What’s Your Excuse For Being Ugly?

girl_bulldog  I heard about a little girl who was making ugly faces at her pet bulldog.  When her mother scolded her for it, the little girl pointed her finger accusingly at her unlovely pet and said, “Well he started it!”

  I fear that some Christians are just like the little girl when it comes to making excuses for ugly behavior.  Someone says something ugly to us, or gives us a dirty look, so we feel justified in being ugly in return.

  The truth is that no matter what someone else has done to us or said to us, the Christian is to behave like Christ.  He left us an example; we should follow in His steps.  He was “reviled” but “did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23).  To “revile” is “to use abusive language.”  Even when we are being “cussed out,” we have no justification for becoming nasty ourselves.  Rather, “…being reviled, we …bless” (1 Corinthians 4:12).  It is the responsibility of the Christian, in every situation, to “be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8b-9).

  Like the bulldog, some of us may not be able to keep from being ugly in physical appearance, but there is NO excuse for being ugly when it comes to our behavior.

 — Steve Klein


Facing Temptation?

 cat temptation There is no sin in being tempted.  Everyone is.  Even Jesus was  (Hebrews 4:15).  John Wycliffe was of the opinion that “the holiest and highest in life have the most temptations. How much higher the hill is, so much is the wind there greater; so, how much higher the life is, so much the stronger is the temptation of the enemy.” He may well have been right.  The godliest of lives was not an untested life, rather it was a life that faced temptation in all points, “yet without sin.”

  So, you are tempted. Like every man. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). The question is, “How are you going to deal with it?”

  There are two lies Satan would like you to believe when you’re dealing with temptation.  The first is that, “Just once won’t hurt.” The second, after you’ve given into temptation, is that “You have ruined your life; you are useless and beyond God’s help, and you might as well just go on sinning.”

   In reality, just once WILL HURT!  It will hurt because the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23).  It will likely hurt your conscience, your influence and your sense of self worth.  It will hurt because it will weaken you and make you more susceptible to other temptations in the future.   If we can resist temptation to begin with, much “hurt” can be averted. 

  But if you have given in, don’t give up!  There is still hope for living a righteous life.  What is true in war is also true in our struggle with Satan — You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it!  God will enable your victory.  Some of the greatest lives ever lived were lived by men who had once committed grievous sins.  Peter told Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).  Paul declared that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).   But when sin was at its strongest, grace was stronger still.  “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20).    

  Are you facing temptation?  We all are.  Let us face it courageously, with our heads up, swords drawn, eyes clear.  Have you succumbed to temptation?  Don’t despair!  The Lord takes fallen soldiers and helps them up, cleans them up and stands them up.  Trust Him.  By faith we stand.  Respond to Satan’s brief triumph in the words of the prophet of old, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise” (Micah 7:8).

~ Steve Klein

Adjusting the Thermostat

adjusting thermo    You’ve no doubt heard of Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.  I’ve recently discovered a similar universal truth. I’m thinking of calling it Klein’s Thermostat Theorem.  It goes something like this: In any room containing more than one person, the thermostat will invariably be set so that half the people will be too cold, and the other half too hot.  The follow-up truth, which we might call the Cold Feet Corollary, is that If only one person is in the room, half of his body will be too cold, and the other half too hot.  And then there’s the Air Adjustment Adage, which states that, Any adjustment to the thermostat will please no more than half the people in the room and only make matters worse.

  Despite the obvious truth of the Air Adjustment Adage, many people constantly attempt to adjust the thermostat in an effort to make themselves more comfortable.  After many years of observation, I can now state with great assurance that 98.3% of the time, adjustments made to the thermostat are aimed at benefiting the person doing the adjusting (or those with similar body temperatures).  The remaining 1.7% of adjustments are made to benefit either someone lying in a hospital bed or the President.

   In Philippians 2:4 God commands, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  Here then is a principle that should guide Christians not only in adjusting thermostats, but also in many other every day actions.  When it comes to matters of personal interest, where there is no right or wrong (like the temperature of a room), we ought to be at least as concerned about others as we are ourselves. 

   In matters of opinion or personal judgment (like room temperature, or eating meat, or keeping holidays), our focus should not be on pleasing ourselves, but pleasing others. In Romans 15:1-2, the inspired apostle Paul concluded his discussion of such matters (found in Romans 14) with these words:  “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” 

  The critical issue here is not the temperature of a room, but learning to “walk in love” (Ephesians 5:2). Love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5).  Love cares as much for the welfare of others as it does for its own welfare.  The Lord Jesus who, “loved us and gave himself up for us” pleads with us to follow in his steps. “Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). 

— Steve Klein

The Smudge on Your Face

 dirty-face  Have you ever had a friend tell you that you had a smudge of grease, food, or make-up on your face?  What did you do?  If you’re like most folks, first your mind races with questions like “How did that get there?”  “How long has it been there?” and “Who else has seen it?”  Then, if you are caught in this kind of situation without a mirror, you rub your face at the point you estimate the blot to be and ask, “Did I get it?”  

   Your friend responds, “No, you smeared it!”  

   You roll your eyes, rub again and ask, “How about now?”  

   “OK, you’re fine,” you’re told; and you believe it.

   As Christians, we may mistakenly try to deal with sin like a smudge on the face.  At first we don’t realize it’s there.  Then we’re not sure how it got there.  Next we blindly try to rub it off before too many others see it.  Our inability to see ourselves and our pride combine to make our spiritual faces into messy smears of sin.  Folks tell us we’re OK, and we believe them without checking a mirror.

   God has a solution to the smudges of sin.

    1. He has given us a Mirror.  God’s word is like a mirror in which we can see our spiritual selves. He wants us to look regularly into the mirror.  When we look into the mirror of God’s word, we can clearly see the smudges of sin.  We can see whether or not we are doing what we ought to be doing.  The person who wants to do right and keep the smudges off “looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it” (James 1:25).  God’s mirror enables us to see what needs cleaning.

    2. He has given us a cleanser.   “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7b).

    3. He expects us to clean ourselves up accordingly.  God has provided the means for us to clean ourselves through His grace when we see that we have been stained by sin. When the Psalmist asked, “How can a young man cleanse his way?”  They answer was, “By taking heed according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9).  Even today, by following the instructions of God’s word, and taking advantage of the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood, we can cleanse away the smudges of sin.  His cleansing is applied when we confess our sins! (1 John 1:9).

  So, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).  The Lord has provided the means for us to see ourselves and be cleansed.  We must take advantage of what He has provided.  He is not like some overzealous grandmother with a wetted handkerchief who is always daubing at the grimy faces of unwilling grandchildren.  He has provided the cleansing power of the blood of His Son.  He pleads with us to “cleanse ourselves.”

— Steve Klein

A Lump of Soft Clay

potter  Pottery is a fascinating art.  The ability of skilled potters to take what is essentially a pile of mud and make things that are useful or beautiful is amazing.  But far more wondrous than this is what God has done in creating you and me.

  Not only has the Lord molded and shaped us from dust, but He also created the dust itself out of nothing.  The composition and form of our physical bodies then is God’s handiwork. Isaiah states, “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).  In Job 10:9, Job asked the Lord to remember that “You have made me like clay.”  And Elihu declares “I also have been formed out of clay” (Job 33:6).

  As God has had His way in forming us physically, He also desires to mold us spiritually.  We are to be His new creation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18).   Whether or not we will be is up to us.  The dust from which He made our physical bodies had no choice in the matter, but the spiritual clay of the human soul is different.  We can choose to be soft and malleable, or we can be hard, unyielding and inconsistent.  No potter can effectively work with clay that is hard or inconsistent.

  Let us determine to be clay that is workable in the hands of the Lord.  Let Him have His way.  Be willing to change and ready to yield.  Be soft.

Have Thine own way, Lord!  Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mould me and make me, after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still. 

— Steve Klein