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Discussion in 'Discussions about Religion.' started by RiverOL, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    To Make a Life

    "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."1

    Haim Potok, a Jewish rabbi, scholar and writer, was born into an orthodox Jewish family in 1929. He grew up in New York City and started writing fiction when he was only sixteen years old.2

    Repeatedly his Polish immigrant parents would keep telling him, "Haim, be a brain surgeon. You will make a lot of money and you will save a lot of people from dying."

    Time and again they would give him the same advice, "Haim, be a brain surgeon. You will make a lot of money and you will save a lot of people from dying."

    However, Heim wanted to be a writer and after repeated advice from both his mother and father telling him what he should do with his life, he shouted back at his mother, "I don't want to stop people from dying. I want to teach them how to live."3

    Speaking personally I spent many years gaining an education that taught me many things—but never how to live. I had to learn that in the "College of Hardknocks!"

    True, making a living is very important but learning how to live is much more important. And that's what God's Word, the Bible, is all about. As God said to Joshua some 4,000 years ago if you follow all of my laws, "Then you will be prosperous and successful."

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to get my priorities straight so that I will always live in harmony with your Word and become prosperous and successful as you define these qualities. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  2. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Curse of Modern Christianity
    For reading & meditation: Ephesians 4:25-32
    "' and do not give the devil a foothold." (v.27)

    There is a price to pay for our desire to grab at easy answers and that price is "trivialization." Trivialization is the acceptance of explanations that ignore the difficult questions of life in order to experience relief from confusion. I have no hesitation in saying that this is a curse of the modern Church.

    One way trivialization reveals itself is in the acceptance, by so many, of the view that the major cause of Christians' problems is demonic activity. Demonic activity can be a cause of problems (especially in those who have dabbled in the occult) but it is not the chief cause. The New Testament teaches us the importance of spiritual warfare, but it has much more to say about the influence of our carnal nature on the rise and development of problems.

    In the early days of my ministry, when people came to me with problems I would frequently engage in the practice of rebuking the devil, and those prayers often brought great relief. But the mistake I made was not to sit down with the people who came to me and deal with the beneath-the-surface problems which had given Satan a foothold in their lives. By making it appear that Satan was the only problem I trivialized the issue. It's a lot easier (and less confusing) to sit down with a person and "take authority" over Satan than it is to think through together the tough and perplexing issues that lie beneath the surface, and then work towards giving some Biblical perspectives. But that is demanded of us if we are to help each other towards maturity.

    Prayer:
    O Father, forgive us for the ways in which we trivialize Your truth in order to avoid facing the tough issues. It feels good to replace confusion with certainty, but help us to be sure that the certainty is Your certainty. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
     
  3. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Who Are Your Enemies?
    Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
    bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you—Luke 6:27-28

    Who are your enemies? Do you have any? Who hates you? Anyone? Most of us would probably answer, no. We might even conclude that these words, spoken so long ago, have become a little irrelevant in our present, everyday lives. And we might try to just move on to the next set of instructions. But, should we? Can we? The answer is, absolutely not. These particular instructions are as relevant to us, right now, as they are challenging—and as they are important. Our King, Jesus Christ, is simply calling on us to love even those who are hardest to love. And we know people like that.

    Who’s mistreated you? Who’s let you down? Who’s taken advantage of you? Maybe someone at work? A family member? A friend? A neighbor? Someone you barely know? “Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst” (Luke 6:27-30 MSG).

    We must treat well those who’ve treated us badly (Luke 6:27-29). We must help those who will never help us back (Luke 6:31-34). We must be generous to those who are anything but (Luke 6:29-30). And we must be merciful to them all (Matthew 6:14-15). But, not only that, we must be merciful again and again and again (Matthew 18:21-22). You see, what Jesus is teaching us—what we must grasp and embrace—is that we don’t fight evil with yet more evil; we fight evil with good (Romans 12:21).


    Who’d be the hardest person for you to pray for? Got him? Got her in mind? Okay, that’s your person. Pray for them. Let God the Holy Spirit lead you in how to pray. Pray tomorrow too. Write their name down and pray for them every day for a week, at least.
     
  4. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Everyone is Special
    For reading & meditation: "Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay." Habakkuk 2:3

    Arising out of what we said yesterday - that God has a special calling for each of us - the thought occurs to me that some might view that statement as applying only to those who have the opportunity of working in "full-time Christian service". I don't much like the phrase, "full-time Christian service" - hence the quotation marks.

    Every Christian is in full-time Christian service - every hour of the day and every day of the week. Let me make it perfectly clear that in saying God has a special purpose for every one of us, I mean just that - every one of us. The trouble is, when we talk about Nehemiah catching the vision of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, or Moses catching the vision of leading his people out of bondage, we tend to think that such visions apply only to those who are specially chosen and gifted.

    As you read these lines today ask yourself: "Have I taken the time to ask God what He especially wants me to do?" A man may catch the vision today of a special ministry to other men. A woman may catch the vision of teaching other women how to be discreet, to manage their homes and to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:4-5). A married couple may catch the vision of ministering to singles.

    And those who are single may catch the vision of embarking on some project for God to which they can give their time and energies in a way that married people cannot. Open your heart and mind to what God is saying to you today. God sees everyone as special, and has a special task for everyone.


    Prayer: Gracious Father, You continue to stretch my faith and my expectancy. I am so grateful. If I have not yet caught the vision of what You want me to do, then help me to do so today. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
     
  5. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    God's Wonderful Ways
    For reading & meditation: Romans 11:25-36
    "How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33)

    Now that we have spent a few days discussing the importance of catching a vision of the special contribution God wants us to make through our lives, we ask ourselves: What happens next? Usually, the next step after catching a vision is to see it die. There is a special reason for this: our vision often contains a combination of godly concerns and human perspectives, so God has to engineer a way whereby the godly concerns remain and the human perspectives are changed to divine perspectives.

    His way of doing this is to cause the vision to die. This is a Biblical principle that can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. The vision Abraham received of being the father of a great nation "died" when he found his wife was barren. The vision Moses received "died" when he was rejected by his people and was forced to flee into the desert for forty years. Why, we ask, does God bring a vision to birth and then allow it to die? For this reason: the waiting time in which we find ourselves during the death of a vision is God's classroom for the development of godly character in us. It is in the waiting time, as the vision "dies", that such qualities as patience, persistence, perseverance and self-control are built into us.

    Has God given you in the past a vision of something that you knew was definitely from Him - but now the vision has died? Then don't be discouraged. This is the way God works. He is using the waiting time to change your ideas to His ideas and your perspectives to His perspectives.

    Prayer:
    O my Father, I stand in awe at the wonder of Your ways. Forgive me that so often I have viewed the time of waiting as tedious rather than transformative. Now my perspectives are different. Lead on, dear Father - I want to learn more. Amen.
     
  6. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Afraid to Love

    "He who fears has not been made perfect in love."1

    Everybody needs to love and be loved. We all know this, but what we don't always realize is that some of us don't get our love needs met because we're afraid to love and be loved. This is because somewhere in our past we were hurt by those who were supposed to love us. To love again means to be hurt again.

    Take Jill for example. She was continually accusing Tom, her husband, of being over-interested in other women. Any friendliness Tom showed toward the opposite sex was misinterpreted by Jill based on her own fear.

    Through counseling, Jill came to see that her fear belonged to her past. When she was very young, her father left her mother for another woman and abandoned her as well. Deep down Jill feared that Tom would do the same to her.

    Tom loved Jill very much and had no intention of leaving her. Neither did he have any personal interest in any other woman. However, because of Jill projecting her fear on to Tom, her accusations were pushing him away. Had she not realized and received help to overcome her problem, she may very well have destroyed her marriage and the love she needed the most. Unless resolved, all too often the thing we fear we make to happen.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to recognize any unresolved fears in my life that may be hurting myself or others, and to find the help I need to overcome so I can be made perfect in love. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name. Amen."
     
  7. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Hour of Temptation
    For reading & meditation: Mark 8:27-38
    "' he rebuked Peter, and said, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.' " (v.33, RSV)

    We are seeing that once we have been given a vision of what God wants us to do for Him, the next thing that happens is that the vision dies. The reason for this is that Christian character must be developed in us before God can accomplish His purpose in our lives, and this can only be done by God bringing our vision down into death.

    Many Christians have been baffled by this strange strategy which God uses to develop Christlikeness in us, but it is yet another illustration of the principle that death must precede life. An important thing to remember is that Satan is extremely operative at this time, for his purpose is to get you to fulfil the vision by your own human effort. And whenever you do this, you will finish up in conflict. Remember what happened to Abraham?

    Rather than waiting for God to bring the vision into being at His own time, he tried to "help" God by having a son through Sarah's maidservant, Hagar (Gen. 16:3-4). The result of that was conflict between Isaac and Ishmael - a conflict that has continued to this day. In our reading today, we see Peter being used by Satan to talk Christ out of facing death on Calvary, but Jesus recognised the true source of his ideas and responded with the words: "Get behind me, Satan!" One writer comments on this passage: "Satan often uses those who are closest to us to 'protect' us from what we know God has called us to do." Even close Christian friends sometimes fail to understand that before we can live for God's purposes, we must die to our own.

    Prayer:
    O Father. I sense that Your ways are written, not only in Your Word, but also in me. Something within me echoes to truth. Help me to be always willing to die to my own purposes so that I can be alive to Yours. Then I will live abundantly. Amen.
     
  8. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Do It Today

    "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."1

    "It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, reheating, renewing. I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste means affluence. Throwing away things meant you knew there'd always be more. But then my husband died, and on that clear, cold morning, in the quiet of our bedroom, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't any more. No more hugs, no more special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to chat, no more 'just one minute.'"2

    Have you ever noticed how much we appreciate some things or someone—especially when they are gone or when we lose them?

    I had a good friend who was very ill and I planned on sending him a special book that I thought would help him. Too late. I had a call from his wife to tell me my friend took his life. I still feel very sad about that. If only I would have sent it when I first thought of it . . . but I didn't. That happened to me twice. "If-onlys," only leave one with regrets.

    I hope I learned my lesson. Last year another friend was very ill so I sent him some of our gospel literature. Not long before he passed away we received word that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior. For that I will be eternally grateful.

    Is there someone on your mind today that you need to contact? Someone you need to tell that you love them? Someone you need to reach out with a helping hand? Let's not delay but do it today. None of us have any guarantee of tomorrow.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please forgive me where I have failed to do what I needed to do. Help me to always put first things first and not allow even the good to be the enemy of the best. Help me to plan my days and do those things that need to be done each day so I will have no more regrets. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  9. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Power Behind these Pages
    For reading & meditation: Isaiah 48:1-11
    "I will not yield my glory to another." (Isaiah 42:8)

    Today we ask ourselves: What happens after God causes our vision to "die", and His purpose of building into us the characteristics of Christ has been achieved? This: He then resurrects the vision and brings it to joyous fulfilment. His purpose in doing this is not just to fulfil the vision, but to do so in a way that points to His supernatural intervention. In that way no onlooker can be in any doubt as to whose power lies behind the success of the ministry - everyone recognises it to be God.

    While the disciples were with Christ, they received a vision of the coming kingdom, but on the cross they saw that vision die before their eyes. What happened then? Three days later, they witnessed the supernatural power of God bring Christ back from the dead - an event that turned them upside down. I referred a few days ago to the vision which God gave me - the vision of putting together a daily Bible reading and meditation programme which would motivate Christians.

    That took place in 1965. In 1968, three years after the vision was launched, it "died". I do not mean that it discontinued, but for a whole year it was on the verge of collapse. My own enthusiasm for it slowly ebbed away until I came to the place where I said: "Lord, it's not mine - it's Yours." Then came resurrection. From that time to this, God has been seen to have the greatest part in its compilation. The constant stream of letters telling of changed lives, changed families and changed attitudes point to the fact that Jesus Christ is the power behind these pages - not me.

    Prayer:
    O God, now that I understand this principle of the birth, death and resurrection of a vision, help me to apply it to those periods in my life when it seems as if nothing is happening and Your purposes are temporarily shelved. Amen.
     
  10. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Square Watermelons

    "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."1

    Albert Lee writes, "I have read how farmers in Zentsuji, Japan, are producing full-grown watermelons for shipment—only these are no ordinary melons, they're square!

    "They were placed in tempered-glass cubes while they were still growing. Why would anyone want a square watermelon? They're much easier to store in a refrigerator. They're a whole lot easier to pack too.

    "It's amusing to think of how a naturally round watermelon can become square because of the shape of the container in which it's grown. This reminds me of the forces in the world that exert their influence on us, and attempt to shape us. If we meditate on God's Word daily, it will shape our thoughts and help us grow to become more like Christ. Then we will act in a manner that pleases him. Pressures of the world will continue to try to shape our character, but they will not succeed if God's Word is changing us from within."2

    And if we neglect our spiritual life, get carried away with materialism, feed our minds on mindless TV, run with the wrong crowd, and forget God then these things will shape our lives—not only for time but also for eternity.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, give me the good sense to live with eternal values in mind and choose wisely in what I allow to shape my life. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  11. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Men cry out against the heavens
    For reading & meditation: Job 5:1-16

    "Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." (v.7)

    We now focus on yet another aspect of our theme - The Corn of Wheat Afraid to Die. Slowly we are coming to grips with one of the greatest truths of Scripture, namely that life comes through the giving of life, and fruitfulness through falling into the ground and dying. When we remain by ourselves, using only human resources, our lives will turn out to be shallow and fruitless. Refusing to pay the ultimate price of giving ourselves, we find ourselves paying the price of the deadness of life itself.

    Another area of life from which we often cry out to be exempted, but one which, if we are willing to give ourselves, yields great spiritual fruitfulness, is the area of unmerited suffering. Our text for today reminds us that "man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward", and there are few of us who have not had cause to lament the truth of those words. A more modern observer of the human condition puts it thus: My son, the world is dark with griefs and graves So dark that men cry out against the heavens.

    I suppose there is nothing that makes people "cry out against the heavens" so much as the anguish that comes through unmerited suffering. Horace Walpole said: "To those who think, life is comedy; to those who feel, life is tragedy." There are few of us who do not "feel" - so is life a tragedy to most? God did not deliver His Son from suffering - He did something better. And it is along this line of the "something better" that we will find the answer to unmerited suffering.

    Prayer:
    O God my Father, I must find the key to this issue of unmerited suffering. For the doors of life and fruitful service will be closed to me unless I know how to open them and walk through to victory. Help me to find that key. In Jesus' Name. Amen
     
  12. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    You're Built for Opposition
    The one who conquers, I will grant him
    to sit with me on my throne—Revelation 3:21

    Ever been in the middle of something tough, prayed for rescue, and heard . . . nothing? Ever questioned God, in frustration, “Why won’t you answer?”

    Could it be that God doesn’t always answer because, sometimes, he wants us to stay right where we are and learn, there, how to fight? Could it be that God sometimes allows trouble and pain to train us, to build our maturity, to make us more reliable conduits of his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? We often consider trouble and pain as unnecessary, to be avoided, hindrances to ease and happiness. Might it make more sense to consider trouble and pain as opposition, as a mountaineer views the pitch and the altitude, or as a linebacker views the block and the fake?

    We aren’t meant to be men who avoid opposition, numb it or deny it. We aren’t meant to run from battles, to hide and to let others fight. We’re built for opposition. Truthfully, we’d probably wither without it. We must see it, though, for what it is: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Our struggle is against being lured into selfishness, indifference, impatience, rage, resignation, or sin in the face of problems at work, or in our finances or relationships or families. These are epic struggles—battles worthy of any man.


    God doesn’t always take opposition away, brother, because he’s built you to conquer, not to cower. And he’s given you everything you’ll need. Spend time this week reading and meditating upon Ephesians 6:10-17. Write out what the words mean to you, personally, practically.
     
  13. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Christian answer to suffering
    For reading & meditation: Matthew 26:36-46
    "Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go!" (vv.45-46)

    Yesterday we looked at some of the world's ineffectual answers to the problem of unmerited suffering. In them there are no wounds to answer our wounds, no death to answer our death. Their so-called answers remind me of a cartoon I once saw which depicted two toddlers in a children's boxing ring. Stripped for action, with nothing on but shorts and boxing gloves, they were ready for the fray.

    The attention of one of the youngsters was caught by two butterflies flitting just above his head and he stood gazing up at them, exposing himself to the blow which his opponent was about to land on his nose. Gazing at butterflies while in the midst of a conflict is a dangerous occupation. Any system of thought that takes your attention off the grim facts of life by calling attention to butterflies is doomed inevitably to produce pessimism as the blows begin to fall. What, then, is the Christian answer to this problem?

    First, we must realistically face the fact that life involves suffering. There is no escaping that fact; to deny it is a denial of reality. I have found from experience that the first thing many Christians do when caught up in a form of suffering is to deny its reality and say something like this: "I don't have any problems, for Jesus is the Great Insulator between me and everything that happens." It is not lack of faith to acknowledge a problem. You don't have to dwell upon it, but before you can deal with it, you must acknowledge it. Remember, you must first be willing to face reality before you can expect to overcome it.

    Prayer:
    O God, give me courage to face up to issues and not dodge them. Help me to be open and honest. Father, I look to You now to help me put this into daily practice. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
     
  14. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    To Judge or Not to Judge

    Jesus said, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."1

    As you can well imagine we receive a constant flow of emails in response to Daily Encounter. Most of the responses are very encouraging and appreciated. However, we do receive our share of negative criticisms especially when I write on controversial topics. What is somewhat amusing is that when I criticize something that I believe is wrong, I get criticized by those telling me I shouldn't criticize or judge others.

    Fred (not his real name) recently wrote to me saying, "We Christians are not to judge but to teach love, honor, respect and forgiveness. We believe in God and they believe in their religion. Whatever our and their beliefs are, we are all children of God. The question is, what would Jesus do?"

    I especially appreciate Fred's last question about "what would Jesus do?" In Jesus day when the money changers were misusing the temple, Jesus took a whip with him into the temple and drove the money changers out. And when it came to the hypocrisy of the religious Pharisees, Jesus severely condemned them saying,

    "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness…. You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?"2

    Jesus was not soft on evil doers. He didn't mince words and knew exactly how and when to exercise tough love. We, too, need to take a stand against all evil.

    Yes, it is true that God's Word says that we are not to judge others, but it also says we are to judge all things.3 This means that we are not to be judgmental as persons; that is, not to be a negative, critical person looking for the faults in others. When we do this, it is usually because we are projecting our own unresolved issues onto others. But we are also told in the Bible that while we are to love others, we are to judge wrong and sinful actions—and take a strong stand against these things.4

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me the insight to know—and the courage to stand for—what you are for and what you are against, and to do this in a spirit of love and not in a negative judgmental attitude. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  15. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Is suffering the result of sin?
    For reading & meditation: Luke 13
    "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?" (v.2)

    Yesterday we ended by making the point that it is only when we realistically acknowledge a problem that we can take the steps to deal with it. The teaching that says you should not admit to having a problem as the negative thought that comes from such an admission will interfere with your ability to deal with it is psychologically and spiritually unsound.

    The passage we read yesterday showed how Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, dealt with the problem of His impending death on the cross: He first faced it in His feelings, and then went out to face the fact. "Rise, let us go!" The second thing we must do to deal with suffering is to recognise that not all suffering is due to personal sin. Some suffering is, of course, but not all. The person who violates God's moral laws must not be surprised when these laws kick back. The fact that not all suffering is due to personal sin can be seen from the account in John 9, where Jesus pointed out that personal or parental sin is not always at the back of physical calamities such as congenital blindness.

    The point is made even more clearly in the passage before us today, where Jesus points out that calamities can stem from man's inhumanity to man (Pilate's butchering of Galilean Jews) or natural accidents or disasters (the collapse of the tower in Siloam), and therefore the people who suffer from them are not especially sinful. This takes away the self-righteous attitude of those who, being free from calamities themselves, view the problems of others as being the direct punishment of God upon their sin.

    Prayer:
    Father, I'm relieved to know that suffering is not always the result of personal sin. I'm willing to take my share of the blame for the problems I face, but help me not to become plagued with false guilt. Keep me balanced. Amen.
     
  16. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Turning tests into testimonies
    For reading & meditation: Luke 21:1-13
    "It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony." (v. 13, NASB)

    We look now at the third step in the process of dealing with unmerited suffering: don't spend too much time trying to understand the reason for suffering - focus rather on how you can deal with it. Notice, Jesus spent very little time trying to explain human suffering, much less explain it away. Had He undertaken to explain it, then His gospel would have become a philosophy - in which case it would not have been a gospel. A philosophy undertakes to explain everything, and then leaves everything as it was.

    Jesus undertook to explain little, but He changed everything He touched. He did not come to bring a philosophy, but a fact. What was that fact? The fact was His own method of meeting suffering and transforming it into something higher. Out of this fact, we put together our philosophy - a system of principles and procedures by which we live out our life in this world. Notice that fact comes first, and then the philosophy about the fact. The good news is not merely "good news"; it is the fact of sin and suffering being met and overcome, and a way of life blazed out through them.

    The fourth step is this: remind yourself that in God's universe, He allows only what He can use. In the passage before us today, Jesus gives the nine sources from which suffering comes upon us: confused religionists (false Christs), wars and conflicts in society, calamities in nature, and so on. Then He says this: "It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony." In other words, you are not to escape trouble, nor merely bear it as the will of God - you are to use it.

    Prayer:
    Blessed Lord Jesus, You who used Your suffering to beautify everything You did, teach me the art of turning every test into a testimony and every tragedy into a triumph. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.
     
  17. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Turning Pebbles Into Pearls

    "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."1

    Into the shell of an oyster a tiny foreign body—such as a tiny parasite—finds its way into the soft oyster body. "The intruder, though microscopic, is a source of irritation and pain to the soft body of the oyster. Unable to rid itself of the unwelcome 'guest,' the oyster seeks to reduce the irritation by coating it with layers of soft, iridescent mother-of-pearl material from its own shell. Over time, the oyster transforms a painful irritation into a beautiful pearl of great value."

    Most of us have "tiny parasites" or annoying "pebbles" that come into our life on a regular basis … many of which can be very frustrating and even painful.

    But every one of these annoyances gives us a chance to grow and mature. Some will require great patience, others tough love. Some will require our turning the other cheek, some confrontation, and some kindness and understanding. For example, addicts need to be treated with tough love. Bullies require us to maintain healthy boundaries. Cheaters need to be confronted. Manipulators need to be managed. Control freaks need to be resisted, guilt throwers need to be challenged, and toxic people may need to be avoided, and so on.

    With God's help, if we so choose, we can turn every one of these annoying pebbles into pearls or we can allow them to make us bitter. For it's not what happens to us that matters, but how we react to what happens. What we do about it is what matters—and that's a choice we make either consciously or unconsciously. And remember, "The bumps are what we climb on."

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to see an opportunity for growth in every annoying situation. Give me the courage to be strong when needed, have healthy boundaries where required, exercise tough love where it is essential, and show kindness, patience and understanding where these are needed. Help me to always ask, 'What would Jesus do?' And please give me the courage to do just that. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  18. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Gold and Silver...
    For reading & meditation: Mark 1:14-28
    "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God." (v.14)

    Yesterday we looked at the final answer to dealing with unmerited suffering: reminding ourselves that in God's universe, He only allows what He can use. Look again at the words of our text for today: "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God." After the finest and truest of prophets had been put in prison and his preaching silenced by a wicked and unjust king, Jesus came preaching the good news about God. How could there be good news about the God who had allowed such a thing to happen?

    But that is exactly what Jesus did proclaim - and proclaimed unashamedly. And why? Because Jesus knew that everything God allowed, He would use. By His action, He rejected the idea that a man like John should be exempt from suffering, and that God isn't good when He permits such things to happen. Can you see now why God allows us to go through suffering?

    He does it so that, in the fires of affliction, we learn the secret of an alchemy which transmutes the base metal of injustice, and consequent suffering into the gold of character and the silver of God's purposes. In one place in the New Testament, Jesus refers to being "perfected" by His death on the cross (Luke 13:32, AV). Just think of it: the worst thing that can happen to a man - crucifixion - turns out to be the best that can happen to Him - perfection. This is the attitude we must cultivate if we are not only to face, but use suffering.

    Prayer:
    O my Father, how can I ever sufficiently thank You for showing me this way of life? Nothing stops it - permanently. When men and circumstances concentrate on doing their worst - You bring out of it Your best. I see, I follow, and I am unafraid. Amen.
     
  19. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Hiding From God

    "Where can I go from your Spirit [God]? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. . . . If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.'"1

    Roger Ray, a minister in Springfield, Missouri, told of a local physician who was driving between hospital calls one evening, exceeding the speed limit rather shamelessly in an attempt to make up for lost time. Suddenly a police car pulled up behind him and turned on the lights. Having some considerable experience in both speeding and getting caught, the doctor picked up his stethoscope and held it up for the policeman to see in hopes of communicating that he was on a medical emergency. Yet the police officer continued in pursuit with no regard to the physician's signals. Once more the doctor waved his stethoscope in the air, this time more dramatically, in hopes of conveying the importance of his mission. But when the physician looked into his rear-view mirror to see whether the police officer got the message, he saw a smiling officer waving his own symbol of authority in the air—his revolver.

    These are the "Oh-oh" experiences in life when we realize we've been caught red-handed. And sometimes I wonder if there are certain things I don't do more from a fear of getting caught rather than wanting to do the right thing.

    However, there's one thing that is certain … no matter how hard I may try nor how much I try to fool myself, there's no hiding from God. He sees all. He knows all. But he's not waving his "heavenly revolver" at us nor is he out to get us to punish us for our sins, but rather to save us from punishing ourselves as a result of our sins—the wages of which are death—eternal death.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that no matter where I am, what condition I am in, or what I have done or have failed to do, you know exactly where I am and what condition I am in. Thank you, too, that you are pursuing me, not to punish me, but because you want me to come to you for forgiveness, healing, and wholeness. Help me to stop hiding and stop running except to run to your open, loving, and forgiving arms. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  20. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The triumphant attitude
    For reading & meditation: John 14:1-14
    "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." (v.1)

    By now it should be fairly obvious to even the newest disciple of Christ that if, like a "corn of wheat afraid to die", we shrink back from being ploughed into the red furrows of suffering, we shall remain alone alone, and unfruitful. Someone has said, "God never uses anyone unless He puts them through the test of suffering and pain."

    Strong words. Do you find yourself flinching as you read them? I do. Yet it is not wrong to flinch at the approach of a spiritual test. God knows how you feel. The issue, however, is not about flinching; it is about following. Are we willing to open our hearts to the Lord and say: "Do to me as You will"? I suggest the only way we will be able to do that is when we have the thought clearly fixed in our minds that God will never allow us to go through anything without providing all the grace we need to bear it, and will turn the test into a testimony that will eternally glorify Him and make our characters more like His.

    Jesus, remember, began His ministry here on earth with a wilderness experience, and ended it w"Let not your hearts be troubled", not because they were to be protected from troubles, but because they were to "trust in God". Faith in God will not save you from suffering, but it will save you through it - the suffering can be made into an instrument of redemption. Remember, you cannot bless without bleeding, and you cannot succour until you have suffered.

    Prayer:
    O Father, I see that refusing to pay the ultimate price of surrendering to Your purposes is to choose deadness and death. Today I choose life. I am a "corn of wheat" not afraid, but willing to die. Help me, in Jesus' Name. Amen.
     

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