5 – Strength in the Fight

Victory implies a struggle.

When God promises victory, He doesn’t mean it will be easy. Call it what you will—immaturity, youth, ignorance, superstition, unrealistically imposed expectation… assumption—presuming that any victory comes easy is a miscalculation.

Don’t set out on life thinking that “everything’s gonna’ be rosy” now that you have a… whatever—new job, club membership, acceptance letter, contract, romance, plane ticket… Jesus…

The concept of “strength in the midst” is one of those countless Biblical enigmas. Heaven’s view seems upside down compared to ours—it seems that way, anyhow. The idea that God will give us strength, then march us right into the pit of Hell doesn’t fit any of our fairyland, utopian, presumptive ideals.

Yet, on a practical level—which Heaven is best at—it makes sense. Why would God give us strength if it weren’t to invade Hell’s occupation of Earth? Think about it, we complain about why God doesn’t get rid of evil, God gives us the power to defeat evil, God marches us to the place of evil, and we still can’t connect the dots? No wonder Jesus compared us to sheep.

The underlying “conflict” slumbering deep within our psyche is that we aren’t that valuable. When one presumes that one is not important enough to make a difference, being given both challenges and the tools to overcome seems like a punishment rather than a path to—well, a path to victory.

Victory comes from strength in the fight. The notions that we will either always have an oppressive opponent while mostly losing or else we will be “on top” of every situation are part of our tendency to follow our own auto-created human morals.

Always consider victory through troubles exploited.

We don’t know where the storm comes from. The devil might bring the storm, we might have created it ourselves, or the storm just might be God Himself descending in fire and smoke.

In any case, God brings the storm to us, then He gives us the strength to stand. Whatever clouds cover the sky, the sun always shines and once they pass we will be stronger—not despite the storm, but because we stood through it.

Deuteronomy 20:4, John 16:33, James 1:2-4

6 – Holistic Transformation

The Bible’s power is not in casual reading—though casual reading won’t hurt any. We could all use more casual time so beneficially spent. But, if you want the Bible’s power in your life, you must allow it to transform your thinking—from cognition to unconscious heart inclination.

Only in reprogramming the core and whole of one’s worldview with the Bible can there be any test of the Bible’s legitimacy.

Many self-important “experts” pick and choose which ideas from the Bible they wish to adopt, as well as the degree to which they adopt them. It can’t work. When they prove themselves to be hypocrites, this only proves the Bible’s legitimacy all the more: The Bible only helps when we ingest it all-in, without stops, without preconditions, and without expectations. Half gets you zero.

Even one’s expectations of what the Bible will do must come from the Bible, not our own made-up superimposition.

The concept of being “holistic” applies. Once we pick and choose, we’re no longer obeying the Bible and our failed results can’t be owed to the Bible. You’re welcome to test and sample, but there are no promises except that the Bible doesn’t work until you dive in head first.

When any Biblical teaching takes root in our core being, our own friends may not even recognize us. The world will tell us we are wrong. We will face unexpected challenges and unwarranted enemies—seemingly for no reason. People will even say, “You must be doing something to irritate them, people don’t just treat you this way for no reason.” It’s called jealousy, though what specifically they are jealous of may never be known.

The Bible will re-rout your thinking, newly, every day you read it. Things will make more sense. You will develop new questions. The “code” of life on Earth won’t seem such a mystery, then again you will see mysteries you never knew existed before. Things will bother you that other people can’t see and won’t believe exist. You’ll be happy about things just the same.

In some cases people might persecute you. Better, you will make friends you never dreamed of—or who never dreamed of befriending you.

Proverbs 23:26, Matthew 10:34-39, Romans 6:17, James 4:8

14 – Value of Conscience

God created us with a conscience. The conscience connects one’s soul in the Eternal dimension to one’s body in the physical cosmos we know as the universe. Martin Luther pleaded “conscience” when he left the Catholic Church. Having a conscience is part of what it means to be a sentient creation, the very Image of God.

Every conscience has some guidelines that cannot change, yet some rules that must be trained. Some people have a physical, chemical, or mental condition that causes their consciences not to work. Some researchers have argued that people with such tendencies can be trained by helping them to connect choices, actions, and consequences. Ultimately, people who grow up seemingly without a conscience have had that link of action and consequence interrupted.

Children must learn that good and bad choices have good and bad consequences. Parents must allow those natural and fair consequences to have their day. If a youth makes plans that parents often interrupt or makes good decisions rarely rewarded, that youth may start deceiving or manipulating friends at school, alienating classmates, and no one might ever figure out why. By disconnecting the justice between action and consequence, the parents have, in effect, numbed the youth’s conscience. Chaotic homes create killers.

A conscience can be damaged or trained. Germany exterminated two million Jews, all in good conscience; Holocaust deniers claim the number was “only” a few thousand, likewise in good conscience. Many people in developing countries lie to their governments all the time, even Christians, since government laws contradict themselves as do government inspectors; they can’t survive and not lie. Some Asians feel overwhelming guilt for stabbing chopsticks into a bowl of rice—stabbed food is for the dead, after all.

Sunday morning culture has its own conscience modifications, which is one reason “church-goers” often struggle with the “real world”—their consciences can be unusual and not necessarily “Biblical”.

Every conscience must be taken captive to the Bible. No conscience is infallible. Train and retrain your conscience, tend to it diligently, never ignore it. Conscientious feelings governed by higher morals will safeguard your path and could prevent your becoming the CEO who accidentally ends up drowning in massive scandal.

Acts 23:1, Romans 8:33-34, Colossians 2:16-19, 1 Timothy 3:8-9; 4:1-4, Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 3:19-4:6

16 – What Is ‘Godliness’?

Godliness, etymologically speaking, means living like there is a god above.

To be “godly” means that one is not the greatest power in one’s life. It means that one is not a spiritual orphan, but has a greater, can-handle-all Master watching over, teaching, correcting, punishing, loving, rewarding, funding, preparing, training, enjoying, cheering, catching, and seeing in all that one does.

This Master is not imagined by mere Human creativity, as Blaise Pascal said, “God created man in His own image and man returned the favor.” This Master is higher, above all adversaries and threats, able to save and help and rear from birth to death throughout life on Earth.

People who live without consciously knowing about such a greater Master behave, in spiritual terms, as if they were raised by wolves. They lack self-control in some matters, but not others. They often pontificate as if their “wonderful ideas about God” are an attempt to receive epistemological validation for the first time. They conflict inside, are unsure of their theological direction, and thus lack some—not all—necessary qualities of a leader. Their followers, likewise, will in some ways behave as if they too were raised by wolves—including Christian children.

We emulate and behave and think according to who and what we believe our “god” to be. We often get our view of God from the adults in our lives. If a parent is godless, we may struggle to believe in any God at all.

Anything can be a “god”, including verbal abuse, drugs, money, calendars, indecision, education, philosophy, theology, nature, entertainment, one’s own ego, and especially Sunday morning.

One who truly believes in the God who first said, “Let there be light,” will often and intentionally bring light, hope, guidance, and encouragement to others. To be godly in “Biblical” terms is to know the need for lifelong study and, firstly, every human’s need for forgiveness and redemption, primarily redemption for oneself and thereby secondarily redeeming others.

The God of the Bible is mighty, to be always trusted and never tested. Knowing that brings strength to the heart, both the confidence of being loved and having fear of nothing else. The Bible calls this adoption.

Genesis 4:26, John 1:12-13, Romans 8:14-17, 2 Peter 1:5-9

20 – Jesus’ Morals Are Practical

Morals were meant to be beneficial. When God gave the first commands to Moses, they were intended as a kind of treasure map guiding us to bounty and plenty. If you go back and look at the rules of Moses’ law, you will find many of them to be practical and beneficial. The priestly sacrifices had a concrete spiritual function as well, but that’s a discussion for another time. All moral rules—from the Bible, that is—are practical and sensible.

Cold and boring religious ruts trap people into useless routine. Once we lose touch with the practical value of morals, we begin thinking of them as silly hoops to jump through, as if God is testing whether we will comply with arbitrary requirements and, if we do, then He will interrupt the natural flow of life and “reward” us. This may be the thinking of people who wish to redefine laws of physics for people under their control, but God’s moral laws are different.

God created the universe. He defined laws of physics. He invented biology. Also, He invented and implemented principles of “sowing and reaping”, whether in agriculture or “good luck” returning to those who are gracious and diligent. Since God designed those ideas and wove them into the fabric of our reality, He knows how they work better than anyone else. This is yet one more reason why a useful moral code can only come from above. But, it also explains what morals are: practical measures to navigate the cosmos.

Loving your neighbor just as yourself should seem sensible. Don’t bear false witness against the innocent, don’t covet, don’t murder, “eye for an eye”, and all Deuteronomy taught safety to a society with neither morals nor soap. When Joshua received Moses’ Law, God told him that obeying it would cause Israel to prosper and thrive—dah!

Most everyone agrees that moral are supposed to somehow benefit people who obey them, but it is a well-kept secret in Churchianity that Biblical rules are practical and sensible. We don’t always see the practicality because we are always learning, but it is still there. Impractical “religious morals” are man-made; Heavenly morals just make sense.

Exodus 20:16-17, Deuteronomy 4:1, Psalm 119:32, Proverbs 6:16-20, Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 12:29-31

28 – Honor Others

Honor others whether they deserve it or not.

I’ll never forget Sport, the conscientious hunting dog who respected himself and everyone else.

Dogs rarely enjoy being picked up, but there is a “correct” way: arms under the legs at the joints, perhaps let the paws rest on your arms. But, Sport wouldn’t have any of it. Only his master, a 16 year old animal prodigy who trained dogs for hunters in the greater area, was allowed to pick up Sport, even then under protest.

If I tried to scoop up Sport, he would get low, growl fiercely, then humbly cower in respect. I’d try again, Sport would diplomatically growl and use all his skill to prevent being picked up, then return to his humble bow. I have never seen such respect. Sport’s honor toward me left a mark on my heart.

Honoring others is not the same as obeying them, except by coincidence.

Generally, children should obey their parents because if their parents are wrong then children can rarely explain why—except in those incredibly humbling moments when God speaks to us through the mouths of babes. No one ever fully grows up. Parents usually find themselves humbled by their children’s wisdom when failing to honor their children.

My father had to file for guardianship of his mother, which the judge granted without hesitation. “It wasn’t what she wanted,” he explained, “but it indeed was honoring to her.”

Honor is the command to all children toward their parents in the Old Testament, Paul applied this with young children as “obedience”. Paul also taught parents to not provoke children, and he taught women to honor men, yet men to love women—a complementary, beautiful difference in honoring the genders.

Honor could be understood, in simple terms, as treating someone as a king or queen—and acting like a worthy king or queen oneself.

Showing honor toward others says a great deal about the person who shows honor and almost nothing about the person being honored. Showing honor is honorable.

Counselor Troy said, “Respect is earned, not bestowed.” Tony Soprano said, “Those who want respect give respect.”

If you want honor, be honorable: Show honor to others.

Colossians 3:18-25

29 – Honor Self

It is nearly impossible to behave with dignity if one does not honor oneself. Someone who finds it difficult to be kind to others—perhaps in frustrating circumstances more so—somehow lacks self-respect.

Why not throw your trash on the street if your life doesn’t matter anyway? Why care about cleaning the street in front of your house, its only you after all! …These are the presumptions—not just with streets, but all areas of life—for the person who doesn’t behave with dignity. Rarely do they even think this consciously; they don’t consider themselves important enough to.

Underachieving is an indication of lacking self-worth. Overachieving, likewise, indicates someone who feels the need to prove something. Few people target the right level of “a job well done” and move on to other important work when their work reaches the standard; only self-respect can give someone that kind of clear vision.

If you find yourself having trouble using the right manners  with other people or if you are sensitive to feelings of disrespect, then you probably need to consider the many good reasons you are worthy of respect yourself. Respecting yourself begins with seeing, recognizing, and believing that you yourself deserve respect. If you can’t find any reasons, consider that the Son of God died for you and would do it all over again. What more reason for self-worth is there? Respecting others, as Jesus does, helps you gain self-respect.

When you find others who behave as if they lack self-respect, simply honor them. Give them compliments on normal things. Avoid insulting them no matter how difficult it is. When people with low self-respect are habitually late for work, treat them like kings and queens who need aid and ask what you can do, even if you are their superior. “Fashionable lateness” shouldn’t bother you, but on the clock it indeed can be a problem. Offer to make their shift 15 minutes early and pay them for it. Tell them you value their work and only want to help. But, never jeer or get in the habit of degrading them.

Respect yourself in your heart and help others respect themselves in their hearts. Self-respect makes everything easier.

34 – The Least of These

Jesus said, “When you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me.”

The world is full of people who only help people whom they think can help them in return. This is not godly thinking. In a worldview of Biblical morals, helping everyone is helping Jesus because Jesus died to help everyone.

With good Bible hermeneutics we know the Greek way of expression, just as we have sayings in English and any other language. Jesus did not mean, “only unto the least of these,” but the idea is, “even unto the least of these.” We know this for two easy reasons up front, in addition to familiarity with how people talk in the New Testament: First, it’s hard to prove in court that Jesus meant only, second, he didn’t define “least”. “Least of these” has a Greek grammar conundrum. In English we would say, “the lowest of people,” which is still undefined.

Jesus means that no matter who we help or don’t help, he sees all and no self-sacrificial deed goes unnoticed.

Some of the “least of these” includes very wealthy people whom the masses are rude toward. Never show favoritism to anyone, neither for being poor and underprivileged nor for being rich and overprivileged. Jesus died for all people and he wants you to help all people he died for.

In that process, love knows when to be “tough” and let people do their own work. There is dignity in doing things ourselves, not taking handouts, and working to right problems we made for others.

One of my high school teachers had printed on the wall, “Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” That teacher’s wisdom helped a lot of students, all of them in fact.

Befriending the friendless includes giving harsh advice.

Doing what is right cannot possibly conflict, by definition. Whatever is good for others is always good for you and vice versa; if you think otherwise then you misunderstand justice.

Help all people, sometimes by not helping or not encouraging or not “positively” drawing attention to embarrassment. Don’t just dump money either. Actually help—across the board—all people.

Matthew 25:31-46

38 – Trying to Be by Trying to Grow

Size and strength come from decisions and practices. These things don’t merely fall down from the sky. Even Samson had supernatural strength because he obeyed certain Nazarite promises to God and lost his strength when he did not.

Don’t be the fool who thinks he will be strong by acting strong. Don’t be the other fool who thinks he will be strong by lifting heavy weights for hours at the gym. By not also using small weights to strengthen the inner balancing muscles around his joints, he will develop muscle conditions that make it impossible for him to use his big muscles at all.

External results flow from growth inside, not merely mimicking results shown on the surface.

Many wealthy and powerful people have subtle habits and practices which are the main causes behind their wealth and power. They know what these habits are, some of them include making unpopular decisions, prioritizing the bigger picture, asking before judging, abandoning pet projects and distractions, obnoxiously high and “impossible” standards, and pushing past the comfort zone to finalize every task.

Unfortunately, people who lack skill, wealth, and influence, yet also covet and disdain people with skill, wealth, and influence, will belittle the virtues and habits that build up skill, wealth, and influence.

“That’s just a different opinion,” they say, or, “I don’t agree,” as if it is a “mere” matter of opinion without an effective difference. It is obvious that someone disagrees with the methods of people who have different results. But, saying so is considered “rude” by the masses while people striving to better themselves appreciate the benefit of truth candidly told.

Biblically called “sowing and reaping”, this principle applies to everyone: artists, managers, athletes, innovators, engineers, pilots, Bible students, even family members—any discipline.

Everything takes more time than we instinctively feel it should. Healthy growth requires us to continue past the point of discomfort, where it feels like “too much”, then keep going. “Poking it with a stick” at a comfortable distance won’t get real results; though many people, marked by mediocrity, think it will.

While God determines the style and nature of our paths, inner decisions account for our growth and progress.

Judges 13-16, Isaiah 44:14, 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, Galatians 6:7-8

45 – Prayer of the Righteous

When a righteous man prays, Heaven listens. The balanced, just, standard-measure lifestyle that makes a person “righteous”, by that basic definition, is important to God, to the angels, and all of Heaven’s court. When a prayer rises to Heaven’s Throne from someone who does not live a double-standard life, that prayer will be taken seriously.

Prayer itself is a request for justice.

Praying for healing is prayer for justice. It’s not fair that someone should be sick all the time. Broken limbs or disabilities of any kind are a kind of injustice. Praying that God would heal people of such things is praying for God to, essentially, give that person justice by having a normally functioning physical body.

Praying for laws to be good is a prayer for justice in government. Praying for good weather—the rain, cold, sun, wind, and calm, all in proper time and season—is a prayer that nature give us justice to have a fair and normal life.

Even prayer that we might become better people in our hearts or to be stronger in our understanding of morals, God, virtue, the spiritual plane, respect for others, emotional temperance, joy, creativity, and to be all around good people—these are requests to have justice come into and through our hearts.

It is immature to even consider that “righteous” living will make us superior to other, “lesser” people, thereby giving us “VIP” status with God. All prayers go to God. Everyone adopted by God because they believe Jesus is God’s child. But, our actions demonstrate maturity, which reflects credibility.

Living a “righteous” life of fair treatment of others takes thought, practice, self-improvement, and increases with time. People who live a “righteous” life have these kinds of good and careful thoughts that go into choosing what they pray for. So, people with a “righteous” lifestyle will naturally prayer for things God is more likely to give.

But, prayer has a controversial side. Elijah was a righteous man who prayed for a drought upon Israel for allowing child sacrifices. That controversial prayer was also for justice because, ultimately, that drought saved innocent people.

Prayer and justice are equally complex, simple, and very much related.

1 Kings 17-18, Psalm 34:11-22 James 5:16-18