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In step


Are You a Manipulator?
For reading & meditation - John 15:9-17
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (v. 12)
Yesterday we touched on what is perhaps the biggest single problem causing marital unhappiness - trying to get one's partner to meet needs that can only be fully met through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

What happens if we do not allow God to meet our basic needs? We will try to get those needs met in some other way. Some people try to find satisfaction in achievement. This, however, fails to bring lasting satisfaction, and whenever their inner discomfort reaches the threshold of awareness, they anesthetize it with more activities, achievement, and work.

Another way is to attempt to get these needs met in marriage. But if we enter marriage as a way of getting our needs met, then we consciously or unconsciously become involved in manipulating our partner to meet our needs. Instead of following the Christian vision of marriage, which is to minister to our partners from a position of security in Christ's love, we begin to manipulate them to meet our needs.

Thousands of marriages, perhaps millions, are caught up in this treadmill - each trying to get their partner to meet the needs that only God can fully meet. The best way to get our needs met is to depend on God to meet them. When we lock into Him and focus on how much He loves and values us, and on His purpose for our lives, then and only then are we free to minister in the way He prescribes in His Word. Without that inner security, we become exposed and vulnerable to the likes or dislikes of our partner. We become puppets - not people.

Prayer: O my Lord and Master, take me in Your arms today and make me so conscious of Your love that I will no longer manipulate others to love me, but will minister to them with the love I already have. For Jesus' sake I ask it. Amen.


Making God More Meaningful
For reading & meditation - 1 John 4:7-21

"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (v. 12)
We have been seeing over the past two days that the first principle to follow in healing the brokenness that comes through troubles in the home is to depend on the Lord to meet our basic needs.

You might ask yourself: if the Lord can meet my needs for security, self-worth, and significance, why do I need a human partner at all? The answer to that question flows out of the next principle: In the relationship with your partner or your children, focus more on what you can give than what you can get.

This can be exceedingly difficult, of course, if you are not allowing God to meet your needs, but once you are secure in Him, everything He asks you to do becomes possible.

Assuming our needs for security, significance, and self-worth are being met in God, we are then in a position to fulfil God's true purpose for marriage, which is this: God, who is an invisible, intangible, eternal Being, has designed marriage to be a visible, tangible demonstration of the reality of His love as we minister love and consideration to one another.

Just think of it - in marriage we have the marvelous privilege of demonstrating God's love to our partners in a way that they can feel, touch, and understand. Our love will not add to the fact of their security in Christ, but it will add to the degree to which they feel it. No wonder Martin Luther said that marriage was the greatest way God had of teaching us the truths about Himself. And the second greatest way? You've got it! The church!

Father, to realize that I have the privilege of bringing the reality of Your love to others, and thus making You more real to them, is so incredible that it almost blows my mind! But I know it is true. Make me worthy of this privilege. For Jesus' sake. Amen


Accepting Your Partner
For reading & meditation - John 13:12-20
"... whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me ..." (v. 20)

The third principle for healing the brokenness that arises from troubles in the home only works if the previous two are clearly established: Accept your partner or your children, and don't just endure them. Too difficult?

Look again at the verse at the top of this page, where we are instructed to accept each other just as God accepts us. And remember that when we supply the willingness, God supplies the power. There is quite a difference, of course, between accepting your partner and enjoying him or her; the former is a scriptural requirement, the latter is something that is dependent on their response and behavior.

Marriage sometimes involves living with an irritating, infuriating, and obnoxious person: how can we accept such a person, let alone enjoy him or her? Acceptance does not mean that we have to enjoy everything our partner does: it means rather that we see our partner as someone to whom God wants us to minister, and we pursue that ministry whether we feel like it or not.

Many Christians stumble over this. A lady who recently came through to victory on this point said to me, "But how can I accept my husband, who is nothing more than a loathsome, alcoholic pig?" I said, "It's impossible as long as you are depending on your husband to meet your need for security. Depend on God to meet that need, and then see what happens."

She did so, and found that when she no longer depended on her husband to meet her security needs. she saw him in a completely new light. Then she had no difficulty in accepting him.

O God, this sounds too good to be true. Can life?s difficulties be resolved so easily? Give me the courage not to dismiss anything until I've tried it, nor resist any principle that is in harmony with Your Word. Amen.


A Check-Up for Husbands
For reading & meditation - Ephesians 5:22-23
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church ..." (v. 25)

Over the next two days I want to establish two final principles for dealing with troubles in the home: one for the husbands and one for the wives. Today we begin with the men: Be prepared to give yourself a spiritual check-up on how you are doing as a husband. Cross out whichever answer does not apply.

1. Do you still "court" your wife with an unexpected gift of flowers or chocolates? (Anniversaries and birthdays not to be included) (YES/NO)

2. Are you careful never to criticize her in front of others? (YES/NO)

3. Do you make an effort to understand her varying feminine moods and help her through them? (YES/NO)

4. Do you depend on your wife to meet your basic personal needs? (YES/NO)

5. Do you pray together? (YES/NO)

6. Do you share at least half your recreation time with your wife and family? (YES/NO)

7. Are you alert for opportunities to praise and compliment her? (YES/NO)

8. Do you go to church together? (YES/NO)

9. Is she first in your life - after the Lord? (YES/NO)

10. Have you forgiven her for any hurts or problems she may have caused you? (YES/NO) A score of 7 to 10 yes responses - excellent! Below 7 yes answers - you've got some work ahead of you.

Father, You who have set us in families, help me to be the person You intend me to be, both in my marriage and in my home. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.


A Check-Up for Wives
For reading & meditation - 1 Peter 3
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands ..." (v. 1)

Yesterday the men were asked to examine themselves using a simple questionnaire as to how they were doing as husbands. Today a similar opportunity is extended to wives.

1. Are you depending on the Lord to meet your basic needs for security, significance, and self-worth? (YES/NO)

2. Can you meet financial disasters bravely without condemning your husband for his mistakes, or comparing him unfavorably with others? (YES/NO)

3. Do you dress with an eye for your husband's likes and dislikes in color and style? (YES/NO)

4. Do you keep up your own personal prayer life so that you may meet everything that arises with poise? (YES/NO)

5. Do you avoid daydreaming or fantasizing about other men you might have married? (YES/NO)\

6. Are you sensitive to your husband?s moods and feelings and know when, and when not, to bring up delicate issues? (YES/NO)

7. Do you respect your husband? (YES/NO)

8. Are you careful never to criticize your husband in front of others? (YES/NO)

9. Do you keep track of the day's news and what is happening in the world so that you can discuss these with your husband? (YES/NO)

10. Are you a "submissive" wife? (YES/NO) A score of 7 to 10 yes responses - excellent. Below 7 yes answers - it's decision time.

Prayer: My heavenly Father, I realize the tender relationships of home can be a shrine, or they can be a snarl. Keep my inner shrine from all wrong attitudes and from all worry. Let me approach today's challenge in the knowledge that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13, NKJV). Amen.


Alfrescian (InfP)
Generous Asset
When Broken by Stress
For reading & meditation - Psalms 71
"You have let me sink down deep in desperate problems. But you will bring me back to life again, up from the depths of the earth!" (v. 20, TLB)

Another major cause for brokenness in human life is stress. Often I get letters from people saying something like this: "I feel I am on the verge of a breakdown. No one thing seems to be responsible for it, but I just can't cope. My doctor says I am suffering from stress.

Can the Bible meet this need?" I am bold to say that it can. God can take a person overcome by stress and build into their lives insights which will enable them to live above and beyond its paralyzing grip.

What exactly is "stress"? One doctor defines it as "wear and tear on the personality which, if uncorrected, can result in a physical or mental breakdown." Donald Norfolk, a British osteopath who has made a special study of stress, claims that it comes from two main causes: too little change, or too much change. To function at peak efficiency, we all need a certain amount of change.

However, when changes come too fast for us to cope with, the personality is put under tremendous stress. Dr. Thomas H. Holmes measures stress in terms of "units of change " For example, the death of a loved one measures 100 units, divorce 73 units, pregnancy 40 units, moving or altering a home 25 units, and Christmas 12 units.

His conclusion is that no one can handle more than 300 units of stress in a twelve- month period without suffering physically or emotionally during the next two years. Holmes, of course, was speaking from a strictly human point of view - with God "all things are possible."

Prayer: Father, You have taught me much on how to turn my weaknesses into strengths. Teach me now how to handle stress. I cannot change my surroundings - but I can change my attitude. Help me to do this. For Jesus' sake. Amen.


What a Waste!
For reading & meditation - Philippians 4:13
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (v. 6)

We continue meditating on the principles we can use when our lives are threatened by stress: Recognize the symptoms of stress. No alarm bells ring in our homes or offices when we are suffering undue stress, but there are adequate warning signs.

People under stress generally become irritable and overreact to relatively trivial frustrations. They show a change in their sleep patterns, and become increasingly tired and restless. They derive less pleasure from life, experience no joy while praying or reading the Bible, laugh less, and become plagued with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

They sometimes develop psychosomatic complaints such as tension headaches, indigestion and other things. Some people have what is known as "target organs" - physical organs that are the first to suffer when they are under stress.

Harold Wilson confessed that whenever he had to fire a colleague, he suffered acute stomach pains. Henry Ford suffered cramps in his stomach whenever he had to make an important business decision. Trotsky, when under pressure, used to develop bouts of high temperature, and frequently had to spend time in the Crimea recuperating.

One businessman I know always has a glass of milk on his desk from which he takes frequent sips in order to calm his nagging peptic ulcer. Are you able to recognize your own particular patterns of stress? You owe it to God and yourself to find out. The waste that goes on in Christian circles through believers channeling their energies into coping with stress, rather than into extending the kingdom of God, is appalling.

Prayer: O God, sharpen my ability to recognize the things I do that contribute to stress in my life, so that all my energies can be channeled into spiritual activity, not self-activity. For Jesus' sake. Amen


Stop and Smell the Roses
For reading & meditation - Matthew 6:25-34
"... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow ..." (v. 28, RSV)

Another principle that helps us cope with stress is this: Seek to overcome any rigidity in your personality. You can best understand rigidity by comparing it with its opposite - flexibility. A more formal definition of rigidity is this: "The inability or refusal to change one's actions or attitudes even though objective conditions indicate that a change is desirable."

The rigid person clings to certain ways of thinking and acting, even when they are injurious to the personality and burn up their emotional energy. Someone described it as similar to driving a car with the brakes on. Take the housewife who worries herself into a migraine attack because she cannot maintain a scrupulously tidy home while her grandchildren are visiting.

Or the businessman who triggers off another gastric ulcer because he falls behind with his schedule when his secretary is away sick. Inflexible goals can be crippling fetters. It's no good saying, "But there are things that have to be done, and if I don't do them, they just won't get done." Perhaps you need to rearrange your priorities, adjust your lifestyle and learn to say Ono."

As someone put it, "We must not drive so relentlessly forward that we cannot stop and smell the roses by the wayside." You may be caught up in the midst of one of the busiest weeks of your year, but pause for a moment and ask yourself: am I driving, or am I being driven? Am I in control of my personality, or is it in control of me? Today, decide to take a step away from rigidity by pausing to "smell a rose."

O God, I am now at grips with the raw material of living; out of it must come a person - Your person. Help me to be rigid only in relation to You, and flexible about everything else. For Jesus' sake. Amen.


Don't Push the River!
For reading & meditation - Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven ..." (v. 1)

Refuse to be obsessed with time. It is right to be concerned about time, but it is not right to be obsessed with it. Do you live life by the clock? Then you are a candidate for stress. When filmmakers want to create tension, they show a clock relentlessly ticking away.

Such tactics are pointless when applied to the ordinary issues of everyday life. Nervous glances at a watch will generate tension when you are caught in traffic, but they will not make the traffic move any faster. Fretting will do nothing to alter the situation. So learn to relax, and do not become intimidated by time.

Some people live life as if they are on a racing track, and set themselves rigid lap times for the things they want to accomplish during the day. Two motorists were given the task of driving for 1,700 miles. One was asked to drive as fast as he could without breaking any speed limits; the other was told to drive at any comfortable pace.

At the end of their journeys, it was found that the faster driver had consumed ten gallons more gas and doubled the wear on his tires; by driving at a speed which, in the end, proved to be only two miles per hour faster than the other driver!

A man said to me in a counseling session when I advised him to slow down: "The trouble is that I'm in a hurry - but God isn't!" Learn the wisdom of letting things develop at their own pace, and follow the maxim that says: "Don't push the river - let it flow."

Prayer: O Father, save me from being obsessed by time. Help me to see that I have all the time in the world to do what You want me to do. And when I am overconcerned, I am overwrought! Help me, dear Father. Amen.


Keeping Fit for Jesus!
For reading & meditation - 1 Timothy 4
"... physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things ..." (v. 8)

We spend one last day meditating on the ways by which we can overcome stress in our lives. This final principle is: engage in as much physical exercise as is necessary. One laboratory experiment took ten underexercised rats, and subjected them repeatedly to a variety of stresses: shock, pain, shrill noises, and flashing lights.

After a month, every one of them had died through the incessant strain. Another group of rats was given a good deal of exercise until they were in peak physical condition. They were then subjected to the same battery of stresses and strains. After a month, not one had died.

More and more Christians are waking up to the fact that God has given us bodies that are designed to move, and the more they are exercised, the more effectively they function. Studies on how exercise helps to reduce stress are quite conclusive.

Exercise gets rid of harmful chemicals in our bodies, provides a form of abreaction (letting off steam), builds up stamina, counteracts the biochemical effects of stress, and reduces the risk of psychological illness. The Bible rarely mentions the need for physical exercise, because people living at that time usually walked everywhere and therefore needed little admonition on the subject.

In our world of advanced technology, however, common sense tells us that our bodies need to be exercised, and we should not neglect it. It may not be a spectacular idea, but often God comes to us along some very dusty and lowly roads. We must not despise His coming just because He comes to us along a lowly road.

Lord, help me not to despise this call of Yours to exercise my body. Forgive me that I am such a poor tenant of Your property. From today I determine to do better. For Your own Name's sake. Amen.


For reading & meditation - Psalms 32
"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." (v. 1)

We come now to speak of all those who have been broken, or are on the verge of being broken, by the memory of some deeply grievous sin. I am not thinking so much of those who have committed sin and have not come to Christ for forgiveness, but of those who, though they have been forgiven by God, are unable to forgive themselves.

A man came to me recently at the end of a meeting at which I had spoken, and told me the details of a particularly horrendous sin in which he had been involved. He said, "I know God has forgiven me, but the memory of what I have done is constantly with me. It is quietly driving me insane."

This brought to mind a story I heard many years ago of a father who taught his son to drive a nail into a board every time he did something wrong, and then to pull out the nail after he had confessed the wrong and had been forgiven.

Every time this happened, the boy would say triumphantly, "Hurray! The nails are gone!" "Yes," his father would say, "but always remember that the marks made by the nails are still in the wood." The message I want you to get hold of and build into your life is this: the Carpenter of Nazareth can not only pull out the nails, but can also varnish and beautify the wood so that the marks become, not a contradiction, but a contribution.

Lord Jesus Christ, You who once were known as a carpenter's son, take the stains and blemishes of my past and work through them so that they contribute, rather than contradict. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.


Grace - Greater Than All Our Sin!
For reading & meditation - Romans 5:12-21
"... where sin abounded, grace did much more abound ..." (v. 20, KJV)

We are meditating on how to recover from the brokenness caused by the memory of some deeply grievous sin. By that we mean a sin which God has forgiven but which, for some reason, still burns in our memories.

The first principle is this: realize that God can do more with sin than just forgive it. I heard an elderly minister make that statement many years ago, when I was a young Christian, and at first I resisted it. I said to myself: "How can God use sin? Surely it is His one intolerance?"

Then, after pondering for a while, I saw what he meant. God uses our sin to motivate our will toward greater spiritual achievement, to quicken our compassion toward sinners and to show God's tender heart for the fallen. We must be careful, of course, that we do not fall into the error which Paul refers to in Romans 6:1-2: "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid" (KJV).

If we sin in order that God may use it, then our motives are all wrong and we fall foul of the eternal purposes. If, however, we commit sin, but then take it to God in confession - really take it to Him - then He will not only forgive it, but make something of it. Is this too difficult for you to conceive? Then I point you to the cross. The cross was the foulest deed mankind ever committed, yet God used it to become the fulcrum of His redemption. It was our lowest point - but it was God's zenith. Hallelujah.

O Father, I am so relieved to know that You take even my sins and make them contribute to Your purposes. Grace turns all my bad into good, all my good into better and all my better into the best. Hallelujah!


Why Do I Do These Things?
For reading & meditation - 1 John 1:1-10
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (v. 9)

We continue meditating on the principles that enable us to recover from the brokenness caused by the memory of some grievous sin. A second principle is this: Understand the major reason why you tend to brood on the past. People who brood on the past, and keep the memory of their sin alive, do so for several reasons.

Let's take them one by one: (1) They are not sure that God has forgiven them. If you have this kind of doubt, it is really a denial. It is taking a verse, like the one before us today, and flinging it back into God's face, saying "I don't believe it." If you don't accept God's forgiveness, you will try to make your own atonement in feelings of guilt. Once you confess your sin, then, as far as God is concerned, that's the end of it. Believe that - and act upon it. It's the gospel truth!

(2) They are in the grip of spiritual pride. You should be asking yourself, at some deep level of your mental and emotional life: How could I have ever done a thing like that? What this really amounts to is that you have too high an opinion of yourself. And that's about as bad as too low an opinion of yourself.

(3) They have not forgiven themselves. It might help to stand in front of a mirror with your Bible open at the verse at the top of this page, reassure yourself that God has forgiven you, and say to yourself, by name: "---------, God has forgiven you - now I forgive you too!"

Gracious Father, although I understand many things, I fail so often to understand myself. Teach me more of what goes on deep inside me, so that, being more self-aware, I may become more God-aware. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.


Remembering to Forget
For reading & meditation - Philippians 3
"... forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal ..." (vv. 13-14, RSV)

One more principle in relation to recovering from the brokenness caused by the memory of some dark sin: Forget it by reversing the process of remembering. Puzzled? Let me explain. Memory works like this: one revives an image of some past event, holds it in the mind for a certain length of time, and then this process is repeated until it is locked into the memory for good. Now begin to reverse that process.

The matter has been forgiven by God, so don't let your mind focus on it. When it rises to the surface by itself, as it will, turn the mind away from it immediately. Have in your mind a few interesting themes "on call."

Think of another and more profitable theme. I know a Christian man, involved in one of the deepest sins imaginable, who has learned to blot out unwanted memories the moment they rise to the surface by focusing his thoughts on the cross. It does not matter what the substitute image is so long as it is wholesome and can thrust the unwanted memory from your attention.

Another thing you can do when the memory of your sin returns - even if it is only for a moment - is to turn your mind to prayer. Don't pray about the sin itself - that will keep it in the memory - but pray that God will build into you love, forgiveness, peace, and poise. Images that are consciously rejected will rise less and less in your mind. When they do occur, they will occur only as fact; the emotions will no longer register a sense of burning shame.

O my Father, how can I cease thanking You for the answers You give - they are so right. Everything within me says so. Now help me to put the things I am learning into practice. Amen.


The End of the Beginning
For reading & meditation - 2 Corinthians 2:12
"... thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ ..." (2:14)

Although this is the end of the theme of "Strong at the broken places," I pray that, for many of you, it will be the beginning of a new approach to handling your weaknesses. How thankful I am that, in the early years of my Christian life, God impressed into my spirit the truth that my weaknesses could be turned into strengths.

With just a few years of Christian experience behind me, I stumbled and fell. The temptation was to wallow in self-pity. But by God's grace, I got up, brushed myself off, and said, "Devil, you won that round, but I'll work on that problem until it is no longer a weakness, but a strength." I did work on it, and today I can testify that the weakness which caused me to stumble has indeed become a strength.

I say that humbly, recognizing that the strength I have is not my own, but His. Today is a new day. How will you face it? Are you ready to face your weaknesses in the assurance that, no matter how life breaks you, you can draw out from each experience a lesson that will live on inside you and help you to find victory in a future situation?

Just as a broken bone, when it is healed, becomes stronger at that place than it was before it was broken, so you can become stronger by your very weaknesses. Thus when you stumble, you stumble forward; when you fall, you fall on your knees and get up a stronger person. When we are Christians, everything is "grist to our mill."

O Father, I sense today that this is not the end, but the end of the beginning. From now on, I shall face the future knowing that, however life breaks me, in You I can become strong at the broken places. All honor and glory to Your peerless and precious Name. 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!

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.


Turning tests into testimonies
For reading & meditation - Luke 21
"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.

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.


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.

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.


Never Soar as High Again?
For reading & meditation - 1 Peter 1:3-9
""These have come so that your faith ... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."" (v. 7)

We turn now to examine some of the ways in which our lives become fractured, and what we can do to become ""strong at the broken places."" We begin by looking at the brokenness which comes about through failure.

Probably someone reading these words is caught up in a vortex of gloom due to a failure. You may be feeling like the man who said to me: ""I am stunned by my failure. My life is shattered into smithereens. I read somewhere that 'the bird with the broken wing will never soar as high again.'

Does that mean I can never rise to the heights in God which once I knew?"" I reminded him of Simon Peter - a man with one of the worst track records in the New Testament. He was prejudiced, bigoted, stubborn, and spiritually insensitive.

Again and again he got his wires crossed, such as the time when he attempted to divert Christ from going to His death in Jerusalem (Matt. 16:22), or his insistence that they should stay on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:4). Then, on the eve of Christ's crucifixion, he denied and even cursed his Lord.

I can imagine Satan whispering in his ear: ""Now you're finished. Burned out. A failure. You'll be forgotten ... replaced."" But by God's grace, Peter rose from failure to success. He became ""strong at the broken places."" Because he refused to live in the shadow of his bad track record, his two letters are enshrined forever in the Scriptures. Failures, you see, are only temporary tests to prepare us for more permanent triumphs.

O Father, I see so clearly that no failure is a failure if it succeeds in driving me to Your side. All things serve me - when I serve You. Amen.


How Do You Respond?
|For reading & meditation - Hebrews 12:4-15
"Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace which God gives, for if he does there can ... spring up in him a bitter spirit ..."" (v. 15, J. B. Phillips)

Today we must examine an issue that may be extremely challenging to us Christians, but we must face it nevertheless. Why is it that many non-Christians, though broken by life, succeed in becoming ""strong at the broken places,"" while many Christians go through similar experiences and come out crippled and bitter?

A few years ago I watched a television program in the United States in which a famous Jew, Victor Frankl, talked about his experiences in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. When he was brought before the Gestapo, they stripped him naked and then, noticing that he was still wearing his gold wedding ring, one of the soldiers said, ""Give it to me.""

As he removed his ring, this thought went through his mind: ""They can take my ring, but there is one thing nobody can take from me - my freedom to choose how I will respond to what happens to me."" On the strength of that, he not only survived the Holocaust, but also developed his whole psychiatric system called Logotherapy, which states that ""when you find meaning in everything, then you can face anything.""

Frankl, a non-Christian, survived the horrors of the Holocaust because he was sustained by an inner conviction that he would come through it, and be able to use the suffering to good effect. His system of Logotherapy is now being used to help thousands who have mental and emotional problems. If a non-Christian, bereft of redemptive grace, can respond to life in this way, then how much more those of us who claim to be His children?

O Father, whenever You corner me like this, You know my tendency to wriggle and try to get off the hook. Help me to face this issue and take my medicine, however bitter it tastes. For Jesus' sake. Amen.