The Book of Ecclesiastes is a very unusual book. It both has some of the most inspiring and encouraging statements found anywhere and some of the most discouraging statements that leave one wondering how this book got into the Bible. It is the story of a man’s search for meaning and purpose in life and how he went through all kinds of stress and heartache in his search. Our hearts are lifted when we read statements life this one from chapter three, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from the beginning to end.” In chapter four he discussed the frustration of being alone. “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. For whom am I toiling,’he asked, and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless – a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Recently, a good friend of mine went to a local business to get some help at his house. When he arrived he didn’t see anyone and started down a flight of stairs to look for someone. Suddenly, a huge dog came rushing out from the bottom of the stairs, growling and looking like it was about to attack. My friend began to back up when the dog lunged up the stairs at him to attack him. He ran trying to get to his truck to get away from the dog, but either tripped or the dog got his foot and he fell on the pavement. He tried covering his neck and head expecting the dog to attack at any moment. A man drove up about that time and just stayed in his car, looking at him laying on the pavement. The dog didn’t attack anymore so my friend begin trying to get up but he had injured his knees and had knocked his shoulder out of joint. He struggled to get to his feet with the man in his car looking on but doing nothing to help. He finally got up and got to his truck and drove himself to the hospital. He had his shoulder put back into place and has suffered tons of pain from the whole incident. But, I’ve thought many times since, what a difference it would have made if he hadn’t been alone. Someone with him could have helped perhaps to protect him from the dog or to help him up from the fall. A friend could have driven him to the hospital and gotten people there to help quickly. Truly, two are better than one.

Think of God looking at Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was the absolutely beautiful home for Adam. He had everything a person could have wanted. But it wasn’t good for him to be alone. He needed a helper suitable for him, so God took a rib from his side from which he made the woman and brought her to him. Adam’s response was to be thrilled to have this one to be by his side. He said, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She will be called woman and for this reason will a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”

Think of Jesus sending out the apostles on the limited commission and then a little later sending out 72 disciples to go to different villages telling them about the coming kingdom. Notice the Lord sent them out two by two, not with anyone by themselves. Later when the Holy Spirit sent out Barnabas and Saul to go on the first missionary journey. God didn’t send Saul or Paul out by himself. Even when the partnership with Barnabas broke down he immediately chose Silas to go with him. We need someone to be with us and help us in our efforts in life.

I think of how easy it is to get discouraged and feel abandoned in our lives. In such times of discouragement, when we feel totally alone in the world, it is so easy to get down on life and become vulnerable to all kinds of temptations that the devil throws our way. Friends, family, and brothers and sisters in Christ are all vitally important as we face life’s challenges. In times like this when we are dealing a pandemic and feel boxed in, we all need that friend who is checking on us and whom we know cares about us. In such times it is worth a million dollars to think of those who are alone and facing life’s challenges alone and to reach out to them with love and encouragement. You may save their life and possibly their souls in the process. It is amazing that in reaching out to encourage another person in their struggles, we are built up ourselves. Let’s make sure no one we know is left alone with no one to show their care.

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Do you ever wonder if you can trust anything you hear on the news or on any social media? It seems that every day there is some revealing of some news item that lets you see that everything you were told over a lengthy period of time was all made up and there were people manipulating the message all the time. We all seem to get phone calls and email appeals all along from groups of people raising money for some cause or some group that you would want to help. But over and over again, I’ve learned that some group that I sent money too turned out to be a fraud. It’s gotten to the point that anyone who calls asking for money, I question whether or not it is for real. My leaning is now toward not helping anyone that I don’t know in a personal way and can be somewhat certain that what is being claimed is for real.

Surely the amount of pretense has increased as time has gone by. I don’t question that there have always been deceivers and tricksters who took advantage of the naivety of others for their own profit. After all Jacob was a deceiver. He fooled his dad into giving him the blessing that his dad planned to give to his brother. It makes me wonder what it takes to unmask the deceiver and demonstrate what is for real.

There is a story in Acts 8 that I think illustrates some things about this whole point. Philip who had been one of the first deacons in the church in Jerusalem had gone down to Samaria to preach Christ to them after persecution arose in Jerusalem. He preached to the people about Jesus and the kingdom he established. When they heard him and saw the signs that he did they paid close attention and many believed and were baptized into Christ. “For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great.’ And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed” (Acts 8:9-13).

Simon was a deceiver. But, when he was confronted with the real thing in Philip and heard about the real power of God demonstrated through Jesus, he saw the difference himself and willingly turned from his life of deception to the Lord. He became one of Jesus disciples. But it’s difficult to change everything about us even when we see Jesus and turn to him, from our old way of life. When the word reached Jerusalem that the gospel had been powerfully accepted among the Samaritans, they sent Peter and John to visit them and to give them miraculous powers from the Lord. They were laying their hands on people and giving them miraculous abilities and “Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles hands.” His old ways came back to him. He offered Peter and John money to give him the power to lay his hands on people to give them such powers as well. Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. And Simon answered. Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

It took meeting someone who was the real thing for Simon to see himself correctly. He recognized Philip and his message as very different from what he had said and done and wanted the real thing in his life. But even after turning his life around and through faith committing his life to Christ he stumbled when he saw the power of God given through the Holy Spirit being given to others. He wasn’t just asking Peter and John for the power to do the miraculous himself but for the power God had given them to lay their hands on others and give them the Spirit as well. Old ways come back to inflict their wounds on us over and over again. Simon needed to repent and pray to God to be forgiven of his wrong heart and wrong actions. Thank God we serve loving and grace filled God who is ready and willing to forgive even when we mess up again and again.

Let’s face it we can get so deep into tricking others that we fool ourselves in the process. Even so, God offers us a way back to him if we face our sins and turn from them. Let’s strive to be the ones who are for real so that the tricksters may see the real thing and change even if it takes several times for the change to last.

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Communication can be frustrating. it doesn’t matter whether it is in personal conversation, face to face or if it’s by phone, email, twitter or a letter written to a person or group. Things can always go wrong and you end up giving a message that wasn’t what you meant at all. I doubt there has ever been a parent that didn’t have their children answer them when they had gotten into some kind of trouble, “But you said” and then quote some statement you had made, but totally out of it’s context and used in an entirely different way than what you intended.

In some ways it is encouraging to me to read Scriptures like I Corinthians 5:9-13 where Paul shouts back to the Corinthian church that they have totally missed what he was trying to get across to them. He obviously had written to them an earlier letter that we don’t have in which he had told them not to associate with sexually immoral people. But they had taken it in their application into areas he never had in mind at all. Look at the verses themselves for a moment: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Perge the evil person from among you.”

The church in Corinth had a man in it that was obviously a leader in some way. The man was living an extremely immoral life by having sex with his mother-in-law. Instead of being ashamed of it or hiding it he was flaunting it and the church’s reaction was to be proud. They evidently thought their tolerance was a good thing and demonstrated how grace ruled in everything. Paul commanded them to withdraw all fellowship from this man, realizing that his influence would spread through the church. He needed to be delivered to Satan so he would learn not to live such a life. Paul had already written to them once about the whole thing. But they had taken what he said in a totally different way that what he had intended. They took his challenge not to associate or fellowship as brothers and sisters in Christ with one living an immoral or ungodly life, to refer to their associations in the world. They applied it to people on the outside of the church when Paul’s whole point had been about those on the inside.

If they had or even if we apply this teaching to those who are in the church the result is purity in the church. it shouts the message to the person living an ungodly life that being a Christian demands a different way of life from us. It sends the message through the whole body that being a follower of Christ means we live pure, holy and godly lives and don’t get involved in immoral, idolatrous, worldly living. Notice, even in the church, this point is about those who when the realize their sin or when their sin is pointed out to them, refuse to repent and turn from their evil lives to be a devoted person for the Lord. Many times we fail in our life for the Lord because of weakness or because we are overtaken in a fault. But when we come to ourselves on such occasions or when someone tells us our wrong, we are ready to repent and live the right kind of life. But if one refuses to turn from evil, even when it is evident, they should face the discipline of the body to remove them as one removes a disease from the body or takes away a limb that is poisoning the whole body.

But, what happens if we take this whole point of not associating with the immoral and ungodly and apply it to the world as a whole rather than to the church? Paul said, the first thing is that we separate from the whole world. We would have to leave this world to totally escape such ways of life. Secondly, if we treat those in the world with such removal of association the result is we have no influence on the world and even those who would be open to the gospel of Christ are never reached because we have isolated ourselves from the very people God wants us to influence. Our light is to shine in the dark world not just in the community of believers. Paul made the major point that our place as Christians is to judge those inside the church to help each other live the life God calls us to live. God judges those who are outside and I need to leave that in his hands rather than trying to set ourselves up to take his place. Too often we find ourselves in the church trying to force the outside world to live by God’s standards when we aren’t applying those standards very well inside the body.

Our greatest desire for the world should be to influence them and teach them about Jesus so that they might turn from their sin to the Lord and be true to him in every part of life.

Picture this point in this way. Imagine a parent that has no control over their own children. Their children are running wild and they aren’t paying any attention to them to correct them or train them in the right way. At the same time they are telling the other parents how they should be bringing up their children. They write about and talk about the best way to bring up a child in the way they should go, while paying no attention to their own children. Such inconsistency tends to make everyone around angry and to think what hypocrites these parents are. We wish they would open their eyes and see what everyone around them sees. That is the same concept Paul is making here.

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With Mother’s Day peeking around the corner it is natural to begin thinking about our mom’s and the mother of our children. If you are as old as I am you also focus on your children as mothers and even on your grandchildren and the wives of grandsons as mothers. The truth is, I’m surrounded by godly women who are great moms and have given their all to bring up their children for God. My mom died when I was in my mid-thirties so it has been a long time since I have heard her voice or seen her face, but that doesn’t lessen the admiration I have for her and the love she brought into the lives of our family. I am the youngest of eight children so she had lots of practice before I came along. But she had plenty of love to go around to the whole group, even as it kept growing with grandchildren all over the place. I’ve often thought about why our mother’s tend to stand out in our hearts so much. I think about Jesus, dying on the cross, obviously in a world of agony, yet he sees his mother at the foot of the cross, still standing by him, still looking on with love even when there is nothing she can do but be there. Jesus on the cross took care of the future for his mother. He gave his disciple, John, with whom he had a special relationship, the charge of taking care of his mother. Even though Jesus had several brothers and sisters, Mary his mother went to live with John for the remainder of her life on this earth.

What makes the blessing of being a mother, such a powerful place of influence in the lives of children, not just in their childhood but for the remainder of their lives? It always breaks my heart to hear a person talk about a mother that was not a good or godly person but one who abused and misused them as their children as long as they had the opportunity. What is so amazing to me is that many of the women whom I’ve known who came out of such horrible conditions have become outstanding mother’s themselves and are determined to give their own children a different pattern to follow. There aren’t any perfect mothers. Eve was tremendously blessed as the first woman and first mother, but she certainly wasn’t perfect. Mary, the mother of Jesus was a tremendous lady and godly mother, but not a perfect one. Even though she was outstanding there was a time when, during his ministry she, along with his brothers became convinced that Jesus was out of his mind and came to try to rescue him and take him home. But what makes mothers so special in our hearts?

Certainly, it has something to do with the reality that they go through a ton of agony just getting us into the world. Carrying a baby in the womb for nine months isn’t easy and the labor and delivery carry with them lots of pain and concern. But mother’s endure it and seem to not focus so much on it since most of them will gladly have another child afterward and maybe several of them. A bond developed with our mom in the womb. The reality of eating at her breast and being held by her as a baby develops the bond even more. Mothers, holding a baby, singing to them and loving them give a beautiful picture of love that God planned to be in our lives for all to see. But we are seldom able to remember those days in our life, so what is it that makes mothers so special in our hearts?

Mother’s are often the ones who spend lots of time with us, listening to us, reading to us and helping us learn our first important things in life. Dad’s more often are interested in the action things like helping us learn to walk and later to ride a bike or some other action that has some danger to it. But one of my earliest memories is walking along a path with mother holding my hand as a little child. That sense of comfort and acceptance we feel then tends to stay in our hearts for years to come. Mothers tend to be the ones we come home to tell how things went at school and perhaps how we got into trouble over something. She is usually the first one to hear that there is someone in school that is special to you. We remember that they listened, and didn’t make fun of us, like brother’s and sisters sometimes did, even when we opened our hearts. But as life moves on and we are adults, with children and grandchildren of our own, what is there about our mothers that make them so special in our hearts?

I suspect it may be that no matter what happened in our life in growing up and as adults our mom was still there to listen, to encourage and to let you know they believed in you even in those times when you had trouble believing in yourself. I think of all the times I made choices in my life that made no sense to my mother, but I never remember her being upset or challenging those decisions. She looked for a positive in it all and kept right on showing her love. There was never a doubt that her total devotion was to God and being the person God called her to be.

I wish it were possible to tell my mother and her hear me today, how much I love and appreciate the grace and joy she brought into my life and the lives of my brothers and sister and dad. If your mother is still alive, don’t miss the chance to tell her how much you appreciate her. But don’t miss the chance to tell your wife and daughters and granddaughters how much you appreciate them for how they are great moms to their children. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL MOMS.

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It is easy to miss the obvious in every aspect of life. One of the massive lessons from the Old Testament is that God is constantly at work in the world and in the lives of people. God doesn’t just lead and use those who are faithful to Him, but even those who don’t know Him and don’t even believe that He exist. One of the things that made prophets like Habbakkuk so confused was God using a Nation like Babylon to punish Judah for their sins. He couldn’t see how God could use a nation and king that was evil to punish a nation that wasn’t nearly as bad off as the ones being used to punish them. It is amazing after he wrestles with the whole topic for most of the 3 chapters of the book that bears his name, the conclusion found in chapter 3:17-19 is a testament of trust to God. “Though the fig tree shold not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yeild no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s, he makes me tread on the high places.”

Amazingly, the king of Babylon was Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel describes how God humbled him after he had been so arrogant and talking about how powerful he was. God gave Daniel a vision to share with Nebuchadnezzar. It was of a tree that was growing tall and strong, but an angel God came and cut it down and left only a stump in it’s place. The interpretation was that if the king didn’t humble himself and give God the glory for what he had done, then he would come and take his mind away. He would be driven from the throne and live like an animal until his hair grew long like an eagle’s feathers and his nails became like claws. He would be insane and another would sit on the throne, but he would come to his senses and be the king again. The king believed Daniel and for a year he remained humble and gave glory to the Lord, but at the end of the year he began thinking again of how great he was and how mighty his kingdom was. God struck him down then and for a period of time his mind was taken from him and he lived as an animal. His hair grew out like eagles feathers and his nails became like claws. When he finally did come to himself he gave glory to God and praised his work in his kingdom.

How often, I wonder, is God’s hand in the things that are going on in our world, but we fail to see it or grasp the lessons He wants us to get. Elijah was truly one of the great prophets of the Lord in the Old Testament. he had prayed and God stopped the rain from falling in Israel for a period of over three years. Then he had all the prophets of Baal (450) and Asherah (400) gather for a contest. Elijah challenged the people who gathered around them, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people were as quiet as a mouse. They had the contest of who could call down fire from their God to cook the animal on the altar. Baal’s prophets cried out, cut themselves, screamed and did everything imaginable to get their god to wake up and act. But when Elijah’s time came he had water poured all over his altar and the animal. Then he called up the Lord to send down fire and consume the animal and the fire came immediately. Elijah challenged the people to kill the false prophets and they killed all 850 of them. Then Elijah prayed and God sent rain on the nation.

But the amazing thing is that after all that had happened and God had shown himself powerfully through him, Elijah faced a whole different problem. Ahab went back to the palace and told Jezebel what had happened and she declared that she would have Elijah killed before the day was over. Strangely, after such evidence of God’s strength and Elijah’s courage, he was so frightened that he ran from the land, into the desert and sat down beside the stream of water to pray. When he prayed it was for God to go ahead and take his life. It makes no sense to us. If he wanted to die, why not just stay and let Jezebel take his life. But God gives him rest, feeds him and has an angel to care for him. Then Elijah arose to go to the Mountain of God where Moses had received the Law. It was a 40 day trip. On the mountain, he entered a cave and stayed there. God spoke to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” God told him to go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. “Behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”

Elijah heard the whisper of God and wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. The Lord again asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?” He started his same speech again about how he was the only one left for the Lord. God told him to return to Israel. He gave him a new mission and Elijah served until he was taken up in a chariot of fire into glory.

God works in the world in mysterious ways that we will never understand nor even recognize much of the time. I truly wonder what God is doing and what we would see if God opened our eyes to see what all his hand is in today. I wonder how often his angels are moving and changing things in all parts of the world. I wonder if, when we get to heaven, God will show us what all He was doing in our own time and in days past or future. Like Job, we want answers, but couldn’t handle most of the answers if we had them.

God, open our eyes to know that you are always at work and we won’t ever, on this side, understand all you are doing. but God help us to hear the gentle whisper of your voice today and every day. Show us the mission you call us to even in a broken and hurting world. God help us to be ready to go and serve wherever you call today and every day. Through Jesus we pray, Amen.

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Have you ever felt God was calling you to do something that just didn’t fit what you wanted to do at all, nor did it seem like a reasonable thing for Him to ask of you? I think of those who have gone into the medical field believing that they are called of God to serve those who are sick or hurting. But then they face a time like this when it feels like they are putting their own life in danger and the lives of their family in danger as they go to work with people that may have the Covid-19 Virus or some other illness that is very catching. The truth is that we are all called of God in some way. It begins simply with the call to come to him through the gospel of Christ. Paul declared in 2 Thessalonians 2:14 that God Called us through the gospel and went on to say that he had called him to carry that same good news to the world. When we accept God’s call to become a child of his we are also called to serve in some way. Truthfully, God’s call may come for either a lifetime work or for specific times or opportunities to do something that will make a difference for others.

In Acts 9:10-12 the Bible tells of one of these instances in the life of a disciple in Damascus. Saul of Tarsus had received the authority from the Jewish Sanhedrin to come to Damascus and find disciples of Jesus to arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem to be tried and to be punished for being disciples. Ananias didn’t know it but the Lord had made a powerful appearance to Saul on the road to Damascus. He appeared to him in a vision and said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked, “Who are you Lord?” He told him, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.:” One great thing to notice in passing is that the Lord identifies himself with those followers of his. When Saul was persecuting the church he was persecuting Jesus and didn’t know it. He struck Saul blind and Saul asked what he was to do. Jesus told him to “Go into Damascus and it you will be told what you must do.” Three days had past while Saul fasted and prayed in the house of Judas. His blindness was still there. Then the Lord called out to Ananias, a disciple, telling him to “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

Think about the fact he was a disciple of Jesus. That simply means he was one who had given his life to Christ and was trying to follow His lead in life. He wasn’t a preacher or some leader in the church. He was a disciple. Yet God called him to go on a mission that would have been frightening to anyone. Ananias, like every church member of the day, had heard of all the harm Saul had been doing back in Jerusalem. He had been a leader in stoning Stephen, an evangelist in Jerusalem to death. He had gone mad in his anger against Christ and his followers to the degree he was going into the homes of people whom he learned were disciples of Jesus to arrest them and throw them into jail. No wonder, Ananias responded to Jesus call to go and lay his hands on Saul with some hesitation. He reminded the Lord of what he had been hearing about Saul and that his mission in Damascus was to arrest and persecute the followers of Jesus. “But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name among the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

How would you react to such a call? Isn’t it amazing that the Lord had already sent a vision to Saul to tell him Ananias was coming to lay his hands on him to give his sight back, before he ever spoke to Ananias? Jesus had enough faith in Ananias as a disciple that he never even considered the possibility that Ananias wouldn’t do what he told him to do. When you remember the results of Jonah rejecting God’s call it might cause you to be careful about saying “No” to God. It does shout the message that the Lord may call any of us on a mission that is one we really don’t want to do or feel right about doing. Well, what did Ananias do? Of course, he went to the house the Lord sent him to and found Saul. He said to him,”Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained strength.”

The mission God called him on wasn’t one he wanted. It wasn’t one he would ever have thought would come his way. But when the Lord called, Ananias the disciple followed the Lord’s instructions and the result was the conversion of the greatest enemy to Christ and his people to become the great apostle Paul the greatest missionary the church has ever had.

I wonder what I would have done if I had been in Ananias place? What do you think you would have done? Would you have called the preacher or some of the church leaders to ask them to either go with you or to simply go in your place? The Lord’s call isn’t just for church leaders or preachers but for all his followers . We need to all have the heart of Ananias that is ready to do what the Lord calls us to do, even when it doesn’t fit what we think should be done. Praise the Lord for every disciple of his that is attuned to his call and ready to respond. Who knows when you will be the Ananias he calls to reach out and touch the life of another Saul of Tarsus, who will change the world by his work?

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It’s been called the Golden Rule for a long time, even though Jesus never called it that. It is definitely one of the most quoted statements from Scripture or from any other book to be found. I’ve read many times in business and leadership books where the rule is quoted and no reference is made to where it came from. Much of the time, I suspect the one quoting it had no idea who he was quoting when he reminded the readers of the golden rule. It’s found in Matthew 7:12 in the last part of the Sermon on the Mount. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

What if everyone around us practiced this rule as a way of life for them? What difference would it make in the world, in this country, in our state or community or even in the church or our family? Can you imagine what it would do for marriages if both husband and wife practiced the Golden Rule all the time? I suspect it would put divorce lawyers out of business. I also suspect there would be tons more happy and fulfilling relationships in the marriages. What if we brought up our children in an environment where they observed their parents practicing the rule as a way of life and that we taught them to follow it as their life plan in how they dealt with others in the family or just people around them?

It is interesting how a tragic situation, such as a pandemic will bring out of so many people the very best but for others it will be seen as an opportunity to get what they can from others no matter what it does to them. The only one that ever lived this rule all the time was Jesus, the one who gave it. If I determine to live by it as my standard of life, I will find myself failing and thinking more of me than of what I would plan or long to do. The challenge then is to get back up and resolve again to live my life thinking of how I can do the things that I would really wish others would do to me. Let’s take it apart and see if we can tell more about how it works in life.

“SO” is the beginning indicating it is the conclusion to things that have just been said. In the verses just before this Jesus told them to Ask, Seek and Knock so they can receive, find and have the door opened for us. To illustrate his point he asked them”Which of you, if your son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” When tough situations bring out the best in us, it is like God does for us and like a good father does for his children.

“In everything” takes the plea of the Golden Rule and applies it across the board. It isn’t difficult to do good things for people who do good things for us. The real challenge of life is to do good things for those who either show no interest in us or who do us harm all the time. Jesus illustrated this principle to the hilt when he went to the cross to pay the price of sin for all people. He didn’t just die for a chosen few who were trying their best to do right. “He tasted death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). The result is the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people (Titus 2:11). Jesus’ great commission for his disciples is to go and make disciples in every nation or ethnic group, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and I will be with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). The result is that as a follower of Christ we should in all situation for all kinds of people do to them what we would want them to do to us under the same circumstances.

That doesn’t mean that we always say “Yes” to every request. Sometimes we do the very best for others when we say “No” to help them grow and learn. Think about Jesus when he had fed the 5,000 with a little boy’s lunch and then the Jews began to ask for him to feed them all the time as Moses gave the Israelites manna in the wilderness. Jesus corrected them that it wasn’t Moses who fed the people but God and that he wouldn’t give manna but was giving himself as the bread of life. Imagine what it would have meant for you if you had grown up in a situation where your parents always gave you everything you wanted and allowed you to do anything you wanted. Would it have made a godly person of you? As parents our job is to bring our children up in the training and discipline of the Lord. So, I’m thankful to have grown up with parents who cared enough to say “No” when what I wanted to do wasn’t what was right or best for me.

“For this sums up the Law and the prophets.” Think about the Ten Commandments or all the laws and prophesies given in the Old Testament. What was the aim or goal of these commands? When it relates to our actions and treatment of others, it was that we would learn to treat others the way we would like to be treated. God longed to have people who loved him with all their being and loved their neighbor as themselves.

Think of a few ways we could all follow the Golden Rule as our pattern in our treatment of others during tough times in the world. We can be the givers, the helpers, the merciful ones who look for opportunities to serve those in need. We can be listeners to those who need someone to care enough for them to listen without condemnation. God will give us all opportunities to share this way of life with others. Let’s be like God who gives good gifts to those who ask Him.

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