Maiden Voyage

April 30

 

Pride is utter poverty of soul disguised as riches, imaginary light where in fact there is darkness. (John Climacus)

     On Wednesday, April 10, 1912 the most magnificent cruise ship ever built departed from Southampton, England for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. This glorious vessel, the Ocean Queen of the Seas, was owned by White Star Lines who employed 15,000 ship makers to build this masterpiece at a cost of $7,500,000 (400 million today). The vessel was 11 stories tall and three football fields long. It was said that Titanic, the largest moving object ever made by man, was unsinkable and some said in jest, “Even God couldn’t sink the Titanic.”

     On Saturday Titanic approaches the mid-Atlantic without mishap. President of the White Star Lines, J. Bruce Ismay, wants to beat the crossing time of the Atlantic set by Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic, so they increase the speed of the great liner to more than 22 knots.

     On Sunday at 9:00 a.m. April 14, the ship Caronia sends a message reporting ice-bergs. At 1:42 p.m. the White Star steamer, Baltic, reports icebergs and large quantities of field ice in a location perilously close to Titanic’s course. At 9:40 p.m. the steamer Mesaba reports that a great number of large icebergs lie in a 78 mile-wide rectangular field ahead of the ship. Several warning messages are received but Titanic is pushed ahead. Speed is maintained at 22 and one-half knots in spite of the dangers. The promise of wealth and fame awaiting Titanic on the shores of America made all the risks on this history making voyage worthwhile.

     At 11:40 p.m. Frederick Fleet, the night lookout, spotted an iceberg directly ahead. Great effort was made but the speed of the ship made it impossible for the crew to turn away and avoid collision. They hit an iceberg.

     At 2:20 a.m. the ship sinks. Human pride and carelessness sank the Ocean Queen of the Seas and killed 1503 passengers. Titanic teaches us that pride and arrogance will eventually sink us in destruction and shame. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Solomon). John Ruskin said, “Pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” God did not destroy Titanic to prove He was God; people sank the ship proving they are not.

Biggest Loser

April 29

 

It’s all about lifestyle change. (Biggest Loser)

     In 2004 Bob Harper first appeared on the United States version of the hit reality show, Biggest Loser. Since then he has become a hero to many around the world who are struggling to lose weight and shed the stigma associated with obesity. He has served as a personal trainer for celebrities and his workout DVDs have encouraged thousands. He is seen and often viewed as the nicer trainer on the show. Biggest Loser is inspirational, motivating many to do the work and succeed. But most, if not all those appearing on the program, would fail if it were not for the encouragement of their trainers who push them towards achieving the goal.

     The fact is that far too many of us will not do the work and stay on course in any endeavor unless we have someone to encourage and push us during those times we just run out of gas. This is true of our spiritual lives as well. The good news! The Lord has provided a personal trainer for each one of us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus declared, “... God the Father ... will give you a Helper [advocate, trainer, encourager, strengthener], the Holy Spirit who will never leave you.” Every facet of our walk with the Lord is governed, initiated and directed by our spiritual trainer and He is always with us. The only real spiritual challenge that we face is the battle of whether or not we are focusing on the Holy Spirit as our friend, teacher and guide (Mike Murdock).

     “Apart from the Spirit we have no moving emotions towards God,” writes Oswald Chambers. “The basis of Christ’s religion is the acceptance of a new Spirit, not a new creed; and the first thing the Holy Spirit does is to awaken us out of sleep. Our challenge is learning to rely on the Him because He alone gives life.” God’s Spirit is to us everything that Jesus was to His disciples: teacher, healer, helper, guide and friend. It is His influence that draws us to God and His strength that helps us lose that which is harmful to our spiritual well being. He is pushing us to do the work, stick with the training and put in the time that will make us the strong and vibrant believers we have the potential of becoming.

Essence Of Love

April 28

 

Love is the doorway through which the human soul passes from selfishness to service and from solitude to kinship with all mankind (Author Unknown)

     Sometime around six in the morning James Lawson of Running Springs, California left home to apply for a job. An hour later his wife Patsy loaded their two children; five year old Susan and two year old Gerald, into the car and began her journey down the San Bernardino Mountains. She was a fifth grade teacher at Riverside Elementary and her first stop that morning should have been at the baby sitter's house. But unfortunately, she did not make it.

     When Patsy failed to show up at the sitters and work; her friends became concerned and began making calls. An alarm went out and a search began. Eight and a half hours later James spotted his wife’s car turned upside down in a cold mountain stream at the bottom of a steep ravine. For some unknown reason the car had darted off the road. James scrambled down the mountainside towards the overturned vehicle. He heard cries and was in hopes that somehow his family had survived the terrible wreck. In a panic he arrived at the crash site and his heart sunk deep in his chest when he looked inside the car; his little girl was dead. And there he found Patsy’s body locked in death holding little Gerald, who was barely alive; she held his head just above the water in the submerged vehicle. For eight and a half hours she had held her beloved son above the water so he could breath. She held on desperately, but the forty-eight degree water and the injuries she sustained took their toll. She died in a position of self-giving love, holding Gerald’s life in her hands.

     Love has been defined as an expression of a deep and tender feeling of affection for a person or persons; a feeling of good will toward other people; a strong liking for or interest in something. Patsy Lawson embraced her son with all her strength; with all her feeling; with all her mind; with her whole being. She gave all and in death personified love. The Bible declares that God is love, and He also embraced humanity with His whole strength; His whole feeling; His whole mind; His whole being while dying for us. As Christ hung on the cross; He in a metaphorical sense was holding us up above the chilling waters of eternal death so we could live forever with Him. Now let us lay down our lives for the one who laid down His life for us. Love is infallible; it has no errors, for all errors are the want of love (William Law).

Better Things

April 27

 

Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again. (Alex Tan)

     Lingering somewhere in a place between life and death Ramon gave up and stopped eating because he didn’t want to live anymore. A few days later I was asked to visit him at the hospital. When I saw Ramon I knew that his days were numbered. I knelt beside the bed where he was laying, introduced myself and said, “Ramon, your family is very concerned about you. They said you don’t want to live anymore.” He faintly acknowledged my presence and nodded his head yes. “You know,” I said, “not wanting to live is not a bad thing. This world has not been so kind to me that I want to stay in it forever. But the important thing is that you are right with God when you die and are escorted into His presence by the angels.” Let me ask you a question, “Have you made things right with God?” He tried to talk but all he managed to do was nod. So I said, “As you lay here, sometimes probably out of it and at other times very aware of what is happening; talk to God and invite Him into your life. Ask Him to help you. And it is possible that with a little faith, a will to live and the Lord’s mercy; you can get up and walk out of here.” I reached over and took his hand and prayed.

     As I made my way out down the shiny hospital corridor; I decided to return the following day. There was something about the way he squeezed my hand when I prayed for him; like a desperate man reaching for help that made an impression on my heart. But I did not get the chance; he stepped out into eternity around 2 A.M., having grown weary at age seventy-two under the pain of his struggle.

     Life takes many turns and is filled with ups and downs. Most people, even if only for a brief moment, become weary of living. It has been said, “God did not promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.” There have been moments when I longed to say goodbye to this world: when my inability to cope with difficulties pushed me to edge of my capacity to endure. But as a follower of the Lord I have found, time again, that His strength abides at the end of my own. And when life on planet earth ends—there are better things ahead than any I leave behind.

Three Words

April 26

 

When the storms of life strike, it’s what happens in you that will determine what happens to you. (Jerry Savelle)

     Most of us are very uncomfortable with the idea that God uses trials to make us better. We want the Lord to solve all our problems before they cause us any pain or discomfort. C.S. Lewis said, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” Jesus had three friends whom he loved dearly – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus became very sick so his sisters sent word to Jesus, informing him of the situation. He did not respond immediately to their plea for help and in the meantime Lazarus died. Jesus showed up four days after Lazarus passed away, much to the dismay of the family. It appeared as though He had made a mistake in judgment; this tragedy could have been avoided. No one, not even his disciples, understood why the Lord had waited before acting.

     All our difficulties are platforms for the manifestations of God’s grace, power and love (Hudson Taylor). Our trust and faith in Christ is what sustains us in times of uncertainty. Mary and Martha were normal people, there’s no reason for us to believe anything different, and they questioned Christ concerning His actions. We often do not know what God is doing but our lack of understanding gives us no right to determine that He has made a mistake in allowing us to experience hardship. Charles Stanley said, “The hotter the fire, the purer the gold.”

     God takes the seeds of what we often perceive as failure and plants them in the soil of possibility. Jesus allowed His friends to experience, what they perceived as defeat, so he could use their pain as an opportunity to give them a greater revelation of His being. Problems make us aware of our need for the Lord. And our needs are channels through which God’s power flows. Three words changed the lives of that family forever: Lazarus come forth! When Lazarus walked out of the tomb everything was different. In spite of what He allows us to experience, whether extreme difficultly or glorious victory, it pays to remember that God is never late. It is good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing (Thomas a Kempis).

Truth

April 25

 

Truth is often eclipsed but never extinguished. (Livy)

     Controversies rage the world over regarding moral absolutes, human rights, the fate of humanity and faith. But what we are seeing unfold today is nothing new; it’s simply a repetition of what has already transpired. Two thousand years ago Christ was taken into Pilate’s judgment hall and when questioned about his identity he declared, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate responded, “What is truth?” Pilate’s response reflects the present day mindset of those whose guiding light consists of doing whatever seems right in their own eyes.

     Doug Groothius said, “Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion but everyone is not entitled to his or her own truth. Truth is but one.” Jesus Christ defined truth in a prayer he offered in behalf of His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. He prayed to God saying (John 17:17), “Make them (my followers) holy by your truth; teach then your word, which is truth.” According to Christ—God’s Word is truth.

     For almost four thousand years the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, have proven to be divinely inspired as evidenced by the innumerable millions of lives they have changed, the supernatural miracles they have produced and the hundreds of prophecies that have been spoken and fulfilled in them.

     There are some people groups who do not entirely deviate from the Scriptures—they simply say the Bible is inspired in spots. The Bible, they say, is inspired by God in spots and they are inspired to spot the spots. And the only way for an individual to spot the inspired spots is for a holy inspired spot finder to show you its holy inspired spots. Holy inspired spot spotters from various faiths spot differently. One group of spotters will say this is an inspired spot, and another spotter from another group will say that the spot is not inspired. Other groups say the Bible is not inspired at all. They make up their own rules that only those who associate with them can spot. Okay enough! Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people—truth is truth (Giordano Bruno).

     John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church said this about the Scriptures, “The Bible could not have been written by bad men or bad angels, nor could it have been written by good men or good angels. It could not have been written by bad men or angels for they would not have condemned themselves to hell for disobedience; nor could it have been written by good men or angels because neither would they have stated over 1600 times that “the Lord said” if indeed He did not speak the words they recorded.”

     John Macquarrie declared, “The desire for truth is the desire for God.” And that is the truth!

Secret Of Greatness

April 24

 

The will to love God is the whole of religion. (F. Fenlon)

     We often get the impression that we must do some great work to be of significance. There are those who live in discouragement because they fail to measure up to some unrealistic standard they dictate for themselves.

     One day while out walking, I found myself looking into the sky and praying, “Lord, the clouds glorify Your name through their magnificence, the sunrise paints a masterpiece of Your majesty, the sun emanates Your might, and the sparkle of the stars reflect Your tenderness. May my life, Oh Lord, glorify You upon the earth as Your creation glorifies You in the heavens. Father, the clouds strain not to bring You glory, the sun does not wrestle to shine, the stars labor not to glisten Your radiance – they are what they are in You. The heavens and earth reflect the glory of Your greatness and all of creation hangs on Your command. They move in perfect harmony with Your established laws reflecting the order, wonder and the omnipotence of Your being. They fulfill their created destiny by existing and living in accordance with Your will. They do not struggle to glorify You; they simply are what You ordained them to be. Oh, God, let me be like them. Lord, may my life mirror the purpose for which it was created.”

     Many times, to compensate for my own feelings of inadequacy, I have attempted to render greater service. The end result was nothing more than emptiness and exhaustion. Finally, I learned that God does not require me to please Him through works; He requires that I work at pleasing Him through love. Make God your first love. Seek Him, not His blessings or power, not His glory or grace, just God and His love. If you touch the Lord, He will touch you with an overflow of His nature, and you will glorify Him on the earth: the secret of greatness - love.

Giant Shoulders

April 23

 

An age is called Dark, not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. (James A. Michener)

     Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” As we seek the Lord we figuratively are standing on the shoulders of a giant – the God of creation. From that vantage point He imparts to us the ability to see, removing the spiritual cataracts from our eyes that developed because we did not walk with Him. The Bible declares in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no revelation of God the people perish [or cast off restraint].” So how does one obtain revelation and vision? Vision grows and develops through relationship. The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes (Marcel Proust).

     We need not strive and strain to develop vision; it comes as a by-product of our walk with God. Jesus said (John 15:4), “Abide in me, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.” Abide in Christ like a branch abides in a tree, and you will be given eyes that see. A tree, connected to the earth by its roots, derives minerals and nourishment from the soil. Life and vitality flow through this union. A tree does not exert itself in producing fruit; it simply reaches into the earth and life giving sustenance flows into it. The Holy Spirit seeps into our lives as we reach into the heart of God and partake of His life and nature. Trees produce fruit when they are one with the earth from which they came. Believers produce fruit when they are one with the God of creation from whom they came. It is impossible to be intimate with the Lord and not develop vision or be productive as a believer.

     He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1). It was Oswald Chambers who said the secret place of the Most High is located in that place where we are one with God and He is one with us. Through faith the roots of our soul reaches into the life of God and we become one with Him. His nature is imparted and we receive vision – a revelation from God of God.

Tough Old Miser

April 22

 

Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into God's hand; and then, when we have given all to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about. ( Hudson Taylor)

     It is written in the Tan Huma Rabbinic Literature, “God has willed that there be two hands in the matter of charity – one that gives and one that receives. Thank God that yours is the hand that gives. And do not say that you will miss what you give. Be like the sheep who give their wool and have no less the next year because they have given.” Some say, “We don’t need to trouble ourselves with offerings because if God wants something to happen; it is going to get done.” That is not true! That argument is simply a convenient way for negligent people to escape their responsibility of supporting the work of God on earth. Richard J. Foster wrote in Money, Sex and Power, “Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon of greed.”

     The Bible speaks of a ransom offering (Exodus 30:11-16), “Every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord … and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting.” The Jews spiritual life revolved around the tabernacle. God gave everyone who professed to love Him an opportunity to demonstrate their true feelings through giving. Salvation for the Jews, and for us today, depends on our willingness to be generous. If they did not give – they did not live. No one is to appear before God empty handed (Exodus 23:15).

     You only keep what you give away (R.E. Phillips). God takes care of His children and expects us to take care of His work on earth. Hebrews 2:3 says, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” If we neglect our opportunity for salvation we will perish. If we neglect our obligation to help those who do not know the Lord then they will perish. The fate of those who refuse to answer the call for helping get the Word of God out to those in need is not good. No one was ever honored for what they received, so discipline yourself and learn to be generous. Give to God and rest assured; He will take care of you.

Time Talent Treasure

April 21

 

He who takes but never gives, may last for years but never lives. (Author Unknown)

     The model for worship given to humanity is patterned and copied from that which continually takes place in heaven before God’s throne. The Bible declares (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23 Amplified), “When Moses was about to erect the tabernacle, he was warned by God, ‘See to it that you make it all exactly according to the copy (prototype) which was shown to you on the mountain. It was necessary for the (earthly) copies of the heavenly things to be purified, but the actual heavenly things themselves required far better and nobler sacrifices than these.” The blueprint for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and the worship practices outlined in the Law of Moses are a reflection of that which has always existed in Heaven.

     Giving, sacrifice and tithing did not originate on earth; they are part of God’s program for worship which He established before the creation of humanity. Heaven’s occupants give offerings to God; it’s their greatest joy and what they live for. Revelation 4:10 says, “Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, the 24 elders … cast their crowns before the throne.…” Every being in Heaven is passionately generous; lavish with praise and prolific in their worship. Giving is the way of eternal life for heaven’s occupants; supernatural joy is derived from the sacrifices of praise that one unselfishly gives to God.

     You can give without offering yourself to the Lord, but you cannot offer yourself to the Lord without giving. No one shall appear before God empty handed (Exodus 23:15). Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God centuries before the Commandments were written (Genesis 4:3-7). Abraham gave tithes to the priest Melchizedek, the king of Salem, about 500 years before Moses received God’s word on Mount Sinai (Genesis 14:18-20). Worship did not originate under the Law of Moses; it was practiced in heaven long before creation and passed down to earth. Giving and sacrifice are a part of the nature of all beings who walk with the Lord. We should give with the same attitude with which we receive, cheerfully and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers (Seneca). God’s nature caused Him to make the supreme sacrifice for humanity. The Holy Spirit abiding in our hearts compels us to offer our best: our time, our talents and our treasure to the Lord as a sacrifice of praise. Robert South said, “If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.

Green Machine

April 20

 

There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread (Mother Teresa)

     Nothing happens just once; the sum total of all we experience goes through our minds time after time—year after year; some good and others—not good. The bad things create pain. And pain is such an uncomfortable feeling that even a tiny amount of it is enough to ruin every enjoyment (Will Rogers).

     Back in the day when bigger was better my dad bought me my first bicycle. It was a big ancient Green Machine; a used bike with high miles; a horrible paint job—you guessed it—army green in color. That dinosaur had big green fenders, wide tires; and it must have been eight feet tall. The only way I could get on Green was to stand on something; a chair or a curb. I’d get the pedal in the upward position and literally jump on it, always with my right foot, and that got me off to a shaky start. Dismounting was a challenge; and the best way to get off Green was simply to slow down and topple over. I was still learning to ride when dad brought the Machine home. He helped me get started and after a few wobbly moments, I picked up speed. Everything was fine until I turned onto the road behind our house and started down the hill; somehow I lost control and crashed on the blacktop. After crying a few painful tears and shedding just a little blood; I found the nerve to get back on and ride again. Soon I was traveling everywhere but as the old saying goes; all good things must come to an end. My dad took Green and threw it in the trash to punish me for being irresponsible; I was eight years old.

     We are all broken and wounded in this world. Some choose to grow strong at the broken places (Harold J. Duarte-Nernhardt). But I didn’t; I allowed the Green Machine incident and many others to become a breeding ground for anger. A vicious cycle soon evolved. Something occurred which hurt me; my response to it was almost always negative which intensified the pain that I was already feeling inside. All I ever really wanted in life was to be loved but in spite of this desire my life began to spiral downward. After hitting bottom I began seeking a purpose and reason to live which I found through faith in Christ. God’s love changed me. As love began filling the void in my heart, a healing process started that continues. Gary Zukay got it right, “Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is.” And God is love (Apostle John).

There When You Need Him

April 19

 

Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God. (William Carey)

     The departure date for my first missions trip was approaching, but right before I left a series of events occurred which tested my faith. Mr. Johnson, the finance manager of our church walked through the office and said to me, “I hear you’re going to Haiti. Hope you’re not flying Pan Am. A jet crashed in Dallas yesterday and killed several people.” My tickets had just arrived so I looked at them and sure enough – I was flying Pam Am.

     One day I called the missionary who arranged the trip and his wife answered the phone. My friend wasn’t at home so I asked his wife what she thought about the country. Mrs. Missionary replied, “I hate Haiti. That island is inhabited by a hostile bunch of thieves. You can’t depend on a one of them and you’d be a fool to trust anyone there.” After hanging up I thought, “I wonder how she really feels.” She truly discouraged me. Then on top of that, the reigning government of Haiti had been overthrown and several people had been killed in the rebellion.

     In spite of my grave concern I boarded a plane in Miami and headed for Haiti, believing the Lord was leading me. While preparing for take-off, smoke began pouring into the cabin, and the people panicked, trying to get off. The flight attendants got control and we were immediately evacuated. After three hours of waiting on repairs, we were put back on that same plane. We taxied to the runway only to return for more work and more bad news. We were now five hours late and Haiti’s airport closed at night. At that point I started to get off that flight. How could I get to the mission station in the middle of the night? What if the Haitian Pastor didn’t show up? All I had was an address – 40 Delma Street – Port-a-Prince. “Lord,” I prayed in silent fear, “if Pastor Sorrell is not at the airport, don’t let this plane leave Miami.” After some time we began moving and the pilot announced, “We’re cleared for take-off.”

     We made it to Port-a-Prince and everything inside the small airport was chaotic. I felt lost, not knowing one word of Creole. A man claiming to be a taxi driver approached me. He spoke English and offered to transport me to my destination. The words of the missionary’s wife echoed in my mind, “Don’t trust anyone!” After going through customs I waded timidly into a crowd of noisy people outside the terminal. When I got in the middle of the throng I yelled, “Is Pastor Sorrell here?” Everyone got silent for a moment, looked at me, turned away, and resumed talking. The press of the crowd forced me towards the street and there I saw a little man holding a sign. When he saw me, the only white man in the crowd, he asked in broken English, “Are you Pastor Tuppin?” “Pastor Sorrel?” I asked. “Yes,” He replied. I grabbed that little man and held him close. The weight of the world suddenly lifted from my shoulders. God is always there when you need Him.

Thirty Eight Special

April 18

 

As soon as there is life there is danger. (Emerson)

     Two friends, Ronnie and Jonnie, worked for Mr. Ed, the owner of a small convenience store; and I helped out on occasion. The orientation program for employees at the grocery included detailed instructions on how to mix Ed’s drinks. Fill his special glass half full of Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Add ¼ glass of water, a tablespoon of sugar and stir carefully, making sure when mixing not to spill one drop of his precious elixir. Ed consumed gallons of bourbon on his frequent drinking binges which often lasted for weeks.

     Ed drove a Cadillac and carried a 38 Special. It was not uncommon for him to pull out that gun and threaten to shoot us, but we were not afraid. He enjoyed our company when he was drinking, and we loved to hang out at the store. Ed was not a pervert; although we were embarrassed when he talked about taking us to the projects and paying a girl to make men of us. The more that Ed drank the crazier he became and more he made us laugh. One night he was cranky and flew into a rage after discovering that someone had stolen a pack of cigarettes from the store. He pulled out his gun and started cussing; he wasn’t fun anymore. Ed yelled at me, thinking I was guilty, “I going to shoot you. You little …. I’ll teach you not to steal from me!” Suddenly, in a panic I zipped out the side door, running like a wild gazelle into the orange grove beside the store. Several minutes later I heard someone walking in the darkness; it was Ronnie who came to inform me that Ed was only joking and it was safe for me to return.

     Ed’s wife disappeared when he began drinking. On certain occasions we would spend the weekend at his house so we could get extra hours at the store. Ed was a creature of habit. After arriving at his house he would go to his room, put the 38 under his pillow, make a drink, fuss at us for awhile and pass out on the bed. We watched television and ate. One night Ronnie crept into Ed’s bedroom, took his pistol and unloaded it. He held the gun with his right hand as he watched television. He placed the barrel in the palm of his left hand and began pulling the trigger. Click! Click! Click! Click the hammer resounded. Then suddenly Bammm!!! Ronnie had overlooked a cartridge in the cylinder. The bullet went through his hand and lodged in the ceiling. Ed woke up from his drunken stupor and got Ronnie to the hospital. None of us ever worked for or went to Ed’s house again. We learned an important lesson, “Never play with guns!”

     If you play with fire, you will get burned; if you play with guns someone will get shot; and if you do wrong you will pay the price.

Too Big For Anyone

April 17

 

Humanity is never helped in his suffering by what he thinks for himself, but only by revelation of a wisdom greater than his own. It is this which lifts him out of his distress. (C. G. Jung)

     Since moving to Florida, I had longed to preach in my hometown of Bedford, Indiana. As was typical for many who grew up in the 60s and 70s, I almost destroyed my life through alcohol, sex, drugs and rebellion. But through a series of dramatic supernatural events the Lord salvaged my life and called me into ministry. Finally, twenty one years after becoming a Christian my dream came true; I was invited to preach in Bedford. I left a few days early to spend time with an old friend. As I prepared to leave I asked him, “Hey, Ralph, why don’t you come and hear me preach for old time sake?” “Turp,” he replied, “I’ll go anywhere with you but not to church. God took my boys and I don’t think I could ever bring myself to go.” Ralph’s two sons, ages 18 and 16, died within a few short months of one another. The whole family was devastated beyond measure.

     The church was filled every night. Several friends who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years came. Sheriff Levi Hatfield and his wife were there. Levi and I had seen a lot of each other when I lived on the wild side of life. Some of my old acquaintances from school were members of the church that hosted the meetings. The services in Bedford were a highlight of my ministry, and the love of the people simply overwhelmed me. On the last night of the revival, Ralph walked in while I was preaching and sat down in the back of the church. He had always been like a brother to me and I wanted so desperately to help him. At the close of the service he came forward with tears streaming down his face, wrapped his arms around me and cried. “Danny, I hurt,” he sobbed. I didn’t know what to say, so I just held him and prayed. Finally I said, “Ralph, what you are going through is too big for anybody but God.”

     When circumstances and situations that are too big for us to handle wash up on the shores of our walk through life – our only hope is God. Family problems, money problems, health issues, and conflicts raging in the world can cause us to lose hope if we are not careful. What is the answer? Lena Horne says, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” What can we do with the pain and drama that is so much a part our lives? Where can we find a shelter from the storms? A.W. Tozer gives his answer, “We must meet the uncertainties of this life with the certainty of the world to come.”

Get Lost

April 16

 

Every new day begins with possibilities. It’s up to us to fill it with the things that move us toward progress and peace. (Ronald Regan)

     What does the spiritual person you ought to be, or the person you have the potential of becoming, look like? To find the answer to that question you will have to lose the self “that is” and find the self that “can be” in someone and something bigger than you. “One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities,” said Harry E. Fosdick, “and undertake the most interesting game in the world – making the most of one’s best.”

     Press towards the goal of your potential. Paul challenged the Ephesians, “Pray always … in the Spirit.” E. Stanley Jones reminds us of an important truth, “If a man centers himself on himself his self will go to pieces; only as he loses it in some great cause beyond himself does he find his self coming back to him integrated and heightened. This law of life is as deeply imbedded in our moral and spiritual universe as the force of gravity is embedded in our material universe.” Embrace unlimited potential through fellowship with God Almighty. Do what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible (Francis of Assisi). When minerals, existing under the earth, surrender to the vegetable world beyond it, a change occurs, causing lifeless matter to become part of a living plant (Author Unknown).

     The process continues, as vegetables are consumed by animals and lifted into the thought and feeling world of the animal kingdom. Animals lose themselves in humanity and become part of a higher life form. And then the ultimate surrender occurs when we, through faith in God, lose ourselves – the self that now is – and become the self we ought to be in Him (John 7:37-38). Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25).

     Quit trying and surrender – that’s all God asks you to do (Kathryn Kuhlman). A branch finds life in the vine and the vine reproduces itself through the branch. In order for the branch to be complete, it must abide in the vine. The life in the vine sustains the branch. Orison Sweet Marden spoke of our possibility, “Deep within humanity dwells those slumbering powers; powers that would astonish them; that they never dreamed of possessing; forces that would revolutionize their lives if aroused and put into action.” When you are connected to the life of God that flows from Him, then that which is will be consumed and we will become what we “ought to be” in Christ. Life has no limitations, except the ones you make (Les Brown).

Twice Defeated

April 15

 

A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits. (Richard Nixon)

     Is it possible to do what is right and still fall flat on your face? It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. As a matter of fact I used to say, “I cannot find one place in the Bible where Israel experienced a defeat when they were living right.” Then one day I found it – the Jews were doing good and still they lost two battles when facing a national crisis that would make or break them as followers of the Lord. They assembled an army to fight. The outcome of this war would decide the moral fate of their nation (Judges 20:1-48). They could not fail so their leaders prayed and sought God’s direction before they marched onto the battlefield. God gave them their battle plan. They lost! They acted in accordance with God’s perfect will for their lives and yet they suffered a defeat. How can we lose when following the leading of the Lord? It happens but don’t give up. The people gathered, and prayed again, seeking the Lord for direction. Again God told them to fight. They engaged the enemy a second time and lost battle number two. They could have become discouraged and quit had they wavered in their faith.

     When your back is against the wall; refuse to be a quitter. Hear the words of George Louis Leclerc de Buffon, “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius.” Continue to pray. Give God the very best that you have to offer (Judges 20:26-28). God said to Israel, “Go up and fight again, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.

     They went out on the battlefield a third time, and this time they defeated the enemy. They won the war. Follow the Lord and you will win, if not today than tomorrow. Everyone experiences moments of failure, but victory is inevitable for those who refuse to give up or give in. The Bible says in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” We all experience seasons of difficulty, but eventually we will conquer every obstacle if we trust the Lord. Keep in mind the words of Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Never talk defeat – use words like hope, belief, faith and victory (Norman Vincent Peal).

Just A Test

April 14

 

Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things. (Henry Ward Beecher)

     Many people enter into their walk with God having established a whole set of preconceived expectations. When things fail to happen as was supposed, they give up. Why? They were not prepared to deal with trials and tragedies. Don’t give up; take courage in the words of Shelly Long, “If you don’t quit, and don’t cheat, and don’t run home when trouble arrives, you can only win.” About 35 centuries ago Moses led his people out of slavery. The Jews had survived 430 years of Egyptian oppression, and they were suddenly free. Now Israel faced the challenge of self rule. How did God prepare them? He used trials. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Moses writes, “The Lord led you ... in the desert wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart. … He allowed you to hunger, and fed you ... that He might make you know that humanity shall not live by bread alone … but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

     The art of living lies not in eliminating but in growing with troubles (Bernard M. Baruch). God allowed the Jews to face hunger in the wilderness. He created a need in their lives for Him and then He met that need. God fed them in the desert, supernaturally caring for the Jews even though they sinned against Him. Keep in mind the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV), “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

     Greg Hickman comments, “The trouble with trouble is this: if you don’t deal with your problems and deal with them right away, troubles tend to multiply.” Israel failed almost every test they encountered. After completing the initial two year phase of their journey, the Jews rebelled at the border of the Promised Land, at Kadesh Barnea (Deuteronomy 2:1-15). God had been patient with them; but they were unwilling to follow Him; so the Lord turned them back into the wilderness. All the adults that had rebelled against God eventually died. They were not allowed to enter; their children eventually settled in the Promised Land 40 years later (Numbers 12-14). John Ray said, “Never meet trouble half way.” Our success is eminent if we endure difficulty and learn to trust the Lord in trial. The Bible says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” The road of spiritual freedom is not an easy path to travel, but you cannot lose if you don’t quit.

Essentials

April 13

 

Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightiest word in any language is its word for God. (A.W. Tozer)

     Somewhere in the age before time our Heavenly Father stood on the boundless shores of eternity and looked into the infinite depths of His inner being. There, He saw a reflection of His desires and created humanity from that which He saw. God created us in His image, the image of His need. The Apostle John declared, “God is love.” The nature of love compels it to seek something of equal and like character to bestow itself upon.

     We are like God in many ways. For instance, we have the capacity to give and receive love, to reason and feel, and we have the ability to think. Many people see the Lord as an Omnipotent being who has need of nothing. That is not true. He does have needs and that is why you and I exist.

     Church leaders, for the most part, have taught us to worship God so that He will meet our needs. But we seldom, if ever, concern ourselves with meeting His needs. Certainly, we cannot reduce Him to our size and stature for if God was small enough for us to understand, He wouldn’t be big enough for us to worship. Our understanding is limited. The Apostle Paul said that we look at life through a dark glass. But God has provided us with a window through which we can look into His soul. The nature of humanity is a window through which we can see what God is like. We are created in His image; that means we are like Him and He is like us. So the basic essentials that each person possesses reflect the essentials that God possesses. We need people to believe in us, God needs to be believed in. Love is our most basic necessity, God needs to be loved. We need acceptance, so does God. That which you need from God is what He needs from you.

     The Lord will not force Himself on people and neither will He pry His way into our hearts. He has a need to save, heal and fill His children with the Holy Spirit. Many people grope in the darkness seeking Him through formulas and dead rituals, but it is simple. When our need connects with God’s need; something supernatural happens. We need Him to answer our prayers and He needs us to pray and believe for answers.

Organized Delusion

April 12

 

In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you are pretending or putting on. It has got to be an overflow of your heart…. Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to Him. (Matt Redman)

     Two ministers and I conducted a service at a juvenile detention center in Salt Lake City, Utah. After the message a young man came up and said, “I’m disillusioned with the organized church.” He wasn’t disrespectful, just honest about his feelings. It seemed to me that he was searching for something to believe in. I said to him, “Jesus was also disillusioned with organized religion because the spiritual leaders in his day substituted their traditions for the true worship of God. They had a form of religion only. The Holy Spirit worked mightily through Christ. The power of His ministry made a tremendous impact on the masses of hurting people. The truth Jesus demonstrated and preached exposed the hypocrisy surrounding the lives of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Eventually, they murdered Jesus in an effort to preserve their customs and social standing.” He listened intently as I shared my thoughts. Our conversation was cut short when the officer in charge signaled that our time was up.

     How do we keep our faith relevant? By prioritizing our lives so we are not consumed with schedules and careers. Be careful that you do not destroy your spiritual health with vast amounts of debt. Guard your heart for out of it flow the issues of life (Solomon). The young man at the detention center was not mad at God; He was mad at the church for misrepresenting Christ to the world. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The church that is not jealously protected by mighty intercession and sacrificial labors will before long become the abode of every evil bird and the hiding place of unsuspected corruption. The creeping wilderness will soon take over that church that trusts in its own strength.”

     True worshippers worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him (Jesus Christ). God is interested in relationship, not lifeless traditions. Gary A. Furr comments, “Christian worship is alive because, in its essence, it is a conversation between two living realities – the one true, eternal God and the body of Christ, the church. Because worship is a conversation and not a mere review of the past, it is dynamic, unpredictable, and open ended. Who knows what might transpire on any given day when a group of believers hear and responds to the Word of God!” God is not moved or impressed with our worship until our hearts are moved and impressed by Him (Kelly Sparks).

Heard

April 11

 

Miracles are the retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters to large for some of us to see. (C. S. Lewis)

     If you have sought the Lord, and then sought Him again for a miracle that you have not received; don’t give up. Hannah could not conceive children even though she prayed in the Lord’s tabernacle year after year for a child (1 Samuel 1:1-7). Why did God allow this to happen? She was a devoted follower of the Lord. She tithed faithfully and was a person of impeccable character. Then why? Could it have been because she lacked faith or harbored some secret sin in her life? The answer is no! God used her circumstances as a means of taking her to a higher level of trust in Him. Difficulties grow miracles (Jean de la Bervere).

     Be patient because the Lord rewards those who diligently seek Him. One of our greatest challenges in life is learning to fit our lives into God’s timetable for us – instead of trying to fit God into our timetable for Him. Nothing is impossible. But we will fail if we give up or let up in our walk of faith with the Lord. Do not turn back. Keep moving forward and be like Hannah. “So it was year by year … she went up to the house of the Lord … and prayed. We all face seasons of difficulty but let us remember the words of Thomas Carlyle, “The Age of Miracles is forever here.”

     In the process of time Hannah went to the tabernacle and took a step of faith she had never taken before. She made a vow saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me … then I will give to you the son that You give to me....” God honored Hannah, allowing her to conceive and give birth to a son that she named Samuel, whose name means heard by God. When he was just a boy she took him to the temple and left him. He served Eli the priest and grew up to become a great prophet, consecrating himself to Lord all the days of his life. God also gave Hannah five more children. Love works miracles every day: such as weakening the strong, and strengthening the weak; making fools of the wise, and wise men of fools; favoring the passions, destroying reason, and in a word, turning everything topsy-turvy (Marguerite De Valois). When we invest into God’s plan – God invests into our plan. For every mountain there is a miracle (Robert Schuller).

A Wafer Of Honey

April 10

 

Suffering isn’t ennobling; recovery is. (Christian H. Barnard)

     Janet became deathly ill while laboring in the work of ministry with her husband Raymond. It all started when her thyroid began acting up. There was no great cause for alarm at first, not until her body refused treatment. Her condition became critical and Janet reached a place where she despaired of life itself, constantly fighting the thought of suicide. There seemed to be no end to the torment she endured. Her loved ones prayed, the doctors worked untiringly, but in spite of everything she got worse.

     Janet slipped into a coma. Her spirit left her body and she began to drift downwards through a dark tunnel that led to hell. She arrived on the gloomy shores of Hades. The Apostle Peter met her there, leading Janet through that dreadful chamber of hopelessness. She had to force herself to look upon the despondent multitudes of men and angels, screaming because of the hope they destroyed on the altar of selfishness – it was a horror beyond all horror. “There are varying degrees of suffering here,” Peter told her. “The more knowledge one had of God in life – the greater suffering they experience in death.” He then issued a strong warning, “If you succumb to the temptation of suicide and kill yourself; this hell will be your destiny.”

     Suddenly, Janet began to ascend upward towards heaven. She heard joyous singing as she stepped into the glorious light of paradise. A serene peace enveloped her soul. Jesus appeared and Janet was taken back by indescribable glory and majesty that emanated from His being. She was totally overwhelmed until a sobering thought passed through her mind, “If only I had not died in a depressed state of despondency; I could have lived here forever with Jesus.” The Lord handed her a wafer of honey and then asked Janet a strange question, “Will you preach the Gospel for me in Central America?” That was it.

     After 18 hours Janet woke up and recovered steadily. She didn’t tell anyone of her unusual experience until six months later. Raymond announced he had something of great importance to discuss with her. “Janet,” he said, “I feel the Lord leading me to work in Central America.” “Raymond, I must share with you what happened when I was sick,” she replied. “No!” he protested, “Don’t ever think or talk about that awful time, it’s over!” “No, Raymond, you don’t understand,” she said. She explained the vision and how Christ asked if she would preach the Gospel in Central America. “Raymond, don’t you see? God spoke to me. It was real,” she said. God transformed a terrible tragedy into a sweet time of self-surrender with a wafer of honey. Raymond and Janet Jacobs soon left for Central America, and gave their lives to preaching the Gospel in that part of the world.

What Now?

April 9

 

When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters—one represents danger and the other represents opportunity. (John F. Kennedy)

     A church member called and asked me to visit her co-worker who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. She had been given very little hope of recovery. During that first visit I shared, “Don’t you ever give up hope. Anything is possible when we mix faith, one’s will to live and God’s mercy into the diagnosis. Nothing is impossible to those who believe in miracles....” Tears began to flow from her eyes as I talked and read selected verses from Psalm 145, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; His greatness is unsearchable. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all. The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

     “Is this something that you have known about for a long time or did you just find out?” I asked her when visiting the hospital again. “I went in for a routine examine and the doctor saw something that didn’t look right. I had been having some minor problems but nothing out of the ordinary. He ordered some tests and discovered that I had cancer.” “How has this crisis affected you?” “I just keep asking myself over and over again,” she replied, “why, why, why is this happening to me.” I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say. There was an awkward silence in the room for a moment. Suddenly, I found myself saying, “The question to ask yourself now isn’t why. The answer to that question is often illusive. The question you should ask is – what now. What are you going to do now? Fight this disease, don’t give up, sort out your priorities, and allow the Lord to be your strength and hope.”

     The question – WHY – is often impossible to answer because of our limited insights into life. Don’t ride on an emotional roller coaster by trying to find answers that do not exist for you. The best question to ask when in crisis, “What am I going to do now?” Am I going to allow this adversity to make me bitter or better? Crises bring out the best in the best of us, and the worst in the worst of us. Character is not made in a crisis; it is only exhibited (Author Unknown). The Apostle Paul declared, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Expression Of Affection

April 8

 

We should dedicate ourselves to becoming in this life the most perfect worshipers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity. (Brother Lawrence)

     Worship is a word that is used throughout the Bible, but what does it mean? Many years ago I asked myself that question and came to the despairing conclusion; I didn’t know what worship was. In an effort to resolve this dilemma I began a search using Strong’s Concordance. One of the words in the Bible used for worship is derived from two Greek words: kuneo, which means to kiss, like a dog affectionately licking its master’s hand; the other word is pros, which is defined as direction. It can also mean to aim or point. These words, when used together, define worship as an outward or outgoing expression of love, traveling from one place to another. Worship is simply an expression of our affection aimed in the direction of God.

     When you do things that cause your love and feelings of admiration to flow in God’s direction; you are worshipping. Worship is often a very simple declaration; like singing a song, which expresses your affection. It can also be costly and complex, such as when Hannah surrendered her right to her first born son. She took him to the priest Eli and he served in the tabernacle of God. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” You cannot worship the Lord in Spirit without truth and you cannot worship the Lord in truth without Spirit. Byron Spadlin writes, “Worship is the intentional attitude and action of focusing on God. It is the life-discipline we ought repeatedly to exercise and develop. It grows out of the foundational motive of deep and wonder-based gratitude to God for salvaging and sustaining us.” When we make a sincere and deliberate effort to worship, the Holy Spirit will empower us with His abiding strength.

     Consider what Graham Kendrick said, “Everybody worships. Whether it is a hero, possessions, success, pleasure, a political cause, a carved idol or oneself, the way we live and behave makes evident the things we love and give ourselves to. It is in our very nature to worship, and that inner drive is God-given; the disaster is that as part of a fallen race, we have replaced the object of our worship. To be converted to faith in Jesus Christ is to return to the worship of the true God, and to dethrone all rivals to his authority.” May we kiss the hand that created us, expressing our sincere gratitude to God for all He is.

Anything You Want

April 7

 

We have to believe in free will. We’ve got no choice. (Isaac Bashevis Singer)

     People often say, “If God doesn’t want a thing to happen or doesn’t want me to have something, then it won’t happen and I won’t get it.” Israel wanted a king to govern them like other nations. They sought a strong leader who would form an army and defend them in battle (1 Samuel 8:1-22; 12:12-15). God tried to warn them but the people refused to listen. They thought they knew what was best. The end result of their choice was chaotic and tragic. God will give you anything you want, if you persist in seeking it – even if it is wrong for you. We often attempt to rid ourselves of personal responsibility for our actions by saying that the Lord is not going to let anything happen that He doesn’t want to happen. This is simply not true!

     He did not create humanity for the purpose of destroying them. He did not ordain our existence so He could watch us suffer. We are the reason for many of the atrocities we see occurring all too frequently today. Why does God allow millions of children around the world to starve and die each year?” The world has been placed in our hands with all its wealth and riches to enjoy. We have the ability to feed everyone. No one need ever go to bed hungry. Avarice, greed, fear, and prejudice compels us to kill instead of care for others. God is not the cause of our ills; He is the cure. We are what is wrong with the world. Psalm 8:6 says (NIV), “Lord, You have made humanity ruler over the works of your hand; you put everything under his feet.”

     If we follow in the footsteps of the children of Israel and insist on having our way – God will not make us to do what is right. The Lord will never violate our will and force Himself on us. Why did He give us a free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having (C.S. Lewis). God has placed good and evil in our power and has given us the full freedom of choice. Be safe not sorry, follow the Lord and delight yourself in Him.

Center Of Attention

April 6

 

Our only business is to love and delight ourselves in God. (Brother Lawrence)

     E Stanley Jones said, “Whatever gets your attention gets you.” His statement proved itself true for me, especially during my early struggles with temptation. It seemed that the harder I tried not to think about wrong, the more wrong I thought about. I fell a million times. In the midst of those daunting trials I did find courage in Proverbs 24:16, “A righteous man may fall seven times but he will rise again.” After getting up I was determined to read the Bible more, give more, pray more and memorize God’s Word more. For a while things progressed nicely – at least until I fell again.

     James 4:7-8 helped me to get things in order. The Bible says, “Submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Because I feared failure, I became preoccupied with trying to be good, and spent too much time resisting evil. Things got turned around backwards, and I ended up giving the Prince of Darkness a lot more attention than he deserved. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” A walk of faith is more than fighting evil – it’s making God the center of your attention. A person who has forgotten what God treasures will not be filled with joy (Oswald Chambers). What does God want from you – He wants your affection and your attention.

     The great work of God, the chief thought and longing of His heart, is to reach your heart and speak to you (Andrew Murray). Give the Lord your undivided attention – when you fall, when you fail, when you succeed, when you’re broke – find the strength to endure by nurturing relationship with God. They who live according to the Spirit prioritize the things of the Spirit. Take an interest in God and become so preoccupied with faith that there isn’t room in your life for anything else.

Snake Line

April 5

 

A snake lurks in the grass. (Virgil)

     Our instructor from Washington State mentioned the Cascade Mountains. Since most of us were from the East Coast of the United States, we knew very little about them. Not wanting to be ignorant I took a tour of the Cascades on the Internet Highway. These mountains form a beautiful 700 mile range running north to British Columbia, Canada and south through Washington and Oregon to California dividing west from east. The division means the western portion gets the rain while the eastern side is drier and more desert-like. This area is great for hiking, camping, and backpacking because there are not only mountain ranges but forest, desert, and ocean views all within a few hours drive of each other. Also Mount St. Helens is located in the Cascades in southwest Washington State. This volcano made history on May 18th, 1980; it erupted for 9 hours with the power of 24 megatons of thermal energy; the lateral blast created a 230 square mile fan shaped area of devastation reaching a distance of 17 miles from the crater.

     Our professor mentioned a very interesting fact about the Cascades. One can ascend and hike at a certain altitude in the mountains above the snake line, a place where creepy crawly serpents do not wander. That’s my kind of country.

     There is another snake line that we should walk above; that place where we are vulnerable to being influenced by the power of darkness. D. H. Lawrence said, “The world is dreaming, it has gone mad in its sleep, and a snake is strangling it, but it can’t wake up.” View world news on any given day and you will get the feeling that the world is on the brink of insanity.

     In the Book of Beginnings, Eve said to God, “The serpent deceived me.” The invisible kingdom of darkness led by the devil, that serpent of old, is ushering humanity down a path of self destruction. He has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the glorious light of Christ, who is the image of God. But there is hope; we can walk above the snake line through faith. Jesus said to His followers, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes … and to overcome all the power of the enemy.” You are not defenseless. Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one; take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and pray in the Spirit … always keep on praying (Paul the Apostle).

Your Greatest Blessing

April 4

 

God often picks for a job a person who lacks the ability to accomplish it. One of the prerequisites of tapping into God’s grace and power is the realization of your own inability. (Pastor Tommy Barnett)

     Weakness is a strength! Sounds crazy but it is true. That is what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “I take pleasure in weaknesses.” It took me years to comprehend this idea because it did not fit in with my experience. I hated weakness. My human frailty contributed to the shame surrounding my existence. Weakness drew me towards the dark side of life. For me weakness was in no way positive.

     One afternoon I was praying at the church and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “Your greatest weakness is your greatest blessing.” At first I did not accept those words as being from the Lord. I was momentarily perplexed until I opened my Bible to 2 Corinthians and read what Paul had written – when I am weak then I am strong. Paul’s words resonated in my mind and then I saw something I had never seen before. It was weakness, not strength that forced me to my knees, causing me to rely on God. Oswald Chambers wrote about weakness, “Every element of self-reliance must be slain by the power of God. Complete weakness and dependence will always be the occasion for the Spirit of God to manifest His power.” As I humbled myself before the Lord, He lifted me up. The Holy Spirit helped me to gain preeminence over the things that brought me down. That day I looked at my problems differently. Weakness was a great blessing. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, so humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time … cast all your concerns on Him, for He cares for you (The Apostle Peter).

     Paul has been honored for 2000 years not because he was a great preacher. It was not the mighty miracles, or the tireless energy through which he spread the Gospel, or the inspired writings that made him a great leader. Weakness and humility worked in his life, making Paul a great man. Weakness forces us to see ourselves as we really are. Mankind’s innate talents and strengths endow pride, self-reliance, self-confidence and independence. These things are destructive to our spiritual well being. As we reach out to God in prayer, He empowers us. As we search for His ability in helping us cope with life, we find it. Weakness produces meekness and the meek will inherit the earth.

My Real Mom

April 3

 

Love is everything it is cracked up to be … and is really worth fighting for, risking everything for. If you don’t risk everything you risk even more. (Erica Jong)

     Where do you go, when you know the meaning of a word but have difficulty explaining it? Go to Noah Webster’s Dictionary, a book that has been helping people with definitions since 1828. How does Mr. Webster define love? One meaning: love is a deep and tender feeling of affection for; a devotion and attachment to a person or persons. But what does love look like in real life? A good portrait of affection is displayed in the relationship that thirteen year old Amy shares with her mother. “My daughter,” writes Amy’s mom, “is perhaps having more trouble than some teens in discovering who she is. She was adopted from South Korea and we have no idea who her birth mother might be. Recently, Amy received braces on her teeth and as the day wore on she became more and more uncomfortable with the pressure of the wires. By bedtime she was miserable. I gave her some medication and invited Amy to snuggle up with me for awhile. Soon the pain eased and she became drowsy. In a small voice that gradually tapered off to sleep she said, "Mom, I know who my real mother is, it is the one who takes away the hurting."

     Billy Graham declared, “Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity … out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs, and the most gripping stories.” Love makes a difference; transforming adversity and pain into significance. The commonest fallacy among women is that simply having children makes one a mother—which is as absurd as believing that having a piano makes one a musician (Sydney J. Harris).

     The church was celebrating Mothers Day and a little girl was asked to recite a Scripture she had memorized for the occasion. When she stood on the platform, looking at all the people who were looking at her; she panicked and forgot the verse. Every line that she had so carefully rehearsed faded from her mind. Her mother who was seated in the front row tried to help. She gestured, moved her lips, trying to form the words for the girl, but all to no avail. Finally, in desperation, mom whispered the opening phrase, "I am the light of the world." Immediately the child's face lit up and she blurted out with the utmost confidence: "My mother is the light of my world!" And in her case it was true. Phil Whisenhunt wrote, “The most important occupation on earth for a woman is to be a real mother to her children. It does not have much glory to it; there is a lot of grit and grime. But there is no greater place of ministry, position, or power than that of a mother.”

The Eighth Hole

April 2

 

Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today. (James Dean)

     It was a great day of celebration for George Williams; it was his sixty-fifth birthday. When compared to some of his golfing buddies at the Palm Resort, that wasn’t such a great accomplishment. But at 65 George had lived longer than any male in his immediate family. His dad and older brother had passed away in their early sixties and George lived with this cloud hanging over his head. Would he also die before he got to live the full life he imagined for himself?

     The weather man was being especially good to golfers on this beautiful March day; the high was predicted to be in the mid seventies. Why shouldn’t George be happy? He had retired and moved to Florida, he was financially independent; he was sixty five and enjoying his golden years to the fullest.

     When he pulled his cart up to the first tee; he did not have a care in the world. At the eighth hole he was lining himself up for his second putt, when George paused momentarily and looked up saying, “I feel dizzy!” And just like that he collapsed to the ground. His friends gathered around him but there was nothing they could do; George had a massive heart attack and his spirit slipped out into eternity.

     Too many times we stand aside and let the waters slip away, till what we put off till tomorrow has now become today (Author Unknown). In Luke 12:16-21 Jesus told the parable of the Rich Fool. This man was a prosperous farmer who said to himself, “My business is growing so I am going to pull down my barns and build greater ones.” His wealth increased. Life was good to him and in the process of time he thought, “I have plenty; it is time to take life easy and eat, drink, play and be happy.” But God said to him, “You are a fool! If your soul is required of you tonight; then who will inherit your estate?” Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow (Robert Kiyosaki). This truth is as relevant for our eternal destiny as it is for our life on earth. Like George you may be at the eighth hole taking your second putt. Don’t be foolish; prepare for your eternal future. Commit your life to the Lord; don’t put it off for another moment.

Ninety Second Miracle

April 1

 

An act of God is defined as something which no reasonable man could have expected. (A.P. Herbert)

     Wendell, the first of eight children, was born into a family plagued with poverty and tormented with the constant ranting of an alcoholic dad. Even though his mother was a godly woman, her influence became lost in the madness of her husband’s addiction. And, as is often the case, Wendell followed in dad’s footsteps; he began smoking, drinking, getting expelled from school, drifting from one job to another and stealing just for the sake of stealing.

     At sixteen he was living on his own and staying anywhere he could find a place to get out of the weather. Delaney, his best friend and drinking buddy, often let him sleep at his house. One day these two misfits went to visit Delaney’s aunt; a believer who had strayed from her faith in Christ. As soon as they entered her house she began talking about a young evangelist who was preaching at the church on Telegraph Road. The services were making quite an impact on many in the community and being talked about all over town. The aunt pleaded, “Why don’t you two go with me to this revival—you guys really do need help?” Wendell was almost ready to say yes when Delaney spoke up, “No, I’m not going to that revival!” The aunt, who would not take no for an answer, propositioned them, “O.K. if you will go with me to just one service, I’ll buy you a six pack of beer.” That was all it took. She bought the beer; the boys drank it before service.

     The meeting was anything but sedate. People were shouting, praying, singing and exuberantly worshipping the Lord; all the excitement made Wendell terribly uncomfortable. When the young evangelist began preaching, it seemed as if he had opened Wendell’s heart and was describing the secret things stored deep inside. The preacher concluded the service by inviting people to come forward, receive Christ as their Savior. The young alcoholic clutched the back of his chair, knowing that he should go forward, but struggling with the idea of what confessing Christ would cost him. Suddenly he let go of the chair and began walking forward. He dropped to his knees at the platform, prayed for about ninety seconds and stood up. The first person he saw was Delaney’s aunt. Love began oozing up from somewhere inside, and in response to what was happening, he grabbed miss six-pack and gave her a big hug.

     That night Wendell joined the church and for the next three years was mentored by the pastor. When it was obvious that Wendell was ready, he began traveling and preaching to others. While conducting a meeting at one particular church, he was introduced to the Pastor’s daughter. Nancy and Wendell were married a year later. After a short time the young itinerate evangelist accepted a pastorate position. And after twenty years, Wendell’s passion for needy people led him on another spiritual journey. The Wilsons began working with young men struggling with addiction issues and in 1982 they established Loving Hands Ministries in Bradenton, Florida. From then until now this couple has influenced thousands with addiction problems. The ninety second miracle, which began with a stubborn lady and a six pack of beer, is continuing to change lives through the message of hope that comes through faith in Christ.