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You probably have heard the hubbub about Pat Robertson’s outlandish advice to a spouse whose wife has Alzheimer’s. In case you haven’t, here’s CNN’s account of the controversy: 

Squaring Pat Robertson’s Alzheimer’s remarks with the Bible – CNN Belief Blog – Blogs

We all know of Pat Robertson’s notorious proclivity to hoof-in-mouth’s disease. CNN’s report is just another example of his too often thoughtless comments made without biblical rationale. But, according to this article, he refused to recant these absurd and cruel comments. Might pride be a factor? Or just ignorance?  Maybe he has early stages dementia. You be the judge. Instead of railing against this view that is so asinine most atheists would call it inhumane, I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss how Christians should minister to those affected by this horrible disease. For what it’s worth, my views clash with the televangelist’s. Here they are:

  • We must try to see all people (even those with Alzheimer’s) as God would see them. They are His creation, worthy of dignity and love, and have emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Most critically, Alzheimer’s patients and their families need the hope that can only come from the Gospel of Jesus.
  • Never forget the Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). If you were to have this terrible disease, how would you prefer to be treated? Would you want to be abandoned, forgotten, neglected, and unloved? Truth be told, it could eventually be you that suffers from dementia and its sister cognitive diseases – ABC News reports that there are  5.4 million Alzheimer’s patients in the US today and this number is expected to grow dramatically as the Baby Boomers age.
  • Realize that everyone is your neighbor and Christ command us to love and care for them. The Parable of the Good Samaritan should be etched in our hearts (see Luke 10:25-37). When asked who our neighbor is, Jesus shared this story. Christ’s message should compel us to serve the hurting and needy. His final words of this passage punctuate His teaching with, “go, and do likewise.”
  • Remember that the patient never suffers alone (unless folks take Pat Robertson’s advice). Families hurt along with their loved ones inflicted with this demoralizing malady. They need our love, prayers, and support along with the primary victims of Alzheimer’s. These family members could use our Christ-centered love and encouragement.
  • Do practical things to help ease the burden, pressures, and pain that are usually associated with such suffering. This article gives some very useful tips on what we can do to help both the patient and their relatives beyond just prayer and encouraging words – ABC’s of Alzheimer’s Ministry.
  • And, maybe most importantly, be motivated by the truth that loving and ministering to an Alzheimer’s patient and their loved ones is tantamount to loving and ministering to Jesus Himself. For the full impact of this truth, only the complete passage will do:

“And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:33-46).

My wife, Rebekah, who works in a nursing home, has forever had a heart of compassion for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. In many ways she considers this her calling, her ministry. She has many stories of those, and their families, who suffer with these diseases. One seems most appropriate here:

“One of our residents is in late stages Alzheimer’s and barely knows she is in the world. But, like her, well into his 80’s and feeble himself, her husband comes every day. He arrives early, kisses her gently. and sits with her all day. He talks to her, reads to her, and when she becomes distraught or agitated he hugs her with a long, loving, comforting embrace. At the end of the day he kisses her again, toddles to his car, and returns home. But he is always there, every day for hours. It’s one of the most Christ-like things I have ever witnessed.”

And don’t we agree? I’m confident Jesus does! Then let’s “go and do likewise.”

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty – Real Treasure

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:19-24).

In John 12:1-6 we see a powerful illustration of two diametrically opposed perspectives on possessions. Mary, who was not likely a woman of great financial means, takes expensive perfume—valued at a year’s worth of income—and pours it on Jesus’ feet. In an act of great humility, worship, adoration, and sacrifice she uses her hair as a towel, mopping up the offering given to her Master. The treasurer of the group, Judas Iscariot, saw things differently. He said Mary’s gift was a waste. This passage indicates, however, that his motives were not—as he piously stated—based on kingdom principles; instead, he wanted this commodity for personal gain and his own pleasure.

Matthew 6 condemns the pursuit of luxury and extravagance over the pursuit of God. The bumper sticker mentality, “He who has the most toys wins,” suggests a life of marked contrast to the one Jesus desires of those who serve in His kingdom. While most place their hope in earthly “treasure,” only spiritual “treasure” holds any lasting value. In admonishing listeners to seek after His treasure, Jesus encouraged people to find security in Him. He offers eternal life and provides hope that proves real, satisfying, and lasting. Out of the renewed condition of our hearts and out of a desire to trust our Lord, believers should pause and give serious consideration to what we value most.

Matthew 6:19-24 does not stand as a prohibition against material possessions or wealth. On the contrary, demonstrating good stewardship through planning and saving may allow us the opportunity to give and serve for His glory. This portion of the sermon is perhaps best understood in conjunction with another verse: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). God is the true source of all we hold. When we recognize that He owns all things and that provision comes from Him, we tend to release the wealth and things over which He has made us stewards. We cheerfully do this for His purposes. We choose Him over accumulation.

When Jesus said “not to store up for yourselves” earthly treasures, He meant that people should not pile things for the purpose of self-centered consumption. Doing so disrespects the Giver and ignores the needs of others. Scripture refers to Jesus’ followers as givers not accumulators of material possessions, proving that what we gain in this life comes to us so that we might honor Him and receive an eternal reward from Him (see Matthew 5:40-42; Mark 10:21). Our lives should center on giving, not gaining. “Watch out!” Jesus taught, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Only relationship with the Lord provides lasting satisfaction (see Philippians 3:8, John 14:27). Only there do we find the true meaning of life.

As I consider the state of the modern western church, the deception that possessions bring abundant life and spiritual benefit proves particularly troubling. Gaining possessions for their own sake proves a poor facsimile of the fullness and satisfaction found in Christ and His righteousness. Coveting more and more of this world’s trinkets leads to emptiness and destruction, to a never-ending and never-satisfying hunger for more. Christ—not gradually decomposing, man-made “treasures”—should stand as the source of our satisfaction. Fixing our hearts on earthly and material things eventually leads us to great spiritual darkness. We can never fully serve God when our hearts focus on our bank accounts and possessions.

Later in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus connects our perspective on possessions with the value we put on His kingdom. In a staggering passage Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a treasure and is of greater worth than all of our earthly possessions: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). Here too Jesus delineates two clear choices. We can love and pursue money and the possessions it brings or we can love and pursue the things of God. We will serve one or the other; therefore, each must ask: Do I hold a passion for God or stuff? What do I desire most: the things of this earth or King Jesus and eternal bounty? Our honest answers determine our faithfulness to the King.

Jesus taught, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). The Lord knows that we need money to pay our bills and buy food for our tables, but rather than focusing on our needs we should zero in on His role as our Provider. Instead of asking Him what He can give to us, we should offer all we hold to Him. As we relinquish the desire to accumulate, we position ourselves to find real and lasting joy through the unfathomable treasure of the King and His kingdom.  

Apply It.

Read Philippians 3:10-14. From where did Paul gain his sense of security and satisfaction? Pull out your checkbook and investment statements. Do an honest assessment of your spending habits and money management. What do the results suggest about where you derive your sense of security and satisfaction? Ask God to eliminate anything in you that puts material possessions ahead of His kingdom.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of selfswollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who… [are] always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.” 

Indeedevil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:1-17). 

In America we are bombarded with the marketing concept that you can have whatever you want “customized.”I  guess that now includes one’s faith. If you hold to the fundamental tenets of what is defined as evangelical, saving faith, this article found in USAToday on 9/13/2011 is a must read: 

More Americans tailoring religion to fit their needs – 

Why do I think this article is worth our consumption? Because according to USAToday George Barna has some sobering news: “When he measures people by their belief in seven essential doctrines, defined by the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith, only 7% of those surveyed qualified.”* Only 7% of Americans hold to an orthodox Christian belief system? That’s incredible to me even though I’ve never quite understood why anyone would call America a “Christian Nation.” But it’s not just about what George Barna and the NAE thinks; it’s what many of us are observing in our culture and within the consumerized American church. When it comes to Christianity, we have taken on the slogan of Burger King: “Have it your way.” And the mantra of crooner Frank Sinatra: “I did it my way.”

Other statistics should alarm us even further; more people are claiming Christ but fewer professing a traditional belief system (orthodoxy). And fewer are practicing Biblical principles (orthopraxy). Now common sense would dictate this statistical correlation is inverted. But basically it reflects the effects of post-modernism, universalism, and moral relativism. They have created a philosophical framework that allows you to believe what you want to believe and live how you want to live and still call yourself a Christian (or think your’re going to Heaven). And, in my opinion, this worldview has infiltrated the church. Beyond that, I believe the church has helped to facilitate this mindset. How’s that? By watering down the Gospel, becoming unashamedly shallow, biblically irrelevant, and entertainment driven. And, maybe most importantly, by abandoning our mission to make disciples, in the fullest sense, with the very authority of Jesus Himself (see Matthew 28:18-20). 

So we are left with an ambiguous religious culture that is defined not by any authority other than the authority of self and self-determination. There is no surrender to someone (Jesus) or something else (the teaching of Scripture). In America’s newest religion we bow down only to ourselves and honor only our subjective religious creations (see Romans 1:16-32). Barna is quoted: “America is headed for 310 million people with 310 million religions.” And yet the visible church has failed to hold fast to the faith, to proclaim the Word of Truth boldly, and live out its clear, definitive callings. Thus the church has often become an unwitting accomplice and, dare I say, sometimes a covert culprit in nurturing this type of deception. 

So what do we have? “Christianity” without following Christ and His teachings. The article depicts one lady’s journey this way: “She drifted through a few mainline Protestant denominations in her youth, found a home in the peace and unity message of the Baha’i tradition for several years, and then was drawn deeply into Native American traditional healing practices. Yet, she also still calls herself Christian.” 

I can sense your dissent and concern growing more intense. And so is mine. We hold to the tenets of the faith, we surrender to Christ, we believe His teachings are not suggestions but commandments. This, we are convicted, is what the true church of Jesus Christ stands for. Certainly it looks like we are in a shrinking minority. But haven’t true believers always been a remnant (see Romans 11:5-10)? This should come as no surprise to those who actually give absolute credence to and put our full faith in the words of Jesus. For He Himself said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13-14).

* The 7 essential beliefs as defined by the NAE include such basics as: the Bible being the authoritative Word of God, God as a trinity, the diety of Jesus, His sinless life, atoning death, bodily resurrection, eventual return, and salvation in Christ by grace through faith alone.

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Nineteen – Kingdom Prayer

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:”

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

 your kingdom come,

your will be done

 on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:7-15).

Countless volumes address the deep significance of the model prayer Christ shared in Matthew 6. The passage provides incredible insights into God’s character and the way He desires Christ-followers relate to Him. Perhaps more than any other section of Scripture, this passage demonstrates that our dialogue with God stands as an intimate yet reverential kingdom-centered privilege. It exalts God’s plans, purposes, and will while acknowledging our dependence on Him for daily provision and practical holiness. This simple prayer resoundingly captures the astonishing essence of the grace-wrought relationship we have with our Father. Unfortunately, many people still view the passage as a script meant for recitation. Thousands know it by memory, but few understand its depth.

I love that Jesus preceded the model prayer with advice on what not to do. He begins by acknowledging that even the godless pray, but their prayers are insincere and frivolous. The term translated as “babbling” here can also be understood as “empty repetitions.”[i] According to Jesus, uttering meaningless words and failing to approach God in focused sincerity ignores the inward realities necessary to truly dialogue with our King. Reciting clichés without backing them in heart-induced authenticity fails to honor the Lord.

My friend Robin beautifully summarized what many Christ-followers experience in their prayer life. She saw her prayers as sign-posts in her spiritual journey: “When I was just born-again I struggled to say anything that made sense. After a few years of being in church, I learned to use a bunch of tired, empty phrases that held little meaning to me. You know—the kind of stuff you mindlessly and hurriedly spit out before a meal? But as I grew in the Lord I began to experience the awesomeness of His presence during my quiet time. Then my words took on heart-felt meaning, and I found myself having a real, dynamic, life-transforming conversation with my Lord.”

At the heart of Jesus’ dialogue with His Father, come these words: “hallowed (revered) be your name.” God’s ultimate glorification defines the goal of every prayer. Magnifying the Heavenly Father and approaching Him with the intent to follow His plans and purposes is primary. Our King is transcendent, majestic, and separated from His creation. Even Christ—His own Son and the exact representation of His glory—approached God with awe and the humility of a servant, recognizing His magnitude. This posture stands in sharp contrast to the man-centered “vain repetitions” the pagans use in calling out to the divine.

Amazingly, Christ encouraged listeners to approach God as “Father.” In doing this He allows a glimpse into the supernatural grace that restores our fellowship with God; in spite of our failings, we are allowed to call Him “our Father.” The Apostle Paul used the term Abba, meaning “Daddy,” to capture the beautiful intimacy that we can have with our King (Romans 8:15). Authentic kingdom prayer shows the personal nature of our sovereign Lord without diminishing His deity. God, great and glorious, provides omniscient care for the needs of His royal children.

The centrality of God’s kingdom provides the basis for Christ’s prayer. We should offer all of our praise and everything we ask of Him with this in mind. We must constantly acknowledge His dominion over creation, allowing our prayers to reflect passion for the on-going revelation of His reign. Our hearts should surge with the attitude, “Your kingdom come, your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven”! As we approach the Lord with this mentality, we stop thinking about ourselves and begin to focus on Him. This allows us to find peace and confidence in God’s sovereignty and affirms within us that He will capably provide what we most need.

Our Lord acknowledges God’s promise of physical provision in this life for His children as a general principle (see Matthew 6:25-31). Interesting that He advises us to pray for things that God has already promised to provide (i.e. our daily bread) and about needs that He is already aware of (Matthew 6:8). Provider of all that we have, God imparts the necessities and often blesses us with nonessentials. By praying for what He has already promised to provide (and often times already gives) we humbly recognize Him as the only source of all good things (James 1:17). We recall God’s greatness as our Provider and recognize His caring and compassion in our lives.

The prayer clearly reveals that Jesus desires His disciples pursue righteousness. Holy living is predicated on our understanding of His gracious forgiveness. When we grasp the beautiful forgiveness Christ offers us, we will reveal that understanding by adopting lifestyles of forgiveness. In order to mirror God’s purity, we must passionately pursue godliness, an inherent attribute of His chosen people. Recognizing God’s holiness and falling in love with Him sparks within us a passion for purity. As we pursue blamelessness and extend forgiveness, we reflect Him.

Studying the model prayer always prompts my heart: Do my prayers come across as vain, selfish, empty, or shallow? Or does my communication with Him project an intimacy that compels me to glorify Him? Do I plead for His kingdom’s expansion? Do I exhibit a heart grateful for His underserved provision? How often do I yearn for a holy life that reflects His absolute purity? Jesus prompted us to pray kingdom-centered prayers to an incomprehensibly supreme King. Only when I give God the focus, reverence, and surrender He requires do my prayers match with the principles Christ laid out in Matthew.  

Apply It.

Jesus encourages us to find, as He did, a place of solitude to pray (see Mark 1:35; Matthew 6:6). Considering life’s busyness and distraction, we must consistently find a place and time that allows us intimate communion with our Father without interruption. Does this reflect your practice? Ask God to give you the discipline to daily fellowship with Him in a place of quiet.

[i] Robertson, A. T.  Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament (Broadman Press, 1960).

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). 

This is an actual offering by a widely known minister/ministry. Check it out: 

“You Must Recapture Your Dream” Pack 

For your generous gift of $1,000 or more! 

Description: The major assault of the devil is to cause you to become “visually impaired.” If you lose your God-given vision, your dream, you will stumble through life as your dream deteriorates. Is there hope? Can you recapture the dream? Yes you can! Find out how in this pointed message from (intentionally deleted). Discover what it takes to bring life back to your vision and what happens when you refuse to give up on your God-given dream! 

Now how does that strike you? For a moment I thought I was visually impaired as I read this advertisement. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Rebekah’s comment was spot-on: “Don’t they know that you can read the Bible for free?” Several other (and somewhat satirical) questions pop into my small brain: 

  • Define what a “God-given dream” is? Tell me, how it is different than a worldly dream?
  • Would this dream look like the Prosperity Gospel’s definition of what God wants us to have – worldly success, health, wealth, and a trouble-free life? 
  • Are “God-given dreams” always this expensive to discover? 
  • Is the minster/ministry’s dream the one most likely to come true here? 
  • If you can purchase the discovery of your dream, can you have some indulgences too? 
  • How long do I have to wait on the “Snake Oil Pack?” 
  • Didn’t I once see this on an infomercial? Was it Tony Robbins or Joel Osteen? 
  • Are the lyrics to Aerosmith’s Dream On included? 
  • How does one put a price tag on this? Couldn’t it be $100 or $10,000? 
  • What would you get for $2000 – a dream twice the size of your God-given one? 
  • Would you be willing to send me $999 (I need to have a competitive price point) to tell you what you want to hear? If so, please leave a comment to this post indicating your desire to plant a “seed gift” and I’ll send you my ministry’s PO Box number (I don’t really have one since no one has determined this ministry worthy of a donation). Please make your checks payable to Linden Wolfe, c/o Captivated by Christ Ministries (In the name of full disclosure, your donation will NOT be tax-deductible). 

I know…silly me: If I’d only purchase this “Dream Pack” I’d probably discover the answers to my cynical questions. And my “God-given dream.” 

Don’t get me wrong, I believe God can give us dreams. I’m just not sure it should cost us “a Grover Cleveland” to find it. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t endeavor to find God’s plan for our lives in the context of living out our calling in Christ Jesus. You see, more importantly, I believe God gives us a purpose. And that purpose is His purpose and it is designed to bring honor and glory to Himself. Just do a word-search in the New Testament on “dream(s)” and then do one on “purpose(s).” The latter will point us directly to God’s will and work and our surrender to it. And nowhere will you find a monetary value tied to the dreams or purpose God gives us. Concerning our purpose, this is one of my favorite passages: “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, NIV). 

So my encouragement to all of us is to take that extra $1000 and give it away in the name of Jesus. Not to some self-help guru but to a destitute unbeliever. Or to a disenfranchised someone who has never heard the true Good News explained. Or to a child in a foreign land that has no hope apart from Christ. Use the open door to share the Gospel with them while thoroughly explaining that the God-given purpose and calling we find in Christ is so much bigger than any earthly dream, treasure, or sum of money. And make sure you let them know that the offer of His grace and His calling is free to us. Because Jesus has already paid the price at Calvary.

“For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, HCSB). 

With the recent onslaught of books like Radical (and Radical Together), Crazy Love, and Unfashionable, I’m wondering when the book Foolish (see 1 Corinthians 1) is going to be released. Frankly, I have enjoyed all of these books because they have deepened my desire to lose my mind and take on the mind of Christ, to be so counter-cultural that people don’t understand what would compel me to be so consumed with Jesus and knowing Him (see Philippians 3:10). Call me crazy, but I want to be like and think like my Jesus. 

Before you start driveling on about how I have already lost my mind (a fair accusation in some cases), let me explain that this post’s stated purpose has some very real spiritual ramifications. I want to lose my mind – that is the carnal, worldly, fleshly, and selfish thing that my mind is in its natural state (I bet you didn’t know I was all of those terrible things, did you? Well, I am and, apart from Christ, we all are!) and take on a Holy Spirit controlled mind. Here is what is so amazing: as Christ-followers who yield to His Word and indwelling Holy Spirit we already have His mind! God has purchased us, taken up residence in us, and thus, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3). Paul makes it clear have been given the mind of Jesus: 

“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2: 15-16). 

So what is the mind of Christ? Here are some thoughts: 

  • Having the mind of Christ means sharing the person, purpose, and perspective of Christ, and this is something that all believers should possess. 
  • Having the mind of Christ means we understand God’s plan in the world—to bring glory to Himself while restoring creation to its original splendor and providing salvation for sinners. 
  • Having the mind of Christ means we identify with Christ’s purpose “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). It means we share Jesus’ perspective of humility and obedience (Philippians 2:5-8), compassion (Matthew 9:36), and prayerful dependence on God (Luke 5:16). 

Paul captures this beautifully in writing to the church at Philippi: 

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your [mind] should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-10). 

Let’s see some additional nuggets that Paul reveals to the church at Corinth. In the verses leading up to 1 Corinthians 2:16, we note some truths concerning the mind of Christ: 

  • The mind of Christ stands in sharp contrast to the wisdom of man (verses 5-6).
  • The mind of Christ involves wisdom from God, once hidden but now revealed (verse 7).
  • The mind of Christ is given to believers through the Spirit of God (verses 10-12).
  • The mind of Christ cannot be understood by those without the Holy Spirit (verse 14).
  • The mind of Christ gives believers discernment in spiritual matters (verse 15).

In order to have the mind of Christ, one must first have saving faith in Christ (John 1:12; 1 John 5:12). After salvation, the believer lives a life under God’s influence. The Holy Spirit indwells and enlightens the believer, infusing him with wisdom—the mind of Christ. The believer bears a responsibility to yield to the Spirit’s leading (Ephesians 4:30) and to allow the Spirit to transform and renew his mind (Romans 12:1-2). 

What a great privilege! If we are willing to lose our mind to our Lord we are given the very Son of God’s mind! This may sound radical, crazy, unfashionable, and foolish, but it is true. The Scriptures tell us that capitulation to Him, His Word, and His ways allows us to access and be empowered by His wisdom. And don’t we all need that? So, as God enables us, let’s all lose our mind and take on the mind of Christ!

*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Eighteen – The Rewards of Selfless Service

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-6).

Throughout Matthew 5 Jesus spoke on righteousness and the importance of a believer’s purity, devotion, and influence. As a new chapter opens, Christ encourages genuineness and the absence of hypocrisy, further expanding listeners’ understanding of kingdom character. He turns first to the nature of religious exercises, calling people to serve God authentically and insisting that they do so without show or self-promotion. Kingdom living requires that we stop going through the motions of giving, serving, and worshipping. Ostentatious religion proves unacceptable: the Lord desires that we live in sincerity, carefully honoring Him instead of elevating ourselves.

To understand the context of this passage, consider Luke 18:9-14. With a gloating attitude of self-righteousness, a Pharisee stood and prayed about himself! Bragging on his piety, moral superiority, and “good works,” he likely filled the temple with his voice, drowning out the soft but sincere cries of those—like the despised tax collector—who sought God’s attention and not the spotlight. This parable illustrates the dichotomy between those seeking to serve God out of a pure heart and those doing so for personal gain. One is accepted (justified) by God, and the other has received all the reward they will ever get; the praise of men.

In the first verses of Matthew 6, Jesus mentions three traditional and prominent practices commonly held by many religions: giving (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (Matthew 6:5-6), and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). In general, all are good and commended. If, however, the motives behind them are wrong, they morph into meaningless and empty activities void of spiritual substance or eternal reward. Why? Because when we do these things for attention or to make ourselves feel spiritual, we fail to glorify God.

To the church at Galatia, Paul posed this question: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?” (Galatians 1:10). Within this query he acknowledged the natural tendency all believers face. We generally seek approval in the tangible here and now as opposed to the spiritual and eternal. Should we succumb to temptation, we’ll soon exalt man’s opinion and our self-image over God.

I recall a painful lesson I learned during my early ministry. Soon after seminary I pastored a fairly large church that provided a deceptive ego boost for a young preacher in his twenties. With my appointment came the insidious growth of spiritual pride. I quickly began to operate as more of a professional pastor than a servant leader: I soaked up and began to believe the adulation and prestige that came with my new position. Thinking I’d arrived, I began to trust in my own abilities and education instead of depending on God to do His work through me. The church grew numerically, but my intimacy with God gradually declined. It didn’t take long before my arrogant house of cards toppled; “my” church was gone. God shook me out of my pretense, humbled me, and reminded me that “a haughty spirit goes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Outward religious show versus God-centeredness defines the essence of hypocrisy. Even the most dedicated believer will sometimes fail to live up to God’s standards, but when we portray ourselves as something untrue, we deserve the label “hypocrite.” The term comes from the Greek word, hypokrites, and refers to acting. When we begin to replace heart-righteousness with empty practices, we fail to love the Lord. While our outward displays of piety—tossing an envelope of pocket change in the offering plate, singing in the choir after a night of arguing with family members, or serving on the hospitality committee though we complain about it for hours afterward— may look good to observers, God stands unimpressed. Jesus, addressing this tendency, referred to the Pharisees as cups “clean on the outside but dirty on the inside” (Luke 11:39). He saw them as “white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). Should we perform deeds meant to exalt ourselves and not to honor God, we’ll earn the same harsh comparisons.

Attitude and focus count! Only deeds done out of a sincere desire to honor God prove worthy of reward. Anything we do to gain points with onlookers will fail to honor Him. The Lord wants us to let go of our pride, that critical barrier between God and man. Since humanity disobeyed in the garden, we’ve struggled against self-centeredness, often opposing God and ignoring His perception of who we really are. But believers must remember Christ’s lesson in Luke 18: Only the broken “sinner,” who felt contrite and transparent in his pleadings before God “went home justified before God” (v. 14). Why? Jesus answers, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v.14).

In First Corinthians 3:13-14 Paul explained, “[our] work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.” One day each believer will stand before God. Those who’ve served with authentic faith and a desire to honor Him will receive the ultimate honor. From His mouth we’ll hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

Apply It.

Read and mediate on First Timothy 6:18-19. List your good deeds and assess your motives. Are they selfless and propelled by your love of God and others? Do you think they deserve God’s “well done”? Pray that God would compel you to live in a way that seeks His eternal rewards and not earthly ones.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9-11).  

Five years ago this Labor Day my father entered into his rest. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? The children of God will eventually enter into the full and perfect rest found in the eternal presence of their Savior. This always reminds me of the Parable of the Talents. Jesus, speaking about one who had served God faithfully, said, “And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more. ‘His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matthew 25:20-21). 

Now I believe this hope is part of the context of Hebrews 4 and the passage above. There does remain a permanent rest for the people of God foreshadowed by God’s rest on the 7th day of creation and Christ’s rest from His finished earthly work. Jesus, the Messiah, has been in view from Hebrews 3:1 and especially in 4:14. He is the High Priest who has entered heaven. And, by faith, we follow Him who has opened the way for us to also enter into the rest of heaven. Additionally, the true believer may have spiritual rest in this life as we look forward to our eternal rest in heaven. The comforting message – God gives His rest to believers. 

Here we see one of the most important concepts of biblical interpretation. The idea of “now and not yet.” We are promised eternal rest in the future but we can also have a semblance and portion of this in the here and now. In other words, we can have a taste (they hymn writer called it “a foretaste of glory divine”) of our perfect and eternal rest by finding Christ as our strength and source now. To cease from prideful and carnal self-effort and abide in Him (see John 15:15). This is why Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). 

Back to the challenging language of Hebrews 4:11. Here we are called to strive (or to make every effort, or labor) to enter into God’s rest. Here we also see one of the most profound scriptural paradoxes of following Christ in a way that glorifies Him, in a way where He is doing the work and we are resting from exhausting and empty works of the flesh. Strive to enter rest? Or work at ceasing your own works? How so? Tim Keller said, “Even after you are converted by the gospel, your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.”  Mark Driscoll further elaborates: “The gospel bids us strive to stop striving because it takes conscious effort to orient our stubborn selves around the gospel. Our flesh yearns for works, for the merits of self-righteousness, so it’s hard work to make ourselves rest in the finished work of Christ. It is a daily work, the labor of crucifying the flesh, taking up the cross, and faithfully following he who has finished the labor.” 

The writer of Hebrews admonishes these believers to “be diligent” to cease from their own works and enter into God’s rest, which He offers freely by His grace. Here are some thoughts from our focal passage about this mysterious principle. I pray these help us better understand and access the peace and power that God provides us so that we might rest in Him. 

  • Our primary effort/work/striving is to trust and have a firm faith in Him – “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:28-29). 
  • “Works” that honor Christ are a result of faith. “Our works” do not justify us before God or glorify Him – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). 
  • We are not to cease from working but are to cease from “our works” – “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13, HCSB). 
  • Our ultimate rest comes after our “work” of faith is completed (as in God’s resting on the 7th day after 6 days of labor) – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

So this Labor Day (I never understood why it wasn’t named Non-Labor Day) I pray that we can catch a glimpse of what God has in store for us in Heaven by laboring to rest in Christ. May we cease our works and worries and abide, “in Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31).*

*You will need your Bible for this study. If I copied all the texts this post would be a small book.

Isaiah 40 contains a passage that many Christians hold dear. We often cling to verses 29-31 when we are exhausted in our journey to follow Jesus amidst life’s challenges and trials. The principle of an indescribably awesome (in its truest and fullest sense) God supplying us soaring, sustaining, and steadfast power brings great comfort (see Isaiah 40:1-2) to those in dire need of such strength. Yet often this energy seems inaccessible and merely words – words that we believe but rarely experience. And why is this? Because these magnificent promises are only understood and realized as we digest and apply what precedes them. In other words, one must interpret Isaiah 40 backwards to get the full picture.

The 2 previous verses to our focal text tell us that this power is connected to faith: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:27-28). Clearly the prophet says we must believe in order to experience the strength of an all-knowing and all-powerful God. But faith in what?

Faith in Him and Him alone. We see this from the previous verses where Isaiah’s oracle makes fun of the silliness of idols in light of the nature of the one and only true God (vs. 18-26). He mocks those who erect false gods that can’t even stand on their own (verse 20 reminds me of “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down” as it describes the wish to craft an idol that won’t topple over). Ridiculous, eh? But for our purposes, an idol is not a graven image but anything that we treasure, love, and desire more than God. An idol can even be seemingly good things (like religion, humanitarian efforts, ministry, or family) that supersede God in importance in our lives. This includes the most insidious of idols – our own energy, effort, and ingenuity (let’s just call this self-sufficiency or pride). The prophet says that to experience the unfathomable power of God we must believe in Him in all of His greatness and nothing can be more important than Him.

But moving further back in the text, we see that it’s not just believing in God but having a right vision of His awesomeness and boundless might. This is what we see in verses 12-17. Here He is described as an immeasurably powerful Creator and the sustainer of all things. What we have described in these verses is mind-boggling. It, as best limited human language can, portrays God as incomprehensibly mighty. As compared to our pathetic, limited, and vastly inferior ability, we see that, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God…” (Deuteronomy 10:17). As James MacDonald says, “It’s not that your problems are too big. It’s that your God is too small.”

But how are we connected to this awesome God? In and through the Son of God who became Jesus the Christ (vs. 1-11). Scripture shows Him to have this same power and character as Yahweh, Jehovah God (John 1, Hebrews 1, and Colossians 1). We see the mighty ruling arm of God (v. 9) become the lovingly tender arm of God (v. 11) by way of Jesus (vs. 1-5). This is called the good news (v. 9 – better understood as “great news”) of the Messiah, whose coming was heralded by John the Baptist with Isaiah’s words, “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (v. 3). And this is the “Word of our God that will stand forever” (v. 8).

So, in summary, to access the unfathomable strength of God (29-31) we must have genuine faith (27-28) in God and not ourselves or our God-substitutes (18-26). And our trust must be in an awesomely large and limitless God (12-17) that has connected us to His immeasurable power through our surrender to the person and power of Jesus (1-11) and experienced through His Holy Spirit.

So, if we want the soaring, sustaining, steadfast strength of our supremely awesome God, it will only come from Jesus when we:

• love Him above all else and lean only on Him

• yearn for Him and yield to Him

• are devoted to Him and dependant on Him alone

• are surrendered to Him and sustained only by Him

• faithfully fix our gaze on Him and feast on His Word

The New Testament equivalent of the powerful principle of Isaiah 40 is found in Hebrews 12:1-3. The writer connects the dots and gives us a passage to call our own as we seek the strength of God found only in Christ:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

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