Show me your faith.

“I will show you my faith….” (James 2:18).

We tend to think of faith as something intangible, something ethereal, not unlike a foggy mist which when approached seems to recede into the distance.

The Lord can see our faith.

And so can you, once you stop to think about it.

When four men brought their paralyzed buddy to Jesus and ended up tearing up the roof to get him into the house, Scripture says the Lord Jesus “saw their faith” (Mark 2:5).

And so, “seeing their faith,” the Lord forgave the paralytic of his sins and then healed him.

It would appear from Scripture that our Savior has a hard time turning away from faith.

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How to teach people to tithe (and why some will resent it)

“Give and it shall be given unto you….” (Luke 6:38).  “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

A cartoon shows a fellow in the cemetery holding flowers. The epitaph on the stone before him reads: “Eternally peeved at those who never showed me how to tithe.”

That may well happen.

Since our Lord said giving as He taught means laying up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21), it follows that some in Heaven are going to be poorer for not having done that.

What does it mean to “be poorer in Heaven”? I don’t have a clue.

But there it is.

The bottom line is simply that some spiritual leaders (pastors and teachers) are failing to teach stewardship and will be in trouble when they stand before the Lord.  That should matter to us.

The ministries of the Lord Jesus here on earth are weaker and fewer because of the failure of the Lord’s people to give faithfully, generously, and regularly.

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The report from Bethlehem: A shepherd signs in

“Now there were in the same country shepherds abiding in their fields by night….” (Luke 2)

(Herewith we present a report from the youngest shepherd of that fateful night in the field outside Bethlehem, with the occasional editor’s remark in italics.)

I was not supposed to work that night, it being a school night. My friend Elihu asked me to fill in for him.  Now, my father is not real thrilled with me hanging out with some of these characters who work night shifts with the sheep.  Shepherding is the ultimate unskilled labor and only those who can’t do anything else–or hesitate to show their faces in public in the day–need apply.

But Father knows I’m a good student and agreed that we could use the money.

Anyway, that’s how it happened that I had the most amazing experience of my young life.

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Something for everyone in the Christmas story

“Now, the birth of Jesus came about in this way….” (Matthew 1:18).

Do you like a true-life adventure story?  This one is the best. It’s found in only four chapters in the Bible: Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.

You like genealogies?  Then check out the birth narratives about our Lord Jesus. See Matthew 1:1-14 and also Luke 3:21-38.

You like mysteries?  Try to figure out how those two lists of ancestors works out for the lineage of Jesus.  If you finally give up, then (and only then) go to a commentary written by a Bible-believing scholar. Your church library probably has several.

You are a history student?  Then check out Luke 2:1-3 where “the beloved physician” gives the historical setting for the birth of our Lord. Then, move up one chapter and see how Luke does the same thing for the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry some three decades later.

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6 things I want my grandchildren to know about highway driving

I was 17 when the State of Alabama decided to take a chance and issue me a driver’s license. The trooper giving the test admitted he was not too sure about me at the time.

Over these 57 years of driving, I have logged more than a  million miles on the streets and highways.  And I keep learning some things about safety.  Frankly, I worry about my three children and their families because some of these lessons are learned only on the road and not in textbooks or classrooms.

Whether they can be taught by a grandfather on the internet is a valid question.

So, for Leah and Jessica and Grant, for Abby and Erin, and for Darilyn and JoAnne, and within a few short years, for Jack also–the only one of our eight grands without a driver’s license–here are some urgent considerations Grandpa Joe wants to bring to your attention.

I would love for you to print this out and read it several times and even discuss it among yourselves.

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I’ve been thinking about fictions lately

“For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ….” (2 Peter 1:16).

In the public library this week, it occurred to me that this vast collection of writings is divided into two primary sections: fiction and non-fiction. And that started me thinking. Wonder why the basic section is fiction and the “reality” section, if we want to call it that, is labeled “non-fiction”?  Wonder why it’s not the other way around, that the primary part is “Real” or “True” and the secondary part is “fiction” or even “contrived?”

I’m not anti-fiction, incidentally.

I love novels, and read many each year.

My favorites are westerns.  Before dismissing this as shallow and unworthy, the reader might be interested in knowing that a lot of important people have loved a good western (in addition to moi–lol).  General Dwight Eisenhower, busily planning the invasion of Europe to drive the Nazis out of power, read western novels at night (and later in the White House) before retiring.  I expect Ike did it for the same reason I do, as a little escape. Sort of a two hour vacation for the brain.

Westerns are fictions.  People sat down and made up these stories.  And even though Louis L’Amour boasted that his novels were all fact-based (“if I say there is a creek there and a cave next to it, you can find a creek there with a cave next to it”), it’s been proven that he was embellishing the truth.  If anyone cares, I’ve not found them. Yet L’Amour sold over 200 million copies of his novels and they continue to fly off the bookstore shelves.

A German guy named Karl May wrote a ton of western novels without ever having visited the United States.  All he knew was what he had read, yet he concocted characters and plots and scenes and convinced a lot of people.  His books sold over 50 million copies, became the basis for a number of Hollywood movies, and are still available.  May did visit the U.S. once in his life, toward the end.  A reviewer said much of what Karl May wrote was interesting and believable, although in more than one story, he spoke of his characters coming up against an “impenetrable cactus forest,” something no one ever found.

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Lies the enemy whispers during worship

“We have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2).

The devil’s first plan of attack is to get us to worship him.  He tried that with our Lord, as recorded in Luke 4:7. “All these things will be yours if you will worship me.”  He soon found the futility of that.  Not then and hardly at all since has anyone wanted to bow down and worship this foolish fallen angel.

But such a persistent enemy always has a backup plan. Plan B is to interfere with our worship of the living God.  Satan will do anything to throw a wrench into the works and shut down or hinder our daily submission to the Lord Jesus and all that involves (prayer, commitment, study of the Word, service, etc).

Not long ago, while sitting in church listening to a friend preach, I began a list of the lies Satan whispers to God’s people who gather to worship Him….

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What we told the nervous singer

“Sing unto the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:1; 98:1; etc).

She has a marvelous voice, one anybody this side of Juillard would be proud to own.  When she sang in church with her musician husband, they blended wonderfully and blessed the congregation.  But she undermined her own effectiveness by her timidity, that paralyzing self-consciousness which froze her in place and refused to let her enjoy the moment.

Stage fright, we call it.

Who among us is unacquainted with that monster?

Most of us know precisely how she feels.

That’s why, on the final night of our meeting, as I expressed appreciation in private to this couple, I spoke to her quietly. “Can I tell you one thing about your presentation?”

She smiled shyly. “I know what you’re going to say.”

And she did, to a point.

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Sloppiness in ministry: Not allowed

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord–you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23).

Last night, sometime along about 3 or 4 am, unable to sleep, I did something I rarely do: turned on the television. Usually, I’ll read or just lie there thinking until sleep returns. But last night, I channel-surfed and ended up watching one of those true-crime re-enactments.

Law enforcement investigators had painstakingly built their case against this fellow in Jacksonville, Florida, who reported his wife missing on a trip to Miami. Facts eventually indicated he had murdered her and buried her body in an abandoned golf course near home, then driven south. His plan had been for the police to focus on south Florida rather than his hometown.

The man told investigators they had checked into a Miami hotel and he went to a fast-food place for take-out. Police were able to check that out.  He had indeed bought a sandwich and fries at that restaurant, they found, but only one order.  Nothing for his wife.

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Compounding our mistakes: Lying and denying

“If I had decided to say these things aloud, I would have betrayed Your people” (Psalm 73:15).

I fear for the souls of those who write and speak of their hostility to the Christian faith, to declare their atheism, and to denounce Scripture.

What if they change their minds?

It has happened.

And yet, that “thing” they wrote is out there, wreaking its havoc, doing its damage, spreading its slander.  Meanwhile, the author would give anything to have not written it and to get it back.

What some do, I fear is, rather than going public with their regret and asking for forgiveness, they compound the error.

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