Series 34



That’s what my Pastor calls them: “Hardcore.”

We both agree. We have more respect for someone who is hardcore—making a firm stand in what they believe; no wavering. Even if our beliefs are totally opposite. They’ve made a bold, uncompromising stand which they will live and die by.

Joshua, one of the greatest leaders in the Bible, spoke words which exemplify this way of living: "Now, therefore, fear the LORD God and serve Him in sincerity and truth...and serve the LORD God. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD God, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve.”

Hardcore. Make a choice. Make a stand. Till the end.

Looking in the Sunday newspaper it appeared I found someone doing just this. Miriam performs non-religious wedding ceremonies: “A humanist clergy… (she) is driven by principles of humanism, a science driven philosophy that rejects religious belief and focuses on human value.”

Pretty blunt for a Christian to read. “Science driven…rejects religious belief.”

The article then goes on to say: “Miriam often incorporates glass-breaking into her ceremonies, explaining its power in protecting the couple from evil spirits.”

What? So which science teaches glass breaking protects against evil spirits?

Jesus’ followers were often challenged with clear, focused, make-a-choice teachings. Their confused minds, filled with contrasting beliefs, were startled by words like: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”

Later a decision-time question from Jesus forced a response.

Their answer solidified their now “hardcore” standing: “Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life. We believe and know You are God’s Holy One.”

No wavering. Whole-hearted dedication. No doubt.



Choose One. The Heart or the Bible?

No one forced Tammy to fill in the handout.  And the way she tossed it on the counter signified she was miffed.

The Free Store, where she was shopping—for free, is an unabashed Christian ministry.

And they aren’t sneaky about trying to make Jesus known. Tracts, Scriptures on the walls, church service schedules on the bulletin board, always free Bibles and Christian books.

In the flyer titled, “What do you think??” she had answered correctly on five of its six questions. Do you know God loves you? Was Jesus a fool to die on the Cross? Do you know why Jesus died on the Cross? Do you believe in Heaven and Hell? Do you know exactly what you believe and why you believe that way?

She didn’t answer: “Is the God of the Bible real?” But she left a comment: “Belief is in the heart not a book!”

This would be a common way of thinking: “Follow your heart.”

I once looked up, read, and compiled every Bible verse containing “heart.” 800 verses. During this time frame, I asked people what “heart” meant. 

Amazingly, even the godliest and the most intelligent people I know, provided somewhat fuzzy explanations.

So why would a person want to follow their heart?  Would they even know exactly what they were following?

The word “heart” makes its first Biblical appearance in Genesis 6:5: “The wickedness of man…every intent of the thought of his heart was evil continually.”

Following the heart way too often leads to calamity. Or worse.

The Bible says: “The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.”  Here’s the superior approach: get God’s law, the Bible in your heart. This properly prepares our hearts to guide us in a slip-less life.


Why is God Doing This to Me?

“Why is God doing this to me?” Galen asked, nearly pleading.

He wasn’t asking me. But I was interested in Sherri’s response. Galen complains of being plagued with crisis after crisis. Now he was sure, God was causing his latest run-amuck.

Sherri always tries her best to inject hope. It seemed futile as Galen was feeling pretty beat down.

Now here’s the strange twist. Sherri has experienced nearly as many challenges in the last year as Galen. Possibly more.

Family deaths. Selling her home. A business setback. Working in a variety of ministries which occasionally results in fatigue or illness Money seems semi-nonexistent.  But she presses on with joy as she shares hope, God’s hope, with others.

What’s the difference between Galen and Sherri?

Attitude. Godly attitude.

The Bible says: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thing.” We each have a choice. We decide on how we think about God. Other people. Our situation. Ourselves. Etc.


Here’s an example. Sherri said, “I was at Wal-Mart looking at an ice-cube tray.  I put it back; it cost too much.” Her secondhand refrigerator didn’t have any trays. She continued, “I just thought: God can provide one.”

Serving God fulltime and a $1.47 purchase is too extravagant. Almost seems like a why-is-God-doing-this-to-me-moment.

Two days later she was out for a walk. She noticed an ice-cube tray in some grass along the road. When’s the last time you found an ice-cube tray? There’s more. Three days later she found a second one.

When Sherri told me, she was laughing. Raising her hands toward heaven, praising God.  As the Bible says: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say: rejoice.”



Free Won’t

Thomas had been given a free gift from God. This gift is one way God expresses His love to humans. The gift? Free won’t.

Thomas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. The Bible says: “But Thomas…was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, ‘We saw the Master (Jesus).’ But Thomas said, "Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won't believe it."  I won’t…

Jesus died. Was resurrected to life and had appeared to a few—but not Thomas. Thomas then exercised his free won’t: “I won’t believe.” His God-given choice/gift.

At a small gathering of friends recently, we discussed some men in the Bible whose lives intermingled closely with Jesus—Peter, Thomas, and Paul. I asked the question: “Who can you most relate to?”

Two answered honestly, saying they were like Thomas during the doubting phase of his life. Free won’t in my friend’s lives said: “Until I have more evidence, I won’t fully believe in Jesus.”

I have respect for their searching attitude. But there is a huge, destructive trap that can easily unfurl. I won’t believe until…way, way too often becomes: “I won’t do anything regarding pursuing truth. I won’t believe in Jesus. And I won’t invest any effort into making an informed decision on this ultra-important matter.”

Now Thomas and my two friends (for the most part) have a proper, searching attitude.

Thomas maintained his connection with his believing friends. “And Thomas was with them.”

Thomas never said that believing was beyond possibility. He needed more evidence: “Unless I see…”

Thomas was willing to make a swift, radical change. From I won’t; he immediately responded to Jesus: “My Lord and my God.”


Twelve Year Old Pickles

“That must be the record,” I said to my wife. She responded, “Has to be.”  We were talking about food for needy families. No it wasn’t a record food drive or a record distribution day.

Someone had contributed a jar of pickles outdated by twelve years! We both kind of laughed. Kind of…

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” And these pickles were definitely for “the least” in our community.

My wife and I agreed: “They didn’t know what they were doing.” It was just a little oversight mixed in with a do-good objective.


Listen to those words from Jesus again: “'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, the least in society; that was Me--you did it to Me.”  So, would a person accidentally have an oops-moment and present to Jesus Christ pickles twelve years past their expiration date?

Introspection caused me to look first at my own heart. And attitude. Do I see the face of Jesus in every needy person? Or do I look upon a single lump of humanity—the poor?

The prophet Isaiah gives challenging advice: “Share your food with the hungry…bring into your house the poor wander…when you see the naked, clothe him.” In addition to these material goods he adds: “Extend your soul to the hungry.”

My soul!

This is taking all God has given me—all the love, mercy, compassion, kindness, grace…and giving, extending all to “the least in society.”

Yes, we will sometimes be perplexed as to how to accomplish this. It’s as if Isaiah knew our thoughts. He adds: “The LORD will guide you continually.”