Category Archives: Devotions

Every Man Stood in His Place

Sermon Outline; Author unknown.

Judges 7:16-21

Introduction

My sermon subject today is “Every man stood in his place”-Vs.21 – Text

A.      Review the account of chapters 6,7 and 8 about this story of Gideon

1. The Book of Judges  (parallels America today)

B.  Lets take a look at God’s unusual method of bringing victory for Gideon and the Israelites over their enemy

1.  The Situation of God’s Servant

A. Gideon  A common Soldier- not Priest or Judge

B. I want you to note these aspects of Gideon’s situation:

1. The Dilemma

a. 6:1-6 – The Midionites  (overwhelming odds- impossible situation)  God lowered Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300.  An impossible number except for God!

b. But God always raises up someone in times of crisis, and Gideon was God’s man

2. The Declaration

A. 6:12 – God   (affirms the call of His servant)

B. As usual, God was on the spot

3. The Doubts

A. 6:17 – Gideon  (I am not “good” enough… Why me Lord?)

4.The Process  (An Impossible Victory thru very unusual circumstances)

5. The Direction

A. 6:28 – The Idols  ( Cleanse your land in preparation)

B. Baalism

6. The Deliverance

A. Chapter 7

B. The miracle of Victory  (God’s strength, not yours)

C. Always remember, especially in our crisis, God is doing something special.

II. The Solution of Man’s Struggle

A. Chapter 7 is a scene of struggle – The Solution

B. There is a 3-fold purpose for the struggles

1. To Show God’s Presence

a. Sometimes the greatest thing is not the blessing of my soul, but the blistering of my heart (300 men cannot win?!)

2. To See God’s Power

a. God’s Authority is always supreme

3. To Send God’s Person

a. Gideon had:

1. The Might of God (vs 6:12  God is with you.)

2. The Mission of God ( vs 6:14  Vision, Have I not sent thee?)

3. The Mind of God (vs 6:22  An encounter with God )

III. The Sensation of God’s Success

A. The secret of success is found in 3 words:

               1. “Every”

               2. “Stood”  (Gal. 5:1; Eph 6:13

               3. “Place”  (Psalm 1:1-3… Planted, unmoving, firmly rooted)

Conclusion

Ear Ticklers Or The Gospel?

Author unknown

“God has a big dream for your life. God is positive, there is nothing negative about him. God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas, and creativity.” —Popular “Preacher” (PP)

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” —Jesus.

The two quotations above were both spoken by men who have preached the gospel. One section represents the true gospel, and the other a different gospel. One section contains the words of Jesus and the other contains the words of PP. By reading the words above, you can identify which selection represents the true gospel and which one is false.

We are living in the days when feeling good about yourself is king. We are told to have a positive self-image. We just have to believe in ourselves, or we just simply…have to believe. There is a lot of nonsense being taught in many evangelical churches and it’s masquerading as the true Christian life. To be certain, this isn’t anything new. Over the years I’ve heard everything from: “We are King’s kids” to “You are the head and not the tail” to “God’s got a great plan for your life.” So this dominion thinking and prosperity gospel has been around for quite awhile.

Why is this teaching false, different, and dangerous?

When it’s lined-up next to Scripture it’s full of error, deceit, and idolatry. You might say, “The word idolatry is kind of extreme.” Putting my agenda, wants, needs, happiness, schedule, and future plans before the will of the Lord Jesus Christ…that is extreme. There are so many people who are hurting. They may not know Jesus and have never heard the gospel. They may not know about the new life Jesus can give them. It’s a life of mercy, heart cleansing, repentance, dying to old nature and desires, of true peace and contentment.

Unsaved people need to know that they are on a collision course with the God of heaven and their only hope is coming to an end of themselves and giving their lives to Jesus. This will result in believers who can boldly face anything life brings, because he or she walks with Jesus now. That is true peace and contentment in this life.

Friends, this isn’t just a different gospel…it’s a false gospel and idolatry. We are elevating MY self, MY wants, MY needs, MY comfort, and MY will…above God’s will. God seems to be a life enrichment, a genie, or a nice grandpa who makes the world all about you. It also sets up people for complete breakdown when tragedy strikes. They may very well shake their fist at God and say, “I’m a Christian…this wasn’t supposed to happen to me.”

When we have a correct understanding of living for Jesus, even the tragedies in life will be seen in a different light. We may never understand why God allows some things to happen, but praise His name…I belong to Him and He will see me through. John the Baptist said these words with all humility, respect, adoration, and yielding of his will: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I think he summed up how the Lordship of Jesus must be lived out in a believer.

The true gospel is where Jesus is in his rightful place and I’m in mine. God is God and I’m not. God is in control. I must relinquish control and surrender my will to His.

Second Timothy 4:3 tells us a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off.

Notice Paul didn’t tell us that people will run after a teacher who openly denies Jesus and refutes the gospel. He said they will seek after teachers who suit their own passions. In twenty first century lingo: They tell me what I want to hear. Paul also uses the word: “accumulate.” There are plenty of teachers and evangelical fellowships where this message sells…or as it’s been said, “That will preach.”

As much as the Western Church is in danger from this False gospel, the third world countries are in greater danger.  Many of these apostate teachers are broadcasting their error, deceit, and idolatry to new Christians who have not learned discernment.

It is time to clean out your “radio” of all these modern day ear ticklers.

A Tantrum for My Transformation

A Tantrum for My Transformation

Author unknown

Some days I wake up and nothing seems to go right.

The alarm fails to sound. The kids are slow to get ready. The fridge is empty of milk (after I set the table with bowls of cereal). And then the route to an appointment is filled with red lights. Soon I find myself stuck for an hour in a tiny exam room, waiting for the doctor to show up while my boys bounce off the walls. After the appointment, we stop at the grocery store on the way home (for the milk) and the boys act like wild animals broke free from a zoo. My heart sighs and I wish I could just rewind time and start the day all over.

What Should I Do?

Days like this would often leave me in despair. I felt frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed. I desperately tried to figure out why my life was chaotic and how I could fix it. And then I felt guilty over my inability to do so. I thought that maybe I just needed to be more organized. If I could get control over the details of my life, maybe I wouldn’t have these stressful days. I searched the blogs and read the books, hoping to find ways to make my life run smoothly, thinking the whole time that there must be something I can do — that there must be someway to grab back control over my days.

But I really needed theology. I needed what I knew about God to press down deep into my daily life. I realized that if I believe in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty I had to face the truth that God is never surprised by any frustrating event I encounter. Spurgeon once said that even a speck of dust cannot move unless God wants it to. God is in sovereign control of all he has made and of all the details of our lives. *“Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”* (Psalm 135:6).

A Greater Plan for Me

Since this is true — since nothing happens outside God’s will and plan — then my daily parenting challenges are under his sovereign control, too. He knows about the tantrums over lost toys, the kids getting sick right before an important event, and the everyday-stress of getting children to go to sleep. He is not surprised by sibling spats, markers on the walls, or potty training fiascos. All the events of our lives that feel out of our control are actually in God’s control.

Lamentations 3:37–38 says, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” Jerry Bridges comments on this passage, “God is in control of every circumstance and every event of our lives, and he uses them, often in some mysterious way, to change us more into the likeness of Christ” . What this means for me as a parent is that every late appointment and every empty jug of milk is sovereignly decreed and used for my good. My child’s tantrum is for my transformation.

And this truth has given me great freedom. Instead of despairing over the seemingly random and chaotic events in my life, I can view them in light of his sovereign care. When my days are long and everything seems to go wrong, I know it has all happened for a reason. In fact, all of my parenting challenges are used for my spiritual good — they are to make me more like Christ (Romans 8:28–29). This is what God is about.

He is not in the business of making my life comfortable and free of any stress. He has something greater planned for me: my holiness.

There Is Hope

In the midst of the chaos, I see Jesus and how much I need the gospel each and every moment. The God of grace who saved me from sin is the God of grace who will help me have patience in the close confines of a pediatrician’s office. Every challenging situation becomes an opportunity for me to trust him — to obey, to learn, to grow, to rely more on his grace.

So when the dryer breaks and I get a flat tire, instead of despair there is hope. Life doesn’t feel out of control if we know Who is in control. We can trust and rest in God’s sovereignty, knowing that he is using our every stress for our transformation and his glory.

 

Lamps, Wicks, and Oil

Authored by Dennis Pollock

I love lamps, candles, and lanterns. I enjoy the gentle light they provide – so much kinder and prettier than the harsh bulbs we normally use. I have become something of a collector of these ancient forms of lighting, and love to light a lamp or lantern in the evenings when I read the Psalms or Proverbs. I put on some soft piano music, light one of my favorite lamps, and spend a relaxing time in the Word of God.

The Bible uses the imagery of lamps and candles freely. In Revelation Jesus is described as the One “who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2:1). In Jesus’ parable given to encourage us to always be prepared for His coming, He speaks of five wise virgins who kept oil in their lamps and five foolish who allowed the oil to run out. He tells us, ” If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light” (Luke 11:36). He says of John the baptist: “He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light” (John 5:35). John writes about Jesus: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

Recently I learned an important spiritual lesson from one of our lamps. One of my all-time favorite lamps was not performing very well. It refused to burn brightly for any length of time. No matter how high I turned the wick, I couldn’t get a steady flame. The fire would blaze up briefly and within a few minutes be reduced to almost nothing. Not having all that much experience with lamps I guessed that the wick was faulty. My wife Benedicta set me straight. Ben is from Nigeria where they know a thing or two about oil lamps, since electricity is often only available for a couple of hours a day. She told me that the wick was just fine; the problem was the oil. A poor grade of oil (actually a mixture to two different lamp oils) was barely making its way through the wick. As a result of too much viscosity, there was just enough oil to keep a tiny flame, but the thing that was mostly burning was the wick, not the oil.

We changed the oil and the problem was solved. Now the oil was flowing freely through the wick; now it was the oil doing most of the burning and not the wick. The wick was just providing a means of transfer to get the oil from the bottom of the lamp to the top, where it could burn. I was a happy guy – my favorite lamp was doing its thing once again.

As I thought about all this I realized that this was a nearly perfect illustration of how we who are in Christ are to relate to the Holy Spirit. (We preachers are always finding illustrations in the strangest places!) I saw that the lamp was totally dysfunctional when it was the wick doing the most of the burning. Although to an untrained eye, it does appear that it is the wick doing the burning, in truth it is supposed to be the oil. Try to burn a wick without a steady supply of oil and the wick will last but a few minutes. But when the wick is doing what it should – slurping up the oil and being a good conduit for it, the lamp can burn for hours without a problem. The oil can last a whole lot longer than a flimsy cotton wick!

In Jesus Christ we are the wicks and the oil is the Holy Spirit. It is not our job to burn! We will soon burn up and burn out if we try to be the fuel! It is our job to be filled with the Holy Spirit and serve as a conduit for His presence and power, which is infinite and will never burn out. This imagery is clearly seen in the Old Testament story of Moses and the burning bush. After 40 years in solitude as he learned the ways of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses was ready for graduation. As he spent another quiet day with the sheep he saw something unusual – a bush was burning, but in spite of the blazing flame the bush was not being consumed. Of course this was God’s way of getting Moses’ attention, but why this particular symbol? Why not a dancing rock, a singing sheep, or a cloud in the shape of an angel? It would seem that even in those days God was already prefiguring what His Son Jesus Christ would do for us. He was giving Moses a glimpse of the Spirit-filled life, a life of tremendous power and energy, which keeps us fresh and flourishing and does not consume us.

To be a good lamp you don’t have to be pretty or impressive or fancy. When things get dark, if you are doing your job well it will be the light that others notice, not your fancy carvings or delicate artwork. Effective lamps need only two things. First is a porous wick. Wicks use a capillary action to draw the oil up to the top of the lamp where burning can take place. Wicks are never made out of plastic or steel or glass. Wicks are always some type of soft material that can boast one major attribute: it can transfer oil exceedingly well.

Secondly effective lamps need a good source of oil, the purer the better. Anything you mix with oil will always degrade it. When it comes to oil, mixture is bad, purity is good. So in Jesus Christ it is our responsibility to be yielded wicks, sensitive to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him perfect freedom in our lives, families, and ministries. The more carnality, worldly passions, and unprofitable obsessions we allow to mix with the presence of God in our lives, the weaker will be our light, and the sooner we will burn up and burn out.

God is big on purity. Mixture is almost always spoken of negatively in the Bible. God told the Israelites not to plant two different kinds of seed in their vineyards, nor to plow with an ox and donkey yoked together. They were not to wear garments made of two different kinds of fabric such as wool and linen. And when it was time for young people to be married they were strictly forbidden to marry anyone outside of their own people.

Under the New Covenant we have freedom to wear shirts made of cotton and linen, or to plant two types of corn seeds in the same garden. But the idea of purity is still very big in the eyes of God. Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Paul writes that the purpose of God’s commandment is love that comes from a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5), and that we should hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience (1 Timothy 3:9). The definition of pure is pretty simple – it means unmixed. Milk that comes straight from the cow is pure, mix it with water, add vitamins and preservatives and it is no longer pure. Purity is not destroyed by taking away; it is spoiled by adding to.

In our walk with God, purity of heart and conscience are the result of a life completely devoted to Christ. Such a believer guards the will and work of Christ jealously; no passions or obsessions are allowed to rob the purity of their devotion. In 2 Corinthians Paul is concerned for the Corinthian believers, who seem to be turning away from a simple faith in Christ in their desire to be wise and esoteric. He warns them: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Purity can be destroyed by many additions, some appearing relatively harmless and others clearly evil. It could be pornography, but it might simply be an obsession with sports that robs us of all our free time. It might be an affair or it might be an addiction to television programs that drains us of our best hours while God’s word is neglected and ignored. Whatever the case the result will be the same: our spiritual oil becomes congealed and cannot flow easily. We talk about the fullness of the Spirit but our life is sadly deficient in this area. We may be saved, the oil may be present, but it stays in the bottom of the lamp, never making it to the top where it can blaze and burn, and bring blessing to others.

There is yet one more necessary factor for a lamp to do its job well. Not only must we be a porous wick and make sure our oil stays pure, we must also have a lampstand. The lamps of Jesus’ day were tiny little things. They were not at all like most of us imagine a lamp to be. They were made of clay and provided a container for a tiny amount of olive oil with a hole on the end where the wick could rise slightly above the oil and burn. They provided just enough light to enable one to see shadowy figures. And one thing they must have to even provide that much light was a lampstand. If they were to do any good they must get above the floor level. Jesus addressed this, saying: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:14,15).

It would be foolish to light a lamp and then set it in a closet, or place it in the refrigerator. Lamps must be given the best possible positioning so that they can shine maximum light. This is where the lampstand comes in. As its name implies it is a stand with a base at the top large enough to comfortably hold the lamp. The stand enables the lamp to be as effective as possible, to give off as much light as the lamp is able to give.

It is not the job of the lamp to somehow jump onto the lampstand. Lamps are incapable of jumping or hopping. If they are not placed on their stands they will never get there. In a similar manner it is God who places us in a position for our light to do the most good for this world. It may be placing us in the position as a Sunday School teacher, a church elder or a pastor, or knitting our hearts to an evangelistic ministry where we can support them and share in their fruit. It may be an open door to get our articles or books published, or an opportunity to help out at a homeless shelter. Somehow, some way God will find stands for the lamps He lights. It is not for us to demand a particular stand or to complain if our stand is not as pretty as someone else’s stand. God is very creative and the stands He fashions will be perfectly appropriate for their designated lamps. When He lights a lamp you can be sure He will provide the best possible stand for the most possible light. And it is His job to place us upon our stands. It is our job to trust Him to do this for us, and to accept the stand He provides.

The lesson here is simple but powerful. If you want to be fruitful and continually refreshed, it is not complicated. Abide in Jesus Christ, keep your devotion to Christ pure, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and become that burning bush whose leaves are always green. There is no shortage of fuel. The Spirit’s power and energy are freely given to all who believe on Jesus Christ.

On the Day of Pentecost, the Bible tells us that the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Tongues of fire appeared above every head. The power of this experience gave the apostles a visibility they could never have achieved through any efforts of their own. People from all over Jerusalem came together to see what was happening. Jesus’ lamps had begun to burn.

Is It Time For Your Fruit Inspection?

Is It Time For Your Fruit Inspection?

“You should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16b

This is one of the 7 passages in John, that refers to having fruit and it abiding in our lives.

What is this fruit?   We know the fruit is: “Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we pray, and our prayers are not answered, perhaps we need to check our fruit. Every so often believers need to make sure they are growing up spiritually. Perhaps it is time for your fruit inspection.

Look at the word “abide”. This means it is consistently there, not hit and miss.

All believers have the fruit of Spirit available to them. You don’t have to ask God for love, joy, or peace…you already have it in you. However, you may need to ask for a greater yield of your fruit on a day to day basis. The size of the fruit is different among believers. Some people spend time cultivating their fruit so that it’s flourishing; while others tend to neglect their fruit and it becomes unproductive.

Love

“Dear children let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Is your love unconditional? Or is your love most evident when everything goes your way? This type of fruit keeps on loving even when it’s difficult to show affection to others. The capacity to love grows out of the agape love from the heavenly Father.  This Love is hard to show on the job because some people just don’t deserve it.  Love anyway, unconditionally.

Joy

“For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Can you have joy in the chaos? Or does your moodiness hover over everyone like a cloud? Not that anyone should be joyful about the hard times, but rather your joy comes from #1) God is with you through it and #2) God uses every trial to help you become stronger in the faith.

Check your “reputation”.  Are you the person people avoid during your moody times?

Peace

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-8).

Is your inner person wrecked with anxiety and worry when everything falls apart? Or can you rest in God’s peace? There is no peace for the wicked; however, for believers it is available every time you pray and leave your concerns with God.  God knows all about your job.  He knows the deadlines, and the bill due dates.

Forbearance

“Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11).

Can you be still and wait on God? Or are you tempted to always move ahead so you can stay in control? Forbearance is a fruit that will grow with your experience of being stretched in faith especially in times of trial.  Forbearance is another word for patience; you don’t have to pray for patience…it’s there already!

Our Jobs, our Lives are going at such a fast pace… Can you succeed and still wait on the Lord?

Kindness

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Timothy 2:24).

Do others sense your kindness in words and actions? Or are they more accustomed to your angry response? A gentle word, a soft answer, or a helping hand—all demonstrate the fruit of kindness in this culture of rudeness and selfishness.

Goodness

“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).

Are your conversations marked with genuine virtue and honor? Or is your conversation tainted with worldly language, immoral tendencies, or gossip? Goodness doesn’t mean that you are perfect, but rather someone who sincerely reflects the integrity of God within. A believer who demonstrates the fruit of goodness has the tendency to look for the best about people.

Faithfulness

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Does your reputation reflect dependability and steadfastness in the faith? Or do people expect you to be late, undependable, or to drop off the map on a project? Your faithfulness represents God’s Spirit dwelling within. Those who cultivate the fruit of faithfulness are compelled to complete every good work for His glory.

Gentleness

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5).

Is your meek spirit felt around those who live or work with you? Or do they feel that you are a hard and legalistic person to deal with? A spirit of gentleness gives grace freely and consistently. Believers and unbelievers should feel at ease around you because of your presence of gentleness.

Self-Control

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12)

Do you control your appetites? Or do they control you? Believers can demonstrate a life of self-control and discipline in a world where everyday is an opportunity for gluttony. You have the power through the Spirit to control your cravings.

Forbearance

“Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11).

Can you be still and wait on God? Or are you tempted to always move ahead so you can stay in control? Forbearance is a fruit that will grow with your experience of being stretched in faith especially in times of trial.  Forbearance is another word for patience; you don’t have to pray for patience…it’s there already!

Every Fruit should be seen in each one of the Believers.  Don’t make excuses why you do not exhibit a particular fruit.  If there are no fruits seen, or if they are rotten and moldy, you need to Decide what is more important to you, Jesus or _________ (fill in the blank).  Start by praying about them every day.  Ask others to pray with you too.  Try to post the different “Fruits” around your office or work space as a reminder for you to start cultivating these missing fruits.

One side benefit of having the Fruits of the Spirit abiding in you seems to be Answered Prayers.  Read the 7 passages in John, that refer to having fruit and it abiding in our lives, and you will see that it seems to promise a stronger prayer life.  Wow… what a cool benefit!

 

 

Can you do 12 stones?

Each new year I encourage my kids to remember milestones in their lives thru a Twelve Stone tradition Joshua 4:1-8. We choose 12 rocks from our yard and place them in A row and aided by journals and calendars we each made lists of ways we have seen God working in our lives during the past 12 months. My kids faces lit up as we picked up one stone at a time and shared our recollections, intentionally remembering how God had answered prayers guiding our family through the new year.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have trouble remembering 12 stone worthy events from the past 12 months! I am not proud to admit it, but it is true.   The last time I made my 12 stone list, I had just gone thru 5 years of severe caregiving, three funerals, and my own health crisis. I had lots of good material to choose from!

But the last couple of years, life has slowed down into a comfortable routine. There have been few and minimal crisis in the family. So finding 12 Stone worthy events is much harder.

It seems that in the “good times” I seem to sort of forget about God or at best take Him for granted.

How about you? How full is your “Thank” meter?

A Better Forman

A Better Foreman
by Chuck Swindoll

Philippians 4:8

A person is a product of his or her own thoughts. Thoughts form the thermostat which regulates what we accomplish in life. My body responds and reacts to the input from my mind. If I feed it with doubt, worry, and discouragement, that is precisely the kind of day I will experience. If I adjust my thermostat forward—to thoughts filled with vision, hope, and victory—I can count on that kind of day. You and I become what we think about.

Take a minute to give your imagination a workout. Consider your mind a factory—a busy, bustling workshop of action and production. That’s not far from the truth. Your mind is a thought factory. Every day on that internal assembly line it produces thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of thoughts. Production in your thought factory is under the charge of two foremen. The names on their hard hats are Mr. Gainground and Mr. Slideback. Mr. Gainground, as you’d imagine, oversees the production of positive thoughts. At the pull of a lever, wholesome, encouraging, reassuring plans and positive ideas roll down the belt and into the showroom.

That other foreman, Mr. Slideback, has responsibilities too. Over in a darker, damp wing of the plant, Gainground’s counterpart manufactures negative, depreciating, worrisome thoughts. Both foremen are well qualified for their respective duties. Gainground specializes in producing reasons why you can face life triumphantly, why you can handle whatever comes your way, why you’re more than a conqueror. Old Slideback earned his Master’s at Inadequate U. He’s full of reasons why you cannot succeed, why you’re pitifully unable, why you should cave in, bow down, and surrender to the tangled thicket of inferiority, failure, and discouragement.

Both foremen, however, are instantly obedient. They await your signal to snap to attention. Provide yourself with a positive signal and Mr. Gainground throws himself into action. Pulling all the right switches, Gainground so gears production that one encouraging, edifying thought after another floods your mind and fills your life. As long as production is under his firm control, not even the slightest mist of misgiving may be observed hovering under the factory ceiling.

Foreman Slideback, however, awaits a negative signal (which he would prefer to call “reality” or “common sense”) and he’s off and running. At peak production, Slideback’s assembly line cranks out discouraging, bad-news thoughts faster than the mind can process them. He will soon have you convinced that you can’t or won’t or shouldn’t. Given sufficient time, he will drain your energy, squelch your confidence, and transform you into a frowning tight-lipped fatalist.

Neither Dale Carnegie nor Norman Vincent Peale originated such a message as this—God did. Listen to three biblical counselors:

Solomon, referring to attitudes: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).

Paul, referring to thoughts: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute . . . dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Peter, referring to the mind: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13).

Thoughts, positive or negative, grow stronger when fertilized with constant repetition. That may explain why so many who are gloomy and gray stay in that mood, and why others who are cheery and enthusiastic continue to be so, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Please do not misunderstand. Happiness (like winning) is a matter of right thinking, not intelligence, age, or position. Our performance is directly related to the thoughts we deposit in our memory bank. We can only draw on what we deposit.

What kind of performance would your car deliver if every morning before you left for work you scooped up a handful of dirt and put it in your crankcase? The fine-tuned engine would soon be coughing and sputtering. Ultimately, it would refuse to start. The same is true of your life. Thoughts about yourself and attitudes toward others that are narrow, destructive, and abrasive produce wear and tear on your mental motor. They send you off the road while others drive past.

You need only one foreman in your factory. The name is Mr. Gainground, and he’s anxious to assist you. In fact, he is immediately available to all the members of God’s family. His real name is the Holy Spirit—the Helper. If Mr. Slideback has been too busily engaged as foreman on your mental assembly line, then fire him! You’ll be astounded by how smoothly the plant will run under new leadership.

 

 


Our Speech

Our Speech
by Chuck Swindoll

Colossians 4:5-6

MR PIGS . . . MR NOT PIGS . . . OSAR . . . CM PENZ . . . LIB . . . MR PIGS.

Okay, give it a whirl. Read all those words again and translate. If you can—I can tell you what part of the country you’re from. Your speech will betray you . . . it does every time.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was talking with a group of visitors following a morning service. Several were from different sections of our nation. All, of course, spoke English, but a few possessed a distinct dialect that revealed their roots. I had a little fun by looking at them and asking things like, “When did you move from New York?” or “How long has it been since you left New England?” Both guesses were correct.

I had the most fun with a couple from Noth Cawline-ah (emphasis on “line”). I missed and guessed Geow-gha . . . and they were flabbergasted that I’d have the nerve to put ’em in that camp. I mean, after all!

But it’s the Texan and Oklahoman that I get the biggest kick out of. Uh, ‘scuse me, I shoulda said git. Unless yore raised duwn thar or have Walt Garrison nearby as a translator, you need a glossary of terms to carry witcha:

Spoken Written
May-on Man
Eggs-it Exit
Thang Thing
Ray-inch Ranch
Far Fire
Day-ins Dance
Bob war Barbed wire
Gittin sum hep Getting some help
Harney toe Horned toad
Awl beniss Oil business
Fixin’ta Getting ready
Ornj drank Orange drink
Sherf Sheriff
Frog strangler Big rain storm

 

It helps to have a pinch ‘tween your cheek ‘n’ gums . . . then those words kinda tumble outa your mouth real natural. Good ole boys readin’ this ain’t laughin’ ’cause we’re the ones who talk funny. Like they’d have no trouble a’tall with that exam I started with:

MR PIGS . . . “em are pigs.” MR NOT PIGS “em are not pigs!” OSAR . . . “Oh, yes, ‘ey are.” CM PENZ . . . “See ’em pens?” . . . LIB . . . “ul be!” MR PIGS . . . “em are pigs!”

I had a guy tell me that that is part of the entrance exam into Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A & M. Why not? If ya cain’t read plain ole American stuff, you ain’t got no beniss goin’ on to college! I better stop this nonsense or we’ll never git through.

We can dress up, move away, run with another crowd, and try to keep our roots a secret, but our speech won’t cooperate. There it is, plain as day for all to hear. Remember? That’s what happened to Peter. Backsliding at breakneck speed, the once-loyal disciple tried to fake it by the fire that night they arrested Jesus. But a girl pointed him out. Picture the scene as Mark records it:

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” (Mark 14:66–70 NIV)

He could hide his face, but not his speech. His Galilean “drawl” was clearly distinguishable, even in the wee hours of the morning. So what did he do to convince his accusers otherwise? The next verse answers that question:

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Galilean or Judean . . . now it didn’t matter. He spoke words they all understood. Profanity blurted out publicly in any language or dialect makes it clear—even to total strangers—that the one swearing lives at a distance from the living God. Amazing . . . not another person in the crowd that night accused Peter any further. His street speech was sufficiently convincing.

Nobody ever said it better than the teacher from Tarsus:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6)

Looking for ways to make your witness more gracious, more winsome? Interested in communicating Christ’s love and in building bridges that attract others to Him? Start with your speech . . . and don’t worry if folks can guess what part of the country you’re from. It’s when they would never guess you are a Christian that you’ve got something to worry about.

Are You a Thermostat or a Thermometer?


Are You a Thermostat or a Thermometer?

by  Greg Laurie

“Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.”—Genesis 6:9

Peter, in his second epistle, described the world’s effect on two believers. Both lived in a wicked culture, yet one thrived and the other shriveled.
First there’s Noah, who lived an uncompromised life. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God” (Genesis 6:8, 9 NKJV). Times were so bad that wickedness was full to the brim (see Genesis 6:5), yet Noah faithfully served the Lord despite the criticism of his culture. He raised his family as believers as well, and preached to others.
On the other hand was Lot, who reluctantly left Sodom. “Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day.” (2 Peter 2:8 NLT). He ended up as a leader in the city who had no influence whatsoever.
When told by angels that judgment was coming, he told his sons-in-law. They “blew him off” because they thought he was joking. The angels had to take him by the hand to get him out. He did not want to leave. He lived a compromised life, and when judgment came, he left reluctantly. He could have sung (like Tony Bennett), “I left my heart, in Sodom and Gomorrah.”
No one is reached by compromise.
Which one of those men do you relate to? Are you changing culture, or is culture changing you? Are you a thermostat or are you a thermometer?
A thermometer is affected by its surroundings. Depending on the temperature, the mercury moves up or down. In contrast, a thermostat influences its surroundings. Unlike the thermometer, the thermostat controls the heat or coldness around it.
Noah was a thermostat and Lot was a thermometer.
So, what kind of a believer are you? It’s easy to blame our wicked culture for the way we are but the fact of that matter is that it’s our job as followers of Jesus is to permeate and affect it.
Do you influence your surroundings or do your surroundings influence you?
By Greg Laurie

Titus 3:1-8

CHAPTER 3
Godly Living
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.

How many of us ” live peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.