Friday, September 28, 2012

Strong characters (1 Corinthians 15:33) needed now more than ever - with a Will Rogers story.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

STORY by Warren W. Wiersbe:
Will Rogers was known for his laughter, but he also knew how to weep. One day he was entertaining at the Milton H. Berry Institute in Los Angeles, a hospital that specialized in rehabilitating polio victims and people with broken backs and other extreme physical handicaps. Of course, Rogers had everybody laughing, even patients in really bad condition; but then he suddenly left the platform and went to the rest room. Milton Berry followed him to give him a towel; and when he opened the door, he saw Will Rogers leaning against the wall, sobbing like a child. He closed the door, and in a few minutes, Rogers appeared back on the platform, as jovial as before.
If you want to learn what a person is really like, ask three questions: What makes him laugh? What makes him angry? What makes him weep? These are fairly good tests of character that are especially appropriate for Christian leaders. I hear people saying, "We need angry leaders today!" or "The time has come to practice militant Christianity!" Perhaps, but "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).
What we need today is not anger but anguish, the kind of anguish that Moses displayed when he broke the two tablets of the law and then climbed the mountain to intercede for his people, or that Jesus displayed when He cleansed the temple and then wept over the city. The difference between anger and anguish is a broken heart. It's easy to get angry, especially at somebody else's sins; but it's not easy to look at sin, our own included, and weep over it.
What breaks your heart? What causes you to stay awake at night? What bothers you to the point that you have to do something? What brings tears to your eyes?

I think Warren Wiersbe is correct, even though he wrote it in 1991, when he states that what is “need(ed) today is not anger but anguish,” the kind of anguish that drives strong men to their knees. The kind of anguish that will not let us get a good nights sleep because our souls are troubled. The kind of anguish that moves us to honestly look at ourselves instead of just the other person. The kind of anguish that will move us to weeping over a city, state, nation and the world.

The world is waiting for men and women of strong moral character who, at their core, feels the pain and knows the journey of those who occupy the world around them. We need individuals with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Are we comfortable enough in our own skin and strong enough in our own convictions to be that kind of individual?  

Make us a captive Lord and then we will be free. Make us a captive Lord and our backbone will be strong. Make us a captive Lord and then, our hearts will break and we will weep for the world.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Though we stand on sinking sand we will still hope (Job 13:15) with a story from the Thirty Years' War and a discovery made by a German pastor.

SCRIPTURE: Job 13:15 (TM)
Because even if he killed me, I'd keep on hoping.

During the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their home. One night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried openly in despair. To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of Scripture promises about God's provision and keeping. Then, going out to the garden to be alone, he too broke down and wept. He felt he had come to his darkest hour.
Soon afterward, Gerhardt felt the burden lifted and sensed anew the Lord's presence. Taking his pen, he wrote a hymn that has brought comfort to many. "Give to the winds thy fears; hope, and be undismayed; God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head. Through waves and clouds and storms He gently clears the way. Wait thou His time, so shall the night soon end in joyous day."
It is often in our darkest times that God makes His presence known most clearly. He uses our sufferings and troubles to show us that He is our only source of strength. And when we see this truth, like Pastor Gerhardt, we receive new hope. Are you facing a great trial? Take heart. Put yourself in God's hands. Wait for His timing. He will give you a "song in the night." 

Job understood. Paul Gerhardt discovered. That hope is always there regardless of circumstances. Times might be tough, but sunrise comes in the morning. A new day will dawn. Possibilities will grow. “Though (God) slay me,” says Job, “yet will I trust in him.” That “yet” is powerful. It speaks volumes. No matter what today might bring … “YET I WILL trust in him.”

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

Thank you for the assurance that life as we presently know it doesn’t mean that it is going to be a life that we are to live for the rest of our days. Thank you for giving us the promise of hope even when all the ground around us is giving way.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Living a life of love (Colossians 1:8) instead of a life of anger and hate with a George Washington story.

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 1:8 (NIV)
Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

In The Grace of Giving, Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.
"No, Peter," General Washington said. "I cannot grant you the life of your friend."
"My friend!" exclaimed the old preacher. "He's the bitterest enemy I have."
"What?" cried Washington. "You've walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I'll grant your pardon." And he did.
Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata--no longer an enemy but a friend. 

How many of us would walk across the street let alone walk 70 miles to save the life of an enemy? Sobering question isn’t it. Just the thought of going out of our way for the sake of someone who has gone out of their way to deliver hurt and harm to us sends shivers down ones spine if we really think about the huge dimension of that reality.

Jesus asks us to forgive our enemies. He asks us to go the second mile, to give coat and cloak, to turn the other cheek … boy that is hard stuff! Read about in Matthew 5. It almost seems impossible because we have been “trained” to get even, to repay blow for blow, to hate our sworn enemies. Don’t believe me? Just read some of the recent emails that have popped up in the in-box.

Jesus never said it was going to be easy. And this illustrates the reality just how difficult it is going to be … but, hey, in the process a friend just be realized. Isn’t it worth the effort? The alternative is ulcers, cancer and a joy-less life.

I don’t know about anyone else, but Jesus’ way sounds a lot better …don’t you think.

Love is hard stuff God … it is real hard, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we are going to make it … and change the world in which we live!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Finding rest for the weary soul (Ezekiel 34:15-16) with an Aesop story.

SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 34:15-16 (TM)
And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I'll go after the lost, I'll collect the strays, I'll doctor the injured, I'll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they're not exploited.

According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.
Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, "Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bows implies."
The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, "If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it."

Bone tired. Exhausted. Weary. That is the story of so many. To tired to take the next step. Weighed down. Burden. Breaking under the load.

If this doesn’t describe us it probably does describe someone we know.

The real question for today is this: What are going to do about it?

God is our shepherd. He will give us true rest. We know that, but does the other person? Maybe we have been placed in their pathway because God intends for us to help carry their load. To sooth their aching muscles. To listen to their woes.  To provide that rest that they cannot find anywhere else.

Just maybe, but we won’t unless we try.

Thank you for giving us true rest. Now help us extend the same love and support to others.

QUOTE: by Max Lucado:
God is tireless, relentless. He refuses to quit.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dealing with the painful circumstances of life (Philippians 4:11) with a story from Carl Sagan.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

STORY: as told by Carl Sagan:
A story making the rounds concerns a Biology I examination in which the students were asked: "Suppose you could take to Mars any of the laboratory equipment used in this course. How would you determine if there was life on Mars?" One student responded: "Ask the inhabitants. Even a negative answer would be significant." The student got an A. 
Is there life in our living? Do we embrace the reality of the day … or do we find something to complain about? We have all met the individuals who dwell on what is wrong in life. They zero in on their pains and aliments. They see life as half-empty. Missed opportunities. The pain of daily living. If the sun is shining they ask for rain. If it rains they wonder why the sun isn’t shining. Nothing is ever right.

There are two individuals who come to mind. Granted, both have more than their fair share of physical problems and challenges, but it has been mentioned more than once how negative they both are. As one loved one recently shared, “I’m not sure if (his/her) physical pain is negatively affecting (his/her) mental state or (his/her) mental state is negatively affecting (his/her) physical state.” Could this be the “chicken-or-egg” question of human existence?

Circumstances can control our human existence … if we allow them to. Physical, emotional, and relational circumstances are very real. But the observation of my family physician, as we discussed my career path, went something like this: “How many people were sitting in the waiting room when you were called back? 20? 30? 40? This one thing I know for sure better than 75 to 90 percent of them wouldn’t be here if they would simply get their relationship with Jesus correct and allow faith to take control.” He went on to observe that they are allowing life’s circumstances to negatively affect their physical and emotional state.

Dr. Bernie Segal in, “Love, Medicine and Miracles,” spoke of the power that the mind has over our physical bodies. Paul made that spiritual connection as he wrote to one of the churches. To be content, at peace, accepting of one’s circumstances is key to our relationship with God through Jesus Christ ... regardless of the circumstances.

Conclusion is this: We can either allow our circumstances to control us or we can control our attitude about our circumstances based on faith. If the circumstances are in control then we loose. If we control our attitude about our circumstances then we are the victor. It is all up to us!

Both of the individuals mentioned earlier speak a great faith game. One speaks about faith, a prayer life and can quote scripture with much authority. The other has spent the last number of years preaching, teaching and witnessing to a deep faith. But when confronted with difficult life circumstances their faith has been found to be weak or non-existing. Their negativity has compromised their witness.

I don’t know about you, but I have to fight the temptation to pay homage to my physical and mental realities, giving in, being dragged down, start to think negative about myself. Are you in the same boat? When I find myself in this state of mind I take great comfort in the words of Paul knowing full well that he had his “thorn” that he prayed long and hard to be rid of, but finally came to the reality that he needed to come to peace with its ongoing presence in his life … “content whatever the circumstances.”

Lord, if our circumstances will not change then give us contentment to live a life of victory in the middle of those circumstances.