Devotional

Let Me Tell You a Story – Expectations

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Expectations.

I was chatting with my daughter concerning her “helpful child”, and that she can never meet her efficiency expectations she likes to maintain in her life since the child wants to help, wants to be involved.

What a problem to have eh? I think I understand her desire for efficiency, since she acquired this “slave driving” attitude from one of her parents. (She got it from her mother I tell you, it was her mother!!!)

Suffice it to say, after chatting with her, I found myself wandering through some old thoughts, and considered my frustration when the little two year old asks to help bring in a small luggage from the car, or to help set the table, or try to clean the counter. The child loves to be involved!

But this brought to mind on how to solve this tension I am experiencing when with the child. My expectations need to be aligned with reality. Once I accept this, and understand the importance of his involvement not only in the present but also in the future, I have learned to slow down internally, encourage his willingness to help and drop the “get it done now” attitude. (I tell you, efficiency can be a monster!!)

And then the concept of expectations was twisted to a different subject, and that is how the Word addresses this concept. Granted this will NOT be an exhaustive review, so don’t expect it, but a couple verses did come to mind that I would like to share with you.

Luke 21:26
men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Men fainting from fear and expectations of things coming upon the world. These poor souls are whipped into a frenzy of fear, and are expecting bad things, really bad things. Expectations can produce physical responses in your body, for these men were fainting from it. As a youngster, I actually suffered from a bleeding ulcer due to expecting dire happenings in my young life! What an existence!

As a believer, during my time in an alternate end times theology, I spent years focusing on a possible evil that may happen, reacting to a sniff of potential danger here or a hint of some serious catastrophe about to surely fall upon me and my family. I was unstable, making decisions based on hearsay or a possible interpretation, without considering alternate possibilities.

To be honest, I am a naturally fearful fella, but this theology fed that fear to the point where I didn’t see the Lord on the throne, in control and reigning over all things. By golly, at times I feared He was struggling to maintain control, whereas if I’m reading the Word correctly, He isn’t even breaking a sweat!

Where are your expectations as a believer? Are you expecting a victory or a defeat?

Luke 6:35
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

When I do good to my enemy, (not if Carl, but when) it is a common refrain in my thinking that they will completely repent, turn around and give me a big ol’ hug, provide me with accolades of greatness – you get my point.

But the Lord said not to expect anything! Expect nothing in return. Get your head in the game Carl, for the purpose of loving my enemy is to be like Jesus, not to get applause, or a cake on the doorstep from that neighbor I helped a few days back! (Did I tell him I liked pineapple upside down cake?)

Anyways, this verse impacted me years ago in my relation to friends and their request for financial help. Of course the verse speaks of enemies, but very few enemies ask me for financial help.

If a friend asks for help, my wife and I discuss, and if agreed upon, will provide the funds. In our accounting, the funds are gone forever. No payment plan is initiated on our part, referred to or considered when chatting with our friend. He or she is a friend, not a commodity or investment! Often they will initiate the discussion, which we tend to shy away from.

On a completely different topic, we are currently without access to any funds.

A couple thoughts on expectations for your consideration.

By the way, I have an expectation that some may comment on this two year old and his dragging a suitcase in from a car. If so, use the comment box below.

It truly was a sight to behold!


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Devotional

Let Me Tell You a Story – Norman

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Let me tell you a story about a man who told me a story.

Norman and his wife came to our home Bible study for years, and I always looked forward to his company. I still remember him with the long glowing white beard and the jovial smile, and his quiet bearing. Not that he was quiet, but he did have a soft voice.

He wasn’t quiet, at least for me, since he told a story of his family that twisted my head on right and helped me find healing with my children.

We were in the midst of a study, I think in the book of Matthew, and the topic of forgiveness came up. Most in the study were making comments, and I was trying to stir the pot by asking difficult questions, to get people thinking, when Norman cut to the heart.

He spoke of an only daughter, the one child whom he had not seen for years. He spoke of her breaking relationship with him and his desire to repair the connection. Someone asked of the wrong that he had done, and he spoke of a clear conscience towards his daughter. The young lady had imagined Norman had wronged her and dwelled on it until it became a weeping sore in her thoughts. A poisonous pill that killed a relationship.

Many were stumped of this unfixable state of affairs and promised we would pray. Some of us actually confessed we had similar struggles with our children, that we had differences of opinion and attitudes toward the children that barred a close relationship due to some of their decisions.

Norman challenged us to forgive them of their actions as this is the primary duty of the child of God, and many were brought to face about our dereliction of love toward our own loved ones. It bothered me that I had been carrying attitudes and feelings that were sinful towards my children.

But Norman didn’t stop there. He told us of his trying to connect with his daughter and of asking forgiveness from her. But Norman – You said you had a clear conscience towards her. Surely you meant after you asked her for forgiveness, correct? “No”, said Norman, “I had a clear conscience prior to asking for forgiveness.”

Always the anal one, I shot back – “How could you ask for forgiveness if you have not sinned against her? That is not just!”

Love does not keep count of wrongdoings Carl. If my daughter thinks I have done her wrong, I will accept that, and ask her for forgiveness. A relationship with her is more important than my pride or my understanding of justice!

That blew my mind. My children may have something against me (either perceived or in reality) that I need to clear the air of. I needed to ask for forgiveness, not only exercise forgiveness toward them.

As I met with my children, especially my sons, I admitted my failings and asked for forgiveness. This was one of the major turning points in my mind as to a great healing in our family.

If you have a barrier between you and a loved one – Go seek them out, sit them down and confess your wrongdoings against them, ask for forgiveness and wait.

Do not demand anything from them, do not bring up any defense for your previous actions, do not play a blame game in attributing some of the fault on them. Take responsibly for your wrongdoings (real or perceived), humbly ask for forgiveness and wait. God loves to be in the forgiveness business and He will be in the middle of it!

If this seems foreign to you, you may need to go the the Father and do the same.

Do not demand anything from God, do not bring up any defense for your previous actions, do not play a blame game in attributing some of the fault to God. Take responsibly for your wrongdoings, humbly ask for forgiveness from the Father in heaven. Begin to know the Father through His Son, who provided the forgiveness that you will be granted.

This simple honest action will change your life. And follow the One who forgave.

For He is good!


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Devotional

Let Me Tell You a Story – Rebellion, Sin and Confusion

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My son became a rock star. Not a soft rock, or that gentle “poppish” type of rock star. No no no – He wrote and performed heavy rock. The stuff that includes the screaming, and some pretty complex stuff. Rough life, long nights, rejection, living on a wish.

Myself – I was a very conservative, religious, authoritarian fellow. As my children grew, I read them Bible stories at night, took them to church every time the doors opened, opened our home to believers for studies and sought to give our children exposure to a quiet, unassuming life.

How could I have a son who is so different, so of “another way”, of such a different lifestyle and belief?

I missed him so much but there was so much rebellion, so much sin, so much confusion!

In the midst of this struggle, a fella told his story of his father. He was a preacher, a respected man in the community, a servant of a prison ministry. But he was a musician, a young man who played an acoustic guitar and sang in bars. And every chance he played, dad would end up in a backstreet gin joint, watching, applauding, being there.

So much rebellion, so much sin, so much confusion!

In seeking to be with his son, the preacher man lost status in the community. He noticed the whispers in the church. It was obvious his actions were drawing some attention, that he had acquired a stain. He was associating with others that were not in a protected cloister, were not prim and proper, were not of the moral high ground.

So much rebellion, so much sin, so much confusion!

God’s son came into a messy, foul, vile environment to love His creation. He experienced a seeming loss of dignity, a respect and honor He had spent his life building, and that he rightly deserved. The Son of God walked into bars and “gin joints”, associated with hookers and sinners. He touched lepers and healed blind beggars.

So much rebellion, so much sin, so much confusion!

The Lord rebuked me. I read the gospels one more time, seeing Him rub shoulders with “dirty sinners”. My self righteous attitude of standing aloof from my son, of erecting some sort of religious high ground to look down on him, was my rebellion, sin and confusion.

I remember going to his shows, wearing ear plugs in order to hear the music – yes I wrote that right. Of late nights with his band members, and being with my son. Of seeing my son pour his life into a goal I never would have imagined.

He is my son. I love him.

My image, reputation and standing in the religious community I belonged to became unimportant, less of a burden that I needed to protect. It is interesting that as I sought to love my son, and to be with him, a certain drifting from the religious high ground I had erected for myself began to occur in my thinking. Judgement of others became more apparent in my life and an affront to my thinking. Protecting my image became less important.

Preserving a reputation may not be God’s will for you. As believers, we may need to release our status, empty ourselves of our reputation in the community in order to love someone.

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: – Philippians 2:7

We may need to reconsider what righteousness is in God’s eyes. Holding onto self righteous attitudes may not be God’s will for you

So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. – Mat 23:28 ESV

We may need to remember that the kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom, totally reversed to the world we live in, that priorities and attitudes that please God are not reflected in our culture. If your neighbor is a “dirty sinner”, consider Paul’s admonition.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. – Rom 15:1-2 ESV

It is so interesting (challenging) that Paul tacked on the “and not to please ourselves” phrase. Can you hear the implication?

Where does forgiveness and love fit on your “list of duties” before God? If church attendance, sermon notes, tithing, public prayer and such activities are priorities over relationships, consider your ways.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. – Mat 5:23-24 ESV

Notice the Lord did not say that “you remember that you wronged your brother”. His teaching is describing a brother having something against you, possibly a perceived wrong. Jesus is giving us instruction about relationship maintenance, to the point of asking forgiveness of an imagined act. This is a high bar, and Jesus prioritized this duty of maintaining relationship with a fellow over a religious act.

The act can be done later – LOVE NOW.


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Devotional

Let Me Tell You a Story – Interruptions

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I have been sitting in John 4 & 5 for the past few days, simply taking in the tremendous grace the Lord Jesus exercised to the Samaritan woman at the well, the disciples who were a bit slow at catching the identity of the Lord (like myself!) and the healing of the cripple.

You know, the cripple who had been a cripple for thirty eight years. Thirty eight years of living a life of inability!

One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. – John 5:5

Take a few moments to consider this man’s situation. Was he thirty eight years old when he met the Master, born a cripple, having never walked? A permanent condition he had always experienced? Or had he been struck down early in life, suffering his disability for thirty eight years, with memories of walking, running, and pursuing a “normal” life.

Try to relate to this mans expectations. Are you experiencing a day in, day out disappointment in life, a continual drip drip drip of frustration, inability, hopelessness? Have you endured a hopeless state for decades like this poor fella? My point is that after thirty eight years of this disability, the man was in a settled condition, a “permanent” situation, a settled state.

And yet this man was at the pool, a pool that supposedly provided hope, for the story goes that the pool provided healing to whoever touched it first when it stirred.

When it was stirred, that is. Was the pool stirred every Sunday at 11? What about monthly, or maybe quarterly? No such schedule is provided, and so it goes, when the pool stirred, I imagine the ruckus to get there was immense. Did a miracle occur every time the water stirred? Had the stirring ever performed a miraculous healing in the sight of this cripple, or was it just a sterile flickering hope from stories of days past?

Yet this man was at the pool. He lay at the pool day in and day out, waiting for the pool to move, to stir, to offer hope. At this point, I imagine it had the taste of hopeless, but we also have an added problem!

He had competition! A lot of competition.

In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. – John 5:3

So this crippled man, this permanently crippled man who was seeking healing at this pool, which he may never have seen stirred, and if he had seen stirred, was unable to get the healing supposedly offered, was approached by Jesus.

Stage set. Okay, so what did Jesus ask?

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” – John 5:6

Of course he wanted to be healed! But lets consider this question. Had the cripple man fallen into a life of settled disappointment, going through a habit of being delivered to the pool by a loved one, but understanding it was of no use, that his condition was forever?

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” – John 5:7

Yes, he was in a hopeless condition and understood his place in life. Oh, he still attended the pool faithfully, at least for the chance of seeing it stirred, but realized it wasn’t for him, that his state in life was set, and the best he had was to accept it and exist.

Do you want to be healed?

This question allowed for a one word answer, yet the man dribbled on with a twenty seven word response. Jesus asked of the cripple mans desire. He responded with his obvious present condition. Oh, he may have meant to answer directly, but looking at the response, he provided Jesus reasons why he couldn’t get healed.

Don’t get me wrong – I get it. He had certainly experienced his limitations (for thirty eight years!), and understood his lack of hope. He answered the question best he knew how. But he didn’t answer directly.

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” – John 5:8

Jesus cut to the chase, and told him to get up. Just get up and walk!

Jesus didn’t speak of the duration of his paralysis, his continual hopeless, or of the current barriers to his “best life now”! I almost get the impression the man may have continued on with his response if it had not been for the Lord’s command to get up.

Jesus completed interrupted this man’s life.

Get up and walk, oh and by the way carry the bed you relied on all these years. The fallout from this miracle was multitudinous, for now this cripple had to reorient his entire life as a fully functioning man, able to provide for himself and for others. He went from being a burden to those who loved him, to a blessing for his loved ones and potentially a witness for years to come.

Do you remember the time you were healed? Have you been healed?

I was healed over 40 years ago from a life of blindness. One night, back in 1981, the Lord told me to walk, to get up and carry my bed. (See Testimony) He interrupted my life, and I am forever thankful for His interruption. I was sliding into a pit of destruction that would eventually consume me if not for Him. I had no hope and to be honest, no desire for a healing. This crippled man at least exhibited an façade of hope.

If you have experienced the Lord’s interruption, you will agree with me that the interruption includes a redirection, a life change due to the healing. Jesus did not tell the man to get up, be healed and to lay back down again.

When Jesus interrupts your life, things change. If things haven’t changed, and you are still “attending the pool”, consider the crippled man. His meeting with the Lord brought about a complete life change.

No change from when you claim to have met Him? For sure, you may have met Him early in life, when your “crippledness” wasn’t as apparent, but the command to walk is applicable to all. Jesus, in interrupting your life, means you no longer need to attend the pool, be carried by others, define your life by limitations, or look for hope where there is none.

The hope is in Jesus, and the result of meeting Him is a changed life. The crippled man had been completely convinced of his hopelessness when Jesus approached him, but Jesus interrupted his life.

Has He interrupted yours?


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Devotional

Let Me Tell You a Story – To Trust

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Recently I spoke of meeting a young lady, who almost immediately was one I found trustworthy. Now of course, as you may expect, I am biased in this judgement since she has been by mate for over 40 years, But that wee fact should not take away from the bigger picture of this post.

Let me ask you a question.

Think of one whom you trust. Is it a friend, a brother, a spouse, a co worker?

Now that you have thought about that trustworthy person, define the character traits you recognize in that person that allows you to trust him or her.

Take your time. Let me help with a further question.

Are they judgmental, condemning, condescending, self righteous, a tale bearer, impatient, self centered, dishonest,….

Granted, when you meet a person of these characteristics, they may be fun to hang with, may be the life of the party, and may be great for business connections. But if you had a choice, would you find them trustworthy? Sure, some that are in your circle of acquaintances are in positions that make it so you have to trust them (reluctantly). But that niggling worm in you mind is that they will prioritize their own interest over yours. In my thinking, this is a “forced trust” I don’t want to focus on a “forced trust” in this blog post.

For this post, I would like to consider trust from a purer motive, based only on a person’s character and not on profitability, fear or peer pressure. But first lets consider what it means to trust someone, at least from my understanding.

To Trust Someone

For many, including myself, to trust someone includes an element of fear. A fear of repercussions if I don’t trust. A fear of lost opportunities if I don’t trust someone. Now some may say that to trust someone removes the fear of that person, and to that I heartily agree, if we have known that person for a period of time, went through difficult times trusting that person, and developed an abiding relationship throughout both blessings and trials with that person.

But to trust someone initially carries with it an element of fear, a fear of the unknown. I proposed to my favorite lady after knowing her for only a few weeks, and I should have experienced some fear. I can’t remember any, but I am an ol’ coot and may have forgotten a fleeting fear or two. It would only be natural to have some fear of making a mistake, of trusting another person with your life decisions, of committing to one person. After only a few weeks? Yikes.

But as I look back over the 40 years I have known my lady, the fears have melted away, and the trust remains, the commitment continues and I know she has a heart for me. (Amazing if you knew who I truly was!)

So, is a trust born out of fear a healthy thing? Is it trust at all? Can trust coexist with fear?

It seems a couple verses may suggest otherwise

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” – Mar 5:36 ESV

But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” – Luk 8:50 ESV

And yet, the fear of the Lord is often combined with trust.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalm 40:3 ESV

You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. – Psalm 115:11 ESV

Given this quick study, it seems apparent that a proper fear is a catalyst for trust, an initial (and enduring) condition of one who has met the One.

As many may know from my testimony, I felt the judgement of God in my life in various degrees for well nigh 15 yrs before I heard the good news. I sometimes wonder if my conversion was based mainly out if fear, (I am 52.4% convinced it was) and was simply a way of finding a fire escape from hell.

Yet to trust is to know someone, to experience their character and to be drawn to them out of respect, or better yet, out of love.

We are to be drawn to the one who is trustworthy in His character, not pushed to Him due to fear of reprisal.

Believers, as we journey our pilgrim path walking (imperfectly at best) with the One who sacrificed Himself for us, we will naturally will grow into a greater and greater trust because of His character, His ways, His mercy towards us.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18 ESV

Unless of course you have experienced Him as judgmental, condemning, condescending, self righteous, a tale bearer, impatient, self centered, dishonest,….

But that is not the way you learned Christ!– – Eph 4:20 ESV

Consider the character of the One you trust, and it may become evident why your trust is difficult to exercise.


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Devotional

Let Me Tell You a Story – Trials and a Ton of Gold

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My wife and I are entering our retirement years and we are looking at moving out of the city. With that goal, we have been looking for a patch of land to build a cabin on, add a porch (to learn how to whittle) and throw a tire swing in the back yard for when the grandkids come to visit.

We have been searching for about a year, with land being rarer than hens teeth. Eventually we found a patch we put an offer on.

Of course, during the waiting period, I reached out to well drillers, septic installers, builders and finally earth movers. You see, we wanted to install a pond on site, for numerous reasons, and in my research “tripped” over Dan.

Dan is a local contractor that provides excavation and grading services for raw land, and in my discussions, found a man who had turned to Jesus. We chatted for quite a while, and he spoke of a two yr anniversary of a diagnosis. You see he had been given 2 to 6 months to live, having both brain and lung cancer.

His story was amazing, and through brain surgery and prayer, he is now back to work.

The point he drove home is that the cancer was the test that proved his faith. He said he believed in the Savior before the diagnosis, but the trial of his life was the vehicle to show him his faith. No self deception, no hypocrisy, no false hope. He knew the Master and Jesus healed him. And he wouldn’t trade that experience for a ton of gold.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2‭-‬4

He had served Satan for most of his life, until bout 5 yrs ago, when he turned to the Messiah. Since then, he has experienced multiple trials, cancer being “the big one”! The trial not only provided a confidence in his relationship with the One who is kind, but pulled him back from the precipice of the grave.

Only Jesus, the God-man can take a trial and make it worth more than a ton of gold. My mistake – He provides the trial and the blessing – How limited I am in my view of Him!

He is good!

One additional praise, in that my current supervisor, who has battled cancer for the last 18 months recently was given an “all clear” from his doctor this week. Although he suffered through horrendous pain, he attributed his success to God. He has often mentioned the peace he experienced, and became vocal of his faith amongst his peers.

God truly is good. Tell others of His kindness through your own acts of mercy, and by the story’s of His working in your life

By the way, in meeting with Dan, we were introduced to another fellow that provided information about the property that only a local might have know. Critical information that helped our decision making process.

We are now on the search for a different patch of land and we are thankful for the hand of God giving us direction through one of his servants I was blessed to meet.

God is good.


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Devotional

Let Me Tell You a Story – Test All Things

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I suppose it has been a few months since I have told y’all a story so I’m about to tell you an old one.

It turns out, all long time ago, in a country far to the north, a young hippie drug pusher got saved and got excited about the Savior, Jesus Christ. Rescued from a life of wandering in darkness, full of fear and surrounded by a desperation to have some purpose, this youngin was willing to do anything to try to please the Savior.

He happened to be attending a small Baptist church, having been delivered from a wasted life for well nigh onto 2 months, when the Pastor fellow came up to him and asked him if he wanted to serve the Lord. Obviously, this youngin’ jumped at an opportunity, especially if a pastor was asking.

“What can I do for the Lord pastor?”

Pastor set his hook and pulled – “Well we are having choir practice on Wednesday night – Come on over and join in, you may be surprised at the joy you find in singing for the Lord!”

Youngin didn’t understand his place in the kingdom, and his fervor to serve overtook his obligation to love others, for you see this youngin couldn’t sing his way out of a paper bag – dang – not even a wet paper bag!

And this story reminds me of a passage from the ol’ Book, that seems to relate in my mind to this youngin’s experieince.

21 … test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:21

This youngin’ was willing to test this opportunity, to prove that he either had it or didn’t, to see if he could sing for the Lord, or “be better used elsewhere”. (Many saints are surely blessed by the fact this youngin did not pursue a singing ministry!!!)

It is interesting that Paul told his children to test everything. Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say this youngin’s singing is sinful, (if might seem like that to those who heard it!) but Paul seems to want Christians to get out there, test or prove aspects of life, opportunities to serve, in order to see, to explore and to find their place in the kingdom.

Many times, opportunities will be provided but due to religious or cultural bias’s, these opportunities may be abandoned or even rejected.

A case in point. A bright sunny Sunday and you on on your way to church when you see a person that is suffering, that may be without food or shelter, that may have fallen down, and you sense the Lord’s leading to stop and at least offer some assistance in this souls plight. But Sunday School starts in ten minutes and you don’t wanna be late, or maybe your boss lives close by and the association may hurt your standing in the office. So your drive by.

Opportunities are out there and we are to test them, and many of these opportunities may test out to be of no success, not of your station in life, and that is fair. As a matter of fact, you should expect it, for Paul anticipates this situation when he continues in the next verse, informing believers to ….

22 Abstain from every form of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:22

Some opportunities may turn out to be evil in a believers life. As you may have guessed by now, choir ain’t for me. I don’t sing within 50 feet of anyone that I love. (Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not stating singing in a choir is evil, but my being in a choir may come close to it for the hearers!)

Anyway you slice it, we are provided opportunities throughout our day. Test them out – they may be the back door to some great adventure for you. (Or you may have to abandon them as evil, but your understadning of the Lord’s will will have expanded!)

Either way, your intent is that of a believer that desires to please the Lord, and I think that counts.

I look forward to comments or questions – Use the box below, and thanks for reading!


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