2065) Bad Breath

Image result for child holding nose image

By Joshua Rogers, posted August 23, 2019, at:  http://www.joshuarogers.com

     When I was in my early 20s, I took an etiquette class back home in Mississippi.  Although I remember very few of the rules, one has always stuck with me:  As a general rule, you should let people embarrass themselves.

     So, for example, if someone has spinach in their teeth, a big piece of fuzz in their hair, or a trail of toilet paper flowing from the back of their pants, do not tell them.  It doesn’t matter if they’re embarrassing themselves—if you’re the one who points it out, they’re going to associate the embarrassment with you and they’ll resent you for it.  I don’t like that rule and thank goodness my daughter Layla doesn’t play by it.

     One morning Layla came down the stairs and into the kitchen where I was making a protein shake.  I had this love rush, so I bent over, looked her in the face, and told her how much I loved her.  She scrunched up her nose, and in the middle of my declaration of love, she asked, “Did you brush your teeth?”

     “Yes,” I said, furrowing my brow.

     “Could you do it again?”

     Even though she was just seven and she was my daughter, it embarrassed me a little that I had just choked her with my morning breath.  But thank goodness she spared me from embarrassing myself when I went to work.  My coworkers would’ve probably just stood there breathing as shallowly as they could, hoping the conversation would end as soon as possible.

     As much as I may appreciate having people around who will tip me off when I’ve got bad breath, there’s one person whose negative feedback I often resist:  Raquel, my wife.  When she points out an uncomfortable truth–for example, how I sometimes dominate conversations–I want to shut her down (ironically).  The way I do that is to blame her.  It’s not my fault that I repeatedly interrupted others during conversations at the party.  It’s her fault for being hypercritical.

     In my best moments, however, I admit that Raquel’s got a point and thank her for bringing it to my attention (usually through gritted teeth).  Why wouldn’t I thank her for her feedback?  She’s closer to me than any other human, so she’s more likely to detect those areas where I need to make changes.  I don’t want to go around embarrassing myself.

     When our spouse points out ways in which we can grow, even if he or she does so imperfectly, it’s an opportunity to model our relationship with God, the One who knows us more intimately than anyone else.  As Mike Mason describes it in his book, The Mystery of Marriage:

One of the hardest things in marriage is the feeling of being watched.  It is the constant surveillance that can get to one, that can wear one down like a bright light shining in the eyes, and that leads inevitably to the crumbling of all defenses, all facades, all the customary shams and masquerades of personality…  it makes scant difference whether the watcher be love or something more sinister.  What is hard is the watchfulness.

     It’s painful to be under the scope of our spouse’s examination.  But if we are wise, we will lower our defenses and allow our spouse to be honest with us about the way our attitudes, words, and actions stink up the world around us.  It may be embarrassing, but everyone around us will be grateful for it.

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Proverbs 12:15  —  The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Proverbs 23:9  —  Don’t waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice.

Proverbs 17:10  —  A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.

Proverbs 18:2  —  Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.

Galatians 6:1a  —  Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.

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PRAYER OF CONFESSION TO GOD (source unknown):

Forgive me, Lord, my sins:  the sins of my youth, the sins of the present; the sins I laid upon myself in an ill pleasure, the sins I cast upon others in an ill example; the sins which are manifest to all the world, the sins which I have labored to hide from my acquaintances, from my own conscience, and even from my memory; my crying sins and my whispering sins, my ignorant sins and my willful sins; sins against my superiors, equals, servants, and loved ones; sins against myself, my own body, and my own soul; sins against thee, O heavenly Father, O merciful Son, O blessed Spirit of God.  Amen.

2064) Some Good Prayers

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Praying Hands, 1508 by Albrecht Durer  (1471-1528)

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O Merciful God, in your presence we confess our sinfulness, our shortcomings, and our offenses against you.  You alone know how often we have sinned in wandering from your ways, in wasting your gifts, and in forgetting your love.  Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we are ashamed and sorry for all we have done to displease you.  Forgive our sins, and help us to live in your light and walk in your ways, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Amen.
–Henry van Dyke, in Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, 1906.

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I confess, O Righteous God, that I have sinned against Thee in thought, word, and deed.  I have not loved Thee above all else nor my neighbor as myself.  Through my sins I am guilty of more than I understand and contribute to the world’s negligence of Thee.  I beseech Thee, help me to cease my sins. Forgive me, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
–From a Swedish Lutheran Church liturgy

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O Almighty God, grant that we may ever be found watching and ready for the coming of Thy Son.  Save us from undue love of the world, that we may wait with patient hope for the day of the Lord, and so abide in him, that when he shall appear we may not be ashamed; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Methodist hymnal

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Lord God, I give you thanks that you have not left me to my sins, but have bruised me with bitter blows, inflicting sorrows, sending distress without and within.  You know all things without exception, and nothing in man’s conscience is hidden from you.  You know what will promote my progress, and how much tribulation will serve to scour off the rust of my sins.  Deal with me according to your good pleasure; I am in your hands.  I commit myself to you to be corrected, for it is better to be punished here than hereafter.  There is no one to console me except you, my Lord God, the heavenly physician of souls, who wounds and heals, who cast down and raises up again.  Your discipline is upon me and shall instruct me.  Make of me a pious and humble follower, so that I may walk in your way.  Amen.  

–Thomas a Kempis  (1380-1471)

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Dig out of us, O Lord, the venomous roots of covetousness; or else so repress them with your grace, that we may be contented with your provision of necessaries, and not labor, as we do, with all toil, sleight, guile, wrong, and oppression, to pamper ourselves with vain superfluities.   Amen.

–Edmund Grindal (1519-1583), Bishop of London

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Dear God, give us peaceful hearts, and a right courage in our strife against the devil, so that we may not only endure and finally triumph, but also have peace in the midst of the struggle, praising you and giving you thanks without complaining against your divine will.  Let peace rule in our hearts, so that we may never, through impatience, undertake anything against you, our God, or against our fellowman.  Rather, may we remain both inwardly and outwardly quiet and peaceable toward you, our Lord, and toward all people, until the final and eternal peace shall come.  Amen.

–Martin Luther

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Lord, grant that while I live I may do what service I am able to do in this frail body.  May I never forget Thy great love for me, and always be ready to lie down in death and bequeath my soul unto Thee.  Let me ever look up to Thee, so that my dying will not seem so terrible; and thus I shall not be unwilling to come to you, even though by so rough a deliverer.  Amen.  

–Anne Bradstreet  (1612-1672), New England Puritan poet

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O Lord God of all eternity, you give us the gift of time.  Give us also the wisdom to redeem the time, lest our day of grace be lost; for our Lord Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

–Christina Rossetti  (1830-1894), English poet

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Lord Jesus, when our brief time on earth is ended, take us unto Thee, for we are Thine and Thou art ours, and we long to be with Thee.  Here on earth let our small service be a part of Thy great work in this world; and then, at the last, receive us into Thy Kingdom.  Amen.

–Philip Melancthon  (1497-1560), German reformer

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Have mercy on me, O Lord, as I muddle my way through this sad world, on my way to you and your perfect home.  I make myself miserable and my life difficult by my many sins.  We have so much trouble getting along, as we are always sinning and being sinned against.  Give me the grace to forgive others as I have been forgiven by you, and may they receive the grace to forgive me as they have been forgiven by you.  I pray this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for the forgiveness of all our sins.  Amen.

–Source lost

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Lamentations 3:40-42a  —  Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.  Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say, “We have sinned.”

Lamentations 3:55-57  —  I called on your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit.  You heard my plea… (and) you came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”

Psalm 103:1-4  —  Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.

2063) Babe Ruth’s Last Message

“The Kids Can’t Take It If We Don’t Give It” by Babe Ruth

This is Babe Ruth’s last message.  It was written with the help of friends not long before his death.  The Guideposts magazine office received it on August 16, 1948, the day Ruth died.  Guideposts published it in their October 1948 issue.

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George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr.  (1895-1948)

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     Bad boy Ruth.  That was me.

     Don’t get the idea that I’m proud of my harum-scarum youth.  I’m not.  I simply had a rotten start in life, and it took me a long time to get my bearings.

     Looking back to my youth, I honestly don’t think I knew the difference between right and wrong.  I spent much of my early boyhood living over my father’s saloon, in Baltimore; and when I wasn’t living over it, I was in it, soaking up the atmosphere.  I hardly knew my parents.

     St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore, where I was finally taken, has been called an orphanage and a reform school.  It was, in fact, a training school for orphans, incorrigibles, delinquents and runaways picked up on the streets of the city.  I was listed as an incorrigible.  I guess I was.  Perhaps I would always have been but for Brother Matthias, the greatest man I have ever known, and for the religious training I received there which has since been so important to me.

     I doubt if any appeal could have straightened me out except a Power over and above man.  Iron-rod discipline couldn’t have done it.  Nor all the punishment and reward systems that could have been devised.  God had an eye out for me, just as He has for you, and He was pulling for me to make the grade.

     As I look back now, I realize that knowledge of God was a big crossroads for me.  I got one thing straight (and I wish all kids did)— that God was Boss.  He was not only my Boss but Boss of all my bosses.  Up till then, like all bad kids, I hated most of the people who had control over me and could punish me.  I began to see that I had a higher Person to reckon with who never changed, whereas my earthly authorities changed from year to year.  Those who bossed me had the same self-battles.  They, like me, had to account to God.  I also realized that God was not only just, but merciful.  He knew we were weak and that we all found it easier to be stinkers than good sons of God, not only as kids but all through our lives.

     That clear picture, I’m sure, would be important to any kid who hates a teacher, or resents a person in charge.  This picture of my relationship to man and God was what helped relieve me of bitterness and rancor and a desire to get even.

     I’ve seen a great number of “he-men” in my baseball career, but never one equal to Brother Matthias.  He stood six feet six and weighed 250 pounds.  It was all muscle.  He could have been successful at anything he wanted to in life, and he chose the church.

     It was he who introduced me to baseball.  Very early he noticed that I had some natural talent for throwing and catching.  He used to back me in a corner of the big yard at St. Mary’s and bunt a ball to me by the hour, correcting the mistakes I made with my hands and feet.  I never forget the first time I saw him hit a ball.  The baseball in 1902 was a lump of mush, but Brother Matthias would stand at the end of the yard, throw the ball up with his left hand, and give it a terrific belt with the bat he held in his right hand.  The ball would carry 350 feet, a tremendous knock in those days.  I would watch him bug-eyed.

     Thanks to Brother Matthias I was able to leave St. Mary’s in 1914 and begin my professional career with the famous Baltimore Orioles.  Out on my own…  free from the rigid rules of a religious school…  Boy, did it go to my head.  I began really to cut capers.

     I strayed from the church, but don’t think I forgot my religious training.  I just overlooked it.  I prayed often and hard, but like many irrepressible young fellows, the swift tempo of living shoved religion into the background.

     So what good was all the hard work and ceaseless interest of the Brothers, people would argue?  You can’t make kids religious, they say, because it just won’t take.  Send kids to Sunday School and they too often end up hating it and the church.

     Don’t you believe it.  As far as I’m concerned, and I think as far as most kids go, once religion sinks in, it stays there— deep down.  The lads who get religious training, get it where it counts— in the roots.  They may fail it, but it never fails them.  When the score is against them, or they get a bum pitch, that unfailing Something inside will be there to draw on.  I’ve seen it with kids.  I know from the letters they write me.  The more I think of it, the more important I feel it is to give kids “the works” as far as religion is concerned.  They’ll never want to be holy— they’ll act like tough monkeys in contrast, but somewhere inside will be a solid little chapel.  It may get dusty from neglect, but the time will come when the door will be opened with much relief.  But the kids can’t take it, if we don’t give it to them.

     I’ve been criticized as often as I’ve praised for my activities with kids on the grounds that what I did was for publicity.  Well, criticism doesn’t matter.  I never forgot where I came from.  Every dirty-faced kid I see is another useful citizen.  No one knew better than I what it meant not to have your own home, a backyard, your own kitchen and icebox.  That’s why all through the years, even when the big money was rolling in, I’d never forget St. Mary’s, Brother Matthias and the boys I left behind.  I kept going back.

     As I look back those moments when I let the kids down— they were my worst.  I guess I was so anxious to enjoy life to the fullest that I forgot the rules or ignored them.  Once in a while you can get away with it, but not for long.  When I broke training, the effects were felt by myself and by the ball team— and even by the fans.

     While I drifted away from the church, I did have my own “altar,” a big window of my New York apartment overlooking the city lights.  Often I would kneel before that window and say my prayers.  I would feel quite humble then.  I’d ask God to help me not make such a big fool of myself and pray that I’d measure up to what He expected of me.

     In December, 1946 I was in French Hospital, New York, facing a serious operation.  Paul Carey, one of my oldest and closest friends, was by my bed one night.

     “They’re going to operate in the morning, Babe,” Paul said.  “Don’t you think you ought to put your house in order?”

     I didn’t dodge the long, challenging look in his eyes.  I knew what he meant.  For the first time I realized that death might strike me out.  I nodded, and Paul got up, called in a chaplain, and I made a full confession.

     “I’ll return in the morning and give you Holy Communion,” the chaplain said…  As I lay in bed that evening I thought to myself what a comforting feeling to be free from fear and worries.  I now could simply turn them over to God…

The Babe Bows Out: Nat Fein personal copy

Babe Ruth’s Farewell at Yankee Stadium, June 13, 1948

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Psalm 71:17  —  Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

psalm 73:22-23  —  I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.

Psalm 71:9  —  Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.

Psalm 71:18  —  Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

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Lord, our God, we are in the shadow of your wings.  Protect us and bear us up.  You will care for us as if we were little children, even to our old age.  When you are our strength we are strong, but when we are our own strength we are weak.  We suffer when we turn our faces away from you.  We now return to you, O Lord, that we may never turn away again.  Amen.

–St. Augustine, as he contemplated old age

2062) Through Death’s Door

By Randy Alcorn, July 21, 2014 blog, see:  www.epm.org

     When five-year-old Emily Kimball was hospitalized and heard she was going to die, she started to cry.  Even though she loved Jesus and wanted to be with him, she didn’t want to leave her family behind.  Then her mother had an inspired idea.  She asked Emily to step through a doorway into another room, and she closed the door behind her.  One at a time, the entire family started coming through the door to join her.  Her mother explained that this was how it would be.  Emily would go ahead to Heaven and then the rest of the family would follow.  Emily understood.  She would be the first to go through death’s door.  Eventually, the rest of the family would follow, probably one by one, joining her on the other side.

     The analogy would have been even more complete if the room that Emily entered had had someone representing Jesus to greet her—along with departed loved ones and angels.  Also, it would’ve helped if the room she walked into was breathtakingly beautiful, and contained pictures of a New Earth, vast and unexplored, where Emily and her family and friends would one day go to live with Jesus forever.

     Every person reading this blog is dying.  Perhaps you have reason to believe that death will come very soon.  You may be troubled, feeling uncertain, or unready to leave.  Make sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ.  Be certain that you’re trusting him alone to save you—not anyone or anything else, and certainly not any good works you’ve done.  And then allow yourself to get excited about what’s on the other side of death’s door.

     I’ve often read at memorial services this depiction of a believer’s death:

I’m standing on the seashore.  A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She’s an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other.  And then I hear someone at my side saying, “There, she’s gone.”

Gone where?  Gone from my sight, that is all.  She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side.  And just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.  Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she’s gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” 

And that is dying.  

–source uncertain

     Five months before he died, C. S. Lewis wrote to a woman who feared that her own death was imminent.  Lewis said, “Can you not see death as a friend and deliverer? . . . What is there to be afraid of? . . .Your sins are confessed. . . . Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret?  There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. . . . Our Lord says to you, ‘Peace, child, peace.  Relax.  Let go.  I will catch you.  Do you trust me so little?’ . . . Of course, this may not be the end.  Then make it a good rehearsal.”  Lewis signed the letter, “Yours, Jack (and like you, a tired traveler, near the journey’s end).” (Letters to An American Lady, page 117)

     We see life differently when we realize that death isn’t a wall but a turnstile; a small obstacle that marks a great beginning.  Calvin Miller put it beautifully (The Divine Symphony, Bethany Publishers, 2000. page 139):

I once scorned ev’ry fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath,
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world that’s waiting to be claimed.
Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s such a temporary art.
And dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.

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Matthew 4:17  —  From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Luke 10:20b  —  (Jesus said), …”Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Acts 7:56  —  “Look,” he (Stephen) said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

1 Peter 1:3-5  —  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

2 Peter 3:13  —  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Revelation 3:20  —  (Jesus said), “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

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Heavenly Father, your Son has promised that he is preparing a place for us.  Prepare us also for that place in your home.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

2061) Born Again

From A Sermon on Preparing to Die, by Martin Luther (1483-1546), Luther’s Works, volume 42, pages 99-100:

     Since everyone must depart from this earth, we must turn our eyes to God, to whom the path of death leads and directs us.  Here we find the beginning of the narrow gate and of the straight path to life (Matthew 7:14).  All must venture forth on this path, for though the gate is quite narrow, the path is not long.  Just as an infant is born with peril and pain from the small abode of its mother’s womb into this immense heaven and earth, that is, into this world, so man departs this life through the narrow gate of death.  And although the heavens and the earth in which we dwell at present seem large and wide to us, they are nevertheless much narrower and smaller than the mother’s womb in comparison with the future heaven.  Therefore, the death of those who believe in Jesus is called a new birth, and their death day is known in Latin as natale, that is, the day of their birth.  However, the narrow passage of death makes us think of this life as expansive and the life beyond as confined.  Therefore, we must believe this and learn a lesson from the physical birth of a child, as Christ declares, “When a women is in travail she has sorrow; but when the child is delivered, she no longer remembers the anguish, since a child is born by her into the world” (John 16:21).  So it is that in dying we must bear this anguish and know that a large mansion and much joy will follow (John 14:2).

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Isaiah 26:19  —  Your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

Matthew 7:13-14  —  (Jesus said), “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

John 16:20-22 —  (Jesus said), “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you:  Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

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Lord Jesus, by your death you took away the sting of death.  Grant to us, your servants, so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake in your likeness; to you the author and giver of life, be all honor and glory, now and forever.  Amen.

–Book of Common Prayer

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2060) Good News

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     “I received good news from my hospice nurse today,” said the elderly lady I was visiting.  Helen was had been battling cancer for a year, but was now about to lose that battle. 

     “What did she tell you,” I asked, wondering if perhaps there had been a change in her diagnosis.

     Helen replied, “She said I have, at the most, only a week to live.”  

     Helen died six days later, ready for God’s call, and happy to go home. 

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William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796-1877) was the great-grandson of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the “patriarch of the Lutheran church in America.”  William, like his famous great-grandfather, was also a pastor.  Near the end of his life he was hospitalized, and was visited by the hospital chaplain who began praying for his recovery.  Old Pastor Muhlenberg interrupted the prayer.  “Let us have an understanding about this,” said the dying man.  “You are asking God to restore me and I am asking God to take me home.  There must not be a contradiction in our prayers, for it is evident that God cannot answer them both.”   —The Story of Christian Hymnody, by E. E. Ryden, 1959, page 485.

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II Corinthians 4:13-5:5  —  It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”  Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day; outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.  We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.  For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.  While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us.  Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.  God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

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Salvation isn’t just for the soul or spirit, but for the body also.  Resurrection is how God saves our bodies.  We have a glorious new body to come.  The British preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The righteous are put into their graves all weary and worn; but as such they will not rise.  They go there with the furrowed brow, the hollowed cheek, the wrinkled skin; they shall wake up in beauty and glory.” 

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 From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III;  in a letter to Mary Willis Shelburne, June 7, 1959:

     What a state we have got into when we can’t say  “I’ll be happy when God calls me home” without being afraid one will be thought ‘morbid’.  After all, St. Paul said just the same in Philippians 1:21.  If we really believe what we say we believe—if we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home’, why should we not look forward to the arrival?  There are only three things we can do about death:  to desire it, to fear it, or to ignore it.  The third alternative, which is the one the modern world calls ‘healthy,’ is surely the most uneasy and precarious of all.  

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Philippians 1:21  —  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 

Romans 14:7-9  —  For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.  If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

John 14:1-6  — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Psalm 23:6  —  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Revelation 22:20  —  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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O my most blessed and glorious Creator, who has fed me all my life, and redeemed me from all evil; seeing it is your merciful pleasure to take me out of this frail body, and to wipe away all tears from my eyes, and all sorrows from my heart, I do with all humility and willingness consent and submit myself to your sacred will.  Into your saving and everlasting arms I commend my spirit.  I am ready, my dear Lord, and earnestly expect and long for your good pleasure.  Come quickly, and receive the soul of your servant who trusts in you.  Amen.  

–Dying prayer of Henry Vaughan

2059) Before the Judgment Throne

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Posted August 15, 2019 on the Standing Strong Through the Storm daily devotional at:  http://www.opendoorsusa.org

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     Perhaps the most difficult of Jesus’ commands is to love even our enemies.  A true Christian always seeks another person’s highest good—even when mistreated. Brother Andrew says “The Christian’s only method of destroying his enemies is to ‘love’ them into being his friends.”

     Romanian pastor, Dr. Paul Negrut, was visiting an old friend in Romania named Trian Dors in his humble home.  As Paul entered, he realized that Trian was bleeding from open wounds.  He asked, “What happened?”

     Trian replied, “The secret police just left my home.  They came and confiscated my manuscripts.  Then they beat me.”

     Pastor Paul says, “I began to complain about the heavy tactics of the secret police.  But Trian stopped me saying, ‘Brother Paul, it is so sweet to suffer for Jesus.  God didn’t bring us together tonight to complain but to praise him.  Let’s kneel down and pray.”

     “He knelt and began praying for the secret police.  He asked God to bless them and save them.  He told God how much he loved them.  He said, ‘God, if they will come back in the next few days, I pray that you will prepare me to minister to them.’”

      Paul continued, “By this time I was ashamed.  I thought I had been living the most difficult life in Romania for the Lord.  And I was bitter about that.”

     Trian Dors then shared with Paul how the secret police had been coming to his home regularly for several years.  They beat him twice every week.  They confiscated all his papers.  After the beating he would talk to the officer in charge.  Trian would look into his eyes and say, “Mister, I love you.  And I want you to know that if our next meeting is before the judgment throne of God, you will not go to hell because I hate you but because you rejected love.”  Trian would repeat these words after every beating.

     Years later that officer came alone to his home one night.  Trian prepared himself for another beating.  But the officer spoke kindly and said, “Mr. Dors, the next time we meet will be before the judgment throne of God.  I came tonight to apologize for what I did to you and to tell you that your love moved my heart.  I have asked Christ to save me.  But two days ago the doctor discovered that I have a very severe case of cancer and I have only a few weeks to live before I go to be with God.  I came tonight to tell you that we will be together on the other side.”

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Matthew 5:43-44  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew 25:31-36…41-43…46  —  (Jesus said), “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…’  Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me…’  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Hebrews 9:27  —  People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

II Corinthians 5:10  —  We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

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Almighty and most merciful God, who hast not yet suffered me to fall into the Grave, grant that I may remember my past life, as to repent of the days and years which I have spent in forgetfulness of thy mercy, and neglect of my own salvation, and so use the time which thou shalt yet allow me, (to) become every day more diligent in the duties which in thy Providence shall be assigned me, and that when at last I shall be called to Judgment I may be received as a good and faithful servant unto everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ…  Amen.

–Samuel Johnson

2058) Embrace the Life You Have

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By Vaneetha Rendall Risner, posted May 15, 2017 on her blog at: http://www.vaneetha.com

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     We are moving.

     Cleaning out boxes from the attic has left me more unsettled and emotional than I ever anticipated.  As I open each crate, I vividly remember the way life used to be — the hobbies I used to love, the things I used to do.  Thumbing through my mementos, I am reminded again that the life I’m living now isn’t what I signed up for.  Nothing has turned out as I planned.

     While I am deeply convinced that I’m living out God’s best for me, there are days I mourn the loss of what used to be — particularly recently as I’ve been going through old tubs, each one filled with memories of a life that no longer exists.  Pictures of long-ago family vacations, Christmases past, recitals, and school plays.  Shoeboxes filled with letters from people I no longer know.  Childhood photographs that make me laugh and at the same time cringe in horror.  All reminders of how my life has changed.

     And then there are the art supplies.  Fifteen years ago, my life was defined by projects I could do with my hands.  Painting, crafting, scrapbooking, embroidering, making jewelry, painting dishes.  Tubs, crates, and craft containers all crammed into the attic — each dedicated to a different artistic passion.  They all sparked my creativity.  Relaxed me.  Made me happy.

    But my diagnosis of post-polio syndrome changed all that.  With my arms deteriorating, I couldn’t afford to waste my energy on crafts.  I boxed everything up (with help), labeled it, and shoved it in the attic.  And I didn’t look at it again.  Until now.

What Happened to the Life I Dreamed?

   As a friend helps me rummage through these old boxes, looking at paintbrushes and canvas, rubber stamps and colored paper, a deep sadness settles over me.  I miss those things.  But I know they are part of my past and I can’t dwell on what can’t be undone.

     This grieving isn’t particular to me.  A few weeks ago, I spoke with three friends, all of whom were facing significant disappointment.  One used to be an opera singer, but her vocal cords have changed and she can no longer sing as she once did.  Another friend was looking forward to her youngest child going to school so that she could pursue the ministry she felt called to.  But an unexpected pregnancy dramatically changed her plans and now her dreams feel beyond reach.  The third friend has a special needs child and constantly wonders about her child’s future.  As well as her own.

     Like my friends, all of us face disappointments.  Our lives look vastly different than we imagined they would.  People dream of certain careers and accomplishments, but family issues or unexpected events make careers take a backseat.  Young lovers believe they will have the perfect family, yet somehow their family doesn’t even resemble their vision.

     So, what do we do?  How do we get past this nagging feeling that there should be more to life?  Or that perhaps we are being denied the life that we should have?  The life that, if we were completely honest, we believe we deserve.

Weep Deeply

     This counsel from John Piper has been immeasurably helpful to me: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.  Grieve the losses.  Then wash your face.  Trust God.  And embrace the life you have.   Acknowledge what is hard.  Grieve the loss.  Feel the sting of what will never be.”

    “Weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.”  Even as I write those words, I feel a sense of release.  We who are sometimes too guarded about our pain, because it seems more spiritual, need to shed tears.  Acknowledge what is hard.  Grieve the loss.  Feel the sting of what will never be.

     Weeping helps me heal.  Since mourning is rarely a “one and done” event, I sometimes break down long after I think I have moved on.  Often unexpectedly.  When tears well up, I have learned to acknowledge and even welcome them.  They frequently reveal something that is worth paying attention to.

     I mourn the loss of what once was as well as the loss of what never was.   They are both losses of what I hoped would be. Couples who have struggled with infertility, as well as those who have buried a child, or who are raising a special needs child or a wayward son or daughter, have all lost what they hoped would be.  Whatever the origin, they are losses nonetheless.

Wash Your Face

   After I have wept and grieved, I wash my face.  I don’t just dry my tears.  I take a warm cloth and wipe the salty streaks from my cheeks.  I let the soothing warmth move across my skin.  Then I splash cool water on my face to refresh me, redirect my thoughts, and fix my eyes on the Lord.  Only then can I move on.

     This is a deliberate act, a choice I make to refocus.

     When I refocus, I take my eyes off my problems, and shift them onto the Lord — and I choose to trust him.  Trust him even when my situation looks black.  Trust him that he is working for my good.  Trust him that he knows what is best.

Embrace the Life God’s Given

   Finally, I am called to embrace the life I have.  Embrace it as I would a beloved friend.  Wholeheartedly.  With joyful acceptance, not grudging obedience.  Embracing means gladly receiving and even welcoming whatever the Lord gives me, even when it wasn’t in my plans.  It means being fully present, living in the now, finding joy in the moment, and not longing for what’s past.

     So today, if you are feeling weary and disappointed about your life, allow yourself to grieve.  To weep deeply.  To mourn the loss of what you hoped for.  But then after you have lamented, wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life he’s given you.

     Into a world of great sadness and loss, God told his people, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”  (Isaiah 43:18-19).

     The Lord is indeed doing a new thing in my life.  And yours as well.  He is making a way in the wilderness and forging streams in the wasteland.  Lean into it, and embrace it.  God is doing something beautiful.

2057) Making New Buddies

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By Joshua Rogers, posted November 8, 2018 at:  http://www.joshuarogers.com

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     One time, I met a D.C. traffic-directing cop in the line at the mall and I remarked how dangerous her job was.

     “I mean, people in D.C. drive so crazy,” I said.  “You could get killed.”

     “Oh no,” she said, “don’t feel sorry for me.  Feel sorry for the people in parking enforcement.  They get screamed at, spat on, cursed out – you name it.  It’s horrible.”

     I have to admit that this was the first time I’d ever had any sympathy for parking enforcement cops (also known as “meter maids”).  I’ve always seen them as predators, scrounging around, looking for recently expired meters.  They weren’t people – they were a problem.  I hadn’t even spoken to a parking enforcement officer before but a few days after my conversation at the mall, I got my chance.

     I was walking to my office when I saw a very serious looking parking enforcement officer rolling down the street on her segue.  Right after she passed me, I said, “Excuse me, ma’am,” and she wheeled around.

     “I just wanted to say thank you for what you do.”

     The woman clutched her chest in relief.

     “Oh my gosh,” she said, “I didn’t know what you were about to say.”

     “I’m sure you didn’t.  I know a lot of people hassle you, scream at you, and tell you off; but the thing is, if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have a parking space when it gets busy here, you know?”

     “That’s right,” she said enthusiastically, like her job was finally making sense to her.  “Thank you so much for saying that.  Nobody’s ever thanked me before.”

     We exchanged some more kind words and when I passed her on my way to the office the next morning, she saw me, burst into a smile, waved and said, “Hey, that’s my buddy!”

     I want to make more buddies like her – to embrace the people who are on the fringes: the irritable guy in human resources, the awkward 12-year-old at church, the withdrawn dad who sits alone at soccer games, the quiet janitor who cleans people’s urine in the bathroom at the office.

     If I’m willing to lay down my pride and unleash some kindness on people like that, I’ll be living more like Jesus, the one who loved us when we had nothing to offer Him.  There’s nothing more significant that I could do with my life.  And who knows what might happen if I live like that?  With a little bit of effort, I might just make myself a new buddy.

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Be kind, be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.  –Scottish Proverb

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Ephesians 4:32a  —  Be kind and compassionate to one another…

Galatians 5:22-23a  —  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Colossians 3:12  —  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

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Almighty and most merciful God, who hast given us a new commandment that we should love one another, give us also grace that we may fulfill it.  Make us gentle, courteous, and patient.  Direct our lives so that we may each look to the good of others in word and deed; for the sake of him who loved us and gave himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

–B. F. Westcott, Bishop and Bible scholar, (1825-1901)

2056) Starting Over

Posted August 14, 2019, by Rick Warren as “Past Mistakes Don’t End God’s Call on Your Life” at:  http://www.PastorRick.com

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     You’ve messed up.  You’ve sinned.  You’ve made bad decisions.  So have I—all of the above.

     But guess what?

     None of those failures have changed God’s call on your life one bit.  The calling God gave you at birth, the one he reaffirmed when he saved you, is a calling he gives you forever.  It’s permanent.

     Just look at Paul. Before he became a believer, Paul went into people’s homes, dragged them out into the street, and threw them into jail.  He writes in 1 Timothy 1:12-13, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (NIV).

     But none of that changed God’s call on Paul’s life.  And nothing can change God’s call on your life, either.

     In fact, God wants to use the pain from your past for his glory today and in the future.  God never wastes a hurt. It all fits into his plan.

     He can take your mistakes, your sins, and even the sins of others who’ve hurt you and work them all into his plan of redemption.  The Bible says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

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Acts 8:1-3  — Saul (also called Paul, see Acts 13:9) approved of their killing him (Stephen, the first martyr, stoned to death in chapter 7).  On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.  But Saul began to destroy the church.  Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Acts 9:1-2  —  Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.  He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Acts 22:3-16  —    Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city.  I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors.  I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.  I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify.  I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.  “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’  “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.  ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.  My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.  “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.  ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus.  There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’  My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.  “A man named Ananias came to see me.  He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.  He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’  And at that very moment I was able to see him.  Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.  You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.  And now what are you waiting for?  Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’”

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PSALM 51:1-4a…

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.