I’m Presbyterian

February 28

 

Nothing less than unconditional surrender could ever be a fitting response to Calvary. (John Flavel)

     A church member asked me to visit her mother-in-law at the hospital. She was dying from a fatal liver disease brought on by years of alcohol abuse. Even though I did not know her personally, it appeared that she and her husband lived an ideal life. They rubbed shoulders with the elite. She was a church member and her husband was a respected businessman. She was educated and intelligent. But in spite of her community standing and church membership – her life fell apart. She hid her struggles from the public eye, but those close to her knew the person behind the facade.

     Many people when facing death reflect inwardly and see how they wasted themselves by ignoring life’s most important priorities. I have led men and women to Christ as they lay on their deathbeds and began their funeral service by saying, “Folks, I can’t speak for how this person lived, but let me share with you how they died. They died seeking God.” This lady was differ- ent. She didn’t want to talk and was upset that the family asked me to visit her. I searched for the right words to say, hoping to find a soft spot in her heart, but nothing worked. Knowing that she was dying I asked, “Are you ready to face God? Do you know Christ as your Savior?” She took offense to that question and rudely replied, “Of course I know Christ; I’m a Presbyterian!” Not knowing what else to say I asked if she would mind if I read some Scriptures. She softened a little as I read Psalm 103 but she did not respond to my words, remaining bitter until the end. A wave of sadness swept over me as I walked out of that room.

     The objective of Biblical faith is relationship with God. Isaiah 64:6 proclaims, “We are like an unclean thing, and our righteousness is like a filthy rag.” The Israelites thought redemption could be obtained through sacrifices and laws. The Jews did good works and neglected intimacy with Jehovah. The Lord responded to their pious counterfeits of passion by calling their religious works worthless.

     Humanity is forever attempting to make substitutes: for the ancient Jew it was the Law of Moses; for the Egyptians it was idols; and for the Greeks their many gods. People today still cling to the antiquated heritage of their predecessors by worshipping religion and works. The Lord craves fellowship and friendship with us more than anything else. Worship God. Do not be distracted from Him by a mere form of religion.

Handle With Care

February 27

 

There has never been, and cannot be, a good life, without self-control. (Leo Tolstoy)

     Neither achievement nor accomplishment will deter judgment or disgrace if we fail to get a grip on our appetite of desire. John Climacus’ words are true, “Self control is the mother of spiritual health.” Even though some seem to think otherwise, we never outgrow our potential for wrongdoing and temptation. King Solomon, the wisest man on the planet in his day, fell when he was old. The Bible declares, “For … when Solomon was old, his heart … was not loyal to the Lord his God.” Even Moses, the most humble and spiritual man alive on earth at the time, momentarily rebelled against God and fell.

     Epictetus said centuries ago, “No man is free who is not a master of himself.” Let’s look at Moses. In spite of all the great miracles that God did through him, Moses lashed out in anger against his followers and disobeyed the Lord. God said to him after he sinned, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me … you will not bring this community into the land of promise.” Moses labored 40 years, working to complete the mission of leading the Jews into Israel, but he was not allowed to finish the assignment because of wrongdoing and rebellion. A foolish and impulsive moment cost Moses. Even though he was sorry and pleaded with God to be allowed to go into Canaan; God refused to let him.

     Is there hope for us? Of course! The failures of Moses and Solomon simply remind us of the fact that we are all frail human beings. We must handle our lives with care and never let down our defenses for a moment. Never deviate from God’s commandments. Everything He commands us not to do in His word is harmful to our well-being. Moses and Solomon compromised and they suffered immensely. We must know Christ’s fullness, but we must also know our own vulnerability. Be strong in the Lord and be on guard. John Milton said, “He who reigns within himself, and rules passions, desires, and fears, is more than a king.”

A Noble Request

February 26

 

Many things are lost for want of asking (English Proverb)

     God appeared to Solomon, giving him an opportunity to ask for anything (2 Chronicles 1:7-12). He admirably made a noble request for wisdom. What would you seek from the Lord if you were given the same privilege?

     Jesus said to His disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper—the Holy Spirit will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” What would you prefer? Would you rather be led by the Holy Spirit or follow Jesus in physical form like the twelve disciples? In all honesty, my vote is for a physical Christ; one that can be seen and touched. But Jesus promised us a greater benefit. What greater blessing exists than that of walking with Christ? He promised to live in our hearts; He actually said that He would take up residence in us through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our inner being. You cannot get any closer to God than that! Christ Jesus dwells in every believer and promises to accomplish more by dwelling in us, than by simply dwelling with us.

     “Do not be drunk with wine…but be filled [consumed] with the Holy Spirit (Paul). Should we seek power? I think not; we are to seek God through the Spirit. R. A. Torrey said, “There is a difference between the Holy Spirit being a power and Him being a person. If the Holy Spirit is a power, we will want to get hold of it instead of allowing Him to get hold of us. If the Holy Spirit is a power we will want it to do our will and every whim instead of surrendering our lives to Him in awe and wonder. If the Holy Spirit is a power we’ll be proud we have it, and feel superior to those who don’t have it, instead of being humble because in His great love the Holy Spirit has chosen to dwell within us.” The Holy Spirit desires to become everything to us that Jesus was to His disciples. He is protector, teacher, guide, corrector, friend, first priority and God. Yield yourself to Him; seek to be filled with God’s Spirit. There is nothing God is that the Holy Spirit is not (Billy Graham).

Weak In Strength

February 25

 

To conquer self is the best and noblest victory; to be vanquished by one’s own nature is the worse and most ignoble defeat. (Plato)

     Strength poses a dubious threat to our spiritual well being. A civil war erupted in Israel when King Rehoboam attempted to force the ten Northern tribes into submission. When the North rebelled, the young king gathered his troops and planned an attack. God intervened in what would have been a national disaster by sending Shemaiah the Prophet to speak to Rehoboam. He listened to the Lord and abandoned the campaign (2 Chronicles 11:1-4). After humbling himself in God’s presence, priests from all over Israel gathered in Jerusalem and established themselves under his leadership. They sought the Lord, offered sacrifices at the temple and experienced God’s blessing. A wonderful revival began and the stage was set for the reunification of the nation.

     At the beginning of his reign Rehoboam was arrogant and refused wise counsel from his elders. But when a national crisis erupted; the proud king humbled himself. Then, three years later, when Rehoboam became strong again, he did evil because he did not prepare his heart to seek God. He served the Lord, but only for a time. When Judah became stable and established, he began to pay tribute to his abilities and strength, abandoning his faith in the Lord. He prayed when threatened and sinned when things were peaceful. Let us bear in mind the words of Joseph Thompson, “Real glory springs from the silent conquest of ourselves.” Rehoboam failed miserably in this area of his life.

     We are hindered in our spiritual lives when we attempt to manipulate circumstances. Paul prayed three times, seeking deliverance from the persecution that surrounded his ministry. The Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The Greek word for perfect is teleioo (tel-eye-ah-oh) and it means to complete, carry through to the end, reach a goal or bring to maturity. When we learn to empty ourselves of self reliance, God is able to work through us. Peter C. Moore said, “There is no smaller package than a person all wrapped up in him or herself.” Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” When you are weak in yourself and turn to the Lord, you will become strong in Him. The way to grow strong in Christ is to become weak in yourself. God’s strength is strong in weakness and weak in strength.

The Golden Rule

February 24

 

There is no principle of the heart that is more acceptable to God than a universal ardent love for all mankind, which seeks and prays for their happiness. (William Law)

     No one has a right to take another person apart until they are perfectly together themselves. It is easy to become judgmental. But we can avoid any and all proclivities towards self-righteousness by transforming our negative thoughts into moments of prayer. Socrates said, “What you hate to suffer, do not do to anyone else.” The teaching of Confucius is similar, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” And Jesus gave mankind the Golden Rule, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” It is an accepted practice in our culture to adjudicate others and pardon ourselves. Jesus expects more from His followers. He said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” When Christ hung on the cross He cried out to God, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” He could have cursed His killers, but instead He prayed.

     Augustine of Hippo said, “The love of God is the first and great commandment. But love of our neighbor is the means by which we obey it. Since we cannot see God directly, God allows us to catch sight of Him through others. By loving our fellow citizens we purge our eyes to see God. So love your neighbor and you will discover that in doing so you come to know God.” It is not possible to be right with God and wrong with people. Others may be wrong in their attitude towards us but we are not afforded the criminal luxury of being wrong in our attitude towards them. He ... who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen ... whoever loves God must also love his brother (Apostle John).

     Our love for God and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is demonstrated in the way we treat people. Most of us are skilled when it comes to discerning the faults of others; it comes naturally. Discernment is a positive trait but it must be used for good. Look first inward and you will clearly see how you should view others. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I can truthfully say that I am slow to see the blemishes of fellow beings, being myself full of them. Therefore, being in need of their love and charity, I have learned not to judge anyone harshly and to make allowances for defects that I may detect.”

First Place

February 23

 

Quiet minds that rest in God cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

     Once the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “Your greatest fault is not in failing to capture the days, months or the years of your life; your greatest fault is in failing to capture your moments.” Isaiah the prophet proclaimed, “You God, will keep in perfect peace, all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on You.” Trust is developed as we focus our thoughts on God. Actions perpetuate reaction. The practice of continually yielding our minds to the Lord requires effort and continual application, but our diligence causes us to experience His peace.

     The secret of being led by the Holy Spirit is pursuing God moment-by-moment. As we practice the art of giving Him first place in our thoughts, we will receive His power. Joshua, Moses’ successor declared, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. Then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Our life is what our thoughts make of it (Marcus Aurelius). David practiced putting God first in His thoughts. He wrote, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

     At the turn of the 20th century a great and powerful preacher, Smith Wigglesworth, emerged and made a tremendous impact on the world. When asked about his prayer life, he made this interesting comment, “I rarely pray for more than one half hour at a time but I never go one half hour without praying.” One of the first steps of being led by the Holy Spirit is to make yourself aware of God’s presence and forming the habit of talking with Him throughout the day. Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land. So little minutes, humble through they be, make the mighty ages of eternity (Julia A. Fletcher). If you desire to be led by the Holy Spirit, capture the brief moments of your life and use them for nurturing your spiritual life through faith in God.

Important Difficulty

February 22

 

A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man made perfect without trials. (Chinese Proverb)

     Most of us do not welcome difficulty and struggle, and we never complain when problems evade our comfort zones. When trials come some believe that God is trying to teach them a lesson. Others feel that struggle is the result of some secret sin or curse. But the purpose of adversity can be summed up in the words of Oswald Chambers, “It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. In every cloud He brings, God wants us to unlearn something. God's purpose in the cloud is to simplify our belief until our relationship to him is exactly that of a child. God uses every cloud that comes into our lives to bring us nearer to Him until we come to the place where we do not allow our hearts to be troubled.”

     Spiritual assault from demon powers, attacks against our character by hostile enemies, betrayal of friends and personal failure can be a blessing when we learn to view difficulties as an important part of spiritual growth. Problems are for one purpose—to draw us into fellowship with the greatness of God our Father. The Lord desires that we look to Him for strength in every situation. He transforms our impossibilities into miracles so that every adversity becomes a tool helping us focus on God and His power. Christ is greater than anything that threatens our faith in Him.

     The most critical aspect to consider during trial is what we look at. Attention is all-important because whatever gets our attention gets us (E. Stanley Jones). Will we allow ourselves to be drawn into the problem, giving it our undivided attention, or will we take it to the Lord, affording Him the opportunity of handling it? If calamity is a storm; God is the shelter. If we ride the tide of destiny in our own strength, then we are responsible for the outcome. If we choose to run to the Lord as a refuge; He will take on Himself the responsibility for our personal safety, making everything work together for our good.

Don't Cry

February 21

 

He who counts the stars and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting His own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature He ever made, or the only one He ever loved. (Charles Spurgeon)

     As a boy I loved to make forts, crawl inside and hide from the world. The kitchen was an especially good place to build; with a few chairs, a table, a blanket, a little time and a lot of imagination one could construct an awesome garrison. Gladiators must eat, so kitchen fortresses were best of all. It was fun to sneak out of my hideout, quietly open the refrigerator and drink pickle juice from the jar when Mom was not looking. One day I discovered a new hiding place; the lower cabinet beside the sink. I climbed inside, closed the door, got comfortable, and drifted off to sleep.

     Things got too quiet for Mom’s ease so she began looking for me. “Danny, where are you?” she asked. With no reply, she yelled “Danny, you better come here right now.” Her concern soon turned to panic and she ran out into the hallway. She searched the entire apartment building, asking neighbors for help and in a matter of minutes a small search team joined my mother. We lived on Broadway Street in Louisville, Kentucky, a dangerous and busy street. Mom knew I couldn’t survive in that asphalt jungle without her, so she frantically poured her whole heart into the search. After combing the area she ran back inside, examined the house again and went back outside. Finally, she returned to the apartment for one more look. Overwhelmed with fear Mom collapsed in a chair at the table. A stream of tears gushed out as she cried, “Danny, Oh Danny, where are you? Please come back! Oh, God help me, help me find my son!” Her crying woke me up so I opened the door and said, “What’s wrong Mommy? Please don’t cry.” She reached out, took me up in her arms and held me close as she wept for joy. After loving me for a moment she ran outside, informing the search party that I had been found.

     God could not imagine Himself living without us so He took the responsibility for our transgressions upon Himself. In the person of Christ God made atonement for mankind. Sin did not change God’s attitude towards us; it changed our attitude towards Him. But He never gave up on people. Now, all He requires is that we come out of hiding and walk with Him. Come today. He is anxiously waiting to take you up in His arms and touch you with His love.

Cookies and Bananas

February 20

 

There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience. (French Proverb)

     There I stood with bananas in one hand and chocolate chip cookies in the other facetiously proclaiming to my friend, “The bananas are for the part of me which says I need to take care of myself and eat right. The cookies, well, they are for the side of me that says you only live once.”

     Why do we give in to things that are not good for us and then say, “What’s the use?” And why do we allow the cookie side of our existence to dominate our behavior. Billy Graham said, “Most of us follow our conscience as we follow a wheelbarrow. We push it in front of us in the direction we want to go.” God has given us a conscience, a voice on the inside, to help us make good choices. Samuel Butler cautions, “The conscience is thoroughly well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.” We compromise when we fail to listen.

     What is the greatest evidence of God’s existence? Ezekiel Hopkins believes it is the still small voice inside our hearts. He said, “There is a conscience in humanity; therefore there is a God.” God’s footprints are everywhere—around and within us. The heavens, the oceans, the birth of every living creature; these proclaim the reality of His being. Life, the human body and the conscience bear witness to God. He is forever speaking. Our problem is that we have developed the habit of ignoring Him. Stop! Get quiet! Listen! The conscience urges us towards that which is best and is the perfect interpreter of life (Karl Barth).

     We live only for a brief moment and then we are gone. Make good choices. We are not alone in the process of decision-making. God has given us help—a voice speaking for Him. If you follow the advice of an old Hasidic saying you will do well, “Be the master of your will and the slave of your conscience.” Don’t allow your life to become cluttered. Consider what you will gain and focus on the sense of significance you will obtain by following the dictates of your heart. God loves you enough not to be silent. A good conscience is the palace of Christ; the temple of the Holy Spirit; the paradise of delight, the standing Sabbath of the saints (Augustine). Listen to yourself—your inner self. Get quiet and hear what is being said to you from the banana side of life.

Secret Recipe

February 19

 

Life as I have known it has been ‘Finger Lickin’ Good. (Colonel Sanders)

     Anthony and I passed by the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Ellenton, the last sign of civilization before arriving at the maximum security prison. “Just think Pastor,” Anthony joked. “If we didn’t have to do this service tonight we could be sitting at KFC eating chicken.” “So, you’d rather eat than help the needy?” I teased. “No way!” he exclaimed. “What do you think I am—a Kentucky Fried Idiot?”

     At the control room two guards stood in front of a fifty gallon barrel filled with sand; loading their weapons. One was placing cartridges in a pistol and the other was putting shells in his shotgun. Just as we were about to step onto the sidewalk one of them yelled, “Stay right there do not move!” That was a good idea since they were holding loaded weapons. In a few moments one of them walked over to us and said, “Chaplain, I’m sorry but the warden cancelled chapel services tonight because of security issues. We were not aware of his decision until just a few minutes ago. Sorry,” he said.

     “Son, you got your wish,” I said as we headed back to Ellenton. “This proves one thing; if you delight yourself in the Lord He will give you the desires of your heart.” “Naw, Pastor,” Anthony declared, “I would rather preach the Word any day than fill my belly at KFC.”

     After finishing our “Finger Lickin Good” meal I said, “You know, the Colonel’s secret recipe made him rich and famous, but do you know the secret of happiness? It’s easy and is found in KFC. The K stands for knowledge; the F for faith; the C for character.” Do you remember what Jesus said in John 17:3 I asked? “This is eternal life that you may know Him the only true God and Jesus Christ His Son whom He has sent. Knowledge is power (Francis Bacon).” I was on a recipe roll, “F is all about faith and faith is imperative. Without faith it is impossible to please God.” A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but a lot of faith will bring heaven to your soul (Dwight Moody). “Son, are you getting this?” I asked and concluded. “Remember the C of character. If you gain the whole world and lack character you have nothing.” Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught (J.C. Watts). “That’s my secret recipe for happiness KFC style.”

     Colonel Sanders declared, “I made a resolve that I was going to amount to something if I could. And … allow nothing to deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that … and win by it.”

Trouble

February 18

 

If there is no pain there is no gain in life. (Benjamin Franklin)

     Trouble is like a pebble. Hold it too close to your eye and it fills the whole world and puts everything out of focus. Hold it at a proper distance and it can be examined and properly classified. Throw it at your feet and it can be seen in its true setting, just one more bump on the pathway to life (Celia Luce ). Jesus’ dear friend, Lazarus, became sick. Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, notified Christ immediately, but He didn’t respond to their appeal until after Lazarus died. How disappointed they were. Everyone thought the Lord had waited too long and now it would be impossible for him to intervene into these circumstances—but Jesus knew exactly what he was going to do. He had a plan. What was true then is also true today. God’s higher purpose often exceeds our need for immediate deliverance from adversity. Many times we find ourselves, like Martha and Mary, bearing the pain of a trial while God is working behind the scenes preparing a miracle for us. We easily become impatient wanting Jesus to submit to our plan for Him; instead of you and me submitting to His plan for us.

     Usually we respond to trouble by asking God to deliver us from the predicament immediately. We give very little regard for that which Christ seeks to do through the circumstances that occur in our lives. Paul diligently sought the Lord, seeking deliverance from a problem. The Lord spoke to Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” We would do well to remind ourselves of the words of Barsanuphius, “Whatever good is to be attained, struggle is necessary. Do not fear temptations, but rejoice in them, for they lead to achievement. God helps and protects us.”

     Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. Although Christ did not heal everyone—He did heal everyone who came to Him for healing. Christ has your answer. Trust Jesus, even when things don’t happen as you think they should; refuse to quit or give up. The Lord is seldom early but He is never late. Watchman Nee declared, “Let us remember that out of a hundred impatient actions, scarcely one is in the will of God. The Lord knows the impetuosity of our nature; and He never performs anything hurriedly; so consequently, He will rarely entrust His power to the impatient.”

Parent Trap

February 17

 

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. (Author Unknown)

     Three mistakes that parents often make when raising children: they love them without disciplining them; they discipline them without loving them; they neither love nor discipline them. As a general rule if we love our kids but fail to teach them discipline; they will grow up lacking self control and shame us. If we discipline our children without loving them, they will become bitter and resent us. If we neither love nor discipline our offspring; a majority of them will fill their lives with self-destructive tendencies. Thomas Watson said, “When parents do not instruct their children, they seldom become blessings.”

     The most basic and primary need of children is quality time with loving and nurturing parents. According to Josh McDowell, “God loves your children through you, but if you’re not available, how can he love them? Acceptance and appreciation tells the child that he or she is of tremendous worth. And I can only express my acceptance and appreciation through being affectionate and available.” We prepare our children with love and discipline, to deal with the pressures and stresses of life, teaching them to be responsible with blessings and to exercise patience in times of difficulty.

     Crandall Miller said, “The cruelest form of abuse is neglect.” Investing quality time in your children will go a long way in protecting them from embracing harmful attitudes. The behavior children exemplify today is a reflection of what they will be tomorrow. When your child’s conduct concerns you; change your parenting techniques. Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope for the best. Our adult problems started when we were children and grew with us.

     The greatest challenge of a parent is to conquer the will without breaking the spirit of a child. A child is going to do foolish things, but correcting him or her will drive foolishness far away (Solomon.). It is impossible to love your child without discipline, but you can also make a great mistake by disciplining without love. Even your best is not enough so supplement your efforts with a strong faith in God and diligent prayer. You will succeed if you love and take time to care.

Miss Jean

February 16

 

Failure is an event, not a person. Yesterday really did end last night. Today really is a brand day and gives us another choice to do with it whatever it is we wish to do. (Zig Zigler)

     As I drove to the hospital I thought about what I might say to the lady whom I would be visiting. Her prognosis was not good and without a miracle she was going to die. It was imperative that I somehow get through to her. A few years previous Jean began attending our church and her life started to change dramatically. Every time I saw her there was a glow on her countenance and it was evident that the Lord was doing a good work in Jean.

     She had a reverence for God but there were many problems she battled; alcohol was one of them. After a time Jean stopped attending church and the troubles that had plagued her life began to overwhelm her new found faith. As we talked that night I asked, “If you had died when they brought you here, what would have happened?” “I hope that I would have gone to heaven.”

     Jean was sincere and wanted to serve the Lord but she struggled with the issues that kept her in a state of despair. “Miss Jean,” I said, “serving the Lord and inviting Him into our lives is like getting married. When a couple stands at the altar making vows, they are not promising to never fail or disappoint one another. They are simply promising not to leave one another. They are making a commitment to work through their problems in the context of their relationship. That is what God wants of you. Jean, don’t give up when you fail; work out your problems by drawing close to the Lord and allowing Him to help you.”

     John Maxwell says, “The question is not are you going to fail.” The real question, “How will you handle failure once you experience it?” Satan condemns us for wrongdoing but God has made provision for our failure through His grace. And it is His grace that stands in the place of our imperfections. If you do sin there is someone who pleads your cause before the Father; His name is Jesus Christ. He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself, and brought us into fellowship with the Lord (Saint John).

Failure

February 15

 

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. (Dennis Waitley)

     You may fall but you can’t fail if you don’t quit. The old expression that we have heard many times is true: quitters never win and winners never quit. Falling does not necessarily make one a failure. Struggle surrounds the birth of every accomplishment, every miracle and every victory. The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on our gains. Any fool can do that. The important thing is to profit from our losses (Fred Smith). It usually takes a good or bad fall, depending on how you look at it, to help us realize that failure is a part of the learning process.

     At the last supper Jesus announced to his disciples, “Tonight all of you will desert me.” Peter declared, “I will never desert you!” A few hours later he denied knowing Jesus three times. His strength, his stubborn tenacity and his determined will were not enough to sustain him in the heat of battle. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in Him bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” We cannot live for God unless He empowers us. Peter fell but he did not fail. He got up. A righteous man may fall seven times and rise again (Proverbs).

     Charles Kittering said, “Virtually nothing comes out right the first time. Failures, repeat failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. The only time you don’t fail is the last time you try something and it works.” Don’t ever give up and always keep in mind the fact that all things—everything good and everything bad—work to benefit those who love God (Apostle Paul). Failure is delay, not defeat; it is a temporary detour, not a dead end; it is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing (Denis Waitley).

Universal Engineer

February 14

 

No one has yet shown how man could have been brought forth from non-man solely by time plus chance. (Francis A. Schaeffer)

     Jonathan Swift declared, “That the universe was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, I will no more believe than that the accidental jumbling of the alphabet would fall into a most ingenious treatise of philosophy.” When we see a beautiful machine, we say there is a good engineer, and he or she has performed a great work of art; the world is assuredly a beautiful machine, and must therefore attribute its value to an intelligent designer (Voltaire). God is the engineer of the universe. And as Michael Mayne said, “There is about us, if only we have eyes to see, a creation of such spectacular profusion, spendthrift richness, and absurd detail, as to make us catch our breath in astonished wonder.”

     With that being said it is important to remember that our existence is not an accident or even a mistake. Your creation was intentional and you were made by design for a specific purpose by the engineer of life.

     Somewhere in eternity past God looked into the mirror of His need and saw a reflection of your face and mine; He then decided on our existence. Jeremiah the prophet speaking on behalf of our Creator declared (Jeremiah 1:5), “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.” The Lord already had a plan for Jeremiah’s life long before his mother labored in bringing him into this world. His parents were simply vessels that God used to get him in the right place at the right time in accordance with God’s will. You may not know your biological father or mother. And possibly, because of some unfortunate circumstance, you were given up for adoption or abandoned—it doesn’t matter. God has His hand on you; He brought you into this world and loves you very much. You are more than matter or the result of a chemical reaction.

     In some ancient cultures the mother of a child who moved away would tattoo his or her name in the palm of her hand. It was symbol of her undying love and passion for that child. The prophet Isaiah refers to this practice in his writings (Isaiah 49:15-16), “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on my hand.” God, speaking through Isaiah, assured His people that He would never forget them. Nothing has changed. Your name was inscribed on the heart of God in the beginning. You mean everything to Him. C. S. Lewis spoke the truth when he said, “No philosophical theory which I have yet come across is a radical improvement on the words of Genesis, that in the beginning God made Heaven and Earth.”

Design Of Trial

February 13

 

Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. (African Proverb)

     Every trial we face in life is designed to help us learn to focus on nothing but God. E. Stanley Jones declared, “Life will be made or broken at the place where we meet and deal with obstacles.”

     God desires to share an intimate relationship with us and trials force us to become conscious of how necessary it is to rely on Him. Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of God My Father. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you, depart from me.” Good works, not even spiritual works, are enough to satisfy God—He seeks intimacy with us.

     God asked Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. The Lord never intended that he kill Isaac—it was simply an exam aimed at unveiling the true content of Abraham’s character. He did not sacrifice his son; but he became willing to offer him if necessary. After the trial God declared (Genesis 22:12), “Now I know that you fear Me, since you have not withheld your son from Me.” This test helped God know what was in Abraham’s heart and helped Abraham know what was in God’s heart. Trials reveal the true disposition of our heart and of our faith. Rick Warren wrote in Purpose Driven Church, “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, times of dryness and delays.” I search the heart; I test the mind (God).

From Head To Toe

February 12

 

There is only one duty, and that is to love. (Albert Camus)

     Missionaries Bill and Margaret Lovick, accompanied by a small group of African guides, made their way with great difficulty through the dense jungle to a remote and isolated village. There the Lovicks would teach a people who had never heard about the love of God. After arriving at their destination the villagers came out to meet them; these Africans who had never seen a white person in their lives. Even though the Lovicks had studied various African languages and spoke fluent French; they did not know one word of this tribal dialect. In spite of this barrier the missionaries moved into a primitive hut and went right to work. It was three months before Bill attempted to preach his first sermon to the Africans. He had decided to explain John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” But there was a problem; he did not know their word for love.

     An old man in the village had eight wives so Bill reasoned; surely he can explain love to me. After a formal greeting, he asked the elderly gentleman how he felt about his wives. He proudly began to point them out one by one saying, “This is my first wife and she is very valuable; I gave a cow for her. My third wife is very good; I gave a sheep for her…. My youngest wife did not cost me anything but she is mean and fights with the others; I wish they would take her back.” He was no help.

     Sometime later the missionaries heard a woman singing near their hut in the middle of the night. Bill went outside and there by a stream was a young girl thirteen years old washing her new born baby in the river. Bill, who was still trying to find a word for love asked the young mother, “What do you feel for this baby?” She responded, “I feel strong from the top of my head down to where my feet scratch the earth. My whole being feels strong for this child.” That was the missing link in Bill’s sermon.

     A few days later he called for a meeting and preached his first sermon to the Africans. He said to them, “God, the creator of all mankind, felt strength from the top of His head down to where His feet scratched the ground for all people and gave His only son for them.” Many of the villagers understood his message and three men became Christians that day; thus a great work for the Lord began among these people. This village experienced God’s love and felt strength for Him which changed their lives for the best. We are all born for love … it is the principle of existence, and its only end (Benjamin Disraeli).

Wade's Word

February 11

 

Losers promises they often break … winners make commitments they always keep. (Denis Waitley)

     Again and again young Christopher, child number eleven, accompanied his mother to the hospital and this particular evening proved to be no different than the others. While in a drunken stupor Mrs. Wade developed a severe nose bleed and woke up in bed covered with blood. The family rushed her down the street to the emergency room and she was immediately placed into intensive care; there she slipped into a coma and was not expected to recover. Christopher panicked at the thought of his mother dying and began to call on God as a good Catholic was taught to do. He prayed, “Lord, if you will let my mother live; I will do anything that you want me to do.”

     After days of lingering between life and death Mrs. Wade woke up, and to everyone’s astonishment, she fully recovered. Life continued, mom sobered up and Christopher eventually married Renee, the love of his life. He worked for United Parcel Service and Renee was an accountant for Pepsi. The Wades had it made but something was missing; they were not content. They began searching and visited several churches. Finally, they planted themselves in an Assembly of God fellowship. There they committed their lives to Christ and were baptized in the Holy Spirit; the Wades discovered what they had been missing—a personal relationship with God through Christ. Now things were good and the family was growing; they had six children in ten years.

     Christopher went on a short term mission trip to El Salvador and while in that country the Lord spoke to him in a dramatic way, “Do you remember the promise you made to me when your mother was dying? It is time for you to live up to your word.” That night Christopher felt that God was asking him to become a missionary. After returning home he talked with Renee. To his amazement, the Lord had spoken to her in a similar way. They earnestly prayed and committed themselves to helping the unfortunate of the world.

     Many felt they were insane and said, “God would not ask a family with six kids to go overseas. You would be fools to leave your jobs and risk your lives pursuing this ridiculous and impossible dream. Such a thought is ludicrous!” But they accepted the challenge, quit their jobs, sold their stuff, left Ohio, moved to Lakeland, Florida, and Christopher enrolled in Southeastern University—his major—MISSIONS. Ten years later all eight Wades boarded a plane and headed to Croatia as newly appointed missionaries to the Balkans. The Foreign Missions Department of the Assemblies of God had never appointed a missionary with more than three children—but the Wades were an exception. Christopher kept his word. His mother turned eighty in 2008 and even though she is still not happy with his decision; she is proud of her eleventh child and alive because he prayed.

Bake A Cake

February 10

 

Don’t believe in miracles—depend on them. (Laurence J. Peter)

     One of the great miracles recorded in the Old Testament came through the ministry of Elijah the prophet. God sent His servant to wicked King Ahab with a message, “As the Lord God lives, before whom I stand; there shall not be dew or rain these years except at my word.” A drought devastated the land but God protected Elijah by hiding him near the brook Cherith. Ravens brought him food that sustained him through the famine.

     Just when Elijah had gotten comfortable with his circumstances the brook dried up. The Lord spoke, “Arise, go to Zarephath ... I have commanded a widow to provide for you.” Elijah arrived in Zarephath and said to the widow, “Please bring me a little water in a cup ... bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” The widow answered him, “… I do not have any bread, only a handful of flour ... and a little oil in a jar. I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son ... and die.” The prophet said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first … and afterward make some for yourself and your son … the bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.” She did what Elijah said and God honored His word by giving the widow’s household a miracle. Miracles happen to those who believe in them (Bernard Berenson).

     Out of difficulties grow miracles (Jean Bruyere). Don’t get too comfortable with your present circumstances because change is inevitable. Pastor Tommy Barnett has observed, “In the making of every miracle are faith, obedience and the willingness to take a risk. Miracles are not magic—but multiplication. Obedience to God’s Word and faith in His promises put what we have into the Lord’s hands so it can be multiplied. God will only birth things to people who make room for the miraculous by faith.” The widow took a risk and God came through for her. He will not disappoint you.

The Getting Business

February 9

 

Don’t be troubled when you meditate on the greatness of your former sins, but rather know that God’s grace is so much greater in magnitude that it justifies the sinner and absolves the wicked. (Cyril of Alexandria)

     Many times through the years I’ve encountered those, who for some odd reason, are inclined to think that God is out to get them. They feel His sole desire is to make their lives miserable. “If God wanted to get you,” I say to those persons, “you would have already been got. God is not in the getting business; God is in the business of keeping you from being got.” Bad English—good thought. The Lord wants to bless you.

     It is not necessary to become depressed when life doesn’t turn out as expected. It is not wise to become discouraged or depressed about the past. We have all blazed a unique trail of wrongdoing that has adversely affected our emotional and spiritual personalities. If you live in the past, your life will be shaped by it. If some failure or misfortune you faced is constantly on your mind, it will constantly be your experience. Don’t despair if you have failed; allow the disappointing reality of your own way motivate you to change. “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience,” writes Paul the Apostle, “leads us away from wrongdoing and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

     Some of the “God is gonna get you attitude” comes when people feel that the Lord should do things their way—and when God does not respond to their preconceived expectations they become disheartened. God is God and He can’t stop being who He is. So how do we overcome difficulties and not become disillusioned? Helen Keller offers this wise advice, “Join the great company of those who made the barren places of life fruitful with kindness. Carry a vision of heaven in your hearts, and you shall make your name and the world correspond to that vision. Success and happiness come from within. External conditions are the accidents of life, its outer wrappings. The great, enduring realities are love and service … resolve to keep happy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulty.” God is on your side. “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you.” say the Lord. “Thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Feed Me

February 8

 

The indulgence of one sin diverts the soul from the use of those means by which all other sins should be resisted. (John Owen)

     Wrongdoing is never satisfied. It’s like a weed that keeps growing in spite of all our efforts aimed at destroying it. Sin isn’t something that can be contained. It grows like a cancer; it begins in one area and spreads through the whole body. “No sin is small,” Jeremy Taylor.

     An old movie, The Little Shop of Horror, staring Bob Denver, accurately depicts sin’s nature. In the movie Denver is a dim-witted shop keeper who cares for a small florist. One night he accidentally cut his finger, splattering blood on a plant, causing it to miraculously double in size. The next night, while alone in the florist, Denver is stunned as the exotic flower talks, urging him to give it more blood. After the initial shock of the phenomenon wanes he, against his better judgment, feeds the plant his blood. The extraordinary growth of the flower attracted the attention of his community, and business booms. Denver rapidly gains public notoriety but soon the demand of this weed becomes greater than he is capable of supplying. The full grown plant, now occupying a whole room in the shop, asks for blood. When denied it screams out, “Feed me!” At first his antics affect only him but soon things change and a vicious cycle begins. One night on the way home after refusing to donate more of himself to the growing pest, he witnessed the death of a man struck by a train. No one saw what happened so he decides to use the corpse for plant food. “Feed me ... feed me ... feed me!!!” the plant demands. Denver is torn between what is right and the popularity derived from his blooming flower. One night he hires a prostitute and lures her into the plant. Another night he deceives an armed bandit, telling the thief that money is kept inside the weed; the thief is eaten. Finally, after killing several people, he decides to stop his disgusting offenses. The plant becomes enraged so in an effort to appease his conscience, Denver climbs inside. The next morning the shop is open but the trusty superintendent is nowhere to be found. Later that day blossoms open on the weed, one for each victim it consumed. In each blossom a perfect likeness of its victim’s face is seen. The last face to appear— the shopkeepers. His sin found him out. He experienced what Thomas Watson said, “The pleasure of sin is soon gone, but the sting remains.”

Porn Nation

February 7

 

You live with your thoughts—so be careful what they are. (Eva Arrington)

     In the mid nineties I was in Amsterdam, Holland and felt as though I had been transported back in time. In a park downtown I noticed a large gathering of young people who were hanging out and listening to music. Some were smoking pot; most of them looked like hippies from the 1960’s and 70’s. After leaving Holland’s version of Haight-Ashbury I noticed a familiar sign—Burger King. Whoppers are the same in Amsterdam but the shops were very different. In an alleyway lined with small stores; I noticed a blue and white billboard on a building. On one end of the sign was a boy and on the other end was a girl, both were toddlers in diapers. Each child was holding the front of their diaper open and looking inside. The words “American Kiddie Porn” stood out.

     Recently, I spoke to a group of young men on the topic: Sex, Lies and Media. One of the subjects in the forum was pornography; so I went to Jerry Ropelato’s website of Internet Pornography Statistics and gathered information: Every second in the United States—$3,075.64 is spent on pornography; every second 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography; every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is created in the U.S. At 13.3 billion the 2006 revenues of the sex and porn industry in the US were bigger than that of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball combined; child pornography generates 3 billion annually worldwide. One out of three visitors to all adult Websites are women; forty million US adults regularly visit porn Websites; the largest consumer of Internet pornography is the 35-40 age group. Sexual addiction has reached pandemic proportions today.

     What danger does pornography and the illicit sex industry pose to people? The best answer is found in a young man’s experience recorded in the book Every Young Man’s Battle, “After I began masturbating while looking at pornographic pictures; the more I didn’t see women as fully human; they were just something to give physical pleasure. All I was concerned about was their physical properties. Psychologists call this the objectification of women. When you do that, you can then feel free to treat them any way you want.” The practice of objectification of the sexes is growing; violence is becoming our way of life. Whole nations and cultures are being adversely affected. William James declared, “Thinking determines life…”

     Each thought is a nail that is driven in structures that cannot decay; and the mansion at last will be given us as we build it each day (George Elliot). The mansions we are constructing from the thoughts derived from pornography, soft and hardcore, are haunted. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (Paul the Apostle).

If You're Right ...

February 6

 

Our actions disclose what goes on within us, just as its fruit makes known a tree otherwise unknown to us. (Thalassios the Liban)

     The other day I stopped at a garage to get my car repaired. Several men had gathered there, as was their custom, to talk small town politics and headline news. The local funeral home director, who is quite a character, was present on this particular morning. In I strolled, a local Pastor. Even before I was seated someone said, “Hey preacher, you heard this one?” “What’s it rated?” I asked.

     I don’t know who the guys loved to tease most—the Preacher or Funeral Director. Mortician made a good target because he was both loud and outspoken. “Hey guys,” I said, “you’ve got the perfect set up here today. I will get you right with God and Mortician can lay you to rest. Any volunteers?” Funeral Director blurted out, “Preacher, you don’t have to worry about getting me right, because I’m as right as they come! My heart is true to God and I have made my peace with the Almighty—and that’s a fact.” Another gentleman chimed in when Mortician finished expounding on his right standing with the Lord, “Something is wrong if you’re right with God!” Everyone laughed. Mechanic commented, “Mortician, there is no way in hell that you’re right! Excuse me Preacher, I forgot you were here.” “That’s okay it’s my day off.” The consensus among the guys that day—something is definitely wrong if Mortician is right.

     A tree is known by its fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit (Jesus Christ). We can make a host of claims concerning our faith but the real test is the way we live our lives. Teresa of Avila said, “Untilled soil, however fertile it may be, will bear thorns and thistles; and so it is with our mind.” There is an old expression, “You’ve got to walk your talk.” Paul said in Titus 1:16, “They claim to know God but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing any good thing.” May our lives and our words bear witness to the fact that we are right with God. As the body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead also (James).

What You Feed

February 5

 

If you are pleased with what you are and if you say, “It is enough,” you are lost. Keep on walking, moving forward, reaching for the goal. Don’t…stop on the way, or go back, or deviate from it. (Augustine of Hippo)

     Crandall Miller, one of my college professors, often said, “What you feed grows and what you starve dies.” Many fail in resolving issues in their lives because they feed the problem, doing the same thing time and again. If you continue to do the same thing you have always done you will continue to be the same thing you have always been. One individual put it like this, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If we feed the problem it will grow. Tolstoy said, “Everyone wants to change the world but nobody wants to change themselves.”

     The laws that are applicable to agriculture apply to our lives. Centuries ago one of Job’s friends observed, "Those who plow iniquity; and those who sow trouble harvest it." Our actions are a mirror, reflecting the image of that which we plant in our lives. Seeds multiply and produce after their own kind. Hosea the Prophet wrote, "They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.” In due time the end result of choice, good or bad, swirls around us. If you want to change; feed the good and starve the bad. In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. It’s a fact that when you’re through changing, you’re through (Max Depree). Right and proper action propitiates good and positive reaction.

     What you put into your life is what you get out of it. Feed yourself good things and remember what Joshua the successor to Moses wrote, "This Book of the law (the Bible) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. Then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success.”

Town Drunk

February 4

 

(Story contributed by my best friend—the late Jerry Daniels) How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. (George Washington Carver)

     In our small community lived a drunk by the name of Charlie, a skinny little man with a huge balloon belly; a person we enjoyed tormenting. We asked him the same stupid question over and over, “Hey Charlie, when’s the baby due? Who’s the father?” His left leg was stiff; and somehow he managed to walk by leaning to the far right until his left foot came off the ground; then he would swing his hip, causing the unbending left leg to go forward. “Hey Charlie,” we taunted, “want to dance?” His worn and tattered face made him appear much older than his years. The vivid scar that started at the bottom of his right cheek formed a Y shape under his eye, adding years to his life. His voice was raspy; part human and part frog.

     My dad was killed in Korea and it became my responsibility to help mom on Saturdays at the family restaurant; that was also the day I had to be nice to Charlie. He made it a practice of coming to our back door and yelling, “Miss Edna, can I clean your garbage cans for a hamburger?” It was my unhappy duty to prepare Charlie’s meal.

     One day some friends and I decided to go into Charlie’s shack, rearrange his furniture and watch the crippled drunk stumble around. While moving his dresser, I found a thin rectangular box, containing four military medals. I thought, “Not only is Charlie a drunk; he is a grotesque thief; a pathetic loser who had the audacity to steal metals from an American patriot.” Suddenly, his loud gritty voice erupted in the room; I had no chance to get away because he was standing directly in front of me. Charlie snatched the medals from my hand and yelled, “Get the hell out of my house!” Instead of obeying, I looked into his eyes and asked, “Why did you steal those medals?” An expression of pain swept over his leathery face. “Is it beyond your ability,” he declared, “to believe that I may have once lived a different life?” “Charlie,” I asked, “what war were you in? What do those medals stand for? My dad was a war hero.” “I knew your father,” the soldier said, “he was a good man.” Then he said to me, “You know son, my toughest battle has been at home; what I experienced on the battlefield is nothing compared to hell I have experienced here.”

     Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness (Seneca).The next day was Saturday and as usual Charlie showed up. This time I met him at the door with a hot meal. “Charlie,” I said with a smile, I’m not sure how it happened but those cans cleaned themselves.” He sat down on an empty crate and began eating; as he sat there I’m almost sure that I saw a tear in his eye. I turned to walk away. “Hey boy,” he said in that raspy voice that any blues singer would have been proud to own, “I’ll see you next week.”

Fed

February 3

 

Down in their hearts, wise men and women know this truth; the only way to help yourself is to help others. (Elbert Hubbard)

     The principles pertaining to our natural lives also apply to our spiritual lives. There are two basic steps one must take in order to maintain spiritual health. You must eat good spiritual food—this is an absolute necessity. Eat right by developing a passion for learning. Knowledge is a vital nutrient of spiritual health. Don’t go through life; grow through life (Eric Butterworth). The next step is simple; find an outlet of service where you can give out that which you are taking in. Albert Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is worth living.”

     For years I’ve watched people go from one church to another seeking spiritual satisfaction. They often complain, “I’m going somewhere else because I’m not getting fed here.” They find something wrong with every church they attend. In a majority of cases the real issue isn’t a lack of food but a problem with exercise. There has never been a minister or ministry capable of completely satisfying our craving for spiritual fulfillment or contentment. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” If we do not work at maintaining our spiritual well being we will not grow. Faith without works is dead (James). If we do not act on the knowledge we have, our faith will become a useless medallion dangling from an empty confession of faith.

     If you are a dedicated church member, sitting through service after service, only to find yourself constantly exasperated; you have most likely become spiritually constipated by a lack of service. The cure is simple and begins with a good dose of commitment to the work of the ministry. Swallow at least two cups of humility, along with a good portion of submission to God’s will of reaching others. Give those ingredients a little time to work and then make some sacrifices, mix them with service, along with respect for the well being of others, and wash it all down with worship. Follow through with praise and thanksgiving until you totally recover. It will only take a little time before you are spiritually healthy and happy. You do not get something for nothing—not in God’s economy.

Bridle Lightning

February 2

 

Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs. (Pearl Strachan)

     Ralph and I traveled to his brother-in-law’s place in the country to ride horses. After arriving at Fred’s farm we went up the hill, found the horses and chased them into small field, hemming them up in a corner of the property. Ralph took the bridle and walked slowly towards Lightning, a good-natured horse that loved to run and was easy to handle, if you could get a bridle on him. When Ralph got close to Lightning he bolted, galloping towards me at full speed. Ralph yelled, “Turp, stop him! But it was too late because I panicked and jumped out of the way, letting him run by. We eventually caught him and once Ralph put the bridle on Lightning, he did exactly what we wanted him to do.

     Before you can be changed, you must change your language. If you do not change your language, you cannot change yourself (Cho). A major part of self-control is mouth control. He or she that can rule the tongue can manage and bridle the actions of their whole being. Our words are seeds that produce fruit in our bodies and in our spiritual lives. We are influenced, both physically and spiritually, by what we say. The tongue of the wise promotes health (Proverbs). Feed yourself faith words, words that make a positive impact on your nervous system and on your heart. It is easy for us to adapt to speaking in a negative way, but remember that it is just as easy to speak a good word as it is to speak a bad word. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Solomon). Good words produce good life. Pray always and give thanks to the Lord in every situation—this is the will of God for you (Paul the Apostle).

     Our lives are fed by kind words and gracious behavior … we are nourished by expressions like excuse me and other such simple courtesies. Rudeness, the absence of sacrament or consideration, denotes that our “time is money society” is lacking in spirituality and its enjoyment of life (Ed Hayes). The Holy Spirit is big enough and experienced enough to help us bridle our lightning tongues. He will empower us to live and talk right as we nurture our relationship with Christ. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link so words play a large part in determining our spiritual health and destiny. Watch your mouth because what you say directly affects your faith in God (Mark).

The Heinz Touch

February 1

 

What we think, what we know, or what we believe is of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do with what we think, what we know and what we believe. (John Ruskin)

     An old friend got married. In the letter I wrote congratulating him I asked, “Can that new wife of your’s cook?” "Can my wife cook!" he wrote back. "Let me tell you something. Just the other day we had boiled wieners, fried potatoes and—you're gonna love this—pork and beans. I told her we used to eat that same meal at your parent's house every time they would let us in. I call it the Pastor Dan Special."

     Even though my mother tried she was a horrible cook and had a knack for throwing things together—literally. One thing you could count on at our house—fried potatoes and pork and beans. On special occasions mom boiled hot dogs. Our one mealtime consolation was Heinz Ketchup, a flavor enhancer. At our table Heinz was the flavor. It never dawned on me how terrible mom's cooking was until I began eating in the school cafeteria. School food was delicious and I loved it.

     What we eat affects our health but what we do impacts our destiny. A life of obedience to God impacts our destiny like ketchup affected mom’s cuisine. Obedience makes life good and possible to swallow—the Heinz touch. Albert Barnes declared, “It does not require great learning to be a Christian and be convinced of the truth of the Bible. It requires only an honest heart and a willingness to obey God.” The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes (Psalms). Faith and obedience are bound in the same bundle—they that obey God, trust God; and they who trust God, obey God (Charles Spurgeon).

     The golden rule for understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience (Oswald Chambers). The Word of the Lord addresses every issue affecting our behavior. Israel’s willingness to obey, even the simple health laws, prepared them for the greater issues of compliance that affected their eternal destiny. After eating good food I realized that mom’s cooking lacked taste. Mom is gone but my appetite for Heinz remains. As you walk with the Lord and discover the purpose of your existence, your appetite for spiritual things will be affected. You will lose your desire for everything that is not God’s best for you.