Series 23


Ouch…I Felt Like Crying

When my eyes scanned the e-mail, I felt like crying. It said, “You did a knockout job on the article.” From the editor of a Christian magazine, it referenced my first article for a nationally known publication. The e-mail also informed me of a delay. The article would not run until the next issue. My joy made patience easy.

A month went by. And then nearly another month.  Finally--the editor’s next message arrived.

After a quick read, I felt like crying again. This time, from mountain top exhilaration, I plunged to the valley. As I read, my brain interpreted the message to say: “We can’t use your article, it’s not even fixable.” In reality the editor’s words had expressed more kindness. Somewhat consoling. Still, I had just been dumped.

Decision time.

Right away I made a choice to lockdown my emotions. Only God’s view could correctly manage the situation, not a tangled emotional mess. These words from the Bible offered godly direction. And personal inner strength. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

I focused my mind on the extreme challenges of the editor’s job and recognized how awkward it must have been for him to radically shift his appraisal of the article. The Bible adds: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I prayed for the editor. In my correspondence to him, my objective was to avoid adding any weight to his already burdensome job. And more mind-battles had to be fought to maintain a godly attitude.

Bottom line. This is how God, through His written Word, tells us to act. It’s not optional.

In all situations, focus on obeying God.


Cutting Depression

“I was depressed, so I cut my hair,” Lisa said. Did that help? “I made a mess of it,” she said. “And then I had to look in the Yellow Pages to find a cheap place so I could get it fixed.” If it was only that easy to alleviate depression.

Have you noticed?  Depression seems epidemic.

So much so that the World Health Organization predicts by 2030 depression will be the second leading cause of illness in the world.

What’s the answer? Can I offer you two approaches?

Here’s an idea from The Oprah Magazine. “One study suggests that exercise can be as effective as drugs in treating major depression disorders.” The Bible concurs with this. “Bodily exercise is of some value.”

The scripture continues: “But godliness has value for all things, holding promises for both the present age and the life to come.” The things of God need to be the greater focus.

David, one of the Bible’s greatest men, wrote three times in the course of less than a page: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” David was talking to himself, voicing his depressive state.

Each time in these three passages he answered his own question with this response: “Put your hope in God.”

He didn’t hope in family or friends to pull him out of his quandary. Not in a new haircut. Not in shopping. Not in drugs. Not in a psychiatrist.  And not in himself.

His hope was in God.

God will love when no one else seems to—including ourselves. Experiences fade. God is everlasting. When human wisdom fails, God’s word, the Bible, provides the ultimate advice.

God says, “Draw near to Me and I will draw near to you.” Close to God is where true hope is discovered.


Arguing About Jesus

“I didn’t come here to argue,” the lady said. The lady and her associates trooped door to door handing out flyers inviting people to attend a special meeting at their church. She handed my friend Phillip a flyer.

He glanced at it, handing it off to me. Scanning the literature quickly, I decided to ask some questions.

Phillip, who is investigating the principles of Christianity, heard me ask her: “Do you believe Jesus is God?” She said, “We believe Jesus is the Son of God.” I repeated my question: “But, do you believe Jesus is God?” She repeated her answer word for word. She didn’t answer the question. But offered: “Jesus is a god.”

The Bible says, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” The question is one of the most fundamental questions of Christianity. A simple response should be either “yes” or “no.”

I didn’t realize I was arguing. My objective was for Philip to have a clear understanding.

Before the lady left, I extended my hand: “Let’s not pretend. Our beliefs are not the same.” She smiled slightly. We shook hands; peace was made.

There’s enough proof to provide a book-length explanation of why Jesus is God. But ponder this observation. God says in the Bible, “Do not worship any other god, because I the LORD tolerate no rivals.”  And the Bible contains numerous examples of Jesus being worshipped. From His birth until His return to heaven.

For example John 9:38: “Lord, I believe! And he (John) worshiped (Jesus) Him.” Because Jesus is God, Jesus never rejected a worshipper. 

Later Phillip and I discussed the disagreeing-about-Jesus incident. Ultimately Phillip must decide what he believes. My hope is that his choices and your choices will be weighed according to eternal accounting.


Too Far to Drive for God

“Mom said you wouldn’t come pick us up,” Sarena said. “It would be too far to drive.”

For nearly a year, I had been driving eight-year old Sarena and her younger sisters Madison and Arryanna to church. They had moved unexpectedly; this was our first contact in weeks.

Pulling into the trailer park, I drove slowly reading the numbers trying to locate trailer 54. Beforehand I had weighed my decision. Was a ninety-mile roundtrip too far to drive? Two considerations were plugged into the equation-- my time and the gas money.

I turned the second corner, hesitatingly moving along the narrow road. Suddenly, half a block ahead Sarena came speeding towards me as fast as she could pedal her bike. Her huge smile and waving hand brought an even a bigger smile to my face.

Two friends were riding with her, “This is Casey and Alexis,” Sarena said. “They want to go to church.” We discussed details. Then she added, “Alexis has never been to church.”

My length-I-would-drive criteria melted when shy, apprehensive Alexis glanced at me.

The Bible says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything may have an abundance for every good work.” I experienced an instant awe-of-God grace moment when my emotions grasped the gravity of God allowing me to be the first person to take ten-year old Alexis to church.

Sure it would be easy to merely think a child was being transported to church. But wouldn’t it be far superior to envision, in faith, for this to be a major turning point in Alexis’ life?

That’s what I believe. So it’s definitely a “good work.” Praise God; we can trust Him to provide whatever is needed for doing His good works.


How to Get Ten Dollars

“Rick can you give me ten dollars?” Daniel blurted out while I was driving some teenagers to church. I responded, “Daniel if I give you ten dollars, everyone in the car will want money.” I added: “If you need money, ask me privately.”

A week later while visiting Daniel’s family, he said, “I need to talk to you in private.” I instantly thought-- “What teenager-problem does he need to discuss?” He said, “Can I have twenty-dollars.” I laughed. Our previous conversation came back to mind. “You told me to ask you in private.”

I didn’t give Daniel twenty dollars to add minutes to his cell phone. Even his plea, “I’ll call you; we can talk about God,” failed.

Thumbs-up to Daniel for listening and creative soliciting. But he needs to know God’s plan on how to get ten dollars. And more.

This verse could sum up a lesson Daniel must absorb. “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich.” One of the broadest principles of the Bible—“You will reap what you sow.” Give to get.

So Daniel wants money. What can he give? He can serve at church. He can give kind words, his attention to developing Godly character, his best effort in school, and love towards his family. And give money to the church offering.

When these actions are “sown,” his desires will change. His requests will be more God-centered. And God will open up opportunities for money to come into his possession for reasonable appeals.

Bottom line—Biblical principles of giving to get have proven successful for generations: “The generous soul will be made rich.” Need something? Shift your focus from getting to giving.