You Have Faith? In What?

In 1979 when I worked for a car dealership, a man walked up to me one day and requested an automobile. He listed the specifications: make & model, color, engine type and size, what he would pay for it, and all the rest. And he wanted it within two weeks. I chuckled and said, “You won’t get it at that price.”

Waxing eloquently about his faith, he said, “I told God what I wanted and I’m holding God to His word. The Bible says God will give us the desires of our hearts, and this is my desire. Therefore, I know I’ll get what I ask. And I want you to receive a blessing by getting it for me.”

I was flabbergasted to think a puny human could be so brash as to “hold God to His word.” God isn’t on trial. We humans are the flaky ones, and God is holding US accountable. We don’t have a right to demand anything of God.

When I asked, “Is your faith based on what you want, or on what God wants for you?” he retorted, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I told him although he was sincere in his belief, sincerity doesn’t make something true; rather, truth substantiates faith, or exposes ignorance. Truth either validates or invalidates a person’s sincerity. So I asked him again about the object of his faith.

He laughed at my apparent ignorance, and said, “Scripture says ‘you have not because you ask not.’ I WILL get that car, everything I want on it, and at my stated price; but someone other than you will be blessed for getting it for me.” With that, he walked away.

I have many friends who tell God what they want. They say if they truly believe it, they will get it. They also tell me that not receiving what they want reveals a lack of faith.

I agree with Scripture but I disagree with their application of Scripture.

Although many of these folk have a true love for Jesus, they are taking those verses out of context. So what is the Biblical teaching?

I think some of you just tuned me out. But for those who are still reading, the interesting part comes next.

James 1:6 says to ask without wavering, and James 4:3 says we don’t get what we ask because we ask for the wrong things. So, let’s go to Jesus’ words.

Jesus said in Mark 11:24 – “Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it.” His immediate audience knew what He meant; it is we new-comers who missed it.

Jesus stated it more fully to another audience in John 14:12-13. “The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father.”

Two phrases stand out: “in My name” and “brings glory to the Father.” And this is where the rubber meets the road.

“In My name” means to ask for what Jesus would ask; and that includes 1) asking in the manner and attitude in which Jesus would ask, 2) asking specifically for what Jesus would ask, and 3) accepting the timing of God’s response. Jesus’ continuous attitude was, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, we will have Jesus’ attitude.

“Bringing glory to the Father” means that the answer to the request is to glorify God – not to primarily benefit us. Jesus never asked for a new donkey, a faster horse, or a better place to sleep. Those are not bad things, but that wasn’t what Jesus needed. God promised to meet our needs – not necessarily our wants. Psalm 37:4 instructs us that if we are in tune with God, He will give us the proper desires – the desires of our hearts.

Faith in God is not self-centered, but God-centered. True faithfulness is purposely living according to God’s word, and is revealed by a life dedicated to the Lord – not necessarily by things we have.

That man returned a month later to show me his new car. But when I pointed that many of the features he demanded were missing and that he paid about $2,000 more than he told God he would pay, he shrugged and said, “Well, I guess you can’t have it all.”

Perhaps he woke up to the truth of “asking in Jesus’ name” and maybe he didn’t. But dear reader, I hope your faith is in Jesus Christ, not in what you want. I hope your desire is to bring glory and honor to God, not merely to make yourself happy.

May God bless you as you learn what it means to truly honor our Lord.

Christ Changes Lives

Caleb was puzzled. He had been training four other shepherds for a year now, and a new trainee, Micha, had been assigned to him last week. Caleb was accustomed to his helpers cooperating with him, and he was a little uneasy because they were late bringing in the sheep.

Being a shepherd wasn’t an easy task. Learning to know each animal by name was time-consuming, but that wasn’t the hardest part. Although shepherds need to know about the growing seasons, where the best fields are for grazing, what foliage is unhealthy for the critters, what predators are lurking nearby, how to fight them off, and how to tend the newborn and the wounded, a good shepherd also needs to know how to negotiate with other shepherds who may have trespassed into “their” territory. Caleb was wondering if a problem had erupted, so taking Micha with him, he decided to go out and find out what was happening.

It hadn’t rained for two weeks, so they walked more than an hour over several rather sparse hills to where Caleb had sent the men and flocks.

Tuvia saw Caleb first and joyfully shouted, “God is Good!”

“Not so loud, Tuvia. Yes, God is good. But you must be careful not to startle the sheep.”

“Oh Nahum, you’re always trying to comfort the sheep. But allow me some fun out here in the vast wilderness. I need to let off some energy, and the animals will survive.”

Caleb walked up to them, smiling. “I truly enjoy your enthusiasm, Tuvia. Please never let it leave you. But Nahum does have a point. Where is Levi?”

Ariel responded, “Levi is over the hill tending a ewe giving birth.” Micha immediately ran to watch.

“Over the hill, is he?” mused Caleb. “Well, I suppose we’ll be spending the night out here. It will be a warm and remarkably clear night for the middle of Tishrei (early October), and the sheep seem to be settling down. Yes. tell Levi and Micha to take their time; and Ariel, will you please prepare a meal for us?”

“Yes, Caleb, I’ll have it ready soon.”

After the meal a half-moon was glowing, the stars were shining brightly, a gentle breeze was wafting across the land. And Levi reported that the new birth was a healthy ram lamb.

But Micha sat apart from the rest. His parents taught him the prophecies that the Messiah should be coming soon. He was also taught to always look for deeper meanings to life’s experiences.

Suddenly, he sat up and looked around. He sensed something in the air. The others were relaxing and telling stories, but Micha jumped to his feet and cried out, “Look! Do you see what I see?”

Startled, the others quickly looked – then covering their faces in fear, they fell to the ground. A shining angel appeared and made an announcement! We read the angel’s announcement in Luke 2:10-12

Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: You will find a new-born baby wrapped in white cloth, lying in a manger.

Then, many other glowing angels appeared which lit up the night sky; and they were shouting, “Glory to God in the highest! Peace to all men on earth!”

Or were they singing? It was hard to tell for their voices sounded musical.

The lead angel again told the shepherds not to be afraid and urged them to go.

Finally overcoming their fear, Caleb left Ariel with the sheep. The others followed the heavenly directions, taking a one-month-old lamb with them, and quickly went to Bethlehem. It was just as the angel announced: they found the stable where Joseph and Mary were. When they saw the new-born baby, who was declared by the angels to be God, Micha slowly knelt and softly but incredulously asked, “Look, do you see what I see?”

Caleb and the others, presenting the lamb as a gift, knelt beside Micha and looked at baby Jesus with profound awe.

Joseph announced, “His name is Yohoshua (Jesus) – God is salvation. He will save us from our sin-laden existence.”

Mary gently added, “The prophecy proclaimed he will also be called Immanuel, for he is ‘God with us’.”  The shepherds joyfully returned to their flocks. But they told everyone they encountered about the newborn Christ, for their lives were changed forever!

What is Christmas About?

Can you believe it? Christmas Day is just around the corner! People are buying gifts and are getting ready for big celebrations. But do you know what Christmas is really all about?

Christmas – Christ-mas – Christ’s Mass – is a gathering of people who want to honor the birth of our Lord: Jesus, the Christ. It’s really that simple.

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.”

What makes Jesus our Lord? Maybe we should back up and bring in some out-of-this-world history. Let’s read the first three verses in the Gospel of John (NLT).

Verse 14 says, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only [begotten] Son.”

These four verses tell us the Word (who is God) came to earth in the form of Jesus; and Jesus, before he was born as a human, actually created the entire universe. However, when the Word came to earth as Jesus, He continued to be God.

Why did I insert the King James word “begotten”? It’s important because Christians are adopted sons of God, but Jesus was born as the son of God. He was God prior to His human birth, continued to be God in His human existence, and is still God in heaven.

When your baby is born, you remember his/her birth every year – many times with cake, ice cream, and gifts. It’s a way to honor your child and to give him special recognition which helps establish his identity within your family.

But Christmas turns it around. As we honor the birth of Jesus, we are recognizing the fact that God loves us with all His heavenly heart and came to give US a gift: the gift of eternal life. That gives us special recognition and establishes our identity within God’s family.

And that brings us back to Christ’s Mass, or Christmas.

God created man in a perfect, sinless state; but man disobeyed. He sinned. That set the stage for all the rest of humanity to be born in sin. Was that fair? Since that took place well over 5,000 years ago, that’s not our concern. But it was, and is, God’s concern. He didn’t want to lose His special creation, so He activated the plan of redemption.

A sinless being had to die in order to redeem the one who had sinned. God took the life of at least two animals to make clothing to cover Adam and Eve’s sin, or error. That was a foreshadowing or omen of what was to come. Then in Moses’ time, God initiated Pesach, or Passover, to make the proposed plan of redemption more understandable.

All through history, the sacrificial animals had to be without spot or blemish which pointed to the Final Sacrifice who would be without sin. The reason is this: if I died because of my own sin, justice would be served, but there would be no redemption. However, if an innocent person died in my place, justice would still be served, and I would be declared innocent and could go free.

That’s why Jesus entered humanity as a baby. Every person, except Jesus, who ever lived was guilty of sin, so someone needed to come who was perfectly innocent: without spot or blemish. Only God was without sin, so only He could be the sacrifice to atone for everyone’s sin, which could set us free.

So God, the Word, entered humanity. He was given the name of Johoshua, which means God is salvation He grew up and experienced pain, mockery, and rejection as a child. He was tempted in every way man can be tempted, and suffered the most gruesome, torturous death man could experience. Yet He never sinned. Jesus was that perfect, spotless sacrifice for you and me to save us from an eternal separation from God.

Oh yes, there is one condition: I have to agree with God that I am not perfect, that I am guilty of breaking His law, and that I need to be redeemed.

So, I acknowledged my sin, asked God to forgive me, and purposely turned from a life of sin. Therefore, I am forgiven. You can be forgiven, too.

That is what Christmas is all about.

The shepherds welcomed Jesus (God) as a baby. The Wise Men welcomed Jesus (God) as a child. You and I need to welcome Jesus (God) as our Savior.

I wish you a Joyful, a Blessed, and a Merry Christmas.

Thanksgiving Day

I lean back in my La-z-Boy chair, prop up my feet, turn on the 10 motors in the chair to massage my tired back, and relax. I like football, but I don’t feel like watching a game right now. Carol brings me a cup of coffee with the right amount of milk and sugar. I take a sip, ahhhhhhh, close my eyes, and thank God for the wonderful life He has ….

“Sweetheart. Gene, where are you?”

“Huh … wh … what’d you say?”

“You must have fallen asleep.”

“Yeah … I guess I … was … dreaming.”

Thanksgiving Day is almost here, and I’m in front of the computer where my hand fell on the keyboard. I looked at the screen and saw a page of Js. I deleted them. I looked over to where my La-z-Boy chair is beckoning me in real life.

“The reason I called you – oh, sorry that I had to wake you up – but we got a call from family in California. The fires are raging, and many houses, barns, and businesses have gone up in flames. Are you sure we should go out west?”

I thought back on the dream I was enjoying.

Not many bad things have happened to us, and I’m thankful. But what about my friends and family members? We are mourning for the family whose father and daughter recently drowned. Fires have ravaged multi-thousands of acres and several towns, and tornados have created havoc in many places. How will those whose lives have been turned upside down celebrate? Or can they truthfully celebrate Thanksgiving with the turmoil they’re experiencing?

I thought about the smoke would encounter if we went west. That shouldn’t be too bad, and we probably would not meet up with any flames. At least, I hope not. The smoke is devastating for some folks with bronchial problems, but my allergy pills should help me.

“Precious, I think we should go to our daughter and family south instead of our son and family out west.”

Years ago, two of my sisters lost houses in fires, and some friends are currently without electricity. Friends whose houses were damaged by the twisters are waiting for the repairs or reconstruction to take place. With that in mind, a question hung heavily in my mind, so I asked the Lord. “Father, how can people be thankful in the face of disaster? How can they actually be grateful when so much has been taken from them?”

Then I remembered asking my sister, Jan, how she felt when her house was destroyed. She responded, “Eugene, it’s only stuff. Whatever we want to replace, we can. But it’s only stuff. We’re still alive. That’s what counts.” That was an excellent, mature response.

I asked our friends how they’re doing after the tornado damaged their house. One of them responded, “We’re doing fine. It was hard to sleep afterwards, but it’s only a house. God has taken care of us.” The other said, “We’re doing fine. It’ll get repaired, and we are thankful to the Lord.”

I’ve never heard God speak out loud, but He answered my prayer with the following thoughts.

I give many kinds of blessings, many of them are material. Most people, even those who don’t know Me, are generally happy about what they have. But those who know Me are grateful for our relationship, and they don’t wait for this day of the year to show it. Their gratefulness, their thankfulness, is not based on what they have, but what they are. They are thankful for life. And when their human life is over, they will thank Me face-to-face.

Some time ago, a missionary couple at church told us about a poor family overseas. With barely enough money to buy food, they received a gift of $70. They were excited, but they knew another family who had no food at all. Following God’s leadership, they joyfully gave that $70 to the other family. Their generosity revealed not only a grateful spirit, but a deep, mature relationship with God.

“Precious, I called to see if the repairs on the trailer were complete. It’s almost ready.”

“What if the weather gets stormy?”

“We’ll go without the trailer.”

It isn’t what we have or don’t have that produces joy, and it isn’t whether or not we’ve experienced hardship in life that prompts us to be thankful. What engenders gratefulness is knowing Jesus Who offers us eternal life.

James 1:17 tells us that every good gift comes from God. Let’s express our gratitude to God every day. Let’s be generous to others. And let’s be compassionate and help those who are experiencing hardship and tragedy. Allow God to bless others through you.

Counting Calories – Again

Although I knew my belt had slowly been getting tighter, I was surprised on May 18, 2014, to find that I weighed 182 pounds. I am five feet, eight inches tall with my shoes on, and I shouldn’t weigh more than 165.

We had been in California from December of 2013 through February of 2014, and my brother fed us well!

I told Carol, “Precious, I am disgusted!”

“What’s the matter?”  

“I am having trouble with my jaws.”

“What do you mean?”

“My jaws are processing way too much food and my tummy is revealing the consequences.”

Laughing, she asked, “Are you going on a diet?”

“No, and Yes. No: I’m not going on a traditional diet that people make and break twelve times a year. And Yes: I am going to count calories.”

And so I did. The weight calculator said my caloric intake should not exceed 1,948 calories daily, so I decided on 1,900 calories for easier figuring. If I went over one day, I stayed under the next day.

I started limiting calories – not food types, but caloric intake – on May 18, 2014; and five weeks later, June 25, I was down to 160 pounds. My plan worked. Ice cream, pies, and cookies were part of my diet, but only in limited quantities, and only after a hearty – not large, but hearty – meal.

If you want to know: my daily caloric intake for the 5 weeks averaged 1,713.

Oh, I almost forgot: Carol also experienced significant weight reduction because we both disciplined ourselves to a new way of eating.

That was eight years ago. But as you know, we again took a prolonged road-trip around our grand country; and guess what? My belt slowly-but-surely got tighter. When we returned home on May 16, 2019, the scale lied: it said I weighed 191 pounds! Not to be outsmarted, I replaced the battery, and the truth was revealed: my true weight was 182 – again. I remembered that tried-and-true “counting-calorie” regimen, and I decided to do it again. Because I was five years older, the weight calculator limited me to 1916 calories daily. So, I limited myself to 1850.

Limiting calories while sitting on the couch or at the computer helps only a little. So in addition to sitting at my desk doing a lot of writing, I exercised. I didn’t have the time yet to go to the gym to work out, so I worked outside.

Tree-trimming, shredding the limbs, weed-whacking around our half-acre, mowing the lawns, burning pine-needles and branches, ridding the premises of unwanted vegetation such as poison ivy, etc., was work! It wouldn’t have mattered if I went over the caloric intake because I burned it off. Nevertheless, I kept track and kept Jaws under control. Or did I keep my eating under control?

Either way, I got the weight down to a healthy level – again. (My average daily caloric intake after 6 weeks averaged 1625.)

I ate mashed potatoes and gravy, hamburgers and steak, chicken and turkey. I really like fish. And I ate fruit and vegetables. I just didn’t over-eat. Yes – milk-shakes, ice cream, pies, and cookies were still in! But in limited quantities.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I found myself asking for more fruit and vegetables, and I lost interest in some foods that are low on nutrition. (Some – not all.) Therefore, I felt better quickly and regained a lot of energy.

By the way: I didn’t LOSE the weight because I knew where it was hiding: in the refrigerator, the food pantry, and at my favorite restaurants. The key is discipline.

Our next short adventures were to Dallas to see our newest grandbaby, and to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to be with our daughters and friends, and I made sure I didn’t over-eat.

Well, I might need to retract that statement. I caught plenty of 16-inch to 18-inch rainbow trout up there, and I tend to over-eat on fish. However, wild trout has between 202-270 calories for a 6-ounce fillet (depends on how it’s cooked). Compare that with approximately 394 for 6 ounces of hamburger, and approximately 400 for steak. Fish meat is obviously healthier for us.

It wasn’t difficult to reduce my waistline and weight. I just had to WANT to reduce, and I had to want to stay healthy.

By the way, you may use my plan if you want to: it works.

Bon appétit, mes amies.

Thoughts on Godly Character

It’s interesting how different folk prioritize character traits, or Godly attributes, as having a higher value than others. For example, one person considers honesty as the highest character trait on the list, while someone else views compassion as the most important. Yet another extols humility. So, which one is the most important?

That can’t be answered because it misses the main point, and it reminds me of when a friend asked me some years ago, “Which of your five children do you value the most?” I told him, “That question has no answer because they are all equally valuable.” And it’s the same with the various attributes of God: they are all equally important.

Character is a transliteration of χαρακτήρ, or carakter, which denotes express image. The idea is a brand, an engraving or indelible mark – in this case, an image or imprint on the soul. Therefore, a character trait of God is an attribute which characterizes or closely represents the nature of God.

Having worked with an organization which taught about living with high integrity and good character, I helped teach what I unofficially called the character traits of God. There are quite a few identified in the Bible, but here is my list. Don’t go to sleep now. Read this list slowly and think about God as you read each word (in alphabetical order).

Depending on the circumstances, God is: Alert, Attentive, Available, Bold, Cautious, Compassionate, Content, Creative, Decisive, [shows] Deference, [is] Dependable, Determined, Diligent, Discerning, Discrete, [manifests] Endurance, [is] Enthusiastic, Faithful, Flexible, Forgiving, Generous, Gentle, Grateful, Hospitable, Holy, Humble, [shows] Initiative, [is] Joyful, Just, Loving, Loyal, Meek, [Jesus was] Obedient, [is] Orderly, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Patient, Persuasive, Punctual, Resourceful, Responsible, [Jesus was] Reverent, [is] Righteous, Secure, Self-Controlled, Sensitive, Sincere, Sovereign, Thorough, Thrifty, Tolerant, Transcendent, Truthful, Virtuous, and Wise.

Still awake? Good. Almighty God is more amazing than you or I could ever imagine! After reading this partial list, can any one of them be considered more important than the others? The answer is a definite No. It takes all of them – plus more – to describe or define Who our God is.

But we can truthfully say: depending on the circumstances, several may be more applicable than others.

For Example: If I am going for a job interview, a Loving or Reverent attitude might not be as relevant as being Attentive and Punctual – depending on the job, of course. And if the house is on fire, we can forget Hospitality; but being Decisive, Determined, and Dependable would really help.

A friend manifested no less than 31 Godly character traits as he repaired the air conditioning unit on my RV. It’s amazing how much we represent God as we help others. Why is that?

When God created mankind, He programmed us to be like Him. In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let us make man in our image; to be like us.” Therefore, as we endeavor to live a good life, it isn’t just our duty and responsibility to represent God – to be His ambassadors – we can’t help it because it’s part of who we are. And as we help others we are the extension of God’s hands and feet.

But there’s another side to this.

Some folk purposely live in rebellion against God. Some thrive as they steal or defraud others, damage reputations, hurt or commit murder. Some are greedy, ruthless, haters of good. I could continue, but you get the point. These folk are blocking God’s eternal plan for their lives.

However, if they repent and honestly ask to be forgiven, God will Forgive them although they may face the consequences of their poor decisions.

Living with Godly character and integrity produces a wholesome life now, and a wonderful life for eternity.

 What kind of character are you? What are you doing with the time God has given you here on earth?

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