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Lester Carney

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Everything posted by Lester Carney

  1. Lester Carney

    Lifeguard

    A person approached by a lifeguard has a natural tendency to want to grab the lifeguard and hold on. This only increases the odds of drowning, and also puts the lifeguard in danger of drowning. Instead the drowning person needs to relax, give up on their own efforts, and put their trust in the rescuer. This way the lifeguard is able to do what he has been trained to do; he is able to grab the person and swim to safety. I want to stop thinking of holding on to Jesus. I don’t trust myself. My muscles weaken, my palms get clammy, my hands turn cold. I will lose hold. If I think I am strong, like Peter, I will find how weak I am, like Peter. Instead I want to think of Jesus holding on to me. If I give him permission to hold me, I will be held in his everlasting grip that will never let go. Today, tomorrow, every today, every tomorrow I want to give him permission to hold me. Then I must understand that, if I am willing for him to hold me, I must also be willing to go where he goes, willing to do what he does, and willing to become the hands and feet of Jesus to a world filled with others who are drowning in sin. Relax, give up on your own efforts, and put your trust in the Lifeguard, the Rescuer, the Savior. The journey can begin today. I’m ready. Will you join?
  2. The problem in the past was that there was right action without love. People fled, and are continuing to flee, such churches. The problem more often today is that there is "love" without right action. The two must go together. True divine love causes people to act, and, if their love is for God, is causes them to act according to God's will. An example, guys don't take their wives to the fashion show because they love the fashion show, but because she loves the fashion show. When love for Christ becomes my foundation, my life will be attractive to others. When anything else is my foundation, my life will eventually collapse.
  3. Some Christians teach their children to believe in Santa Claus, when they really should be teaching them to believe in Christ. The true meaning of Christmas is that Christ is the gift and the reason for giving. The gift God gives is love; children should be taught to understand that the gifts they receive are an expression of love. It's much better to understand the gifts come from parents who love than to believe they come from Santa Claus; I've never heard anyone suggest that Santa Claus loves them. I think we have also failed to teach how to receive gifts. Gifts should be received with thankfulness and humility. Rightly taught, Christmas and Santamas can go together; Jesus fits all occasions.
  4. I would suggest that, in your interest to understand him, you have probably become a great listener. So, if I think that God has a communication problem because I don't seem to understand what he is saying, perhaps it is I who am the problem, and I should become a great listener. Communication has two sides.
  5. The entire Bible is the Word of God; some parts are just newer than others. The New Testament writers taught salvation by faith in Jesus by using a correct understanding of Scripture; in their time that Scripture was only the Old Testament. Those who fail to study and understand the Old Testament will fail to understand the New Testament. The newer expounds more fully on the older, but doesn't replace the older.
  6. Take a Lincoln penny, put a piece of paper over it, rub with pencil lead, and the image of Lincoln will appear. And only the image of Lincoln. God puts a piece of paper over my life, rubs with pencil lead, and the image of Christ appears. And only the image of Christ. It's not a magic trick. It's a miracle.
  7. Better yet, send your BEST PLAYER to face your giants for you. That's when the miracles really happen.
  8. To one of the seven churches God says, "You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead." A zombie. To another church he says, "You think you are rich, but you are poor, blind, and naked." To another group of people who Jesus pictured as coming to him at the second coming bragging about all the good deeds they have done he says, "Depart from me, you evil people. I never knew you." These are all cautions to those who think they can fool God with their imitation Christianity. But God knows the heart. He judges the heart, not the deeds. Some people get the wrong idea that deeds don't have anything to do with their Christianity. That is like a marriage lived in separate houses in separate towns. Why even bother to be married? If two are married, in heart, they will want to be together, in body. You could call this the obedience of love, but few think of obedience when they are doing what love prompts them to do. Love God in heart, and you will want to do his will in body.
  9. A "counselor" of my ex-wife once told me, "God doesn't want you to put him first. God's not selfish." Too few people realize that it is only by putting God first that I will ever be able to put another first above myself. I need God's in order to love someone else. God, others, then myself. Satan's formula is myself, others, and then God, if there is anything left over. Formula for failure. "
  10. Tag team. When I'm facing a giant, I need to tag out and let my PARTNER into the ring. Go get him, Jesus!
  11. Lester Carney

    Limits On God

    When we put no limits on God, and put our faith in him, he puts no limits on us. What will we become? More tomorrow than we are today.
  12. Sometimes Christians are prone to only talk about the foundation---Jesus. All talk and no action. The only purpose of having a foundation is to build on it. Perhaps more correctly to allow our foundation to build on himself. God wants to produce a beautiful tree with my life that will produce much fruit. I need to found my life on him and permit him to build as he sees fit.
  13. Lester Carney

    Psalm 56: 3

    I will put my trust and faith in You, God, because You are not the cause of my fear; You are the solution to my fear.
  14. Hunter: Oh, hi. Come on in and sit down. Friend: I didn’t know you were a hunter. Hunter: Oh, yeah. Big time. I was just finishing cleaning my deer rifle. Friend: That’s a shotgun. Hunter: Oh, really. That’s good to know. I never knew the manufacturer. Like I said, I have my Shotgun deer rifle, I have my blaze orange clothing; the rest is in the closet. I even have orange socks and…well, never mind. I’ve got my hunting knife. It’s so sharp it will be like cutting through warm “budda.” I’ve even got my hunting beard. Well, kinda; it’s more like peach fuzz. I’ve been practicing my hunter lingo. I’m gonna get me a wabbit. Perhaps I need to practice that more. Oh, yes, and I have my lucky bullet. I’m not just any hunter. They call me “Mr. Hunter.” Friend. Wow, I’m impressed. When are you going hunting? Hunter: Did I tell you I put up my tree stand. Yep, I put it up several weeks ago. A lot of hunters wait too long. They are putting theirs up in broad daylight, and the deer are just standing around looking at them, nodding their heads and winking at each other. Somehow the deer know they are still safe, and it isn’t hunting season yet. Then those hunters go and sit in their stands for a whole week and don’t even see one deer. Duh! I put mine up weeks beforehand; that way the deer keep looking at it and don’t see anyone in it, and they forget about it. I have mine in a tree just a few yards from a broad deer path that goes down to a pond. There is a branch that partly hides me and also provides a perfect place to rest my gun. I have a perfect shot at a nice clear spot about 30 feet away. I know there is a ten-point buck in those woods. I can imagine him coming toward the pond to get a drink. He will take a few steps, then stop and look either side of him and sniff the air, then take a few more steps. Behind him will be some does and fawns. Eventually he will be right in the spot I’ve chosen; he’ll stop and sniff, look up into the tree---his eyes will get big---then…BAM, I GOT HIM. A lot of people are sentimental and go “boohoo” for the poor deer, but it’s not about killing deer; it’s about harvesting natural resources and putting food on the table. I read that on the internet. Friend: You believe everything you read on the internet? Hunter: What! You don’t? Friend: Okay…I don’t see any deer trophies around. Have you been hunting a long time, or is this your first year? Hunter: I have my deer horns. Friend: Antlers. Hunter: No, they’re mine. Aunt Ler has her own. Now if that buck is hesitant to use his usual deer path, all I have to do is rattle these horns, and it will short-circuit his brain. He will think another buck is sharpening his horns on his tree and trying to steal his does, and he will come along looking for that buck, and when he is right there… Friend: I know. BAM, YOU GOT HIM. Hunter: Eh, don’ you know. Friend: So, when’s that going to happen? Hunter: Did I tell you I have my lucky bullet? Friend: Well, Barney Fife, I think… Hunter: Hey, I only need one. I’m that good. Friend: I was just going to say that your .22 bullet doesn’t fit your deer “rifle.” Hunter: What does that have to do with anything? What’s your point? Friend: Well, it doesn’t seem to me that you are planning on going hunting at all. Hunter: Suffixes. Friend: What? Hunter: Suffixes. I’m a hunter, er, e-r, a suffix. Hunting, ing, i-n-g, a different suffix. Hunter. Hunting. Two different words. They don’t have anything to do with each other. I’m a hunter. But hunting? Do you know how cold it is out there? And you have to get up in the middle of the night and hike to your tree stand before the sun is up. Your hands and feet probably freeze before you get there. The tree stand probably has frozen dew on it. One slip and you fall and break your neck. Then, when you get to the top, you have to get in that little seat without falling and breaking your neck. Then, after hours of sitting, you finally get your deer, and your legs are numb and have fallen asleep, and when you try to climb down…. Friend: I know, you’ll probably fall and break your neck. Hunter: Yeah, you’re catching on. Then you have to take your knife and---what do they call it?---pare the deer, and that’s messy. Then you have to haul his fat carcass all the way to your car. That ten-pointer is pretty big. He may even be an eleven-pointer by now. And then when you get it home you have to hang it from a tree. And then what? I’m a vegetarian. What do I need with a dead deer? No way! I want my chosen sport to be fun, not full of a lot of work or rules. When can I hunt, what can I shoot, did I remember to buy a deer hunting permit, do I have the proper tags, or what brand of deer hunting rifle I have. No, not for me. I’m free to enjoy being a hunter. Friend: So you are not going hunting? Hunter: Never said I was. Friend: I understand now. You’re a hunter. You’re probably such a good hunter that you could go hunting even if you didn’t have your lucky bullet. Hunter: Well, now, thanks…wait a minute.,, Friend: I guess I’ll go and let you get back to whatever it is you were doing. Thanks for the lesson on suffixes. Hunter: No problem. If you like, next time I can give you a lesson on past, present, and future participles, maybe even past, present, and future perfect. Friend: I can’t wait. Hunter: Goodbye………………..Amateur. I’m a hunter. I have my rifle, I have my clothes, I have my lucky b…oh, no. Oh, there you are. Now don’t you go getting lost on me. Yeah, I’m a hunter.
  15. Lester Carney

    Holy Cow

    The people had recently received the 10 Commandments, spoken by God himself. “You shall have no other gods before me.” “You shall not make any graven images.” All the way to “You shall not covet.” Ten simple, easy to understand laws to help them better love God and love man. The people had responded that they would do everything that God had said. Moses had then been called up on the mountain, and he had been gone for weeks and weeks (40 days in Bible terminology). The people became impatient. They didn’t know what had happened to Moses. Perhaps he had left them and wasn’t coming back. Perhaps he was dead. They went to the brother of Moses, Aaron, and asked him to make a god to lead them. Aaron asked for their ear rings, and he melted the rings and formed a calf. This wasn’t quite a god. In Egypt, a calf or cow or bull was not a god, but was the seat of a god. The calf would not have been worshiped, but they would have worshiped the figure seated on the calf. Aaron didn’t go so far as to make what he thought was a god; he only make the seat for a god. But it was a significant compromise anyway. He tried to move the people’s thoughts back to God by building an altar in front of the calf and telling the people that tomorrow they would hold a festival to worship God. But the people could not see past the calf, and they worshiped, not God, but…a chair. Holy Cow! They forgot how God had lead them during the past several months. They forgot the way he had protected them from the ten plagues in Egypt. They forgot how he had made a way through the Red Sea, so they could leave the Egyptian army behind them. They forgot how he had miraculously fed and watered them—how miraculously he was feeding and watering them every day. They forgot the 10 Commandments. They forgot their promises to God. They forgot God. In forgetting God they became stupid and started inventing their own gods. When we lose sight of God, what will hold us true to him is the memory of what he has done in the past for us. He certainly died on the cross for you and me. He was certainly raised from the dead to give us the hope of an eternal future. He certainly has sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us through life. He certainly is preparing a place in heaven for each of his children. He certainly loves you and me. Let us continue to focus on God’s blessings so that we can avoid becoming stupid and worshiping something of our own invention.
  16. I heard this story on K-LOVE radio. A woman had the devastating experience during Christmas of having her husband announce to her and the rest of the family that he was planning on divorcing her. Nice guy! A week later she had done little more than lie in bed and cry. Her four-year-old finally decided to act. He opened her bedroom door and said, “All right, mom, that’s enough! It’s time for music and pancakes!” She was so surprised that she stumbled to the kitchen, turned the radio on, and there was a song waiting for her with just the message she needed to hear. She baked the pancakes, added plenty of syrup, and she and her four-year-old ate pancakes and danced to the music from the radio. She made the difficult decision to move from existing to resuming living. During these holiday seasons, many people are depressed by reminders of their past losses. Lost family members. Lost relationships. Lost friends. Lost jobs. Lost pets. Lost property. Lost self-respect. Lost opportunities. So many losses. Few people have managed to avoid loss. Some of these losses may be recent, while others may have occurred years ago and are still acting to prevent one from living a vibrant life. Whatever season you find yourself in, whether the holidays or winter or a particular time of life, it is time to move beyond the losses. Refuse to just exist, going through the necessary daily chores, but finding little joy in life. Make the difficult choice to seize life and make the best life possible for yourself. Stop waiting for the concert to come to you; go to it. Cook a fancy meal just for yourself and use your best china. Go to the salon and get your hair or nails done. Wear your best clothes. Plan activities that help you look forward to the future. Make new friends. Buy yourself the gift you’ve wanted. Actually spend time looking at nature and listening to it—a bird, an animal, a sunset, water running over rocks. Pop the question. Take time for “music and pancake” moments. These little acts will become treasures that fill your mind with good memories rather than sad thoughts. Above all, remember the two anchors to a steadfast life. Anchor one is knowing beyond question that God loves you unconditionally and is your friend. Anchor two is daily committing to loving God and being his friend. With these two anchors firmly grounded, you will no longer exist, but you will truly live. Today, choose life. Category: Uncategorized
  17. Airey Neave was a British officer who was wounded and captured in France during WWII. After several unsuccessful escape attempts, he was sent to Colditz Castle, the supposedly escape-proof POW prison. In early 1942, he escaped from Colditz and made his way home to England. He was the first British officer to successfully escape from Colditz. He was almost immediately assigned to MI9, a very new and small office of military intelligence. MI9’s purpose was to assist prisoners of war in escaping. They worked in occupied countries to set up escape routes for downed pilots and escaped prisoners. They found ways to smuggle escape materials into prisoner of war camps. These items were things like maps, compasses, radios, and money. They questioned escaped prisoners who returned and taught classes to pilots and soldiers on escape and evasion. Neave would work with MI9 for the remainder of the war. After the war, Neave, also a lawyer, was a member of the prosecution team during the Nuremberg trials. He spoke perfect German, so was given the responsibility for reading the charges against the Germans on trial. He would go on to become a Member of Parliament. His war duties following his escape were a perfect fit for him . As someone who had escaped, he had valuable knowledge of the escape process. He would certainly have been interested in aiding others to escape. Motivation and knowledge working together can accomplish a lot. How motivated are you to help others escape the captivity of sin? Are you content to just come together with others weekly and celebrate your freedom, or do you have compassion for those still not free? Do you take the attitude that you escaped, so they can escape if they want to, or do you have a mission to assist them? Every church member who has been freed from the enemy’s control needs to see himself/herself as a member of God’s MI9. Mission: help others escape to the freedom of forgiveness.
  18. As a teenager I found a used paperback copy of the book “The Great Escape” at a Goodwill store, and I bought it for thirty cents. It began a lifelong fascination with this and other escape stories, particularly the escapes and escape attempts from Colditz Castle during World War II. It is incredible the extremes that some men went through trying to regain their freedom. Jumping from moving trains, digging tunnels, cutting through barbwire fences, fabricating elaborate disguises, hand-printing fake identify documents to make them look like typewriter print; risking death, sometimes dying, all because they resented the loss of their freedom and weren’t content to wait for the end of the war. To them, freedom was worth dying for. As a teenager I didn’t realize that the greatest escape of all time was the escape from the enslavement of sin that Jesus won for us on the cross. He risked all to give us freedom. To him, freedom was worth dying for. At the cross, God essentially kicked sin to the curb, saying we were forgiven and sin was buried in the depths of the ocean, and there was no longer any barrier between man and God. God went all in on man. How unfortunate that so many people spend their lives searching the ditches and gutters to recover that sin and reinstall it as a barrier between them and God. Some people think God will save them in spite of their clinging to sin, but this can’t be. If God were to save people against their will, he would be overturning the very principle of freedom he died to establish. On God’s part, man is completely free to choose salvation; he needs only to accept God’s invitation, no strings attached. But freedom also necessitates that man be free to reject salvation and accept the consequences of that rejection. Those who refuse to give up sin will ultimately reject God. Today, choose freedom. The tunnel has been dug and the exit opened. The barbed wire has been cut. The dogs have been tamed. The guards have been overcome. God has prepared a place for you to live in heaven. He has set a place for you to eat at his table. Why remain a captive to sin any longer? Be one of those who believe that freedom is worth dying for, die to self, and go all in on God.
  19. Lester Carney

    Unfinished

    Most parents try to teach their children to do their best. Do their best at school. Do their best in sports. There is a Biblical principle for this: whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Fewer parents teach their children to give their best to God. God often gets the leftovers. Parents also have their “wise” sayings to pass along to children: “Let the hammer do the work,” “You can’t always get what you want,” “You don’t NEED it, you only WANT it,” and “Practice makes perfect.” Combine giving your best to God and “Practice makes perfect” and you have a potential formula for lifelong guilt, disappointment, and self-loathing. Many of us do want to give our best to God and actively try to live that out in our lives. Many believe the lie that practice makes perfect. When we discover how miserable our best is, the fact that no matter how hard we try we still slip into sin, we can sink into depression. Why am I not perfect yet? What is wrong with me? We expect to become perfect, although we have never been perfect and don’t even have a perfect idea of what perfect is. We beat ourselves up over the fact that we are human, over the fact that we are imperfect. Many people give up trying, believing it to be impossible. The builder starts building a house by taking the building site and actually making it look worse. He gouges out the ground to lay the foundation. The foundation is the most important part of the building, but the foundation doesn’t look pretty. He then starts framing the walls, and the size and shape of the building becomes visible. With each addition to the structure, the house comes closer to looking like the plan the builder has in mind. It is only when the builder stops building that the house can be said to be complete; until then it is an unfinished house. I would like to propose that you and I stop thinking of ourselves as sinners (though we are) and imperfect (though we are). Instead let us start thinking of ourselves as unfinished. There is no shame in being unfinished. In fact the process of seeing a house builT can be very stimulating and satisfying. God isn’t finished with me yet. Praise God! He is still working on me. I am unfinished. He is the builder. What he has ultimately in mind hasn’t taken place yet, but he is still building. Let’s let him finish his job. I am unfinished, not because there is something wrong with me, but because he has a much grander plan in mind for me than I can possibly know. I AM UNFINISHED!
  20. David was walking on the roof of his palace enjoying the cool of the evening. Looking out over his city he saw a woman bathing; he was impressed with her beauty. She must have lived very close to the palace, where the nobles and those closest to the king would live. David made inquiries who she was. He found out that she was the daughter of Eliam, one of The Thirty, an elite group of his soldiers, and granddaughter of his most trusted advisor, Ahithophel; she was also wife of another of his famous soldiers, Uriah, another member of The Thirty. I guess he figured she was his. He sent for her, she came, they slept together, and she became pregnant with David’s child. No problem, David could fix this. He ordered Uriah to return from the Ammonite city of Rabbah (modern Amman, Jordan) where the army was besieging the city. When Uriah reported to him, David asked him a few questions about how the army was doing, and then told him to go home. Any child born to Bathsheba would now be understood to have been conceived during Uriah’s brief visit from the battlefield. But Uriah didn’t go home. Problems at home? The next day David was informed that Uriah hadn’t gone home. He tried once again. This time he and Uriah partied together, Uriah got drunk, and David was sure he would now go home. But Uriah didn’t. So David wrote a letter to his commander, Joab. He ordered Joab to put Uriah in battle where the fighting would be fiercest, and then withdraw the other men and leave Uriah to be killed by the enemy. And this is what happened. Now Uriah wouldn’t be around to accuse Bathsheba of unfaithfulness; everyone else would simply assume the child had been fathered by Uriah during his visit. After Bathsheba’s time of mourning was over, David married her, and, in due time “Uriah’s” son was born. The Bible says that what David had done displeased the Lord. God sent the prophet Nathan to David with a message. Nathan said: “’There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’ David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’” (2 Sam. 12: 1-7) David promptly acknowledged his guilt. But he had also pronounced judgment on the man, himself. He sin would have consequences. Nathan tells him what these would be. The first was that his newly born son would die. The second was someone is his household would revolt against him, and take his wives and lie with them in broad daylight as a sign that he was now king. This was fulfilled when this is exactly what David’s son Absalom did several years later. And the person advising Absalom to do this was none other than David’s most trusted advisor, Ahithophel, perhaps paying David back for how David had treated his granddaughter. David wrote Psalm 51 after Nathan had visited him. In this psalm David outlines the steps of repentance. 1. Acknowledge guilt: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Ps. 51:3) 2. Identify who the sin is against: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Ps. 51:4) Like Joseph many years before, David recognized that sin is primarily against God. 3. Ask for forgiveness: “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow...Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.” (Ps. 51:7, 9) 4. Ask for the power to be kept from sins in the future: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10) 5. Witness to others what God has done for you: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.” (Ps. 51:13) Psalm 32 may also have been written about this period of David’s life. He writes, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, who sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Ps. 32:1-5) David was a lover who made a mistake, who sinned, a pretty willful sin, but when convicted of guilt, he turned to God in obedience. This must be why God called him a man after his own heart.
  21. Lester Carney

    David

    Goliath was over nine feet tall. He wore a coat of bronze armor that weighed about 125 pounds, a bronze helmet, and bronze greaves protecting his legs. He had a bronze javelin on his back which he could no doubt throw with accuracy. He carried a huge spear with a fifteen pound iron spearhead. And, in addition to all this, he had another soldier walking before him carrying a large shield; this other soldier would have been a mighty warrior in his own right. Goliath had been taunting the army of Israel for weeks, trying to bait one of them to come out and engage in one-on-one combat with him. No takers! David came to bring provisions from his father to several of his brothers who were serving in the army. When he heard the things Goliath was saying, he was outraged and responded, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam. 17:26) Someone took David to King Saul where David said, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” (1 Sam. 17:32) Saul might have actually laughed out loud. It was just the kind of thing one would expect from a kid: thinking he could do a man’s job. He told David that he couldn’t fight Goliath; Goliath was a veteran warrior and David was only a boy. David responded with his experiences shepherding. He told Saul that he did have some experience with fighting, if not a giant, with dangerous animals that had attacked his flock. He said, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Sam. 17:36) David was offended that the God he loved was being blasphemed by Goliath, and, unlike the hundreds or thousands of other soldiers who had listened with fear to Goliath for weeks, David was filled with confidence, not fear; confidence in God, not fear of self. Look out Goliath, here he comes!
  22. Many people have a problem with God when it comes to judgment. They have difficulty seeing love in judgment. They believe punishment is the opposite of love. No wonder our society has so many social problems. Parents, in “love,” have not disciplined their children. We blame the children when they have grown into adults, but the real blame often belongs to the parents, parents who have mistaken sentimentality for love. God is love; he’s the real thing. When he judges, he judges in love. When he decided to destroy the earth with a flood, he didn’t ignore the righteous, nor did he determine who would be lost and who would be saved. He commanded the righteous man Noah to build a boat to provide salvation for anyone willing to get on the boat. Noah preached for 120 years while he was building this boat. He preached to anyone who would listen; mostly he preached to his own family. There would have been about 5000 people living on earth who were descendants of Noah’s grandfather Methuselah. These would have been his parents, his aunts and uncles, his brothers and sisters, his cousins, his nephews and nieces. Some of these no doubt helped in the construction of the ark. When it came time to enter the ark, only Noah and his wife, and his three sons and their wives were willing to enter. The door was open; all were invited, few chose. Ultimately the people who died during the Flood died because they chose not to be saved. It had nothing to do with God’s choice: God chose to provide a means of escape; they chose to reject that means of escape. Judgment came to the world, but each individual decided for himself or herself whether he or she was going to be saved. Judgment came to Sodom and Gomorrah. God the Son, in human form, along with two angels, also in human form, visited Abraham. God informed Abraham that he was going to destroy the two cities for their wickedness. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family lived in Sodom. Abraham wanted to know if God was going to destroy the righteous along with the wicked. What if there were 50 righteous people in Sodom? Would God still destroy Sodom? What about 45? What about 40? What about 30? What about 20? What about 10? God assured Abraham he wouldn’t destroy the city if there were as few as ten righteous people there. Destruction is God’s last resort, the last loving thing he can do for the wicked. Abraham was sure there were at least ten righteous people in Sodom, but none of Lot’s family responded to Lot’s pleas to leave the city. Finally the two angels had to take Lot and his wife and his two daughters by the hands and lead them out of the city. Judgment also came to Egypt in the form of the 10th plague, the plague on the firstborn. God said the firstborn of each household would die. But he provided a means of escape: the blood on the lintel and doorposts of the home. All were free to apply the blood. Those who did escaped the plague; those who didn’t suffered the death of the firstborn. Once again this was not God’s choice. Each person or household chose for themselves. At the destruction of Jericho, the harlot Rahab and all who were with her were spared. This is another case of a person who outwardly didn’t appear to be a prospect for God’s kingdom, but who inwardly was a person of faith who God could work with. She became an ancestor of Jesus. There will be a judgment day in the future. Some will live eternally, and some will die eternally. The determination of who is wicket and who is righteous is not made by God, but by man. God invites all to accept a loving, patient, transforming relationship with him. He invites all; he forces none. If many refuse the invitation of God, how can God be blamed?
  23. Lester Carney

    Fear

    God spoke to Abraham in a vision and said, “Do not be afraid.” God spoke to Hagar (Abraham’s concubine) and said, “Do not be afraid.” The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not be afraid.” The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid.” God spoke to Gideon saying, “Do not be afraid.” God told Isaiah, “Do not be afraid” repeatedly. The angel told Daniel, “Do not be afraid.” Gabriel spoke to Zechariah and said, “Do not be afraid.” Gabriel told the Virgin Mary, “Do not be afraid.” The angels told the shepherd at Jesus’s birth, “Do not be afraid.” When Jesus walked on the water he told his disciples, “Do not be afraid.” After the disciples’ miraculous catch of fish, Jesus said to Peter, “Do not be afraid.” The angels speaking to the two women named Mary at Jesus’s tomb said, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene at the tomb saying, “Do not be afraid.” The Lord spoke to Paul in vision and said, “Do not be afraid.” An angel told Paul, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus appeared in vision to the apostle John with the same message, “Do not be afraid.” Is it beginning to sink in? God does not want you to be afraid of him. Fear does not come from him. Fear, as we normally think of fear, is a reaction of misunderstanding.
  24. Lester Carney

    Job

    He was considered the greatest man among all the people of the ancient East. He was what you might call a rancher; he made his living from livestock. He had a herd of seven thousand sheep, another herd of three thousand camels, one thousand oxen, and five hundred donkeys. From the sheep in the spring, he would get large quantities of wool that he could sell, or perhaps he processed it himself and wove it into cloth and sold the cloth. From the camels, he would get large quantities of camel milk throughout the year. This he could make into camel butter or camel cheese and market in the cities. The camels themselves could be sold to merchants as “ships of the desert.” The oxen would be sold to farmers as plow animals. The donkeys could be sold to the common people. He had a large number of ranch hands he employed in his businesses, and business was good. He and his wife had raised a family of seven sons and three daughters. The children were close to each other, and they had avoided the infighting often associated with children who grow up in a family of means. His children took turns inviting their siblings to their homes for parties and special events, enjoying each other’s company. He and his wife would be attending such a party later that day. He was not only a rich man, but he was a righteous man as well. He had the reputation, hard to preserve in business, of being a blameless and upright man who loved God and avoided evil. He could be counted on to be fair and honest in his business dealings. He was trusted in business, and his opinions were sought out in other matters as well. He was standing on the back porch of his home, sipping a cool drink, relaxing, and waiting for the day to cool off before heading for his eldest son’s house to celebrate the son’s birthday, along with the rest of the family. Life was good. He looked toward the hill country to the north; he knew his sheep would be there grazing in their summer pastures. Toward the east he knew was a wide, well-watered valley where his oxen and donkeys were in open range. The desert land to the south looked like an unfavorable area for livestock, but he had discovered several small oases where his camels were able to find food and water; it was his secret that had allowed him to expand his herd of camels to the extent he had. He took one last look around before going inside to prepare for the party. Something caught his attention on the road to the east. Just coming over the crest of a hill, still a long way off, was the figure of a man. He appeared to be running. This would make him a messenger, probably with some news from the foreman of his eastern herds. The timing was unusual. Normally messengers arrived in the morning, in order to give time for replies to be made, and for the messenger to return the same day. Curiously he waited for the messenger to arrive. As he waited, he looked to the north. There was another distant running figure—another messenger. This caused the first pangs of worry. He immediately looked to the south; far off, just barely visible, was another messenger. He started to become distressed. When the first messenger arrived, the news was not good. Earlier that day, the Sabeans had attacked his men, killed every single one of them except one, and carried off all the oxen and donkeys. The one surviving employee was the messenger who had witnessed everything, unable to do anything to prevent it, and who had escaped to inform his boss of the tragedy. While he was still trying to digest this news, and trying to figure out how he should respond to this setback, the second messenger arrived. He reported that fire fell from the sky and burned up every single one of his sheep and all of his shepherds; only one shepherd had escaped to report the bad news to him. Reeling from these reports, the messenger from the south arrived to report further bad news. The Chaldeans had formed three raiding parties, had located each one of the oases where his camels were being raised, had killed all the servants, and had driven all the camels off. Once again, only one man had survived the attacks to come and deliver the news. Strike one! Strike two! Strike three! But the bad news was not over yet. Another servant, previously unobserved, arrived to report the worst news of all. A sudden straight-line wind had swept in from the desert and hit the house where his children had gathered for the celebration. The wind caused the house to collapse, killing everyone inside. Only this one servant had escaped to tell him. The loss of his flocks, herds, and employees—his wealth! The loss of his children! Devastation! How would he respond? “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” (Job 1:20-21) How would he respond? He worshipped. He worshipped! Unbelievable! Yet that is exactly what he did. Job was a man who loved God, and he proved it under unimaginable conditions. Although the telling of this story is stylized, the reaction of Job is exactly the reaction the Bible states.
  25. It is believed that the books making up the Old Testament were determined about 400 BC by Nehemiah and Ezra. After that, no additions were allowed. The books comprising the New Testament were selected from Christian authors; once they were selected, no additions have been allowed. This story comes from the book of 2 Maccabees, which was a Jewish writing written after the Old Testament collection of books was made. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was king of the Hellenistic Greek Seleucid Dynasty. This dynasty was established by Seleucus, who was one of Alexander the Great’s generals. When Alexander died, his kingdom eventually ended up divided into four parts, each part ruled by one of his former generals. Antiochus was dead set on destroying the Jewish religion. He had already captured Jerusalem, in three days killing 40,000 Jews and selling an additional 40,000 into slavery. He had rededicated Solomon’s temple to the worship of Zeus. He had banned the Jewish religion, making it a crime punishable by death to worship God. This was about 167 BC. A mother and her seven sons were arrested for worshipping God. Antiochus tried to get them to renounce their religion by torturing them with whips; he tried to get them to eat pork as a sign that they had renounced the worship of God. The eldest brother acted as spokesman for the others and told Antiochus that they were ready to die rather than break the laws of their God. This infuriated the king. He ordered a large pan to be heated over a fire, cut out the man’s tongue, scalped him, cut off his arms and legs, and ordered him fried alive in the pan. The next oldest brother was then brought forward. He was scalped and then asked if he would eat the pork. He refused. He was put to the same torture the first brother had undergone. With his last breath he said, “You, indeed, O most wicked man, are destroying us in this present life. But the King of the world will raise us up, in eternal life at the resurrection, for we die on behalf of his laws.” (The Sacred Bible, Catholic Public Domain Version, Verse 9) (7) The third brother, when brought forward, boldly held out his hands. He said, “I possess these from heaven, but, because of the laws of God, I now despise them, for I hope to receive them again from him.” (Verse 11) He received the same torture as the others. Likewise the 4th brother was tortured. At the end he cried out, “It is preferable, being put to death by men, to wait for hope from God, so as to be revived again by him. But the resurrection to life will not be for you.” (Verse 14) The fifth and sixth brothers were tortured and killed in the same way. When he came to the seventh and final brother, the youngest, Antiochus promised to make him rich, make him the king’s friend, entrust him with a public office, if he would agree to disavow his religion and his God. The man didn’t respond. Antiochus then appealed to the mother to advise her son to save his life. But she told her son, “So shall it be that you will not fear this executioner, but, participating worthily with your brothers, you shall accept death, so that, by this mercy, I shall receive you again with your brothers.” (Verse 29) He was killed, and finally the mother as well. Some might see these eight people as legalists, but they weren’t; you don’t die for pretend. These people loved God, they loved God more than their own lives, and they refused to deny him. That’s love. Fearless love.
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