Stumbling Block

Snow-Highway Driving-IMG_1249 (2013_06_21 16_53_37 UTC)

 

 

1 Corinthians 1:23

We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.


I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of diversity. My folks did not discriminate, so neither did my sister and I. People were people. Some were nice and some not-so-nice. One of the most interesting was Mr. Johnson. He was blind and he was older—like a Grandpa.

One of my friends…actually not a friend as I was to learn…who lived nearby, was a prankster. He never tired of pulling pranks on everyone and we were getting frustrated with him. Finally, he did something to Mr. Johnson that excluded him from my circle of friends.

Mr. Johnson lived alone with his dog, Pete. He used a cane to get around his yard and all over town. He had a garden out back and tended it often. He raised lots of vegetables that he shared with everyone. If you wanted to pick some veggies on your own, you just rang a bell Mr. Johnson had attached to his gate. That way he knew someone was in the yard and he would come out to visit and chat.

As you may imagine, Mr. Johnson had established walking paths around his yard to get around to everything. Often he would putter around without using his cane to detect any stumbling blocks. This is where Freddy the prankster came in.  

Freddy decided it would be funny to ring the bell after he had set up a few obstacles in Mr. Johnson’s pathway. So he did. After he placed a few blocks in the paths, he rang the bell and hid off to the side. Mr. Johnson came out smiling, bidding a welcome to whoever may need some vegetables. He hadn’t gone very far before his foot hit a wooden block in the middle of the path. Down he went, cracking his wrist bone and bumping his head on a border stone.

Fortunately, Mr. Johnson’s next-door-neighbor came to get some cucumbers right after this happened. She was a nurse and was able to tend to his bruises and swollen forehead. It turned out that his cracked wrist just needed a tight wrap for a week, along with some pain medicine. This prank did not change Mr. Johnson’s attitude or generosity. Friends removed Freddy’s obstacles and everything went back to normal in Mr. Johnson’s backyard.

Freddy was never seen in the neighborhood again. By the fall, he and his family had moved to another school district.

I wonder if I am ever a stumbling block to others by my actions, attitudes or conversation? Do I, without considering the impact of what I am doing or saying, throw up obstacles in the path of others? Do I possibly cause someone to stumble spiritually? What about those times when I just have to have my way? Who stumbled on my selfishness? Someone surely. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness.

1 Corinthians 8:9  But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.

2 Corinthians 6.3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us.

Romans 14:13  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

 

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Am I Content?

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Job 5:17  “Consider the joy of those corrected by God .”

“I was upset and frustrated that I had wretched shoes until I met a man who had no feet!” While growing up I heard this quote many times but failed to give it much credence…until my life took a few hard turns. I can recall my pathetic pity parties as I longed for a better car, job, apartment, etc; unaware of just how self-centered I had become. I wonder what my friends and fellow workers thought of my whining? That’s ok, I think I know.

Strangely I thought I deserved whatever I wanted. I had allowed myself to believe that wanting was the same as deserving. Unfortunately, me-focused attitudes do not just pass away, there must be an impetus, a strong reason to change, to see others as more important, or at least, as important as myself.

In my life, the powerful change that shifted my vision from me to others happened when I met the One who can truly change lives. And that with no ill side effects. I met Jesus in a small rural church in Oregon. Jesus Christ, the Life Changer.

In a way, He fitted me with new glasses and corrected my focus; shifted my vision to see others rather than myself as most important. He became my primary focus. Day by day, week by week my gaze was redirected to the lives of friends, fellow-workers and even strangers. I was now concerned for people other than myself and, like the fellow frustrated about terrible shoes, I saw, for the first time, the needs of someone else. What a wonderful vision-shift.

Along with a visual change, I became content for the first time in my life. God’s presence in my life brought contentment as only He can do. Did I get a flat tire on the way to an important appointment? Well, praise God for building my character through an otherwise frustrating event. He brought peace into my life as no other person or methodology can do; a peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

2 Cor 12:10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Romans 5:1-5  Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Phil 4:11  I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

1 Tim 6:6  Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.

Heb 13:5  Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.

And now what? We are laid bare before God, our excuses piled high like cord wood, waiting for a heavenly match to set them ablaze, burning away the impurities with only glowing hot embers of faith and contentment in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ remaining.

Oh God, thank you for your eternal patience, grace and mercy. We see your light of hope gleaming brightly just over the horizon, beckoning us ever nearer to walk along this life-path hand-in-hand.

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins.”  1 John 1:7

Attitudes and Feelings

 

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The Lord is my helper,  so I will have no fear. ~Psalm 118:6

“Oh this view is magnificent,” Neal said. “Now I see why you wanted to bring me here for photos today, Michael. So it really was worth getting up at zero-dark-thirty to get shots of the sunrise.”

“You are such a baby, Neal. Truthfully, I am a little surprised you agreed to the early wake-up since you have so little free time to spare. But you must admit it was worth it.”

“More than just worth it, my friend. This view of the river, mountains and colorful trees is breathtaking, to say the least. Now let’s stop talking and capture the moments here.”

After an hour of basking in God’s glorious fall morning, the men settled in to their trailer for a sumptuous breakfast while reliving the special photo opportunities they’d just experienced.

Later, when the final dish had been washed, dried and put away Neal said, “I need to talk, Michael. I’m carrying some problems and I need answers.”

“I’m listening.”

“I’m carrying feelings and attitudes that aren’t right. I get angry, frustrated, sometimes I realize I’m greedy, thinking of ways to get more money instead of sharing. On the outside I seem to be calm, patient, understanding. You know, the perfect Christian who everyone loves to be with. I’m like two people all the time. I am so tired of these feelings. I need help!”

Michael said, “What you are describing, Neal, is how most people live their lives. The problem is, we act as though we don’t have certain selfish angry, petty feelings—but we do. By denying them, we enact a different set of feelings that attempt to disguise our true, base, human feelings. Then we beat ourselves up by saying, Christians don’t have these feelings. So we replace our snarl with a smile and our caustic sarcasm with polite Christian-talk. When someone hurts us, we pretend outwardly that it didn’t happen. Inwardly though, deep inside where no one can see, we are hurt and begin to distance ourselves.

“And guess who is delighted…Satan! Yes, he is dancing with joy at our behavior which he helped create. You are bringing a knife to a gunfight, Neal. God is not only concerned, He is in us with His Holy Spirit, waiting for us to call out to Him. He understands our emotions and attitudes, He created us! We all do it, we try to fight spiritual forces with our own might and get depressed when we fail.

“Let me read Ephesians 6:12 ~For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

“Suddenly we remember that God has the power and the victorious battle plans for all our attitude problems. We simply call upon Him and His power is released for Satan’s defeat and our victory. But we must call upon Him. It is impossible for you and I to defeat Satan without calling upon God.”

“The next step is preparing for daily war by putting on the armor of God, explained in Ephesians 6:13 ~Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will be standing firm.”

“Without God, we are like little kids trying to fight an adult boxer. There is simply no hope without calling out to our Savior. He is the Victor and our Lord. Let’s pray Neal. God wants to change our outlook and attitudes.”

We Don’t Have To Be Afraid

 

“Perfect love drives out fear” ~1 John 4:18

After the waitress poured their second cup of coffee, Walt said, “OK, Roger, what’s going on? Clearly something is heavy on your mind this morning. We’ve known each other for a long time, my friend, so spill the beans. Maybe I can help like you’ve helped me so many times.”

        It was a wintry morning and Roger held his cup with both hands, concentrating on the wisps of steam arising, hoping his friend could help him overcome his strong emotions. Fear gripped him!

        “I’ve been meaning to find ways of selling stories and photos because we need more income but…I’ve opened the door to uncertainty which always brings along its friend, fear. Once fear and uncertainty settle in, I become paralyzed.”

        “You, filled with fear? That is a surprise, Roger. You are the go-to guy whenever I have spiritual battles so I would never think of you struggling with fear and doubt. I am so sorry I’ve been so casual about your possible needs and struggles.”

        “Oh, I understand the feeling, Walt. I once had a spiritual mentor who seemed to always be on his game no matter how dire the problem until one day he shared, like I am doing now, his struggles with me. It was then I realized how little I’d been praying for him. He said something I have never forgotten which I’ll share with you. As he was describing his battles with the flesh and satan, he said, ‘Roger, don’t ever stop praying for me. You must realize how important your prayers are to me and to God. He commands us to pray for each other.’”

        “Forgive me, my friend. Let me begin with praying 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

        Right there, in that restaurant booth, fear was driven out as God’s love shattered its stronghold in Roger’s life. Just like athletes willingly force their bodies to come under subjection through rigorous and repetitive training routines, our lives can be free of fear, anger, lust, greed, hate through faith coupled with fervent prayer. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  ~James 5:16

Isaiah 41.13  I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalm 27.1  You, LORD, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.

Psalm 62.2  God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe and the fortress where I am secure.

Psalm 91.1-2  Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the LORD, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”

2 Corinthians 1.3-4  The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.

Romans 8.38-39  I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not the powers above or the powers below.

Isaiah 25.8-9  The LORD All-Powerful will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears. . .At that time, people will say, “The Lord has saved us! Let’s celebrate. We waited and hoped –now our God is here.”

Psalm 145.13-14  Our LORD, you keep your word and do everything you say. When someone stumbles or falls, you give a helping hand.

Psalm 16.5-9  You, LORD, are all I want!  You are my choice, and you keep me safe. You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright. I praise you, LORD, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest.

The following 1933 inaugural address by Franklin D. Roosevelt points to Biblical truth:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

 

Absolute Protection!

 

Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name.  John 17:11

 

We’ve all seen movies in which a person is protected by an organization or government embassy immunity. Their attitude is often arrogant and cocky. They go about never fearing sudden calamities or, in some cases, death. What they consider as absolute protection affects their attitude and behavior. In reality, only God can provide absolute protection and he freely gives this to all who believe in Jesus Christ. His protection removes the fear or uncertainty of death. Because with God, there is no death but the assurance of eternal life. We live without fear!

 

  2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

  John 17:11, 15  I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

  Jude 1  To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

  Jude 24, 25  To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

  Psalm 27:1  The Lord is my light and salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

  Psalm 56:3-4  When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

  Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.

    Isaiah 40:28-29  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

  Acts 26:22 But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest.

 

  God clearly promises protection and assurance to all who trust and believe in Him. There is only one thing that can stand in the way of His promises…our lack of faith. We have only to believe His promises and not faint. When all seems bleak, dark and hopeless, let us rise above what we see and believe in His words of hope, protection and eternal salvation. Anyone can proclaim trust and faith in our Lord when the waters are calm and the bank account is full. But our faith, true faith, glistens like a diamond during our greatest trials and fears.

 

  2 Corinthians 4:16-18  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Who Do You Want to Please?

Most of us are brought up learning how to please certain people in our lives. First, our parents. We learn what it takes to make them happy, and if we want our lives to go smoothly, we do or don’t do certain things. The behaviors that need refining are pointed out to us quickly by instructions, cautions or punishments.

        Then we learn to apply that method of getting along to our teachers, friends, relatives, bosses, pastors, policemen, spouse, teammates, and others with whom we interact in life. As life progresses, most people become fairly expert in getting along and pleasing others, trying not to offend. We look for that middle place that allows us to forge our way through life, getting along without ruffling too many feathers. We are considered successful if people think of us as nice, as pleasing, and easy to get along with.

        But what about God? Are we trying to please God? Does he even make the list of those we wish to please every day? If a survey was taken that asked the question: “Who is the most important person in your life that you try to please” how many of us would immediately say, Jesus or God? The Lord has a special place in our lives, we say. He is our Savior, we may say. But really…is He our primary focus each day? Are we trying to please God?

        Romans 8:7-8

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

        Romans 14:17-18

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

        Philippians 2:12-13

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

        Colossians 1:10

We have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

          1 Thessalonians 2:4

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

        1 Thessalonians 4:1

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more.

        1 Timothy 2:3

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

        1 Timothy 5:3-4

Take care of a widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.

        Hebrews 11:6

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

        1 Peter 2:19, 21

For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. For God called you to do good, even it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

        Pleasing God opens the door for pleasing anyone else. It is the foundation upon which all relationships are built. How to please God is outlined for us in the Bible and made possible by God’s Holy Spirit within us (Read John, chapter 14).

Unification of the Church

 

“A house divided against itself will fall.” Luke 11:17Cross.3.jpg

            When the Lord Jesus taught all who listened for his three year ministry on earth, he never once said, “And after lots of people accept the truth of the gospel, it is important that you build many church buildings and split up into thousands of denominations. Don’t worry about unity, I’ll fix that later!”

            The followers of Jesus were known as “The Church.” Not the churches! From the beginning, those who believed in the message of salvation taught by Jesus and then the apostles were changed into unified believers who met in different places. They were also referred to as followers of The Way—Acts 22:4 and the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).

            Today there are thousands of Christian denominations in America and all over the world. Men of God who guide these church organizations are content to be separate from their fellow believers, to maintain multimillion-dollar budgets as they “build bigger barns.”

   John 17:20-23  I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—I in them and you in me.  Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me
. The Message

  Romans 12:3-5  Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.

   Ephesians 1:22-23  God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.  

   Ephesians 4:1-6  Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over all, through all, and in all.

   Ephesians 4:11-16  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

   Colossians 1:18  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

            In the secular world, people greet new acquaintances with a question formed something like this, “And what do you do?” or “What line of work are you in?” We do this to determine something about the person. Are they clever? Are they talented? Are they wealthy? Should I feel intimidated?

            But in the church world, we ask, “What church do you attend?” This is the fatal division question. Are you charismatic? Pentecostal? Formal? Conservative? Do you believe in the gifts of the Spirit? Are you baptized in the Holy Spirit? Once saved, always saved? Does your church use musical instruments during worship? What day of the week do you meet? DIVISION!