301. "Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, LORD, and grant us Your salvation." (Psalm 85:6-7)
Consider this old poem, entitled "Dead Weight":
I've been a dead weight many years
Around the church's neck;
I've let the others carry me
And always pay the check.
I've had my name upon the rolls
For years and years gone by;
I've criticized and grumbled too,
Nothing could satisfy.
I've been a dead weight long enough
Upon the church's back;
Beginning now, I'm going to take
A wholly different track.
I'm going to pray and pay and work
And carry loads instead;
And not have others carry me
Like people do the dead.
302. "You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD." (Lev. 19:32) "Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, 'Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!' So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths." (2 Kings 2:23-24)
"Our youths love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority - they show disrespect
for their elders and love to chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants
of their households. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their
parents, chatter before company, gobble up food, and tyrannize teachers." (Socrates, 400 B.C.)
In a phone poll of 504 principals attending the National Association of Secondary School Principals convention in Orlando, Fla., 89% say they face profane language and provocative insults toward teachers or other students on a regular basis. (From USA Today, 3-11-97, p. 6)
It sounds like youths haven't changed much over the years!
303. "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." (Luke 12:15)
There's an old legend about two very covetous men who were granted a wish upon the condition that whoever made the first wish, the second would receive a double portion of what the first requested. The first greedy man would not make his wish because he wanted the double portion for himself. The second covetous man felt the same; thus, he was also unwilling to make the first wish. After a long while, the first, who was strongest of the two, grabbed the second by the throat and said he would choke him to death if he didn't make his wish. As the second man was about to die, he said, "I wish to be made blind in one eye." Immediately, he lost the sight of one eye, and his companion went blind in both eyes!
The moral of this old story is, "Beware of covetousness."
304. "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1) "Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern." (Phil. 3:17).
A teenage girl, while driving her car, got lost in a snow storm. She remembered what her dad had once told her: "If you ever get lost in a snow storm, wait for a snow plow and follow it." Pretty soon a snow plow came by, and she started to follow it. She followed the plow for about forty-five minutes. Finally, the driver of the truck got out and asked her what she was doing. She explained that her dad had told her if she ever got lost in a snow storm, to follow a plow. The driver nodded and said, "Well, I'm done with the Wal-Mart parking lot, now you can follow me over to K-Mart!"
There's nothing wrong with following others as long as we know that they are headed in the right direction. Paul taught us to follow him "as" he followed Christ.
305. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matt. 6:33)
The teacher pulled out a bucket and set it on the table in front of him. He then pulled out several fist-sized rocks and carefully pilled them into the bucket. When the bucket was filled to the top, he asked his class, "Is this bucket full?" Everyone in the class said, "Yes." The teacher said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a sack of gravel and dumped some into the bucket, and shaking it, he caused the pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
He smiled, and again asked the class "Is the bucket full?" By this time, the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered." "Good," he replied. Again, he reached under the table and brought out a sack of sand. He started dumping the sand into the bucket and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.
Once more he asked, "Is this bucket full?" "No," the class shouted. Again, he said, "Good." Then, he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour into the bucket until it was full to the brim.
He then said, "I'm trying to teach a lesson on priorities. What is the point of this illustration?" One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you really try hard, you can always fit some more things into it." The teacher replied, "No, that's not the point. The point is: if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."
Let us put the kingdom of God and His righteousness first in our lives.
306. "But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts." (Zech. 7:11-12)
Benjamin Franklin, who was ridiculed at one time in Paris for his defense of the Bible, was determined to find out how much of it his scoffers had read. He informed them that he had come across a story of pastoral life in ancient times that seemed to him to be very beautiful but he would like the opinion of the society. A night was arranged for Franklin to read to the assembly of so-called scholars. Franklin read the Book of Ruth, and when he had finished, the scholars were in ecstasy and begged Franklin to print it. "It is already in print," said Franklin. "It is a part of the Bible you ridicule." (From All the Women of the Bible)
307. "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." (Prov. 16:32) "A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention." (Prov. 15:18)
There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day, the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then, it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally, the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say and do things in anger, you leave scars just like as in this fence." (Author Unknown)
308. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
The story is told that one day Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, visited a prison and talked with each of the inmates. There were endless tales of innocence, of misunderstood motives, and of exploitation. Finally, the king stopped at the cell of a convict who remained silent. "Well," remarked Frederick, "I suppose you are an innocent victim too?" "No, sir, I'm not," replied the man. "I'm guilty and deserve my punishment." Turning to the warden, the king said, "Here, release this rascal before he corrupts all these fine, innocent people in here!"
Prov. 28:13 says, "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy."
309. "Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. "Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" (1 Kings 3:7-9)
Solomon made an humble, unselfish request, and God richly blessed him. In the late 1950's, 23-year-old Armando Valladares was thrown into a Cuban prison, where he remained for 22 years. Executions were staged each night during his first year in prison. Later, he endured some of the most vile and sadistic tortures imaginable. In his memoirs, Against All Hope, Valladares wrote, "I sought God....I never asked Him to get me out of there. I didn't think that God should be used for that kind of request. I only asked that He allow me to resist, that He give me the faith and spiritual strength to bear up under those conditions...I only prayed for Him to accompany me."
Let us be unselfish in our prayers.
310. "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (James 2:24)
There is a old illustration concerning a Christian who worked each day transporting tourists across a lake in a row boat. Occasionally, he would present the gospel in a unusual way. He had painted the word "Faith" on one of the oars and "Works" on the other. When they were out some distance from the shore, he would stop, and begin rowing with only the one oar marked "Faith," which caused the boat to go in circles to the left. Reversing the process, he would pull only the oar marked "Works," which caused the boat to circle in the opposite direction. By this time, the bewildered passengers were waiting for an explanation. This afforded him an opportunity to teach them the truth concerning discipleship and the Christian life. He always concluded by saying, "You see, neither faith nor works can stand alone. They are twins that cannot be separated!"
We would add to the above that "faith" itself is a work (John 6:29). Faith is a good work ordained by God, but faith by itself will not justify (John 12:42-43). There are many things which must be added to our faith so that we will not be barren or unfruitful (2 Pet. 1:5-11).
311. "My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother..." (Prov. 1:8) "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also." (2 Tim. 1:5)
REFLECTIONS OF A MOTHER
I gave you life, but cannot live it for you.
I can teach you things, but I cannot make you learn.
I can give you directions, but I cannot be there to lead you.
I can allow you freedom, but I cannot account for it.
I can take you to church, but I cannot make you believe.
I can teach you right from wrong, but I cannot always decide for you.
I can buy you beautiful clothes, but I cannot make you beautiful inside.
I can offer you advice, but I cannot accept it for you.
I can give you love, but I cannot force it upon you.
I can teach you to share, but I cannot make you unselfish.
I can teach you respect, but I cannot force you to show honor.
I can advise you about friends, but cannot choose them for you.
I can advise you about sex, but I cannot keep you pure.
I can tell you the facts of life, but I can't build your reputation.
I can tell you about drink, but I can't say "no" for you.
I can warn you about drugs, but I can't prevent you from using them.
I can tell you about lofty goals, but I can't achieve them for you.
I can teach you about kindness, but I can't force you to be gracious.
I can warn you about sins, but I cannot make you moral.
I can love you as a child, but I cannot place you in God's family.
I can pray for you, but I cannot make you walk with God.
I can teach you about Jesus, but I cannot make Jesus your Lord.
I can tell you how to live, but I cannot give you eternal life.
I can love you with unconditional love all of my life . . . and I will!!!
312. "Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, 'Behold, we are your servants.' Joseph said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.' And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." (Gen. 50:18-21).
Several years ago, I heard a preacher in his sermon ask, "Are you humbly grateful or grumbly hateful?" Truly, in every situation we can look at what we've lost and be grumbly hateful, or we can consider our blessings and be humbly grateful. Joseph is a grand example of choosing to be grateful instead of hateful in the face of betrayal. Though his brothers had sold him into slavery, and though he now had the power and opportunity to crush them, he chose to be humbly grateful for the present blessings of God.
Col. 3:15 says, "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."
313. "...As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby..." (1 Pet. 2:2)
One spring our family was driving from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa, Florida. As far as the eye could see, orange trees were loaded with fruit. When we stopped for breakfast, I ordered orange juice with my eggs. "I'm sorry," the waitress said. "I can't bring you orange juice. Our machine is broken." At first I was dumbfounded. We were surrounded by millions of oranges, and I knew they had oranges in the kitchen--orange slices garnished our plates. What was the problem? No juice? Hardly. We were surrounded by thousands of gallons of juice. The problem was, they had become dependent on a machine to get it.
Christians are sometimes like that. They may be surrounded by Bibles in their homes, but if something should happen to the Sunday morning preaching service, they would have no nourishment for their souls. The problem is not a lack of spiritual food--but that many Christians haven't grown enough to know how to get it for themselves. (From The Lost Art of Disciple Making, By Leroy Eims, in Leadership, Vol. 5, No. 3)
314. "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:9) "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." (Col. 2:8)
A young married lady was fixing a fancy ham dinner for her husband. As she was about to place the ham into the oven she took a knife and cut off the end of the ham. Her husband asked, "Why did you cut the end off of the ham?" She replied, "I don't know; that's the way mamma always did it." Later, at the family reunion the young couple asked mother why she always cut off the end of the ham. She answered, "That's the way mamma always did it." They went to grandmother and asked her why she cut off the end of her hams. She likewise replied, "That's the way mother always did it." They then found great-grandmother who was still living at the time, and asked her why she always cut the ham's end off, and she said, "I cut the end of the ham off because my pan was too small!"
Similarly, today many worship God according to the traditions of men, and it has far more serious consequence than losing the end of hams.
315. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is
able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28)
For over 20 years a fire has been burning deep within the earth at Centralia, a small community of 1,200 residents in the heart of Pennsylvania's coal fields. Fifteen different federal, state, and local agencies have spent more than $3.5 million to extinguish the fire without success. Persons can touch the earth and feel the heat. Deep holes and crevices vent hot, smoky air and noxious gases. One citizen said: "Standing by a hole, you can hear the fires roaring. It's an eerie sound, like the beating of a thousand wings." Government officials have indicated that they are no longer willing to attempt to put out the fire; it is a futile task. As flames continue to burn without restraint, townspeople plead for someone to save their community.
Jesus solemnly warned of a far greater, eternal fire in which all the wicked will be cast. Let us avoid it at all costs.
316. "...And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim. 3:15)
A ship was wrecked on the high seas. As the sailors were making their escape in small boats, suddenly two of them sprang overboard, swam back and entered the ship. At great risk to their lives, they then swam back to the small boat with something of great value in their hands. They had forgotten to take their compass.
As we Christians set sail into the great, unknown sea of life, let us not forget to take with us God's compass, the holy Scriptures. The Scriptures contain sure and explicit directions to eternal life. They are God's compass which can guide us to the safest harbor and the strongest fortified port. Believers who ignore the Scriptures will certainly be ashamed at the judgment.
317. "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin...Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts." (Rom. 6:6-7,11-12)
Walking through a park, I passed a massive oak tree. A vine had grown up along its trunk. The vine started small - nothing to bother about. But over the years the vine had gotten taller and taller. By the time I passed, the entire lower half of the tree was covered by the vine's creepers. Now the tree was in danger. This huge, solid oak was quite literally being taken over; the life was being squeezed from it. However, the gardeners in that park had seen the danger. They had taken a saw and severed the trunk of the vine - one neat cut across the middle. The tangled mass of the vine's branches still clung to the oak, but the vine was now dead. That would gradually become plain as weeks passed and the creepers began to die and fall away from the tree.
How easy it is for sin, which begins so small and seemingly insignificant, to grow until it has a strangling grip on our lives. And yet, Christ's death has cut the power of sin. Yes, the "creepers" of sin still cling and have some effect, but sin's power is severed by Christ and, gradually, sin's grip dries up and falls away. (By J. Alistair Brow)
318. "For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (1 Thess. 1:9-10)
The story is told of a college professor who visited the Fiji Islands. Being agnostic, he critically remarked to an elderly chief, "You're a great leader, but it's a pity you've been taken in by those foreign missionaries. They only want to get rich through you. No one believes the Bible anymore. People are tired of the threadbare story of Christ dying on a cross for the sins of mankind. They know better now. I'm sorry you've been so foolish as to accept their story."
The old chief's eyes flashed as he answered, "See that great rock over there? On it we smashed the heads of our victims. Notice the furnace next to it? In that oven we formerly roasted the bodies of our enemies. If it hadn't been for those good missionaries and the love of Jesus that changed us from cannibals into Christians, you'd never leave this place alive! You'd better thank the Lord for the Gospel; otherwise we'd already be feasting on you. If it weren't for the Bible, you'd now be our supper!"
319. "For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isa. 57:15) "My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word....Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way." (Psalm 119:25,34)
As those who live in the North know, when temperatures plunge well below zero, few cars left outside will start. The oil thickens and holds engine parts like heavy syrup. Cold batteries are incapable of giving enough power. Only batteries that are kept warm or those that are frequently charged will do the job. Unused batteries freeze. If you attempt to charge a frozen battery, it can explode.
Unused spiritual batteries also die in the cold of unbelief. Only by regular use and by receiving power from an outside source can spiritual power be maintained. And, any attempt to infuse spiritual power into a frozen spirit seldom works. Only a warm spiritual life can be charged with power by God. (Wayne Gropp, in Leadership, Vol. 6, No. 4)
320. "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content." (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
Many people mistakenly think they can find contentment in the things of the world. A wealthy employer once overheard one of his workers exclaim, "Oh if I only had a hundred dollars, I would be perfectly content." Knowing that his own money had not given him inner peace, he told her, "Since I would like to see someone who is perfectly contented, I'm going to grant your desire." He gave her the money and left, but before he was out of earshot, he heard her remark bitterly, "Why on earth didn't I say $200?" The boss smiled, for he had made his point that money doesn't make a person "perfectly contented."
321. "For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." (2 Cor. 2:17) "...Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Pet. 3:15-16)
An older preacher was teaching a Bible class and made the statement that one could prove anything by the Bible. He explained, "If one misuses verses--by pulling them out of context--by twisting what they are saying, and so forth, he could teach anything he desired." One of the students stated that he didn't believe that one could prove anything by the Bible. The preacher affirmed that it could be done. The student then said, "OK, prove to me that it is wrong to split wood." The preacher, with no more that a moments hesitation, replied, "Whatsoever God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
322. "But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:25)
Jesus said, "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard." (Matt. 20:1) Let us be active, faithful workers in the vineyard of the Lord.
Will Rogers said, "Even though you are on the right track, if you don't move, you will be run over." Those who are not active in the kingdom will be cast out by the Lord. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." (Rev. 3:16) Let us not be forgetful hearers, but doers of the work.
323. "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Tim. 2:4)
In Scotland, around A.D. 1420, "golfe" had become so popular that King James II of Scotland feared the pastime placed the country at risk in its ongoing war with England. He reasoned that his soldiers were spending too much time chasing the "golfe" ball, and too little time practicing archery. The Scottish archers would pose very little threat to their English foes. Thus, the king persuaded his government to pass an act of parliament banning "golfe."
As Christians, our interests must be subservient to our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Anything that jeopardizes service for the King of kings must be identified and treated as a lower priority.
324. "...And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Acts 11:26) "...But if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name." (1 Pet. 4:16)
Members of the church of Christ have often been labeled, "Campbellites." However, they cannot be "Campbellites" because the church of Christ did not originate with Alexander Campbell. There is a tombstone in the Cemetery near the old log church building in Cane Ridge, Kentucky with the following inscription:
"William Rogers born in Campbell County Virginia July 7, 1784 removed with his father to Cane Ridge, Bourbon County, April 1798. United with the church of Christ at Cane Ridge in 1807. Died February 15, 1862 in the 78th year of his age. He was the friend of God."
Alexander Campbell did not come to this country as a Presbyterian until 1809. The ancient tombstone states that William Rogers was united with the church of Christ in 1807. Thus, Alexander Campbell did not begIn the church of Christ. Members of the church of Christ are not "Campbellites," but "Christians."
325. "But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me." (2 Tim. 3:10-11)
A bathysphere is a miniature submarine used to explore the ocean in places so deep that the water pressure would crush a conventional submarine like an aluminum can. Bathyspheres compensate with plate steel several inches thick, which keeps the water out but also makes them heavy and hard to maneuver. Inside they're cramped.
When these craft descend to the ocean floor, however, they find they're not alone. When their lights are turned on and you look through the tiny, thick plate glass windows, what do you see? Fish! These fish cope with extreme pressure in an entirely different way. They don't build thick skins: they remain supple and free. They compensate for the outside pressure through equal and opposite pressure inside themselves. Christians, likewise, don't have to be hard and thick skinned--as long as they appropriate God's power within to equal the pressure without. (Jay Kesler in Leadership, Vol. 5, No. 2)
326. "You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you." (Acts 8:21-22)
When Simon the Sorcerer tried to purchase the power of imparting the Holy Spirit, Peter strongly rebuked him. Simon had succumbed to his old weaknesses. He still wanted to be regarded as someone great, and thought using money was the means to obtain it. His heart was not right in the sight of God, and he was told to repent and pray that he might be forgiven.
How is your heart in the sight of God? Do you find worship services boring? Do you find joy in Bible study? Do you enjoy singing with other Christians? Do you get angry with those who rebuke your sins? Do you hold malice in your heart toward a brother? Do you place God and His kingdom above all else in your life? If your heart is not right in these matters, will you not repent, pray, and make whatever changes necessary to have a pure heart before God?
327. "...On this rock I will build My church..." (Matt. 16:18). "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours..." (1 Cor. 1:2) "For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus." (1 Thess. 2:14) "The churches of Christ greet you." (Rom. 16:16).
It is said that Alexander the Great offered the people of Ephesus all of the spoils of his eastern campaign if they would inscribe his name on the temple of Artemis. However, they refused to do so, stating that the temple had been dedicated to the goddess Artemis. They regarded it as her temple and they would not therefore allow a human name on it, no matter how great the name might be. They reasoned that it would dishonor Artemis if Alexander's name should be inscribed on the temple.
What a rebuke to people of today who place human names on that which they regard as the temple of God! Why attach human names to that which belongs to God and Christ, thereby dishonoring them?
328. "Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom. 12:20-21)
You may have heard about the woman in Alabama who sued her husband for divorce. She told the judge she had nagged and nagged the man, but she couldn't get him to do right. The judge asked the woman if she had tried the Bible principle where it says to "heap coals of fire on his head." The woman answered, "No, but I don't think it will work. I've already tried boiling water, and that didn't do any good."
If she had known the Bible principles and followed them, she would have had, not only acceptance with God, but great wisdom and success in obtaining a happy marriage.
329. "O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1).
A childhood accident caused poet Elizabeth Barrett to lead a life of semi-invalidism before she married Robert Browning in 1846. In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father. When she and Robert were married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father's disapproval. After the wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Even though her parents had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship. Almost weekly she wrote letters to them, but not once did they reply.
After 10 years, she received a large box in the mail. Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters. Not one had been opened! Today, those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. Had her parents only read a few of them, their relationship with Elizabeth might have been restored. (From The Immortal Lovers, by F. Winwar)
In a very real sense, God's Word is His means of restoring us into fellowship with Him. Nothing has the power to liberate us from destructive behavior and revitalize our relationship with Him like His holy Word.
330. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26)
In a chapel in Southern France, the great Emperor Charlemagne is buried. In that chapel is a large
dome and in the center of that dome is where the body of Charlemagne is placed. It is not unusual
that his body is buried in a prominent place. However, the manner of his burial is. He's seated on a
marble chair and wrapped in his emperor's robes. In his lap is a copy of the New Testament, and
his finger is pointing to the following verse: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
Truly, one's soul is more valuable than all the world.
331. "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" (Heb. 13:5)
Several years ago, construction workers were laying a foundation for a building outside the city of Pompeii. They found the corpse of a woman who must have been fleeing from an eruption of the nearby volcano, but was caught in the rain of hot ashes. The woman's hands clutched jewels, which were preserved in excellent condition. She had the jewels, but had lost her life.
To covet the things of this world is foolish because we cannot take them with us when we die.
332. "For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life..." (Prov. 6:23)
Who Should Read The Bible?
The young to learn how to live.
The old to know how to die.
The ignorant for wisdom.
The learned for humility.
The rich for compassion.
The poor for comfort.
The dreamer for enchantment.
The practical for counsel.
The weak for strength.
The strong for direction.
The haughty for warning.
The humble for exaltation.
The troubled for peace.
The weary for rest.
The sinner for salvation.
The doubting for assurance.
The Christian for guidance.
333. "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Rev. 1:5-6)
A boy noted a sign "Puppies for Sale," got off his bike and said to the owner, "How much do you want for the pups, mister?" "Twenty-five dollars, son." The boy's face dropped. "Well, sir, could I at least see them anyway?" The man whistled, and in a moment the mother dog came bounding around the corner of the house tagged by four cute puppies, wagging their tails and yipping happily. At last, another pup came straggling around the house, dragging one hind leg. "What's the matter with that puppy, mister?" the boy asked. "Well, Son, that puppy is crippled. We took her to the vet and the doctor took an X ray. The pup doesn't have a hip joint and that leg will never be right."
The boy dropped the bike, took out a fifty-cent piece, and pleaded, "Please, I want to buy that pup. I'll pay you fifty cents every week until the twenty-five dollars is paid." The man replied, "But, Son, you don't seem to understand. That pup will never be able to run or jump. That pup is going to be crippled forever. Why would you want such a useless pup as that?" The boy paused for a moment, then reached down and pulled up his pant leg, exposing an iron brace and leather knee-strap holding a poor twisted leg. The boy answered, "Mister, that pup is going to need someone who understands him to help him in life!"
Crippled and disfigured by sin, the risen, living Christ has given us hope. He understands us--our temptations, our discouragements, and even our thoughts. By His resurrection we have help in this life and hope for the life to come. (From Illustrations Unlimited, By James S. Hewett, p. 75).
334. "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." (Psalm 23)
Another Version of "the 23rd Channel." The TV is my shepherd, I shall not want. It makes me lie down on the sofa. It leads me away from the Scriptures. It destroys my soul. It leads me in the paths of sex and violence for the sponsor's sake. Yea, though I walk in the shadow of my Christian responsibilities, there will be no interruption for the TV is with me. It prepares a commercial before me in the presence of my worldliness. It anoints my head with humanism. My coveting runneth over. Surely laziness and ignorance shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of Satan forever. (Author Unknown)
335. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isa. 5:20)
"The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a fifth grade teacher violated the First Amendment's supposed 'Separation of Church and State' by placing a Bible on his school desk. This 'doctrine of separation' is attributed to Thomas Jefferson. However, it was Thomas Jefferson who, while President, asked that the Bible be used in public schools for their reading curriculum. Jefferson said: 'I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens.' Isn't it ironic that in the name of Jefferson the very thing he advocated is now being struck down by our judicial system?" (From Pulpit Helps, July 1993, p. 5)
336. "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!" (Luke 12:4-5)
A frog was caught in a deep rut on a muddy road, so the fable goes. In spite of the help of his friends, he couldn't get out. They finally left him there in despair. The next day one of his friends saw him hopping about outside the rut as chipper as could be. "What are you doing here? I thought you couldn't get out," said the friend. "I couldn't," the frog replied, "but when I saw a big truck coming down the road, I was strongly motivated to get out."
The reason we often don't do what we should is because we lack the will and motivation to do so. Let us consider the Lord's solemn warning. Fear of the one who has power to cast into hell, should strongly motivate us to faithful service. Let us avoid hell at all cost.
337. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12)
"In the early morning darkness of January 8, 1991, an Iraqi Scud missile streaked high over the Saudi Arabian desert, bound for the coalition forces allied against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But as the Scud raced across the night sky, it was fixed in the invisible spotlight of American radar. Sent rushing up to meet it was a 17-foot-long rocket called the Patriot. Three miles above the earth, the Patriot destroyed the Scud in an immense orange fireball. American forces also have stealth bombers that can evade enemy radar, and smart bombs that hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy. But for all of our technology, we haven't a single military weapon that can penetrate the human heart or defeat spiritual enemies." (From Bible Illustrator)
2 Cor. 10:4-5 says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ..."
338. "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work." (John 9:4)
Stephen Grellet was a French-born Quaker who died in New Jersey in 1855. Grellet would be unknown to the world today except for a few cherished lines which he wrote. The words which have served as an inspiration to many are: "I shall pass through this world but once. Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now for I shall not pass this way again."
Indeed, let us do what good we can now while we have time and opportunity, for the time is coming when we will not be able.
339. "Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?" (Prov. 27:4) "For wrath kills a foolish man, and envy slays a simple one." (Job 5:2)
There is an old fable about an eagle who boasted of how he could out-fly all others. One day another eagle came along who could out-fly him. This made the proud eagle very jealous. One day he saw a hunter walking along with his bow and arrow and said to him, "I want you to shoot that eagle." The hunter replied, "I would if only I had some feathers to put on my arrow to make it shoot straighter and farther." The eagle pulled some feathers out of its wings and gave them to the hunter. When the arrow was shot, it did not reach the rival eagle because he was too far away. The envious eagle pulled out more feathers. This continued until he lost so many feathers he couldn't fly, and then the hunter turned and shot him.
The moral of the story is: "If you are jealous of another, you only hurt yourself."
340. "Just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace." (Phil. 1:7).
A church was in need of a preacher, and one of the members was interested in finding out just what kind of preacher the church wanted. In order to do this he composed a letter as though it had been received from a preacher and read it to the committee selecting a new preacher.
"Gentlemen: Understanding that you need a preacher, I would like to apply for the position. I have many qualifications that I think you would appreciate. I have been blessed to preach with power and have some success as a writer. Some say that I am a good organizer. I have been a leader in most places I have gone. Some folks, however, have some things against me. I am over fifty years of age. I have never preached in one place for more than three years at a time. In some places I have left town after my work caused riots and disturbances. I have to admit that I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any wrongdoing. My health is not too good, though I still get a good deal done. I have had to work at my trade to help pay my way. The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities. I have not gotten along too well with the religious leaders in different towns where I have preached, and I am sure that they will not recommend me. In fact, some of them have threatened me, taken me to court, and even attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known even to forget whom I have baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you, even if I have to work to help with my support."
After reading the letter to the committee, and asking if they were interested in the applicant, they replied that he would never do for their church. They were not interested in any unhealthy, trouble-making, contentious, ex-convict; and were insulted that his application had ever been presented! But one of them did ask the preacher's name, and the member replied, "The Apostle Paul." (Author Unknown)
341. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16)
The Israeli Phone Company now has a service that enables callers from around the world to fax prayers to Jerusalem. The faxes are then taken to the Wailing Wall and tucked into crevices. We ask, "What makes them think that such would do any good?"
Just outside of Louisville, on Bardstown Road, there is a huge, new Church building with a sign out front which says: "Chapel now open for prayer." Again, we ask "What makes them think their chapel would make any difference?"
A television documentary on foreign countries showed a family who had a rotation wheel in their home which, supposedly, when it was spun, sent the worshiper's prayers up to God. Once more, "What makes them think a rotating wheel would help?"
All Christians are of God's holy priesthood and can offer the sacrifice of praise at any time and from any place (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Heb. 13:15). All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ, their High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16).
342. "Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts." (Jer. 15:16)
A young lady, when asked to explain "devotional reading of the Bible," answered, "Yesterday morning I received a letter from one to whom I have given my heart and devoted my life. I freely confess to you that I have read that letter five times, not because I did not understand it at the first reading, nor because I expected to commend myself to the author by frequent reading of his epistle. It was not with me a question of duty, but simply one of pleasure. I read it because I am devoted to him who wrote it. To read the Bible with that motive is to read it devotionally, and to one who reads it in that spirit, it is indeed a love letter." (From Illustrations for Pulpit and Platform, by Aquila Webb, p. 51)
Let us read and study the Bible devotionally because we love the One who gave it to us.
343. "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need." (Eph. 4:28)
One evening an evangelist preached with great zeal on the text, "Thou shalt not steal." He impressed upon his listeners the necessity of absolute integrity in everything. The next morning he boarded a bus and gave the driver a dollar bill for his fare. Counting his change, he found that he had received an extra quarter. Without hesitation he approached the driver and said, "You accidentally gave me too much change." The driver replied, "It wasn't an accident. I did it on purpose to see what you would do. Last night I was in your audience and wondered if you practiced what you preached. I made up my mind if you returned the quarter, I'd come and hear you again tonight."
Let us, in all things, practice what we preach in all purity and honesty.
344. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God." (1 Pet. 4:11) "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Tim. 4:2).
The story is told about an old American Indian who attended a church service one Sunday morning. The preacher's message lacked real spiritual food, so he did a lot of shouting and pulpit pounding to cover up his lack of preparation. In fact, as it is sometimes said, he "preached up quite a storm." After the service, someone asked the Indian, who was a Christian, what he thought of the minister's message. Thinking for a moment, he summed up his opinion in six words: "High wind. Big thunder. No rain."
Truly, when the Scriptures are neglected, though there might be high wind, and loud thunder, there is "no rain." Only when preaching consists of "thus saith the Lord" are God's people blessed and refreshed.
345. "Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth." (Hosea 6:3)
History tells us that when Crowfoot, the chief of the Blackfoot nation in southern Alberta, gave the Canadian Pacific Railway permission to lay track from Medicine Hat to Calgary, he was given in exchange a lifetime railroad pass. Reportedly, Crowfoot put the pass in a leather pouch and wore it around his neck for the rest of his life -- but he never once availed himself of the rights and privileges it spelled out. (From Bible Illustrator)
It is tragic when Christians do the same with the Word of God. It is wrong to use the Bible as a decorative badge, but never availing oneself of the wealth it affords. Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord and we will be blessed.
346. "The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them." (Prov. 11:3) "The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him." (Prov. 20:7)
Dr. Madison Sarratt, taught mathematics at Vanderbilt University for many years. Before giving a test, Dr. Sarratt would admonish his class: "Today I am giving two examinations - one in trigonometry and the other in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. If you must fail one, fail trigonometry. There are many good people in the world who can't pass trig, but there are no good people in the world who cannot pass the examination of honesty."
Paul said, "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." (2 Cor. 8:21)
347. "Because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke." (Prov. 1:25-30)
An estimated 500,000 tons of water rush over Niagara Falls every minute. On March 29, 1948, the falls suddenly stopped. People living within the sound of the falls were awakened by the overwhelming silence. They believed it was a sign that the world was coming to an end. It was thirty hours before the rush of water resumed.
What happened? Heavy winds had set the ice fields of Lake Erie in motion. Tons of ice jammed the Niagara River entrance near Buffalo and stopped the flow of the river until the ice shifted again. (Merle Mees in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching)
The flow of God's grace is blocked by willful disobedience and cold indifference.
348. "Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them." (Ezek. 33:32)
A circus parade was moving gaily through the streets of Milan, Italy. Suddenly one of the elephants veered from the line and marched into a church. [In Milan, church doors are large, and in the summer are often wide open.] This visitor wandered up the center aisle, trumpeted a bit, swung her trunk around and headed back to the parade.
Unfortunately, many humans seem to imitate this pious pachyderm. On a Sunday morning we lurch into church, make a few noises, observe the congregation, then step out to resume our place in the parade. The great drama of worship is played out, but it is lost on us. We are elephants in church! (By David R. Randolph, quoted by Donald P. Hustad in Jubilate II. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 14)
349. "Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Where is Abel your brother?' He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?'" (Gen. 4:9)
In 1928, a very interesting case came before the courts in Massachusetts. It concerned a man who had been walking on a boat dock when suddenly he tripped over a rope and fell into the cold, deep water of an ocean bay. He came up sputtering and yelling for help and then sank again, obviously in trouble. His friends were too far away to get to him, but only a few yards away, on another dock, was a young man sprawled on a deck chair, sunbathing. The desperate man shouted, "Help, I can't swim!" The young man, an excellent swimmer, only turned his head to watch as the man floundered in the water, sank, came up sputtering in total panic, and then disappeared forever.
The family of the drowned man was so upset by that display of callous indifference that they sued the sunbather. They lost. The court reluctantly ruled that the man on the dock had no legal responsibility whatever to try to save the other man's life. In effect, the law agrees with Cain's presupposition: I am not my brother's keeper, and I have every legal right to mind my own business and to refuse to become involved. (By Gary Inrig in Illustrations Unlimited, p. 116).
The Christian is not like Cain or the young man sitting in the easy chair, but at every opportunity will do good to all, and even more so to those of the household of faith.
350. "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood..." (Rev. 1:5)
A man said that he once worked in a sawmill cutting the logs into lumber. Occasionally, they would cut redwood. When he handled the boards, the redwood would stain his hands. These stains would turn hands black, and were just about impossible to remove. He said he tried using regular soap and water to remove the stains. He tried using heavy duty detergent. In desperation, he even tried using gasoline. Nothing seemed to removed the stains.
One day, he mentioned his dilemma to an old-timer who had cut lumber for many years. He advised, "Try lemon juice." Lemon juice? He doubted that Lemon Juice could do what gasoline wouldn't, but he decided it was worth a try. He was absolutely amazed at how effectively the Lemon Juice removed the stain. Apparently, there is something in lemon juice that changes the chemical composition of redwood stain.
Because we are all sinners, we have the stain of sin. The only thing in all the universe capable of removing our sinful stain is the blood of Jesus Christ. "There is a fountain drawn from Immanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains."
351. "Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress." (Psalm 71:3)
"Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. All things have a home; the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home. Weary, sobbing, the soul, after roaming through a world festered with aimlessness, falsehoods, and absurdities, seeks a moment in which to gather up its scattered life, in which to divest itself of enforced pretensions and camouflage, in which to simplify complexities, in which to call for help without being a coward. Such a home is prayer." (By Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity in Christianity Today, Vol. 42, No. 5)
Through prayer we can continually resort to a place of strong refuge.
352. "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving..." (Col. 4:2)
This was written by a seventeenth century Frenchman by the name of Francios Fenelon: "Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and to others. If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will never be any lack of what to say." (From Strengthening Your Grip, by Charles Swindoll).
Truly, if we pour out all our weaknesses, needs, and troubles to God, we will never lack anything to say.
353. "So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, 'O Baal, hear us!' But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, 'Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.' So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention." (1 Kings 18:26-29)
Our God is not like the Canaanite god "Baal" who paid no attention. Indeed, "...The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers..." (1 Pet. 3:12)
354. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name..." (John 1:12)
From the above verse we learn that people are not made sons of God at the point of faith, but had the right or privilege to become sons. Men are invited to accept the call. They are never forced to come (Matt. 11:28-30; Psalm 110:3). God calls and invites through the gospel, and it is the same in every nation (2 Thess. 2:14; Acts 10:33-34). It is not something one receives (he is not to wait, hoping to hear, see, or feel something), but it is something he does. He accepts the call of God by hearing, believing, and obeying the gospel (1 Pet. 1:22; Rom. 6:17-18).
You have the power, yes, the privilege, to accept the call. Why not do it today?
355. "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hated Me without a cause.'" (John 15:22-25)
Jesus is not saying that if He had not come, those evil Jews would not have had any sin at all, but they would not have had the wilful sin of rejecting Him. The works of Jesus gave those Jews opportunity to know who Jesus was, but now their personal rejection of Jesus gave them no excuse for their sin. Whenever one comes face to face with (begins to obtain knowledge of) the Christ, he must make a choice of whether he will accept or reject Him.
How about you? What is your answer to the question, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?"
356. "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17) "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." (Rev. 3:15-16)
Our age is truly a time of indifference. The Associated Press reported on an election in Columbus, Ohio: "The election was a lead pipe cinch. George Carr and Theresa Kinsell were unopposed in running for the county Democratic committee. Each of them needed only one vote, but not even the candidates voted so they both lost."
Let us not be cold and indifferent toward the Lord and His cause, but continue to do good at every opportunity.
357. "...Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.'" (Acts 14:22)
Bruce Larson, in his book Wind and Fire, points out some interesting facts about sandhill cranes: "These large birds, who fly great distances across continents, have three remarkable qualities. First, they rotate leadership. No one bird stays out in front all the time. Second, they choose leaders who can handle turbulence. And then, all during the time one bird is leading, the rest are honking their affirmation." (From Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, p. 118)
It sounds like sandhill cranes have some natural God-given qualities which we would do well to apply to the church. Certainly, we need leaders who can handle turbulence and who are aware that leadership ought to be shared. And, most of all, we need a congregation where all the members are honking encouragement.
358. "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." (Gal. 6:9)
A few years ago I was traveling and stopped at a service station for some fuel. It was a rainy day, yet the station workers were diligently trying to take care of the customers. I was impressed by the first-class treatment and fully understood the reason when I read this sign on the front door of the station:
Why Customers Quit:
3% move away
5% other friendships
9% competitive reasons (price)
14% product dissatisfaction
68% quit because of an attitude of indifference toward them by some employee!
(From Bible Illustrator)
Let us evaluate our congregation and the way we respond to the people who visit our services.
359. "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!" (Gal. 5:13-15)
In one of the Peanuts cartoons, Snoopy had broken his leg, and perched on top of his dog house, he said, "My body blames my foot for not being able to go places. My foot says it was my head's fault, and my head blamed my eyes. My eyes say my feet are clumsy, and my right foot says not to blame him for what my left foot did." Snoopy then looks directly at his audience and says, "I don't say anything because I don't want to get involved."
Charles Shultz, the editor of the Peanuts cartoons, through Snoopy, accurately displayed how things are in many congregations today. Instead of practicing positive Christianity, many are biting and devouring other members, while others are doing nothing positive to help the situation because they don't want to get involved.
360. "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." (Prov. 14:34) "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." (Psalm 9:17) "Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth..." (Amos 9:8)
"Our whole Roman world had gone dead in its heart because it feared tragedy, took flight from suffering, and abhorred failure. In fear of tragedy we worshiped power. In fear of suffering, we worshiped security. During the rising splendor of our thousand years, we had grown cruel, practical, and sterile. We did win the whole world, but in the process, we lost our souls." (By Ambrose 340?-397)
Let us not forget those who laid the foundation of our country, and understand that there is a crying need to return to the simple courageous faith of our pilgrim fathers. The future of this country depends on those individuals who have faith in God and are willing to live in obedience to His will. When the people of this land loose their love for God, this nation will crumble, because the strength of any country is the strength of its religious convictions.
361. "I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle..." (Psalm 39:1) "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell." (James 3:5-6)
Nothing can be more devastating than a prairie fire. One of the worst on record was started inadvertently by an army officer. He and some friends had been hunting wild turkeys and had paused for a few moments to rest. While they were relaxing, the officer touched a match to some dry grass just to produce a spectacle. He never dreamed what dreadful consequences would follow his thoughtless act. Within minutes, the entire area was ablaze, and the men were powerless to stop it. The flames, fanned and driven by a strong wind, raged furiously and swept rapidly across the prairie. The fire burned up everything that stood in its path - thousands of acres of land, homes, buildings, and countless head of livestock. As you can well imagine, the tragic ruin and loss caused by that single act of carelessness brought untold grief and heartache to the one responsible as well as many others.
Likewise, an uncontrolled tongue can do untold damage. The tongue is a very dangerous weapon which needs to be restrained at all times.
362. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb. 5:12-14)
Charles Simpson, in Pastoral Renewal, writes: "I met a young man not long ago who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He said that one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But, if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet.
I don't know about you, but in my lifetime, I've seen some of the cutest little six-inch Christians who swim around in their little puddles. They have never grown to maturity because they have never applied themselves.
363. "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." (Col. 1:16-17)
There was a family of mice who lived all their lives inside of a large piano. From time to time, their piano-world was filled with music from the instrument, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony. The mice proclaimed that their musical world was a product of organic evolution, which had occurred over a mysterious 30-billion-year process.
One day, one daring mouse, after having climbed to the top of the piano, found out how the music was made. He returned with great joy to explain it to the other mice. He said there was a great person sitting outside the piano who was pressing on keys. The keys were attached to small hammers which were made to bang against wires. The wires were tightly stretched at graduated lengths which trembled and vibrated when the hammers hit them, and this was how the music was made. All the other mice laughed him to scorn, and said that his whole explanation was nothing more than a myth.
Meanwhile, the pianist continued to play!
364. "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him." (1 John 2:5) "You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." (Psalm 73:24)
Perhaps you have spent some time in a sailboat. Relying on the boat to stay afloat, you slide across the water, propelled by the wind. Within the confines of the shores, you have the opportunity and responsibility of guiding the rudder to determine the direction of travel.
Is not life similar to this? As Christians, we must rest upon God to sustains us, and upon His Spirit-breathed Word to empower us. And, within His ordained boundaries, we each have the opportunity and responsibility to determine our course.
365. "Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' Yes, says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.'" (Rev. 14:13)
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper. It said, "Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in war than ever before, and he died a very rich man."
Actually, it was Alfred's older brother who had died. A newspaper reporter had bungled the epitaph. Nevertheless, the account had a profound effect on Alfred Nobel. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing a means of killing people more effectively. Thus, he initiated the Nobel Peace Prize, the award given to worthy individuals who foster peace.
Nobel said, "Every person ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one." Truly, few things will change us as much as genuinely looking at our life as though it is finished.
366. "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper." (Prov. 23:29-32)
"Advice to drinkers: Since you can't stop drinking, why not start a saloon of your own in your own home? Be the only customer and you won't have to buy a license. Give your wife $125 (depending on the brand) to buy a case of whiskey. There are 240 drinks in a case and at $4 (depending on place) a drink that is $720 in 12 days. When the case is gone, your wife canbuy another case for $125, and put the balance of $595 in the bank. If you live 10 years and continue to buy your drinks from your wife, you can die with your boots on, and your widow will have $180,880 in the bank on deposit. That's enough for her to bring up your children, pay off the mortgage, marry a decent man, and forget she ever knew a drunk like you." (Author Unknown)
367. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." (Matt. 23:25-26)
The Queen Mary was the largest ship to cross the oceans when it was launched in 1936. Through four decades and a world war she served until she was retired, anchored as a floating hotel and museum in Long Beach, California. During its conversion, the ship's three massive smokestacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted. However, when they were placed on the dock, they crumbled. Nothing was left of the 3/4 inch steel plate from which the stakes had been formed. All that remained were more than thirty coats of paint that had been applied over he years. The steel had rusted away. (From Illustrations for Preach and Teaching, p. 107).
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who were corrupt inwardly, but appeared righteous outwardly. Let us cleanse ourselves inwardly that we might also be clean outwardly.
368. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matt. 6:34)
We, as frail human beings, often envision and worry about things which most of the time will never occur. There is a story about a man standing on a crowded bus. The young man standing next to him asked, "What time is it?" The man refused to reply. The young man moved on. The man's friend, sensing something was wrong, asked, "Why were you so discourteous to the young man asking for the time?" The man answered, "If I had given him the time of day, next he would want to know where I am going, and then we would talk about our interests, and if we did that, he would invite himself to my house for dinner, and if he did, he would meet my lovely daughter, and if he met her, they would both fall in love, and I don't want my daughter marrying someone who can't afford a watch."
Let us not worry about something that "might" occur in the future. We have enough evils in the present without adding the burdens of tomorrow.
369. "...Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Phil. 1:11) "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. 15:58)
There was once a farmer who had two mules. One was named "willing" and the other was named "able." The story goes that willing was willing, but was not able. On the other hand, able was able, but was not willing. Able thought willing should have been more able, but how could he when he was not able, but was willing? Willing thought able should have been more willing, but how could he when he was not willing, but was able? All would have been great, if only willing would have been more able, and able more willing, but neither willing nor able, were both willing and able, and as you can might expect, the farmer didn't get much done.
Let us be both willing and able to do the Lord's work.
370. "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Heb. 6:11-12).
There's a story about a fellow named "James" who was employed by a duke and duchess in Europe. "James," said the duchess to the employee, "How long have you been with us?" "About thirty years," he replied. "According to my records," said the duchess, "you were employed to look after the dog." "Yes, Ma'am," James replied. The duchess said, "James, that dog died twenty years ago." James said, "Yes, ma'am; what would you like me to do next?" That about sums it up for some workers in the church!
371. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many..." (Heb. 9:27-28) "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen. 3:19)
There is an old legend about a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to the market. While he was at the marketplace, he was jostled by someone in the crowd. When he turned around, he saw someone in a long black cloak and knew it was Death. The servant ran home to his master and in a trembling voice told him how Death had stared him in the face. The servant begged his master to loan him a horse so he could ride to Samaria and hide so Death would not find him. The master agreed and the servant galloped away. Later, the master went down to the marketplace and saw Death standing nearby. The master asked, "Why did you stare at my servant and frighten him?" Death replied, "It was just that I was startled to see him in Bagdad because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samaria!"
Indeed, all of us have an appointment with death from which we cannot hide or escape.
372. "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:4)
The story is told of a machinist at Ford Motor Company in Detroit who was taught the gospel and was baptized. He became a devout follower of Christ and desired to right his many wrongs. He had been stealing parts and tools from the Ford Company for many years. Shortly after his conversion, he took all of the stolen parts and tools back to his foreman. He explained his situation and recent conversion and asked for forgiveness. This response by an employee was without precedent. Mr. Ford, who was visiting a European plant, was cabled concerning all the details of this matter with a request for his response. Mr Ford immediately returned a cable with his decision: "Dam up the Detroit River, and baptize the entire city."
Paul said, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor 5:17)
373. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov. 16:18)
The following is a radio transmission between a US naval ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland. The Americans: "Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision." The Canadians: "We recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision." The Americans: "This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course." The Canadians: "No. We say again, you divert YOUR course." The Americans: "This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States' Atlantic Fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north, or counter-measures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship." The Canadians: "This is a lighthouse. We recommend that you immediately divert your course to ensure the safety of your ship."
374. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools..." (Rom. 1:20-22)
The story is told of an experiment involving a young chimpanzee who always tried to slip out of his cage when the door was opened. Some atheistic scientists, who were working hard in trying to discover the origin of man, thought this young chimp was very intelligent, and was a good specimen to teach communication skills. For fourteen years, project directors labored diligently and patiently with this chimpanzee, providing things in its cage to enable it to form certain syllables. Finally, the day arrived when it seemed that the chimpanzee was actually going to construct a sentence from the symbols it had been learning. Word went out, and other scientists crowded into the room and gathered around the cage. At last, the first message from the world's most pampered, most cared for, most patiently trained chimpanzee was about to come forth. Millions of our tax dollars had been spent, and many, many years of patient labor had gone into this project. The scientists could hardly contain themselves as they pressed around the cage. They watched breathlessly as symbols were formed into words and into a sentence. The chimpanzee said, "I want out!"
After this, the chimp soon forgot what he had learned and was never able to form another sentence. Thus, the scientists after all their efforts only learned what had been clearly demonstrated in the first place and, similarly, God's creation forever substantiates His eternal power and Godhead.
375. "When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord." (Acts 11:23)
A reportedly true story is told about a school principal who, at the end of the year, encouraged all his teachers to write out their resolution for the new year. He promised to post these on the faculty bulletin board so that all could benefit from them. When the resolutions were posted, all the teachers crowded around to read the suggestions from their co-workers. Suddenly one of the teachers erupted in a fit of anger. "Mine is not here! He's purposefully left mine off the board. He doesn't care about me. That just shows how little I'm appreciated around here!" The principal was shocked. He had not intentionally left anyone's resolution off the board. He rushed to his desk and found the missing note under a pile of papers. He immediately proceeded to post it. The resolution read: "I resolve not to let little things upset me anymore."
To make needed "resolutions" is a worthwhile endeavor, only if we are willing to keep them. Let us purpose in our hearts to cleave to the Lord.
376. "...Making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints..." (Eph. 1:17-18)
Former president John Quincy Adams once said, "I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once a year. My custom is to read four or five chapters every morning immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day. In what light soever we regard the Bible, whether with reference to revelation, to history, or to morality, it is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue."
Rom. 12:2 says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
377. "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing." (Matt. 24:42-46)
A U.S. Army officer told of the contrast in his pupils during two different eras of teaching at the artillery training school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma (Home of the Field Artillery). In 1958-1960 the attitude was so lax that the instructors had a problem getting the men to stay awake to hear the lectures. During the 1965-1967 classes, however, the men, hearing the same basic lectures, were alert and took notes. What made the difference in the classes of 1965-1967? The students knew that in less than six weeks they would be facing the enemy in Vietnam.
Let us be fully aware of the urgency of being ready, watching, and waiting for our Master's return.
378. "For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God." (2 Cor. 4:15)
I recall, as a little barefoot boy with a cowlick of snow-white hair on my forehead, standing erect in my classroom and repeating the "Pledge of Allegiance" one Thanksgiving season. Our nation was at war and times were hard. My teacher had lost her husband on the blood washed shores of Normandy. As we later bowed our heads for prayer, she wept aloud. I did too. All the class joined in. She stumbled through one of the most moving expressions of gratitude and praise that ever emerged from a soul plunged in pain. At that time in my young life, I fell strangely in love with Thanksgiving. Lost in sympathy and a boy's pity for his teacher, I walked home very slowly thatafternoon. Although only a child, I had profound feelings of gratitude for my country, my friends, my school, my church, and my family. (By Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, p. 424).
The Hebrew writer said, "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." (Heb. 13:15)
379. "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3) "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isa. 55:6-7)
Carl Michalson once told about playing with his young son one afternoon. They were tussling playfully on their front lawn, when Michalson accidentally hit the young boy in the face with his elbow. It was a sharp blow full to his son's face. The little boy was stunned by the impact of the elbow. It hurt, and he was just about to burst into tears. But then he looked into his father's eyes. Instead of anger and hostility, he saw there his father's sympathy and concern; he saw there his father's love and compassion. Instead of exploding into tears, the little boy suddenly burst into laughter. What he saw in his father's eyes made all the difference! (From Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, by James W. Moore, p. 43)
The sharp blow of God's Word is "repent or perish." However, look into the Father's eyes. What He offers is forgiveness. He will abundantly pardon those who repent and turn from their sins.
380. "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..." (Acts 3:19)
Not too many years ago newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who came to faith in Jesus Christ. What made his story remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. Still, he believed his relationship with Christ demanded a confession, and he voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money. (From Today, In The Word, p. 13)
Acts 11:18 says, "When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.'"
381. "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15).
Some think they know the Bible, but in reality only know bits and pieces. Here is one's explanation of the parable of the good Samaritan: "There was a good Samaritan going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among the thorns, and they sprang up and choked him and left him half-dead. So he said, `I will arise!' And he arose and came to a tree and got hung in a limb of that tree for forty days and forty nights, and the ravens fed him. Then Delilah came along with a pair of shears and cut off his hair, and he fell on stony ground. He said again, `I will arise!' So he came to a wall, and Jezebel was sitting on that wall; and he cried out, `Throw her down!' So they threw her down, and a dumb donkey spoke with man's voice when he saw some of her blood being sprinkled on the wall, and when they came to pick up the fragments that remained, they picked up twelve baskets full, but whose wife shall she be in the resurrection?"
382. "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned." (Matt. 4:15-16)
A man named Rudd told what it is like to live at the North Pole during three months of darkness. He said, "I ached and hungered to see the dawn." Then one morning in February he climbed atop the wind-swept ridge and sat quietly, facing east; the sky was a gray sheet. Then it became a pale blue, which deepened. There was a silent rush of color as the sun rose. Rudd stood blinking with frozen tears on his cheeks." (From The Minister's Manual, by James W. Cox, p. 290)
For those who sat in darkness and in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
383. "For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end..." (2 Cor. 1:13)
The Chevy Nova was a relatively successful American car for many years. Encouraged by U.S. sales, Chevrolet began to market the American Nova throughout the world. Unfortunately, the Nova did not sell well in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Additional ads were ordered, marketing efforts were stepped up, but sales remained stagnant. Sales directors were baffled. The car had sold well in the American market; why wasn't it selling now? When they discovered the answer, it was rather embarrassing: In Spanish, "Nova" means "No go."
Let us do our best in making the message of the gospel as clear to others as God has to us.
384. "And he answered and said unto them, have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matt. 19:4-6)
"According to a study just released by the University of Chicago, feminists have succeeded in changing people's attitudes and practices regarding marriage. The study is about families. It shows that there is a decline in marriage itself (56% of adults were married in 1998 versus 75% in 1972); barely half of children live in a household with their two parents (51% in 1998 versus 73% in 1972); more children live with single parents (18.2% in 1998 versus 4.7 in 1972); and, apparently, there is much more tolerance for divorce. Therefore, both women and men need to avoid the insidious counsel feminists offer concerning marriage and speak out and stand up against these negative trends in society, remembering He who created marriage. " (Author Unknown)
385. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." (John 1:1-2)
An illustrated paraphrase of the above text would be: "In the beginning was EVE, and EVE was with MAN, and EVE was MAN. SHE was in the beginning with MAN."
Just as "man" can refer specifically to male, to the exclusion of female, so also "God" can refer to the Father, to the exclusion of the Son. However, just as "man" can include both male and female as a class of being (Gen 5:2 - "He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man"), so, too, "God" can include both Father and Son as a class of Being, as in John 1:1. (By Steve Rudd)
386. "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'" (John 11:25) "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:28-29)
According to a Reuters story, as Buddhist monks were performing the last rites of Suvicha Saengmanee in Thailand, the "dead man" walked in the door. Perhaps the monks briefly reconsidered some of their doctrines concerning the resurrection. As it turned out, the partially decomposed body identified by Saengmanee's mother was (obviously) not his. It seems the tiger tattoo was on the left thigh instead of the right.
When the Lord returns, His identification of those who are to be raised to the resurrection of life will be flawless. Let us do all we can to get prepared for that great day.
387. "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." (1 Cor. 16:2) "...Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb. 10:25)
A man was hunting in a forest when a storm came up. Looking about for a shelter from the rain, he found and crawled into a hollow log, which fitted quite snugly. The rain lasted for hours and soaked through the wood. The log began to swell with the moisture in it. When the storm was over the hunter was unable to get out. The log held him tightly, and finally, exhausted, the man gave up. Knowing that he would starve to death, his life flashed before him. He remembered that he had failed to attend the Bible classes as he should have. He remembered also how he had failed to give to the Lord as he had been prospered. After realizing how he had done wrong, it made him feel so small that he was able to crawl out of the log! (From Lanett Bulletin)
388. "The priests did not say, 'Where is the LORD?' And those who handle the law did not know Me; the rulers also transgressed against Me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit." (Jer. 2:8)
English Bible translator William Tyndale (1492?-1536) reportedly told a Catholic clergyman of his translating goal: "If God spare my life, ere many years pass, I will cause that a boy that driveth a plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost."
Evil men will try to keep the Word of God from the people because the Word exposes their evil doctrines and deeds. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits." (Matt. 7:15-16)
389."But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven..." (Matt. 5:44-45)
People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for some underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. (From Illustrations Unlimited, by James S. Hewett, p. 54)
390. "Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another." (Eph. 4:25)
George Munzing, a minister, tells of a time he went to counsel a family about their son's drug use. The father was distraught as he described the impact of drugs upon his relationship with his son. He said, "The thing that bothers me most about his being into drugs is the fact that drugs have made him a liar." Moments later the phone rang and his wife went to answer. She came back into the room with the message that the call was for the father. He told her, "Tell him I am not at home." Munzing then commented that drugs had not made the boy a liar; the father had.
Isa. 59:4 says, "No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity."
391. "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
Brux Austin, the editor of Texas Business, has written that the only sign we seem to be looking to for direction is the dollar sign: "We have no built-in beliefs, no ethical boundaries. Cheat on your taxes, just don't get caught. Cheat on your wife, just don't get AIDS." "Our high-tech society," he writes, "has given us everything - everything but a conscience."
Titus 3:3-5 says, "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit..."
392. "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 1:10-11)
"The Jacobites of Scotland never met one another on the mountain paths, never sat down to a table of council and conference, without lifting a cup to pledge the return of their king and prince, Charles. At length Charles came back, but only to bring to Scotland defeat, disaster, and suffering.
"In every celebration of the Lord's Supper, since that last and final night in the Upper Room, the followers of Christ have lifted the sacramental cup as a token of their faith that their King shall come. That is the meaning of those words, which we hear so often that we forget their deep import: 'As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come.' Till he come! And when he comes, He shall come, not to bring pain and suffering, as did King Charles to unhappy Scotland, but to usher His faithful and joyful saints into the eternal joys of His presence and His heavenly kingdom." (By McCartney)
393. "For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God." (Rom. 10:2-3) "And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:9)
The teacher of the Word of God is like the switchman who holds the key to the switches on the railroad. If he does his duty faithfully, the train will reach its destination safely. If he is not faithful to his charge, and sends a train down the wrong track, a terrible wreck can occur with the loss of many lives.
Likewise, a misplaced switch or wrong signal from the Word of God can send many into eternal damnation. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God." (1 Pet. 4:11)
394. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:13-14)
I resolve with firmness to:
Like Paul, forget those things which are behind and press forward.
Like David, lift up my eyes to the hills from which my help comes.
Like Abraham, trust my God implicitly.
Like Enoch, walk in daily fellowship with my heavenly Father.
Like Moses, suffer rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time.
Like Job, be patient and faithful in all circumstances.
Like Joseph, turn my back on all evil advances.
Like Gideon, advance even when my friends are few.
Like Andrew, strive to lead my brother to Christ. (Author Unknown)
395. "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor. 9:7)
"Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon 'greed.'" (By Richard J. Foster)
Proverbs 21:25-26 says, "The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare."
396. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Matt. 13:44-46).
Roy Whetstine purchased a stone "from an amateur collector at an Arizona mineral show for $10,000," according to Newsweek, Nov. 24, 1986. It has since been "valued at as high as 2.28 million dollars" and declared to be the world's largest sapphire.
The kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else on this earth, and all people should be willing to give up everything to obtain it. The man who discovered the treasure in the field stumbled upon it by accident, but he knew its value when he found it. The merchant was earnestly searching for the pearl of great price and, when he found it, he sold everything so that he could purchase it.
Let us truly comprehend the value and worth of the kingdom of God and, if we don't already have it, do whatever is necessary to obtain it.
397. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." (Matt. 24:35)
By John Clifford, 1836-1923
I paused last eve beside the blacksmith's door,
And heard the anvil ring, the vespers chime,
And looking in I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
"How many anvils have you had?" said I'
"To wear and batter all those hammers so?"
"Just one," he answered. Then with twinkling eye:
"The anvil wears the hammers out, you know."
And so, I thought, the anvil of God's Word
For ages skeptics' blows have beat upon,
But though the noise of falling blows was heard
The anvil is unchanged; the hammer's gone.
398. "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." (Prov. 16:32)
Erwin Lutzer, in his book Managing Your Emotions, writes: "We all know that Alexander the Great conquered the world. But what few people know is that this mighty general could not conquer himself. Cletus, a dear friend of Alexander's and a general in his army, became intoxicated and ridiculed the emperor in front of his men. Blinded by anger, quick as lightning, Alexander snatched a spear from the hand of a soldier and hurled it at Cletus. Though he had only intended to scare the drunken general, his aim was true and the spear took the life of his childhood friend. Deep remorse followed his anger. Overcome with guilt, Alexander tried to take his own life with the same spear, but was stopped by his men. For days he lay sick calling for his friend Cletus, chiding himself as a murderer." Lutzer concluded by saying, "Alexander the Great conquered many cities. He conquered many countries, but he failed miserably to conquer his own self."
Truly, he who rules his own spirit is better than he who takes a city.
399. "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isa. 55:6-7)
The following grand, old poem which has no title was written by Theodore W. Brennan.
I looked upon a farm one day,
That once I used to own;
The barn had fallen to the ground,
The fields were overgrown.
The house in which my children grew,
Where we had lived for years -
I turned to see it broken down,
And brushed aside the tears.
I looked upon my soul one day,
To find it too had grown
With thorns and nettles everywhere,
The seeds neglect had sown.
The years had passed while I had cared
For things of lesser worth;
The things of Heaven I let go
While minding things of earth.
To Christ I turned with bitter tears,
And cried, "O Lord, forgive!
I haven't much time left for Thee,
Not many years to live."
The wasted years forever gone,
The days I can't recall;
If I could live those days again,
I'd make Him Lord of all.
400. "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." (Psalm 119:97) "Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble." (Psalm 119:165)
A man in Kansas City was severely injured in an explosion. Evangelist Robert L. Summer tells about him in his book The Wonder of the Word of God. The victim's face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He was a new Christian, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible.
Accordingly, he heard about a lady in England who read braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in braille. Much to his dismay, however, he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been destroyed by the explosion. One day, as he brought one of the braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he thought, I can read the Bible using my tongue. At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man had "read" through the entire Bible four times.
This man's marvelous example inspires us to do better in the reading of God's holy word.