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In step


God of Minorities

"But the Lord said to Gideon, 'There are still too many men.'"1

"It's easier to fight for one's principles," said Alfred Adler, "than to live up to them." How true. It's also easier to talk about losing weight, to think about changing my ways, and to sing about love—than to do these things. But for all who want to do more than talk, there will never be a lack of opportunities especially for all who want to serve God and be a part of his plan.

Jesus started Christianity with twelve ordinary men, was with them for three years, then left the task of spreading the gospel to them. As with Gideon and his tiny band of 300 "warriors," God seems to work more often than not through individuals and small groups.

He'll work through you and me and our small groups, too, if we truly want him to. The wonderful thing is that God uses ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things—when they make themselves available to him and ask him to use them as a part of what he is doing in the world today.

Every day I like to pray, "Lord, I'm available again today. Please make me usable and use me to be a part of what you are doing in today's world. Please help me to be 'as Christ' in some way to every life I touch this day! Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."

This is today's suggested prayer. Can I encourage you to print it out and pray it every day too?


The essential flavoring
2 Corinthians 6
"In purity, understanding, patience and kindness ..." (v.6)

Nothing else we do can atone for a lack of kindness. Many people excuse themselves for a lack of kindness by pointing to the things they do for someone -- "I am working my fingers to the bone for him." Yes, but the fleshless fingers will not atone for unkind words and attitudes.

Even ministers who work hard but lack this essential kindness are no exception. Paul lists well over twenty-five things in the passage before us that are marks of a true servant of God, and notice how he puts "kindness" right in the middle of them.

At the center of all his "proofs" is kindness. I do not think it is by chance that this virtue of kindness is also the middle virtue of the nine fruits of the Spirit. Without kindness, there is no virtue in the other virtues. This one puts flavor in all the rest -- without it, they are insipid and tasteless. So to grow in kindness is to grow in virtues that are flavored with a certain spirit -- the spirit of Jesus.

It remains a fact, however, that multitudes of Christian people are not kind. Some eminent Christian leaders have not been as eminent in this fruit of the Spirit as in others, and have worn their halo a little askew. Many are stern and unfeeling. They grow hard with sinners. Disciplined as they are in virtue, they become censorious and critical and their passion for righteousness makes it hard for them to show tenderness to violators of God's law. Jesus upheld God's laws more than anyone -- yet He was called "the Friend of sinners."

My Father and my God, although I never want to lessen the gravity of sin, I do want to be a person who shows tenderness to those who are enmeshed in it. Help me become that kind of person. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


Prepare for Battle
. . . on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it—Matthew 16:18

We’re designed for battle by our Father God; we’re led into battle by our King, Jesus Christ; we’re aided in battle by God the Holy Spirit. These battles are waged “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The places where we meet our enemies have names like “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). Though perhaps less dramatic than battles fought on the ground or in the air or on the sea, their outcomes are more momentous. They determine not only how we spend our lives, but our eternities too (Galatians 5:21).

We have enemies. They’re real. They’re powerful. They’re cunning, relentless, scheming always against us—scheming right now. We too, brother, must be cunning and relentless. We too must be prepared.
Okay, so what do we do?

Create a battle plan. Resist any “this isn’t necessary” or “do it later” tendencies. Create a plan to bring the fight to our enemies. They’ve brought it to you long enough. Write it out today. Make it explicit. Make it practical.

1. Definition of Battle . . . what problem would you like to finally overcome?
2. Definition of Victory . . . what’ll victory look like?
3. Lay of the Land . . . what external factors contribute to the problem?
4. Points of Weakness . . . what aspects of your lifestyle contribute too?
5. Plan of Attack . . . how will you counter or minimize or eliminatethe external factors and contributing aspects of your lifestyle?
6. Sources of Strength . . . how’ll you stay connected to God and community?
7. Brothers-in-Arms . . . whom will you tell about this plan and keep updated, as to victories and defeats?


The Antichrist Is Coming, Part I

"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him …. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness [the Antichrist] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God."1

Who is this Antichrist that is coming? As his name implies, the Antichrist is the anti or against-the-real-Christ (the Son of God) and will be totally opposed to him and everything to do with Christianity. He is a person whom the Bible says will come to power at the end of this world age as we currently know it—at or about the same time as the literal return of the real Christ to earth via Israel.

The Antichrist will be the leader of the revived Roman Empire—an amalgamation or merger of ten nations symbolized in Daniel 2 by the image with ten toes and by the terrible beast with ten horns in Daniel 7. This merger or coalition of nations will cover much of the same geographical area as did the ancient Roman Empire. The EU (Europe Union) today is looking very much like it could be shaping up to become the revived Roman Empire as depicted in the Word of God.

The Antichrist will be an emissary of Satan himself and empowered by him; and, as a puppet of Satan, no human will be able to stand against him. As he takes control of the world, he will make what Hitler did look like a Sunday school picnic.

What will the Antichrist look like? Without doubt the Antichrist will be an extremely charismatic, persuasive, cunning and deceptive individual, a silver-tongued orator, and will be a combination of a religious, political and economic leader/dictator. The religion he will promote will be a counterfeit religion—one that denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world.

He will also be the leader of a counterfeit political system, and a counterfeit world-wide economic system—all of which will ultimately fail. Furthermore, his religion will have within it an element of truth that will make it believable to the masses. It's the element of truth in any religion, organization or political party that makes it one of the most deceptive forms of lying there is. In fact, every false cult and false religion has an element of truth in their belief system; otherwise it would never be accepted.

This is how Satan deceived the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. In seeking to entrap the first man, Satan said to him, "God knows that when you eat of it [the forbidden fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."2 This was a true statement in part and sounded very impressive to Adam. But what Satan did not say was, "not only will you be like God knowing the difference between good and evil, but you will be forever confirmed in a state of evil." We can be certain that the Antichrist will again deceive the masses by his part-truths.

When will the Antichrist appear? The Antichrist will come on to the world scene at a time when the world is looking much like Germany in pre-Hitler days, but on a far vaster scale. Prior to World War II Germany was in chaos facing a major economic crisis, thus setting the stage for the acceptance of a charismatic leader who would promise "the world" to the German people.

Enter Hitler who, promising the German people the good life, was readily accepted and embraced by the German people. Tragically, Hitler used his power and control in a sadistic attempt to conquer and gain the world—killing all who tried to block his deadly ambition—including the murder of six million Jews.

So when we see the world's economy crumbling and the push towards a one-world economy, and a one-world political system, beware of political and religious leaders who speak in part truths that just may be helping to prepare the way for the coming world dictator, the Antichrist.

To be continued . . . .

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please open the eyes of my understanding so that I can see and understand the signs of the times as pointed out in your Word, the Bible. Help me to be certain that I am ready for your return and not be deceived by any false prophets—either religious or political—and always stand firm in my belief in you. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Deep down goodness
Acts 10:34-48
"... God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and ... he went around doing good ..." (v.38)

We come now to the sixth fruit of the Spirit -- goodness.

Most commentators agree that it is the hardest fruit to define as the word "good" is used so widely that it can mean nearly everything and nearly nothing. In some circles, for example, a man is regarded as "good" if he simply keeps out of the hands of the police, while in other circles "goodness" consists of being "highly respectable.

"The New Testament use of this word (Greek: agathosune) is meager -- apart from its use in Galatians 5:22, it appears on only three other occasions (2 Thess. 2:17, Eph. 5:9 and Rom. 15:14). So it is not easy to pinpoint the real meaning of the word. It is the view of most writers and Bible commentators that supernatural goodness is not just doing good things (though it includes that) but it is essential goodness -- goodness in the inner parts.

This deep down goodness, like kindness, is first an attitude before it becomes an action. In fact, some commentators are of the view that it is more non-verbal than verbal -- it is evidenced not so much in words as in one's whole demeanor. And it is a goodness which unconsciously proclaims itself.

One feels it as an aura around its possessor. Its radiations are so powerful that it is doubtful whether anyone could be near to it and yet be unaware of it. Many, especiallynon-Christians, might not be able to describe what they feel in the presence of this "goodness," but they would feel something. And that something is the character of Christ flowing in and through one of His followers.

O Father, how I long to be the channel and not the stopping place of all Your blessings to me. Let this grace, as well as the others, be seen in me. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.


"Secret death"
Romans 6:1-14
"Because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (v.7)

We are seeing that "goodness" is essential goodness -- goodness in the inner parts. William Sangster, in my view, comes closest to grasping the content of this sixth fruit of the Spirit when he says: "Goodness is the impression a Christian makes as he moves on his way, blissfully unaware that he is reminding people of Jesus Christ." Perhaps we can get no nearer to a definition of supernatural goodness than that -- reminding people of Jesus Christ. But note the words -- "blissfully unaware ..." A Christian is largely unconscious of this fruit at work within him, for it is not something he tries to manufacture but something that flows out of his deep relationship with Jesus Christ.

George Muller of Bristol, the man who cared for so many stranded orphans, was said to demonstrate the fruit of "goodness" to a remarkable degree. Dr. A.

T. Pierson says in his biography of the great man that one day, Muller was pressed to share what he considered to be the power behind his ministry, and he surprised his questioner by talking about his secret death. "There was a day," he said, "when I died; utterly died" -- and as he spoke, he bent lower until he almost touched the floor.

He continued: "I died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved of God." In those who manifest the fruit of goodness, one thing is always clear -- they have "died" to their own interests and have returned to "live" for Christ's.

Gracious and loving Father, help me also to "die" to my own interests so that I might return and live for Your interests. Whatever I need to bring me to this place, lead me toward it -- today. In Christ's Name I ask it. Amen.


The Antichrist Is Coming, Part II

"He [the Antichrist] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name."3

When the Antichrist appears, much of the world (if not all of it) will be facing economic and political chaos; it will be threatened by ongoing wars, continuing terrorist attacks, and possible nuclear destruction—it will be a world desperate for peace—especially peace regarding the endless war-torn Middle East area of the World.

As it was in Hitler's Germany, this will set the stage for the ready acceptance of a dynamic and charismatic leader who will make grandiose promises of peace and prosperity for all. The masses of people, desperate for help, will buy into his propaganda, and be blinded by his deception because he will turn out to be the dictator from hell. Those who oppose him will take the risk of being killed—thousands will be.

What will the Antichrist do? "According to the Bible, in the last days the Antichrist will control everything people see, hear and read. It says in Revelation 13:7 that 'Power was given him over all kindred, tongues, and nations.'

This future fuehrer will have the task of propagandizing the world through a [totally] controlled media. This antichrist will be a passionate leader with an appealing message and the power of oratory that will be out of this world because his power comes from another world [from Satan]. He will be a master of doublespeak. But he must [will do everything to] silence his opponents."4

Once the Antichrist comes to power, this will mark the beginning of his seven-year reign with world-wide control. For people to buy and sell, they will have to have on either their right hand or forehead the "mark of the beast" (see Revelation 13:16-17). This could very well be some kind of computer chip or electronic identification mark.

Recently Joy, my wife, bought a new cell phone with GPS (Global Positioning System), and when she typed in our name and address, the names and addresses of all the people who live on our street automatically appeared. When every person on earth has some kind of electronic chip or ID, a government who controls a GPS satellite system will know exactly where every person on earth is, and as such will be able to control them. Warning: the technology to make this possible is undoubtedly already in place.

At the beginning of his seven-year reign the Antichrist will make a peace pact with Israel, making it appear that peace has finally come to the war-torn Middle East—a peace pact that no other leader from any other country has ever been able to achieve, although several have tried (see Daniel 9:27).

However, in the middle of this seven-year tribulation period, the Antichrist will break his peace pact with Israel, enter and desecrate the re-built Jewish temple in Jerusalem by setting himself up as God (see Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11; Matthew 24:15; and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4). For the next three and a half years all hell will break loose on earth when God pours out his judgments on earth during the Great Tribulation (see Revelations chapters 8 and 9).

What will end the Great Tribulation will be the battle of Armageddon (see Revelation 16:16). This will be when the nations of the world unite to come against Israel in an attempt to "wipe her off the map." At this time Jesus Christ will return with his true followers to step onto the stage of mankind's history and will totally destroy the Antichrist, his armies, and his followers and all who seek to destroy Israel and Jerusalem. Armageddon will be the war to end all wars.

By way of interest, recently Joy and I had the opportunity to be on a tour of Israel where we visited the city of Megiddo which overlooks the enormous valley of Megiddo (some 20 miles long and 14 miles wide) where the battle of Armageddon will be centered. It is a real place. The name, Armageddon, comes from the Hebrew, Har Megiddo.

After Armageddon Jesus will, with the aid of all his true disciples, rule and reign on earth for a thousand years (see Revelation 20:6). During this time Satan will be bound and, at the end of this millennium, will be released for a short while and then cast into hell for all eternity (see Revelation 20:1-3).

Furthermore, all those whose names are not written in God's book of life, that is, those who never accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and received God's free pardon for all their sins, will stand before God at the Great White Judgment throne of God and be judged for all the sins they ever committed and, with Satan, will also be cast into hell for all eternity (see Revelation 20:11-15). After this God will create a new heaven and a new earth, and all of God's children will live together forever with God and Jesus Christ, and there will be no more sorrow, no more death, no more crying, and no more pain (see Revelation 21:1-4).

It is no secret that the nations surrounding Israel today are already determined to wipe Israel off the map once and for all. The day is coming when they will join forces to attempt to do this. That day may be a lot closer than many think.

For instance, when Joy and I were in Israel a few months ago, we visited the Temple Institute in Jerusalem and learned firsthand that the Jewish people are currently preparing to build the third temple and re-institute temple worship. Priests are now being trained for this temple ministry, and the instruments needed for temple worship are being made at this time.

Plans for building the third temple are under way right now. This temple will need to be erected either before or during the beginning reign of the Antichrist for the simple fact that three-and-a-half years into his reign, he will enter the temple, and desecrate it by setting himself up as God (see Matthew 24:15, and 2 Thessalonians 2:4).

With all that is happening in today's world the setting of the stage for both the coming of the Antichrist and the real Christ is accelerating. That time could be very near. The Antichrist will promise peace but as Jesus said, "When men say peace, then sudden destruction" (see 1 Thessalonians 5:3).

The most important issue is this: If Jesus Christ should come today for all his true followers, are you ready? Or would you be left behind and have to go through the Great Tribulation under the reign of terror by the Antichrist? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and received God's forgiveness for all your sins? To help you to be ready be sure to read, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian" online at: www.actsweb.org/christian.

Be sure and accept Jesus today. As every prediction in God's Word, the Bible, concerning Christ's first coming, written hundreds of years prior to his birth in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, was fulfilled in minutest detail, so also will his second coming be fulfilled as spelled out in God's Word. Furthermore, so will the predictions concerning the coming of the Antichrist also be fulfilled in detail.

To be concluded . . . .

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you have clearly warned me in your Word that the Antichrist, being empowered by Satan, is coming, and when he does, will unleash his fury, and tyranny of evil and destruction on mankind. Please help me to be ready for your return and be delivered from the evil power of the Antichrist. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


The Antichrist Is Coming, Part III

"About times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord [Christ's return] will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape…. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled."5

Many people today say that the Bible is just a bunch of fables and all this talk about a coming Antichrist is nonsense for the simple fact that we are far too enlightened today to believe in such nonsense. Let us remember, however, that Hitler's Germany was among the most educated, advanced and enlightened country in the world when Hitler rose to power.

A reminder, too, that every prophecy in God's Word, the Bible, about Christ's first coming, written hundreds of years prior to his coming, was fulfilled in detail. We can be just as certain that every prophecy in God's Word regarding Christ's second coming and the coming of the Antichrist will also be fulfilled in detail.

For instance, the Bible stated that Israel would be a nation again at the time of Christ's return. Israel as a nation was reborn in 1948, two-thousand years after being decimated by the Romans in AD70. As already noted, the Bible states that the Jewish temple will have to be rebuilt at the end times because the Antichrist will enter and desecrate it by setting himself up in the temple and claim to be God midway through his seven-year reign (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

But many will say how can the third temple be built on the Temple Mount because the Muslim Dome of the Rock is in the way? Not so. According to archeological findings the Dome of the Rock is built in the Gentile (non-Jewish) area of the temple grounds6 and not over the ancient Jewish temple that was built by King Herod.

The new Jewish temple will be built over this temple—the one that was destroyed by the Romans in AD70. If you go to the temple area today, you can see many of the huge temple stones that the Romans threw over the temple walls when they destroyed the temple. For the first time in almost two-thousand years a new Jewish temple is right now in the planning stages of being built.

So where are we today? Are we, the US and its allies moving towards globalization which would incorporate a one-world people, a one-world economy, and a one-world government? And if so, is this helping to set the stage for the coming Antichrist who will rule over a globalized world?

More and more it is looking like it. For example, speaking overseas early in his presidency, President Obama addressed a crowd of some 200,0007 people in Berlin as "Citizens of the world." More recently in an online article titled, "Tony Blair, Evangelicals, and The Coming One World Religion," Paul McGuire writes, "Former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair has created the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to unify the world's religions. Blair is especially interested in promoting the benefits of globalization to Christian churches.

There are a number of prominent American ministers who have endorsed his Tony Blair Faith Foundation with its emphasis on globalization or global government. In Revelation we read about this coming one world religion and the False Prophet who unites the world's religions in order to bring peace to Planet Earth under the rule of Antichrist."

McGuire concludes his article by saying, "We are on the precipice of a new world financial order, a cashless society and global government. Once again, the forces behind globalization understand that they need to recruit the churches in order to make the transition. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the prominent evangelical ministers and religious leaders of other religions are part of globalization strategy. If you want to know where this all ultimately ends up? Read Revelation 13."8

Peace and Safety. The more we hear about globalization, a one-world economy, a one-world religion, a one-world political system, plus the promise of peace, the closer we are to the appearance of the Antichrist and the second coming to earth of Jesus Christ.

For many years now the UN and other countries, including the U.S., have been doing their utmost to broker peace in the Middle East—so far all to no avail. But they continue to talk about it and try to find ways to establish peace in this major conflict area of today's world. We also have a very dominant religious group in that part of the world that claims to be a religion of peace. However, according to biblical prophecy, it will be the Antichrist who will broker a peace treaty with Israel for at least three-and-a-half years until he breaks it.

As today's Scripture reminds us: "About times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. . . . So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled."5

Right now the setting of the stage for the coming of both Jesus Christ and the Antichrist is certainly appearing to be accelerating. The clock is ticking. Every day brings us closer to the midnight hour.

What can we do about it?

First, be aware: Jesus said, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."9

Second, be on the right side: Make absolute certain you are on the side of the real Christ and not on the side of the counterfeit Christ—the Antichrist—or you will be totally controlled by him.

Third, be prepared: As Jesus said to Nicodemus, "You must be born again." "Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'"10 By this Jesus meant if you are to see and enter God's kingdom, you need to be re-born spiritually. We do this by believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he died on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins, that we confess our sinfulness to God, and that we receive God's forgiveness and his gift of eternal life by receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and making a genuine commitment of our life to him. To help you do this, be sure to read the article, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian" at: www.actsweb.org/christian.

Suggested prayer: Dear God, thank you again for your Word informing us of the events to come at the end of this world age. Please help me to know and understand your Word, be aware of what is happening, and be prepared for your coming by accepting your Son, Jesus Christ, as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you for this blessed hope and assurance of your salvation and for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Two divergent views

Galatians 2:11-21
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me ..." (v.20)

Paul tells us about his "secret" death in the passage before us today. In the main, there are two divergent views on this passage. One view is that Paul is referring here to the teaching he expounded in Romans 6 -- that when Christ died at Calvary, we all "died" in Him, but because He came back from the dead we must now apply ourselves to appropriating that resurrection power and allow it to work in us to overcome self and sin.

They say Paul's statement about being "crucified with Christ" has reference to that. Others take the view that Paul is referring to a specific experience in his life, following his conversion, when his "old man" (the carnal nature) "died" to self-interest and self-concern. Thus, the "old man" being crucified, the Christ-man rises in his stead.

Personally I see truth in both these views. Sanctification is a process but it can also be a crisis. Many Christians can testify, as did George Muller, that even though they were applying the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in their lives day by day, there came a moment or a period when they experienced a critical putting to death of the ego.

Not everyone, it seems, is brought by the Spirit to experience sanctification as a crisis, but it is significant that most of the saints whose lives are marked by a high degree of holiness testify to such an experience. Let your heart be open to God on this matter today and listen to what He might say to you. Perhaps this could be the day on which you die a "secret death."


My Father and my God, I choose what You choose. If today You choose to lead me into a deeper understanding of how to "die" to my self-interest, then I choose to follow. Guide me, my Father. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


With Friends Like These . . .
My brothers, show no partiality
as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ—James 2:1

We men tend toward partiality. Sometimes with forethought, many times with no thought, we give or withhold based upon characteristics of the potential recipients. We can, therefore, find ourselves directing all our time and attention, our kindness and generosity, toward only those who live, look, sound, spend, sin . . . like we do. This plays out in many areas of life and, therefore, many areas of faith—in service, giving, worship, and certainly in brotherhood.

But James, brother of our King, Jesus Christ, cautioned us to oppose this tendency:

“For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:2-4).

So, what’s wrong with partiality? Well, intending to or not, we harm people. We harm them by disregarding them, those whom God wants us to impact or serve or befriend, but who don’t quite make our cut (Proverbs 28:21). God put us here for one another (Matthew 22:39). Partiality means we forsake people who need us. And if that’s not bad enough, we harm ourselves. We cut ourselves off from relationships—and often the weightiest. You see, those we’re meant to impact are meant to impact us, right back.

How’re you doing with this, brother? The test is simple—look around. Who are you spending time with? Whom are you serving? There should be people in your life who’re nothing like you. Are there?


Pharisaism in overalls
Luke 18:9-14
"... I thank you that I am not like other men ..." (v.11)

The fruit of the Spirit is not something that is achieved or manufactured, but something that is experienced as we abide in Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to produce in us the lineaments of Christ's character.
Many people have equated the sanctified life with keeping an ethical code, but the ethical code is not the source of sanctification but the result of it. If the path of ethical achievement is achieved by self-effort alone, then the person who achieves it comes to have pride in his achievement and falls prey to the sin of Pharisaism.

Those who keep the ethical code by self-effort have a taut will and, though they might not realize it, they lapse into the sin of independence -- depending on themselves and not on God. People who struggle to exude goodness have a metallic ring about them -- they appear stern and rigid and have about them the atmosphere of a moral athlete. Those whose goodness is not imposed, but exposed from their deep relationship with the Lord, are sweetly human and exude the character of Christ.

A similar error is made by those who say they have been "doing good turns all their lives." Someone has said that this type of attitude is "the sin of Pharisaism in overalls." Self is very much at the center. It is tainted, not because the "good turns" are evil, but because they are prompted by the self-regarding principle -- I am doing them in my own way for my ends. How deeply this disease of self-interest takes hold on us! It is in you and it is in me. Recognizing it, however, is the first step toward curing it.


O Father, I see that when I strut through life in an attitude of arrogance and pride, I soon stumble. But when I surrender, I succeed. Help me to keep this perspective -- today and every day. Amen.


The disease of self-interest
Romans 13:8-14
"... love is the fulfilment of the law." (v.10)

Because the disease of self-interest is so difficult to recognize, it might be helpful to focus on examples of ordinary things done or said by decent people which are, nevertheless, indicative of the ease with which we slip into self-interest.

A man whose mother died just as he was due to go on holiday and was therefore obliged to stay at home until the funeral was over said to the minister who tried to comfort him: "I will miss my mother greatly ... but I've lost nearly half my holiday." In the weeks prior to my wife's death, a man came up to me and said: "How is your wife?" Before I had time to reply, he launched into a fifteen-minute explanation of how his wife had been up all night with toothache.

During the terrifying days of World War II, a retired schoolmistress living in a rural area sent a letter to someone in London saying: "If only you knew what we are going through here. Every night we hear enemy planes going over loaded with bombs. Last week one of them dropped its bombs at random and our pantry window was cracked." The person she was writing to had not known what it was to sleep in her own bed for three months -- having had to spend every night in an air raid shelter.

These illustrations are representative of the kind of thing we hear or might say ourselves almost every day. And if we did not say it, then we might think it -- and that is just as bad.


O God, deliver me, I pray, from this tendency that I have to become deeply engrossed with myself. Help me to grow in You, so that my first thought is not for myself but for others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


Messin’ With Your Heroes
Therefore be imitators of God—Ephesians 5:1
Really? Is it so wrong for us to emulate the life of another man or woman? Is it so wrong to hold another person up, as a role model? Well, the answer is (as it often is) . . . it depends. It depends on what exactly, in the person, we long to emulate. If it’s Christlikeness only—if it’s only how the person demonstrates Jesus Christ to us and to others—then, no, it’s not so wrong. We’re meant to be, for one another, physical examples of how to follow Jesus ever more closely. Watching another person move further into the character of Christ helps us move further, too. That’s how it’s supposed to work. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Too often, though, that’s not the way it actually works. Too often, we look up to men and women—and strive to emulate them—for the purpose of becoming more like them, and not more like Jesus. Too often, it’s worldly things that draw us in: a person’s success, their achievements, their talent, their career, their money, their power, their possessions. We men fall into this a lot. And the problem is the same whether the things coveted are secular or ecclesiastical in nature. We can lift any person too high: magnate or minister, entrepreneur or entertainer, priest or professor. We can lift them so high they begin to obscure Jesus.

Hero worship is a sensitive subject. We men like our heroes. And we don’t like people to mess with them. We must be careful, though, that no person (great though they may be) gets between us and the ultimate hero. Examine your heart. Wrestle with the issue. Discuss it openly with some brothers—and with God, in prayer.


"Her first thought"
1 Peter 3:18
"... because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin." (4:1)

So often in life, our first thought is for ourselves. We are self-centered. Everything has an immediate self-reference. We are more upset over our own dead dog than a neighbor's dead child. And so deeply ingrained is our self-preoccupation that, left to ourselves, we would have to fillet our personalities to get rid of it. Yet there are multitudes walking the earth whose first thoughts are not for themselves but for the Lord and for others.

How has this happened? It has happened because the fruit of the Spirit was growing within them -- and especially the fruit of goodness. Take Catherine Booth, for example. When the great woman first learned the deadly nature of the disease that was to kill her slowly through two years of great pain, she knelt at the side of her husband and said: "Do you know what was my first thought? That I should not be there to nurse you at your last hour." Her first thought! A minister I once visited and who had been struck down with polio said to me: "But who will care for my people?" It was not of himself he was thinking -- but of others.

The self-forgetfulness of both Catherine Booth and the minister who was laid aside by sickness was not something that was manufactured but something that had been produced in them by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Their translucence can only be explained in one way -- they had died to themselves. The center of their lives had shifted from self to Christ and thus the fruit of goodness had blossomed within them.


Irresponsible Worry
And which of you by being anxious
can add a single hour to his span of life?—Matthew 6:27

Something’s coming. Doesn’t it always feel like that? Maybe it’s something financial . . . maybe work-related . . . maybe health-related . . . definitely bad. And so, we worry. I mean, it almost feels like that’s just a part of being a man, worrying about what’s coming. We worry about all the bad things that could happen, to us and to our loved ones. We scheme about how to get out in front of all those things. Then we worry some more about whether we’re actually men enough to execute our schemes. All this worrying hangs over our lives. It haunts our thoughts and steals important moments—moments that should be joy-filled.

But, it would be irresponsible not to worry, wouldn’t it? We’ve been trained to worry, all our lives. We’ve been trained that men with responsibilities are supposed to worry. It’s part of manhood.

Or is it? Our King, Jesus Christ, teaches us that it’s actually not. You see, he didn’t come so that we’d live lives haunted by fear. He came and died to set us free from such things (Galatians 5:1). He assures us, our Father God will take care of us, whether we worry or not (Matthew 6:26). We must, therefore, adopt a radical, new mindset: “We don’t know what’s coming . . . but our Father God does. So, we’ll leave it to him.”

Letting go of worry is tough. You must approach it not only intellectually, but practically too. You cannot simply command yourself, “worry less.” That, by itself, doesn’t work so well. You must get practical by actually talking about worries with a spouse, a friend, with brothers in community. That does work (2 Corinthians 12:9). Getting your worries out into the open is as powerful as it is counterintuitive. So, brother, defy your instincts.


Surrendering to goodness
John 15
"If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit ..." (v.5)

Although, as we have seen, goodness is a fruit that is difficult to define, we come close to seeing its meaning when we think of it in terms of essential goodness -- goodness in the inner parts. It is not something that is imposed but something that is exposed; it moves, not from without to within but from within to without. It is not self-achieved.

Supernatural goodness is pure goodness -- a goodness which unconsciously proclaims itself. Christians in whom goodness is growing will not "use" others as many use their friends -- they will love them for themselves alone. They will not mentally fit people into their scheme -- for they have no schemes.

I think it would be true to say that goodness is there to some degree in all Christians who are in daily touch with the Lord and are growing in Him -- but in those who have known what it is to die to self, it is there in overflowing measure.

They exude goodness. John Wallace, a Scotsman and the principal of the college where I received my training for the ministry, used to say: "Goodness, the fruit of the Spirit, is more 'felt' than 'telt'.

It is not so much actions as attitudes, not so much talking as walking."I believe myself that God never gets closer to a sinner -- or, for that matter, an unsurrendered Christian -- than when He calls to that person through the life of someone in whom the fruit of goodness is ripe. So in yearning for this fruit of the Spirit, remember, it comes not by straining to be good but by surrendering to goodness.

O God, I see that goodness is not some extraneous thing introduced from without; it is something that rises from within. Teach me how to stop struggling and start surrendering. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


Faithful in the Little Things

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."1

While what I am about to say will not apply in every country, but where I live if we want to find work when times are tough, we need to be willing to work at whatever work we can get. To give government handouts to people who are able to work but are not willing to work at whatever work is available, is irresponsibility on the part of the government which, in turn, is keeping people irresponsible and immature. Furthermore, mothers who keep having babies so they can live on government support is also a travesty of justice. And people in prison should be given work to do and pay their own way. As God's Word says, "Whoever does not work should not eat."2

When overseas students write to ask me for financial support to help them to come to America to study, I share my experience with them.

When I came to the U.S. from Australia to study for Christian work, I had no means of support—no student allowance, no scholarship, no family support, and no government help. Survival meant working part-time during the school year and full-time during the summers to put myself through college.

I took any job I could get even though I was a technical college graduate and a skilled tradesman. I scrubbed floors and walls, weekly cleaned a black soot-filled coal-burning boiler that heated an entire factory; I crawled through huge factory equipment on my back to clean it. In the summers I drove a city passenger bus in Chicago (got lost in it a couple of times) in the morning and evening rush hour shifts, painted houses in the middle of the day, and worked at a large city church as a janitor at nights and weekends—seven days a week!

No job was ever too menial, but I was never out of work and all my bills were paid. I always thanked God for his provision of work. I am sure that this did as much to train me for my life's work as did my formal education. I never asked God to give me money … what I prayed for was that he would help me find work … and I never went hungry.

So, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" and in due course "you will reap if you faint not!"

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to keep on being faithful in the little things because they are as important as the big things. And help me always to work with a positive attitude and a grateful heart. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


The ultimate test of character
Psalms 51
"Surely you desire truth in the inner parts ..." (v.6)

We examine now the seventh fruit of the Spirit -- faithfulness or fidelity. Faithfulness (Greek: pistis) is the quality of reliability or trust-worthiness which makes a person someone on whom we can utterly rely and whose word we can utterly accept.

It has been said that the ultimate test of a person's character is: Are there any circumstances in which that person will lie? If so, then that person's character is blemished. I know a Christian worker who puts in hours of service and who would work his fingers to the bone for anyone in need but, sadly, he cannot always speak the truth. That basic falsity cancels out much of the value of his accomplishments.

In a Third World country, where the leaders of churches are obliged to declare their property on their tax returns, one church owned a valuable gold cross. So that they would not have to pay so much tax, they decided to devalue the cross on their tax return and place its value at only a fraction of its real worth. One day the cross was stolen and cut up into small pieces. When the pieces were eventually recovered by the police, the church leaders went to court to prove they belonged to them. The judge called for a valuation of the gold and when told it was of very high value, he judged that the cross did not belong to the church as the stolen cross was of much higher value than the one listed on the church's tax return. So the gold was confiscated by the police. Those church leaders lost not only a cross -- they lost their character.

Father, impress upon me that not only do You desire truth in my inner parts but You have designed my being to function on truth. Unless I live in the truth and by the truth, I violate the structure of my being. Help me, dear Lord. Amen.


The Next Chapter
. . . he is a new creation. The old has passed away;
behold, the new has come—2 Corinthians 5:17

We write with God all the time. Working alongside him, we write the stories of our lives. He creates the settings and the characters. He creates the conflicts—the situations requiring choices. And we get to make those choices as the characters in his stories. God may encourage us, invite us, surprise us, persuade us, challenge us, convict us—but we and we alonedecide, for ourselves.

As we move along in our stories, as we live them out, we sometimes try to convince ourselves that some decisions aren’t actually written down or that we can selectively somehow strike decisions from our stories, after we’ve made them. Looking forward, we tell ourselves, “no one will know.” Looking back, we think, “no one can ever know.” The truth is, every decision is captured: large, small, good, bad. Every decision is written into our stories, immediately, indelibly.

Thankfully, the plot God intends for us involves making some mistakes, some bad decisions, but learning from them and allowing him to redeem them. He can, you know, redeem even the worst decisions (Romans 8:28). What we must do, going forward, is to keep our stories in mind, when we come upon decision points. What we must do is ask ourselves, at those points, “What decisions do we want written, permanently, into our stories?” Asking ourselves that, in those moments, is how we begin to lay aside our old selves and put on our new selves (Ephesians 4:22-24).

When you come to a next decision point—today, tomorrow—ask yourself, before you decide, “What do I want written into my story?” Ask yourself, “What do I want the next chapter of my story to be about? Trust or mistrust? Selflessness or selfishness? Love or resentment? Maturity or immaturity? Redemption or sin?”


Riches with a capital "R"
Luke 16
"... if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?" (v.11)

We must not think that because faithfulness is listed among the last three qualities on Paul's list, it is of lesser importance. So important is it that Jesus says in our passage today: "He who is faithful with a trifle is also faithful with a large trust, and he who is dishonest with a trifle is also dishonest with a large trust" (v.10, Moffatt).

I have often said to myself: there is a young man with a great future in the things of God. Yet time and again, I have seen them fail in their fidelity to small obligations, and I have then said to myself: unless there are great changes, that person will end up like the children of Israel in the wilderness -- going around in circles.

Look again at what Jesus said, this time in the Moffatt translation: "If you are not faithful with dishonest mammon, how can you ever be trusted with true Riches?" Here the basic principles are laid down. If you are not faithful in the trifling, you will not be faithful in the tremendous.

If you are not faithful with the material (mammon), how can you expect to be entrusted with the spiritual -- Otrue RichesO?Notice how Moffatt spells the word "riches" with a capital "R." Why is this? Because spiritual richness is a richness that is so rich you just have to spell it with a capital "R." But Jesus says one more thing: "If you are not faithful with what belongs to another, how can you ever be given what is your own?" Those who are not faithful with other people's possessions finish up with nothing of their own.

Father, I am conscious that day by day You let me be tested with the little. Help me to be faithful there so that I can be trusted to handle a lot. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.