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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dwight L Moody and Witnessing

Acts 1:8 (New International Version)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

D.L. Moody made an covenant with God that he would witness for Christ to at least one person each day. One night, about ten o'clock, he realized that he had not yet witnessed; so he went out in to the street and spoke to a man standing by a lamppost, asking him, "Are you a Christian?" The man flew into a violent rage and threatened to knock Moody into the gutter. Later that same man went to an elder in the church and complained that Moody was "doing more harm in Chicago than ten men were doing good."

The elder begged Moody to temper his zeal with knowledge. Three months later Moody was awakened at the YMCA by a man knocking at the door It was the man he had witnessed to. "I want to talk to you about my soul," he said to Moody.

He apologized for the way he had treated Moody and said that he had had no peace since that night on Lake Street when Moody witnessed to him. Moody led the man to Christ and he became a zealous worker in the Sunday school.

Dear Lord we pray that we would always take the opportunities that You give us to share your Love. Open the hearts of those that we come into contact with. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Everyone is Special

John 3:16 (King James Version)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What would it take to change someone's poor self-image? From loser to winner? From worthless nobody to valuable somebody? It's hard to say.

USA Today carried a brief note on Sept. 25, 1997, about a marvellous rescue of a child. A homeless man in New York City saved the life of a two-year-old boy whose house was on fire. The man talked Sonya Lopez into throwing her son down to him when the mother and her child were trapped in their burning house. He caught the 27-pound boy and then helped Sonya get out. The baby was uninjured, and his mother was treated for smoke inhalation and released. They are fine.

The hero that day was 45-year-old John Byrnes. He has been homeless for two years. He is an alcoholic. In his own words, he is a "drunken bum."

Maybe Mr. Byrnes needs to look at himself through the eyes of Sonya Lopez.

Do you think he's just a drunken bum to her? Not on your life. He's a certified hero. He saved her son's life — and hers. Yet this is the best he could say for himself afterward: "Drunk as I am, I knew what to do right then and there."

People do heroic things because they are created in the image and likeness of God. Like a coin whose image has been defaced, any one of us may mar the likeness to God in his or her character. Alcoholism or a dozen other things that quickly come to mind can convince us how unworthy we are. We hear others attach labels to us. Worse still, we accept those labels — stupid, drunken bum, cheat, liar, con.

My theory is that the day he saved the lives of a baby and his mother should have changed John Byrnes' self-image. But how long has he been told he is worthless? How many times has he been called a bum because he is homeless and dirty? And what has his alcoholism cost him in terms of the view he has of himself?

Perhaps the only way to reverse (or avoid) a terrible self-image is to have people who really care about you to remind constantly of your worth in their eyes. Parents, hear this about your children. Mates, hear it about your spouses. Hear it about anyone whose welfare and happiness you value.

God's strategy across the centuries has been to remind you of your worth in his eyes. If you missed it in his words, he said it one last time in giving his Son for you. No matter the label someone has stuck on you, heaven says you're worth dying for.

Dear Lord We thank You for thinking we are worth dying for. We Pray that we would always remember that each of us is special. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

When You Think Nobody is Listening.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 (New International Version)
Sow your seed in the morning,
   and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
   whether this or that,
   or whether both will do equally well.

When Robert Moffat, Scottish missionary to South Africa, came home to recruit helpers in his homeland, he was greeted by the fury of a cold British winter. Arriving at the church where he was to speak, he noted that only a small group had braved the elements to hear his appeal. What disturbed him even more was that there were only ladies in attendance that night, for he had chosen as his text, "Unto you, O men, I call" (Proverbs 8:4).

When he gave his appeal that night, nobody answered the call or volunteered for missionary service. But what Moffat almost didn't see was a small boy in the loft who had come to work the bellows of the organ and he was greatly challenged by the message.

Deciding that he would follow in the footsteps of this pioneer missionary, he went on to school, obtained a degree in medicine, and then spent the rest of his life ministering to the unreached tribes of Africa. His name? David Livingstone!

Dear Lord we pray today that we would not to become discouraged when we see little or no results, but that we would keep faithfully serving You no matter what. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Giving up Can Be Easy.

Mark 10:27 (New International Version)
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Many cultures of our planet have traditionally been attracted to the moon. That big, yellow, shiny blob in the sky that at times is in the form of a French croissant (no wonder the French like the moon!), and at times takes the shape of a soccer ball, has always fascinated young and old.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to actually walk on the moon?

At 6:31 P.M., January 27, 1967 disaster hit Apollo 1 Command module. It had been designed to perform a 10 days orbit around the earth and if successful, the next stage would have been planned: a trip to the moon! That fateful afternoon, as astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee were going through a countdown dress rehearsal, a fire ignited near Grissom's feet. Because the space module was filled 100% with oxygen instead of the typical earth's atmosphere of 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen, the fire quickly spread with ferocious hunger. As the astronauts desperately tried to open the hatch, the temperatures inside the capsule quickly ascended to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Before anything could be done, Apollo 1 was a blazing ball of fire. There was no time for rescue attempts. The three astronauts died within seconds.

How easy it would have been for NASA, after this tragedy, to give up that dream of placing men on the moon. Why risk other astronauts' lives? Why spend unearthly hours for a project destined for failure? Why worry about something that was not meant to be? Was it really worth it?

They didn't give up. In fact, the opposite took place! They took the time they needed to locate the problems in that module and to rectify them. They installed a hatch that would open in 15 seconds; they removed all flammable substances from the capsule, and they adjusted the oxygen/nitrogen air mix. Ten months later, the unmanned Apollo 4 was a success. Eleven months after that the Apollo 7 crew successfully completed Apollo 1's mission. On Christmas Eve of that same year of 1968, Apollo 8 orbited the moon, and on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong actually set foot on the moon!

If simple men can reach the moon, you can most certainly reach the stars with God's help! Giving up is an easy way out, but is it really worth it? As long as you are lined up with God's will, you will be unstoppable. Yes, opposition will arise and calamities will be caused, especially if you are joining God at work, but the Creator is above all of our circumstances!

Those who gave up quickly never are able to fathom the wonders that God would have performed through them. They could have reached the stars, driven by God Himself!

"Giving up" is music to the ears of the enemy! However we are serving One who is bigger and more powerful than all the possible obstacles that could face us!

Men can reach the moon, but we can reach the stars if we let Jesus be our fuel!

Dear Lord today we pray that we will not give up. Help us keep our eye on the goal that You have for each one of us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ever Wish You Had a Permanent "Picker-Upper"?

Colossians 3:17 (New International Version)
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Do you ever feel blah? Ever wish you had a permanent "picker-upper"?

In the 1920s, if you were looking for a little pick-me-up with your mid-afternoon snack, you might have reached for a cold, refreshing glass of 7-Up. Well, it wasn't called 7-Up back then, it was called "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda." (Say THAT three times fast!)

Inventor C. L. Griggs' original recipe included the antidepressant lithium until the 1940s as a "picker-upper" (www.cadburyschweppes.com). The original Coca-Cola formula also included a "picker-upper" -- cocaine.

Today, people not suffering from serious depression understand that they usually don't need mood-altering drugs to cope with daily life. But most folks struggle with bouts of mild depression, despondency or "the blahs" from time to time. How do you pick yourself up when you're feeling down, without the aid of Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda?

I hope I'm not telling you anything new when I say that talking about the reasons you're down, making needed changes, watching your diet, getting enough exercise and sleep, developing a positive mental outlook and utilizing spiritual resources are all important pieces of our emotional puzzles. But one important strategy for feeling better (and one that's LEAST used) is as important as the rest. It is helping others in need.

* Visit a shut-in neighbor.
* Write a letter.
* Call a friend who has been struggling.
* Volunteer at church, synagogue or the local food pantry.
* Rake someone's leaves.
* Bake homemade bread for a new neighbor.
* Wash your spouse's car.
* Volunteer to baby-sit for a young mother.
* Plan an unexpected act of kindness.
* Give a gift for no reason at all.

The needs are abundant, and those who put aside some regular time to do something kind for others will often forget they were feeling low.

Dear Lord we pray that our eyes would be open to those around us when they need encouragement. Helps us be the hands and feet for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Don't Let Discouragers Stop You

1 Chronicles 22:13 (New International Version)
Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.

In 1984, Jim Morris was a first round draft choice to become a major league baseball player. His dream was derailed by a series of debilitating arm injuries before he retired in 1988. Jim got married, raised a family of three, and got his college degree before becoming a high school science teacher and baseball coach in a financially depressed area of West Texas. His baseball career was reduced to playing in beer leagues and throwing batting practice to his high school baseball team.

In 1999, at the age of 35 and some 11 years after retiring from minor league baseball, Jim was giving a speech to his high school team about the importance of dreams and hard work when his high school players challenged him to pursue his dream of pitching in the major leagues. Jim made the following bet with his high school team: if they won the District Championship for their division, he would tryout for the first major league team that came thru town. The team won the championship, but Jim's father discouraged him, as did others in his hometown, about returning to baseball.

Though he had a strong arm, few people in his town, outside of Jim and his team, believed he could pitch in the major leagues. But later that same year, Jim Morris became the oldest rookie when he pitched for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This amazing story was retold in the movie "The Rookie".

Don't let anyone discourage you from what God has called you to do.

Dear Lord we ask You today for a clear vision of Your will for us, and that we will follow You with all of our heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Look Up

2 Chronicles 15:7 (New International Version)
But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

"I give up!" the man shouted. "I can't take it any more! There is nothing left for me."
Everyone around him kept on about their business. Some made it a point to get away from him. 
"He's crazy," one man said quietly as he nervously rushed toward the door.
The man sat down quickly. Still taunted by whatever caused the outburst, he looked down placing his head in his hands.
"I give up!" he said again.
A young boy standing nearby seemed unaffected by the ranting. While others kept their distance, he stood his ground.
"Sir! Sir!" the young man repeated.
So wrapped up in his anguish, the man never heard the young boy.
Determined to speak with the man, he walked closer.
"Sir! I know what's wrong!" he said. "Please, sir!"
The man still slumped forward in his seat, rocked slowly back and forth. But still he did not respond.
The young boy walked up and placed his small hand on the stranger's shoulder.
This startled him and he picked up his head to see who was there.
The boy was taken at first by his appearance. His red eyes, his unshaven face and hair that looked like it hadn't been washed for days, would cause most people to cautiously avoid him. But this young man wasn't just anyone.
"Sir, I know what's wrong," the young boy whispered.
"What? How would you know what's wrong with me? You're just a child. You can't even begin to know what's wrong," the man said.
"Sir. You said "I give up!"
"Yes, so."
"My Mom said that I should never give up. Whenever I feel like I want to give up, I just need to look up. God's hand will be there to lift me up."
The man's head fell back into his hands as he began to cry again.
The young boy never left his side.
Slowly the man lifted his head to find the young boy standing there with his hands stretched out toward him.
The man's hands shook nervously as he reached out toward him.
At the very moment their hands touched the man said, "Thank you dear God! You do love me."
He raised his head and with an ever so slight smile, he said, "In my frustration I have been angry with God. I thought He never heard my prayers. All morning I prayed to Him with no results. Finally, I asked God for a sign. I told him that I couldn't handle the weight of all my burdens. I begged Him to give me a hand."
Looking at the young man he said, "I never expected they'd be so small...He sent me yours."
"Don't give up...look up!" the boy said.
Why is it that when we are unhappy we count all the little things that go wrong. But when we need help we expect God to make big things happen?
"Don't give up...look up!"

Dear Lord today we pray that no matter what the circumstances are we would look up to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Lesson from Charlie Brown's Creator

Proverbs 24:16 (New King James Version)
For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity.

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Sparky. At least that's what his classmates called him. He was given the nickname in honor of a comic strip horse named Spark Plug. Sparky hated the name. But name-calling was the least of his worries.

School was tough for Sparky. His favorite subjects were recess and lunch. He failed every single subject in eighth grade. High school was no better. He flunked algebra, English, Latin, and physics. In fact, to this day he holds the record for the lowest physics marks in his school. Sports weren't much of an improvement. He made the school's golf team, but his poor play ended up costing his team the championship.

Sparky was a loser when it came to friendships too. No one seemed to notice him. He was astonished if a classmate said hello. Afraid of rejection, he never asked a girl out. Instead, he devoted himself to the one thing he really enjoyed: drawing cartoons. No one thought they were any good, but that didn't stop him. He practiced on binders and scribblers, and by the time he was a senior in high school, he got up the nerve to submit some cartoons to the yearbook staff.

They were rejected.

After graduating from high school, Sparky wrote a letter to Walt Disney Studios inquiring about job opportunities. He received a form letter requesting samples of his artwork. The letter asked him to draw a funny cartoon of "a man repairing a clock by shoveling the springs and gears back inside it." Sparky drew the cartoon and mailed it off with his fingers crossed. He waited anxiously for a reply. Finally it came. Another form letter spelling out rejection.

Sparky was disappointed but not surprised. He had always been a loser. This was just one more loss. Looking in the mirror one day, he smiled with the realization that in a weird sort of way, his life was funny. Almost like a cartoon character. Then a thought hit him. Why not tell his own story? Why not draw cartoons of the misadventures of a little boy loser, a chronic underachiever? He had no idea where his idea would take him.

This boy who failed the eighth grade, the young artist whose work was rejected by his own yearbook, was Charles Monroe "Sparky" Schultz-creator of the Peanuts comic strip and the little boy whose kite never quite flies.

You know him as Charlie Brown.

Dear Lord we pray today that we would never give up. We thank You that You are there to lift us up when we fall. We pray that we would completely trust in You today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Looking at the Bigger Picture

Philippians 1:12 (New International Version)
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[a] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.

Leith Anderson, a minister, shared this experience: As a boy, he grew up outside of New York City and was an avid fan of the old Brooklyn Dodgers. One day his father took him to a World Series game between the Dodgers and the Yankees. He was so excited, and he just knew the Dodgers would trounce the Yankees. Unfortunately, the Dodgers never got on base, and his excitement was shattered.

Years later, he was engrossed in a conversation with a man who was a walking sports almanac. Leith told him about the first major league game he attended and added, "It was such a disappointment. I was a Dodger fan and the Dodgers never got on base." The man said, "You were there? You were at the game when Don Larsen pitched the first perfect game in all of World Series history?"

Leith replied, ''Yeah, but uh, we lost." He then realized that he had been so caught up in his team's defeat that he missed out on the fact that he was a witness to a far greater page of history.

I wonder how often the same thing happens to us. We get so caught up in the "defeats" in our lives, the times when things don't turn out the way we want them to. So we're depressed because an illness continues to linger, or when people don't treat us the way we think they ought to, or when we face financial difficulties.

But we are often so blinded by the pain and disappointment of our "defeat" that we fail to appreciate the fact that we might be witness to something far greater that God is doing in our lives.

Remember when Paul was in prison? He wrote to the Philippian Christians, "But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel." (Phil. 1:12)

While most of us would have focused on the "defeat" (being in prison even though he was innocent), Paul was able to see what God was doing in his life. It's not an easy thing to do. It's never easy to view things from a heavenly perspective rather than an earthly one, but it is especially difficult in the midst of pain and defeat. But it is learning how to have a heavenly view that helps us to know joy no matter what happens in our lives.

Dear Lord we pray that we would have the heavenly view today. Help us to keep our focus on the things of You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Because He Lives

Mark 9:35 (New International Version)
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Late one December night on the cancer ward the halls were quiet and solemn, the patients were asleep and most of the visitors were gone. The nurses were gathered about the nurse's station preparing for shift change. Sarah, one of the nurses, was especially tired, having worked seven straight 12 hour days. The kids had needs, her husband had been laid off, and the house payment was due. What kept her going was that in January she was going to find a new job. After ten years of answering call lights, working short staffed, putting up with constant administrative changes, she had decided that it was not worth the effort anymore.

PING. PING. PING. Sarah angrily looked at the call light box, "Good grief!"

The patient was a seventy-year-old woman. Sarah had been to her room at the end of the hall at least fifteen times. Angrily she started down the hall. On her way, she suddenly stopped. She stood motionless as a soft voice wafted out of room 235.

"And then one day I'll cross the river; I'll fight life's final war with pain; And then as death gives way to victory, I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives."

Tears welled up in her eyes as she listened and thought about the young woman in that room -- a thirty-five year old mother of two with cancer, with only a week to live, perhaps days. Sarah stood there, with tears in her eyes, remembering how this young terminal woman had such peace. The patient would speak to everyone who came into her room and she would smile even in her pain and took the time to share her faith and let people know the reason for her peace was a faith in God. All the nurses who had been around her commented on her strength and how they had felt peace and calm after talking with this exceptional young woman.

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know who holds the future, Life is worth all the living, just because He lives." Unstoppable tears flowed as Sarah stood a few moments more, but the tears had taken on a newness. No longer were they tears of sadness for this young woman but tears of renewal that washed away the disappointment and disillusionment of her job, and the fear about the future.

Sarah started down the hall to answer the call light, but she was no longer going to check on some pestering old woman. She was going to the room of a patient, a person, a fellow human in need. Sarah no longer looked to January so she could quit -- she looked to her next shift when she would again have the opportunity to serve her fellow man. Sarah left work with a new outlook on life. She had a rekindling of the spirit of service that had motivated her to become a nurse. Those fires had almost died, but for a young terminal woman who had the desire to be of service to her fellow man even unto death.

This is a reminder to each of us that the reason we are on this earth at all is to be of service to each other. Christ said it best when He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his brother." 

Dear Lord we pray that our eyes would be open to those around us. Help us to serve those that are in our life and need Your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ivory Soap and Perseverance

Hebrews 10:36 (New International Version)
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 

In 1879, Procter and Gamble's best seller was candles. But the company was in trouble. Thomas Edison had invented the light bulb, and the market for candles plummeted since they were now sold only for special occasions. 

The outlook appeared to be bleak for Procter and Gamble. A forgetful employee at a small factory in Cincinnati forgot to turn off his machine when he went to lunch. When he returned he found a frothing mass of lather filled with air bubbles. He almost threw the stuff away but instead decided to try to make it into soap. The soap floated! 

Some people bathed in the Ohio River. Floating soap would never sink and consequently never got lost. Thus, Ivory soap was born and became the mainstay of the Procter and Gamble Company. 

Dear Lord we come before You today asking for the strength we need to persevere. Sometimes it is so easy to just give up. We pray that we would look to You for the strength to keep going. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Change your Auto Pilot

Romans 12:2 (New International Version)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Imagine riding in a speedboat on a lake with an automatic pilot set to go east. If you decide to reverse and head west, you have two possible ways to change the boat's direction. One way is to grab the steering wheel and physically force it to head in the opposite direction from where the autopilot is programmed to go. By sheer willpower you could overcome the autopilot, but you would feel constant resistance. Your arms would eventually tire of the stress, you'd let go of the steering wheel, and the boat would instantly head back east, the way it was internally programmed. 

This is what happens when you try to change your life with willpower: You say, "I'll force myself to eat less ... exercise more . . . quit being disorganized and late." Yes, willpower can produce short-term change, but it creates constant internal stress because you haven't dealt with the root cause. The change doesn't feel natural, so eventually YOU give up, go off your diet, and quit exercising. You quickly revert to your old patterns. 

There is a better and easier way. Change your autopilot, the way you think. Your first step in spiritual growth is to start changing the way you think. Change always starts first in your mind. The way you think, determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act.  

Dear Lord we pray today that we would set our minds upon You! We pray that in all we do we will be focused on You and that we would do the things You have planned for each of us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Swim the Race Before Us.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (New International Version)
 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

My brother talks about the Salmon up in Alaska. As I think about the salmon making their way up the river to their spawning ground swimming upstream against the current, I thought of some lessons that we, as Christians, could learn from them.

Each fall, adult sockeye salmon return to their natal stream, river, or lake, to spawn and bury their eggs. Salmon have the determination and perseverance to keep on going until they reach their final destination -- their spawning ground. Their journey is upstream against the strong current, which pushes them back many times. Sometimes they get caught in the Salmon wheel but many make it past.

Our Christian walk is like that of the salmon. We are battling against the evils of this dark world -- often going against the crowd. Many times, we, too, come against strong opposition, but we who believe in Jesus, when we die, will inherit eternal life. We, too, at times, get caught by Satan, and, although Satan doesn't release us, Jesus does. He is always with us, showing us how to be free from our sin. Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we could win the victory over sin and death.

God has a plan for our lives, just as He has a plan for the salmon. Let us persevere, then, as the salmon do, year after year, and run the race marked out for us. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus until, the end of our journey; we have reached our final destination -- heaven.

Dear Lord we thank You that You have prepared a place for us, and that You have a plan for each of our lives.  Keep us from getting trapped, weary or discouraged. Help us, through our times of trouble to keep our eyes fixed on You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alex Haley and Perseverance

Hebrews 10:36 (New International Version)
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

For eight years the struggling young writer wrote incredible numbers of short stories and articles for publication, and for eight long years they were rejected. Fortunately, he didn't give up, and for that he--and America--will always be grateful.

On one occasion... an editor wrote an encouraging note on a rejection slip. It simply said, "Nice try." I think you'll agree that most of us would not rate that little comment very high on the encouragement list, but it literally brought tears to the young writer's eyes. He was given new hope... he simply would not give up.

Finally after many years of effort, he wrote what has deeply affected the entire world and helped him to become one of the most influential writers of the '70s. I'm speaking of Alex Haley and his book ROOTS...

If you have a dream and really believe you have some ability that can be expressed, pursue that dream. Don't give up. God will give the strength to pursue your goal.

Dear Lord we pray for the strength to keep pressing forward even when all seems like a lost cause. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Does it Take to Get You to Listen?

Hebrews 12:6 (New International Version)
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.

Noticing that a shepherd in Syria was carrying food to a sheep that had a broken leg, a traveler asked how it happened. "Did it fall into a hole or did some animal break the leg?" he queried.

"No," said the Shepherd, "I broke it."

"You broke it?" asked the surprised traveler.

"Yes. This is a wayward sheep. It wouldn't stay with the flock and would lead some of the sheep astray. It wouldn't let me near it and so I had to break it's leg so it would allow me to feed it. In doing this it will get to know me as its shepherd, trust me as its guide, and keep with the flock."

Whom the Lord loves he chastens! Isn't it good to know that the Lord loves us ... when we walk away limping!

Dear Lord, thank you that you care enough to discipline us, and love us enough to chastise us when we stray from the beaten path. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Corinthians 13 - Valentine's Day

Isaiah 43:1 (New International Version)
But now, this is what the LORD says—
   he who created you, Jacob,
   he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

On Valentine’s Day isn’t it fun to dig through a bag of those little candy hearts that have the words printed on them? They say cute little things like “SWEET”, “CUTE” or “HUG ME”. But the one that I like the best says, “YOU ARE MINE!” In honor of the one I call “Mine” I want to share a paraphrase of I Corinthians 13 (the love chapter)

If I teach Sunday school classes, volunteer for the student ministry but do not love my wife, I am only as a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have a college degree, high-paying job, and successful career, but do not love my wife, I am emotionally and spiritually bankrupt.  If I have faith so I can move mountains,  am quick to pray for those in need, and even have half the Bible   memorized,  but do not love my wife, I am disobedient and do not please God.  If I help keep a spotless house, maintain a well-manicured lawn, and supply nutritionally balanced meals for my family,  but do not love my wife, it is all for naught. Hired hands can do as much.
Lord, help me to be patient.  Help me to be kind.  I pray that I will not envy those who have seemingly more than us.   I pray that  I will  never  try to  lift  myself up  by putting my wife down.  Lord, I pray that I will not be a proud man  who  refuses to  listen  to  his wife, who always has to have  the last word,  who always thinks his  way is best.   I pray that I will not be rude to my wife with curt comments, disregard her needs, or be ungrateful for all she does and is, but treat her with respect and honor that the Queen of the castle deserves.
I pray that I  will not be self- serving,  always thinking about what is best for me,  but thinking of what would be  best  for  my  wife.   I  pray  that  I  will  not  be angered easily,  not  hold a  grudge,  keep a  record  of wrongs,  not plan  ways to  retaliate,  and not use  my tongue as  a  weapon to cause pain.   I  pray that I will not  rejoice  and  say "I told you so" when  things don't work  out  the  way  my  wife  hoped.
Lord, above all, I pray that my wife will see me as her chief supporter who desires to rejoice with her in her victories, both big and small. That she will see me as the one who longs to protect her and our marriage and our love.   Help me create a warm and loving environment in which she feels safe, wanted, and revered.   I pray that you will give me endurance when things get tough.  Lord,   I know that love never fails and that You never fail.  Fill  me with  Your Holy  Spirit  and  give  me  the  endurance  to  stand  under  trials and  love  my wife no matter the circumstances, as you would have me  love  her  --  till  death  us  do  part!
Dear Lord we pray today for those that You have given us to love. We pray that we would love them with the Love that You have designed. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Inviting God to Take a Look at Your Heart

Psalm 139:23-24 (New International Version)
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.

It was Saturday morning as Jake, an avid hunter, woke up ready to go bag the first deer of the season. He walked down to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, and to his surprise he found his wife, Alice, sitting there, fully dressed in camouflage.

Jake asked her, "What are you up to?"

Alice smiled. "I'm going hunting with you!" Jake had many reservations about this, but reluctantly decided to take her along.

When they arrived at the hunting site, Jake set his wife safely up in the tree stand and told her, "If you see a deer, take careful aim and I'll come running back as soon as I hear the shot." He walked away with a smile on his face knowing that Alice couldn't bag an elephant, much less a deer.

However, within ten minutes, Jake was startled as he heard an array of gunshots. Quickly, Jake ran back. As he got closer to her stand, he heard Alice screaming: "Get away from my deer!"

Confused, Jake raced faster towards his screaming wife. And again he heard her yell, "Get away from my deer!" followed by another volley of gunfire!

Now within sight of where he had left his wife, Jake was surprised to see a cowboy, with his hands high in the air. The cowboy, obviously distraught, said, "Okay, lady, okay!!!! You can have your deer!!! Just let me get my saddle off it!"

I suppose we've all done some pretty stupid things in our lifetime. I'd like to share with you some of the most stupid mistakes I've ever made but unfortunately, time and space does not permit! 

We all have done something stupid, we don't want anyone else to find out about it. In fact, we go to great lengths to make sure that no one learns about it. We don't want the embarrassment of ridicule. We don't want to hear, "I told you so!" or "You should have known better!" or "What were you thinking?!" So we are reluctant to share our shortcomings.

That's why the passage in Psalm 139 can be a bit perplexing:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

Do you see what David is doing? He is inviting God to take a look at his heart and find all the stupid things that are hidden there. Why would he invite God to do that?

I can only think of one reason. David had an absolute trust in God. He knew that God loved him. He knew that instead of ridiculing him or berating him upon finding fault, God would do everything in His power to help David to find restoration and peace of mind. David had the utmost confidence in God. How I desire that in my life!

Dear Lord we know that you are aware of everything in our life, both good and bad. We want a faith that can be as open and honest as David. We invite you to show us our shortcomings, and lead me in your paths of righteousness. In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

President Lincoln and Forgiveness.

Psalm 118:14 (New American Standard Bible)

The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.

Today is President Lincoln's birthday, so I thought I would share a story about one of the great presidents.

This anecdote begins when the president was visited by a state delegation composed of unhappy people. The displeased representatives were protesting the character of their senator, a man by the name of Baker, a man who was a close personal friend of the president.

Lincoln patiently listened to the delegation; then he read their document which summed up their disagreements and disappointments with the man.

When he had finished, Lincoln looked up and asked, "Is this paper, does this paper -- the one which you have presented -- belong to me?"

They assured him it did.

Then Lincoln asked, "I can do with this paper as I wish?"

"Certainly, Mr. President," replied the leader of the group. Lincoln, listening to his conscience, placed the paper on the fireplace coals, turned to the group and said, "Good day, gentlemen."

Lincoln did much the same kind of thing that God does for us.

When our sins were lined up, protesting our admission into heaven, the Father decided He would dismiss those charges.

This He did not because we were His friends. How could He? We hadn't been His friends.

No, God dismissed the charges against us because of Jesus who had given His life to take those sins away.

Because of Jesus' sacrifice, God was able to discharge all accusations made against us and bring us into His circle of forgiven friends and family.

It is a practice we should copy. Today we may also be given the opportunity to stand up for others. If we do, we need to make sure we ignore rumors, plug our ears to wagging tongues and, wherever possible, put the best construction on everything.

If we do, we'll be a friend like Lincoln was to Baker and we'll be bringing honor to Jesus, our best and truest Friend and Savior.

Dear Lord we pray that we would be a friend just like you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Oswald Smith

Micah 6:15 (New International Version) 
You will plant but not harvest;
   you will press olives but not use the oil,
   you will crush grapes but not drink the wine.

Oswald Smith was born in 1899 in Erneston, Ontario, Canada. He came to Christ when he was seven and he attended Toronto Bible College and McCormick Theological Seminary. In 1916, he became the pastor of Dale Presbyterian Church in Toronto. In 1920, Oswald had the desire to become a missionary. As he stood before the missionary board, he silently prayed over and over again: "Lord, I want to go as a missionary for you. Open a door of service for me." When the interview was over, the board turned Oswald Smith down. Oswald was crushed. He did not meet their qualifications. He had failed the test. But God was working in Oswald Smith's life. He planted another idea in Oswald's heart. If he could not go as a missionary, he would build a church that could send out missionaries. The small church combined with a Christian and Missionary Alliance Congregation. By 1928, Oswald Smith's congregation, The People's Church in Toronto, Canada, was sending out more missionaries than any other church at that time. Oswald Smith brought God into the situation, and God transformed his disappointment into a ministry.

Disappointment and discouragement will come into every life. The question is: Do you look to the Lord when you are disappointed?

Dear Lord we pray today that we would give you all our disappointments and discouragements knowing that You will give us comfort. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thinking Positive

1 Thessalonians 5:14 (New International Version)
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

In 1914, a small ship sailed into the icy Weddell Sea, on its way to the South Pole. It carried a crew of twenty-seven men, and their leader, Ernest Shackleton.

But unseasonable gales shoved the floating ice together and the temperature sank below zero, freezing more than a million square miles of ice into a solid mass. And they were stuck in the middle of it. They had no radio transmitter. They were alone.

For ten months the pressure increased until it crushed the ship, stranding them in the middle of an icy wasteland which could, at any time, break up and become a sea of floating ice chunks. They had to get off this ice while it was still solid, so they headed for the nearest known land, 346 miles away, dragging their two lifeboats over the ice.

But every few hundred yards they ran into a pressure ridge, sometimes two stories high, caused by the ice compacting. They had to chop through it. At the end of two backbreaking days in subzero weather, they were exhausted. After all their hacking and dragging, they had travelled only two miles.

They tried again. In five days they went a total of nine miles, but the ice was becoming softer and the pressure ridges were becoming larger. They could go no further. So they had to wait...for several months.

Finally the ice opened up and they launched the boats into the churning mass of giant chunks of ice and made it out. But now they were sailing across a treacherous sea. They landed on a tiny, barren, ice-covered, lifeless island in the middle of nowhere.

To save themselves, they needed to reach the nearest outpost of civilisation: South Georgia, 870 miles away! Shackleton and five men took the best lifeboat and sailed across the Drake Passage at the tip of South America, the most formidable piece of ocean in the world. Gales blow non-stop-up to 200 miles an hour (that's as hard as a hurricane)-and waves get as high as ninety feet. Their chances of making it were very close to zero.

But determination can change the odds.

They made it. But they landed on the wrong side of the island, and their boat was pounded into the rocks and rendered useless. The whaling port they needed to reach was on the other side of the island, which has peaks 10,000 feet high and had never been crossed. They were the first. They didn't have much choice.

When they staggered into the little whaling port on the other side of the island, everyone who saw them stopped dead in their tracks. The three men had coal-black skin from the seal oil they had been burning as fuel. They had long, black dreadlocks. Their clothing was shredded, filthy rags, and they had come from the direction of the mountains. Nobody in the history of the whaling port had ever been known to enter the town from that direction.

Although all the men at that whaling port had known about Shackleton's expedition, his ship had been gone for seventeen months and was assumed to have sunk, and the crew with it. The whalers knew how deadly and unforgiving the ice could be.

The three ragged men made their way to the home of a man Shackleton knew, followed in silence by a growing crowd of people. When the man came to the door, he stepped back and stared in silence. Then he said, "Who the heck are you?"

The man in the center took a step forward and said, "My name is Shackleton."

According to some witnesses, the hard-faced man at the door turned away and wept.

This story is incredible, and if it weren't for the extensive verification and corroboration of the diaries and interviews with the men on the crew in Alfred Lansing's account, Endurance, it might easily be disbelieved. The story is true, and as incredible as what I've told you seems, I've only given you some highlights.

Shackleton went back and rescued his friends on the other side of the island first, and then after many attempts to get through the ice, on August 30th-almost two years since they'd embarked-he made it back to that barren island and rescued the rest of his men. Every man in Shackleton's crew made it home alive.

Fifteen years earlier, a different ship got stuck in the ice in the Weddell Sea-the Belgica, led by Adrien de Gerlache-but they didn't do so well. During the winter in the Antarctic, the sun completely disappears below the horizon for seventy-nine days. Shackleton's crew endured it. But the crew of the Belgica grew depressed, gave up hope, and succumbed to negative thinking. Some of them couldn't eat. Mental illness took over. One man had a heart attack from a terror of darkness. Paranoia and hysteria ran rampant.

None of this happened to Shackleton's men because he insisted they keep a good attitude, and he did the same. He once said that the most important quality for an explorer was not courage or patience, but optimism. He said, "Optimism nullifies disappointment and makes one more ready than ever to go on."

Shackleton also knew that attitudes are contagious. He was fully aware of the fact that if anyone lost hope they wouldn't be able to put forth that last ounce of energy which may make the difference. And they did get pushed to the limits of human endurance. But he had convinced himself and his men they would make it out alive. His determination to remain optimistic ultimately saved their lives.

It can achieve great things for each of us too. It comes down to what you say: Either we say it's hopeless or we say it can be accomplished.

Dear lord we pray today that we would be positive in all things. We pray that we would take the strength that You give us and move forward in all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen.