Sharing the love of Jesus with one another & the world

Category: Jim Class

“What Did You Just Say?”

I have heard the phrase “What did you just say?” used in several different contexts.

My first recollection is of an authority figure (trust me, there were many who used this tactic with me) in my life calling me to task for having used inappropriate language, or after I called someone a name. It was meant to be a reprimand and was often a standalone form of discipline that brought me to my senses and made me realize that I had not been paying attention to who might be listening.

Other times I’ve heard someone ask “What did you just say?” because they wanted clarification on a statement, or they were in a noisy room and didn’t fully understand what was said.  

Finally, I have heard it in the context in which I am going to use it in Jim Class this week. When someone who is believed to be in a certain position, or is supposed to believe a certain way, makes a comment that is so counter to what he would be expected to say, every head in the room turns, every mouth stands agape, and all eyes as are wide open because they are so astonished.

“Did he really just say that?”

“I never thought I would hear those words come out of her mouth!”

There are statements that have caused me to turn my head over the years. And, dependent on which phase of life I was in, my response would vary.

Before I was a Christian, before my spirit was renewed to God, I would hear a radical statement or profanity in a context that it had not been used in before, and I would cheer and jump on the rebellion bus with that brave soul taking a stand for freedom.

When I was a child the word “pregnant” couldn’t be said on television. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would review and “censor” every script to make sure it was suitable to be heard by all audiences.

Instead of being pregnant with “Little” Ricky, Lucille Ball (Lucy Ricardo) was “expecting” or “with child.”

Rob and Laura Petrie had to sleep in separate beds (so did Lucy and Ricky) because impressionable children were watching – and television was not the grand arbiter of all things. There was still a sense that children should learn at home, from their parents. They (whoever they were) were right!

I remember when I began noticing a shift in the attitude toward, not what was decent and right, but toward – “I don’t want to do it that way!”“I want to do it my way, so by golly, I’m going to!”

In the early 1970s I started hearing cuss words on TV. It began “small” but grew into more and more words being allowed and people were shocked. My “Lawrence Welk Watching” Grandmother (who, by the way, prayed me into the Kingdom) would turn off the television if she heard so much as a “darn.”

I, on the other hand, would turn the TV up and begin watching the show that was responsible – “religiously.”

There were many households across America that I am sure could have been heard shouting a thunderous cacophony of, “What did you just say?” Unfortunately, this chorus of displeasure fell on deaf ears – actually – no ears, as technology had not – and still hasn’t (as far as we know) – reached that level of interaction.

There were two venues that highly influenced me – comedy record albums and Saturday Night Live (SNL). I memorized George Carlin (who was the first guest host on SNL) and Cheech and Chong albums. I could literally quote them verbatim.

One time my friends and I decided we would record ourselves doing a Cheech and Chong routine (“Ashley Roachclip”). He was a pot smoking ad man who got more and more stoned as his commercial, which advertised a particular type of marijuana, went on. He also got forgetful and frustrated which led to anger and profanity (the worst words you can think of).

We had it down. The voices, the accents, the ability to sound stoned (don’t ask how I knew that one). And, to make matters worse, we recorded ourselves. We put on the headphones and mimicked what we heard into a table-top cassette recorder in my friend’s bedroom.

He came and stayed all-night at my house that night because there was family visiting who needed his room. The next day when we went back to his house and much to our surprise, when we walked into the back door (typical entry point in those days) – his entire family – mom, dad, aunts, uncles, cousins, and dogs were all sitting around the kitchen table laughing uproariously.

We look at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and proceeded to his room. As we were leaving the kitchen, we realized that they were listening to us! His aunt and uncle has slept in his room and evidently found, and listened to, our performance. And felt the need to share it with the rest of the family, f-bombs, and all!

When we realized what they were listening to, we expected to hear, “What did you just say?”  But the fact that they found it funny and complimented us on how creative we were (they didn’t know we were just copying Mr. Marin and Mr. Chong) only reinforced the idea that that type of language was okay.

During that era, 1972-1975, suggestive (and not so suggestive) language began migrating its way onto the television sets of America. SNL was where I heard it and began to emulate it even more. It was primarily the antics and language of Dan Ackroyd that influenced me – from the refrigerator repairman exposing himself to the Weekend Update anchor calling Jane Curtain a name I had never heard uttered on television before, and it’s now commonplace.

Mark 11:22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (NKJV)

I believe there is a correlation here to the words we use. There is a word in this passage that I want to focus on. Whatever. The word whatever is a “conditional particle” in the Greek language. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G1437.)

It is conditional based on something that is yet to happen, and indefinite based on the idea that what influences the outcome has not yet occurred. In Mark 11:24 the condition is something spoken, “you will have whatever you say.”  The saying, or speaking has not yet happened; therefore the outcome hasn’t happened yet.

I have preached on the subject of controlling what we say, or watching our mouths, many times over the years. But this one word, “whatever” often gets overlooked. If you recall the decade of the 1980s you will recall that the word “whatever” became possibly the most overused word of that era.

The implication with the word “whatever” (which may be coming the most overused word in this blog) implies something can go in multiple directions. If you say something good, there is a possibility of swaying the outcome the same way, and if you say something bad, the reverse is true.

Hypochondria (Illness Anxiety Disorder/Somatic System Disorder) is a good example of having what one says. People with these conditions present and have no symptoms at all, but over time continue to insist that something is wrong.

Over this same period of time, because of the stress and anxiety that develops around the perceived symptoms, victims of these disorders actually do begin exhibiting some of the original signs. (1998-2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER))

If we look at the verses from Mark 11, we see that someone with the symptoms of Illness Anxiety Disorder “says” something, “believes” something, and eventually develops something (whatever they say and believe).

I believe the church – the Christian Church Universal – has developed a problem which borders on Illness Anxiety Disorder. I believe we need to be hearing the phrase – “What did you just say?”  – a lot more in Christian circles.

The idea that we can “have what we say,” is very obvious among Christians and this should not be so! We have to reign in our tongues and get them to align with what the Word of God says, not what the world, or mainstream media, or “Hollywood” want us to say, or what they say our “rights” are – but what God wants us to tell the world. The message of the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Thanksgiving and Christmas

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

This is how Charles Dickens opens his classic piece, “A Tale of Two Cities.” Although he published it 161 years ago (1859) in England, it rings true for the time we are currently living in. And, not just in England, but all over the world. I, however, will focus on The United States of America.

Parents all over this great land have used some form of the phrase, “If you don’t straighten up, there will be no Christmas this year!” or “Santa doesn’t visit naughty boys and girls!” And I assure you, I have heard both on several occasions (even as early as July).

It seems that 2020 has become “the age of foolishness” when we need it to be “the epoch of belief.”

There are actually media personalities and politicians across the country calling for the “cancelation” of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ah, “the age of foolishness” has finally been realized.

I, for one, am glad they are saying these things. Not because I believe either Thanksgiving or Christmas should (or can) be canceled, but because I hope that the lunacy of these statements will open the eyes of the people and make them realize where they are putting their hope.

Thanksgiving is not just a holiday full of gluttony and football. It is a time of the year where we remember what we have to be thankful for, regardless of the hard times or difficulties we are facing.

James 1:2 My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. (TPT)

I chose to use The Passion Translation because of the phrase, “it stirs up power within you to endure all things.” Other translations refer to the testing of our faith producing stamina or endurance. Those statements are true, but I am convinced that we can’t persevere to the point of producing stamina without some form of power.

I also find it interesting that those who are calling for the cancelation of these holidays are actually using the term Thanksgiving and Christmas when those of their ilk are the primary advocates of the elimination of those terms.

Why are they saying we should cancel, “The Happy Holidays?”

Because it is attack on what is Christian. There are many in the media and politics that are not just non-Christian, they are anti-Christian! So, any opportunity to turn the masses against something they are against, they will use. See the hypocrisy?

Jesus warned us that trouble would come in John 13:8. He spoke of persecution as well.

John 16:29 Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. (NKJV)

But instead of recognizing that our Savior warned us these times would come, we tend to buy into the news of trouble as if it takes precedent over what scripture says, and it absolutely does not!

Thanksgiving and Christmas are not the holidays that big money retail establishments have made them out to be. They are also not what we supposed them to be based on the commercialization that has developed in the wake of this retail push.  

Christmas is the time that we celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. If you don’t celebrate that birth, if you don’t believe that birth took place, or if you believe that Jesus was just a good man like all other good men, why do you celebrate Christmas at all?

The word Christmas itself tells us what it is really all about, Christ – a reference to Jesus, and mas – a reference to mass or a service. What we should be doing is celebrating Jesus birth at church. That is what Christmas is all about.

The gift giving began with the wise men bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus when he was likely two years old. It wasn’t even at His birth. Therefore, the gift giving aspect of Christmas is off by a couple of years. They were celebrating the fact that the Messiah had been born, but the gifts went to Jesus not everybody who happened to be breathing.

Over the years I have attempted several times to make Christmas more reverential, more Christian oriented. So, I purchased gifts with Christian meanings. Books, Bibles, tapes/CD’s, or other Christian related items.

I made all my purchases at Christian bookstores and was really pleased that I made that choice (I’m still pleased). But the recipients of the gifts were not as pleased. No one said anything derogatory, or refused to accept the presents, but there were obvious looks of disappointment when they were opened.

Friends and family, for the most part, were slump shouldered and crestfallen when they saw what I got them. I did this as early as 1985. That is a clear sign that the meaning of Christmas has been lost for some time.

I also remember many Christmases as a child where I got big gifts, and plenty of toys and was thrilled. But at the same time if I got socks, or underwear, or soap-on-a-rope, I was as disappointed as the recipients of my Christian related gifts.

That means for at least 60 years (yes, that’s my age) Christmas has not had the meaning or impact is should or could be having. As I sit and ponder how some mortals think they have the power to cancel Thanksgiving or Christmas, I am reminded of another literary giant – Theodore Geisel (it may be a clue if I told you his middle name was Seuss).

He put it pretty well when he addressed the subject of the commercialization of Christmas and those (one in particular) who didn’t want it to happen. Through all his wrangling and manipulation, the Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, 1957) stood on a mountain and saw an amazing sight.

“Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

Use that as a reminder that these holidays cannot be stopped. There is too much behind their meanings (especially Christmas) to stop them. And remember, the original meanings are steeped in things that happened hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Or, we could observe, as the Grinch did,

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

“Which Came First?”

I have a proverbial, “which came first” scenario to consider this week in Jim Class. But it has nothing to do with fowl or ova. We will make a connection with our own psyche – our mind – our will. And our emotions will be put to the test as we ponder, “Which Came first?”

From the time I was a small boy my favorite cookies have been peanut butter and chocolate no-bakes. You know – the ones that mom made in a big steel pot on the stove-top – and then spooned out the chocolatey concoction onto waxed paper -which had been spread neatly over the countertop or table (hopefully both).

If I were lucky, I got to lick the spoon and clean out the pan. Better yet, you got a spoonful of the delicious gooiness as she was sliding them off the spoon, with her ungloved finger, onto the waiting parchment.

I recall a couple of incidents where I only got to lick the spoon and mom gave me strict instructions, “Don’t eat any of these until they set up!” Meaning I wouldn’t get one while it was hot and gooey. Needless to say, I had an incident or two where I didn’t wait!

One time I snuck in and took a couple from the waxed paper – in spite of my mother’s warning. It wasn’t long before I heard my full and proper name echoing from the kitchen, followed by, “You get in here right now!

As nonchalantly as a nine-year-old could pull off, I entered the kitchen and put on my best fake innocent-look. You know the one, eyes wide opened while feigning a look of confusion – arms outstretched, palms upward – while uttering a feeble, “What mom?” Trying to pull off the, “Why in the world would you interrupt the ever important Cowboy Bob cartoon program?” defense.

In all her motherly perceptiveness, she didn’t buy it. She simply stood – pointing at the two brown spots on her waxed paper – the evidence I had left. I was busted!

The next time (yes there was a next time) I tore off the wax paper where the brown spots were. My ploy failed just as miserably. From the, “James Mitchell Clayton the second” to the unconvincing act of innocence. This time it was followed by a comparison on how the blade on the waxed paper box makes a nice, neat tear and I did not.

The point is – before I heard my name being called – before I was called on the carpet (or linoleum in this case) – I knew I had done something wrong. I was feeling pangs of guilt and remorse before I heard my name. Hearing my name simply drove home the idea, “I was a bad boy!” I also knew consequences were coming (in this instance I got none of this batch).  I want to zero in on those guilt pangs this week. Which came first – the sin or the guilt?

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (NKJV)

This is one of the verses I have read and quote often. I go to Romans 8 in an effort to reassure myself (an often overlooked benefit of time in the Bible) that the condemnation I sometimes grapple with has been taken care of by the blood of Jesus. I need convincing from time-to-time. Why do I feel this sense of guilt and remorse when I sin?

I don’t want to give you the impression that I am a rampant sinner, but there are things that I do that I know I shouldn’t from time to time (See Jim Class Period – 6). If we read further into Romans 8 we begin to get a picture of why we are conditioned to guilt as a default mode.

Romans 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (NKJV)

We, as humans, are prone to a sense of law and order. There are rules to follow. When we follow the rules there are rewards – pay raises – good grades – pats on the back. When we don’t follow them there are consequences – detention – loss of privileges – physical harm – guilt.  

We are inundated with this concept from an early age. They are inherent in nearly every aspect of “civilized” society. From the first time we hear, “NO-NO!” as infants, to not getting a snack in daycare for being restless during nap-time.

From childhood to our teen years – from early adulthood to old age – there are systems in place that convey the message – “Don’t mess up!” Depending on our age and the severity of the “mess up,” the penalty can go from a spanking to a grounding, or from a traffic ticket to jail time. All of these punishments can, and usually do, come with a free side-order of condemnation.

The answer to my question – which came first – the sin or the guilt, is the sin. Without sin there would be no guilt. We see this played out perfectly in The Book of Beginnings.

Genesis 3:8 “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (NKJV)

We don’t see Adam or Eve hiding from God prior to this. The only logical explanation is that there was no sin before this. Every translation I saw says they “hid.” 

When we know we are facing punishment, we do all we can to avoid it. Guilt causes our avoidant behavior. Guilt we would not experience had we not done something we shouldn’t have.

Romans 8:2 “For the “law” of the Spirit of life flowing through the anointing of Jesus has liberated us from the “law” of sin and death.” (TPT)

I like the way Romans 8:2 reads in The Passion Translation. There are two things that come from knowing Jesus – The Spirit and the anointing – which is the application of The Spirit.

Anointing means to, “rub or smear on,” like lotion (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, H4886). The implication in the New Testament is that, as Christians, the anointing is a feature of the New Birth.

“Therein lies the rub!” (To deliberately cash in on the pun.) What is keeping us from accessing this anointing – the use of the Holy Spirit – the intimacy that is implied?

The barrier most Christians face lies in the second half of Romans 8:2. “The law of sin and death.” Once sin entered the picture, mankind began seeking ways to escape it. Some of these means were provided by God, but not necessarily used in the manner in which He prescribed.

All it takes is two words to demonstrate the problem. The Law. We are conditioned to “The Law.” But the law we are conditioned to is, “The Law of Sin and Death.” The law that carries guilt and shame doles out condemnation and fear “like Carter does liver pills.”

We are preprogrammed to respond to sin through condemnation. It is our default mode. It has been ingrained in every society known to man, and it has been manipulated by tyrants since The Fall.

There is a new law. an alternate law. “The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.” And, as we see in Romans 8, it sets us free from the other law.

Why are we not accessing it the way we should?

Why are we still resorting to self-loathing and misery when we don’t have to?

Paul answers both of those questions a few chapters later.

Romans 12:2 “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (NKJV)

Christians are not renewing their minds with the Word of God as they should. They are not reading their Bibles as they should. Don’t let this bring more guilt – let it be freeing. Use it as a realization that there is something you can do. Go to the source – God’s Word. The answers are there – like a hot gooey cookie sitting on wax paper. It’s yours for the taking – with no guilt and no condemnation.

“What Grace is Not!”

Acts 14:1 When Paul and Barnabas arrived at Iconium, the same thing happened there. They went, as they always did, to the synagogue and preached to the people with such power that a large crowd of both Jews and non-Jews believed. Some of the Jews refused to believe, and they began to poison the minds of the non-Jews to discredit the believers. Yet Paul and Barnabas stayed there for a long time, preaching boldly and fearlessly about the Lord. Many trusted in the Lord, for he backed up his message of grace with miracles, signs, and wonders performed by the apostles. (The Passion Translation)

I’m sure some of you have a memory of things prior to August 6, 1945. I’m not going to crack a bunch of “old” jokes – I am going to set the stage for Jim Class this week.

August 6th was the day the first atomic bomb exploded on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, also in Japan. This essentially ended World War II, but at what cost?

It was Japan that attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941(“a day that will live in infamy.”) which ultimately resulted in the entrance of the USA into WWII. But were the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the only way to end things? (A thought for us all to contemplate.)

I want you to think about something that isn’t usually brought up in discussions about WWII. Think about the meaning and understanding of the word explosion and bomb. Think about how the meaning of those words changed on August 6, 1945. There was a complete shift in the meaning of the word explosion, and how people viewed “bombing.”

Foreign policy completely changed in the world once that type of devastation was witnessed. Many say the cold war began in earnest when people realized the level of destruction mankind had potentially reached. The most powerful countries in the world, from that day forward, became the ones with nuclear capabilities.

The point I want to make is that when the Jewish people heard the word grace applied in the way that Paul used it toward God, it was like a bomb going off.

They had never had a personal relationship with God, and they didn’t understand Him to be approachable. Everything changedwith Jesus.

They no longer had to go through the rabbi or the priest or any other clergy to have contact with God – clergy still played a vital role in the life of a Christian, but God’s people could go directly to Him on their own.

The people of Paul’s day were amazed that God was approachable, that He wanted to have contact with His people, and that there was access to Him. Following the Day of Pentecost and the missional movement of God’s people in the first century church, the word grace began to take on a new meaning.

Have you ever done something that you knew you shouldn’t have done? And worst of all, your mom knew, and you knew the next time you saw her you were going to get it!

So, you avoided her as long as you possibly could. You stayed after school longer than you needed, you took the long way home, and you stopped along the way – throwing rocks and kicking cans – just to avoid the inevitable confrontation that you knew was coming.

You went in the backdoor and snuck into your bedroom, put on your headphones, and cranked some Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, or Black Sabbath – Oh, wait, that’s what I did. (I’m sure those of you reading Jim Class this week went straight to God and asked forgiveness and then went and confessed everything to your parents.)

But that moment came when you couldn’t put it off any longer and you had to meet her face to face – all you had done by avoiding her was increase your anxiety level, which made it all the harder to approach her. But when you finally got up the nerve to even be in the same room, all she did was give you a big hug and tell you she loved you and not to do it again.

It was like a “grace” bomb went off. All the anxiety and stress simply melted away in the loving arms of your mother. And the echo of her loving words, “I love you,” or “I forgive you,” warmed you and help to steel your resolve.

That is exactly what God does when we confess our sins (the woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11). This woman thought that she was going to die. She knew the law, whether she was Jewish or not, she knew the penalty for what she was doing. But Jesus said, I love you, don’t let it happen again.

John 8:11 And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go [k]and sin no more.” (NKJV)

That is grace experienced. That is God giving us a big hug, and telling us he loves us and not to do it again!

Grace is not a license to sin!

Too many times we take the, “Oh, there’s grace for that – I can do whatever I want as long as I’m a Christian” attitude.   

I know God is a forgiving God and that he sent Jesus to die in my place, so my sins don’t ruin me. But there is that little matter of repentance (turn around, make a change). He told the woman caught in adultery, go and sin no more.

Using God’s grace as a license to sin can be very revealing. I can show how, at times,  Christians may not know who God really is (depending on the situation, we all face this from time to time) and, as a result, don’t fully understand what He has done for them.

If you are a Christian and you don’t know God very well, you need to take the time to get to know Him, through His Word and time spent in prayer and meditation, and in fellowship with other Christians.  Then you can get a better understanding of what He has truly done for you, and what grace truly is.

Grace is not a license to sin; it is freedom from sin!

Acts 14: 1 The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. (The New Living Translation)

Arriving at an understanding of what God’s grace is doesn’t happen overnight.

But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord.” (Acts 14:3, NLT)

Verse three of Acts 14 tells us that the apostles stayed and preached this message for a while. That they were bold in their words concerning the grace of God.

This is likely because of the newness of what they were hearing. I believe that when the message of grace – “God’s unmerited favor” – began to spread it was truly like an explosion.

That explosion, carried by word of mouth and through the scriptures, not the splitting of the atom or the manipulation of hydrogen, brings life and hope in a way that could have only been accomplished through the cross of Jesus Christ!  

What We Focus On, Gets Bigger

This session of Jim Class was inspired by the audio daily devotional I do for our church. I send a phone message through our church calling app every Monday through Friday. I try to follow a theme, and this past week’s theme was “Come, Magnify the Lord With Me.”

The premise is that we have the ability to magnify (make bigger) everything in our lives. Whether it’s a problem with our kids, a sickness or injury, or a financial strain, it seems we have mastered the art of letting people know when there’s trouble.

When I worked for a counseling agency, over 20 years ago, I attended a seminar on communication. The speaker had everyone in the room cover their watches with their hands.

Then he asked us to picture some fine details about our watches. He asked what color they were, what color was the face, were the numbers Arabic or Roman, was there a second hand, was there a day and date feature, and many other things about our watches.

Then he told us to look at them briefly and cover them up again. He asked us if we were correct in our descriptions. Several of us (yes, myself included) were obviously very proud of our powers of observation. This pride was evidenced by those who were sitting up straighter, with lungs expanded and smug looks on their faces.

He then asked us, “What time is it?” The proud group became crestfallen and red-faced as we obviously hadn’t looked at that detail. He then stated his theme for the session, “What You Focus on, is what You See.”

That is going to be the focus of Jim Class this week, but with a twist; “What You Focus on, Gets Bigger.”

Psalm 34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. (NKJV)

The Bible uses the word magnify in reference to making things bigger. But the question I have is, “Does it literally make things bigger, or do they just appear to be bigger?” When we look at things under a magnifying glass, the object we are observing doesn’t grow. It only appears bigger under the glass.

Wonderopolis.com describes the effect this way, “A magnifying glass is actually the simplest form of a basic microscope. It consists of a single convex lens that magnifies an object when the glass is held up to it. … When they pass through a magnifying glass, the convex lens bends the parallel rays so that they converge and create a virtual image on your eyes’ retinas.”

The word that stands out to me in this definition is virtual. Virtual implies not real. Something virtual is not actually present. The ant that is under the magnifying glass is not really three inches long. It just appears to be.

We hear talk of virtual reality coming from the computer industry. The programs and games have been developed to improve the aesthetics of the online experience, but those things are not real.

I have seen videos of people using virtual reality goggles or headsets, and they trip and fall, walk into walls or people, jump up and down, yell and gasp, and even are brought to tears by what they are viewing in the virtual world. But it isn’t real!

Before I get too far off into the weeds, let me bring this idea into a logical flow. We can magnify things with our imagination, our words, and our actions. Typically, what we magnify is something that isn’t real, or if it is real, isn’t really as big as we have made it out to be.

“This headache is killing me!”

“Those apples were as big as my head!”

“That fish was THIS long.”

These are all examples of what we would call exaggerations – very similar to magnifying. If we look back at Psalm 34 and the word magnify, I believe we can create some perspective on what we are being instructed to do by King David.

The actual word magnify is used 19 times in the KJV of the Bible. The Hebrew/Greek words translated magnify are used 119 times, but it isn’t always translated magnify. It is used as magnify, magnified, make great, grew, become great, grown, exceeded, and many derivations of each of those words (Biblegateway.com). But, in context, they are all referencing something that got bigger. But when I did my initial study of the word, I only looked up magnify, as it is spelled and used in the KJV.

There are an endless number of things in our lives that could be magnified to the point that they seem insurmountable, that they become a major obstacle – even to the point that other aspects of life get ignored.

Financial trouble can be debilitating – work stress can create a difficult environment at home – unexpected sicknesses can create problems in both of the previously mentioned areas. But when trouble comes – what do we dwell on?

Psalm 34: Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. (NKJV)

This verse is the focus of Jim Class – but what comes before?

Psalm 34:1 Psalm 34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (NKJV)

The first verse of Psalm 34 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” This is a concept that is commonly met with trepidation by many who read or hear it – “AT ALL TIMES.”

Phrases that imply constant attention to a given act are usually met with the question, “How can I do anything, all the time?” The simple answer is, “We are always doing something, and that’s all the time.” It sounds trite, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

A better answer is, “We need to train ourselves to be conscious of God all the time.” That way, when the difficult things arise, we are more likely to have a Godly response. Especially if that training involves, “Renewing our minds,” as we’re instructed in Romans 12:2.

We then need to take a closer look at what comes after our call to “magnify the Lord” in Psalm 34.

Psalm 34: I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. (NKJV)

Does this really say that “the Lord…delivered me from all my fears?” Yes, but only following the instruction to magnify and seek Him.

It comes down to a very simple concept. We can build things up that actually have a beginning and end and cause them to be such an obstacle that we are hindered, or we can build something up – God – who doesn’t have a beginning or and end, and can’t be bigger than He really is – particularly as big as He could/should be to us.

It could be better stated – what we focus on gets bigger!

The Tree is the Heart

What we say has a much bigger impact on us than we realize. I’m also pretty sure that I am a part of the last generation that had the concept of “watching your mouth” drilled into our psyches by our parents and grandparents, to the level which we did.

When I was eleven years-old, we lived in Petersburg, Virginia. My step-dad was stationed at Fort Lee, and our house was very close to the base. I was in the Fall semester of my 6th grade year at A.P. Hill Elementary School.

There were many things that took place during our time in Virginia that have historical ramifications. Forced bussing, traveling to Washington D.C. and Colonial Williamsburg all had a lasting impact on my future outlook.

But those aren’t the things I am going to discuss this week in Jim Class.

In previous blogs I have mentioned that I am the oldest sibling of three. I have a younger brother and sister. During our time in Virginia, my brother and I were evidently exhibiting behaviors (especially how we talked to each other and maybe hygienically) that my mom thought needed to be reined in. So, she gave us each a copy of a book called, “Stand Up, Shake Hands, and Say, “How Do You Do”: What Every Boy Needs to Know about Today’s Manners” by Marjabelle Young Stewart and Anne Buchwald.   

If you couldn’t tell from the title, it is (yes, it’s still in publication and I have a current copy) a book on manners. It was chocked full of good advice – don’t spit on the locker room floor (which I had never done until I read this book), don’t flip each other with towels (a skill I became expert at), and stand up when a lady enters the room (I tried this once and was ridiculed mercilessly by my friends).

As I look back on what was in that book, a large portion had to do with how we should speak. Say “Please and thank you,” address your elders as Mr. and Mrs. or ma’am and sir, ask to be excused from the table, but only after cleaning your plate, are all addressed in “Stand Up” (the title is too long to keep re-typing). There was a chapter on not back-talking or using sarcasm (I’m not sure I’ve learned that one fully).

Throughout the book there are references, in nearly every chapter, that have something to do with what you say. How to talk to teachers, how to conduct yourself at a job interview, how to address the clerks in a retail establishment are all covered.

Now I’m a pastor. I spend a lot of time reading the Bible and searching out the meanings of specific words, verses, or sections of scripture. The connection to “Stand Up” is that the Bible also has a lot to say about what we say!

Luke 6: 43 “You’ll never find choice fruit hanging on a bad, unhealthy tree. And rotten fruit doesn’t hang on a good, healthy tree. 44 Every tree will be revealed by the quality of fruit that it produces. Figs or grapes will never be picked off thorn trees. 45 People are known in this same way. Out of the virtue stored in their hearts, good and upright people will produce good fruit. But out of the evil hidden in their hearts, evil ones will produce what is evil. For the overflow of what has been stored in your heart will be seen by your fruit and will be heard in your words. (NIV)

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible put verse 43 this way, “If he (the one doing the speaking) cannot reform ill manners, he will not corrupt good manners,” – if one is not willing to change bad manners within themselves, there will be no good manners to corrupt.

Henry also noted that, “the tree is the heart.”

Maybe my mom, in her infinite wisdom, had some concept of this, at least in regard to my brother and me. We both wondered why my sister didn’t get a book. There was a girl’s version. My suspicion is, to paraphrase Tommy Smothers (this reference might be lost on those under 50), “She was always mom’s favorite.”

As I recall my younger days, it seems the thing that got me in the most trouble was my mouth. The inspiration for the title of my blog came from a time when I popped off to my gym teacher. I forgot my gym clothes one day (I didn’t do that often; Phys. Ed. was my favorite class).

The teacher asked my where my gym clothes were, and I responded by saying, “All my clothes are “Jim” clothes, coach!” The only good that came from my comment was that it inspired me to call my blog “Jim Class.” The running of laps and doing push-ups that followed (yes, in my “Jim” clothes) made me seem a lot less clever.

I have taught a countless number of sermons that either focused on what we say, or had an element that dealt with controlling our tongues. It seems, based on the comments I received following those messages, I’m not the only one who struggles in this area.

It is also clear that God Himself inspired many of those who wrote passages, eventually included in the canon of scripture, to instruct the people to control what comes out of their mouths – and beyond that, how to fill up on the things that should be proceeding from our mouths.

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (NKJV)

Part of the instruction in this Psalm is not to forget all of God’s benefits. I’m not trying to forget any of His benefits, but I can only focus on one or two at a time. So, let’s look at least one benefit mentioned in verse five.

Psalm 103:Who satisfies your mouth with good things, (NKJV)

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the word satisfy, or satisfies, means, “to be fulfilled or enriched.”

This tells us that God has provided something good for us to say. If we compare and contrast this with our earlier passage from Luke “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” there could be a connection to what God satisfies us with and what fills our hearts to abundance.

The Bible is touted as being the, “best-selling and least read” book ever printed. These claims are often made by those who supply a pulpit for a living. In light of recent ministerial shake-ups, scandals, and those breaking with their faith, some of them could have used more time in, “The Book,” themselves (myself included).

Christians typically have a “go to” verse, or a “banner scripture” they have written down, memorized, and refer to often. I am no different. Mine comes from the Book of Joshua,

Joshua 1:This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (NKJV)

This verse helps tie these other scriptural references together.

I have come up with a catchy phrase that I have been meditating on, “What we meditate, ruminate, matriculate, and eventually regurgitate with be evidence of those things that we are full of.”

The word, “meditate,” in Joshua 1:8 means, “to mutter or to say.” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, H1897)

I heard a preacher long ago say, “We are to meditate on God’s Word like a cow chews on its cud.” According to merriam-webster.com, that is a definition of ruminating.

I see meditate and ruminate as synonymous. It seems that to ruminate is a deeper form of meditation, and, consequently, matriculate goes even further.

Also, according to merriam-webster.com, matriculate, in definition number four, means, “to draw within a figure so as to touch in as many places as possible.” It is typically used in reference to enrolling in university, but my thoughts were more in line with the definition quoted.

If a thought touches as many places as possible during our reflections, it seems that thought will stay with us longer and eventually fill our minds and souls to the point we regurgitate it in the form of words that have matriculated into our belief system.

“Regurgitate – to become thrown or poured back – to memorize facts to be regurgitated on a test.” (merriam-webster.com)

What we meditate is largely in our minds. When we meditate long enough, or ruminate, on God’s Word, we begin to see how it could impact us over a longer period of time and how one particular Word from God has the ability to impact us in multiple areas of our lives.

At that point we begin to matriculate that idea over a broader spectrum of our lives. We look at our family, our work, our school (and many other things) in light of a given scripture.

When we see that God’s plan, His Word, has a place everywhere, and we become convinced of a given idea, we won’t be able to stop ourselves from regurgitating (I must have retained something from that book of manners – I didn’t say puke or vomit) what we have learned.

In short, our tree has become full of good fruit to share with others.

Jim Class – Period 6

Two Things!

When we think of the life of Jesus most of what we talk about or read in the Bible is about the things that He did. He healed the sick – that’s wonderful. He was an amazing teacher – that’s inspiring. He was a strong leader – that’s encouraging.

Everything Jesus did was essential to our lives as Christians. But there is a certain aspect of Jesus life that doesn’t get the attention that perhaps is should.

I don’t recall ever hearing someone ask, “What didn’t Jesus do?” Or, “What things did Jesus avoid?” Both are legitimate questions.

We have heard from an early age that there are two types of sins, sins of commission (doing something we shouldn’t) and sins of omission (not doing something we should).

When I was a teenager, I was unbelievably bad at keeping my room clean. I knew I should. My mom drove it into my head from an early age. But the older I got, the less appealing it became to me.

It developed into a real point of contention between my mom and me when I was about 14 or 15. During the summer between my freshman year at Sarah Scott Junior High and my sophomore year at Terre Haute South Vigo High School in Terre Haute, Indiana it got to the point that she threw in the towel. She simply closed my bedroom door, went out to Spencer Gifts and bought a cardboard sign that said, “Enter at Your Own Risk,” (It also had a hazardous materials emblem or a skull and cross bones on it for emphasis) and she hung it on my bedroom door.

There are two points to this story. First, I should have obeyed my mother’s wishes and kept my room clean. It wouldn’t have taken much, and I could have gotten by with extraordinarily little considering the mess it eventually became.

The other point is, I felt bad about it. I not only knew I should have obeyed her, but I was also convicted in my heart. To make matters worse my friends made fun of me and teased me about how messy I was. That didn’t play well on the psyche of a fifteen-year-old Midwestern boy in the mid-1970s (this sounds like the beginnings of a song by John Mellencamp).

Sins of omission are usually things that are clearly evident. They represent things like good manners, or saying your prayers. No one really knows you’re not doing them until you demonstrate it with negative behavior.

Not cleaning my room was a sin of omission that everyone could see!

The Bible (and our parents) has many suggestions concerning sins of omission, but we tend to gloss over them as a general rule. That may be more harmful than we realize.

We have all heard Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,” (NKJV)

But how many of you can recite verse 27? Not so easy is it?

Ephesians 4:27 “nor give place to the devil.” (NKJV)

Many times, ministers, parents, and even teachers and other influential adults in our lives have told us not to go to bed angry, but I don’t recall hearing those same adults tell me not to give place to the devil.

That may be because of the setting or that it might open a can of worms that some were hesitant to open. Well, I just opened it!

There is another phrase in this passage that seems to be closely related to, “nor give place to the devil.”

Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (NKJV)

There’s another phrase we don’t hear very often, do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” There are probably not very many people around who would even use the word ‘grieve’ in that context. It is usually referenced in conjunction to a funeral service.

For the purposes of this blog, I want to look at two things Jesus didn’t do.

It might impact the Christian bracelet trade if I were to make one with the initials, W.W.J.N.D. (What Would Jesus Not Do). But we have to realize that there are things that Jesus refrained from as well as things Jesus did.

I believe I can comfortably assert that Jesus never gave place to the devil, nor did He grieve the Holy Spirit. That’s not a catchy thing to say. But what does grieve the Holy Spirit? What gives place to the devil?

The safe answer is sin. But let’s take a closer look at Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4: 25Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. (NKJV)

There are several things we are told not to do. We are not to let sin accompany our anger, and if we are angry, get over it before you go to bed. Neither are we to steal or use bad language.

Evidently, we should get rid of wrath (rage) in our lives, clamor (quarreling and unnecessary talk) and malice (spite and ill will).

If you were to take a look at the margins of my Bible in this section of scripture I have the list of sins highlighted and an arrow drawn from that list to the phrase, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,”  (actually mine says, “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,”) and next to the arrow I wrote, “these must be the things that grieve the Holy Spirit.

I could add to that, “These must be the things that give the devil a foothold.”

Two things Jesus never did, grieve the Holy Spirit, or give the devil a foothold.

If you recall last week, I suggested encircling the things of the Spirit (Jim class Period 5) and getting to the point where we are there so much it is obvious to everyone.

Maybe, rather than hanging a sign on the door of our life that says, “Enter at Your Own Risk,” we could eliminate those things by spending more time in the ‘field.’

I heard a wise minister say one time, “If we spend our time doing the do’s, we won’t have time to do the don’ts!”

Jim Class 3rd Period

When I was in the sixth grade, my brother and I got to camp out one night with our friends from across the street. We pitched a tent (about ten feet from their back door) and began a night of roughing it. We told scary stories, ate junk food, and probably said some bad words which we couldn’t define.

In a house a few doors down we noticed a commotion. Actually, we heard a commotion that sounded like a loud argument. A few minutes later the man of the house, who had a full cast on his right leg, stormed out of the back door through the backyards which led him to the yard where our tent was pitched.

We were afraid, and his gait made him even more ominous due to the cast on his leg. As he passed, we noticed he had a rifle in his hand. He was carrying it with the barrel down next to his cast. This sight drove us out of the tent and into our respective homes–my brother and I across the street, and our two friends inside their home.

We informed our parents and I ran into my bedroom and got my dart gun (which had ceased to function some time before this), which resembled a real Colt Officer’s Model .45 caliber. The whole family, except my sister who was asleep through it all, when outside and stood at the top of the driveway.

My mom and stepdad stood in front, me (with my inoperable dart gun) and my brother stood very close behind them. Nothing further happened and we never saw “the man with the cast” (as he came to be known in the neighborhood) again. But all four of us fearless campers slept in our own beds that night.

Now would be a good time to remind you of our scripture for this current teaching.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (NKJV)

Psalm 34:1-4

There were three things that I sought that night during our camping excursion. The comfort and safety of home, false bravado given to me by a broken toy, and the security that came from standing close to (behind, but close to) my stepdad.

I had never heard Psalm 34 in my life or, if I had, it hadn’t stuck with me. We weren’t even attending church at this point in our lives. So, I did what my knowledge and instinct told me to do. First, run home to momma, second, grab a weapon, and third, hide behind my protector.

There is no mention of any of these things in this verse. The closest comparison is that David, “sought the Lord,” who is our protector, but that isn’t what I did.

We all have different defense mechanisms that come into play when we are faced with FEAR. But what I want you to get from this teaching is this, God is our protector, He delivers us from all of our fears, and our first response to anything, especially stressful situations, should be to run to Him.

There are three comparisons I would like to make for you. We are instructed in the Book of I Corinthians that our weapons are not what we think, not what our minds might originally tell us.  

My first response was to run home. Home was a safe place, but not as safe as God’s dwelling place.

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.” (NKJV)

My first instinct should have been to run to God. I could have called on Him while I was running across the road. He, God Himself, should be our first choice of “refuge.”

My choice of weapon was wrong too! Running and grabbing a gun (especially one that is a broken toy) when trouble comes should not be your first instinct. Our first instinct should be something godly, not something carnal or fleshly.

I Corinthians 14: “3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (NKJV)

This passage can be used in conjunction with Romans 12:1-2 which instructs us to renew our minds. This tells us to take our thoughts captive, which is a military term that implies making our thoughts prisoners of war, rendering them ineffective.

The first thoughts we have should be scriptural, which are mighty, and can pull down strongholds (also a military term). This skill can only be developed by renewing our minds with God’s Word, the Bible.

Finally, hiding behind my stepdad’s leg was smarter than trying to go up against “the man with the cast” by myself, but it really wasn’t the best choice.

Psalm 91:3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. (NKJV)

Instead of my stepdad’s leg, I should have sought the wings of the Almighty. Not because my stepdad was a bad person incapable of helping me, but because there is a better help, someone who can deliver me from all my fears which include “terror by night.”

God told us 365 times not to fear (Period 1). We have more than just a formula to use, we must make a personal effort to “come to Him” and access His power (Period 2). When we get there, we are safe (Period 3).

In a nutshell,  “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Jim Clayton is currently the pastor at Colchester and Hills Grove United Methodist Church in McDonough County, Illinois. He has over 20 years of ministry experience and is an avid student of the Bible. He also has 20 years of experience in the criminal justice field having worked law enforcement, juvenile corrections, private and retail security, and as a court liaison for Family Service Association of the Wabash Valley.
He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and attended a two-year Biblical studies program at Rhema Bible College and is currently enrolled in Asbury Theological Seminary’s MDiv program.

I’m Afraid Not! Part 2

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (NKJV)e verse that starts off the article

Psalms 34:1

I’m picking up where I left off last week, talking about the subject of fear. Our key scripture is from the Book of Psalms.

Bless the Lord, praise the Lord, boast in the Lord, magnify the Lord, exalt the Lord, and seek the Lord, we can do those things?  Yes. We are also left with the impression that to follow these steps to their logical conclusion would deliver us from fear. Simple, right?

The difficulty many of us have is twofold. First, we don’t have a connection to God like we should and secondly, we are often more influenced by “Christian tradition” than we realize.

Today I am going to look at the possibility of a direct connection between problems one and two. Like the old TV commercial that begged the question, “How do you get a job without experience and how do you get experience without a job?”

My question to you sounds like this, “How do I get closer to God with all this tradition in the way, and how do I get rid of this tradition so I can get closer to God?”

I’m sure you’ve figured out that I am going to zero in on one thing. One thing that I think will address both sides of this dilemma. I have three sections of scripture that will demonstrate what that one thing is (you’ll only get one today).

I asked several ministers, a writer, and two English teachers for feedback on my blog. The responses I received were eye-opening.

Something Anne Durant, one of my minister friends, told me really opened my eyes, she said;

“We must look for ways to connect our people to His empowerment in us to do the Word. Otherwise it just becomes another formula for success instead of the way God gives us success.”

I call that sage advice. So, over the next couple of weeks I am going to point to a largely overlooked tidbit in scripture that encourages us to make that very connection with God.

And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. 14 Then He appointed twelve, that they might be withHim and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: (NKJV)

Mark 3:13-15

There are two statements here that reveal our “overlooked tidbit,” first, “they came to Him.”

The disciples responded when Jesus called. What did He call them to do? Follow Him. My favorite response to this comes from Matthew 4:20 “…immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” (NKJV)

They immediately left. What did they leave? We are told that they left their nets, but what does that represent? Their very livelihood. Their business partners, their boats, their coworkers (in the case of James and John, they left their father). This isn’t just a stroll on the beach, this was a calling to a life of dedication. They came.

But that dedication had another element. Mark 3:14 “Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him…” (NKJV)

We all know the Great Commission is a calling to go into the world and preach the Gospel, that part of it is there too, Mark 3:15“that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:” (NKJV).

We have all heard sermon after sermon tell us of the responsibility we have to let others know about Jesus, but I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon point out the fact that we should, “be with Him,” first.

Follow Him. Immediately. Be with Him. Now. The power to fulfill the Great Commission comes from being intimate with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, and ultimately with God Himself.

But we must first shed the Garth and Wayne tradition that tells us, “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy.” The Christian tradition side of things. Like generational sin, and being guilted into feeling or acting a certain way.

My Bible says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;” Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

I am convinced that the “power” to accomplish all we are called to do (see verse 15 of Mark 3) comes from time spent with Him.

The implication is that we don’t spend enough time with Him. Literally, with Him. Talking to Him like He is real, listening to Him as if He had something to say to us that isn’t written down somewhere. Getting in touch with Him through prompting and nudging of the Holy Spirit.

The idea I want to leave with this week is this. When you were a child and something scared you, or you were going to do something that you had never done before and were feeling butterflies and trepidation, what brought you peace and comfort? What alleviated that fear and reduced those butterflies?

For most of us is was when dad came into the room, or when we took his hand while walking into the new school. The presence of our earthly father brought us comfort and steadied our nerves. Being with our dad reduced our fear. Sound familiar?

”I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

In Christ,

Jim

Jim Clayton is currently the pastor at Colchester and Hills Grove United Methodist Church in McDonough County, Illinois. He has over 20 years of ministry experience and is an avid student of the Bible. He also has 20 years of experience in the criminal justice field having worked law enforcement, juvenile corrections, private and retail security, and as a court liaison for Family Service Association of the Wabash Valley.
He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and attended a two-year Biblical studies program at Rhema Bible College and is currently enrolled in Asbury Theological Seminary’s MDiv program.

I’m Afraid Not! Part 1

This isn’t my first attempt at doing a blog, but if this is posted, then it is my most earnest. I have set up a spot on the homepage of our church website (colchesterumc.com) called, “Jim Class”, which will be the new home and title for my blog.

I came up with this idea while reminiscing about a time in school, probably 8th or 9th grade, when I made a smart aleck comment to my gym teacher.

I didn’t dress for gym class one day and the teacher asked, “Clayton, where are your gym clothes?” I responded, “All my clothes are ‘Jim’ clothes.” Not surprisingly, I did some laps in my ‘Jim’ clothes, which included ‘hard shoes’. Thinking about this moment is what led me to the idea of calling my blog, “Jim Class”.

Fear seems to be dominating people’s thoughts over these last several months. With the Corona Virus, political and civil unrest, and an uncertain future, fear is an easy step for all of us at times.

Let’s look at what the Bible says on the subject.

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel[a] of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (NKJV)

Psalms 34:1

Fear. What is fear? How often do we give in to fear?

The English word fear appears 501 times in the KJV of the Bible, and afraid shows up 189 times. So that’s a total of 690.  690 times, in the Bible, we are admonished concerning the subject of fear.

170 times it appears before the word, not, as in, “fear not.” 37 times we are told, “do not fear,” and 63 times we are told to be not afraid. 

That means 270 times, using the word fear or afraid, we are told not to do it. We are also told not to be anxious, or to be careful for nothing, or not to worry several times.

That means we are told in some way, specifically, not to fear, nearly 300 times in the Bible. When you add the synonyms for fear like, anxious, worry, and fret, or the phrase “take no thought,” the total is 365.

If God tells us not to do something and we do it, what are we doing? Sinning.

It is not my intention to bring condemnation on you, but I do want you to be convicted by what you glean from God’s Word.

“Fear is the enemy of logic. There is no more debilitating, crushing, self-defeating, sickening thing in the world–to an individual or to a nation.”

Frank Sinatra

Do you know the first time it shows up in the Bible?

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (NKJV)

Genesis 3:9-11

If the problem has been around that long it seems there should be an answer. How do we deal with fear?

Let’s look our text from the Message Bible.

 God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray. (MSG)

He gives us the answer before He states the problem!

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.

Psalm 34:1-3

The following is a good place to start.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:8-9

The solution comes from God but putting it into practice lies with YOU! You are mentioned specifically nine times in two verses and you is understood three other times in verse nine (You be strong…, You do not be afraid…, and You don’t be dismayed…)

In Christ,

Jim

Jim Clayton is currently the pastor at Colchester and Hills Grove United Methodist Church in McDonough County, Illinois. He has over 20 years of ministry experience and is an avid student of the Bible. He also has 20 years of experience in the criminal justice field having worked law enforcement, juvenile corrections, private and retail security, and as a court liaison for Family Service Association of the Wabash Valley.
He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and attended a two-year Biblical studies program at Rhema Bible College and is currently enrolled in Asbury Theological Seminary’s MDiv program.