1906) Fear, But Fear Not

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“The Fear That Draws Us In” by John Piper

Exodus 20:20  —  Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.

     There is a fear that is slavish and drives us away from God, and there is a fear that is sweet and draws us to God.  Moses warned against the one and called for the other in the very same verse, Exodus 20:20: “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’”

     The clearest illustration I have ever seen of this kind of fear was the time one of my sons looked a German shepherd in the eye.  We were visiting a family from our church.  My son Karsten was about seven years old.  They had a huge dog that stood eye to eye with a seven-year-old.

     He was friendly and Karsten had no problem making friends.  But when we sent Karsten back to the car to get something we had forgotten, he started to run, and the dog galloped up behind him with a low growl.  Of course, this frightened Karsten.  But the owner said, “Karsten, why don’t you just walk?  The dog doesn’t like it when people run away from him.”

     If Karsten hugged the dog, he was friendly and would even lick his face.  But if he ran from the dog, the dog would growl and fill Karsten with fear.

     Now that is a picture of what it means to fear the Lord.  God means for his power and holiness to kindle fear in us, not to drive us from him, but to drive us to him.

     (Only when we try to run away from God do we need to fear Him.)

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Luke 12:4-5  —  (Jesus said), “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

Luke 2:8-12  —  There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Psalm 111:10  —  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

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Dear Lord, give us the faith to fear, love, and trust in you above all things.  Amen.

–Prayer based on Martin Luther’s catechism explanation to the First Commandment “You shall have no other gods before me.”

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1905) Suffering Produces Character

By Randy Alcorn, excerpted from his book:

 If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.

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     Seeing positive outcomes of some suffering should lead us to trust that God can bring good from all suffering.  Consider three people who through suffering became extraordinary.

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Joseph Merrick  (1862-1890)

     Doctors once thought that Joseph Merrick, “The Elephant Man,” had elephantiasis, though now they believe he suffered from Proteus syndrome, which causes abnormal growth of bones, skin, and other systems.  Joseph was born in England in 1862 and appeared normal until age three.  By age eleven, his deformities had grown severe.  At that time his mother died, and later his new stepmother kicked him out.

     He became a door-to-door salesman but suffered constant harassment.  His condition worsened: protruding, cauliflower-like growths appeared on his head and body, and his right hand and forearm became useless.  No longer able to do physical work, he took a job as a curiosity attraction.  After a promoter robbed and abandoned him, he returned to London and visited Dr. Treves at the London Hospital, where he received permanent living quarters.  Despite his adversities, Joseph Merrick remained cheerful and gentle, and never grew bitter.  He found comfort in writing, including poetry.  He died at age thirty-seven.

     Merrick often ended his letters of thanks with a poem, and then a couple lines from by hymn-writing theologian Isaac Watts: “’Tis true my form is something odd; / But blaming me, is blaming God…. / I would be measured by the soul; / The mind is the standard of the man.”

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Helen Keller  (1880-1968)

     Helen Keller was born in Alabama in 1880.  A year later, illness took her vision and hearing.  At age seven, her parents hired Anne Sullivan, whose innovative tutoring transformed Helen’s life.  Helen learned to speak at ten, and though listeners had trouble understanding her, she never gave up.  She attended college and wrote several books, including The Story of My Life.  She devoted herself to research, speaking, and raising money for organizations such as the American Foundation for the Blind.  Helen traveled the world on behalf of the blind and visited thirty-five countries.  At age seventy-five, she embarked on a five-month-long, forty-thousand-mile tour through Asia, bringing encouragement to millions.

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Christy Brown  (1932-1981)

     Christy Brown was born in Dublin in 1932.  His cerebral palsy caused everyone to consider him mentally handicapped until he used his left foot to grab a piece of chalk from his sister.  His mother taught him to read and write.  Well into adolescence, he could not speak intelligibly.  He wrote an autobiography titled My Left Foot as well as several other novels and poetry collections.  He typed using only his left foot.  People loved Christy Brown for his warm and cheerful personality.

     These stories don’t prove that God always brings good out of evil in this life.  But they do prove that He sometimes does.  Shouldn’t that give everyone hope?

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Romans 5:1-5  —  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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We beseech you, O Lord, to enlighten our minds and to strengthen our wills, that we may know what we ought to do, and be enabled to do it, through the grace of your Holy Spirit, in the name of your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–William Bright  (1824-1901), British historian

1904) The Difference War Makes

These two readings are from the conclusion to sermon preached by C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, England on October 22, 1939, just as World War II was beginning.  The title of the sermon was “Learning in War-Time.”  It is found in Lewis’s book The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses.  

As a 19 year-old Lewis spent six months in the front-line trenches in World War I, until he was wounded in a bomb attack.  He was then hospitalized for several weeks.  He was, at the time, an atheist.  But his experience in the war inspired a spiritual search that resulted in his conversion to Christianity ten years later.

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     War threatens us with death and pain…  But there is no question of death or life for any of us; only a question of this death or of that — of a machine gun bullet now or a cancer forty years later.  What does war do to death?  It certainly does not make it more frequent; 100 per cent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased.  It puts several deaths earlier; but I hardly suppose that that is what we fear.  Certainly when the moment comes, it will make little difference how many years we have behind us.  Does it increase our chance of a painful death?  I doubt it.  As far as I can find out, what we call natural death is usually preceded by suffering; and a battlefield is one of the very few places where one has a reasonable prospect of dying with no pain at all.  Does it decrease our chances of dying at peace with God?  I cannot believe it.  If active service does not persuade a man to prepare for death, what conceivable circumstances would?

     Yet war does do something to death.  It forces us to remember it.  The only reason why the cancer at sixty or the paralysis at seventy-five do not bother us is that we forget them.  War makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past.  They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality.  I am inclined to think they were right.  All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centered in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration.  In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it.  Now the stupidest of us know.

     We see unmistakable the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it.

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     (Another problem is the) frustration that we shall not have time to finish…  (But even) the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner…  You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether:  of how many things, even in middle life, we have to say “No time for that”, “Too late now”, and “Not for me…”  A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving the future in God’s hands.  We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not.  Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future.  Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.”  It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for.  The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

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Romans 14:7-9 — For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.  If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to 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.

Psalm 90:12 — Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

James 4:13-15 — Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

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From dying suddenly and unprepared, good Lord, deliver us…

–from The Great Litany in The Book of Common Prayer

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“Well, I have to go now, dear God.  Good Bye.  But now that I’ve met you I’m not scared to die.”   –Author unknown. The words of this brief prayer were found on the body of an American soldier killed in North Africa in WW II, 1944.

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A Landing Craft disembarks troops of the U.S. Army’s First Division on the morning of June 6, 1944 (D-Day) at Omaha Beach.

1903) Prayers for Various Occasions by William Barclay (2/2)

William Barclay (1907-1978) was a Church of Scotland minister, professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Glasgow, and author.  These prayers are from his 1959 book The Plain Man’s Book of Prayers, pages 110-117 (edited).

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Before Going on Vacation

   O God, our Father, we thank Thee for this time of rest from our daily work and our daily business.  We thank Thee for time to spend with our family and in the circle of those most dear.  We thank Thee for the open road, and the hills and the seashore, and for the clean wind upon our faces.  We thank Thee for games to play, for new places to see, new people to meet, new things to do.  Grant that the days of our holiday may refresh us in body and in mind, so that we may come back to work the better, because we rested awhile: through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

In the Time of Disappointment

   O God, my Father, Thou knowest the disappointment which has come to me today.  Thou knowest that that which I wished for and longed for has not come to me.  Keep me from feeling resentful and bitter.  Keep me from feeling ill-used and from developing a grudge against life.  Keep me from being jealous and envious of those who have entered into that which was denied to me.  Keep me from wasting my time in vain regrets, and from making myself wretched and making others unhappy.  Help me to count the blessings that I have.  Help me to serve Thee and to serve others with my whole heart in whatsoever place life has set me, and in whatsoever work Thou hast given me to do: through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

After a Quarrel

   O God, Thou knowest that today I have broken Thy commandment of love, and that I have parted with ____ in anger.  Even if I have been wronged and insulted, teach me how to forgive.  Even if I was right, help me to make the first approach and to take the first step to putting things right again.  Keep me from foolish pride and from nursing my foolish anger.  Help me to be looking at Jesus, that in Him I may see the example of how to forgive, and that in Him I may find the will and the power to forgive.  I ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

In Time of Worry and Anxiety

   O God, Thou knowest how worried and anxious I am about  ___________.  Help me to be sensible, and to see that worrying about things does not make them any better.  Help me to be trustful, and to do all that I can, and then to leave the rest to Thee.  Help me to be sure that nothing can happen to me through which Thou canst not bring me in safety; and that nothing can separate me from Thy eternal love.  Help me to lose my anxiety in the certainty that Thy everlasting arms are underneath me and about me.  Give me something of that peace which the world cannot give, and cannot ever take away: through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

When We Have Made Mistakes and Fallen to Temptation

   O God, my Father, Thou knowest that today I have fallen to temptation and that I have done wrong.  I have brought shame to myself, anxiety to those who love me, and grief to Thee.  O God, in Thy mercy, forgive me for Jesus’ sake.  Help me to be brave enough not only to confess this sin to Thee and to ask Thy forgiveness, but to ask the forgiveness of the person I have hurt and wronged and injured, and to do all I can to put things right again.  Keep me from too much regret and too much remorse, and help me to rise above the wrong I have done.  In the days to come help me to not make the same mistake again.  Give me a conscience that is quick and tender, and give me grace always to obey it.  Help me to walk with Jesus that in His company I may be saved from sin and enabled to do what is right.  In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.

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“If you pray only when you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble.”

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Ephesians 6:18a  —  Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

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1902) Prayers for Various Occasions by William Barclay (1/2)

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William Barclay (1907-1978) was a Church of Scotland minister, professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Glasgow, and author.  These prayers are from his 1959 book The Plain Man’s Book of Prayers, pages 110-117 (edited).

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In the Time of Illness

   O God, our Father, bless and help _____ in the illness which has come upon him.  Give him courage and patience; endurance and cheerfulness to bear all weakness and all pain; and put his mind at rest, which will make his recovery all the quicker.  Give to all doctors, surgeons, and nurses who attend to him skill in their hands, wisdom in their minds, and gentleness and sympathy in their hearts.  Help us not to worry too much, but to leave our loved one in Thy hands, and, in the hands of wise and skillful people who have the gift of healing.  Lord Jesus, be with us and our loved one this day and at this time, and show us that Thy healing touch has not lost its ancient power.  This we ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

In the Time of Sorrow

   O God, our Father, in our sorrow we come to Thee today that Thou may give to us the comfort which Thou alone can give.  Make us to be sure that in perfect wisdom, perfect love, and perfect power Thou art working ever for the best.  Make us sure that a Father’s hand will never cause His child a needless tear.  Make us so sure of Thy love that we will be able to accept even that which we cannot understand.  Help us today to be thinking not of the darkness of death, but of the splendor of everlasting life, and of being forever with Thee.  Help us still to face life with grace and gallantry; and help us to find courage to go on knowing that the best tribute we can pay to our loved one is not the tribute of tears, but the constant memory that another one has been added to the unseen cloud of witnesses who compass us about.  Comfort and uphold us, strengthen and support us, until we also come to the green pastures which are beside the still waters; until we meet again those whom we have loved and lost for a while: through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

When Bad News Comes

   O God, our Father, in whatever comes to us, make us able to stand on our feet, and to face it with steady eyes.  Help us to be sure that we will never be tried above that which we are able to bear.  Help us to be sure that Thy grace is sufficient to make even our weakness able to face and to conquer anything that can come to us.  Make us sure that in the valley of the deep dark shadow, Thou art there to comfort and to support us; and that even when we pass through the waters, Thou art there to hold its up, and to bring us through them to the other side: through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

When Good News Comes

   O God, my Father, who has portioned out all my life for me, I thank Thee for the good news which has come to me today.  I thank Thee that Thou has given me success; that my hope is realized, that my dream has come true, and that my ambition is fulfilled.  Keep me today and in the days to come from all pride and from all self-conceit.  Help me to remember that without Thee I can do nothing.  So keep me all my days in humility and in gratitude to Thee:  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

In the Hour of Temptation

   Lord Jesus, Thou knowest what temptation is like.  Thou knowest how strongly the wrong thing fascinates me, and how much the forbidden thing attracts me. Lord Jesus, help me not to fall.  Help me to remember my own self-respect, and to remember that I must not do that which is tempting me.  Help me to think of those who love me, and to know that I dare not bring disappointment and heartbreak to them.  Help me to remember the unseen cloud of witnesses who are all around me, and to know that I must not grieve those who have passed on, but who are forever near.  Help me to remember Thy presence, and in Thy presence to find my safety.  All this I ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

In the Time of Decision

   O God, Thou knowest that today I must make a decision which is going to affect my whole life.  Help me to choose the right way.  Grant me Thy guidance, and with it grant me the humble obedience to accept it.  Help me not to choose what I want to do, but what Thou dost wish me to do.  Grant that I may not be swayed by fear or by hope of gain, by selfish love of ease or comfort or by personal ambition, or by the desire to escape or the longing for prestige.  Help me today in humble obedience to say to Thee: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” and then to await Thy guidance, and to accept Thy leading.  Hear this my prayer, and send me an answer so clear that I cannot mistake it.  This I ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Ephesians 6:18a  —  Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

1901) “I’ll Give My Soul to God”

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Josiah Henson  (1789-1883)

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“The Road to Dawn, the Story of the Real Uncle Tom,” by Eric Metaxas and Anne Morse, posted June 21, 2018, at:  http://www.breakpoint.org

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     His name was Josiah Henson.  He was born into slavery in about 1789 in Charles County, Maryland.  Josiah’s first memory was witnessing his father being savagely whipped.  As a youngster he worked the farms of his master, Isaac Riley, and like the Old Testament Joseph, rose to a position of great responsibility.

     Josiah’s mother had taught him, as best she could, about the God of the Bible.  He attended church when he was allowed to, and in his twenties, Josiah underwent a profound conversion experience after hearing the amazing news that Jesus died for all people, not simply whites.  Josiah began preaching the gospel to other slaves.

     When he was twenty-two, Josiah married a slave named Charlotte, and the couple had four children.

     But when Isaac Riley’s debts threatened his ownership of his slaves, he begged Josiah to take them to his brother’s house in Kentucky, 650 miles away.  Josiah agreed.  But when they reached Ohio, a free state, many of the slaves wanted to stay.  But Josiah—believing he had to keep his word to his master—insisted they continue their journey to Kentucky.  Josiah regretted this decision his entire life.

     A few years later, when Josiah learned he would be sold away from his family, he resolved to escape to Canada.  Against incredible odds, he and his family traveled north by night.  Indians and Quakers fed them and helped them avoid slave catchers.  The Underground Railroad did not yet exist, and the family often went without food or water.

     Weeks later, they arrived near the border between the U.S. and Canada.  There, a kindly schooner captain took Josiah’s family to Buffalo, and then paid to have them ferried across the Niagara River to Canada.  Before they parted, the captain gave Josiah all the money he could spare.  As Jared Brock writes in his biography of Josiah Henson, titled “The Road to Dawn,” the captain then placed his hand on Josiah’s head.  ‘“Be a good fellow, won’t you?’” he said.

     “Yes,” Josiah replied, filled with emotion.  “I’ll give my soul to God.”  And as the ferry left the shore, Josiah shouted back to the captain, “I’ll use my freedom well!”

     Josiah kept that promise.  He helped raise money to set up a settlement for freedmen, called The Dawn Settlement, which helped hundreds of escaped slaves begin new lives in freedom.  He returned to the U.S. again and again, rescuing over a hundred slaves.  He opened a school, raised millions for the Abolitionist cause, bred stallions, opened a sawmill, farmed, and preached.

     Josiah displayed his lumber at the first World’s Fair in London, and met both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  But perhaps the most important person Josiah met was a writer named Harriet Beecher Stowe.  After meeting eight times with Josiah Henson and with other escaped slaves, Stowe wrote the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, credited with launching the Civil War.  When President Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, he had Stowe’s writings close at hand.

     For the rest of his life, Josiah Henson was called “the real Uncle Tom”—a character who was beaten to death because he refused to reveal the whereabouts of two escaping slaves.

     I urge you to read Jared Brock’s book about Josiah Henson, “The Road to Dawn.”  His amazing life story reminds us that God gives each of us gifts—gifts we ought to use for others.  And we need to use our precious freedom on behalf of others, as well—especially those who still live in slavery around the world.

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Mark 8:36-37  —  (Jesus said), “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

Galatians 4:13  —  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh: rather, serve one another humbly in love.

I Peter 2:16  —   Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

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You are never tired, O Lord, of doing us good; let us never be weary of doing you service.  But as you have pleasure in the well-being of your servants, let us take pleasure in the service of our Lord, and abound in your work and in your love and praise evermore.  Amen.   –John Wesley

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1900) In Your Anger, Do Not Sin

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“Three Things to Avoid When You are Angry,” by Rick Warren, posted June 22, 2018 at:  http://www.pastorrick.org

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“In your anger, do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26a)

     We all get angry from time to time.  We may handle it differently, but none of us can escape the emotion entirely.  But just because we get angry doesn’t mean we’re sinning.  The Bible says, “If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin” (Ephesians 4:26a GNT).  Paul tells us in this passage not to let our anger lead us into sin.  That means that anger isn’t necessarily sin.  The truth is, we can deal with our anger in both appropriate and inappropriate ways.  Unfortunately, most of us express our anger in ways that get us further from our goals instead of moving us closer to them. 

     Here are three things to avoid when you’re angry: 

     Don’t suppress your anger.  Don’t store it up inside.  When you suppress anger without expressing it in proper ways, it’s like taking a soft drink bottle and shaking it up.  One day it’s going to pop.  It’ll impact your body eventually.  Doctors tell us a number of physical ailments are often brought on by suppressed anger. 

     Don’t repress it.  When you repress your anger, you simply deny it’s there.  Deny your anger often enough and you’ll be depressed.  When I used to do more counseling, I’d hear many people tell me they were depressed, but they were really just angry.  They just didn’t think that Christians should get angry, so they simply bottled it up inside.  Denying anger is a sin.  It’s called lying. 

     Don’t express it in inappropriate ways.      We can express anger in a variety of inappropriate ways.  We pout, spit sarcasm, manipulate, or do something stupid (get drunk, have affairs, etc.).

None of those approaches get us anywhere near the result we’re looking for.  So what should we do with our anger?  Confess it.  You don’t just admit the anger, but you also admit the cause.  You tell God — and whoever you’re angry with — that you’re frustrated or you feel threatened.  The more honest you can be in your relationships, the easier it will be to get to the root causes of your anger. 

     Here’s the good news about your anger:  Inappropriate anger is learned, but it can be unlearned, too.  You can change.  You don’t have to stay the same.

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You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.  –Buddha

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you”ll ever regret.  –Laurence J. Peter

Anybody can become angry.  That is easy.  But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose– that is not easy.  –Aristotle

To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves.  –Alexander Pope

When anger rises, think of the consequences.  –Confucius

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.  –Marcus Aurelius

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.  –Benjamin Franklin

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.  –Mark Twain

There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help and what they cannot.  –Plato

Anger is a wind that blows out the lamp of the mind.  –Robert Green Ingersoll

Keep cool; anger is not an argument.  –Daniel Webster

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Ephesians 4:26-27  —  In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Psalm 4:4  —  Be angry, and do not sin.  Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.

Proverbs 15:1  —  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 30:33  —  For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.

James 1:19-20  —  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Psalm 37:7-9  —  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.  For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

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A PRAYER WHEN DEALING WITH ANGER:

Dear God, I am blinded by anger.  I feel nothing but rage.  It is like a fire that is all-consuming, a wildfire destroying everything in its path.  Please put out this fire.  Shower your love and peace over me and quench this fury inside of me.

Remove this blindness.  Help me to see and understand the spark that ignited this fury.

Help me to seek the truth.  Was it shame, was it blame, or was it righteous anger?

Give me the courage to respond in a spirit of truth and love in this situation.  Help me to use this anger in a positive way.

Renew a spirit of peace within me.  When anger blurs my vision, help me to trust that your love and peace will always see me through.  Amen.

–Jackie Trottmann at:  http://www.guidedchristianmeditation.com

1899) Follow the Evidence

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“THE EVIDENCE FOR CHRISTIANITY IS LIKE A TSUNAMI” by Josh Mcdowell.  Working with Campus Crusade for Christ and founding the youth outreach Josh McDowell Ministry, Josh McDowell has shared the gospel with more than 25 million people in 125 countries.  He is the author or co-author of 148 books, includingEvidence That Demands a Verdict.”

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     My life growing up was a struggle.  When I walked into college, I carried a heavy burden of years of hurt and bitterness.

     I was mad at my father for beating my mother.  I was angry at a man who worked on our farm and sexually abused me from ages 6 to 13.  All of this led to me to really despise God, religion, and anything to do with the church.  I was the last person in the world who you would expect to become a Christian.

     When some young believing students at school challenged me to investigate the evidence for Christianity intellectually, I was shocked.  Specifically, they challenged me to investigate the evidence for the resurrection.  I thought it was joke.  In fact, I thought it would be easy to marshal the evidence disproving the claims of Christ.  Since I like a good challenge, I accepted their offer.

     I left the university and traveled across the United States, Europe and the Middle East to study ancient manuscripts and gather the evidence against Christianity.  After months of study, I returned to a small library in England.  I leaned back in my chair, cupped my hands on the back of my head and said “It’s true.  It really is true.”

     I returned to the university and couldn’t sleep.  The evidence for Christianity was stronger than all the years of my pain and skepticism that kept me from believing it.  I knew that if I was going to be honest, I could not remain a skeptic.  The historical evidence really indicated that Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day.

     Needless to say, my research had taken quite an unexpected turn.  I set out to disprove the historical resurrection of Jesus but ended up becoming a follower of Christ.  I first published my research in 1972 in the book “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” which has since been printed over 4 million times in 44 languages.

     The historical evidence for Christianity today is like a tsunami.  And yet, the amount of evidence we have engulfs the kind that led me to believe in Christ over five decades ago.  The textual, archaeological and manuscript evidence is increasing regularly.

     The waves keep crashing as more and more things are being discovered.  Because of this, my son Sean and I recently teamed up to revise “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” with all of the latest discoveries that bear upon one verdict:  Jesus Christ has risen from the dead in confirmation that he is God.

     This is obviously a radical claim to make today.  After all, many smart people disagree with me.  How do we know the claims of Christ are not “fake news?”

     My challenge for you is to consider the evidence for yourself.  According to the Apostle Paul, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is false, and Christians are to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).  But if Jesus did rise, then Christianity is true.  The evidence is there, if you are willing to consider it.  After 50 years of studying it, I can tell you that this tsunami has not let up.

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II Peter 1:16  —  For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

I Corinthians 15:3-8a  —  What I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also.

Romans 10:9  —  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

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Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

–Mark 9:24

1898) Not Successful, But Faithful

From “Do You Wish You Had Accomplished More?” by Vaneetha Rendall Risner, a freelance writer who blogs at:  http://www.danceintherain.com

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     John the Baptist’s life began with great promise.  An angelic proclamation.  A call from God.  A thriving ministry. Yet his life ended in virtual obscurity — alone in a small prison cell.

     John is not what we would consider a success.  We celebrate people who begin with nothing and end with great accomplishments.  We often find little to admire when it’s the other way around.  Most of us begin with great expectations for our own lives.  We want to make a name for ourselves, or have a fulfilling career, or raise an exceptional family.

     When the years go by and we have not accomplished what we had hoped to, we are left wondering what good our lives have been.  We have a nagging feeling that somehow we haven’t measured up.

     I know that feeling all too well.

     I started off wanting it all.  I wanted to make a name for myself in a successful career, while being a Proverbs 31 woman and raising an exceptional family.  At first, it all seemed attainable.

     After earning my MBA, it felt like I was on the fast track to success.  When I chose, a few years later, to be a stay-at-home mom, I felt the sting of embarrassment when several classmates laughed at my “admirable” choices.

     I then focused my energies on making our home a warm and hospitable place, a place where people felt welcome and cared for.  But a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome forced me to stop using my arms for anything besides self-care, leaving little room for hospitality, much less home-cooked meals.

     Though I couldn’t serve others physically, I still poured myself into raising a strong family by trying to be a supportive wife and mother.  So, when my husband left our family and later filed for divorce, I was completely devastated.  Not only for myself, but also for our children.  They struggled with explosive anger and hurt, further intensifying my sadness and shame.

     I felt like an absolute failure.  Not only could I not meet all my goals; I couldn’t meet any of them.

     Mother Teresa’s words gave me life as I considered all the ways I hadn’t measured up.  I hung onto this simple statement and have reminded myself of it throughout my life: “God did not call me to be successful; he called me to be faithful.”

     John the Baptist would have agreed.  His coming was marked with great anticipation. Both Isaiah (40:3) and Malachi (3:1) prophesied about the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.  Even before he was born, the angel Gabriel said that he would be great before the Lord, would be filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother’s womb, and would go out in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:15-17).

     With proclamations like that, how could John the Baptist not be successful?

     At first, he achieved great success.  Indeed, John preached with great power, like Elijah.  Crowds flocked to him in his short public ministry, which scholars say may have lasted less than a year.  In that brief time, John drew much attention from the scribes and Pharisees, who were threatened by the people who thought John was the Messiah.

     John was the last of the old-covenant prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, who all predicted the coming of Christ.  He was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’” (Matthew 3:3).  But John was the only prophet who was privileged to see the Messiah in the flesh.  John even baptized Jesus, and saw the Spirit descending on him, and heard with his own ears God saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

     John undoubtedly would have been excited about what God was doing.  The long-awaited Messiah had come, and John might have assumed that he, his herald, would minister (and succeed) at his side.

     But John was imprisoned just a few months after Jesus began his public ministry.  John didn’t see the fulfillment of his ministry; he simply had to trust that God was using his life’s work.

     John exemplified these words from the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).  John was not focused on his own kingdom; he was focused on the kingdom of God.  He didn’t try to expand his ministry or influence; he was content to go where God had called him.  He didn’t feel slighted that his popularity was waning; he rejoiced that Christ’s fame was spreading.  In every case, John subordinated his ego and his plans to God’s.

     John’s life kept diminishing and fading away.  Once Jesus emerged, the masses paid less and less attention to John.  Some of his disciples, like Andrew, left him to follow Jesus.  When his ministry overlapped with Jesus’s, John’s disciples noted, “Look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him” (John 3:26).  John’s response: “This joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30).

     From a worldly perspective, John probably looked like a failure.  He was never prosperous, and his ministry evaporated quickly.  He didn’t even have a glorious death.  He died at the whim of a foolish girl, her vengeful mother, and a wicked and weak king.

     Yet John the Baptist was wildly successful in God’s eyes.  John had served a crucial purpose in the kingdom, faithfully preparing the way for Christ.  He didn’t see the fruit of his ministry.  Many of us never do.  Yet Jesus exhorts us in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

     Jesus had nothing but praise for John.  He said he was the greatest man who had ever lived up to that time (Matthew 11:11).  But John’s life and ministry was probably nothing like John envisioned.

     Does your life sometimes feel small and insignificant?  Did you start off with great plans for your life, yet now it seems you have done little of what you set out to do?  Are you judging your worth by the standards of worldly success?

     If you started out your career or your ministry or your calling full of promise, but it didn’t unfold as you planned, take heart.  God is after your faithfulness, not your success.

     Remember what God values.  He’s after our hearts — our willingness to be used by him.  Can we find joy when God uses us, like John, even if it looks like our influence and popularity is diminishing?  Can we find our worth in Christ alone and remember that our goal on this earth is to make God’s name look great and not our own?

     I wish I could say that I’ve let go of my desire to look successful in other people’s eyes, but honestly, I still struggle with it.  I struggle with viewing success as a benchmark rather than a blessing.  I struggle with comparing myself to people who have accomplished more than I have. I struggle with needing to produce measurable fruit, even in ministry.

     Yet when I remember that God calls me to be faithful not successful, I realize how misplaced my desires can be.  I don’t need to compare myself with others; I need to focus on being faithful in what God has called me to do.  I can learn from John the Baptist and await my reward, when I hear those precious words:

Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your master.  (Matthew 25:21).

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Image result for mother teresa quotes images faithful not successful

1897) Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Image result for south africa necklacing images

Posted May 25, 2018 in the Standing Strong Through the Storm devotional at:  http://www.opendoors.org

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(NOTE:  “Necklacing” was a form of executing political enemies in South Africa in the 1980’s by soaking a tire in oil, placing it around a person’s neck, and setting it on fire.)

     “Get dressed and come along, we have a traitor we are going to necklace.  We have a tire, a bottle of petrol and matches.”  The group of angry youths at the door did not even give their South African youth leader, Julia, a chance to protest.

     Julia’s parents were Christians who tried to raise her in the ways of the Lord.  She rebelled at an early age and mixed with bad friends, abused drink and drugs, and married a man who deserted her.  As a single parent she did her utmost to find a job, but work and food were scarce.

     Julia joined a political party and participated in every gathering in her neighborhood.  Violence, she thought, is the only solution to the country’s and her own problems.  She was soon chosen as leader of a large group of young people who made their presence known in the streets.

     Nevertheless, Julia’s problems were not solved.  Every day was one long struggle to stay alive, to find employment, and to care for her child.  One day, things became too much.  She realized that no person could help.  “Lord,” she prayed in the dark, “if You truly are there, as my parents maintain You are, You must help me now.”

     The Lord answered her prayer.  He laid His hand on this young woman and changed her life.  She would never again be alone without her Heavenly Father who cares for her by her side.  After her repentance she spent much time pondering and praying about her political aspirations and how she would handle her youth group.

     That morning with the youths at her door, Julia got dressed and accompanied them to the man they wanted to execute by necklacing.  Julia says, “I did not say anything.  All that I could do was to pray and ask the Lord, ‘What must I do now?’

     “Fortunately it wasn’t long before I got an answer from the Lord.  I scraped all my courage together, looked at my comrades and said, ‘If there is one of you who has never made a mistake, who is not a “sell-out,” let him fasten the tire around the man’s neck, let him set it on fire.’

   “Not a single one of the young people had an answer.  One by one they silently parted and left me with the man who was to have been executed.  I asked him to help me to carry away the tire and the rest of the things. I never saw him again.

     “I must admit, I was quite afraid that the young people would return to burn down my house.  However, God is great and wonderful because nothing happened.  I am still their leader.”

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John 8:2-11  —  At dawn Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.  They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.  But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

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Dear Lord, grant us your rich grace that the people with us and we with them shall be friendly, kind and gentle to one another, forgive each other from the heart, and endure each others faults and shortcomings in Christian love.  Thus, we may live in peace and unity, as this commandment teaches us and requires us to do.  Amen. 

–Martin Luther prayer to go with the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.”