Saturday, February 25, 2012

FYI: Drug Expiration Dates - Do They Mean Anything?

From the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide:

With a splitting headache you reach into your medicine cabinet for some aspirin only to find the stamped expiration date on the bottle has passed - two years ago. So, do you take it or don't you? If you decide to take the aspirin will it be a fatal mistake or will you simply continue to suffer from the headache?

This is a dilemma many people face in some way or another. A column published in Pyschopharmacology Today offers some advice.

It turns out that the expiration date on a drug does stand for something, but probably not what you think it does. Since a law was passed in 1979, drug manufacturers are required to stamp an expiration date on their products. This is the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug.

Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.

So the expiration date doesn't really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use. Medical authorities state expired drugs are safe to take, even those that expired years ago. A rare exception to this may be tetracycline, but the report on this is controversial among researchers. It's true the effectiveness of a drug may decrease over time, but much of the original potency still remains even a decade after the expiration date. Excluding nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics, most medications are as long-lasting as the ones tested by the military. Placing a medication in a cool place, such as a refrigerator, will help a drug remain potent for many years.

Is the expiration date a marketing ploy by drug manufacturers, to keep you restocking your medicine cabinet and their pockets regularly? You can look at it that way. Or you can also look at it this way: The expiration dates are very conservative to ensure you get everything you paid for. And, really, if a drug manufacturer had to do expiration-date testing for longer periods it would slow their ability to bring you new and improved formulations.

The next time you face the drug expiration date dilemma, consider what you've learned here. If the expiration date passed a few years ago and it's important that your drug is absolutely 100% effective, you might want to consider buying a new bottle. And if you have any questions about the safety or effectiveness of any drug, ask your pharmacist. He or she is a great resource when it comes to getting more information about your medications.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jesus and Peter

"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's 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 only been human – please think about that.

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 (notice Jesus’ faith in Peter!) you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (v.32).

The Lord looks upon us with the same 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 – what a gift!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Our Barking Dogs

“Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14).

"The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on" (Arabic Proverb). "Things cannot always go your way. Learn to accept in silence the minor aggravations, cultivate the gift of taciturnity and consume your own smoke with an extra draught of hard work, so that those about you may not be annoyed with the dust and soot of your complaints" (William Osler).

It's a long step from complainant to complaisance. The physician Dr. Edward Trudeau had tuberculosis and his approach was, "I have found that the great word is Acquiescence." Sophisticated folks have a hard time acquiescing to anything, much less everything.

Disraeli, when Prime Minister of England, was known to have an excellent memory. Someone asked him one day how he managed to remember all those names and faces. "When I meet a man whose name I cannot remember, I give myself two minutes; then if it is a hopeless case, I always say: `And how is the old complaint'?" And asking some people, "How are you?" can ruin our day. Disraeli is also quoted as having said, "Never complain and never explain." Self-justification fans just as many fires as do criticisms and grievances.

A strap hanger is one who has a complaint of longstanding. The word strap has many definitions. Among many meanings, the noun means belt and the verb means beat. So we can wind up belting ourselves and beating others with complaints. If the complaint is longstanding, we then shoulder the heavy epithet of strap hanger. Proverbs 25:17 wisely teaches, "Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house --  too much of you, and he will hate you." This is especially true if we go there with nothing but grievances. We'd best get a grip on our gripes. "But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer" (Mark 14:61). Oh, how tempting it is to argue our case! "Do everything without complaining or arguing." Imagine, everything! We question God and others and we miss God's help by doing so. If we can view our problems in God's light and life, we can go on, no matter what the provocation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lunch box searches in the pre-K class

"A turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips and apple juice sounds like a pretty good lunch for a pre-schooler. But not good enough for the food police at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford, N.C., according to this story in the Carolina Journal. According to the story, a state agent was inspecting lunch boxes in the 'more at four' classroom, and deemed that the lunch brought by a 4-year-old girl fell short of U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. So, the agent swapped the girl’s lunch with a school cafeteria lunch and sent the packed lunch home with the child at the end of the day. Mom asked her girl what she’d eaten for lunch instead, and the child reported that she’d enjoyed three chicken nuggets and left the rest of the school lunch untouched. Oh, and the school sent a note home telling mom she owed $1.25 for the lunch."

I thought I had read it all until this one, folks! It is time to become outraged. My first thought when reading this silliness was how the little girl would feel about her mother who didn't care enough to pack chicken nuggets for her instead of - get this again - a banana, apple juice, a turkey and cheese sandwich, and potato chips. What's not to like here? Certainly the banana and apple juice should offset the horror of the potato chips! As for the turkey and cheese sandwich, what can I say? To quote some adult in my long-ago childhood, the starving Armenians would kill to have a lunch like that. Have we lost all common sense? My readers know how I feel about lawsuits, but let's go after these bureaucrats and do a squash job. Enough is enough - let's get these state agents out of our lunch boxes and our lives!

Above all, someone tell that little girl her mother loves her!!

Read more here:

The Simple Folk

"...We tried to stop him, because he is not one of us" (Luke 9:49b).

It is arrogance to assume that we know what is best for all concerned; it is to reach the top rung of pride. "So a young man ran and told Moses ...`Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.' Then Joshua...answered and said, `Moses, my Lord, restrain them.' But Moses said to him, `Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!'" (Numbers 11:27-29 NAS). Jesus says, "Do not stop him...for whoever is not against you is for you" (Luke 9:50).

"Seeing a tree grow somewhat irregular in a very neat orchard,” says Mr. Flavel, “I told the owner it was a pity that that tree should stand there, and that if it were mine I would root it up, and thereby reduce the orchard to an exact uniformity. He replied, that he rather regarded the fruit than the form, and that this slight inconvenience was abundantly preponderated by a more considerable advantage. ‘This tree, which you would root up, hath yielded me more fruit than many of those trees which have nothing else to recommend them but their regular situation. "I could not," adds Mr. Flavel, “but yield to the reason of this answer, and could wish it had been spoken so loud that all our conformity men had heard it, who would not stick to root up many hundreds of the best learners in the Lord’s orchard because they stand not in exact order with other more conformable but less beneficial trees, who destroy the fruit to preserve the form.” Such, alas, is the prejudice of our minds, that we are too prone to condemn those who do not view things exactly as we do. We lay down plans and rules for ourselves, and then blame others if they do not follow them. Too often also are we mistaken in our opinions of others, and imagine that they are only cumberers of the ground, when probably they bring forth the fruits of righteousness in greater abundance than ourselves (W. Buck,
Biblical Illustrator, Luke).

He who was born in a stable and died a criminal’s death has told us that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The so-called simple folk will lead the way!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A White Stone and a New Name

"Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared" (John 8:11).

Jesus could have so easily declared the death sentence! But He who is so tender and loving gave this woman another chance. How much comfort and hope there is for us in this great passage. "If God is for us, who is against us?...Who will bring a charge against God's elect?" (Romans 8:31,33). Mary became one of God's elect because Jesus showed mercy rather than condemnation. Should we not follow His example and show forbearance to others? We are sinners, too, so why should we point out another’s tiny speck when we carry a beam of sin ourselves? "Love covers all transgressions" (Proverbs 10:112b) so let us rather love one another than condemn, whether the facts are true or not. "Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8 NLT), ours and theirs!

Notice Christ's way of dealing with Peter when he cursed and lied the night that he should have supported his Friend. "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61). He didn't scold him; Jesus, by a tender look, brought to Peter's mind what a terrible deed he had done to His Lord. Even at the time of His own terrible suffering of mind and body, Jesus shows that He has not forgotten the pain Peter is enduring, too. And after the resurrection He utters not a single word of condemnation to His friend Peter. This is one of my favorite Bible passages, for it shows me a Father Who loves me enough to forgive my failings, and it reminds me that the greatest gift I can give to others is God's love and mine - no condemnation, just love and acceptance.

"To him who overcomes...I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone..." (Revelation 2:17b). The ancient custom was to give a white stone to the acquitted and a black stone to the condemned. The white stone is the stone of salvation, and the new name is not a fresh name of itself, but a fresh revelation of God and His nature. Surely both Mary and Peter were given fresh revelations of God's nature through His forgiveness of their sins. These are beautiful stories of the exquisite love and understanding of a lovely Savior!

Written in Water

"But I said, `I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord's hand, and my reward is with my God'" (Isaiah 49:4).

When Keats was dying he said, "I have written my name in water." He didn't realize at the time, nor would he have cared, that it was written in marble. This is true of many while they live; they have no idea of the influence and the beauty they will leave behind. During life their love and hopes were not reciprocated nor their mistakes vindicated, so they feel they have disappointed God and family and friends. Especially if they aimed high do they feel a crash.

Many of God's servants have despaired of their seeming inadequacies. Elijah mourned, "I am no better than my ancestors" (1 Kings 19:4); Moses lamented, "I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy" (Numbers 11:14); and David felt like giving up: "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul" (1 Samuel 27:1). And then there was Jesus, most certainly a failure, who was scorned by the multitudes and finally crucified.

But God sees all this in a very different light. Instead of comparing our work with that of others, let us refer it to His fair judgment. "My reward is with my God," not with men. It's impossible for us to estimate our life's work. Even the Messiah became disheartened: "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Romans 10:21).

God judges by motive and mission. Many a noble effort slips by relatives and friends, but God sees and knows all. If we keep in mind that our Brother Jesus missed out on fame and fortune while on earth, then we can forget about reward. For His unceasing kindness Jesus was rewarded with the ultimate cruelty of being nailed to a cross, so we need not worry or complain about what we receive or don't receive on earth.

What I have I give you

"Then Peter said, `Gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk'" (Acts 3:6).

Those of us who know our comforting Lord are expected of all people to be aware of the unfortunates in life. Some have been crushed by events beyond their control, others by burdens too heavy for one person, still others through misguided decisions that reap sad results. It seems the whole world is on crutches, crippled by fear and paralyzed by uncertainty. This poor old earth is at the Temple Gate searching for hope and salve for wounds that cannot be cured by the so-called experts.

We meet these dear people sometimes at the foot of the Cross, and sometimes at the Beautiful Gate. At both places our Father is there. An inspired author shares this thought: “There once was a time when God saw the world lying like a cripple on the doorstep of heaven. God had something that he could not keep. That was his own life and love. The beggar asked only for alms and a cooling drink, but God gave him a Baby to love, a Man to follow, a Life to adore, a Spirit to dwell in his own wretched, crippled body and make him walk, and leap, and praise again.”

Our Beautiful Gates in life are where we meet humanity at its neediest and inhumanity at its worst. Here the Father of us all gives us the opportunity to share the real gold, words of hope and love aptly spoken like “apples of gold in a setting of silver." We have orange trees and whenever I read this verse I think of that marvelous time of the year when our orange blossoms are beginning to bloom, and they are mixed with oranges still on the tree -- what a lovely sight and smell, truly a gift from God!

The beggar wanted alms and received the gift of a full life. Sometimes in our prayers we want what we can see and feel, but God wants to grant us faith and more than we ever hoped for. The Gospel doesn’t promise gold and silver. We don’t get everything we want -- even an earthly father has more sense than to grant every whim of his beloved child. We are not promised immediate improvement or a guarantee of immunity from trouble and loss. What we are promised is pardoning love and spiritual peace for the asking. The gold is packaged differently, that’s all.

Turgeniev, the Russian writer, tells in his Poems in Prose how one day he met a beggar who besought him for alms. "I felt in all my pockets," he writes. "No purse, watch, or handkerchief did I find. I had left them all at home. The beggar waited, and his outstretched hand twitched and trembled slightly. Embarrassed and confused, I seized his dirty hand and pressed it: 'Don't be vexed with me, brother.' The beggar raised his bloodshot eyes to mine, his blue lips smiled, and he returned the pressure of the chilled fingers. 'Never mind, brother,' he stammered. 'Thank you for this. This, too, was a gift, brother.' I felt that I too had received a gift from my brother."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Let's Leave Good Memories!

"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.

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 very wise advice for us: "Memory, like a purse, if it be over-full 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).

Do Not Cut Corners!

"Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe" (1 Samuel 24:5).

Some insightful person wrote, "There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball,/And that is to have either a clear conscience, or none at all." David's clear and good conscience would not let him rest because he cut off a corner as proof of the power he could have had over Saul. God had assured David of the throne, and David's men interpreted this as a license to kill Saul while David had this blessed opportunity.

But David knew this wasn't a blessed time or place to commit any kind of sin. Even cutting a corner pierced David's conscience. Saul committed outrages against David but David knew that was no excuse to retaliate. Instead, David overcame evil with good (Romans 12:21). He reasoned with himself and his men that they should resist the temptation to take matters into their own hands, especially when they had such a grand opportunity to do so.

Perhaps the larger lesson here is the firm belief that our cause is in God's hands, the righteous Judge of all the earth; that He will not allow wrong to prevail over right in the end. This firm belief is the shield of faith we use to turn aside the darts of the terrible temptation to strike back when we feel hurt. We have no time for vindication, for that is God's time. We have no control over others' acts but we do have control over our reactions!

According to man's reasoning, David could have killed Saul and said he did it for the good of the nation. But David chose to interpret circumstances according to God's plan for all their lives, and was twice blessed with a good conscience and a throne that was not smeared with the blood of Saul, no matter how disgraceful Saul treated him. “Obedience stands severe tests when it withstands the temptation to take matters into one's own hands” (Anonymous).

The Good Earth

"God called the dry land Earth...And God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:10).

In chapter one, “The Earth's Vital Signs,” (State of the World 1988, W.W. Norton & Company) Lester R. Brown and Christopher Flavin gave a worrisome overview of what we have all done to pillage God's good earth. Forests worldwide are dying off to air pollutants; there is a depletion of ozone over Antarctica and the hole becomes wider each year, translating into possible lowered crop output and a rise in skin cancer and eye problems; loss of vital topsoil for many reasons; and on and on. It's an alarming assessment of a problem none of us can ignore.

We are our brother's keeper in so many ways. One of these ways is to take seriously our personal stewardship of whatever land we are fortunate to possess, for the land is not ours but God's. When the land goes, so goes the quality of life. To sin against the earth is to sin against God and each other. If we observe it in the different lights of the day -- the sunrise and sunset -- perhaps we can renew our commitment to preserve this spacious and gracious gift from God.

"That the sky is brighter than the earth means little unless the earth itself is appreciated and enjoyed. Its beauty loved gives the right to aspire to the radiance of the sunrise and the stars" (Helen Keller, My Religion, 1927). These words of love for God's earth come from a sensitive soul who could neither see nor hear. Franklin Roosevelt was also very concerned about the soil and, in a letter to the governors dated February 26, 1937, he urged uniform soil conservation laws. He also said, "European countries...treat timber as a crop. We treat timber resources as if they were a mine." We could amend that to: "[We] treat [all] resources as if they were mine." It is imperative that we develop a different mind- and mine-set about our God-given resources. Our earth was created to be beautiful and fruitful, and we are guardians of this gift. “Nature gives to every time and every season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress” (Charles Dickens).


"Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to is very small, isn't it? Then my life will be spared" (Genesis 19:20).

Poor Lot still hadn't learned his lesson about the city. Above all, he hadn't learned about faith. Here he was offered an appointed mountain of refuge, but he complained that it was too far off and he wouldn't make it. He wanted to take the comfortable way out; Lot always seemed concerned about his comfort. Nothing is noted here about any concern for those left behind.

We all ask at some time for a safer and more convenient refuge. After all, who wants to leave all behind to head up to a lonely mountaintop, even when we know the God of mercy is there? There is much advantage and abundance in the city so who of us wants to flee to the unfamiliar? But sometimes God requires us to head out and up, and quickly. A blaze of anguish consumes the marginals and rushes us into the nucleus; "Flee for your lives! Don't look back and don't stop anywhere on the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" (Genesis 19:17).

But our so human nature heads for a Zoar. We are reluctant to give all and to accept all; to remember that all things work together for good. God wants us to leave our molehills of doubts, our secret reservations about His love and commitment, and ascend to the holy mountain of His certainty. But we beg, as did Lot, what can be so wrong about a Zoar? Perhaps nothing, but it is a compromise instead of a promise; another stopping off place of temptation that we have chosen instead of our Father who knows better what is best for us. It is a place to give birth to our Moabs and Ammonites, and more sinful beginnings -- how sad!

The Children God has Graciously Given Us - Anonymous

"They are the children God has graciously given your servant" (Genesis 33:5).

1) My hands are small; please don't expect perfection whenever I make a bed, draw a picture or throw a ball. My legs are short; please slow down, so I can keep up with you.
2) My eyes have not seen the world as yours have; please let me explore safely. Don't restrict me unnecessarily.
3) Housework will always be there. I'm only little for a short time -- ­please take time to explain things to me about this wonderful world, and do so willingly.
4) My feelings are tender; please be sensitive to my needs; don't nag me all day long (you wouldn't want to be nagged for your inquisitiveness). Treat me as you would like to be treated.
5) I am a special gift from God; please treasure me as God intended you to do, holding me accountable for my actions, giving me guidelines to live by, and disciplining me in a loving manner.
6) I need your encouragement to grow. Please go easy on the criticism; remember, you can criticize the things I do without criticizing me.
7) Please give me the freedom to make decisions concerning myself. Permit me to fail, so that I can learn from my mistakes. Then someday I'll be prepared to make the kind of decisions life requires.
8) Please don't do things over for me. Somehow that makes me feel that my efforts didn't quite measure up to your expectations. I know it's hard, but please don't try to compare me with my brother or sister.
9) Please don't be afraid to leave for a weekend together. Kids need vacations from parents, just as parents need vacations from kids. Besides, it's a great way to show us kids that your marriage is very special.
10) Please take me to Sunday school and church regularly, setting a good example for me to follow. I enjoy learning more about God.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God!

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear..." (Psalm 46:1,2a).

That word is is, present tense, an immediate, right-now conviction that there is help and hope. The verse doesn't delineate the trouble (this is where faith enters); it only tells us that help and hope are there when they are so acutely needed. Hope–which should be a Christian frame of mind–is one of God's greatest blessings to man. It is Christian hope that helps us to bear the burdens of life. "...Jesus Christ, who is our hope..." (1 Timothy 1:1), a this-moment confidence that all is not lost the instant we think it is. "In the presence of trouble, some people grow wings; others buy crutches" (Anonymous). A legend is told of the time when God placed wings on the backs of the feeble birds and they protested loudly to Him, "Must we be burdened with this weight?" The Lord smiled and asked them to wait a week. The next day a strange thing happened. A force of some kind lifted them heavenward and the birds found themselves flying and floating, and enjoying a sensation they had never felt before. When the week passed they reappeared before the Lord and humbly acknowledged the wisdom of their Father. "These very wings which we ridiculed as unnecessary burdens we now cherish. They enable us to soar into the loftiest heights!"

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. It is said that when Luther and his friends became discouraged, Luther would cheerily say, "Come, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm." Luther had a special affinity for this Psalm and for good reason. When he said, "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise," he knew that his resources were immediate and unfailing; he need fear no man on earth. "A mighty fortress is our God!" So let us grow wings to soar beyond and above earth's sorrows and diseases of psyche and physique.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Gracious Father, our Hope and our Fortress, we thank You and praise You!

Giving Thanks

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18); "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Colossians 4:2).

What faith it takes to give thanks in all circumstances, especially the circumscribed ones! God's will becomes ours when we can accept divine providence as our confidence of His divine love, as well. The seemingly unbearable yoke that presses on our neck becomes lined with down when we can say, "Thank You, Father, for this, too!"

"And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, `Father, I thank You that You have heard Me'" (John 11:41). What a perfect prayer of faith! We, too, can look up and thank Him and know that our Father hears our prayers. "Before they call I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear" (Isaiah 65:24). What a comfort it is to know that we are heard and our anguished prayer answered, even before we present our petitions!

The following is an excerpt from On the High Road of Surrender, by Frances J. Roberts, a dear friend, mentor and one of the finest Christian writers I know:
Rejoice in the Lord always, for as you rejoice and give thanks, you release heaven's treasures and shower upon your head the blessings of a delighted Father. Nothing so thoroughly delights the Father's heart as the praises of His children. For praise exercises the heart toward gratitude, and gratitude nurtures contentment, and you may know for a certainty that no fruit ever appears on the tree of discontent. So praise, My children, and never cease in your praising, for in the midst of it I will manifest Myself, and you will understand that when I demand of you your praises it is for your highest good.
Out of praises come courage, faith, strength, optimism, clarity and peace. Out of praises come health and happiness and the soul satisfaction men seek in the world and do not find. Praise will transform the humblest dwelling to a hallowed haven. It will light the countenance and make the plainest face beautiful. It is impossible for the man who has learned unceasing praise to be a failure. God's blessing attends his path, and God's Spirit rules his heart. He is eternally at peace with both God and man.
I know from personal experience that "out of praises come courage, faith, strength, optimism, clarity and peace." Praise is a wonderful ointment for the chisels of life. Thanksgiving is a mark of the Christian; an unthankful heart is a mark of the wicked. "Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful ..." (Romans 1:21). "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be ... ungrateful ..." (2 Timothy 3:1,2).

O Father, thank You for every single thing that happens in our lives. We know it is covered with Your love, for You can do nothing that harms us.

You Will Never Be Sorry For . . .

Living a white life.
Hearing before judging.
Being candid and frank.
Thinking before speaking.
Harboring clean thoughts.
Discounting the talebearer.
Standing by your principles.
Stopping your ears to gossip.
Asking pardon when in error.
Being as courteous as a duke.
The influence of high motives.
Bridling a slanderous tongue.
Being generous with an enemy.
Being square in business deals.
Sympathizing with the oppressed.
Giving an unfortunate fellow a lift.
Being patient with cranky neighbors.
Promptness in keeping promises.
Putting the best possible construction upon the doings of others.

Copied from the September 7, 1917, issue of Florida Baptist Witness

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Confrontation with Satan

Did God say...?" (Genesis 3:1).

The serpent engaged Eve in a conversation that was a confrontation. He didn't ask Eve about the Garden and what she was allowed to do there; instead, he homed in on the one tree God had forbidden to Adam and Eve.

Human nature hasn't changed much through the ages since. We still question God about our restrictions and overlook our liberties. The moment we question God about His right and our rights, we engage in a controversy with Satan. When Jesus was led into the wilderness, He refused to enter into a controversy with Satan. His reply was "It is written" to every suggestion made by the great machinator of mankind.

When Satan slips up on us and makes us discontent because of what we don't have, let us show him the beauty that lines our garden and that is available to us for the praying. When we give it much thought, the restrictions of life are few and basic and necessary to our salvation, and they touch the core of our being for our own good, if we but allow God the wisdom to know what is best for us.

Satan's goal during our life is to make us question God's goodness; indeed, His very character. Augustine is reported to have said, "Love, and do what you like." Augustine understood that, when we love what is good, we understand the character of the person we love and we want to do what is right because we love. We have the liberty to do what we like because we love, and we won't betray who we love.

Eve momentarily "forgot the God who gave [her] birth" (Deuteronomy 32:18) and thus began the controversy of the ages. It began with a question that laid an ax at the very root of humanity. God's Word answers Satan's questions. When doubts assail and we find ourselves listening to these doubts, our cure begins in God's Word.


"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us" (Romans 12:6); "But each man has his own gift from God" (1 Corinthians 7:7).

We each have our different DNA: Different Natures All! Just as fingerprints are different, so is each temperament and each physique. This is what makes life so remarkable. How dull our lives would be if we all had the same predilections and elections! "For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). How easy it is to become discouraged and to hate ourselves because we can't do as much or as well as others, but it is God who has placed us in our circumstances and it is He who has given us our talents. Surely He realizes our weaknesses. He also knows that there are certain areas in which we can do very well, for this is His commission for our life.

Even our bodily constitution is from the Creator, and we have to face the fact that others are stronger, physically. One person has strength of body; another may have to compensate with strength of will and be better for it, too. Some have manual dexterity; others, mental dexterity. Even in thinking, there are differences. Some have logic and others have intuition, but both types arrive at the same conclusions. This doesn't mean that either is wrong.

In choosing His twelve disciples, Jesus chose across the board of temperaments and physiques. They were busy, ordinary men who probably wondered why they were chosen for the distinct privilege of walking with the Master. He purposely chose clay that could be molded into His image.

We, too, have been chosen that His image can be stamped onto our hearts. So let's not be discouraged at our lack of all ten talents, but give as we have been given by the Master. Had we all ten talents, pride would wipe away His impressions.

How is our soil?

"What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?" (Isaiah 5:4).

With the deepest sorrow possible, God finally had to let Israel have its way. He finally lets us have our own way, too. Surely He weeps as He admits there is nothing more He can do for us, or He has tried everything to soften our hearts. Our stubborn will circumscribes His perfect will for us.

As God deplores the state of our vineyard, how many times have we earthly parents lamented the vine­yards of our children? What more could we have done to save them from themselves? We plant, nurture, admonish, hope, and dream, but still they do not meet our expectations. When our child is lost physically or spiritually, we grieve and weep, as does our Lord. But we can do no more for those who wish to go their own way, just as God must let us go our way, for He has given us free will.

God graced Israel with every blessing necessary for full fruition. What strikes us is the lack of gratitude. God's tender tendencies seem lost on His chosen. He didn't plant this vineyard for personal gain. It was to be His and their garden of delights. His deep feelings for His people are expressed all through the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, especially in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea. And yet the vineyard--ours, too--grows weeds of disgrace!

"How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land" (Numbers 13:20). How do we bring back the fruit of God's precious land? What is it? "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22,23).

Today, let us enrich the soil of our hearts and minds with gratitude for God's daily blessings. It is so easy to forget them in our worldly pursuits. As for personal thanksgiving, I thank God every morning upon waking for our beloved sons and daughters and grandchildren! As happened with Job, our latter years are even more blessed!

Our Real Father!

"Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me" (Psalm 27:10).

The first indelible memory I have is the day of my 5th birthday. My mother had come to take me “home.” I was passing out birthday cake to my little friends at the orphanage, and I was weeping. Even at that young age I knew I was safe there. It was a Catholic orphanage, and they must have done a wonderful job, because I did not want to leave them. To this very much later date, I wince when I hear criticism of the church, and especially of nuns, for they saved my life. Although I am not a Catholic now, I have the highest respect for those who offer their lives to noble causes.

When our oldest son committed suicide I decided I would like to know who my real father was (my mother was long dead, a possible suicide). The man who was my biological father had forsaken my unmarried and dysfunctional mother. Perhaps there would be a clue to my son's despondency to the point of self-destruction if I could understand the dynamics of this unusual couple. I joined a group that searches for relatives. As I listened month after month to stories of fruitless calls and trips, and the thousands of dollars and many years wasted, I knew then that I didn't need to know who my father was -- for I knew who my Father was, is, and always will be, and that was all I needed to know.

Psalm 27 has been very dear to me over the years. Another verse that helped was Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew (chose) you, before you were born I set you apart ..." Just think of the sorrows and indecisions that could be surmounted if we all believed we are chosen! That means that our Father thinks we are special, and it’s all right for us to act like we are special, if God gets the glory and thanksgiving.

I think the faith that God knows best and has ordained for us the external circumstances of our life helps us deal with the unexpected and shocking in life. No one is excused from the fire that molds character. The child does not know what is ahead but all the opportunities and duties which result from these circumstances are made for us, not by us. They give us a mission from God Himself, if we can but view it thus.

Three Little Trees - Anonymous

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!" The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."

Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" the first tree said.
The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!"
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure; now she was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered." All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."
Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. "I wish I could make a cradle for him," her hus­band whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful," she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
So next time you feel down because you didn't get what you want, just sit tight and be happy because God is thinking of something better to give you.
Author Unknown

No Fishing Allowed!

"Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).

The August 25, 1984 issue of Insight magazine had an article by Corrie ten Boom, the author of The Hiding Place, the account of her years of horror in a Nazi concentration camp. Corrie was in Munich, Germany, and had just given a talk on forgiveness in one of the churches there. It was a message these defeated people needed desperately.

Corrie told them, "When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, `No fishing allowed.'" After the talk the people silently collected their wraps and started leaving the room.

It was then that she saw a man working his way toward her. One moment she saw his overcoat and the next she saw the blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. Memories crashed on her heart, as she recalled her sister and her walking naked past this very man. And here he was, one of the cruelest guards at Ravensbruck, coming toward her.

He praised her message and admitted that he had been a guard at Ravensbruck. He then asked her forgiveness, never recognizing her as one of the inmates there. We weep as we read of her struggle to maintain calm in front of this man. "But forgiveness is not an emotion. I knew that, too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart," she reasoned with herself. "And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes." She then relates, "I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then...It was the power of God."

I cannot fathom the courage and faith Corrie mustered to place her hand in the hand of this monster! But as she did, she brought healing to the man as well as healing to her own soul. We might want to remember this when we refuse to forgive someone who we feel (and let’s face it, our feelings are the culprit!) has hurt us beyond God’s forgiveness, much less our own. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” If Jesus could forgive those who nailed Him to the cross, then who are we to refuse to forgive anyone?

Our Worthy Calling

"I plead with live a life worthy of the calling you have received" (Ephesians 4:1).

 We have received a calling as surely as James and John: "[Jesus] called them, and immediately they abandoned boat and father to follow him." God has indeed appointed a time and a place for us, even though we don't feel like it at times.

Mike left college to help take care of his fiancé who had cancer; Joe left his wife to take care of his girl friend. It's obvious who had the call here. Mike's was appointed; Joe's wife was disappointed. Mike was worthy of the call; Joe was untrustworthy.

Our divine call is to consecration, to decision, to leadership, to love, to repentance, to work, to the good Word and work, to worship--and finally to the gift of resurrection. We do not have to be distinguished or sophisticated; indeed, Christ's first disciples had a notable lack of these worldly qualities.

God gives us high ideals that we may reach out instead of in; up instead of down. We are to have the character of Christ that we may live a life worthy of the blessed calling. He has made it possible for us, for with Him nothing is impossible.

Eph 4:1-7 Mt 9:9-13 Mt 4:22 1 Jn 2:20 Phil 4:13

The Dark Night of our Souls

"For this is the Eternal's promise: `Those who survive the sword shall find grace in the dungeon'" (Jeremiah 31:2 Moffatt). "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God..." (Acts 16:25).

It is surprising what verses help us in our needs. The verse from Jeremiah is a promise that in the midst of our withering experience we will find grace for weathering our darkness. I'm not sure what it means historically but, as I meditated on it, I thanked God that He will give grace when most needed, and that He wills to give us songs in the night.

But how do we find grace in our dungeon of despair or fatigue or circumstances? What possible "grace" can there be in the dark night of our souls, the midnights of our lives? And can we really sing songs in the strange land of affliction (Psalm 37:4), as did Paul and Silas? Yes, we can find grace--dignity--in our circumstances, and we can sing songs in our dungeons, for God has promised that it is exactly when we are in the dungeon that we will receive His compassion, as difficult as that is to believe.

We complain of our circumstances; we think it is impossible to live a believing life in the environment and situation that makes a knot of our heart and life. But frustration can become fruitfulness, and resistance can become resourcefulness. Corrie ten Boom found grace in her dungeon. She shares the horror of her internment in a Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbruck, and watching her beloved sister Betsie die there, in her book, The Hiding Place. Corrie survived the camp, her terrible dungeon, and found strength and grace to bring comfort to millions worldwide. There are very few of us who will ever be called upon to endure what the people of the Holocaust suffered. We have no excuse to lay in our dungeon, not if we believe that all things are possible, even serenity in the midst of what is a humanly hopeless situation.

The foundation for the dungeon experience is established while we are in the Light, and in prayer and study of God's precious Word. We can't learn to swim when we are already drowning, so we must secure the anchor before the storm; otherwise, it is too late. I haven't a doubt that our anchor, our security in our storm, is in God's Word, for this gives us hope and "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19). "Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight...And He said, `My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest'" (Exodus 33:12-14).

O Father, thank You for Your grace and graciousness in our dungeons of panic! Thank You for giving us Your Word that becomes our song in shadows that overshadow hope. Help us to find grace in Your sight, Father!

Free Gold

"When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered money..." Acts 8:18; "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich..." (Revelation 3:18).

"Greek agoradzo, to be in the marketplace; to do business there. The word is used here in the sense of doing business with God on His terms. Man sold himself a slave to sin and Satan. God paid the price of his redemption. Man is now obligated to meet God's terms of faith, repentance, and service if he wants to be redeemed. The word is not used here of man actually paying a price in money, goods, exchanging material things for the gold, raiment and ointment of v.18, but rather of his paying the price of renouncing Satan, repenting of sins, and consecrating to God in face of suffering persecution such as Christians must suffer for Christ (v.19; 2 Tim. 3:12)" (Dake Bible, p.305).

Simon the magician thought he could buy religion, much like we think we can buy happiness. His mind-set couldn't comprehend that both religion and happiness are byproducts of a greater search for God Himself. We won't get it simply because we want it. The minister or friend who tells us so is tickling our fancies and telling us what we want to hear. Human nature loves the gold but doesn't like to search for it.

What is free cannot be bought. The word simony developed from this wish to purchase spiritual offices. Simon was ready to trade eternal life for temporal power and God's glory for his own personal fame. God advises us to "buy from [Him] gold refined in the fire" with our earnest prayers, repentance and hunger for Christ's righteousness. This is the only price He asks for His love and forgiveness.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My God, My God, Where Are You?

"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it" (Genesis 28:16).

How easy it is to forget that God is in this place, right where we are, especially if we are discontented where we are. The Almighty God can be found in the most illogical places. Why not, for He is omnipresent. When we least feel His presence, that is when He is most likely to be with us. Even Jesus thought His Father had deserted Him and cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34, Psalm 22:1). The Son was eclipsed by the overwhelming evil, only to shine brightest after earth's darkest hour!

Who has not exclaimed, "My God, My God, where are you?" in the anguish of a dark hour of loss and hopelessness? But it was at that very agonizing moment that Jesus fulfilled His mission and, in our least likely--and most hurting--moments, we may be crying out to our Father who is already there and is covering our ruptured hearts with His healing promise of wholeness once again. O! let us claim and believe in our most doubting moments His greatness and His love and, above all, His presence.

As we look back over the critical junctures of our lives, we see that it was then that our priorities were rearranged and the results, we hope, became God's will for us. But we can hardly be expected to appreciate the fire that is burning off the dross or the dent in our shoulder from struggling with our cross until we see the finished product. But, as we review our life, we realize that the heavier part of the cross was carried by Jesus and our burden was and is made lighter because of His love.

Yes, the Lord is in this place of anger turned to kindness, pride turned to humility, bitterness turned to gentleness, gossip turned to intercession, doubt turned to trust, ingratitude turned to acknowledgment, and malice turned to love. May we practice the presence of our God who loves and cares, no matter where we are and no matter what the overwhelming circumstances are, for they can never overwhelm our God.

Grace - Anonymous

The boy stood with back arched, head cocked back and hands clenched defiantly. "Go ahead, give it to me."
The principal looked down at the young rebel. "How many times have you been here?"
The child sneered rebelliously, "Apparently not enough."
The principal gave the boy a strange look. "And you have been punished each time, have you not?"
"Yeah, I been punished, if that's what you want to call it." He threw out his small chest, "Go ahead, I can take whatever you dish out. I always have."
"And no thought of your punishment enters your head the next time you decide to break the rules, does it?"
"Nope, I do whatever I want to do. Ain't nothin' you people gonna do to stop me, either."
The principal looked over at the teacher who stood nearby. "What did he do this time?"
"Fighting. He took little Tommy and shoved his face into the sandbox."
The principal turned to look at the boy, "Why? What did little Tommy do to you?"
"Nothin, I didn't like the way he was lookin' at me, just like I don't like the way your lookin' at me! And if I thought I could do it, I'd shove your face into something."
The teacher stiffened and started to rise but a quick look from the principal stopped him. He contemplated the child for a moment and then quietly said, "Today, my young student, is the day you learn about grace."
"Grace? Isn't that what you old people do before you sit down to eat? I don't need none of your stinkin' grace."
"Oh, but you do." The principal studied the young man's face and whispered. "Oh yes, you truly do..." The boy continued to glare as the principal continued, "Grace, in its short definition, is unmerited favor. You cannot earn it, it is a gift and is always freely given. It means that you will not be getting what you so richly deserve."
The boy looked puzzled. "You're not gonna whup me? You just gonna let me walk?"
The principal looked down at the unyielding child. "Yes, I am going to let you walk."
The boy studied the face of the principal, "No punishment at all? Even though I socked Tommy and shoved his face into the sandbox?"
"Oh, there has to be punishment. What you did was wrong and there are always consequences to our actions. There will be punishment. Grace is not an excuse for doing wrong."
"I knew it," Sneered the boy as he held out his hands. "Let's get on with it."
The principal nodded toward the teacher. "Bring me the belt." The teacher presented the belt to the principal. He carefully folded it in two and then handed it back to the teacher. He looked at the child and said, "I want you to count the blows."
He slid out from behind his desk and walked over to stand directly in front of the young man. He gently reached out and folded the child's outstretched, expectant hands together and then turned to face the teacher with his own hands outstretched.
One quiet word came forth from his mouth. "Begin." The belt whipped down on the outstretched hands of the principal.
Crack! The young man jumped ten feet in the air. Shock registered across his face, "One" he whispered. Crack! "Two." His voice raised an octave. Crack! "Three..." He couldn't believe this. Crack! "Four." Big tears welled up in the eyes of the rebel. "OK, stop! That's enough. Stop!" Crack! Came the belt down on the callused hands of the principal.
Crack! The child flinched with each blow, tears beginning to stream down his face. Crack! Crack! "No please," the former rebel begged, "Stop, I did it, I'm the one who deserves it. Stop! Please. Stop..." Still the blows came, Crack! Crack! One after another.
Finally it was over.
The principal stood with sweat glistening across his forehead and beads trickling down his face. Slowly he knelt down. He studied the young man for a second and then his swollen hands reached out to cradle the face of the weeping child.
-- Unknown --

Rise up!

"Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it" (Ezra 10:4).

So many days we want to give in and give up! We have such a difficult time believing that God and our loyal friends support us. On the other hand, matters in another's hands means our support and loyalty and love to that person. We may be just the one to hold up heart and hands of someone in need: "Aaron and Hur held [Moses'] hands up -- one on one side, one on the other -- so that his hands remained steady..." (Exodus 17:12).

"That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain..." (Exodus 18:22c); "They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone" (Numbers 11:17c). Pride often says no to help but here God helps us to bear by telling us to share. Often just a listening (h)ear(t) lifts the load off the heart and mind of another.

"Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus..." (Mark 2:4). Here the paralytic's friends demonstrated the faith that moves a friend through a mountain of difficulties and discouragements. This is the kind of love and support we all need at times, both to give and to receive. This man's friends had courage and faith to do the unthinkable. We, too, may need to make an opening for someone we love or someone we don’t love.

"He went to him and bandaged his wounds..." (Luke 10:34). Perhaps our friend has a heart wound that needs our compassion and heart muscles that need strengthening so he or she can go on with duties. We can bandage and bolster with an unconditional love that understands. We each have our tasks to fulfill, but at times the tasks seem overwhelming; it is then that God grants a gift of a faithful friend who can talk it through with us. Courage and encouragement, operation and cooperation are within this sage advice. God raises up men and women to sustain the burdens for us all, and it is the group's duty to be with the person in heart and mind. The leader, whether minister, captain, manager, employer -- whatever -- has the duty to be courageous and to operate on the needs; it is for the rest of us to cooperate and encourage so the person in charge may be successful for us all. We make or break each other.
Father, help us to be aisles, not isles.

Our Father's Greatest Sacrifice

"You shall not fear the terror of night..." (Psalm 91:5a NIV).

His scream on that black December night severed my heart into bleeding halves that wept red agony. The blood-curdling scream and the gunshot dissolved into death, a finality that seemed impossible, unbelievable.

Chuck was our oldest son. Psalm 55:4 says, "My heart is in anguish within me..." Chuck told me about his anguish three weeks before and then he did something about it. He was full of promise, in his third year of college, only 19, and handsome and brilliant.

Fortunately I already knew a loving God, a Father who watched His precious Son die (O! how that seeped into my crushed heart right after I heard my son die!). It was only at that moment that I finally and fully understood our Father's total love for us all. The Father had made the greatest sacrifice that we might love and live and look forward.

I knew that God is sufficient; that if we only believe, then He can bring us through even the darkest night of our soul. Surely this would be the darkest night of my soul! When I was very young, a blessed teacher told me many times that "Disappointment is His appointment." God's appointment for me was that night.

"Sacrifice thank offerings to God ... and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me" (Psalm 50:14,15 NIV). Grief teaches so many valuable lessons. My first exercise was learning to say "Thank You, Father." How difficult, especially in the midst of such searing sorrow! To give thanks in such circumstances is indeed a sacrifice, for it is so easy to ask, "What have I to be thankful for in such a terrible loss?" The balm is applied while we say it; feeling has nothing to do with it at the time.

The second exercise was absolute trust that God would heal the gaping and gasping depression in heart and mind. I equated it with physical surgery: healing finally happens. There are scars, but the intense pain finally diminishes. I realized that the lessening of the psychical pain would take longer than the cure of physical pain, but the equation helped me so much.

Prayer: Thank You, thank You, Father! Thank You for delivering us and giving us strength to honor You in the valley of the shadow of our son's death. Thank You!

Patricia Erwin Nordman, Sing a New Song

Drinking from broken cisterns and dirty reservoirs

"He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper" (Psalm 1:3).

We have a purpose in life, for we are planted, not self-sown. We are not here by chance and change, but by God's choice and charge. And God has graciously planted us by His rivers of Living Water that we may draw our nourishment from the most fruitful source possible. We have been so carefully rooted by rivers of pardon and tenderness and His faithfulness and we have a never-failing Source of supply for our hunger and thirst.

It is up to us to drink from the Source, though. As that quaint cliché goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." This applies to us, as well. We are here by God's choice and then He lets us have our own choice. But it must break His heart when we choose to drink from the broken cisterns and dirty reservoirs of life.

God assures us that, whatever we put our hand to, it will succeed and endure if we stay near the Waters that sustain. We may not think we are fruitful; indeed, we may feel that God is pruning us rather severely at times, for "He cuts off every branch...that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:2). "Such a tree withstands the buffeting of the winds and, flourishing, it blesses man, animals and birds with its unfailing fruit and shade."

"...He who reads, prays, and meditates, will ever see the work which God has given him to do; the power by which he is to perform it; and the times, places and opportunities for doing those things by which God can obtain most glory, his own soul most good, and his neighbor most edification" (Adam Clarke).

And His leaf, the Bible, shall not wither!

Michelangelo's statue of David - H.T. Kerr, D.D.

Every visitor when in Florence seeks out Michelangelo's statue of David, the shepherd lad. It is a masterpiece in marble. It stands nine cubits high, alert with all the wonderful expressiveness of artistic genius. The shepherd lad is equipped for mastery and stands with determined and expectant countenance ready for battle. The figure is erect, but the body is slightly curved as if in the act of hurling the fatal stone.
The statue has a history that is remarkable and splendidly suggestive. A hundred years or more before the time of Michelangelo, a magnificent block of Carrara marble was brought to Florence by a now unknown sculptor. He worked upon it, blocking out the figure which was in his mind, but suddenly bungled his work by cutting a great slice out of the side, which rendered it useless for him and so it was cast aside.
There it lay for a century until the trained eye of Michelangelo rested upon it. Immediately he caught the possibility that lay in the stone, and soon it was taking on form under his hand. Outlining and fashioning, carving and chiseling, a majestic figure was soon seen stepping from the marble, and even the mutilation which had rendered it useless to the original workman became part of the majesty of the new design.
Out of the ruin another hand had wrought and other eyes despised, a world's masterpiece was fashioned. Even so does our great Master, Christ, take up the very defects of life and fashion them into beautiful designs until that which under other hands has been debased and all but destroyed becomes at his touch immortal.
H.T. Kerr, D.D.

The Other Nine

"Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?" (Luke 17:17).

If ever there is a story of indifference bordering on utter ingratitude, it is here in this story of the ten lepers who besieged and beseeched Jesus to cure them. It must have touched Jesus deeply, for He no doubt saw in this sorry display of thoughtlessness the whole attitude toward His Father and Himself, both then and always. Again, it is the Samaritan--the foreigner--who returns in adoration and overwhelming gratitude. The chosen on whom He also lavished love and grace ran off to continue with everyday life and its distractions, not even looking back. The nine had faith enough to receive health; the one who returned with appreciation was given that extra measure of friendship with God. The others would never realize what they missed.

What excuses have we for our ingratitude? Do we underestimate the cost of His love for us? Do we not realize what it means to our Savior to have us love Him back; to be grateful to Him for the immeasurable blessings He bestows on us every day? "Every good and perfect gift is from above..." (James 1:17). Perhaps we have heard someone say it's useless to thank God for gifts that He so willingly presents; that God's joy is in His generosity. But He does want us to thank Him, not for His sake but for ours. Our gratitude is our recognition of indebtedness to Him who gives all. To acknowledge another's gift is moral strength; to ignore the grace of another is base lack of recognition of the Giver. God hurts when we are indifferent to His love that He gives to all, rich and poor, just and unjust.

Contrast this with Elisha's noble reaction to all that the widow had done for him: "You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you?" (2 Kings 4:13).