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"But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us ... being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." Romans 5:8 & 9
Some 14 years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our opening session in the theology of faith.
That was the day I first saw Tommy. He was combing his hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. My quick judgment wrote him off as strange - very strange.
Tommy turned out to be my biggest challenge. He constantly objected to or smirked at the possibility of an unconditionally loving God. When he turned in his final exam at the end of the course, he asked in a slightly cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?" "No," I said emphatically. "Oh," he responded. "I thought that was the product you were pushing."
I let him get five steps from the door and then called out. "I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am certain He will find you." Tommy shrugged and left. I felt slightly disappointed that he had missed my clever line.
Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was grateful for that. Then came a sad report: Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to me. When he walked into my office, his body was badly wasted, and his long hair had fallen out because of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice, for the first time, was firm.
"Tommy! I've thought about you so often. I heard you were very sick," I blurted out.
"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it?"
"Sure. What would you like to know?"
"What's it like to be only 24 and know that you're dying?"
"It could be worse," he told me, "like being 50 and thinking that drinking booze, seducing women and making money are the real 'biggies' in life."
Then he told me why he had come.
"It was something you said to me on the last day of class. I asked if you thought I would ever find God, and you said no, which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging against the bronze doors of heaven. But nothing happened. Well, one day I woke up, and instead of my desperate attempts to get some kind of message, I just quit. I decided I didn't really care about God, an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more important. I thought about you and something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you loved them.' So I began with the hardest one: my dad."
Tommy's father had been reading the newspaper when his son approached him.
"Dad, I would like to talk with you."
"I mean, it's really important."
The newspaper came down three slow inches.
"What is it?"
"Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that."
Tommy smiled at me as he recounted the moment. "The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I couldn't remember him doing before. He cried and he hugged me. And we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning.
"It was easier with my mother and little brother," Tommy continued. "They cried with me, and we hugged one another, and shared the things we had been keeping secret for so long. Here I was, in the shadow of death, and I was just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.
"Then one day I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I pleaded with Him. Apparently He does things in His own way and at His own hour. The important thing is that you were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."
"Tommy," I added, "could I ask you a favor? Would you come to my theology-of-faith course and tell my students what you told me?"
Though we scheduled a date, he never made it. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of humanity has ever seen or the mind ever imagined.
Before he died, we talked one last time. "I'm not going to make it to your class," he said. "I know, Tommy."
"Will you tell them for me? Will you . . . tell the whole world for me?"
I was walking home from school on a cold winter day. I took a shortcut through the woods and lost my way. It was getting late and I was scared and alone, but then a kind old man took my hand and led me home.
Now, Momma could not see him, oh but he was standing there and I knew in my heart he was the answer to my prayers. Oh, I believe there are angels among us sent down to us from somewhere up above.
They come to you and me in our darkest hours to show us how to live, to teach us how to give, to guide us with the light of love.
When life held trouble times and had me down on my knees, there's always been someone come along and comfort me, a kind word from a stranger to lend a helping hand, a phone call from a friend just to say I understand.
Ain't it kind of funny at the dark end of the road that someone lights the way with just a single ray of hope?
Oh, I believe there are angels among us sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come to you and to me in our darkest hours to show us how to live, to teach us how to give, to guide us with the light of love.
They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places, to grace us with their mercy in our time of need.
Oh, I believe there are angels among us sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come to you and me in our darkest hours, to show us how to live, to teach us to give, to guide us with the light of love. To guide us with the light of love!
An artist was commissioned by a wealthy man to paint something that would depict peace. After a great deal of thought, the artist painted a beautiful country scene. There were green fields with cows standing in them, birds were flying in the blue sky and a lovely little village lay in a distant valley. The artist gave the picture to the man, but there was a look of disappointment on his face. The man said to the artist, "This isn't a picture of true peace. It isn't right. Go back and try again.
The artist went back to his studio, thought for several hours about peace, then went to his canvas and began to paint. When he was finished, there on the canvas was a beautiful picture of a mother, holding a sleeping baby in her arms, smiling lovingly at the child. He thought, surely, this is true peace, and hurried to give the picture to the wealthy man. But again, the wealthy man refused the painting and asked the painter to try again.
The artist returned again to his studio. He was discouraged, he was tired and he was disappointed. Anger swelled inside him, he felt the rejection of this wealthy man. Again, he thought, he even prayed for inspiration to paint a picture of true peace. Then, all of a sudden an idea came, he rushed to the canvas and began to paint as he had never painted before. When he finished, he hurried to the wealthy man.
He gave the painting to the man. He studied it carefully for several minutes. The artist held his breath. Then the wealthy man said, "Now this is a picture of true peace." He accepted the painting, paid the artist and everyone was happy.
And what was this picture of true peace?? The picture showed a stormy sea pounding against a cliff. The artist had captured the furry of the wind as it whipped black rain clouds which were laced with streaks of lightening. The sea was roaring in turmoil, waves churning, the dark sky filled with the power of the furious thunderstorm.
And in the middle of the picture, under a cliff, the artist had painted a small bird, safe and dry in her nest snuggled safely in the rocks. The bird was at peace midst the storm that raged about her.
RED SKELTON'S RECIPE FOR THE PERFECT MARRIAGE
For those of you old enough to remember Red Skelton, I think you will enjoy
this. For those of you not old enough, you will see what you missed. Either
way, his humor was always clean, and he was a great entertainer. A rerun of
great one liner's from the man who was known for his clean humor. I hope you
get a chuckle or two reading them once more.
RED SKELTON'S RECIPE FOR THE PERFECT MARRIAGE
1. Two times a week we go to a nice restaurant, have a little beverage, good
food and companionship. She goes on Tuesdays; I go on Fridays.
2. We also sleep in separate beds. Hers is in California, and mine is in
3. I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back.
4. I asked my wife where she wanted to go for our anniversary.
She said... 'Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!' So I suggested the
5. We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.
6. She has an electric blender, electric toaster and electric bread maker.
She said 'There are too many gadgets, and no place to sit down!' So I bought
her an electric chair.
7. My wife told me the car wasn't running well because there was water in
the carburetor. I asked where the car was. She told me, 'In the lake.'
8. She got a mud-pack, and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.
9. She ran after the garbage truck, yelling, 'Am I too late for the
garbage?' The driver said, 'No, jump in!'
10. Remember: Marriage is the number one cause of divorce.
11. I married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was Always.
12. I haven't spoken to my wife in 18 months. I don't like to interrupt her.
13. The last fight was my fault though. My wife asked, 'What's on the TV?' I
Can't you just hear him say all of these? I love it. These were the good old
days when humor didn't have to start with a four
letter word... It was just clean and simple fun.... And he
always ended his programs with the words, 'God Bless.'
It is a lovely Autumn day as I write this. An evening rain has led to a brisk morning. There is a freshness in the air too that makes my lungs expand with joy. The sun is up, slowly warming the world with its heat and light. On the trees the green leaves are rapidly changing to wondrous colors created by God’s own hand. The yellows and golds are shining in the sunlight. The brilliant oranges are putting the pumpkins to shame. The bright reds are making the mountains ablaze with their beauty. The darker reds, burgundies and even browns are starting to appear as well. Just looking at them fills my heart with happiness. On glorious days like these it is easy to feel a little closer to Heaven.
It isn’t just in the midst of Autumn’s wonder that I feel closer to Heaven, though. I have felt closer to Heaven in the sweat of Summer’s hottest days. I have felt closer to Heaven walking home during the heavy showers of Spring. I have even felt closer to Heaven during the shortest, coldest, and darkest days of Winter. No matter what the season or the weather, I have felt closer to Heaven every time I have chosen to love.
You see, it is love that is the color of our souls. It is love that is the warmth of our hearts. It is love that brings the light of God into us and shines the light of God out of us. It is love that we all are called to give to the world. When we choose to love everyday is a glorious day. When we share love everyday feels a little closer to Heaven.
As you journey through the seasons of your own life here I hope that you always make love your traveling companion. I hope that each step you take together brings you closer to Heaven. I hope that you inspire other souls to join you as well until the day your travels bring you home again into your Heavenly Father’s loving arms.
Come, Holy Spirit, into our lives. Fill our hearts with the joy that belongs to your very being. Teach us to sing the blessings you have offered us throughout our lives. Focus our eyes on Jesus from whom every saving grace comes. Move us from a fatigued faith to a living faith.
If my body was a car, this is the time I would be thinking about trading it in for a newer model. I've got bumps and dents and scratches in my finish and my paint job is getting a little dull...
But that's not the worst of it.
My headlights are out of focus and it's especially hard to see things up close.
My traction is not as graceful as it once was. I slip and slide and skid and
bump into things even in the best of weather. My whitewalls are stained with varicose veins. It takes me hours to reach my maximum speed. My fuel rate burns inefficiently
But here's the worst of it,
Almost every time I sneeze, cough or sputter,
either my radiator leaks or My Exhaust Backfires!
Ted Kremer is a young man with Down Syndrome. After being born, doctors thought that Teddy (what most people call him) would never smile, wouldn’t talk, wouldn't walk and wouldn't have an IQ higher than 40.
His parents, Cheryl and Dave, understood what the doctors were saying, but as educators, they made it their goal to give Teddy every advantage he could so that he could grow up like a normal boy. So instead of living a hard life without smiles, Teddy developed into a happy young man who smiles, high fives and is more passionate about life than anyone you'll ever meet!
You may remember the old Flip Wilson routine when someone asked the comic about his religion. He answered, "I am a Jehovah's Bystander." "A Jehovah's Bystander?" remarked his friend. "I never heard of a Jehovah's Bystander."
Flip said, "Well, they asked me to be a witness, but I didn't want to get involved."
In these troubled times, I think Edmund Burke is right. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil," he says, "is for good men to do nothing."
We can complain about injustices, we can lament the suffering of the world and even feel sorry for the helpless plight of others. Or we can do what we can, even if it's only a little.
Theodore Roosevelt read a book by New York newspaperman Jacob Riis titled HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES. We often think of the "other half" as living in luxury. The other half are those who are powdered and pampered. The rich and famous. Movers and shakers.
But the book did not describe the wealthiest few of society. Instead it described the slums of the city, with all its vice and crime. Families living in poverty and fear - too afraid to leave their homes after dark. The other half, said Riis, were the poor among us.
Theodore Roosevelt was moved to action. He went at once to the newspaper office where the author worked, but Riis was not in. Roosevelt left his card and wrote on it, "Have read your book and have come to help."
He did not say, "Have read your book and have come to discuss." Or, "Have read your book and have come to compliment you on your writing." He said, "Have read your book and have come to help."
"I am only one, but I am still one; I cannot do everything, but still I can do something, and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do." Nineteenth century writer Edward Everett Hale said that.
I drove to a local supermarket the other day. My shopping list was long and my wallet was light. Still, I needed to get a week’s worth of groceries for my family. I parked my car, looked down at my list, and hoped I could afford it all.
As I approached the door I saw a man with kind eyes and a gentle smile. He said he was collecting for a local food bank that helped to feed the hungry in my area. He handed me a second shopping list of things they could use and asked me to help if I could. I smiled back, took the list and walked into the store. I really wanted to help but wasn’t sure if I could this time.
I walked through the store getting vegetables, soup, spaghetti, bread, milk, cereal, macaroni, bananas, and a dozen other things. I slowly marked each item off my list until I was done. When I looked down at my full cart I wondered again if I even had enough to pay for it all. Then as I put my own list back into my pocket I saw the food bank list under it. I smiled and decided to trust in the Heavenly Father who loves us all. I went over and picked up two of the biggest boxes of rice the store had for the food bank and put them in my cart. It took another six dollars out of my wallet to pay for them, but my heart felt six times larger when I did. And when everything was totaled, I had just enough to pay for it all.
It takes so little to make our world a better place. It takes so little to do God’s work here. A few dollars can help to fill a child’s hungry belly. A smile and hug can help to heal a hurting heart. An encouraging word can inspire someone else to live and to love. A random act of kindness can change another’s day and life. It is up to you, though. You can think only of yourself and those close to you or you can see that we are all Children of the same God. You can save a few bucks on rice or you can share a love that will last for all eternity.
Like any good mother, when Karen found out that another baby was on the way, she did what she could to help her 3-year-old son, Michael, prepare for a new sibling. They find out that the new baby is going to be a girl, and day after day, night after night, Michael sings to his sister in Mommy's tummy.
The pregnancy progresses normally for Karen, an active member of the Panther Creek United Methodist Church in Morristown, Tennessee. Then the labor pains come. Every five minutes... every minute. But complications arise during delivery. After hours of labor a C-section is required. Finally, Michael's little sister is born. But she is in serious condition. With siren howling in the night, the ambulance rushes the infant to the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Mary's Hospital, Knoxville, Tennessee.
The days inch by. The little girl gets worse. The pediatric specialist tells the parents, "There is very little hope. Be prepared for the worst." Karen and her husband contact a local cemetery about a burial plot. They have fixed up a special room in their home for the new baby -- now they plan a funeral.
Michael, keeps begging his parents to let him see his sister, "I want to sing to her," he says.
Week two: Still in intensive care. It looks as if a funeral will come before the week is over. Michael keeps nagging about singing to his sister, but kids are never allowed in Intensive Care. But Karen makes up her mind. She will take Michael whether they like it or not. If he doesn't see his sister now, he may never see her alive.
She dresses him in an oversized scrub suit and marches him into ICU. He looks like a walking laundry basket, but the head nurse recognizes him as a child and bellows, "Get that kid out of here now! No children are allowed in ICU." The mother rises up strong in Karen, and the usually mild-mannered lady glares steel-eyed into the head nurse's face, her lips a firm line. "He is not leaving until he sings to his sister!"
Karen tows Michael to his sister's bedside. He gazes at the tiny infant losing the battle to live. And he begins to sing. In the pure hearted voice of a 3-year-old, Michael sings:
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray..."
Instantly the baby girl responds. The pulse rate becomes calm and steady. Keep on singing, Michael.
"You never know, dear, how much I love you, Please don't take my sunshine away..."
The ragged, strained breathing becomes as smooth as a kitten's purr. Keep on singing, Michael.
"The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms..."
Michael's little sister relaxes as rest, healing rest, seems to sweep over her. Keep on singing, Michael.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Please don't, take my sunshine away."
Tears conquer the face of the bossy head nurse. Karen glows. Funeral plans are scrapped. The next, day - the very next day - the little girl is well enough to go home! Woman's Day magazine called it "the miracle of a brother's song." The medical staff just called it a miracle. Karen called it a miracle of God's love.
A few weeks later, Michael's little sister was baptized at the Panther Creek Church. If you were planning that service, what song would you select? Who would you have sing it? Would you ask the congregation to sing along?
I talked to Tennessee Pastor G. Steve Sallee, who first shared the story with Leonard Sweet, who published an abbreviated version of it in Homiletics. Pastor Sallee said that when Sweet told the story at the Lake Junaluska conference center, a woman jumped up from the congregation, ran to the podium, and interrupted the sermon. "It's true," the woman cried out. "And those were my grandchildren. And I want to praise God for the miracle of love." The shekinah (the presence of God in the world) of heaven fell. The order of service was destroyed. The whole congregation was hugging, weeping, and praising God as they sang together "You Are My Sunshine."
The Holy Spirit turned that old love song from the Charleston flappers era into a hymn of praise too deep for words.
In this sad world, people all around us lie dying from depression, from criticism, from failure, from sin. If you have a song, won't you please sing it.
In your community there are people who are in despair, people who just can't find the wherewithal to try again. If you have a song won't you please sing it?
In your church, in your family, there are people for whom hope is as dim as a flashlight left on all night. Don't you know someone who hasn't been serenaded with a love song in 20 years? If all you have is an old love song from the '20s, if that's all in the world you have, won't you please sing it?
The Bible says, "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Proverbs 18:21,NIV). So, if you have a song, won't you sing it? The Bible says, "The tongue of the just is as choice silver" (Proverbs 10:20). So if you have a song, won't you please sing, it? "But I don't have much of a voice," you say. Well, I don't mean that you have to literally, blurt out an old love song like "You Are My Sunshine" or "Love Me Tender." Your God-given song may be a yard mowed, showing up at the nursing home with a bunch of wildflowers, baking a batch of brownies, or sending a check so a college student can come home for Christmas. Your best tune, the best life-giving music you will ever make, may sound like a long overdue apology, a generous helping of forgiveness, a $100 bill given to a stranger, volunteer work at the Salvation Army, or a Christmas card to one who was sure you had forgotten him or her long ago.
If you have a song, won't you please sing it? If all you can do is hum, whistle, or belt out an, old love song from the flappers generation, maybe, just maybe, God can transform it into a hymn clothed in the shekinah of His love.
If times of great stress become times when you let go of the things you truly value, you will find yourself adrift and heading for the rocks, like a ship without its anchor. In times of great stress, only your top priorities can have your time. Keeping the Lord's Day holy and putting God's time first will help you stay on course.
— from How the Ten Commandments Can Change Your Life
The parking lot filled rapidly on Sunday morning as members of the large church congregation filed into church. As usually happens in a church that size, each member had developed a certain comfort zone -- a block of space within those four church walls that became theirs after the second or third sitting. It was as much a part of their church experience as the recliner was to the television at home.
One morning a stranger stood at the edge of the parking lot near a dumpster. As families parked cars and piled out, they noticed him rummaging through the trash.
"Oh no! I don't believe it," whispered a lady to her husband. "That's all we need -- a bunch of homeless people milling around here." One worried little girl tugged on her dad's sleeve. "But Daddy..." Daddy was busy sizing up the bearded stranger, whose baggy, outdated trousers and faded flannel shirt had dusted too many park benches.
"Don't stare at him, honey," he whispered, and hurried her inside. Soft music filled the high-ceilinged sanctuary as churchgoers settled into their usual spots. The choir sang an opening chorus, "In His presence there is comfort... in His presence there is peace...".
Sunlight suddenly flooded the center aisle. The double doors swung open and the homeless man, sloppy and stooped, headed toward the front.
"Oh no, it's him!" somebody muttered. "What does he think he's doing, anyway?" snapped an incredulous usher.
The stranger set his bagful of dumpster treasures on the very first pew, which had been upholstered in an expensive soft teal fabric just three months ago.
The music stopped. And before anyone had a chance to react, he ambled up the stairs and stood behind the fine, hand-crafted oak podium, where he faced a wide-eyed congregation.
The disheveled stranger spoke haltingly at first, in a low, clear voice. Unbuttoning and removing his top layer of clothing, he described Jesus, and the love He has for all people.
"Jesus possesses a sensitivity and love that far surpasses what any of us deserves." Stepping out of the baggy old trousers, the stranger went on to describe a forgiveness that is available to each and every one of us... without strings attached.
Unconditionally He loves us. Unconditionally He gave his very life for us. Unconditionally and forever, we can have the peace and assurance that no matter who we are, where we've come from, or how badly we may have mistreated others or ourselves, there is hope. In Jesus, there is always hope.
"You see, my friends, it is never too late to change," the man continued. "He is the Author of change, and the Provider of forgiveness. He came to bring new meaning to 'life'."
Men and women squirmed as reality hit them like an electrical current. The stranger tugged at his knotted gray beard, and removed it. "I'm here to tell you that we are loved with a Love far beyond human understanding, a Love that enables us to accept and love others in return."
Then tenderly he added, "Let's pray together." That wise pastor -- under the guise of a homeless "nobody" -- did not preach a sermon that day, but every person left with plenty to think about.
I was trying to explain faith to a man who had no faith.
"How can you believe in something you can't see?" he asked me.
It was a fair question.
I placed my hand upon my chin like the famous statue, "The Thinker."
Glancing back and forth, I tapped my foot for a moment. Then turning toward him, I pointed my finger as if about to respond. I stopped and returned my hand to my chin.
He smiled that kind of smile that said, "I've stumped you."
Then looking back I said, "There's something about the wind."
He shook his head and said, "What? The wind?"
"Oh, it's simple enough for me to explain my faith, but first I've got to explain yours," I said.
"I have no faith!" he said.
"Sure you do."
"Okay, go for it." he said.
"Do you feel the wind?" I asked.
"You can't see it, but you believe it's there."
"Ah, but I can feel it."
"You can feel faith, too."
"Faith was there when I found out both my wife and son had cancer. I felt it in my heart. I touched it when I touched their faces in the last moments before they went into surgery. I couldn't see it. I could feel it soak deep into my being giving me peace. A peace only a man of faith can have."
"But that was faith in the doctor. You saw the doctor, you heard him speak. That's not faith that's fact."
"But I had faith in his abilities. My faith told me to trust the man God inspired to be a doctor and all the nurses who found their place in life helping others."
"That's not the same."
"But there's something about the wind," I repeated.
"Now we're back to the wind."
"See that tree is moving because the wind is moving it, not because it can move on its own. Now, see that older woman sitting on the porch? She sits there on this hot day so that the wind can cool her, but she cannot see it. She was warm, looked outside her window and saw the tree swaying. She knew the tree could not move on its own...it must be the wind.
There's something about the wind."
"You keep saying that."
"I can't see it, but I know it's there. If I were a sailor, I could set my sails and know it would take me where I want to go. Without it, I would be on my own. But sailors know the wind just like people of faith know God.
You accept that the wind exists because you can see the tree move, the boat sails bend and it's touch upon your face.
But there's something about the wind."
"There you go again," he said.
"Explain the wind to me, then," I asked of him.
He fumbled with his hat. He nervously tapped his fingers on the table and said, "Because I just know."
"But there's something about the wind," I said one more time as I smiled.
He shook his head in frustration.
Placing my hand on his shoulder I said, "My friend, you believe the wind exists because you see the tree move. I believe that God exists because I can see the tree."
Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, “Wait.”
“Wait? you say wait?” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word.
“My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.
“You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply.”
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, “Wait.”
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting for what?”
He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.
“I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me.
You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.
“You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.
“You’d never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
“The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.
“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I’m doing in you.
“So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait.”
There lived a man who was very unhappy because he was deeply
in love with a girl who didn't know he was alive. In
desperation, he visited a coven of witches who lived nearby
and presented his case before them.
Touched by his tale of woe, and impressed with the young
man's appearance, manner, and bearing, they decided to help
him. They worked their magic and eventually presented the
young man with several small objects that looked like
capsules. "Bury these under the window of your beloved under
a full moon and she will love you," they instructed.
Doubtful, the young man resolved nevertheless to do as the
witches instructed. On the very next full moon, he
stealthily made his way over to his beloved's house and
carefully buried the capsules in the rich loam beneath her
window. Nothing happened right away, but, trusting the
wisdom of the old ladies, he went home to see what the next
day would bring.
The next morning, he walked hopefully over to the girl's
house and rang her doorbell. She opened the door, saw it was
him, and grabbed him. She hugged him, kissed him, and
invited him in for lunch. Their courtship was short but
passionate, and within a month they were happily married.
Late one night after they had been married, the young man
visited the coven again. "I just want to thank you ladies
for your help. My life is everything I could have desired."
"No problem, dearie," said one of the old ladies. "After
all, nothing says lovin' like something from the coven, and
pills buried says it best."
Many years ago, Dr. A. J. Cronin occasionally prescribed an unusual treatment for some of his patients who were feeling "blue," "down," or generally blah. He would insist that for six weeks the patient say, "Thank you" for every kindness and keep a record of it. According to Dr. Cronin, he had a remarkable cure rate.
If you find yourself depressed, please consult your medical doctor. But everyone gets down at times, and sharpening your sense of gratitude can make an important difference in the way you feel. I have observed again and again that people's day-to-day happiness is not usually found in getting what they want; it comes from appreciating what they have, no matter how little.
Writer Arthur Gordon* used to tell about asking a physician friend of his for the name of the most effective prescription he knew.
"Well, I'll tell you," his friend said. "A colleague of mine once had a woman patient who suffered from depression. Got to the point where she stayed at home all the time, listless, apathetic, indifferent to just about everything. The usual medications didn't seem to help."
One day this doctor delivered a small pack-age to the woman's home. "I want you to take what's in this package," he said, "and spend ten minutes of every day looking through it at some object in this room."
In the package there was a strong magnifying glass. The woman faithfully took the prescription. She began looking through the lens at the warp and woof of the fabric on her sofa. She was amazed at what she saw. Then she examined the veins in a flower plucked from her garden, the color dots in an old photograph, and even the texture of her own skin. In days before close-up photography, she'd never seen the likes of it before. She was amazed and astounded at the brand new world opening up before her eyes.
Perhaps the doctor knew what Abraham Heschel put so well: "The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living." As this woman gazed at her world through a magnifying lens, she saw, in a completely different way, what had been around her all along.
Her sense of wonder gave way to another, more powerful emotion. The physician said that her experience with the lens, more than anything else, was the turning point of her illness. She began to get well because this unusual prescription had aroused within her the most curative of all emotions – gratitude.
Do you practice gratitude? I think you'll discover that it is no less than a powerful prescription for peace.
You cannot go through life without wounds. The last few months I have been able to think of quite a few of the wounds in my life. Childhood hurts, that hidden outrage that you tried to put a lid on, the horrific memories of abuse from an old man that I didn't even dare to confess to my parents, or the times when a friend you had invested everything you knew in, then turned back and hurt you. I was thinking the other day about the NIV battle in the late 90s, when I was threatened by a pastor, who wanted to shoot my family, as he had done with the "holy" NIV he mailed to me (of course unless I changed my mind and agreed with his position.) You tried to laugh it off, but the accusing mail and comments and articles left deep scars. I even thought of other recent hurts that have produced some blistering scars.
If you try to deny the hurt it just gets imbedded deeper. You can hide it with more success, but it does not satisfy. The real task is to dig deep enough and let the healing power of the Lord Jesus sift through it all and cleanse and heal. Retaliation does never heal - it only makes it hurt more. The balm in Gilead has such a deep meaning for the healing power of the work of God's Spirit.
Mercy is greater than justice
When people have hurt you, it is easy to want them "to get what is coming to them." There is such shortness of mercy in our churches and Christian organizations today. We gloat over the sins of others, humiliate the fallen and demand that justice be made.
I have just been to a pastors' conference where we studied the Sermon on the Mount together. In that powerful message - Jesus blessed the merciful. Competitiveness and legalism are the death of mercy. Mercy makes love real, makes acceptance and understanding a practice and shows tenderness as a way of life.
Kindness is better than being right
If I could turn the clock back in my life, I would try to be kinder and less concerned with being right. I read a lot of Tweets and notes, emails and Facebook comments these days. A somewhat younger generation seem often to be mocking, acidic and unkind. They are more concerned about being thought clever than being kind. My prayer today is, "Lord, help me to think kind thoughts and express them with kind words."
Serving is better than being served
Throughout my ministry around the world, I have run into many evangelical "popes." They expected everything to be served to them, from people taking care of their every whim, to receiving the best of everything.
Serving is better and brings more rewards. I wished I had been home to help my wife more. Having been alone for two weeks and done the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking and no end of daily chores, I appreciate her "serving" for 45 years so much more. I should have been home changing more diapers! I should have carried more bags, opened more doors and lightened more burdens.
Brokenness is the doorway to wholeness
Over the past month the Lord has spoken to me so much about brokenness. Somehow we think it is spiritual to be tough, it is OK to have enemies, even treat them like such. The Lord has made me search my heart over people I may have hurt in my life. He has a way of bringing such people to the surface. Some I have asked for forgiveness. Some are not with us anymore. Others I don't know how to get hold of. But I have one desire, "Lord may I be broken before you and before people." And then I also want to be broken because of the condition of this world.
Through my life I have tried to do what I could to affect other people for the gospel. You never feel you did enough. So Lord, keep me broken about this world, and help me in my latter years to do what I can.
There will be no wholeness in my or your life if it doesn't emerge from real brokenness. Am I there yet? Absolutely not! There is still more ground for His Spirit to break up and attempt to penetrate.
Truth is both liberating and devastating
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free." That may be true, but the truth will sometimes also make us miserable. I remember a message from Billy Graham when he stated how he felt slighted by a person. But then The Lord told him, "Be glad they don't know the real truth about you!"
Let us not fear the truth - about ourselves, about the Lord, and about truth itself. The truth brings absolute freedom. And when you focus on telling the truth, you never have to struggle to remember what you said.
Learning is greater than education
Some people are so focused on their titles and on their degrees. The more I get to know people with the highest degrees I notice they know a lot about a very narrow band of knowledge. But if we are going to help people around us, we need more learning than education.
Many years ago I was determined that I would learn something new every day. That began when I was a teenager and we had a single volume encyclopedia at home. I read it every day, and learned a little about many things.
Today I want to learn something new from the Lord, from His Word, in prayer and meditation every day. What will He tell me today, that I can then help someone else with tomorrow?
Think about these things and see what the Lord wants to do in your life this day, this week and this month.
When I was six years old we lived in Oklahoma City in a neighborhood where we always kept the doors locked and bolted at night. To get out the back door, Daddy had a special key that opened the dead bolt from the inside.
One night I was awakened suddenly by the sound of thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour. I rushed down the hall toward my parents' room, but was stopped by billowing smoke and flames coming from the living room. Our house had been struck by lightning.
I had to get out, but how? I couldn't reach the front door because of the flames, and the back door was locked.
On the verge of panic, I was relieved when in the darkness I felt Daddy's warm hand leading me down the hall and out the back door to our backyard. As I stood in the pouring rain, his hand let go of mine and he was gone. Frightened, I turned back to the house. There was Mom calling my name, "Macy! Macy!"
"Out here," I said. She ran out to me, and together we went around to the front, where we found Daddy with Kent, the baby, and my three-year-old sister, Amy.
"You're safe, Macy," he said, sighing with relief. Daddy told me that he had tried to get to me, but couldn't cross the flames. He had not guided me down the hall. He had not unlocked the dead bolt on the back door.
That was twelve years ago, and all these years I've never forgotten the warmth of the Hand that led me then, and leads me now, through the dark.
Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by yout name; you arr mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you.
I was driving down the interstate in a rural area when a
chicken passed me doing 65 mph. I sped up and passed the
chicken. A few minutes later, the same bird passed me again;
this time he was doing 75 mph. Startled, I floored the
accelerator, got my car up to 85, and blew by the bird, for
good I thought. But sure enough, five minutes later he went
by me again. This time he passed me at 95 mph and made a
right turn off the freeway onto a farm next to the
I immediately exited and drove up to the farmhouse and
knocked on the door. When the farmer opened the door, I told
the farmer of my experience with his speedy poultry and he
told me, "Oh, that must be one of my three-legged chickens!"
I asked, "How did you end up with three-legged chickens?"
He responded, "I have nine children. They all love
drumsticks, so I bred three-legged chickens to keep my kids
It sounded logical to me, so I curiously asked, "How do they
The farmer answered, "Don't know -- can't catch 'em!"
An old story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is good!"
One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, "This is good!" To which the king replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.
About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake.
As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way. As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right," he said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this."
"No," his friend replied, "This is good!"
"What do you mean,'This is good'? How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?"
"If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you."
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Rom. 8:28
A man named Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shining new car admiring it. "Is this your car, Mister?" he asked.
Paul nodded. "My brother gave it to me for Christmas." The boy was astounded. "You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn't cost you nothing? Boy, I wish..." He hesitated.
Of course Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what this lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels.
"I wish," the boy went on, "that I could be a brother like that."
Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, "Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?"
"Oh yes, I'd love that." After a short ride, the boy turned with his eyes aglow and said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?"
Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again. "Will you stop where those two steps are?" the boy asked.
He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car.
"There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn't cost him a cent. And someday I'm gonna give you one just like it...and you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."
Paul got out and lifted the lad into the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride.
That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said: "It's more blessed to give..."
I wear no uniforms, no blues or army greens.
But I am in the military in the ranks rarely seen.
I have no rank upon my shoulders. Salutes I do not give.
But the military world is the place where I live.
I'm not in the chain of command, orders I do not get.
But my husband is the one who does, this I can not forget.
I'm not the one who fires the weapon, who puts my life on
But my job is just as tough. I'm the one that's left behind.
My husband is a patriot, a brave and prideful man,
and the call to serve his country not all can understand.
Behind the lines I see the things needed to keep this
My husband makes the sacrifice, but so do our kids and me.
I love the man I married. Soldiering is his life.
But I stand among the silent ranks known as the Military
This is a story about a small candle carried by a man who was climbing the stairs of a lighthouse.
In their way up to the top, the candle asked the man, "Where are we going?"
"We're going to the top of this lighthouse and give signals to the big ships on the ocean," the man answered.
"What? How could it be possible for me with my small light to give signals to those big ships?"
"They will never be able to see my light", replied the candle weakly.
"That's your part. If your light is small, let it be. All you have to do is keep burning and leave the rest to me", said the man.
A little later, they arrived at the top of the lighthouse where there was a big lamp with a loop behind it. Then the man lit the lamp with the light of the candle and instantly, the place shone so brightly that the ships on the ocean could see its light.
Do not look at your inability, limitations, and weaknesses. God entrust you with something, whether it is a work or a ministry. Have faith that you are in His mighty hand that He will use you according to His will.