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“The sluggard says `There is a lion in the road…” (Proverbs 26:13). We think there are huge lions on our roads of life. One is fear of failure. Jesus never considered success or failure in His life; He simply went on with duty and love and then was crucified for His efforts. The fearful man is a fruitless man because he is fearful. “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13). Much has been written on the will of God, but His promises are His wills for us. “…Before [you] call, I will answer; while [you] are still speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). Blessed promises!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” (Jeremiah 1:5). “The birth of a little child reveals God; the helplessness of a little child proves providence; the innocence of a little child illustrates heaven; the death of a little child implies immortality. Surely no little one sent into an earthly home, even but for a day, and bequeathing these beautiful and sublime lessons can be thought to have come and gone in vain.” W.R. Alger. “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace” (Galatians 1:15). Yes, He planned–and still plans–for us.
“…Pick out some of the best of your circumstances, and consider how eagerly you would wish for them, were they not in your possession.” Marcus Aurelius. We miss what we don’t have, and we miss it doubly if we once had it and then lose it: the loved one who was with us last Christmas but whose place is empty this year; the first love of religious awakening gone because of neglect, etc. It might do us good to visualize our cherished one’s chair as empty and thank our Creator that it isn’t. Let us appreciate those we have while we may and, let us remember, the best of circumstances is today.
“Touch Me and see…” (Luke 24:39). My friend, touch My anguished heart and accept My compassion; touch My eyes and see what I see; touch My ears and know that I hear your pleadings; touch My pierced hands that hold you close to My own human heart; touch My arms that hold you up when human strength can no longer sustain; touch My pierced feet that walk before you that you may walk in My footsteps; touch the all of Me and see that I am flesh and bone as your own flesh and bone. I want you to ask of Me. Yes, I understand your doubts and fears. My son and daughter, walk with Me and touch Me for I am your Friend.
The woman was crying. “My friend from church came and she told me I don’t have enough faith or God would heal me. But my doctor told me it’s terminal.” It is cruel for a professing lover of God to tell a dying person he or she hasn’t enough faith. God does not heal everyone. We don’t know why; the secret belongs with God. Is it any wonder some people hate God when they hear this nonsense? It’s sad enough to witness death, but it is an even worse sorrow to pick up the pieces left behind by Job’s comforters who forget that God gives grace to the dying as well as to the living. This is what we can share.
“How blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream…” (Isaiah 32:20), so…”Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9), “…Because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for wahtever good he does…” (Ephesians 6:8). There is a law of spiritual reciprocity, and it is God’s justice. The first of Murphy’s Laws whimsically states that no good deed goes unpunished. It may seem so at times, but our God doesn’t work that way. Justice will be done in a way we may not see for now. This is yet another of God’s marvelous wills for us.
Charles Darwin wrote: “If I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.” Without the finer aspects, we starve what is good and noble, just as truly as we would starve the body if we didn’t eat daily. Good poetry, music and art are God’s gifts to make life sweeter.
Leslie Paul, in The Annihilation of Man, wrote about Charles Darwin: “What happened to Darwin has in a way happened to the whole of Western civilization: it ceased to understand or to value, as a whole, anything but the materialistic interpretation of the universe; its spiritual life has therefore fallen into decay; it is no longer able to think in the terms which would give it release from its prison. A blinded Samson, it brings down the temple.” True mores give way to greedy mores; noblesse oblige to oblige for the sake of convenience. God forgive us for defacing the good and goodness He has given us.
“…I beg you to listen to me patiently” (Acts 26:3c). How many times we have wished someone would listen. What a gift to give to others: to bear and endure with them. Elderly people especially need another’s ear and heart. “Nature has given to men one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak” (Epictetus). “Let the wise listen and add to their learning” (Proverbs 1:5). We say again, how practical the Bible is. The less we say, the less trouble we will accumulate. Every person can teach us something, if only a lesson in what we should or shouldn’t be or do.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled…” (John 14:27). “The more quietly and peaceably we all get on the better–the better for ourselves [and] for our neighbors. In nine cases out of ten the wisest policy is, if a man cheats you, quit dealing with him; if he is abusive, quit his company; if he slanders you, take care to live so that nobody will believe him: no matter who he is, or how he misuses you, the wisest way is generally to let him alone; for there is nothing better than this cool, calm, quiet way of dealing with the wrongs we meet with” (Bishop Patrick).
Indifference or involvement? “But a Samaritan…when he saw him he took pity on him…and bandaged his wounds…” (Luke 10:33,34). The others passed by, even the priest, but the one whose name was a by-word of reproach, one regarded as alien and foreigner, this is the very one who bandaged his wounds and took him to the inn and paid for his care. Here, then, is genuine love, for the Samaritan didn’t know the man, but perhaps because of his own position as an outcast, he understood his needs and ministered to the half-dead man. O Father, help us to go and do likewise!
Some students at Oxford heard that Rudyard Kipling was getting a shilling a word for his writings. They decided to play a joke on him and they wrote, “Please send us one of your words.” Kipling immediately sent back the unexpected “Thanks.” Whately said, “It is generally true that all that is required to make men unmindful of what they owe to God for any blessing, is, that they should receive that blessing often and regularly.” “I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26b). Our trouble, so human, is in recognizing the refreshing and restoring showers of life.
“…Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers” (Philemon 22). What faith! Paul was that sure of their prayers. “Pray for each other…The prayer of a righteous [person] is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). “I exhort…that…intercessions…be made for all…” (1 Timothy 2:1). When a loved one is dying physically or spiritually, we intercede with the God of love. When we pray for our beloved, we are both raised before His presence. The prayer of the right-minded person changes human will into Divine will and passion into submission for us both.
The Election Law is as follows: God has one vote, and that is for you; the devil has one vote, and that is against you; you have one vote, and it is that vote which decides the election. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5).
Someone we love deeply is in trouble of mind and body. Let us pray for our friend by using the words “our” and “we” and “us” to our Father: “[We] love you, O Lord, [our] strength…In [our] distress [we] called to the Lord; [we] cried to [our] God for help. From his temple he hear [our] voices; [our] cry came before him into his ears” (Psalm 18:1,6). Our cherished one may be too ill in body and heart to pray, so let us take his or her prayer before the throne and offer it to the One who can understand all hurts and relieve all burdens. Yes, “The Lord is [our] rock…and [our] deliverer…” (Psalm 18:2).
“Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10). When her son committed suicide she decided she would like to know who her real father was–he had forsaken her unmarried mother. Perhaps there would be a clue to the son’s despondency to the point of self-destruction. She joined a group that searches for relatives. As she listened month after month to stories of fruitless calls and trips, and the thousands of dollars and many years wasted, she knew then she didn’t need to know who her father was–for she knew who her Father is, and that was all she needed to know.
“Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one…goes to law against another–and this in front of unbelievers!” (1 Corinthians 6:5,6). The cry of the land seems to be, “Sue ’em!” When Mickey Mouse gets sued for accidentally stepping on Precious’ toes, we are in deep trouble. Then there was the suit initiated by Daddy because his sweet little girl didn’t get her toy from the Cracker Jack box. Here was his golden opportunity to tell the little princess the tooth fairy doesn’t always get there, and life is not always fair. Where are wise minds to keep us out of the courts?
“The garment of praise…” (Isaiah 61:3). “A people cannot be regenerated by teaching them the worship of enjoyment; they cannot be taught a spirit of sacrifice by speaking to them of material rewards…Say to men, Come, suffer; you will hunger and thirst…be betrayed, cursed; but you have a great duty to accomplish: they will be deaf, perhaps, for a long time, to the severe voice of virtue; but on the day that they do come to you, they will come as heroes, and will be invincible.” Mazzani.
“`Come now,’ he said, `I thought you had agreed to forgive and forget.’ She replied: `Sure, but I don’t want you to forget that I have forgiven and forgotten.'” Leslie R. Smith, This Love of Ours. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” He also wrote, “It is not that people think forgiveness is too high and difficult a virtue. No! It is that they think it a hateful and contemptible one.” Corrie ten Boom, in The Hiding Place, tells about forgiveness. She, too, cried from her cross, “Father, forgive them…”
Jonah wasn’t about to let God get away with forgiveness. God was pleased the people of Nineveh repented, but “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry…`I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity'” (Jonah 4:1,2). Jonah was so angry he was even willing to die: “Now, O Lord, take away my life…” (v.3). Absurd! The prodigal son’s brother (Luke 15) wasn’t at all happy about the attention and the forgiveness his father gave to that black sheep, either. As we forgive, we are forgiven (Matthew 6:14). It’s another spiritual law of reciprocity.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity…” (Proverbs 31:25). Strength: vitality, courage, effectiveness, fervor, stamina and ability; Dignity: decorum, composure, reserve, honor and stability. This is substantial clothing for the lady of the house and world to wear every day for it assures warmth and health. True women’s liberation has always been to make others’ lives less burdensome. Woman is not the weaker sex; she is the gentler sex and should be the happier for it. Abrasiveness is so unlike our Jesus.
Choices: Proselyte or parasite? Conduit or call-it-quits? Kisses or cusses? Discuss or fuss? Mingling or singling? Underline or undermine? Humorist or fatalist? Charles Lamb said, “The measure of choosing well is whether a man likes what he has chosen.” Choose this very day who and what we will serve, and in that choice will be seen what we like well enough to serve. But let us have insight enough to know whether our choices will be constructive or destructive to spiritual, mental and physical life. We cannot serve two masters. God has told us there is no choice if we truly love Him with all of our heart.
Great liberty is accorded the praying man, if only the heart is in rapport with God. People pray kneeling: 1 Kings 8:54, Ezra 9:5, Daniel 6:10, Acts 20:36; standing: Jeremiah 18:20; sitting: 2 Samuel 7:18; lying prostrate: Matthew 26:39; silently: 1 Samuel 1:13; aloud: Ezekiel 11:13; alone: Mark 1:35, Matthew 6:6; together: Psalm 35:18, Matthew 18:19, Acts 4:31; at fixed times: Psalm 55:17, Daniel 6:10; everywhere: 1 Timothy 2:8; in bed: Psalm 63:6; at any time: Luke 18:1; spontaneously: Matthew 6:7; and for everything: Philippians 4:6, Genesis 24:12-14, 1 Timothy 2:1-4. God hungers for our fellowship, not our posture.
Is our hope a cable or a cobweb? “…Christ Jesus, who is our hope…” (1 Timothy 1:1 NAS). That word is is, present tense, a right-now conviction that there is a chance of help: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help [and hope] in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). The verse doesn’t delineate the trouble; it only tells us we will have help when we need it. Our hope is our friend. It is Christian hope that helps us to bear the burdens of life. We may be at the end of our rope, and that is exactly when God reaches down and pulls that very rope–and us–up to Him. So our hope is God’s rope.
“He drew me out of deep waters” (Psalm 18:16b). “And…the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left” (Exodus 14:22). All finally have a Red Sea experience. What matters is, do we drown or do we forge ahead? “Why are you crying out to Me…move on” (v.15). “…The Lord drove the sea back…and turned it into dry land” (v.21). Our duty is to believe God will keep His promises of a dry land while we go through the waters of affliction. The waters become walls of protection, as God brings us through to deliverance.
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4:15a). He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. As we follow in His steps, we find sacred blood in the footprints. As He touches our hearts, we see the nail prints in His hands. How can we not be influenced by such a thought as this, that the greatest became the least that we the least might rise out of our depths to His heights? In the dark night of our soul how much it eases the pain to know Jesus has gone before us and marked the path and pushed aside hindrances to make a clear way for us.
We crave excitement, so the TV writers rack empty brains to come up with more and more violence and stupidity to satiate what they perceive to be an unending appetite for grossness, gruesomeness and silliness. Years ago Alexander Pope left us this grand epigram for addicts of the perverse: “Vice is a monster of so frightful mein/As to be hated needs but to be seen;/Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,/We first endure, then pity, then embrace.” Sometimes certain programs are preempted so something else can be shown. The problem is, common sense, decency, literacy, love, hope and joy were preempted years ago. TV is seen much too oft! And what a waste of God’s time….
Christianity is not only believing the impossible but doing it as well. Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me.” That ALL covers it all. That means the entire, complete, whole of life. It is the “greatest possible,” the “all kinds of,” the “any whatever” of life. It is the ALL of Romans 8:28, that glorious rod and staff of the grieving: “We know that God causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I know (wisdom) I can (possibility) do (accomplishment) all (faith) things whatsoever He asks.
Ten Commandments for a good marriage:
1) List your spouse’s good points;
2) List your negative contributions;
3) If possible, read God’s Word together;
4) Use your imagination to visualize yourself loving your spouse;
5) Let God have the last word;
6) Forgive, as God has already forgiven;
7) Give thanks to God for this person; 8) Don’t discuss problems with friends who thought the marriage a mistake;
9) Be grateful for this set of circumstances; it can mean growth;
10) Make the first move: “I’m sorry; forgive me,” whatever it takes to get the marriage back on God’s track.
“The precious possession of a man is diligence” (Proverbs 12:27b NAS); “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives…he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). We live in an age of lotteries and legalized gambling: the get-rich-quick schemes of those who get rich quickly off the schemes. The average man must work daily. Jesus the carpenter worked, and the servant is not greater than the Master. “…Nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:8). Work is a divine appointment.
“He…was…asleep…; and they awoke Him and said to Him, “`Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?'” (Mark 4:38 NAS). Many a weary and grieving soul has cried this. Storms are sudden and devastating. Is God sleeping through our turmoil? It is a cry of faith that knows the Master can save us, and yet non-faith, for we are tempted to ask if He will save us. We sleep through each others’ Gethsemane moments, just as the disciples slept through Jesus’ agony: “Could you…not keep watch with Me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). When our ship seems to be sinking, let us remember that our extremity is God’s opportunity to show His love.
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