Starting a School Year Well

Since local schools are starting soon and most colleges and universities already back in session, I thought of posting some helps for starting this new school year well.

There are many things to consider in preparation for school. With the regulations and mandates on how to deal with Covid19 on top of the already exciting and possibly stressful time of starting classes, you may want some help! I hope the following tips will be an encouragement to you.

Work Hard. I love the words of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Plan ahead and anticipate what is next. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, And gathereth her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6–8.

Make good friends. “Make no friendship with an angry man; And with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, And get a snare to thy soul.” Proverbs 22:24–25.

Stay morally right. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:4.

Get some rest. “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” Mark 6:31.

Be physically healthy. Physical exercise, and good nutrition are very important. Most of our health is beyond our control, but we can control our habits for exercise and eating. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19–20.

Keep praying and spending time with God in Bible reading. No matter your life circumstances or what happens in this new school year – if you stay close to God, you will find the rest, peace, and blessings of the Lord in your life. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29–30.

I am praying for you to have a wonderful school year! If you need to talk, get some counsel, or have a prayer request, please let me know.

Finding God’s Will For Your Life

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the
flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
” (Ephesians 6:5–8, KJV 1900)

I once knew a young adult student who was very successful in his freshman year in a college several states away from his hometown.  He was a good roommate, excellent student, and great competitor in several sports teams on campus.  His high school sweetheart was a senior in high school his freshman year at college and her choice of a college the following year was affecting his thoughts for what would have been his sophomore year.  With her decision to go to a local, secular college for a medical degree, this young man decided he would follow her lead and transfer to the same school. 

After one week in the local college, he changed his mind; there were several females assaulted and violent crimes on that campus.  He wanted out of that environment.  There was time for this man to re-enroll in his original college where he finished the next 3 years and graduated.  She ended up following him to the same campus and successfully completed a medical degree and they are married and have a beautiful family today.

In the above verses, Paul cautions the Christians in Ephesus to not be serving their bosses and living their lives by merely trying to make others happy.  “Menpleasers” carries this idea: “studying to please men, courting the favor of men”.[1]  We are told NOT to be menpleasers.  When making decisions, we must consider God and His will for our lives.   In other words, we do not do what we do, live how we live or decide what we decide – just to make others happy.  Our goal is not to make ourselves happy!  Our goal is to please the Lord first and foremost.  It is possible for you to find the will of God and do it – with all your heart!  

When young adults and teenagers are discerning the will of God, the strongest motivation perhaps is to allow the pressure or expectations from peers, girlfriends/boyfriends affect their decision-making process.  While the input of others and those who know us best can be healthy, it can also distract a young person from truly finding and fulfilling the will of God. 

Until a young adult says “I do” in a marriage ceremony, the primary consultation for advice should be the parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and local church pastors.  When a teenager or young adult allows one person to direct their path, the outcome may not be finding the path God has for you.

For example, what if the college man in the story moved to the other college, continued with classes, and then he and she broke off the relationship?  He may have missed out on the education and other friendships that God intended for him. The young lady would have spent years in a pointless relationship.  The direction of her life would have been impacted and the direction if his life would have been affected.

Sometimes, God’s will allows us to cross paths with others:  I call this the “intersectional will of God.”  Along the path of life, we impact others and others impact us.  It is best that those impacts do not include a crash or a wrecking of our lives or of others.  I encourage
young adults to make personal decisions, consulting the Lord.  Find God’s will for your life-alone.  Once the “I Do” commitments are made, then the significant other is of utmost importance – but not until then.  When engaged, the dynamic shifts some to each other and big plans are made, but the true commitment for life takes place at the wedding ceremony when making a covenant to each other with God.

A secular mindset is to “date anyone and everyone, anytime you want.”  But God made us for long term relationships. Consult Moses and Jesus for information on that.   When a teenager or young adult is following the general and specific will of God for his/her life, the Lord will eventually bring just the right person along to be their partner in life and join them in marriage.  Keep waiting on God.  As one preacher said: “Don’t look for the right one, be the right one, and God will give you the right one.”

Three other verses really give clear guidance:

  • After preparing for a career and becoming responsible for your own lively is a
    good time to consider dating and marriage. “Prepare thy work without and make it fit for thyself in the field; And afterwards build thine house.” (Proverbs 24:27, KJV 1900) In a practical way, it is healthy to be very good friends until you sense the Lord causing the friendship to develop into romance.

  • Singleness is a gift and should be embraced until God directs a spouse to you. 
    We can serve the Lord without distraction, and this is the goal of every young Christian, following Jesus.  “There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Corinthians 7:34–35, KJV 1900)
  • Avoid sexualizing your relationship.  Sex without the safety net of marriage causes internal emotional and physical/chemical bonding and attachment issues.  Sexual release changes the brain function and causes different thinking about each other!  Once bonded in sexual activity, it becomes more difficult to think objectively about the relationship.  These are issues that should be avoided if you wait to enjoy sex in the bounds of marriage. “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:1–2, KJV 1900) Once you are married – have a healthy sexual relationship – you know belong to each other in the sight of God.  God created sex – have fun – within God’s perfect plan.

It is possible for you to find the will of God and do it – with all your heart!  

Mentor and Bible teacher, Dr. Jim Schettler, used to say the following helpful thoughts.  I hope they will encourage you today:

  1. “Don’t look for the right one, be the right one and God will bring the right
    one.”
  2. “It is better to wait and know it than to date and blow it.” 
  3. “Every date is a possible mate.”
  4. “What they are now, they always will be.”
  5. “How you get them is how you keep them.”
  6. “A dating relationship should be a delight, not a duty.”

Be encouraged to study healthy dating and marriage – before dating someone!  Outside of trusting Jesus for salvation, dating could lead to the biggest relational decision of your life on earth.  It will impact you and potentially future generations of people.  Here are some helpful books I recommend for your study:

  1. 1 Corinthians chapter 7
  2. Boundaries in Datinghttps://www.christianbook.com/boundaries-in-dating-henry-cloud/9780310200345/pd/00342?event=PRCBD1
  3. Passion and Purity https://www.christianbook.com/passion-and-purity-second-edition/elizabeth-elliot/9780800723132/pd/723130?event=PRCBD1
  4. Preparing for Marriagehttps://www.christianbook.com/preparing-marriage-discover-plan-lifetime-love/dennis-rainey/9780764215506/pd/215506?event=CPOF
  5. 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get
    Engaged
    https://www.christianbook.com/questions-ask-before-you-get-engaged/h-wright/9780736913942/pd/913947?event=CFCER1
  6. Ready to Wedhttps://www.christianbook.com/ready-ways-start-marriage-youll-love/greg-smalley/9781624054068/pd/054068?event=CFCER1
  7. Love, Sex, and Datinghttps://www.christianbook.com/new-rules-for-love-sex-dating/andy-stanley/9780310342199/pd/342199?event=PRCBD1


[1] Thayer, J. H. (1889). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti (p. 46). New York: Harper & Brothers.

Doing Things Well

The man could not hear, and his speaking was unintelligible. He could only make sounds in an attempt to communicate. Many people would have discarded this man or avoided him – but not all people.   Concerned people brought the man to Jesus.  The crown wanted to see what Jesus could do with this man.  With compassion and personal privacy, Jesus takes the man away from the crowd.  Jesus proceeds to put his fingers into the ears of the deaf man and then He spits His own saliva and touches the man’s tongue with his fingers.  Jesus looks to God the Father and utters a one-word Aramaic prayer, “Ephphath” – to us in English, “Be Opened.” 

Jesus demonstrates care for others.  He shows us about compassion in this story.  As one person wrote, “Jesus then gave a deep sigh. This showed the incredible empathy of Jesus. This was an inward groan indicating Christ’s compassionate response to the needs of this man. He not only felt for him—he felt with him.”[1]  Jesus does not look for fame.  In fact, he tells the man and the people not to tell others, but the word spreads fast. 

Jesus knows your pain and your struggles today.  Some need physical healing.  Others need spiritual healing.  All of us need a touch of Jesus in our lives. 

Read the narrative for yourself and be amazed:

And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” (Mark 7:31–37)

When the of the Decapolis region see this miracle, they are astonished.  They testify to the excellent character of Jesus and the tremendous quality of His work and ministry by saying “He had done all things well.”   

“Well” is a beautiful Greek word καλός, which means “beautifully, finely, excellently, well.”[2]  Jesus does everything well.  Just look at this Creation though marred by sin demonstrates excellence. A beautiful flower, a majestic sunset, the movement of the human hand all are examples of he excellence work of God in Creation. Everything Jesus did was done with excellence and beauty.

Have you ever heard the phrase: “Quality attracts?”  Excellence is attractive to us and others.  When we live with excellence it attracts others to the business, the church, or the homelife we are having.  When living with poor quality, people are generally repelled, or a collection of similar type people may gather with the mindset of “not expecting much.”  It would be better to work, serve, and live by doing things well, with our best effort.

Since Jesus does everything well, here are some encouragements for us:

  • There is nothing God has done in your life that is second best.  Many times, we personally settle for second best, but God does not do this!   You are not second rate.  You may have a health or mind condition that you do not understand, but God loves you and He can do wonderful things in your life.  There are no second-class Christians.   God may choose to give healing and sometimes He uses medicine and doctors and sometimes it is the will of God not to heal – while the person is on earth.  Please know that you are not second best. 
  • The work God accomplishes is done with excellence and quality.  Sometimes Christians just “get by” or “survive” life and ministry, just doing enough to “keep the train on the tracks!” But God does better than this.  We do not want to merely “coast” through life barely getting by.  While I am not advocating a perfectionist, performance-oriented mindset, the work that we do and the effort for which we put into planning, serving, and living should result in some good things.  Would people say of your work, service, or ministry: “he/she does things well?”  Are you giving God your best effort at work?  Are you investing your heart and soul into your service to the Lord?  Are you being all God wants you to be in your home?   Personal discipline, Godly Priorities, and planning ahead can contribute to advancing personal excellence.
  • The excellence of God is worth the wait. Imagine eating a stale apple pie or waking the time and waiting for a warm and fresh apple pie.  Stale pie is not going to kill you, and it is “ok.”  But warm and fresh pie is so much better.   Many Christians settle for second best in the choices and direction of their life.  They may not have faith to wait on God’s timing.  They may not believe God has a better plan for their life.  It is possible, they are rejecting God’s plan as outlined in the Bible.  Determine to wait for the excellent things God has for you.  Here are some examples where some may skip over excellence:
    • Relationships:  If God has called you to have a partner in life, He will bring a spouse to you.  Wait for His timing.  Trust Him to the wedding day, and then move in together.   Wait for sex until you belong to each other in marriage.  It may be tough spiritually and emotionally when “that’s the way all my friends are doing it.”  I would encourage you to find better friends who will challenge you to Godly living.  Be like “iron sharpening iron” for others to be more like Jesus.  If you take short cuts in relationships now – you may end up taking short cuts later.  Don’t settle for second best in relationships. 
    • Work: Why settle for second best in work?  Paygrade and position is not our determining factor for our work.  Our work is more about our effort and desire for honoring the Lord with the opportunity He has given us.  Work is about giving God the credit.   If God has given you special gifts (and He has) then use those gifts for His glory.  You are just as valuable as another employee – even if your skill sets are different.  God made no mistake in how He equipped you.  Take some time to see the excellence of Jesus in how you are working. 
    • Education:  Each Christian must consistently read, pray, and fellowship with God and other believers to ensure Spiritual growth.  While some may not seek excellence in Bible study and Christian development or education, you can.  Shoddy or shallow Bible study should not be normal in the Christian life.  Let’s study well with beautiful excellence.

Would people testify about you “He/She does all things well?”  While we cannot heal people of infirmities, we can direct people to Jesus.   Let us follow the good example of Jesus and do the best we can in all we do.    


[1] Cooper, R. L. (2000). Mark (Vol. 2, p. 121). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Thayer, J. H. (1889). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti (p. 323). New York: Harper & Brothers.

The Little-Known History of John Clarke

The Little-Known History of the Contribution of Freedom of Conscience and Pastor John Clarke to the Freedom of America

100 years before the American War for independence, a Baptist preacher named Dr. John Clarke had already sowed the seeds of freedom.  Along with men such as Roger Williams, who established the first Baptist Church in America in the town of Providence, and others like Governor Benedict Arnold, great grandfather of the infamous traitor bearing the same name, Clarke labored in the push for freedom.   

Before Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and George Whitfield (1715-1779) were preaching in the Great Awakening, Roger Williams, and John Clarke had been preaching and establishing the first and second Baptist Churches in America, respectfully.[1] 

While many preachers in the years after John Clarke were able to “live of the Gospel” with their Gospel ministries providing a living income, John Clarke was a faithful bi-vocational pastor.  His vocations included, legal clerk, town representative, Lieutenant Governor of the Rhode Island Colony, and a medical doctor who helped heal people, not only in body, but in mind and soul.  In his own book Ill News from New England, Clarke describes himself on the cover as “The Physician of Rhode Island in America.”[2]

Many people will speak about Roger Williams when talking about the early Baptists of America. In many Christian and Baptist history books, the pastor of the second Baptist church to be established on this continent, is not even mentioned. 

Since the first and second Baptist Churches in all of America were founded in the Colony of Rhode Island, it is from Rhode Island that the rest of the Baptist Churches began to spring up in the other English colonies.  Because Roger Williams declared himself a Baptist for only a few months his historical influence should be less than it is.   John Clarke in contrast remained a lifelong Baptist and his influence in Baptist churches must surely be felt for the future generations in Baptist Church life and expansion.  Clark is considered “the most important Baptist in seventeenth-century America.[3]” 


Pastor John Clarke in the painting “Portrait
of a Clergyman” by Guilliam de Ville c. 1659. From Wiki.

Becoming Baptist

Born in October 8, 1609 nearly 90 miles outside London, John’s family and upbringing seems to be Puritan as indicated by the use of the Geneva Bible by his father, Thomas Clarke.[4] 

Perhaps with each passing year in England, and during his years of vocational training, Clarke grew and developed into the Baptist faith.  Nelson suggests;

“Dr. Clarke, furthermore, was a Baptist.  There is no record of his having held any other kind of doctrinal views, and Dr. Bicknell says that “it is reasonable to assume that he was a member of or in fellowship with the Baptist of Holland, who had, as early as 1611, affirmed the right of all men to religious liberty and the duty of obedience to lawful government.”[5]  

While there may have been many who held to what we would call Baptistic views since the time of the New Testament, and many were Anabaptists (against infant baptism), and there are still others who were protesting the state church from 1577, they may not have been called “Baptist” at this point in history.  In England and among the English-speaking people, the “Two primary founders of General Baptists were John Smyth and Thomas Helwys.”[6]

When Thomas Helwys wrote his book, The Mystery of Iniquity, in 1612, it sparked the ideology of freedom of conscience.  Following this book, Ill News from New England, by Pastor John Clarke, written 40 years later, in 1652, the flame of freedom was fanned, and the liberty of conscience is propagated. These ideas became some of the distinctives of the Baptist faith.  Freedom of Conscience “came to be one of their most celebrated distinctives, the idea of freedom of conscience and religious liberty.[7]” 

In his book, Ill News from New England, we gain a glimpse of his thinking and convictions.  Clarke is strong in his beliefs as he gives his testimony of faith in section two of his confession of faith;

“I testify that baptism, or dipping in water, is one of the commandments of this Lord Jesus Christ. A visible believer, or disciple of Christ Jesus, that is, one that manifests repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ is the only person that is to be baptized, or dipped with that visible baptism, or dipping of Jesus Christ in water.  That visible person is to walk in that visible order of His House, and so to wait for His coming the second time in the form of a Lord, and King, with His glorious Kingdom according to promise; and fir his sending down, in the time of His absence, the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit of Promise.  All this is according to the last will and Testament of that living Lord, whose will is not to be added to, or taken from.”[8]

His book is an effort to inform the reader of the religious persecution beginning to develop in America in the 1600’s and to make a plea for the government to not interfere with religious matters. He gives practical examples from the fines, imprisonment and persecution he endured in Massachusetts. He also cites the whippings and injustice towards John Crandall and Obadiah Holmes, who also held to Baptist views. He is very convincing, and his passion is clear as he writes.  To further understand why he wrote this and what he stood for we must explore his first travels to New England. 

New Beginnings

Arrival to New England

When John Clarke’s ship comes to the shore of Boston in 1637, there were many religious tensions that were developing, and he jumped right into the fray.  The Antinomianism Controversy was in full swing.  Antinomianism could be understood to be free grace.  Grace to do whatever one wants to do.  Those adherents to Antinomianism believed that the grace of God gave a license to do and live however a person wanted to do and live.  In other words, no morals.  John Clarke believed in God’s grace but not to the extent that there were no morals with which to live by.  There is a soteriological reason for his involvement with those in the Antinomian Controversy.  “He believed that only the Antinomianism genuinely upheld the Protestant conviction that salvation is by faith alone and the Calvinist conviction that faith is the fruit of God’s free award of grace.”[9]

            This understanding of God’s gift of salvation being received by faith alone, and not by our works makes Bible sense to me.  Ephesians 2:8-9 declares, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (KJV).  Antinomianism could also be refuted with 2 other simply stated verses found in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (KJV).  While John Clark enjoyed grace, he also knew not to abuse God’s grace.  Later on, he separates from those who held the Antinomian views and continued to hold a more balanced Bible view of grace.

Dr. Clarke was not a pastor when he arrived in New England and he had not yet gained much influence but when he sided with Anne Hutchinson (who was not a Baptist) and others who followed Antinomianism, he paid a price.  His freedom in the Massachusetts Colony was limited right away.  His belief in Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion was to be tested early and often in Colonial New England.  The main issue that developed was the mode of Baptism and who was authorized to baptize people.  Anabaptism was gaining ground in the Colonies as many people adopted a belief that baptism is for believers only, and that infants are not yet old enough to be believers. Thomas Kidd and Barry Hankins write:

Massachusetts became so alarmed at those people against infant baptism that a colonial law was put into effect against the Baptists. “The law banished anyone who questioned infant baptism, proclaimed Christian pacifism, or (like Roger Williams) denied the state’s authority to police religious convictions.”[10] 

The Second Baptist Church

Once removed from Massachusetts, Dr Clarke sets off to find a place to live outside the Colonies in what is now called Rhode Island.  While continuing his medical doctoring and after some time serving the community in the establishment of the town of Portsmouth, he moves to Newport and there becomes a pastor.  This church is to be the second Baptist church in all of America.  I like how one historian Henry Burrage in 1894 describes the start of the church in Newport; “The church was first gathered by Mr. Clarke about 1644.”[11]  

This significant development of a Baptist church being formed is rooted in the intense convictions and belief of Dr. Clarke in Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion.  With a Puritan background from his childhood, (Puritans are those who tried to purify the state church from within), Dr Clarke sets out to follow the Bible with liberty and freedom.  His growth and development into the Baptist faith becomes more evident each year and Clarke is described by authors Kidd and Hankins as: “A radical Puritan already on his way to becoming a Baptist.”  He started a church in Newport “which became Baptist, by 1644.”[12] 

Civil Participation

When reflecting on the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the forming of the United States of America being free from the control of the British, one cannot help but trace the thought of liberty and freedom to the ideas purported by Pastor John Clarke nearly 100 years earlier.  Historian Edwin Gaustad writes;

“One year after the founding of Portsmouth, at the other end of Aquidneck Island, the town of Newport would appear. The major figure in the first decade or two of Newport’s history was another clergyman, John Clarke.  Clarke had left Massachusetts voluntarily, agreeing with Anne Hutchinson that the clergy there gave too much attention to ‘good works’ and not enough to God’s grace. In Newport, Clarke organized America’s second Baptist church.  Unlike Williams, Clarke remained a Baptist all of his life, even as he remained a stalwart defender of the rights of Rhode Island against the greedy land grabs of the neighboring colonies.”[13] 

Clarke was very influential in the local town and colonial government.  From 1664 on, John Clarke was involved in the Newport town government as a town deputy. When viewing copies of the original records, one sees his name much of that time listed as being the recording secretary.  About 10 years after obtaining the Royal Charter for Rhode Island, Clarke, was chosen as the deputy governor in 1669 and again in 1671.  As deputy governor of the Rhode Island Colony, he served alongside Benedict Arnold, the great grandfather of the notorious traitor we know of from the Revolutionary War era. Clarke is a very active man in church and in affairs of the government, however, most of the local and state government records were lost in seawater during the revolutionary war.[14]

Clarke was instrumental in the founding of Portsmouth, Rhode Island along with William Coddington, and Anne Hutchinson. This town is located at the northern end of what was known as Aquidneck, Rhode Island.  Pastor Roger Williams helped negotiate the land purchase from the Indians.  Later this island’s name changed to “The Island of Rhode Island” in the Spring of 1644.[15]  Everett Goodwin records;

“Across Narragansett Bay from Providence law two other communities that established religious liberty: Portsmouth and Newport.  Both were influenced by the leadership of a quite different personality, Dr. John Clarke.  Like Williams, Clarke had left London to pursue religious liberty, and like Williams, discovered that the Puritans of Massachusetts were unyielding on points of liberty dear to him.  He was driven out of the Massachusetts colony in 1683 and eventually purchased Aquidneck Island from the native people.  He renamed it Rhode Island.[16]

From Portsmouth, Clarke, due to disagreements about the government, separated from Anne Hutchinson and moving to the southern end of the island along with William Coddington settled there to establish the third town in Rhode Island, Newport.  His leadership in Newport and work in the development of this colony are felt to this day.  As such, former secretary of State for Rhode Island, John R. Bartlett, declares “Rhode Island owes to John Clarke a monument of granite and a statue of bronze.”[17]  Those are lofty words of appreciation and admiration from a politician about a Baptist pastor.

Rhode Island Royal Charter written by John Clarke, 1663. From Wiki.

The Influence of Beliefs

What one believes has a direct impact on how a person behaves and what he or she may stand for.  For John Clarke, his belief in the authority of Scriptures and the leadership of the Holy Spirit to guide a believer unto all truth had a direct relationship to his involvement in church life and government life.  The Bible is more critical to the development of the United States and its contribution to liberty and freedom than most people know about.  Freedom of Conscience could be understood as to be free, allowed to, or even to be encouraged to live by personal conscience.  What a person believes to be right is something that he should be free to follow.  Freedom of Religion flows out of the idea of Freedom of Conscience.  Citizens are free to choose whatever faith they want to believe.  Both of these freedoms, Conscience and Religion, are foundational of what we know in a general way as Freedom in America today.  Without the convictions of Pastor Clarke and his passionate pursuit of freedom, not only would the Baptist church and Baptist life be different, but America would be different today as well. Why was Clarke so passionate about these 2 freedoms?  Kidd and Hankins suggest;

John Clarke believed in the ministry of the Holy Spirit who put “All believers on the same footing in the church.”  His practice in the church setting was that any man is so moved by the spirit of God, could stand up and speak.  “To Clarke, ‘prophesying’ meant delivering brief exhortations on Bible passages for the edification of the church.[18] 

Novel Ideas

From the church house, a Baptist church at that, the thought of personal freedom springs forth from the ideas of Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion.  Instead of religious leaders dictating in Latin and instead of the state forcing specific belief systems, Clarke sought true freedom.  True freedom must start in the mind.  Having a conscience that is free of guilt because one is doing the right thing is gratifying.  Jesus described the idea of freedom this way in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (KJV).

The ideas and convictions of Clarke were novel to the people in a society that was shaped and molded into conformity with the religious and state leaders working in concert to control the populace.  Even King James, who many seem to admire and even revere, was a conformist to the state church and was a man who demanded people to conform to the Anglican Church.  He perpetuated religious persecution if one did not go along with the state church and was a harsh persecutor of Anabaptists and others who refused to practice infant baptism.  From examining his life, it is easy to conclude that he would have persecuted many Christians today and for certain all Baptists.

Speaking at a conference in 1644;

King James complained of dissenting ministers who prayed for him in civil affairs, “but as for Supreme Governor in all Causes and over all persons (as well Ecclesiastical as Civill), they passe that over with silence.” Clearly the new king would not allow participation of the people in affairs of either church or state, and he announced his intention to act as “Supreme Governor” in religion as well as politics. In an early proclamation concerning the Book of Common Prayer, the king said it “is the chiefest of kingly duties,…to settle affairs of religion.” James was obsessed with the idea of religious uniformity, intensified perhaps by evidence of increasing differences. Much of James’s reign was spent in making good his threat to harass and exile those who refused to conform to the Church of England.[19]

Baptism By Fire

This mindset of persecuting the non-conformist came across the Atlantic Ocean to colonial America.  So intense was the religious persuasions of the state sponsored churches of the day that if you did not agree, you could be fined, imprisoned, whipped, and censored.  Some would call for the death penalty, but there are no records of anyone dying the death penalty for their faith in North America. John Clarke gives a solid example of staying true to his Bible convictions for Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion in the face of persistent persecution in the Colonies.  It is incredible to think that his happened in America.  Christians and our society would do well to learn an accurate history of colonial America.  Gaustad describes the following events best;

Down in Newport, John Clarke, along with two other members of his Baptist church, responded to the plea of a blind Baptist in Massachusetts to hold a service of worship in his home.  Ever since the 1644 law against Baptist, no Baptist church could legally exist within the borders of the Bay Colony.  On July 16, 1651, therefore, the three Newporters journeyed to Lynn, Massachusetts, where they preached, prayed, baptized new believers, and served communion- all in the home of the aged Baptist who had invited them.

On July 20, as John Clarke was expounding the gospel, two constables “with their clamorous tongues” interrupted the meeting and arrested the three “Strangers,” as Clarke later described the event.  After a week or more in a Boston jail, the three were brought into the court, tried in the morning, and sentenced in the afternoon, “Without,” said Clarke, “producing either accuser, witness jury, law of God or man.”  They had been charged with seducing the subjects of this Commonwealth from the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and with daring to Baptist those, who as infants, had been baptized before.  Clarke demanded the right to be heard on behalf of the three defendants, but his request was denied.  All three were fined, with the stipulation that if the fines were not paid they would be “well whipped.”[20]

Not only were these three Baptists fined, Obadiah Holmes was whipped. He refused to allow others to pay the fine of 30 British Pounds that was issued to him.  After about 2 months in jail, “On September 5 he was brought to Boston’s marketplace, tied to a post, and stripped to the waist to receive 30 lashes with a three-pronged whip on his bare back.”[21]   Holmes continued preaching while being whipped and shouted, “I am now come to be baptized in afflictions by your hands.”[22]

This persecution was real and very serious.  Living in early New England with a passion for freedom, as John Clarke lived with, would be like the common expression “Baptism by fire.”  Even the monetary fine of John Clarke, which was less than the other two men were fined was very costly.  “Clarke was fined twenty pounds-nearly half a year’s salary.”[23]  A half a year salary to pay for the crime of preaching the Bible, teaching Biblical Believers Baptism, and standing for religious freedom constituted a high personal price to pay.  The price John Clarke and others paid in 1651 is paying dividends in our lives today.  Christians and society today are receiving the blessings of his investment in Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion.

Others were watching Pastor Clarke.  His example in his time of imprisonment and religious persecution from the Massachusetts civil and religious leaders was such a source of inspiration that many people turned to Jesus in authentic relationship and embraced the Baptist faith.  After witnessing the courage of John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes, the first President of Harvard, Henry Dunster, converted to the Baptist faith.  When he refused to have his infant child baptized, he was forced out of the presidency of Harvard.  He went on to start the First Baptist Church in Boston.[24] 

After spending some time in jail for preaching the Bible in Massachusetts, and seeing his faithful friend, Obadiah Holmes whipped for his faith, John Clarke is finally released after a friend pays his fine.  He sets off in a new adventure the following year in securing a Royal Charter for Rhode Island from King Charles 2.  Again, the purpose of this trip and the reason of staying in England 12 years to secure this charter is freedom.

“When William Coddington assumed responsibility for the Aquidneck Island, it was Roger Williams and John Clarke who sailed to London, England to fight for the rights of Rhode Island and to contest William Coddington’s control of the land charter.”[25] 

First Baptist Church in Newport, Rhode Island

The (rebuilt) Second Baptist Church founded in America

Furthering the Freedom Flame

Also, during this time in England, Clarke finished writing and published his book, Ill News From New England.  This book would not have been permitted to be published in New England at the time as the church and state authorities had such influences and fear of fines and reprisals abounded.  Freedom was not known yet in America. The state even paid for the church to exist with tax money.  The state and church are very much connected.  A book demonstrating the errors and dangers of a state church and the clear examples of religious persecution would not sit well with the authorities while the owners of the printing presses were not interested in standing up against the state church or the civil authorities.[26] 

Some have summarized the convictions of Clarke’s Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion into one word: Freedom.  Church historian Martin E. Marty coined the term “Baptistification” as historian Walter Shurden writes:

 “Baptistification” does not specify a particular Baptist doctrine; it does not speak to a unique Baptist distinctive.  Rather it describes the Baptist style of faith.  It is a particular posture of faith, a peculiar attitude toward the issues of faith.  Baptistification is a spirit that pervades all of the Baptist principles or so-called Baptist distinctives.  It is the spirit of FREEDOM.[27]  

The ideology of Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion is found in the highly protective charters that John Clarke helped write.  With Bible overtones, his beliefs were woven into each town code, paper written, government position held, and church work that he was a part of.  Author Everette Goodwin says,

The law codes of these Rhode Island settlements ordered that “none be accounted a delinquent for doctrine, provided that it be not directly repugnant to the government or laws established.”  In other words, religious belief was none of the government’s business.  Rhode Island’s commitment to personally livery, and especially to freedom of conscience, soon caused the other New England colonies to be wary of the little colony and its inhabitants – “the cesspool of New England” as one colonist described it.[28]

            The influence of John Clarke and the freedoms found in Rhode Island spread to other colonies and eventually the United States.  Historian William Grady states, “Inspired by Rhode Island’s spiritual independence, the Quaker leader, William Penn, in 1681 established the colony that bears his name along a similar goal of religious toleration.”[29]

Conclusion

The influence of John Clarke is found in two primary convictions:  Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion.  Because of this perspective, he was very involved in the shaping of the government in 2 towns and later the Colony of Rhode Island.  From giving Rhode Island its name to securing its Royal Charter and its religious protections, he invested in the idea of freedom in each faucet of his life. 

Truly this man of faith impacted the society of his day and especially the Baptist church.  His thirst and drive for Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion have continued to impact the United States to the present day.  Yes, the seeds of American Freedom were planted by a Baptist pastor named John Clarke.  As Leon McBeth writes:

“The Baptist emphasis upon religious liberty put them in advance of their time. They did what no other group of the time was prepared to do— advocate religious freedom not only for different sorts of Christians but also for those who followed other religions or none.”[30]

It is highly recommended that we learn Baptist history and discover how influential the Baptist faith has been in the development of the United States.  Too many times we take our freedom for granted.  May we have similar convictions as Pastor John Clarke, not just freedom for freedom’s sake but Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion.  All other freedoms we enjoy stem from these.   

Quotation of John Clarke on the frieze of the Rhode Island Statehouse in Providence. From Wiki.

Copyright © 2019, by Steve Harness

Quotations from King James Version of the Bible

Images from Wikipedia – “John Clarke”

Biography

Books

Asher, Louis Franklin. John Clarke (1609-1676) Pioneer in American Medicine, Democratic Ideal, and Champion of Religious Liberty. Pittsburgh, PA: Dorrance Publishing Co., 1997.

Bicknell, Thomas W. The Story of John Clarke. Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005.

Burrage, Henry Sweetser, A History of the Baptists in New England. Philadelphia American Baptist Publication Society, 1894.

Clarke, John. Ill News From New England. London: Printed by Henry Hill living in the Fleet-Yard next door, 1652.

Fradin, Dennis B. The Rhode Island Colony. USA, Children’s Press, 1989.

Gaustad, S. Edwin, Roger Williams. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Grady, William P. What God Hath Wrought. Schererville, IN: Grady Publications, 1996.

Goodwin, Everett C. Down By the Riverside, A Brief History of Baptist Faith. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2002.

Ingersoll, Julie, Baptist and Methodist Faiths in America. New York, NY: Shoreline Publishing Group, 2003.

Kidd, Thomas S., Hankins, Barry. Baptists in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage. B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 1987.

Nelson, Wilbur. The Ministry of Dr. John Clarke. Newport, RI: Published by Wilbur Nelson, 1927.

Shurden, B. Walter. The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms. Macon, GA: Smyth and Hewys Publishing Inc., 1993.

Sydney, V. James. John Clarke and His Legacies, Religion and Law in Colonial Rhode Island 1638-1750. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.

Staples, William. Annals of The Town of Providence, From its first settlement to the Organization of its City Government. Providence, RI: Published by Knowles and Vose, 1843.

Williams Sr. Michael E, Shurden, Walter B, Turning Points in Baptist History. Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 2008.

Journals

Bozeman, Theodore Dwight. “John Clarke and the Complications of Liberty.” Church History, Vol. 75, (March 2006)

Deagon, Alex. “Liberal Secularism and Religious Freedom in the Public Space: Reforming Political Discourse.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. Vol. 41 (Summer 2018) 901-934.

McClellan, Albert. “Bold Mission Thrust of Baptists: Past and Present.” Baptist History and Heritage 14:1 (January 1979) 3-15.

Nestor, Branton J. “The Origional Meaning and Significance of the Early State Provisos to The Free Exercise of Religion.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. (Summer 2019, Vol. 42 Issue 3) 971-1024.

Periodical

Garrison, Becky.  “Exploring the Historical Roots of Religious Freedom: A Conversation with Steven Waldman.” The Humanist. May/Jun2019, Vol. 79 Issue 3. 26-29.


[1]Ingersoll, Julie, Baptist and Methodist Faiths in America (New York, NY: Shoreline Publishing Group, 2003.) 20

[2]Clarke, John. Ill News From New England. London: Printed by Henry Hill living in the Fleet-Yard next door, 1652)

[3]Williams Sr. Michael E, Shurden, Walter B, Turning Points in Baptist History (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 2008) 23

[4]Sydney, James V.  John Clarke and His Legacies, Religion and Law in Colonial Rhode Island 1638-1750 (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1999) 3-4

[5]Nelson, Wilbur. The Ministry of Dr. John Clarke. (Newport, RI: Published by Wilbur Nelson, 1927) 9-10

[6]McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition) 21

[7]Williams Sr. Michael E, Shurden, Walter B. Turning Points in Baptist History (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 2008) 23

[8]Clarke, John. Ill News From New England (London,Printed by Henry Hill living in the Fleet-Yard next door, 1652) 22

[9]Sydney, James V.  John Clarke and His Legacies, Religion and Law in Colonial Rhode Island 1638-1750 (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1999) 7

[10]Kidd, Thomas S., Hankins, Barry.  Baptists in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015) 11

[11]Burrage, Henry Sweetser, A History of the Baptists in New England (Philadelphia American Baptist Publication Society, 1894) 25

[12]Kidd, Thomas S., Hankins, Barry.  Baptists in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015) 11

[13]Gaustad, S. Edwin, Roger Williams (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005) 55-56

[14]Sydney, V. James. John Clarke and His Legacies, Religion and Law in Colonial Rhode Island 1638-1750. (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999) 87

[15]Fradin, Dennis B. The Rhode Island Colony (USA, Children’s Press, 1989)     44-45     

[16]Goodwin, Everett C. Down By the Riverside, A Brief History of Baptist Faith (Valley Forge, PA: Judsen Press 2002) 16-17

[17]Nelson, Wilbur. The Ministry of Dr. John Clarke (Newport, RI: Published by Wilbur Nelson, 1927) 18

[18]Kidd, Thomas S., Hankins, Barry.  Baptists in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015) 10

[19]McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition) 100

[20]Gaustad, S. Edwin. Roger Williams (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005) 103-104

[21]Ibid.

[22]Ibid.

[23]Goodwin, Everett. Down By the Riverside, A Brief History of Baptist Faith (Valley Forge, PA: C. Judsen Press 2002) 16-17

[24]Asher, Louis Franklin. John Clarke (1609-1676) Pioneer in American Medicine, Democratic Ideal, and Champion of Religious Liberty. (Pittsburgh, PA: Dorrance Publishing Co.,1997) 64

[25]Gaustad, S. Edwin. Roger Williams (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005) 66-67

[26]Kidd, Thomas S., Hankins, Barry.  Baptists in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015) 11

[27]Shurden, B. Walter. The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms (Macon, GA: Smyth and Hewys Publishing Inc., 1993) 2

[28]Goodwin, Everett C. Down By the Riverside, A Brief History of Baptist Faith (Valley Forge, PA: Judsen Press 2002) 16-17

[29]Grady, William P. What God Hath Wrought (Schererville, IN, Grady Publications. 1996) 90

[30]McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition) 121

Faith Fitness

Do you like to exercise?  Enjoy running or jogging?  When I was young, my favorite exercise besides chasing a ball on a court or field was swimming.  I would work out for baseball and basketball constantly as a teenager – in the swimming pool.

We live in a time in history when fitness is taught, sought, and expected.  There is nothing new under the sun; the fads of physical fitness have come and gone before. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)  Planet Fitness, sports apparel companies, and “coaches” on social media have all benefited from this current trend.

The Bible does tell us to care for our bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 instructs:  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Just as our physical bodies need exercise and proper nutrition, so does our spirit.  The faith we hold to needs exercised daily.  Faith needs to be motivated in the “little things” and stretched in the “big things.”

You have heard it said: “Practice makes perfect.”  Not true.  Practice can only make “better.”  No one is perfect in this life on earth.

Athletes train to get in the game.  They practice, sweat, work and prepare to perform as best as they possibly can.  They invest time, money, and mental energy as they get ready for the game.

Paul challenged Timothy on this in 1 Timothy 4:8, For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

I like sports, but practicing with a baseball, basketball, or golf ball is not nearly as important as practicing faith!  How can I have faith that is fit?

Faith fitness is worth the effort.  Here is what you need to know to be more “faith fit.”

Each Step is a Step of Faith.  We Walk By Faith.  When teaching how we are merely traveling through this life, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7, (For we walk by faith, not by sight:).

Every Christian Lives a Life of Faith.  We Live By Faith.  Galatian 2:20, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I ______; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the ______ which I now ______ in the flesh I ______ by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Playwriter Jean Racine (1639-1699) asked a practical question “Can a faith that does nothing be called sincere?”  Real faith really does impact the everyday life for the believer in Jesus.

Examination of Self Requires Faith.  Athletes set benchmarks.  They put goals in front of them.  They asses the level they are currently at with speed, BMI, strength, longevity, etc.  Note the following assessments a person exercising faith will look at:

  • Am I saved? 2 Corinthians 13:5, Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the ___________; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
  • Am I more like Jesus? Galatians 4:19, My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be __________ in you…
  • Is there any Bible discipline in my life?  1 Corinthians 9:27, But I keep under my body, and bring it into _________________: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Are there any practices that I should include in my “Faith Fitness Training Plan?  Yes, there are!  We can find several ways to practice faith in Psalm 37:1-9.

Psalm 37 is a “Wisdom Psalm” of David.  In the form of a Hebrew alphabet acrostic poem, David shares how FAITH is the key to getting back into the game of life!  Powerful words such as trust, commit, rest, and delight are included in this faith fitness plan.

Before the faith fitness plan, however, we need to know there are several enemies of physical fitness.  Laziness, tiredness, dehydration, overheating, and lactic acid building up in the muscles are all enemies of physical exercise.  What about our faith fitness?  There are enemies of faith fitness too – and they can be detrimental.  These enemies can sideline you and get you out of the game – fast!

  • Don’t Overheat. 1,7.

“Fret” is the Hebrew term “charah,” which means “to glow or grow warm.”  -Strongs

Overheating is the internalizing of things that make you angry.  It could be the seeming advantage another person has.  It could be the idea that “I have to work harder than the other.”  Overheating is fueled by comparing my life to the life of others.

  • Don’t Get Overly-Excited. 1

I can struggle with this.  I anticipate before a basketball game or golf match.  Like a good athlete, I envision how I want to shoot the ball or swing the club.  Then when it does not happen the way I like due to injury or loss of ability (i.e. getting old),  I can be disappointed.

“Envy” is the Hebrew term “qana’” meaning “zealous, i.e. (in a bad sense) jealous or envious.”   –Strongs

Evangelist friend John Goetsch recently tweeted: “If you can stay cool in hot places, sweet in sour places, and small in big places, God can use you.”

When we lesson r expectations in self and in others, we will be less disappointed in life.  In the spirit of passion and enthusiasm, we can spend all our energy too early and have nothing left to finish the game of life.

Life is not a sprint – it is a marathon.  Some of my favorite verses in all the Bible teach this.  Hebrews 12:1-2.

  • Don’t Go Overboard. 8

“From Anger” is the word “aph,” having to do with “the nose or nostril” and “from the rapid breathing in passion” and “ire or anger.”

You have heard the advice of breathing calmly and cooling down following intense anger.  “Go cool off for a little while.”  That is what this is talking about.  “Stay Calm and Carry On!”  Anger is an enemy of faith fitness.  In the moments we allow anger to control us, our faith in God is not in control.  The feelings of physical shortness of breath and lack of oxygen in the muscles are similar to the problems caused by not calming down and focusing on the will of God.

Interestingly enough, “wrath” is the term “chemah” and means “heat, anger, and poison.”  It is a term associated with “bottles.”  Like a pop bottle shook up, it could explode.  When we hold in wrath and anger, we may get to the point of exploding all over someone.  That is against faith fitness!  Like the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, once it kicks in – your body becomes too tired to win.

How foolish anger can be!  I once played baseball with a promising athlete who was a major league prospect.  He was perhaps the most capable baseball pitcher I have ever played with.  His arm rocketed the ball from his hand like a loaded spring.  This teammate, after a disastrous inning in which someone hit a home run off his 93 mph fastball, came to the dugout and in anger smashed his hand by punching the concrete block wall.

I have news for you – block walls win the battle with your body – every time.  He broke his hand in anger and obviously could not pitch for quite some time.  While he eventually came back to pitch in high school again, as far as I know, he never made it to baseball in the minors or majors.

How can I achieve a healthy fitness level in faith?  With Fear, Failure, and Falsehoods a real part of life, what faith practices should I have in my Christian life?

  • Trust Your Faith. 3

The Lord will give you everything you really need for daily living.  We must have faith.  We can dwell in the land.  We can enjoy the food and provision that the Lord makes available to us.  David continues this marvelous truth of God’s provision in Vs. 25.

Our faith is not in “faith itself.”  Our faith is not in our ability to work, earn a living, and make a life.  Our faith is in God.  Jesus taught His disciples and teaches us today in Mark 11:22, Have faith in God.

Faith – in the face of fear.  Faith to factor for failure. Faith to fight against falsehoods!

  • Treasure Your Faith. 4

“Delight” (`anag) means “to be soft or pliable.”  Not really what we often think of when we first hear the word delight.  It means to “be flexible.”

I was taught in ministry classes and by my evangelism mentor at Neighborhood Bible Time, Dr. Charles Homsher, to be “flexible in ministry.”  It is good for all the Christian life.

Have you noticed the most satisfied and joyful people are those who are flexible?

When we are flexible in life, delighting and enjoying all that God gives us, we will find that God gives us the desires of our hearts.  That is not to say that everything that your carnal mind and flesh desires will come to pass.  God gives us WHAT to desire, and He brings it to pass.  In other words, the priorities of our life on earth are changed to the priorities of God when we are being flexible and delighting in Him.

Of our own choosing, we would not ask for hardships, trouble, pain, and suffering.  But God includes these in the spectrum of our life.  Things we fear, moments of failure, and falsehoods in life are events and circumstances that every other follower of Jesus of all time has encountered.

My favorite radio preacher, Dr. Adrian Rogers, once said: “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”  Good advice.  Our faith is tested every day.  When we allow God to re-prioritize the important things from the meaningless things in life, He gives us the desires of our hearts.

The “desires” David is talking about here are our prayers: “requests, desires, petitions.”  -Strongs

What is it that God has impressed upon you to pray for?  If your prayers are not delighting in God, then God will not answer that desire.  James 4:2-3 reveals, Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

The “heart” David mentions is our intellect and will.  Only when we are flexible with our desires will God show Himself in our life.  God’s plan is something we should treasure with all our heart.

Our will must be bent to the will of God the Father.  When that happens, faith will carry you to places you never dreamed possible.  You will see the hand of God at work in amazing ways!  We are to “lean in” towards God!  James 4:8 coaches, Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you….

  • Train Your Faith. 5

“Commit” means to “roll a way or to run.”  I really like this term.  When we commit or “run the way to God,” we win.  He brings His will to pass in our lives.  Running down the path God sets before you will change your life for the better.

The Christian life is a series of decisions.  Each decision either takes you closer to the Lord and His plan or further away from God and His plan.  David says it so clearly in Vs. 23-24.  When we train our life to follow faithful steps, God will take us to the places He wants us to go.

Order your life after God.  Put daily spiritual routines into place.  Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, memorizing Scripture, and encouraging other saints in the weekly church services are all part of the “order” God desires in our lives.  Like any serious athlete who hopes to get in the game, he will schedule practice.  He will plan for workouts.  Organize your life in spiritual arenas.

Enjoy your life with God.  “Delighteth” in verse 23 is a totally different word from “Delight” in vs. 4.  It’s the term “chaphets,” and it means “to incline to; to bend; figuratively, to be pleased with, to have pleasure.”  The Christian life is fun, satisfying, and fulfilling!  We will have trouble, pain, and suffering, but we have the joy of the Lord in our life no matter the circumstances.

Put your hand in God’s hand.  Fear will occasionally paralyze us.  Failure will sometimes sideline us.  Falsehoods will find a way to slow us down.  But faith in Jesus is more powerful!  You are not alone – no matter the situation!  Even if we fall like verse 24 says, we should anticipate the Lord will lift us back up.

You can get back in the game of life.  You can get off the bench and service God again.  Stop sitting on the sidelines.  Be encouraged in Jesus.  Don’t just be on the “Christian team” – get in the game!   Run down the field.  Listen to the Coach.  Make a difference on the winning team.

No matter what circumstances you face – have Faith In God! Let Him pick you back up, dust you off, help you recover, and with His power, performing His will – get back in the game!

Take a moment to write down some daily practices that will help your faith be more fit…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Falsehoods

“Do not take life too seriously.  You will never get out of it alive.”  –Elbert Green Hubbard

Elijah was depressed.  This prophet and preacher for the Lord had a classic case of what is known today as “clinical depression.”  His story is found in 1 Kings 19:1-10.

Doctors who study this passage suggest that Elijah had clinical depression that was brought on by several considerations:  environmental circumstances, emotional choices and perspective, and physical tiredness.

Elijah was tired.  He literally and spiritually had a mountaintop experience.  On Mount Carmel, he called on God, and God sent fire from Heaven to prove that He was the One, True God.  1 Kings 18 is an amazing chapter of the confrontation of the 450 prophets of Baal with the Prophet Elijah and the Lord.  Elijah was facing the religious leaders, the political leaders (Ahab and Jezebel), and the entire population of Israel.

The top of Mount Carmel is somewhat rounded, and as I walked around there, I imagined hundreds of people circling around the pinnacle watching to see what was going to happen.

Baal is the false god in the Bible that originated with the Babylonians at the tower of Babel.  His name means “master or lord.”  Baal was known as Bel, and the sun by the Canaanites, Molech by the Ammonites, and Jupiter by the Greeks and Romans.  (American Tract Society Dictionary)

Those worshipping him would often offer children as sacrifices.  It is believed that when this god was fabricated out of metal, he would be in the shape of an owl.  They would offer burnt sacrifices by starting a fire below the idol.  The children offered to him were placed in the blazing hot wings of this idol.  What a sad religious practice to this pagan god.  I have read that “The Grove” in California includes sacrifices to an image of an owl in our times.  (Thomas Horn, Saboteurs)

Baal did not answer.  The false prophets had been shouting, offering sacrifices, even mutilating their bodies in an attempt to get Baal to answer them.  Nothing happened.

The land of Israel had been experiencing the judgement of God for 3 years to this point by drought and thus a famine.  People were desperate.  They had turned their back on the one true God, and God sent judgment.  There is a natural spring of water near the top of Mount Carmel.  Perhaps this is where they found the water to drench the sacrifice Elijah offers.  The Mediterranean Sea is about 5 miles away.

Elijah offered a simple prayer to God after having the altar, wood, and sacrifice drenched in water.  4 barrels of water soaked the wood 3 times!  Elijah’s prayer is found in Vs. 36-37.

Then God showed up.  Fire fell.  Like a lightning bolt, the flash of light and heat of fire swallowed up the sacrifice, the wood, and the entire altar. The people of Israel saw the awesomeness of God on display.

It was intense.  It was emotionally and spiritually draining.  Elijah was spent.  He was tired.  Standing up to the Satanic forces of the false god Baal and the false prophets was a real challenge.  While the enemy numbered many and the day was long, God came through and answered the prayer of Elijah.

Then revival.  The people bowed down to the ground and worshipped God.  They pledged allegiance to the Lord Whom they had previously forsaken.  (See Vs. 39).  After this, Elijah told the people they needed to get rid of the occultist false prophets.  False prophets, witchcraft, and wizardry was punishable by death in the civil law of Israel.  Moses gave them that law years before.  (Deuteronomy 13:5, Leviticus 20:27).

Then the rain came! (18:41-44)  After 3 years of no rain, the Lord answered Elijah’s pray.  They could see and hear the rain off in the distance.

Then chapter 19 reveals the emotional struggles that Elijah was having.  Even though the false god that Jezebel worshipped proved to not be real, Elijah was afraid.  Jezebel was the wicked wife of King Ahab.  She put out a death sentence on Elijah.  And Elijah was afraid.  Even after all the people pledged allegiance to God, Elijah was fearful of this conniving, hateful woman.

We can be fearful of people and circumstances that are not worthy of our fear.  Jezebel’s party was coming to a close.  Her influence and power were about to be snuffed out.  Yet, Elijah talked himself into fearing her and this death warrant.

He had been in more dangerous situations before, but in this tired moment, his negative thoughts got the best of Him.  He started to let his circumstances dictate his thinking.  Beware – we do not control our circumstances, but we can control how we think about them.  Circumstances should not control your thinking!

Elijah started to believe lies.  Lies about God.  Lies about himself.  Lies about his situation.  This caused great fear, intimidation, and trepidation in his mind.  James 1:6 encourages us, But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

When we “waver” in our minds between faith and falsehoods, faith and fear, or faith and failure, we become unstable emotionally.  We are “driven with the wind” or circumstances.  But this does not have to happen.

Believing that Jezebel was more powerful than God, fearing for his life, thinking that he was alone, Elijah runs.

Name several lies that have hurt you in life.

What action steps have you tried to overcome the lies?

Elijah takes a 70-mile hike.  That is about the distance from the city of Jezreel to the town of Beersheba.  Are you tired after driving a car for 70 miles?  Imagine walking 70 miles all at once!  After he arrived at Beersheba, he walked another day’s journey “into the wilderness,” sits under a juniper tree (a bitter shrub-like bush) and asks God to kill him.  What?  He did.  He was in so much despair in these tender moments.

Have you ever been in such despair that it did not matter to you if you lived or died?

It’s OK.  You are in the company of many good people if you have ever felt like that.  Keep in mind, it is only a feeling.  Feelings can and do lie at times.  Elijah was not thinking accurately, Biblically, or truthfully in this moment of depression.

1 Kings 19:1-4.  Elijah took another 40 days to walk to the top of Mount Horeb, which is also known as Mount Sinai.  This is the same place where God met with Moses and gave the 10 commandments.  From Beersheba to Horeb is only 270 miles.  With normal walking at 3 mph this distance could be covered in 3-4 days of walking.  It tells us he walked day and night.  40 days is plenty of time to get there. Why did it take so long?  Perhaps it took Elijah 40 days to get there because he was in “secret agent mode”, trying to evade Jezebel’s officers.

The pinnacle of Mount Horeb is 7,363 feet high.  I understand that depending on where you are starting from, you can hike to the top of Horeb in as little as 5 hours.  Vs. 5-8.

Add all the fresh rain to the parched earth, and all the paths, trails and roads were either flooded or muddy.  Those are not good traveling conditions.

More probably, it took so long, because he was in a depressed state of mind.   Life is now slow.  The bright lights and tumultuous action of confronting the false prophets is gone.  He feels alone.  He is forcing himself to take each next step.  He is having trouble finding a reason why to go to Horeb.  His motivation is gone. 

Even great Christians can deal with trauma and crisis in unhealthy ways and can result in severe depression.

Drs. Tim Clinton and Ron Hawkins, of whom I read much, write in their book Biblical Counseling the following descriptions of types of depression.

  • Clinical/Major Depression is distinct in that symptoms are so severe that they disrupt one’s daily routines.
  • Dysthymic disorder is a low-grade depression.
  • Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a type of mood disorder with severe changes in affect. A person may have periods of euphoric elatedness contrasted with periods of severe major depression.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a severe onset of “winter blues” when one experiences depression, most often believed to be due to the lack of sunlight (vitamin D).”
  • Endogenous Depression is “rooted in the biological.” That is, it is caused by biological factors alone.

Perhaps most depression begins with what is known as “Reactive Depression.”  Dr. Clinton and Dr. Hawkins write: “Depression can be caused by many life issues, including anger; failure or rejection; family issues, such as divorce or abuse; fear; feelings of futility, lacking control over one’s life grief and loss; guilt or shame, loneliness or isolation; negative thinking; destructive misbeliefs; and stress.”

I believe the source of most cases of depression is Reactive Depression.  Drs. Clinton and Hawkins continue: “Persistent reactive depression will change one’s chemical balances and may compound depression.”  That is something that I propose happened in Elijah’s life.

Of course, the chemicals in the mind may have genetic, chromosomal, and other biological factors impacting and triggering depression.  Nutrition, vitamins, and health conditions also affect brain function.  Certainly, those who have abused drugs have an exponential increase in the rate of depression because of the manipulation that the drugs have induced on the brain.

What should a person do?  Is there any hope once a person is in the depths of depression?

God gives 4 clues to healing from depression by giving us this account in Elijah’s life.  Medicine is available today and could be taken (only as recommended by your doctor), but with the brain capable of making the same chemicals that are found in synthetic drugs, these clues God gives could cause your mind and body to heal itself.

  1. The Physical. (5-9) Following exercise, be sure to stay hydrated; eat healthy, wholesome food; and get plenty of sleep.
  2. The Spiritual. (15-17) Keep doing the will of God. God has given us special revelation, and when we obey the Lord, it helps us!
  3. The Psychological. (18) Begin to believe truth. Lies abound in depression.  Turn the page. Open the door.  Flip on the light.  See the truth.  Embrace God’s reality.
  4. The Relational. (19-21) Don’t isolate yourself. Find a helper.  Make a friend.  You do not need to live alone in life.  We are created to be social creatures.

While Elijah’s life was in danger, he was not in immediate danger.  His heart was not in the cross hairs of a long bow.  No arrows or spears were aggressively pointed his way.  While he was a wanted man – there was no impending danger.

Yet this thinking urgently instead of accurately became part of the cause of his depression.  Most of our mental and emotional problems occur when we do not think truth!

Most depression can be resolved when a person chooses to change his thinking.  Like Philippians 4:8 teaches, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are ______, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are ______, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, __________ on these things.

Elijah got back in the game.  It appears that he served the Lord another 10 years!  The Lord did an incredible thing with Elijah.  Chariots of fire swooped down and whisked Elijah away into Heaven without him experiencing death.  God was pleased with Elijah – even after the severe depression.

Good news!  God will be pleased with you too! Several hundred years later, Elijah has another mountaintop experience (several hundred years after his earthly lifetime).  Elijah has the privilege of being on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus Himself as found in Mark 9:2-4.

Have Faith in God.  Change your mind to have the thinking of God.  Depression can be overcome.

 

 

If you are experiencing the type of depression that changes your routines and has affected daily choices and motivation, please set up a meeting with a Christian counselor.  They can help you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Factoring For Failure

(There are fill in the blanks and room for answering questions in this post).

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan

Feelings of shame.  Feelings of sadness.  Feelings of second-hand.  There are real considerations following the failure of any kind.

“A failure is a person who has blundered but is not able to cash in on the experience.”  -Elbert Hubbard

“A failure is not someone who has tried and failed; it is someone who has given up trying and resigned himself to failure; it is not a condition, but an attitude.” –Sydney Harris

“Any man may make a mistake; none but a fool will persist in it.”  -Cicero

No one likes to fail.  No one sets out to be a failure.  Some people fail early on in life and are so discouraged that they live life through the thoughts of “I am a failure” or “I can never win.”  This is a tragic way to live, yet many people, even Christians, live this way every day.

When a Christian succumbs to one temptation, he may feel like such a failure that he gives up and commits other, more degrading sins.  For example, the sin of uncaused and misdirected anger when left unconfessed will lead to other sins.  Ephesians 4:26-27 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.  Many unknowingly “give place” in their life to the devil.  Relationships are ruined.  Work is stalled. And God is not glorified.

Some Christians are so afraid of failure that they become reserved, overly cautious, and uninvolved in life. They follow a policy of guarded living, holding back time, talents, and treasure from God’s service. Their motto is: To keep from failing—don’t try! On the other hand, those who are willing to make mistakes and risk failure are the ones who ultimately achieve great things. Instead of being filled with fear, they go forward in faith. Problems are challenges. While they may not all be solved, these courageous people would rather live with that reality than have a clean record of no failures and no accomplishments. Benjamin Franklin said one time, “The man who does things makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all—doing nothing.””   -6,000

Some have called this the “Paralysis of Analysis.”  We can study, overthink, and be so focused on potential failure that we refuse to act in the first place.  However, God can use the failures and potential trouble in our life to refine us and to develop our walk with Him.

“Trouble is one of God’s greatest servants because it reminds us how much we continually need the Lord. Otherwise, we tend to forget about entreating him. For some reason, we want to carry on by ourselves.”  -Cymbala

Fear of failure should not prevent us from the action.  The only people who never fail are the ones who never live to begin with.  Take the next step.  Reach forward in life.  Step out in faith.  Factor failure as a normal part of the human experience.

What are the factors of failure that we should take into account?  Here are 3 examples.

  • The Shame Factor.

The life of Moses can be categorized into three 40-year stages.  Exodus 2:1-10 describes the first 40 years when he was a prince in Egypt, having been adopted into the household of Pharaoh’s daughter.  1 Chronicles 4:18 tells us her name is Bithiah.  She was a compassionate and loving mother.  For those adopting, I commend you – you could give a family to a future leader for God.

Bithiah (bith-yaw’) means “daughter or worshipper of Jah.” (-Strongs)  It appears that after Moses was rejected from the kingdom, his adoptive mother was also kicked out of Egypt because she led everyone to believe that Moses was her flesh and blood.  It seems that God adopted her into His family.  She marries a man named Medred of the Tribe of Judah.

In the second part of His life, Moses was an outcast from society.  He took judicial matters into his own hands.  Getting back at people, making society pay, and attempting to right wrongs, is not something any individual should do.  Being “Wanted: Dead or Alive” in Egypt, Exodus 2:11-25 tell us Moses ran for his life.  It was near the end of this 40-year stretch that as Moses was shepherding sheep for a living, God heard the prayers of His people in Egypt.

Exodus 3 is when God revealed Himself to Moses and called him to service that lasted for the next 40 years.  This chapter is rich with theology, as God says His name is His memorial.  “I AM THAT I AM… hath sent me (14-15).  The One Who always is – was calling and commissioning Moses to get back in the game.  He was sending Moses to do the impossible in his hometown – to deliver his very own people.

Moses wasn’t willing to go back to his hometown after committing some terrible sins.  He had fled in fear away from Egypt.  He was a well-known and recognizable figure in Egypt.  Going back could cause some flashbacks of some tough memories.  He left his hometown and country as a failure.  In the eyes of his himself.  In the eyes of his adoptive mother.  In the eyes of his fellow Jews.

The Shame of the Past.  Now he was coming back.  His objections to God’s call are rooted in fear and past failure.  See Exodus 4:1. “They will not believe me, nor listen to me.  Why would God visit a murderer and outcast?”  He had flashbacks to 40 years earlier when an assailant condemned Moses and said “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” Exodus 2:14.

The Shame of the Present.  After demonstrating that God was going to be with him, Moses offers a second objection in Exodus 4:10-17.  “I can’t talk well.  I ain’t eloquent enough.  I get nervous when I stand in front of people.”  I hear ya Moses.

Lack of ability and lack of confidence are a normal part of life.  And it is those who are not confident in self, but confident in God whom the Lord can use.

God used Moses, by all accounts an unlikely hero, to rescue the people of Israel from slavery!  When God uses the unlikely, it glorifies Him even more!

Philippians 4:13 I can do ____ things ____________ Christ which strengtheneth me.

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for _______ I am _______, then am I ___________.

  • The Sadness Factor.

David’s story begins in the book of 1 Samuel.  King Saul was the first king of Israel, but because of his rebellion against God, his time on the throne was cut short.  God had the prophet Samuel anoint with oil another person to be the next king.

David burst onto the scene at the Valley of Elah during the battle with the Philistines when they brought out their champion, the giant, Goliath.

Fast-forward to David after he was king. (There is much time/events in between David’s meeting Goliath and David’s becoming king, but that will be for another day.)  Everything is going well in David’s kingdom.  He is relaxed.  Too relaxed.  One evening, while lounging on the rooftop of the palace, David peers over the wall and sees a gorgeous woman taking a bath.  David knows it is wrong, but he brings this married woman to his home and commits adultery.

Sexual sins are sins against yourself, others, and God.  Fornication (any form of sexual sin) is deadly per the book of Proverbs.  On top of this, David’s lust drives a conspiracy, cover-up, and murder of a faithful man, Bathsheba’s husband, Urijah.  God was not pleased.  The “man after God’s own heart” had gone astray.  2 Samuel 12:13-25. 

David was sad.  His heart was grieved.  The prophet Nathan who confronted him was right.  David was wrong.  Could he be forgiven?  Could God ever bless him again?

David was not only sad he got caught, but he was also sad for his sin.  You can gain insight into David’s heart of true repentance in Psalm 32 and 51.

How did David face another day?  After the death of his first son, what did he do?  How did he overcome the intense sorrow and pain that his actions had caused?

David Repented of His Sin.  He does not hold back. He prays fervently.  He opens his heart to God and with tears sincerely cries out to God for forgiveness.   Psalm 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

David Refreshed His Fellowship with God.  Sin separated David from close fellowship with God.  He was still God’s man and the king God-ordained, but he was not close.  For about 1 year, David covered up his sin.  Those were months of heartache and pain.  What if someone found out?  David confessed and chose to refresh his fellowship with God.

1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have ____________ with us: and truly our ____________ is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

David Renewed His Usefulness to God.  Psalm  51:1-17 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a __________spirit: a __________ and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.  God uses humble people.  David’s prayer oozes humility.  He has nothing to be proud of.  It is the humble whom God respects and uses!

David got back in the game.  Could you even look at Bathsheba again if you were David?  Imagine how many would experience guilt and shame on an ongoing basis.  Not David.  He knew that when God forgave – He forgave.  It is amazing to me that in 2 Samuel 12:24-25, David returns to his new wife Bathsheba.

God blesses David and Bathsheba and gave them a son.  David was again on good terms with Nathan, the prophet of God, and Nathan names the boy Jedidiah which means “beloved of the Lord.”  Despite David’s failure, God blessed him again.  Be encouraged that when you fail, once you make things right with God, He can use you again too!  Be sorry for your sin!  Turn the sadness and sorrow of each moment of life into joy and gladness.

  • Condemned no more! Esther 8:16 The Jews had ________, and gladness, and ______, and honour.
  • We can go home! Isaiah 51:11 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with __________ unto Zion; and everlasting _________ shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and ________; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
  • God’s plan is real! Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have _______ and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

We know the baby son’s name as Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived.  Amazing!

  • The Second-Hand Factor.

Talk about potential – Sampson had potential.  From his birth he was separated to the service of the Lord.  His parents dedicated him back to God. Many times, we describe the youth in church as having potential.  Potential itself is not enough to be successful in the Christian life.  All of us have some level of potential – but that does not amount to much without the qualities of willingness and usefulness.

Sampson allowed his eyes and mind to wander, and his potential was snuffed out in a matter of moments.  After several years of mediocre leadership, Sampson was set on a shelf.  Sidelined.  “Second-hand” is how he felt.

At the start, Sampson was the “Most Likely to Succeed.”  He showed off his muscles.  His feats were renowned.  But what he did was more about him than God.  A streak of selfishness is clear as you study his life account.

You can achieve some things in your flesh, but you cannot achieve all the things God wants you to achieve apart from His power, His Spirit, and His Word.  Redemption means so much more when we are broken over our sin and unworthiness.

In reality, Sampson achieved very little of what God intended for him to achieve.  Until Sampson realized his failures, the Lord was not going to use him again.  But it happened.  Judges 16:23-30.

Sampson was a castaway.  After not fulfilling his potential as a judge of Israel, the Lord allowed him to do one more great feat.

Here are 3 powerful truths to always remember when you fail:

  • God’s glory is better seen in the least likely to succeed.
  • God’s power is more visible when demonstrated through the weak.
  • God’s redemption means so much more to those who recognize their failure.

“Use me one more time Lord!  I am not worthy, but Lord, I give my life to you!”

Jesus illustrates this principle well when eating dinner with some Pharisees.  A woman known to be evil and immoral presents herself to Jesus and washes His feet.  She cries many tears, essentially washing His feet with them, as she breaks open a box of Alabaster ointment and with humility uses her hair to clean the dust off His feet.  The Pharisees condemned this situation and Jesus responds in Luke 7:40-48.

Get back up.  After failure, you are at as good a place as any to serve God again. 

Have some resilience to bounce back after failure.  You can say with J. Hudson Taylor, the most well-known missionary to China:

“I have failed,

I am failing,

I will fail,

But Jesus never fails.”

 

Write out your personal action plan for “Getting Back in the Game” following failure.

 

 

 

 

 

Facing Fear

(There are fill in the blanks and room for questions and answers in this posting).

What is the worst thing that could ever happen to you?  Death, while perhaps intimidating is not the worst thing.  There is an appointment with death that God has on His schedule for you.  Hebrews 9:27 teaches, And as it is appointed unto men once to ______, but after this the judgment:

Perhaps the way a person dies is something that could cause fear.

Fear itself is not evil.  In fact, the Bible instructs us to fear God.  Solomon, the wisest man to ever live wrote a message God gave him in Ecclesiastes 12:13, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: ______ God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole _________ of man.

God wants us to “fear” Him.  What does this mean?

The Hebrew word for fear is “yare” and means

“to fear; morally, to revere; to be had in reverence.” -Strongs

History gives many examples of men who did not fear God.  Emperor Julian of Rome had decreed that Christianity be outlawed, and he vigorously sought to destroy it. Passing by an old Christian one day Julian said, “Where is your Christ now?” The old man replied, “Making a coffin for the Roman Emperor.”  At last death caught up with Julian, and he cried out, “O Galilean, thou hast conquered.”  (15,000 Illustrations)

The Lord is worthy of all respect, awe, and admiration from you!  We should also be “fearful” of God if we remain at odds with God.  Our sinfulness apart from Jesus makes us enemies of God.

Hebrews 10:31: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  The lost are already judged and because of rejecting Christ are already condemned (John 3:18).  In light of Hebrews 10:31, Christians harboring sin, forsaking service with the church, and rebuffing the leading of the Holy Spirit are also at odds with the Lord.  They should be fearful of the correction the Lord may send.

Other than this healthy form of fear- fearing God, what is there to fear?  What are the six most common things you or people around you fear?

Did you list several of the hundreds of “phobia’s” the world fears?  When Peter and the disciples had questions and did not fully understand the will of God, Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. (Mark 11:22).  We need faith in God too!

Perhaps you have heard “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”  It is a valid thought.  Here are 3 Bible characters who faced their greatest fears and saw the Lord do great things!  They learned to have faith in God.

Faith can help you face your greatest fears…

  • When You Feel Surrounded.

Imagine waking up one morning and going out for the day and seeing an elite army unit has surrounded your house. They have their equipment for spying, communicating, and weapons of warfare at the ready. They are not surrounding your neighbor’s house – they are surrounding your house.  The bullhorn and listening devices are pointed at you.  The rifles are shouldered, and your body is in their crosshairs.  You are the target.

Don’t say you would not be afraid!  That would be a shock, a real jolt to wake up to! This is exactly what happens to the prophet Elisha and his assistant, Gehazi.  Gehazi is the one who walks outside and sees they are surrounded.  What are the immediate thoughts that you believe would come to mind if this happened to you?   ______________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

Read the passage: 2 Kings 6:8-23

These men for God were literally surrounded by a band of enemies that were sent by the King of Syria to “snatch and grab” Elisha.  Most governments do not like military interference that spying can cause.  Sharing military secrets is not a game.

The Lord had revealed in advance to Elisha the plans of Syria to capture the king of Israel as he traveled.  Because Elisha had warned the king of Israel, the king had evaded all their attempts.

The enraged king of Syria wondered which of his servants was exposing their plot.  When each cabinet member and military leader passed the cross-examination, they realized that it was Elisha who was revealing the secrets.  How?  I wonder if God does not give hints amongst leaders and militaries today.

Nothing is a secret to God.  Daniel expressed this in another governmental setting to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in Daniel 2:28:  But there is a God in ___________ that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days…

Who were these men surrounding Elisha and Gehazi?  It seems to be an elite group of military personnel working in conjunction with the espionage arm (CIA) of the Syrians.  For Syria to be the aggressor in this era indicates they had a more powerful army than Israel and were willing to go to war.

Here are several descriptions given of this “Snatch and Grab” unit: the Host (chayil) which means “a force or band of men.”  A different word, Bands (dwdg), is also used which indicates “a crowd of soldiers.”  It appears that this was not a full-scale attack army but rather an elite group of fighting men.  It was a specialized task force.

Gehazi is right.  There is no escape.  There is no way out of this one – or is there? When you feel surrounded by the problems and pressures of life, there are two truths you need to remember.

God’s provision is not always immediately known.

The Lord already had the situation under His control.  The angels of the Lord were already protecting His servants.  Elisha prayed that Gehazi would see God’s protection and provision.

Elisha already knew the score.  See verse 16.  This is a foreshadow of an amazing New Testament verse:  Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be ___________ us?

God is rarely early, but He is always on time.  With imminent danger ready to pounce on him, Gehazi had given up hope.  The fear of being surrounded was real and deadly.  However, the Lord had a different plan.  See verses 17-18.

When Gehazi’s eyes were opened to the spiritual dimension, he saw for the first time the presence of God’s angels.  He was about to witness a lifesaving miracle for everyone involved.  Even the lives of the enemies were spared.  Notice in verse 18 how the enemies come down to Elisha.  Elisha and Gehazi see the angels, but these enemy soldiers do not.  If we were observing this event play out – perhaps we would not have seen the angels.

From a human perspective – there is no hope.  But God is always on time.  His timing is always right, even though we tend to question His timing.  He hath made every thing beautiful in his time… (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  Elisha offered a prayer to God, and God answered his prayer right as the soldiers were about to apprehend him.  You may not see it with your eyes, but you can always believe “they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

The band of enemy combatants was blinded temporarily by the Lord.  In an ironic and incredibly merciful scene, Elisha leads this band of elite soldiers right to the King of Israel.  Samaria was the capital of Israel at this time and is only about 12 miles from Dothan, where Elisha was confronted.

Gehazi experienced what David wrote about earlier in history in Psalm 34:4, I sought the LORD, and he _________ me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Be sure to pray for God’s deliverance when you feel surrounded.

  • When You Feel Too Small.

David was a teenager.  He was not the tallest or strongest, even in his very own family.  I imagine him to be about 5’9’ and 150 pounds (just a guess.)

When Goliath, the 10-foot, 400-pound giant arrives with the Philistine army, Saul and the Children of Israel have a major problem on their hands. The difference in size, stature, and strength is disparaging!  This potential discouragement alone would cause just about anyone to quit.

The army, under the leadership of Saul, had already quit.  No one was volunteering to face Goliath.  Fear was controlling the entire camp.  Israel under their first king was already in a real crisis.

The ravages of war are terrible. A group of academics and historians has compiled this startling information: since 3600 B.C., the world has known only 292 years of peace! During this period there have been 14,351 wars large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. The value of the property destroyed is equal to a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick. Since 650 B.C., there have also been 1,656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war. The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved.  We human beings seem to have an endless capacity for conflict! -6,000 Plus

Doing the math in 1 Samuel 17:5, we find that Goliath’s armor alone weighed 125 pounds, nearly as much as David!  David is the classic “underdog.”

Read: 1 Samuel 17:30-51.  While Saul’s army thought, “Goliath is too big,” David thought, “With God, I can’t miss!”  Here is how David responded:

Remember the Cause.  29-31.  The cause for life is the glory of God.  While Goliath is mocking the God if Israel, David is suggesting that his cause is to glorify the Lord!  We have the same “cause” to rally around today.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, ______ _______ to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, ______  _______ in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Glorifying God could be understood as “doing the right thing, the right way, with the right attitude, at the right time, all while praising and thinking about God.”  Pleasing the Lord is central to a person giving Him glory.

Realize Others Are Afraid.  32.  David sensed the shame in the camp.  Fear had already captivated the Israeli army.  Even Saul, the tallest and most respected Jew in the land did not know what to do next.  David’s words were not of condemnation.  He was not critical of the other men.  He demonstrated great faith in God and encouraged the other men to have faith in God too.  Let no man’s heart fail because of him.

When people around you are afraid – it is a good time to remind them and yourself to trust the Lord.  Proverbs 12:25 teaches, Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it __________: but a good word maketh it glad.

Reject Bad Counsel.  33-39.  Man’s methods to overcome problems are not that good.  Saul initially says, “you are too young.”  Then he says, “you have no experience fighting in war.”  After that he offers his very own royal armor.  David was too small to fit in the armor.  It was too heavy, and he had never worn any armor.  This was not a proven or tried-and-tested form of defense for him.

David went against the accepted forms of defense.  He rejected the common way of looking at this problem.  He looked to God for an answer.

You will find that humanity has its own ideas of protectiveness and peace.  While David rejected the conventional method, the Lord had him use a sling and 5 smooth stones.  If you are honest, most of your responses (positive) or reactions (negatives) that you resort to in times of crisis are things that you learned growing up.  For David, who grew up in Jessie’s home in the hillside of Bethlehem, 5 smooth stones and his sling were familiar and comfortable.  It had worked in the past.

When we are confronted with a crisis, not everything from our past will work.  New (to us) situations may cause us to look beyond our experiences and background.  In those moments, we must look to God, His Word, and even His servants who are willing to give Biblical counsel to help us.  Be sure that while you reject bad counsel, you also receive Biblical counsel.  “The Lord delivered me out of the paw of the lion.” 37.

Do you react in negative ways when the situation is bigger than you?  Some people get angry.  Others believe if they get “louder,” then the battle will be resolved.  Or, do you respond?  Do you confess your need for the Lord? Do you look for His solution to the problem?

Rely on God.  46-47.  I have never been really good with the “Y” shaped slingshots, and I certainly am not experienced with the type of sling that is whirled around the head and then released.  David was an expert marksman.  It has been said that guns are a great equalizer – no matter how big or small, strong or weak a person may be – if both people have a gun, they have equal power and equal potential in a conflict.  True thought.

Goliath had all the armor and conventional weapons of the day, but he did not have a sling.  No one thought this sling-swinging teenager had a chance.  But God was there.  God is BIGGER than the biggest enemy.  The Lord used the skill of David, the willingness of this teenager, and a single smooth stone to eliminate the single greatest threat to David, King Saul, and the young nation of Israel.  While doing what he could and should, David relied on the Lord. That’s Faith!

When you feel too small, remember how BIG God is.

  • When You Feel the Suffering.

Let me introduce to you a man named Job.  He lived in the day when dinosaurs lived in plain view of humanity.  Job had one crisis after another.  The things he feared most just kept coming his way.  How did he cope?  How did he recover in crisis?

  • The livestock (1000 oxen and 500 donkeys) in the family farming business were all stolen.  The foremen and ranch hands were all dead.
  • A lightning storm struck, killing all the sheep (7000) and workers in the family clothing empire.
  • The camels (3000), part of the family transportation, caravan, and vacation business were all stolen, and the “drivers” were all killed.
  • With all the wealth and livelihood gone, the most tragic thing happens next.  Job’s children (7 sons, 3 daughters), at a party, were all killed when the house they were in collapsed during a wind storm.

This is found in Job 1:13-22.  Job’s plight continued as his health was immediately assaulted, and for the next 12 months his body is in utter and constant pain (Job 2).  He feels suffering every day.

Job describes how the things he feared the most actually happened to him in Job 3:25-26.  The idea of these verses is that he had one bad experience after another.  In swift succession, evil, pain, and suffering overwhelmed his life.  What he feared most happened, then the next thing, then the next.

Have you ever felt like that?  What pain and suffering are you going thought now?  Emotional, relational, physical?  What sickness or surgery are you facing today?  Life is full of Job-like events.

Ever say, “It can’t get any worse?”  No one likes pain.  I am like you – I avoid it if at all possible!  Some pain and suffering are unavoidable.  How can we have faith when the fear of suffering becomes a reality?

Job continued to worship God.  1:20.  Before, during, and after these events, Job worshipped.  Are you faithful to the Lord during good times, or do you only turn to him during bad times?

Job confessed the temporary nature of life.  1:21.  He blessed God anyway.  At least he was blessed to have had these businesses.  For sure he knew he was blessed to have had these 10 kids.  Even when his health is ripped away from him, he still had life and breath to be thankful for.

Perhaps health problems are the most difficult to deal with.  Our pain affects and tests not only our physical bodies, but our cognition, emotions, relationships, and even spiritual life.  Undiagnosed or untreatable ailments are terrible.  Job knew that kind of pain.

Life includes problems.  Pain is a sad part of life.

  • Job 14:1 Man that is born of a woman is of ________ days, and ________ of trouble.
  • Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our ______ unto wisdom.

Job persisted to bless the Lord.  (Verses 1:22, 2:9-10.)  He praises God in the good times and the bad times.

One of the possible struggles we have today is that we can be so busy making a living that we do not have a life.  Disasters, pain, and suffering tend to help us refocus on the main things in life: faith, family, and friends.

Job did not know it, but he was being persecuted for his faith – by Satan himself.  Paul encourages us when we too suffer for our faith in Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the ________________ of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the _____________ which shall be revealed in us.

God brought Job through the pain and suffering.  Job is restored double of everything he lost.  After a year of physical pain, his body is made whole.  He lives out his days closer to God than ever before.  He has a fresh perspective in life, and the hand of God (while evident during suffering) was also seen in Job’s blessing.

What to do when facing the fear of suffering?  Remember, that God has an eternal plan for your life, and it is worth the living!  His mercy can be seen even in the suffering you may endure.

James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the ______________ of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Whatever you fear, be encouraged – do not give up.  Get back in the game of life and glorify God!

In his autobiography, William Allen White related the story of a boyhood playmate, Temple Friend, who was kidnapped by the Indians when he was quite young. Ironically, Temple’s grandfather was a missionary to the Indians. The Lord’s servant persisted in believing his grandson was alive. He continued to love and serve the church. He never allowed Indian conduct to sour his spirit. When visiting an Indian village, the old man would line up the boys who would be about the age of his missing grandson, and whisper, “Temple, Temple,” quietly in the ear of each boy, so as not to excite them or the community. He followed this procedure day in and day out. Finally, he found about twelve boys the age of his grandson in one district—all eight to ten years old—and he started the same procedure. At the middle of the line a little boy’s face lighted up, and he responded, “Me Temple!”  -1000

Faith can help you face your greatest fears…

  1. What fear can you give to God? __________ ____________________________________
  2. What areas do you need to trust God with? ____________________________________ ____________________________________

 

 

 

Get Back in the Game

Fear. Aloneness. Anxiety. Struggles.

Failure. Losses. Stress. Falling. Disappointment.

Falsehoods. Lies. Stories. Regret. Pain.

Each of us will experience the above forms of suffering at some point in our lives.  Some of us may seemingly endure more pain and agony than others.  How do we cope?  How can we rise above the fears, failures, and falsehoods that life throws our way?

Faith.  Faith is the answer.  Easy to say – perhaps more difficult to put into practice.

One day John Wesley was walking with a troubled man who expressed his doubt as to the goodness of God. He said, “I do not know what I shall do with all this worry and trouble.” At the same moment Wesley saw a cow looking over a stone wall. “Do you know,” asked Wesley, “why that cow is looking over the wall?” “No,” said the man who was worried. Wesley said, “The cow is looking over the wall because she cannot see through it. That is what you must do with your wall of trouble—look over it and avoid it.” Faith enables us to get above circumstances and look to Christ who is over all, blessed forever.   -Knight’s

David knew about faith in the face of fear, failure, and falsehoods.  He wrote in Psalm 56:3, What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. And in verse 11: In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.

Faith is the answer to all of life’s troubling events.

This solution is not “faith in faith” but rather faith in God.  David looked to the Lord for help in times of trouble.

Even though David was sidelined from time to time, he got back in the game of life.  Fear has a way of crippling our actions.  Failing has the potential to discourage you to the point of quitting.  Falsehoods, lies by others, and even lies you may believe about yourself can knock you off your feet.

How do you get back up?  How can the Christian recover from the various problems he will face?  Can God use me despite my fear?  Can the Lord pick me up after my failure?  Can the falsehoods be forgiven and a new life forged?

Life crises happen.  A life crisis always precedes a faith crisis.  Your faith will be tested and tried.

Some people never recover.  Why?  Their response to the crisis makes all the difference…

Please follow the next few posts for more about Getting Back in the Game…..

 

 

 

Building Your Kids

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

The house is going up.  In the field where the large tree fell, a new home is being built.  On our way to school, my children make comments, and we enjoy watching the progress on this house as we drive by each day.  The house is going up systematically.  From the foundation on up, there is a building plan.  God gives us building plans for our kids.

An admonition, then a direct command, is given to fathers in particular in Ephesians 6:4.  From what I understand about ancient cultures, some pagan fathers in false religions could be very harsh, demanding, and demeaning to their children.  Prodding or provoking them to get a reaction out of them was a sadistic type of amusement that some would seek to find.

In a conventional sense today, as children misbehave, it is easy for a tired or busy parent to be more rash in their reactions to their children.  I read one study that suggested parents of young children are more angry than most people!  If you are nodding off while reading this after a sleepless parenting night, I totally understand.  But when our children misbehaving, or sin, not obeying and honoring like they should – do not fly off the handle.  Do not exact a revengeful form of correction towards them.

Commentator Adam Clark wrote well: “Cruel parents generally have bad children. He who corrects his children according to God and reason will feel every blow on his own heart more sensibly than his child feels it on his body. Parents are called to correct, not to punish, their children. Those who punish them do it from a principle of revenge; those who correct them do it from a principle of affectionate concern.”  The interaction of a parent with a child should not be rooted in shaming them, or creating a false sense of guilt, or even generating fake conformity.  Truly a parent must nurture the heart.

After this admonition to not cause wrath in a child, the Lord instructs the parent, the father, in particular, to bring up a child.  The phrase, bringing up, carries the idea of a systematic approach to building something.  Like the house being constructed that we drive by each day is being built with a specific order, plan, and design in place, the father should have a plan for the progressive building of his children.  Two words to consider:

Nurture is the tutilage or systematic training and educating of a child.   Remember, in school, the teacher took you through a book, page by page, and chapter by chapter?  Subjects and topics related to one another were taught to you in a complimentary way.  For example, in math class, you probably learned addition before you learned subtraction.  Then multiplication came before division.   You get the idea.

Admonition is to call attention to or to offer a mild warning or rebuke.   When a child is tempted to do wrong, that is an excellent time to provide a word of caution, a reminder of the consequences, a rebuke of wrong thinking or wrong attitude.   Paul says in Romans 15:14 that those with “goodness” in them can admonish one another.  Be sure to give consistent guidance to your children.  Two challenges:

  • Angry parents damage the emotions of their children.
  • Absent parents damage the emotions of their children.

Find the right balance to be building your kids up.  Just like a class in school and a house being built, you are called to systematically and continuously develop your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not easy in this world.  The Church will help you.  Sunday School and AWANA programs can help.  The church and the kid’s programs are not a replacement for the father.  No one can replace the healthy interaction and integration of Bible truth in their ones children.

Next time you see a house being built, think about how God has called you to develop your child.

Please offer suggestions for building up kids in the faith in the comment section…