Monthly Archives: November 2011

From 2000+ Illustrations (Source Unknown)

     Great wrongs happen by degree. 

Tracing Character to Its Source

During a thunder storm that contained high winds, a giant oak tree was blown down. The tree was thought to be in perfect health; that is, from outward appearance it seemed to be in good health since it was almost perfectly shaped and full of green leaves. However, the massive tree could not withstand the stress of the high wind because of deterioration on the inside. What started as a tiny corruption at the center of the tree had spread until that tremendous tree was so weakened that it was toppled by the wind.

One may reach a point where he forsakes God altogether. It is because he (like the tree) has decayed on the inside. Perhaps the deterioration started with a little lie or one small drink of beer or forsaking the assembly to go fishing or camping. Long before our feet carry us where we ought not go, and our hands do what they ought not do, the desire is in our hearts (Psa_119:9-11). With pure hearts we will be able to stand the stress of temptation and the stress of everyday living.

 

From the Writings of James Ryle

     Nothing can make such a difference, offer so much peace, raise our hope, and increase our faith like the habit of prayer. 

Driven to My Knees

“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4 (KJV)

Abraham Lincoln said, “Many times I have been driven to my knees in prayer by the conscious knowledge that I had no where else to turn.”

For many of us it takes trouble to drive us to our knees. A crisis in our life, or some dread calamity beyond our power to avert. While prayer is certainly the appropriate course when faced with such things, I want to make a case for a more noble cause. Beginning tomorrow, I want to share three great facts about prayer that, once comprehended by us, will drive us to our knees without the aid of crisis and calamity.

By way of introduction to this short series of posts, let me acquaint you with a great promise from Scripture: “Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Psalm 92:13 (KJV).

Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Thus, if we are “planted in the house of the Lord” then we are rooted and grounded in a life of devotional faithfulness. This means that we will “flourish in the courts of our God.” If House is where He lives, the Courts is where He works.

In other words, our commitment to a life of prayer opens the doors for us to enter into the fullness of God’s work in the earth. Being made sensitive to His presence, to His Voice, and to His ways while we are in His House, makes us ready and available to see His Hand at work in our world — bringing His kingdom all around us in the lives of our families, our friends — and even our foes.

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” (Samuel Chadwick)

May we become men and women who are driven to our knees!

A Thought on Heroism

     Years ago, you could look at this country, and could say that one of the things that really made this country great was it’s people, but what made us, our people, so great.  A number of things, but perhaps the one thing that really set us apart, was our willingness to try.  We were a people who made an attempt to live extraordinary lives, and to do extraordinary things.  We were not afraid to make an attempt, and we were not afraid to fail.  When I look around me now, I see a lot of people who have the appearance of trying, of making an attempt, to do something, but upon closer examination I see that in many the attempt is half-hearted at best, and at its worst, nothing more than a staged ploy to appear to be what they truly have no intention of being.
     At one time, our people were heroic, not only our soldiers and first responders, but everyday people.  You don’t agree with this statement?  Ralph Waldo Emerson said that a hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.  As a people we used to symbolize that mentality in that we were willing to go a little further, work a little harder, do a little more than what was required.  The farmer, the steel-worker, the truck driver, the housewife, the factory-worker, people everywhere showed what true heroism is all about in that they were willing to do what all hero’s do.  They faced life with all its hardships and heartaches resolute and stalwart.  It wasn’t that they hadn’t known defeat, but in the face of it were undaunted.  They dug in, bent their back, and pushed back even harder against the waves of adversity and misfortune that threatened to overwhelm them.  These people, these everyday hero’s, were unafraid to try, and who never failed to make an attempt to do and to overcome any duty or obstacle that came their way.
     I’ve often wondered what’s the difference between those great people of yesteryear, and the people of today.  Was it the times they lived in that called them to be heroic, to be courageous?  Were the times they lived in so much worse than the times in which we live now?  I don’t believe that environment, circumstances, events, are the only things that give rise to heroism, but rather that heroism is a product of belief, faith, and trust.  To be a hero is to be someone who does what needs to be done no matter the cost; to be someone who is willing to sacrifice oneself for something far bigger than themselves..
     Throughout history, heroic people, have always been the standard-bearers of courage, honesty, and truth.  As a culture, as a people, we have always believed right or wrongly that our hero’s hold all the best traits of character, and in truth they do.  For most of our history, our country has consisted of a quietly heroic majority who have gone about the business of upholding the finest and best that our country has to offer.
     What has happened to our people?  How did we devolve from being a people of quiet heroism, and inner strength, willing to try, to attempt the impossible, to becoming a people who think that the federal government should take care of them, and that the rich should share with them?  When did heroism become a display of depravity, debauchery, and disgrace rather than a courageous, valiant, and united stand against evil?  
     I said earlier that heroism is a product of belief, faith, and trust.  Heroism has its roots in the ground of truth, and no person, and no people, can be heroic who don’t have an understanding, an awareness, and a commitment to truth, and their in, I believe, lies the difference between the heroic and the destitute within our nation, and even within our world.  
     I close with this last thought.  I believe that Jesus Christ was and is, and will forever be the embodiment of truth and therefore heroism, and christians, in my opinion, should be some of the most heroic people on earth.  I know that not everyone will agree with me, and that’s okay, but just consider for a moment that I might be right.  
     Here’s some food for further thought:   

     It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, speech before the Hamilton Club, Chicago (April 10, 1899), in Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick, p. 79.

     A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
Christopher Reeve
 
A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares.
Debi Mazar
 
Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.
Bob Riley

From the Writings of R.A. Torrey

     If we as christians are to make a difference for our Lord and Savior, we must, and I repeat must, get our act together.  We cannot and will not make a difference in this world for Christ Jesus until He has made a difference in us.  As long as christianity is something that we talk about, and fail to live out, we will continue to be called hypocrites, and be looked upon as the brides carrying lamps in their hands with no oil.  To truly be effective in our christian lives we must be . . . .

Looking To Jesus
by
R. A. Torrey
(1856-1928)

     If we are to run with patience the race that is set before us, we must always keep looking to Jesus (Heb_12:1-3). One of the simplest and yet one of the mightiest secrets of abiding joy and victory is to never lose sight of Jesus.

1. First of all, we must keep looking at Jesus as the ground of our acceptance before God. Over and over again, Satan will make an attempt to discourage us by bringing up our sins and failures and thus try to convince us that we are not children of God, or not saved. If he succeeds in getting us to keep looking at and brooding sins, he will soon get us discouraged, and discouragement means failure. But if we will keep looking at what God looks at, the death of Jesus Christ in our place that completely atones for every sin that we ever committed, we will never be discouraged because of the greatest of our sins. We shall see that while our sins are great, very great, indeed they have all been atoned for. Every time Satan brings up one of our sins, we shall see that Jesus Christ has redeemed us from its curse by being made a curse in our place (Gal_3:13). We shall see that while in ourselves we are full of unrighteousness, nevertheless in Christ we are made the righteousness of God, because Christ was made to be sin in our place (2Co_5:21). We will see that every sin that Satan taunts us about has been borne and settled forever (1Pe_2:24; Isa_53:6). We shall always be able to sing,

Jesus paid my debt,
All the debt I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

     If you are this moment troubled about any sin that you have ever committed, either in the past or in the present, just look at Jesus on the cross; believe what God tells you about Him, that this sin which troubles you was laid upon Him (Isa_53:6). Thank God that the sin is all settled, be full of gratitude to Jesus, who bore it in your place, and worry about it no more. It is an act of base ingratitude to God to brood over sins that He in His infinite love has canceled. Keep looking at Christ on the cross and walk always in the sunlight of God’s favor. This favor of God has been purchased for you at great cost. Gratitude demands that you should always believe in it and walk in the light of it.

2. In the second place, we must keep looking at Jesus as our risen Savior, who has all power in heaven and on earth and is able to keep us every day and every hour. Are you tempted to do some wrong at this moment? If you are, remember that Jesus rose from the dead, remember that at this moment He is living at the right hand of God in the glory; remember that He has all power in heaven and on earth, and that, therefore, He can give you victory right now. Believe what God tells you in His Word, that Jesus has power to save you this moment “completely” (Heb_7:25). Believe that He has power to give you victory over that sin that now besets you. Ask Him to give you victory; expect Him to do it. In this way, by looking unto the risen Christ for victory, you may have victory over sin every day, every hour, every moment. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead” (2Ti_2:8).

     God has called every one of us to a victorious life, and the secret of this victorious life is always looking to the risen Christ for victory. Through looking to Christ crucified we obtain pardon and enjoy peace. Through looking to the risen Christ we obtain present victory over the power of sin. If you have lost sight of the risen Christ and have yielded to temptation, confess your sin and know that it is forgiven because God says so (1Jn_1:9), and look to Jesus, the risen One, again to give you victory now, and keep looking to Him.

3. In the third place, we must keep looking to Jesus as the One whom we should follow in our daily conduct. Our Lord Jesus says to us, His disciples today, as He said to His early disciples, “Follow me.” The whole secret of true Christian conduct can be summed up in these two words “Follow me.” “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1Jn_2:6). One of the commonest causes of failure in Christian life is found in the attempt to follow some good man whom we greatly admire. No man and no woman, no matter how good, can be safely followed. If we follow any man or woman, we are bound to go astray. There has been but one absolutely perfect Man on this earth–the Man Christ Jesus. If we try to follow any other man we are surer to imitate his faults than his excellencies. Look to Jesus and Jesus only as your Guide.

     If at any time you are in any perplexity as to what to do, simply ask the question, What would Jesus do? Ask God by His Holy Spirit to show you what Jesus would do. Study your Bible to find out what Jesus did do, and follow Him. Even though no one else seems to be following Jesus, be sure that you follow Him. Do not spend your time or thought in criticizing others because they do not follow Jesus. See that you follow Him yourself. When you are wasting your time criticizing others for not following Jesus, Jesus is always saying to you, “What is that to you? You must follow me” (Joh_21:22). The question for you is not what following Jesus may involve for other people. The question is, What does following Jesus mean for you?

     This is the really simple life, the life of simply following Jesus. Many perplexing questions will come to you, but the most perplexing question will soon become as clear as day if you determine with all your heart to follow Jesus in everything. Satan will always be ready to whisper to you, “Such and such a good man does it,” but all you need to do is to answer, “It matters not to me what this or that man may do or not do. The only question to me is, What would Jesus do?” There is wonderful freedom in this life of simply following Jesus. This path is straight and plain. But the path of him who tries to shape his conduct by observing the conduct of others is full of twists and turns and pitfalls. Keep looking at Jesus. Follow on trustingly where He leads. This is the path of the righteous, shining ever brighter till the full light of day (Pro_4:18). He is the Light of the world; anyone who follows Him shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life all along the way (Joh_8:12).

From “Morning and Evening” by C.H. Spurgeon

     We, as Christians, need to heed this with all diligence.  How much harm have we caused to our Savior and Lord, and our brothers and sisters by failing to do this. 

“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people … Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.”

Lev_19:16, Lev_19:17

Tale-bearing emits a threefold poison; for it injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told. Whether the report be true or false, we are by this precept of God’s Word forbidden to spread it. The reputations of the Lord’s people should be very precious in our sight, and we should count it shame to help the devil to dishonour the Church and the name of the Lord. Some tongues need a bridle rather than a spur. Many glory in pulling down their brethren, as if thereby they raised themselves. Noah’s wise sons cast a mantle over their father, and he who exposed him earned a fearful curse. We may ourselves one of these dark days need forbearance and silence from our brethren, let us render it cheerfully to those who require it now. Be this our family rule, and our personal bond-SPEAK EVIL OF NO MAN.

The Holy Spirit, however, permits us to censure sin, and prescribes the way in which we are to do it. It must be done by rebuking our brother to his face, not by railing behind his back. This course is manly, brotherly, Christlike, and under God’s blessing will be useful. Does the flesh shrink from it? Then we must lay the greater stress upon our conscience, and keep ourselves to the work, lest by suffering sin upon our friend we become ourselves partakers of it. Hundreds have been saved from gross sins by the timely, wise, affectionate warnings of faithful ministers and brethren. Our Lord Jesus has set us a gracious example of how to deal with erring friends in his warning given to Peter, the prayer with which he preceded it, and the gentle way in which he bore with Peter’s boastful denial that he needed such a caution.

From “A Spiritual Treasury for the Children of God vol. 1 – Morning Meditations” by William Mason

    This is a reminder of what God has done for us, not what we have done.

Giving thanks to the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.- Col_1:12.

Too many of God’s dear children seem to abound more in complaining of what they find and feel in themselves than in praising God for what he hath done for and in them. Why is this? They do not live enough in their own kingdom; they do not enough consider their own privileges; they dwell not enough upon the rich love of God their Father to them; the free-grace of Jesus their Redeemer FOR them, and the work of the comforter IN them. But, what from a sense of their corruptions, the devices of Satan, the sight of the spirituality of the law, the legality that is in them, they cannot think themselves made meet for God’s kingdom; therefore they do not praise God for it. Say, O ye sons and daughters of the Most High, is this right? What! because you find sin abound in you, will you not give praise that grace doth much more abound towards you and IN you also? Consider, God the Father HATH made us meet. Who? Us vile sinners. How? by taking away the being of all sin in us? No, no more than by taking us out of the body. If we never have meetness for glory till all sin is perfectly destroyed in us, we shall never begin the work of praise till we get to glory. But praise is a present work for what God HATH already done in us. First, “God HATH delivered us from the power of darkness.” The prince of darkness no more blinds our eyes to the evil of sin, the curse of the law, the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus, and the preciousness of his salvation. For, secondly, “God HATH translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” We are out of the kingdom of nature, sin, pride, and unbelief; we live under the spiritual reign of JESUS. Therefore, thirdly, we possess all the graces of this kingdom; FAITH in the king of saints, love to the king of saints, and “love to all the saints;” to all our fellow-sinners, who confess Jesus the Son of God, and salvation by him ONLY. Is sin our burden? Christ our glory, our life of holiness? Is holiness the desire of our souls? we have light, life, faith, love, holiness; then God HATH made us meet for the enjoyment of his glory. Nay, we do enjoy him NOW. We have fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, therefore, we are now to give him thanks; we shall never have any other meetness for heaven on earth, though greater degrees of the comforts of this may be experienced. O my soul, art thou no longer in the darkness of sin? Satan’s slave? under the curse of the law? blinded by pride to the charms of Jesus? tied and bound by the chains of unbelief? an enemy to God’s grace, his truth, and his people? “O Lord, thou art my God, I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name, for thou hast done marvelous things.” etc.- Isa_25:1.

 

 

 

A Thought on Anxiety

      We live in a world ridden with anxiety; people who are anxious, filled with fear, worry, and doubt, suspicious of everyone and everything, and quick to defend or take action against any perceived wrong, any questioning of our beliefs.  All searching, looking, wanting that some ONE thing that we hide in our heart of hearts thinking that if we have it then we’ll be satisfied.  We look for it in people, in possessions, in power, in money, in business, in education, in every conceivable nook and cranny in the world.  We flip over every card in the deck, buy lottery tickets for the power ball, fill casinos to the brim, bet on every game, horse race, and athletic event in hopes of hitting it big, and then when we do – if we do – it’s on to the next thing.
       Some of us – all of us – have been successful in our lives, on some level, perhaps at just one thing, at one time, but we’ve all experienced success.  Some of us have been successful at a great many things in a multitude of areas, and yet we still want more; are still anxious; uneasy, fearful, afraid, unsure, only to ready to believe that it can all vanish in a millisecond.  We live with that nagging, shadowy voice in the back of our minds that says “this isn’t enough.”  “Better work harder,” or some such thing.  
     Like the gerbil on the wheel, we keep running through the routines of our lives scarcely taking notice of the people and things around us, and then when we do stop (though we don’t really) it’s never a complete stop – just a slowing down – a switching of gears, and we call it relaxing, taking time off, but it’s really just taking away time from something or someone else.  We don’t dare stop, not intentionally at least, because to stop – to stop completely – creates a vacuum, an empty space, a place in which, just maybe, another voice can be heard, a very faint, very far off, voice that says wait.  A voice that very softly asks us in that rare undefined moment “Why are you doing this?”   That with each beat of our hearts says, “Is this all there is,” and saturates each breath we take with the rhythmic “why can’t I be satisfied?”
     We live with the “I wants,” “I have to have’s,” and the “I can’t live without’s.”  Then when we feel the pain (and there’s always the pain – though we deny, hide, avoid, and disavow it –  it’s undeniably there) we do everything in our power, use every means at our disposal, to try to kill it, to get rid of it, and yet it’s always there.  Entertainment, sports, illicit drugs, and alcohol are the great narcotics we use to deaden , dull, and desensitize our hearts and minds to it, and to the voice, the very gentle, very soft, very forceful voice that keeps repeating the questions – the ones we can find no satisfactory answer to – that haunt us in the most importune moments.
     We live in a state, a country, a world of anxiety.  We worry about worrying.  We live in, with, because, and in spite of it.  Yet we don’t do any of them well.  Why anxiety?  Why this unease, this disquieting spirit, within us?  Perhaps the answer lives in the silence of those very rare moments, in the solitude of reflective thought, in the quiet contemplation of creation, in that lone voice that speaks to us all at one time or another.  Perhaps, as gravity holds us to ground, as an anchor steadies a ship among waves, as a compass guides on an unknown path, the answer lies in the connections.  I’ve often wondered and thought of anxiety as a disconnect for isn’t that in reality what it is?  Can any musical instrument play beautiful music when it’s out of tune?  
     We look at anxiety as a bad thing, but as in so many things, definition is determined by design.  It is said that anxiety is the handmaid of creation, that all art, in part, stems from it, and I can see where that might be true.  Yet, I also believe, that anxiety serves as a herald, that it rides on our hearts and minds as Paul Revere rode through the darkness of night warning and giving notice to those who would listen that something was amiss and not right.   
     As any electrician knows the power goes out when there’s a disconnect, and I believe that’s what anxiety is to the human being.  It’s a failure to connect.  As a christian, I know that my power to live comes from my connection to Christ, and it’s in my relationship with Him that I find and am connected to the source of my strength.  

Here’s some food for thought:

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.

George Muller.

Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all others thoughts are drained.

Arthur Somers Roche.

An average person’s anxiety is focused on :

40% — things that will never happen
30% — things about the past that can’t be changed
12% — things about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10% — about health, which gets worse with stress
8% — about real problems that will be faced

     100% of the above can be alleviated and resolved through prayer.

From Illustrations & Poems selected by Wayne Augden (Source Unknown)

     Character is developed not by the things that happen to us, but by what we do with the things that happen to us.  It’s what we take from our circumstances, and how we use what we experience to benefit ourselves and others that reveal our character. 

Building a Noble Character

In a great cathedral in Europe, there is a window made by an apprentice out of the bits of stained glass that were thrown away as worthless refuse when the other windows were made; this is the most beautiful window of all. You can build a noble character for yourself, in spite of all the hurts and injuries done consciously or unconsciously by others, with the fragments of the broken hopes, joys and the lost opportunities that lie strewn about your feet. No matter how badly others have hurt and marred you, they cannot prevent you from building a beautiful character for yourself; conversely, others by their best work cannot cause you to build a beautiful character. The fine character of your father or mother is not yours; you’ve got to build your own.

From “Streams in the Desert” by Charles E. Cowman

 

     Faith is moving in darkness toward a light you cannot see.

Open the Trenches

“Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hands” (2 Kings 3:16-18).

To human thinking it was simply impossible, but nothing is hard for God.

Without a sound or sign, from sources invisible and apparently impossible, the floods came stealing in all night long; and when the morning dawned, those ditches were flooded with the crystal waters, and reflecting the rays of the morning sun from the red hills of Edom.

Our unbelief is always wanting some outward sign. The religion of many is largely sensational, and they are not satisfied of its genuineness without manifestations, etc.; but the greatest triumph of faith is to be still and know that He is God.

The great victory of faith is to stand before some impassable Red Sea, and hear the Master say, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord,” and “Go forward!” As we step out without any sign or sound–not a wave-splash–and wetting our very feet as we take the first step into its waters, still marching on we shall see the sea divide and the pathway open through the very midst of the waters.If we have seen the miraculous workings of God in some marvelous case of healing or some extraordinary providential deliverance, I am sure the thing that has impressed us most has been the quietness with which it was all done, the absence of everything spectacular and sensational, and the utter sense of nothingness which came to us as we stood in the presence of this mighty God and felt how easy, it was for Him to do it all without the faintest effort on His part or the slightest help on ours.

It is not the part of faith to question, but to obey. The ditches were made, and the water came pouring in from some supernatural source. What a lesson for our faith!

Are you craving a spiritual blessing? Open the trenches, and God will fill them. And this, too, in the most unexpected places and in the most unexpected ways.

Oh, for that faith that can act by faith and not by sight, and expect God to work although we see no wind or rain. –A. B. Simpson

 

From Samuel Bagster’s “Daily Light on the Daily Path”

     Something to think about as you go through your day.

 

As the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is dead also.
Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into
the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father
which is in heaven. Holiness, without which no man shall see
the Lord. Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to
patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to
brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and
abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor
unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he
that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and
hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore
the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and
election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man
should boast.

Jas_2:26 Mat_7:21 Heb_12:14 2Pe_1:5-10 Eph_2:8-9