The BEST Quartet EVER!

Football fans from a few decades ago definitely would’ve given this title to the “Steel Curtain” (defensive line) of the 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers.  My dad and uncles would’ve given it to The Statler Brothers.  But, believe it or not, there’s an even better one.

I was watching a condensed replay of yesterday’s Washington-Atlanta NFL game and with 12:12 to go in the 3rd Quarter, the former’s quarterback Sam Howell dropped back to throw a screen pass to their (really good, with an even better personal story) starting running back Brian Robinson, Jr. (after winning the College National Champioinship twice at Alabama, he was drafted last year and promptly proceeded to get shot twice during an armed robbery before last season started and not only survived, not only was able to walk, but was back on the field playing pro football just six weeks later).

Just one “problem”:  after running forward a few steps as though the ball had been handed off to him, he made a sharp pivot to the right and ran smack-dab into his own Right Guard whom a Falcons defensive lineman was strongly pushing into the backfield, stopping the running back in his tracks for a second or two (the NFL won’t let the video be shown on an outside website but you can watch it on YouTube if desired by clicking here and going to the 6:20 mark of that 12-minute video).  I purposely put “problem” in quotes because, as it turned out, that slight delay worked perfectly as it spaced out the defense so as to give the quarterback a clear and easy passing lane, then the running back scampered straight into the end zone for a touchdown which ended up sealing the warmly-welcomed win for Washington.

What a great, real-life illustration of Romans 8:28!  Which communicates a crystal clear conclusion:  that there are no problems in life, because things which seem  to be such are actually intended by God to accomplish massive good  in our lives.  Which is why He rightly commands us not only to give thanks “in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) but to give thanks “FOR everything” (Ephesians 5:20).

Over the years, throughout my entire life, I’ve heard countless preachers and teachers say that God will “work out” all things for our good, for our eternal benefit, but the Bible actually goes even further than that by making clear that the “problem” or “challenge” or “trial” ITSELF is GOOD.  Because it’s by and from God Himself, borne of His loving sovereignty for our benefit and building up, if we simply LET IT.

All of this is why He also rightly commands us to “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (i.e., complaining) (Philippians 2:14), which is the other side of the “always give thanks” coin.

Yep, Romans 8:28, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20 and Philippians 2:14 are by farthe BEST quartet I’ve ever heard!

(The Statler Brothers would be a distant but strong second, here’s why, enjoy!)

(And if you can answer “yes” to this musical question…)

(… this is what you can look forward to!)

 

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Better Never Than Late?

A post published probably a year or more ago proclaimed “Timing is EVERYTHING!”

And a very recent post properly pointed to a certain politician (who’ll go unnamed in this post since I plan on preserving this place as predominantly politics-free) who announced a bid for president but chose to employ “NO DE-FENSE”.  He just let his main opponent keep punching him in the press and online without even so much as a peep.

He must’ve read that particular post (Pence, too, apparently) because just a day or few later he finally started to “put up his fists” and even “punch back” (offense… such as it is… let’s call it attempted  offense).

But in my humble view, because his timing was so off, so backwards, so out of order and out of line  with the Bible’s principles as put forth in that prior post, his recent change of heart/mind/strategy has come across as political (and perhaps personal) desperation, not strength.  A lot of people clearly agree with me since his poll numbers keep dropping… like I said in that post, that’s exactly what’s expected when one unwisely walks without any “armor” or “defense” (Ephesians 6:10-17).

In this case, it definitely would’ve been better never than late, because the inexplicable delay has actually made his situation even worse.

The point of this post isn’t primarily about politics or him personally but rather it’s for you and me, a reminder of the importance of timing in our decision-making and action-taking.

  • “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice EARLY IN THE MORNING [TIMING!], it will be reckoned [counted as] a CURSE to him.” (Proverbs 27:14, emphasis added)
  • “Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, is he who sings songs TO A TROUBLED HEART [i.e., WHEN a heart is troubled… TIMING!]” (Proverbs 25:20, emphasis added)

In other words, timing is SO important, so powerful, that it can single-handedly take what would otherwise  be a good thing and turn it into a bad thing, can all by itself take what would otherwise  have been a blessing and turn it into a curse.  Very powerful principle!

While we would be wise to regularly pray for him and others in positions of political power (1 Timothy 2:1-2), let’s also turn his lemons into biblical lemonade (James 1) which we will hopefully share with others along the way.

Amazing how the answers and solutions and wisdom for everything, even politics, are all right there in the Bible!  It truly is the “user manual” for life.

 

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Go Further

I’m rarely surprised by anything anymore, but one exception has been a handful of times when someone didn’t realize how much I (agape) loved and cared about them.

Despite how kind and encouraging I was toward them, the fact is that a certain percentage of people are so focused on what’s in their  head and heart that they can’t see what’s in yours or mine or other people’s.

When I realized this those handful of times over the years, I learned a great lesson:  that the key, the answer, the solution is to go further.

However loving and kind and caring you’ve been, seek to double or triple that, and, like me, I’m pretty sure you’ll find that this will open their eyes and they will at long last see that they are truly loved and valued.  It shouldn’t take 200% or 300%… but it often does.  And it’s totally worth it.  Priceless.  It can literally change a person’s life.

I think that this is what the Lord Jesus meant when He said to “go the extra mile” (Matthew 5:41).

In other words, GO FURTHER!  Do even more than what’s “required”.

And what the beloved Apostle Paul meant when he said to “excel still more” (1 Thessalonians 4:10).

In other words, GO FURTHER!  Do even more than you already are in terms of loving Him and others.

This perspective and practice has produced plenty of significant spiritual and relational results in my life and I’m certain it will do likewise in yours!

 

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Fall

No, I’m not talking about the change of season, beautiful as that’s always been to behold.  Nor Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury, sad as that physical fall was to watch and which is still echoing throughout the throngs of football fans across the nation and especially the New York/Jersey area.

I’m talking about the massive increase – both quantitative and qualitative – in how a horde of highly-esteemed people have experienced a jaw-dropping reversal of fortune (seemingly overnight in some cases) in just the past handful of years, a trend definitely worth keeping an eye on and which likely has a correlation to “end times” truth (eschatology, based on James 1, more about this in a future post) – here’s a quick list just off the top of my head, which touches virtually every significant segment of society:

Sports:  Zion Williamson

Entertainment/Hollywood/Media:  Matt Lauer, Brian Williams, Chris Matthews (what’s in the water at NBC?), Leslie Moonves, Kevin Spacey and extremely recently Danny Masterson, Ed Henry, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly (what’s in the water at Fox News???), Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein (again, just a partial list from the top of my head)

Law:  Lyn Wood, Robert Mueller, Sydney Powell, and while Rusty Hardin is legitimately a living legal legend, his prosecutorial performance in the Paxton impeachment proceedings left much to be desired or admired, he seemed but a shadow of his usual (past?) self and was overwhelmingly outdone by Tony Buzbee and the defense side of the aisle

Politics:  the aforementioned Ken Paxton, Donald Trump, Andrew Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani (what’s in the water in New York?????) and too many others to list but you get the point:  people who previously, until just a year or few ago, were wildly well-perceived  have quickly fallen to the opposite end of that spectrum and are now near-universally despised, mocked, ridiculed, shunned, and/or under the heavy boot of dogged pursuit by law enforcement.

The point and purpose of this post is not to perpetually punish these publicly-pummeled people (I’m pretty sure that I’m far worse a person and bigger a sinner than they) who’ve already been badly bruised and battered, but rather to simply point out that it’s unfettered folly to put one’s total trust or reliance or confidence in any  mere mortal, since ONLY ONE person who will never, ever fail or even disappoint!

  • “Whoever believes in Him WILL NOT be disappointed” (Romans 10:11)
  • “he who believes in Him WILL NOT be disappointed” (1 Peter 2:6)

We hear and see so much fanfare and hype and hoopla about countless people in the public eye, a seemingly never-ending list and I’m happy for each and every one but it’s sort of bittersweet in that any  glory or praise or credit is rarely ever publicly poured out to the One who is so precious and priceless and peerless and actually deserves and merits such!  Michael Jordan was a phenomenal basketball player… but could he ever in a trillion years even come close  to comparing to Him who walked on water or turned it into wine?  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were phenomenal presidents and leaders, but could either even come close  to comparing to Him who took every single sin of humanity – past, present, and future – and placed it squarely on Himself, “in His body” (1 Peter 2:24) thus making salvation and an eternity in Heaven available to all people (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16) by conquering and vanquishing the power of death and the sway sin had held over us and therefore freeing us from the future horror of Hell?

Next time (and all subsequent) we hear someone celebrating a mere mortal, let’s at least keep in mind  the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Philippians 2:9-11, 3:20-21; Colossians 1:13-19) and preferably say something  aloud so others can partake of this proper perspective:  there’s none who can compare to Christ… if you want to never be disappointed, simply put your faith and trust and reliance and dependence in and on Him!

 

(Speaking of sports, if you’d like to be my teammate in the historic event unfolding in real-time at BibleMemory.ORG, here are three great ways to do so!)

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Teammates

With the NFL season almost upon us, I recently took a tidbit of time to check out the trades and other roster changes (retirements, free agents, etc.) for several teams and on one of the sports news websites it highlighted the New England Patriots’ record during and after their Tom Brady era.  As I’m sure many of you could already guess, the numbers, the difference was stark.  Night and day.

And that stat blurb immediately brought to mind the fact that, while I fully agree that the newly-retired (for good, this time, I think) (much to the relief of all competing teams) “Tom Terrific” was just that, what’s usually overlooked is another fact:  that the team also had one of the best offensive linemen/lines, who provided him with the time needed to drop back and make so many good passes.  And oh by the way, as excellent a quarterback as he way, someone had to actually catch those rockets, and without them, too, he would likely have been just an above-average quarterback.

And what about the phenomenal kickoff and punt returners who consistently gave him great field position, making those many touchdowns more probable?

In other words, teammates matter.

And that’s exactly how it is in the Christian life!

Our teammates, our fellow believers, have a lot to do with whatever ground we gain.

Their prayers.  Their encouragement and kindness and love.  Their good advice and sermons and sharings from the perfect  Book.  (I’ve never found the phrase “the good book” to quite satisfy.)

Yes indeed, to the extent that I gain ground at all and achieve greatness of any kind, on any level, you can be 100% sure that many, many, many people God has placed in and throughout my life will have had a lot to do with that.  While I’ll keep the primary focus of myself and this website right where it belongs, on the Lord Jesus Christ, under that umbrella I’m greatly looking forward to telling you about some of these people from my past and present and no doubt future.  But for now it will suffice to wrap up this particular post with two takeaways.

To value and respect and deeply appreciate and thank God (and them) for our teammates’ roles in our lives.  And to be continually grateful and humbled by the fact that, even infinitely greater than the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, we have such a perfect and perfectly patient and faithful and forgiving and loving and all-knowing Coach to guide us  through the game of life, to eternal victory.

And speaking of teammates, if you’d like to be MY teammate in this historic event unfolding in real-time at BibleMemory.ORG, here are three great ways to do so!

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No Idols

Harkening back to a common high school cheer at football and basketball games… “I say ‘No idols’, you say ‘No duh’, no idols, no duh, no idols, no duh…”  But perhaps this topic isn’t so cut-and-dry, because it has become more and more obvious in recent years that, in practice, in essence, certain things have become an obsession at least and I would strongly argue that they’ve become idols  especially in the New Testament sense of that word.  Meaning that while people generally don’t carve pieces of wood or melt and mold metal to look like a football or basketball or baseball or (especially? 🙂 ) golf ball or hockey puck or their favorite celebrity or, the most recent addition to the list, politician or political party, while they don’t go to that extreme as was common in Old Testament times a handful of millennia ago, it’s clear to me that the practice of idolatry is even far more widespread and rampant nowadays, though the main manifestation is mental, not physical like a statue or golden calf.  Intangible rather than tangible.  In our minds rather than on our mantels.

This is exactly why the disciple-turned-Apostle “whom Jesus loved”, John, saw fit (as did the superintending Holy Spirit) to end his first Epistle with these words of warning:  to guard ourselves from the devil? from demons? from false teachers?  No, he ends that blessed book by writing, “guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)

While a statue or metallic calf can be an idol even today, the broader and best definition of an idol is this:  anything which takes precedence over the Lord in our lives, in our day-to-day living.  In how we spend time or money, in our thoughts, in our emotions and affections, in our words and actions… if the Lord doesn’t maintain “first place” in any of those, the thing or person which does has become an idol, and must be dethroned.  Immediately.  Because the only entity able to duly and rightfully occupy that position is the Lord.

  • “And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; SO THAT He Himself will come to have FIRST PLACE in EVERYTHING.” (Colossians 1:15-18, emphasis added)
  • “… He who is the blessed and ONLY Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who ALONE possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light…” (1 Timothy 6:15b-16a)

There are, of course, countless other passages of Scripture but either one of these is fully sufficient for us to know beyond any doubt at all Who – and Who alone – should be and remain first and foremost in our lives.  [While exceedingly generous, He is rightly and wholly (and holy 🙂 ) unwilling to share (even any part  of) that place of preeminence, as James 4:5 makes crystal clear:  “… He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us.”  So much so that verse 4 states that merely wanting  to be a friend of the world (system) makes oneself an enemy  of God.]

Let’s bring this full circle.

A new football season is upon us.  Many will be tempted to take time away from, say, going to church for the next many Sunday mornings and stay home to watch the football games and pre-shows instead.

And the Senate and House of Congress are coming back from their (main 🙂 ) summer recess (they have several) to a huge stack of major to-dos just waiting for them, such as:  avoiding (or causing) a government shutdown by passing (or blocking) the dozen required spending bills for the next fiscal year which begins on October 1; authorizing (or not) another $24 billion for the Ukraine-Russia war and the recent Florida hurricane and Hawaii wildfire; and last but definitely not least, the unofficial kickoff of a different kind, of the 2024 U.S. Presidential primary and general election season; among others… like I said, a huge  stack of to-dos.  All  of which are sure to be fraught with fierce fighting and forceful partisanship which will surely and sorely tempt many people (even Christians) (especially  Christians? 🙂 ) to jump headfirst into the fray to the extent that they spend more of their (God-given) time and thoughts and emotions and even money on politics than they do on God, on the Lord, on the Bible and other things pertaining to Him and His Kingdom.

Autumn has also always been the most romantic time of the year in my view, a sense surely shared by many, who will undoubtedly soon find themselves in a new (or current) relationship which constantly competes with the Lord for “first place” in their hearts and minds and, therefore, time and money.

My humble yet super-strong encouragement to you, and God’s to us in 1 John 5:21, is to NOT let that happen.  Not to avoid getting involved in the brand-new football season or politics or romance, but rather to avoid letting any of those – or anything else – take more of our time or money or emotions or affections or (especially) thoughts than what we give to the Lord.

I grew up in a, well, let’s just say financially-challenged (pastor’s) home (thankfully, the Lord has used those times of struggle in many, many great ways throughout my adult life, and besides, what we lacked in money, my parents more than made up for in love and affection and total acceptance and constant praise, which are far more important and valuable and fruitful to boot) so we were limited to just one main “family gift” each Christmas and the one when I was in 8th grade happened to be the hot, new, must-have (and thoroughly entertaining, potentially addictive) TV gaming system.  My siblings and I couldn’t wait – and definitely didn’t  wait – to start playing the handful of different games (cartridges) which came with the console.

And playing.  And playing.  And playing.

All through that night (we were one of those families that always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, after the church service) and all Christmas Day, and all Christmas night  and into the morning of the 26th, we played those games.  And I can remember it now as though it were just yesterday, my dad’s walking into our family/TV room and lovingly telling us this word of wisdom:  referring to earthly possessions, he said, “Always control them, never let them  control you!”

He didn’t specify it but in effect he was telling us children what 1 John 5:21 tells everyone:  “guard yourselves from idols.”

I hope this will be a big blessing and help to you as this month of September and its various “seasons” kick off in earnest!

 

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No Defense

The looming football season brings this thought with it:  while the offense tends to get the vast majority of the glory and headlines and fans, it’s primarily the defense that wins games and especially championships.

Because if a team can’t keep the opponent from scoring touchdown after touchdown after touchdown, it will lose.  Even if it has a great offense.

This truth also extends to politics.  Exhibit A:  for the first five months of this year, fresh on the heels of a massive, historic, landslide statewide victory in Florida last November, Governor DeSantis was flying high and looking like a billion bucks politically and electorally, and immediately made it obvious that he intended to enter the fray and throw his hat into the ring to be the 2024 GOP presidential nominee.  I watched all of that play out real-time and very vividly recall what I thought when he started getting “punched” by his looming primary opponent, with whom he was sometimes tied but usually a bit behind in the very early polling but only by a little bit.

Until it happened.

Until those punches came and he failed to defend himself.  At all.

NO DEFENSE.

I remember the first time or two thinking to myself, “He’ll push back, he’ll reply with an effective retort or unquestionable data or demonstration of strength” since he had so much of it politically at the time… but NOPE!

Instead, he just kept taking punches.  One after another after another.  Without even so much (er, so little) as lifting his hands to, in boxing lingo, shield and protect his head from the brutal, battering blows.

The point of this post is NOT AT ALL whether or not he should’ve entered that race in the first place or, subsequently, whether or not said punches should’ve been thrown by his opponent.  The point IS that said punches were  thrown yet he mustered NO DEFENSE.

While perpetually and sometimes painfully proven to be true in sports and politics (and business, and even driving a car… the list is long), did you know that this is even truer in the Christian life?  Our personal, individual role is, by divine design, one of defense, not offense.

The Bible makes this conclusion crystal clear in 1 Peter 5:8-10 – “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But RESIST him [i.e., “DE-FENSE!”], firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.  And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, WILL HIMSELF perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. [i.e., OFFENSE!]” (emphasis added)

Note that it tells us to “resist” the devil, not  to fight him (and 2 Peter 2:10-12 and Jude 8-10 say this even more explicitly); to be “sober”, not “angry” or “aggressive”; to “be on the alert”, not  on the attack; to “resist” and stand “firm”, not  to follow or pursue or chase after our adversary.  Why?  Simple:  because God’s design is for us to focus on defense and to let Him  take care of the offense:  He “WILL (not might) HIMSELF (not anyone else, including ourselves)” fulfill any and all “offense” He desires to be demonstrated or displayed in us.  (Notably, the Apostle Paul perfectly echoes this in Romans 12:19 (emphasis added) – “NEVER take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of GOD, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is MINE, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  OUR role = DEFENSE; GOD’S role = OFFENSE.  We are never to be defensive, but always to be on defense.)

And the Bible makes this truth, this concept, this perspective, this design equally clear in Ephesians 6:17 – “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

There have been a number of headline-grabbing mass killings in the past year alone… how many were carried out using a helmet?

Exactly.  None, zero, zilch.  Because a helmet is obviously an item intended and designed for defense, not offense.  (Even the players on offense use helmets to DEFEND their head, their brain, NOT to injure anyone.)

But equally interesting and illuminating in that verse is how the word “sword” is used.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, DJ Bible!  Unlike a helmet, a sword is an item intended for offense, to injure and even kill others!”  But it’s always a wise and good idea to look beneath the surface when it comes to Scripture, when reading the Bible (i.e., which is why I often say that studying the Bible is even better than just reading it, just as memorizing the Bible is even better than just studying it since the former is far more conducive to full and unhindered meditation than is the latter), and that’s totally true for Ephesians 6:17 because the word commonly translated as “sword” actually refers to a “dirk”, a “dagger”, i.e., a “short knife”.  Like this one:

Due to its length (lack thereof) it’s obviously intended for defense, not offense.  For warding off  attackers, clearly not  for going on the attack.

We’ve all heard the phrase “Bible thumpers”.  It refers to people who “preach” and personally pontificate toward others (i.e., more at  than to).  But the thing the Bible was primarily written to “thump” is oneself, one’s own  sin nature as it lurks in one’s heart and mind and soul.  (And only secondarily  to teach other people, and those who engage in the latter are strongly warned by God to do so in utter humility and after  much self-reflection and especially application/obedience, per James 1:19-27 and 3:1 and 2 Timothy 2:15.)

You see, God’s design is that we focus on defense while letting Him totally take care of the offense.  In football terms, the Lord is both Head Coach and  Offensive Coordinator, He perfectly fulfills both roles.  Much as He does Judge (2 Timothy 4:8and  Criminal Defense Attorney (the “advocate” of 1 John 2:1).  At least initially, Peter was focused on or characterized by offense, John by a proper perspective primarily pointed toward defense.  Martha mainly played offense while Mary opted more for the “defense”-oriented qualities of love and affection and humility and worship.

I’ll elaborate in a future post (or, more likely, series) but anxiety is caused in a person’s mind and spirit and body and life when he or she tries to go on offense versus staying on “defense” and learning to love the latter and let the Lord handle the former.  (Here’s a preview:  note that the above-referenced 1 Peter 5:8-10 immediately followsverse 7. which, along along with Philippians 4:6-7, “just happens” to be THE FOREMOST verse about anxiety  in the entire Bible!  Not a coincidence, not a fluke… stay tuned, much much much more to come on this, which will absolutely transform your life.)

I don’t think I’ve ever used a movie clip on this website but I’m going to do so because (a) I liked the film “The Apostle” in how it was so focused on showing the mass public Bible verses and worship and church and how, after every Hollywood studio turned him down, Robert Duvall funded and directed it himself, and (b) the following clip drives home the point of this particular post perfectly and succinctly, so without further ado I’ll leave you with this encouragement in how to primarily conduct your daily living out of the Bible:

Defense, not offense.  ”Dagger”, not “sword”.  God, not ourselves!

 

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No Deadlines

As you’ve probably noticed, this website focuses almost entirely on the Bible and Person of our wonderful Lord and Savior and faithful friend, Jesus Christ.  In fact, pretty much the only time I mention anything else is when such serves to illustrate or explain an aspect  of the Lord or the Bible or life.  And it’s in this spirit and for this purpose that this post points out a political reality mainly of more modern times:  how Congress keeps “blowing right through” and pushing out deadlines as though they don’t even exist in the first place.

Practically E-V-E-R-Y time anymore.

They have months or, in the current case for example, a whole year  to pass the twelve spending bills which will fund the following fiscal year, yet they always seem to beg the public’s pardon and plead for “more time” to address a matter even though  they had a massive  amount of time to do so in the many months preceding!  It’s such a simple concept yet Congress can’t seem to carry it out.

The point of this particular post is not  to discuss the virtue or vice of government shutdowns but rather to emphasize the importance of what the Bible teaches about time management (Ephesians 5:16) and planning AHEAD (Noah and the ark, or the Apostle Paul as so perfectly pointed out in passages like Romans 15:24-26 and 2 Timothy 4:9-13) versus procrastinating and perennially pushing out one deadline after another (or as Congress calls it, keep “kicking the can” down the road – a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot in the news over the coming weeks and, if recent history is any indication, months).

It’s probably not a popular perspective these days but I have always and continue to respect this nation’s elected officials.  Not all, but the vast majority – many of whom I’ve met personally, firsthand, over the years and find to be good and decent individuals who have a good heart and really want to do the right, responsible thing in any given situation but are often strong-armed (or, in some cases, properly persuaded) by their party or leadership (they don’t call it “whipping” the vote for nothing!) or donors or consultants into casting a certain vote or taking a specific position… but certainly in terms of consequentiality, is there anyone in the country who needs to heed Ephesians 5:16 more than Congress?  So consider this not a criticism but rather a collective cry from the citizenry for them to stop procrastinating so stunningly and instead to start doing the legislative work necessary to honor deadlines, not disregard them as in recent years.  [The next task will be to get them to stop linking bad  bills to good  ones in an attempt to force (blackmail, extort, cajole) members of their own party who have a different view or priorities, but that’s another topic for another day.]

Amazing how everything – even politics – always comes down and back to the Bible!  How it holds the answer to every question, the solution to every problem.  Which is why I like to say about its various verses and wondrously wise words:  we can “read ’em and weep OR heed ’em and leap!”

 

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One Spirit

In a previously-published post, I pointed to what I see as one of the most concerning things in the current Christian community and overall society, and that is a lack of discernment with the cited Bible verse of 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

In the August 2023 issue of the Grace To You monthly newsletter, John MacArthur (that’s his Bible-teaching ministry which is closely aligned with Grace Community Church in North Hollywood, California, where he has been the Senior Pastor since 1969) points to what he sees as one of the most concerning things in the current Christian community and overall society:  yep, you guessed it, a lack of discernment.  And he too keys on 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

One might very well conclude that he had read my post (published 18 months prior) but I don’t think so; rather, the explanation is far more likely this:  that the same Holy Spirit who indwells and fills and teaches me is the exact same Holy Spirit who indwells and fills and teaches him!  So of course  there will be many times that two Christians are going to come to the exact same conclusion and even use the exact same phrases in communicating such to others.  Ironically, given his huge platform, this usually works in the reverse direction regarding John MacArthur, i.e., it’s usually other pastors who preach the exact same passages of Scripture and utilize the exact same language as he had previously – same Spirit, same Teacher (1 John 2:27).

In fact, while I got a kick out of seeing my post of well over a year ago reappearing – pretty much verbatim in some parts – in the current Grace To You newsletter, what I find even more amazing, truly, is this:  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve prayed and shared my heart with the Lord, often on a Saturday evening, and the very next morning  heard a preacher on TV or the radio or the internet lead the congregation in prayer and say the exact same words  which I had prayed the night before!  This often occurs with John MacArthur’s Sunday morning prayers but many other preachers, too, so it certainly can’t be a phenomenon of human origin or explanation, it must be spiritual.  It must be the fact that ONE Spirit teaches and guides and prepares our hearts and minds.

I’ll just finish this post, aptly, by saying that the most unifying entity alive and active in the world should never, ever, ever be or have been allowed by us to become arguably the most divisive, today and indeed for the past 50+ years.  The Holy Spirit is all about love and peace and unity, so it’s obviously not His fault, it’s ours, it’s the current Church’s failure but one of my motivations to dedicating my life to this historic effort of memorzing the ENTIRE Bible and then reciting it back to the Lord as a love gift and “thank You” gift for all He does and who He is, one of my main motivations is that God will use it to bring back together the various “factions” of His body, the Church, into deep and abiding harmony, so we can stop wasting precious time and effort and energy and mindspace on one or two doctrines about which we may disagree and instead focus on evangelizing the majority of people (Matthew 7:13-14) who don’t know Christ or the Holy Spirit or the Heavenly Father at all, so we can “conduct [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the GOSPEL of Christ” and be “standing firm in ONE SPIRIT, with ONE MIND striving TOGETHER for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27, emphasis added).

We Christians can be downright prolific when it comes to focusing on what might divide us, on our differences of opinion about one thing or another, but we can all come together and agree on this:  that the Bible is the most beautiful, loving, true, and powerful book ever written and words ever spoken, and that it surely brings boundless, unbridled pleasure to the Lord whenever it is memorized (and read, studied, meditated upon, and obeyed and shared with others).  How much more so when memorized in its entirety.

 

If you’d like to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me as I seek to fulfill His calling to do just that even as the whole world watches at BibleMemory.ORG and YouTube.com/BibleMemory and have your name included on the “From” card when we collectively give this gift to Him, here are three great ways to do so!

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The Stages of Spiritual Growth, Part Two

In a previously-published post, I proffered a new “trio” of the stages of spiritual growth set forth in the Bible.

Here’s another trio:  those who practice…  “active”  >  ”aggressive” (or “adamant”)  >  ”automatic”  humility.

There’s a thing called “active listening” which has become a big deal in recent years in consulting circles.  It refers to not just “hearing” people when they speak but truly (actively) listening  to them.  Maintaining eye contact and a spirit of empathy, verbal acknowledgments, etc.

When we first come to the Lord, God graciously gives a new, much more definitive, deep, and durable sense of humility (also referred to as meekness or gentleness; Galatians 5:22-23) than we had ever experienced pre-salvation.  In terms of how we view ourselves (utter sinner; Luke 18:13), others (whom we regard as “more important” than ourselves, in a sense our “superiors” singularly worthy of honor and respect; Philippians 2:3; Romans 12:10), and God (the Creator and all-powerful, perfect purveyor of every good thing, the gracious granter of all good gifts, the one and only Sovereign and Judge; Genesis 1; James 1:17, 4:12; 1 Timothy 6:15).  Humility becomes active, not just passive (and the exact opposite  of low self-esteem, for which it is often mistaken/misidentified by some… as I always say, in a primary and even secondary sense, humility isn’t thinking poorly of oneself, it’s not thinking of oneself at all).

Then, as we grow/mature spiritually, the diligent duo of the Holy Spirit and the Word within (working hand-in-hand as always) develops in us a sense of humility which isn’t just “active” but “aggressive” (or “adamant”) … not qualitatively but quantitatively, i.e., humility becomes something that we come to LOVE, to thoroughly ENJOY demonstrating in our interactions with God and, under that umbrella, with other people.  All people.  Literally everyone.  Since we realize and appropriate the fact that the latter are made in the image of the Former.

And finally, after continued/sustained spiritual growth/maturity, humility becomes virtually “automatic”.  In us but definitely not because of us… not because of us but in spite of  us, not because of us but because of Him  and His ever-working Word! (1 Thessalonians 2:13, one of my “life verses”)

Ironically, this prevents us from even thinking  that we’re humble, because, as with wisdom, an integral, true, tangible aspect of humility is that it opens one’s eyes to how little  of it one possesses at any given time and how much  room for improvement and growth remains; yet it’s an undeniable truth that humility is indeed one of the many, many, many changes and transformations which occur within when the Bible finds fertile soil in one’s heart.

Anyone’s  heart.  Because if He can do that in a sinner like me, He can do it in anyone.

 

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