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?

Easter is Real! You Received the Gift. Now what?

Easter is real.

Sermon video

Saul, a man in the first century, had a problem. He thought he was right, but he wasn’t. He was sincerely deluded. He needed to change his mind, which is another way to describe repentance, and Saul needed to repent!

On his way to Damascus, Saul met a guide. The Lord Jesus Christ came into his heart. It actually knocked him off of his horse! Do you think that got his attention?

Attention Grabber

Sometimes God needs to get our attention
Sometimes God needs to get our attention

It’s kind of like the farmer who had the mule. He talked to his neighbor, also a farmer, and the neighbor said, “How do you get your mule to do what you want him to do?” The other farmer said, “You have to be gentle with him.” His neighbor said he’d give it a try. A few minutes later, the first farmer climbed up into his wagon and gave the mule the “go” command and snapped the reins. The animal just stood there. The farmer climbed down from his seat, grabbed a 2×4 and whacked the mule between the eyes. The neighbor, having seen all this, said, “I thought you said you had to be gentle with him.” The other farmer answered, “Yes, but you have to get his attention first.”

Saul/Paul

That’s the way it was with Saul as he was going along the road: God had to get his attention so He knocked Saul off of his horse. He was also struck blind and would not remember that day, nor the next two.

A man named Ananias had gotten a word from the Lord that God had been working in Saul’s life so he came and prayed for him. Saul’s blindness was taken away.

The beginning of a new life!
The beginning of a new life!

That day, Saul’s name was changed to Paul. He was the apostle Paul and was to be Jesus’ messenger to the Gentiles. The word apostle means a messenger. Think of it as our modern-day missionaries.

Easter is Real!

I know sometimes we’re told the history of the word “Easter” has to do with Ishtar and pagan religions. But that is NOT what we worship. Christians redeemed the day. They took a festival that was not honoring to God and decided to turn it into a celebration of Jesus. That’s why we celebrate the resurrection when we do.

For those of us who are Christians, that overshadows the former pagan celebrations. Even those who are students of history, when they hear the word “Easter,” the first thing that comes to mind is the celebration of the resurrection.

Christmas also had pagan festivals going on during that time. The church came in and decided to remember the birth of Jesus. Although they didn’t know when He was born, they knew that he was born, so they decided to use that day to remember His birth and the reason for it. God became flesh. That is the meaning of the word Emmanuel: God in the flesh.

Easter is real because it reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Luke 24:4-7

While they were greatly perplexed concerning this, suddenly two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 As they were afraid and bowed their faces to the ground, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ ”

That’s Easter. That’s why we celebrate. Because of that, we can understand that we have sinned, that we need a Savior, and Jesus offers a gift.

Matthew 28:5-6

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid. For I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here. For He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay

That’s why we worship. That’s why we worship on Sunday: the first day of the week. It’s the day when Jesus was resurrected. Easter is a remembrance of the resurrection for us. It’s a reminder of what Jesus did for us.

Facts!

There is a lot of proof of the resurrection of Jesus. The angel told the women to see where He had been. Peter and John went later and looked. (John 20:4) They all saw the empty grave clothes.

He appeared to the disciples twice, once when Thomas wasn’t with them, and again when he was.

Thomas had said that he needed to see the nail prints in His hands, and touch the wound in His side. But when Thomas saw the risen Savior, he knelt down and said, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:24-28)

Easter is real
Several saw the empty tomb

So you have the empty tomb, seen by many people. Several people who knew Jesus well testified to the fact that He was no longer in the tomb, He indeed is alive!

You’ve Received the Gift

You received the gift.

Saul met the living Christ, and the living Christ called him to action and he was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles. He received the gift.

The gift is there because Jesus paid the penalty. You and I are all under the penalty of death. The penalty is being separated from God. If you end this life in that state, you will stay that way forever. That’s why it’s so important for everyone in this life to understand that salvation is a free gift. Accept it now!

The greatest gift of all!
The greatest gift of all!

If you’ve accepted the gift, even in the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for you know that God is with you. His rod and staff will comfort you. (Psalm 23:4)

Any Christians who have faced death, if it had come, we would have just slipped on over into Glory. It’s a wonderful thing to know that!

Jesus offers the gift, and you receive it by faith. You come as a little child and receive it by faith.

But then, what happens? You have joy and hope for the future, but something happens in that moment.

Now What?

What happens now?
What happens now?

2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new.

Christ came into your life. You have new things happening; some that you may not understand. You have new desires.

The Bible tells us that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4)

There are 2 different ways of looking at that verse. One way is that we have certain things that we would like, or desire. We would ask our Heavenly Father for those things and He would not turn us away, He loves us, He delights in us, and He gives us what we desire.

But sometimes, our desires change. What we wanted before we don’t want anymore because we delight ourselves in the Lord and He gives us the desires of our heart.

I think both of those are true. You can find scriptures that tell you that if you pray and ask God for things, he will give them to you. (Matthew 7:7-8)

God will make you new.
God will make you new.

God comes in and works in our hearts. He makes a new creature out of us, and there is a change that comes into our lives. The change may be in our attitudes, our speech, our actions, or where we go. We may have immediate victory over something.

I know a man who was heavily addicted to cocaine. He prayed for God to remove the desire for the drug away, and even after several years, that man’s desire is still gone!

I know others who suffered with addiction, and the Lord came into their lives, but they still struggled with the addiction. They endured and struggled through the addiction. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

I don’t know how God chooses how He does what He does, but I do know that sometimes He wants us to learn something. He wants us to grow and not be exalted above measure.

Paul had an affliction; the Bible doesn’t tell us what it was. He called a “thorn in his flesh” he asked 3 times for the Lord to remove it, and God chose not to. Paul may have wondered why. He came to the conclusion that it was so he would not be exalted above measure. God told Paul that His grace was sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Easter is real. You received the gift.

Come As You Are

You can come just as you are. You don’t have to go out and make amends to people you have wronged and then come. You can come right away, just as you are, but you won’t leave the same. If you really meet Christ, you won’t leave the same as you came. There will be a change.

For some, it’s a dramatic change. For some, it’s less. But no matter what, there is a change, because you have met the living Lord. You’ll begin to experience the change as you travel along in your Christian walk.

Easter is real. You received the gift. Now what?

Realize that there is a change going on and you need to nurture the new creature that you are becoming.

How do you do that?

In order to grow, you must be fed.
In order to grow, you must be fed.

Well, if you’re a baby in Christ, you need to be fed. How do babes in Christ get fed? By the Word of God. That’s how Jesus speaks to us. We allow Him to speak to us and we listen to Him. Not only that, though.

We have the wonderful privilege of speaking to God. Some new Christians may be unsure about prayer. They’ve never done it before and aren’t really sure how to do it.

Praying in public is one thing. But you need to find a quiet place where it’s just you and God, where you can talk to Him. If you’re mad, tell Him that! He can handle it, and may just come back and straighten you out. Ask Him for help. Just talk to God.

Some people use Elizabethan English in their prayers. It’s beautiful and from the heart. Even though I’ve been a “man of the cloth” for many years, I just speak to God using my regular words. It doesn’t matter if you use big, flowery words or simple ones. Just speak to Him in a way that is meaningful to you.

Acts 1:1-8

This passage was written after the resurrection. It’s believed it is Luke who wrote this because it’s addressed to a man named Theophilus and the Gospel of Luke mentions a man of the same name. (Luke 1:3)

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up, after He had given commandments (one of which was 18 Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. {Matthew 28:18-20}) through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He presented Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, appearing to them for forty days, and speaking concerning the kingdom of God. 4 Being assembled with them, He commanded them, “Do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, of which you have heard from Me.[a] 5 For John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. 6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the dates, which the Father has fixed by His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Easter is real! Jesus rose from the grave. He conquered death. You received the gift by faith. Then you began to grow in Him and He makes a new creature out of you. Be sure to talk to God and listen to Him.

Go and Tell

Then He said “When the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be My witnesses.”

Go and tell someone what the Lord has done for you. That’s the very next step after receiving that gift.

Tell people what God has done for you.
Tell people what God has done for you.

Many times, we will receive the gift of salvation in church, so that’s easy. People will go forward at the end of the service and pray, and will either say themselves that they’ve accepted the Lord, or ask the pastor to do it for them.

Everyone in the congregation rejoices. But it’s not only them. The angels in Heaven rejoice as well. (Luke 15:10)

Go and tell someone! One of our grandchildren once called us, excited to tell us that they had accepted the Lord. I’m so thankful for that.

Baptism

The next step, after telling someone…or everyone…is to be baptized. That’s a symbol of the change that has taken place in you. It’s representative of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. You were buried with Him, and rose again to walk in newness of life.

The Holy Spirit

The Bible says that when you receive Christ, you receive the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 12, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13) The apostles received it on the day of Pentecost. There was a Great Power that came through them. (Acts 2:1-3) Christ will empower you to tell your story to others.

You have friends who don’t know this wonderful Truth that you know. You can tell them, in your own words, that Easter is real. Tell them that there was a time in your life when you didn’t know Christ, and then you came to Him and the story of what that was like for you. Tell them how it’s been different, how God made a new creature out of you.

Go and tell someone what the Lord has done.

The apostle Paul changed his name (to Paul, the Greek version of Saul) since he was going to preach to the Gentiles. He faced many obstacles. The persecutor became the persecuted. At the end of his life, he wrote, “I have fought a good fight. I’m ready to be delivered.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8) The day came, and Paul went to be with Jesus.

Paul changed his future destination.
Paul changed his future destination.

Paul avoided the terrible destination that he was formerly headed to.

As Saul, he really thought he was doing what God wanted him to do. He thought he really knew the Father. But Jesus said if you really know the Father, you would know Me. If you really knew the Scriptures, you would know who I am. (John 14:7-14)

Saul/Paul was changed and successfully established many churches. Many say that he’s one of the greatest preachers who ever lived. When his life ended, he entered into Heaven and eternity and met the One who knocked him off his horse on the way to Damascus. He met Him and got to talk to Him. Maybe he thanked God for getting his attention.

It’s Your Turn

You can meet Him today!
You can meet Him today!

Have you ever accepted Jesus as you Lord and Savior? If you haven’t, I invite you to do that today. You can reach me at the contact information on this blog and I will be happy to tell you how. The Bible says that if you, by faith, receive Him, you will become a new creation.

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?