1937) Start Talking to Yourself

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David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister.  For almost thirty years he was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London.  This bit of wisdom is from his book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures.  He is writing about how the writer of Psalm 42 deals with his depression (below).  This method is used in many of the Psalms.

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     The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self.  Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical?  Far from it.  This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter.  Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?  Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning.  You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc.  Somebody is talking.  Who is talking to you?  Your self is talking to you.  Now this man’s treatment was this (in Psalm 42); instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks.  His soul had been repressing him, crushing him.  So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’.  Do you know what I mean?  If you do not, you have but little experience.

     The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself.  You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself.  You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted?  You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way.  And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.  Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet priase Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.

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PSALM 42:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

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PSALM 103:1-2:

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits.

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1936) Spiritually Fatherless

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By Marshall Segal (managing editor at Desiring God Ministries), July 18, 2018 at:  http://www.desiringgod.org

   Many children begin walking with the Lord without parents to show them how.  They hear, “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), and wonder, ‘But what about me?’  They see God calling fathers to “bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), but their dad never even opened a Bible.

     They strive to grow in faith, mature in godliness, and deepen their joy in God, but without a day in, day out model and guide.  It can feel like the spiritual equivalent of Hatchet, the classic American novel for boys.  Thirteen-year-old Brian, the son of divorced parents, is the sole survivor in a plane crash out in the Canadian wilderness and teaches himself how to make a shelter, hunt, fish, and forage for food, and start a fire — all with just a hatchet.  Young Christians are often left to fend for themselves in their own homes, having to teach themselves how to pray, hear from God in his word, and pursue holiness — all with just a Bible.

     And a Father in heaven.  If your parents have not been positive spiritual influences on your faith, you are not as alone as you may feel.  Many have met and followed Christ without godly parents, and each of them has been fathered in a deeper, more meaningful way.

     If you feel like you’ve had to survive on a hope and a hatchet, you may be able to relate to Hezekiah.  His father makes even the worst dads look okay.  As king of Israel, he led a whole nation astray by making metal idols and then altars to worship his false gods.  Instead of protecting and sanctifying God’s temple, Ahaz stole from it and shut its doors.  Instead of caring for the precious sons God gave to him, he murdered his own children, burning Hezekiah’s brothers as offerings to false gods.  Ahaz contributed to Hezekiah’s walk with the Lord by showing him who not to be.

     And yet, “Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old. . . . And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Chronicles 29:1–2).  Not his father Ahaz but his spiritual forefather (and kingly ancestor) David.  When Hezekiah could not imitate his dad, he found a faithful man of God worthy of imitation.

     Instead of stealing from the temple and closing it to God’s people, Hezekiah “opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them” (2 Chronicles 29:3), and he did so immediately, in the first month of his reign.

     Instead of following his father’s horrible example, he confronted his father’s iniquities and confessed their wickedness: “Our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God” (2 Chronicles 29:6).

     Instead of blaming his father and avoiding the consequences, he took responsibility and bore the burden of his father’s failures: “Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us” (2 Chronicles 29:10).

     Instead of leading others away from God and into transgression, he called the people of God to reject temptation and return to God:

O people of Israel, return to the Lord. . . . Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers. . . . Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.  (2 Chronicles 30:6–8)

     Instead of presuming on grace and mercy, Hezekiah refused to take God’s kindness and compassion for granted, pleading earnestly for the people to repent:

“If you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land.  For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him” (2 Chronicles 30:9).

     Instead of bringing judgment and destruction on his family and nation, his steadfast faith and godly leadership brought healing (2 Chronicles 30:21), and “there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:26).  While he knew great misery because of his father, he spread great gladness because he trusted and obeyed God.

     In the midst of a threatening spiritual wilderness, with the worst of spiritual examples in his father, Hezekiah found a true Father and learned how to survive, grow, and serve by faith in him.

     If you follow Christ, you have a good Father, even if you didn’t have a good father.  If you are led by the Spirit into confession, repentance, and obedience — like Hezekiah — you are a chosen and precious son of infinite love and strength.  “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).  Before you were adopted, you were enslaved to fear, and for good reason.  But now, your Father’s Spirit lives in you and casts out the fear of punishment (1 John 4:18).

     The Spirit lives in you to remind you that you’re not an orphan anymore (Romans 8:16).  And if you are a child of God, then you also are an heir of God with Christ (Romans 8:17).  And if you are an heir of all things with Christ, you also will be glorified with him.  You were once alone, abandoned, and spiritually helpless.  You were spiritually fatherless.  Now you have received a supernatural adoption, an infinite inheritance, unimaginable glory, and the Father of fathers.

     God did not adopt you reluctantly, but lovingly.  He formed even the best parent-child relationships to be only hints of the kind of love he feels for his children.  He sent his own Son to die for you in order to make you his (1 John 3:1–2).

     Sons and daughters without a loving human father are not lost for love.  All those who know true love, no matter what kind of love they have experienced in their family, have learned it through being loved by God (1 John 4:9) — the good Father of the spiritually fatherless.

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Psalm 68:5  —  God is a father to the fatherless…

John 14:18  —  (Jesus said), “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

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Our Father, who art in heaven…

–Jesus, Matthew 9:a

1935) Winning the Silent Treatment War

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By Heather Delaney, July 28, 2018, at:  http://www.foxnews.com  

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     Last Sunday, we argued.

     Actually, to use the word argued may be a little misleading.

     We ignored.

     We ignore.

     Basically, we go around the home, pretending that the other is not there.  Invisible.  Answering to children, door bells, and phone calls only.  Not asking the other what they want for lunch, or if they want coffee made (and not asking for two reasons: one being that you don’t care at that time what they want; the other being that you know they won’t answer.)

     So, that is our argument.  Let’s title it ‘The Invisible Games’, shall we?

     The winner?  Well, that’s decided on a game by game basis (we’ve both become quite skilled in it).

     As for the reason behind the argument?  Don’t ask me.

     Not that I won’t share it.  I mean, I’ll share anything.  I’m an open book right here.

     Rather, I don’t want you to ask me, because I have no answer to give you.  That’s right.  I have absolutely no idea what it was that we were arguing about.  So the chances that it was something particularly petty are obviously pretty high.

     Anyway, back to the argument (if that’s what we want to call it).

     We spent our whole Sunday like that.  All day.  All evening.  And went to bed like it that night.  Those of you who can make up before you go to bed, I salute you.  I have this thing called a stubborn streak.

     The day ended with him on one side of the bed; me on the other.  Basically just hanging on.  Falling off of the bed onto the floor would have been a better option than my arm so much as grazing his. 

     We woke up the next morning to no kiss good bye.  No reassurance to make sure that he took his lunch.  No requests to call on dinner break.  The game was still on.

   Two hours later, it happened.  My phone dinged, and a simple “I love you” was staring at me from the screen.  I smiled, replied back the same exact message, and just like that, ‘The Invisible Games’ came to an end.

     He was the winner.

     That was the end of that.  And here we are, a week later, asking if the other would like to share a pot of coffee (which, by the way, the answer is always yes).

     Now, looking back, I feel like a fool.  You see, last Sunday was a gift, from God Himself.

     We woke up healthy and well; we went to bed healthy and well.  But the day in itself?  We didn’t cherish it like we should have.  We weren’t grateful for it like we should have been.  We’re weren’t appreciative of the moments that we could’ve spent together, outside in the garden, or inside arguing over the remote.

     Rather, we took the day for granted (after already learning the lesson so many times throughout our adult lives that no day, no moment, should be taken for granted).  Yet, we shamefully did.

     Why am I sharing this with you?

     Well, just in case someone in your life needs you to be the winner.

     The one to say “I’m sorry” first.  Or to say “I messed up” first.  Or, in our case, just to say “I love you” first.

     The one to send that first text, or to make that first call, to put an end to whatever issues are causing two hearts to feel miles apart.

     The one to come to that line in the sand with a white flag in one hand, bearing a cup of coffee in the other.

     Be the winner. 

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I Corinthians 13:4-6  —  Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

Ephesians 4:2-3  — Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

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.

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Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

–Jesus

1934) Someday He’ll Make It Plain

By pastor and author Randy Alcorn, at:  http://www.epm.org

When I’m asked who my favorite character from my novels is, I always say it’s Obadiah Abernathy in Dominion, who played baseball in the old Negro leagues.  He modeled dignity, grace, wisdom, and humor.  My sports inspiration for Obadiah was Buck O’Neil of the Kansas City Monarchs, but my spiritual inspiration was John Perkins.  Whenever I wrote dialogue for Obadiah, I asked myself, What would John say?  Here’s an excerpt from the book, where Obadiah shares thoughts with his family and sings a hymn:

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     Obadiah looked around the table, and Clarence could almost hear an abrupt gear change in his daddy’s head.  “You know what’s missin’ in churches these days?”  “What’s that, Daddy?” Clarence asked.

     “The mourner’s bench.  ’Member our old church in Puckett?  They had a mourner’s bench.  That was back in the days when you didn’t need no theologian to explain away the Bible.  We just believed it.  And tried to live by it.  ’Member ol’ Reverend Charo, Clarence?”

     “Yes, Daddy.”

     “Now that was a preacher.  Man had more points than a thornbush.”  Obadiah smiled broadly, his white teeth looking like piano ivories.  “The Reverend used to say from the pulpit in this big loud voice, ‘It’s no disgrace to be colored.’  Then he’d pause and lean forward and wink at us and whisper, ‘It’s just awfully inconvenient.’”

     Obadiah laughed and laughed, mostly on his own, though Geneva managed a few chuckles herself.

     “Sunday was the finest day of the week, I reckon.  We’d leave behind those cotton fields, that ol’ ramshackle house, and come to the house of God.  Without Sundays, we woulda shriveled up and died, worked ourselves to the grave ’fore we was fifty years ol’.  We’d put on our Sunday best.  Mama, she’d put wheat starch in my collar to glue down the threads on my one white shirt.  I’d pick the trousers with the fewest holes.  We’d walk the four miles to Sunday school, rain or shine.  And we had fun walkin’.  Ol’ Elijah and me, we was always cookin’ up mischief along the way.”

     He looked right at Jonah and Ty and nodded, as an old man who’s never forgotten what it is to be young.  Everyone’s eyes focused on Granddaddy.  Frail as Obadiah’s body had become, his eyes were strong and he still carried the indomitable authority of a senior black man.

     “Pastor served four churches, so he’d be there once a month.  We’d take a break after Sunday school, then have a big service.  Preacher go up there and say, ‘Remember your mama?  How she used to hug you and tuck you in?  But she gone now.  Can’t tuck you in no more.’  And he’d carry on and on, till we was all snifflin’ and sobbin’.  He’d keep remindin’ us of our grandmammies and all our kin that died until we was almost in a frenzy.  Then he’d shout, ‘But someday you goin’ to see yo’ mama again.  Some day you goin’ to heaven, if you loves Jesus, and there she be—arm’s awide open, waitin’ fo’ you.  How many o’ you can hardly wait for that day?’”

     Obadiah’s voice had taken on the strength of the preacher’s from seventy-five years ago.  “People, they be shoutin’ and clappin’, twitchin’ and tremblin.’  Not like some churches where it’s just a lecture and they has to stop at an hour so you don’t falls asleep.  Now, your churches today, they don’t preach about heaven no mo’, not like that anyways.  Not like that.  Maybe nowadays we thinks this world’s our home.  Maybe that’s whys we’s in so much trouble.”

     …He scanned the children to decide which to light his eyes on, and this time chose Keisha.

     “We’d come together and focus on a better life—the life to come.  Always read the Scripture that said we was strangers and aliens and pilgrims.  Slave stock understood that.  Property owners never did.  See, Keisha, black folk couldn’t own property back then.  A few did, but very few.  We was sharecroppers; our pappies was slaves.  We knew this wasn’t our home.  It’s harder when you think you own things yourself.  ’Cause then you starts actin’ like a big shot owner instead of a tenant.  This here is God’s world, chillens.  No man owns anything.  We’s all just sharecroppers on God’s land.  But he never cheats us—come harvest time, he’ll give us the rewards of our labor.”

     “Doesn’t seem that way sometimes, Daddy,” Clarence said.  Geneva looked startled.  She didn’t remember him ever taking issue with his daddy in front of the children, at least not on spiritual matters.  “Lots of bad things happen in this world.  Seems like sometimes our labor doesn’t pay off.”

     “That’s because it ain’t harvest time yet, Son.  You jus’ wait. You jus’ wait.”

     “I’m tired of always waiting.”

     “You trust him, boy, and yo’ sweet Jesus ain’t gonna let you down.  These television preachers make it sound like today’s the harvest.  Give a bunch o’ money and next thing you know there’s a big Cadillac in your driveway.  Show me the chapter and verse fo’ that one, will ya?  God say at the proper time we’ll reap a harvest, if we don’t give up.  Proper time ain’t here yet.  Don’t give up, Son.  Just don’t give up.”

     The old man’s eyes started to glaze.  His mouth kept moving, but he was in transition.  “I remembers those ol’ songs, songs black as night, black as the raven.  ‘Steal away.’  ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.’  ‘I’ll Fly Away.’  ‘Just Over in Glory Land.’  ‘In the Sweet By-and-By.’  We always sung about ‘one day acomin.’  We knew this weren’t the day.”

     Obadiah was somewhere else now.  Was he thinking about his mama?  Clarence wondered.  His wife?  His daughter?  Little Felicia?

     Suddenly, so low and quiet you could barely hear, he began singing a song Clarence vaguely remembered from childhood.  “I does not know why all aroun’ me, my hopes all shattered seem to be.  God’s perfect plan I cannot see.  But one day, someday, he’ll make it plain.”

     …“I don’t understand,” the old man continued to sing, “my struggles now, why I suffer and feel so bad.   But one day, someday, he’ll make it plain.  Someday when I his face shall see, someday from tears I shall be free, yes, someday I’ll understand.”

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Hebrews 11:13  —  All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were pilgrims and strangers on earth.

Galatians 6:9  —  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

II Corinthians 4:17-18  —  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.

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A reader recently asked me what song those lyrics Obadiah sings are from.  They are a slightly revised version of “Someday He’ll Make it Plain,” with words by Lida S. Leech and music by Adam Geibel.  Geibel wrote the melody in 1911 after his son-in-law died in a steel mill explosion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=yXK9-C_N32Q

SOME DAY HE’LL MAKE IT PLAIN TO ME

By Adam Geibel (1855-1933) and Lida Leech  (1873-1962)

I do not know why oft ’round me
My hopes all shattered seem to be;
God’s perfect plan I cannot see,
But someday I’ll understand.

Refrain

Someday He’ll make it plain to me,
Some day when I His face shall see;
Some day from tears I shall be free,
For some day I shall understand.

I cannot tell the depth of love,
Which moves the Father’s heart above;
My faith to test, my love to prove,
But someday I’ll understand.

Refrain

Tho’ trials come thro’ passing days,
My life will still be filled with praise;
For God will lead thro’ darkened ways,
But someday I’ll understand.

Refrain

1933) A Triumph of Faith and Endurance

By Eric Metaxas and Stan Guthrie, July 26, 2018, athttp://www.breakpoint.org

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     In late 18th and early 19th century, slavery was considered a “necessary evil.”  As Historian Christopher D. Hancock wrote, the slave trade “involved thousands of slaves, hundreds of ships, and millions of pounds [sterling]; upon it depended the economies of Britain and much of Europe.

     “Some Englishmen,” he continued, “including John Wesley and Thomas Clarkson, had taken steps to mitigate the evil.  Yet few in England shared the abolitionists’ sense that slavery was a great social evil.”

     Another historian, Richard Pierard, said that abolitionists were viewed as dangerous radicals, akin to the revolutionaries wreaking havoc in France.

     Into this dark milieu stepped the English parliamentarian William Wilberforce, a true giant of the faith, who lived from 1759 to 1833.

     After his dramatic conversion to Jesus Christ in 1785, the heretofore unfocused Wilberforce made three consequential decisions that ended up changing the world: first, stay in politics, at a time when conventional wisdom held that politics was too dirty a business for Christians; second, work for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain; and, third, work for moral reformation in society.  Wilberforce was a moral revolutionary in a nation that was, morally speaking, scraping bottom.

     These decisions went against the grain and would cost the sometimes-sickly man his health and his good, aristocratic name.  But rather than retreat to the seclusion of the cloister or the security of an obscure pulpit, Wilberforce decided that God had called him to apply his Christian worldview and principles “for such a time as this.”

     “My walk is a public one,” he wrote in his private journal.  “My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.”  Foreseeing the trouble he would face, Wilberforce later wrote, “A man who acts from the principles I profess reflects that he is to give an account of his political conduct at the judgment seat of Christ.”

     Initially confident of a quick victory, Wilberforce soon learned that the forces keeping the slave trade alive—material and spiritual—would not give up their captives without a long and bitter fight.  Antislavery bills sponsored by Wilberforce and his band of dauntless crusaders known as the Clapham Sect were defeated in Parliament eleven straight years.

     “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trade’s wickedness appear,” Wilberforce wrote, “that my own mind was completely made up…  Let the consequences be what they would; I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.”

     Finally, an act abolishing the slave trade was passed in 1807.  Wilberforce wept for joy.  But the work wasn’t finished.  It had only just begun.  He and his comrades would have to toil another 26 years to see slavery itself abolished.

     So it was, exactly 185 years ago today (yesterday), on July 26, 1833, that the Emancipation Act passed its third reading in the House of Commons, ensuring the end of slavery in the British Empire, some three decades before the bloody Civil War would end it in America.  When an aged Wilberforce heard the news, he said, “Thank God I have lived to witness this day.”

     He died three days later.

     Faith, passion, and endurance were powerfully embodied in the life of William Wilberforce; a life we would do well to emulate as we confront the so-called “necessary evils” of our day.

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QUOTES BY WILLIAM WILBERFORCE:
Let everyone regulate his conduct by the golden rule of doing to others as in similar circumstances we would have them do to us, and the path of duty will be clear before him.
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When we think of eternity, and of the future consequences of all human conduct, what is there in this life that should make any man go against the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice, and the laws of God.
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I take courage, I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firm step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out, and that I shall be able to justify upon the clearest principles, every resolution in my hand; the goal of which is the total abolition of the slave trade.
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To all the inhabitants of the British Empire, who value the favor of God, or are alive to the interests or honor of their country–  to all who have any respect for justice, or any feelings of humanity, I would solemnly address myself:  I call upon them, as they shall hereafter answer, in the great day of account, for the use they shall have made of any power or influence with which God entrusted them, to employ their best endeavors, to terminate the business of Negro Slavery.  (edited)
— from An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire

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Esther 4:14b  —  “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

James 4:17  —  If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Colossians 3:23a  —  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.

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O Lord, without you I can do nothing.  Subdue within me all vain ambition, worldliness, pride, and selfishness; and fill me with faith, love, peace, and all the fruits of the Spirit.  To you I flee for refuge.  Reassure me by your Spirit.  I surrender myself to you, trusting in your promises and believing in the hope your offer.  You are the same yesterday, today, and forever; therefore, I will wait and trust that you shall in time renew my strength.  Amen.

–William Wilberforce

1932) Christ in the World

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By best-selling author Philip Yancey (my favorite living Christian writer), posted July 19, 2018 at:  http://www.philipyancey.com

     I travel to other countries about four times a year, usually at the invitation of an international publisher of my books.  This year, for example, I’ve flown to Japan, Brazil, and Argentina, and have trips planned to Ireland and Eastern Europe (Hungary, Belarus, and Ukraine).  The trips are exhausting and expensive, and on return I happily settle back into the solitary writing life.

     “Why do you keep traveling?” my friends ask.  “You live in the beautiful state of Colorado.  Why not just stay home?”  It’s a good question, one I ask myself after a grueling trip.  Why does anyone travel overseas?  We expand our horizons, and in the process gain a new perspective on the world.  I have watched the first rays of sun hit the Taj Mahal, and an endless line of wildebeest snaking across the Serengeti; I’ve jogged through Moscow’s Red Square in winter’s biting cold, and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.  Colorado has much to offer, but not these sights.

     On the road, I also get to test what I write about.  My travels have taken me to places where Christians face a refiner’s fire of hardship and oppression.  Can grace really transform women who have spent their lives as victims of sexual trafficking?  Can “the God of all comfort” truly bring solace after an earthquake or other natural disaster?  Can we tribal humans ever overcome the tragic consequences of racism?

     Almost always I return from my trips encouraged, my faith buoyed.  Only 30 percent of the world’s Christians now hail from the West, and I have been privileged to see remarkable evidence of God at work elsewhere: the miracle of reconciliation in South Africa, the greatest spiritual awakening in history taking place under an atheistic Chinese regime, Indian Christians turning their attention to the most outcast group on the planet (Dalits, formerly known as Untouchables).  As a writer I seek to bring that good news to the jaded West, for such stories rarely make the headlines here.  Instead, secular media often portray Christians as bearers of bad news.

     Ask a villager in India, “What is a Christian?” and although she may not know any theology she may reply, “I’m not sure, but once a week a van arrives with a cross on the side, and doctors and nurses treat all our wounds and sicknesses, free of charge.”

     Christians run the best schools in many countries, operate childcare and feeding programs for prisoners’ families, make available micro-loans to help the poor start tiny businesses, provide lawyers to help free women and children caught in sexual slavery—and they do so with little fanfare and not much money because they believe that’s what Jesus expects from his followers.

     To witness such activities, of course, one must endure the inconveniences of modern travel.  They begin at the airport: long security lines; the hassle of removing shoes, belt, and change from clothing; and extracting phone, laptop, and liquids from hand luggage.  On plane trips beyond twelve hours I can actually feel a sore throat progressing cell by cell.  Unable to sleep on flights, I try to read or sit quietly as film grows over my teeth and my eyes dry out.  Just as I’m feeling sorry for myself, I land and meet someone like my host in the Philippines who rides a motorcycle on muddy roads four to five hours every day to supervise 157 pastors in remote villages.  I come away with that new perspective on the world.

     I have learned that churches in developing countries often magnify the flaws and quirks of the U.S. church.  Missionaries, God bless them, may import a legalism that makes Southern Baptists look like liberals, and church divisions that make U.S. denominations seem harmonious.  Sermons fall into two types, either stiff and formulaic or a rollicking Prosperity Gospel message.

     I enjoy speaking in “post-Christian” societies such as Europe and Australia, where a scant minority still believe and few worship regularly, although tokens of a religious past abound.  Consider the doubters as divorcées, not virgins, cautioned C. S. Lewis: they tried the faith and felt disappointed in or betrayed by it—a pattern I know well.

     Even so, Christians in such places seem more serious about their faith than their counterparts in the U.S.  When only a small percentage of the population attends, church offers no social advantages.  Those who show up do so out of a hunger for spiritual content, whereas in America entertainment rules.

     Nothing, however, beats speaking in a place where the audience hangs on every word.  On one of my visits to the Philippines, the owner of a shopping mall made available a vacant corner of the mall adjacent to a twelve-screen movie complex.  Organizers rented 2,000 chairs and hung some lights in the cavernous concrete area.  “Have you advertised this meeting?” I asked.  “No, no, we don’t need to.  Just start speaking about Jesus, and the shoppers and moviegoers will change their plans and come listen to you.”  Yeah, right—I prepared myself for a humiliating debacle.  Oh, ye of little faith: as I spoke, row after row of the seats filled with people, and by the end of the evening listeners were standing in the back.

     I must admit, my own faith would be much shakier if I knew only the U.S. church, where we tend to hire professionals to do the work.  In May of this year I spoke at a conference of church leaders in Brazil.  Some forty years ago, a Christian teenager became concerned about the large homeless population in his home town.  After a few attempts at charity, he saw that they needed more than food handouts and a place to sleep.  Over time he developed a program that became the country’s largest agency working among the homeless.  Missão Vida (Life Mission) gives them a new start, in a lovely camp setting where they receive addiction counseling, education, and training for employment.

     At the camp, I listened to a 220-man choir of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts boisterously singing about their newfound faith.  I heard story after story from men and women who had once lived in makeshift cardboard beds on the street, now leaders in their communities.  Unlike the U.S., the Brazilian church was not relying on government programs or interim rescue missions.  Instead, this conference was teaching pastors how to mobilize their congregations in a coordinated effort to wipe out homelessness in their cities.

     I felt fortunate even to make it to the conference.  Brazil was undergoing a truckers’ strike that nearly shut down the country.  Trucks blocked major highways.  Airlines had to cancel flights because of a fuel shortage, and 90 percent of all gas stations were closed.  A billion chickens died from lack of food.  Somehow, the conference went on as scheduled, with only a few conferees unable to attend.

     To transport me to the airport for my departure from Brazil, my hosts found an Uber car that ran on propane.  When I returned home, I got an abrupt reminder of how isolated we are in this country.  The lead story on every news channel was “Rosanne Barr’s TV show canceled by ABC!”

     And we think we have problems…

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Matthew 28:18-20  —  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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Lord God of our salvation, it is your will that all people might come to you through your Son Jesus Christ.  Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection.  Amen.  

-Lutheran Book of Worship

1931) Extremist Gets Extreme Makeover

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By Ron Boyd-MacMillan, in Faith That Endures (Grand Rapids: Fleming Revell, 2006), p. 319-320.

     I remember interviewing a former Muslim extremist in Egypt.  He had converted to Christ in his early twenties and led a church for Muslim converts.  This is illegal in Egypt, and the fellowship was betrayed to the police.  Soon this young man found himself in prison.  He was tortured.  An electric cattle prod was pushed into his mouth.  He was whipped and hung from the ceiling with his hands tied behind his back.  But all this paled into insignificance compared to what other prisoners called “the experience.”  He was pushed into a stone box, a cube about five feet square.  No light.  No latrine.  And he was left there for a month, food being passed through a grate every few days.  Most prisoners went mad as a result of “the experience”—but not him.

     He found Christ there, and the words he used to describe his experience are description of the process of how persecution can bring one closer to God:

In great suffering you discover a different Jesus than you do in normal life.  Normally we are able to hide from ourselves who we really are and what we are really like.  The ego is well defended.  But pain changes all that.  Pain and suffering bring up to the surface all the weak points of your personality.  You are too weak to mount the usual defenses, and you just have to gaze at what you are really like.  I was a wreck in that cell.  I was reduced to tears all the time.  Crying, weeping, sobbing, wailing in the never-changing utter darkness.

I came face-to-face with how awful I really was.  I saw all the horrible things I had done, all the horrible things I was.  I kept seeing myself again and again.  But just as I was about to collapse into complete despair and self-loathing—and probably die—an incredible realization burst into the cell like an exploding star.  It was this: Jesus loved me even right then, as I sat in my own filth, weak, helpless and broken, empty and sinful.  Even in that state, He loved me, and Christ rushed in and filled me, and the filling was so great because I was so empty.

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Psalm 88:1-9…18:

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to you…

18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.

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Psalm 42:2-4a:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul.

Psalm 40:1-4a:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

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PSALM 103:1-4…8-13:

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…

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

1930) Less is More

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“Life is About Relationship, Not Acquisition,” by Rick Warren, July 17, 2018 at:  http://www.pastorrick.org

     Life is not about things.  You’ve got to maintain the right perspective about possessions, or you’ll be possessed by your possessions.  You’ve got to realize none of it is going to last.

     Jesus says in Luke 12:15, “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because your true life is not made up of the things you own, no matter how rich you may be” (GNT).

     Never judge your self-worth by your net worth.  Never think your value is related to your valuables.  Realize that the greatest things in life aren’t things.  You didn’t bring anything into the world, and you’re not taking anything out of it.  Life is not about acquisition or achievement.  Life is about relationship and learning how to love God and other people.

     The best way to remember that your life is not about things is to build your life on eternal priorities.  Focus on what will last forever.  Every possession is temporary, so don’t build your life on acquiring possessions.  Only two things are going to last forever: the Word of God and people.

     You’ve got a choice to make.  The world is telling you that you’ve got to get more to be happier, more successful, more important, more valuable, and more secure.  You’ve got to decide if you’re going to listen to Madison Avenue or the Master.  Are you going to listen to culture or Christ?  Are you going to listen to the world or the Word?

     One will make you dissatisfied the rest of your life; one will make you truly happy.  Before you can move toward financial freedom, you have to ask yourself, “What is the primary purpose of my life?  To just get more?  What do I think about, talk about, and give my most to?  What am I living my life for?”

     There was a famous millionaire in Orange County who took her own life many years ago.  At the funeral somebody said, “I don’t understand it.  She had so much to live for.”  I thought, “No.  She had so much to live on.  She had nothing to live for.”

     You may have a lot to live on, but do you have anything to live for?  Do you have a relationship with God?  The myth of the world is that you can have it all.  The truth is that you can’t have it all.  And more importantly, you don’t need it all to be happy.  You’re as happy as you choose to be.

     The secret of contentment is finding your security and your satisfaction not in what you have but in whose you are.  You find it in Christ.

     Psalm 17:15 says, “But as for me, my contentment is not in wealth but in seeing you and knowing all is well between us.  And when I awake in heaven, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face-to-face” (TLB).

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A similar (though incomplete) message is in the country classic “A Satisfied Mind,” written by Red Hays and Jack Rhodes, and first released in 1954.   Porter Wagoner’s recording of it was a #1 Country hit in 1955.  It has been recorded by many others since then, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, and The Byrds.   Below are the lyrics and Willie Nelson’s recording of it on his 2011 album”Remember Me, Volume 1.”

How many times have you heard someone say,
“If I had money, I would do things my way.”
But little they know, that it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten, with a satisfied mind…
Once I was waiting in fortune and fame
Everything that I dreamed of to get a start in life’s game
But suddenly it happened I lost every dime
But I’m richer by far with a satisfied mind…
Money can’t buy back all your youth when you’re old, 
A friend when you’re lonely, or peace to your soul.
The wealthiest person, is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind…
When my life is over and my time has run out,
My friends and my loved ones, I will leave there’s no doubt.
But one thing’s for certain, when it comes my time,
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind.
But one thing’s for certain, when it comes my time,
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind mind mind, mind mind,
Satisfied mind.
————–

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbzF9_8HQUI

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Colossians 3:2  —  Set your minds on things above, and not on earthly things.

Proverbs 11:28  —  Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Psalm 17:15b  —  When I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Luke 12:15  —  (Jesus) said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

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Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

–Job 1:21

1929) Tired of Suffering

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From the novel Jubilee (1966), by Margaret Walker Alexander (1915-98); (Quoted in Conversations With God: Two Centuries of African-American Prayers, ed. by James M. Washington, pp. 211-212, HarperCollins).

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     Brother Ezekiel held the (two year old) child down close to her mother’s face and said soothingly, “It’s your mama, Vyry, say hello to you maw.”  The child spoke, “Mama,” and then she whimpered.  Hetta fell back on her pillows and Ezekiel handed the child back to Mama Sukey, who quickly took her outside into the night air.

     After a moment Brother Ezekiel spoke again to the dying and exhausted woman. “Sis Hetta, I’m here, Brother Zeke, it’s me.  Can I do something for you?”

     “Pray,” she responded, “pray.”

     He fell on his knees beside the bed and took her hand in his.  The night was growing darker.  Despite the full moon outside, spilling light through the great oak and magnolia trees, Granny Ticey had lighted a large tallow candle.  It flared up suddenly, and eerie shadows searched the corners and crowded the room.  Brother Ezekiel began to pray: 

     “Lord, God-a-mighty, you done told us in your Word to seek and we shall find; knock and the door be open; ask, and it shall be given when your love come twinklin down.  And Lord, tonight we is a-seekin.  Way down here in this rain-washed world, kneelin here by this bed of affliction pain, your humble servant is a-knockin, and askin for your lovin mercy, and your tender love.  This here sister is tired of a-sufferin, Lord, and she wants to come home.  We ask you to roll down that sweet chariot right here by her bed, just like you done for Elijah, so she can step in kinda easy like and ride on home to glory.  Gather her in your bosom like you done Father Abraham and give her rest.  She weak, Lord, and she weary, but her eyes is a-fixin for to light on them golden streets of glory and them pearly gates of God.  She beggin for to set at your welcome table and feast on milk and honey.  She wants to put on them angel wings and wear that crown and them pretty golden slippers.  She done been broke like a straw in the wind and she ain’t got no strength, but she got the faith, Lord, and she got the promise of your Almighty Word.  Lead her through this wilderness of sin and tribulation.  Give her grace to stand by the river of Jordan and cross her over to hear Gabe (colloquial for archangel Gabriel) blow that horn.  Take her home, Lord God, take her home.”

     And the sobbing woman listening to him pray breathed fervent amens.  When Brother Ezekiel got up from his knees he put the hand of Sis Hetta on her cover.  But she no longer seemed to hear what he was saying.

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2 Kings 2:11 — As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

John 14:1-3 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  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.”

Psalms 34:17-19 — The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

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Two prayers by Martin Luther for when death draws near:

O Lord Jesus Christ, will not this misery finally come to an end, and the glory of the children of God soon begin?  You have promised us the day in which you will deliver us from all manner of evil; let it come, even in this hour, it if be your will, and make an end of all misery.  Amen.

Luther’s prayer on the day of his death, Feb. 18, 1546:  Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.  You have redeemed me, faithful God.

1928) More on ‘The Real You’

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By Joshua Rogers at:  http://www.joshuarogers.com

     In my first year of marriage, my wife and I got into a disagreement while visiting a family member’s home.  We went to the guest room to hash it out privately but we had no idea how badly we were about to embarrass ourselves.

     While in the guest room, our tempers flared.  Unfortunately, I became particularly disrespectful until suddenly, my wife’s face dropped and she said, “Oh my gosh – the baby monitor is right next to you.”

     This was significant, because the baby monitor’s speaker was sitting in the living room and our hosts were home.  I was unfazed.

     Without missing a beat, I continued rehashing my grievance until we got tired of arguing and my wife left the room.  Then she immediately returned and said, with icy composure, “I just went to the living room.  You didn’t turn the baby monitor to the ‘off’ position.  You turned it to voice activation.”

     We both felt like we were going to die, hoping that by some chance nobody had heard our nasty argument.  In fact, we learned, they had.  We were humiliated.

     Even when there hasn’t been a baby monitor broadcasting our tension, marriage has been humbling for my wife and me.  It has often made us face our ugly sides and it still does sometimes.  Perhaps you can relate.

     On the outside, you’re this decent person who’s easy to get along with.  You’d never tell off a coworker or post an insult on someone’s Facebook page.  You’re likeable, respectful and kind.  You’re even admirable.  But when the doors close at home, someone else emerges: the real you.

     Sure, you’re a good spouse overall, but then there’s that other side. 

     Maybe you’re constantly critical of your spouse but you’re hypersensitive to any negative comment.  Maybe you slam doors when you’re angry or raise the volume of your voice to shut the other person up.  Or perhaps you’re the icy, cold type who body slams your spouse with the silent treatment.

     What if people got to listen to that person on the other end of the baby monitor?  You’d probably offer the same feeble excuse you tell yourself: “I’m not really like that – I’m just reacting to the other person.”  Whatever.  That’s just another way of admitting that your spouse brings out who you really are.

     If the real you, the best you, is going to emerge in your marriage, it will require dealing with yourself first – that doesn’t come naturally to any of us and it sure doesn’t for me.  But when I’m at my best, here are some things I’m willing to do to move in the right direction:

1. Apologize: Own my part – even – if it’s just a small part.

2. Forgive: Follow the example of Jesus, who forgave when nobody had apologized yet (Romans 5:8).

3. Pray: Internally confess to God that I don’t know what to do and I need His help.

4. Listen: Focus on understanding my wife’s position instead of shooting it down as fast as possible.

5. Touch: Eliminate the physical distance by touching my wife’s hand, which makes it harder for me to be emotionally distant.

     This isn’t a magical formula for conflict resolution – I haven’t found that formula yet.   These are just small, but monumental, steps we can take as we seek to resolve our differences in marriage.  They’re steps to becoming the kind of spouse we’d like to be if other people were listening to the other end of the baby monitor.

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Romans 3:10  —  As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.”

Romans 5:8  —  God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I Timothy 1:15  —  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

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God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favor look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting.  Amen. 

–Marriage Blessing from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer