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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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    Nevertheless
    For reading & meditation: Psalms 31:19-24
    "In my alarm I said, 'I am cut off from your sight!' Yet you heard my cry for mercy '" (v.22)

    Once the psalmist reached the place of utter abandonment before God there came into his heart an instant reassurance: "Yet I am always with you" (Psa. 73:23). Some translations put it like this: "Nevertheless I am continually with you". Personally I prefer the word "nevertheless" as it conjures up to my mind a movement in the soul of the psalmist that was vital to his spiritual recovery. He did not stop at the point of self-examination and turn in upon himself - he looked into the face of his heavenly Father and realised that he was accepted and loved.

    If we end at the point of self-examination and don't remember the next words, "Nevertheless I am continually with you," then we will stay locked into the negative feelings of guilt and self-condemnation. This is why I said earlier that self-examination must not be undertaken except in the presence of God. Many have spent time examining themselves, and because they have judged themselves to be worthless and useless, they have gone out and committed suicide.

    Am I talking to someone like that today? If so, put your foot on this next rung of the ladder and realise that although you may be feeling useless and worthless nevertheless you are still in the presence of God. He still permits you to come into His presence, even though you have forgotten His promises and misunderstood His ways. God does not cast you away. Let the wonder of this break afresh upon you today. Whatever has gone wrong in your life, confess it to Him and look into His face and say: "Nevertheless I am continually with you."

    Prayer:
    Father, how can I sufficiently thank You for giving me the right word at the right time? You knew how much I needed this today. It is a lifeline to my spirit. As I hold on to it let it bind me closer to You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
     
  2. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Begin to Pull it All Together
    . . . ask, and it will be given to you;
    seek, and you will find;
    knock, and it will be opened to you—Luke 11:9

    You can move, brother, into “an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG). We can all be remade into new selves, true selves—but God won’t force change upon us. He wants us to ask and listen and learn and work with him. He wants us to do so continually, because he also won’t reveal those true selves all at once. Rather, he’ll teach. He’ll guide. And he’ll reveal identity iteratively, in a progression, in a process that builds on itself throughout our lives. How this actually happens will be different for each of us. We’re new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). But, we’re uniquecreations too (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).

    So, when God gives us something, just for us, when he allows us to discover something about ourselves, we’ve got to treat those things with extraordinary care. We mustn’t allow them to be lost or forgotten in the rush and charge of life. We must collect and revisit them—so we can always have the best, most complete picture possible of who we really are and whom we’re really meant to become.


    Get a notebook or create a document, one dedicated to this purpose. Record what God’s revealed already. Recall moments when you just knew he was speaking—maybe a trusted friend pointed out something true about you; or the story of a particular person in the Bible stood out from all the rest; or you sensed God showing you something about yourself, in prayer. Collect and compile these things. Add more as you get more. Protect and preserve them, so you can return to them . . . and return and return and return.
     
  3. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Think, man, think
    For reading & meditation: Romans 12:1-8
    "' be transformed by the renewing of your mind '" (v.2)

    The second thing the psalmist learned about himself as he paused in self-examination was this: "I saw myself so stupid and so ignorant" (Psa. 73:22, TLB). There were things he knew which he had foolishly chosen to forget. He forgot that God was in control. He forgot the temporary nature of success and prosperity.

    He forgot the whole purpose of godly living. He forgot that God always has the last word. If you and I react as the psalmist did to trials, then there is only one thing that can be said about us - we are stupid and ignorant. The third thing the psalmist learned about himself was that he had reacted like an animal - instinctively: "I was a brute beast before you" (Psa. 73:22b).

    What is the difference between a beast and a human being? A beast lacks the faculty of reason. It is unable to stand outside itself to consider itself and its actions. An animal responds to any stimulus instinctively without any interval for thought. The psalmist had been doing that - he had failed to put an interval of thought between the stimulus and the response.

    Once he did stop to think, and put the situation in a different context, his negative feelings immediately dissolved. Is not this the value of the Scriptures? As we read them they reason with us. They tell us not to react instinctively to things, but to think them through. They give us a new framework for our understanding, a new context in which to reason. The more we draw our understanding from the Scriptures and learn to think God's thoughts after Him, the more secure and the more effective our lives become.

    Prayer:
    Father, I am grateful that You have made me with the ability to think. My thoughts can lead me astray or they can lead me to You. Help me to draw my thought patterns not from the world but from Your Word. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
     
  4. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    What's God Like
    I believe; help my unbelief—Mark 9:24
    What should we believe about God? We’re told he’s big and powerful—so big and so powerful, in fact, he created . . . everything (Colossians 1:16). We’re told he sees everything and knows everything and can do anything (Isaiah 55:9; Hebrews 4:13; Ephesians 3:20). We’re told it’s always been so (Psalm 90:1-2).

    “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8).

    We're also told, despite his size and power, he cares about each of us (Matthew 10:29-31); he loves us, no matter what, even to the point of laying down his life for ours (John 3:16); he wants to spend time with us and for us to know him (Revelation 3:20); and he protects and helps us and never wavers (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

    We should believe all that, but do we, really? Most of us, if we were honest, would confess much belief, but some unbelief too. That’s okay; God can handle it. As his followers, though, we can’t leave it there. We must seek to learn more about him. We must seek to reconcile our beliefs with who he says he is. You see, how we see him, what we believe about him, affects everything we do. The “most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do,” wrote A.W. Tozer, “but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”


    Search your heart and mind, rigorously and honestly. Identify areas of unbelief. Then, be bold. Bring them to God, in prayer. Ask for help. Ask him to teach you about himself. Ask him to help your unbelief.
     
  5. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Emotional reasoning
    For reading & meditation: Jeremiah 17:5-13
    "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (v.9, NKJ)

    We continue focusing on the thought that one of the reasons why we go through the same difficulties and problems year after year is that we never stop to examine ourselves and find out what makes us act the way we do. The psalmist examined himself in the presence of God and discovered that three things had led him astray.

    First, he saw that he had allowed his heart to rule his head: "When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant" (Psa. 73:21-22). Notice the psychology of this - he put the heart before the head. Many of our troubles are due to the fact that we are governed by the feelings that arise in our hearts rather than the clear thinking that should be going on in our heads. When the heart gets in control, it bludgeons us into believing things that are not true. It makes us stupid.

    The psalmist thought that his feelings about the ungodly were facts, but this was nothing more than what psychologists call "emotional reasoning" - believing that what you feel is the way things really are. The moment the psalmist's feelings were corrected by the facts, the feelings disappeared. There was no real problem at all. He had "worked himself up", as we say, into a self-induced frenzy.

    I have done this myself (and so, I am sure, have you) when I have allowed my feelings to dominate me to such an extent that I have begun to believe that molehills were mountains. The real trouble in the psalmist's life was not what was going on in his outer world, but what was going on in his inner world. In other words, the real source of his trouble was himself.

    Prayer:
    Father, I see more clearly every day that most of my problems are the ones I make for myself by my wrong thinking and wrong perceptions. Help me keep my heart under control by biblical thinking. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
     
  6. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Call Out or Call In?
    . . . and you will know the truth,
    and the truth will set you free—John 8:32

    We cannot mature in our faith without community. We just cannot. The process of maturing isn’t simple, isn’t smooth. It’s one of getting off track and getting on again—again and again. We need help with that. We’re designed to be together. We’re built to need one another. To “grow up healthy in God, robust in love” we need community (Ephesians 4:14-16 MSG).

    To help, though, our communities must actually be capable of picking us up and getting us on track and encouraging us on. Our communities must be places where we’re willing to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking that way requires moving beyond simply being polite to one another—and ever ignoring or excusing sin. It also requires moving beyond just pointing out sin or shortcomings or what bothers us or what we think might bother God.

    Speaking the truth in love doesn’t require us to call each other out. It requires us to call each other in—into true identity. It requires us to call each other away from sin (e.g., “you don’t need to do that anymore . . .”) and into the identities God had in mind when he designed us, built us, and set us in motion (“. . . because this is who you really are”).


    Do you have a sense for the true identities of your brothers in community? Get serious about learning. Get intentional about allowing God to show you. When you meet next, have each man bring a favorite story or verse from Scripture. Read them. Talk about them. They’ll point to something true. If a man loves the story of Caleb, for example, it’s likely he’s designed and built to be brave and bold and faithful like Caleb. And his community must help him do just that.
     
  7. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Speak Responsibly
    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
    Let all that you do be done in love—1 Corinthians 16:13-14

    Whether it’s two of us or twelve of us or more, when we gather in Christian community, we’re to speak truth to one another, truth motivated by love (Ephesians 4:15). Truth in love—it sounds simple, actually . . . straightforward. And sometimes it is. Many times, though, it’s anything but simple or straightforward. And, in those times, we men don’t typically fare too well. I mean, the mess and complexity of life can make speaking truth in love daunting and uncomfortable—for example, when it requires we challenge a brother or admonish him; when it requires we call-out a brother or call him back from sin. So it’s a rare group of men indeed who are willing to speak truth in love even when it’s hard. We’ve got to be that kind of men.

    For us to be that kind, though, we must first be another kind: men who take time to know one another. You see, except in a few cases, it’s irresponsible to “speak truth” to any man without knowing his story. We’re one body, all following our King, Jesus Christ, but we’re also all different, with different designs, different functions, different experiences (Romans 12:4-5). For community to work, for truth to flow properly, we must understand and appreciate each other. And we begin by telling our stories. If we don’t begin there, we’re likely to damage community and to do damage to each other—like when we give advice and try to “fix” a person, or a situation, we don’t fully understand.


    Do you know your brothers’ stories? If you haven’t already, give each man an hour—at least—to tell his story, completely. Have each man start at the beginning and bring his story current. Encourage transparency. Ask no questions. Give no advice. Just listen.
     
  8. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    I hadn't even seen the accident!
    For reading & meditation: Job 9:21-35
    "When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges '" (v.24)

    The more the psalmist contemplates the condition of the ungodly, the more his perplexity increases. The next verses show him to be upset over the fact that people treat the ungodly with such admiration: "Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, 'How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?'

    This is what the wicked are like - always carefree, they increase in wealth" (Psa. 73:10-12). He observes that because they are so well-admired and well-treated such people say: "Look at how good life is to us! If there is a God, then He doesn't appear to have much interest in the way we live." A Christian tells of a work colleague, a successful man of the world, who said to him one day: "On my way to work this morning a man stopped me and said 'Are you a Jehovah's Witness?'

    Why would he ask me that? Why, I hadn't even seen the accident!" The man was quite unaware of who Jehovah was and the question had him completely puzzled. This is what troubles the psalmist in this section of Psalm 73 - he sees people living with no concern for God, yet everything seems to be going so well for them. One can feel his indignation burning through the words he writes. Do you feel indignant about this, or a similar problem? It's not surprising if you do. Be careful, though, that you dont allow it to become your focus of concentration, for it is a law of the personality that you become like the thing you dwell upon.

    Prayer:
    O Father, if it is true that I become like the thing I focus upon, then help my focus of life not to be indignation at the prosperity of the ungodly but gratitude for the fact that I am an heir to eternity. Amen.
     
  9. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The heart of the issue
    For reading & meditation: Job 21:11-16
    "Yet they say ' 'Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?' ' But their prosperity is not in their own hands '" (vv. 14-16)

    We come now to the heart of the issue with which the psalmist is struggling in Psalm 73: "Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning" (Psa.73:13-14). Permit me to paraphrase what I think he is saying: "Here I am, living a godly life, keeping my heart and hands clean, avoiding sin, meditating on the things of God and devoting myself to a life pleasing to God, yet despite this I am facing all kinds of troubles.

    What's the advantage in serving God if He doesn't protect me?" The problem, then, is not so much the prosperity of the wicked as the fact that he himself is passing through a period of great trial while they are getting off scot-free. We begin now to see the roots of the envy to which the psalmist referred earlier: "For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (v.3). Envy is born out of two things: ignorance and a wrong comparison.

    Take, first, a wrong comparison. "Almost all our problems," said Dr W.E. Sangster, "begin in a wrong comparison." How true this is. We compare our looks, our height, our income, our homes, our training and our abilities with those of others and soon we lose sight of our own individuality and specialness. To compare ourselves with Christ is a healthy spiritual discipline, but to indulge in comparison with those we think are more prosperous and fortunate than we are is the direct road to envy.

    Prayer:
    O God, save me, I pray, from the habit of wrongly comparing myself with others. Help me to satisfy the impulse I have for making comparisons only in a way that will yield spiritual gain - by comparing myself only with You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
     
  10. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    On Hurricanes and Cyclones

    "For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything."1

    I happened to grow up in a part of Australia that was subject to cyclones (the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of hurricanes). I once saw the roof of a neighboring house ripped off by the ferocious winds and pieces thrown high up into the air. But I never experienced the velocity of hurricanes that have plagued Florida and the Caribbean.

    King Duncan reported how he had always thought of hurricanes as something mankind could do without. "But," said Duncan, "recently I learned that they are necessary to maintain a balance in nature. These tropical storms, with winds up to 150 miles an hour and accompanied by torrential rains, glaring lightning, and rumbling thunder, can be devastating. Yet scientists tell us they are tremendously valuable. They dissipate a large percentage of the oppressive heat which builds up at the equator, and they are indirectly responsible for much of the rainfall in North and South America. Meteorologists therefore no longer use cloud-seeding techniques to prevent them from being formed. They are convinced that hurricanes actually do more good than harm."2

    Forest fires are also necessary for the health of forests. And often we need hard times in our lives, even though they bring temporary distress, as God allows them to help us grow and become stronger Christians—"strong in character and ready for anything."

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, when trials and tribulations seem more than I can bear, please help me to learn the lesson you are seeking to teach me, and through these afflicting circumstances help me to grow and become strong in character and ready for anything. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  11. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Don't forget the parenthesis
    For reading & meditation: Isaiah 11:1-9
    "He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes '" (v.3)

    Yesterday we said that envy is born out of two things: ignorance and making wrong comparisons. Having seen how a wrong comparison can produce envy, we focus now on ignorance. How can ignorance give rise to envy? Far too often our judgments of people are based only on what we see, and we fail to take into account other things that may be going on in their lives. Years ago, A.C. Gardiner wrote a little essay on Lord Simon and spoke at length of his many successes.

    In one place he described him as "prancing down a rose-strewn path to a shining goal". Gardiner thought that success, in the measure Lord Simon had experienced it, was free of all sorrow. Then he remembered some of the bitter disappointments that Lord Simon had faced and so he added in parenthesis: "I speak here only of his public career." Many of us forget the parenthesis. We see simply the surface of our neighbours' lives and know nothing of their secret sorrows.

    If we saw beneath the surface of those lives we tend to envy - the hidden hurts, the emptiness, the heartaches, the guilt and the fears - then I doubt whether the emotion of envy would ever rise within us. But even if there were no secret sorrows we would still have no reason to envy others. God is the rightful Lord of all life: "It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves" (Psa. 100:3, NKJ). Let us keep our eyes fixed only on Christ and resist all other attempts at comparison. Practise comparing yourself with Him, and only good will come out of it.

    Prayer:
    Blessed Lord Jesus, I see how easily the spirit of envy can filch away my peace and happiness. Uproot this rank weed in my heart and teach me to compare myself with none other but You. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.
     
  12. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Ten Commandments for Getting Along With People

    "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."1

    Relationships are truly the spice of life. When we get to the end of our life who wants to be the richest man in the cemetery? Not me, but I do want to be rich in loving relationships.

    I have no idea who the author is but I have read the following commandments for getting along with people.

    1. Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting.

    2. Smile at people. It takes seventy-two muscles to frown and only fourteen to smile.

    3. Call people by name. The sweetest music to anyone's ears is the sound of his or her name.

    4. Be friendly and helpful. If you would have friends, be friendly.

    5. Be cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do is a genuine pleasure [make sure that it is].

    6. Be genuinely interested in people. You can find something interesting about every person.

    7. Be generous with praise … and cautious with criticism.

    8. Be considerate of the feelings of others. It will be appreciated.

    9. Be thoughtful of the opinion of others. There are three sides to a conversation/argument: yours, the other person's, and the right one!

    10. Be alert to give service. What you do for others is important.2

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be a friendly person and a channel for your love to every life I touch. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  13. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    God's Goal Isn't to Make Us Good

    "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete [mature] in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."1

    We don't have to be good for goodness sake!

    In fact, as strange as it may seem, being good may be our worst enemy. It was for the Pharisees. Their external goodness was a cover-up to avoid seeing who and what they were on the inside. Jesus didn't approve of their external religiosity! In fact, he opposed it vehemently because it was an outward act and not an inward response.

    It can bring a great sense of freedom to realize that God isn't into rules, but rather relationships. His goal isn't to make us good, but to make us whole and to see us healed from the inside out. The end result will be goodness but goodness that comes from a healed heart—not from adhering to rules dictated by legalism.

    This is not an excuse to act out in sinful or destructive behaviors. Not at all. As the Apostle Paul said, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means."2

    What it does mean is that I need to grow towards wholeness and maturity by recognizing my inner brokenness, my weaknesses, and my unresolved character issues and bring them not only to God for healing, but also to a trusted friend and/or counselor. As James said, "Therefore confess your sins [and faults] to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."3

    Again, God's goal is not to make us good, but to make us whole. It's the heart that counts with him, not the externals. If all I have is external goodness, I am no better than the Pharisees. Realize too, that only to the degree that we are made whole will our lifestyle, our attitudes, our actions, our behaviors, and our relationships be wholesome.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to see my broken parts so I can bring them to you for healing. Face me with my reality, make me whole, and lead me to the help that I need to do this. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  14. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    A recital of experiences
    For reading & meditation: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
    "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man." (v.13)

    Having spent the past days identifying the nature of the problem which almost caused the psalmist to give up, we pause today to focus on another great value of the book of Psalms - the fact that it presents its teaching in the form of a recital of experiences. We have exactly the same kind of teaching in the New Testament, but there it is presented in a more directive fashion.

    Sometimes our hearts grow weary under the stresses of life and we are not open to receiving direct instruction from anyone. I remember when I was a young Christian going to church one evening feeling tired and worn down by the strong temptations I was experiencing. As the visiting preacher announced the title of his sermon - "Fifteen Principles for Overcoming Temptation" - I felt my heart sink within me. His sermon might have been what I needed but at that moment I was too weary to concentrate on principles.

    When I got home that evening I turned to the book of Psalms, and as I read the experiences of some of those men and found that they too had been through what I was going through, my strength returned and my spirit revived. This is why the book of Psalms is one of the most important and valuable books of the Bible. Learn to turn to it whenever you feel battered and beaten by the waves of life. You will find, as millions have found before you, that it speaks to your condition because the men who wrote it have been in your condition.

    Prayer:
    O Father, I am grateful to You beyond words for giving me that part of Your Word that reaches me when perhaps nothing else might reach me. Help me to make good use of it and avail myself of its unfailing resources. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
     
  15. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Cushion of the Sea

    "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."1

    Several years ago a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for many hours. When it returned to the harbor, the captain was asked, "How did the terrible storm last night affect you?" The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!" The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as "the cushion of the sea." Although the ocean may be whipped into huge waves by high winds, the waters below are never stirred.2

    Being a Christian doesn't deliver us from the trials and troubles of life because we live in a broken world where it rains on the just as well as the unjust.3 However, our faith in Christ gives us an anchor in the storm and a hiding place in the shadow of his wings. As David the Psalmist prayed, "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this violent storm is past".4

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in the words of the hymn writer, 'When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me; When the world is tossing me Like a ship upon the sea Thou Who rulest wind and water, Stand by me.'5 And when the storms of life are raging, help me to put my trust in you so I will find a sense of calm and inner peace regardless of the circumstances that are threatening to drown me. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  16. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Still the Best Policy

    "Have you ever ordered the morning to begin, or shown the dawn where its place was?. . . . Can you bring out the stars on time?. . . . Can you shout an order to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Can you send lightning bolts on their way?. . . . Job, are you the one who gives the horse its strength or puts a flowing mane on its neck?"

    A store manager overheard a clerk saying to a customer, "No, ma'am, we haven't had any for some weeks now, and it doesn't look as if we'll be getting any soon."

    Alarmed by what was being said, the manager rushed over to the customer who was walking out the door and said, "That isn't true, ma'am. Of course, we'll have some soon. In fact, we placed an order for it a couple of weeks ago."

    Then the manager drew the clerk aside and growled, "Never, never, never, never say we don't have something. If we don't have it, say we ordered it and it's on its way. Now, what was it she wanted?"

    The clerk smiled and said, "Rain."

    Job, in the midst of all his sufferings, understandably questioned God and, like most of the rest of us, had to learn the hard way that there are many things we can't order, change, fix, or do. Job began to get on top of his painful circumstances only as he accepted his situation and chose to trust God. "Though He [God] slay me," Job said, "yet will I trust Him."

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to know what I can do, but also be aware of my human limitations while all the while appreciating more and more your unfathomable greatness, goodness, mercy and love. And please help me to remember that honesty is still and always will be the best policy. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     
  17. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Starting at the bottom
    For reading & meditation: Lamentations 3:19-27
    "' my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope." (vv.20-21)

    Now we come to the turning point of the seventy-third psalm - the point where the psalmist takes the first step toward the resolution of his problem. We must not forget that the purpose of this psalm is to show us how the writer solved his problem, so that when we get into the same kind of difficulty we can apply the same solutions.

    Here, then, is his first step: "If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me" (Psa. 73:15-16). We see in these words what it was that arrested his feelings of doubt and despair - the thought that if he were to speak out of his discouraged heart he would put a stumbling block in someone else's path. "If I did that," he thinks to himself, "I would be untrue to the generation of God's children.

    So, rather than discourage others with my doubts, I will not say anything at all." Some might regard it as strange that the first step the psalmist took on the road to recovery should be one with such a low motivation. Indeed, there are those who have said it was unworthy of him and that he should not have allowed himself to get into that condition.

    Similarly, when people in the Church today confess to having "unspiritual" feelings, I am sure you have heard judgmental advice-givers address them with words like: "You ought not to feel like that!" But the point is that they do feel like that, and reality demands that we begin right where they are and not where we would like them to be. Personally, I do not care how low a person's stand might be as long as he or she is standing and not slipping.

    Prayer:
    Gracious and loving Father, teach me how to handle myself in a crisis and help me not to be too proud to begin at the lowest level. Better to have my feet on the lowest rung of the ladder than to be struggling in the mire. Amen.
     
  18. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed—Luke 17:6
    We want our lives to matter. We want these few days we spend here to mean something. We want some sort of impact. Well, brother, if we really want impact, we’ve got to allow the amplifying power of the Holy Spirit to work through us—by being willing to act in faith. When we act alone (as we so often do), we do so with our own strength. But when we act in faith, our actions are amplified by the strength of a great and powerful God. Men and women acting in faith have “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Hebrews 11:33-34).

    The surprising thing about acting in faith is that—unlike when we act alone—it’s not our skill, nor our cleverness, that determines the magnitude of impact. When the Apostle Paul worked to start the church in Corinth, he spoke “in weakness and in fear,” lacking “plausible words of wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:3-4). He must have doubted whether he’d had any impact at all. But the church was established nonetheless. “God’s Spirit and God’s power did it,” through Paul’s seemingly unimpressive actions, taken in faith (1 Corinthians 2:3-5 MSG).


    Just do something. Choose something practical, something that fits within the great commandments (Matthew 22:36-39), and something that’s too big. Go ahead and get in over-your-head. Tackle the problem that’s been on your heart. Tell someone about your faith. Help that person who’s hard to love. Things might not turn out as you expect, of course—or with the timing you’d like. Trust, though, if you do act, you’ll begin to have the impact for which you’re meant.
     
  19. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    Stop and think!
    For reading & meditation: James 1:12-20
    "' Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry '" (v.19)

    Yesterday we saw that the first step the psalmist took, the step which helped to save him from spiritual disaster, was most surprising. In the midst of overwhelming temptation, he says to himself: "If I give expression to my doubts and speak out of my envious, discouraged heart, I will put a stumbling-block in someone else's path - hence I will not say anything at all" (paraphrase mine).

    Now as we said yesterday, many people may find it difficult to accept this as the first step on the road to recovery - but it worked, nevertheless. Listen to what one commentator says about this first step: "Our reaction to the discovery of what his first step was in his process of recovery will be a very good test of our spiritual understanding." What does he mean? He means that if we fail to see that the steps of faith are sometimes very ordinary, then we are not as spiritual as we imagine.

    It's all right to have your head in the clouds, but make sure your feet are firmly planted on the earth! Keep in mind, then, that the thing which stopped the spiritual slide of the psalmist was very simple and ordinary - he made a decision not to say what was on the tip of his tongue. He stopped to think. Rather than spread his unbelief, he determined to keep his mouth shut; rather than threaten someone else's spiritual understanding, he resolved not to act on impulse. It might not have been a particularly high spiritual motive, but it was the thing that prevented him from falling.
     
  20. RiverOL

    RiverOL Alfrescian Old Timer

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    The Power of Influence

    "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."1

    As a child in school, in Australia, Gordon had a problem with dyslexia, but nobody was able to diagnose his problem at the time. For years his mother took him to speech therapy, and he practiced saying, "Thora thrust thick thistles through the thinning hedge," five thousand times!

    What turned Gordon's life around was his fourth grade primary school teacher, Miss Higgins, who called the class to order when they laughed at Gordon's attempt to read before the class. You could imagine how terrible Gordon must have felt every time other kids poked fun at him because of his inability to read. I would have felt devastated. But thank God for an understanding teacher who said to the class: "Do not laugh at his reading. One day Gordon will be the best reader in the whole school." Little did Miss Higgins or his school mates realize just who Gordon would become. And little did Miss Higgins realize that her encouragement planted the seed to motivate Gordon towards an extremely fruitful and productive life.

    Today Gordon is known as the Reverend Dr., The Honorable Gordon Moyes, MHR.

    Besides being the senior minister and superintendent of the very influential Wesley Central Mission in Sydney, Australia, Gordon has been a radio broadcaster for 44 years, the host of a weekly TV program on the National Nine Network for 26 years, and is a Member of the House of Representatives in the state government of New South Wales. Gordon is still dyslexic and still mirror reads God as dog—which presents quite a problem for a minister of religion!

    In his appeal to the state government for children with dyslexia Rep. Moyes said, "The effect of dyslexia in society possibly includes unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse and dependency and even family breakdown, and as a result dyslexic people are over represented in the prison population, are more likely to drop out of school, and often withdraw from their friends and family or attempt suicide.

    "Children with dyslexia often have high IQs but poor reading and writing skills. They are often sent out of classes or to the back of the room as they become distracted because of the frustrating nature of their condition. You can understand my concern for such children of our members or in our Sunday Schools. Dyslexia is a disability, and the Government should supply support for such students."2

    May we all remember Gordon's story and always be an encourager to children, teens, and adults who struggle with any kind of a handicap.

    Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for every teacher and all who give the gift of encouragement to those who struggle with life's handicaps. Thank you, too, for all who encouraged me when I needed it most. Please help me always to be sensitive, loving, kind and encouraging to any and all fellow strugglers who come into my life and/or who cross my path. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
     

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