Things Follow

November 30

 

Nothing is so terrible to see as ignorance in action. (Goethe)

     After enjoying a good meal, Dwight and I left the restaurant. This young man, formerly known on the streets of Miami as Cocaine Cowboy, was a new believer that committed his life to the Lord while serving time in prison. This retired drug dealer was used to driving expensive cars, wearing fancy clothes and spending lots of money on the thrills and frills of fast paced living. Now he worked at a factory, drove a Volkswagen bug and attended our church. But for the first time in his life he was happy. Outside the restaurant, parked beside my high mileage Dodge was a brand new Lincoln Continental; gloriously gleaming in the sunlight from bumper to bumper. Dwight looked at that beautiful car and said, “One day Pastor, I am going to buy you one of these.” “Dwight, I would love for the Lord to bless you in such a way that you could do that. But son, the Bible teaches us that we should not follow after things. We should live in such a way that things follow after us.

     Christ fed a multitude of over 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and fish. He blessed the food, broke it into pieces, gave it to His disciples and they distributed it. And the more they gave the more they had—the supply never ran out. When the people finished eating, Christ dismissed the 5000 from His presence and forced the disciples into a boat, commanding them to go to the other side of the sea (Matthew 14:22). The people wanted to make Jesus their king but He would have nothing to do with anything that was not the will of God for His life. He used this drama to teach his disciples the importance of purging themselves from the desire for power and position. Influence and affluence should be something that comes to us as a blessing; not something we seek for ourselves.

     Ignorance of God and of ourselves is the great … cause of all our anxieties; and this arises mostly not from want of light and instruction, but for want of consideration and application (John Owen). Be open and real; follow the Lord and grow in relationship with Him daily. Pray, read the Word of God and serve others. As we learn to walk with the Lord and govern our lives by His principles; we will learn to trust Him. He is the potter and we are the clay; God is at work shaping our lives into what He desires that we become in Him.

Heart Land

November 29

 

We are debtors to every person to give him or her the gospel in the same measure in which we have received it (P.F. Bresee—Church of the Nazarene founder)

     Missions is tough. When one leaves home and family to live abroad there are many challenges: spiritual, emotional, cultural, financial. This proved to be especially true for, Rose Klob, a young lady living in the bush, alone and vulnerable to predators, religious extremists, terrorists and opportunists. Rose, a single woman in her early twenties, departed from New York in the 1950s, believing the needy people of Africa mattered to God.

     Miss Klob, a competent and skilled nurse, proved to be a tireless worker among the Africans. She loved the people, gaining respect from the spiritual leaders in Nyasaland almost at once. She was invited to sit on a discipline committee of elders at the annual District Council of the churches. Three pastors were facing charges. One of them brought with him a nine year old girl from the Unkinga Mountains; he hired her to carry suitcases for him even though she didn’t speak his language or any of the dialects used in the area. The council sessions began at 9:00 A.M. but no business was transacted because the Holy Spirit began moving among the people; they humbled themselves, cried, repented, called on the Lord and were still praying at 2 P.M. The young Unkinga girl fell into a trance. She lay on her back in the church and began praying loudly, speaking in several different languages that she had never learned. It was a modern Pentecostal miracle. She began speaking in the tongue of her pastor boss and pointed out the wrong things he had been doing. “God says,” she proclaimed for all to hear, “if you repent He will forgive you. He loves you very much.” The little girl also spoke of impending dangers for Miss Rose, “God has told you to go and you must go now!” The Lord had been dealing with the young missionary about leaving the station but she couldn’t decide what to do. Realizing that God was speaking to her, she left immediately. Revolution broke out a few days later—her life had been saved through divine intervention.

     Rose spent her whole life in Africa and after forty-two years it became necessary for her to leave the land of her heart to return to the place of her birth. So how did this lady who touched multitudes survive in a hostile jungle environment? One answer—by trusting in the grace of God. We must always look to God and remember; our worst days are never so bad that we are beyond the reach of His grace … and our best days are never so good that you’re beyond the need of His grace (Author Unknown).

Pig In A Blanket

November 28

 

The point of the cross is the point of life. (Malcolm Muggeridge)

     Of all the Communion Services I have observed through the years; one stands out among the rest. It took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the wedding of a young couple in our church. The bride’s dad, a professor at Oral Roberts University, was very well known so this event was anything but small. In a last minute check to ensure that everything was ready; the wedding coordinator realized that there were no elements for Communion. The bride’s dad corrected the oversight by going to purchase juice and bread. He soon returned and the ceremony began. Beautiful music resounded throughout the auditorium. Vows were made, rings were exchanged. The crowning and concluding moment of the service was to be the observance of the Lord’s Supper. The minister broke the bread and the solemnity of the service ended; a sausage popped out of the bread. At first the pastor was shocked and then he began to laugh; as did the bride and groom. After this awkward moment the pastor regained his composure, served Communion and made the marriage pronouncement. The dad later explained that in the rush to purchase the elements he accidentally grabbed a pig in a blanket.

     James Boice declares, “The Lord’s Supper [Eucharist] is an ordinance of Jesus Christ … designed to commemorate His death … and to be a bond, a pledge and renewal of the communion with Him ….” But even the most sacred observances can become corrupted; the Corinthian Church to whom the Apostle Paul addressed two letters did just that. They merged the observance of communion with a pagan practice known as The Love Feast, reducing this sacred observance into a party. The rich flaunted their abundance, the poor and less fortunate were isolated and neglected. This selfish approach to worship created divisions and strife among people; and in the fray Christ was dishonored. Paul rebuked them sharply for getting it wrong proclaiming, “For partaking of communion in an unworthy manner and not properly discerning the Lord’s body many of you are weak and sickly, and many have died.”

     True communion starts with surrender. The secret of every discord in homes and communities and churches is that we seek our own way and our own glory (Alan Redpath). We have not observed the Lord’s Supper until we surrender our wills to Christ. Sacrifice follows surrender. Smith Wigglesworth said, “When Jesus reached a place where He would not make bread for Himself; He arrived at a place where He could make bread for thousands.” We find life only as we lose ourselves in a cause greater than our own interests. It seems to me to discover what one should put in the first place is the whole problem of life (Ivan Turgenev). The aim of communion is making Jesus our central focus. Spiritual neglect and carelessness transforms sacred observances into nothing more than shallow “pig in a blanket” experiences.”

Focus Of Desire

November 27

 

Happy is the soul which by a sincere self-renunciation … never stops saying to itself a hundred times a day, “Lord, what would you have me do?” (F.Fenelon)

     If I live a million years I will never understand how God, the creator of the cosmos and the designer of life would make people the focus of His desires. The Bible reveals that the Lord hungers and thirsts for fellowship with humanity more than anything else in the universe. He takes pleasure in His people and as we delight ourselves in Him; He gives us the desires of our heart.

     Obedience is of utmost importance. We increasingly become more open and intimate in relationship with our creator by adhering to His Word. As we fellowship with Christ enough light is given to guide our steps. We are like the foot soldier, who hears nothing of the councils that determine the course of the great battle he is in, but hears plainly enough the word of command that he must himself obey (George Eliot).

     We need fear only one thing—wrongdoing. Humanity sinned in the beginning because they were influenced to believe that there was more to life than serving God. The devil said to Adam and Eve, “God knows that in the day you eat [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Him, knowing good and evil.” This couple possessed an appetite for spiritual relationship but they lost sight of their priority—friendship with the Lord. They falsely assumed that God’s law would inhibit their desires and limit their ability to experience the best of life. But in reality the opposite is true. The strength and happiness of a man or woman consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going that way too (Henry Ward Beecher). This was true in the beginning and it remains true today. The tiniest fragment of obedience and heaven opens up and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away (Oswald Chambers).

See You There

November 26

 

I am so weak that I can only lie still … in God’s arms like a little child, and trust. (Hudson Taylor, during his final days)

     It was December ninth and Feb could no longer get out of bed. It was his forty-third birthday and his two year battle with brain cancer was all but over. There had been so many ups and downs: test after test, treatment after treatment, hope, some recovery and then relapse. This once tall handsome man with a big bright smile had aged thirty years in two. He lived to work and had everything that anyone could wish for: a lovely home, pool, good job, three children and a wife that loved him dearly.

     Lisa had gotten up early that morning and noticed when she peeped inside the bedroom that Feb was awake. She walked in and with a big grin said, “Morning Baby and Happy Birthday!” He began to cry. Lisa knelt down beside the bed and tried to console him. He had a look on his face that she had never seen in their 21 years of marriage. Lisa started to cry and laid her head on his chest. Brad, his teenage son came in the room and began to cry. Lisa’s heart was breaking and yet an overwhelming sense of strength and peace swept over her. She wasn’t sure Feb understood what was happening so she asked him; “Do you know what is happening to you?” He shook his head yes. "Baby, if pure determination, desire and good attitude could have made you well, you would be well right now; do you know that? He nodded. “Are you ready to go be with the Lord?” He began to cry as Lisa talked about who he would see in heaven. When he calmed down she looked him in the eye and asked, "Feb, are you afraid to die?” That was the one time he opened his mouth and said, "No, I am not afraid to die!"

     Seven short days later Lisa sat beside him, talking like she did every night. “Hope you had a good day today. Are you feeling OK? Are you ready to go to sleep?” That night when their eyes met she said to him, "Babe, I can't imagine how tired you are. I want you to know that I understand that you've given this sickness all you had to give, and for whatever reason God must want you home with Him. I don't want to see you go, but I don't want to see you suffer either. If you need to go, I understand. I love you and always will." At 4:30 in the morning Lisa awakened to the sound of Feb’s sporadic breathing. By 6:30 he was taking his last breath, and she whispered in his ear, "Wait for me … I’ll see you there.”

Arms and Legs

November 25

 

Each of us have been given different gifts … and just as a diamond in a mine is useless until it is discovered, so our unique gifts and abilities lie dormant until we release them into service. (Tommy Barnett)

     After I concluded a lesson on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit an individual commented, “Pastor, if I had to choose between the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit, I would choose the fruit.” After pondering his statement for a moment I asked, “What leads you to believe that the fruit of the Spirit is more important than the Gifts of the Spirit?” He could not answer that question. I said to him, “No where in the Bible does it imply that we are to choose between fruit and gifts—the Word of God challenges us to desire it all.”

     Pursue love [a spiritual fruit] and desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). Paul encouraged the Corinthian believers to pursue both fruit and gifts. One should not be favored over the other—both are necessary. Tommy Tenney comments, “I think the New Testament fulfillment of God’s “rest” to the Church is found in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit that enable us to effectively train and minister … with a minimum of human effort.” “These signs shall follow those who believe,” writes Mark. “In My name they cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues … they will lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

     Many have mishandled power. Samson and King Saul are sad examples of what happens to people who possess gifts but lack character. Even though some have abused their spiritual blessings, we should not allow their irresponsibility to hinder us from seeking all the Lord desires to give us. Paul described three elements that comprise balanced church life. In 1 Corinthians 12 he talks about the power of God manifesting itself through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul talks about the love of God that keeps us connected to Christ’s character. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul details how order should guide the manifestation of spiritual power in a church service. Spiritual resources enable the church to become all that God intends for it to be. The fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit are the arms and legs of the church; we need both of them so our spiritual lives will not be impaired.

A Valuable Lesson

November 24

 

It takes only a tiny stopper to close a very large bottle and keep from us its entire content. (Watchman Nee)

     When Pauline Eason was thirty-seven years old her husband was killed in a tragic automobile accident and suddenly, she was left alone to care for three young children. This young widow faced a formidable challenge but she knew that somehow she would survive; three broken hearts were depending on her.

     Pauline was born in 1912 and knew how to stretch a dollar. She applied for a job with the school board and began working in the high school cafeteria, but even her best efforts were not enough. Fortunately, her older brother, John, lived down the road; so at the end of each month she found herself at his house borrowing money. It was during this time of lack that she learned a valuable lesson of faith.

     One Sunday morning her pastor talked about the importance of tithing. He quoted Malachi 3:10, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse [says the Lord] so there will be enough food in My Temple. If you do; I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” While listening intently to the sermon, she began to reflect on how the Lord had been faithful to her. Even through things were tough, she had a home, food to eat, clothes, a loving family and children who had everything they needed. God had been generous to her but she had been stingy with Him. Pauline made a commitment; she was going to tithe ten percent of every dime she made. That decision did not make sense; since she was borrowing money each month just to get by, and now she was going to decrease her income. But she was serious. She placed her tithe into the offering as she promised the Lord and something amazing happened. She always ran out of money at least a week before she got her check. But this time things were different; she had enough money to make it through the whole month. Pauline was amazed and until her death in 1994 she tithed to her church and never had to borrow a dime to make it through the month. She began tithing and quit borrowing. Pauline Eason learned that 90% of what she earned went further with God’s blessing than a 100% without it. You have never tested God’s resources until you have attempted the impossible (Author Unknown).

Possessed

November 23

 

The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles. (Ayn Rand)

     What really happened to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Christ? We are certain that he did not evolve into a monster overnight. Like many others, before and after him, he made the tragic mistake of believing he could handle wrongdoing. Judas was Christ’s minister of finance who eventually began making concessions; taking a little here and a little there. In the process of time he was deceived by the Prince of Darkness and became disillusioned with the Lord. Slowly and gradually Satan, like a giant constrictor, wrapped himself around the soul of this promising disciple. He became consumed with greed and passion. The Apostle John speaks of Judas towards the end of his life (John 13:26-27), "… Satan possessed him."

     After the soldiers arrested Jesus, the sobering reality of the betrayal came crashing down on the traitor. In a last ditch effort to redeem himself, Judas turned to Christ’s murderers for help. He repented in the wrong direction; which only added insult to injury. He said to the priests and elders, “I have … betrayed an innocent man.” They mocked him saying, “What is that to us? Then Judas threw down the silver pieces in the temple and went out from there and hanged himself. Turning to the wrong ones for help is never the right answer. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit (Ayn Rand).

     Compromise poisons the mind. Judas could not live with the thought of what he had done. He heard a voice saying to him, “Kill yourself!” And he did. You will fail and fall at times but when you do; repent in the right direction. God is always willing to forgive and will not turn anyone away who comes to Him for help. The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction we give it (John Galt).

Chain Link

November 22

 

I feel sorry for people who do not read the Bible every day. I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and pleasure. (Woodrow Wilson)

     We must make a diligent effort in studying the Bible if we hope to gain an understanding of it. Spiritual growth occurs only as we gain an adequate understanding of the Scriptures. A casual reading of God’s Word is not sufficient; it will not produce the proper nourishment necessary for maintaining good spiritual health. Study and be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly handling and skillfully teaching the Bible—God’s Word of Truth (Paul). Theodore Roosevelt declared, “A thorough understanding of the Bible is better than a college education.”

     Do not attempt to comprehend everything in the Bible the first time you read it. Quickly, read through it, giving special attention to the things that are easy to grasp. Take special note of the parts that capture your attention; highlight or underline those passages, writing comments in the margins of the page. Don’t worry about what you don’t get. Focus on the things you do understand. Keep reading; you will begin to comprehend more and more; the passages you do grasp will eventually shed light on parts that leave you in the dark. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Christ wrote (1 Peter 20-21), “Knowing this first; no prophecy of the Scriptures is of any private interpretation. For prophecy never can by the will of man. But holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Just as the Lord moved on the hearts of those who wrote the Bible; He will also move on the hearts of those who diligently apply themselves to understanding it. No other book is so various as the Bible, nor one so full of concentrated wisdom … whether it be of law, business or morals ... he or she who seeks for guidance may look inside its covers and find illumination (Herbert Hoover).

     A practical and effective means for studying the Scriptures is the Topical Method. Use your computer or Bible Concordance. Pick a word like prayer, faith, or trust and locate every place where it appears in the Bible. Read those verses; discern to the best of your ability what they are saying. Compare one Scripture with another; compile the information you gather. The insights you receive from the various references will become individual links of information in the chain of Bible revelation. In order to fully understand each idea, you must follow it from conception to completeness; from Genesis to Revelation—always comparing Scripture with Scripture.

The Judas Factor

November 21

 

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that is the essence of inhumanity. (George Bernard Shaw)

     Hundreds of millions of people have admired the twelve Apostles of Christ and followed in the footsteps of their faith. These men changed history and have made a positive impact on the world for two thousand years. So who were they? They were typical Jews, men who did not stand out in the crowd. They were ordinary, possessing character flaws and weaknesses. They were fearful and lacked faith at times. The twelve argued among themselves and in the beginning of their walk with Christ they did not understand the will of God. On the eve of His crucifixion, all twelve forsook Jesus. Peter, true to his impetuous character, went further in denying Christ than the others. He cussed, swore by a solemn oath and denied Jesus saying (Matthew 26:74), “I do not know the man!”

     History vindicates eleven of the twelve—all but Judas Iscariot. For thirty pieces of silver he led a battalion of soldiers to Jesus. Judas and Jesus were once very close. They worshipped God together and loved one another. Prophecy in Psalms 44:9 and 55:13-14 declare, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. It was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together and walked to the house of God together.” Judas left everything to follow Jesus; he believed that Christ was the promised Messiah, the one whom Moses said would come. So what happened? How did Mr. Iscariot become known as the most infamous traitor in all of human history? What flaw in his character did the Prince of Darkness use in gaining access to his will?

     This follower of the Lord became vulnerable because of his apathy. One night in Bethany Mary and Martha prepared dinner for Jesus and His followers. After the evening meal Mary anointed Christ with very expensive oil. Judas became indignant and said (John 12:5), “This fragrant oil should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” He did not really care for the poor; Judas was in charge of ministry finances and was stealing money from the Lord. Selfishness and greed destroyed his hope for making a positive difference. He was selfish and greedy. Do not follow his example. A true indicator of an individual’s character is seen in his or her care for others.

Wing Set

November 20

 

Whatever sort of tribulation we suffer, we should always remember that its purpose is to make us spurn the present and reach out to the future. (John Calvin)

     E. Stanley Jones declared, “Nothing need beat us, provided we have the right attitude of mind. When a storm strikes the eagle, if its wings are set in a downward tilt, it will be dashed to pieces on the earth; but if its wings are tilted upward, it will rise, making the storm bear it up beyond its fury. The set of the wings decides defeat or victory.”

     A great army entered Israel with the sole intention of destroying King Jehoshaphat and his people. The king prayed and proclaimed a fast throughout all the land. God responded to their faith in Him (2 Chronicles 20:3), “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem …. Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” The Lord gave Jehoshaphat a plan; he was to rally his troops; place singers in front of the warriors and march into battle. The people complied and as the choir began to sing, the Lord set supernatural ambushes against the enemy (2 Chronicles 20:22). God so confounded the attackers that they began to fight one another—they destroyed themselves.

     Before the war begins, seek out your ally; before you fall ill, seek out your physician; and before grievous things come upon you, pray, and in the time of your tribulations you will find Him, and He will listen to you (Isaac the Syrian). In the midst of crisis, focus on God’s greatness. Humble yourselves under His mighty hand, and He will exalt you in due time; cast all your concern upon Him, for He cares for you (Peter). Humility is that part of worship compelling us to trust the Lord, and that which causes God to unleash His power on everything that threatens our faith. Augustine said, “If you plan to build a tall house of virtues, you must first lay deep foundations of humility.” Trials and challenges are a part of our everyday life on planet earth, so abide in Christ, making Him your answer to every problem.

Hard Questions

November 19

 

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilizing the mind as a steady purpose—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye. (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley)

     Why is injustice, brutality and violence tolerated by the Lord? Habakkuk the prophet wanted to know the answer to this question. He sought to understand things from God’s perspective but he was struggling. He felt that it was not proper for good people to be victimized by irresponsible and malicious persons.

     Habakkuk asked the tough questions (Habakkuk 1:2, 13-14), “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! Violence I cry, but you do not come to save. Will You stand idly by while they swallow us up? Should you be silent while the wicked destroy people who are more righteous than they?” After sharing his inner most feelings, Habakkuk sat down and waited for God to answer his questions. “I will … watch to see,” Habakkuk said, “what God will say to me.” God answered him saying (Habakkuk 2:2-16), “Write the vision and make it plain … for it is yet for an appointed time … for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. The proud … because he transgressed … will be filled with shame … and the cup of the Lord’s right hand will be turned against him.” God reminded Habakkuk that he had everything under control and would balance the scales of justice at the appointed time.

     Listen and the Lord will speak to you. Waiting time is not wasted time (Andy Stanley). Life becomes spiritual whenever we make it so: when some new light is seen, when some deeper appreciation is felt, when some larger outlook is gained, when some nobler purpose is formed, when some task is well done (Sophia Lyon Fahs).

     Habakkuk concluded his writing (Habakkuk 3:17-19), “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk received a revelation from the Lord about His future plans for the nation of Israel. The vision of the Lord satisfied his desire for an answer. God will never allow us to go through anything without providing the grace we need to bear it, and will turn the test into a testimony that will eternally glorify Him and make our character more like His (Author Unknown)

Commander And Chief

November 18

 

Ever since the prophet Joel declared "your sons and daughters will prophecy," the church has not quite known what to do with women ministers. (Catherine Booth)

     For forty years Deborah assumed the highest-ranking position of leadership in the nation of Israel. She served as the Judge of the country; handpicked and chosen by the Lord (Judges 4:4-24). Her job description required her to be the commander and chief of the army and a spiritual advisor for the nation. General Barak, her valiant first officer, refused to fight unless she led the troops. As Pastor of the twelve tribes of Israel, Deborah counseled those in need. This mighty female leader did not assume her position by presumption, she was a divinely appointed minister of God.

     Her spiritual leadership foreshadows the possibilities existing for females in the church today. She serves as an example for women of all ages. Females, along with every male, should seek the presence of God and be available to Him. Deborah did not pursue power or position; she sought after God—power and position pursued her. In these last days, according to the Prophet Joel, God will bring to the forefront many prominent women who will be anointed by His power for leadership. John Stott said, “I believe that there are situations in which it is entirely appropriate for women to teach, and to teach men, provided that in so doing they are not usurping an improper authority over them.”

     Some churches forbid women to preach or teach. But Debra and other God anointed women stand as a testimony to the fact that women can be spiritual leaders. If it is not immoral for a woman to lead or teach why did Paul not permit women to teach men or have authority over them? What was Paul’s rationale? He was not a chauvinist; he honored and defended the dignity of women in his writings (Ephesians 5:22-32; 1 Corinthians 16:1). Paul planted churches in pagan cultures that held a very low estimation of women. Females were not allowed to speak in public. The same is still true today in various countries. Paul did not attack culture; he sought to change hearts. He knew if he encouraged women to speak in public, they would be killed and the infant church destroyed. So in an effort to protect the church, he found it necessary to limit the teaching role of a woman. Paul did allow women to teach women; and they could prophesy openly in the church (1 Corinthians 11:5). He limited the public ministry of females because of the cultural hostility towards them—not because it was inappropriate.

Endangered Species

November 17

 

One must conclude that, contrary to the established and current wisdom, a scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural causes which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written. (Dr. Hubert P. Yockey)

     Some years ago certain scientists concluded that our existence was accidental. They developed a theory to support their belief—the theory of evolution. This hypothesis promotes the idea that we are nothing more than a series of chemical reactions. Charles Darwin the founder of the assumption said, “… man is and will always be a wild animal.” Multitudes, disappointed with religion and seeking freedom from accountability to God, bought into the idea. Darwin did not believe that people possessed a soul or spirit. He believed that we live and breathe and talk for a moment—then fade away into nothing. “As for a future life,” Darwin said, “every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities.”

     James L. Garlow said, “Civilization has no hope. No hope at all, except through God. He alone can preserve a person, a family, a people group, a nation or … civilization …. Without God, no one, no nation, no culture can survive. In fact, left to itself, civilization self-destructs.” For almost a thousand years during the middle or dark ages, which began in 590 A. D., the progress which humanity made through the teachings of Christ stalled. But then came the reformation and civilization once again began making remarkable steps forward. The printing press put the Bible into the hands of common people. Societies, propelled by the light of God’s Word, changed rapidly. The church educated individuals and our ancestors advanced on the road of enlightenment and modernization. But truth had its opponents. Many educators became influenced by liberal philosophy and moral accountability to God was thrown out the window. A hot iron of theory and defiance to truth was placed on the fragile conscience of the developing world; the thoughts and feelings of society gradually became desensitized by atheism.

     Many came to believe there was no God and no absolute right or wrong. The result? No accountability for actions—behavior came to be regarded by many as nothing more than a result of genetics or chemicals driving flesh. And now humanity is marching backwards, returning to the dark middle age. The world is increasingly becoming more savage and barbaric. The threat of nuclear annihilation looms on the horizon. Terrorism, perversion, violence, genocide, greed, hatred, addiction and war are a part of our everyday lives. Humanity is rapidly becoming an endangered species. But this comes as no surprise to students of the Bible. The Book of Revelation, almost 2000 years ago, described with accurate precision, the chaos prevailing today. But there is a bright spot in the darkness prevalent in the world today. Seek the Lord for He is our hope alone. Only love is capable of sustaining life—and God is love (1 John 4:7-8).

Find Yourself

November 16

 

People cannot live without joy; therefore when they are deprived of true spiritual joy it is necessary that they become addicted to carnal pleasures. (Aquinas)

     In the nineteen sixties and seventies chaos permeated American society. Thousands and multiplied thousands of young people rebelled against the moral values of the culture, turning to drugs, sex, the party life and rock concerts—the nation was stunned. Viet Nam, Woodstock, Watergate, Kent State, civil rights, LSD, and marijuana were hot topics of debate. During those chaotic days of unrest I set out on a journey to find myself. Dr. Timothy Leary, a professor at Harvard University spoke out, encouraging us to rebel and experiment with drugs—especially LSD. He said, “My advice to people today is as follows: if you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out.” At age fifteen I ran away from my home in Indiana and hitch-hiked to Florida, pursing party life dreams. My search for purpose in the hard rock, drug and sex philosophy of the day led to a self destructive way of life.

     Another young man who lived almost 3000 years ago took a foolish journey. King Solomon abandoned his spiritual heritage, and even though he built a powerful empire, he discovered that all things betray those who forsake God. Solomon was not happy. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, he writes a gloomy account of his experiences. He sought contentment in wealth and work, but he did not find it. He was not satisfied with wisdom or women. He searched for happiness in wine but was bitterly disappointed.

     Something horrible happens to those who exist without God. As they pursue happiness in things, a craving for their pursuits begins to intensify. They become obsessed with work, leisure, power, relationships, sex, wealth …. Since their priorities are out of order, the return or reward they receive from their passion diminishes. Need, addiction and dependence grow while satisfaction, peace and fulfillment dissipate. Some people at that point surrender their lives to God. Others exist by following the circuit, running from one thing to another, seeking happiness but not finding it. Some become so desperate they take their lives in order to stop the madness. But there is hope—you can find yourself and be happy if you look in the right places for the right things. When we are totally God’s we are more ourselves than ever (E. Stanley Jones). If you gain the whole world and lose your own soul in the process; what have you accomplished (Jesus Christ)?

Stick Together

November 15

 

Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or encouragement—and we will make the goal. (Robert Collier)

     The prophets were given a glimpse into the future and described with inerrant accuracy the condition of our world today. The writer of Hebrews saw a deluge of wickedness being poured out on the earth in the end times. He issues a warning, “Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near.” We were not created for wrongdoing so don’t let down your guard and become involved in things that crowd God out of your life. Prioritize the two great commandments: love God and love people. Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize (Elizabeth Harrison).

     Violence worldwide is escalating at alarming proportions. The atrocities that make headlines daily bear witness to the fact that a torrent of demon power has been unleashed on earth. Paul declared, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from what we believe; they will follow lying spirits and teaching that comes from demons.” You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits; when we all help one another; everybody wins (Jim Stovall).

     We are wrestling against principalities, powers, the rulers of darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places (Paul). It is impossible for us to stand alone; we need all that the Lord provides for us through our relationship with Him and with each other. There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend (Kathryn Hathaway). When we encourage and praise others two things happen: we feel good about ourselves and we make other people feel good about themselves. Watch your step. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. Keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes (Hebrews). Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it (Jess Lair).

Not Enough

November 14

 

Sleep with clean hands, either kept clean all day by integrity or washed clean at night by repentance. (John Donne)

     One day while babysitting my eighteen-month old son, he filled his diaper to overflowing. Attempting to remove that mess without taking special precaution seemed unwise, so in a moment of desperation I conceived a creative idea on how to resolve the problem. Daniel and I marched outside of our little apartment and I stuck the water hose down the back of his diaper. The plan worked and it was relatively painless for both of us. Everything was perfect until my wife drove up. I could tell by the look on her face; she didn't approve of my unique childcare methods. She stopped the car rather abruptly, rushed over, expressed in no uncertain terms her feelings and took Daniel into the house. After giving her time to cool off, I went inside. There in the living room stood my handsome little man—clean and smelling good. He appeared as though he had never been dirty in his life.

     Every person, no matter how much of a mess they have made of themselves can begin again and walk through life healed, appearing as if they had never been dirty. The Apostle Paul declared, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He has saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit." The idea of cleansing and renewing indicates a transformation for the better, a renovation and a complete change of heart. This conversion is initiated through the Holy Spirit. God forgives but that is not all; He also cleanses our lives, so that we can grow out of the things that once caused us to fall and fail.

     If you come to the Lord seeking forgiveness alone; you have not gone far enough. God forgives us and that is wonderful, but mercy isn’t enough to deter or keep us from yielding to the same indulgences again and again. When we acknowledge our inability to cope with addiction or weakness and begin seeking God, we are on our way to conquering the problems that dominate us. Christ’s brother, James wrote, (Amplified Bible), “Confess to one another 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.”

     God’s power will eventually destroy our passion for wrongdoing. It’s an exciting process that never ends. Seek forgiveness, develop godly habits and move forward in relationship with Christ. Embrace God’s nature by hiding His Word in your heart. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (John).

Resistance Training

November 13

 

The art of living lies not in eliminating but in growing with troubles. (Bernard M. Baruch)

     Weight lifting and resistance training are a lot like life. The heavier the weights and the harder it is to lift or move, the stronger we will become as we work out with it. In training with weights people often do what is called a negative where more weight than one can move is put on the bar. A partner or spotter helps lower the bar onto the chest of the lifter. He or she then expends all their energy in an attempt to move the bar; the spotter assists by helping push the weight towards its resting-place. If this exercise is performed correctly your work out partner will only help enough to keep the bar moving. One must fight the weight, with as little help as possible, and place the bar back on the rack. Negatives are hard on your muscles so you should not do them all the time. Your goal is to mix this exercise into your weight-training program from time to time, just enough to shock your muscles and produce growth.

     Almost no one looks forward to trials or tests, but it is important to remind ourselves that it is only through difficulty that we grow strong. Challenges are a tool that shock our spiritual muscles and produce growth in our lives. “Dear brothers and sisters,” writes James the brother of Christ, “whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things (Henry Ward Beecher).

     Some do not grow in faith because they fail to exercise. Negatives are a part of life but they need not impede our spiritual growth. Tommy Barnett declared, “I am learning to make troubles my servant—to see the situations that challenge my ability as an opportunity for God to empower my feeble effort. God does not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability of endurance, and neither does He challenge us without supplying His help.” When you are struggling under a load of care, the Holy Spirit who is your friend and partner, your comforter and strengthener; He will help you. God lifts the bar of difficulty with us—not for us. He is our spotter.

Be Careful!

November 12

 

There is no refuge from memory and remorse in this world. The spirits of our foolish deeds haunt us, with or without repentance. (Gilbert Parker)

     How many times have you heard the words be careful? Driving home from work the other night my mind wandered off to those by-gone days of mini chopper bicycles with banana seats and high rise handle bars. The wheelie bikes, as they were called, changed our lives. Everyone wanted to be the wheelie champion of their neighborhood, and we competed against one another. So I spent hours practicing and perfecting my wheelie skills. Pee Wee Winston was the one to beat; he could free style on one wheel for what seemed like forever, going whole blocks without ever allowing his front tire to touch the ground. Seems a little wacky, completely brainless and even crazy, now in light of the fact that after all these years I’m still paying for being half witted back then. But on this particular day everyone was hanging out at Paul King’s house; thus providing me with a good opportunity to show off. So in the excitement of the moment with a burst energy derived from those watching, especially the girls, I jerked on the handle bars. The bike flipped and I went crashing to the pavement, landing on my back. The bike fell on top of me and the handle bar spun around violently and hit me in the mouth, chipping three of my front teeth. That careless and reckless moment cost me a great deal and I am still paying to the delight of my dentist.

     And by the way, caution must also be exercised in our spiritual lives. Jesus, the Son of God, did not take chances—ever. One of His greatest tests came as He was being tempted by the Prince of Darkness. Satan led Jesus to a high place, south of where of Herod’s Temple stood. The scoundrel challenged Him, “If you are the Son of God jump … the angels will catch you.” Jesus did not succumb to Lucifer’s power of suggestion. He simply said, “You shall not tempt the Lord God.” In other words, “I refuse to be persuaded or influenced to act presumptuously or recklessly. You cannot seduce me with such a foolish suggestion.”

     We cannot do stupid things and expect God to bless us. It will not happen! Christ never used His power for His own personal benefit; He did not abuse the privilege He did not march in a parade or show off—He was not a daredevil. He lived a humble and simple life, investing His all into helping people.

     As a follower of Jesus you cannot indulge in careless and reckless behavior. God’s favor will not protect you. Don’t put Him to the test. Christ did not and you shouldn’t. Remember, the foolish are like ripples on water, for whatever they do is quickly destroyed; but the righteous are like carvings upon stone, for their smallest act is durable (Horace).

Use Or Lose

November 11

 

Everything I understand about gifts indicates they are to be enjoyed as well as employed. (Wayne Pohl)

     God has endowed us with the skill to do certain things well; so if He has given you ability … to speak out … serve well … do a good job … encourage others … share generously … take responsibility … do it gladly (Paul). When you and I find our grace and calling, it’s like striking oil; the searching process is sometimes long and hard—the returns are overwhelming (Tommy Barnett). Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage (Pope John 23rd).

     Jesus had a great deal to say about gifts and accountability in the story he told of Three Servants (Matthew 25:14-30). A man went on a trip and called together his workers, giving them money to invest for him while he was gone. He gave five bags of gold to one, two bags of gold to another and one bag of gold to the last—dividing it according to their ability to manage. The two servants who had received the most went right to work and doubled their money. The individual who received one bag of gold dug a hole and hid it in the ground. The owner of the house returned from his trip and settled accounts, saying to the two servants who invested wisely, “Great job, you are good and faithful servants. You have been responsible in handling this small amount, so now I am going to give you many more opportunities. Let’s celebrate together.” The irresponsible servant who hid his money offered excuses for doing nothing with that which was committed to his trust. The owner of the business said, “You are a irresponsible and lazy servant … you should have at least put my money in the bank so I could have some interest ... throw this useless worker into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” A great deal of talent is lost in this world for want of a little courage (Sydney Smith).

     The Holy Spirit is on a mission; He empowers and enables all those who walk with the Lord to use the gifts He has placed in them. And when we use what God has placed in our hands; He will provide greater opportunities for us to invest and receive dividends. The main thing is that we keep the main thing the main thing—use or lose your gifts. All around us possibilities exist where we can use our talents to help others and honor the Lord; find a need that is not being met and take care of it.

Heaven's Flaw

November 10

 

Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. (Lewis Sperry Chafer)

     Heaven is not a perfect place; it has one very obvious flaw and blemish mingled in with its eternal splendor and glory. Permit me to explain. When a follower of the Lord dies, he or she will receive a celestial body; perfect in every way. “God … has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears, but we know that we will be like Jesus, for we will see Him as he really is (John). In heaven we will be clothed with the glory that Christ shares with God. We will appear like Jesus but with some noticeable differences—we will not have any scars on our bodies. The hands of Christ are disfigured, His side is flawed and His feet are blemished. In the eternal city our spiritual bodies will be more perfect than the Lord’s. Paul the Apostle proclaimed (1 Corinthians 15:53), “… we will be changed … for this corruption will put on incorruption, and this mortal will put on immortality.”

     Jesus took our sins upon Himself. God allowed Him to die in darkness of despair and go to hell for our wrongdoing. Christ was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities and the chastisement of our peace with God was upon Him … by His stripes we are healed. The scars that humans made on Christ in the crucifixion are permanent and will exist forever as a memorial of God’s infinite love for people. Our heavenly bodies will be perfect; a memorial of Christ’s work of redemption. Heaven’s only flaw will be seen in the one who gave His life for us, so that we can give our lives to God through Him. Understand what heaven is: it is but the turning of the will to the love of God (Jacob Boehme).

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

November 9

 

We hear only what we listen for. (E. Stanley Jones).

     Directing our attention to spiritual things is often a difficult challenge. And attempting to tune out the distractions, interruptions and all that happens in the course of a day so we may hear what is going on inside, is often a nightmare. So how can we tune in and become sensitive to what the Lord is speaking to our hearts? Oswald Chambers said, “What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things … it is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life.”

     It is essential that we acquire the habit of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and keeping silent within; listening so as to lose nothing of what He says (Francois Fenelon). Christ is our true Friend, He gives us the counsel and the comfort we need in order to deal with all you and I face in life. Obedience sensitizes and softens our inner being. Disobedience, especially in the area of prayer and neglect of God’s Word, hardens the heart. It is not necessary for anyone to be unresponsive and resistant in attitude. Do what A. W. Tozer advises, “Retire from the world each day to a private place. Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart and a sense of God’s presence envelopes you. Deliberately tune out the unpleasant sounds and determine not to hear them. Listen for the inward voice till you learn to recognize it.”

     What we “turn to” and what we “turn from” determines our destiny—so form the habit of consistently turning to the Lord. Walking with Christ, talking to Him, hanging out with Him is our spiritual occupation. It is a gift of respect to be fully present with someone (Author Unknown). God is always talking so learn to tune in and listen to what He has to say. The goal of my spiritual life is to be close … to Jesus Christ so that I will always hear God and know that He always hears me (Oswald Chambers).

Poof!

November 8

 

Life is not merely being alive, but being well. (Author Unknown)

     God is not a deranged monster waiting for us to step out of line so He can delightfully call on His power and say, “Poof, you are stricken with disease.” Sickness, death and disease came into the world because of wrongdoing; through the Great Rebellion that began with Adam and Eve. Both sin and sickness came into the world through the fall of the human race … therefore, we must look for the healing of both in the savior of the human race … know this, if God was merciful enough to forgive you when you were unconverted, He is merciful enough to heal you now that you are in His family (T. L. Osborn).

     Provision has been made for us, not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but also for the healing of our bodies. James, Christ’s brother declared, “Is anyone among you sick?” Let that person call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him or her, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the sick.” Notice that James did not imply that healing is only for a few chosen people. Those who are sick have been afforded the privilege of calling for the elders of the church for prayer and healing. Prayer is one of the most powerful resources God has given us … it changes lives, bringing peace, healing and health, comfort and hope (Garth Hanson).

     Healing is not just the work of physicians, and hospitals are not the only hope for the sick; it is the will of God that every church in every community be an institution of healing for those in need. Look to your health; and if you have it, praise God and value it next to conscience; for health is a great blessing, a gift that money can't buy (Izaak Walton). Bless the Lord … and do not forget His benefits; He forgives all your iniquities and heals all your diseases (Psalms).

     Martin Luther wrote, “It is the part of a Christian to take care of his or her body … that we may be enabled to labor for those who are in want, that the stronger may serve the weaker, and we may be children of God, busy for one another, bearing one another's burdens … fulfilling the law of Christ.”

The Cross Alone

November 7

 

Love is that liquor—the liquid sweet and most divine; which my God feels as blood; but I as wine. (George Herbert)

     The message we often hear proclaimed today is simply an echo from a voice of centuries past, “You can have it all without commitment. Don’t worry about sacrifice. It won’t happen to you. No one will ever know. Forget about God. Burden not yourself with right or wrong, the Bible or prayer. Church is a thing of the past and full of hypocrites.” These messages being inspired by the Prince of Darkness through the media, in the classrooms, by blind leaders of blind are making a negative impact on the world today.

     Even Christ was tempted with compromise. Satan took Jesus to the peak of a high mountain and showed him the nations of the world and their glory (Matthew 4:8). He whispered to the Lord, “Don’t worry about the cross; that which you desire does not require blood or sacrifice. Just follow me; I’ll give you everything. You don’t have to suffer or die—that doesn’t make sense.” The preaching of the message of the cross sounds foolish to those who are on the road to self destruction (Paul). But as Calvin Miller said, “The cross is seen as the saving act of Christ, but even more than this, it is seen as the final place of reconciliation between God and humanity.”

     At the cross we see what wrongdoing deserves and what God requires. The cross was too terrible to be optional, the suffering too enormous to be unnecessary, and the Sufferer too precious to his Father to have been given over needlessly to such pain (Peter Lewis). Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Everything about the death of Christ was bloody—the slapping of his face; the scourge that ripped apart his back; the crown of thorns which pierced his brow; that blood that spurted from his hands and ankles with every blow of the hammer; the substance of life that oozed from his nose and mouth as he writhed on the cross; blood and water gushed from his side when the lance tore him open—it was a bloody death (Author Unknown). Do not be swayed or deceived; Jesus suffered because it was necessary for restoring humanity to the hope and possibility of intimacy with God. Let us focus on the Bible, God’s Word,for our theology and understanding of His purpose. What Martin Luther said is true, “The cross alone is our theology.”

South Wind

November 6

 

False confidence is the forerunner of misfortune. (Aesop)

     A donkey and a rooster were in a barnyard together when a lion, desperate from hunger, approached the spot. He was about to spring upon the donkey, when the rooster (to the sound of whose voice the lion, it is said, has a singular aversion) crowed loudly, and the lion fled away as fast as he could. The donkey, observing his trepidation at the mere crowing of a rooster summoned courage to attack him. He galloped after him for that purpose and had run no long distance, when the lion, turning about, seized and tore him to pieces.

     The south wind blew softly and the ship’s crew supposed the weather was in their favor; they would have safe passage to Crete to spend the winter before proceeding to Rome (Acts 27). They approached Julius, the Roman officer responsible for the 276 people on board, many of whom were prisoners being transported to Rome for trial at Caesar’s Judgment Hall. Among them was Paul the Apostle, composer of fourteen books of the Bible. He warned all those in charge that the voyage would end in disaster. The Centurion did not listen so the crew set sail believing the unusually pleasant weather indicated good fortune. It was a subtle sign and they could not have been more mistaken. No sooner had they set sail than a strong northeastern wind began to blow. For fourteen days the storm raged and the sun did not shine. Paul and the other believers traveling on board fasted and prayed. When all possibility for survival was lost an angel of the Lord appeared to Paul with a message of hope—every passenger would be saved but the ship with all its cargo would be lost. That is exactly what happened.

     We must exercise caution when making important decisions, even after receiving positive reinforcement from circumstances. A positive event is not always a green light for good. Be careful and wait on the Lord until you have definite guidance from Him. There is an ancient fable told about a dog who was accustomed to eating raw eggs. One day he saw an oyster and, opening his mouth to its widest extent, swallowed it down with the utmost relish, supposing it to be an egg. Soon afterwards suffering great pain in his stomach, he said, "I deserve all this torment, for my folly in thinking that everything round must be an egg." They, who act without sufficient thought, will often fall into unsuspected danger (Aesop).

The First Essential

November 5

 

You can have anything you want if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose. (Abraham Lincoln)

     When we seek the presence of God, He has a unique way of showing up. Napoleon Hill declared, “Greatness comes to those who develop a burning desire to achieve goals.” Our priority is not high achievement, but an inner longing to please the Lord.

     The Sheep Gate, known today as Saint Stephens or the Lions Gate, is located on the north east corner of the wall surrounding the ancient city of Jerusalem. Archeologists have made extensive digs here and uncovered the Pool of Bethesda mentioned in the Bible.

     Two thousand years ago this pool was recognized as a holy site because of a supernatural phenomenon occurring there frequently. Sick people were brought to Bethesda; there they waited for an angel to stir the waters and the first person to step into the pool was miraculously healed of their sickness (John 5:1-9). Jesus visited this place and noticed a helpless cripple lying on a mat. It was obvious from all appearances that he had been there a long time. Jesus asked, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t sir,” the sick man replied, “I have no one to help me ….” Jesus told him, “Stand up … and walk!” He was instantly healed.

     Where did the miracle that led to the cripple’s healing begin? Was it when Christ showed up? No! It began when this sick man, longing for God to touch him, was placed near the pool. Cripple wanted to be close to the Lord for he knew that a miracle was his only hope. Dennis Waitley said, “To desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve.” The first essential for receiving from the Lord is desire. Christ met this poor man at the point of his longing and gave him the miracle he sought. Whatever things you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them and you will have them (Mark). Desire creates the power (Raymond Hollingwell). If you have the will to win, you have achieved half your success; if you don’t, you have achieved half your failure (David Ambrose).

Rich And Poor

November 4

 

Death … is the final awakening. (Sir Walter Scott)

     Life is short—here today and gone tomorrow. As children we were amazed at how easy it was for an adult to tie shoes, drive a car and open a bag of candy. We longed for the day when we would be like them. We tossed coins into wells and blew out candles, wishing that life would go faster. Suddenly our hopes became reality; we arrived at the place we dreamed of being. Then we wished again; we wished that time would stop for us. James, the brother of Christ, wrote almost 2000 years ago, "As a flower of the field we pass away." Death comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes (John Donne).

     It has been said that there are two types of people in the world—the "haves" and the "have-nots". Many feel the "haves" have life and the "have-nots" have not life. Significance is of utmost importance for the rich and poor alike. James 1:9 says, "Let the lowly … glory in his exaltation." Looking beyond the adversities inherent in poverty is the poor person’s challenge. But when those who lack, look beyond this life believing the promises in God’s Word; even the poorest of the poor gain significance in their relationship with the Lord. Christ has prepared a great eternal inheritance for those who serve Him. God baptizes His children in significance and contentment. Hope is found in faith.

     In like manner an affluent man or woman faces an equally daunting task. James said, “Let the rich glory in their humiliation, because as a flower of the field they will pass away.” Prosperous people must look away from their abundance, focusing on the poverty of life without God’s blessing. They have much to overlook and the temptations are many, but those who persevere will be greatly blessed. The secret for conquering the propensity for independence and self-reliance among those possessing wealth—look into the ugly face of death.

     Ignorance of death is destroying us. Death is the dark backing a mirror needs if we are to see anything (Saul Bellow). Eternal life is promised to all who walk with God. The poor must reach beyond their poverty and inferiority to God. The rich must fix their gaze on God, looking beyond their riches to His will for their lives. When the rich and poor alike, learn to reach beyond themselves, they will find a sense of significance that will last forever. Death is a foreshadowing of life—we die that we may die no more (Herman Hooker).

Carry A Stone

November 3

 

It’s motive alone that gives character to the actions of men and women. (Jean De La Bruyere)

     A modern parable is told of Jesus walking along a rocky road with His disciples. He asked each of them to select a stone and carry it for Him. The story goes that John chose a large rock, while Peter chose a small one. After selecting their stones, Jesus led them to the top of a mountain and miraculously turned the rocks into bread. The tired and hungry disciples quickly devoured the provisions. Peter’s small portion wasn’t a good mouthful so John, feeling sorry for him, gave Peter some of his bread. A few days later Jesus again asked the disciples to carry a stone for Him. Peter, expecting to receive a good reward, chose a very large rock. This time Jesus led the group to the Jordon River and told them to cast the stones into the water. A good amount of time passed and nothing happened, so the disciples just stood there, looking at one another in bewilderment. Jesus seeing their surprise asked, “For whom did you carry the stone?”

     God always looks on the motive, not the deed. One of the challenges we face as followers of Christ is not allowing our desire for God’s blessing to take precedence over our love for Him. In this story Peter took the Lord for granted, seeking what he could get from Him. He became confused when Jesus did not turn his rock into the reward he expected, thinking that he had worked very hard for nothing. Albert Einstein said, “One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.” When we do things with an impure motive attached to the action, even things for the Lord; we become confused and angry when our preconceived expectations are not realized.

     You will be asked to carry many stones for the Lord as you walk with Him. But the one that will be the most cumbersome and difficult to handle will be love. Love God with all your heart. It is possible. Kindness can become its own motive—we are made kind by being kind (Eric Hoffer). Love is a sister virtue. As you love the Lord it produces more love that you can invest into your relationship with Him. Carry your stone—keep your eyes on Jesus.

Lucky Strike

November 2

 

A bad habit is like a comfortable bed—easy to get into and hard to get out of. (Author Unknown)

     My Grandmother Roger’s body suddenly began changing shape, her stomach began to grow bigger and bigger, making it appear as though she was pregnant. Something was definitely wrong but I didn’t know what. Grandma and I were very close and I thought she was the greatest person on the face of the whole earth. She always made me feel loved and important, and grandma’s food; it was the best on planet earth. Her house was always spotless and tidy, even the carton of Lucky Strike cigarettes on her dresser and the spit can beside her chair, seemed to add charm and adult dignity to her home. Little by little Grandma’s health began to fail and I learned that she was not pregnant; grandma had an inoperable tumor that took her life at age 60.

     It is easier to prevent ill habits than to break them (Thomas Fuller). The flesh is crazy and will learn to like almost anything we allow, if repeatedly practiced. All the adults in my family smoked so it seemed right. The health warnings on the cigarette packages meant nothing to them and they meant nothing to me. When grandma died I had been smoking for three years; it was her illness and death that convinced me smoking was bad. But my body, as strange as it seemed then, wanted to continue the practice. My addiction screamed out for fulfillment. Even though I wanted to stop, I couldn’t quit doing this crazy thing that was probably going to kill me. I both hated and loved cigarettes.

     We first make our habits and then our habits make us (John Dryden). The flesh will accept repulsive practices. Once the body acquires a taste, it yearns for it. That is the case with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, overeating, and sex. Initially your body and mind will violently react to certain practices, but after a season of rejection, the body will accept the experience. Sweet becomes bitter and bitter becomes sweet—right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right. As it is with our fleshly being so it is with our spiritual being. If we feed on wrong, the practice of it will eventually begin to feel right. Compromise, unfaithfulness and complaining are hazardous to ones spiritual well being. At first, doing these things violates our spiritual conscience, but with time and rationalization; the wrong feels right causing us to grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:29-32). Don’t be guilty of developing a Lucky Strike taste for something that will eventually turn bitter and destroy you.

Make A Stand

November 1

 

Far be it from me to paint a rosy picture of the future. Indeed, I do not think we should be justified in using any but the most somber tones and colors while our people … are passing through a dark and deadly valley. (Winston Churchill)

     On September 16, 1620, one hundred and two people boarded the Mayflower in England and sailed 3,000 miles, seeking the freedom and the right to worship God. Soon after landing in the New World they drew up the Mayflower Compact which declared, “In the name of God, we whose names are underwritten … having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith … a voyage to plant the first colony … do solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and of another, covenant and combine ourselves together … to enact, constitute and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet.”

     Faith in God was a priority of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The spiritual foundation of this nation thrust it into prominence, giving America a voice in the modern world. But what does the future hold for this nation? According to the prophecies in the Revelation of Saint John (the last book of the Bible); things are not going to be good. John predicts that America will join forces with a future dictator who will seek to eradicate the Christian faith. This diabolical leader is referred to as the Antichrist (1 John 2:18). All who dwell on the earth will worship him, those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8). The whole world will oppose the Christian Faith and follow this great deceiver. This evil person is called “The Beast” and he will rule for seven years, requiring everyone to receive a special mark or implanted chip on their body—the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-18). Only marked persons will be allowed to buy and sell or receive any government controlled privilege: education, health care, food, employment, etc. People will eagerly receive their mark while multiplied millions of Christians are killed for their faith.

     The Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests (Andrew Jackson). Faith in God made America great. The Pilgrims separated themselves from the world that opposed their right to follow the teachings of God’s Word. They gave their lives for the cause of Christ; half of them dying within the first year of their departure from England. But they changed the world. And today the followers of Christ are being called upon to once again to make a stand. Believers are being killed and persecuted daily in the modern world. But there is hope—Jesus said (Matthew 16:24-27), “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it … for I, the Son of Man, will come in the glory of My Father with His angels, and will reward each one according to their works.”