Arm In Arm

January 31

 

We cannot help conforming ourselves to what we love. (Francis of Sales)

     Jim Redmon’s 26-year-old son was favored to win the 400 meter race in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Halfway into his semifinal heat, a fiery pain seared through his right leg. He crumpled to the track with a torn hamstring. As the medical attendants approached, Redmond fought to his feet. He set out hopping, pushing away the coaches in a crazed attempt to finish the race. When he reached the stretch a big man pushed through the crowd wearing a T-shirt that read, “Have you hugged your child today?” The man was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father. “You don’t have to do this,” he told his weeping son. “Yes, I do,” Derek declared. Well then we’re going to finish it together.” And they did. Arm in arm they finished the race, sharing a wonderful moment of friendship together. Multitudes watched on television. Their love for one another made a mark on the world that will be remembered for generations. Like Derek Redmon and his dad, Jesus walked through life—arm in arm—with His Heavenly Father.

     One day as Christ was praying, the disciples were near observing His behavior and hearing how He talked with God. When He ceased praying, one of them said to Him (Luke 11:2), “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: “Our Father.” It dawned on Christ’s followers as they listened to Him, and saw the power that was demonstrated in His life, that Jesus shared a personal relationship with God. Christ’s love for God was attractive and the disciples wanted to pray like Jesus. They wanted to know God like Christ knew Him.

     Finis Jennings Dake states, “The disciples had been watching Jesus and had come to know that His prayers were always heard; and that the continued source of His power and utter freedom from pride came through secret prayer. This created a hunger in them to know how to pray, so they asked to be taught.” Christ, in the Lord’s Prayer, revealed the secret of His dynamic prayer life in two simple words—Our Father. The key to effective prayer is understanding that answers to prayer are based on relationship. Many do not advance in Christian progress because they stick to penances and to particular exercises while they neglect the love of God—and the love of God is the end. We need neither art nor science for going to God. All we need is a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, for His sake, and to love Him only (Brother Lawrence, a fifteenth century believer).

Premonition To Pray

January 30

 

None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience. (Martin Luther)

     Hurricane Ivan, the third major storm to rip through Florida in six weeks, hit the Panhandle, reeking havoc on everything in the path of its fury. Lieutenant Dan, a National Guardsman, was called up and sent to Milton, Florida to help with relief efforts.

     There he met with Pastor Lowery of Pace Assembly and was granted permission to use their facilities as a barracks and distribution center. Volunteers from the church and its staff worked alongside the soldiers, providing the basic essentials for thousands of desperate people in need. One of the volunteers and Lieutenant Dan developed a close friendship. They had a lot in common, they were both young and beginning their careers, the Lieutenant was a high school history teacher and Travis a commercial airline pilot. They were both involved in church and were into fitness, running and working out religiously.

     Travis rented a plane and wanted to take Pastor Lowery and Dan up to view Ivan’s damage from the air. They were scheduled to meet early Wednesday morning. The bus that transported Dan’s men to their duty stations was supposed to pick them up at eight each morning, but because of problems it never arrived until after ten. The men were working security and assisting in traffic control. Dan had plenty of time to take a quick flight and get back to work before the bus arrived.

     Wednesday morning Pastor Lowery received an emergency call and for the first time ever the Lieutenant’s bus arrived on time. Pastor Lowery and Dan were both disappointed and called Travis, canceling their appointments. Two other people from the church took their places on the plane. Travis taxied down the runway and took off, but as soon as they were airborne the plane began experiencing engine trouble. Travis attempted to turn around but his efforts were futile. The engine lost power and the plane crashed killing everyone on board. The church and community, already suffering because of Ivan, were shaken by the loss.

     Two nights before the crash Lieutenant Dan’s mother was awakened in the middle of the night, hearing one of her boys crying out for help. She checked on her youngest but he was resting peacefully. She was troubled and began praying for Dan and her other son, Issac. She went back to bed after a couple of hours. A few days later when Dan called and told her about what happened, she was certain about one thing—God had given her a premonition to pray. A great many people do not pray because they do not feel any sense of need (Oswald Chambers). But it is imperative that we call on the Lord constantly because it is prayer that moves the hand of Him who moves the world.

Ski Dees

January 29

 

People receive healing by doing something they believe in and something that gives them hope. (Dr. Bernie Siegel)

     World-class water ski champion, Frankie Dees, lived the American dream and did what he loved to do most - water ski. He held the Mens-4 National Jumping Record, competed in every Water Ski National Championship for 39 years, won over one hundred titles in his career and was showing no signs of slowing down until two events caused his life to unravel at the seams.

     The first occurred when Frankie’s sister was diagnosed with hepatitis. After battling the disease, undergoing two liver transplants, Charlene died on December 18, 1992—Frankie’s birthday. Then, in June of 1999 Frankie decided to purchase some additional life insurance, which required that he take some routine blood tests. The results revealed that he had hepatitis. Not only did he have hepatitis but his liver, according to all the information gathered, was in the third stage of trauma—one step away from death. He frantically began to search for hope and found himself on the Internet, reading one sad story after another. He became depressed and cried often over the eminent fate awaiting him. There was only one dim ray of hope the doctors offered the champion. He was a candidate for a new treatment, but at best he was given only a 15 percent chance of survival.

     One day during this time an unexpected glimmer of light shined in Frankie’s life. He, on occasion, had visited a church in Mulberry, Florida and was acquainted with the Pastor. It just so happened that one afternoon Pastor was out visiting people and stopped by his house. He had no idea about what was going on in Frankie’s life. During their conversation that day, Frankie opened up and talked about his dreadful dilemma. Pastor Dan shared some Scriptures about healing from the Bible and prayed, “Lord, may the anointing of the Holy Spirit come upon this man’s life and may this disease come under the influence of your power.”

     After three months of prayer and treatment Frankie’s liver functions and enzymes were normal. The doctor was amazed that the virus count was undetectable, “Someone made a mistake; we’ll look at it again in a month.” Frankie told the doctor, “I don’t think so Doc, the Healer took care of me.” Doc was skeptical. After four months the virus was undetectable. Frankie and his wife Caroline, prayed and committed their lives to the Lord without reserve. During the treatment he did not experience any of the awful side effects associated with the powerful medications he was taking. He worked out, skied and even managed to break his own world record in the distance jump by ten feet—an impossibility considering all he was going through. Frankie’s doctor called the healing a miracle. Frankie gives the glory to God saying, “I’m glad to be alive and am thankful to Jesus for allowing me to tell my story.”

Kim Said

January 28

 

He or she who provides for this life, but takes no thought for eternity, is wise for a moment, but a fool forever. (John Tillotson)

     A Mr. Powell wrote this letter to Alonzo and Margaret Drake, two of my Pastor friends from Michigan, “Dear Reverend, … I need your help. A couple of months ago a girl from your church was visiting here in Ohio ... maybe you can get her a message. Her name is Kim ... and she works for an insurance company. Kim ... saw me trying to get my wife into the house. Mother had a stroke and was in a wheelchair. She was very kind and helped us so we asked her in. We talked awhile and I told her how sick my Lois was. I told her how I couldn’t stand to think about losing my dear wife. Kim began to talk about her God and living forever in heaven. I never worried about God. He left me alone and I left Him alone.”

     “Mother suddenly began to choke,” Mr. Powell continues, “and when Kim tried to help, she spit up all over her. Kim ... got a wet cloth ... cleaned Ma ... took some rouge out of her purse and fixed Ma’s face. No young girl ever showed such love to Ma, not even the helpers we pay. She talked some more about God, this time I had to listen more because I had to believe only God could make someone love so much. She talked about asking God in my heart. But I’m a stubborn man and I told her I’d think about it. She left me a paper about God. It had the name of your church and address on it.”

     “After she left,” he continues, “I read her paper and asked God in my heart. Can you believe this 84 year old man knowing God. I was telling Mother about what I did and asked her if she wanted God. She nodded yes, so I prayed for her and she nodded again and smiled. She couldn’t do that, she couldn’t smile since having the stroke. Reverend, Mother died 2 days later. It still hurts but Kim said we’ll live forever and I’m going to see my sweetheart someday. I believe it. I keep hoping Kim will come back but I’m going to live with my son in Cleveland so I won’t see her. If you know Kim, tell her thanks for loving an old man and his wife.”

Close But Not Right

January 27

 

One may smile, and smile, and be a villain. (William Shakespeare, Hamlet)

     In the Catholic Encyclopedia Volume Eight we read, “In every way the treachery of Judas Iscariot would seem to be the most mysterious and unintelligible of wrongs. For how could one chosen as a disciple, and enjoying the grace … and the privilege of intimate friendship with the Divine Master, be tempted to such gross ingratitude for such a paltry price? And the difficulty is greater when it is remembered that the Master thus basely betrayed was not hard and stern, but a Lord of loving kindness and compassion. In a very true sense, all sin is a mystery.”

     Judas Iscariot was closely acquainted with Christ and one of the twelve men who made up the inner circle of chosen disciples. Judas acted as treasurer for the Lord’s ministry. He was present at the Last Supper and knew Christ as well as any of the twelve. Judas was a close friend of Jesus according to Psalm 55:12-14, “It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.” The name Judas is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Judah meaning, "Praise God” and was a very common name in the time of Christ. Iscariot is an Aramaic word which means "man of Kerioth", a small town near Hebron.

     One can be close to Christ, like Judas, and not be right with Him. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 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? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me!” Judas did many wonderful things; he healed the sick and cast out demons. Judas performed miracles through the anointing of the Holy Spirit on his life. But that was not enough for evil Iscariot. You may be a devoted church member who does good things, but that is not enough. God’s grace is not obtained through power or position. Spiritual life begins when we repent of sin. It is sustained as we walk with God through Christ. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me … and you will find rest for your souls (Jesus Christ).

Face Fact

January 26

 

Truth is the only safe ground to stand on. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

     Two men were traveling together; one always spoke the truth and the other always lied. By chance they came to the land of apes. The king commanded that these men be seized and brought into his court so he might know what was said of him among men. He ordered that all the apes be arranged in a long row to his right and left, and that a throne be placed for him. After these preparations his officers brought the two men before him and the king greeted them, "What sort of a king do I seem to be to you?” The lying traveler answered, "You seem to be a great and mighty king." "And what is your estimate of those you see around me?" the king asked. "These," he responded, "are your worthy companions, fit to be ambassadors and leaders of armies." The Ape and all his court, gratified with the lie, commanded that a handsome present be given to the flatterer. The truthful traveler thought, "If this reward was given for a lie, what will be my great reward for telling the truth according to my custom?" The ape quickly turned to him and asked, “What do you think of my friends and I?" "You are," he said, "a most excellent ape, and all your companions are excellent apes like you." The King, enraged at hearing these truths, gave him over to the teeth and claws of his companions. The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear (Herbert Agar).

     Winston Churchill said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” Why is it difficult for us to face fact? Unlike a lie, truth is difficult to swallow. It is like medicine that parents force children to take. When it comes to reality we often behave as toddlers, choosing rather to bear the pain of sickness than swallow the bitterness of cure.

     Truth is truth (William Shakespeare). Our rejection of reality does not change it; it changes us. If we refuse to listen; we will lose our ability to hear. If we refuse to obey, we will lose our ability to see. If people cannot see it is because they have closed their eyes. No one becomes more deaf than those who refuse to listen and no one becomes more blind than those who refuse to see. Love truth and pardon error (Voltaire). If you abide in my word then … you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free (Jesus Christ).

Poor In Spirit

January 25

 

Self surrender leads us to self-realization. For in losing one’s self in surrender, it is found … and … given back to us—heightened. (E. Stanley Jones)

     In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus made an unusual statement, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” My family was very poor, so as a child I learned what it meant to live in need and there was nothing blessed about it. There were so many things I wanted to do but it seemed we never had enough money.

     My fourth grade teacher announced that she was going to teach us how to play a tonet during music class. Each student was given a form to take home listing the needed supplies and how they could be purchased. Dad read that paper and said, “We don’t have enough money.” For several days I sat in class day dreaming my pain away while the other children learned to play music. I was humiliated. Finally, my teacher got me a tonet but I was behind and never did catch up. Larry Sloan used to wear nice boots to school and I wanted a pair desperately, but there wasn’t enough money. One year our elementary school produced a Christmas program and each boy had to wear a white shirt and tie. I practiced and learned my parts but didn’t attend the event because there wasn’t enough money to buy the clothes. At the end of sixth grade we were given a tour of Middle School and introduced to the music teacher. He talked about his program, encouraging each of us to join band and learn to play an instrument. I decided to sign up for trumpet but it never became a reality because we didn’t have enough. I learned the meaning of poor early in life—poor meant not having enough.

     One day as I was reading the Bible and thinking about Matthew 5:3 the Holy Spirit gave me a unique revelation. Poor had to do with lack. Jesus said that it is a blessed thing to lack spirit or heart. I got it! Being poor in spirit means that we lack the heart and strength to cope with life apart from God. Those persons are truly blessed indeed that cannot live without the Lord. This is one time when it is a blessing to be without and not have enough to deal with the ins and outs of daily living.

No Pain No Gain

January 24

 

Pain makes people think, thinking give them wisdom and wisdom confers peace. (Boris Pasternak)

     The other day I visited a young boy in the hospital who attended our church. He was involved in a motorcycle accident and broke his arm. Just a few weeks before the crash I had been teaching about how we should be thankful to God in every situation. Wanda, his mother spent several days in the hospital helping care for Trent, and decided to make a list of positive things that could come from the tragedy. She came up with ten. Number seven read, "My son will learn that pain is a part of healing.” As it is with the physical so it is with the spiritual part of our lives—hurt is a part of the healing process. It is imperative that we become aware of what happens as we seek forgiveness. The Apostle John declared, “If we confess our wrongdoing; God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession is a painful but necessary part of recovery, and as we begin to seek the Lord, we will find ourselves being compelled to bring hidden things out in the open. Confession works like medicine. That is why the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous made it the first of the Twelve Steps in their program, "We admit we are powerless…that our lives have become unmanageable."

     Trials and tribulations come to all of us. In order to experience victory we must go through them. The key word is “through. We must purpose in our hearts not to quit and give in no matter how big the setback, no matter how disappointed we become in people, and no matter how difficult the circumstances of life may seem (Randy Eplin). The first step in getting well is taking off the mask and being truthful with ourselves, God and others. Jamie Buckingham once said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” When we admit the truth, it will hurt for a while. Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart (Solomon). Discipline washes away the guilt of the act, affording an opportunity to put offenses behind us.

     The story is told that Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, visited a prison and talked with the inmates. There were endless tales of innocence. Finally the king stopped at the cell of a silent convict. "Well," remarked Frederick, "I suppose you are innocent too?" "No sir, I'm not," replied the man. "I'm guilty and deserve my punishment." Turning to the warden, the king said, "Here, release this rascal before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here!" When we accept responsibility for our sins we are on the road to healing and freedom.

Calcium Deposits

January 23

 

Not to have had pain is not to have been human. (Jewish Proverb)

     How our two older boys Daniel and Issac made it through life without breaking a bone is one of those modern marvels that is still a mystery to us today. Our younger children, Erica and Jonathan were not as fortunate.

     One night when Erica was four she rolled off her bed. She went through the normal routine of crying and I want my mommy, but I thought she was fine. The next morning she woke up screaming and off we went to the doctor. The X-ray revealed that she had a broken collar bone. Little Johnny was about three years old when he stood up in the recliner and tried to grab a pillow that Erica was swinging. His first few attempts proved futile but he kept trying and finally grabbed it. The impact of the collision was just enough to knock him off balance and cause him to fall to the floor. On impact his little arm snapped between his wrist and elbow; and again we were off to the emergency room.

     The doctor showed us the x-rays. “We will be putting his arm in a cast,” he said. “Doctor,” I asked, “will that area where John’s arm was broken always be weak and vulnerable to further fractures.” I feared that both Erica and John would suffer all their lives because of the breaks. “Sir,” the doctor informed me, “when that arm heals the broken place will become stronger than the rest of the bone. Calcium deposits will form around the break and weld it together, fortifying the area. The bad news is that he may break his arm again. The good news; it is very unlikely that it will ever break in that place again.”

     God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds—curing their pains and their sorrows (Psalms 147:3 Amplified Bible). The Lord transforms the brokenness we experience through the bumps and bruises we receive on the road called life. But at the end of our destination all things do work together for good to those who love the Lord. Phillip Yancey declared, “If I ever wonder about the appropriate "spiritual" response to pain and suffering, I note how Jesus responded to his own: with fear and trembling, with loud cries and tears.”

     Even wrongdoing serves us well when we humble ourselves and seek God’s forgiveness. Pain is a deterrent, motivating us not to repeat a negative behavior. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow. Living to love … and help others, even though every day you feel weak is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace (J. I. Packer).

The Third Command

January 22

 

He who tastes every man's broth sometimes burns his mouth. (Danish proverb)

     The religious leaders in Jerusalem approached Jesus and asked this question, “What is the greatest commandment?” Without a moments hesitation Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." Then he recited Leviticus 19:18, “And the second greatest commandment—you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” “There is no other commandment greater than these.” he declared.

     Sometime later, right before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave us the third greatest commandment. John, Peter and Jesus were together shortly after Christ had been raised from the dead. The Lord said to Peter (John 21:18-19), “When you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus was describing Peter’s death—he was going to die by crucifixion. After hearing these words, Peter turned to John. Then he said (John 21:21), "What about Him, Lord?" Pay particular attention to the answer Christ gave to Simon as I have paraphrased it, "Peter, you've got enough problems of your own—don’t worry about John. You mind your own business. Take care of the work that I've given you and let me take care of John."

     What a lesson! So often we become focused on what other people are doing, or failing to do, and neglect to take care of ourselves. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (Living Bible), “This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and doing your own work, just as we told you before.” Satan is forever attempting to distract us from our priorities. One of his favorite tactics is causing us to become so absorbed in the business of others that we fail to mind our own. Do not waste your precious time idly assessing the performance of those around you. “If everybody minded their own business,” said the Duchess in Alice of Wonderland, “the world would go round a great deal faster than it does.”

God Has Needs

January 21

 

Just as I analyze the tiny sunbeam and discover in it the chemical make-up of the vast sun, so I look at the character and life of Jesus, and know what God is like—Christlike. (E. Stanley Jones)

     Jesus met a woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria and asked her for a drink of water. Christ could have made water flow from the rocks; but instead He chose to make Himself dependent on the woman. The Lord used this encounter with the Samaritan to demonstrate the fact that He has needs and passions. Should that surprise us? The Bible says in Genesis 1:27 that God created us in His own image and has given you and me the ability to minister to His needs.

     About thirty five centuries ago God gave Moses His law. He inscribed Ten Commandments in stone that are a reflection His divine nature. They are windows into His heart, mind and soul—telling us what He is like and how we can fellowship with Him. The statutes of the Lord reflect His needs.

     What can we see in the windows of God’s heart? Exodus 20:2-6 says, “You shall have no other God’s before me.” In the first window we see that God has a need for “sincere relationship”. God wants us to make Him first in our hearts like He has made us first in His heart.

     The next window is Exodus 20:7 which says, “You shall not take the Name of God in vain.” God needs respect. Respect is when we make those things that are important to God important to us. Another window is Exodus 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Sabbath is a time where we set aside all business as usual, and demonstrate that there is nothing more important to us than God. It is impossible for us to develop a love for the Lord unless we spend time with Him. The remainder of the commandments: honor your parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie and do not covet have to do with character. God has a need for purity because He is holy (Exodus 20:12-17). God’s love influences every part of our lives. We cannot love God and mistreat others or be dishonest. As we love the Lord and minister to His needs, He meets all our needs through His power that works in us.

White As Snow

January 20

 

Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who forgives you—out of love—takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice. (Carl Hammarskjold)

     Even though I didn’t consciously make a habit of collecting serene moments that happened on my journey through life; there are many etched in my mind. One seems to stand out above the others; it occurred in midwinter during our first snow that year. As a teenager it was not uncommon for me to hang out with friends across town and walk home by myself. On this particular evening the snow had been falling just long enough to cover the ground. I can still hear the crunch crunch crunch my boots made as I walked on the white powder. The smell of burning wood filled the air. Our small town streets were lined with lights that brilliantly illuminated the snowflakes as they fell from the sky. It was so peaceful out there in the cold that I didn’t want to go inside after arriving home.

     Before the snow fell everything was cold and ugly. The trees lost their leaves and color; making them appear naked and dead. The green grass turned brown. But when the sparkling flakes of white began to fall, everything changed. The pace of life slowed and most people stayed inside, safely tucked away in the warmth of their houses. Charles Spurgeon describes the transformation he saw take place on earth one winter, “As I looked across the fields, the earth was black and there was nothing but barrenness—bare hedges and leafless trees. All of a sudden God spoke, and unlocked the treasures of the snow, and the white flakes descended until there was no blackness to be seen, and all was one sheet of dazzling whiteness.

     The prophet Isaiah saw this wonderful spectacle in Israel, for it was not uncommon for it to snow in Jerusalem and certain parts of the country. He compared the beauty of the snow to the love of God. “Come now, let us argue this out,” says the Lord. “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool. If you will only obey me and let me help you, then you will have plenty.” Time has not changed God, or our need of His grace. He will bury the ugliness of wrongdoing under the beauty of His love if we allow Him to have His way in our lives.

Time

January 19

 

Time is the measure of our lives. (Pastor Dan)

     All of us own and possess the same amount of time every day, every week and every month. We have 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week and 8,736 hours a year. That means we have 1440 minutes a day, 10,080 minutes a week and 524,160 minutes a year to invest in life. Minutes cannot be stored up and used at a later date so do not waste them. Invest each day’s allotment of hours wisely.

     What have you done with the last five years of your life? What are going to do with the next five years of your minutes? Have you grown spiritually? What are your plans for the next five years? Have you grown intellectually? If you continue to do as you have done for five more years, what are going to like look after 43,680 hours? Have you developed economically in the last five years?

     We complain constantly about a lack of time but most often the reason we don’t have time is that we have not properly organized and prioritized our lives. You have time. Five years represents 43,680 hours. If you sleep eight hours a day you’ll use 14,560 hours resting. If you work 40 hours each week, and take two weeks of vacation each year, you will use 10,000 hours of your time. In five years you will work 2,000 hours a week and probably end up sleeping more hours than you worked. After work and sleep you have 19,120 hours or 1,147,200 minutes to invest into other enterprises.

     If you spend one hour in Christian Education classes, two hours in Sunday morning worship, two hours in Sunday evening worship and invest two hours in a midweek service you’ll use seven hours a week for spiritual nurturing at church. In five years you will use 1,820 or nine and one-half percent of your discretionary time if you have perfect attendance. If you watch three hours of television a week, in five years you’ll have accumulated 780 hours of television viewing or four percent of your free time. If you spend one hour per meal and eat three meals a day, you’ll eat up 5,475 hours 281/2 percent of your undedicated time.

     Add up all the hours you use in five years of eating, working, sleeping, watching television and going to church and you will still have 11,045 hours or 251/2 percent of your time remaining. What did you do with it? You could have worked a second full time job or done a number of things that really matter. Our problem is that we fail to organize and prioritize our lives, allowing time to slip away from us. Do you use your time wisely? You do have the time, but do you know how to invest yourself into things that really count? Take time and learn to manage your life. We are where we are at today because we planned or failed to plan our time five years ago.

One More Push

January 18

 

Heaven is won or lost on earth; the possession is there, but the preparation is here. Christ will judge all men in another state, as their works have been in this. (Richard Baxter)

     Nancy and I anxiously awaited the birth of our second child. Finally on December 23rd at three-thirty in the morning Nancy shook me and said, “It’s time to go!” After she finally got me to wake up I mumbled, “How do you know?” My water broke and I’m having strong contractions,” she said, “we have got to go now!” She didn’t need to say anything more.

     We arrived at the hospital, went into the emergency room and a nurse met us there. She asked a few questions and then wheeled Nancy away. After changing into hospital clothes I was ushered into the delivery room where Doctor Parades and a team of nurses were preparing to deliver our son. I took my place by Nancy’s side. Doctor Parades was very kind and patiently gave instructions every time Nancy had a contraction. “Okay, on the next contraction, push hard! The doctor instructed. “Good girl … that’s it! He said. “The head is out! Okay rest a moment. We are almost there…!” Doctor Parades held the baby’s head in his hands and said, “All right one more push, Nancy, just one more push!” The contraction came, Nancy pushed and baby Issac, weighing nine pounds and fifteen ounces was born. We had been waiting for a long time for that moment.

     God has been waiting for His dream of “heaven on earth” to become a reality for centuries. The Bible says in Romans 8:22 (NIV), “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” The earth is very much pregnant with hope for a better world. Soon, much sooner than we think, Jesus will come back, completing the first phase of the birth process. Things will then happen quickly. The water will break and pain will increase, reaching violent proportions. The increase in war, violence, disease and the deterioration of morality today are signs or contractions—revealing that the time of the end is near. We should heed the warning. Trouble is coming on earth like none that has ever been. The New Testament Book of Revelation calls this The Great Tribulation.

     Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever. The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (Isaiah and Paul). It is time to get serious. The end of the world is coming soon so be earnest and disciplined in your prayers (Simon Peter).

Until The Day I Die

January 17

 

Alcohol is a good preservative for everything but brains. (Mary Pettibone Poole)

     Drunk and enraged the father screams and yells and curses his wife. The whole household is suddenly put on alert because dad is out of control and this outburst of intoxicated anger is off the chart on the tantrum scale. All four children are afraid; it’s one o’clock in the morning, and instead of resting peacefully in their beds, they are being forced to listen to dads ranting and raving. A family friend is called in to help but when she attempts to intervene; dad slapped her in the face and went after mom.

     The drama intensifies when dad grabs mom by the hair and drags her down the hallway past the children’s bedrooms. Six year old Sam tries to help but is pushed out of the way. Fourteen year old Andrew comes to his mothers rescue and confronts dad, stepping between the two in an effort to stop the insanity. “Get out of my way, boy,” dad yells at his son. Andrew stood his ground and refused to move. Dad punched him in the chest and knocked him back a couple of steps. Undaunted, Andrew stood there looking at his dad and said to him, “I love you, dad. I’ll love you until the day I die.” Dad was unmoved and said to him, “Andy, you’re nothing but a … sissy.” Finally the police arrived and the nightmare ended. Alcoholism isn't a spectator sport. Eventually the whole family gets to play (Joyce Rebeta-Burditt).

     Wine has drowned more people than the sea (Thomas Fuller). Hosea the prophet, writing about seven hundred years before Christ said, “Alcohol and prostitution have robbed my people of their brains.” Contrary to the message preached by modern advertisers, alcohol brings out the worst, not the best in people. Denzel Washington found this to be true in his life and said, “I made a commitment to completely cut out drinking and anything that might hamper me from getting my mind and body together. And the floodgates of goodness have opened upon me, spiritually and financially.” We have much more to lose than we will ever gain by drinking. Wine makes you mean, beer makes you quarrelsome—a staggering drunk is not much fun (Solomon). Let us glean wisdom from an old Japanese proverb, “First the man takes a drink … then the drink takes the man.”

Towed By An Angel

January 16

 

We are like children, who stand in need of masters to enlighten us and direct us; God has provided for this, by appointing his angels to be our teachers and guides. (Thomas Aquinas)

     Dressed in a tuxedo I was hurrying down Interstate Four on my way home. For several months I had been working in a gourmet restaurant in Orlando; hoping to move my family there soon. It was after midnight when I passed the Magic Kingdom exit and a saw car parked on the edge of the roadway. A lady was waving a white handkerchief out of the window. Without a moments hesitation I sped past that handkerchief but couldn’t bring myself to continue without taking a closer look. So I made a U turn and went back. Being cautious I rolled down my passenger window and pulled up beside the driver’s door. The person waving the handkerchief was a little lady that could barely see over the steering wheel; she was accompanied by another little lady. The driver who must have been close to eighty said, “Son, can you help us get our car started; it began making all kinds of noise and stalled. We left Disney hours ago and have been sitting here waiting for help to come.” “Let me take a look,” I said as I raised the hood, “Try to start the car.” The engine fired right up and then suddenly began to make this horrendous squealing screeching sound. Her water pump had frozen up and was not turning. I explained the problem and told her that she couldn’t drive it. “Can you take me home and I’ll get my son to come for the car tomorrow?” she asked. She lived two hours away and I would be up all night if I took her home; there’s was no way I could do that. Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea; I would toll her to the Lakeland Truck Stop with the chain I had in my trunk. It stayed open all night, someone there could repair her car and I would be home within an hour. After connecting the cars I gave her some very specific and important instructions. The brave little lady did exactly what I told her to do; we crept along at first but she did so well that I increased our speed to 60 MPH. We made it to Lakeland quickly and turned onto Highway 98 without mishap. Everything was fine until we arrived at the truck stop; I went left and she went straight. Suddenly, I heard a big bang and thought that her car had struck mine. We both slammed on brakes and came to a stop.

     Neither car was damaged so I unhooked the chain and drove her squealing squaking car to the garage. We called little granny’s son for help and I told them to wait in the restaurant until her ride arrived. “Son,” the little lady said to me, “when we were stranded back there, Mildred and I prayed that the Lord would send us an angel and He sent you. You’re our angel.” “I think maybe I’m the opposite of an angel but I’m glad to have been able to help you.” They both gave me a hug and stood there watching as I pulled away from the truck stop. Emerson said, “Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God.” Those ladies believed that it wasn’t by chance that I came to their rescue, and it wasn’t. Something inside would not let me pass them by. It’s important that we listen to what is going on inside our hearts—you may be someone’s miracle; someone’s answer to prayer today.

You've Got To Be Kidding!

January 15

 

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. (Dale Carnegie)

     Two Surgeons entered the room; Viera knew from the dour look on their faces that the report was grim. But she was not prepared to receive anything other than a message of hope. This Ukrainian lady whose family had fled her country and settled in Argentina during WWII had come too far to give up in the face of this calamity.

     After a brief introduction they said, “Mrs. Young, we’re sorry to give you bad news but your husband’s condition is very critical; he’s experienced a severe aortic dissection …. We’re sorry but we cannot help your husband and our guess is that he has about three hours to live.” “You’ve got to be kidding,” she exclaimed in broken English, “you are doctors and can do something!” “Mrs. Young,” they explained, “you don’t understand the enormity of what has happened.” They tried to explain but she refused to listen. “Why are you standing here telling me all this,” she declared emphatically. “You go and do what you have to do! The angels are going to guide your hands, Jesus will be there, God will be there and I’ll be praying for you!” She grabbed their hands and prayed, “Dear God, help these men to do the very best they can do; the rest Oh Lord, we leave in your hands!” After praying Viera said, “You have three hours; go to work—God will take care of everything else.”

     They worked on Mr. Young’s heart for seven hours, performing a complete aortic root repair. For two weeks Ron was in a coma and Viera prayed. Then one night something happened; the Lord appeared to Viera in a vision. There in her room she saw a form dressed in a glowing brilliant white robe. She saw the glory of God and was so overcome by His presence that all she could do was say, “God, I know you are here. Even if I die I need to talk to you!” And that was it; she came back to her senses. She knew something had happened and she feared the worse. The nurses would not let her visit Ron. They said to her, “You need to wait for the doctor.” One of the specialists who performed surgery on Ron came and asked her to go with him. Horrible thoughts went through her mind; her husband was dead and they were going to the morgue. She held on the doctor and as they passed Ron’s room; he was not there. They continued down the hallway and then the surgeon stopped. Viera looked into the door of a room and there sitting in a chair was her husband. He woke up from the coma early that morning and began unhooking himself from the life support machines. God heard her prayers. She refused to be denied and her tenacity saved Ron’s life. No matter what you are going through; don’t ever give up—do all you can and let God do the rest.

Standing Where Fire Has Been

January 14

 

Grace is divine affection rolling in plenteousness toward the shores of human need. (Ben Jowett)

     Thomas Jefferson will always be recognized for his vision; he saw a day in which the spread of freedom and democracy would expand and enlarge itself from “sea to shining sea.” It was a similar vision that inspired Eero Saarinen to design the Saint Louis Arch, a 630 foot stainless steel masterpiece—which is known as the Gateway to the West. And what an awesome experience it is to look at the horizon through the observation windows at the top of this modern marvel of engineering.

     The arch is a memorial to the spirit of faith and courage the early pioneers embraced when they traveled west seeking a land that offered them the hope of a prosperous new beginning. They weathered a multitude of adversities pursuing their dreams. One group of pioneers made their way across one of the central states to a distant place that had been opened for homesteading. They traveled in covered wagons drawn by oxen, and progress was necessarily slow and difficult. One day they were horrified to note a long line of smoke in the west, stretching for miles across the prairie, and soon it was evident that the dried grass was burning fiercely and the fire was approaching toward them rapidly. They had crossed a river the day before but it would be impossible to go back before the flames would be upon them. One man understood their peril and knew what they had to do. He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them. The settlers set the grass on fire and the flames began racing towards the east at breakneck speed. Hundreds of acres of prairie grass was consumed by the flames in a short time and the whole company moved back upon it. As the flames roared on toward them from the west, a little girl cried out in terror, "Are you sure we shall not all be burned up?" The leader replied, "My child, the flames cannot reach us here, for we are standing where the fire has been!"

     The flames of God’s justice and wrath engulfed Christ as He died on the cross in our place. An innocent and holy offering was given for a guilty and unrighteous people. On Him vengeance fell. The fires of judgment burned themselves out on Him. We are safe in Him. “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving,” writes A.W. Tozer. “It is a self-existent principle inherent in the divine nature … to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under just disapprobation. Its use to us sinful men is to save us and ... to demonstrate to the ages the exceeding riches of God's kindness.”

Conquering Hitler

January 13

 

Everyone can be great because everyone can serve … you only need a heart full of grace … a soul generated by love. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

     One day while volunteering at the hospital I met a lady by the name of Mary, a pleasant and interesting person. After talking to her for a while I said, “You don’t sound as if you’re from this area.” “I’m not from Florida,” she said, “I was born in Poland.” “Were you there during the war,” I asked? “I was thirteen when Hitler invaded my country. All my family was killed except for my father and myself; we were placed in concentration camps.” For three years the young teenager did little more than exist in a city ruled by serial killers. Multiple murders were an everyday occurrence. Her tormentors had an insatiable appetite for blood; the more they killed the more they needed to kill. For three years she lived in fear of her life until being liberated from prison by the Russian Army. She had been starved and was in such bad shape that few thought she would make it. But miraculously she lived and walked out of the hospital in Palestine after eighteen months of treatment. In spite of what she had been through, Mary possessed a tremendous will to live and an intense craving to do something of significance. She overcame the physical trauma of her imprisonment and needed a purpose to help her overcome the mental agony that haunted her daily. So Mary joined the British Army, where she was trained to be a nurse. A few years later her father, who also survived the death camps, found Mary who was then working in a hospital. He was alive indeed and Mary was absolutely overwhelmed with joy at their reunion.

     Mary conquered Hitler’s horror through her faith in God and by giving her life in service to others. She eventually married, came to America, raised her family and worked as a medical professional until her retirement. She personified the words of Albert Schweitzer who proclaimed, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but the one thing I know, the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

     If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me you will find it (Christ). Mary lost her life in a concentration camp and found it again while serving others in need. By serving others she found the purpose of her existence. We are happy and grow only when we are pouring ourselves into empty vessels (Tommy Barnett).

Emma's Torment

January 12

 

A good conscience is to the soul what health is to the body; it preserves constant ease and serenity within us; and more than countervails all the calamities and afflictions which can befall us from without. (Joseph Addison)

     On December 31, 1835 a 22-year-old theology student set sail on a mission with Robert FitzRoy to chart the coast of South America. His father, a prosperous country doctor, opposed this adventure and the young student himself felt that his decision was not the best choice. He later stated in a letter to his father, “This trip will be disreputable to my character as a clergyman.” But he went anyway.

     In 2005 the American Museum of Natural History in New York opened a new exhibit; as a part of this attraction some artifacts of Charles Darwin’s life were on display. Among the relics shown were beetles, fossils and ferns that Darwin collected fanatically and studied obsessively. Included in the collection were his tiny single shot pistol, his magnifying glass, his rock hammer and also the Bible that traveled around the world with him; a reminder that before his voyage he had been preparing for ministry.

     Charles Darwin made a tragic mistake—he betrayed his conscience. Anne Wundwood and William Lee Adams wrote in Newsweek, “Darwin was afflicted throughout his later life with heart palpitations and intestinal stress. It is believed that his mysterious illnesses were the result of a parasite he picked up in South America and as Eldredge believes; anxiety over where his intellectual journey was leading him, and the world.” Emma, his wife, felt he was headed for hell. She was tormented, thinking that she and Charles would spend eternity apart. A legend has grown up that Darwin experienced a deathbed conversion and repented for his life’s work, but his family denies it.

     Newsweek November 28, 2005 reports, “It was apparent to many even in 1860 … that Darwin wasn’t merely contradicting the literal Biblical account of a six day creation, which many educated Englishmen of his time were willing to treat as allegory. His ideas, carried to their logical conclusion, appeared to undercut the very basis of Christianity, if not indeed all theistic religion. Darwin’s ideas of The Origin of the Species go back as far as the 1830’s. But he held off publishing them until 1859, and then only because he learned that a younger scientist, Alfred R. Wallace, had come up with a similar theory.” Darwin took another step in desensitizing his conscience towards God and published the work. Charles Darwin, at the end described himself as an Agnostic; a person who believes that the human mind cannot know whether there is a God or … anything beyond material phenomena. Why did Darwin change? He did not listen to his conscience. Never do anything against conscience … (Albert Einstein).

Making A Miracle

January 11

 

Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self fulfilling prophecy. (Brian Tracy)

     There are times when circumstances evolve in our lives which only a miracle can resolve; and often times the key ingredient for the making of our miracle is desperation.

     Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all (Dale Carnegie). When the doctor says, “There’s nothing more that I can do.” It is desperation that motivates us, causing both men and women to reach outside of themselves to God. All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim; they have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible (Orison S. Marden).

     A dog in desperation will leap over a wall (Chinese Proverb). Often in the routine of our daily lives; it is not necessary that we receive anything more than we have at the moment. But then something happens; we get the phone call, we lose our job, the diagnosis is not good, bad news comes and our world is turned upside down. We can surrender and accept defeat or we can reach outside of ourselves for something bigger than the problem.

     Miracles grow from seeds of desperation. Things will not be easy but one thing is sure; we have to do something; we have to do the best we know how at the moment—if it does not turn out right, we can modify as we go along (Franklin D. Roosevelt). It is imperative that one move forward in the face of weakness, sickness, brokenness, tiredness, loneliness, failure and pain. Don’t dwell on what went wrong; focus on what to do next … spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer (Denis Waitley).

     There is hope even in the bleakest of situations for God is real. He can wash away the wrongdoing from our lives; He can heal every disease of our bodies. Christ can deliver us from every trouble seeking to destroy our being and take away our peace of mind (Oral Roberts).

The Bridge Is Out

January 10

 

One of the ironies of the human being is that when he has lost his way, he travels twice as fast. (Rollo May)

     A local priest and a pastor traveled together down a winding country road to their favorite fishing spot. They had spent many hours there, reeling in the big ones and talking about the things they shared in common as ministers. After unpacking their gear from the car they noticed that something was different—there was an impending danger ahead that others needed to know about. They thoughtfully made a sign saying, “The End Is Near! Turn Yourself Around Now Before It Is Too Late!” One individual passing through the area didn’t appreciate the sign and found their message insulting. He stopped his car and shouted at the ministers, “Why don’t you nuts keep your fanatical opinions to yourselves and leave people alone.” The priest started to say something, but the irate man in the car began shouting obscenities at them, flicked them the finger and sped off down the road cussing. A few seconds later the ministers heard the sound of screeching tires, busting glass, a loud yell and then a big splash. The pastor looked at the priest and said, “You think maybe we should have just said, ‘Bridge Out’ instead?”

     It is the duty of everyone who loves life to listen to what is being said even if it has a way of rubbing us the wrong way. Have you ever crashed because you did not listen to or observe a warning sign? Later you found yourself saying, “I knew that something about this deal wasn’t right and against my better judgment; but I did it anyway.” Alarms go off and danger signs are posted along the highway of life, but we are traveling so fast and become so absorbed with our own self interests; we miss the message—the bridge is out … the bridge is out! None are so deaf as those who won’t hear. The first duty of love is to listen (Paul Tillich).

     Listen to what is going on inside of you—notice what is going on around you. Stop holding on to things that keep you from giving God His proper place in your life. Don’t take everything that comes along … save yourself for the best … get guidance from the Lord, listen to Him, know your call and then stick with it (E. Stanley Jones).

Gripe Gripe Gripe

January 9

 

Don't complain and talk about all your problems—80% of people don't care; the other 20% will think you deserve them. (Mark Twain)

     A cowboy was driving down a country road, listening to his favorite tunes on the radio. His dog was in the bed of his pickup and his faithful horse was in the trailer behind. All was well until he missed a curve. His truck veered off the road and hit soft dirt, causing it to roll over. When the dust settled the cowboy, dog and horse were lying out on the ground near the wreckage, and very seriously hurt. Sometime later, a highway patrol officer came on the scene. He saw the horse lying beside the trailer. Realizing the serious nature of its injuries and not wanting to see it suffer, he drew his 9 mm revolver and put the animal out of its misery. A moment later he found the dog. He couldn't bear to hear the poor beast whine in pain, so he ended the dog's suffering as well. Finally he located the cowboy, who had multiple bone fractures. "Hey, man, are you okay?" the trooper asked the injured man. The cowboy took one look at the smoking revolver the officer held in his hand, and with all the strength he could gather he quickly replied, "I have never felt better in my whole life!" Sometimes we need a little motivation in helping us take the positive road in our journey.

     Griping and complaining is unbecoming and in fact very dangerous to us. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale explains why, “There is a law known as the law of attraction which says that like attracts like, so if you constantly send out negative thoughts you tend to bring back to yourself negative results. The negative person constantly sends out into the world negative thoughts, activating the world around them negatively.” The opposite is true of a positive person. Realize that if you have time to whine and complain about something then you have time to do something about it (Anthony J. D’Angelo).

     Complaint is the highest form of ingratitude we offer to God for His care of us. Overcoming the flesh is difficult but possible, and it is a required course in the school of life that we must pass. He cannot complain of a hard sentence, who is made master of his own fate (Johann Friedrich Von Schiller). We generate negative or positive energy in our lives by what we think and say—so let us take the high road.

Think For A Change

January 8

 

We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. (Max Dupree)

     One day Charlie Brown approached Linus with a question, “Perhaps you can give me an answer, Linus. What would you do if you felt that no one liked you?” Without a moment of hesitation Linus gave his best answer, “I’d try to look at myself objectively, and see what I could do to improve. That’s my answer, Charlie Brown!” Charlie Brown replied, “I hate that answer!” Most of us realize that life could be better if we changed some things, but for some reason we put self improvement last on our list of priorities. We often wait until change is forced on us through divorce, or the loss of a job. Sometimes we wait until our health begins to deteriorate. John Maxwell said, “Two mistakes we make: We wait for God to change our circumstances and we wait for circumstances to change our behavior.

     How can we change our lives and where do we begin? The answer is simple, and yet it is one of the hardest things we will ever undertake. We must “think for a change!” How many of you can hear voices echoing in your mind, possibly those of a parent, teacher or employer; and they are saying, “Why don’t you think for a change!” Tommy Barnett wrote, “You never become something or someone you did not first become in your thoughts. Who you are is a direct result of what you think.” As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Solomon). To change our behavior we must first change our thoughts.

     You are today where your thoughts have brought you and you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you (James Allen). There is a simple answer to the complex problems that trouble us. In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Steven Covey writes, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Our destiny is determined by our thoughts. Why is it so hard to change the way we think? Habits and feelings, along with the negative feedback we have received from others, all contribute towards the difficulty of changing our minds. The Bible connects a change of behavior with a change of mind. Paul declared, “Put off your former conduct … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Life consists of what a man or woman is thinking about all day (Emerson). Want to live a perfect life? Follow the advice of Isaiah the Prophet, “You Lord, will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You.”

Hell Or High Water

January 7

 

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. (Sir Edmund Hillary)

     A young man wanted to be a star journalist but lived in a small town where there was very little hope that his desire would ever be fulfilled. One day the dam upstream broke and the town was flooded. This unfortunate event was an opportunity for him to write a big story and get the break he needed; so he got in a rowboat and headed out. He had not traveled far when he found a lady sitting on her rooftop. He tied up the boat and told her what he was after. They both watched as various items floated by: a tree; a house, a car, a cow; a horse. Finally a red barn came floating by and the lady says, "Now there's a story." "That’s not a story; you expect to see things like that in an event like this." Finally a hat floats by and then does a 180 degree turn, goes upstream a ways and does another 180 degree turn; back and forth the hat moved in the water. The aspiring young reporter says, "Now there's a story." "No, that's not a story; that's my husband Hayford. After putting it off he promised to cut the grass today come hell or high water!”

     In 1979 Joe and Ann Trementozzi were excited about the birth of their third child. But six months into the pregnancy Ann experienced severe complications, forcing the doctors to do an emergency cesarean. Both mother and daughter lingered helplessly between life and death but through the prayers of friends and relatives they survived. Ann made a remarkable recovery but little Beth Ann didn’t do as well; she was mentally handicapped. Joe and Ann were devastated. Nine out of ten couples who face a trial of this magnitude divorce. But their faith in God gave Joe and Ann the courage to pick up the pieces and move forward. They loved and cared for their baby girl and she was the joy of their lives. In the process of time something began to happen in the hearts of the Trementozzi’s. They felt compelled to do their part in helping the fifty eight million handicapped people in America cope. Joe, Ann and Beth Ann are full time missionaries to the handicapped, traveling the country sharing hope, conducting camps and training others with a burden to bring joy into the life of a broken person. They refused to be bitter but allowed their situation to make them better.

     Many people are unhappy today simply because they focus inward and become a package of unhappiness all wrapped up in themselves. No matter what you have been through or are going through; don’t become bitter. Be different; reach out to someone in need. History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed—they won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats (B. C. Forbes).

The Broader Concern

January 6

 

The world is a looking-glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it…will sourly look at you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a … kind companion. (William Thackeray)

     Many today are plagued by the way they think of themselves—some with inferiority and others with superiority thoughts. Actions on each side of the cognitive fence are alike: both seek recognition; they speak when they should be silent and remain silent when they should speak; they believe that only their views are correct; both end up losing friends because of their opinions; both live in denial—some for a lifetime; and both blame everybody but themselves for their problems.

     Those with a superiority complex have an inflated opinion of themselves … it is considered that this attitude is actually a way to hide or compensate for a feeling of inferiority. They are often perceived as arrogant or cocky. Some behaviors related to this mechanism are: exaggerated positive opinion of one’s worth and abilities, projection of their feelings of inferiority onto others, unrealistically high expectations in goals and achievements, the persistent attempt to correct others, vanity, extravagant style in dressing to draw attention, excessive need for competition, snobbishness, a tendency to discredit other’s opinions, forcefulness aimed at dominating those considered as weaker or less important. Persons with an inferiority complex feel less important than others. These feelings often drive individuals, causing them to overcompensate for it with an obsession for spectacular achievement. It also creates a need for social isolation, odd behavior and thinking, unconventional beliefs, excessive seeking for attention, criticism of others, overly dutiful obedience, fear, worry and an advanced state of discouragement.

     One can best deal with either of these complexes by facing facts. “You are neither a worm nor a wonder,” writes E. Stanley Jones. “You are just a bundle of fine possibilities, if developed. You don’t belong either to groveling in the dust or to soaring in the clouds; but you belong to the earth, with your feet on it, and walking straight into tasks that you can do.” The Bible uses the human body to illustrate the fact that all persons are equally important and necessary. God has arranged the [people] parts in the [church] body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…the eye cannot say to the hand that I have no need of you; the head cannot say to the feet that I have no need of you (Apostle Paul). Allow God to help you manage your mind and think of yourself in the way that is best for you to think. Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong; self pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak (John Piper).

The King Of Pop

January 5

 

There is a time to be born and a time to die. (King Solomon)

     After working in the yard Thursday I came inside and began watching television; every news station was announcing that Michael Jackson had collapsed in his house and was being rushed to the hospital. Then while channel surfing, Denise White of My Fox Tampa Bay, said, “Michael Jackson is dead.” Suddenly, it dawned on me—the man many proclaim as the greatest entertainer of the twentieth century died at age fifty. Instantly I was taken back to my sister’s room in the 1970’s. When she was away I’d go into her room and listen to music; of course Rita was a Michael Jackson fan and had two records that I loved: I’ll Be There and ABC.

     A promoter who worked for MJ stated, “When Michael was a boy he acted like a man and as a man he acted like a boy.” Michael can best be described in the early days of his career as a “cool kid” that everyone would love to have as a little brother. He grew and became a great performer; maybe to a level that no other will ever achieve; he knew how to perform but he struggled with how to live. A host of gifted personalities have fought tremendous battles in their personal lives: Elvis Presley, JFK, O.J. Simpson, many many others. But struggling with stardom is not a modern dilemma; it dates back thousands of years.

     King Solomon was the wisest, richest and most popular king on earth in his day. His advice and wisdom was sought by many and his advice was in much demand. Hundreds of millions of people in the last thirty centuries have been inspired by reading his Proverbs. But Solomon’s autobiography is negative. He writes, “I have obtained greatness and increased more than anyone before me. I made my works great. I built houses … acquired male and female servants … I had great possessions … and amassed fortunes … I surrounded myself with singers, and owned musical instruments of all kinds. I became great and excelled more than all who were before me. I did not withhold from my eyes or heart any desirable pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I worked to achieve, everything was meaningless … nothing was gained.”

     Solomon concludes his story by offering this advice, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before trouble comes and the years approach when you will say I find no pleasure in them. Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man. Every deed will be judged; every hidden thing both good and evil.” Clouds and sunshine surrounded MJ’s life; some will remember the clouds; others the sunshine of his gifts; most will remember some of each: but all will remember.

Grab The Rope

January 4

 

How many have thrown up their hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success? (Elbert Hubbard)

     White water rafting down the Nanthahala River in North Carolina was our idea of a fun vacation. A friend owned a cabin in the mountains and made it available to us on occasion. Daniel and Issac, our two oldest boys, loved being on the river but there was a problem; we all had to help take care of baby Erica. We worked out a system so each of us could tackle the Nanthalala. I kept the baby while Nancy and the boys rafted. Mom watched the baby while the boys and I conquered the river. Daniel watched little Erica while Issac, mom and I went down the river. There were a few glitches but the system worked.

     “Nancy,” I yelled as the swift current swept us under the low hanging limbs, “You and Issac have got to paddle harder!” Nancy yelled back, “We’re paddling as hard as we can!” “It’s not enough; you’ve got to do better!” The sound of the thrashing rapids drowned our voices as we yelled at each other. I kept asking the crew to give more; they insisted that there was no more to give. There was nothing else to do except duck.

     “Paddle harder!” I screamed. “We can’t! Nancy yelled back. We fought valiantly but were swept under the trees again. Nancy’s life jacket got tangled in a limb and she was thrown out. Frantically, she battled the freezing current. I was trying to get out of the trees so I could help her. She began to move closer to the raft; I yelled, “Grab the rope! Grab the rope! Grab the rope!” A safety line was attached to the edge of the raft. Nancy thought I was saying, “Get in the boat!” The more I yelled at her the more frustrated she became. We drifted out of the trees and I was able to lean over the side, grab her hand and pull Nancy into the raft.

     After a few minutes of calm we could see more rapids ahead. I shouted, “Paddle! Paddle harder!” My crew found new strength and energy from somewhere inside and we glided down the river without another mishap. It felt as though someone had attached a fifty-horse Evinrude to our craft. Lou Vickery comments on the lesson we learned that day, “Four short words sum up what has lifted most successful individuals above the crowd: a little bit more. They did all that was expected of them and a little bit more.” There is more available than we have touched. Reach for it through relationship with the Lord and don’t sell yourself short. You need not languish in helplessness; let the God of Grace pull you out of the chilly rapids of despair through the power of His great love.

The Orange Button

January 3

 

Hug a police officer. It's the law! (Author Unknown)

     After completing my classes at the International Conference of Police Chaplains, I was afforded the opportunity of riding along with an on-duty Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy.

     The officer that I was assigned to patrolled in the vicinity of Orange Blossom Trail; an area in Orlando known for its strip clubs, prostitution, drugs and gang activity. Officer Rodriquez was Puerto Rican; bright, friendly, dedicated and all business when on the job. He briefed me on what to expect. When we got into his patrol car he said, “I don’t know how you feel about guns but if something happens out there tonight the bad guys are not going to know that you are not a cop. If something happens they may come after you.” He showed me a button that unlocked his shotgun hanging on the wire screen behind my head. “All you have to do is pump it once and pull the trigger.” He also pointed to an orange button. “If I go down,” he instructed, “you push that button and lay low—help will be on the way.” The first call of the evening was a domestic violence incident; we were back-up for another officer. We listened to both sides of the story and stayed on scene until another car arrived. We rode through several neighborhoods monitoring gang graffiti; Officer Rodriquez interpreted the symbols and talked about gang activity in Orlando. A call came over the radio; an officer was in pursuit of a car thief. With lights on and siren blaring we took off. Officer Rodriquez seemed relaxed and confident speeding through traffic but it was a little unnerving for me. The chase ended a few miles away. The culprit abandoned the car and disappeared into a densely populated neighborhood. Several cars arrived on scene and set up a perimeter around the area. A canine unit was dispatched but before the suspect was apprehended we received another call. With siren blaring and lights flashing we arrived at an apartment complex where a man was threatening his family with a gun. He barricaded himself inside his apartment. There must have been a hundred officers on scene. The S.W.A.T. team was there planning strategy and a command site was set up. Every road leading into the complex was blocked. After two hours of negotiation the distraught person surrendered and was taken into custody without incident.

     Back at the hotel I attempted to process my emotions. It was as through I had been in a theme park all evening. Some rides were scary, causing my heart to leap inside my chest; others simply spun me around, giving me a sick feeling inside. But the most impressive part of all was the power connected to one push of an orange button. All the authority of the Sheriff and his department lay at my fingertip; more power than I would ever need in any given situation. In the same way every follower of Christ; every person who is willing to call on the Lord is connected to His power. You are not alone; push the button; call on God in prayer and He will be there for you.

Dress Rehearsal

January 2

 

People receive healing by doing something they believe in and something that gives them hope. (Dr. Bernie Siegel)

     The call was urgent and I rushed to the hospital to pray for an individual who was in very critical condition. This was Mr. Jackson’s second open-heart surgery in eleven years and the doctors were not giving this seventy-three year old much hope. When I visited him in intensive care the urgency of his situation caused me to think, "This may be the last time I ever see him alive so I must make sure he is prepared to face eternity.” “Mr. Clayton,” as I often called him, “if you don’t survive this surgery where will you go?” He gave me an honest reply, “I don’t know.” We prayed together and he accepted Christ as his Savior right there in his hospital bed.

     The next day when I arrived at the hospital the family was in the waiting room. His wife was visibly shaken so I sought to reassure her, "In the face of uncertainty there is nothing wrong with holding on to hope.” I wanted to encourage her to trust God and look to Him. “No one,” I said, “can diagnose a person’s will to live, one’s faith or the mercy of God, so don’t give up." God was prompting me to say these things and I felt confident as I spoke. There were some among the family and friends who thought that I may be creating a false sense of hope for this troubled lady.

     The surgery was successful and he recovered quickly, faster than anyone could have imagined. It was truly a miracle. A few days after he arrived home I sat at my desk and wrote these words to Mr. Jackson, "Illness is simply a dress rehearsal for death, and death is the ultimate end that we must all face. It becomes the channel through which we realize our frailty and the momentary nature of our existence upon this earth. It's a signal or warning given to us by God's mercy, so we can prepare our hearts for the inevitable day when we will depart from the temporary and enter the eternal. Many while preparing to face death find life, and many while preparing for the end discover a new beginning through God's grace and healing power.” Mr. Clayton’s new beginning came when he gave his life to Christ the night before he faced a surgery that few thought he would survive. With God nothing is impossible.

Capture Time

January 1

 

     Capture time for it is slipping away, month and year no possibility of reclaiming life so dear. Evading ones grasp, ever so quick and ever so slow, winds of death erode the body containing the soul.

     Do something that counts; something that lasts long after your memory has faded and you have passed. When like a vapor you fade away, separated from your tomorrow and your today

     Capture time with a song, a poem, words from a pen express love and use it for making friends. Touch others with a story, a book, a painting or rhyme; but don't be guilty of living and leaving nothing behind.

     You can forever live by that which you give. Your emotions, your feelings, your hopes and thoughts; those things you learned, the things which life taught.

     Build a memorial by what you do make a mark on the world, as you pass through. Create something lasting for mankind by taking thought and capturing your time.