Tag Archives: courage

Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 10)

Have you ever seen a super-religious person get really, REALLY MAD? It is not a pretty sight. And this is what happens in our story of the man born blind.

In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

We’ve seen that the Pharisees are not at all happy with the miracle Jesus has performed — on the Sabbath! They gave the man born blind’s parents a chance to deny that he was their son or say that he wasn’t born blind. And they passed the buck and sent the Pharisees back to grill their son.

“A Pharisee’s Gotta Know His Limitations!” So they move to round two of their inquisition of this man who undoubtedly wanted to be released to go do some sight-seeing. They hit him with the same questions: “WHAT DID HE DO TO YOU? HOW DID HE OPEN YOUR EYES?” Losing all restraint the man born blind responds with equal directness: “I told you already! And you did not listen!” He then questions their motive: “Why do you want to hear it again?” (v. 27).

An Infuriating Question: But the Coup de grâce (a death blow to end the suffering of a severely wounded person or animal) is the man born blind’s last question: “Do you want to become his disciples too?” You can see the smoke coming out of their ears and the flames torpedoing from their eyes at this most inappropriate question! The Greek is very interesting here — μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς θέλετε αὐτοῦ μαθηταὶ γενέσθαι; The little negative μὴ (mē) is used by John to indicate a question which expects a negative answer. What the man born blind is really asking is, “Surely you don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”

Today’s Challenge: Although this man is not yet saved, he does not hesitate to tell what he knows — and to challenge those who deserve to be challenged. Ask the Lord to give you courage today to speak the truth — in love — but to do it with boldness!

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Posted by on September 5, 2021 in focus


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Commands Worth Keeping! (A Study of I Corinthians 16:13-14)

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now in the book of I Corinthians. And we just started reading I Corinthians 15 on Easter Sunday! We are now concluding I Corinthians and I want to post a few outlines on the last chapter, chapter 16.

The Apostle Paul has had his hands full in writing to and correcting the Corinthian believers, hasn’t he? Now, as he closes this letter, he refers to a number of fellow-workers and his commendation of them. But Paul is always the careful teacher. He realizes that several succinct directives/commands need to be pressed home to these believers. And we need the same today.

Commands Worth Keeping! (A Study of I Corinthians 16:13-14)

I.  Be on your guard! (v. 13)
>>> Because the gospel and God’s people are under attack.

II. Stand firm in the faith
>>> Because the temptation to become a spiritual deserter is everywhere.

III. Be courageous
>>> Because persecution (in its many forms) inevitably will be used by those who refuse to believe.

IV. Be strong
>>> Because the Lord requires soldiers, not pacifists.

V. Do everything in love
>>> Ungodly hatred has no place in our mission.

Today’s Challenge: Ask yourself several questions today: (1) Where am I letting down my guard? (2) Am I waffling in my faith in any specific way? (3) Where am I failing to show godly courage? (4) In what area of my Christian life am I weak? And what can I do about it? (5) Does love motivate my daily life?

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Posted by on April 30, 2020 in I Corinthians 16


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Getting to Know . . . 2 Samuel (2:1-7) Strength and Bravery!

After mourning the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, David asks the Lord if he should go up to one of the towns of Judah. The Lord tells him to go to Hebron.

He and his two wives and his men and their families settle in Hebron. David is anointed king over the tribe of Judah at Hebron (v. 4).

David thanks the men from Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul. He asks that the Lord would show them kindness and faithfulness for their act. He encourages them to be strong and brave, “for Saul your master is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me king over them” (v. 7).

Some takeaways for me:
1. God’s guidance is unique here in 2 Samuel. David receives specific direction from the Lord as to where he ought to go. Such specificity is not guaranteed to the believer today.
2. It is always right to thank others for their kindnesses.
3. We need to encourage each other to be strong and brave. What does such strength and bravery look like for me today? For you?


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Posted by on January 1, 2019 in 2 Samuel 2


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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (chapter 31) A Sad End to Saul’s Life!

In I Samuel 30, David and his men have just conquered the Amalekites and secured a major victory. But what about King Saul? Is he still pursuing David?

We learn that the Philistines fought against Israel, killed Saul’s three sons, and wounded him critically. Saul asks his armor-bearer to run him through in fear that the uncircumcised Philistines would abuse Saul’s body (v. 4).

The armor-bearer wouldn’t do it, so Saul falls on his own sword. The armor-bearer follows his master in death. Thus, the prophecy of the deceased Samuel (brought up from the dead by the witch of Endor) comes true: “18 Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce

A sad way to die.

wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. 19 The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.” (I Sam. 28.)

The Philistines take over the Israelite towns, cut off Saul’s head, and strip off his armor. His body is fastened to a wall for public display. The people of Jabesh Gilead valiantly march through the night, retrieve the bodies of Saul and his sons, and burn them. They bury their bones under a tamarisk tree and fasted for seven days. (v. 13).

What a sad story!

Some takeaways for me:
1. To be sure, Saul was not a man who finished his life well. Might he have conquered the Philistines if his jealousy had not caused him to chase David all over the countryside? What if David and his men had been able to join forces with Saul? Needlessly dividing God’s people is never a good idea.
2. God allows the truth delivered by the spirit of Samuel to become reality as Saul and his sons die. One especially laments the death of David’s friend Jonathan.
3. The bravery of the men of Jabesh Gilead is admirable. Where is courage in my life to do what needs to be done?

Thus endeth our study of I Samuel. There is so much in this OT book that merits further study. Thank you for sticking with me in our work together!


Posted by on December 28, 2018 in I Samuel 31


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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (17:41-58) Got any giants?

David “approaches” Goliath. We then read that Goliath came closer and closer to David. Goliath despises David because he is a youth, healthy and handsome (v. 42). Maybe Goliath was old, sickly, and ugly, but he is outraged that this “dog” has come against him “with sticks”! He then curses David by his gods and says, “Come here and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts!” (v. 44).

David declares to him that his coming against David with a sword, spear, and javelin is no match for one who comes “in the name of the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel — that you have defiled” (v. 45). David then details how the battle will go — (1) “The Lord will hand you over to me”; (2) “I’ll strike you down”; (3) “I’ll remove your head”; (4) “I’ll give the corpses of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the wild creatures of the earth.” He then says, “Then all the world will know that Israel has a God” (v. 46). And, he says, “this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s. He will hand you over to us” (v. 47).

David ran to attack Goliath. One stone, delivered by the sling, did it! David killed the Philistine with a sling and a stone — no sword required! David used Goliath’s own sword to finish the job, cutting off his head. The Philistine army is routed by Israel. (vv. 48-51).

After Israel plundered the Philistine camps, David brought Goliath’s head to Jerusalem and put his weapons in his own tent. Saul inquires about David’s family. Abner brings David, Goliath’s head in hand, to Saul.

Some takeaways for me:
1. I need to realize that “the battle is the Lord’s.” Any battle. This battle. Whatever battle I’m facing — it is the Lord’s!
2. Why we do things is as important as that we do things. For David, it is a godly outrage that Israel’s God has been defiled.
3. Although it only took the one stone to fell Goliath, David had taken five (smooth) stones when he was preparing for battle. Perhaps this suggests a humble assessment of his own skill, but the Lord gave him the victory with the first stone.
4. I’m not involved in literally taking down any 9’9” tall warriors, but my giants are nonetheless real. And I need the Lord’s strength to do the Lord’s work!

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Posted by on December 7, 2018 in I Samuel 17


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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (17:20-40) Limitations!?

Have you ever endured 40 days’ of taunting by a Philistine giant? Me neither. But I can identify with Israel’s fear.

David runs to his brothers at the battlefront, asking how they were. He was just in time to hear Goliath “shout his usual words.” All the Israelite men retreated in terror from Goliath (vv. 20-24).

David is informed that the king will reward the man who kills Goliath with riches, his daughter, and tax-exempt status in Israel. David asks further about what reward will be given to the one who kills Goliath and “removes this disgrace from Israel.” “This uncircumcised Philistine is defying the armies of the living God!’ (v. 26).

David’s brother Eliab hears the conversation and rebukes David. “Who did you leave those few sheep with in the wilderness? I know your arrogance and your evil heart — you came down to see the battle!” (v. 28). David asks, “What have I done now?” And has others confirm the reward for taking Goliath out (v. 29).

David is brought to Saul and David tells Saul not to be discouraged. He will go fight this Philistine! Saul responds with, “You’re just a youth — he’s been a warrior since he was young.” (v. 33). David then tells Saul he has killed lions and bears (oh, my!) in rescuing lambs. “This uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of those lions or bears — for he has defiled the armies of the living God” (v. 36). David expresses his faith that the God who rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue him from this Philistine. Saul blesses David with the words, “Go, and may the Lord be with you” (v. 37).

Saul dresses David in his own military clothes, but David couldn’t walk in them! So he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. (v. 40).

Some takeaways for me:
1. Although we may not be overtly “taunted” in our culture, the gospel is ignored and caricatured in media, sometimes bringing intimidation to God’s people. I need to recognize that such ridicule is coming from the “giants” of our society whom God considers fools.
2. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do right for a reward! Rewards are promised the child of God for faithfulness.
3. Others cannot see the motives of my heart. As best we can tell, David is not motivated by arrogance and his evil heart (as his brother Eliab intimates).
4. Youthfulness and military inexperience do not negate the rescuing power of the God of creation!

What giants are you facing today? Don’t let your limitations or the criticisms of others divert your eyes from the living God!

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Posted by on December 6, 2018 in I Samuel 17


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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (14:1-14) God’s Will Tested!

In our text this morning, we have Jonathan, Saul’s son, feeling adventurous. Without informing his father, he and his armor-bearer decide to attack the Philistines!

The area they use has two cliffs: one called Bozez and the other Seneh. Jonathan says “Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether, by man or by few.” (v. 6).

Jonathan then proposes a test: “After the Philistines see us, if they say ‘wait there and we’ll come to you’, we’ll stay where we are. If they say, ‘Come up to us’, we’ll climb up, knowing the Lord has given them into our hands.” (vv. 8-10).

They show themselves to the Philistine outpost who say, “The Hebrews are crawling out of their holes”! They then invite Jonathan and his armor-bearer to “come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson!” (v. 12).

Jonathan leads the way up the cliff (I assume the armor-bearer was supposed to advance ahead of him?) and they kill 20 Philistines! (v. 14).

Some takeaways for me:
1. While not everything in the Bible is prescriptive (meaning that every believer should do this or that action), all is certainly descriptive (what biblical characters did is described to us). There are no Philistines for us to sneak up on and attack, so we are reading descriptive material here.
2. Jonathan’s statement: “Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether, by man or by few.” (v. 6), is profound. We don’t always know God’s will. Sometimes it is that we fail. But the problem is never one of His lack of power.
3. The puzzling thing in this text is Jonathan’s either/or test of the Lord. He bases his decision to engage or not engage this Philistine outpost on what those enemy combatants will say! And their “Come up here — We’ll teach you a lesson” is confirmation enough for Jonathan to go to battle! Again, this is descriptive of what Jonathan did. I don’t believe it is prescriptive for every believer!
4. Notice that there was still a battleground to be climbed up to (sorry for the poor English) and a fight to be fought. The Lord, indeed, gave the Philistines into Jonathan’s hands, but then those hands had to fight!

Biblically we can affirm Jonathan’s statement about the Lord’s ability in verse 6 without resorting to his way of determining the will of God in verses 8-10.  And by God’s strength, we can do our best in fighting the battles the Lord puts before us!

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Posted by on November 29, 2018 in I Samuel 14


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Is the Church Meeting MY Needs? (Time for a great cartoon)

Take a few minutes today to read through each of the signs of the congregation! This cartoon represents the state of many churches — and the challenges facing those of us who preach!

Pray for your pastor or preacher today.  Pray that God would anoint him with power, perception, and joy as he proclaims the Word of God!

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Posted by on October 27, 2018 in preaching


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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord: Psalm 138

Psalm 138

Of David.

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-7-42-28-am
    before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and will praise your name
    for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
    that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
    you greatly emboldened me.

May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
    when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for the glory of the Lord is great.

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.

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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in courage


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The Joy of Unit-Reading #48 (the Book of Daniel)

How’s it going with your unit-reading?  This has been an exercise over the last few months to read at one sitting (= “unit-read”) all 65 of the 66 books of the Bible (the book of Psalms is not meant to be unit-read).  Today’s book is the Old Testament prophet Daniel.  Here are some of my notes:

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There is much that I don’t understand about the 2nd half of Daniel’s book!  But here’s my one takeaway:

The true God refuses to share His glory with the “gods” of the nations!  He alone is supreme and worthy of my praise — and He honors His people when they repent and turn to Him.

My prayer for today:  “O God of Daniel, thank You for how You used him and the three Jewish young men to testify of Your greatness.  Help me to stand strong for You, regardless of circumstances!  And give me opportunities to ‘lead many to righteousness.’  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

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Posted by on May 3, 2016 in unit-reading


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