Stay the course, Fight the good fight…

I Tim 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith…”

Stay the course….A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into
the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule ‘braying’ — or –whatever
mules do when they fall into wells.

After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with
the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the
trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told
them what had happened…and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the
old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his
neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back…a thought
struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of
dirt landed on his back…HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP!

This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up…shake it off
and step up…shake it off and step up!” he repeated to encourage himself.

No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the
old mule fought “panic” and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING
UP!

You’re right! It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted,
STEPPED TRIUMPHANTLY OVER THE WALL OF THAT WELL! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him… All because of the manner in which he
handled his adversity. HEY THAT’S LIFE!

If we face our problems and respond to them positively and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity… THE ADVERSITIES THAT COME ALONG TO BURY US USUALLY HAVE WITHIN THEM THE POTENTIAL TO BENEFIT AND BLESS US! As our Lord states in Romans 8:28, all things truly can work together for good in our lives when we are focused on Him instead of ourselves.

Remember that FORGIVENESS–FAITH–PRAYER–PRAISE and HOPE all are
excellent ways to “SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP” out of the wells in which
we find ourselves!

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Simply put; Stay the Course and Fight the Fight for the Glory of Jesus Name!!!!!!

Showing Compassion…

Proverbs 15:1a “A soft answer turns away wrath…”

Prov 14:29 He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.

Showing Compassion…

Carl was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much. He would always greet
you with a big smile and a firm handshake. Even after living in our
neighborhood for over 50 years, no one could really say they knew him
very well.

Before his retirement, he took the bus to work each morning. The
lone sight of him walking down the street often worried us. He had a slight
limp from a bullet wound received in W.W.II. Watching him, we worried
that although he had survived W.W.II, he may not make it through our
changing uptown neighborhood with its ever-increasing random violence,
gangs, and drug activity.

When he saw the flyer at our local church asking for volunteers
for caring for the gardens behind the minister’s residence, Carl responded
in his characteristically unassuming manner. Without fanfare, he just signed up.

He was well into his 87th year when the very thing we had always
feared finally happened. He was just finishing his watering for the
day when three gang members approached him. Ignoring their attempt to
intimidate him, he simply asked, “Would you like a drink from the
hose?” The tallest and toughest-looking of the three said, “Yeah,
sure,” with a malevolent little smile. As Carl offered the hose to
him, the other two grabbed Carl’s arm, throwing him down. As the hose
snaked crazily over the ground, dousing everything in its way, Carl’s
assailants stole his retirement watch and his wallet, and then fled.

Carl tried to get himself up, but he had been thrown down on his
bad leg. He lay there trying to gather himself as the minister came
running to help him. Although the minister had witnessed the attack
from his window, he couldn’t get there fast enough to stop it. “Carl,
are you okay? Are you hurt?” the minister kept asking as he helped
Carl to his feet. Carl just passed a hand over his brow and sighed,
shaking his head.

“Just some kids. I hope they’ll wise-up someday.” His wet
clothes clung to his slight frame as he bent to pick up the hose. He adjusted
the nozzle again and started to water. Confused and a little
concerned, the minister asked, “Carl, what are you doing?” “I’ve got
to finish my watering. It’s been very dry lately,” came the calm
reply. Satisfying himself that Carl really was all right, the minister
could only marvel. Carl was a man from a different time and place.

A few weeks later the three returned. Just as before their
threat was unchallenged. Carl again offered them a drink from his hose. This time
they didn’t rob him. They wrenched the hose from his hand and drenched
him head to foot in the icy water. When they had finished their
humiliation of him, they sauntered off down the street, throwing
catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing at the
hilarity of what they had just done.

Carl just watched them. Then he turned toward the warmth giving
sun, picked up his hose, and went on with his watering. The summer was
quickly fading into fall. Carl was doing some tilling when he was
startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him.

He stumbled and fell into some evergreen branches. As he
struggled to regain his footing, he turned to see the tall leader of his summer
tormentors reaching down for him. He braced himself for the expected attack.

“Don’t worry old man, I’m not gonna hurt you this time.” The
young man spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl.

As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket
and handed it to Carl.

“What’s this?” Carl asked. “It’s your stuff,” the man explained.
“It’s your stuff back.  Even the money in your wallet.” “I don’t understand,”
Carl said. “Why would you help me now?”

The man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at ease.
“I learned something from you,” he said. “I ran with that gang and hurt
people like you. We picked you because you were old and we knew we
could do it. But every time we came and did something to you, instead
of yelling and fighting back, you tried to give us a drink. You didn’t
hate us for hating you. You kept showing love against our hate.” He
stopped for a moment. “I couldn’t sleep after we stole your stuff, so
here it is back.” He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing
what more there was to say. “That bag’s my way of saying thanks for
straightening me out, I guess.” And with that, he walked off down the street.

Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened
it. He took out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening
his wallet, he checked for his wedding photo. He gazed for a moment at
the young bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.

He died one cold day after Christmas that winter. Many people
attended his funeral in spite of the weather. In particular the minister
noticed a tall young man that he didn’t know sitting quietly in a
distant corner of the church. The minister spoke of Carl’s garden as a
lesson in life. In a voice made thick with unshed tears, he said, “Do your

best and make your garden as beautiful as you can. We will never forget

Carl and his garden.”

The following spring another flyer went up. It read: “Person
needed to care for Carl’s garden.” The flyer went unnoticed by the busy
parishioners until one day when a knock was heard at the minister’s
office door. Opening the door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and
tattooed hands holding the flyer. “I believe this is my job, if you’ll
have me,” the young man said.

The minister recognized him as the same young man who had
returned the stolen watch and wallet to Carl. He knew that Carl’s kindness

had turned this man’s life around. As the minister handed him the keys to
the garden shed, he said, “Yes, go take care of Carl’s garden and honor him.”

The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended
the flowers and vegetables just as Carl had done. In that time, he went to
college, got married, and became a prominent member of the community.
But he never forgot his promise to Carl’s memory and kept the garden
as beautiful as he thought Carl would have kept it.

One day he approached the new minister and told him that he
couldn’t care for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy
smile, “My wife just had a baby boy last night, and she’s bringing him
home on Saturday.”

“Well, congratulations!” said the minister, as he was handed
the garden shed keys. “That’s wonderful! What’s the baby’s name?”

“Carl,” he replied.

Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”

The dEVIL’S BEATITUDES…

I Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as
a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.

T H E d E V I L ‘ S B E A T I T U D E S….

If the devil were to write his Beatitudes, they would probably go
something like this:

* Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend
time each day in prayer and Bible study ~ they are my best workers.

* Blessed are those who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked. I can
use them.

* Blessed are the touchy and led by emotions, they can be my missionaries.

* Blessed are those who are very religious but get on everyone’s nerves.
They are mine forever.

*Blessed are the troublemakers. They shall be called my children.

* Blessed are those who have no time to pray. They are easy prey for me.

* Blessed are the gossipers ~ for they are my secret agents.

* Blessed are those critical of Church leadership and other believers ~
for they shall inherit a place with me in my fate.

* Blessed are the complainers. I’m all ears for them.

* Blessed are you when you read this and think it is about other people
and not yourself. You are well on your way to being mine.

James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore unto God, resist the devil, and
he will flee from you.”

The Clock and Worry…

Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

The Clock and Worry…

The clock had ticked for many years. Two ticks per second every day, 120 ticks a minute, 7,200 ticks an hour, 172,000 ticks per day, 1,209,600 ticks per week and 62,000,000 ticks a year.

One day the clock started to worry about its responsibilities. All those ticks it had to tick. The clock started to cry and promptly had a nervous breakdown.

The sick clock went to a clock physiatrist and explained its troubles.

“All those ticks”, he said, “I don’t see how I can stand it?”

The psychiatrist said, “Wait a minute, how many ticks must you tick at a time?”

“Oh, I just tick one tick at a time”, said the clock.

“Well”, the doctor said, “Just go home and think about ticking only one tick and until you have ticked that tick don’t think about ticking the next tick”

And so the clock went home and ticked its way into oblivion.

The element missing in this short story that is vital to our lives is the element of giving thanks as noted in Philippians 4:6. Praise overcomes worry when we develop its attitude in our lives. Think about what happens when your mind is occupied with giving thanks vs. worrying.

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Of course, to have this type of peace you must first have a relationship with the peace giver.

Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” Jesus, name above all names!!!!!!!!!!

Handling Suffering as a Christian…

James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 4:13-15 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Handling Suffering as a Christian

The title of today’s challenge sounds a bit strange. And if you are not a ‘born again’ Christian you have no chance of understanding and accepting it. We live in a world where many teach that health, wealth, prosperity and the total absence of suffering brings fulfillment. And of course, our human nature totally agrees with that thought. There are even teachers professing to be ‘born again’ that teach the same. They teach that to experience otherwise reflects a weak faith or sin. While it can be a result of sin the scriptures never proclaim that if we suffer for the gospels sake it is a lack of faith. Actually, it is just the opposite.

When we are drawn to Jesus as our Savior and we dig into His word to find meaning for our lives and we hear that, “”Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Wow, that stops us dead in our tracks. Many, who never study and never grow from the milk of God’s word to being able to handle the meat of God’s word never even address this question.

Can it really be true? If I am to live for my Savior who died for me can I expect some level of persecution? The answer from scripture is a loud yes. If the world disliked and even hated Jesus and we profess what He professed then the world will not like us either. That’s a tough one to swallow. Like you my flesh prefers that people would like me. And what if I am experiencing zero persecution. Does that mean my spiritual priorities are not correct? Yes, that could be the case. Ouch! We can only know that by asking God to answer that question and then we must do something contrary to our human will. We must truly be open to the answer. Remember the answers to prayer are yes, no and wait. Yes, is not the only option God has. When I hear no or wait it does not mean that God did not answer my prayer.

There are promises in the word of God that don’t seem much like promises to many believers. Persecution is one of them. Scripture proclaims that all whose purpose of heart is to live godly lives in this present world shall (certainly) suffer persecution, as did their Lord. Maybe we contemplate such verses and think they should say something like, “And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall be appreciated for their goodness and rewarded with approval, good health and fortune while in this world.”

The Holy Spirit through Paul said to the Philippians, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” We probably would be more comfortable if that were to read, “For unto you it is given…not only to believe on him, but also to be blessed with health, wealth and prosperity.” But it doesn’t say that. Reading and allowing the Word of God to change our lives are two entirely different things. Are you a reader only? Ouch, another convicting question.

So why would I want to be open to persecution??? As noted in James we are in this life but for a short time. Our lives are but a vapor that comes and disappears quickly. Our time to serve our Lord is short. This time on earth is but a grain of sand on the beach in comparison to eternity. And if you are a believer you will spend eternity with God. There is also a judgment seat or awards ceremony for believers. The judgment seat is not to judge our sins that Jesus took care of but to award us for services rendered while on this earth. I would rather hear, ‘well done’, than to hear how I missed the prize or to hear a silence because of lack of commitment on my part while on this earth.

We are to serve out of obedience. Disobedience is viewed by God as a tragic sin. Check it out over and over in scripture in both the OT and the NT. God never accepts disobedience. Our sins are washed away by Jesus blood so my salvation is secure. While works cannot save us they are very important after being ‘born again’. Serving Jesus while on this earth is now or should now be my focus! And when done correctly it will bring some level of persecution.

Remember persecution comes in many different ways including verbal, lost friendships, physical punishment, lost job opportunities, etc. In America at least for now the verbal, peer pressure and life style issues are the greatest persecution we see. So maybe all is not lost with that slap in the face that you just received, literal or figurative. Pray and think before you allow your fleshly frustration to take over. It may be that you are doing exactly what you should be for His glory!!!!!

Romans 12:1, 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Ways of Mankind are…

The ways of Mankind are….

Heb 12:2a “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith…”

A Buzzard

If you put a buzzard in a pen six or eight feet square and entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of his ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of ten or twelve feet. Without space to run, as is his habit, he will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

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A Bat

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkably nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off.

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A Bee

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

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In many ways, there are lots of people like the buzzard, the bat, and the bee. They are struggling about with all their problems and frustrations, not realizing that the answer is right there “above” them. Without Jesus as their Lord and Savior they only have themselves and the world around them to control their destiny. What an awful predicament!!!!

Prov 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

Don’t be like the creatures and people who cannot see the forestry for the trees.

Heb 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.”

 John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 3:3-5 “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

The Importance of Israel…

The Importance of Israel….

Is our nation’s support of Israel important? As with all of the important questions in our lives the word of God holds the answers. You do not have to depend on the feelings and emotions of our world. So, listen carefully. Much depends on it.

Zechariah 14:12 “Now this will be the plaque with which the Lord will
strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their
flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their sockets, and
their tongue will rot in their mouth.”

God has a special place in His heart for the Jewish people.

Exodus 6:7 “Then I will take you (Jewish Nation) for My people, and I
will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who
brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will
bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.”

Some say, well yes but that was in the Old Testament. How about today?
The scriptures proclaim that because of sin the Jewish people lost their
promised land and were scattered throughout the nations. They also
proclaim that God will restore them to their land in New Testament times.

In 1948 Israel once again became a nation recognized as such and the
struggle to survive continues.

Jeremiah 3:3 “For, behold, days are coming, ‘declares the Lord, when I
will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah (OT Northern &
Southern Kingdoms)’. The Lord says, ‘I will also bring them back to the
land that I gave to their forefathers, and they shall possess it.'”

The caution for us……..

Gen 12:3 “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses
you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

But how about the Gentiles? Does that mean we cannot be a part of God’s family?

Fortunately no, it does not mean that. When Jesus came the first time He died, was buriedand rose again so that all of mankind has the opportunity to be a part of His Church and family by placing their faith in His sacrifice for our sins. The following verse is just one of many in the scriptures talking about the gospel going to both Gentiles and Jews.

Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel: