Category: <span>thoughts by John Fischer</span>

devotionalDear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” Galatians 6:1( NLT)

Because I am so good at it, and because it is so wrong and yet so easy to do, I talk a lot about all the subtle ways we sit in judgment over one another. As I do this, I am often asked about how we hold each other accountable to the truth if we are not supposed to judge. This verse is what that’s all about, but even this verse is often misconstrued into judging someone without any attempt to really do what it says. Let me show you what I mean:

Dear brothers and sisters … if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should be happy about your relative godliness, because you haven’t fallen like this person has.

Dear brothers and sisters … if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should find out as many details as you can about what this person is up to so you can make it a matter of prayer with all your mutual friends.

Dear brothers and sisters … if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should ostracize that person from your fellowship.

Dear brothers and sisters … if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should avoid bringing anything up about it at all.

No, it says to restore that person, humbly and gently, and that means getting involved personally, and it means sharing you own life and your own vulnerabilities. Which might look something like this:

You go to that person and tell them what they are doing is wrong. Use scripture, not your opinion. Perhaps ask them to read a portion that applies to their situation and talk about what they think it means. Tell them of your own struggles with sin, what your hardest battle is at the moment, and how they might be able to help you. Ask them if they want help and make yourself available to help them be accountable. Help them get help from someone more qualified if it’s beyond you. Tell them that you love them and they can’t shake you whatever they do. Tell them that you are sticking by them regardless, so that if they decide to sin again, they are dragging you in with them.

And do be careful, because no one is so godly that they are beyond falling into the same temptation as well, and knowing this is what will keep you humble, and not judgmental, as you seek to help.

Question: Is there someone you know who needs godly guidance? How can you approach them in a way that will be winsome to their understanding while still honoring to God?

By John Fischer

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Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7

Mercy is probably the most useful tool in our Gospel of Welcome toolbox, but perhaps the hardest to find. Believe me, we’re going to be pulling this one out every day. The reason for this is: we are all naturally judgmental. Passing judgment comes much more easily to us than showing mercy. It’s the natural reaction to pass judgment on your fellow human beings; it’s supernatural to be merciful.

The opposite of mercy is judgment. Mercy is not easy for me. My whole character leans toward judgment. When you grow up learning to be a Pharisee in the company of Pharisees, it’s hard to shake the tendency to judge others first, ask questions later.

Marti, Chandler and I were doing some back-to-school shopping for Chandler when we noticed a large group of women taking a yoga class on the lawn in the middle of the outdoor mall. I mentioned something to Marti about how silly they looked, fully expecting her to share a little laugh with me over it. Instead, she rebuked me by pointing out that: 1) they were not all women – there were some men in the group – and 2) if I think they look silly, I should try it, and show us all how silly I would look trying to do the same thing.  Ouch!

This is the ultimate embodiment of Christian hypocrisy: to sit on the sidelines and judge everyone who is participating.

Being judgmental takes no effort. Everybody’s already guilty, so help yourself – there’s plenty more sin and stupidity where that came from; in fact, we’ll never run out of stuff to judge.

Since everybody’s already guilty because of sin, to be judgmental is like taking an unnecessary step. The truth judges us. Our deeds judge us as they reveal our sinful nature. And on top of all this, we are all judged already on the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus says in the gospel of John that when we accept the gift of salvation He offers, we are judged already. This whole process is already over and done with.

This is why I think Jesus purposely put this backwards in this beatitude. He knew we would eventually find this out. We find out what mercy is all about when we find out what it takes to love and forgive us, jerks that we are. You don’t go muster up a bunch of mercy so God will be merciful to you. You become merciful when you realize what it took for God to be merciful to a scoundrel like you.

You can’t be merciful without God being merciful to you, and God’s mercy to you means nothing until you realize how badly you need it. This is where we learn mercy. We learn it from God. The gentleman I wrote about in yesterday’s Catch who didn’t point out my flaws without also mentioning his own, was being merciful to me. He was handing me something he had received through his own process of walking with God.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Does that mean that if you aren’t merciful you won’t get any mercy? No. It means that if you aren’t merciful, you wouldn’t know mercy if you saw it.

By John Fischer

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Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

It’s been statistically proven that out of the 162 Major League baseball games that make up a full season of play, every team will win at least 60 games and lose at least 60 games. In other words, the worst team will still manage to win 60 games, and the best team will still manage to lose 60. It’s what happens with the other 42 that makes or breaks a season. It’s an interesting way to think about a baseball season and another reason why I think baseball is a lot like life.

Winning teams experience a lot of losses. Losing teams experience a significant amount of wins. For 120 games out of 162, everybody looks the same. That’s almost 75% of the season. It’s what happens with the remaining 25% that makes the difference between a champion and a cellar-dweller.

Life is all about ups and downs. We’re all going to have good days and bad days. Winners don’t win all the time; losers don’t lose all the time. In fact, most of the time, it’s hard to tell the difference. You can’t make one’s experience the judge of everything. Pretty much all of sports tells us that winning is only a slight edge.

So what’s the point of this for us? Experience isn’t everything. If you’re having a hard day, be patient, things are about to change. If you are cruising on top of things, enjoy it, because things are about to change. Change is the one constant for all of us, and those who are best prepared for it will have the best experience. If you expect things to always go well and get upset when they don’t, you’re in for making tough times tougher. If you are simply grateful for what each day brings, you will fare much better in the long run.

Paul revealed the secret for making it through his ‘season” of life’. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

It is a way to live that evens out the wins and the losses. It even leaves the wins and losses up to God. Don’t you remember that coach who taught you as a kid that it’s not all about winning or losing, but how you play the game that counts?

Question: How do you measure the “wins” and “loses” in your life?

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feature crutch on sandI have done a good deal of thinking and writing about Pharisees (probably because I understand them so well) and one comment that Jesus made about them stands out to me:

Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heavenMatthew 5:20

Such a statement would have come as a shock to the general Jewish populace who considered the Pharisees as perched atop the religious hierarchy. It certainly would have come as a shock to the Pharisees themselves, who took pride in looking down from there. These people spent all their time being righteous. They were scrupulous about this, and in so doing, they set the bar for everyone else. They were the righteous professionals. To disqualify them and everyone under them, as Jesus did, put righteousness out of everyone’s reach.

Which, of course, was the whole idea. This was not a statement to make people try harder to be holy. It was a statement to persuade people to give up trying. If Jesus was rejecting the best that the best could do, then who could possibly stand a chance of being good enough to get into heaven? No one. And isn’t that the point Jesus was trying to make? Only sinners get saved; only the lost can be found. The Pharisees were too good for heaven, too good for grace, too good for the gift of salvation.

True righteousness is something that can only come from Christ, and it comes through the admission of our own unrighteousness and a total dependence upon God to make us clean. What He wants is way beyond us and we cannot begin any real growth without realizing this. Our goodness comes through faith in what Christ has done for us on the cross in forgiving our sins and in giving us His Spirit. It is that Spirit that begins to work on our insides, changing us from the inside out, and the good that comes from this is so clearly outside our ability to manufacture it as to leave us as surprised as anyone.

I’ve often heard the objection to becoming a Christian on the grounds of Christianity being a crutch. I always laugh when I hear that because if that’s all faith is, I wouldn’t be a Christian either. Did Jesus endure a brutal death on a cross just so he could hand us a crutch to help us along? I don’t think so. We weren’t just stumbling along without Jesus; we were dead.

Christianity isn’t a crutch; it’s an iron lung. It’s a cure for cancer. It’s a heart transplant.

Question: Have you ever heard someone derisively refer to faith as “just a crutch“? How did you (or how can you) respond to such an accusation?

By John Fischer

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feature winter sadBut love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
– Jesus Christ Luke 6:35

If you want to get a little taste of what God is like, try loving your enemies, lending money to those you know won’t pay you back, and then try being kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. What does this do to one’s sense of justice and fairness? What could this possibly be about? Jesus can’t be serious about this, can he?

Here’s what I think. I think Jesus is getting us to think this way because he wants us to see something important about ourselves.

After all, what are we thinking here… that we are God’s friends, that we always pay back what we borrow, and that we are most certainly grateful and holy, and that’s why it’s so hard for us to understand why God would ask us, the holy ones, to be kind to all these wicked and ungrateful folks? Gee, somehow we’re going to have to find it in ourselves to love these awful people. But I suppose that if God can do it, we can too. It will be a stretch, but we will try… Is that what this is about?

Hardly. Here’s what I think it means:

There is relatively little difference between the most ungrateful, wicked people I can think of and me, and I had better be deeply grateful that God is, in fact, “unfair” in this way, because otherwise there would be no hope for me. I know this is what Jesus is saying because the very next verse is: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful [to you].” And that is followed up with: “Do not judge and you will not be judged.” See where He’s going with this?

When you look at it this way, it changes the whole picture.

Love your enemies and be kind to those who, like you, have received the kindness of God when you didn’t deserve it. And if you are ever tempted to think of God as being unfair, then go all the way and rejoice in the glorious inequity of grace that has made unlikely room for you and me, and in that same spirit of “unfairness,” make room in your heart for others.

By John Fischer

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Author: John Fischer

Did you know that one of the most significant aspects of our mission in the world is simply being there? Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.

Part of our mission is consciously telling people about Christ. Another part of it is unconsciously telling people about Christ. This is the unconscious part Paul is talking about here. This is the part of our mission that goes on all the time, and it is one of the reasons God wants us out in the world and not isolated or only associating with believers.

God has us on parade.

That’s what is meant by this “triumphal procession.” The Corinthian believers would have had an immediate picture in their minds of Roman soldiers marching through the streets of Corinth returning from a military engagement somewhere in the empire. It was a public display, and Paul says we are always being lead in one of these things.

Now some of you are already saying, “Wait a minute – I’m not returning from battle, I don’t think I’ve been very victorious lately, and what’s more, I don’t like parades, much less being in one!”

Well hold your horses because this is not that kind of parade. This is not you marching through your office leading the worship band. This is a thing between you and God, with Christ being the source. It’s Christ in you carrying on a relationship with God through your life and affecting everyone around you as a result. It’s you and I living our lives of faith out in the world where it will have an effect on those who come into contact with us. This is not putting on airs: this is being who we are as people of faith.

Did you know that living your life out in the world, loving God and following Christ as best as you can is a very powerful thing? It is. That’s why you can have a sense of mission about what you do in the world. You are not just getting by. You are, at whatever stage of faith that you find yourself, putting Christ on display, and people will react to you based on what they see of Him.

So whatever you’re about to do today, be conscious about your relationship with God, and you will unconsciously leave a mark on others.

By John Fischer

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Daily devotionalWhen it comes to serving one another, think of yourself as the shoeshine man.

We’ve all seen these guys in airports, train stations and downtown next to the newsstand. Their workplace usually consists of two or three elevated chairs on a platform so they can work at a comfortable level. The most upscale stations have plush leather-covered stuffed chairs and brass stands for your feet that put your shoes out where the shiner can work around them easily. Shining shoes is a servant’s position that bears images of a happy-go-lucky soul, snapping his polishing cloth over shiny wing tips while cracking jokes or singing along with the radio.

A successful businessman, of course, would identify with the guy on the throne, never the one shining shoes. And yet, were Jesus here today, He would point to the shoeshine man as being the one to emulate. It’s the closest thing in our society to what Jesus did when he washed the disciples feet, and then He told them to go and do the same. He lowered Himself to a servant’s status, and then proceeded to meet the needs of those around Him.

Serving others begins with how I see myself. Paul said, “So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s secrets” (1 Corinthians 4:1 NLT). “Mere servants.” I can’t serve without first seeing myself as a servant. If being a shoeshine man seems too demeaning, I may need to rethink my calling and purpose in life, because a big part of that purpose is to serve others instead of being served.

Servants always look up to those around them. That’s the other part of this image that works with Christ’s foot-washing example. This whole arrangement puts me down and the other person up. For the shoeshine man, the customer is the V.I.P. The customer is on the throne in the plush seat.

My purpose as a follower of Christ is to put others on the throne instead of insisting on being there myself. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is a radical redistribution of power and position.

So remember today, you’re a servant. You don’t need recognition – you don’t need attention – because it’s not about you… or me… it’s about the people we serve. And when we forget… just remember the shoeshine man.

– By John Fischer

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bedYour mission today (should you choose to accept it) is to get yourself up out of bed and throw yourself out into the world. That’s right: Get up and get out.

My, how daring we are! Well, yes, when you consider how dangerous a place the world is, and how inadequate we feel when we try to make a difference in it.  But just read this:

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NIV)

Now there is a picture: You and me having a significant effect on people, churning up reactions as varied as life and death by our mere presence. It’s no surprise Paul would wonder, in the next breath, who, if any, might be equal to this task. It’s a rhetorical question that he intends to answer, and he does in the next chapter. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God who has made us adequate.” 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NIV) In other words, we aren’t adequate, but we are. We aren’t adequate in ourselves, but we are in Christ. And we find this out when we jump into the world, believing.

By believing, you are taking the particular characteristics of a believer (a person in whom God’s presence is a factor) out into the world, and by nature of your presence in the world and the presence of Christ in your life, you will make a difference. So, you see, it is all about literally throwing yourself out there and trusting that God shows up when you do, even when you don’t exactly know what’s going to happen next, you just know you’ll be ready when it does by nature of the Spirit of God in you. How about that for living dangerously?

As a friend of mine said once, almost nonchalantly, a true Christian is choosing the most dangerous occupation in the world. I think he’s right, not only because Satan is alive and well on planet earth working to discredit those who believe, but because God likes us living on the edge in believing him. I really don’t think faith is mainstream. I don’t think it gets the popular vote. Real faith does not win mass-market appeal. True faith is a challenge of wits. It’s the mover and shaker of the status quo. Faith kicks us out of our safety net and into the world. If nothing’s on the line, then there’s no faith required. That’s dangerous, but all the more exhilarating when God shows up and shows himself to be true to his promises.

So get up and get out. It’s the only way to truly find out!

by John Fischer

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This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.1 John 3:16

Today, someone offered me the shirt off his back. I didn’t ask for it; I just complimented him on it.

I ran into him in the lobby of the Rushmore Holiday Inn in Rapid City, South Dakota. We had already met and exchanged a few words. He told me that after hearing me speak, he felt we had much in common. I don’t know about that, but I know I liked him right away. I could tell he was the kind of person to tell you exactly what he thinks.

I had been a little confused about him at first. He had a kind of street smartness about him that intimidated me. But then we exchange a few words and I found out my prejudgments were totally off base.

What a nice shirt,” I said as he came in the door.

Thank you,” he said. “I’d like you to have it.”

Absolutely not,” I protested. “You don’t need to do that.”

My protest was to no avail. He showed up later at my hotel room door and handed me the shirt. There was no way I could turn him down. He gave it to me with his card and said he wanted to be able to write me. Well of course, I said, because that’s always okay with me.

Something about this has captured me. What kind of guy gives you the shirt off his own back? Someone who is more than just words. Someone who is action-oriented. Someone who wants to make a statement. Someone who seizes the moment. I doubt that giving me his shirt had even crossed his mind until I complimented him on it.

I can’t help but think about the early Christians who shared everything in common. I feel just a little like those guys — at least on the receiving side. I know they’d give you the shirt off their own backs if they could.

I may be making too much of this, but I can’t wait to find out what’s behind it. Let me know what you think.

by John Fischer

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devotionals onlineby John Fischer

When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.”

Not necessarily.

I got this from one of those joke pages flying around the Internet. Actually, having everything coming at you may not necessarily mean you’re in the wrong lane when it comes to personal growth. I would go as far as to suggest that everything going your way is probably a condition to be less trusted than feeling like you’re running into oncoming traffic.

I just don’t see God as doling out ease and contentment. His business lies more in the areas of refining and shaping us to conform more to the image of Christ, and none of that comes easy. Scripture indicates that the process by which this comes about includes, among other things, trials (James 1:2-3), suffering (Romans 5:3-4), discipline (Hebrews 12:7), and a growing sense of our own mortality (2 Corinthians 5:4-5).

In one illustration, Paul uses the metaphor of an earthen vessel to explain our human condition and how God uses us (2 Corinthians 4:7). To think about yourself as an earthen vessel, like a mug of pottery being dirtied and cast about, is to get an accurate picture of what we can expect in this life.

Just look at the verses that immediately follow this one. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

Which is to say that when everything seems to be coming at you (trials, hardship, testing times) maybe you are in the right lane after all.

Besides, isn’t it more exciting having everything come at you? It is for this reason that I always jog into oncoming traffic, because I like to know where the cars are. If someone starts drifting towards me, I figure I have at least a split second to jump out of the way. That’s definitely better than the constant thought of someone coming up behind me, fishing for a cell phone, and drifting over onto the shoulder, about to turn me into a hood ornament, and I would never know what hit me. That’s what can happen when you go with the flow.

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by John Fischer

When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired men have food enough to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! I will go home to my father….” (Luke 15:17-18)

Most of us can identify in some way with the story of the Prodigal Son. He had spent all his father’s money on wild living and “came to his senses” when he ended up working on a pig farm just to survive and noticed that what the pigs were eating suddenly looked good to him. That’s when he decided to go back to his father, admit his bad decisions and offer to work as a hired hand on his father’s estate. But something else happened when he arrived.

Going home was a good practical move for his situation. He was willing to settle on being a hired hand. The surprise was that he wasn’t given even a chance to apply for the job. He was welcomed as a son. Before he could get a word in edgewise he was smothered in his father’s love and a welcome-home party began.

What can you do in the face of this? Fall on your knees and worship. God the Father’s great big hands are open to us and we are embraced without judgment. This is like no love we have ever known before or will ever know.

We crawled back home ready for the worst – ready to eat crow. We were prepared for the taunts from the others in the family – even from the servants. We weighed the cost and decided the embarrassment was worth it. We calculated all that. We left bragging and return in humiliation. We left triumphant and return a failure. And yet there is no “I told you so” speech. There is just joy and acceptance.

Worship? It’s all we can do to hold ourselves together. We know what we deserve, and this isn’t it. This is a party! God has done it all for us. One day we were sucking up to pigs, the next we are escorted into our father’s house and in the process, we discover the wonderfully good news that we’ve always had a home here. We never lost our place. This is where we belong.

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by John Fischer

Woman holding a skeleton key over white backgroundWhat do you have there in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2)

Anyone familiar with the calling of Moses by God to be the one to free his people from Egypt knows that calling took place amidst a long litany of excuses and objections on Moses’ part. It is such a human story full of excuses, insecurity and fear.

But who am I to appear before Pharaoh?”  (Exodus 3:11)
How do you expect me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (3:11)
They won’t believe me.” (3:13; 4:1)
“O Lord… I’m clumsy with my words.”  (4:10)
Lord, please! Send someone else.” (4:13)

Any of these sound familiar? It’s hard to believe that with this feeble beginning, God turned Moses into one of his greatest leaders. It just goes to show that serving God doesn’t depend on great things from us; it depends on our availability to a great God.

This has been God’s strategy from the beginning – to pick ordinary, fallible people like you and me, and do great things through them by faith. I don’t know how we miss this so often, but we do. The Old Testament is riddled with people like this. We often think that we could never be like other people God is using mightily, when, if truth were known, they probably feel just as insecure as we do. Greatness, in God’s book, is not a measure of our natural abilities as much as it is a measure of our courage to believe God is with us in our weakness.

Still, God will use what we offer of ourselves, but only after we give it over to Him. I believe that is what the shepherd’s staff Moses carried around represented – something Moses had been leaning on all his life. God asked him to throw it on the ground and when he did, it immediately turned into a serpent. Then He told him to pick it up again (that would have been the hardest part!) and it turned back into a staff. (This little trick would later come in very handy when Moses was tested by Pharaoh and his magicians.)

When we give up what we have in our hand – the few things we do have that we have come to trust – then God can turn even these things into something He can use for His purposes. He can start the miracle.

What’s in your hand? What have you been leaning on all these years? Is it a natural ability? Is it a drug? Is it something you’re good at? Is it your reputation (or lack of one)? Is it your excuse or excuses (I’ve got lots of those)? Throw it down. Whatever it is, throw it down. It will most likely turn into something scary that God will ask you to pick back up, but that’s where the miracle begins.

You can comment on this devotional online at:
https://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2013/07/11/jf_what-is-that-in-your-hand/
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Thoughts by All thoughts by John Fischer Thoughts by Men

by John Fischer

daily devotionalFor God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race.” Hebrews 11:40 (NLT)

This is the way Hebrews 11 ends – that great chapter on faith that includes the faith-driven, God-pleasing exploits of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets, along with all the martyrs who were tortured, whipped, chained in dungeons, stoned, sawed in half, killed with the sword, or went about in sheep and goat skins, hungry, oppressed and mistreated, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. These are those who now make up that great “cloud of witnesses” in Chapter 12: 1. And they are not just politely cheering us on; they have a stake in our faith.

I’ve been wrong about these witnesses. I used to think they were there as spectators cheering from the grandstands of heaven – as if to say, “We did it, so can you,” which would be a great encouragement indeed were that the case, but it’s more than that. They are more than witnesses; they are teammates. They are the first runners in the relay race down on the field, all huddled around the finish line ready to receive us because they want to win, but they can’t win without us. They are the rest of the baseball team surrounding home plate waiting for us to touch home with the game-winning run. They are the first three swimmers on the relay team screaming at us from the side of the pool to give it all we’ve got.

So the next time you feel like slacking; the next time you contemplate that little sin that’s not going to hurt anyone but you; the next time you discover yourself thinking your life doesn’t really make that much difference; the next time you start thinking your most significant days of faith are behind you; the next time you think you’re just waiting for eternity to get here, well… think again, because the likes of Noah, Abraham and Paul, himself, are counting on you. You’ve got the baton now, and they can’t receive the prize they fought so hard for until you finish. So get off your butt, John, and let’s go!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

You can comment on this devotional online at:
https://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2013/02/20/jf_receiving-the-baton/

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Thoughts by All thoughts by John Fischer Thoughts by Men

by John Fischer

I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing the praises of Your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:2

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (Westminster Catechism)

Do you realize that if you stop right now and worship God — think about Him, marvel at His attributes, call His name holy, let your heart burst into song, lift your hands, dance… whatever you want — you will be fulfilling the prime reason for your existence? What could be better (or easier)? And on top of that, you have the assurance that your offering is joyfully received.

We were created to worship — to notice the song of the birds, to catch the shape of the clouds, to feel the penetrating heat of the day, to observe the twist of the lips that makes one smile different from another, to catch a drop of rain on the tongue, to hear a humming bird hum, to taste the sweetness of an orange and notice its color — these are far and away the most important observations we can make. And look at how accessible these are!

What we’re talking about here is living with an attitude of praise. Anyone can do it — rich or poor, new Christian or old, healthy or sick — we can all unclutter our lives by arranging everything around God and the celebration of why we are here. Nature is doing it unconsciously. Children do it most easily. We need a little instruction — a little prodding — only because we get distracted and we forget.

Outside my window right now is a tree unlike any I have ever seen. It grows out as much as it grows up. Its branches defy gravity, growing horizontally for 20 feet or more before shooting up with heavy branches, as if held up by an invisible hand. This one tree provides shade for five houses. Cut it back and it keeps growing. New shoots are everywhere. What is this tree doing right now? Praising God. It can’t help it. It is old and wise and sturdy, yet still putting out new life. It is a living monument to its Creator. God thought this tree into existence and put it here, years ago, for his pleasure and mine. He and I share this tree together. And when it flowers, the buzzing of a thousand bees can be heard in the early morning quietness. It’s our tree throbbing with audible praise.

We can do it too. And even more so, because we have mind and heart and body, soul and spirit. We can hum our thanks to our creator with words and meaning, for we were made for this, and we are restless souls without it. Let everything that has breath (and even that which does not) praise the Lord! Praise ye the Lord!

Question: What is your favorite way to give the Lord praise?

You can comment on this devotional online at:
https://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2012/11/12/jf_praise-ye-the-lord/

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Thoughts by All thoughts by John Fischer Thoughts by Men

by John Fischer

Faithfulness is the one ongoing quality God asks of us. He is willing to justify us; He is willing to grant us mercy instead of the condemnation we deserve, but he does ask for a life of faithfulness.

Faithfulness is in contrast to perfection. Being faithful is a far cry from being perfect. Faithfulness means being authentic, devoted, consistent, loyal. An alcoholic who regularly shows up at A.A. meetings is faithful. She may slip and fall, but she is faithful to get up again. She may lie to her supervisor, but she is faithful to tell the truth when confronted. Faithfulness allows for failure; perfection does not.

When God calls for perfection, it is assumed that I cannot perform it. It’s the demand for perfection that keeps me relying on God’s mercy and grace. But the call to faithfulness is a call I can answer. Faithful to follow, faithful to confess, faithful to obey, faithful to repent, faithful to believe, faithful to pray and seek God – all these are the requirements of faithfulness. All of them are doable and are, in fact, my responsibility and my joy, having been the unexpected recipient of so great a mercy.

The Pharisees could have had it all if they would have been willing to admit their hypocrisy and join the rest of the human race on their knees before a merciful Lord. “God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” cried the publican in the parable of Jesus (Luke 18:13). Imagine if you will, a Pharisee in his long robe, his phylacteries, and his ornate turban, down on his knees next to the tax collector in tears of repentance and joy. Imagine these two embracing, both overwhelmed at the mercy of God in hearing and answering the same prayer. There you have a true picture of the kingdom of God. It’s hard to imagine the Pharisee standing up after such an experience and judging anyone.

And following such strange and unexpected union would be two unlikely followers of Christ, getting up off their knees and encouraging each other to be faithful. Shouldn’t we want to be faithful after all He’s done for us?

You can comment on this devotional online at:
https://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2012/08/23/jf_mercy-and-faithfulness/

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Thoughts by All thoughts by John Fischer Thoughts by Men