Now I Know

September 30

 

Humanity was predestined to have free will. (Hal Lee Luyah)

     Before the world was created and humanity existed only as a thought in the mind of God, the plan of salvation was birthed. People often ask, "Did God know that mankind was going to sin?" The specifics regarding this issue are at best sketchy, but we do know that God fashioned humanity with a free will with the potential for wrongdoing. Before the creation idea was enacted God’s plan of redemption in place. The Apostle Peter declared, “God chose Christ as your ransom long before the world began …. You followed God’s prearranged plan. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed Jesus to the cross and murdered Him.”

     There are places in the Scriptures where it seems that God elects not to know specific details concerning events in our lives. God says to Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on the lad … for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son … from me.” Finis Dake says, “Here God confirmed what He thought about Abraham …. As a free moral agent Abraham could have disappointed the Lord, but testing him made it possible to say—now I know. God limits His own attributes to conform to His plan for free moral agents. This makes Him no less omniscient, but makes it possible for Him to respect the sovereign will of man. God does not plan humanities choices or acts, but holds him responsible for them should he choose and act contrary to the best good of all.” Moses said, “The Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness to humble and test you, to know what was in your heart ….”

     God, having placed good and evil in our power, has given us full freedom of choice; He does not keep back the unwilling, but embraces the willing (John Chrysostom). Adversity is a part of life and we must learn to lean on the Lord during difficulty. When facing hardship remember that the Lord is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. Testing is a blessing that helps us to become strong in the Lord, and allows the Lord to be strong in us. God wants only one thing in the whole world—to find the innermost part of the human spirit clean and ready for Him to accomplish His divine purpose in it. He has all power in heaven and earth, but the power to do His work in people against their will He does not have (John Tauler).

Rubber Band Man

September 29

 

He or she who would have no trouble in this world must not be born in it. (Italian Proverb)

     They work on the same principle; it is true for all: a rubber band must be stretched to be effective. If a rubber band is not stretched; it will eventually lose its strength and elasticity. This truth applies to people; every person making a significant mark on the world has been stretched beyond the seeming limits of his or her endurance.

     An ancient king of Israel lived a story book life; everything he did prospered. He inherited the throne from his father when he was twenty-five. He led with integrity, instituted spiritual reforms, secured the borders of Israel from all immediate threats to their national security, built a thriving economy and governed as no other ruler before him.

     But fourteen years into his twenty-nine year reign, the Assyrians invaded Israel with an army of 185,000 fierce well seasoned warriors. Eight years before this campaign Assyria had destroyed Northern Israel and now they were determined to complete their mission—destroy the Jews. Forty-six cities had fallen and 200,000 Israelis exiled. Hezekiah was trapped inside the walls of Jerusalem with no where to turn, so he went into the temple of God and prayed. The Lord encouraged him through Isaiah the prophet and sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army.

     During these dark days Hezekiah became deathly sick. Things went from bad to worse when Isaiah showed up and said to him, “The Lord says for you to get your affairs in order; you are going to die.” At the end of his rope King Hezekiah rolled over on his deathbed and wept. He prayed fervently. Almost immediately the Lord gave Isaiah a second message to deliver, “I, the Lord God, have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears and am going to add fifteen years to your life.”

     But there was one more test; for the Rubber Band Man to endure. Babylon was seeking alliances and sent an envoy to Israel. Hezekiah welcomed them, hoping to join forces with Babylon and form a strong coalition against the Assyrians. Isaiah scolded the king for aligning himself with a country that would eventually turn and become a dreaded foe. This rebuke came because Hezekiah did not seek the Lord before making a commitment that affected the destiny of his people. The most underutilized source of spiritual power in our lives today is prayer (Peter Wagner). Every generation is guilty. E. Stanley Jones declared, “As a saved soul, the real business of your life is prayer.” So pray and don’t break when life stretches you beyond the seeming limits of your ability to endure.

Threefold Filling

September 28

 

If we do not open ourselves to a daily encounter with the Holy Spirit, then the inevitable conclusion is that we are disobedient Christians (Dwight L. Moody)

     The Lord established a pattern of experience that we are to emulate in our spiritual lives. On the day that Jesus was raised from the dead He appeared to His disciples, showed them the scars in His hands and the ones in His side. Then He said to them, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” What a night for the followers of Christ to remember, the night they were born again and entered into the new covenant relationship with God through Jesus. But this experience would prove to be only the beginning of that which was to come.

     Jesus instructed them, “Stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with the power from heaven.” A few days later, on the Day of Pentecost, 120 servants of the Lord gathered to pray. Suddenly the Holy Spirit fell on them. They were all baptized in the Spirit and began to speak in other languages (tongues) as the Spirit gave them utterance. As a result of that miracle three thousand people were saved. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a onetime experience that is evidenced through them and also through us for a lifetime. But that was not all.

     A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit began in Jerusalem; thousands were saved and followed Christ. The religious leaders feared this movement and arrested the disciples. They spent a night in jail, were threatened and then released. The first thing they did after getting out of jail was pray. As they prayed, the building where they were meeting shook and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and boldly preached God’s message (Acts 4:31 LB). Paul declared, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The tense of the Greek for “be filled” makes it clear that such a Spirit-filled condition does not stop with a single experience, but is maintained by “continually being filled,” as commanded here (Spirit Filled Life Bible). Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a continual experience that happens daily as we walk with Christ. Christianity is built not on precepts alone, but on concrete examples. One method God uses to instruct us is history. It tells us how men and women knew and did His will, so that by observing their lives we may discover God’s will for ourselves and learn how we may do it (Watchman Nee). We should emulate the threefold filling experience of those who walked with Christ, the ones who set the example we are to follow. Be born again; top that off by being baptized in the Holy Spirit and walking with the Lord, continually filled with His presence.

Battle Of The Gods

September 27

 

Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force. (Darth Vader—Star Wars )

     Generation after generation has denied the existence of God but His name lives on. Napoleon said, “There are in the world two powers—the sword and the Spirit. And the Spirit has always vanquished the sword.”

     Around 1500 B.C. Moses, a humble prophet of God, stood before Pharaoh the mighty king of Egypt and said, (Exodus 5:1-2), “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.’” “Is this so?” retored Pharoah. “And who is the Lord? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know him, and I will not let them go.” Pharaoh believed he was the son of Horus a falcon deity, and that he was ruler of the universe. So he defied God, the God of gods and creator of the universe. Moses threw down his shepherd’s rod and it became a snake, a sign God had given to him. The Egyptian king gathered his magicians and duplicated the miracle. Momentarily, the sorcerers reveled in their power, until Moses’ snake ate theirs. So the battle of the gods begins.

     The River Nile was a primary god of Egypt, known as the Father of Life. Egypt worshipped the river and its frogs. God cursed the Nile and its frogs with two plagues, proving that He Himself was God Almighty (Exodus 7:14-8:15). In spite of this Pharaoh stubbornly refused to believe. The sixth of ten plagues—boils broke out on the Egyptians. This crippled the nation because Egyptian law would not allow a priest to perform religious duties with open sores on his body. God again proved Himself. The final judgment came upon every family who did not honor the Passover and place lamb’s blood on the doorposts their houses. The first-born child and firstborn animal of every household left unprotected died. This plague changed worship in Egypt because all the priests were firstborn sons.

     Though the Lord may be opposed, attacked, resisted, still the ultimate outcome can never be in doubt (Father Andrew). God proved that He was God to the Jews and the Egyptians. The Egyptians destroyed themselves by rejecting His reality and worshipping false gods—false concepts—false assumptions—false prophets. The Jews were blessed because of their faith in the Lord. Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing and without the life, there is no living (Thomas Kempis). Jesus Christ the Lamb of God said, “I am the Way, the truth, and the life, No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Sunday Best

September 26

 

Without respect, love cannot go far or rise high: it is an angel with but one wing. (Alexandre Dumas)

     My grandfather, a midwestern farmer born in 1899, wore the same thing almost every day of his life; bib overalls, a flannel shirt, a cap and brogan work boots. He was consistent always; except for those Sunday Go To Meeting Times, when grandpa dressed up extra nice in his new bib overalls, new flannel shirt, new hat and new work boots. Grandpa believed that if you were going somewhere special to meet someone important, you ought to dress up and wear your best.

     When God spoke to Moses about building the Tabernacle in the wilderness He outlined His plans down to the smallest detail, including the clothing the priests were to wear (Exodus 39:1-31). The robe of the High Priest was glorious, decorated with diamonds, precious stones, costly gold and silver. It was made from the finest cloth, fit only for a king. God, like Grandpa believed that nothing was too extravagant when meeting with someone special. The lavish design of the priestly robes spoke of God’s love for His people and the value He ascribed to His greatest creation. The High Priest stood before people in behalf of God and before God in behalf of people.

     The High Priest had many special duties in the tabernacle. He was responsible to God for every aspect of worship in Israel. On the Day of Atonement he performed his most important spiritual service of the year. On this sacred day the Priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and offered a blood sacrifice to the Lord. He wore his garments into inner sanctuary where the presence of God rested on the Ark of the Covenant. There he made atonement for Israel’s wrongdoing. Blood was sprinkled on the Ark that was placed behind the sacred veil. This offering made it possible for the Jews to give their daily sacrifices to God and receive His grace. Every priest who served in the tabernacle wore sacred clothing.

     My grandpa, the farmer, did not know much about the priestly attire of those who served in Moses’ Tabernacle. But Roscoe Wilfong understood something of great significance; if you are going to be in the presence of someone special you need to honor that person by looking your best. Honor the Lord by looking your very best. Put on the garments of praise and enter God’s presence through your faith in Christ.

A Hundred On Both Sides

September 25

 

My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher. (Socrates)

     Successful marriage requires a 100% commitment from both the husband and wife. The relationship of many couples begins deteriorating shortly after the honeymoon is over. What is the cause? One reason is that far too many husbands and wives base their commitment on the feelings of love rather than on the decision to love. Love is a decision. Feelings fluctuate. Relationships that are founded on feelings work only when things are good, and when difficulties do occur, the commitment to the marriage begins to deteriorate. Emotion alone is not a reliable foundation on which to build a relationship. Many partners are satisfied when they feel in love; and totally bewildered when the emotion of love no longer sweeps them off their feet. Multitudes fall in and out of love with every change in the seasons of life. Peter Marshall writes, “We are souls living in bodies so when we really fall in love, it isn’t just physical attraction. If it’s just that, it won’t last. Ideally, it’s also spiritual attraction. God has opened our eyes and let us see into someone’s soul. We have fallen in love with the inner person. That’s why God is the greatest asset to romance. He thought it up in the first place.”

     Take charge of your life and manage your feelings by making them follow your commitment instead of allowing your commitment to follow your feelings. The old timers intuitively practiced this principle, saying to themselves, "We got into this relationship because we wanted it, and come hell or high water, we are going to do whatever it takes to make it work."

     Very few couples enter marriage with the allusion that they have found the perfect partner. It is almost humanly impossible for a husband to live up to every expectation the wife has envisioned for him. The wife will not make every dream of her husband come true. Happiness comes to those who will follow a very practical suggestion the Apostle Paul gave, and when practiced, his advice will help couples build strong and lasting marriages. “Wives,” he said, “respect your husbands, and husbands love your wives.” When a husband loves his wife; warm feelings are nurtured in her heart, and she will be empowered to show him respect. When a wife respects and honors her husband, he will be empowered to express his love to her. Do not expect to receive more from your marriage than what you put into it—that is selfishness and selfishness is the root of all marital evils.

Venom

September 24

 

Wrong is what we do when our hearts are not satisfied with God. (Mike Bickle)

     All wrongdoing, even the small stuff that we esteem as nothing, contributes towards the ruin of our spiritual lives. A coral snake, tiny and unimposing to the eye, is just as deadly as a diamond back rattlesnake—maybe more so. The one reptile grows extremely big in comparison to the other, but both are equally as dangerous. So every form of disobedience poisons our spiritual health.

     A rich young man came running to Jesus (Mark 10:17-27). He knelt before Him and said, “Good teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The ruler replied, “Teacher, I’ve obeyed the commandments since I was a child.” Obviously, he was telling the truth because Jesus did not challenge his statement. Christ simply said to him, “You lack only one thing … go and sell all you have … and come, follow me.” At this, the man’s face fell, and he went sadly away because he had many possessions. This religious young man lived a wholesome moral life. Even though he kept the Law of Moses, he failed the Lord. Why—because his priorities were not properly aligned. Possessions had become his passion. Friendship with God is the objective of pure religion.

     Mike Bickle writes in the Pleasure of Holiness, “Have you ever thought about why we sin? We sin because we believe that it will provide pleasure that is superior to the pleasure of obedience.” Adam and Eve were given one commandment (Genesis 2:15 NLT), “You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.” Eating fruit from a tree certainly doesn’t sound like a gross or perverse act of disobedience, but breaking that one commandment led to the corruption of the entire human race. One simple act of defiance affected the world. One act of silent rebellion ruined the ruler’s hopes of living a rewarding spiritual life. Those imposing acts of wrongdoing—the diamondback sins we commit—result in spiritual demise. Even those small little acts of disobedience—coral snake wrongdoing, will eventually prove to be fatal to our spiritual health. Eternal life in relationship with God does not come as a result of doing good or being good (Matthew 7:21-24). Oswald Chambers said, “God nowhere holds a person responsible for having the heredity of sin, and does not condemn anyone because of it. Condemnation comes when I realize that Jesus Christ came to deliver me from this heredity of sin, and yet I refuse to let Him do so.”

A Mad World

September 23

 

If other planets are inhabited, they must be using this earth as their insane asylum. (George Bernard Shaw)

     Is the Aryan Brotherhood, the KKK, al Qaeda, ISIS, Khorasan, Hamas; Hezbollah and the International Neo-Nazi Organization just a sampling of the worldwide pandemic of hate sweeping the world? Has humanity gone mad? Is it possible for a common ordinary person to be happy in the present environment of craziness? Not according to James Agee who said, “Adjustment to a sick and insane environment is of itself not “health” but sickness and insanity.” Only those who embrace the values of a world gone berserk can find contentment in it.

     Who has the best chance for happiness; a crazy person living in a demented world or a normal person living on a disturbed planet? Life in a crazed world for a lunatic is normal, while life for a sane person living in this deranged world is torture. Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world (R. D. Lang). Where does one go from a world of insanity? Somewhere on the other side of despair (T. S. Elliot).

     So why in this age of enlightenment is there such chaos and turmoil on earth? Could it be because people have been deceived in this present hour; brainwashed and intoxicated by an ominous influence, causing them to believe that crazy is normal and normal is crazy—that right is wrong and wrong is right?

     There is hope for those seeking refuge from the spirit of insanity sweeping the globe; it is found in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Two millennia ago the Apostle Paul lived in a pagan world dominated by savagery and barbarianism. He declared, “People have eyes for the fashionable god of darkness who has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. So be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” This world is passing away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what God pleases will live with Him in peace forever.

Tame The Flesh

September 22

 

A complete fast is a total and literal denial of self. It is the truest prayer. (Mahatma Gandhi)

     There are two kinds of people according to Bonnie Chavda, “Those who live completely absorbed in the stress and hurried nature of our time; and those who are seeing that scene from a distance and crying out, ‘My God, I don’t want to be a part of that.’ The key to overcoming this all consuming hurried way of life is spiritual intimacy borne out of personal surrender through prayer and fasting.” Life in the 21st century is oftentimes frantic and fast paced; one important thing that each of us can do to ensure that we don’t lose sight of our priorities is set aside a few days to fast each year.

     As a young man I struggled with trying to control my sex drive and live a pure life. Constantly, I was trying to overcome a lack of self-esteem, gain self-control and manage my temper—all at the same time. It was a formidable challenge and I seemed to be fighting a losing battle. Again and again I failed. Finally, in an act of desperation, I fasted for 10 days. During those challenging days I drank gallons of water but didn’t eat any food at all. It was the hardest thing I had ever attempted to do but the results were amazing. It seemed as though I grew more in those ten days than I had advanced in ten years since becoming a Christian. My struggles were by no means over; but I did gain a courage and strength for the challenges that lay ahead. David wrote in Psalms 69:10, “I wept and humbled my soul with fasting.” Through fasting I learned what it meant to humble myself before the Lord and be empowered with His divine favor.

     In my opinion, the greatest discovery by modern man is the power to rejuvenate himself physically, mentally and spiritually with rational fasting (Dr. Paul Bragg). Saint Jerome wrote, “In the remotest part of a wild stony desert burnt up with the scorching sun that frightens even the monks that inhabit it; I seemed myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome. Many times I imagined myself witnessing the dancing of the Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them. I tamed my flesh with whole weeks of fasting.” The practice of fasting has proven to be effective for thousands of years; it is an invaluable tool in taming the flesh and developing faith. The best of all medicines are resting and fasting (Ben Franklin).

The Main Thing

September 21

 

Where there is great love there will always be miracles. (Willa Cather)

     In three years of ministry the only time Jesus traveled outside of Israel was when He went to Tyre and Sidon. In this region of Phoenicia He healed a demon possessed girl. On the way home Christ visited an area known as the Decapolis which was located east of Galilee. This district was predominately inhabited by Gentiles and consisted of ten cities. There he healed a deaf mute, creating a stir among the people. They were completely amazed, saying (Mark 7:37 NLT), “Everything he does is wonderful. He even heals those who are deaf and mute.” After seeing the miracle they ran off in every direction telling others about Christ. He tried to restrain them but they would not listen.

     In their excitement the people in Decapolis failed to realize the intent of miracles. The purpose of miracles then and now; they are a means that the Holy Spirit uses to draw people to God. Tommy Barnett said, “Miracles are so mighty that we often are tempted to glorify them rather than get on with the work of reaching people. Miracles are not meant to dazzle us but to facilitate people coming into relationship with God, thus fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.” Christ wanted to reveal His love to the people in Decapolis, but they became so overwhelmed with His power that they lost sight of His person. Instead of spending time listening and connecting with Him—they ran off talking about Him, failing to realize why He was there. Acquaint yourself with Christ and you will talk about Him; connect with His love and you will find yourself desiring to know Him. Decapolis missed the mark. One writer put it like this, “They missed the main thing by not keeping the main thing the main thing.”

     In order to be a realist you must believe in miracles (David Ben-Gurion). Once you begin seeking the Lord, His love will transform your character and heart. Don’t believe in miracles—depend on them (Laurence J. Peter). It is important to believe—there are no miracles for those that have no faith in them (French Proverb).

Hard To Swallow

September 20

 

A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. (Warren Wiersbe)

     Honest and open confession of misconduct is good medicine for the soul, although it is hard to swallow and tastes bitter; it is the first step in the process of emotional healing. Those who attempt to cover their transgressions will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy (King Solomon). Many today are unwilling take responsibility for malignant behavior; they often cast blame for their offenses on genetics, economics, parents or some unfortunate circumstance. Confession of wrongdoing works like a broom which sweeps away the dirt and leaves the floor brighter and clearer. So admit your mistakes to God and let the transformation begin. If you feel compelled to share with another person your own shortcomings, permit me offer this word of caution; don’t confess to anyone who is not in a position to help you. If you confess your sins to someone who can’t help you; you have placed them in a position to hurt you.

     Aristotle said, “We cannot learn without pain.” Hurt helps us to be cautious and mindful of the fact that we are fragile beings. Never let the mistakes or wrong directions, of which every person falls into many, discourage you because there is precious instruction to be gained by finding where we were wrong (Thomas Carlyle).

     The Lord gives us grace when we humble ourselves and experience the aches of repentance. The tender areas will mend in due time. God's anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (David). Those who confess their sins are no longer alone with themselves. God’s presence comes and restores them back to health. If we fail to bring things out in the open, we remain alone in our darkness. Forsake your tendency to live in seclusion and bring your sin into the light of Christ’s divine grace and love (John the Apostle). No one should ever be ashamed to own up to having been in the wrong, which is but one way of saying, I am wiser today than yesterday (Jonathan Swift).

A Worm A Feather

September 19

 

The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs. (Joan Didion)

     Contentment is produced when we align our priorities in the order of their importance. Something that Mr. Robin, a handsome strong bird, learned the hard way. One day Robin was offered a worm for a feather. After pondering the proposition he thought to himself, “Things are not so bad, but there has to be something better than spending all my time and energy working for food.” The daily routine of flying around from place to place in search of an insect or worm wasn’t all that bad, but now it was time to do something different. He decided to give up a few feathers, maybe two or three for some sweet juicy worms. He made his first exchange, ate a delicious meal and spent the day flying around. The first day went well so he went back and traded again. Robin began spending his time at the beach, playing in birdbaths and relaxing in the sun. He had missed the brighter side of life by being so involved in the monotony of responsibility. In the back of his mind he kept hearing a small voice warning him about giving feathers, but he wasn’t doing anything wrong—he was just having fun. So began the process. After a time it became difficult for him to fly, but it didn’t matter; he simply started walking to get his worms and stayed close to his food supply. Then one day he woke up and looked at himself in the mirror. His beautiful feathers were gone and he looked old and ugly. He went outside and frantically flapped his wings—he could not fly at all. He became hungry and went to get some food but no one was willing to give a featherless bird a worm for nothing. He had given away his power to fly and care for himself. He was earth bound and limited.

     Mr. Robin serves as an example of what happens to those who get their perspectives out of sequence. Diligently pursue what is best and do as Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests, “Spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.” The purpose and reason for which you exist will be realized as you make the pursuit of spiritual fulfillment your first concern.

Say Yes

September 18

 

Give what you have. To some one, it may be better than you dare to think. (Longfellow)

     You do not have to be enslaved by your weakness and propensity towards wrongdoing. God does not intend for you to wallow in the mire of guilt and shame because of what happened yesterday. His willingness to forgive, and empower you for good is greater than anything hindering you from becoming what He said you can become. For it is God who works in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Paul of Tarsus).

     Far too many feel that it is impossible to develop a meaningful relationship with the Lord, thinking they could never live up to His expectations. Others struggle with their jaded past. But remember this, the moment you say yes to God’s grace something wonderful transpires. Metaphorically speaking, you are transported back 2000 years in time. There on Golgotha Hill, outside the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jesus is being crucified, you are united with Him in death. You are then buried, resurrected in the twinkling of an eye, made one with Christ and then seated at the right hand of God in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:4-6). The whole process takes place instantly. We are acquitted for wrongdoing and justice is served. Paul declared, “You and I were dead because of sin and because our sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, He forgave your sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against you. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.” The moment you say yes to God; wrongdoing goes to the cross—it is finished—over!

     God loves us just the way we are but He loves us too much to leave us that way (Leighton Ford). You may fall and fail at times but you are no longer alone. Christ walks with you and through His grace your sins are erased. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God (Paul of Tarsus). God has a big an infinite capacity for compassion that far surpasses our potential for sin and failure. As long as we are willing to receive God’s grace, He is willing to impart it. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy (David).

Last Chance

September 17

 

There's no repentance in the grave. (Isaac Watts)

     Steve was at home enjoying a break from college. On Sunday he took up his old residence on the back roll of the church, listening to his dad preach. The service came to an end with his dad challenging those who were not right with God to come forward for prayer. Steve’s good friend Ruth was struggling. She grabbed the pew in front of her and held on so tight that her knuckles turned white. Steve wanted to help her so he leaned over and said, “Why don’t you just turn loose and go up front. Let dad pray for you?” She hesitated, thought for a moment and said, “No Steve, I can’t do it. I’m happy with the way things are!” The service was soon dismissed and she and Steve walked home together. As they strolled along the sidewalk, heading in the direction of Ruth’s house, Steve asked, “Why didn’t you go down to the altar today? I know God was dealing with your heart.” “Steve,” she said, “You don’t understand. I’m seventeen and I’ve got a whole life ahead of me. I’m not ready. One day—but not now.”

     Back at college Steve was watching the evening news and heard that a young lady from Butler, Kentucky had been killed in an automobile accident. A strange feeling went all through him. It was Ruth. Surely, his mind was playing tricks on him. Just to be sure he decided to call home. His mother answered the phone and she said to him, “Son, have you heard the news? Ruth was killed in a car wreck last night.” He was stunned. Immediately, his mind went back to Sunday morning and he could see Ruth stubbornly hanging on to the church pew and saying no to God.

     Ruth’s mother sat staring at the closed casket throughout the funeral service. When Pastor finished his sermon she began to scream, “No-o-o-oh!!! No-o-o-o-o, oh my God, no-o-o-oh, this can’t be, she wasn’t ready! No-o-o-o-oh! She can’t be gone, she wasn’t ready!!!” These agonizing words from the broken heart of Ruth’s mother often echoed in Steve’s mind as he began to live in rebellion against the Lord. One night many years later he woke up from a sound sleep, reliving the horrible ordeal surrounding Ruth’s death. He saw her clinging to that pew. The Lord spoke to him, “Ruth never had another chance and this is your last!” Steve was terrified. When morning arrived, he sought out a preacher and began his journey back to God. Don’t take your moments for granted; you’re just one heartbeat away from eternity. Death will not wait for you—you must prepare for it now. This could be your last chance.

Leap Of Faith

September 16

 

The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it is possible (Richard M. Devos)

     We took a great leap of faith and accepted the Pastorate of a small struggling congregation. After getting settled into our little apartment on the second floor of the church we got right to work painting, cleaning and trying to make our facility appealing. Having taught school for three years I went to the Duval County School Board and checked on the availability of a job and things looked very promising. I enrolled in two graduate classes at the University of North Florida to keep my teaching certificate current and prepared to teach public school and pastor.

     During my daily prayer time the Lord began challenging me to step out in faith and trust him to provide for us. But surviving on what the church paid would be impossible. They could not provide benefits and our little family of four needed the security of a regular salary and health care. While pondering my course of action I had an unusual dream. Unusual in the fact that I felt the Lord was speaking to me through it. This had never happened before. In the dream I lost my wallet and searched everywhere for it. Before giving up the search I made one more desperate attempt; having looked everywhere there remained only one more place to inspect—our bedroom. I searched the room and then looked behind the dresser, and there it lay on the floor filled with money. I was elated; not because I found my wallet but because it was filled with money. I said to myself, “All the money I need is right here. It’s here!”

     Nancy and I sought the Lord and decided to take a gigantic step of faith; we were going to trust the Lord and I would not pursue a teaching position. Our faith was severely tested. My son Daniel ended up in the emergency room with a cut finger. Issac, our youngest son, had extensive work done on his toe after Daniel dropped a two by four board on it from a second story balcony at church. A short time later Ike became deathly sick and needed hospital care but we had no insurance. Nancy had two miscarriages and we faced one test after the other. But God was faithful. Trial and miracle became the rule of our lives. Our first baby steps into ministry were not very impressive but we were able to purchase two houses and do the impossible. Bruce Barton was right, “Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances.” All we needed was there—resting inside our faith in God.

Inside The covers

September 15

 

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)

     No other book is as diverse, nor one so full of concentrated wisdom as the Bible … 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).

     Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Christ declared, “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. Do not make the mistake of attempting to comprehend everything 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 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.

     A practical and effective means for studying the Scriptures is the Topical Method. It’s as easy as going to Google and doing a search—for instance—what does the Bible say about faith or prayer or trust or any topic you may be interested in studying. You can also do it the old fashioned way by obtaining a Bible Concordance and using it to locate topics. Read the 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 Scripture 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.

     Spiritual growth will not occur without an adequate understanding of God’s Word. A casual reading of the Old and New Testament Scriptures is not sufficient; it will not produce the proper nourishment necessary for maintaining good spiritual health. Study and be diligent … rightly handling and skillfully teaching the Bible—God’s Word of Truth (The Apostle Paul).

Picture Perfect

September 14

 

A man or woman can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word darkness on the walls of his cell. (C. S. Lewis)

     It is said that the Emperor Trajan once addressed a Jewish rabbi by the name of Joshua and said, “Show me your God.” The wise sage answered, “Come out of the house, and see one of His ambassadors.” Leading him into the daylight, the rabbi asked the emperor to look upon the sun that was shining in his strength.”

     David the Psalmist writes, “God’s glory is on tour in the skies; His craft is on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening. Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, but their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere. God makes a huge dome for the sun—a superdome! The morning sun’s a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed, the day breaking sun an athlete racing to the tape. That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset.” Our Heavenly Father has clearly revealed Himself to humanity through His creation. The universe is not a coincidence. He created the heavens and earth so we could continually behold His greatness and glory.

     In the vast and the minute we see the unambiguous footsteps of the God, who gives its luster to an insect's wing, and wheels his throne upon the whirling worlds (William Cowper). Why do some deny God’s existence? For two basic reasons: to escape the responsibility of accountability to Him, and in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Because the Prince of Darkness, the god of this evil world has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.”

     Phillip Yancey comments, “People grow up with all sorts of notions of what God is like … but because of Jesus, however, we no longer have to wonder. When in doubt, we can look at Christ to correct our blurry vision.” Christ is a portrait of God—an exact likeness—God Himself.

     How great is God? Look at the world. What kind of being is God? Look at Christ. The characteristics of the Almighty are mirrored in Jesus—if you want to know what God is like; you must study Jesus Christ (Oswald Chambers).

Tomorrow's History

September 13

 

Truly when the Day of Judgment comes, we shall not be examined as to what we have read, but what we have done, not how well we have spoken but how we have lived. (Thomas a Kempis)

     Many are expressing concerns about what is occurring in the world today. Anxiety is mounting as reports of terrorism escalate. Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIL and Jihad have become household words today. Tensions are intensifying as nations seek to arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction. The prospect of a bright future for this planet is fading with each passing day. This should not come as a surprise to you or me.

     An amazing prophecy, uttered by a host of ancient prophets, was fulfilled in 1948. Israel once again became a nation. The prophet Joel spoke of two major events that would occur in the last days of the earth’s history. He predicted that the Jews would return to Israel. And he also prophesied that soon thereafter God would judge the world for its sin and rebellion. This second prophecy has not been fulfilled. Joel 3:1-2 says, “… at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations … bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there ….” Joel connects the return of the Jews to the Promised Land with the infamous Battle of Armageddon mentioned in the last book of the Bible. Joel states that the great battle of all battles, the Apocalyptic Battle of Armageddon, will take place shortly after the Jews return to their homeland.

     Joel saw many nations gathering in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And in the Apocalypse John was shown a vision in which many armies converged at Armageddon. Jehoshaphat Valley is located in Jerusalem and is known today as the Kidron Valley. Armageddon is located in the Northern part of Israel. Revelation 14:19-20 says, “The winepress was trampled … and blood came out … up to the horses’ bridle for one hundred and eighty four miles.” The Apostle John is describing the horrible bloodbath that will occur in Israel when Christ returns to the earth at the end of the ages.

     “The area within a two hundred mile radius of Jerusalem,” writes Henry Alfred, “will be the center of the final carnage where the armies of the world will be gathered at the time of Christ’s second coming (Revelation 14:19-20; 19:11-21).” Tomorrow’s history has already been written; you and I have been warned so let us prepare for what lies ahead by serving the Lord and walking with Him every day of our lives.

Gladiator

September 12

 

The first and best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is of all things most shameful and vile. (Plato)

     Although John Moore did not start fights; he finished a lot of them. And if you beat John today, you had to do it tomorrow as well. Some of his most famous battles are still being talked about in the small community where he grew up. One contest took place in the bank parking lot. His son-in-law got the best of him that evening; he had John on the ground, and with each punch blood spattered everywhere. John yelled, “Get all you want now because when I get up I’m going to kill you!” Alan finally got up, thinking the fight was over. John got up, staggered over to his truck, grabbed a pistol and began firing; Alan ran through the parking lot dodging a hail of bullets.

     Once a circus came to town; an attraction operator was offering a large cash prize to anyone who could stay in the ring with his Orangutan for two minutes. John, filled with liquid courage, stepped into the ring with his opponent. With all his might he drew back and hit the Orangutan in the face. That beast simply shook his head and grabbed John, turning him every which way but loose. A dog bit one of John’s kids and he did the noble thing. He got out of bed in his boxers and tee-shirt, went outside and grabbed the growling menace by the neck with both hands. He choked Rover, and Rover bit John on the arms again and again. But the fearless gladiator held on until furry opponent passed out. John threw him to the ground and Rover never again bit anyone else after that. Tensions were high in Mulberry in the early seventies because of integration. John and a friend entered the football stadium and had barely gotten inside the gate when they were challenged, “Whats chu looking at, cracker!” “Don’t pay any attention to him,” John said to his friend. The opponent snarled, “I wasn’t talking to him; I was talking to you!” “Now, that’s a different story,” John said. Pandemonium broke out and John was holding his own until someone stabbed him in the butt.

     But Mr. Moore, the fighting gladiator and businessman, who drank and gambled away a small fortune, finally faced a foreboding opponent who brought him to his knees. His wife, a dedicated Christian, loved Big John with all her heart, and while he lived to party; she prayed for him. Iris was diagnosed with cancer and soon took her place beside Christ in His Kingdom. John lost Iris, the one who had stood by him, praying him out of one bad situation after another. But he finally did what she always wanted him to do; he committed his life to Christ.

     John became active in church, remarried, ran his business and retired from fighting; at least until he was diagnosed with Melanoma Cancer. John’s doctor at Moffitt was positive but expressed grave concerns. “Doc,” John said to him, “I’m going to die but this cancer isn’t going to kill me.” And it didn’t. John fought like a champion and conquered a frightening challenger. Now, years after that fight; John attributes his victory to good treatment and to the champion of all champions who stood in his corner through it all—Christ the King.

For Me?

September 11

 

The best place any person can ever be in is to be totally destitute and totally dependant upon God, and know it. (Alan Redpath)

     Is your spiritual quest a vain formality or one that has as its goal a sincere relationship with God? Many the world over admire the Lord, but few know Him. And it is true that at this very moment, you and I are as close to God as we choose to be. True, there are times when we would like to know a deeper intimacy, but … most of us are not prepared to pay the price (J. O. Saunders). If we do anything other than embrace faith as our first priority, the end result is empty formality and worthless confidence.

     The Lord spoke through the prophet Zechariah when the people sent representatives to ask whether they should keep the traditional fast that they had practiced for decades. The Lord responded (Zechariah 7:5 NLT), “During those seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and at the festival in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting?” God questioned Israel’s motive, correcting their practice of substituting meaningless ritual for intimacy with Him.

     The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Apostle Paul). The greatest gift one can receive from God is God Himself. He is the Almighty and declares (2 Corinthians 6:14-16), “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” It is a glorious thing to get to know God in a new way…. It is something still greater and more glorious to know God as the all-sufficient One … to wait on His Spirit to open our hearts and minds wide to receive new and great things … that He longs to bestow on those who wait for Him (Andrew Murray).

     God asked a pertinent question, “Are you doing religious acts because you really want Me?” He is not content with form or creed; He seeks personal and meaningful fellowship with people. Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch … did not see death, and was not found, because God had taken him; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” God was pleased with Enoch because he made Him the first priority of his life. When we seek His word above all else, His encouragement before all else, His truth instead of anything else, then we will be pleasing to God more than all others (Woodroll Kroll).

Give And Take

September 10

 

A good exercise for the heart is bending down and helping someone to get up. (Proverb)

     Work makes an enormous impact on ones appetite. Exerting yourself causes your body to use and need fuel. The is true in our spiritual lives as well—as we labor in the field of human need; our appetite for spiritual things increases and enlarges itself. I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work (Harry Truman).

     Inactivity has an adverse effect on ones appetite. Edward Stanley said, “Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” Idleness breeds disease—physically and spiritually. E. Stanley Jones writes, “God has left us on earth to work … move forward, exert ourselves through prayer, study God’s Word and exercise our spiritual muscles by serving others.” Work stimulates appetite. When we make a demand on God’s supply of the Spirit through service—He meets us at the point of our need, pouring His best into our lives.

     The lungs function properly only as they take in and give out. And so it is in our spiritual lives. We take into our lungs the breath of life through prayer and give out that which we have received in service to others. Jesus gave two commands (Mark 12:30): Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself.

     If one lives in a state of self-centeredness, he or she will end in self-impoverishment (Jones). Twenty-first century people are on the go and energetic. But activity without purpose is pointless. Thomas Edison said, “Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.” Work on your appetite. Mother Teresa declared, “Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service …give unconditionally … do something, however small, and show you care through your actions … give your time.”

Questions???

September 9

 

That we ought to love God we are never in doubt, but whether we do love Him, we may well begin to question. A deep yearning in our innermost being “to know Him more clearly, to love Him more dearly and follow Him more nearly” is probably all to which we dare lay claim. (Helen Roseveare)

     Do you believe in God? Believing in God is a wonderful virtue, but not one sufficient in itself. It is necessary that we go farther than simply recognizing the fact that He exists. The Bible declares in James 2:19 (NLT), “Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Foolish One! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?” If all you do is believe in God alone—you are no further along in your relationship with Jesus than Satan himself—the devil believes.

     Are you acquainted with God? Judas Iscariot, Christ’s betrayer, was close to the Lord Jesus but he was not right with Him. Judas followed Him everywhere, day and night for over three years. His life exemplifies the fact that we can be acquainted with God, listen to His teachings and do service for Christ without ever connecting with the divine purpose of our existence. If you are only acquainted with Jesus; you are no farther along in your relationship with God than Judas. In the book, The Search for the Twelve Apostles, we read, “The life of Judas is one of unrelieved tragedy. In fact, there is no more tragic spirit in all history. Judas is the greatest failure the world has ever known. His life is a lesson which points vividly to the pitfalls of our spiritual pilgrimage.” Being acquainted with God is not enough.

     Do you know the Lord? You cannot love the Lord without knowing Him. Henry Drummond said, “This is how men and women get to know God—by doing His will.” It’s not just a matter of believing or being acquainted with God—it goes further—it’s a matter of knowing and loving Him with our whole being (Mark 12:30). A. W. Tozer declared, “We must repudiate this great, modern wave of seeking God for his benefits. The sovereign God wants to be loved for Himself and honored for Himself, but that is only part of what he wants. The other part is that He wants us to know that when we have Him, we have everything.” Once you become aware that the main business you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord (J. I. Packer).

Get Over Yesterday

September 8

 

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves—regret for the past and fear of the future. (Author Unknown)

     Many find it difficult to forgive because they are constantly reflecting on some traumatic event or experience, and allowing it to occupy the center stage of their thoughts. I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead (Paul). Ted Roberts declared, “Trauma can so affect our perceptions of reality that it becomes nearly impossible for us to grasp God’s dream or purpose. It’s as if we are driving a car down life’s highway, but instead of having an unobstructed view through the front windshield, we can scarcely see around the rearview mirror. The rearview mirror has become so large, due to our past trauma, that our vision automatically becomes focused on what’s behind us.”

     Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which everyone has many—not on your past misfortunes, of which all have some.” It is not necessary for anyone to be imprisoned by pain. We can follow humanities greatest leader and get over yesterday. Christ conquered bitter betrayal, false accusation and the gruesome agony He experienced on the cross by refusing to turn His focus inward. He spent His last moments reaching up to God. He prayed for those who condemned Him saying, “Father, forgive them … they do not know what they are doing.”

     There were two criminals crucified with Christ. One of them, recognizing Him to be God’s Son, cried out (Luke 23:42-43), “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Do what He did. Overcome your hurt by reaching up to God for strength and reaching out to others in need.

     We don’t know what tomorrow or the next moment may bring but we can live in confidence because God holds the future in His hand. He will not allow you or me to experience anything that He will not transform into something good. Forgiveness is a creative act that changes us from prisoners of the past to liberated people at peace with our memories. It is not forgetfulness, but it involves accepting the promise that the future can be more than dwelling on memories of past injury (Larry James). If you ponder the past, your life will be shaped by it.

The Greatest Virtue

September 7

 

To approach God requires neither art nor science, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only. (Brother Lawrence)

     Jesus’ greatest work was developing a prayer life that caused Him to immediately respond to God and caused God to immediately respond to Him. Some say that Christ’s mission on earth was to reveal God to us, and that is true. But the Lord also came to show us what we could become in Him. Jesus said in John 14:15:4-7 (NLT), “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing … if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted.”

     Loving God is the greatest of all things we can do with our lives. Jan Van Ruysbroeck said, “Our work is to love God.” How can we become acquainted with God and develop a friendship with Him? Frank Laubach writes, “All thought employs silent words and is really conversation with your inner self. Instead of talking to yourself, form the habit of talking to Christ … making your thoughts a conversation with the Lord.” When we invite Christ into our lives, we are literally inviting the Spirit of Christ to come and abide in our inner being. The Spirit of God dwells in our bodies and we literally house His nature; His character; His person and His life inside of us.

     Brother Lawrence gave this advice for those seeking to grow spiritually, “Anyone is capable of a very close and friendly dialogue with the Lord. It is true that some find it easier than others. But remember the Lord knows that fact, too! So begin now to accustom yourself, little by little, to worshipping Him. Ask Him for grace. Offer Him your whole heart. Over and over again, in the midst of business, every moment if you can, just offer Him your heart.” Be joyful; keep on praying—no matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (The Apostle Paul). It takes effort, practice and persistence but talk to God about everything. To love God is the greatest of virtues; to be loved by God is the greatest of all blessings (Portuguese proverb).

Beacon Of Hope

September 6

 

A man's greatest care should be for that place where he lives longest; therefore eternity should be his scope (Thomas Watson).

     Recently, I visited Plymouth, Massachusetts and walked in the footsteps of those 102 pilgrims who boarded the Mayflower in 1620 and sailed to America in search of a land where they could freely worship God without being persecuted for their faith. The replica of the Mayflower, the Plymouth Rock Memorial, the houses on Leyden Street built in the sixteen hundreds, the Town Brook and the bodies of the early settlers planted on Burial Hill are memorials related to our past and beacons of hope for the future. They are symbols for the possibilities that exist for all who are willing to seek a new beginning in life.

     William Bradford the governor of Plymouth died in 1657 and was buried on the hill, along with others who sailed on the Mayflower. Also on Burial Hill I saw a memorial marker inscribed with the name Adoniram Judson; I had read his biography. It tells the inspiring story of his conversion and how he became the first American Protestant missionary ever sent overseas.

     Adoniram was fourteen in 1802 when his dad, a Congregational Pastor, moved the family to Plymouth. At sixteen Adoniram’s father sent him to Providence College (Brown University) with the hope that his brilliant son would enter the ministry. But young Judson longed for fame and dreamed of becoming an acclaimed orator, poet, lawyer, a statesman, or perhaps a play-writer. He was valedictorian of the 1804 graduating class. And while at Providence he became friends with Jacob Eames, an intelligent young man who challenged Judson’s faith, converting this vulnerable intellectual to deism; a religious belief that God created the universe and that “reason alone” is a sufficient means of discovering truth without a need for faith.

     After completing college Adoniram taught in Plymouth until 1808; before leaving to live his dream. He joined a theatrical troupe in New York City and lived a reckless existence. He soon became restless and returned to Plymouth. While on the way home he spent the night in a tavern, rooming next door to a man who was sick and near death. Judson, weary from travel wanted to rest but the moaning of the dying man kept him awake; along with a haunting question—what hope does one have after death? While checking out the next morning he asked about the sick man. “He is dead,” the innkeeper replied. "Dead, do you know who he was?" “O, yes; his name was Jacob Eames, a young man from Providence College.” It was Judson’s friend. He was grief stricken because he knew that Jacob passed into eternity without hope. Adoniram went home and made a commitment to Christ. At age 25, he and his wife, went to Burma. Adoniram spent thirty-seven years there; translating the Bible into Burmese and establishing a number of churches in that country. He suffered many hardships and in April of 1850 developed a serious lung disease. Doctors prescribed a sea voyage as a cure and he died on April 12, 1850 on board ship. The 61 year old laborer was buried at sea and a memorial to Judson and his wife was placed on Burial Hill in honor of their accomplishments.

One Thing

September 5

 

Love so insatiable as the love of God can never be satisfied until we respond to the limit. (Frank Lauback)

     Mahatma Gandhi held Jesus in high regard and declared, “He was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had and one who has been a considerable influence on my life. I shall say to the Hindus that your life will be incomplete unless you reverentially study His teachings.”

     Christ’s legacy revolves around the miracles he performed among the multitudes and the teachings that transformed the hearts of His followers. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. This is the first commandment and the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

     Once when visiting in the in the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, he began teaching those who had gathered at their house. Mary sat at His feet, listening intently while Martha prepared a feast for Him. It became quite an undertaking and she became so involved in preparing the banquet that she became distracted from Him. Overwhelmed with her task Martha complained (Luke 10:40-42), “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to help me.” Jesus responded, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her.”

     We often encumber ourselves with laws, rituals, creeds and works that often take the place of our relationship with God. Good works are desirable but they can distract us from life’s best. Mary serves as an example of how we are to make Jesus our first priority. Martha serves as a bad example—an example of how we misalign life’s priorities. Our lives are made up of lights and shadows, of some good days and many unsatisfactory days. We have learned that the good days and hours come when we are very close to Christ … clearly then, the way to more such days is to take Him into everything we do or say or think (Frank Laubach)

     God has shown you … what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him (Micah the Prophet). It has been our custom to complicate life by focusing on our works instead of on our walk with the Lord. Love is the priority. Frank Laubach writes, “It is our duty to live in the beauty and presence of God.” Sit at the feet of Jesus and allow His power to shape you. David Viscott said, “The purpose of life is to discover your gift.” Our gift is to sit in the presence of God and discover the purpose of our existence.

Tell Tale Heart

September 4

 

No one who is guilty is acquitted at the judgment seat of his own conscience. (Decimus Junius Juvenal)

     All that remained of my first bicycle was the front tire and rim. The back tire had gone flat and my dad said I would have to wait for him to fix it. In the interval my older friend, Billy, talked me into loaning him the front tire, promising to bring it back in a few days. And he did, but not before my dad discovered what I had done, and in a fit of rage, he took my bike to the city dump and that was it.

     One afternoon, while playing at Barry Compton’s house, I noticed an assortment of discarded bicycles piled up behind his house; the remains of his older brother’s collection. And it just so happened that there was a one lying on top of the pile with only one part missing; the front rim and tire. The next day I sneaked through my grandfather’s cornfield, swiped the bike and put my rim on it. And once again I had wheels and was free to travel; the only one I told about my little shenanigan was Billy.

     Each night I put my heist in the shed beside our house. One day dad saw it and asked, “Whose bike is that?” My heart began to beat wildly and I barely managed to say, “It belongs to Ronnie Ford; he let me use it for a few days.” Dad didn’t ask any more questions but I thought it wise to move it to a new hiding place—the cornfield.

     A guilty conscience never feels secure (Publilius Syrus). Inside my little heart a sick nagging feeling keep surfacing and I knew that trouble was on the horizon. One afternoon I went to the field and retrieved my stash and rode over near the High School. Walking on the road ahead of me was Billy and a couple of the Cooney kids. When I passed them they yelled and called me a thief. Then the three of them began chasing me but I pedaled with all my might and avoided capture. Now everyone in town knew what I had done.

     The only thing for me to do now was get rid of the bike, so I sneaked back through my grandfather’s cornfield and returned it. From the body of one guilty deed—a thousand ghostly fears and haunting thoughts proceed (William Wordsworth).

     Guilt is the source of sorrow, it is the fiend; the avenging fiend, that follows us behind, with whips and stings (Nicholas Rowe). Doing wrong is never right. The joy I derived from that stolen bike was short lived; there is pleasure in wrongdoing for a little while but it does not last. Be sure your sin will find you out (Moses).

Redneck Honeymoon

September 3

 

After seven years of marriage, I'm sure of two things—first, never wallpaper together, and second, you'll need two bathrooms both for her. The rest is a mystery, but a mystery I love to be involved in. (Dennis Miller)

     Having gone through bitter divorces Alan and Joy did not want to make the same mistake twice. And now here they were in a blossoming relationship that seemed right. Both had initially passed one another’s list of approvals and they were getting along very well. But there was a feeling of uncertainty in their minds; fear that after the honeymoon was over things might change. They wanted a guarantee, possibly more; a divine sign or defining moment to seal the deal. Joy needed to know that Alan would not turn into this cranky unhappy guy from another planet. Alan wanted assurance that Joy would not become a whining nagging wife.

     He asked her to marry him and she said yes; they immediately began making plans. For a honeymoon Joy dreamed about the two of them walking on a beach in Hawaii; Alan in a flowered shirt and kaki shorts; holding her hand and watching the sun sink into the Pacific over the horizon. Alan dreamed of spending time at a hunting cabin. He, the mighty hunter, would shoot a ten point buck, field dress it and carry the prize to his lovely bride in waiting. She would prepare them a meal fit for a king. After dinner they would relax before the large fireplace on their leather loveseat and rub their bare feet over a soft bearskin rug. Together they would watch the fire burn and hold hands. “Joy,” Alan said, “I want you to be happy and if you want to go to Hawaii then that’s exactly what we are going to do.” “But Alan,” she replied, “your heart has been set on this hunting trip for a long time and your happiness means more to me than a beach in Hawaii.”

     While saying their vows, tears came rolling down Alan’s cheeks; there was a tender side to this big rugged hunting, fishing, working man’s man. It was this side of Alan that few saw and the side that was most attractive to Joy. “Where are you guys going on your honeymoon?” I asked after the ceremony. “We’re going to a hunting camp,” Alan beamed. And Joy, smiling and giggling like a school girl was happy about the prospect. “Alan,” I declared, “only a first class redneck would take his new bride to a hunting camp on their honeymoon.”

     As the years came and went I asked Alan the same question each time I saw him, “Are you still married?” And with that same beaming grin he displayed when announcing his honeymoon plans he’d say, “Pastor Dan, you did a good job this time.” Alan and Joy knew they were right for one other because each of them had a desire in their hearts to make the other happy. And together they have spent their years focusing on one another’s dreams and their marriage, that many felt would not work, has been good for the both of them.

Liar Liar

September 2

 

A little lie is like a little pregnancy—it doesn’t take long before everyone knows. (C.S. Lewis)

     A teacher asked the young people in his Sunday school class, “What is a lie?” A young man responded, “A lie is an abomination before the Lord and a very present help in time of trouble.” His answer was half right.

     One of the most revered sages of the ages was King Solomon who has impressed the world with his wisdom and writings for almost 3000 years. He said, “These things the Lord hates … they are an abomination …, a proud look, a lying tongue … a false witness who lies. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines the word lie: to make a statement one knows is false, especially with the intent to deceive; to give a false impression.

     Everything the Lord commands us not to do is detrimental to our well-being—including lying. Elias Canetti said, “Adults find pleasure in deceiving a child. They consider it necessary, but they also enjoy it. The children very quickly figure it out and then practice deception themselves.” Victor Hugo said, “Lying is the acme or pinnacle of evil.” Why? The lies of fathers and mothers are passed on to their children. Lies reproduce themselves. The only way to break the chain is to tell the truth. “The falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart,” writes Thomas Jefferson, “and in time depraves its good dispositions.”

     Lying affects our character and decides our destiny. The Apostle John writes in the Apocalypse, “The cowards who turn away from God … unbelievers … the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars—their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.” Why are liars included in this group of deviants? Lying destroys trust. A person who lies cannot trust or be trusted. There is a saying: the world gives back to everyone the reflection of his or her own face. A liar will not trust because he or she judges others by in the light of their own practices. A liar lies and believes that all others are liars. The lair eventually arrives at the conclusion that there is no such thing as truth. Lying desensitizes our hearts and minds towards truth; it eats away at our ability to believe one lie at a time. Jesus prayed for His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion, “God, sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth.”

Dynamic Duel

September 1

 

To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true. (H.L. Mencken)

     It was a little after six in the morning on July 11, 1804 when Aaron Burr, the Vice President of the United States, arrived on the heights of Weehawken, New Jersey. He began clearing underbrush from the site in preparation for a duel with Alexander Hamilton, the former Secretary of the U. S. Treasury. Tensions between Hamilton and Burr, long time political rivals, had reached a boiling point. Hamilton arrived around seven and stood on the same ground where his son Philip was killed in a duel on November 23, 1801. What was Hamilton thinking?

     Tensions began to develop between the rivals soon after Burr defeated Philip Schuyler, Hamilton’s father-in-law, for a Senate seat in 1791. In the presidential election of 1800 Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson gained 73 electoral votes each. The law stated in the event of a tie the House of Representatives would elect the president. Hamilton’s maneuvering and influence among House members caused Jefferson to win the election. Burr became Vice President and retaliated by leaking a document to the press in which Hamilton was critical of President John Adams. Hamilton was greatly embarrassed. In 1804 President Jefferson decided to drop Burr from his ticket and the Vice President decided to run for the governorship of New York. Hamilton campaigned vigorously against him causing Burr to lose the election.

     In this duel two shots were fired. It was a common practice of the day for each combatant to fire a shot at the ground in the presence of the other to exemplify courage and end the dispute; allowing each individual the honor of retaining their dignity. Hamilton fired first; his musket ball passed through the limb of a cedar tree several feet above Burr’s head. His intent was not to wound or kill the Vice President. Burr then fired, hitting his opponent in the lower abdomen above the right hip. The lead ball ricocheted off Hamilton’s rib, causing considerable damage to his liver and diaphragm. He died the following day. Burr escaped unharmed and was later charged with murder in New York and New Jersey, but neither charge reached trial.

     In the nuclear charged environment of the 21st century animosities are brewing among nations possessing weapons of mass destruction. Leaders of nations are faced with two choices: find a way to peacefully resolve differences or, like Hamilton and Burr, enter into a dueling arena of self destruction. Our hope rests not in mandates, sanctions, wars or laws; but on the eleven words from Christ’s famous Sermon on the Mountain: Do to others what you would have others do to you. The Golden Rule, as it is called, has been embraced by every major religion of the world but has not yet found a place in the power structures of government. Only by a mutual respect for one another will the world’s inhabitants experience the honor and dignity they were meant to share in relationship with one another. Let nothing be done by anyone through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than him or herself (Paul the Apostle).