Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What, Me Worry?

There is a lot of talk today on how evil and frightening the world is becoming. Wars of all kinds, terrorism and natural disasters fill the headlines. It is natural to be concerned, but I was reading Psalm 36 this morning and God's words tell us what to do when we feel this way.

Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Psalm 36

Instead of looking at what evil there is in the world, let us look up to God for strength, help and hope.




Saturday, December 27, 2014

Making the Best of Everything.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." 

Philippians 4:8

A Triple Best.

by Arch. Alexander  (abridged)

Some time ago I came across the life-motto of George Stephenson, the "father of the locomotive," as he has been called. He said, "Make the best of everything; think the best of everybody; hope the best for yourself." 

First, MAKE THE BEST OF EVERYTHING.  In every set of circumstances possible or conceivable, there are always, at any rate, two ways of acting.  You can look for the helpful, bright, and hopeful things, and "freeze on" to these meantime.  Or, you can select all the doleful, somber aspects, and sit down in the dust with them.  Now, if it did not matter which a man did, there would be no good saying any more.  But it has long since become abundantly clear that the man who makes the best of his circumstances, however hard they be, comes most happily out of them in the end.  In other words, it pays to make the best of things. It is the cheery people who recover quickest when they are sick.  There are men who, if their house should fall in ruins about them, will contrive some sort of shelter meantime with the broken beams!  

Nobody pretends that it is easy, when we have failed, to gather our powers together and try again.  But nearly all the big men have had to do that very thing.  It certainly is not easy, when you have a heavy burden of your own, to spare a cheery word or a hand of sympathy for somebody who is really much better off, but there are plenty of people doing it at this moment.  Nero's palace is the last place in this world where you would expect to find a company of loyal Christian folk.  Yet there were such people there, "the saints of C├Žsar's household."  And the grace of God that made that possible can achieve all these lesser wonders too.

Second, THINK THE BEST OF EVERYBODY.  The way to get the best out of people is to think the best about them. Let a man see that you have good hopes of him, and recognize what is best in him, and, in ways of which science can give no explanation, you add to his chances of reaching better things.  In any case, who would not wish to stand on Christ's side rather than on Judas's.  "This ointment might have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor." That is Judas.  "Let her alone.  Why trouble ye her?  She hath wrought a good work in me.  She hath done what she could."  That is Jesus Christ.

Third,--Don't leave yourself out of the picture. 
 HOPE THE BEST FOR YOURSELF.  Hope the best for yourself, and you are already a good way on the road to it.  Suggestion is a tremendously powerful instrument, even when you make it yourself. By self suggestion, the psychologists tell us, you can influence your actions, your character, and your general outlook in a wonderful fashion, either to your advantage or your hurt.  Therefore, they say, be careful never to suggest evil to yourself.  Never say to yourself, "I'm going to make a mess of this," or "I am not fit for that." Suggest success, happiness, health, and you beckon them to you.  

Hope the best for yourself, and you pave the way for its coming. On higher planes, the same holds true.  Hope on, and, though you fall you will rise again.  Believe that you will be enabled to face your trouble or temptation, and you will be brought through it somehow. Even when the end of life is near, hope still, for beyond this best there is a better, and God's road winds uphill all the way. 

But, you say, this is just faith.  I know it is.  Run your hopes for yourself up as high as you can reach, and they will touch God and become faith.  That is why you are to hope the best for yourself because God the Father loves you, and desires the best for you too.

I believe in the optimism which Stephenson's motto embodies, because I believe in the Fatherhood of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is why I counsel you to go on hoping that the best is yet to be.  Not that we can earn it at all, or that we deserve it at all.  But--because God, our Father.  And, for the daring and faith of that saying, this sufficient ground.--Because--Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

God Loves the Unlovable.

The God of the Unlovable Man.

by Arch Alexander (abridged)



There is a phrase which echoes through the Old Testament like the refrain of some solemn music--the "God of Jacob."  "The God of Jacob," says the 46th Psalmist, "is our refuge."  

Yet when you think of it, it is a strange title.  The "God of Abraham" you can understand, for Abraham was a great and faithful soul.  And the "God of Isaac," also, for Isaac was a saint.  But the "God of Jacob" is a combination of ideas of a very different sort.  For though, by God's grace, Jacob became a saint in the end, it took much discipline and trouble to mold him into a true godliness. Yet, there is something cold and calculating about Jacob that repels affection.

 For all his religion, the Jacob of the earlier chapters is a mean soul, successful but unscrupulous, pious but not straight, spiritually-minded but not lovable.  And yet the Almighty condescends to be known as the God of Jacob, and the Bible loves that name for God!

What does that say to you?  To me it says this--and I think we all need to learn it--that God is the God even of unlovable people!  That even unlovable people have a God!  That the Lord is very gracious to sinners, we all rejoice to believe, for that is the Evangel of Jesus, and He Himself was found practicing it even among the waifs and outcasts of society.  But that unlovable people have a God, too, is actually harder for us to realize, for the plain fact is that unlovable, disagreeable people irritate and annoy us more even than the sinners.  

If you question that, just analyse your attitude to the Prodigal in our Lord's wonderful story, compared with that toward his respectable, cold-hearted and priggish elder brother.  The brother irritates us.  We call him, with some heat, as Henry Drummond did, a baby, and we want to shake him.  But we never want to shake the prodigal. 

Now, we all have, on our list of acquaintances, people whom we have labelled disagreeable, who continually rub us the wrong way, as we put it.  There is the man who is always talking about himself, and is filled with conceit like a bladder with air. There is the ill-tempered, sulky person, and the grumbling, whining, dolorous soul never without an ache or a grievance.  So we can all draw up our 
own private list of the people we bar or dislike.  We say these people are unlovable. And, since the corruption of the best is the worst, we are agreed that the most unlovable of all types is the religious undesirable, the smug, unctuous, oily person, for example, whose sincerity is continually in question, the narrow, intolerant, little soul who cannot see any sort of truth or righteousness except his own, or the prim and pious man who is cocksure of his interest in the life to come, but is not straight in the affairs of the life which now is.  

Realize that the Lord your God is the God also of these unlovable people.  Get that idea thoroughly into your heart, and say it to yourself, if need be, many times a day.  These people look up to Him in worship just as you do.  They have their sacred hours in His presence just as you have. There is nothing you look for to God, that they do not seek, too, from Him.  They are not of a different order from you, but the same order. And though you do not love them, God does.  Though they are outside of your circle, they are not outside of His.  The God of Jacob is their God.  And therein lies for them, as it did for Jacob, the hope and promise of better things to come.

Just to think of what is meant by the "God of Jacob" is to set our sharp and bitter judgments of others over against the infinitely tender compassion and patience and long-suffering of God.  All the wonder of the divine grace is hidden in the phrase. And this is the wonder--that God never grows tired even of disagreeable people.  He does not give up caring even for the unlovable.  

But oh! what poor sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty we are, with our quick, rash final judgments and our hard, unbrotherly hearts! Did you ever ask yourself what some of these unlovable people are doing, the while you and I are telling each other how impossible and unlovable they are?  George Eliot suggests it somewhere thus:--" While we are coldly discussing a man's career, sneering at his mistakes, and labeling his opinions 'Evangelical and narrow' or 'Latitudinarian and pantheistic,' or 'Anglican and supercilious,' that man in his solitude is perhaps shedding hot tears because his sacrifice is a hard one, because strength and patience are failing him to speak the difficult word and do the difficult deed."  

Ah, yes, it's a mercy that there is a God even for unlovable people! (But)... what about ourselves, you and me?  Are we such lovable people that we can afford to judge others?  Do we never rub our friends the wrong way, and, without meaning it, annoy and disappoint and repel them?  Are our religious profession and our daily practice so very much in keeping that we may talk about prigs and self-righteous people as if they belonged to an entirely different world?  

May I speak for you all and say humbly "No"?  No, God knows they are not!  The fact is that if we know ourselves at all well, we must be aware that we have it in us to be quite as disagreeable and selfish and self-righteous as anybody.  It is only our best beloved who do not get tired of us, and sometimes even they must be hard put to it. But there is a blessed Gospel for those who have made that discovery about themselves.  There is a God of Jacob.

 Abraham is too high for us, and Isaac is too saintly, but Jacob, faulty, disappointing, unlovable, yet by God's grace redeemed and perfected at last, Jacob is the man for us!  The hope and comfort of all who have learned what they really are is that "the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

One Day at A Time.

A Day at A Time. 
(abridged)

by Arch Alexander

"...as your days, so shall your strength be."  Duteronomy 33:25

This is a great and glorious promise. And just a couple of verses further on, "The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms."  verse 27

Notice how the promise runs. Not as your life is, not as your years are, not even as your weeks are, but as your days, so shall your strength be. For each day as it comes. God's promise is that strength will be given you, but just for a day at a time. Leave tomorrow with God, my brother, until it comes. That is what the word of God lays upon you as a duty. Live this day at your best and bravest, trusting that God's help will not fail you. And for the duties and trials of tomorrow, however hard and heavy, believe that strength for that day also will be given you.

You cannot have failed to observe what an important place this way of life had in the teaching of Jesus Christ. He was always trying to get men to trust the coming days to God, and to live fully, worthily and nobly today. He was dead against the practice of adding to the burdens of today fears and forebodings of tomorrow. It is in love to us, in his desire to save us unnecessary pain, that he bids us remember that, "...do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

The habit of living ahead, as so many of us do, prevents us from getting the full taste and flavor of the happiness and blessing that is ours today. Leave all your tomorrows with God - it is what he wants you to do - and humbly and gratefully take from his hand his gift of today and the strength that comes with it. 


Friday, December 12, 2014

The Dying Soldier.

THE DYING SOLDIER. 

by Dwight L. Moody

“As Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15). Now there is the remedy. How am I to be saved? By looking to Christ; just by looking. It’s very cheap isn’t it? Very simple, isn’t it? Just look away to the Lamb of God now and be saved. 

What says the great wilderness preacher? “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” You might say the whole plan of salvation is in two words—Giving; Receiving. God gives; I receive. 

I remember, after one of the terrible battles in the American Civil War—I was in the army, tending soldiers—and I had just laid down one night, past midnight, to get a little rest, when a man came and told me that a wounded soldier wanted to see me. I went to the dying man. He said, “I wish you to help me to die.” I said, “I would help you to die if I could. I would take you on my shoulders and carry you into the kingdom of God if I could; but I cannot. I can tell you of One who can.” 

And I told him of Christ being willing to save him; and how Christ left heaven and came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. I just quoted promise after promise, but all was dark, and it almost seemed as if the shades of eternal death were gathering around his soul. I could not leave him, and at last I thought of this third chapter of John, and I said to him, “Look here, I am going to read to you now a conversation that Christ had with a man that went to Him when he was in your state of mind, and inquired what he was to do to be saved.” 

I just read that conversation to the dying man, and he lay there with his eves riveted upon me, and every word seemed to be going home to his heart, which was open to receive the truth. 

When I came to the verse where it says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life”—the dying man cried, “Stop, sir. Is that there?” 

“Yes, it is all here.” Then he said, “Won’t you please read it to me again?” I read it the second time. The dying man brought his hands together, and he said, “Bless God for that. Won’t you please read it to me again?” I read through the whole chapter, but long before the end of it he had closed his eyes. 

He seemed to lose all interest in the rest of the chapter, and when I got through it his arms were folded on his breast, he had a sweet smile on his face; remorse and despair had fled away. His lips were quivering, and I leaned over him, and heard him faintly whisper from his dying lips, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” 

He opened his eyes, and fixed his calm, deathly look on me, and he said, “Oh, that is enough; that is all I want”; and in a few hours he pillowed his dying head upon the truth of those two verses, and rode away on one of the Savior’s chariots, and took his seat in the kingdom of God. Oh, sinner, you can be saved now if you will! Look and live. May God help every lost one here to look on the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What Do You Treasure?



"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart."  Luke6:45

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Luke 12:34

Jesus said that whatever we treasure fills our minds and hearts. If we want to make a lot of money then money is on our thoughts a good deal of the time and we will talk about that. I have met people like that. They talk about money and what they would do with it every time you visit them.

If we worry about our children, then we talk about them all the time. We worry and fret and try to fix their problems. If we we care about our career too much then our thoughts are always at work and we can't relax. Take any subject on earth, sex, drugs, or video games, it can become our treasure.


What's the answer?  "And He (Jesus) was saying to them, "Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides." Mark 4:25

Being careful of what you listen to is the first step. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17)  

"For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:3-5

God promises us that if we seek for knowledge of Him we will find it. He says to search for him as for hidden treasures. If you knew the general area of a place that had a hidden treasure of gold pieces, wouldn't you spend lots of time trying to find it? 

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."  Matthew 13:44

God says it is worth all we have to find Him. He is the treasure above all other treasures. He is worth more than gold, silver or lands and houses. 

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."  Matthew 19:21

For the man Jesus was talking with, his treasure was his wealth. Jesus asked him to be one of his disciples. He could join the 12 in following Jesus day by day and learning of salvation. But his heart was in his riches and he turned away from Jesus.

"Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to shareBy doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life."  1 Timothy 6:18,19

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"  Matthew 16:26




Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sent.

As Jesus and his disciples were walking, they came to a blind man who was begging. You can read the entire story in John Chapter 9. I just want to focus on the word 'sent' that was used in this chapter.

Jesus said, "We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."  When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes,  and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam " (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. 
John 9:4-7

 Siloam probably derived its name from the fact that its waters were sent from the higher sources, through known channels, with special significance as God's gift for the preservation of the life of the people, and the age-long memorial of his goodness. Pulpit Commentary

The Father sent Jesus into the world to be a witness of what God was like; Jesus sent the blind man to a pool of water that was named, Sent. And after the man had washed in the pool and could see, the people sent him to the rulers of the temple.

"They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind." verse 13

The religious leaders were angry about this healing. One reason was that it took place on the Sabbath. They thought healing was work not to be done on the Sabbath. The other reason was they hated Jesus and did not want any proof of his power.

"So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, 'Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.' He then answered, 'Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."  verse 26

The man went on to say, "Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. "If this man were not from God, He could do nothing." John 9:32,33

This man was sent by God to the religious rulers to be a witness for Jesus. He brought the man out of darkness and into light. The man spoke of what Jesus did for him. This can be our witness too as we go through our day; as Jesus sends us out into the world. 

My husband has a rare form of cancer. Some men at work have asked him, "Why aren't you angry or depressed about your illness?" This is when he tells them of the help Jesus gives him and also of his hope and belief of a new life in heaven with God. He says, "I would be angry if this was the only life I had. But it isn't."




Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dwight L. Moody

A Child at its Mother's Grave.

I remember seeing a story some time ago in print. It has been in the papers, but it will not hurt us to hear it again.

A family in a Southern city were stricken down with yellow fever. It was raging there, and there were very stringent sanitary rules. The moment anybody died, a cart went around and took the coffin away. The father was taken sick and died and was buried, and the mother was at last stricken down. The neighbors were afraid of the plague, and none dared go into the house.

The mother had a little son and was anxious about her boy, and afraid he would be neglected when she was called away, so she called the little fellow to her bedside, and said, "My boy, I am going to leave you, but Jesus will come to you when I am gone."

The mother died, the cart came along and she was laid in the grave. The neighbors would have liked to take the boy, but were afraid of the pestilence. He wandered about and finally started up to the place where they had laid his mother and sat down on the grave, and wept himself to sleep.

Next morning he awoke and realized his position--alone and hungry. A stranger came along and seeing the little fellow sitting on the ground, asked him what he was waiting for. The boy remembered what his mother had told him, and answered, "I am waiting for Jesus," and told him the whole story. The man's heart was touched, tears trickled down his cheeks and he said, "Jesus has sent me," to which the boy replied, "You have been a good while coming, sir." He was provided for. So it is with us. To wait for results, we must have courage and patience and God will help us.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Miracle Workers.


On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:22

Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming. that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,  and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved."
2 Thessalonians 2:8-10

How can we tell if miracles or mighty works are from God or Satan?
These first two verses tell us these demons are lawless. In other words, they do not keep the law of God. 
If you see a man, woman, or an angelic being work miracles and many people are following him, you can know if they are from God if they follow the law of God. 

If these people say wars and killing are needed, if they say we must punish those who don't believe as they do, if they have no love in their hearts, if they indulge in sexual sin and greed for money and possessions, then we can know they are not from God.

Jesus told us, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:15

Fruits: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22,23

If they do not have these fruits in their lives then they are false prophets or messengers.

"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons..."  1 Timothy 4:1

"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these." 2 Timothy 3:1-5

So, these miracle workers will have a "form" of godliness but do not have God's power in their lives. They say they are Christians, but they are not.

The largest deception will be when Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. 

"And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds." 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15

Jesus also said, "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand." Matthew 24:24, 25

Jesus said, "See, I've told you ahead of time." We have his warning and his method on how to recognize his true followers.