What’s Your Thoughts?

And He said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…” Mark 7:20-21

Whether the world is getting better or worse is up for debt for some. However there is no doubt regardless of which side of the argument you want to stand, there are plenty of things wrong in the world today. People often ask the question, WHY? 

In Jesus’ day, the argument was also raging about what it is that makes a person bad. The religious people of that time period were adamant it was external things responsible for moral and spiritual corruption. They believed if proper care was taken to avoid the external things which were corrupt, it would bring about spiritual and moral purity.

Because of this way of thinking, they established elaborate codes of behavior, which brought about religious rituals designed to guarantee correct behavior leading to a sound society.

But then came Jesus and He challenged this long established viewpoint. He told the people they were not defiled by what they ate, but instead were defiled by what they say and do. This even confused His disciples, so they asked Him to privately explain further.

He explained food, which was an external source many believed defiled them, was taken in the mouth, passed through the stomach and then is expelled from the body. He told them it is not what goes in the body that defiles someone, but instead you are defiled by your thought life and what you say and do. 

Jesus taught the ills of society are born in the human heart. In Mark 7:20-23 He stated, 

What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

  • A modern way of saying this might include:
  • Watch your thoughts, they become words
  • Watch your words, they become actions
  • Watch your actions, they become habits
  • Watch your habits, they become character
  • Watch your character, it becomes your destiny

While many today blame various things in society for causing the problems we see in the world today, the truth of the matter is the heart is wicked and from there comes the evil in the world.

We can try to legislate morality, and we can try all the social programs, but it is only when humans are changed from the inside — out by the Spirit of God, we will see society change. 

The only hope for the world is continually pressed down and pushed away from society by those who oppose the Gospel. Is it any wonder things never seem to change? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?



That’s It! I’ve Had Enough!

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19:4)

It would seem each of us has a breaking point. A place we all come to at some stage when we finally say, “That’s it! I’ve had enough!” At some point, under the right set circumstances, we all will either utter the words or say them in our mind. Sometimes depending on the severity and difficulty of the issues, we may give in to discouragement, depression and despair.

This was certainly the case with Elijah. Elijah had handled the powerful King Ahab without any trouble, he confronted 450 prophets of Baal easily and fearlessly challenged nation of people worshipping false gods in the name of the Lord. Facing all these circumstances and challenges, Elijah demonstrated no sign of breakdown nor any hint of emotional collapse. I am so glad the Lord allows us to see the good, the bad and the ugly concerning the heroes of faith, because while Elijah came through these circumstances unscathed an emotional collapse was just around the corner.

His breaking point came concerning a woman named Jezebel. She was an evil woman with far reaching influence. While she made no attempt to kill Elijah, it would have been within her power to do so. Instead, she simply told Elijah he had 24 hours to leave or else, which he did in a hurry.

We can only speculate as to why Elijah became so frightened. More than likely the years of tension and contention among pagan nations had taken their toll on him. The spiritual highs he felt from defeating the prophets of Baal, left him vulnerable to a spiritual low in the valley. The sheer output of energy battling spiritual warfare for an extended time had left him depleted. Perhaps what broke Elijah’s back was God offered no miracle to remove Jezebel, therefore Elijah knew she wasn’t going away…at least not that he was aware of yet. She was going to be his thorn in the flesh or pain in the neck, if you will.

Eventually Elijah disgruntled, depressed and full of despair announced he was through. He found a cave and went inside to lay down. He had totally given up, feeling as though he was completely alone in the battle. But the Lord cared for him and demonstrated an unforgettable object lesson. God instructed Elijah to stand at the edge of the cave and the Lord passed by…in doing so Elijah observed a mighty windstorm, a violent earthquake, and a raging fire but the Lord was in none of these. 

Finally, it was in a gentle breeze through which the Lord spoke. This was all demonstrating to Elijah God not only works through what is mighty and spectacular; He also equally and effectively works through things which may appear weak.

Through this gentle breeze, God told Elijah to get up, get going and get back on the job. He ensured Elijah he was not alone in his work…in fact there were seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed to Baal, which the Lord was leaving. Elijah did as he was instructed, now understanding the Lord can do mighty things through meager means and miserable servants.

It seems the times we struggle most with the idea of giving up is when we feel the loneliest. Those times when we feel we are in the battle alone. However, we must remember the Lord is always there with us, even if we only hear Him through a small and gentle breeze. 

The next time you feel down, discouraged and alone doing the Lord’s work, remember the Lord plus one will always be a majority in accomplishing HIs work.



The Challenges of Complacency

The Challenges of Complacency

For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. (Joshua 23:9-11)

Past victories do not guarantee future triumphs. We see in the sports world great teams will find themselves on winning streaks. However, it doesn’t matter how many games in a row they have won against other teams, more than likely the streak will come to an end. There is a reason the 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team to ever have a perfect season. 

Sometimes the side effects from winning can add to the factors through which defeat will eventually come. The appropriate level of confidence can turn to cockiness or having a healthy amount of respect for the other team can turn into overlooking an opponent. Eventually the victories can also bring about the attitude of half hearted preparation for the challenge ahead.

Joshua completely understood this concept. The Israelites had tasted the thrills of victory over a long period of time. As Joshua began to enter the final years of his life, he reminded the Israelites that God had driven out many strong nations from before them and that no one had yet been able to defeat them. Joshua knew their source of victories came from the Lord,  so he reminded them, “…it is the Lord who fights for you, just as He promised.” 

It would seem unthinkable the Israelites would ever forget or overlook all the spectacular things the Lord had accomplished on their behalf. However, victorious armies do grow complacent and at times become careless. Knowing this fact, Joshua reminded the Israelites to be very careful to love the Lord. They needed to constantly remember where the victories come from. Joshua knew full well if they overlooked this truth, the Israelite army would effectively fall its face.

Joshua did not assume the Israelites would suddenly become incompetent or that their leaders would suddenly forget all the strategies learned in battle. He saw something more serious on the horizon. He saw a day when the army might become so complacent in their relationship with the Lord and become so sure of themselves, they may longer love and honor Him as they should. He feared this would allow them to slide into compromise, become disobedient, which would lead to certain disaster.

As First Responders you are aware of what could possibly take place when you become complacent in your job. It only takes one time of being too casual and relaxed to bring about disastrous results. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been victorious, the streak can abruptly come to an end at any moment when things are taken too casually.

As you experience victories personally and professionally, always remember it is the Lord who goes before you in the battle; so with this in mind, stay vigilant, never become complacent and “…Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.”



Teaching the Teachable

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. (Proverbs 9:9)

Dallas Cowboy legendary football coach Tom Landry used to describe his job as, “Teaching grown men how to do what they don’t want to do in order to become what they have always wanted to become.” This proves true with many aspects of life when it comes to discipline.

Anyone who has been an athlete or gone through rigorous training for any purpose, has no difficulty remembering the things they didn’t want to do which they were required to do to achieve their goal. Often many think they can become great through ability alone without additional training but typically discover ability alone is not enough to carry them to the top.

The wise man is wise enough to understand his own weakness, while a foolish man either refuses to acknowledge his faults or assumes he can succeed in life without paying attention to them. The wise man has learned through life how much he doesn’t know and how much more there is to learn. In contrast, the foolish man thinks he knows it all or assumes he knows enough, and what he doesn’t know will not hurt him.

Proverbs also tells us wise men are open to correction and in fact, when corrected will love you even more. This is not the case with the foolish because, when you correct mockers they will only hate you. There is no doubt working as a First Responder you have seen plenty of both examples.

Wise men are not born wise. Somewhere along the way they decided to heed and respond to someone offering wisdom. No doubt many of them, just as many of us have done their share of foolish things. In fact, learning lessons of wisdom can often times be quite painful, much like training in athletics. However, one hopes at some point wisdom is offered and accepted. As First Responders there are many times when you are the voice of wisdom, especially to those who are possibly being foolish for the first or second time. You are also aware there are some who are foolish and will only become angry when wisdom is shared.

Be aware of those times in which the Lord may be using you to impart wisdom into the life of someone who may not have had the good fortune of wisdom being shared with them. Maybe the Lord has placed someone in your circle of influence who needs to hear some wisdom to assist in the practicalities of life…or maybe someone needs to come to the understanding, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.

Be a source of wisdom to those who are teachable…



What’s Your View?

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” 

Acts 26:28-29

We all know there are typically two types of attitudes people display in life, those who are viewed as optimistic and those who are viewed as pessimistic. You’ve heard the test of whether someone sees the glass as half empty or half full. While that is a generic way of describing the viewpoint, it is really not a good a way to describe the difference between the two.

A truer definition describing the difference between the two might be: A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, while an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. 

When Paul faced difficulties, he seemed to always find opportunity quickly. Think about some of Paul’s circumstances: He was almost killed by a mob in Jerusalem, imprisoned on numerous occasions, shipwrecked, given thirty-nine lashes and numerous other circumstances we would never want to face. However, Paul always found opportunities for witnessing regardless of circumstances.

Paul’s words were not some dry theological or political speech, but instead heartfelt explanations from personal experience. We can all learn things from the way Paul snatched opportunity from the jaws of difficulty. He was courteous, spoke with deep conviction, and always found a way to glorify Jesus regardless of what he was facing. 

Jesus appointed His disciples to tell people everywhere about Him. The message from Paul never changed, only the way he delivered it. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:20-22: 

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

Our message and method is to be like Paul’s, tell all people who Jesus is, what He has done in our life, what He offers, and what He demands, but do so recognizing the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Agrippa walked away from the encounter above, knowing exactly what it was Paul was aiming at. We are not responsible for the reaction of those we share with, we are only responsible for sharing what Jesus commanded. With this in mind, we need to look for the opportunity in every situation, especially the opportunities filled with difficulty.

Jesus reminded Paul of this when He said, “…“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It is when we seize opportunity in the difficulty,  Jesus is glorified



Fickle Faith

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Exodus 32:1

Leadership is often criticized by those being led. However, when leadership is absent it is sorely missed and longed for. Most people by nature, want to be led and want to follow good leadership. 

For the children of Israel, Moses was their leader. He was the visible reminder of God’s presence in the their midst. So even though at times they would threaten to reject his leadership and return to Egypt, they became very nervous when Moses went away to meet the Lord on Mt. Sinai. When Moses went on the mountain top to meet with God, and did not return in a suitable time frame, the people became anxious.

Their nervousness and anxiousness can be understood, when viewed through the lens of believing they had been deposited in a vast wilderness and now their leader had disappeared. Through this lens, their course of action was understandable, though not acceptable. They panicked and decided to take matters in their own hands.

Since Moses had not returned from the mountain top, they approached Aaron and asked that he make gods, which would lead them. Their plan was to go back to the kind of idol worship they were familiar with. When we feel uneasy or panic about a situation, our natural response will be to return to what is familiar. Because of this, we will abandon principles, deny commitments, and make decisions in haste.

As we continue to read the story, we see Aaron gives into the desires of those panicking around him. He follows their suggestion and melts down the precious metals to fashion a golden calf for the people to worship. The results were catastrophic as the Lord was incensed, Moses was appalled, Aaron was rebuked, the calf was ground to powder and many of the Israelites were killed as a result of their actions.

The characteristics needed during this chaos was a cool head with clear convictions. How might the story have turned out differently, if Aaron would have held to his faith and convictions. Remember, Aaron had seen all the miracles God performed first hand as he stood beside Moses before Pharaoh. 

What if, when the people came to Aaron asking what they were going to do, Aaron would have said, “I don’t have all the answers and I understand your fear. I too feel a bit uneasy and anxious about Moses not returning as of yet. However, the Lord has brought us this far and He will not abandon us. He has proven His faithfulness in the past and He will continue to be faithful in the future. We must hold to faith and turn from our fears.”

When reading the story we may think what in the world were they doing, but the reality is, we all have our “golden calf” moments in life. Those times when panic sets in and our natural inclination is to return to whats familiar. We want to take matters into our own hands, because we believe we can handle circumstances more effectively through our own abilities than God can.  

When we always hold to what’s familiar, we will remain where we have always been. It is only when we are willing to exercise our faith, that we grow into what God desires for us to be and accomplish what He desires for our lives.

Each and everyone one of us are leading somebody, whether it is co-workers, family members or others in the community. The question is, do they see you leading through faith, or clinging to what’s comfortable and always relying on your own abilities.

Fickle faith flounders, but firm faith flourishes…



Supporting Role

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ 
(Philippians 2:19-21)
I remember back in the 80’s when Dan Marino was playing quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. He did a commercial for Isotoner Gloves and at the end of the commercial he gave all of his lineman a pair and said, “I take care of the hands that take care of me”. 
In a laughing kind of way, he was giving credit to those who supported him, allowing him to do what he did best, which was throw the football. While the gloves were meant as a joke for the commercial, in reality he did give each lineman a Rolex watch at the end of the season. What he recognized was you cannot be a superstar without others supporting you.
Paul would have been mortified at the thought of being viewed with superstar status when it comes to the church. However, outside of Jesus Himself, it is hard to think of anyone who had a greater impact on the global spread of the Church. Yet as one reads the pages of Scripture, Paul’s letters reveal his indebtedness to those who supported his ministry efforts.
Take Timothy for instance. This young man was viewed by Paul as being his own son. Paul said I have no one else like Timothy who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others only care for themselves… Paul had found in Timothy a kindred spirit who realized what was important. Paul was open and honest in his struggles and was also open and honest about the support he received from Timothy and others like him.
When Paul was lonely, he needed a brother alongside. When the work was overwhelming, he needed another pair of hands. When the battle was raging, he needed someone he could depend on to have his back. Timothy and others were always there to assist in whatever way they could so Paul could continue to spread the Good News of the Gospel.
In life, everyone cannot be out front in the limelight. However, nobody will last in the limelight for long without those who are willing to support and assist them for the cause. Paul managed extremely well without the internet, a cell phone or a computer. However, one thing he could not have managed without are those God had gifted to be there and support Him concerning the task he had been presented.
Who are the people supporting you in your task? Are you grateful for their hard work and devotion…Who are you supporting? Are you doing everything in your power to help them be successful for the greater cause?
While Micheal Jordan is most likely the best player ever to play in the NBA, it wasn’t until he gained a strong supporting cast that he began to win championships. Once he had a supporting cast, he won six NBA titles. 
None of us are in the fight alone. However, we have to be willing to be grateful for the support we get from others as well as support those who leading the way.