Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday's Story for Today by Stephen - Give Time to Our Family

As I am fixing to head off on a 3-week trip with my wife no more appropriate “Friday’s Story for Today” by Stephen could be shared than the following. Please note that I will not be blogging again until Monday, September 9th.

Give time to our family by STEPHEN

After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would love to spend some time with you.”
The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my MOTHER, who has been a widow for 19 years, but the demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally. That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie. “What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked.
My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news. “I thought that it would be pleasant to spend some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.” She thought about it for a moment, and then said, “I would like that very much.”
That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s. “I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed, “she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our meeting.”
We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Half way through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips. “It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,” she said. “Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favor,” I responded. During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation – nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other’s life. We talked so much that we missed the movie. As we arrived at her house later, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed.
“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home. “Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined,” I answered.
A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her. Some time later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined. An attached note said: “I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; but nevertheless, I paid for two plates – one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant for me. I love you, son.”
At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time: “I LOVE YOU” and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than your family. Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot be put off till “some other time.”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

When the cheering stops (Matthew 8:17)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 8:17 (TM)
He fulfilled Isaiah's well-known sermon: He took our illnesses, He carried our diseases.

George W. Truett tells the following story: There was a fire in the big city, and the firemen flung their ladders together, and went up in their brave fashion to the very topmost story to rescue the people that were trapped. One after another was rescued by the brave firemen. 

All had been rescued, it seemed, No! As the firemen looked up they saw a white face at the most upper window. They wrapped something about one of their firemen, and, breasting the fierce flames, he went again to that window, and put a robe around the little woman and started down. 

Then they saw him tremble as the fire raged around him, and it seemed that he would fall with his precious burden, but the fire chief cried to his men: “Cheer him, boys! Cheer him, boys!”

And they cheered him with words of encouragement as he came down with the precious life saved. 

What happens when the cheering stops and we are left to face life’s trials by ourselves? What happens when the doctor says, “We’ve done all that we can do”? What happens when all hopes seems lost? When there is no place else to turn? When all of our friends have left us? Where do we go? To whom do we turn?

When I a poor lost sinner before the Lord did fall
And in the name of Jesus for pardon loud did call
He heard my supplication and soon the weak was strong
For Jesus took my burden and left with me a song

Yes Jesus took my burden I could no longer bear
Yes Jesus took my burden in answer to my prayer
My anxious fears subsided my spirit was made strong
For Jesus took my burden and left me with a song

Oft-times the way is dreary and rugged seems the road

Oft-times I’m weak and weary when bent beneath some load

But when I cry in weakness how long O Lord how long

Jesus takes the burden and leaves me with a song

When I was crushed with sorrow I bowed in deep despair

My load of grief and heartache seemed more than I could bear

Twas then I heard a whisper you to the Lord belong

Then Jesus took my burden and left me with a song

I’ll trust Him for the future He knoweth all the way
For with His eye He’ll guide me along life’s pilgrim way
And I will tell in heaven while ages roll along
How Jesus took my burden and left me with a song

We need the song today morning than ever. The cheering has stopped. There is no one standing on the sidelines. We feel so abandoned. Give us the song that will lift our spirit and bring hope back into our life. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When "Mommy, kiss it and make it better" no longer works (Matthew 8:6-7)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 8:6-7 (TM)
"Master, my servant is sick. He can't walk. He's in terrible pain."  Jesus said, "I'll come and heal him."

The Spirit of Power that we receive is not like the human power that we recognize as strong. It’s a power unlike anything we can do on our own. 

A young man growing up in the wrong part of Houston became a bully. He would get in fights in school, in the neighborhood, and began mugging people to get spending money. He even beat up people just for the sake of doing it. 

He learned to box, and became pretty good at it. He began to make a lot of money and could have almost anything he wanted. One day, during his training session for an upcoming bout, he heard his mom talking to his sister on the telephone about his favorite nephew. The young boy had had a seizure and now lay in a coma in the hospital. Doctors said he would probably die, but that if he came out of the coma he wouldn’t be able to move his limbs, or speak, or do any of the human functions we consider part of living. 

He ran into the room where his mom was on the phone and shouted, “Momma, call the hospital and tell those doctors to give him the best of everything. Tell them I’ll take care of all the bills, to fly in the best doctors from wherever they have to. Tell them who I am, and that I’ll take care of everything — whatever it costs.” 

His mom spoke to the doctors, and then told him, “Son, you’re just going to have to pray.” 

He realized then how grave the situation was. When someone tells you the only thing you can do is pray, things are looking pretty bad. 

Then it hit him. All of his money, his fame, his influence, his friends — none of that could solve this problem. It was out of his hands, out of the doctor’s hands, out of everyone’s hands. For the first time, he was totally powerless. 

And for the first time, George Foreman dropped to his knees and prayed. 

He wasn’t sure God existed, but he knew that when all else failed, people prayed. He asked God, if he really existed, to help his nephew. Then he got back in bed. A few seconds later, he got back on his knees and offered to give up all his wealth if God would heal his nephew.

Then he got back in bed again. A few seconds later he got back on his knees a third time and got angry at God for letting this happen to his nephew, a child who hadn’t experienced life yet. George told God to take his life instead. Let the boy live and take George’s life instead. 

The next morning George’s sister called from the hospital. His nephew had woken up and could move his eyes, but the doctors said he wouldn’t ever walk again. 

She called later that day, and the boy had begun moving his toes. The next day the boy was talking, and a week later he was on his way home, “walking, talking, and back to normal.” The doctors had no logical explanation. But George Foreman knew God had just given him a miracle. 

Three months later in March 1977, George Foreman died in his locker room after fighting Jimmy Young. He collapsed in a heap, and entered what he describes as “a deep, dark void, like a bottomless pit.”

In his book, God in My Corner — A Spiritual Memoir, George wrote, “I knew I was dead, and that this wasn’t heaven. I was terrified, knowing I had no way out. Sorrow beyond description engulfed my soul, more than anyone could ever imagine. If you multiplied every disturbing and frightening thought that you’ve ever had during your entire life, that wouldn’t come close to the panic I felt. …
“ I screamed with every ounce of strength in me, ‘I don’t care if this is death. I still believe in God.’ 
“Instantly, what seemed to be like a giant hand reached down and snatched me out of the terrifying place. Immediately, I was back inside my body in the dressing room.” 

George accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and devoted himself to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He realized his human power, his money, his prestige, were worthless in the next life, and meant to be used as tools to lead others to Jesus during this one. 

He went on to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World twice. He was ordained as an evangelist in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and became pastor of a small church. He also became involved in prison and hospital ministries. 

You probably know him best for the George Foreman Grills or for namely all of his sons George. He finally was able to baptize his own 23-year-old daughter who finally decided to dedicate her own life to Jesus. 

That’s God’s idea of power.

Both the scripture and George Forman’s story causes a question to come to mind: To whom do we turn to when we need healing?

“Kiss it and make it better” worked when we were younger. Then we learned the valuable lesson of the power in the medical profession with the “magical” potions that come in pill form along with our citadels of modern healing called hospitals. But eventually we will all be faced with something that is beyond a mommy’s kiss and the knowledge of the doctors or the medicine with the expensive machines of the hospitals.

When our backs are to the walls and modern healing knowledge isn’t enough nor our riches strong enough to make it happen… where do we go? Who do we turn to? And are we willing to place it all there trusting God with the outcome? Though we try mightily to bargain and plea with God the conclusion that Mr. Foreman arrives at is the same one waiting for each of us… all we can do is pray and trust… and be prepared to accept the consequences regardless.

Can we say – in life or in death thou art God?

We pray hoping and end up accepting the outcome. Help us in our time of greatest need. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Being disappointed with God and in need of a healing (Matthew 8:2)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 8:2 (TM)
Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, "Master, if you want to, you can heal my body."

Philip Yancey in his book, Disappointment with God, writes: Even back then I was searching for hard evidence of God as an alternative to faith. And one day I found it--on television, of all places. While randomly flipping a dial, I came across a mass healing service being conducted by Kathryn Kuhlman. I watched for a few minutes as she brought various people up on the stage and interviewed them. Each one told an amazing story of supernatural healing. Cancer, heart conditions, paralysis--it was like a medical encyclopedia up there. As I watched Kuhlman's program, my doubts gradually melted away. At last I had found something real and tangible. Kuhlman asked a musician to sing her favorite song, "He Touched Me. That's what I needed, I thought; a touch, a personal touch from God. She held out that promise, and I lunged for it. 
Three weeks later when Kathryn Kuhlman came to a neighboring state, I skipped classes and traveled half a day to attend one of her meetings. The atmosphere was unbelievably charged--soft organ music in the background; the murmuring sound of people praying aloud, some in strange tongues; and every few minutes a happy interruption when someone would stand and claim, "I'm healed!" One person especially make an impression, a man from Milwaukee who had been carried into the meeting on a stretcher. When he walked--yes, walked--onstage, we all cheered wildly. He told us he was a physician, and I was even more impressed. He had incurable lung cancer, he said, and was told he had six months to live. But now, tonight, he believed God had healed him. He was walking for the first time in months. He felt great. Praise God! I wrote down the man's name and practically floated out of that meeting. I had never known such certainty of faith before. My search was over; I had seen proof of a living God in those people on the stage. If he could work tangible miracles in them, then surely he had something wonderful in store for me. 
I wanted contact with the man of faith I had seen at the meeting, so much so that exactly one week later I phoned Directory Assistance in Milwaukee and got the physician's number. When I dialed it, a woman answered the phone. "May I please speak to Dr. S_____," I said. Long silence. "Who are you?" she said at last. I figured she was just screening calls from patients or something. I gave my name and told her I admired Dr. S_____ and had wanted to talk to him ever since the Kathryn Kuhlman meeting. I had been very moved by his story, I said. Another long silence. Then she spoke in a flat voice, pronouncing each word slowly. "" Just that one sentence, nothing more, and she hung up. 
I can't tell you how that devastated me. I was wasted. I half-staggered into the next room, where my sister was sitting. "Richard, what's wrong?" she asked. "Are you all right?" No, I was not all right. But I couldn't talk about it. I was crying. My mother and sister tried to pry some explanation out of me. But what could I tell them? For me, the certainty I had staked my life on had died with that phone call. A flame had flared bright for one fine, shining week and then gone dark, like a dying star. 
Is our belief in God dependent on one event, one act, one healing, one miracle? I admit it is a “Martinism”, but it makes sense to me anyway. It goes like this: If one takes away the hope of Heaven as well as the fear of Hell would we still believe? Would we still follow Jesus? Would we still live a life of grace, hope and promise? Is our faith dependent on one healing?

A leper comes to Jesus. He kneels in submission. He makes a humble confession, “if you want to…” We are that leper in so many ways. Oh, we are not untouchable – maybe unapproachable – but certainly we couldn’t be counted among the untouchables as are the lepers. And yet, we stand in as much need of healing and wholeness as does one with this disease. We come to Jesus. We kneel in submission. We make our humble confession… and we hope that the answer is yes! Please Lord let be yes! Let it be yes just this once! We will never ask for anything else from you if you would answer with a yes this time!

Like Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, we have all been disappointed with God. We prayed believing and still death came. We prayed and divorce happened anyway. We prayed, but the bright flare of the flame slowly died over time. We prayed. We prayed in Jesus’ name. We prayed believing, but offense to our belief system still happened – life changing, earth shaken offense. An offense to everything we pin our hope to. We are disappointed that God didn’t pick us for the healing, even though our hand was raised higher than everybody else’s… even though we kept saying over and over and over again, “Pick me, pick me, pick me.”

We stand in need today. In our mind we are more needy that many others. We live believing that we are more worthy than most. Pick us… oh, please Lord, pick us this time. We don’t want the flame to die out. We desire hope to continue. Give us insight and understanding and patience to accept your answer. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Choosing to love rather than being right (Psalm 145:17)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 145:17 (TM)
Everything God does is right - the trademark on all his works is love.

STORY as told by J. Allan Peterson:
Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me."
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that your're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him." With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!" And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?"
"Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds. 
Getting it right is a challenge. We make so many mistakes. We work real hard at being right… all the time… so much so that others wouldn’t call our trademark of our lives love. In fact, we keep love at arms length just so we can be right.

Some of us would rather be right that we are willing to sacrifice the lives of others. We walk over them, on them and through them. Principle is all that matters. We would rather be right than sorry. If we allow love to come in then our being right would have to leave the room.

The words, “I’m sorry” never grace our lips. We hold to a position so steadfastly that we loose control of our heart and soul. Just like the wife in the Peterson story. She allowed her attitude to get in the way of loving her husband, but when she changed her attitude her love for her husband grew.

It is the half-empty/half-full syndrome. We see what we want to see. Isn’t it great to realize that no matter what happens in our lives God always sees us with eyes of love. God calls upon us to look at others with the same attitude. May it be truly our trademark.

Help me to see others as you see them Lord… with eyes of love.