Foot In Mouth

August 31

 

A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over. (Ben Franklin).

     A glimmer of hope flickered in the darkness of our uncertainty. After struggling four years in a small church we resigned and began seeking another ministry opportunity. My wife’s step mother worked at the District Office in Kentucky so we called her and she told us about an opening in Paducah. We contacted the church and were invited to minister there; but our interview with the board did not go well. We liked that area and sold our house with the intention of starting a new church in Paducah. Before making our final move my mother-in-law suggested that I go to Bowling Green and interview for a position opening there.

     A ministry was hoping to plant another church in the area and she thought it would be a good idea if I talked with the pastor. And so I made an appointment to see him.

     It would be an understatement to say that I was more than a little nervous when his secretary ushered me into the Pastor’s plush office. Here we were in Kentucky with just a little over three thousand dollars to start over; and I hoped this possibility would prove to be our miracle. After introducing myself I said, “Pastor, the Superintendent thought we should get together and talk ….” I shared my heart with him and wasn’t given the time of day. He was curt and short in his response; then he got up from his seat and ushered me out of his office. He did not offer me one ounce of professional courtesy. A man’s tongue is soft and bone it does lack; but a stroke with it may break a man’s back (Ben Franklin). His rudeness may have devastated my already fragile ego; except that three days later we received an invitation to join the staff of a large church in Oklahoma.

     Shakespeare said, “Give your thoughts no tongue.” Wise advice! Two years passed and I was attending a leadership seminar in Texas with a group of people from our church. The young couple assigned as our hosts invited us to their apartment after service. They provided refreshments and we in their living room talking. I asked our young hostess, “Where are you from?” “Kentucky,” she replied. “I’m from Indiana and have been to Kentucky several times. And what city are you from?” I asked. “Bowling Green,” she answered. “I’ve been there twice. Once when I was fifteen a friend and I ran away and hitch hiked through Bowling Green. And a couple of years ago I had a bad experience in a church in there.” “What happened? She asked. After telling her my story I offered a closing remark, “The pastor of that church was a fat arrogant slob who treated me like a jerk.” “What church was that?” I named the church and she said, “That arrogant slob was my dad!” Suddenly, an eerie silence filled the room. “You’re kidding, right?” “No, I’m not!” she responded. The rest of the evening was not fun. I apologized but it meant very little to her. Better slip with foot than with tongue (Benjamin Franklin).

Nurturing Relationship

August 30

 

Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together. (Woodrow Wilson)

     Living and walking in the Spirit is not complicated or complex. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

     Loving God is our first and foremost priority. But where do we begin? Spiritual friendships and relationships are developed like our natural relationships. My wife, Nancy and I, met through a mutual friend. We began seeing each other and spending time together. We talked, shared our dreams and listened to one another. Love developed between us as we shared time together. Our devotion was put to the test of trial but we weathered the storms and decided to get married. Our friendship and love were based on our intimate knowledge of one another. Frank Lauback said, “The depth and intensity of our relationship will depend upon the variety and extent of the things that we do and enjoy together.” It’s the same with God. Our friendship with God is developed as we do things and spend time together.

     Prayer is the time we set aside in our lives where we nurture relationship with God, and allow God to nurture relationship with us. Effective prayer occurs as we share our heart with God and wait in His presence until He shares His heart with us. As we communicate with the Lord and allow Him to communicate with us; spiritual intimacy grows and develops. Jesus said, "He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him." When we spend time with God; He will become real to us and we will get real with Him. He is much more than a religious experience or feeling.

     Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing [because servants are not intimately acquainted with their masters]; but I have called you friends … and whatever you ask the Father in My name He will … give you.” Learn to share your life with God and allow Him to share His life with you.

A Damaged Man

August 29

 

The beginning student is a lot like a baby learning to walk. He needs to know that failure is part of the process of learning. (Howard Hendricks)

     Ronnie was experiencing chest pains and his doctor immediately placed him in the hospital, scheduling him for a cardiac catheterization (heart cath). The test revealed that he had three blocked arteries. This was the first time a member of my church faced an open-heart surgery, and being a young Pastor, I wanted to comfort the family by helping them keep their focus on God during the crisis.

     After what seemed like an eternity the doctor entered the waiting room, announcing that the surgery was successful. I accompanied Jackie, his wife, to intensive care and beheld a gruesome sight; there lying on the bed was a damaged man lingering somewhere between life and death, appearing more dead than alive. His body was covered with beta dine, a yellowish red substance that looked like dried blood. He was connected to a ventilator and there were tubes and monitors everywhere. His wife immediately burst into tears and I found myself saying, “Don’t worry Jackie, everything is going to be fine.” Even though I found myself speaking encouraging words to her I wondered, “After all this will Ronnie ever be able to live a normal life again?

     The doctors assured the family that everything was progressing wonderfully and Ron would be out of bed in a matter of hours. The surgeon explained, “It is very important that we get him back on his feet as soon as possible because he will heal faster if he gets up and walks.”

     Throughout our lives, like the disciples, we at times fail in our duty and wane in our loyalty to Christ. In Jesus’ greatest hour of temptation His followers were negligent and slept when they should have prayed. Jesus woke the sleeping disciples saying (Matthew 26:46 Message Bible), “Get up! Let’s get going!”

     Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing (Dennis Waitley). Christ’s disciples failed the Lord during a moment of weakness but Christ got them up and moving, knowing they would heal if they got up and walked. Problems do not go away … they must be worked through or else they remain forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit (M. Scott Peck). Those who lie and wallow in their pain and self-pity hinder the healing process. Ron walked his way back to health and you can do it too.

An Evident Token

August 28

 

Perhaps it would be a good idea, fantastic as it sounds, to muffle every telephone, stop every motor and halt all activity for an hour some day to give people a chance to ponder for a few minutes on what it is all about, why they are living and what they really want. (James Truslow Adams)

     .Obedience is crucial, even in the small and often seemingly insignificant things, for it mirrors the true condition of our spiritual lives. In every dispensation the Lord has examined people’s willingness to obey. Adam and Eve faced a very simple test—do not eat fruit from a certain tree. Noah’s generation was commanded to build a boat and spare their lives from destruction—only Noah’s family obeyed. And for the Israelites it was their obedience to the laws of Sabbath. Sabbath was a gauge that God used in the past and one He still uses today in measuring devotion. Exodus 31:13 says, “My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you through your generations.”

     The Lord said to the Jews in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4), “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.” They were commanded to gather a daily portion of the miracle manna and not store one crumb. Many did not heed Moses command, leaving part of it until morning. God expressed His disappointment and caused the manna they saved to breed worms and stink. On the sixth day they were commanded to honor the Sabbath by gathering enough food for two days. God wanted Israel to receive the full benefit of making Him their priority for a day. He gave them a sign and preserved the manna they gathered by making it last for two days. Another miracle! But some were stubborn and disobeyed; they went out to the fields on the Sabbath to gather food and found nothing. Thus, God again sanctioned the seventh day as Holy. The Sabbath is that time we set aside in our lives where we show God that He is more important to us than anything else.

     People often say, “God knows my heart.” Obedience is the evident token of the heart’s true condition. Obedience in little things gets us ready for greater things. Prayer, reading God’s word, tithing, service and setting aside Sabbath times for worship are simple responsibilities that test our willingness to obey. D.L. Moody wrote, “I believe that the Sabbath question today is a vital one for the whole country. It is the burning question of the present time. If you give up the Sabbath the church goes; if you give up the church the home goes; and if the home goes the nation goes.”

Unworthy

August 27

 

Your God is no bigger than the thoughts you think about Him. (Author Unknown)

     .Late one evening the phone rang and the caller at the other end of the line was troubled and upset. He asked me to come by his home, and when I arrived he ushered me into his living room. There Lisa sat in tears. He had been trying to comfort her all evening, but every attempt he made had failed. She was distraught and beside herself. This broken young bride, honestly and openly shared her regrets about the corrupt life she had lived. With tears streaming down her face she said, “Pastor, I’m not worthy of God.” “Young lady, you are right,” I said hoping to help her look beyond her faults, “you are not worthy of Him, but He is worthy of you.”

     Erwin Lutzer wrote, “You don't learn to praise in a day, especially since you may have been complaining for years! New habits take time to develop. But you can begin today, and practice tomorrow, and the next day, until it becomes a part of you.” The kind of praise that God deserves is above and beyond all that we can render to Him. As one writer penned, “Praise is the honey of life which a devout heart extracts from every bloom of providence and grace.” The next time you hesitate to lift your eyes upward and worship God; remember you’re not praising Him because you are deserving, you are praising God because He is deserving of all you can give Him. When we wake up each morning, if praise of the Risen Christ were to fill our hearts … an inner surge of vitality would reveal our hidden longing (Brother Roger). You don’t have to live a meaningless life and then die; give God what He wants and He will satisfy your greatest need—a purpose and a reason to live.

     The day I surrendered my life to the Lord was one of the best and worst days of my life. It was bad because I came face to face with the horrible person I had become while pursuing my own self-centered ambitions. Time stood still for a moment and it was as if I could see every terrible thing I had ever done. It was an awful sight to behold. All I could do was cry and pray. I felt lost in hopelessness and despair until my attention was directed towards Christ. I envisioned the Lord racing through the heavens and coming to my aid. That day I experienced Christ’s love. God's mercy is boundless, free and, through Jesus Christ our Lord, available to us now in our present situation (A. W. Tozer).

Jump At The Chance

August 26

 

Lose yourself in generous service and every day can be a most unusual day, a triumphant day, an abundantly rewarding day. (William Author Ward)

     Herod Antipas was appointed King of Galilee after the death of his father, Herod the Great, that infamous king who sought to kill the Christ child (Matthew 2:13). Like all client kings of the day, Antipas was required to pay a yearly tribute to Caesar, and being a flagrant spender, he needed exorbitant amounts of money to finance his savory appetite for the finer things of life. In order to maintain his affluent life style Herod sold the job of chief tax collector to the highest bidder who then sold jobs to hired publicans. Each tax representative gathered their share of the money before passing the proceeds to their superiors. Tax collecting was a profitable business.

     Matthew was a very wealthy man who bought a collecting position from the executive tax official. He was fortunate because Capernaum, known today as the city of Jesus, was strategically located on the Sea of Galilee and near the Kings Highway. This thoroughfare was a major Roman road and trade route running through Israel. A great host of rich merchants with their caravans of goods traveled this intercontinental artery and were required to pay tolls.

     One day Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. This unlikely prospect wholeheartedly responded to Christ, forsook his business, broke his contract with the chief tax collector and sacrificed his financial security to become a follower of Christ.

     It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces a generous harvest (Orison Swett Marden). Matthew, although a sinner, harbored a hidden hunger in his heart for the Lord. He observed Jesus, and how the power of God was demonstrated in His life through faith. He abandoned everything and jumped at the chance of becoming acquainted with Jesus. It was at the point of his surrender that Matthew discovered a wealth more valuable than anything money had been able to give him. He wrote the New Testament book that bears his name—Matthew. We make a living by what we get—we make a life by what we give (Winston Churchill).

All the More

August 25

 

Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them. (Orison Swett Marden)

     The only good thing we can say about the Prince of Darkness—he is persistent and in no way a slacker. He is on the job seven days a week—twenty-four hours a day. Satan’s number one priority is to kill, steal and destroy. Since he, and his demon hosts are out to get us, it is important that we take to heart the wise words of Claude Bristol, “It’s the constant and determined effort that breaks down all resistance and sweeps away all obstacles.”

     Bartimaeus was a blind beggar who lived in Jericho (Mark 10:46-52). One day Jesus passed through there on His way to Jerusalem, and came down the road where Blind Bart sat each day to beg for money. Bart had heard reports of how Jesus raised the dead, cast out devils and cured all kinds of sickness. Faith rose in his heart as the Lord approached the spot where he sat. But there were sinister forces there also: principalities, powers, rulers of darkness that were monitoring the situation and anticipating what was about to transpire.

     As Christ passed by him, Bartimaeus began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” Several people, having been influenced by Satan, took offense to the blind man’s boldness and told him to shut-up. He refused and cried out all the more, believing that if he could get to Jesus he would be healed. He intensified his effort when opposition rose against him. The blind man ignored the insensitivities of the people and called out to Jesus with all his might. He diligence was rewarded and he gained an audience with Christ.

     William Shakespeare said, “See first that the design is wise and just; that ascertained, pursue it resolutely.” When he was brought to Jesus the Lord asked, “What do you want?” Bart answered, “I want to see.” God wanted to give the blind man the best that He had to offer—for Bartimaeus it was his sight—and that is what he received. Circumstances, people, doubt and wrongdoing are the tools which the adversary uses in an attempt to steal that which God desires to give us. Remember, he is strong against weakness and weak against strength; therefore resist him. Walk with Christ. And if you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito (Author Unknown).

They Made It?

August 24

 

If grace does not make us differ from other people, it is not the grace which God gives. (Charles H. Spurgeon).

     What do you think would be a fitting punishment for two individuals who are indirectly responsible for every evil deed that humanity has ever done? What would be a proper response from God to the man and woman who made it necessary for Jesus, His Son, to die on the cross? The whole of humanity was corrupted because of Adam and Eve, the mother and father of the human race. All pain and suffering can be traced back to them. So did this—not so dynamic dual—seal their eternal fate by the sin they committed? Where are they—heaven or hell? The simple answer to this question lies neatly tucked away in the words of Genesis 4:16, “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.” Even though God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for their wrongdoing—He did not give up on them. Disobedience did not change God’s loving attitude towards His creation. Adam and Eve accepted their divine discipline and continued to walk in fellowship with God for the remainder of their lives.

     Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve, became angry with the Lord after being disciplined for killing his brother Abel. Cain, the first murderer, walked away from God, refusing to be accountable to His justice or a partaker of His mercy (Genesis 4:8-16). Unlike their rebellious son, Adam and Eve continued to walk with the Lord. Grace is always given to those ready to give thanks for it, therefore it is … given to the humble, and taken from the proud (Thomas a’ Kempis).

     Our eternal destiny is decided by relationship. Religion, church membership and good works are wonderful but these things in themselves are not enough. Being good is not enough. We must be born again and have a personal relationship with the Lord (Matthew 18:1-3). Those who have invited Christ into their lives give shelter to the Spirit of God in their inner being. F.F. Bosworth said, “Christianity is the only religion where He who is worshipped dwells in the one who worships.” The Lord conceived the idea of sharing intimate fellowship with His people long before He created them. Sin hindered those prospects but God sent Jesus to redeem our souls and restore the possibility of fellowship with Him. There is nothing but God’s grace … we walk upon it; we breathe it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and axles of the universe (Robert Louis Stevenson).

Thorn In Flesh

August 23

 

Pride and selfishness will destroy the union between God and man, man and woman, man and man and self and self. (Stephen Covey)

     Is it true that the Apostle Paul, a powerful leader in the early church, had proclivities towards pride? He hints to that fact in his writings (2 Corinthians 12:7 NLT), “Even though I have received wonderful revelations from God … to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud.” Pride is said to be the last vice the good man gets clear of (Ben Franklin).

     The Lord allowed Satan’s demonic hosts to contend with Paul and He allows them to contend with us. Why? So we will always depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. We are no match for the rulers of darkness. Peter Wagner writes in Wrestling with Dark Angels, “Satan delegates high ranking members of the hierarchy of evil spirits to control nations, regions, cities, tribes, people groups, neighborhoods and other significant social networks of human beings throughout the world. Their major assignment is to prevent God from being glorified in their territory, which they do through directing the activity of lower ranking demons.”

     Satan would benefit more if he left us alone but he can’t. So the Lord uses his perversity that is aimed at destroying us, to immunize us against corruption. Kind of like a spiritual flu shot. While living in sin the forces of evil tormented me. I attempted to live a life my conscience could not tolerate. As the realization of what I was becoming began to dawn upon me, I found myself desiring help. God used evil to cause me to want and need change. In this regard, all things, both excellent and evil, work together for our good.

     Many times when facing a difficult trial we cry, “Why God, why is this happening to me?” When Jesus was tempted by the Prince of Darkness, He stood on God’s Word and rebuked him. When the enemy comes in like a flood the Lord will raise a standard against Him (Isaiah). Our faith in God is the standard or banner we raise against the enemy. So like Paul, we realize our inability to manage life apart from Christ, embracing the Lord’s strength in our weakness and inadequacy. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Wandering Fugitive

August 22

 

He or she that is conscious of guilt cannot bear the innocence of others; so they will try to reduce all others to their own level (Charles Fox)

     The first murder on record occurred almost six thousand years ago. Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel. The motive that led to that first homicide was envy and jealousy. Cain resented his brother because of his right standing with God. Those who practice wrongdoing almost always—sooner or later take offense against those who live right.

     God dealt with this offender in a firm but compassionate manner. He said to Cain (Genesis 4:10-14), “What have you done? Listen—your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil. You are hereby banished from the ground you defiled with … blood. No longer will it yield abundant crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless fugitive on the earth, constantly wandering from place to place.” Cain was not happy even though his life had been spared; mercy was not enough for him. He complained, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from my land and from your presence; you have made me a wandering fugitive. All who see me will try to kill me!” Cain was irate and walked away from God, refusing to be accountable to his justice. Genesis 4:16 declares, “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.” He was not willing to assume responsibility for his wrongdoing. He abandoned God, experiencing the sting of sin that Erroll Hulse vividly describes, “Sin is like the poison of a mamba snake. It’s exceeding deadly. It kills. Every sin if permitted will become imperious in its demands and every lust will aim at its maximum expression. Sin is like the devil its originator. It is limitless in its capacity for evil.”

     People love everything but righteousness and fear everything but God (Vance Havner). The Lord afforded Cain an opportunity to live in His presence; He wanted to forgive Cain but was not allowed to do so. This killer refused to be accountable for his actions. He chose to leave God’s sanctuary and live apart from His love. Sin is uncomfortable in God’s presence. The two are not compatible: wrongdoing will either drive us away from God or God will drive us away from the practice of wrongdoing. Love was not enough for Cain. We are free to sin, but not to control its consequences. As long as we are willing to confess our sins to God and seek His forgiveness; He will extend His mercy in our behalf and cleanse us of all evil.

He Hates Me

August 21

 

When you're faced with a busy day, save precious time by skipping your devotions. (Satan)

     The devil made me do it! This expression was made popular by Flip Wilson on his variety show that aired on NBC in the early seventies. In 1972 Time Magazine proclaimed Wilson to be TV’s first black superstar. Wilson, although joking, made the mistake as many others have done, he ascribed to Satan a power he does not possess. The Prince of Darkness has the right to suggest evil, but he was not given the power to compel you against your will (Saint Cyril).

     God said to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 (NKJV), “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over every living thing that moves on the earth.” The devil was one of the living creatures they were to rule. But mankind relinquished their authority over the kingdom of darkness when they sinned, plummeting mankind on a downhill spiral of hopelessness.

     Things are different now. Christ came into the world and restored us to right relationship with God. Jesus said to His followers, “I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy.” The suffering Savior (Christ) carried our weaknesses and sicknesses. We thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed (Prophet Isaiah).

     Faith in Christ restored us to our rightful place of dominance over Satan. The devil fears a soul united to God as he fears God Himself (John of the Cross). We were acquitted at Christ’s trial when he took our sins upon Himself and nailed them to the cross. Our redemption price was paid by the wounds inflicted on the heel of Christ as he stomped on the devil’s head (Genesis 3:15). The devil is a bully, but when we stand against him in the armor of God he cannot harm us; if we tackle him in our own strength, we are soon done for; but if we stand with the strength and courage of God, he cannot gain one inch of sway at all (Oswald Chambers). The devil and me, we don't agree; I hate him; and he hates me (Salvation Army Hymn).

A Brief Glance

August 20

 

Find something you love, and go after it, with all of your heart (Jim Abbott—one handed professional baseball player)

     At age 14 Carl Sharsmith dropped out of school. But somewhere along the way he became inspired by the works of naturalist John Muir. Absorbed with the wonder of nature, he became motivated and finished high school. After graduation Carl enrolled in the Yosemite School of Natural History. In 1930 he was hired as a seasonal Ranger-Naturalist and continued his studies, receiving a BA from the University of California—Los Angeles in 1933. In 1940 he completed his Ph.D. in botany from the University of California in Berkeley.

     Dr. Sharsmith worked each summer at Yosemite National Park and it is said that he explored nearly every "nook and cranny" of Yosemite's High Sierra. At eighty-one years of age he was still serving as a guide in the park. National Geographic did an article on the aged naturalist. He is introduced to the reader after returning to his tent quarters; he had worked a long afternoon with tourists. His nose was flaked white and red with sunburn; his eyes were watery, partly from age but also from hearing again an old question after a half century of summers in Yosemite. A lady tourist had hit him with a question where it hurt, "I've only got an hour to spend at Yosemite," she declared. "What should I do? Where should I go?" The old naturalist gave his reply, "Ah, dear lady, only an hour!" He repeated it slowly. "I suppose that if I had only an hour to spend here, I'd walk over there by the river, sit down and cry." Dr. Sharsmith loved nature and could not fathom how anyone could only take a look at Yosemite Park. He believed that one needed to spend time in the park, and not only see but experience her beauty. A brief glance outdoors will not suffice in helping us develop an appreciation of the natural wonders of the world.

     All of nature; its beauty and mystique, is a portrait of the greatness of its creator. If you rush through life without experiencing the wonder surrounding you and the love of its Creator, then all that is left for you is to sit down beside your burial plot and cry. Spend time with God. His glory is revealed in the earth; but His mind, His character and His will are unveiled in the pages of the Bible—His Word. Reading is vital. Don’t miss the point of life; discover it. If you faithfully read the Bible for ten minutes each day for a year, you’ll have spent more than sixty hours in it; virtually any concept—even the most complicated scientific material—can be broken down into short, readily learned subunits—the same is true of the Bible (Robert Crown).

No More Ark

August 19

 

Whatever you love more than God is your idol. (D. L. Moody)

     The Ark of the Covenant, also known as the Mercy Seat, was the only piece of furniture inhabiting the Holy of Holies in the wilderness Tabernacle which Moses constructed (Exodus 25:22). God gave Moses specific and detailed instructions on how to build the Ark when he was on Mount Sinai for forty days; during which time the Lord also gave him the Ten Commandments. After wandering in the wilderness for forty years the Jews entered the Promised Land and the Ark of the Covenant was placed at Gibeon in Shiloh. Almost five hundred years lapsed before David, the great king, brought the treasured Ark to Jerusalem. Solomon’s Temple eventually housed the Mercy Seat where it remained for another five centuries. In 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king destroyed Jerusalem, leveling it to the ground. He scattered the Jews through his empire and the Ark simply disappeared and has been lost for twenty five hundred years.

     Mystery surrounds this sacred artifact and some feel that it lies hidden under the temple ruins in Jerusalem. They believe the priests hid it when the Babylonians destroyed the Holy City. A few years ago I watched a documentary made by an archeologist who claims to have seen this sacred piece of furniture. He says that it exists and is hidden in a secret chamber under the place where Solomon’s Temple once stood, directly under the Moslem shrine, the Dome of the Rock. But I remain skeptical because of Jeremiah’s prophecy (3:16 NLT), “And when your land is once more filled with people you will no longer wish for ‘the good old days’ when you possessed the Ark of the Lord’s covenant. Those days will not be missed or even thought about, and there will be no need to rebuild the Ark.”

     According to Jeremiah the Ark is lost, gone, destroyed and will never be found because it does not exist. Why would God allow such a wonderful object to be destroyed? King Hezekiah destroyed a sacred artifact that Moses made after the Jews began to worship it (2 Kings 18:4 NKJV), “Hezekiah … broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it.” John Calvin said, “Mankind’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man or woman believes his or her own mind it is certain that they will forsake God and forge some idol in their own brain.” God’s divine presence no longer rests on the Mercy Seat, He has taken up residence in the hearts of those who walk with Him. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body … do not be drunk with wine for that will ruin your life; instead be filled with the Holy Spirit (Paul the Apostle).

Outside The Box

August 18

 

It is morally impossible to exercise trust in God when we fail to wait upon Him for guidance and direction. (D. E. Hoste)

     In 1928 a young missionary traveled to India. His strategy was to set up residence in a village and reach people with the message of the Gospel of Christ. Harold Groves began preaching in a remote village. He had just gotten settled and began working when a feeling of dismay and uncertainty settled over him. He began to seek the Lord for an answer to his uneasiness. He began reading the New Testament, studying the ministry of Jesus. No answer came. In the Book of Acts he read about Paul and his heart was stirred by what he saw. Paul preached in major cities; places like Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, Philippi and others. He planted churches in large centers of trade, religion and culture. These cities became hubs from where the Gospel spread all over the world. Young Groves sensed the Lord speaking to him and made plans to go to Calcutta. As he awaited departure from his village, he wandered into a nearby cemetery. Harold noticed twelve graves of missionaries. Every one of them had died before their fortieth birthday. The Lord spoke to him again, confirming the new direction he was to follow. He was being led by the Lord to think outside of the box.

     Paul wanted to preach the Gospel in Asia but the Holy Spirit would not allow him to go there (Acts 16:6-40). The Lord knew what was best for Paul and for Asia. He sought direction from God and received a dream. He was to preach in Macedonia. In Philippi he established a church and won many souls to the Lord. Soon after preaching in Philippi, Paul went to Ephesus. A powerful revival began which lasted two years, characterized by signs and wonders. From Ephesus all Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus—both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10). Ephesus was an important port city; merchants from all over the world did business there. God did not send Paul to Asia at that time; He sent Asia to Paul.

     Charles Hammel comments on guidance, “When we fail to wait prayerfully for God’s guidance and strength, we are saying with our actions if not our lips, that we do not need Him.” Let us not wander in the paths of futility or neglect the will of God. If we are led by the Holy Spirit we are the children of God (Romans 8:14). Commune with the Lord through prayer and His word, and you will be moved into situations where your life will be a light to those in need.

Fixed Attention

August 17

 

The most important things in life are the thoughts you choose to think. (Marcus Aurelius)

     An Australian travel writer touring Canada was checking out of the Vancouver Hilton, and said to the manager, "By the way, what's with the Indian chief sitting in the lobby? He's been there ever since I arrived." "Oh that's 'Big Chief Forget Not," said the manager. "This hotel is built on an Indian reservation, and part of the agreement for us being here was to allow the chief free use of the premises for the rest of his life. He is known as 'Big Chief Forget Not' because of his phenomenal memory. He is 92 and can remember the slightest details of his life." The writer decided to put the chief's memory to the test while waiting on his taxi. "G'dye, myte!" said the Aussie, receiving only a slight nod in return. "What did you have for breakfast on your 21st birthday?" "Eggs," was the chief's instant reply and indeed the Aussie was impressed. He went off on his writing itinerary, telling others of Big Chief Forget Nots great memory. One of the locals he met on his trip advised him, “The more appropriate greeting for a Native American in this part of the country would be “How” not G'dye myte. On his return to the Vancouver Hilton six months later, the Aussie was surprised to see 'Big Chief Forget Not' still sitting in the lobby; he walked up to him, remembering the advice he received and said, “How!” "Scrambled," said the Chief.

     In our journey through life we experience many things that are worthy of our attention; things we should remember. We also experience things we should forget. One of our big problems is that we have a strange propensity of focusing on things we should forget and forgetting things we should remember. Growth occurs only as we learn to fix our attention on the positive side of life. One writer declared, “Though negative thoughts rise, they must not reign. Those who turn a morsel over and over in their mouths, do so because they like the flavor. He or she who meditates on negativity and wrongdoing, loves it, and is ripe to commit it. Snails leave their slime behind them, and so do inappropriate thoughts.”

     How can we manage thoughts? The Message Bible offers an answer (Romans 12:2), “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Conquer the adverse effects of negative thinking by focusing on the positive. Fires die when they are not fueled.

To Hell With Christ

August 16

 

What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love. (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

     The greatest mystery in the universe is not covered by the waters of a deep ocean or hidden in a galaxy beyond the known bounds of the universe; it is explained in the greatest book, the book of all books, the Holy Bible. In it the Apostle Paul declared, “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Him.” The greatest of all mysteries is the unveiling of the fact that Jesus died for you and me.

     Hours before Jesus expired, the pure and righteous Son of God cried out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me!” In a figurative sense, Christ took a cup filled with a putrid vile filthy deadly poison, our sins, and gulped it down. He then died in our place, alone in His pain.

     Christ suffered in the sight of men, and then went through incomprehensible judgment in the sight of God in order that we might know not only that His body was given as the price of our redemption, but that He paid a great and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man (John Calvin). Jesus died without God and His spirit descended into the lowest compartment of hell; death roll for the unrepentant; a place of torment where the wicked are confined awaiting the final judgment described in the Apocalypse (Revelation 20:10-15).

     And now, today, God in His gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us (Paul). Christ’s blood is the only saving solution. He satisfied God’s righteous requirement, He became a just recompense for our transgressions. On the greatest day in divine history, that day when our sin debt was paid, the Spirit of the living God raised Jesus up out of hell, where for a moment the grip of eternal death held him captive. When Christ ascended to heaven, He made a brief stop at Paradise. There He liberated and set free the souls of the righteous dead, taking them into the presence of God with Him (Matthew 27:51-53). There is life in Christ; He died so we can live. Walk with Jesus and through faith He will give you a reason to live for Him.

The Heat Of Day

August 15

 

God is far more concerned with our character than He is with our comfort. His plan is to perfect us, not to pamper us. For this reason He allows all kinds of character-building circumstances: conflict, disappointment, difficulty, temptation, time of dryness, and delays. (Rick Warren)

     Everyone faces crushing circumstances. We will, if we live long enough, encounter seasons in life where things and relationships that once afforded us security will vanish and disappear. People, as well as things, will become like a morning cloud or early dew, dissolving and disappearing in the heat of day. During these times we will be tempted, if we allow ourselves, to grope in the darkness of uncertainty. So when you face a devastating adversity, and find yourself adrift in the storm, keep in mind 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.”

     The Bible profiles a lady who lost the love of her life and was facing a terrible financial crisis. Her circumstances were dark, and even though she and her spouse had been faithful to the Lord, it looked as though her life was falling apart. She went to Elisha the prophet and said to him (2 Kings 4:1), “Your servant, my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord.” God used trouble to prepare her for a great miracle.

     The widow did not know what to do but she knew to whom she could turn. Broken and fearful, she went to the prophet with her problem. He asked, “What shall I do for you?” Elisha listened to what she had to say and then wrote her a prescription for a miracle. She followed his instructions and received the answer she sought. God seldom brings about any of His great works without coming through your own personal faith. The widow turned to God, believed in Him and He met her need.

     Missionary Randy Eplin writes, “The trials and tribulations of life come to all of us. To gain victory over them we must go through them. The key word is through. We must purpose in our hearts not to quit or give in no matter how big the setback, no matter how disappointed we become, and no matter how difficult the circumstance.” The widow determined to find an answer to her problem and God did not fail His servant. The art of living lies not in eliminating but in growing with troubles (Bernard M. Baruch).

Others First

August 14

 

Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain or accomplish for yourself; it's what you do for others. (Danny Thomas)

     In the spring of 1863 two men graduated from medical school; these promising young physicians were two very different people. Ben was short and stocky; Wil, an Englishman, was tall and thin. Ben dreamed of practicing medicine on the East Coast. Wil wanted to work in a rural community. Ben begged his friend to go to New York where they could establish successful practices and make a fortune. Will refused. His friend called him foolish for wanting to become a frontier doctor. "But," Wil said, "I want first of all to be a great surgeon ... the very best, if I have the ability." In 1863 Wil moved to Rochester, Minnesota to examine new recruits for the Union Army. He stayed there and set up a solo medical practice. Years later the wealthy and powerful traveled from around the world to be treated by Dr. William at his clinic.

     Dr. William Worrall Mayo’s dedication to serving patients and his community became a family tradition when his two sons joined his work in the 1880s. As the family's reputation and practice grew, the Mayos invited other doctors to join them. This group initiated a new idea in American medicine—the multi-specialty group practice. Although both Mayo brothers died in 1939, the Mayo Clinic has continued to be guided by the principles and ideals they instituted—the needs of the patient come first. Today Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world; with a team of more than 2,500 physicians and scientists, along with 42,000 allied health staff workers who see half a million patients yearly.

     In the 21st century we are allowing the entertainment media and big business to define success for us. If we fail to measure up by not making enough money, or looking a certain way, or graduating from a certain university; we are not considered relevant or successful. Senator Mark Hatfield traveled to Calcutta, India and toured the “House of the Dying” where sick children are cared for in their last days and hundreds of poor people line up daily to receive medical attention. He observed how Mother Teresa and her staff worked, caring for the needy and dying. He was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the suffering he saw. "How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?" he asked. Mother Teresa replied, "My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.” Mother Teresa and Dr. William W. Mayo modeled success by putting the needs of others first. Let us remember the words of Harvey S. Firestone, “It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.”

Guilt Trip

August 13

 

Guilt … perpetrated by some evil prompting is grievous to the author of a crime. This is the first punishment of guilt; no one who is guilty is acquitted at the judgment seat of his own conscience. (Satires 13:1)

     Conscience is a great servant but a terrible master. It is somewhat like an automobile horn that is useful for warding off impending danger, but if the horn gets stuck it becomes a terrible nuisance (Sidney Greenberg). Guilt is a sign directing us to a better way, but it will turn bad if we do not lend ourselves to the positive change it seeks to bring about in our lives.

     Adam and Eve experienced the bad side of guilt. They disobeyed the Lord and the repercussion of their wrongdoing was so intense; they could no longer bear God’s presence. When He called, they hid from Him. Wrongdoing adversely affects our spiritual well being; it does not change God’s attitude towards us—it changes our attitude towards Him.

     Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, followed in the parent’s footsteps. He ignored the law of the Lord, deciding to do things his way. This rebellious son presented offerings to God, but the Lord refused to accept them. Cain’s anger burned hot. He had flirted with compromise, and was judged guilty. Instead of reaching out to the Lord, he lashed out against Him. Cain became jealous of his righteous brother Abel, and killed him. He was the first murderer. God confronted Cain, judged him guilty, but mercifully spared his life (Genesis 4:8-15). Cain refused to accept responsibility for his actions. Feeling uncomfortable dwelling in God’s presence, he ran and tried to hide. The Bible says, “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.” It is impossible to misbehave and be at peace. Guilt is the … fiend, the avenging fiend; that follows behind with whips and stings (Nicolas Rowe). We may run from the whip, but we cannot escape the sting. So what should you do when you fail? Don’t run. Cain ran and destroyed himself; being the first human to make the gloomy dark portals of hell his eternal home. In the midst of every problem, look up to the Lord and reach out to Him. You will find that His grace is adequately sufficient for your every need.

Body Alarm

August 12

 

My guiding principle is this: guilt is never to be doubted. (Franz Kafka)

     Feelings of guilt are a guide, and like pain they feed us information on the state of our lives. For years I have said, “One of our biggest problems is that we don’t stop and take time to listen to what is going on inside of us.” There are alarms—body alarms programmed into our conscience that are constantly sending us warnings. These warnings are signals that direct our attention to the practices that are harmful to our wellbeing. It is important that we listen. The more … guilty a person tends to feel, the less chance there is that he or she will be a happy, healthy, or law abiding citizen … that man or woman will become a compulsive wrong-doer (Dr. Albert Ellis). Guilt is a symptom of an unsettled inner life that needs adjusting.

     Guilt can be a good thing, but it must be managed or it will cause us to collapse emotionally. It is an inward indicator alerting us of an impending crisis. God uses guilt to help us turn away from wrongdoing; we will never regret that kind of sorrow. But the sorrow of guilt without repentance and change is the kind that results in death (Paul the Apostle). Let the guilty remember their black deeds and do not lean on crutches made of slender reeds (John Webster).

     Guilt affirms the fact that there is a moral standard to which we are accountable. Corrie ten Boom said, “The purpose of being guilty is to bring us to Jesus. Once we are there, then its purpose is finished. If we continue to blame ourselves; then that is sin in itself.” Guilt points us to God and God points us to the cross of Christ where He took the punishment for our wrongdoing upon Himself. As Seneca once said, “Every guilty person is his or her own hangman.” God loves people and allows us to experience turmoil when we fail so we will turn to Him. If we bring our messes to God—He will clean them up. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You (David). Let us draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews).

Dead In His Tracks

August 11

 

A man has deprived himself of the best there is in the world who has deprived himself of the Bible. (Woodrow Wilson)

     One afternoon some friends and I were playing in an orange grove and stumbled across an old drunk sitting under a tree. “Come here you boys,” he slurred.” Being a little too daring for our own good, we approached the man to see what he wanted. “You boys want some money?” the red-faced man asked. Ronnie and Johnnie, two twelve-year-old members of our gang, were afraid and left, but Wayne and I stuck around. We were lightning quick on our feet and thought we could handle this old codger. He kept asking us to come closer to him, but we kept our distance. We began to taunt him and he cussed us. Finally, he managed to get up and stagger through the grove, calling out for us to follow, promising to give us money. “Let’s go see where he’s going,” I said.

     The wino staggered through the grove. We followed him, and just in case he tried anything crazy I picked up a broken tree limb from the ground and took it with me. We had not gone far, when suddenly the old drunk whirled and ran straight at me. Without a moment’s hesitation I swung the limb as hard as I could, breaking it across his chest. The force of the impact stopped him dead in his tracks. We ran away from that spot like two frightened rabbits. After a minute or so Wayne and I stopped to rest and gain our composure. The drunk didn’t try to follow us so we returned to the place where he attacked us. He was nowhere to be found.

     Life often times comes rushing at us with a vengeance and we find ourselves overwhelmed with anxiety and fear. We face battles in every area of our lives: health, family, finance and on the job. But none of life’s challenges are more menacing than those we encounter in our spiritual lives. We must arm ourselves and have the will to use our weapons. Swing the limb with all your might. We are fighting against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness … hold up the shield of faith and stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion (Paul the Apostle). Through the sword of God’s Spirit, His Word, you will be more than a conqueror. The Bible contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s guide, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, the Christian’s character (Author Unknown).

The Uppertaker

August 10

 

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards,for there you have been and there you will long to return. (Leonardo da Vinci )

     For twenty-five hundred years Israel has appeared as nothing more than a dead olive tree. But today a new sprout is growing and the nation is blossoming like a rose. The rebirth of the Promised Land as a nation is very significant and very much connected to Biblical prophecy.

     Jesus declared emphatically, “I will come again ….” Prophetic indicators all point to the fact that Christ’s promise will soon be fulfilled, most likely in the twenty-first century. The next event on the God’s prophetic calendar of events is just ahead. Martin Luther wrote, “I hope that the day is near at hand when the advent of the great God will appear, for all things everywhere are boiling, burning, moving, falling, sinking, groaning.” One of the most amazing Biblical prophecies was given by the Apostle Paul, “We tell you this directly from the Lord; we who are still living when Jesus returns will not meet Him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

     The prophet Joel speaks of a sign that will indicate that the coming of Christ is near. He wrote twenty-seven hundred years ago (Joel 3:1-3), “In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations … and enter into judgment against them.” This judgment is called the Great Tribulation and is described in the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible. The Apostle John connects the Great Tribulation and the return of Christ to earth. From all the indications given in Scripture the church will soon be caught up (raptured) into heaven.

     The primitive church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than about death or about heaven. Those early believers were looking not for a cleft in the ground called a grave but for a cleavage in the sky called Glory. They were watching not for the undertaker but for the upper taker (Alexander Maclaren). Are you ready should Christ come back today? It’s just a matter of time. Only those who have made preparations for the trip will take the journey. Prepare today—receive Christ into your life and walk with Him.

Bad Company

August 9

 

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company. (George Washington)

     Look carefully at the closest associations in your life, for that is the direction you are heading (John Maxwell). This is what Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, failed to do. He was wonderfully blessed in every area of his life, that is, until he formed an allegiance with wicked King Ahab. Jehoshaphat married Ahab’s daughter, sealing a treaty with northern Israel. A bridge was formed between right and wrong; the outcome was not good. Do not be misled—bad company corrupts good character (Paul the Apostle).

     Jehoshaphat’s foolishness almost cost him his life. This incident occurred when he joined forces with Ahab and fought against Ramoth Gilead—their common enemy. In the heat of battle the rival chariot commanders saw him, and thought, “This is the king of Israel—this is Ahab.” The army turned to attack him, but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him (2 Chronicles 18:31). This near tragedy was totally unavoidable. A brush with death caused this foolish king to recommit his life to the Lord. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into a circumstance where your time and your strength are consumed with an “un-bless-able” cause. All who exemplify a blatant disregard for God’s law will suffer loss.

     Satan revels in diabolical delight every time we compromise—a little compromise is a big mistake. Prioritize your faith and don’t leave room in your life for anything else. The greatest victory an individual can win is the victory over him or herself (Johann Pestalozzi). How long will it take for you to master yourself? A lifetime! Get started, you don’t have a moment to spare. Time off is not an option for those involved in the fight of faith. Our war is not won or lost on the battlefield; victory and defeat are determined by our diligent obedience God’s Word and prayer. Do not allow yourself to become distracted. The most important of life’s battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul (David O. McKay).

Secret Phobia?

August 8

 

The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy. (Martin Luther King)

     Forty-two chapters in the Old Testament tell the story of Job in a book that bears his name. He has been, since his story was written almost four thousand years ago, an example of hope for those who have experienced a devastating misfortune and for those who are enduring an overwhelming adversity. Some expositors teach that Job was responsible for the afflictions he endured because of a secret phobia he harbored in his life. Job said, “What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come to be.” Certainly, he had his problems, but his suffering did not come as a result of fear, hidden sin, rebellion or fleshly weakness.

     Satan, the Prince of Darkness, appeared before God and the Lord asked him a question (Job 1:8; 2:3), “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.”

     Satan argues that Job’s commitment was attributed to his health and financial blessing alone—nothing more, “Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason.” So God allowed Satan to test Job. Why? “Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit grows strong by conflict (William Channing). Adversity causes us to realize our need for the Lord. Troubles are the tools by which God fashions you and me for better things (Henry Ward Beecher). When ominous clouds of difficulty appear and hover overhead, do not despair—be patient. Your faith in God, like it did for Job, will pierce the darkness of your trial and enable you to weather even the fiercest storm. God will not allow us to endure more than we can bear (Apostle Paul). Job said after his trial (Job 42:5), “I have heard about You before, but now I have seen You God, with my own eyes.”

     It is not necessary for us to understand everything we face in life—Job did not realize what was happening to him. Trust is the key to victory. Faith was Job’s only hope and it proved to be enough. So whenever you are experiencing hardship remember the words of the old Chinese proverb, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor humanity perfected without trials.”

Why?

August 7

 

The Son of God … humbled Himself, coming down to the lowest human level. Those who will join him there—denying themselves, taking the low place—will be raised upwith Him to the heights of heaven. (Augustine)

     Why did the Creator of the Universe become human? Why did He allow Himself to become limited to and restrained by the inadequate abilities that we, mere mortals possess?

     In the beginning God created a perfect people, placed them in a perfect world, gave them a perfect heart and walked in perfect harmony with them. They had love, they had God, they owned the world. So how did things go so terribly wrong and the world become what it is today? The simple complicated answer is … free will. Love is not love; where choice does not exist. It was first given to the angels and one of them, Lucifer, who is the Prince of Darkness, rebelled. Free will again. In the process of time we followed in his footsteps. The result—mankind was destined for hell. And what is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love (Fyodor Dostoyevsky).

     What does a loving and all powerful God do when confronted with a great loss? He puts into action a plan, a backup, plan B, that existed from the beginning. The Apostle Paul declared, “Though Jesus was God, He did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.” The Son of God was made the Son of Man for you and me. Nine months He waited for His birth in the womb. He who encloses the world in His fist was contained in the narrow walls of a manger. When He was whipped, He remained calm. When He was crucified, He prayed for His crucifiers. Jerome declared, “The only fitting response we can make toward Him is to give blood for blood. Because we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, we should gladly desire to give Him our lives.”

     You ask, why did He do it, what was His reason? God anticipated joy—the eternal happiness He would receive by living in fellowship with us, the eternal happiness we would receive by walking with Him. That’s what kept Jesus hanging on the cross. He did it for love—love made Him do it. He became like us so we could become like Him. Lewis B. Smedes declared, “Here is what God is really like. He is the God who is with us, the God who is for us, and the God who is in us … the God who pardons us.”

Fall Forward

August 6

 

Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees. (Williard Marriott)

     What you do with failure determines the impact it makes on your life. For example, football players often receive punishing hits from their opponents, but they are trained to keep their feet moving forward even when being knocked backward. The extra effort, one exerts after making contact with a tackler, is often the only difference between winning and losing. The defense or offence that keeps their legs going many times frequently decides whether a third down play results in a first down or a punt. The same is true of life. You will get hit but keep your feet moving, put forth that extra effort—fall forward. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom (George Patton).

     Almost every believer enters their relationship with God embracing a set of expectations that does not include failure or temptation. We walked away from the old life of emptiness, divorcing the prince of the power of the air who pushed us away from Christ. We determined never to subjugate ourselves to sin again, but things changed and we learned that mistakes are a part of life. Howard Hendricks said, “The beginning student is a lot like a baby learning to walk. He or she needs to know that failure is part of the process of learning.”

     Don't grieve over mistakes, get up, get back on track and ask the Lord to forgive you. Fail fast! Get over it. Make wrongdoing the exception, not the rule in your life. The Apostle Paul writes, “Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” Neither should we turn away from God because we have failed. Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit (M. Scott Peck).

     The secret of falling successfully is to get up quickly and refuse to wallow in self-pity. Punishing yourself and becoming discouraged will only make things worse. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Paul). The difference between success and ultimate failure is how one handles a fall.

The Sonshine Vitamin

August 5

 

It seems to be a law of the inner life that we have to ask for the inner help that is needed long before it begins to manifest. (Paul Brunton)

     Guilt, anger and unforgiveness are responsible for much of the emotional distress plaguing our world today. Many wounded persons manage hurt and stress in a way that magnifies the problem. Pain does to our spiritual being what sunlight does to our skin. If we overexpose ourselves to the sun our flesh will be burned and our chances for getting cancer are increased. But the right amount of sunlight is healthy; vitamin D the “Sunshine Vitamin” is absorbed through sunlight.

     Pain is a part of life that no one escapes. Some react to affliction by lashing out, which results in isolation and rejection. Others lose faith in relationships, hiding behind and imprisoning themselves in walls of fear or resentment. Some punish themselves by getting involved in co-dependent relationships. Why? Hurting people often attract to themselves hurting people. This results in an inter-reliant relationship in which two hurting people nourish their problems by feeding on one another’s pain. Pain produces pain. It’s a vicious cycle.

     So what is the answer? We can’t turn our aches inward because our hurt simply magnifies itself inside our lives. It is not wise to turn anguish outward because we end up harming others and destroying our ability to share meaningful relationships. So where can we turn? Upward—turn your pain upwards to God. Look towards the light of God’s love. We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light (Plato).

     God knows what it means to suffer—He took upon Himself human flesh, came to earth, walked where we walk and died. He also knows what it means to overcome hurt—Christ rose from the dead and defeated human anguish. Why did God do it? He loves us and love is the only power big enough to heal us. When we pray for inner healing, we are really asking Jesus to walk back into the dark places of our lives and bring healing to the distressing and painful memories of the past (Ruth Carter Stapleton). Turn your attention upward. Open the door of your heart and the windows of your soul; allow the power of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, to shine into your inner being. His love, the “Sonshine Vitamin” will restore health in your soul and hope in your heart.

Expose Your Neck

August 4

 

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others. (Winston Churchill)

     Josephus, the Jewish historian, described what happened when a small group of Jewish believers defied the infamous Roman governor, Pontias Pilate. It all began when the governor ordered his army into Jerusalem, intending to forcefully take control of the city; using his favorite diplomatic tools—brutality and military might. Not long after they arrived in Judea, Pilate ordered his soldiers to place flags throughout the Holy City on which was inscribed the likeness and image of Caesar. The Romans declared that their emperor was a god, and to fly a flag in Jerusalem, honoring Caesar as deity, was a flagrant violation of the First Commandment—You shall worship the Lord God only. Early the next morning the flags were discovered and the people were outraged. A delegation of leaders was formed and after some days they traveled to Caesarea, to present their case in Pilate’s court. They demanded that he remove the banners. He refused and for five days they petitioned him. On the sixth day, Pilate flexed his muscles, surrounded his judgment seat with soldiers and threatened the crowd with death unless they abandon their cause. The Jews threw themselves on the ground and exposed their necks, and in essence said to the court, “There are some things in life more important than living.” Their courage impressed Pilate and he removed the flags.

     When the world sees a burning passion in our hearts for God, they like Pilate, will be impressed with our faith. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden … so let your light shine before men.” Even Pilate, who washed his hands at Christ’s trial, becoming the one responsible for his death, was impressed by the bravery of those who willingly laid down their lives for God. Even the skeptic will admire the faith of one who values righteousness more than he or she values life.

     Do not love this world or the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (The Apostle John).

Greatness

August 3

 

To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them. (Charles de Montesquieu)

     Greatness is developed by shouldering small responsibilities and becoming useful in little things. Make the best of what you have and bigger things will come your way. T. Alan Armstrong offers this advice, “Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find that great things happen for you, to you and because of you.”

     One of the truly great men in American history is Booker T. Washington. He was born a slave in Franklin County Virginia on April 5, 1856. His mother Jane was a black slave who worked as a cook and his father was an unknown white plantation owner. In the summer of 1865, at the age of nine, the family moved, walking all the way to Malden in Kanawha County, West Virginia to join his stepfather whose name was Washington. Booker went to work in the coal mines and later became a houseboy for Viola Ruffner who encouraged him to attend school. He did so and learned to read and write. When Booker was sixteen he heard about Hampton Institute in Virginia, a school founded for the purpose of training black teachers. He determined to go there and walked 500 miles to Richmond, Virginia. He had no money and slept under a wood plank sidewalk. He found a job washing clothes, earned money to buy food and continued the journey to Hampton. After arriving there the principal told him to sweep a room. He knew it was a test so he swept and dusted the room three times until not a speck of dirt remained. He was accepted into the school and worked as assistant janitor to pay for his room and board. He went on to become a great scholar and administrator of his community. He founded Tuskegee Institute and more than any other black man of his time helped to elevate his people through education. Harvard University gave him an honorary master’s degree in 1896 and he was the first African-American ever invited to the White House as the guest of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901. One event responsible for shaping Booker Washington into a man of destiny was a little thing—the care and diligence in which he cleaned a classroom resulted in him being accepted as a student at Hampton Institute.

     Many desire to be great but few are willing to work and sacrifice to see their dreams become reality. Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, “A great man or woman is always willing to be little.” The greatest thing an individual can do in this world is to make the most possible out of the stuff that has been given to him or her (Orison Swett Marden).

Past Tense Event

August 2

 

Forgiveness does not mean the cancellation of all consequences of wrongdoing. It means the refusal on God’s part to let our guilty past affect His relationship with us. (Author Unknown)

     Nothing we do happens once; events repeat themselves over and over again in our minds and in our emotions. So how can we cope with the negativity surrounding wrongdoing? Anthony of Egypt said, “Do not trust in your own righteousness; do not grieve about a sin that is past and gone.” Don’t afford Satan the privilege of attacking you with that which God has chosen to forget. The Bible declares in Isaiah 43:25, "I … am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” God chooses not to remember our sins if we seek His forgiveness through faith in Christ. God does not remember the things that He has covered with His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Do not worry? As far as the Lord is concerned—wrongdoing never happened to them who are the beneficiaries of His benevolence.

     The devil fears the word of God, he can’t bite it; it breaks his teeth (Martin Luther). The devil attacked Christ in the wilderness. Jesus overcame his assaults by leaning on the wisdom he gained from the Scriptures (Matthew 4:1-11). The devil can’t slither into the lives of those who protect themselves with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:16-17). Put God first and leave no room in your life for anything but the Lord (Ephesians 4:27; 5:18). Let Satan catch you but by a single hair, and you are his forever (G. E. Lessing). Lucifer runs from those who stand against him (Luke 10:9; James 4:7-8).

     We are certain that there is forgiveness, because there is a gospel, and the very essence of the gospel lies in the proclamation of the pardon of sin (Charles H. Spurgeon). The tough times of trial and attack never last (1 John 4:4). When you hear demonic accusations echoing in your mind say to the devil, “Satan, thank you for showing me what I was like when you were in control of my life.” Remind the devil that his role of leadership is a past tense event and immediately begin to thank the Lord for delivering you from the bondage of sin. There is only one person God cannot forgive—that one who refuses to come to Him for forgiveness (Author Unknown).

Craving For Salt

August 1

 

To see a man fearless in dangers, untainted with lusts, happy in adversity, composed in a tumult, and laughing at all those things which are generally either coveted or feared, all men must acknowledge that this can be from nothing else but a beam of divinity that influences a mortal body (Seneca).

     Why is it that people stranded at sea suffer from dehydration when they are surrounded by an ocean of water? The reason is that sea water contains seven times more salt than the human body can safely ingest. By drinking water from the ocean, a person dehydrates because the kidneys demand extra water to flush the overload of salt. The more salt-water one consumes, the thirstier he or she becomes. Salt-water consumption causes an individual to actually die of thirst.

     Attempting to satisfy our need for intimacy with lust is like drinking sea water to quench thirst. Lust is very deceptive because it resembles a God given “natural desire” for something we want, desire and need. True love bonds for a lifetime; it never dies—lust fades away with each passing moment (Alicia Barnahart). Sexual passion is like a mirage of cool water appearing to a thirsty person in a steaming desert. This unfulfilled yearning for intimacy in our lives creates an illusion in our mind, causing us to drink from what we perceive to be a fountain of cool spring water—in reality it’s simply a hallucination. The more we lust the more we crave love and more unsatisfied we become. When our need for intimacy has been neglected it often turns into some form of insidious behavior. Some become promiscuous; others turn to homosexuality, some turn to pornography, drugs, crime, alcoholism, and violence. Many promiscuous persons, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are simply attempting to fill a need in their life for love and acceptance through sex. Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst (Frederick Buechner). Lust always fails.

     Love comforts like sunshine after rain … love’s gentle spring does always fresh remain … love is all truth (William Shakespeare). We have ignored this basic need, pushing it into the shadows of our daily existence. Society drives people crazy with lust and calls it advertising (John Lahr). In the search for power and a better way of life we must not lose sight of this crucial fact; there is no difficulty that love will not conquer, no disease that love will not heal and no sin that love will not forgive. It makes no difference how deeply seated the trouble or how great the mistake; there is no problem to big for love. Drugs, psychiatrists, treatment programs, knowledge, sexual experiences can not take the place of love and morality in our lives. The Bible says in Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”