than the Lord), overpowered him with a staff, then killed him with his own spear.
Mark Batterson quotes Antoinede Saint-ExupĂ©ry before the first chapter, “You are responsible forever for what you have tamed.”
This seems to imply that if we have been given special abilities to be “of value” for our own sakes, it means we are then responsible to God to learn and discover God’s ways to conquer future giants for His glory! (Proverbs 30:22) This is especially true if we have accepted the provision of God’s love for salvation. (1 John 1:9)
Unfortunately this is impossible if we do not comprehend and follow after God’s own heart, who gave His own son on our behalf. The “heart” is the key to life, but if we do not comprehend “God’s heart”, we can easily miss vital lessons.
Unfortunately I speak best from my own experience in things like this. I was reminded of it when I picked up my diary, written in South Africa in the early 1970’s, where we pastored a church in Brakpan, Gauteng, South Africa.
More interested in the vehicle, than in wisdom at that time in my life, I decided to offer to take my wife and boys from Brakpan to the “The Bunny Park” in Benoni for a picnic, giving them a chance to see and pet the animals. I was wearing a brand new pair of cheap shoes that I had bought on a “blue-light” special for $1.77 before leaving the U.S.
Since I was getting used to the car, plus not being familiar with the spongy feel of the shoes, I ran the new vehicle into a tree! There was much more damage to my prideful heart than to the vehicle, so I had to swallow my pride, and acknowledge that I had to live with it! We drove it for nearly four years like that.
Jesus described this kind of problem as “straining at a gnat, while swallowing a camel!” By implication I personalized Proverbs 23:5 like this, “Will you set your eyes upon that which is really nothing? Apparent wealth tends to sprout wings that will enable it to fly as an eagle toward heaven.” Apparently this is the reason Jesus did not involve himself in legal cases. See Luke 12:15.
All power comes from God. A crisis with our own power, or ability to cope, gives us the opportunity to call upon God, through the provision of His great love! But, he may expect more honor from us than using a cheap pair of shoes to brag about it! No, cheap shoes weren’t the problem, but rather a cheap attitude towards a trust!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finding Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World

It is 11o F, and it is mid-November in Detroit, Michigan! My body isn’t ready for this yet! Ready or not, the cold is coming!

It is the same way with relating to others. They are either “cold or hot”. Like it or not, we cannot chose all our relationships. This means we will need to deal with the matter of forgiveness sooner or later. It was designed that way by God. Perhaps this is a significant part of relating to our Lord in a “hot or cold” way. 

This morning someone asked me, (after a disappointing experience), “How does a person have proof they have forgiven someone?” 

In answering I was reminded of the Lord's Prayer, (Luke 17:1-6), given in response to a similar question, verbalizing a need to pray more effectively, like John the Baptist's disciples had been experiencing. John the Baptist had challenged them to be authentic with their lives.

I simply quoted the Lord's Prayer, emphasizing the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, (or the evil one.)” 

We can tell if we have really forgiven another, by observing where our Heavenly Father leads after we have declared forgiveness with our mouths. He does not tempt, but may lead us into areas that are tempting. 

The prodigal, (Luke 15:17), started the road to forgiveness when he found himself coveting the material wealth his father had accumulated, rather than his father, himself. 

Unfortunately, he did it in covetousness! He eventually forgave completely when he realized that he was operating out of the vacuum and desperation of his own heart, rather than Who had made his father wealthy. When he “came to himself”, and went back home . . he found his father had changed (had he really?), and his brother needed to change as well. (Would he be willing?)

I find it fascinating to realize that the one in the more desperate situation, spiritually, is the very one who is allowed to “get by” with the unheard of, until someone more devoted is challenged with something far less significant.

Spiritual poverty is found among those closest to the Lord - that the rest of the world might believe! (These often include those who are rich in faith. This treasure of Grace is found in old clay pots, 2 Corinthians 4:7!) If Peter had not seen his own failure in the midst of his strategies, and observed Jesus healing the ear of an obedient servant of the High Priest, he would have missed another amazing proof of Who Jesus really was!

Monday, September 1, 2014


He stood tall and addressed the barber with a straight face, “I want a haircut just like my dad’s!” Dad wasn’t there, so he replied, “And what kind of haircut does your dad have?” Without hesitation he said, “He has a hole on top!”

We laugh – but it is not new. Jesus’ comment to leaders who were doing as little as possible in matters of justice, mercy and faith said, “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” Matthew 23:24 (ESV)

Their spiritual lives had a "Hole on Top".

Its just another way of describing laziness of heart and spirit.
Jesus addressed the question of our life-span in much the same way, perhaps spreading his little finger and thumb to demonstrate a cubit – which was about eighteen inches, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26 (ESV). The writer to the Proverbs said the same thing in a different way, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Proverbs 27:1 (ESV)
Thus a lazy person works harder to keep out of work, than to actually do it. It is surprising how little it takes to turn the tide. Someone, when asked about the concept, said, “Work fascinates me, I can stand and watch it for hours!” “A lazy person says, ‘There’s a lion outside! I’ll be murdered in the streets!’” Proverbs 22:17. (ESV) “In his own eyes, a slacker is wiser than seven men who can answer sensibly. Proverbs 26:16 (HCSB)
But, today I want to dig a little deeper, to share my amazement at the simplicity of what Jesus said, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 12:31-34, ESV) “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Hear this, “It is your Father’s good pleasure!” He loves this! He longs to make giving people out of us; He says to sell what we have in order to be sure that we have the medium of exchange in our hands – also described as alms – in order to turn these “things” into expressions of heartfelt provision. It can be either the actual thing or its worth.
Look at what God gives in exchange for this gesture, (which is also demonstrated in James 1:27): Moneybags that don’t get old; treasure in heaven that does not fail; a place where thieves do not approach, and where moths do not eat.
James 5 indicates that if the children of God do not treat possessions in this way, they take the witness stand against us. Funny how idols mock us like this! They “burn the flesh with fire”, which God wants to turn into the peace of His provision, by providing the needs of the heart! (James 4:3)
Note in particular, the next statement, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Verse 34) The whole point of the passage is that we turn what we have for a short time, into what will last a life-time, and eternity. This takes thinking, praying, and loving – giving it our hearts.
Here is one way that it can work – We sell something with the heart purpose of love – keeping only what such an “exchange” will bring in “buying power” for the gift of love. If circumstances control the price – you will be amazed what a small amount will buy on the recipient’s behalf - since it is all about the heart, and love.
Doing it in a spirit like this, causes an admiration and appreciation that cannot be matched anywhere!
When covetousness is our focus, it shouldn’t surprise us that the heavens take on the image of an idol to be enslaved to. But when God who created life and “all things for us to enjoy”, becomes our model and opportunity to foster faith in others, it is amazing what we will experience in our own daily lives!
The heavens declare the Glory of God, the firmament, (expanse, covering, somewhat like the silver covering of an idol), shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) As we, too, declare the Glory of God, the expanse shows His handiwork in our lives!
Heart change equals vision change. But, it is obviously more than that – Love begins to shine through as we change to this focus. Ironically I will need to “catch up to love”, but “love will also catch up with me!”
How much better to complete the work started in us by faith, thus covering our heads with Christ's "Helmet of Salvation", by having a heart of love. (Ephesians 6:17)

Monday, January 6, 2014


I’m going to stay at this until I’m done”, I promised myself, “. . . even if it takes me until 2 tomorrow morning!” True to my own heart, I did get it done! However, in the morning, I reviewed the completed project only to find two or three glaring mistakes! I groaned, “If I didn’t have the energy to complete the task, why was I given the energy to destroy it!” I knew better than complain to God, but didn’t know how to deal with my own failure, thus it ended up in a complaint anyway! Moses had this problem when he was called to set God’s people free from Egyptian bondage. (Exodus 4:10-11)

He had a “night” of forty years after the murder of an Egyptian. When morning came, it was filled with the clouds of doubt!

Quoting Lucy Maud Montgomery in “Anne of Avonlea”, the second story in the ever-popular “Anne of Green Gables” series, Russ Lawson of Daily Encourager writes, “Every day is brand new, with no mistakes.” 1

The book begins, “Anne is . . . ready to begin a new life teaching in her old school. She’s as feisty as ever and is fiercely determined to inspire young hearts with her own ambitions. But some of her pupils are as boisterous and high-spirited as Anne, and so life in her Avonlea classroom becomes a lesson in discovery and adventure.”

Insights like this in life lurk in surprising places!

I have repeatedly been delighted and surprised that such “conventional wisdom” was actually hidden in the Bible long before this inspirational statement. Delighting in God’s Word brings such things to my heart.

Here are some places I have seen it,

  1. God’s compassions are “ . . . new every morning: great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:23 NKJV)
  2. His answer is heard in the morning . . . “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.” (Psalms 5:3 NLT)
  3. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” (Psalms 5:3 NLT)
  4. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:7 NLT)
  5. He is the One that provides seed, increases resources, then brings the harvest. “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” (2 Corinthians 9:10 NLT)
  6. The morning is the product or fruit of the night before . . . the reason we are warned not to go to sleep with an angry heart. The morning represents the fruit of the previous night’s heart exercise. (Psalm 4:4) (Ephesians 4:26) Countless people have advised, “Why don’t you sleep on it?”
  7. The activities of a given day have an affect on the next. Whether we like it or not, the heart of any given day is the material God uses to create the new one. The created order itself is always perfect, even though it is dealing with “less than perfect” investments. I find it dismaying at times that the brand new cells of my body carry only the tendencies of the old. Many years ago I learned to say, “I have 220 lbs of new cells, but they all think that they’ve got to be fat like their predecessors!”
  8. The very name of the morning, is “Day”, (Genesis 1:5) This is repeated for each created day, It starts with the “heart” for the coming “day”, calling it “Evening”. The “fruit” of one’s heart is a special gift to use for each new day! (A concept God caused me to reap many years ago in what today is known as “”)
  9. Descriptive names are given to both sad and joyful experiences. Sad experiences are those that express disappointments, and Joyful experiences are those that express God’s blessing.
You may be saying, “But you have said nothing about a morning’s ‘lack of clouds’ . . . new days ‘do’ have clouds! In fact I’ve just experienced the worst possible morning ever!” The answer is rather basic: “God’s Created Order leaves us with an aching heart. But given the understanding of the Great Redemption Story it will equal ‘no clouds’ in each new day”.

Begin the day in the evening. Let your empty heart repeat the effective medicine of scripture that you keep thinking of as you go to sleep. Cry for God’s heart to be revealed to you in the morning. Frustration at night will only cloud the morning.

Embrace the day in the morning, thanking God for what appears to be a cloud! It is God who creates and sustains us. He knows we will fail. His laws are changeless. He wants to show us that clouds do not destroy the sun. The clouds caused by determination alone, mercifully protect us from ourselves until we are ready for the sun in all its glory, or we wouldn't even try! (Psalm 19:5) (2 Corinthians 12:7)