Jesus’s Toughest Commandment

Jesus’s Toughest Commandment

Some years ago I wrote a song called “(If Christ Had Not Been) Born a Baby.” The first stanza goes like this:

If Christ had not been born a baby,
Fully human and yet still fully God;
Had He not lived and died as a man,
Then how would God know what we feel?

Whenever I sing that at our church’s weekly nursing home ministry, I invariably introduce it by saying that Jesus isn’t just my Savior, but my role model. Since He was the only perfect person ever to live on earth, that makes sense, doesn’t it? If I pattern my life after Jesus’s–if I say and do the kinds of things He said and did–how can I go wrong?

Forgive me for breaking out laughing. Please. It’s just that I’m all too aware of my shortcomings and the many ways I fail to live as godly a life as I want to live. The apostle Paul knew what he was talking about when he said something to this effect:

I do the things I mean to keep from doing, and I fail to do the things I intend to do.

That describes me to at T at times, and–if I’m not being too presumptuous–it probably describes all Christians. No wonder people often describe us as hypocrites. They look at the way Christ lived and see how far each of us misses the mark by comparison.

Christianity isn’t a religion. It doesn’t have a strict set of rules and regulations. It’s a relationship with God through faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And there’s really only one two-part rule:

Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus even gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate the fact that everyone we have contact with is our neighbor. But He took it a step further by telling us to love our enemies.

Love our enemies? How impossible does that sound!

I don’t really have any personal enemies. Or, if I do, they simply avoid me rather than demonstrating their hostility. As a true conservative, however, I look at the far left and cringe at the things those people stand for. Not to mention the things they’re doing to try to destroy this country.

If I have enemies, it’s those people. Shouldn’t I have the right to hate them?

Hmm. Not if I pay close enough attention to Jesus’s words on the cross when He prayed for the Romans who were crucifying him:

Forgive them, Father, for they don’t  know what they’re doing.

Whoops! If Jesus could do that, what’s my excuse?

But, Lord, Jesus was still God even though He was also human.

Then a still small voice whispers in my ear. “What about Stephen, who was martyred for his faith and for preaching the Gospel? He was only human and he prayed the same prayer Jesus did while being stoned to death.”

Okay, Lord, Jesus really does want us to love our enemies as well as our friends. But it’s tough! The very people I know I’m not supposed to hate really anger me at times–most of the time, in fact. How can I love them when I don’t even know them, anyhow? I just know I keep seeing them do the very things I disapprove of so much.

That same still small voice whispers back, “Start with the one who angers you the most. Pray for him or her on a regular basis. Seek to understand that person and pray for me to accomplish good in and through that person’s life.”

I chose someone–who it is is between me and God–and started praying. Praying sincerely on that person’s behalf is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as Christian. But I believe it’s also going to be one of the most fulfilling.

Do you have someone you consider an enemy? Perhaps someone who’s extra-hard to get along with, but who you must see and perhaps work with on a regular basis. Try praying for that person.

Jesus did it. Stephen did it. And I’m doing my best to do it. Give it a try.

Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t change the person you’re praying for, however. But don’t be too shocked if it changes YOU.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

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A Prayer for Old Age

Dearest Heavenly Father–Papa–my life is just as much in Your hands as it’s always been, and I have many things to be thankful for and nothing of a particularly selfish nature to ask You for. Sure, I can think of a few things that would be nice to have, but they’re not the least necessary at this stage of my life. If they were, I feel confident You would provide them.

No, this prayer isn’t about things.

I do have concerns about my future, however. Not my eternal future, of course. I know I’ll be living with You among millions–probably billions–of other Christians when it’s my turn to “move” to Heaven.

At seventy-one, I’m not really very old. Even so, I’m conscious of the fact I’m getting older. I sense it daily. My body is no longer capable of doing things that used to be so simple, and my mind struggles all too frequently trying to remember a familiar word or the name of someone I know well. Those limitations are frightening.

But they’re are all part of aging, and it would be foolish to pray to avoid them. Instead I ask Your help in accepting and living with those limitations.

Lord, You know my greatest desire is to use the talents You’ve given me to serve You and to share the Good News of salvation with other people. You understand my frustrations at not being good at using the spoken word to do that. I’m thankful for the writing skills and musical abilities You’ve blessed me with and the spiritual truths You’ve given me to share with other people.

And the opportunities You’ve given me to share.

I’m thankful I can still participate in the nursing home ministry and share audio and video recordings of some of my songs on my website–and through YouTube. I take great pleasure in having many of my Christian novels published–and in hoping they will bless and entertain numerous readers.

Even so, the time may come when I can no longer sing or play my guitar, and the time may come when I’m no longer able to write. A time may even come when I don’t know who or where I am.

Papa God, I can’t pray “against” aging, but I beg You to keep me spiritually active to the very end. And to keep me so close to You that nothing else matters.

Please use me any way You choose…to the very end. Amen.

Do you have a prayer for old age? How about leaving a comment? 

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,


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What’s He Dreaming About?

I’ve been to Australia more times than I can count, starting with my first mission trip in 1991. Although I’ve been back for a family vacation and also to teach an all-day seminar at a computer users symposium, most of my trips have been mission-related. I’ve spent most of my time in the Sydney area, but have also visited Melbourne, Toowoomba, Port Douglas, and Hervey Bay. Plus a few places I’ve forgotten the names of.

My closest Australian friends lived in or near Sydney, however, and I always managed to visit them for a day or two no matter where I’d spent most of my time. And I always enjoyed two special activities–visiting the harbor and the Opera House and walking around Featherdale Wildlife Park.

I never tired of seeing and even getting to pet koalas. Because of those VERY sharp claws, I was limited to contact with one that was safely situated on a fence or in the crook of a low tree branch. Once I held a toy koala that the real one was safely holding onto.

That fur isn’t soft the way you might expect, by the way. Very disappointing.

But koalas themselves aren’t disappointing. Not unless you expect them to DO something. Even though I once got a video of a koala jumping from one tree to another and running around on the ground, most of the ones I saw were perched soundly in a eucalyptus tree, like this one pictured in the poster hanging on my living room wall.


This particular picture has always been one of my favorites. Why would I hang it in the living room, otherwise?

It’s fun to look at him (could be a her; I don’t know) and speculate. Is he asleep? If so, is he dreaming about something nice and quiet? Or is he actually thinking…to whatever degree koalas are capable of thought?

No way to be sure, of course, but I’ve always looked at the fellow from a different perspective. That’s why I call this picture “Praying Koala.”

Okay, so maybe koalas don’t have the same relationship with God we Christians do, but they’re just as much God’s creations as we humans are. So who’s to say he’s not praying?

What do you think? How about leaving a comment?


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Best regards,

A Pleasantly Unexpected Answer to Prayer

I’ve been a Christian more than fifty years, and I’ve believed strongly in the power of prayer ever since surviving acute viral encephalitis in the eighth grade and learning that many people–including people who didn’t even know me or my parents–had been praying for me.

I don’t doubt the power of prayer, but I recognize that God has the knowledge of everything going on here on earth and that some prayers are in accordance with His will at the time, while others must wait until the time He deems best. Then there are prayers which He simply is unwilling, in His infinite wisdom, to answer at all.

The answers to prayer fall into the categories of “Yes,” “Wait,” or “No.”

For several years I have been praying for relief from a particular pain that the specialist hadn’t been able to determine the source of–or to help me get rid of it. He even performed a minor surgical procedure in the hopes that removing a particular item that had some cysts might help, but it didn’t. Major disappointment.

Not one to give up easily, he had an MRI done earlier this year. Everything looked normal except for one very small hernia. He seemed confident that pain from the hernia had radiated to the nearby area where I could really feel it. He told me I could either have the hernia repaired–that didn’t seem like a very pleasant prospect–or go see a pain management specialist.

I was torn. So I started praying about which way to go. Specifically, I prayed that God would do something to make clear which choice would be the best one. I’ve been praying that prayer for many months now. I felt that an answer was near. But what was it?

Flash forward to last Sunday night. After getting home from church and having a light supper, I almost immediately started having severe chest and abdominal pains. Stronger than anything I could recall ever having had before. Although I didn’t have any other heart attack symptoms, that was still the first thing that came to mind. After waiting a little while to see if the pain would lessen, I shared my concerns with my wife, and she drove me to the ER.

The ER doctor quickly confirmed that my heart was fine. He thought my acid reflux was no longer responding to the medicine I’ve been taking for a number of years and gave me a new prescription. A “GI cocktail” gave me relief from the pain, and we headed home three hours later.

I went to see my primary care physician the next day. He thought it might be an intestinal bug and gave me samples and a prescription for something to help with the pain if it flared up again.

I had been home only a few minutes when his nurse called. He’d been thinking about it some more and wanted me to have an ultrasound ASAP. I had that on Tuesday afternoon, and–sure enough–the problem was my gall bladder.

On Thursday I had an appointment with the surgeon my PCP wanted me to use. This guy was great! When I mentioned the little hernia to him, he said he can repair that when he removes the gall bladder!

Can you believe it? I’d been praying for a sign about which way to go about the hernia, and now it’s become a non-issue. I can hardly wait for the laparoscopic  surgery–too bad I have a writers conference to attend before I can have it done. But I feel so strongly that this is God’s way of guiding me gently into the best possible of solutions that it’s going to be a real pleasure to replace those prayers for His help with praise for His loving care.

What about you? Have you ever prayed for something that turned out to have an unexpected outcome? How about sharing in a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


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Best regards,

Now Is Better than Then


I’ve mentioned periodically that I like to walk at the mall. With my wife three nights a week and on Saturday and by myself an additional three or four times a week. It’s not only great exercise, it’s also become my favorite prayer time.

I pray for my fellow walkers, even though I don’t really know more than a couple of them–and those not well. But that’s changing.

The past few days I’ve become particularly fond of an older black gentleman who walks with a couple of other fellows. He’s always stuck out in my mind, however, because he carries an adjustable cane, which I’ve never seen him use.

But he recently expressed an interest in my collapsible trekking pole. I told him I’d bought it for $20 at the Bass Pro store that’s less than five miles from the mall, and he planned to have his son drive him there to get one. (He lives near the mall and takes back roads to get there to avoid heavy traffic, which is probably why he chose not to drive to Bass Pro himself.)

And–lo and behold!–he showed up to walk this morning (I’m writing this on the Wednesday before you see it) with a trekking pole just like mine.

He and a friend had just completed their walk at the same time I did, and I asked if I could take their picture, which they willingly agreed to and jokingly asked whether I was going to put it on Facebook. At the time I thought I would, but then I decided to write about today’s events and include the picture here.


Before we were done, two other walkers joined us–one black, one white. I took another picture–how I wish I could’ve done a selfie of the five of us–and we all sat down together. I learned that my trekking pole friend is Chris and the fellow who’s been with him was Al. The two additional fellows were Sam and Jerry.

We had a great time talking, and I explained that I would love to walk with them, but because of my praying while walking–I told them I pray for them as well as my other co-walkers–I preferred to walk alone. They not only understood, but appreciated what I’d told them.

While nobody said anything specifically about being a Christian (or not), I felt very much at home in this little group.

So why did I title this post “Now Is Better than Then”?

As much as I hate to think about it or even admit it, if this had occurred sixty or seventy years ago–perhaps less– well, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Black people walking at the same place as white people? Preposterous. And speaking enthusiastically to one another as equals as we passed each other? Not likely.

And sitting down together in a time of true fellowship, two older white guys and three older black fellows? It wouldn’t have happened in those (questionably) “good old days,” would it?

I have no memory of those days, and I’m not making any claims that racial equality has progressed as far as it needs to, but I am sincerely thankful it’s gotten far enough for me to make friends, even in such a limited way, with three fine black gentlemen who share the same interest in walking and talking.

I usually try to ask a pertinent question to get you to leave a comment, but I’m fresh out of pertinent. So instead I’ll just ask, “What do you think? How about leaving a comment?”


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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

The ACTS of Christian Prayer

Anyone who thinks prayer is the same for all pray-ers hasn’t paid much attention to those pictures we frequently see of Muslim men–sometimes hundreds of them at a time–prone on their prayer rugs and looking very intent and devout. I’m assuming their prayers are of a prescribed nature.

Kind of like Christians who always pray the Lord’s Prayer. And pray quite sincerely, But never a prayer directly from their own hearts.

While sincerity in prayer is desirable, I wonder how many Christians–even among those who pray frequently and faithfully–manage to keep from falling into a routine. One that makes them feel they must cover certain areas each time they pray. And makes them feel they’ve misspent their prayer time if they leave something out.

I’m constantly fighting against that routine, and what makes it especially tough is the “ACTS” way of praying I learned many years ago. ACTS is an acronym:

  • A =  Adoration (telling God how great we think He is)
  • C =  Confession (admitting our wrongs and asking His forgiveness)
  • T =  Thanksgiving (thanking Him for His many good and perfect gifts)
  • S =  Supplication (asking God’s help for self and others)

Pretty nifty, isn’t it?

One advantage of this approach is that in adoration we praise God for who He is rather than for his blessings. The distinction between adoration and thanksgiving is important.

Confession is a toughie for me. I haven’t robbed any banks or killed anyone, but there are still plenty of lesser things I’m guilty of. If you doubt that, you should see me turn my head the other way at the mall rather than “admire” the posters in the window at Victoria’s Secret.

Sin is anything that displeases God…and creates a needless barrier between Him and us. So my prayers of confession always include a request for God to reveal anything specific I need to repent of (that means “turn away from”).

I love thanksgiving, though. God has so blessed my life that I can’t begin to think of everything I’m thankful for. But there’s always something–or several somethings–that are on my mind at prayer time.

Supplication is where too many Christians–myself included–spend far too much of their time. At the same time, though, the Bible tells us we don’t have because we don’t ask.

I believe God is listening to all pray-ers. Don’t ask me how He keeps us straight or handles multiple simultaneous pray-ers; God is far beyond my ability to explain or understand fully.

I’d like to believe I spend far more time praying for the needs of other people than for myself. A plus, right?

Hmm. Not if I’m patting myself on the back for being unselfish. Better that I should start praying to be more unselfish in listening to others’ needs and trying to be helpful. Some problems are things I can ONLY pray about. But some I might be able to lend a helping hand with if I cared enough.

I hope you can see how useful ACTS is, but also how easily a pray-er c an fall into routine. While the details may change from one day to the next, there are certain things I simply MUST pray about every day without fail. Else I feel my prayer is incomplete.

I’m not offering a solution to that problem, although not praying ACTS in order sometimes puts a new spin on my prayer.

What do you think? Do you pray? Do you purposely or incidentally cover the elements of ACTS? Do you fight routine in praying? How about sharing a comment?


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Best regards,

Making Lists (part two)

If you read my post this past Sunday, you already know that my wife and I–and our collective adult kids–are crazy about making and using wish lists. Especially at this time of year.

But I mentioned that we keep and use another kind of list as well. One that’s even more important.

That’s a prayer list. A list of the people we know about who have special needs we can do nothing better for than to pray.

Each of us has one or more lists, although our lists probably overlap a great deal.

We normally pray aloud before eating breakfast and supper, and I’m usually the one to do that. I have a number of items on my mealtime prayer list, and I don’t try to cover them all during one short prayer. Sometimes I do.

First I pray for our family, church, nation, and the people of Nicaragua (our church has an ongoing ministry with some churches in Nicaragua).

Next I pray for what I lovingly refer to as “our pregnant trio.” That includes my daughter and–until last week–one of Kathleen’s, who’s since had her baby.

Then comes a series of men, women, and children we know of with special needs. Right now, that begins with prayer for my father-in-law, who–after years of suffering 24/7–appears to be near death. At one point we would have prayed for his healing. Now we pray for God’s will to be done. Many of the other people on this part of the list have been on it for years now, but their needs continue and we can’t stop praying for them.

We also pray at mealtime for people we know of who’re grieving or perhaps have been grieving for a while. That’s especially important at this time of year.

I have my own private prayer list as well, which includes several people I never knew well, but nonetheless have concerns about their spiritual needs. This list started years ago with only two or three names, but has grown to fifteen-plus, including a Muslim who believes he can be both a Christian and a Muslim. I also pray for his family; I don’t know their individual names.

If you’re not a Christian–or someone who believes in a “god” of some sort–keeping a prayer list and using it daily may sound a bit strange. But we believe it’s important. The Bible teaches that God’s children are to ask Him for the things they want–but not like reeling off a wish list–and we believe God answers prayer. Not always the way we want–He sees things from a totally different perspective from us–but the way He knows is best.

Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. He asked God the Father to spare Him from the suffering  He’d come to earth to endure for our sake. But He concluded His prayer with the words God always honors: “Not my will, but Yours.”

God may not answer our prayers for the many people on our lists the way we want, but we can be certain He’ll do what’s best according to His will and His purposes.

Is prayer real to you? Do you pray regularly? Do you expect answers? How about leaving a comment?


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Best regards,

A Matter of Attitude

When I worked at a Target store for three years before retiring at sixty-two to write full-time, I was impressed by the different attitudes my co-workers displayed. Most of them were acceptably pleasant to the guests (at Target, customers are “guests”). Some were genuinely helpful. Others did what they had to do and no more. Rarely did I see anyone treat a guest unpleasantly.

In short, we had what I’d consider a pretty typical mix of people.

Early in my stint at Target I realized what a difference attitude made. Sure, I could come in each day feeling resentful that–after being downsized from my third professional career after almost nineteen years–I was working on the register to help make ends meet at home. But at least I had a job. And I was earning enough.

And since it was only part-time, I had time to write my first novel. Something I hadn’t expected to be able to do until I retired. Furthermore, I only had to drive a mile to get to work.

So (with a lot of help from the Lord) I managed to display a good attitude most of the time. When other team members complained about this, that, or the other, I listened sympathetically and TRIED not to join in. I’d learned far too late in my previous career that one of my supervisors, who I believed to have been a sympathetic person to complain to about personal problems, was sick and tired of my grousing.

If someone sympathetic couldn’t take my complaining any more, I needed to change. As much as I had to be grateful for, why waste time on serious griping that (apparently) nobody really wanted to listen to?

So I made a practice of looking for the good each day when I got to work. I’m not pretending it was always easy, nor am I claiming I wasn’t far happier getting home  than arriving at work. But my life was full of good things if I just made the effort to look at it that way.

I retired from Target seven years ago, but I still like to think of myself as grateful for the good things in my life. And to think that focusing on the good makes me a nicer person to be around.

So what if I have to take medicines for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and thyroid  problems? At least I’m alive and in what I consider good health. I can get up with a fair amount of enthusiasm most mornings. I can still walk as rapidly as ever. In fact, in many ways my body is functioning just as well as ever.

Can you imagine what I’d be like if I did nothing but complain, though? I don’t want to think about it. I like being nice to other people, and I believe that results largely from the attitude of gratitude I’ve learned to cultivate over the years.

Prayer is said to contain four elements: Adoration; telling God how good He is. Confession; admitting our sins and asking God’s forgiveness. Supplication; praying for needs, ours and other peoples’. And thanks for all the good God provides on a daily basis.

I’ll bet you can guess which is my favorite element of prayer.

Are you a thankful person, even when things aren’t going the way you want? That’s tough. But if you look at the good in your life, it’ll really help to put the bad in perspective. And while you’re at it, why don’t you thank God for the good? As the Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.”

Any thoughts on thanksgiving and gratitude? Please share in a comment.


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Best regards,