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“I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil” (Romans 16:19). There is prey, which is what happened in the garden with Eve, and there is pray, which is what Jesus did in the Garden. God had His reasons for forbidding Eve to eat of that particular tree, but she disobeyed and then Adam. Jesus was also in a Garden, and He also had an encounter with a tree: He was hung on it. “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men” (Romans 5:18).
“In Jesus Christ, in that God-man, so full of tenderness, so gentle, kind, loving and long-suffering; here not spurning away but encouraging a weeping Magdalene; here shedding tears for a city that was about to shed his blood; here forgetting his own sorrows in pity for a mother’s, putting forth his dying strength to save a thief, and spending life’s latest breath in prayer for bloody murderers; in him who hastened on wings of love to pluck this world from ruin–who never wished ill to any, but good to all–who returned blessing for cursing…who this day bends looks of pity on [us]…in him God unveils himself to us” (Dr. Guthrie).
“Forgetting what lies behind…” (Philippians 3:13): slanders; temptations; sins which God has already forgiven; the little and large faults of others; provocations that sear our sensitive nature; quarrels that either we or they have started; and all the disagreeables of life. We have such a perverted and sinful tendency to zero in on the bone and forget the delicious meat of life: family, friends, co-workers with whom we can share a thought and a laugh. Let us blot out others’ transgressions and our disagreeables today.
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm…” (Job 38:1). Then, when his friends had spoken their broken pieces, when Job was at wit’s end and had vented his grief and despair at this God who was out to get him–then God spoke His Word to Job. God does not mistime any of His visits, whether for mercy or for judgment. Sometimes He has to come in a storm for us to notice the importance of the lesson He has for us. He does not come to crush or overwhelm us, but to make sense of our perplexing problem: “Come now,” He implores, “let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). Dear friend, we are not alone in any storm of life!
In Revelation 3:20 Jesus is presented as the guest of our heart: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and eat with him, and he with Me.” Our Jesus can’t become any more human than fellowshipping with us at the table. In His I AM’s, He tells us I AM the bread of life; I AM the Staff of Consolation on which you can lean; I AM the Bread which you can eat to gain strength; I AM the Good Shepherd who will lead you through your valley; I AM your right-now help in this time of trouble. I AM–not was or will be!
“[The wicked] says to himself,`God has forgotten; He covers His face and never sees'” (Psalm 10:11). The wicked think that because God lets them live then He must wink at their offenses. Justice may be blind on earth but heaven sees every move and God will recompense. It’s yet another of His blessed wills. He is the Vindicator of causeless causes: of those who have been wronged for no reason. Innocents have been slaughtered for centuries in wars and slanders and circumstances that have turned against them. The Innocent One encountered Evil in its raw form, but He conquered, and He conquers for us.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence…” (Psalm 51:10,11). What a perfect prayer! The guilt of what he had done to Bathsheba and her husband crushed David’s heart and he realized only God could cleanse and release him. David craved a new heart for he knew his old one was beyond mere repair. He wanted a pure love and a new mental and moral nature that would renovate his entire self and life. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart He will not despise (vs.17). O Father, we come to You for new hearts and minds!
“I can’t do that.” Edgar A. Guest wrote a delightful poem about this problem: “Some said, it couldn’t be done./But he, with a chuckle, replied/That maybe it couldn’t, but he would be one/ Who wouldn’t say so till he tried./So he buckled right in with a bit of a grin/On his face. If he worried, he hid it./He started to sing, as he tackled the thing/That couldn’t be done–and he did it.” The high school senior was dying. He asked to receive his diploma earlier than his classmates. When the principal brought it to him, the brave boy smiled and said, “Well, I made the grade!” Are we brave enough to make God’s grade?
“The purpose of a book of meditations is to teach you how to think and not to do your thinking for you. Consequently if you pick up such a book and simply read it through you are wasting your time. As soon as any thought stimulates your mind or your heart you can put the book down because your meditation has begun” (Thomas Merton). What a pity our progressive world has no time to think, to slow down and feel the breeze. Instead, the gentle breeze becomes a wind as we whiz through it. Perhaps our modern meditation could be, “In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
Greediness is a terrible affliction. Noiseless and secret giving of those tangibles and intangibles we so covet can be a cure for our wants that we translate into needs. We have heard the expression that today’s luxuries become tomorrow’s necessities. For those who live in the tropical zone, air conditioning has become an essential to health–and yet, how did our ancestors do without it? Sacrifice? Say that today, and it could mean giving up our television program for one night. We have not resisted to the point of shedding blood or tears in our striving against our inclinations (Hebrews 12:4). Priorities…!
“See…that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15). Unfortunately, the root of hostility digs deeply into hearts everywhere human beings live, work and play. The Lord showed Moses a tree at Marah (Exodus 15:25) that he was to throw into the bitter waters so they would become sweet. Dear friends, let us not waste one more day without grasping the Branch of the Lord and allowing Him to sweeten our bitter waters. “In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel” (Isaiah 4:2). Thank You, Father!
Indigestion can be miserable; spiritual indigestion is even worse. Peevishness causes the heart to burn. One of the saddest aspects of slow-burning anger is that it finally turns on the one who inflicts it. Shakespeare said, “Men in rage strike those that wish them best.” Soon those who once wished them well wish them gone and out of sight and mind, and then they wonder why they are no longer welcome in normal company. Those so bent on giving others a piece of their mind soon lose their own peace of mind. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
E. Stanley Jones tells about the fire extinguisher fastened underneath a certain pulpit and says the precaution was not necessary, as there was little chance a fire would break out in that particular pulpit. The poor minister’s life was non-contagious. One of the people at the meeting even prayed, “O God, grant that if any spark of divine grace has been kindled in this meeting, water that spark.” This would be very funny if it weren’t so sad that sometimes we, too, douse our own and another’s little spark that flares up now and then. The Holy Spirit lights our candle but we have projects and attitudes that quench the Light that gives a sparkle to life.
“They will share [the burden] with you” (Exodus 18:22c). There are some distresses in life that must be shared. When the doctor tries gently to break the news to the grieving mother that her beautiful 20-year-old daughter has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, another heart and shoulder must be there to help bear the awful burden; when the perplexed husband is told that his wife of 52 years has Alzheimer’s, he needs another to bear the burden with him. We all need a significant other to carry us through the day of “grief and desperate sorrow” (Isaiah 17:11c, KJV). It is not good for the anguished to be alone.
What is a man? “…The spirit of wisdom and understanding…counsel and strength…knowledge and the fear of the Lord…He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth …” (Isaiah 11:2-4a NAS). This verse applies to Jesus, and it is the human Man who we want to imitate. Jesus never tyrannized nor insisted that His way be done. He did tell us that His Father’s will must finally be done, if we are to be happy.
“He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish…He will not be disheartened…until He has established justice in the earth…” (Isaiah 42:2-4 NAS). A true man of God is tender and quiet and persevering. He does not crush the nearly wilted spirit of wife or son or daughter or friend or foe. He is there to uplift hearts, for it is useless to say it if he won’t do it. A day will come when it is too little and much too late.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it…for no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church…” (Ephesians 5:25,29 KJV). When we love, we indeed cherish, prize, esteem, treasure the object of our love. We appreciate that person for what he or she is, not for what we think we can make of him or her. Certainly the sword of ridicule will not cure the person of whatever we think is the problem. We are unique and it is that very uniqueness we can cherish in our family member or our friend.
The theory of the Peter Principle is that we are promoted to incompetence. There is a story of the pocket-watch that went to London with its owner. It became dissatisfied as it looked at Big Ben, the immense tower clock of London. “I wish I could be up there,” the watch mused. “I could serve the multitude.” Suddenly the little watch had its wish and was drawn up to the tower and it became invisible. Its rise became its demise. “God has appointed…apostles…prophets …teachers…workers of miracles…gifts of healing…those able to help others…those with gifts of administration…” (1 Corinthians 12:28). There is no shame in being in our place, wherever or whatever that is.
“If I had to live through a major illness again there is one part of the last…years that I would change. I chose to make my experience with cancer very private. I was afraid, and afraid to express that I was afraid. Also, I did not want to burden anyone else with my problem. I now consider my previous orientation to have been selfish and stupid. I would now want to be encompassed by a caring community of friends with whom I could share the inner mental and emotional trauma of illness. And I would hope to be in the care of health professionals for whom I was not a diagnosis but a person” (Dr. Donald Musser, Stetson University, DeLand, Florida).
“So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan…Thus they separated from each other” (Genesis 13:11 NAS). Abraham gave Lot first choice, and Lot took the choicest part. Lot didn’t commit evil in the choice; rather, it was in the motive. He wanted worldly good, and didn’t give thought to the final consequences of his choice. His uncle Abraham’s first thought was how best to serve God; Lot’s first thought was how best to serve Lot. Paul, too, had a problem with being forsaken for what Demas thought was greener pasture: “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica…”(2 Timothy 4:10).
We want par or below for our golf game, but we want to be above par for the contest of life. Jesus tells us He came that we might have life abundantly (John 10:10). Some think they must experience it all, even the below-pars of life; they collect sensations as others collect stamps or smoked bottles, not realizing they join Eve in tasting the forbidden fruits. They want to taste the so-called whole of life and find it leaves a bitter taste in their mouths. “Come out…be separate…touch no unclean thing…” (2 Corinthians 6:17). We want to live an above-par and wholesome life for our Lord and others.
“`Why should he be put to death? What has [David] done?’ Jonathan asked his father” (1 Samuel 20:32); “`Crucify Him!’ `Why, what crime has He committed?'” (Matthew 27:22,23). Indeed, what evil has He done? He who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) was about to die for the sins of the rest of us. We wonder at times why someone has a burden that seems so unfair. The disciples asked Jesus: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither,” the Man of Sorrows replied. (John 9:2,3.) Pain and sorrow are facts of life; the question is, do we glorify or vilify Him in the fires of affliction?
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service…” (1 Timothy 1:12). What an extraordinary idea this verse presents: our Lord encourages us because He considers us faithful. He puts us into His service so we might be ministers, teachers, comforters, helpers: whatever He has chosen for us to do. We need not force ourselves into His service, for He has chosen us for His appointment. We need not worry about results, either, as long as we remain steadfast to His principles. Yes, we thank Christ Jesus who has already strengthened us for whatever this day brings.
*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 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.
“Your strength will equal your days” (Deuteronomy 33:25). It is good to know our endurance will equal what needs to be done today. Somehow we gather enough energy to go on if we have such assurance from our source of Power. As a wise Unknown said, “The back is made to meet the burden.” The soldier needs courage (and we are all soldiers in this earthly struggle); the mother needs an extra portion of patience and perseverance, the father a greater measure of physical stamina; both husband and wife can use the strength of forbearance; and we all need the strength to be calm in this worried world.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6); “We do not want you to become lazy…” (Hebrews 6:12). The tiny ant teaches us many lessons: it is self-motivated and highly industrialized; it collects its food in the proper seasons; it is fond of its young; it has foresight for others; and it works quietly without show until the work is done. It also works in cooperation and organization with others and it keeps its home meticulously clean. It knows its job and does it. “What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in Heaven for our Lord God…” (Martin Luther).
“The greatest word is God. The deepest word is Soul. The longest word is Eternity. The swiftest word is Time. The nearest word is Now. The darkest word is Sin. The meanest word is Hypocrisy. The broadest word is Truth. The strongest word is Right. The tenderest word is Love. The sweetest word is Home. The dearest word is Mother” (Anonymous). The Bishop of Hippo said to Monica, Augustine’s mother, “Depart, good woman, the child of so many prayers cannot be lost!” Mothers, don’t forget the privileges we have in prayer and performance for our little ones.
God has given us such beauty and we walk by it every day. In her wonder-filled book about an unreachable child, One Child, Torey L. Haden tells of a difficult little girl who she graced with a flower and the child’s reaction to the flower: “Tenderly she reached out and caressed one of the daffodils…Holding the flower gently and stroking its golden cup, she smiled…`My heart do be so big,’ she whispered, `it be so big and I do reckon I be about the happiest kid for it.’ When is the last time we held a flower in our palm and saw life’s astonishments? “My heart do be so big…!”
“Only…among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor” (Mark 6:4). O! the grief felt by those who want so much to share the hope and the joy of Christ Jesus with their families! Take heart from this sad commentary by Jesus Himself on the ignorance and hard-heartedness of those we would bring to Him. Familiarity bred contempt for the Man who wanted to do a mighty work there. But He could not, and neither can we, much as our heart is breaking to do so. How we long to take the grieving son into our arms and present God–but he seeks comfort in gods. Our comfort is in knowing Jesus loves our beloved even more than we do.
“After every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul’s indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer” (W.R. Alger). To be of good cheer is a duty! The treasured verse, Isaiah 61:3, tells us that God grants us “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting, so [we] will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” We no longer need to look at the dark side of prospects. We can gather up the good treasure of promises stored in our hearts and praise God that every dark cloud does have a silver lining.
“Nothing so important, nothing so useful, if you want to clear your soul, as to be a man who can put up with a great deal. Such a man, if he is wronged, is more distressed over the sin committed than over the wrong done him; he is always ready to say a prayer for his enemies, forgives an injury with all his heart, and is quick to ask forgiveness of others, and you will find him more easily moved to pity than to anger. And all the while, he is putting constraint upon himself, doing all he can to make his corrupt nature the servant of the spirit” (Thomas a Kempis).
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