Ills In The Thrills

May 31

 

There is no condom for the heart. (Sign at a sex education conference)

     Hugh Hefner the editor of Playboy Magazine writes, “Sex is a function of the body; a drive that man shares with animals. It's a physical demand that must be satisfied. If you don't satisfy it you will have all sorts of neurosis and repression psychosis. Let's forget the prudery that makes us hide from it. Throw away those inhibitions, find a girl who's like minded and let yourself go.”

     During the sixties free love revolution, I bought into the free love ideology. Sex felt good, it was fun and everyone was doing it—so why be concerned? My lifestyle of “if it feels good do it” did not get the results that the advertisers promised. The unintended consequence of promiscuity is that it steals away an individual’s ability to develop meaningful relationships. Free love is not free; it is a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. If you indulge in this practice you will find yourself feeding the Big Bad Wolf that will eventually eat you up.

     E. Stanley Jones said, “The nature of reality is working against our sex attitudes. We are working under ‘the law of decreasing returns’—we have to put in more to get out a corresponding result. No age ever emphasized sex more than this age has done, or enjoyed sex less. Restraints are gone…. Now that this generation is free to do, as it likes, it finds it doesn’t like what it does. We have gone in for thrills, only to find that ills are in the thrills. We grow sick of our sexual liberties. Why? The nature of reality, which is Christian, is working against our unchristian sex attitudes.” We have Sexually Transmitted Diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis, genital herpes and a host of others that are ravishing our bodies. Our body is designed as to be a dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. Much suffering occurs when we abuse the body’s design.

     Someone wrote once that, “Sex is like a great river that is rich and deep and good as long as it stays within its proper channel. The moment a river overflows its bank, it becomes destructive, and when sex overflows its God given banks, it is destructive.” The Bible says in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Lee Strobel writes, “Follow God’s plan and you’re guaranteed sex without guilt. It’s the real reward for staying within His boundaries. Not only that, but God rewards you with more of Himself. Your relationship with Him grows when you willingly submit to His loving standards grows when you willingly submit to His loving standards.”

Happiness In Marriage

May 30

 

When two people in a marriage are more concerned about getting the … benefits than they are in preserving the relationship that makes them possible, they often become insensitive and inconsiderate, neglecting the little kindnesses and courtesies so important to a deep relationship. They begin to … focus on their own needs …. The love, the richness, the softness and spontaneity begin to deteriorate. (Stephan Covey)

     A couple asked me to perform their wedding and I included these words in their ceremony, “True happiness in marriage comes by giving yourselves, one to the other. Mr. Groom, you must respect your bride by striving to make those things that are important to her, important to you. Miss Bride, you must respect your husband by striving to make those things that are important to him, important to you. The root of all marital evils is selfishness. Mr. Groom, women respect love, so love your bride. Miss Bride, men love respect, so respect your husband.”

     Real success in marriage is achieved through giving. An individual sense of fulfillment is gained in marriage when each partner consummates the union by losing him or herself in satisfying the other. Paul gave some great advice on getting along with others (Philippians 2:3), “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than him or herself.” Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott writes, “With marriage inevitably comes pain. It’s part of the package. And, whenever we are hurt, we usually see ourselves as innocent victims. Someone has done us an injustice, and now we’re left to pick up the pieces. While it’s true we may be victims, we are not helpless victims. We can choose how we’ll respond. We can either choose to be angry and resentful, or we can choose to rise above the negativity, forgive whoever has hurt us and move on.”

     It seems that most individuals enter into matrimony by focusing on what they get from their partner instead of what they can give. Marriages built upon the foundation of selfishness are never happy, and statistics verify the fact that they are seldom lasting. As a general rule, we will get from our partner, exactly what we give them. Marriage is like a bank in which we deposit ourselves and receive benefits from the investment. The stronger we make our partner, the stronger we become; the more we respect our partner, the more respect we receive from our partner; if we make our partner happy, we are made happy by our partner; the more fulfilled we make our partner, the more fulfilled we are through our partner, the more we love our partner; the more our partner loves us.

Desire Gone Haywire

May 29

 

Lust’s passion will be served; it demands, it militates, it tyrannizes. (Marquis de Sade)

     Passion is good when kept within the context of its intended design. Intimacy is an endowment, a godly gift, which the Creator designed for us to enjoy. In the beginning a safe boundary for its expression was established inside a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Sex has enough combustive force to incinerate conscience, vows, family commitments, religious devotion and anything else in its path (Philip Yancey). Many lives have been destroyed because of the inappropriate use of this gift.

     Alicia Barnhart said, “True love never dies; it is lust that fades away. Love bonds for a lifetime but lust pushes away.” What is lust? It is nothing more than a natural desire that has gone haywire—a normal longing that has gotten out of control. The Apostle Paul declared, “Run away for anything that stimulates youthful lust. Instead pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love and peace….” Kahlil Gibran comments, “The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing enters the house as a guest then becomes a host, and then a master.” Sexual addiction is a big problem today. Hollywood may glamorize adultery onscreen, but in real life it provokes pain and a rage sometimes strong enough to drive the wounded party to murder the rival or jump off a bridge (Philip Yancy). So control your passions or your passions will control you. Hell has three gates: lust, anger and greed (Bhagavad Gita).

     Sex is an act of the mind as much as it is an act of the body. Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Pornography is now considered by many experts to be as addictive as drugs, and like other addictions it leads to a need for escalated “doses” and intensity. Herbert W. Case, a former Detroit Michigan detective makes an alarming statement, “There has not been a sex murder in the history of our department in which the killer was not an avid reader of lewd magazines.” Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (Paul). If we do not know ourselves to be full of pride, ambition, lust, weakness, misery, and injustice, we are indeed blind. And if knowing this, we do not desire deliverance, what can we say of a man or of a woman? Sex is a good thing so don’t allow it to get out of hand and become something bad. We would do well to remember the old French proverb which says, “It is easier to abstain than to restrain.”

First Things First

May 28

 

Everything else in life can wait, but the search for God cannot. (Beatle—George Harrison)

     Why do we walk around wanting and not having? More often than not, the reason we fail to receive the best that life has to offer is because we have gotten our priorities out of order. Whatever is at the center of our lives will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power (Stephen Covey). So the secret of all success is to put first things first, last things last and in between things in between.

     Our lives, when compared to forever, are nothing more than a microscopic speck on a line representing eternity. So the man or woman who wants to do well must plan for life and life after death. One of our big problems is that we try to center God around our lives; instead of centering our lives around God. We choose careers, make business deals, marry, form partnerships and arrange our time so that nothing remains for the Lord. We too readily forfeit our spiritual well being for secular concerns. You and I mold, make, and shape our world; then we say to the Lord, “Jesus, bless it all.” We live by what Dr. Thomas Kelly calls straddle arrangements and compromises between our allegiance to the surface level and the Divine Creator. He said, “We are trying to live several selves at once, without all our selves being organized by a single mastering life within us.”

     The tendency of many is to run after a host of desires that parade before our passions. We behave like foolish children running wild in a toy store, ignoring the fact that there is a price tag attached to our wants. Wholesome desire is developed as we nurture our love for the Lord. Brother Lawrence comments, “Nothing can go wrong excepting one thing. That is, that God may slip from my mind if I do not keep on my guard. If He is there, the universe is with me and my task is simple and clear.”

     Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me keep my commandments.” The two great commandments Christ gave: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you do yourself. So withholding just a portion of ourselves from God is a violation of His universal law. Love is the key that unlocks the storehouse of God’s best.

     Charles Spurgeon said, “Those who make God’s glory the one and only aim before which other things bow themselves—they are the ones who bring honor to the Lord.”

Stinky And The Devil

May 27

 

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them. (Epictetus)

     One afternoon an individual called my office and asked for an appointment. He described a most unusual problem, “Sir, I’m demon possessed and when the demons manifest themselves they make me stink.” At first I thought this call was a prank, but after listening to his story I realized he was serious. We set an appointment and I advised him to take a bath, put on cologne, and wear clean clothes to the session.

     He arrived on time and was squeaky clean. He didn’t look anything like I expected. He was a nice looking, well-groomed young man who was articulate, educated, and very confused. Jerry Daniels, a close personal friend in ministry, sat in with us. We asked him questions, listened, and gave advice. He had committed his life to the Lord some years ago but never gained victory over the thoughts plaguing his mind. As we were talking, he suddenly said, “There they are! Do you smell that?” He began to take deep breaths and inhale. “Can’t you smell that?” he asked. But there was no demonic odor for us to smell.

     As the session drew to a close, Jerry had a word of wisdom to share, “Son, you don’t have a possession problem – you have a perception problem. Somewhere along the way you’ve gotten this erroneous idea that Satan is bigger than God.” This confused person perceived that the devil was a wickedly aggressive personality and that God was a timidly passive being. He became a victim of his own confused thinking. George Bernard Shaw gives good advice, “Better keep yourself clean and bright, you are the window through which you must see the world.”

     Casey Treat’s words are true, “The greatest battles are fought in the mind.” We’re not entirely responsible for the thoughts we think but we are totally responsible for what we do with our thoughts. Satan has the ability to influence our thinking if we allow him to do so. He loves to say to us, “If you were really a Christian you would not have done that, said that or acted like that.” If we do not challenge the devil he will eventually have his way in our lives. Every time Satan dares enter your thought life – run him off with God’s Word. Submit yourself to the Lord, resist the devil and he will flee from you (James).

A Greater Yes

May 26

 

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all that I have not seen. (Author Unknown)

     Many have been set aside for a miracle tomorrow who have seemingly been overlooked for a blessing today. We should often remind ourselves that God is extremely attentive to detail. He will not overlook the faith of those who make Him a priority in their lives for it is His delight to reward those who sincerely seek Him.

     An angel said to Zechariah, a priest and relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:13), "Do not be afraid, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” Zachariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a child all their married lives and God did not answer them. They did not realize it when they were younger, but the Lord was preparing them for a unique blessing which would earn this couple a place in world history. Long after it seemed their dream had sunk in the icy waters of impossibility, something supernatural happened—God showed up. They conceived a child when it was absolutely impossible for them to do so and nine months later Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist. It was his ministry that prepared the way for Christ and fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 40:3). God just didn’t give them a son; He gave them John the Baptist. And here is what Jesus said about him, “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.”

     The Apostle Paul offers this encouragement to those who may become impatient in times of trial, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Timing and order are of utmost importance to the work of God. The Bible is filled with examples of the Lord temporarily withholding blessings in order to prepare people for greater things. Our Heavenly Father will at times say no so He can give you and I a greater yes. Julian of Norwich declared, “Some of us believe that God is almighty and can do everything; but that He is all-love and wishes to do everything—there we stop short. It is this ignorance; it seems to me, that hinders us most.” Never give up. Sincerely seek the Lord and believe His promises. Those who faithfully serve God are destined to be the recipients of great things.

The Righteous Jew

May 25

 

All real heroes have one thing in common. They become heroic when they do something with every ounce of their heart and soul that somehow makes a positive difference for someone else. (Brian Biro)

     At the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, on a street lined with olive trees planted in memory of the Gentiles who saved Jewish lives during World War II; I read a tribute written by a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust in honor of the people who rescued those being butchered by Hitler and his assassins.

     Haim Hefer wrote, “I hear the words ‘Righteous Gentile’ and think about the people that hid and sheltered me and I ask if I were in their position would I, adrift in an ocean of hatred, in a world collapsed and aflame, give shelter to a person of another nation? Would my family be willing to live under threat and in constant fear of the hangman, amid the burst of bullets and the piercing of knives, not for one night ... but for years? Never to ask payment from the victims, only a handshake in return. Humanity to a fellow human being ... shows itself in the hour of trial. ‘Righteous Gentiles’ I see them living in the land of the tombs, living in two worlds, the world of the apathetic, of the collaborators, of the murderers and the arsonists, and in the dark world of the helpless and the persecuted. I see them living under the heel of the conqueror. There between fear and heroism, they choose ... to live for the weak, they choose to live in terror of all kinds of horrible punishment and death, risking not only their own lives, but also the lives of their wives and children. They choose to live in the image of God ... they choose to be the last hope of the desperate. In that terrible war each day they fought. They are the righteous ... and for their sake the world was not destroyed. In the history of my murdered and strangled people, living and dead, they were the pillars of mercy and loving kindness which held up the world. Before their heroism, still a puzzle; we the Jews bow our heads in thanks.”

     But there is another tree, planted 2000 years ago in the center of the world, in Jerusalem on a hill called Calvary. A wooden cross was planted in memory of the greatest hero who ever lived. It still blooms throughout the world as a memorial to a Holy God who came as “The Righteous Jew” and gave his life for all (John 3:16-18). I conclude these thoughts with the words of Mr. Hefer, “Before his heroism, still a puzzle, we ... bow our heads in thanks.”

Drunk On Jerusalem

May 24

 

Jerusalem is a festival and a lamentation. Its song is a sigh across the ages, a delicate, robust, mournful psalm at the great junction of spiritual cultures. (David K. Shipler)

     We stood on Mount Carmel, overlooking the Valley of Megiddo or Armageddon as it is commonly called today. Our guide pointed in the direction of Armageddon and asked, “What will cause an army of nations to gather millions and enter this valley with the sole intention of destroying the Jews?” We stood silent as he uttered his one word answer, “Jerusalem.” He quoted Zechariah 12:2 (NKJV), “I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.”

     A couple of days later I met privately with our guide and asked, “What is your perception of the land rights issue, immigration and trouble in Gaza and the West Bank area?” He replied, “The conflict you mention isn’t about land – it’s about survival. We Jews are struggling to exist in a world seeking to destroy us. The whole nation of Israel is smaller than your smallest state. The land area of the hostile nations desiring to destroy us is larger than the United States and Canada combined. We are a small country consisting of just a few million people. The total population of those seeking our demise is close to a billion people. Our enemies have sworn, made oaths and written vows – they will not rest until Israel is annihilated. The conflict for us is survival not land.”

     A few days later we visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. While touring the memorials our guide stopped under an olive tree and asked me to read a tribute written in honor of those Gentile persons who had rescued Jews from Nazi extermination. After I finished reading this moving tribute, David looked at us and said, “Never Again! We will never again lie down and die without fighting.” Israel has vowed to resist to the death any and all efforts designed at forcing them out of their homeland. In 1967, only hours after the Israeli paratroopers burst into the old city of Jerusalem, the Army’s chief rabbi, with tears streaming down his face said, “We have come home, never to be removed again – never!” A multitude of Arab extremists have vowed to fight until every last Jew is dead. An Arab woman is quoted, her voice representing the feelings of many, “The gun is the only way to reach our homeland.” That volatile mix of feeling will one day ignite a flame of destruction, causing God to bring an end to life on earth as we know it today. Revelation 16:14 says, “I saw three unclean demon spirits … go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for the Battle of Armageddon against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty. The night is far spent, the day is at hand – are you ready?”

Multifaceted Spendor

May 23

 

Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. (John F. Kennedy)

     Why are we so different? Why are some people black, others white; why are some brown, and others yellow or red? H.G Wells answers the question, “Our differences are simply a reflection of God’s greatness. We are one and our true nationality is mankind.”

     We are a reflection of the multifaceted greatness and diversity of God. Look at light—it is transparent, and yet composed of an array of distinct colors. When light rays are bent with a prism, several colors become visible to the eye. The splendor of a sunset is created when the earth’s atmosphere bends light rays emanating from the sun. This phenomenon exposes the multiple shades of blue, orange, and red existing in transparent light. God’s glorious majesty and splendor were bent in creation by His love. The Apostle Paul wrote, “In God we live and move and exist … we are His offspring.”

     If God is love and we are His offspring; why is there so much turmoil in the world? The moral, physical, spiritual and social evils plaguing society today are the result of us being out of harmony with the purpose for which we were created. Herman Melville said, “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” Our actions are causes. When we rebelled against our Heavenly Father; disorder was birthed in our hearts and in the world. We became self centered, allowing our differences to divide us. Wrongdoing changed us and disrupted the harmony that was once ours.

     Order, tranquility and peace come when we live in harmony with the eternal principles that govern life. The war that is raging in the human heart will not end without the divine intervention of the One who created us. You may call for peace as loudly as you wish, but where there is no brotherhood there can in the end be no peace (Max Lerner). But there is an answer to our dilemma and it is found in Psalms 103:1-5, “Bless the Lord … never forget His benefits: He forgives all our iniquities; He heals all our diseases. He redeems our lives from destruction; He crowns us with loving kindness and tender mercies; God satisfies our mouths with good things …..” Walk with Him and God will give you a childlike nature, restoring the innocence and love of life that humanity possessed before the great rebellion.

Term Limits

May 22

 

Few things give such quickened and permanent vigor to the soul as a long, exhaustive season of importunate prayer. (E. M. Bounds)

     Very often the first obstacle we encounter in seeking a miracle is not doubt or fleshly weakness, but the Lord Himself. If we cling to a set of preconceived expectations about how God relates to us and forget that He is the one leading us; we’re headed for big trouble spiritually. A Syrian lady from Phoenicia, whose daughter was demon possessed, came seeking a miracle from Jesus. The Bible says in Matthew 15:23, “He answered her not a word.”

     Jesus did not immediately respond to her desperate cry for help. He ignored her. This initial hesitancy of Christ is not necessarily uncharacteristic of the way He deals with us today. We often, in what appears to be a sincere cry of desperation, bring an urgent need to God with demands attached to the need. If God doesn’t respond, when and how we think He is supposed to respond, we give up and walk away from Him. God is not always going to do things like we think and when we think He should do them. God does what is best for us. His promises are reliable.

     We must grow beyond our propensity of attempting to make God act on our terms. It is His will to give us the world, but it must be His way for us and not our way for Him. Adoniram Judson said, “I am persuaded that we are all more deficient in a spirit of prayer than in any other grace. God loves persistent prayer so much that He will not give us much blessing without it. And the reason He loves such prayer is that He loves us and knows that it’s a necessary preparation for our receiving the richest blessings.” The Amplified Bible says of the Syrophecian woman (Mark 7:25-26), “...she flung herself down at His feet ... and kept begging Him....” Begging got her nowhere. In Matthew 15:25 the Bible says, “Then she came and worshipped Him, saying Lord, help me.” Things began to happen when she began worshipping the Lord. Many give up if that which they seek doesn’t ensue immediately. This lady didn’t get a response the first time she approached Jesus, nor the second time or even the third time, but she was determined to persist and receive a yes from the Lord. Prayer is the contest, trial, and victory of faith – a victory not secured from an enemy, but from Him who tries our faith that He may enlarge it; He tests our strength to make us stronger (E.M. Bounds). Her persistence paid off. When your asking leads you to worship then your worship will lead you to a miracle.

Now

May 21

 

The great thing is to be found at one’s post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might remain for another hundred years. (C. S. Lewis)

     This present moment is the only refuge we have from the past and the uncertainties of our future. David declared, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” What our Lord experienced on the cross was done with this intent, and this alone, that He might be with us and that we might be with Him (Meister Eckhart).

     Looking back on the good of our lives can be a healthy and positive experience, but we can’t allow ourselves to live there, savoring by-gone moments. We must move forward. That kind of reflective thinking will prove to be unproductive if we get stuck. As we walk with the Lord the best is always now and ahead. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reminds us, “God is not far away from us. Rather he awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment.”

     One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead (Apostle Paul). Let go of trouble. Only glance at your plights for a moment. Don’t live in the past—learn from it. And don’t cry over spilt milk because you cannot afford the luxury of living under the shadow of yesterday’s misfortunes.

     Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever and He is ever present in the now. Take the best and worst of your experiences and lose them in your walk with the Lord. He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being (Paul). The only perfect moment is that one where God has become its priority. The past and future must be laid aside as a soiled garment so that we can focus on the now. Brother Lawrence said, “Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord. God is always near you and with you; never leave Him alone.”

The Turning Point

May 20

 

All that can be called happy in the life of mankind, is summed up in the state of marriage; that is the center to which all lesser delights of life tend, as a point in the circle. (Daniel Defoe)

     Most of the difficulties we face in marriage are a reflection of the problems we have in dealing with ourselves. Marriage didn’t create the problems—it exposed them. Often I tell struggling partners, "The best thing for you is divorce, not from each other, but from the problems driving you apart. If you divorce without resolving the crisis, you will eventually end up trading one set of difficulties for another.” We cannot run away from ourselves. We must work through our problems or forever be controlled by them.

     My wife and I went through a four years of overwheming marital issues and it appeared as though we were not going to make it. The night before our second separation I wrote, “The enemy has defeated me for some time ... I stand tall and strong for a while but then I fall and fail. My unhappy, unhealthy, and undesirable marriage relationship seems to be the cause. I know the responsibility rests on my shoulders but at this point I see no hope of ever repairing the situation. Tonight I end a chapter of life ... the greatest mistake I've ever made—marriage." The next morning I left. The enemy I battled most was attitude.

     More than anything I wanted to share life with someone who loved me. I had been blessed with a wife and son, but I couldn’t make it work. Knowing that at least half the problem was me, I determined to work on my half and end fifty percent of the struggle. I made a quality decision to do whatever was necessary to make our marriage work. We had spent years preparing for a career but did not know how to love and respect each other. “Dear God,” I prayed, "I will change if you will help me. I will do my part in making this marriage successful.” It wasn’t easy but with time I began to change—we changed together. The turning point came when we realized what we wanted and became willing to work at making it happen. Selfishness is the root of all marital evils. William Tyndale comments, “Marriage was ordained for the man to help the woman and the woman to help the man, with all love and kindness.”

Presence First

May 19

 

The privilege of fellowship with God is infinitely more than anything He could give. When God gives Himself He is giving more than anything else in the universe. (Frank Laubach)

     One of the big challenges in our walk with the Lord is overcoming our propensity of seeking God's presents rather than His presence. Oswald Chambers says, "The greatest difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and His blessings are what make it so difficult."

     The disappointing reality of my own way caused me to realize my need for God. It was then that I began to seek the things that Christ provided for me through the atonement. My life changed drastically. From the very beginning I was encouraged to seek everything the Lord had for me. So I sought the presents that God promised me in His Word. I diligently studied the Bible and began claiming the redemptive rights of redemption Christ provided through His sacrifice (Psalms 103:1-5). God wonderfully blessed my life but His gifts did not bring me happiness.

     One day while at the church praying the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “Seek my presence not my presents.” I got the message. Do not idolize gifts. Be careful not to put the pursuit of God’s blessings ahead of seeking Him. Everything that surrounds us in this universe points to the greatness of God and should encourage us to search for Him (Psalms 19:1). God is greater than all His gifts and contentment is a byproduct of our fellowship with Him. Blessings are a secondary part of faith. When you learn to walk in the presence of the Lord, then you will have found the greatest present of all. Don’t worry about blessings because Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”

One More Chance

May 18

 

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. (Leonardo da Vinci)

     Little Miss Mary held on to her walker, slowly making her way to the front of the church; a trip she often took. Two things were on her mind; two prayer requests that never changed. “Please pray for my husband and my son,” she asked through tear filled eyes. She did not mention her own obvious need—crippling arthritis.

     Her son was struggling with alcoholism and her husband battling Chronic Obstructive-Pulmonary Disease (COPD) brought on by years of cigarette smoking. Each time she made her request we prayed.

     But then one fateful Sunday morning Mary’s seat was empty; I knew that something was wrong—and it was. Her husband had been rushed to the hospital. He was unable to breathe and lost consciousness. In the emergency room he was placed on a respirator and then taken to the Intensive Care Unit. Things did not look promising.

     At our next gathering we prayed, “Lord, give this man one more chance to get his heart right with You ….” In spite of our prayers there was no change in his condition. It seemed from all appearances that his demise was certain; he had reached the point of no return.

     His family came from out of state and paid their final respects. And then the unexpected happened; he started breathing on his own. He was taken off the respirator and shortly thereafter placed in a regular room; conscious, alert and talking. This was the moment we had prayed for so I asked him this question, “Have you ever invited Christ into your life.” He wasn’t sure what I meant so I explained, “When a guest comes to your house what do you do?” He answered, “I invite them in.” “God,” I said, “has been standing at the door of your heart for a long time. It’s time that you ask Him to come in. He prayed with me and asked the Lord to forgive him. The next day I saw him again. “Do you remember our prayer yesterday?” I asked fearing that he would not remember because of the medications, but he did.

     Two months later, while visiting him at the nursing home, he got out of his bed without assistance and announced, “Preacher, I’ll be going home this week. I’m going to get down there at that church and see you.” He never made it to the church because he died soon after our visit.

     This could be the last opportunity you have for change. Remember: action is more important than just believing … so don’t just dream about it, don't just believe you can ... make it happen—take action now (Noel Peebles).

Still Wet

May 17

 

     Lawrence was a successful businessman who had everything, a palatial home, money, power, influence, and a beautiful wife. All might have been well for him except that he did not deprive himself of his vices; he lived to make money, chase women, and drink. Every day was business as usual for Lawrence until he was involved in a terrible accident that claimed the life of an innocent person.

     Pastor Darrell, a volunteer in the hospital, visited him several times during his recovery from the injuries sustained in the crash. Pastor continued to visit Lawrence after he was released from treatment, encouraging him to seek Christ for help. Pastor assured this broken man that God would help him deal with the tremendous load of guilt he was carrying. Lawrence listened intently, but he couldn’t believe that God would forgive him. He had hurt so many: his family, business partners and the innocent victims who were suffering because of his irresponsible behavior.

     He incurred astronomical hospital expenses and enormous attorney fees. His small fortune began to disappear. After everything was settled, his money was gone, his business collapsed and he was sent to jail. Pastor Darrell stayed in contact with Lawrence through the whole ordeal. He had only been out of prison for a short time when Dorothy, Lawrence’s wife, called, “Pastor, she said, “Lawrence had a massive heart attack and died instantly. He is gone. Can you come over, I need to talk with you?” Sadness and depression came over Pastor when he received this sad news. He felt like a loser for not being able to lead Lawrence to Christ.

     Although Dorothy was devastated, she remained poised and in control of her emotions. She especially wanted Pastor to see a picture Lawrence had finished painting the night before he died. She told him that when he applied the final coat of red on Christ’s torn body he turned and said, “You know honey, for the first time in my life, I understand what Christ did on the cross.” “I can still see Lawrence standing there,” Dorothy said as she pointed to the picture, “and I will never forget what he said, “He did all this for me Dorothy, I now understand what Pastor Darrell has been trying to tell me. I have received Christ as my savior.”

     Dorothy gave Pastor the painting. “Lawrence would want you to have this,” she said. Pastor Darrell walked back to his car carrying the painting. Before pulling out of the driveway, he reached over and felt of the red blood Lawrence had painted on the body of Jesus — it was still wet. Darrell sat there and wept, realizing that God’s grace and love had pierced the darkness surrounding Lawrence’s heart.

     The blood of Jesus is still wet for you today. God is willing to forgive you, no matter what you’ve done, if you are willing to receive His forgiveness. God saved Lawrence and He can save you. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (the Apostle John).

Stinging Accusation

May 16

 

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of His grace. (Jerry Bridges)

     God allows us to remember the wrong doing which He has forgiven and forgotten, so that we will not be tempted to take His grace for granted. The Bible declares in Micah 7:19, “You God, will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Isaiah 43: 25 says, “I God am He who blots out your transgressions … and I will not remember your sins.” God takes our wrongs and places them into His infinite ocean of mercy, destroying the power they have to condemn us. The Lord does this through His unlimited grace. Although He does not take sin memories from us; He does destroy their ability to affect us negatively.

     Nothing you do happens once – it plays itself over and over again in your mind. Recollection of those things we wish to forget is a tool the enemy uses against us. Revelation 12: 9-10 says, “So the great dragon … the devil … who deceives the whole world … the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” When Satan confronts us with failure, we must run with that memory to the throne of God’s mercy. Do not be troubled when you meditate on the greatness of your former sins, but rather know that God’s grace is so much greater in magnitude; it justifies the sinner and absolves the wicked (Cyril of Alexandria). The stinging accusations that invades our thoughts can be transformed into blessing by directing them towards God’s love for us.

     Grace is the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God to mankind (Matthew Henry). In His mercy we can renew our mind and not allow it to be tormented by what we have done or failed to do. Paul declared, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Do not allow God’s inner peace and presence to become diminished by the memory of sin. For there is no condemnation to those who walk in the Spirit. Use your recollections of failure as a tool, pointing you towards God’s infinite love and grace for humanity.

Poison

May 15

 

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

     My wife and I moved into a new house and discovered that several rodents had taken up residence with us. The small creatures were more than a nuisance, they were dangerous because of the diseases they carried and the damage they did to our home. The owner of our local hardware suggested some poison.

     A few nights after setting out the toxin I was lying on my living room floor watching television. Suddenly a mouse scrambled out from nowhere and jumped on my bare chest. I almost had a heart attack. In an instant I knocked that ugly creature to the floor, threw my pillow on top of him, and beat that rodent to death. After gaining my composure it dawned on me that “Speedy” went crazy and attacked because of the poison he had eaten. He destroyed himself by eating something which from all appearances was good for him.

     Adam and Eve had a similar experience in the beginning of creation. God gave them two commandments: take dominion over every living thing moving on earth (Genesis 2:28) and don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). Humanity disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit. Lucifer, the fallen angel, convinced them that God was withholding something good from them.

     Wrongdoing, like a poison, corrupted human nature and they began to rebel against everything that was good and godly. After seven generations the Bible describes people (Genesis 6:5), “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.” No sin is small (Jeremy Taylor). Adam and Eve didn’t commit degenerate acts of perversion; they simply did what they thought was best for them without regard for God’s Word.

     The antidote for the poison we inherited from our ancestors and that flows through our veins is the grace of God. You can receive that grace by accepting Christ and by walking with Him through life. Johann Arndt said, “Your worthiness gives you no help, and your unworthiness does you no harm. What one drop of water is in comparison to a great ocean; so are my sins when compared to God’s incomprehensible grace in Christ.

     John Owens is right, “The indulgence of one sin … diverts the soul from the use of those means by which all other sins should be resisted.” Do not be deceived, wrong is never right; it’s a deadly poison.

Gossipitus

May 14

 

To vilify a great man is the readiest way in which a little man can himself attain greatness. (Edgar Allan Poe)

     When we can receive accusations against others without grief, we have taken the first step in slander without regret. Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool (King Solomon). Every gossiper is a criminal but the greatest offender is the spiritual scandalmonger. He or she clothes gossip in religious garb and spreads insult in the form of concern; even using pretentious prayer to smear the innocent. These vultures are evil, sowing discord, and creating confusion among people.

     One writer offers us some great advice on how to protect yourself from the plague of gossipitus, “There are three essential rules when speaking of others: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Gossip is habit forming. Almost everything we practice leads to something else. As a young man growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I sat through my share of lectures on the evils of smoking marijuana. Concerned adults preached that the “so called” harmless drugs like pot were dangerous, and many perceptive alarmists cried out, “Marijuana will open the door to other drugs.” Their preaching proved to be prophetic because the drug epidemic that evolved from the 60s is reaching worldwide proportions today. Crack, crank, heroine, meth, and cocaine are just a few of the chemicals wrecking lives. Gossip is no exception. It will lead to other things such as pride, jealousy, arrogance, bitterness, insensitivity, and prejudice. Thoughtless words that are spoken with malicious intention wreck lives. Elbert Hubbard declared, “Gossip is vice enjoyed vicariously.”

     Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Solomon). One day an individual came to me who was very upset, “Pastor, Mr. and Mrs. Bigmouth have been talking about me.” “Don’t let it bother you,” I replied, “everybody is talking about everybody – it’s a fact of life.” Ecclesiastes 7:21 declares, “Do not take to heart everything people say … for … also your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.”

     Do not return slander for slander. Be forgiving and put distance between you and the talker. A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much. People are going to talk. It’s okay to be angry but do not sin. Don’t afford your attacker the opportunity of justifying their actions – do not strike back. Have you ever wondered why dogs have so many friends? Could it be because they wag their tails and not their tongues? Our first impulse when attacked is to strike back but it will only add fuel to the fire. Consider the wise words spoken by Abraham Lincoln, “Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.”

Watch Your Mouth

May 13

 

There’s so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it little behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us. (John Brantingham)

     Words are an accurate indicator of an individual’s genuineness in regards to faith. The Apostle James and brother of Christ declared, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.”

     Gossip and slander are twin poisons. Never listen to talk about the weaknesses of others, and if someone complains of another, you can tell him or her humbly to say nothing of it to you (John of the Cross). A tree is known by its fruit. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit.

     The Spirit Filled Life Bible has this to say about our words, “Though a person has the gift of prophecy, and understands all mysteries and knowledge, and though a person possesses great faith—if that individual does not control his or her tongue their faith is useless. An uncontrolled tongue and a deceived heart are companions of an empty religion.”

     The tongue of him who utters slander, and the ear of him who listens to it, are brothers (Portuguese Proverb). The gossiper and the one who willingly listens sin equally. Close your ears to anything meant to demean others. You cannot do anything about what people say, but you can do something about what you hear. Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down (King Solomon).

     The words you speak and the conversations you entertain determine the person you are. Genuine faith impacts the way we talk; causing us to be positive and speak good things. We must keep our ears clean and give attention only to what is edifying and encouraging. Hebrews says, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you ….” One final word—watch your mouth and keep your ears clean!

Chemical Rush

May 12

 

You will find, as you look back upon life, that the moments when you really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love. (Henry Drummond)

     There are habits and vices harmful to our well being; a lesson I learned through experience. My grandmother died from cancer, which was attributed to cigarette smoking; Mr. Lambeth, my best friend’s dad, destroyed his life with alcohol, and several of my acquaintances wrecked their lives by abusing drugs. But not one person from my peer group ruined his or her life because of an indulgent sexual lifestyle. So the essence of the message I received early in life: drugs, tobacco and alcohol are dangerous but sexual promiscuity is fine. Or is it?

     We are wonderful but fragile creations, so it imperative that we handle our lives with care. Remember Newton’s Third Law of Motion: to every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. As a young manufacturer of testosterone, I was clueless of the fact that when our sexual desires are aroused various chemicals are released into the body from the pituitary gland in the brain. These chemicals stimulate our flesh, affecting every part of our person, the physical, the emotional, the mental, and even the spiritual part of our being. Those who practice recreational intimacy often become addicted to the chemical rush created inside of them and sacrifice love on the altar of a chemical high. Horace was correct in proclaiming, “Rule your passions or they will rule you.”

     Hosea the prophet declared, “… promiscuity and alcohol enslave the heart.” The danger of addiction is that we fall in love with a feeling and hold little regard for anyone or anything else. God created humanity as a sexual being and passion is healthy when practiced within the context of its design. Only love enables humanity to grow, because love engenders life and it is the only form of energy that lasts forever (Michel Quoist). Promiscuity is addictive and hinders our ability to develop meaningful relationships. The only safe and natural place for sexual intimacy is in a committed marriage relationship. When intimacy is reduced to a recreational practice; the process of objectification takes place and the consequences are negative and far reaching. Publius Syrus said, “A wise man will be a master of his passions; a fool will be their slave.” Romance and passion are great servants but terrible masters. Friendship in marriage built on respect is the foundation for love and good sex. Those who play with passion toss their hope for true love to the wind.

If You Fire Him

May 11

 

As a saved soul, the real business of your life is intercessory prayer. Whatever circumstances God may place you in, always pray immediately that His atonement may be recognized and as fully understood in the lives of others as it has been in yours. (Oswald Chambers)

     One day we were transferring a telephone line from an old pole to a new one and I asked the ground man to throw me a reducer sleeve. I was doing an aerial splice on the 600 pair cable that supplied phone service for all the businesses south of town. For some reason I did not check the part and it turned out to be the wrong one. After I finished my work up top we let off the host that had been holding that big cable, all of a sudden, the line snapped and fell to the ground. A section of cable fell in a store parking lot, busted a car windshield and did some other damage. The entire south end of town was without phone service and my job was on the line. This was a huge mistake.

     When our area supervisor, Mr. Jackson, heard what happened he came to the job site and he was mad. He put my boss, my bosses’ supervisor, and me in the car with him and began to rant and rave at us. Finally he said to me, “Frank, I’m going to fire you!” In my mind I was already looking for another job. When Mr. Jackson said that, John my boss said, “If you fire him, fire me!” John’s boss chimed in and said, “And if you let them go, you may as well fire me too!” Mr. Jackson was so hot by then; you could have fried an egg on his baldhead. He yelled, “Get out of the car! Everybody get out!” He floored the little Ford he was driving, wanting to vent his frustration by spinning his tires but the car did not have enough horsepower to peel rubber in the gravel. John Jenkins stood up for me and it made a difference in Mr. Jackson’s decision that day. I was reprimanded for my negligence but I did not lose my job.

     Just like John and his boss stood up for Frank, Christ stood up for us. 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). The Bible says in Romans 8:34, “It is Christ who died and … is also risen; who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Even though we sinned God wouldn’t let us go. He sent Jesus to die for us. The Bible says in Hebrews 7:25, “Christ is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” You are saved by standing with the one who stood for you.

Tarnished Patriot

May 10

 

Betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope. (Steven Deitz)

     George Washington was experiencing defeat after defeat during the Revolutionary War; his Continental Army barely escaped total disaster in the battle for New York City in 1776. The Patriots were ill equipped and poorly trained, economic troubles threatened to dash their hopes of defeating the British. There was a 95 percent decline in trade between 1775 and 1777 because the Red Coats occupied American ports; goods were scarce, inflation was rampant; paper money was all but worthless.

     Then suddenly a light appeared in the darkness, changing the destiny of America. British General John Burgoyne marched his forces from Canada in an ambitious effort to connect with two armies marching from west to south. Their object was to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies. But Burgoyne’s troops were attacked in upstate New York at Saratoga by Generals Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold. Arnold was the most aggressive field commander in Washington’s army and his heroic actions led to a decisive victory over Burgoyne, forcing him to surrender. Because of this victory France openly allied itself with the colonies and shortly thereafter, Holland and Spain entered the war on the side of the Americans. Benedict Arnold’s bravery and fighting skills helped to decide the fate of America. He sustained a leg wound at Saratoga and was bedridden for almost a year. If General Arnold had died at Saratoga he would have been remembered as being one of the most brilliant and brave leaders in the war.

     But Arnold is not remembered for helping change the destiny of a nation; he is remembered as being a traitor. He became bitter after Congress failed to promote him. This along with extenuating circumstances caused Arnold to enter into treasonous correspondence with the British. In 1780 General Washington offered him the command of half the Continental Army but instead he asked for the fort at West Point which he was plotting to hand over to the enemy. The plan was discovered and he defected to the British for asylum.

     When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does … all the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaitfulness of which he is guilty (Prophet Ezekiel).

What If "If"

May 9

 

It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom. (Horace Greeley)

     Some feel the Bible is only inspired in spots, but if it is inspired at all – it is all inspired. Sir Isaac Newton the great English Physicist said, “There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history.” Let’s suppose for a moment that the “if” proclamations in the Bible were the only God inspired statements He spoke, and which His Prophets and Apostles recorded. The word “if”, appears in the New King James Version of the Bible 1637 times in 1455 verses in Scripture (1006 times in the Old Testament and 631 times in the New Testament).

     Jesus said (John 14:23-24), “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word ... He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” According to Christ, if we really love Him we will obey His commandments.

     Psalm 66:18 declares, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Dealing with wrongdoing begins by understanding the fact that sin originates in the heart (Spirit Filled Life Bible). Prayer is made null and void by planning, harboring, or entertaining wrongdoing in our lives. Then is it possible for us to please God? Yes, it is! Psalms 119:9-11 proclaims, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word.”

     The Bible declares in Romans 8:9, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” This is a serious if. According to Paul we must have the Holy Spirit abiding in our lives to be saved. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent ... let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repentance is the doorway through which the Holy Spirit enters our hearts. What about the if in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, “I declare to you the gospel … which also you received … by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you have believed in vain.” There is no such thing as quitting in the vocabulary of a true believer. If we quit we are done, repentance is the work of a lifetime.

     Can you endure one more if? 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” If we do not seek God, He will not hear us and we will not be heard by Him. If is such a small part of the Bible, but it makes a big difference. If only the “ifs” were inspired in the Word of God, there would be no “if ands or buts” about salvation.

Conflict Management

May 8

 

The bigness of any man is manifest in the number of little things he is able to overlook in others. (Author Unknown)

     People deal with the stress and strain of relationship in different ways. Some choose to flee. This coping technique is very popular in our high tension society. Overwork, overeating, drinking, affairs and drugs become escape vehicles for those seeking to run away from their problems. Those who opt to run are often disheartened when similar conditions surface in a new job, business, engagement or marriage. Some fight. Many are unwilling to accept other’s differences. They cannot disagree without becoming insensitive and ruthless. War breaks out and families are ripped apart, friendships are ruined and partnerships are dissolved. War is a costly means of dealing will difficulty. There are casualties on both sides—innocent people suffer and some die. The impact of war, the aftermath of engagement often takes a toll on the combatants and they lose their ability to love or trust others.

     There are a few who choose forgiveness as a means of managing conflict in relationships. Steven Covey states an important truth, “You cannot choose a person’s response to you, but you can always choose your response to them. It is not what others do or even our own mistakes that hurt us the most; it is our response to those things. Chasing after the poisonous snake that bites us will only drive the poison through our entire system. It is far better to take measures immediately to get the poison out. Our response to any mistake affects the quality of the next moment.” The only antidote for anger and bitterness is forgiveness. The golden rule Jesus taught works today, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” Samuel Johnson said, “The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.”

     Some emotional debts that people owe are legitimate. The father who abused you, the mother who abandoned you, the business partner who deceived you, the friend who used you, the spouse who betrayed you … they deserve to pay. And there is something else we should also consider; all of us are wrongdoers and have missed the mark of God’s best for our lives. We all deserve to pay for what we have done. When we look at the faults of others through the lenses of our own flaw, we will be compelled towards compassion. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged … and when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you (Jesus Christ).

You Are What You Think

May 7

 

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is. (Francis Bacon)

     God endowed humanity with a wonderful quality of His divine nature called imagination. He gave us this gift so we would use it to be creative and inventive. It’s in the imaginative arena of our mental capabilities that God implants His vision, enabling us to dream and accomplish His will for our lives. Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future (Charles F. Kettering). Just like any gift or talent, imagination can be used for good or evil. Look at how Walt Disney, Mother Teresa, and Thomas Edison used their gifts to better the lives of people. Al Capone, John Dillenger, and Bonnie Parker used their abilities in crime.

     What you put inside the imagination arena of your mind produces either negative or positive energy in your life. The mind is always active, constantly and continually producing and processing thoughts. When we are happy and things are going well, our thinking gravitates towards the positive side of life. King Solomon said in Proverbs 17:22 (NIV), “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” We must protect ourselves from those negative emotions that are stimulated through heartbreak, disappointment, or difficulties. Things like bitterness, anger, perversion, and depression can overwhelm us if we are not careful. Paul declared, “Cast down imaginations and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

     You are not what you think you are, but what you think – you are (Norman Vincent Peale). God has made us the caretakers of our own mental health. We are responsible for feeding our imagination a well balanced diet that will generate good thoughts. Meditation and prayer are essential to spiritual health. Albert Einstein believed our greatest need was changing the way we think, “The release of the atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking … the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.” Godliness, peace, goodness, love, and joy are created in our hearts as we focus on the spiritual part of life. People who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Holy Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (Apostle Paul). You are what you set your mind upon.

Divine Revelation

May 6

 

One thing is certain, revelation always precedes faith. Seeing and believing are two principles which govern spiritual life. Revelation is always the work of the Holy Spirit, who by coming alongside and opening to us the Scriptures, guides us into all truth. (Watchman Nee)

     The followers of Christ watched Him die. Everything they had seen that day told them their friendship with Jesus was over. Mary went to Christ’s tomb searching for his body; she was broken and wanted to be near Him. She needed some time alone to reflect on what had happen- ed. She clung to the memories of Jesus and carried them with her to the tomb like a priceless treasure. Christ had changed her life and she refused to let Him go. She was rewarded for diligently seeking the Lord because He appeared to her. Watchman Nee comments, “Mary saw Jesus … but did know Him. Yet surely her faculties had not altered. No, it was Jesus who had been raised with great power and restored to His glory; and because He had changed, the means of knowing Him had necessarily changed too. Only through His speaking to her did Mary know Him, and it is through this alone that all revelation comes.”

     It is impossible to walk by faith without divine revelation from God. As we walk with the Lord the influence of the Holy Spirit leads us through life. He abides in our hearts and we can say with Paul (2 Corinthians 5:7), “I walk by faith and not by sight.” We sell ourselves short by depending only on what we can see or feel or touch. The Lord has given His Word the Bible, to keep us from becoming misguided and to protect us from following the dictates of our own making. It is imperative that we seek and receive divine revelation from God through the Scriptures. Intimacy with Christ is not gained through good works or church membership – we must be born of the Spirit and led by Him (John 3: 3; 1 Peter 1:23; Romans 8:14).

     Where there is no revelation [of God from God], the people run wild and cast off restraint; but happy is he or she who keeps the law (Solomon). Spiritual discipline comes as a direct result of supernatural insight. The Lord died but He rose from the dead and He is still speaking to people today through His Spirit. Open your heart and God will enlighten your inner being with a revelation of His goodness.

The Second Rebellion

May 5

 

Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man. (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

     In the beginning, long before the creation of mankind, God formed the heavens and the earth. The evidence suggests that Lucifer, one of His loyal and powerful angels ruled a kingdom on this planet. He rebelled against God saying in his heart (Isaiah 14:12-13), “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God … I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” Lucifer’s first rebellion ended before it began and the rogue, now known as Satan and the devil, was judged and his kingdom was destroyed.

     So once again the Lord began His work of creation, restoring the planet. When all was ready He did a great work, possibly His greatest. He created mankind, Adam and Eve, in his very own image. He placed them in paradise, a land he prepared called Eden. The Lord instructed them, “Be fruitful and multiply ... have dominion over ... every living thing that moves on the earth.” God’s dream of sharing His life and love in a world filled with free willed people was fashioned. So Adam and Eve ruled the world and had authority over everything. Satan, the once loyal angel, the father of all wrongdoing and sin, the fallen foe and sworn enemy of God was reduced to animal status, exiled to earth and placed under the authority of mankind.

     It was William James who said, “The world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so long as we keep our foot upon his neck.” Obviously, Satan felt that being subject to God and human authority was a fate worse than hell. He led a second rebellion. He tempted Adam and Eve to defy God’s law. They listened to his lies and sinned.

     “The deceit, the lie of the devil consists of this; he wishes to make people believe that they can live without God’s Word,” writes Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” That is exactly what the devil succeeded in doing, he convinced Adam and Eve there was a better way, another way. That strategy has worked for Satan since the beginning, and still works today.

     How can you protect yourself from Lucifer’s schemes? Submit yourself to the authority of God’s Word. Obedience is of utmost importance. All acts of rebellion, no matter how small, are dangerous. Adam and Eve did not harm anything or participate in a sin of gross nature—they simply ate fruit which God had forbidden them to touch. Follow the instructions of the Apostle James and brother of Christ, “Submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender (William Booth).

Mark Of Ignorance

May 4

 

The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance. (Ben Franklin)

     One of the things I enjoyed as a boy was watching Mom wash clothes. Doing laundry in the mid 50s was much different than it is today. We had an old ringer type washer that looked like a four legged monster. The mouth of the beast was huge, totally out of proportion with its body. Its oversized rubber teeth consumed everything placed in the creature’s mouth. After washing the clothes, Mom ran them through the ringer to squeeze the water out. They were then placed in a large metal tub sitting beside the washer. There they soaked and once again were placed into the ringer’s big mouth. The big white rollers squeezed them flat. Mom hated washing but it looked like fun to me. I wanted to help but was not allowed. Then one day, a day I will never forget, I sneaked in the washroom and began feeding clothes to the ringer.

     Everything was fine, until in the excitement of the moment, my fingers somehow got caught in the rollers. The washer jerked me up from where I stood, and snatched me into its jaws like a starving man sucking spaghetti into his mouth. Fortunately my body was too big for the monster. My shoulder became lodged in the ringers, putting them in a bind. They began to roll up and down on my arm. Mom heard an agonizing scream and came running. She released the safety latch and freed me from the demon. My arm fell limp at my side, disfigured, and definitely broken. A concerned neighbor came over and immediately called for help. The police arrived, wrapped me in a blanket and rushed me to the hospital. The doctors quickly took me into the operating room and began emergency surgery.

     At three-years-old I did not know that a washing machine could be dangerous. Had I known the pain that was going to be inflicted on me because of my ignorance, I would not have gotten near that washer. The mark of my ignorance--an eight inch scar on my right arm.

     Hosea the prophet said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Notice that God identified ignorance as the culprit responsible for destroying lives. How does one protect him or herself from a destructive lack of knowledge? Above all things stand guard over your heart and remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction (Solomon). Jesus said, “This is the way to have eternal life, to know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ the one You sent to earth.”

Clean The Closet

May 3

 

Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. (A. W. Tozer)

     Wouldn’t it be wonderful to travel back into time and undo every rotten thing you and I have ever done? Discarding the skeletons from the closets of our minds would be a joy of all joys. Do you live with painful memories that negatively affect your behavior and feelings today? As incredible as it may sound, you can overcome the adversities that are keeping you from moving forward.

     Have you ever heard of Kenosis? Kenosis means to: make empty of content, to deprive of possession or to come to nothing. This word is used in connection with Christ, describing the process He went through in preparation for His work on earth. Jesus emptied Himself of Himself, like a garment He laid aside His deity so He could walk on earth like a human being (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus was as much human as though He were not God; and He was as much God as though He were not human. Why did He make this costly sacrifice? Think about what He left – heaven and all its glory. He gave up everything for you and me!

     Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; the new life has begun (Apostle Paul). We can start over; we can be born again. The change is radical – giving us a new nature, it makes us love what we hated and hate what we loved, it sets us in a new road; it makes our habits different, it makes our thoughts different, it makes us different in private, and different in public (Charles H. Spurgeon). Patrick describes his new beginning, “I was like a stone lying in deep mud but He that is mighty lifted me up and placed me on top of the wall.” Does the Lord erase our memories? No. He empowers our lives so that past recollections do not negatively influence our present reality. Jesus emptied Himself so He could live like us; and empowers us so we can become like Him in relationship with God.

A Gutless Act

May 2

 

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold. (King Solomon)

     On April 14, 1912 at 11:40 p.m. the Titanic lay helpless after striking an iceberg on its starboard side and ripping a 300 feet gash in the hull below the waterline. In less than three hours over 1500 men, women, and children would make their graves in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

     Somewhere around 1:15 a.m., after lowering several lifeboats, there are more than 1700 people still on board ship. Thomas Andrews, the designer of Titanic, pleads with those hesitating to get into a lifeboat, “Ladies, you must get in at once, there is not a minute to lose!”

     Collapsible boat C is two-thirds full when a group of passengers try to storm it. Chief Purser Herbert McElroy fires his pistol twice and the crowd stops – all but one. Bruce Ismay, President of White Star Lines who owns Titanic, he emerges from the crowd and gets in Boat C as it is lowered into the water. He stepped in front of women and children who were waiting on deck to be rescued. One hour later Ismay listens to the screams of those who cry out as the Titanic goes down. This cowardly act causes him to be viewed as a villain for the remainder of his life.

     Numerous people throughout history have made a dark impression on the world by doing a gutless and despicable act. But the valedictorian, the one who stands out and is recognized as one of the most notorious deceivers of all time is Judas Iscariot. This follower of Christ betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. He knowingly deceived the Son of God in an effort to save his own life. Judas knew that the religious leaders of Israel were planning to assassinate Jesus. His life was on the line, so instead of standing with the Lord, Judas handed Him over. For a brief moment he became the possessor of some material benefit, but what he gained did not compare to what he lost. Judas crucified his conscience and his own sense of self worth, which became to him a greater agony than the torment Jesus endured on the cross.

     Like Judas, Bruce Ismay saved himself but that which he gained was soon consumed in the shame that followed. He was never the same after Titanic and he did not recover from the humiliation he brought upon himself. When we compromise our integrity and character for comfort or profit, we always lose more than we gain. Judas committed suicide after betraying Christ and Bruce Ismay lived in regret and unhappiness for the remainder of his days. Jesus said, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Heed The Warning

May 1

 

You have been once more warned today, while the door of the ark yet stands open.… Take heed that you do not stop your ears…and neglect the great work which you have to do, lest the flood…suddenly come upon you…and there be no remedy. (Jonathan Edwards)

     On Sunday April 14, 1912, the Titanic, receives six warning messages from other ships in the mid-Atlantic reporting large icebergs. The Captain, Edward J. Smith, gives the third warning memo to J. Bruce Ismay, the President of White Star Lines, the company who owns the great ship. He puts the message in his jacket pocket and posted it five and one- half hours later. All warnings go unheeded. At 11:40 p.m. Frederick Fleet spotted a black object in the path of Titanic and issues a cry by phone, “Iceberg right ahead!” Chief Officer William Murdoch yells “hard a starboard” but Titanic collides with the iceberg. There is no sound of a crash and most passengers hear only an unusual rattle. When told that they stuck an iceberg, no one seems concerned. Some passengers begin scooping up ice shavings from the deck of the ship and making snowballs from them.

     At about 12:35 a.m. Captain Smith gives the order to load the lifeboats but no one lis- tens. Lifeboat No. 7, which seats 65, is finally lowered into the water with 28 people on board. Almost no one sensed the imminent peril. The band comes up from the lounge and plays cheerful ragtime music. People feel safe and secure at this time. At 1:15 a.m. the bow begins descending into the cold dark waters. Suddenly, the grave danger is realized and the mood changes. The band begins playing Gospel hymns and people pray. Many panic. Shots are fired to keep the passengers from storming the lifeboats. When the people and crew finally realized their fate, it was too late.

     The prophets of old have been warning mankind for 3000 years – judgment is looming on the horizon (Haggai 2:20-23; Isaiah 2:12-21; 13:11; 14:24-27). They predicted that the Jews would return to their homeland right before the end of the ages (Joel 3:1-3; Ezekiel 26:25-26). These prophecies and many more concerning Israel were fulfilled in 1948. When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near (Jesus Christ). The things Jesus referred to were the rise of various cult groups, escalation of wars as nations and kingdoms clash; the increase of national disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, pandemics), religious persecution and much more (Matthew 24). The alarm has sounded. The Great Tribulation described in the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible is near. Humanity is traveling through life on a ship that is rapidly taking on water. Get in the lifeboat and bring others with you. The bow of the boat is descending into depths of despair. Don’t hesitate for a moment. Reach out to God through faith in Jesus Christ and save yourself!