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

  1. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Determination

    "But he [God] said to me [the Apostle Paul], 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."1

    "Johnny Fulton was run over by a car at the age of three. He suffered crushed hips, broken ribs, a fractured skull, and compound fractures in his legs. It did not look as if he would live. But he would not give up. In fact, he later ran the half-mile in less than two minutes.

    "Walt Davis was totally paralyzed by polio when he was nine years old, but he did not give up. He became the Olympic high jump champion in 1952.

    "Shelly Mann was paralyzed by polio when she was five years old, but she would not give up. She eventually claimed eight different swimming records for the U.S. and won a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

    "Lou Gehrig was such a clumsy ball player that the boys in his neighborhood would not let him play on their team. But he was committed. He did not give up. Eventually, his name was entered into baseball's Hall of Fame.

    "Woodrow Wilson could not read until he was ten years old. But he was a committed person. He became the twenty-eighth President of the United States."2

    No matter what handicaps you and I may have, God has a place for us within his Body, the Church, and a work for us to do. Nobody ever said it would be easy. What Jesus did for us wasn't easy either. So whatever it is that God has for you to do, never give up, for God never calls any of us to do anything that—with his help—cannot be done.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please show me what your purpose for my life is and give me the faith, determination, and perseverance to never give up until my work on earth is done. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  2. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Superman Who?

    "When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.'" 1

    I read how Ray, an energetic three-year-old, liked to play being Superman. Each morning he would have his mother pin a bath towel to the back of his T-shirt and off he'd go imagining he was wearing the magic blue and red cape pretending he was Superman. In his mind he came to believe he was Superman.

    Then came kindergarten. When the teacher asked Ray for his name, he replied, "Superman." Trying to hide her amusement she asked again, "I need to know your real name." Again he replied in all sincerity, "Superman."

    The teacher, still trying to hide her amusement, got down to Ray's level and, looking squarely into Ray's eyes, said quite firmly, "I need to know your real name. What is it?"

    Little Ray looked around the room, making sure no one was listening and, leaning close to the teacher, whispered in her ear, "I'm Clark Kent."

    We smile at a child's innocence and make-believe world. But in reality some of us, afraid of being known for who we truly are, have hidden behind a pretend-mask for so long that we have come to believe that the role we play is the real us. In doing so, we fail to realize that the loneliness we struggle with is caused by our living in a make-believe world, neither knowing who we are or being known for who we are. For we can only ever be loved and connected to other loving people to the degree that we are known. Masks can't be loved. Only real people can be loved.

    Let's learn to be like Nathanial about whom Jesus said when he first saw him, "Here comes a man in whom there is nothing false." Or in our language, "Here comes an honest man."

    Suggested prayer, "Dear God, please help me to see any areas of my life where I am hiding or whatever things in my life I am hiding from. Help me to be honest with myself, with you, and with at least one trusted and loving friend. Help me to be real so I can truly love and be loved. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."

    1. John 1:47 (NIV).
     
  3. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Old Rugged Cross
    Romans 5
    "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (v. 8)

    Can we believe that God is good even though things may be happening around us that seemingly give the lie to that fact? The only place we Christians can go when we are assailed by doubts about God's goodness is the cross.

    At Calvary we were given undeniable evidence that God is good. We must cling to the cross when in doubt and remind ourselves that a God who would give His only Son to die for us simply has to be All-Goodness. A songwriter put it like this: God is love, I see it in the earth around me; God is love, I feel it in the sky above me; God is love, all nature doth agree;

    But the greatest proof of His love to me ... is Calvary. Many things about the cross are mysterious, but there is no mystery about divine goodness. There at Calvary it blazes forth for all to see. I often wonder to myself what was happening that was good when my wife was dying with cancer. I couldn't see anything, but because I know God is good I accept that something good was being worked out.

    A good God was in charge, and I am prepared to wait for the clarification of that until I get home. Then I know He will tell me Himself. God is good no matter what the appearances to the contrary. The "old rugged cross" makes that crystal clear. Let us cling to it, come what may.

    Prayer: O Father, I am so thankful for the cross. It is the one place in a dark and mysterious universe where light breaks through. Help me interpret the darkness by the light, not the light by the darkness. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
     
  4. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    When You’re Just . . . Done
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding—Proverbs 3:5


    Is there any belief you’ve simply gotten tired of believing? Is there any belief you’ve held onto, stubbornly, for too long now? We men are so good at holding onto things, even after they’ve shown themselves to be detrimental. Sometimes these stubborn beliefs are about God. Sometimes they’re about other people. Sometimes they’re about us. And, sometimes, it’s just time to change our minds. We can you know.

    It’s not an easy thing to do, of course, changing our minds, changing our beliefs—but we don’t have to do it on our own. God will help, if we ask. All we must do is decide we want to change our minds—like the man who brought his son, the one who couldn’t speak, to Jesus. This man had real doubts about Jesus, and about what Jesus could do, but he decided he wanted to change his mind about those doubts . . . and he asked for help:

    “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24).

    Changing our minds—to align our beliefs with those of God—is one way we step out of our old selves and into our new selves. It’s one way we begin to become the men God intends us to become.


    Are you tired of being a skeptic? Are you tired of being bitter or unforgiving? Are you tired of being too hard on yourself? Something else? The Apostle Paul told us what to do when we identify an old, worn-out belief: “Get rid of it!” (Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG). Get rid of it by naming it and bringing it to God in prayer. Tell him you’re tired of being that man—hard-hearted and unbending. Tell him you’d like his help in becoming a new man.
     
  5. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Understanding the Cross
    For reading & meditation: Romans 5:6-21
    "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (v. 8)

    An ancient theologian - St. Augustine - suggested that "the answer to the mystery of the universe is God and the answer to the mystery of God is Christ." If this is so then I would like to make a further suggestion: the answer to the mystery of Christ is to be found in His sacrificial spirit, the supreme evidence of which is the cross.

    We will never in our mortal state be able to grasp the full meaning of the cross. But what we do grasp gives us a clue to what lies in the heart of the Infinite. Theologians often discuss the various theories of the atonement. Personally, I find myself accepting any theory of the atonement that makes the meaning of the cross more vital and clear.

    No theory seems to me big enough to fit the facts. As Jesus broke the bars of the tomb and stepped out beyond them, so the fact of Jesus dying seems to transcend our most careful statements or form of words. To really understand the cross one must have an attitude of mind and heart that responds to its meaning.

    I came across this: "To understand art one must have art within one; to understand music one must have music within one." I thought to myself, to understand the cross one must have a sacrificial spirit within one. Those who profess to know Christ but live only for self will know something of the cross but will miss its real meaning. The cross is best understood not by an argument but by an attitude.

    Prayer:
    Father, I see that if I am to fully understand the cross I must have a sacrificial spirit within me. May I linger at Your cross until Your nature becomes my nature. Then seeing I shall see. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
     
  6. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Many Are Cold and a Few Are Frozen

    "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power…."1

    I read about a vessel discovered over a century ago among the icebergs of the Arctic ocean. In it was the captain, frozen as he was making his last entry in the log-book. The crew were also discovered—some in their hammocks and some in the cabin—all frozen to death. The last date in the log-book showed that for thirteen years that vessel had been moving among the icebergs, "a drifting sepulcher manned by a frozen crew."

    Someone suggested that there are some churches in a similar condition. Today's Scripture talks about people who have a form of godliness but without its power. Certainly there are some churches and religions like that too. They have an outward form of godliness but are frozen in that, while they have the outward trappings of religion, they are out of touch with God and reality.

    Jesus said: "For many are called, but few are chosen."2 That is, many are called by God but few prove themselves to be chosen ones, That is, only a small percentage of confessing Christians do anything tangible about God's call to follow and serve him. Someone jokingly "translated" this verse to say, "Many are cold and a few are frozen."

    While millions of people around the world desperately need the gospel, most of us who call ourselves Christian give little for or do anything much about it. Nor do we give much to help in that less than three percent of Christians tithe of their income for God's work. And even then the average church spends 95 percent of its income on itself. As the late Vance Havner said, "Our doctrine is sound—sound asleep."

    In the last few years we have seen a great increase in some of the worst kind of violence and terrorism worldwide committed by radical Muslims, all in the name of Allah. Let us not kid ourselves, their relentless goal is to kill infidels, namely: Christians, Jews, Americans and other Westerners, and also to rule the world with their religious-political ideology.

    At the same time, at least in North America, we are seeing an ever-increasing amount of "Christian bashing." Would-be opponents of the Christian faith are doing all in their power to destroy the very principles upon which western civilization has been built.

    The only answer to combat evil is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and unless we the church, and we Christians (and even our governments) wake up and "smell the gunpowder," I am afraid we will be witnessing an ever-increasing amount of violence and terrorism around the world.

    Let us remember the words of Edmund Burke spoken over two centuries ago: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

    More importantly, let us heed God's Word that says, "'Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."3

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please use me to be a shining light in the world's darkness and do what I can to help spread your gospel message around the world. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


    1. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV).
    2. Matthew 22:14 (KJV).
    3. Ephesians 5:14-16 (NIV).
     
  7. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    One Long Search for God
    For reading & meditation: Mark 7:8-23
    "For from within, out of mens hearts, come evil thoughts ..." (v. 21)

    We need to be reminded that there is in life a dark and terrible problem - the problem of evil. Herbert Spencer in Natural Law in the Spiritual World defines physical life as "inward correspondence with outward environment." When we take in food, air and water, we live. When we don't, we die. There must be a response to our environment.

    But there is also a spiritual environment to which we must respond, and when we are in correspondence with God we live spiritually. The facts of life fairly faced proclaim with heart-breaking obviousness that human beings are out of touch with their spiritual environment. To be out of touch with God means, inevitably, that we will be out of touch with ourselves and with others.

    But the history of humanity is, as one historian put it, "one long search for God." We stand beside our altars, we breathe our prayers, we make our vows, we repeat our ceremonies, we crave with inexpressible yearnings of the inmost heart, we long for fellowship with God. Yet something dark, dreadful, and sinister stands between us and God.

    We realize God is pure, and because we are conscious of our impurity we hardly dare ask for fellowship with Him. We are separated and guilty. The object of all religions is to bring those who long for fellowship with God into correspondence with Him. But how is that achieved? Christianity says it can be done only through the cross. Other religions point to other ways, and claim their way is as valid as the Christian way. But God says the cross is the only way.

    Prayer:
    O God my Father, what way could You have dealt with my sins except through the cross? My sins needed something more than disinfecting; they needed incinerating. In the flames of Calvary that is what happened. Now I am free. And how! Amen.
     
  8. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    At-One-Ment
    For reading & meditation: Romans 3:21-31
    "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." (v. 25)

    Herbert Spencer, whom we quoted earlier, wrote: "The task of religion is at-one-ment: atonement. If it fails to do this it fails at the vital point." Its ritual may be beautiful, its sanctions may be ancient, its precepts may be good, but if it fails to bring men and women into correspondence with God it fails vitally and irretrievably.

    All else is useless, for if the problem of evil is ignored or passed over, we are like the person who dreams about and plans next year's happiness while an incurable disease is eating at his vitals. The wonderful distinctive of Christianity is this - Jesus Christ has done something about the problem of being out of correspondence with God.

    He puts the hand of a penitent sinner into the hand of a pardoning God. Because of the nature of the problem - the problem of evil - no other solution is possible. Salvation is a task which only God could engineer. As one theologian puts it: "It is a task worthy of God."

    The ancient Greek playwrights used to warn their students that when writing a tragedy they should not bring a god onto the stage unless there was an entanglement worthy of a god. The presence of evil in this world, I suggest, presents an entanglement worthy of God. But it is no mere stage affair. It is a tragic fact. To deliver men and women from evil was a problem that challenged God's power and made the deepest claim upon His love. The cross is the answer. If we don't take God's way of salvation, then nothing else will do.

    Prayer:
    Father, I rejoice that You have brought me to Your way -t he only way. Help the millions who strive to earn their salvation see that the penalty for sin has been fully paid. And all they have to do is humbly receive. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
     
  9. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Minimum Safe Distance
    Let us then with confidence draw near
    to the throne of grace—Hebrews 4:16

    Have you gotten to where you stay at a “minimum safe distance” from God, for fear of what he might ask—what assignment he might put on your heart, what calling he might put on your life? Do you ever worry, if you allow yourself to get too close, he might leverage his position to press you to become . . . say . . . a monk in the mountains; or missionary to Africa; or evangelist at your work; or confessor to your friends; or something else, equally disrupting to your plans?

    For many of us men, fears like these characterize our relationships with God. You see, we know the plans we have for ourselves—plans for good things ahead—and we trust ourselves to know what’s “good.” So, we’re wary of potential disruptions, even from the God we love.

    King David wrote, though, it’s precisely when we close the distance to God that we actually discover what we’ve been looking for, all along:

    “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

    Not the “boredom of your heart” or “annoyance of your heart” or “frustration of your heart”—the “desires of your heart”—what you’ve always wanted, but haven’t found. The key, brother, is trust (Psalm 37:5). We must trust that the God of the universe might know better what is, in fact, “good” for us. And we must trust that he wills our good and knows how to bring it about (Psalm 37:5-6).


    What's been on your heart, or in your mind, to do that you've not yet done . . . reading Scripture regularly, joining some brothers in community, confessing something to a friend? God's put that thing on your heart to bring you closer to him. Go ahead, move closer.
     
  10. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    At-One-Ment
    For reading & meditation: Romans 3:21-31
    "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." (v. 25)

    Herbert Spencer, whom we quoted earlier, wrote: "The task of religion is at-one-ment: atonement. If it fails to do this it fails at the vital point." Its ritual may be beautiful, its sanctions may be ancient, its precepts may be good, but if it fails to bring men and women into correspondence with God it fails vitally and irretrievably.



    All else is useless, for if the problem of evil is ignored or passed over, we are like the person who dreams about and plans next year's happiness while an incurable disease is eating at his vitals. The wonderful distinctive of Christianity is this - Jesus Christ has done something about the problem of being out of correspondence with God. He puts the hand of a penitent sinner into the hand of a pardoning God. Because of the nature of the problem - the problem of evil - no other solution is possible.

    Salvation is a task which only God could engineer. As one theologian puts it: "It is a task worthy of God." The ancient Greek playwrights used to warn their students that when writing a tragedy they should not bring a god onto the stage unless there was an entanglement worthy of a god. The presence of evil in this world, I suggest, presents an entanglement worthy of God.

    But it is no mere stage affair. It is a tragic fact. To deliver men and women from evil was a problem that challenged God's power and made the deepest claim upon His love. The cross is the answer. If we don't take God's way of salvation, then nothing else will do.

    Prayer:
    Father, I rejoice that You have brought me to Your way -t he only way. Help the millions who strive to earn their salvation see that the penalty for sin has been fully paid. And all they have to do is humbly receive. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
     
  11. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Ultimate Discovery
    For reading & meditation: Mark 15:16-39
    "... when the centurion ... saw how he died, he said, 'Surely this man was the Son of God!' " (v. 39)

    I cannot believe that God would write a law of "saving by sacrifice" within our hearts and evade it Himself. The psalmist asks: "Does he who formed the eye not see?" (Ps. 94:9). And Browning said: "He that created love, shall He not love?" We might add: "He that created sacrificial love, shall He not sacrifice"?

    The old Chinese scholar was right who, after listening for the first time to a missionary telling the story of the loving sacrifice of God through His Son on the cross, turned to one of his pupils and said: "Didnt I tell you there ought to be a God like that?" The leaders of the world's religions stumble over this. A leading Muslim said recently during a television debate: "A God who would stoop and suffer is not perfect."

    And a Hindu commented: "If Brahman would suffer He would be unhappy, and if He were unhappy He would be imperfect, and if He were imperfect He would not be God." The cross spells out the message that God is prepared to take into Himself the suffering caused by sin and, indeed, to take on Himself the very sins of the ones He created.

    No other religion can conceive of such a thing. The cross raised on Calvary is but a reflection of an inner cross lying in the heart of God. Through it we see that at the center of the universe is redeeming love. No greater discovery could be made or will be made than that - in earth or in heaven. It is the ultimate in discoveries.

    Prayer: O Father, I see that if self-giving love is the meaning behind the cross, and the meaning of the universe, then it must be the meaning behind my life too. May the cross work itself out in all my relationships from this day forward. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
     
  12. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    I'll See You in the Morning

    "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot."1

    Some time ago when Dr. W. A Criswell was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas, he told how on an airplane flight he was sitting beside and visiting with a well-known theologian. The man told how he had lost a son who, one day, had come home from school with a fever that he and his wife thought was just a childhood sickness. Sadly it turned out to be meningitis. The doctor gave no hope for the boy's survival.

    Near the end when the professor was sitting at his son's bedside, the child said, "Daddy, it's getting dark isn't it?"

    The professor answered, "Yes, son, it is getting dark, very dark."

    "Daddy, I guess it's time for me to go to sleep isn't it?" the boy continued.

    "Yes, son, it's time for you to go to sleep."

    As the child fixed the pillow on his bed the best he could in his weakened condition and, putting his head on his hands, said, "Good night, Daddy. I will see you in the morning."

    Those were the last words the professor's son said as he closed his eyes in death and passed from this life to enter God's heaven.

    For a long time, Dr. Criswell said, the professor just sat looking out the window of the airplane. Later he turned again and, looking at Dr. Criswell, with tears in his eyes, said, "Dr. Criswell, I can hardly wait till the morning."

    Dear reader, are you sure that you are ready for God's heaven so that when you go, your loved ones will also be able to say, "I'll see you in the morning?" Or, if your loved ones go first, you will be able to say to them with certainty, "I'll see you in the morning."

    If not, be sure to read the article, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian—without having to be religious" at: http://tinyurl.com/real-christian.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for the assurance of Heaven that you have promised to all who accept your Son, Jesus, as their Savior. Please help me to know that I am ready to meet you face to face so that I will see all of my loved ones who've gone before. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

    1. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NIV).
     
  13. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    A Sacrificial Head
    For reading & meditation: Luke 9:18-27
    "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." (v. 24)

    Suppose a tiny seed had a will of its own and decided to save itself by refusing to be buried. It would abide alone. It would save itself but would not save others. When it decided to be buried and die, then the result would be a golden harvest. Take a mother: she goes down into the valley of the shadow of death to bring a child into the world.

    When the child becomes ill, a loving mother forgets herself and spends her strength to give everything she has to the child. The spirit of self-giving is the most beautiful thing in life. Through it life rises to the highest level. "The extent of the elevation of an animal and of course any free moral agent," said Pascal, the great French Christian and philosopher, "can be infallibly measured"by the degree to which sacrificial love for others controls that being." Here is a law by which life may be evaluated and judged.

    When the sacrificial spirit is absent from life, that life is of the lowest kind; where it is perfectly embodied, that life is highest on the scale of being. Is this law to be found in God also? I believe it is. If this law holds true on earth but is reversed in relation to God, then laws are meaningless and the universe is without a Head. Then the highest in mankind would be better than God. But such is not the case. God is not a disappointment. The cross shouts out to all who will hear that the universe has a sacrificial Head.

    Prayer:
    O Father, how could I know that there is an unseen cross lying in Your heart unless You had shown me by the outer cross raised up on Calvary? Such revelation is almost too much for me to comprehend. Yet it is true. My gratitude will just not go into words. Amen.
     
  14. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Man of Galilee
    For reading & meditation: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
    "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance ... that he was raised on the third day ..." (vv. 3-4)

    What other world religion has at its heart such a glorious fact as our Lord's resurrection? Christianity is the only faith whose Founder died upon a cross, was buried for three days, and then returned from the dead.

    There are voices in today's church trying to persuade us that the resurrection of Christ never took place - that our Lord did not rise from the dead in bodily form. "It is not necessary to believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ in order to be a Christian," says one modern-day religious teacher. He goes on to claim: We may freely say that the bones of Jesus are still lying somewhere in the land of Israel."

    "I quite expect," says another religious writer, "that the bones of Jesus will be dug up one day." And a few years ago, David Jenkins, the former Anglican bishop, shocked the Christian world, as you probably know, with the statement: I have not the slightest interest in a conjuring trick with bones.

    In the British Museum in London there used to be a grim exhibit known as The Galilee Man," so called because the remains were found in the area surrounding Galilee. I remember thinking to myself the first time I visited the British Museum and saw that the exhibit was captioned "The Galilee Man," how wonderful that the disinterred bones of the Galilee man are not the remains of the Man of Galilee.

    Prayer:
    Loving heavenly Father, help me understand even more deeply the truth of Your Son's resurrection, for such an important truth cannot be left to lie in the realm of uncertainty. Take my hand and lead me more deeply into this truth. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
     
  15. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    What Moves Your Heart?
    . . . give, and it will be given to you—Luke 6:38
    When we begin following Jesus Christ, he shapes for us new hearts—just as God promised for Israel: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 4:17-24). These new hearts move more like God’s heart. They are not, however, all shaped alike. They still reflect our God-created and God-anointed individuality (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). Notice when you view tough situations—sometimes your heart is moved, deeply. Notice also—sometimes it isn’t.

    You see, we’re all created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). But, as individuals, we aren’t created for every work. We couldn’t possibly be. We’re all called to help those in need (Matthew 22:39; 1 John 3:17-18). But, as individuals, we aren’t called to every need. Near his death, St. Francis of Assisi prayed for his fellow friars: “I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.”

    The movements of our new hearts are one way God teaches us what is ours. For our hearts are made to notice, to care, to move more for certain people and certain needs: when their needs are met, our hearts are satisfied; when they aren’t, our hearts hurt with their hearts. So here’s the good part—when we become aware of the movements of our new hearts, and begin working ourselves to meet the needs of people who are ours to help, we increase not only their joy, but ours too.


    Continue to bend your focus away from yourself, brother. Take some time to consider your heart. Can you identify the particular people and particular needs for which it moves, uniquely?
     
  16. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    A Basic Precondition
    For reading & meditation: John 20:1-18
    "They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)" (v. 9)

    The late Bishop John Robinson stated: "The resurrection of the body of Christ is no essential belief for Christian people, and it would make no difference to their faith if the Lord's body had been flung into the Valley of Hinnom, like those of the malefactors, to disintegrate among the rotting corpses."

    Such a statement flies in the very face of Scripture. Paul wrote: "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe ... that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9, italics added). Here Paul makes it crystal clear that acceptance of the fact that Christ rose from the dead is a basic precondition for being a Christian. But what exactly do we mean by resurrection?

    "Spiritual survival" is how the liberals in the church define it. But it was not just the spiritual part of Jesus that continued after the tomb - it was the total Christ. True, His body possessed additional powers and properties, but the physical frame which housed His spirit after He left the tomb was the same one that was nailed to the cross. "See my hands," He said to doubting Thomas, "put [your hand] into my side ... and believe" (John 20:27). Eric Sauer, a writer and Bible teacher, makes the point: "Just as our Lord's body was capable of transfiguration without losing its identity, so it was capable of disfiguration without losing its identity." Make no mistake about it, our Lord's resurrection was a physical one. If it wasn't, then there is no salvation.

    Prayer:
    Father, if I am not sure of the resurrection how can I be sure I am saved? However, I am sure, for I live in a resurrected Christ. Since He was resurrected, I know I shall be too. Death has been conquered. Hallelujah!
     
  17. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Swoon Theory
    For reading & meditation: Acts 2:29-41
    "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." (v. 32)

    Let us pursue the question we asked yesterday: What exactly do we mean by resurrection? Some try to explain the resurrection as resuscitation - the return to life from apparent death.

    Those holding this view subscribe to what is called "The Swoon Theory." There are two forms of this theory. One maintains that Jesus did not die but fainted on the cross and returned to consciousness when He was laid on the cold rock of the tomb. The other claims that after drinking the wine vinegar that was given to Him when He cried "I am thirsty," He fell into a stupor so deep that it was mistaken for death.

    But clearly our Lord actually died. The Gospels provide us with medical evidence for the fact. One of the soldiers pierced His side and there came forth "blood and water" (John 19:34). A doctor commenting on this says: "The pericardium (the sac around the heart) was punctured and the colorless fluid flowing from the wound proves that life would have been extinct." Was it really a convalescent Christ the disciples encountered on that first Easter Day?

    Could such a pathetic and powerless figure have convinced them that He had conquered death and was alive forevermore? No, the Master, as it were, had flung from His face the mask of death, and laid down in the hearts and minds of His disciples an impression that stayed with them throughout the whole of their ministry. He who had been dead was now alive - gloriously and resplendently.

    Prayer:
    O Father, You whose very nature is truth, would You foist upon us a lie and have us believe Your Son rose from the dead when He did not? I cannot believe it. The life by which I live is resurrection life. I cannot be alive in someone who is dead. Amen.
     
  18. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The True and the False
    For reading & meditation: 2 Timothy 1
    " ... our Savior, Christ Jesus ... has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light ..." (v. 10)

    Several of the world's religions, when faced with the perplexing issue of Christ's return from the dead, explain it in terms of reincarnation. A proponent of one of the Eastern religions says: "Christ's resurrection was really a reincarnation - another soul in another body." I once heard a Christian minister declare that Paul's reference to Christ as the firstborn from among the dead (Col. 1:18) was a clear allusion to reincarnation.

    There is no doubt that our Lord came from a virgin womb and a virgin tomb, but the body that emerged from the sepulchre was not fashioned in the tomb as it had been when He was an infant in Mary's womb. The body was the same one as before. Others try to explain Christ's resurrection as living on in the recollection of others.

    "To live in the minds and hearts of those we love," goes a well-known saying often heard at funerals, "is not to die." It has to be acknowledged that some live so vibrantly that it is hard to think of them as dead even after one has attended their funeral. But when we talk about Christ's resurrection, we are not saying He survives in our memories.

    Recollection is not resurrection. The body which died upon the cross and was laid in the cool tomb on the evening of the first Good Friday was miraculously infused with life once again early in the morning of the first Easter Day. It is as literal and as factual as that. This - nothing less and nothing else - is what we mean by the resurrection of our Lord from the dead.

    Prayer:
    Father, I am so thankful that in bringing Your Son back to life You brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. I know this to be true for in You there cannot be such a thing as death. Life is so sure - as sure as You are. Amen.
     
  19. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    What You See Is. . .

    "As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!' When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he [Jesus] asked them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' 'Yes, Lord,' they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, 'According to your faith will it be done to you'; and their sight was restored."1

    These men may have been blind physically but they had great spiritual vision. They saw with their mind's eye what they wanted and went for it—and received it. Life's like that. Basically, what we see is what we get. If we see ourselves as failures, we will set ourselves up to fail. And if we see ourselves as unlovable, we will set ourselves up to be rejected in love.

    On the other hand, if we see ourselves as successful we will succeed in what we want to do with our life. If we see ourselves as lovable, we will never be lacking in giving and receiving love.

    As Antoine de Saint-Exupery so eloquently said, "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral." Michelangelo expressed the same idea when he said, "I saw the angel in the marble and kept chiseling until I set it free."

    What do you see about your life? "Two men looked through prison bars, one saw mud and the other saw stars!" If you are seeing mud, look up and see what God sees in you. He sees the "angel" within you and wants you to become that person. And if you have faith enough and act accordingly, you can become that person—and it will be done to you.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you see the 'angel' within me—the person that you envision for me to be. Help me to see your vision for me that, with faith, persistence, hard work, and your help, I can become. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

    1. Matthew 9:27-30 (NIV).
     
  20. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Mystery Rolled Back
    For reading & meditation: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58
    "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (v. 55)

    Mark's observation "that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away" (Mark 16:4) seems a simple statement, but behind it lies a truth that is positively staggering in its implications. One is that no longer can death be an intimidator.

    "Death," said someone, "is the great enigma of life; humanly speaking, it is the one secret of the universe which is kept, the silence of which is never broken." To the weary and despairing, death may come as a friend; the cynical and disillusioned may meet it with indifference; to the healthy and the happy it may appear as a foe; but it comes to all.

    Death is like a great stone that blocks the path of human aspiration. How certain can we be of the continuity of life beyond death? What modest person would find in himself anything worthy to endure for all eternity? Such questions have been asked down the centuries. Death is a mystery - "the undiscovered country from which no traveler returns."

    Then came the first Easter Day, and the stone was rolled away. One Traveler did return. Death is an abysmal cavern no longer but a tunnel with light at the farther end. If people have seen it as a blind alley, then they need think no longer in those terms. It is now a thoroughfare, a highway.

    "'Tis death is dead, not He," said the hymnist. The mystery is a mystery no more. The stone that was rolled away the first Easter morn was not just the rock that sealed the tomb. Our Lord rolled back for us the mystery of death also.

    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus Christ, I rejoice and rejoice continually in Your glorious and triumphant victory over death. For Your victory is my victory. Help me to live by it, in it, and for it. I am grateful to my depths - grateful forever. Amen.
     

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