Sunday, January 29, 2012

Upper Currents

"...They could not strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail" (Isaiah 33:23).

"So in life there are higher and lower currents. Too many of us use only the lower sails, and catch only the winds blowing along earthly levels. It would be an unspeakable gain to us all were we to let our life fall under the influence of these upper currents" (Dr. J.R. Miller).

What a beautiful thought this is! Sometimes we come to a point in life where we can't strengthen our mast or spread our sails. We are torn from our moorings and at loose ends, wind-bound by circumstances. It might be a death in the family, an illness, a great disappointment or a dry spell in our spiritual life.

What are the lower currents in our lives that would make us lose our moorings? Have we jettisoned the jetty, so to speak? When we decide that we are in charge, that we are the master of our fate instead of choosing the Master of our fate, then we have severed the tie that binds us to our precious Father. We have chosen (and it is our choice, let us never forget that) the lower currents of life that carry us on a not-so-merry way of a worldly life.

What are our moorings? First, there is God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In our eagerness to rid our lives and country of any accountability, the first Person we get rid of is our Judge. In so doing, we rid ourselves of our Keystone, our Rock of Ages. We are like children who fire our parents. I recall years ago one of our almighty pundits writing that anyone who viewed God as Father was a tad mad. Well, Jesus was accused of that, too, so those of us who view God as Father are in impressive company. Other moorings are our family, teachers, friends, good books and good music, etc.

What are our upper currents? That which inspires us to reach beyond ourselves to heights where we see our Father and our brothers and sisters!

Two Disagreeable Ladies

"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord" (Philippians 4:2).

Here we have two women Paul respected and admired. Apparently these two ladies were good and active workers, but a dispute arose between them. Strife of any kind is regrettable but, when it is in the church, it is doubly so. Cooperation is essential to the health of any enterprise, religious or secular. Paul was most concerned for the peace of the church that these two ladies settle their differences in a Christ-like manner so the church could get on with larger issues.

Compromise isn't appeasement. Appeasement is trading a country for flattery, such as Chamberlain is supposed to have done in World War II. His diary gave him away: "Monday - I feel highly honored at being placed at the Captain's table; Tuesday - I spent the morning on the bridge with the Captain. He seemed to like me; Wednesday - The Captain made proposals to me unbecoming an officer and a gentleman; Thursday - The Captain threatened to sink the ship unless I agreed to his proposals; Friday - I saved six hundred lives!" How tragic for the world that one man's childish ego fell to such depths to avoid temporary trouble, if this account is true--which I doubt. How could anyone be that stupid!

Genuine compromise is the willingness to meet each other on our journeys. No church, home or business can thrive if each is traveling to the right or left and not even trying to find common ground. "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" (Amos 3:3). Mediation is civil meditation. It is the peacemaker and the reconciler. "It is to a man's honor to avoid strife..." (Proverbs 20:3); "Blessed are the peacemakers..." (Matthew 5:9); "There for those who promote peace" (Proverbs 12:20).

“One sure way of peacemaking is to let the fire of contention alone. Neither fan it, nor stir it, nor add fuel to it, but let it go out of itself.” (C. H. Spurgeon.) How difficult this is, especially for those with a rapier wit and a sensitive nature. But God is for us; therefore, we can go our way with His peace.

Towel Ministry

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13:15).

Are we angry with someone? Do we feel another's hostility? Is there a rupture of any kind with another person for whom our dear Jesus died? Have we a breach of love or confidence that we need to repair? Are we allowing misunderstandings to stand in the way of happiness, our own and another's?

"I have set before you an example..." What a mean service to render to lowly men, taking up a towel and washing their feet! And yet this is not how Jesus viewed it at all. "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" even the man who was to betray Him! O! what a lesson there is here in this grand action by our Creator and Redeemer! It defies sinful imagination but fires up a restored and Spirit-filled imagination to go to that person who irritates and angers us and kneel before him or her and immerse their feet -- and our own hurting and hating heart -- in the cleansing water. How on earth can we continue to harbor bitterness in our hearts after doing this, even if only in our imagination? By beholding our Jesus doing it for us, and our doing it for others, then we can love others with His love.

Jesus could have easily let His beloved disciples wash their own feet. Peter in his human pride said to Jesus, "No, you shall never wash my feet" (v.8). But Jesus lovingly explained to Peter that, unless He washed his feet, Peter would have no part with Him. When He was finished, Jesus asked them, "Do you understand what I have done for you?" (v.12). Could they -- or we -- possibly understand what He has done for us all in this supreme act of love and humility?

The thought of His humble action and His great love is overwhelming. May we in spirit and in Spirit follow His example and pray that we may be worthy of His towel ministry.

They hated Him without reason!

"They hated me without reason" (John 15:25); "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" (John 10:31).

There is a Murphy's Law that says, "No good deed goes unpunished." Jesus was crucified for his love and troubles, so we shouldn't wonder if someone forgets to show gratitude or, worse yet, misinterprets our kindness. The Creator is the Causeless Cause, but the world has its causeless causes for hating. Joseph's brothers hated him because their father loved him; Cain hated Abel enough to kill him because Abel's sacrifice was more acceptable; Saul hated David because of David's goodness; Esau hated Jacob because of the lost blessing (which was a trade-off, anyway; Esau asked a question many of us ask sometime in life, "What good is the birthright to me?"). The causeless causes go on and on.

There was absolutely no justification for the hate and belligerence toward this Man of peace who gave only tenderness and service. "For which of you stone me? For the miracles of healing? For saving you and not Myself? For My truth? For simplifying your laws? For being born in a manger instead of a mansion? For being a carpenter instead of an architect? For making your darkness light and making your burdens lighter? For forgiving your ignorance? To die that sinners might live? Tell Me, for which of these do you hate Me?"

Is the lesson we learn here that unrepentant man just naturally hates goodness? Is it that we are so blinded from the darkness that we cannot stand the Light? Pitiful! What may be worse than hating Him is to ignore Him. Indifference must hurt Jesus even more than outright hate: "Because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16). He would rather we have a backbone of endurance and a jawbone of profession than be of none effect at all. And one sure sign of effectiveness is: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" (John 15:18). "As he is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17 RSV).


"A woman named Martha opened her home to him" (Luke 10:38 NIV).

I personally feel that Martha has been much maligned. There are two sides to us all, a harmony -- an equanimity -- to our natures that includes the Martha-side as well as the Mary-side. It takes the oars of both faith and works to row our ship through earth's uneven waters. The Martha in us takes care of the practical in life: the everyday cleaning and toiling and taking care of our families and the necessary duties of each day; the Mary in us takes care of the spiritual in life: the everyday concern in prayer for others when we join Jesus in the Garden each morning and have Him hold us close to Him while we love Him and thank Him and bring before Him our loved ones and our not-so-loved ones who we want to love.

The Mary in us studies to do well; the Martha is us does well. We need both. Perhaps there is a lesson here that we have not before considered. Martha worked very hard to feed at least thirteen extra people that day. She was the angel for this hungry and tired group. While Mary had the privilege of sitting at the feet of Jesus and absorbing wisdom, Martha was busy preparing the meal. We are told, "But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made" (v.40). Surely this is understandable. Just ask any harried and hurried wife and mother!

We all can relate to Martha as well as Mary. Let us remember that God is a God of the hearth-keeper as well as the heart-keeper. Let us remember it was Martha who unwittingly fulfilled the hospitality call: "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2). Also, when their brother Lazarus died it was Martha who went forth to meet Jesus: ". . .She went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home" (John 11:20).

Some of us are the meeters and greeters and some of us are the quiet ones who wait at home. Neither should be criticized. I have a dear friend who I have nicknamed Martha, for she is the one who is there for the potlucks, cooking and then cleaning up the mess. She calls me Mary because I'm the one would rather teach our rowdy teens about the Book of Proverbs!

The Wonderful Gift of Memory

"Remember this, fix it in mind. . ."  (Psalm 44:1).

Memory is such a great blessing! To forget the goodness of the past is ingratitude. We owe recognition and appreciation to the pioneers who invented the many conveniences that make our lives so much easier. But we owe thanks to our spiritual pioneers even more. Every person who broke ground by understanding a larger view and pursuing it; the translators who so painstakingly copied by hand the precious Word into the common language; every person who died for a cause that went beyond him or herself; the spiritual poets who wrote for the ages: we owe them all our awareness and gratitude, an engram for the dead ones and a telegram for the living ones who touch our lives in ways we will never fully understand on this earth.

Sometimes good memories don't stick as well as bad memories but, just as we can love with the will, so we can learn to exclude the sores of heart and mind with prayer to a forgiving Father. And we hope and pray, literally, that we won't be a bad memory for others when it is time for us to become nothing but a recollection.

Thomas Fuller, who lived in the 17th century, left this wise advice for us: "Memory, like a purse, if it be overfull that it cannot shut, all will drop out of it; take heed of a gluttonous curiosity to feed on many things, lest the greediness of the appetite of thy memory spoil the digestion thereof." In this age of inquiring minds that soak up the innumerable and interminable scourings of the rich and famous, Mr. Fuller reminds us that the memory cannot run on overload. Going back further than Mr. Fuller, we have the sane advice of Paul: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business. . ." (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Crossing our Red Sea

"You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance" (Exodus 15:17).

This remarkable chapter is the Song of Moses, the first song on record and a glorious song of gratitude and salvation after the Red Sea crossing. The people had been redeemed by blood out of Egypt, the house of bondage, and "Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord..." (v.1).

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. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand..." (Exodus 14:15,16). So there is something for us to do, also. "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back...and turned it into dry land" (Exodus 14:21).

Our responsibility is to believe that God will keep His promises of a dry land while we go through the waters of affliction and God will take care of the rest. The waters become walls of protection, as God brings us through on to the solid land of His love and deliverance.

And when (not if) we are brought out of the bondage of unbelief and hopelessness, then we, too, will sing our praise of thanksgiving to our Savior that we have been planted on God's mountain of deliverance. The Redeemer rolls back all the difficulties and opens a way of escape for our weariness. How can we not sing for joy?

One of the great lessons in the experience of the Red Sea is that of going forward, anyway. God doesn't count our failures against us and He doesn't want us to sink into the quicksands of qualms and quibbles. God's command to us is to go forward; advance His cause and ours, too, will be advanced. It is when we doubt or question His abilities that we begin to cry out in despair. Remember, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

Celebration of Life - Michael T. Powers

Why do we wait until someone's ears can't hear before we let them how much they mean to us? Why do we wait until it is too late before we recall the good qualities of a person? Why do we build someone up after they have gone into eternity? What good does it do then? We share memory after memory, as we laugh, cry, and think back about what was positive in a person's life. Yes, it does help us cope with the grief of losing someone that was special to us. And yes, it does bring those who are coping, closer together. But as we lovingly remember this person, our words fall short of the ears that most needed to hear them.

Just once I would like to see a celebration of life, instead of a gathering of death. A celebration where stories are told, eyes mist over, laughter rings out; and as the speaker concludes his or her loving tribute, the person they are honoring rises from their chair and gives them the biggest bear hug! Wouldn't that be something! The special person gets to hear the stories and come to the realization that they have made a difference on this earth. And all this is done well before they leave their earthly bodies and go into eternity. And when the inevitable funeral finally comes, we can say good bye with the knowledge that they knew exactly how people felt about them while they were here on earth.

I now have a stronger resolve to tell those around me how much they mean to me. I am going to let my wife know just how loved and appreciated she is, not only by my words, but also by my actions. I am going to play Batman with my four year old more often, and in the middle of our romping, I am going to grab him, hug him tightly, and tell him how thankful I am that he is my son. I am going to sneak into my sleeping toddler's bedroom, place my lips on his chubby cheek, and thank God for the bundle of joy he has brought into my life. Each day I will make a point to tell both of my boys how much I love them, whether they are four or eighteen! From there, I am going to let family and friends know the tremendous impact they have had on my life. And last but not least, I am going to let the high school players I coach know that I look forward to each and every minute that I get to spend with them in the gym.

Do you love someone? Then tell them! Has someone been an influence in your life? Then give them a call! Has someone made a difference in your life? Then write them a letter or send them an email! Don't let another day go by without letting that person know. There is something special about a written letter that expresses feelings of love towards another. I don't know about you, but I have letters and cards from people that I have saved for years, and from time to time, I get them out and reread them. They can turn a depressing day into one where you realize just how blessed and loved you are.

Life is too short to leave kind words unsaid. The words you say, or the letter you write, might just make all the difference in the world.

Michael T. Powers

Betrayal and Love

"Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62 TLB).

We have such good intentions of staying on the straight and narrow path with our Lord. Peter did: "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." Poor Peter not only failed that great proclamation but he actually disowned his best Friend. Then "he went outside and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:62).

We want to follow Jesus and His principles and practices, but it is too easy to forget our priorities. There are so many distractions and demands today. If we do not do God's work that He has planned for us, then our other work becomes difficult, uncertain, and mediocre, a poor gift to One who wants us to do our best. What we look back on are our failures; what we can look forward to is God's forgiveness of those failures. Even spiritual persons can waste much time and emotional energy on feeling that they have committed the unpardonable sin when, in effect, they have been human.

We know that Peter denied his Lord but we have overlooked what Jesus did for Peter: "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61). What a look of love! It was then that Peter remembered Jesus telling him that he would betray Him. At the same time that He warned Peter of his impending betrayal He also told him: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail" (Luke 22:31,32). Was it our Lord's prayer for Peter that finally saved him? "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (v.32).

The Lord looks upon us with tenderness. He understands our weaknesses for "He remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). And to think that He prays for us! We can go on with our work for Him and not look back at yesterday's or last year's or a lifetime's sins or mistakes. All we need do is continue to look upon Jesus as He looks upon us.

A Quiet Resting Place

". . .He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul" (Psalm 23:2b,3).

“Perhaps He sees that the best pastures for some of us are to be found in the midst of opposition or of earthly trials. If He leads you there, you may be sure they are green for you, and you will grow and be made strong by feeding there. Perhaps He sees that the best waters for you to walk beside will be raging waves of trouble and sorrow. If this should be the case, He will make them still waters for you, and you must go and lie down beside them, and let them have all their blessed influences upon you” (H.W. Smith).

In Hebrew quiet waters means a quiet resting place. We all want an oasis away from the murky and troubled waters of life that seem to drown us at times. Pure water has a soothing and refreshing effect on us. Our Shepherd leads us to the main well of living water from which flow gentle tributaries of peace, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Jesus also asks us to draw deep from the well of His living water, and not with a paltry cup or broken cistern. "`[But] my people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2:13).

This jewel of a psalm has calmed countless hearts. It is beside the still waters where the Holy Spirit meets His saints, not in the winds and waters of strife, for He cannot lead us to the placid waters if we are rushing ahead of Him. If we don't have the time then we must make the time to be led to the peaceful stream of morning hours with Him. This is when He prepares our hearts for the battles of the day. This is where the victory is won before the battle is engaged: in prayer, seeking our instructions for the day.

Come, let us rest awhile by the still waters of His gentleness and concern!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Specks and Planks

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3); "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time..." (1 Corinthians 4:5a).

In the descriptive parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30) the servant asked the owner if he should uproot what he thought were the tares. The owner replied that the man should let them grow together until the harvest. The lesson is explicit: we cannot possibly know who are the wheat and who are the tares. God alone is the Judge of minds and hearts.

"...You are clean, though not every one of you" (John 13:10b). If ever there was a tare that tore mankind it was Judas, yet Jesus washed his feet and showed him every courtesy in a supreme and final effort to save Judas from himself. How it must have grieved Jesus to know that this man, who had walked and supped with Him for over three years, was about to betray Him. And yet we want to tear out the tares from our lives, tares that we are!

"Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70). What possible reason could Jesus have to choose His very betrayer as one of His inner circle? Was Jesus using Judas to teach us several of His great lessons? Judas left all to become a follower, only to finally become the greatest blot on humanity. Surely Judas was given every opportunity to repent. One wonders how Judas' heart could have been so dark and hard as to not melt at Jesus' continued love and kindness. We ask, why did Jesus choose Judas? Why did He choose me?

Is Jesus warning us that we have no right to judge who will be His chosen because we happen to think we know who are the tares? May Jesus save us from ourselves!

Higher Things

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who miraculously survived the Russian gulags, gave a commencement speech at Harvard University in 1978 that rankled the press but was probably one of the most astute modern statements on the state of the affairs of our nation ever voiced by a non-American:

"How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification? The press can both stimulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists turned into heroes, or secret matters pertaining to one's nation's defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "Everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have a right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need the successive burdening flow of information.

"Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century, and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press. It stops at sensational formulas...

"After suffering decades of violence and depression, the human soul longs for higher things, warmer and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, exemplified by the revolting invasion of privacy, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music...."

The press' response follows:

"We find that primarily he is the champion not of freedom but of spiritual well-being. The two causes are by no means the same..." The New Yorker, 8/21/1978 issue. Olga Carlisle, Newsweek, 7/24/78: "[Solzhenitsyn's] convictions are deeply rooted in the Russian spirit, which is untempered by the civilizing influences of a democratic tradition." Henry Fairlie, The New Republic, 7/29/78: "...There is nothing for the West to learn from it."

Reader, think about this! Then pray for our nation and our leaders.

Fourteen Ingredients of Agape Love

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever. (1 Corinthians 13:48 NIV).

1. Love is patient. Literally love suffers long, it has a long fuse. When Jesus was wronged, he was patient and silent.

2. Love is kind. Love is going out of our way to be full of grace toward others.

3. Love does not envy. Unconditional love desires the best for others. Our main goal is for our beloved to be all God intends them to be.

4. Love does not boast. The Greek here implies we do not boast like a "windbag." Jesus never showed off. His greatness is often revealed in what He suppressed, rather than what He did or said.

5. Love is not proud. God's love is not arrogant. Pride is inflated selfishness. Love is genuine humility.

6. Love is not rude. It is never inconsiderate or inattentive.

7. Love is not self-seeking. God's love does not grasp for its own rights. This rules out the selfish conditional types of love....the "I love you if", and the "I love you because" loves.

8. Love is not easily angered. It does not become irritated. It is not touchy. Jesus was never vindictive. He never retaliated when wronged. He never grumbled or had a bad temper. (His temple-cleansing was a controlled and calculated response.)

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs. God's love forgives and forgets. Jesus came to blot out our sins and remember them no more.

10. Love does not delight in evil but it rejoices in truth. Love is never glad when others do wrong or wrongs happen to others. It does not delight in the weakness of others. It does not gloat or gossip.

11. Love always trusts. God's love gives the benefit of the doubt. It is loyal, yet not gullible. It is tolerant in judging others.

12. Love always hopes. It never takes failure as final. It always looks toward the future, not the past.

13. Love always perseveres. It endures all. God's love can not be conquered. If we endure with Christ we will reign with Him.

14. Love goes on forever. Love is eternal. It never fails. It never loses strength. It never leaves its place. It is immovable and indefatigable.


Amusing ourselves to death - Finney


By Charles G. Finney (1792-1875)

...The question [concerning amusements] in all such cases is not, "What harm is there in this proposed amusement?" but, "What good can it do?" "Is it the best way in which I can spend my time?"....The question often arises: "Are we never to seek such amusements?"

I answer: It is our privilege and our duty to live above a desire for such things. All that class of desires should be so subdued by living so much in the light of God, and having so deep a communion with Him as to have no relish for such amusements whatever. It certainly is the privilege of every child of God to walk so closely with Him, and maintain so divine a communion with Him, as not to feel the necessity of worldly excitements, sports, pastimes, and entertainments to make his enjoyment satisfactory.

If a Christian avails himself of his privilege of communion with God, he will naturally and by an instinct of his new nature repel solicitations to go after worldly amusements. To him such pastimes will appear low, unsatisfactory, and even repulsive. If he is of a heavenly mind, as he ought to be, he will feel as if he could not afford to come down and seek enjoyment in worldly amusements.

Surely, a Christian must be fallen from his first love, he must have turned back into the world, before he can feel the necessity or have the desire of seeking enjoyment in worldly sports and past-times....Probably but few persons enjoy worldly pleasure more intensely than I did before I was converted; but my conversion, and the spiritual baptism which immediately followed it, completely extinguished all desire for worldly sports and amusements.

I was lifted at once into entirely another plane of life and another kind of enjoyment. From that hour to the present the mode of life, the pastimes, sports, amusements, and worldly ways that so much delighted me before have not only failed to interest me, but I have had a positive aversion to them. I have never felt them necessary to or even compatible with, a truly rational enjoyment.

I do not speak boastingly; but for the honour of Christ and His religion....Some have maintained that we should conform to the ways of the world somewhat---at least, enough to show that we can enjoy the world and religion too; and that we make religion appear repulsive to unconverted souls by turning our backs upon what they call their innocent amusements. But we should represent religion as it really is---as living above the world, as consisting in a heavenly mind, as that which affords an enjoyment so spiritual and heavenly as to render the low pursuits and joys of worldly men disagreeable and repulsive....

Who does not know that it is the worldly members in the Church who are always ready for any movement in the direction of worldly pleasure or amusement, and that the truly spiritual, prayerful, heavenly-minded members are shy of all such movements? They are not led into them without urging, and weep in secret places when they see their pastor giving encouragement to that which is likely to be so great a stumbling-block to both the Church and to the world.  

Great Expectations

“But the Lord said, `You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow...But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left...Should I not be concerned about that great city?'" (Jonah 4:10,11).

Jonah is one of the more interesting people in the Bible. He was that most human mixture of strength and weakness: Godly yet bigoted, selfish and mean-spirited.

And yet God seems to say to Jonah, "Come, let us reason together, Jonah. You are concerned about this measly vine which I have destroyed with a worm, and you are so angry about it you could die. And yet I want to save this nation, people and animals, and you seem so unconcerned about them. I want no more controversy with you, Jonah, for I am both sovereign and merciful. You are merciful to this gourd which is as nothing to the people in Niveneh, and yet you are angry that I want to overlook their sins and accept their repentence."

This passage from Jonah tells us of God's concern for the population. The great city is as much His distress as the sparrow. God is a God of peoples as well as persons. His Son wept over Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ... how often I have longed to gather your children together,...but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37). Here Nineveh is willing to repent, and God is willing to forgive.

The Book of Jonah is filled with lessons and warnings. One warning is for us to beware of expectations interfering with our present obligations. Jonah expected God to destroy Nineveh, not realizing that God's plans are flexible. Another lesson is to let God lead rather than give in to our own inclinations. Jonah ran the other way and God still caught up with him, for God does know best. Our direction in duty is God's direction. All benefit when all obey. Nineveh did, and so did Jonah, after God reasoned with him.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Mother's Tear - Erma Bombeck

When God was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of "overtime" when an angel appeared and said, "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And God said, "Have you read the specifications on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts ... all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And, six pairs of hands." The angel shook her head slowly and said "Six pairs of hands ... no way."

"It's not the hands that are causing me problems," said God, "It's the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have."

"That's on the standard model?" asked the angel.

God nodded. "One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, 'What are you kids doing in there?' when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn't but what she has to know, and of course, the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, 'I understand and I love you', without so much as uttering a word."

"You should scrap it and start over." said the angel.

"I can't," said God, "I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick ... can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger ... and can get a nine-year-old to stand under a shower."

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. "It's too soft," she sighed.

"But tough," said God excitedly. "You cannot imagine what this mother can do or endure."

"Can it think?" asked the angel.

"Not only think, but it can reason and compromise." said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. "There's a leak!" she pronounced. "I told you you're trying too put too much into this model."

"It's not a leak" said God "it's a tear."

"What's it for?" asked the angel.

"It's for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride."

"You are a genius!" said the angel.

God looked somber ... "I didn't put it there."

Erma Bombeck


When George Washington was stationed in early life at Alexandria, with a regiment under his command, his spirit became heated one day at an election, and he said something very offensive to a Mr. Payne. In response, Payne felled him to the ground with one blow of his cane. On hearing of the insult offered to their commander, the regiment, burning for revenge, immediately started for the city; but Washington met them and begged them by their regard for him to return peaceably to their barracks. Thinking himself in the wrong in his hasty expressions, he nobly resolved to make an honorable reparation. The next morning Washington sent a polite note requesting Payne to meet him at the tavern. Payne took it for a challenge, and went in expectation of a duel. However, what was his surprise to find, instead of pistols, a decanter of wine on the table.
Washington rose to meet him and said with a smile, "Mr. Payne, to err is human; but to correct our errors is always honorable. I believe I was wrong yesterday. You have had, I think, some satisfaction; and, if you deem that sufficient, here is my hand. Let us be friends."
Such an act of justice and courtesy few could resist; and Payne became, from that moment through life, an enthusiastic friend and admirer of Washington, who in all of his victories never won a more glorious triumph. When, by ruling his own spirit, he subdued the anger of his enemy and won his confidence and love.
­Dictionary Of Illustrations

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What are you willing to give me?

“What are you willing to give me...?” (Matthew 26:15a); "As keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it" (John 12:6b).

This is a tragic question. Imagine, Judas is asking the chief priests how much they are willing to give him -- to betray his Lord! Judas, who once loved and believed in Jesus, is now ready to commit the greatest crime on earth, for only thirty pieces of silver. The weeds in Judas' garden were greed, lack of insight and ingratitude of the highest order. Even being with Jesus who daily sacrificed Himself for others did not convince Judas of his own self-serving ways. It must have gnawed at the very vitals of Judas that Jesus did not consider money the most vital possession in life. On many occasions Jesus warned about the love of money, but Judas' heart was enlarged with covetousness.

It's incredible to us that Judas would sell out the very One who gave him physical and spiritual life. Here was a man who was welcomed, along with Jesus and the other eleven disciples, everywhere they went. How could he not be content? But it isn't the lack of money but the love of money that has caused grievous desertion from principles and practices. His Master became a commodity to be sold to the most malicious bidders. For the price of a slave, Judas sold the Master. His itching palm and heart festered into boldness as he paid a tithe to the devil himself for "then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand [Jesus] over" (Matthew 26:16). How unthinkable, we think!

Yet who are we to judge Judas, for we serve self daily. How many times a day do we ask, "What are you willing to give me...?" We too have our dividing line when we choose either the right or the wrong action that will determine another's and our own future. Just as with Judas, we cannot step back over the line, so it is well to consider the consequences.

Give me...! There was the fatal fracture in the heart of Judas. That was what the prodigal son said, "Father, give me..." Such an attitude betrayed the Son of God, and it is still doing so. God forgive us for our selfishness!

Fathoming our depths

"The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever" (Isaiah 32:17).

"Quiet minds ... go on in fortune or misfortune at their own pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm" (Robert Louis Stevenson). During World War II a European Christian remarked, "On the surface there is storm, but twenty fathoms down it is quite calm."

We must fathom the fathoms before we can comprehend that peace which the world cannot give; indeed, the world seems happiest when it is whipping up a war here and a rumor there, trying to undercut the flow of God's undercurrent. "Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said, "for they will be called [children] of God."

The only conquering God asks of us is of ourselves, not the world and its whims. He will take care of everything else for us. It wasn't the world Jesus wanted to change, but those in the world.

"He who climbs above the cares of the world and turns his face to his God has found the sunny side of life. The world's side of the hill is chill and freezing to a spiritual mind, but the Lord's presence gives a warmth of joy which turns winter into summer" (Charles Spurgeon). God asks us to live independent of our circumstances while we live dependent on Him. At times how difficult this is!

The promise of peace has some precepts:

1) Gratitude to God and to humankind. This is the perfect prayer of mind and heart, and lifts us above care to caring;
2) Moderation in all things. "Give me neither poverty nor riches" (Proverbs 30:8); "Give us today our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). Temperance controls the temper of our lives;
3) Absolute trust. "Do not be anxious about anything" (Philippians 4:6).

If we can't trust a God of providence then we can't trust a God of grace and graciousness.

Always Right

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!" (Joel 3:14).

Many relationships falter on stubbornness. Graves have been dug with the words, "I'm right." I had a relative who was always right – absolutely, retroactively right, even when she wasn't there and you were! She also died at a young age, poor soul. Bless her, she spent her short, insecure life proving every nit-picking point. It would have been the end of her warped world to have been proven wrong. Perhaps definitions are in order here: 1. decisiveness; 2. positiveness; and 3. stubbornness.

  1. Decisiveness is the ability to come to a decision, make an effective choice and mentally resolve a conflict. The indecisive person lives in constant fear of consequences and is unable to handle his problems efficiently. The decisive person takes responsibility for his or her actions. Mr. or Ms. Indecisive points to others as the source of his/her unhappiness, too.
  2. Positiveness is an extension of decisiveness: the person takes a firm stand on a decision and rules out mistakes and doubts. This person is often accused of being stubborn when in effect he has simply made up his mind on a conviction he feels is legitimate after he has thoroughly researched and thought out the problem. This person's convictions are firm, confident and, to him, logical. Of course if the person is strong-willed and narrow-minded and ungenerous, then he will be accused of being stubborn, justly so at times, too.
  3. But the stubborn person! These folks are right come high water, the Bible, the Encyclopedia, and 50 million lawyers to prove them wrong. This person resists, whether his or her reasons are valid or not. The adamant person can't stand to lose face; ergo, s/he is always right, which is ludicrous, for who can be always absolutely right? The last I checked, Jesus was/is the only perfect Person.

On the other hand, the healthily positive person is willing to listen to reason and change his/her mind. This person is willing to change thoughts and feelings if, upon reanalysis of the situation, basic convictions are not compromised. The really confident person will concede a point to common sense, whereas the obstinate person concedes nothing. This person does not possess an opinion – it possesses him/her! Unfortunately the "always-right" person dies by degrees from loneliness. After all, who wants to be proven wrong all the time?

A Letter To You From Satan -- Author Unknown

I saw you yesterday as you began your daily chores. You awoke without kneeling to pray. As a matter of fact, you didn't even bless your meals, or pray before going to bed last night. You are so unthankful. I like that about you.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that you have not changed your way of living. Fool! You are mine. Remember, you and I have been going steady for years, and I still don't love you yet. As a matter of fact, I hate you, because I hate God. I am only using you to get even with God. He kicked me out of heaven, and I'm going to use you as long as possible to pay him back.

You see, Fool, GOD LOVES YOU and HE has great plans in store for you. But you have yielded your life to me and I'm going to make your life a living hell. That way we'll be together twice. THIS WILL REALLY HURT GOD! Thanks to you. I'm really showing Him who's boss in your life. With all of the good times we've had..... We have been watching dirty movies, cursing people out, partying, stealing, lying, hypocriting, fornicating, overeating, telling dirty jokes, gossiping, back stabbing people, disrespecting adults and those in leadership position, NO respect for the church, bad attitudes: SURELY you don't want to give all this up!

COME ON, Fool, let's burn together forever. I've got some HOT plans for us. This is just a letter of appreciation from me to you. I'd like to say "THANKS" for letting me use you for most of your foolish life. You are so gullible. I laugh at you. When you are tempted to sin, you give in. HA HA HA You make me sick! Sin is beginning to take its toll on your life. You look 20 years older. I need new blood. So go ahead and teach some children how to sin. All you have to do is smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, cheat, gamble, gossip, fornicate, and listen to and dance to the top 10 jams. Do all of this in the presence of children and they will do it too. Kids are like that.

Well, Fool, I have to let you go for now. I'll be back in a couple of seconds to tempt you again. IF YOU WERE SMART, you would run somewhere, CONFESS YOUR SINS, LIVE FOR GOD with what little bit of life that you have left. It's not my nature to warn anyone, but to be your age and still sinning, it's becoming a bit ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I still hate you......


P.S. - And if you really love me, you won't share this letter with anyone.

Revelation 2:11: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."

You're crazy!

"Do not pay attention to every word people say..." (Ecclesiastes 7:21); "I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply" (Psalm 38:14).

It helps us to know that the wisest and the best can -- and will be -- misread and misquoted. Jesus' family thought he was crazy: "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, `He is out of his mind'" (Mark 3:21). We then shouldn't take the time or bother to worry about what others say about us. To paraphrase Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, why be troubled about who is against us?" If we are doing God's will and purpose, then "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?" (Romans 8:33,34).

This world harbors accusers of the brethren whose delight it is to execrate and implicate. What's worse, the accusations may have a ring of truth, because the only perfect Person on earth was Jesus Christ. Even the best have blemishes that mar the face of the spirit. It is possible that God is using the person who is bent on bending us to his or her preconceptions. After all, "Who can discern his errors?" (Psalm 19:12). Personally, I believe that God allows relatives to keep us humble!

We also learn from this not to form great expectations of others' actions and reactions. We have knowingly and unknowingly wounded enough people ourselves through our sins of commission and omission. Another's judgment, false or true, ought to send us to our knees in prayer for forgiveness for the accuser and the accused. And, like David, we can become like one who does not hear and will not justify the accusation.

Peace vs. Pieces!

"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy" (Hebrews 12:14).

Here we are told to live in harmony with all people, not just those we choose. The world demands satisfaction for insults; God demands harmony. The malignant person is unable to be objective and he fastens on to a particular person who he feels has wounded him. The beneficent person lets go and lets God take care of justice because God has promised justification as well as sanctification for those who finally understand that this is the least we owe to His and our brothers and sisters.

The peaceful person is impartial and independent of others' opinions. He looks through neither a rose- nor black- nor bleak-colored telescope to enlarge others' faults or a microscope to diminish their virtues, but clear glasses for a transparent and objective vision. This fortunate person understands that "for now we see through a glass, darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The peaceful person also understands that we are not all made of the same emotional matter, and it does not matter. God made us this way for many reasons, not the least of which is to teach us how to get along with others. We are not the umpires of empires, and thank God we don't need to be.

Life is much easier, too, when we let God take care of all the emotional matters for us. Enmities make enemies. If we keep in mind that someone we perceive as our enemy is God's good friend, we may be less likely to harbor negative emotions about him or her. Jesus died for all people; for that reason alone, we do well to willingly love them. The new earth will be peopled with all sizes and shapes and varieties; it is a verity that it won't be our differences that keep us out but our divisions.

"Of all the birds the dove is the most easily alarmed and put to flight at hearing a shot fired. Remember that the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove; and if you begin to shoot at each other, the Heavenly Dove will take wing and instantly leave you. The Holy Spirit is one of love and peace, not of tumult and confusion. He cannot live among the smoke and noise of fired shots: if you would grieve the Holy Spirit and compel Him to retire, you have only to commence firing at one another, and He will instantly depart" (Anonymous).

Pots and Pans

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3:23); "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty'" (Luke 17:10).

"The true calling of a Christian is not to do extraordinary things but to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way" (Dean Stanley). We feel we need to do great things for God, when all God asks of us is that we do our duty. What a tiresome word, duty! Brother Lawrence wrote a remarkable book titled The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence tells us that he is content with the pots and pans; that he is delighted to pick up a straw where no straw should be. His daily duty was in the kitchen, work that he didn't like but, by practicing the presence of his precious Christ, he made it into joyful service for others.

"Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?" (Matthew 20:6c). We have all kinds of excuses for not working: we lack experience, opportunity, money, or time; we couldn't find work; we didn't hear the alarm clock, etc. But we are told that whatever we do (which implies we are to do something), we are to do it with all our might, for we are to do it for God and not for another’s approval.

"As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me" (John 9:4). There are two interesting words here, "day" and "we." Jesus is honoring us by including us in His work. Jesus went about doing good and doing His Father's work (Acts 10:38) while there was still time. He didn't go about seeking honors or approval; He simply went about doing good and working the works of love and duty, and this is what He asks of us. "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

“Christ spent His life in doing good within the sphere in which He lived, and to the objects within His reach. Thus He has taught us irresistibly that, instead of consuming our time in wishes to do good where we cannot, the true dictate of universal goodwill is to do it where we can” (T. Dwight) .

Nine Things God Won't Ask -- Anonymous

1...God won't ask what kind of car you drove,
He'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.

2...God won't ask the square footage of your house,
He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

3...God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet,
He'll ask how many you helped to clothe.

4...God won't ask what your highest salary was,
He'll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

5...God won't ask what your job title was,
He'll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

6...God won't ask how many friends you had,
He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

7...God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived,
He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.

8...God won't ask about the color of your skin,
He'll ask about the content of your character.

9...God won't ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation,
He'll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of Hell.

Milk and Wine

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost" (Isaiah 55:1).

What a beautiful invitation! Two articles are for sale: milk, symbolic of abundance and the essentials of life, and wine, the emblem of that which cheers and inspires. The price we pay is no price: "Nothing in my hand I bring." It is an unconditional gift. We are not to pay for our salvation with any kind of works, for it is an insult to the grace of God. Indeed, it is our very emptiness which recommends us. Our destitution is His restitution. "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it" (Psalm 81:10b). We are not speaking of temporal blessings here: "Wine, water, and milk are figurative representations of spiritual revival, re-creation, and nourishment" (Delitzsch).

Who are invited? We are, all of us who hunger and thirst for His righteousness. We are invited who have no money -- no gold of goodness and no silver of sanctity -- of our own. It is for those of us who are impoverished. God understands our material wants, too: "Come, come, come, My people! I know that your physical needs must be met so that your spiritual needs may be fulfilled, too."

"I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see" (Revelation 3:18). We are never such desperate sinners that we cannot heed the gracious call and counsel of our Savior to buy our salvation with a broken and contrite heart. All else fails. "Come and buy of Me the treasures of peace and joy that only I can give you."

"It is addressed to each and all. The invitation is bounded only by the thirst the felt need. Not the rich, the noble, the great; not the select and the few; but those who partake of a common want, and are capable of a common satisfaction. It proves that provision has been made for all. Can God invite to a salvation which has not been provided? Can he ask a man to partake of a banquet which has no existence? Can he ask a man to drink of waters when there are none? Can he tantalize the hopes and mock the miseries of men by inviting them to enter a heaven where they would be unwelcome, or to dwell in mansions which have never been provided?" (Anonymous.)

"...Having nothing, and yet possessing everything…." (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Ladies, God says we may rest!

I went to a restaurant recently with some friends and there was Ruth, another friend who is a lovely Christian lady who worries about her Christianity. This precious soul is a bundle of virtue and she and her good husband have raised four sons who have done well. The entire family is a credit to this once-small community. Ruth, who was with yet another friend (all right, I admit this is still a small-enough community that we run into friends--how fortunate we are!) confided that she wasn't feeling well. Later on that afternoon, after we had all enjoyed our lunches and gone our ways, Ruth called and shared that her daily prayer, along with the usual requests that we all have, is that she is doing enough for God. I think this dear gal may live with the fear that she never does enough, not only for God, but for her family, friends and strangers as well. It's a Christian and female syndrome. Put that together for a peculiarly Christian female syndrome and we have a problem--which just about every Christian gentlewoman I know harbors in her tired heart and mind and body.

The more I thought about Ruth the more I wondered if we ladies haven't been sold an imperial (read that "repressive") bit of goods that we gals can have the whole taco and the store with it. After all, how many of the virile macho breed have we heard of late lamenting that they just haven't quite done enough today. Ladies, when was the last time you heard "Honey, is there anything I can do for you? Put the kids to bed? Do the dishes? The five loads of laundry?" Are you kidding? It's more like, "I'm tired. I've worked hard today, and I'm cashing it in." And this is before the kids go to bed! As I thought of Ruth and all of us distaff side who staff (read that "unendingly supply") life, I recalled a verse that helps me when I am so tired I want to climb under the covers and take a 24-hour reprieve from life, of course worrying that I am wasting God's time and not doing enough for humankind: "She did what she could" (Mark 14:8). I have a habit, whether good or bad I know not, of taking Bible verses out of context and applying them to personal needs and this one met an immediate need one tired day of accepting God's message that we gals can only do so much.

Years ago I read the following story in a very old book: There was a poor acrobat who turned monk but who was so ignorant and unlearned that he could not even say his "Paternoster" or "Credo" properly. Greatly disheartened at his failure, he used to go before a picture of Christ hanging on the cross and perform his old acrobatic feats, until he sank to the ground, exhausted. And while he lay there, it is said, Christ Himself came down from the cross and wiped the perspiration from his brow. This beautiful act surely expresses the very heart of the divine understanding and sympathy. God does not expect from us what we cannot render, but even the seeming unspiritual things, the common duties of life, if done in His spirit, are beautiful to Him, for if He accepts the cup of cold water given to others, He will not refuse the smallest thing offered in love to Him. He will come down to receive it with His divine grace and, in accepting it, He will bless the giver.
This is such a magnificent message to us who wonder if we have put in enough time or money or strength today. I mentioned to Ruth that I wondered if we exhibit a lack of trust when we feel we haven't done enough for God. Perhaps we need to get back to meditating on what God has done for us and not worry about whether we have filled today's cup; just be enormously grateful for our own full cup of blessings from God who knows our dust and simply do what we can this day, believing wholeheartedly that our dear Father supplies our many lacks.

God realizes more than we do how much emotional and spiritual and physical strength we have or don't have, and we can trust Him to accept what we can do--and what we can't do, which is perhaps even more important. When we feel like collapsing, we can hear Jesus saying to us, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while" (Mark 6:31,32). Jesus said this to His friends, His beloved disciples, after a heavy-duty day, "for there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat." How many wives and mothers fit in this category! We had five sons and I well remember missing meals and running to and fro, and also wishing I could even find a deserted place to rest a bit. The kids always found me, even when I hid in the closet, taking literally that grand verse in Matthew 6:6 to enter into your closet, only I had the ulterior motive of saving my sanity, which is now questionable--just ask the boys!

J.K. Mackenzie advised years ago, "Don't be unwise enough to think that we are serving God best by constant activity at the cost of headaches and broken rest. I am getting to be of the opinion that we may be doing too much." This mad, mad world we must live in has convinced us ladies especially that we can bring home the groceries and cook them, too; that we can be super-moms and super-CEOs, too. Impossible! How can one person live two lives at the same time? I'm old enough to have lived in the era when it was taken for granted that men and women were different, they each had their gifts and when these were combined, they made the whole of life, and together they produced a stable and loving family. How sad that this formula is now considered extinct.

Ladies, God doesn't expect us to kill ourselves doing so much. Indeed, He bids us to "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). If ever there is a verse for our killing days, it is this precious promise. Now if we could just find the time and quiet to read it over and over!

Keep Your Fork - Author Unknown

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order", she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly. "What's that?" came the pastor's reply. "This is very important," the woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. "That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked. "Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.

The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in the casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder,
"What's with the fork?" Then, I want you to tell them: "Keep your fork....The best is yet to come".

The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She knew that something better was coming. At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand.

Over and over, the pastor heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.

Joy is sense; pleasure is senses....

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11).

“Happiness is pleasure; joy is peace. Happiness is a tangible result, dependent on circumstances; joy is the result of faith, independent of happenings in life. Joy and religion seem opposites, because too many of us are morose Christians, but Jesus was/is a Man of Joy as well as a Man of Sorrows. The only contrariness here is we who proclaim Jesus as Lord and then walk around, down in sole and soul. Joy is internal, solid and light; pleasure is external, liquid and gray. Joy is and will be; pleasure is a has-been. Joy is character; pleasure is a condition. Joy is expansive; pleasure is expensive. Joy is reflection on the way to perfection; pleasure is deflection. Joy is sense; pleasure is senses. Joy has reserves; pleasure has reservations. Joy is sharing; pleasure is shearing. Joy is a variety of blessings; pleasure is a variable of emotions” (Patricia Erwin Nordman, Living Words).

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame..." (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus's joy was and is as our Mediator, the Maker of Peace, the Reconciler. There is a misconception that Christianity is synonymous with suffering. His cousin John dwelt in the wilderness, but Jesus joined in the festivities of life. His joy was and is as our compassionate Savior. He was as full of sensibility and enthusiasm as any man who ever lived and He experienced great joy, as well as great suffering. In His suffering, His full joy was in knowing that, especially in this, He and His Father gave the magnificent gift of liberation to us all.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gems #5

"Of all the dispositions and habits that can lead to political posterity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of … citizens. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion to religious principle." (George Washington.)

Married People Would Be Happier (published in 1886):

If home troubles were never told to a neighbor.

If expenses were proportioned to receipts.

If they tried to be as agreeable as in courtship days.

If each would remember the other was a human being, not an angel.

If each was as kind to the other as when they were lovers.

If fuel and provisions were laid in during the high tide of summer work.

If both parties remembered that they married for worse as well as for better.

If men were as thoughtful for their wives as they were for their sweethearts.

If there were fewer silk and velvet street costumes, and more plain, tidy house dresses.

"You must not spread your feelings all around, so far, but remember other people have feelings too. Your feelings are sure "to be stepped on" if you do not keep them at home." (1887.)

Boys, Don't (1911):

Don't forget that you are to be men and husbands.

Don't smoke in the presence of ladies. It is never respectful.

Don't measure your respect to a person by the clothes he wears.

Don't try to make your fortune by easier means than hard work.

Don't speak carelessly of a lady's character. It is her only anchor.

Don't forget that the best and greatest man that ever walked the earth was a boy.

Don't fix your stare on the fair ones who pass along the streets. To stare at anyone is not manly at all.

Don't sneer at the opinions of others. You may learn wisdom from those far less pretentious than yourself.

Don't swear. It is not necessary and does not good. It is neither wise, manly or polite, nor agreeable to others.

Don't grow up to be a sour old bachelor, when there are so many true and lovely girls that will make such excellent wives.

Don't flirt with a young lady to whom you are a perfect stranger. It looks ridiculous; and you may get thrashed for it some day.

Don't unnecessarily make enemies. The will of a dog is better than its ill will.

Don't cripple your independence and your individuality to please friends.


"Not our circumstances, but the use we make of our circumstances decides the question of our gain or loss day by day in our earthly course. According to the spirit in which we meet them, helps will prove hindrances or hindrances prove helps in our pilgrim path." Anonymous (1911).

"What we need above all things in these crowded days is the setting apart of many listening times; times of quiet in which we can hear the heavenly voices that call us, unregarded in the busy day.” Selected.

"There are two good rules which ought to be written on every heart: Never believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know it is true; never tell even that, unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary, and that God is listening while you tell it." Henry Van Dyke.

At the foundation, this sentiment arises from an overestimation of ourselves. We are some important personage, and we demand that certain consideration be accorded to us, and in the event that this is not done, we are angry or displeased. We need to be reminded of Paul's advice: "Let no man think more highly of himself than he ought to think." Anonymous.

"Little words are the sweetest to hear; little charities fly farthest, and stay longest on the wing; little lakes are the stillest; little hearts are the fullest, and little farms are the best tilled. Little books are read the most, and little songs are dearest loved. And when Nature would make any thing especially rare and beautiful, she makes it little. The Sermon on the Mount is little, but the last dedication discourse was an hour long. Life is made up of littles; death is what remains of them all. Day is made up of little beams, and night is glorious with the little stars." Anonymous.

"If we only knew what the weakest and worst had borne, if we only understood how they were tempted, if we could read the story of their secret battle, could fathom their wretchedness, I think we should cease despising in that hour. Nothing shows the littleness of one's mind so much as a habit of speaking slightingly of others." Selected.

"It cannot be that the earth is man's only abiding place. It cannot be that our life is a mere bubble cast up by eternity to float a moment on its waves and then sink into nothingness. Else why is it that the glorious aspirations which leap like angels from the temple of our hearts are forever wandering unsatisfied? Why is it that all the stars that hold their festival around the midnight throne are set above the grasp of our limited faculties, forever mocking us with their unapproachable glory? And, finally, why is it that bright forms of human beauty presented to our view are taken from us, leaving the thousand streams of our affections to flow back in Alpine torrents upon our hearts? There is a realm where the rainbow never fades; where the stars will spread out before us like islands that slumber in the ocean; and where the beautiful beings which now pass before us like shadows will stay in our presence forever." (Prentice in "Man's Higher Destiny".)

Getting The Best Out Of Oneself:

1. By seeing one's best possible and actual self. Hold up character to the mirror of Jesus.

2. By getting thorough acquaintance with one's own powers and capacities and limitations. We do not begin to know ourselves and do not try to some do not want to.

3. By having unbounded faith in God, and a right confidence in self, with God's help, not foolish over confidence.

4. By cultivating all one's resources; seizing all one's opportunities; never giving up to discouragement; rising superior to obstacles; being a whole man and woman, brave, cheery, hopeful.

5. By being the best to others and getting the best out of others in return; never by harming or envying others or running them down.

6. By living daily in the companionship of Jesus. Anonymous.

The Gift Of Appreciation

"For the best results, the cultivation of higher ideals and the gift of appreciation must go together. Lacking a normal sense of appreciation the farther one advances in his ideals the more unhappy and disagreeable he becomes. The hypercritical spirit and habit are not necessarily a testimony of superior wisdom and goodness or of exceptional attainments. One can easily form a habit of regarding others and their efforts with depreciation instead of appreciation, and of undervaluing one's own God given benefits to such a degree to eliminate all gladness and goodness from his lot and mission in life. The spirit and exercise of appreciation are the very essence of gratitude and thankfulness, in principle. The exercise of an appreciative spirit is conducive to one's own happiness and to be merited encouragement of others. It is a good thing to want to see merit rather than demerit in others. It is better for one's self to look for the bright side of things than to dwell in the shadows. It is far better to dwell on the good points of another than to speak of his faults and reflect discredit on his worth in undue proportion. It requires the same skill to discover the merit of a work of art as to detect its defects. The same principle applies when an estimate is to be made on personal merit and demerit. One should cultivate the faculty of discovering the better part, the better side of others and their efforts, rather than to take pleasure in portraying their weaknesses and in advertising their shortcomings." The Evangelical Messenger.

"Let us remember our influence. A good deal of our writing is done with invisible ink we cannot read it at the time. The flower does not know what becomes of its breath; it sails away on the air. We cannot tell what becomes of our breath; it goes off likewise on its mighty mission." (Anonymous, 1918.)

"Zacharias and Elizabeth took God at His word and entered into covenant with Him to do their part. That must be our attitude toward Him, if we would receive His blessings. If we are not doing what He expects of us, we will not be in a position to receive His blessings. It will be no adequate excuse for us to say, `It is too hard for me.' Depend upon it, in every command of God there is wrapped up a promise that strength will be given to obey. All God's biddings are enablings."

"Too many people know the Bible only as literature. It is as if they knew the guideposts of a country and nothing of the climate. They take up the Bible as literature and not as a revelation; they go to the Bible as students, but never as sinners; with curiosity, but not with need; they know the letter and not the spirit. They do everything with the Bible except try it. That is the one indispensable thing." (Jowett, 1912).