How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

Jay Austin was, on the surface, a successful used car salesman. Unfortunately, his sales techniques were less than honorable.  He made promises he couldn’t keep, cheated people, and said whatever was necessary to make the sale.  

Sermon video

Jay’s Problem

Two of his employees had learned well how to use those same dishonest techniques.  

Jay needed money!
Jay needed money!

As I said, it looked like he was doing well on the surface.  He was moving a lot of cars and bringing in a lot of money.  But he was buried in debt.  

One day, the bank called him and requested a meeting.  Jay was told that he had 30 days to pay off his loan or the bank was going to foreclose on the business.

Not only were there problems with the business, but there were struggles going on within his family as well.  He was too proud to admit it was his fault.  He wanted to blame others for his problems, 

But his wife and son both knew that they could not trust his word when he said he was going to do something.  They knew about his dishonesty.  He pridefully tried to cover it up.  Occasionally, he would attend church with them, but not often.  Other times, he mocked the idea of going to church.  

But the bottom was dropping out.  It looked like he was going to lose his business.  But his wife had been praying for him. 

On the Right Path

A televised sermon changed his life.
A televised sermon changed his life.

One day, he saw a church service on TV.  He decided that his way of doing things wasn’t working, so he confessed to the Lord.  He admitted his dishonesty, and his lack of support for his family, and told God that he wanted to change.  

He thought he was done, that God would be merciful and he could move forward from that point. 

But something happened inside of Jay because he really had changed.  He realized that he couldn’t continue with his dishonest business practices.  Would the Lord rescue him?

Psalm 37:1-5

(KJV) Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. 3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. 4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Scriptures for the blog.
Scriptures for the blog.

Proverbs 3:5-6


(KJV) 5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

So Jay started off by following the steps in the passage in Proverbs.  He told God that he didn’t know how, but he was going to quit cheating people and instruct his employees to stop as well. 

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  The Bible says that the greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”(Matthew 22:37)  With everything within you.

You can come to Christ just as you are, but if you really meet Him, you don’t leave the same as when you arrived.  Something starts working in your life.  

The Bible says that there’s a change and we start to bear fruit.  It also says that some do better than others.  Some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some a hundredfold.  

Sometimes the change is obvious and immediate.  People see the change and want to know what’s happened.  Other times, depending on past challenges, the fruit takes longer to ripen.  

Lean not on your own understanding.  

Trust God

Jay was trusting God with all his heart.  But he didn’t know how to glorify God in bringing in money. His former practices of lying and scheming weren’t going to work anymore.  

His employees were doubtful.  They knew that there wouldn’t be as much money coming in as before. They also realized that they’d be losing money on their commissions.  That was a big concern for them.  They didn’t want to go along with this new plan, but Jay pushed for them to be honest.  

If it happened that they were not honest, Jay would go to the customer himself and make it right. He continued his new practice of being honest.  In some cases, he realized he had to go back and return money to some former customers. 

Even though he had 30 days to come up with the money for the bank, he continued in his new course of honesty.  He had made a commitment to God and intended to honor it.  He decided to not lean on his own understanding.

That’s something we all need to do.  Our understanding is shaped not by the Bible, but by the world.  That’s why it’s so important to study the Scriptures.  It ought to become a part of our lives.  We need to get away from our own understanding and into God’s understanding.  

Study the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ.
Study the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ.

When you become a parent, you have this tiny human who has been given to you, and it dawns on you that this is an enormous responsibility.  Where’s the instruction manual?  What you do is fall back on what you know, what you have seen, or how your parents raised you.  That can be good.  Your parents may have been instructed in the ways of the Lord and had the mind to follow Him.  

But maybe you had parents who didn’t follow God’s leading and just muddled through and didn’t make good decisions.  

Then there are parents who the world may say that they have no business being parents. Then your resolve will be not to be like your parents.  The problem there is that you keep focusing on them and whatever you focus on affects you.  So lean not on your own understanding but lean on the promises of God.

Good News/Bad News

A local news outlet decided to do an undercover investigation of used car dealers.  They sent a reporter in to pose as a potential employee.  The employees who weren’t happy with Jay’s new system got fed up and left and began working for a competitor.  

The news outlet went and interviewed the two and they told stories of how Jay used to run his business and how dishonest he used to be.  

So the report came out.  It wasn’t good.  Jay told God, “Lord, I’m trusting you.  I’m changing my life.  I don’t understand how this is going to work.”

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

Years ago, in the first decade of our marriage, we were living in Georgia.  We had several decisions to make.  Our desire was to always be in God’s will.  

A flyer came to our house about a conference that was going to be in Atlanta.  One of the bullet points was “how to know you’re in the will of God.”  While I was looking at the new material, that one point really stood out to me.

That one session was the main reason I went.  It was a week-long conference.  Day after day, they didn’t cover that one topic.  Finally, Thursday night was the day for the “Will of God” session.  He spoke for 30 minutes, and I got the answer.  It was the verse, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Make Christ Known

The speaker said to make Christ known in every area of your life.  Acknowledge that He is the Miracle Worker, the One who cares for you and loves you. If in all your ways, you are trusting Him, He will direct your paths.  

That may not seem like a very “deep” answer, but it’s served me well for 40 years. When you continue to do this, you begin to develop a sense of when God is speaking to you.  You’ll feel a little tug on your heart, mind, or spirit.  It may not be thunder and lightning, but there’s that little tug you feel and know that it’s Him speaking to you. 

If you acknowledge Him in all areas of your life, you can trust that He will direct your paths.  

Does that mean that you’ll always make perfect decisions?  Probably not.  But the Bible covers that as well.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

Results of Change

So, the report had been released.  In it, Jay’s former employees talked about how unfair and dishonest he had been in the past.  It didn’t look good.

Then, people started speaking out.  They talked about how Jay had come to them, admitted his dishonesty, and made things right.  They told of how he’d given money back and apologized to them.  

Jay's commitment to God was successful.
Jay’s commitment to God was successful.

Psalm 37:4 says that if we trust in God, He will give us the desires of our hearts.  Sometimes, though, we don’t get what we want.  One clue may be in James 4:3 where it says, “you have not because you ask not.”

Another reason we don’t always get what we want is that what we want may not be good for us.  We ask amiss, and God, in His wisdom, says no, because He knows what’s best for us.

Good Things

I believe that God delights in giving us good things.  

When we lived in Georga, I was the principal of a Christian school and we had weekly staff meetings.  They were different from any I’ve been in before or since.  We’d start off by spending up to 15 minutes strategizing what we could do to make things better.  We then went around the table and each prayed.  I remember one particular woman who was a prayer warrior.  She and another lady decided her son needed a good wife.  They began to pray and that son now has a wife and children.  

Another time, I recall her praying that God would meet the needs of my family.  The school wasn’t able to pay much, so she prayed that our needs would be met. She prayed that God would give us something that would simply bring us joy.  Her prayers were answered time and time again. 

Prayer warrior
Prayer warrior

Her husband was a dairy farmer, and they were audited by the IRS.  While most people would have been nervous, they were completely at peace.  They got their tax professional, went to the audit, and wound up getting money back!

Around that time, Rhonda was expecting our second child (Ralanna).  We had decent health insurance, but it didn’t pay everything.  We were going to have to pay some of the medical expenses out of our own pocket.  Those people got that money back from the IRS and paid those bills for us. We say that Ralanna is their baby as well as ours. 🙂

God will give you miraculous things.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him.  Trust in Him.  Delight in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart.

I mentioned that sometimes we ask God for the wrong things.  Once you get closer to Him and get to know Him better, the things you ask for begin to change and you start asking for proper things.  

Delivered!

I recently heard a man testify that God was blessing him in his business.  But, he was a functional addict.  Like Jay, it looked like the man was doing well on the surface.  But he was an alcoholic and was addicted to cocaine and ultimately to crack cocaine. 

He really wanted to serve God.  One night he prayed for deliverance from his addiction and that the desire for the drug would be taken away.

When he woke up the next morning, the desire was gone!  Many years later, it has not returned. 

Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart.  If your desires are wrong, He’ll tell you as long as you acknowledge Him in all ways.

Back to Jay.  The negative news report had come out, but then so many people came and spoke about all the good things he had done.  Because of the positive reviews, more and more people started going to his business to buy their cars.  By the end of the month, enough money had come in that Jay was able to pay the bank the money he owed them. 

Jay’s Story

A little disclaimer: The story of Jay is based on a movie written by the Kendrick brothers.  You may recognize their names from movies like Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room, and several others.  The story of Jay Austin can be found in their first movie, Flywheel.  (You can Google some interesting trivia about the movie.)

Flywheel Movie
Flywheel Movie

Flywheel is actually my favorite of all the movies they’ve made.

In Closing

How do you know that you’re making good decisions?  Are you acknowledging Him in all your ways?  If you are, you can trust that you’re making good decisions. You can also trust that if you aren’t, God will let you know.

What’s A Mother to Do?

Today, I’ll be looking at three different passages of scripture.  The main one will be 1 Kings 17.  I’ll also discuss Luke 4 and Matthew 6. I’ll begin with Matthew 6.

Many times, a mother will ask herself, “What’s a mother to do?”

My wife worried, but our daughter was ok.
My wife worried, but our daughter was ok.

When our second child was about 2 years old, my wife was preparing a salad.  She was tearing off the bits of lettuce that were browned and not edible.  She heard a noise, turned around, and discovered our daughter eating the scraps.  We panicked a little, but she was fine.

I heard of a mother who went into her child’s room and found that the child had “decorated” the walls with crayons.  In a flash of insight, the mother grabbed an empty picture frame and framed the child’s artwork, and just left it there.

I want to tell you about a mother who was in dire straits.  She was wondering what she was going to do.  

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore, I say to you, take no thought about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? 27 Who among you by taking thought can add a cubit[a] to his stature? 28 “Why take thought about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: They neither work, nor do they spin. 29 Yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. 30 Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is here and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore, take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 (For the Gentiles seek after all these things.) For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you. 34 Therefore, take no thought about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take thought about the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof.

History Lesson

First Kings chapter 17 tells us about a woman who was in dire straits.  The economy was very bad.  She lived in ancient Israel.  The time was after David the great king and his son Solomon.  Solomon’s son Rehoboam was the successor.  He went to the counselors and asked what he should do for the people.  They gave him some good advice, telling him that his father had gotten pretty harsh in his old age.  They recommended that Rehoboam help the people and they would love him forever.  

However, he went to some younger people and was told that if he gave too much to the people, they would take advantage of him.

So he followed the counsel of the younger people and announced that things were about to get much more difficult under his reign.  Ten of the 12 tribes decided they would not go along with that and left.

What had been a united kingdom was now split between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom.  The northern kingdom kept the name Israel.  The southern kingdom went by Judah.  

The prophets came and said that if they didn’t repent, they would be taken into captivity.  That did happen later.  The Assyrians came and took the northern tribes into captivity and they pretty much disappeared.  You don’t hear about them much anymore.  If you’ve heard of the “ten lost tribes of Israel”, it’s most likely about those tribes taken by the Assyrians.

What remained was Judah.  Jerusalem was in that country.  That’s where the main Jewish temple was.  Assyria’s power began to wane, so Babylon came in and took Judah captive.  So, in the end, they all wound up in captivity, just as the prophets had said.

Before the captivity, there was a series of kings.  All the kings of the northern kingdoms, beginning with Rehoboam, rebelled against God.  He created idols such as golden calves, for them to worship.  In the Bible, it says that the nation continued to do evil in the sight of God.  

The southern kingdom had a mix of both good and bad kings.  King Ahab was known as the worst king ever. The mother in our story lived during his reign.  There was a drought and famine in the land, so food was very scarce.  

What’s A Mother to Do?

The mother’s problem was that she was alone.  She had a son, but she was a widow.  She was doing her best to make ends meet.

One day she was out gathering twigs for a fire.  She had looked at her food supply and discovered that she had only enough left to make one meal for herself and her child.  

Then a man of God came along.  It seemed to the woman that it was just a chance encounter.  In their culture, they were supposed to care for strangers and travelers.  The man asked for a drink and the woman obliged. As she turned to get it, the man asked for a piece of bread as well.  The woman was devastated.  She told the traveler that she had enough supplies for one bit of bread for her and her son to eat and that they would then most likely starve to death.  

What's a mother to do? She barely had enough for her son and herself.
What’s a mother to do? She barely had enough for her son and herself.

You may think that this man of God took pity on the woman and told her to keep the bread for herself and her child.  He did not.  He told her to go ahead and make the bread and bring it to him when she brought the drink.  

What’s a mother to do?  She’s gotten instruction that seems to make no sense, and goes against her every instinct!

Sometimes, God does that with us.  Sometimes while you’re reading the Bible, you will come across something that doesn’t seem to make sense.  Why?  Because we’re thinking in the ways of the world.  We don’t know what the future holds, but God does.  

The man of God was named Elijah. He gave the woman the instruction and she was supposed to follow it.

What’s a mother to do?

A mother, and everyone else, needs to have her ears attuned to hearing God speak to her.  Keep your mind open when reading the Bible.  If the Scriptures say it’s wrong, it’s wrong.  No discussion is needed.  

God's voice to us
God’s voice to us

It doesn’t matter how you try to rationalize it, if it seems too harsh, or if it doesn’t make sense to you.  If God says it’s wrong, it’s wrong!

Now, I do believe in a certain amount of tolerance.  I won’t kill you for your opinion, and I certainly hope you won’t kill me for mine.

But today, there seems to be a movement that says, “I can have my opinion, but you can’t have your (BIblical based) opinion.”  That’s not tolerance. 

For me, on this Earth, the only one who can get me to change my opinion on Biblical matters is God.

Obedience and Miracles

Back to our mother: Elijah told her to do as she said, to make the bread for herself and her son, but first, bring him some of it. She was in a quandary.  She wrestled with the idea of just leaving the man standing there instead of feeding him as he’d asked.  She made the decision to do as he had asked.

She reached down into the flour barrel, and a few grains fell out of her hand. She thought maybe there was a little more than she had thought.  Then she poured the oil and noticed she had a few more drops than she had realized. But there wasn’t enough to make another cake. She went ahead and made the cake and took it to Elijah.

Feeling hopeful, she reached back into the flour barrel and found that there was enough to make a cake (bread)for herself and her son.  She discovered the same thing with the oil.  That in itself was amazing.

The next day, however, she went back to check the supplies and found that there was enough flour and oil to feed them that day. The next day was the same, and the next, and the next!  God provided for that widow and her son. 

Luke 4:24-27 mentions the widow:
24 He also said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you truthfully, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were closed for three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land. 26 Yet to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, a city of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet. But none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

So out of all the people in need during that time, the one widow heard and obeyed, and was given a miracle.  Why was it only her? 

I don’t know.

What I do know is that God is good all the time.  I know that the Apostle Paul had seen countless miracles.  It’s called a miracle because it doesn’t happen all the time.  If it happened all the time, it would just be something we expected. A miracle is when God does something unusual and supernatural.  He did that for the widow.  

What Are We to Do?

Now it comes to what are we to do?

We are to look for God and listen for God all the time in our lives.  We are to watch for the miracles and when they happen, rejoice and testify about them. 

Maybe you’re like Paul, who had an infirmity of the flesh.  Three times he asked God to remove it from him, and probably thought He would, but God did not remove the infirmity.  However, Paul continued to praise and serve the Lord.  

Sometimes God does something miraculous, sometimes He doesn’t.  But he told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  

So what’s a mother to do?  What’s a person to do when in dire straits?  

First of all, you pray and look for God to work.  When you see Him working, allow it to happen. But, you also need to trust God when you don’t understand what’s going on.  

Another Miracle

After the blessing of the flour and oil, the widow came to a point where she didn’t understand what was going on.  After some time, her son became very ill.  It looked like he was near death. 

The widow's son became very ill.
The widow’s son became very ill.

So the widow sent word to Elijah that her son was gravely ill. She asked if he was just going to continually remind her of her sin.  She sarcastically spoke to Elijah.  He ignored her sarcasm and asked that the child be brought to him.  She carried her son to the prophet and he took him to an upper room and began to pray. Three times he asked God to bring the child’s soul back.  After the third request, the child began to breathe again. Not only was he breathing, but he got up and was well.

She had trusted God with the food, and He provided.  God had healed her son. 

What’s a mother to do?

Listen to God to see where He’s going to work.  Read and believe Scripture.  Trust God in the everyday things of life.

The Final Action

There’s one other part of the mother and son’s story.  It’s not written in 1 Kings 17 but I know that it happened.  At some point, they both died.  I believe that the woman trusted God, and at her death, she went to be with Him.  I also like to think that she told her son the story as he grew, and he came to trust God as well.  If he did, he also went to be with God in the end. 

So, the most important thing that ANY person can do is to know that you know that if death comes your way, you’re ready to go and meet the Lord.  It will be a wonderful thing for you.  It will be a time of joy, with no pain or suffering. 

Invite Jesus into your life today.
Invite Jesus into your life today.

What’s a mother to do?  Trust God.  Most of all, make sure you’re ready!  How?

Believe in the promises that are in God’s Word.  I’d be glad to show you some.  You can contact me here and I can share them with you.  I’m not asking if you’ve attended church, or even said a prayer once.  Do you KNOW that you’re ready to meet God?

Tragedy to Triumph to What?

Many good stories tell of someone going to a high point, then plummeting to a low point. Hopefully, they rise again. A lot of times, they rise even better than before.

Sermon video

You may have heard of Dave Ramsey. He became a millionaire at a young age, but then he lost it all. He managed to claw his way out and once he did, he made a vow that he would never be in debt again. Since then, he’s become a financial advisor and helped many people overcome financial struggles. He has a book called “The Total Money Makeover,” and has a course called “Financial Peace University”

Not all stories have happy endings, however. That’s a tragedy.

Today, I want to discuss three such stories today. The first one is from history, the second one is about our Nation, and the third is about our own personal history.

Matthew 21:1-11

21 When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go over into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them.’ And he will send them immediately.” All this was done to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion ‘Look, your King is coming to you, humble, and sitting on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their garments on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their garments on the road. Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went before Him and that followed Him cried out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He entered Jerusalem, the entire city was moved, saying, “Who is He?” 11 The crowds said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

In Luke, this account says that some of the Pharisees were angry at what the crowd was saying and told Jesus to rebuke them. Jesus’ reply was, “I tell you, if these should be silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:28-40)

Jesus accepted the praise of the people, as was His right. He was God in the flesh.

Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Triumph

The triumphal entry as it is sometimes called, or Palm Sunday, was a great day. But we know that it wouldn’t continue. The celebrating would end. The week would go downhill after that.

Tragedy

One of Jesus’ disciples betrayed Him, and He was falsely accused and arrested. He was taken before Caiaphas, the High Priest, and accused of blasphemy. Caiaphas didn’t have the power, legally, to put Him to death, so He was taken to the Roman authorities, a man named Pilate. Even though Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he allowed himself to be swayed by the crowd.

First Pilate thought that the crowd would be satisfied if he had Jesus scourged with an instrument called a cat-o-nine tails. He did so, and the flesh was ripped from Jesus’ body. The Bible says it was unrecognizable as human flesh.

That was not good enough for the Jewish leaders. They continued to incite the crowd. Pilate said he would release Jesus to the crowd, but, at the urging of their religious leaders, they said, “We have no king but Caesar. Give us Barabbas!”

The death of Jesus was seen as a tragedy by his followers.
The death of Jesus was seen as a tragedy by his followers.

Barabbas the murderer was set free, and Jesus was taken to Calvary and crucified. The wages of sin is death, and on the cross, Jesus truly died for our sins. He took our penalty upon Himself and He paid it.

All of His disciples, not just Peter, forsook Him and fled. It was a dark time in history.

Glorious Victory!

It was a dark Friday, but Sunday was coming! We saw the triumphal entry, the tragedy of death, and then what? The victory of the resurrection. Death could not hold Him and He rose on the third day.

The tomb is empty!

That is history. The two other stories are still being played out.

The United States of America

God brought our forefathers to this Nation and has protected us. Many good things have happened throughout our history.

In my sermons, I’ve been referring to a book called “100 Bible Verses that Made America” by Robert Morgan. One of the verses I spoke about was John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

In the 1630s, many people were fleeing England and the Church of England. The church had already separated itself from the Catholic church. Many people wanted to reform the church as it had become abusive.

Reforming the Church of England

There were two schools of thought on how to reform the church. One group said it was too far gone, and they needed to, more or less, start over with new people. The group wanted to gather like-minded believers together and practice Christianity as they felt the Scriptures instructed.

The other group was reluctant to leave the main church. For whatever reason, they wanted to stay and reform it from within.

Both groups angered some people and were persecuted. The ones that pulled away from the Church of England were persecuted for doing that, and there were power struggles with the group that chose to stay. But both were persecuted by the government.

Then they heard about a New Land. A place where there weren’t a lot of set traditions. A New World where they could explore new possibilities.

Religious freedom awaited
Religious freedom awaited

So, in the 1630s, they began arriving in America by boatloads. Many of those who were coming were the descenders and the ones who had been forced out of the church. Many of these new arrivals were pastors, theologians, and Bible scholars. Once they arrived in America, they decided to establish a school.

As explained in the 1643 booklet, “New England’s First Fruits,”
“After God had carried us safely to New England, and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the city government; one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”

One of two tablets flanking The Johnston Gate, an entrance to Harvard Yard
One of two tablets flanking The Johnston Gate, an entrance to Harvard Yard

They wanted to establish education. They wanted to establish it for the ministry. They wanted to start a Christian school. But they also felt it was very important to educate the children.

This is good! This is a triumph. However, we also have tragedy within our education system.

John’s Triumphs & Tragedies

John was born in 1607. He was the son of a butcher and a restaurant owner. By the time he was 18 years old, the bubonic plague had destroyed many members of his family. Only John, one brother, and his mother survived.

Somehow, his mother was able to gather enough funds to send him to Emmanuel College, which was part of Cambridge University. After studying, John was ordained as a dissenting minister. So, he’s had some tragedy and now some triumph.

In either 1636 or 1637, John married a woman named Ann Sadler. The next year, they made the decision to go to America. After arriving in the new country John became an assistant pastor in Boston. He had the excitement of being in a new nation but still had some perils. It was discovered that he had tuberculosis, and he died in 1638. He was young; just over 30 years old.

John Harvard
John Harvard

Although young, John did something that would have a lasting impact on America. In fact, it still has an impact today. He left half of his property and his library of 300 books (my kind of man) to a new college that was going to be developed. They were so grateful that they named it for him. John’s last name was Harvard.

About 100 years later, there was a fire that destroyed all but one of those books. One student had checked a book out of the library. The title was, “The Christian Warfare Against the Devil World and Flesh and Means to Obtain Victory.”

Harvard University’s History

The college was named after John Harvard in appreciation for his generosity. The doors were opened, and a student handbook was published.

“Laws and Statutes for Students of Harvard College” read in part, “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, (John 17:3)
“Seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him.” (Proverbs 2:3)
“Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of the language and logic and in practical and spiritual truths as his tutors shall require according to his ability. Seeing the entrance of the Word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130)

Harvard Today

That is how Harvard University was established. It began with triumph, but it’s gone to tragedy. Today, Harvard stands for universalism. Back then, it was for Jesus Christ: the only way to Heaven, the only One who gives true Light of the World. Scriptures used to be found all throughout the handbook. Today, they describe themselves as being very inclusive, having diversity of all types, and “, especially religions.”

That means that Christianity is good. But so are Hinduism, Buddhism, and all other religions on the same plane. Sometimes Christianity is criticized for being exclusive by saying there’s only one way to Heaven. However, Judaism is also exclusive; they say (correctly) there’s only one God. Muslims are very exclusive as well.

Leture hall
Lecture Hall

But, Harvard says they’re all alike. They have an inscription that says, “Facing death without religion.”

I have news for you. If you face death without a certain “religion,” Christianity, there’s no Heaven for you.

The term religion has gotten a bad reputation in past years. While Christianity is a religion, what I’m talking about is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the one who died for our sins and rose again and sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

Harvard would do well to return to its roots, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Education Today

Even in the lower levels of schools, like grade school, junior high, and high school, references to God are not allowed.

In a city not far from me, Carbondale, Illinois, a substitute teacher once wrote a question on the board. I can’t recall what the question was, but the answer was “God.” Even though he didn’t write it out, even the suggestion of God was enough to get him into all kinds of trouble.

Then there’s relativism. It’s almost a crime to criticize or condemn a group of people who adopt a certain lifestyle or adhere to a certain belief; unless it’s Christianity. At Harvard, you can’t say anything about any particular group, unless it’s Christians.

Secularism is also rampant in schools. Critical race theory. Now, critical race theory is something that, as an idea, is a good thing. Racism in any form is bad and should not exist. But it takes things too far when it says that people of a certain background should be ashamed and need to apologize for something done hundreds of years ago. Everyone should understand that they have worth to God, regardless of their ethnic background.

There is sex education in schools today. While I have not seen any of the materials myself, I have heard that they are nearly pornographic in nature.

Confusion in the Land

Thanks to the great educational institutions of today, we can’t even decide what is a boy and what is a girl. You may doubt this is true but we have a new Supreme Court Justice who says she can’t define what a woman is because she’s “not a biologist.”

There is a school where some students are “identifying” as dogs and cats. People who tell them they are not a dog or cat can get in great trouble. It’s crazy! It’s a tragedy.

Public education is not what it used to be.
Public education is not what it used to be.

To What?

Will the morality and common sense of yesterday be recovered? I don’t know. Will Christian schools, such as Harvard once was, revive? Will there be a return, in the educational system, to Christianity?

These issues have, however, caused some parents to pay more attention. Some families have made the decision to home-school their children. I do realize that’s not an option that everyone has. That’s a bright spot in all this mess.

But our school system began with Christianity. It’s gone downhill since. Which way will it go? Will it continue its decline or go back to the way it was? I don’t know. It’s up to each individual family to decide, and figure out what sacrifices they want to make.

Our Personal Story

Now we come to the third story: our own personal one. We’re all members of the human race. When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, the human race was condemned to live in sin. With the first brothers, Cain and Abel, there was a murder, because sin had entered the world. It has been passed down from generation to generation ever since.

But, each one of us since has chosen to sin. At some point, we decided we wanted to go our own way and disobey God. That’s a tragedy. But, a tragedy, and then what?

It's your choice.
It’s your choice.

If you ignore the message in the first story, where Jesus went to the cross, died, and conquered death, it will be an eternal tragedy. Revelation 20:14 says that Death and Hell will be cast into the lake of fire.

But, if you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, the tragedy turns to triumph and you will end up in Glory! Jesus made triumph possible for all of us.

Janet’s Story

I asked a member of my congregation to give a testimony during a recent service. You can watch it at the end of the video above. Her name is Janet.
“Good morning. Brother Randy asked me to give my testimony about our life before Christ, during Christ, and after.
“I’ll tell ya, before Christ, you know, you’re going along and you think everything’s wonderful because you made the plans, you designed your life. It was going pretty good, I thought, and Roger thought.
“I was 27 years old, and we had a baby. We had Adam, and he was 3. Neither one of us were really raised in church, and so you can see where that’s going. But, anyway, we decided that we would split our ways because I lived in a house with a lot of alcohol and a lot of fighting and a lot of, not really abuse, but it was abuse. It would, these days, be considered abuse. Anyway, we lived through that and we ended up agreeing that we would get a divorce, and that would be best.
“Well during the divorce, I had a good year. I thought, ‘I’m sailing through.’ I’m not thinking about the Lord, I’m not thinking about Jesus, God because it wasn’t in me. I didn’t have the Holy Spirit. I didn’t have any guide but my own self.
“About a year went by, and I was in a movie theatre, I was dating someone. Very nice man, he didn’t drink. That was my number one thing – he couldn’t drink. So, we were sitting there and I thought, ‘Everything’s wonderful. It’s great. I’ve got this really nice man.’ and all of a sudden, a voice spoke to me in that movie theatre in Carbondale. It was God.
“He said, ‘Get up and go back to your husband.’ I looked around because I thought, ‘Somebody is talking to me. Who is it? Somebody knows me here.’ I looked around but nobody was standing looking at me.
“I’m giving you a short version of this, but God – once again, I’m a hard-headed person Roger will probably “amen’ to that – but I have to be told twice sometimes. So if you ask me to do something I might forget or I might not do it so you have to tell me twice. But God, in His great mercy, said it again. Just a little bit more bolder, but not mean or anything, He said, ‘Go back to Roger. I want you to get up and go back to Roger.’
“And I’m telling you, my body lifted out of that seat without my hands pushing my body up, I stood up, I ran outside and I began to cry. The person I was with came out there and said, ‘Are you ok?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m really not. I need you to take me home. I need you to not talk to me. I’m going to look out the window and I don’t ever want to talk to you or see you again after today. And he just was beside himself.
“You know, you can’t explain God. God is God and He will do what He wants to do in your life. And it’s best that you surrender if you’re fighting something. It doesn’t have to be what I went through but, you know, don’t fight it, because He knows best.
“So, he took me home – it wasn’t the end of him – him and Roger had to have a little talk. He thought he was the man for me, Roger thought he was the man for me, and God knew Roger was the man for me, so you see the point.
“But, anyway, during the time after I accepted…I went home, knelt by my bed, and cried my eyes out all night long. And these verses are the ones I had marked in another Bible that I had read when I calmed down from crying. It’s in Jeremiah (29). It says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not evil. To give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you.’
“Well I had already cried and I had already prayed for hours. I didn’t think my body could do that. ‘And you will seek me and you will find me when you search me with your whole heart.’
“And I’m telling you, I never searched for something so much in my life. I’ve lost a ring before with a diamond in it. I’ve lost a watch before. I’ve lost things that doesn’t even touch the value of Christ.
“But that day I cried out to Him, I prayed and He heard me and He listened and He kept His promise to me.

Janet's prayers were answered.
Janet’s prayers were answered.

“Well the next day I woke up and I said, ‘I’ve got to go see Roger.’ And he was living in his own house in town and I was still in the country and I went, knocked on his door and I think he seen me that he didn’t come to the door.
“Anyway, don’t blame him. Anyway, I went in and I said.’Roger, I really need to have a talk with you. This is serious.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy. And we went to the kitchen table and we sat down and I said, ‘I want to tell you something. The Lord grabbed ahold of me last night and He told me to come back to you.’ I go, ‘Now in my own self, I didn’t want to, but when He spoke to me, I wanted to. And I’m here and I want you back, and I want a marriage that God wants and I want what He wants.
“Well, you know, it don’t happen like it does in the movies. He said, ‘No. I don’t know. I’ll have to wait.’ He kept saying no and I wouldn’t leave until he said maybe. So, the maybe was ok and I left and prayed and prayed and prayed.
“I think a couple of weeks went by and it was around Christmastime and he showed up. And we had a pot roast and stuff together and God began to work and to mend things.
“In that time I had gotten saved and I went to the church down the road and I gave my heart to the Lord. I didn’t tell Roger nothing about that, but I just began to give my heart to the Lord and just cried out for Roger.
“I went to the altar every Sunday and then, I don’t know, you can ask him, maybe it was a year, he showed up. He sat on the back pew with knuckles gripped – he was not going to the altar. I was just thankful he was hearing the Word of God.
“I went down and prayed even though he was there and I cried out and I said, ‘Lord, it’s got to change. I want him back and I want him in my house but I don’t want this same life. I don’t want to go back to the old ways. I want You and I want to move forward for You.’
“So I was down there crying, and crying, and crying, and the preacher’s wife put her hand on my back and whispered, kind of like God did, and said, ‘Janet, you don’t have to pray no more.’ I looked at her like she was crazy and I said. ‘What?’ She said, ‘You don’t have to pray no more. He’s here”
“I looked over there and he was squalling like a baby.

Praying together.
Praying together.


“I’m telling you, I had an experience with God I’ll never forget. It changed my life. I was in captivity. I mean, I was in a bad place and I thought it was a wonderful place. But the devil deceived me. He made everything look good. So if I’d had my way I’d be in Hell, if not now, sometime down the road I would be. My kids probably wouldn’t have been saved, I wouldn’t even have Shelby. You know, I just give God all the glory today because He does know what path He wants for us. He does know what’s best for us. We’ve got to get ourselves out of the way and let Him do His work in us. And listen to that still, small voice because He does speak. He still speaks to people, I know,
“I love you all and I just wanted to share that with you.”

Tragedy?  Triumph?  What?
Tragedy? Triumph? What?

Which way will it be for you? There’s tragedy because we’ve all sinned. But will it be continued tragedy for you, or will you choose to live in Glory?

Hope for the Journey

Hope

The darkness was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. Waves hit the side of the ship. They were hitting so hard, it felt like sledgehammers were pounding on the side of the ship.

The storm was getting rough.
The storm was getting rough

They were in an area that wasn’t very tall: In fact, it was just a little over five feet tall. Children could stand up, but the adults had to lay down or crawl on their hands and knees for the most part.

The storm was worsening outside. It was so dark. Then they heard the water come over the side of the ship, and before long, it came through the hole and they were all drenched.

Sermon video

A History Lesson

About 402 years ago, Henry VIII had pulled out of the Catholic Church and established his own church: The Church of England. (We know it as the Epispicol Church today.) That was an opportunity for people that were concerned with the corruption in the church.

Now some of the people just wanted to continue on with their traditions and their formal church services just like they always had. the prescriptions, There were others, though, that were concerned about some of the things that were going on and how the church was becoming corrupt. They saw it as an opportunity to reform and purify the church so they became known as Puritans.

So you had one group going along with the status quo, just like it always had been another group that wanted to change for the better where they could worship God from their hearts. There was another group of Puritans who said, “It’s hopeless. We’re not going to be able to do it with them. We’re not going to make it with them”. So, they decided to pull out. The congregations that did were called Separatists.

They were both Puritans, but there were those within the church and there were the Separatists

The group of separatists started getting pressure. The government did not like what they were doing, and the established church did not like what they were doing. Some of the Reformers within the church were sympathetic towards them, but not enough. Finally, they had to flee, so they went to Holland.

The Mayflower
The Mayflower

When they got there they had a pastor named John Robinson. Their church grew to three times the size it was when they first got there. Then they heard about the New World, land of opportunity. They said, “Some of us can go there.”

Even though they had gone to Holland and God was blessing their church with growth, they were concerned about their children, being assimilated into the culture that they were in.

Then they heard about this new place they could go where they would be starting from scratch, without any previous ties or conditions. It would all be up to them. They wanted that opportunity. They wanted to come to the land of the free.

Pastor Robinson envied them so much. He wanted to go but he knew that he had to stay with the congregation that would be left behind.

So on one particular day, they all gathered together and went over to a place called Delfshaven and had a day of fasting and prayer. Then they send them on their way.

So they sailed to the coast to Southampton and they got on what Robert Morgan called “a creaky little ship” known as the Mayflower. That was the group I was describing at the beginning.

The ship was barely as long as a football field. At its widest point, it was 25 feet wide, and it was just an area of about 15 feet where it was that wide, and then it narrowed toward the ends.

It was dark, they had storms, the water got in part of the time, and they had some other passengers on the ship that nobody wanted: cockroaches and rats. And so ` They were on an area that they called the gun deck. BUT, they never lost sight of God.

Every day they would read from the scriptures. They might sing, they might have somebody expound on the scriptures, somebody may have preached. But every day they read the scriptures.

On September 16, 1820, they came to Psalm 107. A portion of this Psalm was spoken by those who were on dangerous voyages but rejoiced because their God controls the elements and knows how to guide them to safe harbors and their desired haven.

Psalm 107:23-31 (NIV)

  

Scripture for today's post
The scripture for today’s post

23 Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

The last part of verse 30 says “He guides them to their desired haven.” They arrived at a safe haven known as Cape Cod.

Then they decided to get back on the ship. When they got back on the ship, they were preparing to start a colony for England, in Northern Virginia. They decided that before they did that they needed to seek the Lord and establish a form of government

So while they were still on the ship, they wrote a formal binding agreement, known as the Mayflower Compact. It was signed on November 11, 1620.

“In the Name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten … having undertaken for the Glory of God, and the Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honor of King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick.

This document became the foundation for our representative form of government.

As we look a little deeper into this Psalm, we will realize that we need to be glad when God gives us a noble cause, and two other thoughts on this passage of Scripture.

Be Glad When God Gives You a Noble Cause

Every Christian has a spiritual gift
Every Christian has a spiritual gift

If you are a Christian, God has given you a spiritual gift. You may not know what it is, but I know you have one because the scripture says you do. You can read in several places in Scripture about these spiritual gifts and if you combine them all together, there are about 19 that are listed in Scripture. (Romans 12:6-8, I Corinthians 12:8-10, I Peter 4:11) They are probably representative that’s probably not a complete list.

But it is something that God gives you the ability to do. Sometimes it’s an ability to do something you didn’t have the ability to do before. You know that’s a spiritual gift when it comes. Other times He takes things that come naturally to you and helps you use that for His Glory. Be glad when God gives you a noble cause.

He has given you a noble cause if you are a Christian, You need to figure out what that is. You ask “How do you do that?” You pray, first of all, and listen to that still small voice within.

There are a couple other things you can do. Ask around and see if there’s a need. Somebody may come to you and say would you teach a Sunday school class and you may say, “I don’t know if I can do that or not.” You may wind up doing that and God may confirm it for you. Or, God may confirm that it is not your gift. So you continue to seek and follow God’s leading.

One of the other things you can do is to study the Word. Stay in the Word and it will begin to speak to you and become personal to you, Just like the passage in Psalm 107 became a personal Word to those Pilgrims in the storm. They needed hope, and they got hope. It was God who made the waves go up and down and He knew how to take them to their desired haven, and He indeed did take them there.

God gives you a purpose for your life. It’s really difficult going through life without purpose. People who go through life without purpose and meaning get caught up in trying to numb the pain and get involved in alcohol or illicit drugs.

But you have a purpose. Live according to the purpose and be glad for it.

Don’t Expect Carying Out This Cause to be Easy

The second thing is: don’t expect carrying out that purpose to always be easy. Sometimes it is. Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) Sometimes He does make it that way, not always.

I know some who have gone through difficult times serving the Lord, Others question them asking how they made it through. Here in the dark moments, they were expecting God to take them through.

Difficult times will still come
Difficult times will still come

One of the reasons why it’s not easy is because Satan doesn’t want you to do the work of God. You may run against the brick walls that Satan throws out. Not only brick walls but fiery arrows that come towards you and all kinds of opposition. But greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (I John 4:4) You might face satanic opposition.

There are other things that make it difficult, and that is just living in this old world. It rains on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). We just have some troubles going on in this world. You have times when the opposition of Satan is going on around you and people are being influenced by that. Maybe not you or your immediate friends, but still it affects the whole world.

We experience hardships just by living in this world.

But then we realize that God commands the waves. This passage of Scripture says that they’re going up to the heavens and back down to the depths. Those travelers were experiencing that for real. The passage says they reeled to and fro and they staggered like a drunk man, and their soul melts and they come to their wit’s end.

God Will Bring You to Your Safe Haven

The first thing is to be glad that God works in our lives. He gives you direction. You don’t need to know what the end is going to be, all you need to know is the next step. When you’re pretty sure about the next step, then you take it. Then look for the next step and the next step. Eventually, it will work out.

God will see you through the storm
God will see you through the storm

Sometimes you go along you don’t see very much very clearly. Right now, we see through a glass darkly but one day, we will have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 13:12) One day we’ll understand all these things that we didn’t understand here in this life.

It says in Scripture that their hearts melted and they cried out to the Lord in trouble. We don’t usually want the difficulties when they come, but after we’ve gone through them, we are thankful, because they drove us closer to God. They helped us to realize our need for a Savior, and they drove us to accept Him as our Lord and Savior.

So they cry out to the Lord in their time of trouble. Then God brings them out of their distress, and He calms the storms and the waves get still and they were glad because of the quiet. Then He guides them to their desired haven.

Sometimes we have a little problem going through this life here because God doesn’t always pay on Friday.

Robert G. Lee was a preacher in Memphis, Tennessee, and he preached a famous sermon over and over again. . It was called Payday Someday, But Not Always on Friday, and Not Always on Our Timetable.

When we’re in the dark times of life, that’s when we need to trust God. Trust Him with what we have here and then in the next steps, and He will take us through that.

We were in a lean time of life. We were asking God where He wanted us to go and what He wanted us to do next. Many of my friends were out finding good jobs and were making a lot of money. We were just trying to figure out what we were going to do. and what our next stop was going to be. It was a difficult time. Rhonda came across the verse and it said even though the stalls are empty, I will praise the Lord. (Habakuk 3:17).

I just want to tell you, she never complained one time. She never said anything about me out and getting a higher-paying job.

God has seen us through the dark times. We have 50 years of proof. God sees the safe haven and can take you there.

It might never end up looking really good here in this life. Lazarus ended up being a beggar all his life. There was a rich man and it looked like his life was really good. Both of them died. The rich man ended up in hell. Lazarus, the Bible says was in Abraham’s bosom, which is also described as paradise.

Lazarus & the rich man
Lazarus & the rich man

Later on, the rich man looked up and asked for pity, and for just a drop of water because he was in agony. He was told, “In your lifetime you had good things, and now you are tormented But Lazarus, in his lifetime, had the evil and now he is comforted. ” (Luke16:19-31)

I just want to tell you that God will see you through. I don’t want to be completely gloomy about this because I’m not saying that all of us have to be Lazarus. This whole earthly existence won’t be like that. Many times God will turn things around & will give you things that just bring joy to your life.

Dave Ramsey is a good example. He went bankrupt and came back and then he learned how to do better. Some of the gospel groups that we really like, The Cathedrals, for example. They made it to the top, but there were a lot of years when it was really tough. God can take you to your safe haven. Hopefully, you’ll experience the good part here in this life.

Rescue
Rescue

But even if you don’t, you could spend eternity in joy compared with this little dash here on this earth.

So what you need to know is that you know that you know that you know that if you were to pass from this life, you will have the assurance that you would go to Heaven. Heaven would be your safe haven.

Be glad for what God is doing for you. Be glad for God’s purpose for your life. Persevere when it is not easy. Most of all, come to the place where you know that you would go to Heaven.