Love Feast

March 31

 

An instant of pure love is more precious to God and the soul, and more profitable to the church, than all other good works together, though it may seem as if nothing were done. (John of the Cross)

     Passover is a time for remembering God’s greatness and for sharing our blessings with one another. The Lord commanded the Israelites, whom He had prospered materially, to share with those in need. It was the will of God that no one, regardless of his or her status in life, be excluded from the sacred Passover ceremony. Moses declared, “Each year, on the tenth day of the first month, make an announcement to all My people …. Each family shall get a lamb, if there is a family that can’t afford one … let them share the lamb with another family in the neighborhood ….” The true meaning of worship depicted in the Feast of Passover has not changed – love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

     The concept of pure religion, derived from the Passover was carried over into New Testament times. The Corinthian church founded by the Apostle Paul, celebrated the Lord’s work of redemption with a Love Feast, but for some odd reason they missed the whole meaning of this sacred observance (1 Corinthians 11:20-21). Initially their motives were pure, but in the process of time they became divided by race and socio-economic status. The affluent prepared lavish meals and feasted together. But the poor, those who could not afford to contribute to the redemption banquet, were not allowed to eat with the more affluent members of the church. Prejudice and selfishness caused a large portion of the Corinthian Church members to violate the love nature of God and they offended the Holy Spirit. Paul rebuked the church for their selfishness and insensitivity to the needs of others. Teresa of Avila comments, “Our Lord does not care so much, for the importance of our works as for the love with which they are done.”

     If we turn inward, caring only for ourselves, our spiritual lives will decay and our faith will count for nothing (James 2:17-20). It was true 3500 years ago and it is true today. Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 11:30), “For this cause [greed and prejudice] many among you are weak and sick, and many are dead.” The nature of love is outgoing; it requires that we give unselfishly. Passover is one of the many reminders from the Lord that we are to prioritize our love for God and be kind to one another. Love one another in truth and purity, as children, impulsively, uncalculatingly (Edward Wilson).

Divine Absence

March 30

 

Love can forbear, and love can forgive but love can never be reconciled to an unlovely object. God can never therefore be reconciled to your sin, because sin itself is incapable of being altered; but God may be reconciled to your person, because that can be restored. (Thomas Traherne)

     Humanity, it seems, wants to keep God at a distance and call the shots until things get out of hand, then and only then, we want Him to help. After the storm passes, we continue in our former role of control and push God back into the shadows of our priorities. This mind set has terrible consequences because God has feelings and there are limits to His patience. The Jews found this to be true. Judges 10:7-14 says, “The anger of the Lord was hot …. You have forsaken Me .... I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you.” God became weary and was no longer willing to accept a one sided relationship. Realizing that they had exceeded the limits of patience Israel prays, “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day.” So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord.

     Is it possible that the God of love can become angry? One writer makes this supposition, “The Wrath of God is not a volcanic eruption of anger from some sort of peeved deity – a kind of cosmic terrible tempered Mr. Bang who indulges in violent uncontrolled displays when human beings do wrong. God’s wrath is simply His moral integrity. When people refuse to serve Him, they create certain conditions that are harmful to them and others. It is God who makes evil result in sorrow, heartache, injustice, and despair. In His moral integrity, He insists that judgment should occur as a result of disobedience.” It is as if God is saying to us, “Face the truth: You were made for Me. If you decide that you don’t want Me, then you will have to bear the consequences.”

     While persistent rebellion brings us face to face with the limits of God’s grace; true repentance restricts His judgment. Judges 10:16 says, “God’s soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” God’s heart is so loving and tender towards His people that He cannot stand to see us suffer. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalms).

The Bible Plan

March 29

 

There is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. (Scott Adams)

     The Bible plan for happy marriages has never failed. Never! Paul declared, “Let each man, without exception, love his wife as his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband – that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him….” Simple? Absolutely not! Exemplifying love and respect consistently is not an easy practice.

     How can couples successfully observe the law of love? It is not complicated but it does require work. How? Just be kind; be kind to one another. Kindness is more than deeds; it is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch … it is anything we do that lifts another person (C. Neil Strait). Lift up others and do not put them down! Far too many couples enter marriage and make the mistake of focusing on what they can get from the union. But working diligently at being thoughtful, one towards the other, is the real key to intimacy in marriage. Mother Teresa said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” Wives need not cry themselves to sleep because their husbands are insensitive, and husbands need not feel alone or misunderstood because their wives are not in tune with their needs. He or she who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and they who plant kindness gather love (Saint Basil). The marriage relationship is like a bank in which we deposit our works and receive dividends. We receive a return on that which we invest.

     Charles Galloway said, “The need to love and be loved is the simplest of all human wants. People need love like they need the sun and the rain. They perish without it. Humanities basic longing is to be the object of love and to be able to give love. No other need is quite so significant to human nature.” Practice love by being kind. You will find, as you look back upon your life, that the moments when you really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love (Harry Drummond). Successful marriage does not consist of perfect people living perfectly by perfect principles. Rather, marriage is a state in which very imperfect people often hurt and humiliate one another, yet find the grace to extend forgiveness to one another, and so allow the redemptive power of God to transform their marriage (Spirit Filled Life Bible). No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted (Aesop).

Spit You Out

March 28

 

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s own self. (Aldous Huxley)

     The ancient church of Laodica was thriving, but they were losing the battle with self. Jesus diagnosed their incapacitating virus and rebuked the people sharply (Revelation 3:17), “You are like lukewarm water; I will spit you out of my mouth! You say ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” This church and its members were basically all wrapped up in themselves. God centered people cannot be self-centered. Tacitus said, “Self-interest is the enemy of all true affection.” You can’t have it both ways; you cannot be selfish and love God at the same time.

     Those who center upon themselves and have their way don’t like their way; they do as they like, and then don’t like what they do; they express themselves, and then find the self that is expressed souring on their hands. And this … doesn’t merely stop with the soul; it extends straight out into the nerves and tissues, and poisons them with disease, functional and structural (Stanley Jones). Self-absorption is a threat to our spiritual health; a cousin to unbelief. King Uzziah prospered under God’s blessing until he became strong. He prioritized himself and his own strength failed him; his life fell apart (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16). Let us not be like him!

     Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Why must we part with our lives? Andrew Murray answers this question, “It is because the feeling, the will and the pleasure part of life is so completely under the power of sin and death that it has to be utterly denied and sacrificed. The self life must be wholly taken away to make room for the God life.” The cross on which we crucify our self-centered ambition is the only ladder high enough to touch heaven in our behalf; there is no smaller package than a person all wrapped up in him or herself (Peter C. Moore). Let us not be like the Laodiceans; prosperous, and addicted to their self-interests.

A Tragic Nightmare

March 27

 

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment (Marcus Aurelius)

     Jeff’s dad was a businessman and his mother a lawyer, good people who liked to unwind after work with a drink or two or three. Jeff was a bright kid so his parents did not panic when they found their middle school boy passed out on floor beside one of their empty booze bottles.

     Jeff excelled academically and graduated from a top-notch college with a degree in engineering. He landed a nice job making great money. He met Rachel, the girl of his dreams, and quit drinking for a while, managing to hide his drinking problem behind prescription drugs.

     This talented and bright young man always managed to dry out before hitting bottom until the day he failed a random drug test and was fired from his job. He was unhappy and depressed; he became so difficult to live with that Rachel was forced to move out. In spite of these setbacks, Jeff was doing well financially through his investments, rentals and consultant work.

     One day he called and asked Rachel to take him to the doctor. He had fallen down the stairs leading to their basement and became pinned against a door. He laid there upside down for eight hours until he finally managed to free himself; it was a close call. “How did you get out of that predicament?” Rachel asked. “I prayed to God and asked Him to help me. I told the Lord that I would stop drinking and taking drugs if He helped me get out of there.”

     Two weeks passed and Rachel stopped by to get some things. The house was cluttered with empty vodka bottles. She picked up one and yelled, “Is this stuff really making you happy?” He flew into a rage, grabbed her around the throat and put a gun to her head. She pleaded, “Jeff, don’t do this. Please don’t kill me …!” He removed the gun from Rachel’s head and pointed it towards his temple and pulled back the hammer. Rachel reacted quickly and slapped the gun from his hand. She was then able to persuade him to sit down, promising to take the weapon to the garage and come back. With her heart pounding, she picked it up, ran away from the house and reported the incident to the police.

     The next day Jeff called and acted as if nothing happened. Rachel questioned him, “Do you even remember what you did yesterday? “Yes, I remember,” he replied without an apology or the least bit of remorse. After that he did not call for days, which was unlike him, so Rachel fearing the worse, called the police. Two officers accompanied her to the house. When she opened the door, her dog darted out. The smell coming from inside was atrocious. With guns drawn the officers entered the dwelling. Rachel heard voices as she stood at the front door. She began to call out, “Jeff! Jeff! It’s me, Rachel, are you all right?” One of the officers replied, “He's not going to answer you."

     Jeff had again fallen while on his way to the basement and landed upside down at the bottom of the stairs, his head pinned against a door. With the weight of his body pressing against him, he asphyxiated and died. The coroner said he was so intoxicated that he was not aware of his predicament. The dog, locked on the stairway for days, survived by eating Jeff’s flesh. The nightmare of this tragedy was not Jeff’s horrible death, but that he allowed a senseless addiction to destroy him at age thirty-two. The Lord answered his prayer the first time, but the inevitable loomed on the horizon because he was not willing to seek help.

Little Things

March 26

 

What makes humility so desirable is the marvelous thing it does to us; it creates in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God. (Monica Baldwin)

     God wants us to become great at doing little things, and little when doing great things. Jesus modeled the life God has called us to live. Although He changed the world; He never set out to do more, or become better than anyone. His whole life was dedicated to pleasing God and being a servant of men. He mastered little things and did not seek great things for Himself. His life personified the words of Helen Keller, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”

     He managed power without being corrupted by the notoriety it brought Him, and He asked nothing in return for His good deeds. He never made a show of Himself, and when the multitudes sought to make Him king of Israel; He refused the honor (John 6:15). He was humble. He was an expert in morality and resisted all temptations towards evil. He practiced perfect obedience and remained poised in God’s presence as he died on the cross.

     He was a man of prayer so when God spoke, Jesus responded immediately; and when Jesus spoke, God responded immediately. His words brought hope to the needy; He associated with the poor and healed people of their diseases. Great men and women of all ages have honored Jesus by obeying His teachings, and multitudes have given their lives for His sake. Jesus Christ literally changed the world through the simple, yet profound truth He lived and taught. He yielded Himself to the Holy Spirit’s strength and gave people a reason to live. As you journey through life do not seek great things; seek to become great at doing the little things that matter. Things like faith and love, which make all the difference in the world. If you and I become proficient in doing little things; the great things will take care of themselves. Always walk in humility and remember what Ben Franklin said, “Humility makes great men twice honorable.”

Not Love Only

March 25

 

Every beauty which is seen here below by persons of perception resemble more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.... (Michelangelo 1475-1564)

     So what is God like? He is a lot like you and you are a lot like Him. He created us in His very own image. So if God is like us; and He is: that means you will never understand Him until you understand you: and you will never understand you until you understand God.

     So what about God being loving? He is! The Apostle John declared, “God is love.” So if He is love, will God judge and discipline people? Of Course! Remember this—God is a God of love but He is also a God of justice.

     My wife and I have four children. We are loving parents. But there are times when we discipline them. Why? Because we love them! You know the old adage, "This hurts me more than it does you." It does hurt when our children rebel and do wrong. It hurts so much that we take appropriate measures to help them make right decisions. History confirms that a balance of love and discipline are effective in deterring harmful behavior in most individuals. Proverbs 20:30 says, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”

     There are some things the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16). Lying and injustice are two. He has feelings. He yearns for relationship with people (Jeremiah 31:20). He is crushed by wrongdoing (Ezekiel 6:9). He chooses not to know some things (Genesis 18:20-23). God is a being with the totality of emotions and feelings He has placed in us. There is no evil, injustice or any kind of prejudice in Him. He loves, He hates, He has desires, He gets disappointed, He gets angry and He has needs. He has not told us everything, just like we don’t tell our children everything. But He has told us enough so we can trust Him. He has sworn to protect those He loves from those who are a threat in the life to come. He created a prison because He is love. We have prisons because they are necessary for the safety of society. Prisons are a reflection of our care for one another—dangerous persons are placed in them for the good of society. God has created an eternal prison for the same reason (Revelation 20:10-15). He loves us enough to protect us. The Lord does not send people to hell—we do that for ourselves by committing spiritual crimes. If you don't want to obey the law of the love of God; you do not have to. But if you can’t do the time—eternal separation from the Lord; do not do the crime. God is love—but He is not love only.

Truth Decay

March 24

 

Everyone may be entitled to his or her own opinion but everyone is not entitled to his or her own truth. Truth is but one. (Doug Groothius)

     Resistance to truth is life’s most tragic compromise. Jerome warns, “The truth has set bounds. But evil and falsehood multiplies without end; and the more these evils are pursued, the more errors they produce.” When we resist or deny truth, we become vulnerable to deception. The part most affected and contaminated by the absence of reality is our conscience. Error dulls and desensitizes our hearts, causing us to lose the ability to think objectively. This occurred in New Testament times, causing Paul to write, “Some … speaking lies in hypocrisy … have seared their own conscience with a hot iron.” The falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions (Thomas Jefferson).

     The Spirit expressly says that in “latter times” some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (Paul). Many churches have abandoned the basic doctrines of Scripture. We’re defining God for ourselves, thinking that whatever we believe is acceptable, if we really believe our belief. We have faith in our faith, even if it is contrary to the plain teachings of God’s Word. Truth does not change, because it is or is not, believed by a majority of the people (Giordano Bruno). Truth is truth and lies are lies.

     We shall not all sleep ... we shall all be changed ... in the twinkling of an eye ... for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible (Paul). Jesus prophesied that He would return to earth for His people. This event, known as the Rapture of the Church or Coming of the Lord, as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven … and the dead in Christ will rise first … then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

     Many believe we are living at the end of time, and yet they fail to accept Christ as Savior. They know truth but fail to embrace it. “If I miss the rapture,” they say, “I’ll offer myself as a martyr during the tribulation.” They feel that when their eternal destiny is at stake, they will do the right thing. Will they? Some will – some won’t. Many of those who resist truth today, will believe a lie tomorrow. Why? The Apostle Paul declared, “Because they did not receive the love of the truth … God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.” Seek truth always because the desire for truth is the desire for God (John Macquarrie).

Biology 101

March 23

 

My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. (God)

     Mr. Mitchell, my eighth grade science teacher, began his lesson for the day, “All energy is directly or indirectly derived from the sun.” Where is he headed with this I wondered? To a test – no doubt! Early in the lecture he introduced the word – photosynthesis. “You will see this word on an exam,” as if we did not know that already, “so I’d take a special interest in it and its meaning.” Science wasn’t my favorite subject, but I did learn a couple of interesting facts that day: all energy comes directly or indirectly from the sun and photosynthesis is the process whereby plants use light to make food for themselves.

     Later in life Mr. Mitchell’s biology lessons helped me understand that faith works in our spiritual lives like photosynthesis works in plant life. Let me explain. God’s Word is living and powerful. Its origin is divine and its content God breathed. When the Word is absorbed into our hearts through study and meditation, “spiritual-synthesis” occurs. The power in God’s precepts become life and nourishment for the inner being. The Holy Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jesus Christ). For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living world of God (the Apostle Peter).Is the Bible credible? Of course! The Bi- ble is reliable because of inspiration. Inspiration is the special influence and power of God’s Holy Spirit upon the minds ... of holy people that qualified and enabled them to make an infallible record of divine truth (Finis Jennings Dake).

     One of my friends, Wayne Friedt says, “It’s easy to be a Christian but it’s hard to die.” What does the struggle of dying to self have to do with plants? This! In order to walk with God we must have a power working in us that is greater than the power working against us. Where does this power come from? God’s Word—the Bible! Jesus said (Matthew 4:4), “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Choice Destiny

March 22

 

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. (William Jennings Bryan)

     The master architect and designer of life, has a good plan for everyone. What a comforting thought! But does God’s plan just happen? No! Edgar A. Guest declared, “The key element that decides our fate is choice. You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal afar or just be contented to stay where you are.” God never forces us to do anything against our will, that is why life is a challenge. The difficulty in life is choice (George Moore).

     We are spiritual beings living in a material world. So guard your heart. Material concerns can, if we make concessions to them, take precedence over spiritual things. Remember that prayer and the Word of God sustains our spiritual lives like food and water sustain our physical bodies.

     Weigh carefully your plans. Give special and prayerful consideration to the things that are going to have a long term impact on you. Remember – choice – not chance determines your destiny (Jean Nidetch). Know the will of God before you make any kind of continuing commitment to anything. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the children of God (Paul). Spiritual failure is inevitable if you plan your life and then try to fit God into your plan. Choosing a career, a marriage partner, or stepping out into a business venture has the potential of affecting your walk with the Lord either for good or bad. When God approves a venture – He will remove all doubt from our hearts and minds about doing it. If you have doubt – wait. If you don’t know – don’t go. If you can control the process of choosing, you can take control of all aspects of your life (Robert F. Bennett). So trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding and He will direct your path (Solomon).

Gratitude Lunch

March 21

 

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy—they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. (Marcel Proust)

     Jermaine Washington and Michelle Stevens met on the job and often shared lunch together. Michelle began having some serious health issues which caused her to miss several days of work. Soon after returning to the job, Michelle and Jermaine went to lunch. She wept through the whole break, telling her coworker about the horrible agony she experienced day in and day out while waiting on the kidney donor list for 11 months. She was being sustained by dialysis, suffering chronic fatigue, blackouts, and excruciating joint pain. Jermaine watched Michelle’s health deteriorate and wanted to help her. He couldn’t stand the thought of watching her die so he decided to make the ultimate sacrifice; he offered to give her one of his kidneys. Although she was elated at the possibility, Michelle could not believe that Jermaine was willing to make such a sacrifice for her. She gave him some time to reconsider, but his mind was made up. After tests confirmed that he could be a donor for her; the surgery was scheduled. It was a textbook operation. Shortly, after surgery, Michelle and Jermaine, who were never more than close friends, began meeting together three times a month for what they call a “gratitude lunch.” And why not? When you’ve got something great to be thankful for, having a “gratitude lunch” is a great way to celebrate. These people personified Thomas Fuller’s declaration, “Gratitude preserves old friendships, and procures new.”

     On the eve of His crucifixion, while celebrating the Passover meal; Jesus broke a piece of bread and said to His followers “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way Jesus took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His people - an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” With these words one of the most sacred ceremonies of the New Testament Church was established. Andrew Blackwood declared, “Communion is a thanksgiving feast. Such is the literal meaning of the original Greek word eucharistia (meaning thanksgiving) from where that stately title, the Eucharist is derived.” “The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of Christ, and especially of His death,” writes Eerdman. “Jesus appointed that the Eucharist should be observed in remembrance of His sufferings as a reminder of all the benefits we have received from Him.” So as often as we participate in this ceremony, this gratitude lunch, let us be thankful to the Lord for His love. Gratitude is the heart’s memory (Massieu).

Under The Influence

March 20

 

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances. (Bruce Barton)

     When you have come to the edge of all that you know and are about to step out into the darkness, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly (Author Unknown). God is never far away from our faith in Him. He provides supernatural strength for the battles we must fight and He also cares for the small necessities that were critical for success. There is no situation too big or little for our Heavenly Father to handle. Mary McLeod Bethune declared, “Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.”

     The heat of battle drains our physical and spiritual vigor. Never is this fact more evident than in the life of Samson, a great leader of the Jews, who almost single handedly delivered them from the oppression of their enemies (Judges 13-16). Even though he was supernaturally empowered to do exploits on the battlefield, he still found it necessary to call on the Lord to renew his strength. In one particular battle this super hero killed a 1000 Philistines and exhausted himself. In a moment of fatigued desperation he prayed (Judges 15:18-19), “Lord, You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?” God responded and miraculously provided water for Samson. As we pour out ourselves in service for the Lord, it is important that we call on Him and become energized through His power. The good fight of faith creates a need in us that only the Lord can supply as we draw close to Him.

     When you have come to the edge of all that you know and are about to step out into the darkness, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly (Author Unknown).

     When you run out of spiritual gas – do not fret – fill up. The Bible says in Ephesians 5: 18, “Do not be drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit.” The Greek word for filled is (play-ro’-o), which means to cram, to make full, to be abundant and overflowing. The word implies a continual and ongoing experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit. An alcoholic must daily come under the influence of alcohol to remain intoxicated. Samson had to call on God to take care of his needs during and after the battles he fought. We must constantly remain under the control of God’s Spirit and live intoxicated with His influence. Nothing is impossible when we seek Him.

     Pamela Reeve said, “Faith is confidence in God’s faithfulness to me in an uncertain world, on an uncharted course, through an unknown future.”

The Real Issue

March 19

 

A bad conscience embitters the sweetest comforts; a good conscience sweetens the bitterest crosses. (Wendell Phillips)

     The real issue with wrongdoing is what it does to us. Karl Barth said, “Let us call sin … the great defiance which turns us again and again into the enemies of God and of our fellowmen, even of our own selves.” Transgression is dangerous because it desensitizes us to good, making us spiritually insensitive. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:1-2, “The Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons … having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” Disobedience affects our conscience in an adverse and negative way. Lying for instance causes us to become calloused towards truth. Samuel Butler said, “Conscience is well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.” Sin desensitizes people making them receptive to deception.

     Obedience has an opposite effect, it stimulates our sensitivities towards God. For they who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Paul). Spiritual people prioritize spiritual things and become responsive to God’s voice. Walk with the Lord and you will begin hearing His still small voice.

     Many feel that iniquity is inevitable and that we should not take transgression seriously. The Apostle said, “No one born or begotten of God: deliberately and knowingly and habitually practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him – His principle of life, the divine sperm remains permanently within him – and he cannot practice sinning because he is born and begotten of God.” We make our consciences, and then our consciences make us. An ignorantly trained con- science is a danger to the world. The conscience is not an infallible guide unless properly trained. It is a capacity within us which decides when a thing is right or wrong, but what it decides as right or wrong is determined by the training we give it. Paul killed people … until his conscience began to be trained under the tutelage of Christ. Then and only then it was a safe guide (Stanley Jones). Serve the Lord and wrongdoing will become repulsive to you. God will satisfy you with good things. Wrongdoing is no respecter of persons; all who become entangled in its sticky web will die.

Defiance

March 18

 

God forgives …on the grounds of an atonement, and the condition of repentance and faith. (Richard Salter Storrson)

     Wrongdoing does not change God’s attitude towards us, it changes our attitude towards Him. When Adam and Eve rebelled in Eden, God did not alter His behavior. As was His practice He came into the garden to spend time with the friends that He loved with His whole being. Sin changed Adam and Eve—they hid. God was there for them but they were not there for Him. This trend continued.

     Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, brought gifts to the Lord. Cain presented grain offerings and Abel gave a lamb. The Lord received Abel’s offering but refused Cain’s. Why? Attitude! God was not willing to receive his gift because he harbored resentment towards his brother. Cain was consumed with envy and jealousy against his brother and eventually, it got the best of him. He committed an act of murder and he killed Abel. God forgave Cain and preserved his life. But he resented the Lord. He refused to take responsibility for his actions. The resentful brother walked away from God and from his family. He decided to govern his life by the rules he wrote for himself. Cain personified E. Stanley Jones definition of sin, “Sin is not a defect – it is a defiance, a defiance that means death to the life of God in us.” Sin is living our lives apart from God.

     That which was is that which is. In spite of His love we have all defied Him; He has loved us in spite of what we have done. Johann Arndt said, “As one drop of water is as compared to the great ocean, so are my sins as compared with God’s incomprehensible grace in Christ.” Nothing you have done, nothing you will ever do, and nothing you are capable of doing will exhaust the mercy of God – if you turn to Him for forgiveness. But let us not forget the words of Brother Roger, “God’s love never imposes itself, it has to be discovered and welcomed.” Many times we reach out and discover the reality of God’s love only after becoming weary of life through frustration, aloneness, lack of purpose and pretense. Stop running and give God a chance to transform you into the wonderful person you can become in Him.

Guilt In Deed

March 17

 

Guilt drags us into the past, and fear pulls us into the future. (Michael Card)

     Every guilty person is his or her own hangman (Seneca). This proved to be true in the lives of ten brothers, the sons of Jacob, who sold their brother Joseph into slavery because they were jealous of him (Genesis 37:26-33). For years these brothers wallowed in guilt, attributing every problem they encountered to their sin. They had difficulty letting go of their tormenting shame even after God wonderfully reunited the family and forgave the brothers of their wrongdoing. If we do not embrace God’s mercy, allowing His grace to temper the haunting memory of our past failures; guilt will follow and destroy our hope for the future.

     From the body of one guilty deed a thousand ghostly fears and haunting thoughts proceed (William Wordsworth). Why do we remember our wrongs, especially when facing trials? Consider this answer. Those periods of distress and shame are not necessarily God’s judgment. More often than not, they pop up to remind us of the absolute necessity of dying to self.

     Guilt, shame, and even self-reproach can be positive if we transform them into good through prayer. Crandall Miller learned this valuable lesson and writes in his book The Cup, “Recently, I was being battered by a wave of condemnation, when suddenly I had a strange feeling – it was if I was in the very presence of God.” I cried to Him, “God please forgive me for those sins back there.” It was as if He answered me, “Son, I don’t understand.” Again I cried, “I’m so sorry for what I did! I hurt people!” He assured me that He didn’t know what I was talking about. On my third try, it was if I could see in my mind God pulling a ledger from a shelf. Flipping through the pages to my name, He looked and showed it to me. The page was perfectly clean. Then God asked this question, “Are you trying to force me to remember what I promised to forget? I told you when I forgave you that I would never remember those sins against you again.” Professor Miller was never the same. Sometimes, strange as it may seem, feeling bad is a stepping stone to feeling good (Dr. Harlan Wechsler). The next time you wrestle with some failure, remember these words from Psalms, “God is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger and great in mercy.”

Lasting Relationships

March 16

 

Success in marriage is much more than finding the right person! It is a matter of being the right person. (Author Unknown)

     With the competent skill of a 21-year-old expert, I began the delicate work of giving my new bride a complete personality lift. She had captured my heart with her virtues but there were a few obvious defects that needed my attention. Stubbornly I embraced her flaws with a persistent determination and began taking her apart. Soon my bride was reduced to a bundle of broken pieces. I was not alone in my endeavors. My wife also had some interesting ideas and began her own remodeling work. We hacked, cut, and tore out that which didn’t fit into our idealistic spouse molds. In just a few years we were one breath short of an autopsy. Through it all we learned: there are two periods in a man and woman’s life when they don’t understand one another – before and after marriage.

     The amount of conflict in a marriage only determines the speed at which the marriage is moving toward greatness or toward destruction (Neil Clark Warren). We didn’t want a divorce so we sought help. We read everything about marriage that was available to us at the time. We really did love each other, but there was something missing in our relationship. Sounds crazy? Maybe we had problems because we were so different. But that wasn’t true: differences can and should become a strength in marriage. We had to learn how to blend our individual identities into a new whole. How? First, we had to stop trying to change one other and focus on changing ourselves. Next, we had to respect each other. Respect is always the first thing lost in a failing relationship. Compatibility in relationship is a by-product of respect and respect is the glue that holds relationships together. How does it work? Husband; make those things that are important to your wife, important to you. Wife, make those things that are important to your husband, important to you. Stop hacking and begin focusing on the good qualities of your mate. Remember it’s hard, almost impossible to love someone you do not respect or admire for something. Don’t forget to do loving things for one another. Peter Lowe said, “Performing acts of love and respect will cultivate feelings of love and respect in you.”

     Don’t focus on negative character traits. Think about what the Apostle Peter said, “Marriage partners, dwell together with understanding and honor one another as being heirs of God’s grace together, in spite of your individual differences or weaknesses, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Be to the virtues of your mate very kind, and be to their faults a little blind (Unknown Author).

Kill Doubt

March 15

 

Every step toward Christ kills doubt. (Theodore L. Cuyler )

     Faith is not the total absence of unbelief; it is the daily resistance of doubt. A certain man brought his demon possessed son to Christ’s disciples so they could cast the devil out of him. Previously they had been successful in casting out evil spirits and healing the sick, but this time they failed. Jesus came upon the scene, took control of the situation and said to the boy’s father, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” In tears the man cried out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and the young man was instantly delivered.

     Like this individual, we have a battle going on in our lives between faith and doubt. It’s a good fight, and one we can win. Faith is like a muscle that grows strong through exercise. George McDonald writes, “A man or woman may be haunted with doubts, and grow in faith. Doubts are … messengers of God … to the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet. Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region previously unknown, unexplored, and unannexed.” Jesus wanted to give His disciples the world but He had to wait until they were ready to receive. In John 16:12 Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you my disciples, but you cannot bear them now.”

     As we walk with Christ our faith increases. To doubt is not sin, but to be contented to remain in doubt when God has provided “many infallible proofs” to cure it, is (Irwin H. Linton). The Lord did not promise to deliver us from trouble, He promised to deliver us out of trouble. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers us from them all. You’re never alone in your walk with Christ. Approach Him and be honest, like the man with the demonized son who said to Christ, “Lord, I believe; now help me to believe more.” Too often we forget that the great men of faith reached the heights they did only by going through the depths of despair (Os Guinness).

Source Of Supply

March 14

 

To hold to God is to rely on the fact that He is there for me, and to live in this certainty. (Karl Barth)

     The Bible records the essence of Christ’s teaching on prayer in what has come to be known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Jesus instructed the disciples to trust God as the source of their supply – day in and day out.

     We have a right, as children of the Lord, to expect that He will fully provide for everything we need. If we have a lack in any area it is because we have been seeking a supply from a source other than the Lord (Kathryn Kuhlman). Jesus never lacked anything in life because He trusted God. Our employers, investments and businesses are only channels through which the Lord works but they are not the source. Oral Roberts writes in The Miracle of Seed Faith, “Jesus looks on a need in the most positive way. To Him a need exists to be met. To Jesus, a need in your life is not something to discourage and make you negative. It is a legitimate claim you have upon His limitless resources to be met in full.” The number of channels through which the Lord works is unlimited, but there is only one source of supply; God our Father.

     Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice (John Burroughs). If God left the task of managing our lives entirely up to us, there wouldn’t be much left for Him after we got through with it.

     Recognize your Heavenly Father as your provider and you will never fail, even under the most difficult of circumstances. When you trust in the Lord and realize that He delivers your daily bread, then no matter what happens you will not be defeated. You can look adversity in the face and know that the answer is bigger than the problem.

     James, the Lord’s brother declared, “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” God is a good God and will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus.

Promises

March 13

 

Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service, without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible. (Mary McLeod Bethune)

     Bruce Barton writes, “Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that some- thing inside them was superior to circumstances.” That something is faith.

     If God has promised it, and you dare believe it; you will have it. Charles Spurgeon described faith as an action based upon a belief and supported by the confidence that God does what He says. He never fails and is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power of His Spirit that works in us.

     When Abraham was 75 years old, and his wife Sarah was 65, the Lord promised to give them a son. Twenty-five years passed and the promise had not been fulfilled. God appeared to Abraham again, reaffirming His intentions. Abraham was now 100 years old and Sarah at 90 had gone through the change of life and could not conceive children. The Lord said, “I will bless Sarah and also give you a son by her.” They laughed at the idea because Sarah had been barren all her life. God rebuked them, “Is anything too hard for the Lord.” Abraham and Sarah received God’s correction and did not waver. They were strengthened in faith and fully convinced that God would fulfill His promise to them. Isaac, the promised miracle, was born because they believed. Miracles are preceded by promises.

     God wants to bless and prosper you. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse ... and prove Me now.” The Lord promises great blessings to those who demonstrate their faith in His ability to supply. He takes care of His own.

     There are numerous examples in the Bible that helps us have confidence in God’s Word. Israel was promised a homeland and Moses led the Jews to that land. Jesus promised to pour out the Holy Spirit on the end time church; it happened on the Day of Pentecost 2000 years ago, and is still happening today. God promises to save us from our sins, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The Scriptures promise an eternal new heaven and new earth for the redeemed. We receive from the Lord by believing that which He has promised to supply.

Promise Power

March 12

 

The acid test of our faith is never found in the easy-going, comfortable ways of life, but in the great emergencies, the times of storm and of stress, the days of adversity, when all human aid fails. (Ethel Bell)

     Ann Wigmore writes in The Sprouting Book, “Seeds are the very core of life. All the energy and life of a plant goes toward making seeds. When air, water, and a suitable temperature are provided, a miracle begins – the seed begins to sprout, and an incredible flow of energy is released.” God created the earth and established the laws governing seed and harvest; these laws mirror the principles that control our spiritual lives. Every promise God has made to us in His Word the Bible is like a seed; a seed that produces after its own kind. Seeds are living embryos (Dr. Angelo Valleriani).

     The Father’s Word in Jesus’ lips accomplished things. It hushed the sea. It quieted the wind. It raised the dead. It fed the multitudes. His Living Word in lips of faith will do the same today (E.W. Kenyon). Every promise of God is a revelation of what He is eager to do for His people (T.L. Osborn). Faith in God’s promises produce miracles.

     God gave His Word so we will know what to believe. It is impossible to please God without faith and it is impossible to have faith without something to believe in. Take a look at how promises work. Right before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave His disciples a commandment, “Wait for the Promise of the Father, which you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” The disciples believed Christ’s words. They sought the Lord and prayed earnestly. Finally, about 10 days later, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. The New Testament church was birthed. The promise produced faith in the hearts of Christ’s followers. They demonstrated their confidence in Christ and sought Him. They were rewarded for their diligence and received a mighty miracle from the Lord. It worked then and it still works today. T.L. Osborn comments, “Faith in God’s word is faith in God. Unbelief in His word is unbelief in God Himself. Our attitude towards God’s word settles everything.”

Element Of Decay

March 11

 

The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is not a problem of physics but of ethics. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil from the spirit of mankind. (Albert Einstein)

     The chaos surrounding our existence on this planet is simply a reflection of people’s hearts today. Because of the godless void that is so much a part of our modern life there is an element of decay in everything that characterizes modern man. The dark side of human nature is being expressed in war, unrest among nations, hatred, greed, terrorism, and racism. Will Rogers said, “You can’t say civilization isn’t advancing; in every way they kill you in a new way.” The thirst for passion, power, and pleasure are pushing humanity towards the brink of self-destruction. The industrial, medical, and information revolutions of the 20th century haven’t made things better – things appear to be getting worse.

     Why does God allow things to continue as they are? People have asked me time and again, “If God is a God of love why does He allow millions of starving children to die and go hungry daily?” Why do people suffer? God isn’t responsible for our atrocities – we are. If the nations of the world used their resources for fighting poverty and disease instead of warring against each other; in a short time this planet would become a heaven on earth. Greed, prejudice, hatred, and inner chaos are responsible for a big part of our suffering today. God gave us the ingenuity and resources to make life good, but we are irresponsibly consuming them. The human race has improved everything except the human race (Adlai Stevenson).

     Satan, who is described in the Bible as the god of this world, is manipulating humanities selfish desires. Genesis speaks of the earth before creation as being without order, dark and empty; a reflection of what we are without God. The Book of Revelation accurately describes our imminent future as we wildly race towards judgment. God will not allow the human race to destroy itself. He has a plan for a new heaven and earth. Repentance and faith in God is our hope; we can escape once and for all the chaotic nature that is plaguing us as human beings. God wills to save and transform our lives through the power of His Holy Spirit. The other alternative is to eternally dwell in a demon world void of godly virtue, grace, and love – that would be hell. God’s Spirit is drawing all who hear His voice. If any man or woman is in Christ all things will become new – even the disorder within our hearts will be transformed through His power.

Licking The Blade

March 10

 

An instant of pure love is more precious to God and the soul, and more profitable to the church, than all other good works together. (John of the Cross)

     The essence of all true religion lies in holy love … and a habitual disposition to it (Jonathan Edwards). A relationship with God is the only pure form of religion – good works and positive attitudes are not enough. Multitudes got close to Christ; touched Him, listened to Him, saw His miracles; then walked away lost and unchanged. Being in His presence is not enough. We are not transformed by merely hearing about God or viewing Him from a distance. We are changed by making room for Christ in our lives. Judas knew Christ, lived with Him and became a devoted member of His inner circle of disciples. Even though he was close to God, Judas Iscariot perished. How could someone be so close and yet fail? Answer: not understanding the true essence of religion. Joseph Cafasso said, “We were born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”

     If we embrace anything other than God’s love for spiritual fulfillment, we will find ourselves licking a frozen blade of deception. What? Okay let me explain this idea with a story I heard Paul Harvey share in one of his famous “The Rest of the Story” commentaries. He described how Eskimos once killed wolves. The process began when a hunter coated a sharp knife with animal blood and froze it. He added another layer and another layer of blood, freezing each deposit until the blade was completely concealed. Next, the hunter fixed his knife in the ground with the blade up. It never failed but some hungry wolf, following his sensitive nose, found his way to the source of the scent. After discovering the bait, he licked the blade and tasted the frozen blood. The taste of blood caused the wolf to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge became bare. Feverishly, harder and harder the wolf licked the blade in the Arctic night. So great was his craving for blood, the wolf didn’t notice the razor sharp sting of the naked blade on his tongue – nor did he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst became satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite craved more and more – until the dawn found him dead in the snow! Let us not be guilty of licking blood from a sharp blade of deception – do not substitute anything, good works or religion, for a relationship with God.

Cat Woman

March 9

 

If you have health, you probably will be happy, and if you have health and happiness, you have all the wealth you need, even if it is not all you want (Elbert Hubbard)

     It was four in the morning and I was gradually being awakened from a deep sleep by an unusual sound coming from somewhere in the bedroom. These weird reverberations became louder and very distinct: meow meow meow. It was definitely a cat but how in the world did it get inside my room. Someone may have left the front door open; could there be a more ominous threat lurking in the darkness of which I should be concerned. The thought occurred to me, “Should I grab my pistol just in case?” No, I wasn’t going to panic just yet. Without moving a muscle I lay there and listened, contemplating a course of action. The meow continued and I concluded that a pesky four legged ball of fur had parked himself outside my window. If I reached up and tapped on the glass maybe fur ball would get the message and move. Just as I was about to take action I turned towards my wife, and there it was: a meow and a deep breath; a meow and a deep breath. Nancy was meowing in her sleep. What should I do; capture the moment on our video camera and share it with her in the morning. But only the Lord knew where the camera might be. Besides she would kill me; even though she is a good sport. So as I lay there smiling and thinking about how to best capture the moment I began to drift off to sleep. The meow—grew fainter and fainter until I heard it no more.

     Usually my wife is as quiet as a mouse in her sleep; I have been known to snore and rattle the windows. But there are logical explanations for why my angel became a Cat Woman. She was extremely exhausted after heading up two major drama productions at church; she also had worked with several people in the cast who became ill during the programs. So a few days before the performances, she began experiencing several symptoms associated with a virus or flu: stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea and fever. So for a night while struggling to breath; she meowed.

     Cicero declared, “Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.” Failing to nurture the inner being through faith in God is the leading cause of sickness and diseases of the soul. Pride, sensuality, bitterness and greed are prominent illnesses and killers. We must nurture both parts of our nature. What food and water is to the physical being; faith and devotion is to the spiritual being. While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us (Ben Franklin).

End Of The End

March 7

 

The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, except our modes of thinking and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. (Albert Einstein)

     All my life I’ve heard it said, “The end of the world is coming!” We have all seen those folks on the road side holding signs, “Repent for the end is near!” Many have talked about a time when the world will be no more, including Pope Gregory the First, “Beloved ladies and gentlemen, realize what is true: this world is in haste and the end approaches: and therefore in the world things go from bad to worse, and so it must of necessity deteriorate greatly on account of the people’s sins before the coming of Antichrist, and indeed it will then be dreadful and terrible throughout the world.”

     Eight hundred years before Christ, Joel the prophet wrote, “In those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations … and I will enter into judgment with them….” Joel looked 2800 years into the future and saw the Jews back in their homeland. The Jews returned to Israel in 1948. According to Joel the end of the end is near.

     About 50 days after Christ’s crucifixion the Apostle Peter announced, “It shall come to pass in the last days, says God, ... I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh.” Peter acknowledged that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early church marked the beginning of the end of time. Today, 2000 years later, we’re now living at the end of the end. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God ... spoke in time past ... by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” The end dawned on the world in Christ’s day. The sun is now setting on the history of the earth. Apostle John proclaimed, “It is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming ... many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” The Apostles believed they lived in the End Times and worked diligently to prepare the hearts of people for Christ’s return.

     “Christ indeed,” Peter declared, “... was manifest in these last times for you.” Peter, one of the Lord’s 12 disciples, believed that Christ’s work on earth marked the beginning of the end. The end of all things is at hand … be serious and watchful in your prayers (Peter).

     God spoke to the prophet Daniel saying (12:4), “Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall in- crease.” Two things the Lord said would be prevalent at the end: travel and technology. Airplanes and computers have changed the world. God told Daniel this would transpire 2500 years before the Wright brothers were born. We’re living at a time, in the history of the world, when God is preparing to fulfill the prophecies given to Daniel, John, the apostles, and the prophets. The world is on a collision course towards self-destruction. The end of the end is upon us and our hope now, as it has always been, is faith in God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Age Old Earth

March 6

 

Age will not be defied. (Francis Bacon)

     Natural disasters are happening more often, and are having an even more dramatic impact on the world in terms of both their human and economic costs. According to the United Nation’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, some 75 percent of the world’s population live in areas that have been affected at least once by either an earthquake, a tropical cyclone, flooding, or drought between 1980 and 2000. In recent times “tsunami” became a word that many of us added to our vocabulary. Andrew, Charlie, and Katrina are names now associated with death and disaster.

     The followers of Christ wondered how long the world was going to last. Jesus’ disciples came to Him with a question, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” He mentioned several things but three that relate to natural disasters, “There will be earthquakes, famines, and pestilences [contagious diseases of pandemic proportions] in various places.”

     One explanation for the increase of calamity in the 21st century has to do with the aging process this planet is going through. Unfortunately, age sneaks up on us unexpectedly, and there is no escaping the fact that we are all growing one year older every 365 days (Laura Cummins). Aging is an on-going process that begins at birth and continues for as long as we live. It involves both the positive component of development and the negative component of decline (merck.com). Paul declared, “The creation will be delivered from the bondage of decay … for we know that the whole creation groans and labors….” Old age is the verdict of life (Amelia Barr). The earth is dying; we are dying daily. We are fading away – moment by moment. But there is hope!

     Robert Browning said, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.” There is life after death. Death is the beginning of eternity for all. Those who have faith in God will live forever with Him. Jesus said, “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me … I am going to prepare a place for you … when everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me.” There is also hope for the earth. In Revelation 21:1 the Bible says, “And I, John saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

Vein Of Insanity

March 5

 

The diseases of the mind are more destructive than those of the body. (Cicero)

     A lady in our congregation was struggling emotionally and found herself in the psychiatric wing of the hospital. I went to see her and during the course of our visit she said to me, “Pastor Dan, my mind is filled with crazy things and I think I am going insane.” She described the thoughts she was thinking. It was amazing but I had thought some of the same thoughts. “Dear Lady,” I said, “there’s a vein of insanity running through each of us. You’re not crazy and the only difference between you and me is that you choose to listen to, and accept the thoughts that I choose to reject and ignore. If I did everything that went through my mind, I’d be a madman.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said, “Casting down imaginations [arguments] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Although we’re not responsible for every thought we think; we are responsible for what we do with every thought we think.

     Why do we have bad thoughts? And why do we think about things we don’t want to think about? We can thank Adam and Eve for that scar. Humanity inherited a corrupt nature from them. Wrongdoing stained the heart of our fore parents. That stain was permanent. They passed it on to the entire human race. This explains the vein of insanity running through our lives. Christian Nevell Bovee spoke the truth, “It is the nature of thought to find its way into action.” Violence and perversion have become a form of entertainment in today’s world – thanks to our nature, violence and perversion find its way into the places where we live. W.R. Inge said, “The soul is dyed the color of its leisure.”

     What is our hope? Change your thoughts and you change your world (Norman Vincent Peale). It all begins right between our ears—our life is what our thoughts make it.

     But if we are going to succeed in our attempt at changing the way we think, we must deal with our nature. The Apostle Paul declared, “If anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation; old things [the thoughts we entertain] have passed away; and all things have become new.” When we accept Jesus as our Savior the Holy Spirit enters our heart and His influence transforms every aspect of our being: our nature, our thoughts, our words and our actions.

To Be Led

March 4

 

The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. (A. W. Tozer)

     One of the big problems we create for ourselves is attempting to plan God around our lives instead of planning our lives around God. So how do we avoid that pitfall? Guidance. We need guidance. E. Stanley Jones said, “If we do not have guidance, then it is probably withheld for one of two reasons: we are untrained, or we are unwilling. Guidance doesn’t just happen. It is a result of placing oneself in the way of being guided. A radio doesn’t just happen to pick up messages; it is tuned in by deliberate intention, and then it receives. Receptivity is necessary to perceptivity – you perceive only as you receive.” You will not hear the Lord if you try to work Him into your plans. Self-interest crowds God out.

     Guidance comes as a result of our fellowship with the Lord. Paul wrote, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” As we spend time with the Lord His peace prevails in our hearts, putting us in a position to hear His voice. I experienced this lesson in a dramatic way many years ago. I was at the church praying about a financial need in my life. I poured out my heart out to the Lord in prayer. The presence of the Holy Spirit fell on me as I prayed in tongues and suddenly these words came into my heart, “To be led by your Spirit is what I pray; to be led by your Spirit every moment of every day; to be led by your Spirit in all I do and say; to be led by your Spirit is what I pray.” The Holy Spirit intervened into this urgent situation with His wisdom. He let me know that I should focus on my walk with Him. As we learn to fellowship with God, He will take care of our needs.

     It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower that draws out the sweet (Thomas Brooks). It is important that we spend time with the Lord and abide in His presence. Guidance does not happen through the brief prayers we utter before drifting off to sleep. Pray without ceasing (Paul). You have nothing to do in life except to live in union with Christ (Rufus Mosely).

Undeceiving Self

March 3

 

Like a good chess player, Satan is always trying to maneuver you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop. (C.S. Lewis)

     Martin Luther made this observation, “The Prince of Darkness seduces us at first by all the allurements of wrongdoing in order thereafter to plunge us into despair. He pampers up the flesh that he may by and by prostrate the spirit.” That’s what happened to mankind in the beginning. Although Adam and Eve, the father and mother of the human race, were not shielded from an encounter with evil – they were adequately prepared to deal with it. They were more than just aware of the awful consequences associated with disobedience to God. They had full authority on earth over everything – including the devil (Genesis 1:26-28). Satan, also known as Lucifer, is one of three angels named in the Bible. He led a rebellion in heaven against the Lord. His revolt gave birth to sin, making him the father of evil and causing him to be banished to the earth. There he was subject to Adam and Eve. They were given the responsibility of keeping him in his place under their feet. Instead of taking charge of Satan, Adam and Eve listened to his lies and sinned. This foolish couple corrupted the human race through their disobedience. So why did God allow these things to happen? That remains a mystery but the words of E.J. Carnell help us to keep a proper perspective in the matter, “God is the author of the author of sin, but he cannot be the author of sin itself – for sin is the result of a rebellion against God. And God can’t rebel against himself?”

     Since the day of humanities rebellion hosts of diabolical demons have sought to destroy everything and anyone close to God. Unfortunately, he has enjoyed some temporary success. The evening news from around the world bears testimony to the fact that he is alive and well on planet earth.

     So what is our hope in the face of the Devil’s foreboding hosts of principalities? Before we can deal with the prince of darkness we must first deal with the central issue. We must address his avenue of influence into our lives. And what is that? Martin Luther says, “Before God can deliver us we must undeceive ourselves.” How? Realize you have a problem. Realize that there is an answer to that problem. And then simply recognize that God is your answer. John Dickie comments, “We have sinned, fearfully sinned, and two things are needed that we may be delivered from it and its consequences – the two things are repentance and faith.” Repentance is admitting that we’ve gone the wrong way and admitting that we need God. When we stop living in denial and acknowledge our need for help, then faith is birthed in our hearts. At that point of sincerity and surrender God’s power begins working in us. The result – freedom from the bondage of transgression. The extra benefit – God gives us victory over the enemy of our souls.

Turn Every Hurt

March 2

 

Someday after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. (Bernie Siegel)

     My Pastor's wife was certainly not off base in expecting great things from her only son. He was an accomplished musician, powerful communicator, and gifted leader. From all outward appearances one would assume he was going to make his mark in the world for the Lord. Everything looked promising until he, for some odd reason, began abusing alcohol. In a short time his body collapsed, and at age 37 he died from illnesses associated with alcoholism. Her world fell apart. In that same year her daughter and son-in-law, who had been struggling in their marriage, divorced. After 20 years of faithful service this son-in-law whom she loved, was out of her life and out of their ministry. She was devastated.

     It took weeks for her to gain the strength and courage to want to live again. She began seeking the Lord and, after what seemed like an eternity, He spoke to her, “Turn your hurt into ministry” Initially, those words seemed trite and insignificant when compared to the intensity of her pain. But as God’s word echoed in her heart a small ray of hope began to shine in the darkness. Sometime later, she met a lady whose only son committed a terrible crime and was sent to prison for life without parole. Her heart went out to this grieving soul. She befriended the woman, then contacted the son and began ministering to him through the mail.

     Hope and strength started to flow. As she began to help this broken mother, my Pastor’s wife found encouragement for herself. She began to rise spiritually and emotionally above the dark cloud of circumstance hanging over her head. The more she helped the more she received help. All over again she began to find a new reason to live.

     Pain is not something anyone should bear alone. Never turn the other cheek to an individual who may be suffering. God moves through the channels of our compassion for one another and heals through love. James 5:16 says (Amplified), Confess to one another therefore your faults – your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins; and pray also for one another, that you may be healed and restored – to a spiritual tone of mind and heart.” The Golden Rule is a healing rule, “Whatever you want others to do to you, do also to them.” You can turn every hurt you experience into ministry by helping others.

Two Caskets

March 1

 

There is nothing about our faith that makes us pain-proof. It does hurt. It does make us cry. And we must dry our eyes and continue our work until our time is finished (Jesse Jackson)

     Two caskets sat side by side in the church sanctuary, surrounded by an array of beautiful flowers. A grave silence rested over the crowd of about 200 people. Family members and friends gathered to honor the memory of this husband and wife. Their lives were abruptly ended by a tragedy. Late one night they had gotten into a terrible argument. In a fit of rage the husband grabbed his gun and fired two shots at his wife as she raced down the hallway for cover. She made it to their bedroom, grabbed a pistol, and fired back. In just a moment of time he lay dead on the living room floor. She sat alone in a state of anguish and despair, contemplating her next action. Not being able to face the pain and humiliation of what had happened – she ended her life with the same gun that ended her husband’s life.

     When first approached about participating in the eulogy, I was terrified. What could I say that would help these hurting people find hope for their pain? The time had come for the service to begin. Even though I had spent much time seeking the Lord for what I should say, I was apprehensive about the message as I walked to the pulpit, “Today in the face of this tragedy we must remind ourselves that God is not the cause of human ill; He is the cure. Many will ask the question – why? Why did this horrible calamity happen? Why did God allow it? Today, the question that we should ask is not why. That answer, especially in light of these grim circumstances, is illusive and speculative, more confusing than enlightening. The question we should ask instead is – what now? What now? My answer for that question may seem too simple when compared to the enormous pain you are feeling. It might even be viewed as trite and offensive, but the answer is Jesus! Where do we go from here? The answer – Jesus! How are we going to make it? Jesus! God is the only one capable of helping you through this.”

     Later at the graveside I said, “Paul tells us to hold on to some things and let go of others. Hold on to your faith in God, your love for these people and the memories you cherish. Let go of any resentment or anger you harbor. It will not help you. If you have any bitterness towards God for what happened, let it go. If you have any bitterness inside towards this couple, let it go. If you have any bitterness in your hearts towards one another, let it go.

     Few people will ever go through this terrible ordeal, but all of us face things or develop habits that are harmful to our wellbeing. Paul said, “Put off … deceitful lusts (or desires) and put on … true righteousness….” Holy living is standard equipment for a believer. God’s power enables us to embrace the good. Wrongdoing is like an untreated cancer in our hearts – it spreads and becomes fatal. Embrace God, He is available to all who call on Him in time of need.