Thinking of Others and Being Mad

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


In the final events recounted in the book of Jonah, after he has successfully convinced the people of Nineveh that they will be destroyed if they don't repent and turn back to God, we find the prophet on a hilltop overlooking that great city. Jonah is unhappy. Jonah is very, very unhappy. Why, you might wonder, would he be unhappy after saving over 120,000 people from sure and certain doom? It was because his vine died.

You see, Jonah was not pleased that God had spared these people - they were his enemies. So, he sat on top of the hill in hopes that God would change His mind and destroy the city anyway. While Jonah waited, he sat under a vine that provided him with comforting shade. But God allowed Jonah's vine to die and Jonah got mad. When God asked Jonah if he had any right to be mad, Jonah indicated that he did and that he was mad enough to die.

This is when God gave Jonah one of the key lessons of the entire book: Jonah was concerned about his own personal comfort, while God was concerned about the well-being of all people. Kind of hits home, doesn't it, when we are usually far more concerned about our aches and pains than we are of the starving masses and lost souls of the world.

I've been watching with interest and sadness as our politicians argue over whether they should spend a trillion dollars more than we have on hand (and charge it to our children and grandchildren) or if we should spend 1.2 trillion dollars more than we have (and charge it to our children and grandchildren). And as they argue over spending the income of future generations so that they can make their current constituents (us) comfortable now, they let everyone know how mad they are.

And they are mad, you know, they really are.

The problem is that we all seem to have forgotten what we are here for. Just as Jonah forgot that his purpose was to seek and save the lost, we sometimes forget that we are here to help others, not take away their money so we can spend it on our own wants.  We are not here to sit in comfort under our own personal shade trees, we are here to truly see how we might help others along the way. In short, we are here to serve, not to be served.

When we discover that, the world will change. Until then, we are just going to be mad.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...

Philippians 2:4-5, NIV


Think of the Good

Let's just think of the good.   Mama King

My wife's great-grandmother used this saying whenever the people close to her got too negative. It was not that she was unrealistic when it came to the downside of life, it was just that she had lived long enough to appreciate the good things and to dwell on what was right with the world, rather than what was wrong.

While this bit of advice was given by a woman born in the 1800's, it is every bit as pertinent for those of us living in the 21st century. It's true that times are bad now, but it is equally true that times are good. We do have our share of evil people doing evil deeds, but we also have plenty of good people doing good things. Think about the people that you are around the most: Isn't it true that the vast majority of these folks are good, not evil, and a blessing to be around, rather than a curse? So, why do we dwell so much on the bad?

It could be it's because we live in a world that is mostly negative, but I'm not so sure that explanation is sufficient. In fact, the older I become the more I realize that most people live in a world of their own choosing. We really can focus on the good instead of the bad, if we choose to do so. While it's true that bad things happen every day, it is also true that God has blessed us with many, many good things.

So, the next time you feel like complaining about the high cost of food, or housing, or medicine, why not instead take a moment in prayer to thank our Father for our good food, our warm houses and our good health? Instead of allowing yourself to become frustrated with the bad people you hear about on T.V., why not rather be thankful for the good family and friends that God has surrounded you with? Why not take a moment to be grateful for what you have, rather than be ungrateful for what you lack?

Why not take your focus off of the things that you think are making your life a hell on earth, and fix your eyes on the Heaven that awaits those who will serve God? Why don't we all, with humble gratitude, take a few quiet moments each day and... just think of the good? It will change your life!

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.   Philippians 4:8, NIV


Two Tests

Character is higher than intellect.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was right before the first test I would give my students and I stood before the class to pass along my expectations. I told them that they were about to receive two tests: One in math, the other in honesty. I hoped that they would pass both but if they could pass only one, I wanted it to be the one in honesty. Now, this method was nothing that originated with me as I had heard of this idea years ago. It made a deep impression when I first heard it, and I wanted it to make a similar impression on the young people that I had been entrusted with.

I added to this concept in two ways: The first was to teach the kids exactly what I wanted them to learn and then provide a test without any tricky or deceptive questions. The second, and equally important in my mind, was the promise of certain punishment should anyone be caught cheating - they would fail the test and leave my class. The second might seem a bit severe, but it was intentionally designed to be that way. I believe it was accepted because I had a high regard for these kids and tried to let them see that love and respect in the way that I treated them.

It seemed to work for not only did I not have a single student that I even suspected of cheating, I also had feedback of a nature that I did not expect. After the test, one of the students came up and said it was the first test that he could remember taking that he had not cheated on in some way.

The point of all this is not to claim that I am a great teacher (I've heard myself teach and, frankly, I'm not all that brilliant). The point is that integrity can not only be taught, it can be insisted upon as a bare minimum standard. While there will always be those who find a way to bend the rules, there will also be some who will discover the high satisfaction of accomplishment through an honest job, well done.

I learned one other thing from my brief teaching venture that I believe is vital for all parents to learn: If a child is taught integrity in the home and in the church, he will not have to learn it at school.

The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

Proverbs 10:9, NIV


Trials and Tribulations

In this world you will have trouble… Jesus

This quote is taken from 16th chapter of John and contains the very words of Christ. He tells us that we will have trouble. The Greek word that is translated trouble in this passage is “Thlipsis” and it literally means pressure. So, when Jesus says that we will have trouble in this world, He is telling us that we will have pressure.

Truer words were never spoken!

Do you ever feel that the pressure of life is just too much? Maybe it’s something big like the death of someone close to you, or the suffering of a loved one, or big financial problems - or maybe it’s just the combination of a lot of little things that, when added one on top of another, just make you want to scream.

It’s times like this that we need to read the rest of the verse, for Jesus does not just leave us hanging with the certainty that there will be pressure in this world. In fact, He goes on very quickly to tell us to take heart, because He has overcome the world.

Think of the enormity of that statement: Jesus has overcome the world! This means that regardless of the multitude of pressures that this world throws our way, we are covered. As if that were not enough, He begins His statement with, “In me you may have peace.”

When sandwiched between “peace in Jesus” and “take heart“, the pressure just doesn’t seem so overwhelming anymore. In fact, this is the key to dealing with the pressures of the world. If you and I will focus on the calm and peace that are available in Christ, and understand that these worldly pressures cannot overwhelm those who are with the One who has overcome the world, then the pressures cannot harm us.

So, which will you choose - pressure or peace? The correct choice will prove to be the difference between the trials and tribulations of the world, and good life that God has called us to in Christ Jesus or Lord. Choose wisely!

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33, NIV


Three Days In Utopia

"The heavens declare the glory of God." King David


A few years ago, my wife and I enjoyed a three day trip to Utopia, Texas. Utopia is located near the junction of the Sabinal and Frio Rivers. It is part of the Texas Hill country and is covered with foliage, including enormous Cypress trees which line the banks of the rivers. It used to be called Waresville, but the name was changed in 1886 to Utopia.


Rarely has a town been more aptly named!


I would get up at sunrise and walk along the crystal clear river, and as the sun came up, the surface of those waters reflected the huge cypress trees. On one of the mornings I even got to enjoy the reflection of the near full moon as it filtered down through the leaves of those trees. I would watch the trout as they swam through those clear waters, and the turtles as they took their leisurely stroll along the river's floor.


Carolyn and I hiked up into the hills one morning while the area was blanketed in fog. We sat at the top of a high hill and discussed everything from the church, to our kids, to the rest of our lives here on earth. We then sat in awe as the fog lifted to reveal the Frio river valley with all the glory that God has blessed it with. Even from over a mile away, we could see those clear, still waters as they reflected the surrounding trees and hills.



As I reflect more and more about the beauty of God's creation, I find my thoughts turning to Heaven and what it must be like. To have a place created by our Loving Father and prepared by our Beloved Savior - I know that it will be beyond anything that even God's creation holds here on earth... and I don't want to miss it. I do not want to settle for three days in Utopia, and then an eternity in Hell - do you? 


We know that if we make it to Heaven that it will be by the grace of God and the shed blood of Jesus - but we still have our part to do. May we all do our part. May we all seek His will through His word and then do it, for we cannot afford to miss the wonders of His glory in Heaven. I'm looking forward to Heaven and I am determined to do everything in my power to serve God in the way He wants me to - and I am determined that my family will do the same.


We have enjoyed our three days in Utopia here on earth, but it is not enough. Carolyn and I and our kids are making plans to be in Heaven some day. I pray that we make it, and I pray that you and your family will make it as well. 


For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have clearly been seen, being understood from what God has made... Romans 1:20, NIV