Sort Out The Bad

July 31

 

The mind, like the dyer’s hand, is colored by what it holds (Author Unknown)

     David McKay’s words are true, “The greatest battles of life are fought within the silent chambers of the soul.” Peace, happiness, success: the things we cherish most are the result of what goes on inside our minds. Some live in turmoil and a sense of guilt because they do not know how to manage thoughts. They think it is wrong for an impure or unclean idea to pass through their brains. That is not true—we are not responsible for every thought that enters our mind; we are responsible for what we do with them.

     So where do thoughts come from? Some thoughts and ideas come from God, others come from the devil, some come from worldly influence, others from associations and some are produced through fleshly desires that stimulate our thinking. Charles H. Spurgeon said, “You never think a right thought, never do a right act, you never make any advance heavenward except by the grace of God.” If we play with temptation instead of meeting it with a determined resistance, we will eventually succumb to it. Adam and Eve, the first people who failed God, did so because they entertained thoughts that Satan introduced into their thinking. Human beings can alter their lives [for better or worse] by altering their attitudes of mind (James Allen).

     Thoughts not put into action die unborn. The Bible says in James 1:15, “When desire has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Evil deeds are birthed when we accept instead of reject ideas that result in wrongdoing. Associate reverently, as much as you can, with your loftiest thoughts (Henry David Thoreau). There are three enemies we must conquer: the world, the flesh and the devil. Victory over these enemies begins when we reject and ignore every bad deliberation entering our minds. Sort out the bad and let the good pass through. Whatever things are true … noble … just … pure … lovely … of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Need To Need

July 30

 

None of us ever desired anything more ardently than God desires to bring people to a knowledge of himself. (John Tauler )

     If God loves us then why is the world in such a mess? Here is one opinion, “God’s love never imposes itself. It has to be discovered and welcomed.” He has never forced anyone to love or serve Him. We really do have free will. He needs us to need Him. He is omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscience (all knowing) and omni-in-love with us. His devotion runs deep and He is loyal to all who surrender their lives to serve Him. But many things are lost for the want of asking (English Proverb). God is waiting for us to empower Him to move in our behalf.

     Daily, often several times a day, I find myself asking Jesus to help me because I need His influence in my life. I understand that it is impossible for me to honor the Lord unless He empowers me to do so, and that is what He has done.

     Meister Eckhart said, “To stop God from loving me would be to rob him of his Godhead ….” There is something in His being that longs for human companionship. R. T. France said, “God…is a person. As such, he is only known and encountered in a total relationship which involves and affects not only our mind but the life and character as well. To know Him … is everything.”

     T. L. Osborn stated, “When I was young I sought God’s power; when I became older I sought His love; when I found His love I discovered His power.” Our love for the Lord allows Him to do all He desires to do for us. He works in the context of our relationship with Him. Oswald Chambers asks this question, “Have you ever realized that you can give things to God that are of value of Him? You can give ordinary, simple human things—things which would be evidence to Him that you are totally surrendered to Christ. There are times when it seems as if He watches to see if we will give Him even small gifts of surrender, just to show how genuine our love is for Him.” When we give to the Lord what He wants from us—He gives us what we need from Him. Noah Weinberg said, “When you love someone, you get tremendous pleasure in doing things for them—even difficult things. Therefore, your degree of pleasure in doing things for God, indicates how much love … you have achieved for Him. It works in the other direction as well. By performing an act for the sake of God, you can engender the very emotion of love you are trying to acquire.” Our Heavenly Father yearns for our honest and sincere friendship so He can give us the very best of His gifts.

Recovery

July 29

 

Confess you were wrong yesterday; it will show you are wise today. (Proverb)

     What is the protocol for a man or woman who has fallen flat on his or her face? Is it okay to cope with wrongdoing by ignoring or burying our feelings? Should we wallow in self pity like a worm in the dirt or drown our sorrow in work, alcohol consumption, depression, sexual escapades or drug abuse? Can we avoid the responsibility for misbehavior by denying that there are no moral values to which we are accountable? Of course the correct answer to all the above is no, but if we fail to handle our offences properly or ignore them; it is like burying toxic waste; sooner or later it will show up again.

     Admission is the first stage of recovery. Stop living in denial and confess! Do what Augustine recommended, “The confession of an evil work is the first beginning of a good work.” Cleaning a wound is often painful but it is a part of the healing process. Don’t cover up, drown, medicate or deny disobedience. Bring things out in the open. The first of the Twelve Steps made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous declares, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” The old adage stating that confession is good for the soul is psychologically and theologically sound. The Bible says in James 5:16, “Confess your wrongdoing to each other and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”

     Beverly Sills, an American operatic soprano of international fame and the General Director for the New York Opera from 1979 through 1989, became overwhelmed by the pressures of her responsibilities. Being director of the opera took a toll on Beverly and she ballooned into obesity. She writes in Reader’s Digest, "It made me sick to look at myself. I'd reached the point where I didn't have my clothes made anymore. It was too embarrassing. So I ordered everything from catalogues. I was forced to face my problem after waking up one day and realizing I was really ill. I made an appointment to see a specialist and he put me on the scales. They read 215 pounds.” I grumbled saying to the doctor, “I cannot possibly weigh that much!” He said to me, “Please look down. Are those two fat feet on the scale yours or mine?” “My doctor’s blunt honesty caused me to smile and once I accepted the problem, I was on my way to recovery."

     When you’ve been emotionally and spiritually flagged for a blatant infraction of life’s rules do not turn aside or attempt to run from your problem. Lay before the Lord that which is in you, not what ought to be in you (C.S. Lewis).

Change The World

July 28

 

It is a fact; you have not lived a perfect day, even though you have earned your money, unless you have done something for someone who cannot repay you. (Ruth Smeltzer).

     Mr. Underwood, my seventh grade English teacher, placed me in detention for breaking the rules, something that I was in the habit of doing quite frequently. That particular day I happened to be the only one in the afterschool jail, so he seized that opportunity to encourage me to do something with my life. I can still remember what Mr. Underwood said to me,” Son, you’ve surrounded yourself with friends who are going nowhere …. You have the potential to become anything that you desire but you’re wasting your life.” Mr. Underwood cared and was one of the first people to impress me with the idea that I had the ability to do of significance in life.

     Everyone needs someone to believe in them. Ann Sullivan introduced Helen Keller, the little blind and deaf girl, to sign language and changed her life forever. While in prison for preaching the Gospel, the Apostle Paul shared his faith with a run away slave named Onesimus, and this slave became a follower of Christ. Paul writes, “While here in jail, I’ve fathered a child, so to speak. And here he is, hand carrying this letter to you Philemon. He was useless to you before; now he’s useful to both of us.” Paul rescued Onesimus, the convict, and he was given a second chance at life through faith. It is a kingly task; believe me, to help the afflicted (Ovid).

     To believe in God is our first duty—not to believe in Him is our chief sin (John Stott). Jesus said to the father of a demon possessed boy (Mark 9:23), “If you can believe, all things are possible.” Norman Vincent Peale said, “To learn to believe is of primary importance. It is the basic factor of succeeding in any undertaking.” Faith removes any and all restraints that hinder God from having His way in our lives. Every promise, prophecy, encouraging word and command in the Scriptures are written for the purpose of helping us to have faith in God and love for others. Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have (Margaret Mead).

Be The Horsy

July 27

 

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied (Jonathan Edwards)

     When I get home from work, I am often met at the door by Erica, my 7-year-old daughter, and Johnny, my 3-year-old son. Usually the first words out of their mouths are, “Be the horsy Daddy, be the horsy.” Thus begins a romp through the house as dad, the bucking bouncing bronco, enjoys playing with the children.

     Late one evening when it was time for Johnny to retire for the night, he insisted that I get on my hands and knees and ride him to his room. We took off down the hallway and arrived at his bed. The horsy being a little rowdy that evening decided to buck Johnny off onto his soft mattress. With one fast motion the horsy reared up and Johnny went flying off his back. Most of his body landed on target but his head went sideways, hitting the corner of the sharp marble window sill. He screamed and I immediately grabbed him. Warm blood began to fill my hand. Our rodeo career came to end after a trip to the emergency room and six staples in Jonathan’s head.

     God desires that we learn to enjoy and crave His presence just like young children want and take pleasure in attention from their parents. He take great delight in being with us. Jesus said in John 15:5-7, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing … but if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted.” All effort at attempting to please Lord by works alone are futile and useless. The practice of loving God is the first priority of faith. William Temple said, “Knowledge of God can be fully given to people only in a person, never in a doctrine. Faith is not the holding of correct doctrine, but personal fellowship with the living God.”

     When we walk with the Lord He transforms us day by day into that which we are capable of becoming in Him. He or she, who leans only upon Christ, lives the highest, choicest, safest, and sweetest life (Thomas Brooks). When you sense that the Lord is dealing with you or drawing near to you; or if you hear Him speaking to your heart, simply say to Him, “My Father God, be the horsy and carry me through this life in the way that I should go.”

The Right Way

July 26

 

Since we are a holy portion, let us accomplish all that pertains to holiness; fleeing from slander, vile and impure embraces, drunkenness and rebellion and filthylusts, detestable adultery and foul arrogance. (Clement of Rome)

     There is only way to live and that is the right way. Some feel that attention to specific detail is trivial, so they rush forward in ignorance. They say things like, “God knows my heart and that is what matters.” Nobody is more dangerous than the person who images him or herself pure in heart (James Baldwin). Our motive may be untainted, but if we fail to develop spiritual discipline we will make a mess of all we touch. An event occurring in King David’s life illustrates this precept. The King’s first official act of national significance after becoming Israel’s ruler was relocating the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Building a temple in Jerusalem was one of David’s lifelong passions. He eloquently expressed this desire in one of his Psalms, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His holy temple.”

     While the king’s servants were transporting the sacred Ark to the Holy City, a terrible tragedy occurred. The details of the event are recorded in 2 Samuel 6:6-7, “When the men arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah because of his irreverence, and God struck him dead because of this.” Why was Uzzah judged so harshly for touching the Ark, he was simply following orders and doing what the king instructed? He broke God’s law which the prophet Moses gave regarding the proper handling of the Temple furnishings. Pure motive is not a good substitute for obedience to law. Hosea the prophet declared, “People are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” The ancient Roman maxim is still true today, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

     A demonstration of godly living is the crying need of our day (Duncan Campbell). David did not instruct the priests to carry the ark on their shoulders in accordance with God’s Law in Exodus 25. This terrible and unnecessary catastrophe could have been averted. David became angry with God because of this horrible tragedy, for which he was responsible. He took the Ark and placed it in the care of Obed Edom. Obed Edom’s life was wonderfully blessed because he was careful to honor the Law of Moses. When God and his glory are made our end … the beauty of God will, by degrees, enter upon our soul (Stephen Charnock).

New Hope

July 25

 

The best people in the estate of grace would be in darkness, and call their estate into question, if the Holy Spirit did not convince them, and answer all objections for them—therefore we must not only be convinced at first by the Spirit, but in our continued course of faith. (Richard Sibbes)

     Have you ever wavered in your faith or misaligned your spiritual priorities? Have you ever lost sight of the hope contained in God’s Word? Peter and John, two of Christ’s most dedicated and loyal followers did just that. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus on the eve of His crucifixion they, along with the other nine, abandoned him. They ran out into the darkness and the next day these men witnessed his death. Three days later Peter and John visited the Lord’s burial chamber. Upon arriving at the cave they noticed the stone covering the entrance had been removed. Peter went in and saw the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. The Scriptures declare (John 20:8), John also went inside, saw and believed.” For until then they did not understand the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Suddenly, Peter and John got it, they understood what Christ had been teaching them all along.

     Later in the evening, at the close of a difficult and tumultuous day, Jesus appeared and spoke to His bewildered followers (John 20:22), "Peace be with you. As God the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” They were born again in that instant and filled with a new hope. Christ had walked with them but now He had taken up residence in their souls through the person of the Holy Spirit. One of His promises was fulfilled that evening (John 7:37-39), "He who believes in Me … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water … this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.” Christ deposited His life in them and began living His life through them.

     It requires much more than a sheer determination or steadfast resolve to live for God. The disciples swore they would die with Christ but in a moment of weakness they fled and forsook the Lord. Kathryn Kuhlman said, “The Holy Spirit is the secret of the power in my life. All I have to do is surrender myself to Him.” It is not our ability that matters but the power of the Lord that works in us. We can’t do it ourselves, we can’t live for Christ by determining to do so—Jesus is the only one who can live His life through us. Our satisfaction lies in submission to the divine embrace (Jan Van Ruysbroeck).

Grow Up

July 24

 

There is nothing that is more dangerous to your own salvation, more unworthy of God and more harmful to your own happiness than that you should be content to remain as you are (F. Fenelon)

     Jerry dreaded the trip back to North Carolina because he did not want his relatives, especially his grandmother, who was deathly sick to see how “messed up” he had become. Jerry was smoking constantly, drinking and eating compulsively—so much that he weighed more than three hundred pounds. The one thing he hated more than having his grandmother see him so far removed from the biblical precepts she had tried to instill in him was discovering that he had to ride back to the airport with Uncle Herbert. This arrogant, sanctimonious, self-made man, who tried to make up for his lack of education with a large bank account, loved to boast of his accomplishments.

     On the ride to the airport his know-it-all-uncle started an inquisition. “Son, why have you quit the ministry, picked up these habits and, why are you so darn depressed? Though Jerry did not think it would do any good; he attempted to enlighten this country bumpkin of the woes that people face in the real world today. After succinctly explaining how the excessive abuse of his childhood and the recent failure in ministry had devastated his life; Jerry was sure the fog surrounding his uncle’s dim mind would dissipate and cause him to be understanding of his desperate plight. He was shocked when Uncle Herbert dared say to him, “Boy, what you need to do is grow up.”

     The rest of the trip was quiet … except for that resounding comment Herbert had made. The words “boy you need to grow up” kept going over and over in Jerry’s head. The strange thing was that he continued to reflect over the saying—not just on the flight home, but throughout the next few years. Though he continually tried to analyze and understand his troubles through modern philosophies, he finally concluded that the best way to deal with his situation was “grow up.” He quit smoking, changed his eating habits, began to work out, lost weight but most importantly rededicated his life to Christ. Now when the dysfunctional ghost of years past appears, he hears these words echoing in his heart, “Boy, what you need to do is grow up.” Jerry learned to make growing up a daily part of his life and not allow troubles to decide his destiny. Sometimes all we need is a simple word given in love to jump-start us into the growth potential that is ours through faith. Augustine said, “What you are must always displease you, if you would attain that which you are not.”

Sooner Or Later

July 23

 

Growth is the only evidence of life. (J. H. Newman)

     Parents delight in caring for their children when they are able to care for themselves. As a father of six I’ve experienced the joys of being a parent, rejoicing when we brought our babies home from the hospital, when they said their first word, when they were potty trained, learned to tie their shoes and dress themselves. It was exciting and scary watching our kids grow, but what a delight it was when they successfully took their first positive step towards maturity and independence. Change is a part of life, a part of growing up.

     Some tension is necessary for the soul to develop … (Joan Borysenko). Even Christ had to deal with growing pains. When He was just a baby; Herod attempted to kill Him. God warned Joseph in a dream about the king’s evil intention, so he and Mary took the child and escaped into Egypt. They lived there for some years. When it was time for Jesus to begin His public ministry; He left his home in Nazareth and went into the wilderness. There he fasted for forty days and was tempted by the Prince of Darkness. He overcame the enemy and then traveled to Galilee where He taught the multitudes, healed the sick, cast out demons and preached saying, “Truly I say to you, that unless you put away your sins and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of God.” Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered. In this way, God qualified Him as a perfect High Priest, and He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him (Hebrews).

     Every believer, sooner or later, will arrive at a place in their spiritual journey where God isn’t doing things for them like He once did. Just like our parents expected us to grow up in the natural; God expects us to grow up spiritually, believe His Word and live by faith. We understand this fact when it comes to life in general, but many struggle in applying this principle to their spiritual lives. Learning to walk in the Spirit is challenging and we often fall down. But if we don’t grow, we are not really living (Gail Sheeby). Hannah W. Smith writes, “The mother eagle teaches her little ones to fly by making their nest so uncomfortable that they are forced to leave it and commit themselves to the unknown world of air outside. And so does our God to us.” He will not do for you and me the things He has empowered us to do for ourselves. Follow His instructions (1 Peter 2:2), “Like newborn babies, you must crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation.”

A Tangled Web

July 22

 

Those who are given to white lies soon become color blind. (Author Unknown)

     Lying has become conveniently fashionable in our world today, and many feel the only thing wrong with lying is getting caught. “How do you know if a politician is lying,” we often joke, “look at his or her lips—if their lips are moving they are lying.” But even though lying is tolerated, expected and often accepted in our modern society it is detrimental to our well being. Lies destroy trust. Those who lie cannot be trusted. Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold (Solomon).

     He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual … this falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions (Thomas Jefferson). Lying has unintended consequences as King Ahab, Israel’s wickedly infamous leader, discovered. The Lord was considering a plan on how best to deal with Ahab when an evil spirit stood before Him and said, “I will persuade him.” The Lord asked, “In what way?” “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” “You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.” If you are speaking, doing or living anything other than the truth—you are exposing yourself to the influence and intent of the kingdom of darkness. A lie is a snowball: the further you roll it, the bigger it becomes (Martin Luther).

     Half-truth is not whole truth—it is deceit. Anything aimed at making someone believe an untruth is a lie. A little lie is like a little pregnancy—it doesn’t take long before everyone knows (C. S. Lewis). Stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body (Apostle Paul). Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive (Sir Walter Scott). You must not testify falsely against your neighbor (The Ninth Commandment).

     Karl Strader, one of my first mentors said, “Honesty is not the best policy, it is the only policy.” So when in doubt, tell the truth (Mark Twain).

A Divine Patriot

July 21

 

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. (Arthur Ashe)

     Pat Tillman excelled in both athletics and academics. In 1994 he attended Arizona State University on a football scholarship as a linebacker. His team went undefeated that season and made it to the Rose Bowl. In 1998 Pat was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals into the National Football League and started ten of sixteen games in his rookie season. At one point in his career he turned down a five-year nine million dollar contract from the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the Cardinals. Sports Illustrated writer, Paul Zimmerman, named Pat to his 2000 NFL All-Pro team after Tillman ended the year with 155 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 9 pass deflections and 1 interception for 30 yards. In May of 2002, eight months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center; Pat turned down a contract offer of 3.6 million dollars over three years from the Cardinals because he wanted to enlist in the Army.

     On April 22, 2004, Pat was killed while fighting in Afghanistan. He was the first professional football player to die in combat since 1970 when Bob Kalsu, a former Buffalo Bills player, was killed in Viet Nam.

     J. Andrews declared, “Heroes waste their deaths on us.” But Pat Tillman, and thousands and thousands of patriots, who willing faced death on the battlefield, felt that the sacrifice of their lives was not a waste if given for the good of the country they loved. Long before Pat died in combat, there was a man who offered his life for a cause He esteemed to be bigger than life. Christ, the Son of God, left heaven to offer Himself as a sacrifice for you and me. God loved this world so much that He gave His one and only Son, the Lord Jesus, so that everyone who believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. One writer proclaimed, “The chosen heroes of this earth have been in a minority. There is not a social, political, or religious privilege that you enjoy today that was not bought for you by the blood and tears and patient suffering of the minority. It is the minority that have stood in every moral conflict, and achieved all that is noble in the history of the world.” Pat Tillman is an American hero and patriot; Jesus Christ the universal hero of heroes, a loving and divine patriot.

Change

July 20

 

Bad beliefs make bad behavior. (Warren A. Candler)

     Lucy and Linus, characters from the Peanuts’ comic strip, were playing together when out of the blue Lucy asked, “Do you think people ever really change?” “Sure, I feel I have changed a lot this past year.” “But I meant for the better.”

     There are some in the 21st century, prominent educators, theologians and psychologists who feel that change for most is improbable, and very likely impossible for a great majority. These experts seal the fate and bind people to a genetic destiny they believe is unchangeable and irreversible. But no matter how things appear, there is hope for all because the power of belief is greater than our emotional and so called genetic disposition. Faith is an active force (J. H. Oldham).

     Change is possible! Christ, the world’s greatest teacher declared, “You must be born again.” Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus, an influential religious leader who came to him at night. He witnessed the wonderful things happening through Christ’s ministry: the sick were healed, demons were cast out, people were raised from the dead and supernatural wonders were done among the masses. Nicodemus said to Christ, “No one can do the things you do except through the power of God.” “That is true, but no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he or she is born of the Spirit?” Twice the Lord emphasized in his dialogue with Nicodemus the necessity of spiritual birth.

     What did the Teacher mean when He said you must be born again? The Greek word translated “again” can also be rendered “from above”. In order to enter God’s Kingdom one must experience a birth from above—a spiritual birth. Conversion is a deep work, a heart work; it goes throughout the individual, throughout the mind and throughout ones entire life (Joseph Alleine).

     The need for a change of heart is the central theme of all that Christ taught. Everyone needs to be saved from self, however great, however illustrious the person … we are all wrongdoers born with a stained and inherently flawed nature (M. Lloyd Jones). Jesus said (Matthew 11:28 Amplified Bible), “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ( … and recreation) for your souls.” In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are (Max Depree).

God Created What?

July 19

 

God is the author of the author of wrongdoing, but He cannot be the author of sin itself, for sin is the result of a rebellion against God and even the Almighty cannot rebel against Himself? (E.J. Carnell)

     Once, while ministering at the jail, one of the inmates asked, "Did God create evil?" A group of guys in his cell had been debating the issue. Sides had been taken over the question and one individual named Chris argued, "The Bible says that God created evil." Those on the other side of the issue said, "God is holy and did not create evil. God cannot be holy and evil at the same time." They brought the question to me, and after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that both sides were right.

     The Scripture says in Isaiah 45:3-7 (NKJV), "I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity [the KJV says evil]; I the Lord, do all these things." God really did create evil by creating the creator of evil—Lucifer the devil.

     Somewhere in time, before God created humanity, Satan rebelled against the Lord (Isaiah 14:12-16; Ezekiel 28:11-15). The moment he stepped out of God’s presence in disobedience, evil consumed him. The prophet Ezekiel wrote (28:15), “You [Lucifer] were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.” Satan became evil personified and gave it a voice, a mind, and legs and hands. Lucifer conceived sin through rebellion.

     According to Isaiah, God is responsible for the existence of evil. But God did not invent adultery, witchcraft, child molestation and all kinds of sexual perversion! Humanity was created in the image of God—perfect and flawless. People chose wrongdoing. Rick Warren said, “God allowed evil; He did so to provide a choice.” Should God be blamed for the wicked deeds of His people? We do not hold the parents responsible for the criminal acts of their children. And God should not be held responsible for the evil acts of His children either. James, Christ’s brother said, "Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning." God is a good God and He cannot do wrong. The devil is a bad devil and he cannot do right. Wrongdoing and sin were conceived through rebellion.

     God demonstrated His love for us and assumed the responsibility for our sin. He sent Jesus to make atonement for us. God offered Himself for our sins in the person of Christ. The Lord formed evil by creating Satan and by creating us with the capacity to choose. But God also provided a way out for those who are willing to walk in relationship with Him.

Thought Life

July 18

 

The deceit, the lie of the devil consists of this, that he wishes to make us believe that we can live without God’s Word. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

     There is nothing in the Bible that causes us to believe that Satan, the Prince of Darkness, can read our minds. He does not know what is going on inside our brains, but we must be careful because he does have the ability to influence our thinking. We are not responsible for every thought we think, but we are responsible for what we do with every thought we think. C. S. Lewis said, “The enemy will not see you vanish into God’s company without an effort to reclaim you.” He attacks us where we are most vulnerable—in our head.

     Lucifer, the fallen angel, understands the thought and behavior patterns of people because he has been deceiving them for thousands of years. He knows our passions and our tendencies towards compromise. The Apostle Paul said, “We must demolish every argument, imagination and pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” Take control of your thoughts and refuse to allow your thoughts to take control of you.

     How we handle thoughts determines the way we live. The Apostle Peter received a great revelation from God and Jesus said to him (Matthew 16:17), “Blessed are you, Simon … for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Not long after Peter received this great disclosure, Christ began speak of His death. Peter rebuked Jesus, “No way Lord, nothing like this can happen to you!” Jesus sharply reprimanded him, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Peter’s thinking had been influenced by the Prince of Darkness.

     We are spirit beings, acting as receivers for those things transmitted from the spirit world by God Himself, and also from the enemy of our souls. Remember that many evil thoughts are transmitted from Satan’s spiritual broadcasting station. Stinking thinking is a byproduct of our fleshly nature and our soul is dyed the color of its leisure thoughts (W.R. Inge). Paul writes in Ephesians 2:2-3, “You once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience, among whom also we once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Consider that Lucifer does not sleep, but seeks our ruin in a thousand ways (Angela Merici).

Thief In The Night

July 17

 

In all matters we should hope and pray for the best; nevertheless, we should be prepared for the worst. (Martin Luther)

     It was a hot summer night in Florida so my wife and I decided to sleep in the coolest part of the house; directly under the window air conditioning unit in the living room. Suddenly, a deafening explosion reverberated through the darkness, waking us. Nancy screamed, "Oh my God, Danny! What was that?" I envisioned a maniac shooting down our door and entering the house. Being scared beyond measure, I put my hand over Nancy’s mouth and said, "Shut up, someone is in here!"

     A deadly silence settled over the dwelling. My heart was pounding as I got up, crept silently into the kitchen, got a large butcher knife and began making my way towards the bedrooms where I believed the murderer had gone. As I entered the foyer area from where the “shotgun” blast had come, I thought it strange that there was no visible damage to our front door. Tightly clutching the knife, I stood there looking around trying to figure out what was happening. Something was not right. A ray of light was shining through the window in the door and resting upon my ten-speed bicycle parked in the foyer. Cautiously, I moved towards the bike and felt of the back tire that I had inflated earlier in the afternoon. It was flat!

     With a sigh of relief I clicked on the light and went into the living room. My wife had disappeared. Standing beside the sofa I called out, "Nancy, everything is O.K." She stuck her head out from under the couch and said, "Are you sure?" Somehow she had managed to stuff herself under the sofa. The look on her face and the effort it required to get her out from that hiding place was almost as funny as the blast had been alarming. As I helped her up she said, "Who shot at us?"

     One day humanity will be stunned by the coming of Jesus. The Apostle Paul’s prophesy states that Christ will return to the earth like a thief in the night. A trumpet blast will sound, the graves of the Lord’s deceased followers will burst open, their souls that now abide in God’s presence will be given a new and glorious body. Those who are alive when Jesus returns will be changed in a moment; in an instant; in the twinkling of an eye; they will be taken—mortals will instantly become immortal (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-53). It will happen suddenly and without warning—just like the explosion which woke us up in the middle of the night. Jesus may come at morning, He may come at night or noon—but get ready for one thing is certain, He is coming soon!

Don't Blame God

July 16

 

Guilt is one of the cements that binds us together and keeps us human. If it occurs to you that you’ve done something to injure someone else, guilt compels you to do something to fix it, to repair the bond. (Dr. Helen Block Lewis)

     Bob was blown off his ship, the USS Nevada in the battle of Okinawa during World War II. A Japanese suicide bomber crashed his plane on the deck of his ship; the force of the explosion flung Bob into the chilly water below. The sailors who pulled his limp body from the sea assumed that he was dead and placed him in a line with those killed in the blast. As Bob began to regain consciousness, one of the medics noticed that he was moving and immediately began giving him medical treatment. He came within an inch of death but somehow survived. Soon thereafter he was taken to a makeshift hospital on an island in Japan and there things went from bad to worse. He was exposed to the radiation from the atomic bombs that were dropped on Okinawa and Hiroshima.

     After a few weeks he was transported to the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital in California. A minister and veteran of WWI, Jerry Smith, visited the hospital regularly. He had lost his leg in the war and had a tender spot in his heart for those who had been injured in combat. He went from bed to bed talking with the men about their relationship with God and praying for each one. Jerry visited Bob; but he was not the least bit friendly, and certainly not receptive to the message Jerry tried to share with him. He had become cold and calloused.

     In spite of Bob’s resistance Jerry continued to visit him. One day when the wounded warrior was in a very bad mood, the one legged preacher showed up, talking about the love of God. Motivated by his own agony Bob lashed out saying, "What kind of a God would allow men to suffer like this?" Jerry Smith, a man acquainted with anguish, understood Bob’s anger and said, "Bob, don't blame God—blame sin." Like a dagger those words penetrated the darkness of Bob’s broken heart and shined into his conscience like the noonday sun. Suddenly he realized that God was not to blame for what he was going through—people motivated by greed and hate were responsible for war. Those five words changed Bob and his attitude towards the Lord. He realized that God was the cure of human ill—not the cause. Bob became a Christian and eventually became a minister of the Gospel.

     Wrongdoing, rebellion and disobedience are the root causes of all the suffering we experience in life. Sin brought pain into the perfect world God created for humanity. God didn't send His son Jesus into the world to condemn us. He sent Jesus into the world to save us (John 3:17). Don't Blame God—He is the cure—Blame Sin the cause.

Friends

July 15

 

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

     We are all uniquely different. Psychologists have a word for our “uniquenesses”—those things which makes us—us “idiosyncrasies”. We are all different and our challenge is not to allow ourselves to be divided because of our unique differences. Every positive and negative we experience by interacting with people is to be handled as a tool for growth. James, Christ’s brother said, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Problems occur as we interact with others but the benefits far exceed the liabilities.

     Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods (Aristotle). Jesus said (Matthew 5:23-24), “So if you are presenting a gift at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” It is impossible for one to be right with the Lord and wrong with people. Others may choose to be at odds with us, but we are not afforded the luxury of being at odds with them. Bitterness is always fatal. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble (Hebrews).

     Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together (Woodrow Wilson). We need people. Those who trash a relationship instead of attempting to fix it; hoping to form another that they believe will be better, usually ends up trading one set of problems for a different set of the same kind. Faces and names may change, but until the root of the problem is fixed our history will become our future. Nature has no love for solitude, and always leans, as it were, on some support; and the sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship (Cicero).

     Euripides the Greek playwright said, “One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.” Practice the golden rule—do to others what you want others to do to you—and you will never want for true friendship. If a man or woman does not make new acquaintances as he or she advances through life, they will soon find themselves left alone. Keep your friendships in constant repair (Samuel Johnson).

Give Yourself Away

July 14

 

I am convinced that, after all, the one thing that is most worth living for —and dying for, if need be—is the opportunity of making some one else more happy and more useful. (Booker T. Washington)

     Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ, wrestled with the idea of servant leadership. At the start, not one of the twelve Apostles understood what Jesus meant when He said (Matthew 20:26), "Whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant." E. Stanley Jones paraphrases Christ’s words, “Life … is made for positive contribution and for outgoing love. The one who loves not lives not; and the one who loves most, lives most.”

     Do not worry about holding a high position; worry rather about playing your proper role (Confucius). Judas, unlike the others, never got that message. He allowed an evil influence to stroke his desire for greatness. His love for Christ waned as he began using Jesus. The enemies of the Lord sought to kill Jesus and needed an ally to help them. Judas stepped forward and sold his faith in God for thirty pieces of silver. Poisoned by a desire for power, Iscariot sided with those who hated the Lord and led a band of soldiers to Him (John 18:3).

     Judas believed that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and faithfully served Him for a time. Wrongdoing separated Judas from Christ and desensitized him to truth. He sacrificed his eternal security on an altar of greed. You will never get what you want from life through self indulgence. As someone has said, “When I dig a man or woman out of trouble the hole which is left behind is the grave where I bury my own sorrow.” Jesus taught us to manage the appetite of self (self-fulfillment, self-gratification, self-realization) by giving ourselves away. If we exalt ourselves we will be humbled and if we humble ourselves we will be exalted.

Divine Recipe

July 13

 

Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles. (George Bernard Shaw)

     Faith does not deny the facts surrounding our adversity; it simply acknowledges that all things are possible with God. There was a lady mentioned in the Bible whose husband died. She was in debt and her creditors were threatening to take everything she owned, including her children—she was in desperate need. The widow approached Elisha the prophet, the man who had mentored her deceased husband in ministry, and informed him of her plight (2 Kings 4:1). He listened to her story and asked a simple question, “What do you have in your house?” The only thing she possessed of value was a small container of oil. But, the value of her oil was nothing when compared to the need she was facing. The Lord spoke to Elisha, giving him specific instructions for what the widow was to do. God was prepared to give her a miracle if she was willing to obey His command. Miss Widow followed Elisha’s instructions and God supernaturally multiplied the oil, enough to sell and pay her debt. And what was true yesterday is still true today; nothing is impossible with God.

     So is there a formula, a divine recipe, causing the power of God to work in our behalf when we encounter an insurmountable challenge in life? Jim Rohn said, “I have found that if you want a miracle you first need to do whatever it is you can do—if that's to plant, then plant; if it is to read, then read; if it is to change, then change; if it is to study, then study; if it is to work, then work; whatever you have to do. And then you will be well on your way of doing the labor that works miracles.” God simply asked the frightened widow to make available to Him the only thing that she possessed which He could use to make a miracle for her.

     It is important that we use a point of contact, something which we do that causes us to release our faith in the Lord. For the widow it was bringing her request to the prophet Elisha. God has prepared great things for us but we must seek them. There are no miracles for those that have no faith in them (French Proverb). We tend to think we must do something spectacular before God will respond, but most often it’s something simple that He requires of us. The Apostle Peter loaned Christ his boat and received the greatest miracle of his life. Hannah made a vow to God and received a son. Do something that the Lord can bless and transform into a miracle. The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out exploits (Daniel the prophet).

The Heat Of Day

July 12

 

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

     Everyone faces crushing circumstances. We will, if we live long enough, encounter seasons in life where things and relationships that once afforded us security will vanish and disappear. People, as well as things, will become like a morning cloud or early dew, dissolving and disappearing in the heat of day. During these times we will be tempted, if we allow ourselves, to grope in the darkness of uncertainty. So when you face a devastating adversity, and find yourself adrift in the storm, keep in mind the words of Shelly Long, “If you don't quit, and don't cheat, and don't run home when trouble arrives, you can only win.”

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

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

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

Marshall's Hope

July 11

 

Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door. (Emily Dickinson)

     Marshall Hammond was a gunman on a B-17 Bomber, an aircraft known as the War Horse in World War 2. While on a raid his plane was hit by enemy fire. Marshall barely managed in the mayhem of the moment to grab a parachute and jump. Even though he didn’t have time to put it on properly, he miraculously held on and made it safely to the ground. Unfortunately, he landed in the middle of a German patrol and was captured. He was imprisoned at the infamous Nazi prison camp—Stalag 13. There in that wretched place he suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

     Many in that concentration camp believed they would soon be rescued by the Allied Forces so they refused to use the razors or write home. Marshall hoped for the best but prepared for the worse. When his comrades threw their razors and postcards in the trash, he got them out and wrote to everyone whose address he knew. Encouraging letters trickled in.

     He worked out, shaved, wrote cards and did everything possible to maintain a hopeful attitude in a seemingly hopeless situation. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. As the Allied Forces began to gain momentum in the war the Nazis announced, “All prisoners here are being moved. You will take with you only what you can carry and the rest you will burn. Prepare yourselves for a long and hard march.” As the flames consumed the meager possessions of the captives suddenly, three American soldiers who couldn’t take the torment another second, leaped into the flames and perished.

     Marshall began to walk. His daily workout paid off, and even though the march was hard and difficult, he remained mentally and physically strong. Not only was he able to march to Berlin, he helped two fellow soldiers who had fallen and were unable to continue the journey in their own strength. A few days after Marshall completed the death march he was freed. The image of those three men walking into the fire was forever etched in his mind. If only they would have held on for a while longer. He was so thankful that he had prepared himself for the uncertainties he faced. So when the dark clouds prevent the sun from shining into your life, don’t ever give up; do the very best with that which is at your disposal. Once you choose hope, anything is possible (Christopher Reeves).

Miles Away

July 10

 

I no longer believe that God is up there, and I do not believe that God is only within me, and I do not believe that He is merely out there in history. I think we are actually in God at all times (Sister Madonna Kolbenschlag)

     While serving at our first Pastorate, my family and I, lived in a tiny apartment on the second floor of our church building. Our residence was cramped and did not afford any space for our boys, Daniel and Issac, to play, but right outside the front door of our den was the fellowship hall where they found plenty of room to practice their antics.

     There was a period of time, while living at the church, that Nancy worked part time, Daniel, our first grader, was in school and our three year old son, Issac, stayed at home with me. Usually, when Nancy left for work, I would go downstairs to study and pray. Around nine o’clock Issac would wake up, come downstairs to the auditorium, carrying his blanket and one or two of his favorite toys. Sometimes two of his imaginary friends, Barbecue and Ketchup, would accompany him to the sanctuary. Many times he showed up while I was praying and each time he’d ask the same question, “Whaaa’r ya doin, daddy?” “I’m praying son.” Do you want to pray and talk to Jesus with daddy?” Sometimes he seemed eager to join me, and at other times I had to coach him. I’d put him on my shoulders and we’d walk around in the sanctuary as I led in prayer, “Dear Jesus, I love you.” He would repeat, “Dear Jesus, I wub ya.” We would pray together until he became restless and wanted down.

     Periodically, God hides His manifest presence from us for a brief moment, testing our faith and ability to depend on Him even when we don’t feel that He is near us. The Lord tested Hezeziah the king (2 Chronicles 32:31), “God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.” Every believer has experienced those moments when it seems that God is a million miles away, but even in the times when we don’t feel Him—He is as close to us as our breath.

     When you feel all alone, come to God; bring your blanket and toys with you. He has been listening all the while and will take you up in His omnipotent arms. God will nurture you with His love. The Lord is near to those who call on Him, to all who call upon Him in truth (David the Psalmist). Charles C. West made an unusual statement, “We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them.” Remind yourself during a trial, when God is shaking the foundations of your devotion to Him, that our relationship with Him is founded on faith and not feeling alone.

Somehow Someway

July 9

 

The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you whatthe real smallness of your greatness is. (Phillip Brooks)

     In the early years of my spiritual life I faced so many obstacles that seemed for the moment insurmountable. During those times, when the pressures of life were overwhelming, I coined a positive affirmation that helped me focus on the answer and not the problem. And today I still find myself saying, “Somehow, someway by some set of supernatural circumstances and by some miracle means I am going to make it.”

     Over 2500 years ago the Assyrians, the Egyptians and then the Babylonians invaded Israel through a succession of attacks and completely destroyed the nation. Most of the Jews were taken out of their homeland and displaced. They were afforded very little hope of ever returning to the Promised Land or retaining their identity as a people. The future looked bleak and dim. The prophet Isaiah, long before these tragic events occurred, a message of hope for the exiles (Isaiah 37:31), “The remnant who have escaped ... shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.” Israel would somehow, someway, by some supernatural set of circumstances and by some miracle means survive this horrendous ordeal.

     No matter what happens, if we focus on our faith in God, we will overcome. The world is becoming more hostile towards the faith community. Our values and virtues are being scorned. What used to be right is wrong and what used to be wrong is now right. But in spite of the attacks believers will take root downward and bear fruit upward. Jesus said (John 12:24), “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Victory is certain in every situation, no matter how challenging, when we surrender our lives to God and humble ourselves before Him.

     T.L. Osborn, one of the great missionary evangelists of the twentieth century said, “We won’t have a faith problem if we know what to look at.” If you focus on the problem and lose sight of your faith you will fail. Therefore, humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you at just the right time (The Apostle Peter). True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us (Tryon Edwards). Jesus said to the Pharisees who trusted in their self-righteousness (Matthew 23:12), "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Good News

July 8

 

My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror. (W. Somerset Maugham)

     From beginning to end the Bible deals with the issue of homosexuality. The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities who made the practice of homosexuality popular in their culture (Genesis 19:1-29). But before we jump on a band wagon and declare how horrible homosexuality is, let us remember that God also judged the rebellious insurrection of Korah with a similar weight of severity (Numbers 16:1-32). Let us be honest and thoughtful, not only did the ground open up and swallow the insurrectionists, God destroyed those Israelites who complained, murmured and grumbled because of the hardships they faced in their journey through the wilderness (Numbers 11:1-2; 14:1-45; 16:1-31). There is some truth in the factious statement Lynn Lavner made, “The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision.”

     All unrighteousness is sin, and sin by its very nature is self destructive. Billy Graham writes, “God loves homosexuals as much as anyone else. I think homosexuality is a sin, but no greater than idolatry or adultery. In my judgment, it’s not that big.” The Apostle Paul declared (Message Bible), “Moral guidance and counsel need to be given …. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the law code isn’t primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, life, sex, truth, whatever!”

     Adam and Eve sinned, but God did not change His attitude towards them. They changed their attitude towards God. Wrongdoing desensitizes us against the things of God—against God Himself. God loves the homosexual as much as He loves the heterosexual. The good news about homosexuality—it is not a genetic curse, an unconquerable stigma, or a problem that cannot be resolved. Just like rebellion, drug addiction, alcoholism, lying, stealing, gossip—homosexuality can be forgiven, forsaken and healed through a relationship with Christ. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived neither fornicators … adulterers … homosexuals … or the covetous, drunkards … thieves … extortioners … will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (Paul).

Secret Of Power

July 7

 

To make intercession for men and women is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them. (John Calvin)

     God gets angry once in a while, but across a lifetime there is only love (King Solomon). The Lord delivered the Jews from four hundred years of Egyptian bondage through a series of mighty miracles which Moses initiated in their behalf. The Lord blessed them with riches and supernaturally supplied food and water for them in the desert wilderness. Not just that, He gave them two visible signs—at night a magnificent pillar of fire hovered over their camp and in the day light hours a brilliant cloud of God’s glory. God loved the Jews and showed them great things like no other people alive on the planet had ever seen. But they were indignant and disrespectful, repaying His kindness with grumbling and complaining. Moses wrote (Numbers 11:1-2), “The people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. His anger blazed against them, and He sent a fire to … destroy some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then they screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the Lord, the fire stopped.”

     The most underutilized source of spiritual power … today is intercession (Peter Wagner) Moses changed the destiny of a nation through prayer, and it would do us much good today if we continually remind ourselves often that prayer is still the secret of supernatural power. The Bible would read differently today if Moses had failed to pray for the Jews. Ezekiel speaking on the Lord’s behalf said, “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one. So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

     It is our duty as believers is to identify ourselves with God’s interests in other lives (Oswald Chambers). Israel had trouble adjusting to freedom. They struggled and continually wrestled with their feelings. Some blamed God for their troubles and pointed an accusing finger at Him (Numbers 11:20 Paraphrase), “We wish that we had never listened to You.” But Moses stood in the gap for them and prayed earnestly. God answered Moses’ prayer in behalf of the people and they did eventually make it to the Promised Land. And today, in the 21st century the Jews are once again living in Israel which is a testimony to the power of prayer and love of God.

Wing Power

July 6

 

The hardships, trials and obstacles of life that one encounters on the road to fortune, are positive blessings … they knit the muscles more firmly … peril is the element in which power is developed. (William Matthews)

     Difficulty, considered by most a culprit and nuisance, rarely appears on our guest list of acquaintances we want to accompany us on our journey through life. Without fail this unwanted intruder shows up demanding that we give him our undivided attention, and no sooner does he arrive than we wish him gone. But obstacles are the fate of all: the lowly and the mighty; the rich and the poor; the good and the bad; the young and the old.

     A keeper of bees observed how nature reveals an important truth regarding life’s impediments. The beekeeper explains, “The queen bee lays her eggs in a cubicle of six-sided cells. These tiny compartments are filled with enough pollen and honey for the inhabitant to feed on until it reaches a certain stage of maturity. After the eggs are all in place each cell is sealed with a capsule of wax. When the occupants have exhausted their supply of nourishment, the time has come for the tiny creatures to be released from confinement. The young bees wrestle, struggle, fight and strain to get through that wax seal. In the agony of exit the bees rub off the membrane encasing their wings. When they finally emerge, the buzzing little creatures are able to fly!” Every strong bee in a hive faces adversity early in their lives. The beekeeper talked about an unusual event that occurred in one of his bee colonies, “On one occasion a moth got into one of my hives and devoured the wax coating serving as a door for the cells. As a result, the young bees crawled out without any effort or trouble, but they couldn't fly—they had no “wing power”. Soon the mature insects, seeing the pitiful, unproductive state of the new arrivals, instinctively proceeded to sting them to death.”

     Carl Jung the Swiss psychiatrist declared, “The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering.” Do not congratulate yourself on having an easy time with no hardships or difficulties to bear. God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering (Augustine of Hippo).Unless we experience the ups and downs of life; we will lose our ability to cope and perish miserably in the dust of defeat. Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things (Henry Ward Beecher).

Criminal Rating

July 5

 

All our lauded technological progress—our very civilization—is like The axe in the hand of the pathological criminal. (Albert Einstein)

     Bernie Madoff, that money hungry crook who swindled fifty billion dollars from trusting investors, will possibly go down in history as the second biggest thief among modern day white collar criminals; the first of course being procrastination who is the greatest thief of all time.

     But no bandit can match the criminal rating my son gave to the kid who stole his dream. Daniel became obsessed with BMX bicycles, and of course, he wanted a very expensive one. And as we were placing his gift in the van; he was getting the proverbial parental lecture, “This bike is all the present you are going to receive for the rest of your life so take good care of it.” But it did prove to be a good investment and we were very smart parents for buying it.

     One afternoon Daniel and his friend decided to take a BMX break, devour tons of food and play video games inside. After filling their tanks they ventured back outside to ride but their bikes were nowhere to be found. We began searching, driving through several neighborhoods and finally spotted a group of kids riding in the parking lot of an apartment complex. My son spotted his bike so I confronted the rider, ‘Hey, that bike you’re riding was stolen from my house this afternoon.” He denied the accusation. We called the police but in the meantime a crowd gathered, siding against me. Lying and stealing are next door neighbors and I was outnumbered. The police officers tried to use good judgment but it was difficult in the mayhem that followed to make a good call. They did allow me to take the bike home, but what we got back wasn’t exactly what was stolen. We retrieved a whole bike but only the frame was my sons; those kids were operating a junior chop shop, exchanging parts from one stolen ride to another. The hands of law enforcement were tied but mine were not. Late that night I took a trip to the chop shop. I parked down the street and made my way through a couple of yards to their storehouse of plunder, grabbed a frame and made my way back to the car undetected. The mission was a success and except for a couple of rims we were in good shape.

     Greater than Bernie Madoff, or the bike thieves, is the thief of all thieves. The criminal who stole the heart of humanity; Lucifer, the infamous angel who deceived Adam and Eve, causing them to believe they were capable of managing their own destiny. Nothing has proven to be farther from the truth; one look at the world is evidence of their error. War, corruption, murder, hatred, crime, perversion, terrorism, ethnic cleaning, and weapons of mass destruction bear witness to the fact that without God we are lost. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I am come that you might have life (Jesus Christ).

A Capital Offense

July 4

 

If the guilt of sin is so great that nothing can satisfy it but the blood of Jesus; and the filth of sin is so great that nothing can fetch out the stain but the blood of Jesus, how great, how heinous, how sinful must the evil of sin be. (William Bridge)

     Are all sins the same, is there a difference? Many feel that transgression is transgression and that in God’s system of justice He makes no distinction in regards to the violation of His law. So what does the Bible, our final authority on all spiritual matters, teach about this controversial and much debated issue? The Old Testament Scriptures speak of two different types of transgression (Numbers 15:22-31), unintentiona l and presumptuous. The unintentional offense was one of ignorance or oversight, which happened when people yielded to the weakness of their flesh. Those who sinned unintentionally were commanded to repent, offer sacrifices and receive forgiveness.

    Presumptuous sin was a willful act of defiance committed knowingly, deliberately and openly in rebellion against God. The penalty for presumptuous wrongdoing was death; no means of grace or forgiveness was offered (Numbers 15:30-31). It was a capital offense. The New Testament follows the pattern outlined in the Old Testament (1 John 5:16), “If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it.”

    The pattern and principal regarding sin’s consequences did not change with the times or Testaments. If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of ... fiery indignation (Hebrews 10:25-26). The Apostle John declared, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” James, the Lord’s brother writes, “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to transgression; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Jesus said, “Every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven … either in this world or in the world to come. Deliberate, willful, intentional, habitual and defiant sin desensitizes us to the presence of God and works death in our spiritual lives. What death is to the body wrongdoing is to the soul, but worse (Jacopone da Todi).

Everybody Goes to Heaven

July 3

 

To sensible men, every day is a day of reckoning (John W. Gardner)

     Everyone is going to heaven even the most infamously wicked will stand on the golden streets of God’s celestial habitation. Notorious characters like Charles Manson, Judas Iscariot, Osama Ben Laden and Hitler will be there. God’s kingdom will host an array of depraved persons from every age of history. So if perverts and righteous people end up at the same place, why should anyone serve the Lord? Why should we resist our inclinations towards temptation and wrongdoing? Why should we listen to our conscience? Why not entertain lust, give ourselves to the pursuit of selfish materialism, become atheists and murderers? Why should we love our neighbor, work hard, provide for our families and be kind to others?

     The answer is simple. Everyone goes to heaven but not everyone stays. Only those whose sins have been purged in the blood of Christ will make heaven their eternal home (John 3:3). All others, whether moral or immoral, will appear at the Great White Throne Judgment—all those who rejected God’s gift of grace. The Apostle John writes in the Apocalypse (Revelation 20:11-15), “I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and hell gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

     A dark despair will overcome those who are sentenced at the White Throne. A punishing self-condemnation will be ignited in people as they are ushered away from God’s presence. They will lose all and any hope for a better tomorrow. The worst torment of eternal separation from God, the most gruesome agony will be the eternal despondency forever smoldering in the hearts of the lost. The horrendous anguish of hell can be avoided. The Abyss was originally prepared for Satan and the fallen angels (Isaiah 5:13-14). It was later enlarged to accommodate those who sinned and rejected grace, those who followed the sinful lusts of their flesh. Jesus called a small child over to him and set the little fellow down among them, and said, “Unless you turn to God from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Deep End

July 2

 

Salvation consists wholly in being saved from ourselves—that which we are by nature. (Andrew Murray)

     At appointed times in an effort to help people understand Him; God will send special messengers to mirror His feelings towards people. A unique and unusual example of this is exemplified through Hosea, a prophet through whom He spoke to Israel. The Lord gave this devoted follower a bizarre and odd command (Hosea 1:2), “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in adultery. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the LORD and worshiping other gods.” Hosea married a lady of the night by the name of Gomer. She was disloyal to her husband and became involved in an affair from the beginning. In the process of time she gave birth to three children, two of them were not Hosea’s. In spite of this fact he loved Gomer and adopted the children as his own.

     Gomer eventually abandoned her husband and became involved in numerous affairs, used person after person, squandered money and eventually was arrested. She was sentenced and placed in a debtor’s prison where she was to remain until restitution was made for all she had stolen. The Lord spoke to Hosea (Hosea 3:1), "Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the LORD still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” Hosea paid her fines and she was released.

     What caused Gomer to go off the deep end of life? The Bible gives a hint. She became addicted to sexual indulgence and alcohol consumption. The party life was more important to her than anything else, even her family. Hosea watched his wife ruin her life and issued a warning for all (Hosea 4:11), “Harlotry (promiscuity), wine and new wine enslave the heart.” Even though Gomer lost touch with reality, God reached out to her in love through Hosea, giving her a chance for a brand new beginning. After Hosea paid Gomer’s debts he said to her, “You are to live with me … you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” Today God is reaching out to people through His Son Jesus, having made Himself visible to all through Christ. Michael Green declared, “The love of God, with arms extended on a cross, bars the way to hell. But if that love is ignored, rejected, and finally refused, there comes a time when love can only weep while people push past into the self-chosen alienation which Christ went to the cross to avert.”

Contend With Horses

July 1

 

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

     Have you ever felt God was unfair? Be honest, because you are not alone. Some of His most loyal followers have wrestled with His judgments. Jeremiah the prophet said to the Lord (Jeremiah 12:1-4), “Lord, you always give me justice … so let me bring you this complaint: Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but you are far from their hearts … drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered. Jeremiah complained because the wicked were living in pleasure while God’s followers were being persecuted and oppressed.

     God did not pacify His servant. He said to him (Jeremiah 12:5), ““If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?” In other words—if you can’t handle what you are going through now what will you do when things get worse? And worse they got. Jeremiah began his ministry under the reign of King Josiah who led Israel in a short-lived awakening (2 Chronicles 34-35). After Josiah’s death Jeremiah suffered terrible persecution at the hand of Judah’s wicked leaders. But the hardships brought about by Josiah’s descendants were small when compared to what he experienced through a rebel leader named Johanan. Johanan kidnapped the prophet, took him to Egypt and killed him there.

     Jeremiah did not understand God’s ways, and even complained at times, but he remained faithful until the end. He personified the words of C. S. Lewis, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” He remained true to the Lord even though at times he questioned Him about the injustice in the world. Either the Lord will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts (Francis el Sales). Tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Apostle Paul). Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it (Helen Keller).