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In step


Riches or Poverty - So What?
For reading & meditation - Philippians 4:4-13
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any ... situation ..." (v. 12)

Here is another step that can move us from financial bondage to financial freedom. Recognize that you are only free when you are free to use either poverty or plenty. There are two ways in which men and women try to defend themselves against financial disaster.

One is by saving as much as possible in an attempt to avert it. The other is by renouncing money or material things entirely in order to be free from their clutches. Both methods have disadvantages. The first, because it can cause miserliness and anxiety, and tends to make a person as metallic as the coins they seek to amass.

The second, because it seeks to get rid of the difficulty by washing one's hands of it entirely. In each case, there is a bondage - one is a bondage to material things, the other a bondage to poverty. The man who is free to use plenty only is bound by that, while the man who is free to use poverty only is also bound.

They are both bound. But the person who, like Paul in the text before us today, has "learned the secret of being content ... whether living in plenty or in want" is free, really free.

While waiting for a train in India, a missionary got into a conversation with a high-caste Indian. "Are you traveling on the next train?" the missionary asked. "No," he replied, "that train has only third-class carriages. It's all right for you, because you are a Christian. Third class doesn't degrade you and first class doesn't exalt you. You are above these distinctions, but I have to observe them." Lifted above all distinctions!

Prayer: O Father, what a way to live - lifted above all distinctions. Plenty doesn't entangle my spirit, and poverty doesn't break it. No matter how I have lived in the past - this is how I want to live in the future. Help me, dear Lord. Amen.


A Need or a Want?
For reading & meditation - Philippians 4:14-23
"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (v. 19)

Today we look at yet another step that will help us overcome financial disaster: (4) Learn to differentiate between a need and a want. Your needs are important, but not your wants. God has promised to supply all your needs, but not all your wants.

What are our needs? Someone defined it like this: "We need as much as will make us physically, mentally, and spiritually fit for the purposes of the kingdom of God.

Anything beyond that belongs to other people's needs." If this is true, then how do we decide what belongs to our needs? No one can decide that for you; it must be worked out between you and God. Go over your life in God's presence and see what belongs to your needs, and what belongs to your wants.

Let the Holy Spirit sensitize your conscience so that you can distinguish the difference. A fisherman tells this story: "Yesterday on the lake I let my boat drift. As I looked at the water, I could see no drift at all. Only as I looked at the fixed point of the shoreline could I see how far I was drifting."

It is a parable! It is only as you fix your eyes on Christ, and watch for His approval, that you will know whether you are staying on God's course - or drifting away from it. One more thing: keep your needs strictly to needs, not luxuries disguised as needs. If you eat more than you need, you clog up your system. It is the same with other things. Needs contribute; luxuries choke.

Prayer: Gracious Father, bring me under the sway of Your creative Spirit. Sensitize my inner being so that I might hear Your voice when I am about to go off course. This I ask for Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.


Promises! Promises!
For reading & meditation - Proverbs 20
"...'it's no good!? says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase." (v. 14)

We continue following the steps that help us become strong at the broken place of financial disaster: (5) Ask God to help you resist the powerful pressures of this modern-day consumer society.

I once listened to a sermon in which the preacher likened Satan's conversation with Eve in the Garden of Eden to the subtle tactics of modern advertising. The main point he made was that if Eve could become discontent with all she had in that lush garden called Paradise, there is little hope for us unless we identify and reject modern methods of alluring advertising.

What exactly is alluring advertising? One definition puts it like this: "Alluring advertising is a carefully planned appeal to our human weakness, which is designed to make us discontented with what we have so that we can rationalize buying things we know we do not need and should not have."

Not all advertising, of course, falls into this category, but much of it does. Charles Swindoll, an American author, claims that some advertising is not just alluring, but definitely demonic. I agree. He says that he and his family have developed a simple technique to overrule television commercials that attempt to convince us that we need a certain product in order to be happy.

He describes it like this: "Everytime we feel a persuasive tug from a television commercial, we simply shout at the top of our voices: 'Who do you think you're kidding!'" He claims it really works. God expects us to discipline ourselves in relation to many things, and not the least is the discipline of spiritual "sales resistance."

Father, help me, I pray, to see right through the alluring advertising of today's world, and develop within me the wisdom and strength to build up a strong spiritual "sales resistance." For Your honor and glory I ask it. Amen


Be a Generous Person
For reading & meditation - 1 Timothy 6:6-19
"Command them ... to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves ..." (vv. 18-19)

We have been discussing the steps we need to take to become strong at the place where life breaks us through a financial disaster. The sixth and final principle the friend I previously referred to used, and which we need to practice too, is this: (6) Become a generous person.

Look again at the text at the top of this page. It is so clear that it hardly needs any explanation. Woven through the fabric of these verses, as well as in many others in the New Testament, is the thought: give, give, give, give, give. When you have money, don't hoard it, release it. Let generosity become your trademark.

This is not to say that you have to give all your money away, but give as much as you can, and as much as you believe God would have you give. Jesus once said, "If your eye is generous, the whole of your body will be illumined" (Matt. 6:22, Moffatt).

What does this mean? If your eye - your outlook on life, your whole way of looking at things and people - is generous, then your whole personality is illumined, lit up. Jesus had little to give in terms of finances, but He was generous toward all - the sick, the needy, the maimed, the sinful, and the unlovely.

His whole personality was full of light. So be like Jesus - begin to see everybody and everything with a generous eye. Don't be a mean person. One of the greatest definitions of Christianity I have ever heard is simply this: "Give, give, give, give give...."

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me this day and every day of my life from now on, to make generosity the basis of all my dealings with people. Make me the channel and not the dead end of all Your generosity to me. For Your dear Name's sake. Amen.


When Evil Thoughts Oppress
For reading & meditation - Matthew 15
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts ..." (v. 19)

We turn now to focus on yet another place where life can break us - through the affliction of evil thoughts. I am thinking not simply of an occasional wrong thought popping into one's mind, but of those situations where people become oppressed by thoughts which are obsessive and repetitive.

A letter I received some time ago said, "My private discussions with Christians of all denominations has led me to believe that more are afflicted and oppressed by evil thoughts than we might imagine." When the late Dr. Sangster, the great Methodist preacher, once visited Bexhill-on-Sea, he found a lovely avenue of trees.

A nature lover to the core, he walked admiringly up and down the avenue, and then noticed a strange thing. Two of the trees were dead, and not only dead, but dismally and evilly offensive. Frost could not account for it; their neighbors were all healthy. He made inquiries, and found out that the gas main which ran underneath them had been leaking!

Everything on the surface had been in their favor - the sea breezes, sunshine, rain ... but they had been poisoned from beneath. There are many Christians like that. Perhaps you are one.

The circumstances of their lives all seem in their favor - a good job, a happy family, a pleasant environment, a fine church, yet their lives are mysteriously blighted by evil thoughts. Who can help us when our lives are spoiled by continual and oppressive evil thoughts? Jesus can! Christ can not only heal the brokenness but also make you strong at the broken place.

Prayer: O Father, I am so grateful that You are showing me Your indomitable way. You can do more than sustain me in my weakness; You can turn my weakness into strength. Make me strong in this area. For Jesus' sake. Amen.


"Be Careful, Little Eyes"
For reading & meditation - Mark 9:42-50
"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." (v. 47)

What are the principles we must follow if we are to move from weakness to strength in relation to this matter of evil thoughts? The first is: Take steps to ensure that you are not contributing to the problem by the literature you read or the things you watch. One great philosopher said that if you want to evaluate the moral tone of a society, just examine its literature.

These days it is hardly possible to pick up a newspaper that does not contain a picture oran article that is calculated to inflame our passions. We live in an age which is preoccupied with sensuality and hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure). Any discussion on this subject must inevitably be linked with sex, as this is one of the main ingredients in the problem of evil thoughts.

Although sex is not evil in itself, few topics can so engross the mind or kindle our curiosity. People with a passionate nature, however high their ideals, often fight a battle in their mind and imagination with sexual fantasies. These, in turn, make them the kind of people of whom Montaigne speaks with much contempt: "Men and women whose heads are a merry- go-round of lustful images."

Fix it firmly in your mind that the first step to victory over evil thoughts is to cut off the supply at the source. Burn any books or magazines in your possession that others might describe as "really hot." Turn off the TV when it violates biblical standards. Avoid newspapers that go in for nudity. Saying "no" to sensuality is the same as saying "yes" to God.

Prayer: Father, help me to realize that although Christianity is a privilege and not a prohibition - it does have prohibition in it. Today I am going to make up my mind to say a firm "no" to the things that are not of You. Strengthen me in this resolve. Amen


The Pathway to Sin Is Short
For reading & meditation - Romans 8
"To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." (v. 6, RSV)

Although it may be impossible to prevent evil thoughts from entering your mind, make a conscious decision not to entertain them. A well-worn phrase puts the same thought in this way: you can't stop the birds from flying into your hair, but you can prevent them from building nests.

Burns, the famous poet, said that when he wished to compose a love song, his recipe was to put himself on "a regimen of admiring a beautiful woman." He deliberately filled his mind with pictures that were extremely dangerous to his passionate nature. Shairp, his biographer, said of him, "When the images came to be oft repeated, it cannot have tended to his peace of heart or his purity of life."

Augustine, one of the great early Christians, also trod this dangerous path. He came to Carthage with its tinseled vice and began at once to coax his own carnal appetites. He said: "I loved not as yet, yet I loved to love; and with an hidden want I abhorred myself that I wanted not.

I befouled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I dimmed its lustre with the hell of lustfullness; and yet, foul and dishonorableas I was, I craved, through an excess of vanity to be thought elegant and vain.

I fell; precipitately then." Augustine's experience, like that of many others, goes to show the folly of entertaining evil thoughts and desires. Make up your mind, then, that although you may not be able to stop evil thoughts crowding into your mind, you will not play host to them.

Prayer: Father, although I know what I should do, it is often hard - though not impossible - to do it. I give my will to You again today. Take it and strengthen it, so that it will do Your bidding. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.


The Law of Reversed Effort
For reading & meditation - Hebrews 2:5-18
"But we see Jesus ..." (v. 9)

Yesterday we said that we must make sure we do not entertain evil thoughts. How does it work in practice? Build within your mind a strong picture of Jesus, and when an evil thought comes into your mind, turn and look at Him.

Those who study the mind tell us that evil thoughts are not driven out by dwelling on them, even prayerfully. It is bad tactics to direct sustained attention to them, even in penitence, for then you experience what is called the law of reversed effort.

This law states that "the more attention you focus on avoiding something, the more likely you are to hit it." A simplified form of this happens when a cyclist sees a pothole ahead of him, and concentrates on avoiding it - only to run into it.

The longer things are held in the focus of attention, the deeper they are burned into the memory and the more mental associations they make. The way to overcome them is to outwit them by swiftly directing the mind to some other absorbing theme.

It may be difficult to dismiss them, but they can be elbowed out by a different and more powerful idea. What better idea than to hold a picture of Jesus in your mind, reinforced by daily Bible meditation and prayer, so that in the moment of overwhelming testing, the mind is turned toward Him. One who developed this technique into a fine art said: "Christ in the heart and mind is the safeguard. To think of Him is to summon His aid. Evil thoughts dissolve in the steady gaze of His searching eyes."

Prayer: O God, my Father, help me develop in my mind and imagination such a powerful picture of Jesus that it will become the saving focus of my being. Help me turn to Him immediately whenever evil thoughts crowd my mind. For Jesus' sake. Amen.


The Word to the Rescue
For reading & meditation - Psalms 119:1-16
"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (v. 11)

Another important principle to follow in developing a plan to overcome oppressive and evil thoughts is this: Store up the Word of God in your mind so that it becomes readily available in times of need. This is one of the most powerful and successful principles of Christian living.

Sometimes people write to me and say: "Your practical suggestions are very interesting and intriguing, but do they work?" I have one answer: try them and see! They most certainly work for me, and I am absolutely sure that if you apply them in the way I am suggesting, they will work for you, too.

A minister who was away from home on a preaching visit was provided by the church with accommodations in one of the city's large hotels. One night, while going up in the elevator, a woman accosted him and suggested that they should spend the night together. "This was more than an evil thought," said the minister, "it was an evil thought clad in the most beautiful and attractive woman I have seen for a long time.

I was lonely and she was available." He went on, "But do you know what immediately flashed into my mind? Not my wife and four children - at least not at first. Not even my position and reputation. No, and not even the thought that I might be found out. The thing that immediately rose up within me was an instant visual replay of Romans 6:11-12, 'Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.'" The memorized verse came to the rescue - right on time.

Prayer: Gracious Father, help me to have Your Word so deeply hidden in my heart that it triggers an automatic reaction within me whenever I am threatened by evil. For Jesus' sake. Amen


The Last Thought at Night
For reading & meditation - Psalms 4
"I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (v. 8)

Let your last thought at night be a thought about your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The last thoughts that lie on our minds at night are powerful and determinative, for the door into the subconscious is opening and they drop in to work good or evil. It's bad enough struggling with evil thoughts while you are awake; don't let them take control while you are asleep.

Your conscious mind may be inactive while you are asleep, not so the subconscious. The last thoughts lying in your mind as you go to sleep usually become the "playthings" of the subconscious, and it works on these during the hours you are asleep.

If it is true that your mind is active while you are asleep - and there certainly seems to be plenty of evidence to support this theory, then make your mind work in a positive and not a negative way.

Satan delights in dropping an evil thought into your mind during the moments immediately prior to sleep, because he knows that it will work destructively all through the night, influencing your attitudes and most likely preventing you from enjoying a peaceful night's sleep.

Then when you wake, you find that not only do you have to face the problems of another day, but you also have to face them without having drawn fully on the resources available to you through sleep. Thus begins a recurring pattern which cannot help but drag you down. So learn to elbow out any evil thought that enters your mind just before sleep, and let your last thought be a thought of Christ.

Prayer: Father, if it is true that my mind works when I am asleep, then help me to make it work for good and not for evil. Teach me the art of holding a thought about You on my mind immediately prior to going to sleep. I shall begin tonight, Lord. Amen.


Moving Together into Victory
For reading & meditation - 2 Peter 1:3-11
"... make every effort to add to your faith ... self-control ..." (vv. 5-6)

God is willing to do His part in helping you in this battle with evil thoughts - but you must be willing to do yours. There is a teaching in some Christian circles that if we discover a need for change in our lives, we should passively wait upon God until He accomplishes it.

It sounds so spiritual, but actually it borders on profound error. A Christian man once said to me: "I would like to be free from a certain sin I am involved in, but I find I am powerless to break away from it."

I asked him what he expected to happen in order for him to find deliverance. He said, "I expect God to take away the desire for this sin and thus set me free." He was saying, in effect, "God is responsible for delivering me, and my task is to wait passively until He does so." That view is unbiblical - and what is more, it doesn't work.

Although deliverance comes from God, we are the ones who carry it out. Let that sink in! The principle is this - you supply the willingness, and He will supply the power. Do you really want to win this battle against evil thoughts? If so, you can.

Show God you mean business by putting the principles you have learned this week into practice, and you will pave the way for His miraculous power to work in and through you. Once you have done this, life's oppressive and evil thoughts will never be able to break you again. Here, too, you can become strong at the broken places.

Prayer: Gracious Father, thank You for reminding me that deliverance is a team effort. It involves the Holy Spirit and me. I supply the willingness: You supply the power. So let?s team up, Father, and move together into victory. Amen.


Coming Back from Doubt
For reading & meditation - John 20:19-31
"Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (v. 28)

We consider another important place where some Christians are broken - the area of deep and disturbing doubts. Some men and women have received Christ as their Savior and Lord, but yet are afflicted with paralyzing doubts.

Some of these people go through deep agony of soul as they wrestle inwardly with doubt, ending up spiritually exhausted. Someone like this told me that she was a scientist and had serious doubts about certain parts of the Scriptures. "I'm afraid that one day I will wake up," she said, "and discover that science has disproved large chunks of Scripture."

I could sympathize with her problem, but really her doubts were quite unfounded. Real science will never disprove Scripture, only confirm it. Half-baked science may appear to discredit the truth of God's Word, but real science can only validate it. I suppose the classic example of doubt is found in the disciple Thomas.

We call him "doubting Thomas" - an unfair label if ever there was one. It's sad how we pick out a negative in a person and label him for that one thing. Thomas had his moment of doubt, but he came back from that place of weakness to become strong at the broken place. How strong?

Let history judge. A well-authenticated tradition has it that Thomas went to India and founded a church there. Even today there are Christians in India who call themselves by his name - the St. Thomas Christians. They are some of the finest Christians I have ever met. Thomas had his doubts allayed in one glorious moment of illumination - and then he went places. So can you!

Prayer: O my Father, just as You took Thomas and changed him from a doubter to a man of amazing faith and achievement - do the same for me. For Your own dear Name's sake I ask it. Amen.


Truth - in the Inner Parts
For reading & meditation - Psalms 51
"Surely you desire truth in the inner parts ..." (v. 6)

What do we do when we find ourselves assailed by honest doubts? Firstly, we must learn to distinguish between honest doubts and defensive doubts. Many of the doubts that trouble Christians concerning aspects of the Christian faith are made half-consciously into a screen to hide some moral weakness or failure.

I am not denying that some people experience acute intellectual problems in relation to their faith, and it would be arrogant to suggest, or even hint, that everyone troubled by doubts is consciously or unconsciously using them as a screen.

But because experience has shown that some do, this issue has to be faced. Ask yourself now: am I using my doubts as a "defense mechanism" to cover up some weakness or personal defect? A "defense mechanism" is a device employed by our minds to prevent us from facing up to reality.

Adam used a defense mechanism when he blamed Eve for his sin. It is called projection - refusing to face up to personal responsibility, and projecting the blame onto someone else. Could it be that some of your doubts may be due to this? I am not suggesting, of course, that they are, but they could be.

If you are willing to look at this issue objectively, or perhaps with the help of a wise and responsible Christian friend, then, I assure you, God will not withstand your plea. One hymnwriter said: Jesus the hindrance show, Which I have feared to see Yet let me now consent to know What keeps me out of Thee.

Prayer: Gracious Father, You know how difficult it is for me to see myself as I really am. Help me to be honest with myself - even ruthlessly honest. For I want to be as honest as You. Help me in this hour of challenge. For Jesus' sake. Amen.


Dealing Positively with Doubt
For reading & meditation - Acts 17
"... they ... examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (v. 11)

What do we do when we find ourselves assailed by honest doubt? Well, first we must recognize that doubts can be valuable if they motivate us to search deep and long for the answers. Perhaps it was this thought that led Samuel Coleridge to say, "Never be afraid of doubt ... if you have the disposition to believe."

Unfortunately, there is very little sympathy given to those who doubt in most evangelical churches. Doubters are about as welcome in some congregations as a ham sandwich in a synagogue! It was because of the lack of concern shown in many churches toward those with honest doubts that two American missionaries, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, set up their ministry in a remote Swiss village.

They established a center for those with doubts about their faith and called it L'Abri, which is French for "The Shelter." Hundreds made their way there over the years, and came back with their doubts resolved. Have you ever heard of Frank Morrison? He was an agnostic who, many years ago, set out to demonstrate the validity of his doubts about the resurrection of Christ.

The more he looked into the facts, however, the more convinced he became that Christ actually did rise from the dead. He finished up writing a book entitled Who Moved the Stone?, which is one of the greatest evidences for the resurrection I have ever read. There are clear answers to all the doubts you may have concerning the Christian faith. Search for these answers, and the more you struggle, the stronger will be your faith.

Prayer: Father, help me today to understand that all things can contribute to my faith, including my doubts. When I realize this, then I will go far. Thank You, Father. Amen.


John's Doubts about Jesus
For reading & meditation - Matthew 11:1-11
"... 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else? '" (v. 3)

Although God would prefer us to believe, He is exceedingly loving and gracious toward those who struggle with honest doubts. Did you notice, when we were looking at Thomas the other day, that Jesus did not reject his doubting attitude, nor did He refuse his request for physical evidence that He was truly the Christ?

Instead, Jesus said to him, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe" (John 20:27). The passage before us today tells of another occasion when one of Jesus' followers became oppressed by doubt.

John was in prison, and probably suffering great discomfort and disillusionment. John?s messengers came to Jesus, wanting to know whether He really was the Messiah, or whether they should be looking for somebody else. John, you remember, had baptized Jesus and had introduced Him to the world with these words: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

Does it not seem strange that John, who witnessed the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at His baptism, should now have doubts about who He was and the validity of His mission? How did Jesus respond to this situation? With tenderness and sensitivity, He said, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see:

The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear ..." (Matt. 11:4-5). Our Lord could have rebuked the doubting disciple with strong words of reproof, but He didn't. Although He cares about problems, He cares more about people.

Thank You, Father, for reminding me that You see me, not as a problem but as a person. I know You are concerned about my doubts, but You are more concerned about me. I am deeply grateful. Amen.


Decide to Believe
For reading & meditation - James 1:2-12
"... when he asks, he must believe and not doubt ..." (v. 6)

Another important principle to employ when dealing with honest doubts is this: Make a conscious decision to doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs. Living an effective Christian life, as we have been seeing, depends on how willing we are to exercise our wills in favor of God and His Word.

To do this requires faith in the fact that God has revealed Himself in His Son and through the Scriptures. As a teenager, I had many doubts about the Scriptures but, one night, I made a conscious decision to accept them as the eternal and inerrant Word of God. Notice, I said "a conscious decision." I decided by an action of my will to doubt my doubts and believe my beliefs.

I then found an astonishing thing. Both doubt and faith are like muscles - the more you flex them, the stronger they become. I had been using the muscles of doubt to a great degree, but unfortunately, I had failed to exercise the muscles of faith. When I made up my mind to accept the truth of God's Word by faith, muscles I never thought I had began to function.

Now, many years later, those muscles are developed to such a degree that I find, where God is concerned, it is easier to believe Him than to doubt Him. I trace the beginnings of my own spiritual development to that day long ago, when I decided to take what one theologian called "the leap of faith." Perhaps today might become a similar day of decision for you. Decide to doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs. Now!

Prayer: O God, perhaps this is the secret: I have used the muscles of doubt more than the muscles of faith. From today, things will be different. I decide to take You and Your Word on trust - now let it work. Amen.


Do Your Emotions Take Over?
For reading & meditation - Psalms 103
"... the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him ..." (v. 17, RSV)

We continue exploring ways in which we can become strong at the broken places caused by deep and disturbing doubts. Another point we should keep in mind in relation to this question of doubt is that some doubts are rooted more in the emotions than in the intellect.

Our emotions are an important part of our being, and they can do much to make our lives either miserable or meaningful. When emotions take over, they cause our thinking to waver, so that we can come to faulty conclusions about life.

Ask yourself this question now: am I a person who is ruled more by my emotions than by my intellect? If you are, then it is likely that your doubts are rooted more in your feelings than in your mind.

Many years ago, a Christian university student came to me complaining that he had serious doubts about the inspiration and reliability of Scripture. As I counseled him, I heard the Spirit say, "This is not an intellectual doubt, but an emotional one."

I explored with him the area of his feelings, and he confessed to me that he could never remember a time in his life when he ever felt that he was loved. When the emotional problem was resolved, his doubts vanished of their own accord.

His problem was not intellectual, but emotional. Reason and emotion are both important in life, but decisions, especially decisions about the Christian life, must be built not on what we feel to be true but on what we know to be true.

Prayer: My Father and my God, help me trace my problem to its roots and meet me at the point of my deepest need. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.


Thomas, the Doer
For reading & meditation - Acts 1:6-14
"... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth." (v. 8)

Recognize that if you could not doubt, you could not believe. So don't be threatened or intimidated by your doubts. Robert Browning put it like this: "You call for faith: I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists.

The more of doubt, the stronger faith, I say, if faith o'ercomes doubt." Those who doubt most, and yet strive to overcome their doubts, turn out to be some of Christ's strongest disciples. One commentator points out that Thomas, being a twin, must have developed an early independence of judgment that made it possible for him to break with his brother and become a follower of Jesus.

This is an assumption, of course, but I think it is a valid one. It was that independence, perhaps, that led him to reject the testimony of the other disciples when they said, "We have seen the Lord." Jesus did not reject Thomas because of his doubts, but said to him: "Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe" (John 20:27).

Suddenly his doubts vanished, and he was transformed in that moment into one of Christ's most committed disciples. Up until then, no one had called Jesus "God " They had called Him, "Messiah," "Son of God," "Son of the Living God" - but not "God." Here Thomas the doubter leaped beyond the others, and became the strongest believer of them all. And this faith of Thomas?s did not stop at faith - it resulted in mighty achievement. The doubter became a doer. And how!

Prayer: O God, what a prospect - my faith, at first so tentative, can, through Your illumination and my response, become a driving force. It can not only save me, but send me. May there be no limits! Amen.


Danger in the Home
For reading & meditation - Matthew 11:25-30
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me ... and you will find rest ..." (v. 29)
Another area of life where many are broken is through troubles in the home. "Life " as Hemingway put it, "breaks us all " but perhaps nothing is quite as painful as being broken by difficulties in one's home. Have you been broken by problems within your family circle?

Then take heart - out of the brokenness God can bring strength. What kind of troubles bring us to a breaking point in the home? These are just some of them: incompatibility, disagreements, separation, threats or the action of divorce, insensitivity, bickering, quarrels, misunderstandings and violence, not to mention such things as alcoholism, drug abuse, mental and emotional breakdowns, child and adolescent rebellion, or gross neglect of the aged members of the family.

Even in some Christian homes, things can get pretty desperate. A study completed at the University of Rhode Island described the American home as the most dangerous place to be - apart from a war or a riot. It's also getting like this in Britain.

All of us have experienced some hurt through broken relationships in the home. Many, out of loyalty to their families, face the world with a smile, but inwardly they are bleeding. I know a woman who was heartbroken by her husband?s adultery and the rebellion of her children, but today she has recovered and is busy staunching the bleeding wounds in other people's hearts.

So it can be done. To those of you broken by troubles in the home, our Lord says, "Learn from Me: I will make you so strong at the broken places of your life that you shall minister to others out of that hidden strength."

O God, You know how easy it is to blunder in this delicate and difficult business of relationships. I needsomeone to lead me in the right way. You lead me, Father - I will follow. Amen.


Our Three Primary Needs
For reading & meditation - Colossians 2:1-10
"... in Him you have been made complete ..." (v. 10, NASB)
The first principle we must learn if we are to recover from the brokenness caused by troubles in the home is: Depend on God, and not on anyone else, to meet the deepest needs of your personality.

Allow this truth to take hold of your innermost being and you will become a transformed person. The most basic needs of our personality are these: (1) the need to be loved unconditionally (security); (2) the need to be valued (self-worth), and (3) the need to make a meaningful contribution to God's world (significance).

Human beings can only function effectively to the degree that these needs are met. If they are unsatisfied, our ability to function as a person is greatly hindered; if they are adequately met, then, other things being equal, we have the potential of functioning effectively.

Notice, however, this important point - our needs for security, significance, and self-worth can be fully met only in a close and ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. If we do not let Christ meet those needs, then because they have to be met in order for us to function effectively, we will attempt to get them met in and through others.

Although many do not realize it, this is what draws many people toward marriage, because they see the possibility of having their needs met through their partner. But no human being, however loving, kind, and considerate they may be, can fully meet these needs. I say again: they can be met fully only in a close and ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ

.Prayer: Father, I sense that I am on the verge of something big and challenging. Help me to grasp this, for I sense that if I do, I shall become a transformed person. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.