God’s patience is meant to work patience in us. He wants us like Himself. We say, “I’ve waited long enough. I’ve come to the end of my rope.” God’s rope is a lot longer, and He never comes to the end of it. Our instant oatmeal and fast internet age is not known for its ability to wait.

Does anyone reading this go from a 2 to 7 more often than you want? If we are called to represent God to a godless culture, they need to be slow to anger. When God saw His Son, He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” He was like His Father. He wants us to be the same, so He gives us His Holy Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is…patience.” We don’t become patient by grit but by the Holy Spirit.

Abraham was called to a new place and a new destiny when he was seventy-five. His name Abram means “exalted father.” Only problem–no children, and Sarah was no spring chicken. God repeated His promise, finally changing Abram’s name to Abraham, “father of multitudes,” making it embarrassing every time this fatherless father got called to dinner. But “he hoped against hope,” and God came through. “And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise” (Heb. 6:15)–after a quarter of a century. Way to wait, Abe!

“Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10,11). Way to be patient, Job!

Patience needs to be the quality of leaders (2 Cor. 6:6), of preachers (Titus 2:2), of every Christian (Gal. 5:22), because it is the outstanding character of love (I Cor 13:4), and love never fails, so neither does patience. The fact that patience is a fruit of the Spirit does not mean that He will magically zap us with it. The Holy Spirit works Jesus in us as we behold a wonderfully patient God and thus become like Him. We become what we behold.

We receive God’s life and become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). We are called to exhibit the qualities of God, including long-suffering. What would happen if we did? Fewer broken relationships, fewer divorces, greater peace in the family and church, deeper love shown. The first descriptive action of love in the great love chapter–it suffers long.​ ​ Patience means we don’t have a short fuse. Doesn’t mean that we don’t have anger–we can simply put it off until needed. Patience is not the absence of anger. It is not simply a passive response. It is active and willful, calling us to suffer if need be for others.We feel the tension between justice and mercy. Long-suffering is hard because in some situations we believe that justice needs to be served rather than mercy. Something appears not to be fair. “He should know better. I am being the mature person.” And God is at work in us through suffering stretched out. Let it happen! (One more–be patient!)


The Bible does not say that God has no anger. But He has it on a regulator. His love is eternal; His patience is not. There comes a time when He acts on His anger.

Some want God’s patience with them but not with their enemies. They feel tension between justice and mercy. Jonah voted for justice. The Assyrians had butchered too many people. Think ISIS. God had a reputation for being too merciful. Jonah quoted God’s own words in his complaint: “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love…”(Jonah 4:2).

God was grieved with Israel the whole time they lived in the land of promise before finally throwing them out–seven centuries after they had entered. He waited thousands of years before sending His Son in the fullness of time. Pentecost marked the beginning of the end, “the last days.” God has waited for 2100 years so far without sending His Son back because “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). No one waits better than God.

Imagine if God were quick to anger. We’d all have bruises. He’d yell at us. He would say things like, “If you ever do that again…” or “Just one more time…”  We would have pressed the delete button on the human race long ago, but God suffers long. I remember God speaking to me in the gentlest way about something that needed change. I said, “You could have said this twenty-five years ago, and you waited until now.” It made me want that kind of patience.

A wonderful lady at our church in San Pedro was angry with God for nine years for something regarding her child. God waited. He didn’t shake His finger in her face. When she came in for personal confession, the road back began. Her heart was flooded with joy, tears of release, and deep peace. God waited until she was ready–nine years.

“For my name’s sake I will defer my anger…” (Isa 48:9). God procrastinates. He controls His emotions; they do not control Him. He decides when He will demonstrate anger. People say, “You made me angry,” which gives them the freedom to explode, as if they couldn’t help it. This is not our God. Patience is one of the marks of His righteous character, unlike oriental despots who in a moment of rage would dismiss a whole court.

How can God keep from acting when daily the world defames His name, mocks Him, ignores Him? Because He is longsuffering. One day He will pour out his anger without measure. He is angry with the wicked every day, and with great cause. He is never neutral about sin. It is an offense against His holiness. But He chooses not to call upon His anger in full measure at this time.

Sometimes we parents have disciplined poorly, because we were irritated, and we let it lead the parade instead of patience. God’s correction is deliberate–a sign of his love. We can feel compassion even when He exercises discipline. Could anyone use some of that? Praise Him for His patience! (Part 3 coming).



.Letting others run over me (but it may)

.Always talking about my weaknesses (which puts too much focus on ME)

.Inappropriate sharing of personal failure, such as sexual sins in a mixed crowd

.Self-deprecation (as if to say, “Look at how bad I’ve been,” which some take joy in)

.Being vulnerable with the wrong people at the wrong time for wrong reasons. Think Hezekiah.

.Foolish tempting of the Lord, like taking risks He has not called us to (jumping off the temple).


“The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom.8:26). That must also mean that the Spirit doesn’t help when we are trying to be strong. In my fear as a recovering Pharisee, I wanted to look strong, even though I knew I was weak. Trust me–that does not welcome the Holy Spirit.

“God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (I Cor.1:27). God has a marked predisposition toward the weak. How comforting can you get!

“I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling” (I Cor.2:3). The mighty apostle modeled weakness for all to see. He didn’t try to sound eloquent or look powerful. Impressive!

“Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (I Cor.12:22). Weakness is built into our anatomy.

“It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (I Cor.15:43). We go from great weakness to great strength. Great. The reverse is also true. Look out!

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor.11:29,30). Weakness helps us to identify with the weak. What kindness!

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.12:9,10). Weakness is actually a weapon of war. It displays the power of God.

“He was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power”(2 Cor.13:4)). Weakness was modeled most clearly in the cross, the power of God unto salvation. Weakness goes the way of the cross, the way of self-denial.


God can turn our greatest weakness into our greatest strength. Halleluia!

Weakness brings me God’s grace; it also encourages relationship and fellowship.

Weakness overcomes the devil, who would rather see me glorying in my strength.

Christ’s time of greatest weakness demonstrated God’s greatest power. Do you suppose that works for you as well?

God uses weakness to shame proud people.

Weakness encourages dependence upon God and interdependence with others.

Weakness facilitates healing (Js. 5:16) and brings the Spirit’s help.


Fear had made me want to look strong. Confidence in God allows me to live with my weakness. I became more vulnerable as I learned to deal with my pharisaism.  Self-righteousness chokes out vulnerability, because self-righteous people are in hiding, as I was.  When I started coming out, I discovered that vulnerability was really safer than running. Welcome to weak!


Ladies, if we men can be a bride for Christ, then you get to be sons of the Father. Home is meant to be the closest thing on earth to heaven. For many, it is closer to hell. Even with good families, we can be left with love deficits and the feeling that we are not truly valued. Many carry these thoughts throughout their life. If we want to understand God’s Father love, we need to grasp sonship. Stick with me!

Paul writes to the Romans, showing the difference between living by the law and living by faith through the work of the Spirit. He uses the word “law” twenty-three times in Romans 7, showing the futility of a “we try harder” mentality. We can’t pull of the holiness thing by resolve. It brings a strong inner tension. How can I win over sin? Chapter 7 ends with Paul feeling enslaved.

Chapter 8 breaks out with a different reality: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” How? The Spirit is mentioned 22 times, demonstrating God’s answer to human effort. He writes that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship (“adoption”). And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The  Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings, in order that we may also share in his glory” (8:13-17).



It is received, not achieved. Paul had done well by human standards, but it was all effort. Then he traded the merit system for the mercy system. He got to shed his performance mentality by going low and received status as a son by faith in Jesus Christ.


The Father leads His kids step by step into their appointed destiny. We don’t have to make it up as we go. We are guided. Call it the GPS of the Spirit. And it works. Sons prove their relationship with the Father by the Spirit’s guidance (13). The inner compass is a Person.


They have a family–for ever. Sin left us feeling guilt, shame, and condemnation. We wondered if the cycle could change. It did. We are forgiven, cherished, valued, and appointed to represent a good, good Father.


We discover that we belong. We’re on the inside, not the outside. Slaves have a boss, not a father. They are unsure about their future. Sons have an inheritance, because the Firstborn shares His with us. We are called co-heirs. Glorious future. John Wesley described his conversion as exchanging “the faith of a servant for the faith of a son” (quoted in F. F. Bruce’s Commentary on Romans, p. 167). We learn to say, “Abba” and receive His love!


Present hardship only reminds us of what is to come. Short-term pain will be translated into long-term gain. I get it!


Yes, I have a “to do” list. Almost as effective as my “not to do” list.


President Trump was voted into office. He’s there to stay for a while. Our scriptural mandate is to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (I Tim 2:2).


I let discouragement in the door a few years ago, and self-pity came in the back door. Stayed for two weeks. Hard to get them out. When I face things with the potential to get me down, I lock the door to discouragement. Think John the Baptist and Elijah. When they gave in to discouragement, they said and did dumb things. People are counting on you. “Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Life gives us “good” reasons to be discouraged. God gives us more reasons to stay encouraged.


What I release comes back to me; what I hold onto I lose. “Give, and it shall be give to you…” If you need it more than me, you’ve got it (I John 3:17).


“This is a really bad time for a flat tire.” You don’t know; it may be a great time. The last two times with car trouble, I managed to hold my tongue and thank God. The first problem fixed itself. The second problem, a dangerous flat on the freeway. I was able to pull over. Started to change the tire with an ineffective jack. A young man joined me and without asking got his jack and changed my tire in twenty minutes. I pulled out $30 and said, “Thank you.” He said, “I am not taking any money. I didn’t stop for that reason.” I thanked him again, shook his hand and asked his name. He answered, “Muhammad.” I said, “Thank you, Muhammad,” and he hurried off.


I don’t control the weather, I live with it. I will not complain about weatherman, as if I could do better. I will not complain about the food, about the people I work with, the wife God has given me, the governor whose policies are different (God, forgive me). Complaining does damage and God NEVER blesses it. I will not complain about neighbors who don’t like what we are doing at the Ranch. I will bless them instead. (It’s working).


I will not expect that because I am a follower of Jesus the day will go smoothly, people won’t try to take advantage of me, or that I won’t encounter material or relational issues. I will not assume that suffering is for backsliders. I will not expect that the challenges God gives me mean that it will be easy. Could be hard, but it will be good!



Are you courageous? Would you like to be? Is there someone you admire for his or her courage? I pick Joseph.



That is what my youngest daughter said when I asked my family at dinner for a definition: “Doing what you have to do.”  Firemen commended for their bravery often say, “I did what I had to do.”


When Joseph of Arimathea somehow discovered that there were no plans for the burial of Jesus, he went into action. In doing so, this prominent leader on the Sanhedrin decided that he must go public with his following of Christ. He risked his life in caring for the body of Jesus, but he did what he had to do. His commitment drove his courage. So will yours.



Was Joseph afraid? I suspect so. He had five pints of fear but eight pints of courage, so courage won. Was David afraid when he confronted Goliath? Probably. But Goliath had defied the God of Israel, and that could not go unchallenged. If you have more than your share of fear, that does not mean that you are not courageous. Just don’t let fear lead the parade.



Joseph stood alone against the entire Sanhedrin. He “had not consented to their decision and action” (Luke 23:51). That meant he just became the enemy in caring for Jesus. Three things about his death: 1) Jesus died on a public street just outside the city walls. That’s the way the Romans discouraged traitors. 2) Jesus always drew a crowd. 3) It was rush hour, just before the biggest sabbath of the year, an impossible time to remove the body without attention.


Esther stood alone: “If I perish, I perish.” Smells like courage. Daniel prayed after hearing about the king’s edict knowing that it might be his last. Didn’t matter. Rahab hid spies at great personal risk. It saved her family, and she came into the line of Christ.



We thought Nicodemus was timid because he came to Jesus by night. Maybe not. Joseph brought out the courage in his partner. They were two leaders in Israel, now going public in their dual commitment to Jesus. Courageous people en-courage others. Cowardly people dis-courage the ranks. Ten spies took courage out of a whole country. What a gift Joseph and Nicodemus were to each other. One can take on 1000. Two can go after 10,000. Do the math!



No one else was thinking about the burial, because they were not thinking about the death. We don’t know when Joseph started thinking about it. Maybe he asked John at the cross what the plans were. When he found out there were none, he offered his tomb and went to Pilate. The boldness was related to new commitment. Obedience informs courage. The risk is secondary. To obey or not obey is the issue of a disciple.



Joseph may not have lived past the weekend. The reward makes the price worth it. John the Baptist spoke out against Herod, and that was the last time he saw daylight. Ask him in heaven if he had any regrets.


A friend of mine said, “I’ve come to the place where if I know the will of God, I will do it regardless.” That is a good place to be–and a courageous one!




On a scale of one to ten, with ten being healthiest, how would you rate your relationships?  I once asked church leaders how they’d rate their church.  Most gave it a seven; I would have said four. I am sometimes humored when I ask couples how it’s going.  He says, “Fine;” she answers, “Struggling.”  She’s not smiling.  Doctors diagnose to determine physical health.  Here are clues to relational wholeness:



Dysfunctional systems major in pretense.  “Honesty is the best policy,” but insecure people don’t want it. Pretending overshadows facing hard truth. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” but fragile relationships can’t handle it. Can you?  Can others risk speaking truthfully with you? Not if you’re unhealthy.



The Bible lays out processes for peaceful resolution. Some have neither the desire nor the know-how to close books by making the columns balance.  They would rather build up a deficit in the emotional bank account. When a relationship with the boss deteriorated, Jerry viewed quitting as an easier option than confronting.


Tension doesn’t mean that something is wrong; it means that something is happening. But if we learned to treat tension as threatening, we react instead of saying, “My relationship with you is not up for grabs. How can we deal with this misunderstanding?”


When a friend in a difficult marriage went to in-law gatherings, he listened to people staying on the surface rather than dealing with painful issues. Unhealthy people avoid confrontation or do it recklessly. You need to have made investments into the relationship if you plan to make a big withdrawal, such as lovingly confronting someone. Otherwise the check bounces.



People who live by principles more than by the Spirit will tend to return evil for evil.  They want to be even-handed.  People of grace are radical. They return the opposite spirit, responding to God rather than reacting to people, one mark of maturity.  A Spirit-empowered life is required to overcome evil with good.  Our sense of justice kicks in when insulted, and we may choose to nurse the offense rather than forgiving the offender. Wounded people who hold onto injuries keep getting wounded. Like a sick person with no immune system, they catch everything that comes along. Healthy people have emotional immunity; resentment doesn’t stick to their soul.  



Healthy relationships combine grace and truth in a way that builds us up. We leave the encounter encouraged.  Unhealthy relationships are often filled with sarcasm, dumping, complaining, innuendos.  No investment is being made for the future.  If anything, money is drawn out without new deposits being made.


I once mentioned in the hearing of my daughter Karis, then six, that I was short on money.  She encouraged me to write out a check for some easy cash.  I explained that I had to put money in to draw money out.  Unhealthy people will overdraw and go from crisis to crisis.  They must learn to make good deposits in the lives of others. Love is the answer.



Really? I agree that the Christian life is more about receiving than doing. We are on the receiving end of God’s empowering grace. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” That is not much. Jesus also said, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).


Yet the posture of those receiving is not one of sitting back in an easy chair. Paul has just said that he wants to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9).


Then he goes on, “Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (12). He doesn’t stop there. He says he is “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (13). He pictures himself like a runner: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (14). Simply put: because Christ Jesus gave His all, Paul will give his all as well, knowing it is grace from start to finish. But in order to finish well, he will keep on running, straining, reaching, setting new goals, attaining new heights, pouring out his life for others.


We owe everything to a kind and generous Father. And in view of His great love, we give it all we’ve got. Peter agrees with this synergy. He writes, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Then he goes on, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness” (5), and a lengthy list of virtues.


Pharisees would take that exhortation, exclude the grace, and strain it out with a legalistic self-will. Not even close. “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” And yet that grace not only forgives and receives–it energizes and empowers.


Millennials are good at chilling. Sometimes they need to. Many seem to be waiting for good things to happen to them, when they should be taking Paul’s lead and “laying hold” of those things in cooperation with God the Holy Spirit.


In the movie “Lion King,” Simba believed a lie, ran from his destiny, and adopted a Hakuna matata (“no worries”) philosophy. Fortunately for him, Rafiki got ahold of him and literally knocked some sense into him. Destinies are for the taking, but they must be taken, not assumed.


In the story of Jesus about the talents (Matthew 25), the third investor did not fulfill his destiny–he buried it! And he changed his picture of the master in the process: “I knew that you are a hard man….” Oh, really? Doesn’t look that way. Seems like a kind boss. When you run from responsibility, you need an alibi to keep living an irresponsible life. Might as well blame your boss and ask him to overlook your lack. Jesus didn’t. Surprise: He expects us to walk into our God-appointed assignments–by grace. Go for it! You won’t regret it.



Learn the fundamentals of basketball before you practice passing behind your back or slam dunking. Same for prayer:


  1. Choose a time. What we schedule is important to us. What could beat an appointment with God?!  Sadly, it gets overlooked by scheduled meetings. Picking a time doubles the chance of success. And while you are at it, pick a spot. Peter and John went to the temple (place) at the hour of prayer (the time), and God showed up. Daniel prayed three times a day in the same place–and position.


  1. Make up a prayer agenda. I struggled as a young man with prayer, wondering if I had covered the essentials. So I developed an agenda. I started with worship, because the psalmist invites us to “enter his courts with praise(P).  I thought of who God is and what He does. Then I follow with repentance (R). When we have seen God for who He is, we more clearly see ourselves for who we are. Confessing sin on a regular basis helps walk with a greater consciousness of our need for change and our confidence in the cross. Claiming God’s forgiveness, I turn to asking (A). I start with me, then family, relatives, friends, pastors, etc. I finish my prayer time by yielding (Y) my day, my time, my body, my meetings, my problems, my dreams to the Lord. For years this simple acronym (P-R-A-Y) has helped me grow in prayer.


Why a prayer list? We write up an agenda for important meetings; we want to keep the commitments we make; we want to stay on track; and we want to persist in prayer. The Lord’s Prayer also gives us a wonderful agenda for prayer, phrase by phrase.


  1. Pray out loud. God told disobedient Israel, needing to return to God, “Take words with you” (Hosea 14:2). Speaking out words allows us to express our heart, and it reinforces its content.


  1. Practice silence. God can talk. One way to learn to listen is to quit talking. After I have spoken, I give God a chance. Again, a quiet place helps. Come with paper, ready to write anything you think God is saying.


  1. Don’t be afraid of repetition. Sometimes gratitude is repetitive. People in love could say so ten times and mean it stronger every time.

6. Pray with others. We can learn much by hearing how others express their love for God or how they confess their sins. A friend joins me once a week. I borrowed his list of the attributes of God and it helped me to expand my time of praise.  Praying together always upgrades my prayer time.



Not a big deal because of the cross, right? Wrong! Big deal because of the cross. Sin put Him there. Jesus “ever lives to intercede for us.” How does He pray? That we will be like Him, loving righteousness and hating iniquity. Bottom line of the intricate Old Testament sacrificial system: sin is serious and the Lamb will deal with it.


Many are casual, thinking sin’s not serious, not that serious. For instance, too many think that sleeping together before marriage is not that bad because Jesus is forgiving. The blood of Jesus covers sin that we uncover. It does not cover the sin of the proud, the self-centered, the willful. They are on their own.


Christians casual about sin…

will not walk into their God-appointed destiny;

will not impact the kingdom of God;

will not please Jesus;

will choose happiness over holiness, and

will potentially crash, bringing shame to Christ.


Sin is never dealt with lightly in the Bible. If you agree, do two things:





Ask God to help you to see them as He does, something that could separate you from Him, for time and for eternity. You may hear some preachers say that sin does not separate us from God because He is gracious. When young people have asked me if I think they have committed the unforgivable sin, I answer no, because they are concerned about it. One who isn’t would likely have a hardened heart. A Christian that sins willfully and without confessing is in danger of hardening his heart.


But didn’t Paul say that NOTHING would separate us from the love of God? Yes, but look at the context. He wrote that Christ died “in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…To set the mind on the flesh is death” (Romans 8:4-6). “The wages of sin is death”–always. Every sin has the seed of death in it. If Bill Graham decides to test the law of gravity in a plane five miles up, he will find out by falling. If he decided to live in the flesh, he would fall.


Paul goes on to say, talking to believers, “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh–for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (12,13). It is those people who will discover the holding power of God’s love.



We don’t deal with sin by focusing on it. Tried that as a teen–didn’t work. We focus on Jesus and the cross, where sin was dealt with. We are changed by what we believe and behold. So as we behold Jesus and believe that He crushed sin at the cross, we live victorious over sin. We confess it in order to leave it and not think about it. Great idea!