When Dr. R. B. Bingham was 60 he plunged through a windshield. He had many broken bones and was almost scalped. Unconscious, he was taken to the hospital. When he woke the next day, the nurse cautioned him to be still and quiet because he had a terrible accident. He said to her, “Accident? Accident? There is no accident to a Christian; this is an incident!" In his first sermon after he was well, he told his congregation, “I have been through every translation in the English Bible and I cannot find anywhere that a Christian can experience an accident. "
Turgeniev, the Russian writer, tells in his Poems in Prose how one day he met a beggar who besought him for alms. “I felt in all my pockets, " he writes. “No purse, watch, or handkerchief did I find. I had left them all at home. The beggar waited, and his outstretched hand twitched and trembled slightly. Embarrassed and confused, I seized his dirty hand and pressed it: “Don't be vexed with me, brother. " The beggar raised his bloodshot eyes to mine, his blue lips smiled, and he returned the pressure of the chilled fingers. “Never mind, brother, " he stammered. “Thank you for this. This, too, was a gift. " I felt that I too had received a gift from my brother.
God desires that all be saved and know of His preserving truth (1 Timothy 2:4). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son not to judge but to save the world through His death (John 3:16,17). But God also gave us the gift of choice, and it is the seemingly unimportant decisions that we make on a daily basis that construct our destruction, if our resolutions are against God and therefore against our larger interests. God cannot force us to love, obey and repent, but there is a day of reckoning when consequences come due and payment must be made. In the end He must be Judge as well as Savior.
It isn't necessary that we win our little wars with others. When the stakes are so trivial, then why drive a stake into another's self-respect? To stand on one's rights too many times means to stamp on the other person's heart. It isn't worth the temporary mean battle we would win. Never in Christ's sensitive life do we read of Him speaking an unkind word. If we would have Christ then we must have His consideration for others and His ability to have the larger view of their problems. We may think we have just demands but Christ-like love desires peace even more. Christ will take care of our need for justice.
When she was drunk, the mother would shout at her shy, thin, illegitimate daughter, “You aren't worth the powder to blow you up!" The girl believed it when others told her she fell short of their expectations. She was sure she would fail in life. Then one day a beloved teacher told her God had a special plan for her life because of the mother He gave her. Because of this teacher’s insight and love, the girl lived and flourished. Parents, be careful what you say and do to the little ones. God sees and hears all you say and do to His children.
"While he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran. . . and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). The story of the prodigal son is the illustration of our Father who runs to us when we are desperate after having tasted the husks of life and are tired of searching. The son tells his father he is not worthy but that does not stop the father from loving him and forgiving him and bringing out the best of what he has to give to his precious son who has come home. Our Father runs to us and gives us His best-anyway.
What joy there was when little Obed was born. His grandmother Naomi had lost her two sons but was blessed with her daughter-in-law Ruth who loved her better than “seven sons". Her friends said to Naomi, “May he [this precious baby] also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age. . . " (Ruth 4:15). Here was a welcome child and grandchild. He was also a child of great privilege and even greater responsibility. “The Lord enabled her [Ruth] to conceive. " (v.13). “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3). Have we lost the wonder of this blessing? Indeed, our children are a grace to us.
We should prepare for but not presume on tomorrow. Especially, “do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth" (Proverbs 27:1). We-or someone we love-may not see another sun rise on the horizon. God has wisely put a veil over tomorrow. Only in His gracious time will that veil be rent and we shall see His costly love which asks us for now to enter into the most holy place with Him and trust Him. The only preparation for tomorrow is to fill today's purpose and appointments.
"The truth is that the evil is in the man; and hence your aim is not to kill the man, but rather to deliver him from the power of evil. . . If we have any faith in the moral order of the universe, our answer to every temptation to meet evil with evil is this, `I grant it might answer today, but am I sure it would answer in the long run?’. . . Why? Because the laws that govern the world are the laws of righteousness. It is never worthwhile to do evil that good may come. . . The Cross tells us that victory lies in the hands of him who will use the Divine weapons and eschew the carnal ones; by that Christ overcame evil with good" (Bishop Boyd Carpenter).
We have a bank we can draw upon that will make us either rich or wretched. It is called the memory bank. Fortunately we can choose to withdraw our bad memories and deposit our good memories. We cannot avoid some wounds of life, but we can learn from the contusions and confusions of life. Our mental wounds might include wrong learning patterns; physical wounds are just that; emotional wounds may leave us bitter instead of better; and spiritual wounds are the sins that we have committed. God heals sad memories and repairs broken heart, and He fills our depressions with love and forgiveness.
God is our Tuning Fork. We are His harps being tuned for a concert of the victorious who will meet on the sea of glass and sing in unity the Song of Moses (Exodus 15): “Great and marvelous are your deeds. . . just and true are your ways. . . " (Revelation 15:3). But first comes the tuning. He gently sweeps His hand over our strings and hears a discordant tone. Then He begins to tighten here and to loosen there. When we thought we failed, He was tuning a string of our life; when we had surgery, He was tightening up the loose ends of time that we wouldn't give Him; when we lost our cherished one, He was asking us to play a new song of faith for Him.
Be laborers for God. Belaborers for God. . . What a difference there is here. We can labor without belaboring. There isn't a subject on earth, including the goodness of God, that one wants to be bashed over heart and head with! There are some who wish wisdom in small doses and others who can absorb like sponges, and our wisdom lies in knowing the difference, having the courage (and courtesy) to act on that wisdom, and having the serenity to accept what we can't change in others, to borrow from a prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr. Dogma-bashing is never stylish. Jesus went about doing good-firmly but very quietly and tastefully.
What is it that everyone in the whole world has the same amount of? Why, it is TIME. Paul wrote, “Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15,16). It might be a good idea to keep a diary for a week of just how we spend this precious commodity and see how many hours we spend in front of the television, how many minutes we squander talking about unprofitable subjects and people who can't defend themselves, etc. We have only so many more days and hours before our time is up, so let us use it ever so carefully.
When he was dying, the prominent chemist Michael Faraday replied to some journalists who questioned him on his speculations concerning death, “Speculations! I know nothing about speculations; I am resting on certainties!" Oh, that we could all exhibit such faith as this! Interest in the nonsensical occult has grown enormously in the last few decades because we are not content to let God rule our life. We want to control our own destiny and God will not allow such foolishness; He loves us too much to permit us to run and ruin our lives. He has given all the certainty we need in His Word of love and service. Read and ponder!
Someone made the comment that the reason there are so many critics is because so much business can be done on so little capital. Samuel Johnson said, “Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at very small expense" (The Idler, No. 60). A dear elderly lady who lived in a high-rise for senior citizens became the target of the gossip vultures and her reply, so Christian, was, “Well, if they aren't talking about me, they'll be talking about someone else. " What a grand thought when we suspect someone is tearing us apart verbally. But what tongue can hurt us when we have our God to defend us?
The life of Solomon is an historical lesson we should not miss. Here was a man mightily blessed of God: a royal temporal ruler who seemed to possess every possible natural advantage, inconceivably wealthy in material possessions, learning and experience-and yet he fell into apostasy. His father David committed sins, sincerely repented and was restored to full fellowship with his loving Father and, from a full heart of sorrow, wrote the Psalms; Solomon, David's son, wrote that grand book of life, Proverbs, yet he failed to complete the race. What a tragedy for a life so full of promise.
Sold to the highest bidder, Satan: our dreams of a worthier life, of helping others, of praying for their salvation and eternal happiness. . . Oh no, my Lord. Sold, sold, to the highest Bidder, the One who gave all, the One who came naked and left naked, who owned not a place to lay His sacred and wounded head even in death. Please, Father, let us not succumb to the devil's auctioneer. The goods look so fine and so beautiful but, should we even touch them, they will turn to dust, and our hearts will turn to ruin. Oh Father, please, tune our ears and turn our eyes and hearts to Your pleadings and pleasings.
"[God] shall wipe away every tear. . . " (Revelation 21:4). He shall gently mingle them with His own tears of empathy and sorrow. He is the Father of mercies and the God of comfort. The promise is that God shall, not that He simply may, erase the griefs that grip mind and heart and cause us to weep. The stings of death, the words that kill love, friendships gone sour, hopes that die, dreams that fade into some dark hole: these will be wiped away with a new beginning, for our robes have been washed in tears (Revelation 22:14). We have a right to claim our inheritance as God's heirs. Jesus gave us that right at the cross.
"However. . . " (2 Samuel 12:14). Nathan has just assured David that God has taken away his sin and he won't die. However, because his sin has given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, “the child also that is born to you shall surely die. " What a sad “however. . . " Great trouble does indeed follow great transgression of both natural and divine law, and mortal man is silly to think otherwise. One of the grievous aspects of sin is that it involves families and counties and countries, never just one person. Consequences can be far reaching right into eternal salvation, so let us remember the howevers of life.
Anger, that terrible force that sweeps away rational thought and behavior-what purpose does it serve? “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression. " (Proverbs 29:22). The remedy for anger is in 1 Peter 3:4: “. . . The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. . . " Anger stirs up more embers and keeps the heat going, whereas the gentle person makes peace and keeps peace. It isn't true that venting one's anger clears the air. The rubble remains to clutter another's heart, perhaps even to ruin what was once a good relationship.
"God has made laughter for me. . . " (Genesis 21:6). Sarah rejoices at the birth of this child of hers and Abraham's old age. Yes, God made joy for her. There is indeed a time to laugh, for to everything there is a season, and laughter is a fine gift from God who knows that it is an extraordinary healing force for a broken heart and hurting body. It doesn't glorify God or man for us to hit the floor in the morning in a morose mood and blame the weather, our creaking bones, or what the neighbor did yesterday. This is a new day, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). So let us laugh today.
". . . My people do not understand. " (Isaiah 1:3c). We know how hurt we feel when others don't seem to understand us. Here is the Creator reminding us that we are thoughtless of His care and His love for us. He is the Author and Sustainer of our life that we waste on foolishness. Truly, we don't understand the value of the extraordinary gift of life. We claim practicality and reality, but God's claim is creatorship and the rest will fall into its proper place: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
The only sure thing in this world is that it is unsure. But our God is definitive and infinite. Both the Old and New Testaments assure us that He is a Constant: “For I, the Lord, do not change" (Malachi 3:6a); “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). He is the ground of our confidence: “For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught" (Proverbs 3:26). God doesn't go around furtively dropping banana peelings into our lives; we do that for ourselves. But if and when we do slip, He is ready to lift us up, for “underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27b).
How do we perceive riches? In 1 Timothy 6:10 Paul tells us, “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, " and then, in verse 11, he advises that we “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. " These are the true riches. The spiritual man covets not money but grace that enables him to remain a man of God. James warns: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you" (James 5:1). It is best to be free from the love of money, and content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5), especially when we read of people kidnapped and murdered for their riches.
Faith has as many definitions as there are those to define it. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus tells his disciples who wonder why they were unable to cure the epileptic boy, “[It is] because of the littleness of your faith. . . " This is where we learn that faith can move mountains; not literal mountains, of course, but it is faith in causes that has raised orphanages and razed slums, found cures for diseases of body and mind, and taken a stony heart and made it flesh. So let us pray as the apostles did, “Lord, increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5). We ask You for grace and strength to move our mountains of diseases of heart, mind and body.
Charles Spurgeon, the renowned 19th century Christian writer, tells us: “Impatient people water their miseries and hoe up their comforts; sorrows are visitors that come without invitation, but complaining minds send a wagon to bring their troubles home in. Many people are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed; they chew the bitter pill which they would not even know to be bitter if they had the sense to swallow it whole in a cup of patience and water. " Galatians 5:22 lists long-suffering as a fruit of the Spirit for ourselves only. We aren't to make others suffer long by having to listen to our complaints.
". . . Let a man feed for a month on the promises of God, and he will not talk about how poor he is. You hear people say, `Oh, my leanness! how lean I am!’ It is not their leanness, it is their laziness. If you would only read from Genesis to Revelation and see all the promises made by God to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to the Jews and to the Gentiles, and to all His people everywhere-if you would spend a month feeding on the precious promises of God-you wouldn't be going about complaining how poor you are. You would lift up your head and proclaim the riches of His Grace, because you couldn't help doing it!" (Dwight L. Moody).
The story is told of the old lady who took the lazy way out to claim her promises. One desperate day, she prayed, “O, Lord, give me the right verse to comfort me, " and she let her Bible fall open to what she hoped would be the answer to her problem. Her eye caught, “And Judas went out and hanged himself. " No, that wouldn't do, so she tried again, only to light on “Go thou and do likewise. " She prayed again and opened the good Book to yet another random page, “What thou doest, do quickly. " Obviously this is not the way to claim the promises! It is a daily and loving search through His Word to discover His will in our lives.
Samuel Rutherford said, “I doubt not but good angels suggest good counsels, tender holy motives, offer pious thoughts; yea, refresh the often-parched spirits of gracious men with inward joy. " “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14). Angels are prominent in God's work: they conducted Lot, Abraham, and the Israelites in time of danger to places and circumstances of safety and peace; they delivered Daniel from the lions and his three companions from the fiery furnace. Indeed, “some have entertained angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2b).
"`Behold, days are coming, ’ declares the Lord God, `when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord'" (Amos 8:11). “Speak, Lord" has been humanity's plea through the ages-but the day will come when He will no longer explain in love, for He has come to the end of our rope of hanging ourselves through our indifference to His counsels. The world has claimed our mind to the exclusion of His advice. The day will come when we will be given over to the stubbornness of our hearts, to walk in our own devices (Psalm 81:12). Let us feed today on His Word.
I ran up to Him and lifted up the sponge I had filled with that wine. I really wanted to give Him something that would help Him. He was in such agony, and He cried out so loudly, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" His God? Who was He talking about? I couldn't understand any of it. My friends were saying, “Let His God come to save Him. " What God? And then that strange earthquake! I went home, filled with wonder. Then I heard He got out of that tomb. How? I'll never understand. But it had to be a miracle, just like what we killed Him for. Oh my God, I'm so sorry! I would have given You the best, had I known!