1914) Looking for Forgiveness

     In his short story “Capital of the World,” Ernest Hemingway tells the tale of a Spanish father searching for his son who ran away from home after having a fight with his old man.

     The father so badly wants to reconcile with his beloved boy that he places an advertisement in the local newspaper, El Liberal.  The advertisement reads, “Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday.  All is forgiven.   Love, Papa.”

    The next day at noon, arriving at the Hotel Montana, the father is astonished to discover 800 young men named Paco waiting for the embrace of forgiveness.

     This story gives a profound insight into the human condition.

     We all have a deep hunger for forgiveness.  We carry the weight of guilt around.  When we inventory our lives; bad decisions, selfish acts, and stupid moves stand out in our mind’s eye.  We know that we have spoken angry words and behaved in hurtful ways.

     In Clint Eastwood’s mold-breaking Western movie, Unforgiven, there is a moment when a young outlaw, the Schofield Kid, is overcome by the fact that he has just shot a man.  Even though the dead man was a nasty character, the young fighter struggles with what he has done.

     Finally, through his tears, the Kid appeals to his older, jaded partner, William Munny (played by Eastwood): “I guess he had it coming to him.  He sure had it coming to him, didn’t he, Will?”

     Silently, Munny thinks over the weeping man’s question; and then, spitting in the dust, the craggy-faced gunslinger growls, “We’ve all got it coming, Kid.”

     ‘We’ve all got it coming’ is right.  “There is no distinction,” writes the apostle Paul, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”  (Romans 3: 22-23).

     This is why we all hunger for pardon.  We are all “Pacos” yearning to run and find a father who will declare, “All is forgiven.”

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Romans 3:22b-24  —  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

I John 1:5-9  —  This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light;in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 2:36b-39  —  (Peter said), “Be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

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My Lord Jesus Christ, you are indeed the Good Shepherd, and I, alas, am a lost and straying sheep.  I have fear and anxiety.  I would gladly belong to your flock and be with you and have peace in my heart.  I hear from your Word that you are as anxious for me as I am for you.  I am eager to know how I can come to you to be helped.  Come to me, O Lord.  Seek me and find me.  Help me also to come to you and I will praise you and honor you forever.  Amen.

–Martin Luther

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1913) Envy

 

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By Stephen Witmer, posted July 1, 2018 at:  http://www.desiringgod.org

     Envy is a stingy and demanding master.  It’s stingy because, unlike many other sins, there’s absolutely nothing pleasurable about experiencing it.  Most sins bait the hook: lust offers excitement and escape, greed promises wealth and pleasure, gossip promises power and participation in the inner circle.  And many sins are at least temporarily pleasurable (that’s why we do them).

     But with envy, it’s all hook and no bait.  There’s no upside to envy, not even a small or temporary spike of guilty pleasure.  That’s why no one consciously plans or schemes to envy (as you might plan to satisfy a lustful desire).  We feel envy in spite of ourselves, even though we don’t want to.  It’s the great unsought sin.

     Envy is also terribly demanding.  Although it delivers nothing, it requires much. It can absorb and dominate a life.  It can poison pleasures and steal joys and waste time.  Envy can make your own blessed life feel shabby and inadequate.  It is, in fact, one of the sins that presents the most obvious affront to the sovereignty of God; it questions God’s plans, choices, and goodness.  Envy is rebellion.

     Anyone, no matter how attractive, accomplished, respected, and successful, can feel envy.  I’ve heard people I envied confessing their envy of other people.  There’s always someone who has what we don’t or is better than we are at what we do.

     Envy is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic, and is often accompanied by other sins.

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James 3:13-16  —  Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.   Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Proverbs 14:30  —  A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Titus 3:3-5a  —  At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

I Peter 2:1  —  Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

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O Lord, you have given me so much.  I pray for one more thing– that you give me a grateful heart.  Amen.

–George Herbert

1912) Luther’s Right Hand Man

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Philipp Melancthon  (1497-1560)

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From “Picking Up The Pieces,” in 100 Bible Verses That Changed the World, by William and Randy Peterson, pages 45-46, 2001.

     Superheroes have sidekicks. Sheriffs have deputies.  Reformers have … people like Philipp Melanchthon.  At the turn of the twentieth century, Martin Luther made everybody’s list of the most important people of the millennium.  But Luther might not have made so much of a splash without the support of Melanchthon.  Together they changed the world—but always with the awareness that God was calling the shots.

     Luther and Melanchthon met at the University of Wittenberg, where Melanchthon was already teaching Greek at the tender age of twenty-one.  He quickly developed an admiration for Luther, fourteen years his senior, a Bible professor who had already tacked his Ninety-five Theses on the church door.  As Luther’s reform work I grew, Melanchthon offered his help.

     They made an interesting team.  Both men were scholars and theologians, but Melanchthon was more careful than his blustery colleague.  Luther had huge ideas; Melanchthon organized them. Luther was the bull in the proverbial china shop, making brash statements and challenging the authorities; Melanchthon scurried around, picking up after him and deciding which pieces were worth gluing back together.  Luther himself wrote, “I am rough, stormy, and altogether warlike.  I am here to fight innumerable monsters and devils …but Master Philippus comes along softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy.”

     While Luther stared down church councils and faced excommunication, Melanchthon was back home writing down the reasons for the Reformation.  In 1521 he published Loci Communes Theologici (Theological Common Places), exploring the issues of law and grace, the good news of Christ, and justification by faith.  Martin was a master of the fiery challenge; Philipp served up sweet persuasion.

     Melanchthon also did most of the writing of the Augsburg Confession, setting out the basics of their faith.  When they got flak for this, Melanchthon wrote another work explaining the Augsburg Confession.  This was the pattern throughout his career—filling in the gaps in Luther’s writings, answering his critics, systematizing his views.

     When Luther died in 1546, the movement looked to Melanchthon for leadership, but he lacked the fire of his late associate.  Without Luther leading the way, Melanchthon had no one to pick up after.  Some Lutherans accused Melanchthon of being too soft and wishy-washy, and of compromising Luther’s positions.

     This ineffectiveness later in life was certainly a sad chapter, but it speaks volumes about the unique teamwork between these two men.  Luther needed Melanchthon to rein him in; Melanchthon needed Luther to coax him out.  After all, it was Melanchthon who received Luther’s famous advice: “Sin boldly.”  Of course Luther wasn’t promoting sin, but he wanted his young friend to get past guilt and worry in order to step out strongly for God.

     Perhaps it was to overcome those worries that Melanchthon adopted Romans 8:31 (“If God be for us, who can be against us?”) as a kind of theme verse.  He had gained many enemies throughout his career, so he needed the assurance that he still had one friend, the only friend who really mattered.  Someone even stronger than Martin Luther.

     Today you can visit Philipp Melanchthon’s home in Wittenberg, the place where he quietly wrote the documents that helped to change the world. Carved over the doorway in German are these words: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

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This quote describes Melancthon’s approach to church and theological conflicts.

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Romans 8:31  —   What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Proverbs 27:17  —  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10  —  Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

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

–Philip Melancthon  (1497-1560), German reformer

1911) Remembering What You Want

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When You Don’t Feel Like It, Take Heart by Jon Bloom, posted November 11, 2009 at:  http://www.desiringgod.org

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     Did you wake up not feeling like reading your Bible and praying?  How many times today have you had to battle not feeling like doing things you know would be good for you?

     While it’s true that this is our indwelling sin that we must repent of and fight against, there’s more going on.

     Think about this strange pattern that occurs over and over in just about every area of life:

  • Good food requires discipline to prepare and eat, while junk food tends to be the most tasty, addictive, and convenient.
  • Keeping the body healthy and strong requires frequent deliberate discomfort, while it only takes constant comfort to go to pot.
  • You have to make yourself pick up that nourishing spiritual book, while watching a movie can feel so inviting.
  • You frequently have to force yourself to get to devotions and prayer, while sleeping, reading the sports, and checking Facebook seems effortless.
  • To play beautiful music requires thousands of hours of tedious practice.
  • To excel in sports requires monotonous drills ad nauseum.
  • It takes years and years of schooling just to make certain opportunities possible.
  • This goes on and on.

     The pattern is this: the greater joys are obtained through struggle and pain, while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are right at our fingertips. 

     Why is this?

     Because, in great mercy, God is showing us everywhere, in things that are just shadows of heavenly things, that there is a great reward for those who struggle through (Hebrews 10:32-35).  He is reminding us repeatedly each day to “walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

     Each struggle is an invitation by God to follow in the footsteps of his Son, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

     Those who are spiritually blind only see futility in these things.  But for those who have eyes to see, God has woven hope (faith in His future grace) right into the futility of creation (Romans 8:20-21).  Each struggle is a pointer saying, “Look!  Look to the real Joy set before you!”

     So when you don’t feel like doing what you know is best for you, take heart and don’t give in.  Your Father is pointing you to the reward he has planned for all who endure to the end (Matthew 24:13).

II Corinthians 4:17-18  —  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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Discipline is remembering what you want most, not what you want now.

–Billy Blanks  (1955- )  Martial Arts Instructor

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Hebrews 10:32-35  —  Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.  Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.  You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

Hebrews 12:1-3  —  Therefore, … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Romans 8:20-21  —  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Matthew 24:12-13  —  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

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Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.  Amen.  

Book of Common Prayer

1910) Kids Rule?

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When I was in seminary forty years ago, one of my professors lamented the number of best-selling books that were selling nothing more than plain old common sense.  He could not understand why people had to pay money for knowledge that came naturally to their far less educated grandparents.  But then he said, “Perhaps we are a nation of people who have lost our common sense.”

A few years earlier, in 1970, psychologist James Dobson wrote a best-seller called Dare to Discipline (updated 1996).  The title tells the story.  Other experts had begun advising against disciplining children, arguing that the ‘natural goodness’ of children would have a much better chance of flowering if parents weren’t always pestering them with rules and negative words like “No.”  I think those experts lacked common sense.

The need for authority in the home is so important that God made it one of the Ten Commandments, commanding children to honor their father and mother.  God also commands parents to exert that authority with kindness and love, and that authority can certainly be abused.  But kids cannot rule the home.

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Child Calls Police on Parents… Because They Made Him Eat Salad

By Annie Holmquist, June 21, 2018 at: www.intellectualtakeout.org

     Practically every child has turned up their nose and refused to eat a vegetable at some point in their life.  For me, that detestable vegetable was a stuffed green pepper, and only my mother’s firm insistence that I couldn’t have dessert until I finished it made me soldier through and swallow.

     Last week, a leafy green salad was the dreaded vegetable of a 12-year-old Nova Scotia boy.  Instead of obediently eating it, he took matters into his own hands and called the police.  Twice.  CBC reports:

     Just before 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers responded to a 911 call from the boy who said one of his parents made a salad he didn’t like.  However, before police arrived, the kid called 911 a second time asking when police would get there — and reiterated how much he disliked salad.

     While we may chuckle at such an incident, neither the boy’s parents nor the police who answered the call were amused.  And unfortunately, such a disrespectful attitude toward both sets of authorities is becoming all too prevalent among today’s children.

     Family practice doctor Leonard Sax notes this in his book, The Collapse of Parenting.  As he explains it, today’s parents have a condition called “role confusion.”  The main symptom of this condition is uncertainty in dealing with children, and as a result, those children run roughshod over their parents and turn instead to their friends for cues on how to behave.  Children also exhibit an attitude of ingratitude toward those around them.

     This was not always the case, notes Sax:

It’s tough to be a parent in a culture that constantly undermines parental authority.  Two generations ago, American parents and teachers had much greater authority.  In that era, American parents and teachers taught right and wrong in no uncertain terms.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Those were commands, not suggestions.  Today, most American parents and teachers no longer act with such authority.  They do not command.  Instead they ask, ‘How would you feel if someone did that to you?’  The command has been replaced by a question.

     Such a loss of authority, explains Sax, hinders children from learning maturity:

When parents lose their authority – when same-age peers matter more than parents – then kids are no longer interested in learning the culture of the parents.  They want to learn the kiddie culture, the teen culture. …  

The benefits of parental authority are substantial.  When parents matter more than peers, they can teach right and wrong in a meaningful way.

     As the aforementioned salad incident indicates, increasing numbers of children are behaving as though they are in charge and know better than their authorities.  If such an attitude sticks with these children into the world of college and careers, will they be able to successfully thrive as adults?  If not, is it time for parents to reclaim their authority, not only for peace in the home, but for the future well-being of their offspring?

 

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Deuteronomy 5:16  —  Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 

Proverbs 1:8  —  Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Proverbs 29:15  —  To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child.

Colossians 3:20-21  —  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.  Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Ephesians 6:1-4  —  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Hebrews 12:11  —  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

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A PRAYER FOR THE FAMILY:

Almighty God, according to thy mercy relieve our distress and sorrow.  In thy goodness, spare us and our children.  Grant that in our homes we may keep and foster thy heavenly Word.  O thou who art good, kind, and bountiful, have compassion on us.  Grant us the necessities of daily life and keep our families securely in thy care, so that we may honor you forever and ever.  Amen.

–Philip Melancthon, reformer (1497-1560)

1909) Living to Please… Who?

By Joshua Rogers, December 4, 2014 and June 30, 2018 at:  http://www.joshuarogers.com

     When I was a little boy, I desperately wanted to be famous.  It probably had a lot to do with me idealizing the lives of the children who appeared on Family Ties and The Cosby Show, not to mention the fact that my parents were struggling financially, and I thought being famous would make us rich.

     I got my big chance to be a movie star in eighth grade when casting director David Rubin came to Petal, Mississippi, in search of a kid to star in an upcoming Kevin Costner film called The War.  With great excitement, I got my brother-in-law to drive me to the local high school for my audition. 

     After I got there, nobody handed me any lines to memorize; they just took me and the hundreds of other kids, divided us into groups of 50, and herded us into classrooms.  After that, a man came in, looked around the room and dismissed us.  That was it.  My movie career was already a bust – but then I got a chance at redemption.

     Days later, Mr. Rubin came to visit the YMCA where I volunteered – apparently, he was still in search of the perfect country bumpkin to appear in the movie.  I noticed him walking around, but I didn’t catch his eye.  Later, though, I saw him sitting alone in an office and I knew it was my moment to show him that I could be a star.

     I stuck my head in the door, awkwardly introduced myself and tried to strike up a conversation, but he barely looked up.  Not to be deterred, I started talking about myself to see if it would spark his interest, but he just responded with a bored “Oh really?”  And that was the point at which I realized my personal “audition” was a lost cause and shut the door to the office, feeling dejected.

     If I were a little younger or cuter, I would’ve gotten that part, I thought many times after that, kicking myself for having to remain a normal human being, rather than going on to be the star I had always wanted to be.

     Later on in life, different people replaced David Rubin.  In high school, I sought the approval of the popular girls.  In college, it was my pastors.  In law school, it was the law firm recruiters who interviewed us for summer jobs.  During my single days, it was some of the young women I dated.  And in my early days of writing, it was the faceless readers who clicked on my blog posts. 

   Those people had power over me – power over my mood, my sense of self-worth, my dreams.  They had that power because I didn’t know where I stopped and they began.  I didn’t have boundaries between my aspirations and their approval.  Basically, they were the idols I worshiped.

     I don’t know what your approval idol is – social media stardom, a pat on the back from your boss, an invitation from someone you admire – but Jesus said that if you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).  So if you’re going to live for the approval of others, know this: that need is sharp and dangerous and it will drain you of your lifeblood, one incision at a time.

     However, the occasional payoff will keep you giving and giving and giving in order to maintain good standing with your approval-granting idol.  And in the end, if you’re lucky, you’ll get applause, a girlfriend or boyfriend, an enviable career, overachieving kids, thousands of Facebook likes, or whatever.  And after gaining what you thought was the whole world, you’ll eventually look in the mirror and realize that in burning yourself out to keep your idol happy and applauding for you, you lost a big chunk of your own soul (Matthew 16:26).

      It isn’t worth it.  Lay your life down at the feet of the humble God who gave His life to prove you could trust Him.  In the end, it will be His “well done” that really matters.

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Matthew 25:21a  —  (Jesus said), “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!'”

Matthew 26:52b  —  (Jesus said), “All who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

Matthew 16:26a  —  (Jesus said), “What good will it be for a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul?”

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O Lord Jesus Christ, who when on earth was always occupied by your Father’s business:  grant that we may not grow weary in well-doing, and give us the grace to do all in your name.  Amen. 

1908) Don’t Be Rude

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By Rick Warren, in his Daily Hope devotional, July 1, 2018, at:  http://www.pastorrick.org

Luke 6:31  —  (Jesus said), “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

     One of the greatest tests of your character is how you treat people who are trying to serve you.  Whether it’s a waitress, a waiter, a clerk, an employee, a secretary, your children, or your spouse, how you treat those who serve you tells me a great deal about you. 

     In fact, when I’ve been involved in hiring decisions of Saddleback Church staff, I often take people to restaurants to see how they interact with the server.  Someone who is rude and demanding in those situations has a character flaw that I don’t want as part of our team. 

     Jesus tells us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31 NIV).  That may be the simplest yet most important character test in the Bible.  The social psychologist Eric Hoffer once said, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”  It takes no intelligence at all to be rude.

     The best place to practice this important character trait of respect is at home.  More marriages are ruined by rudeness than anything else.  When I used to do marriage counseling, I was amazed at how many marriages are buried by one little dig after another.  Often we’re the most disrespectful to the people we care about the most.  I know people who treat their families in ways they would never treat a stranger.

     Courtesy is love in the little things.  It is showing respect for people by being kind even in the smallest areas of our lives.

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“It is a wise thing to be polite; consequently, it is a stupid thing to be rude.  To make enemies by unnecessary and willful incivility, is just as insane a proceeding as to set your house on fire.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer

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Luke 6:31  —  (Jesus said), “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

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.

Proverbs 14:21  —  It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

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O Lord, your kindness changed us forever.  Your love broke into our lives most unexpectedly.  We give you thanks, and pray that you empower us to be kind.  Amen.

–James Dobson

1907) In God’s Image

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The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, 1512

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By journalist and author Lee Strobel

     That humans are made in the image of God is one of the most important Biblical revelations for Christians — and it is also one that has been viciously attacked by those outside the faith.  It’s true that the endless murders, rapes, assaults, genocides and other forms of violence and cruelty in our world seem to taunt us: How could humans be created in the image of God when we commit such evil acts?  How do we explain wars and abuse if we share the same characteristics as God himself?  Some people even claim that while we may be more sophisticated and advanced than the rest of the animal kingdom, our ultimate value is no greater than that of any creature, since we’ve all evolved naturalistically and without any divine imprint.

     Imago Dei means “the image of God.”  Ultimately, this phrase refers to two things: the characteristics of the human spirit and our ability to know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.

     Our human spirit provides evidence that God’s traits — his love, justice and freedom — are alive in us.  Human nature is utterly without peer on earth.  As Dr. Ian Tattersall says, “Homo sapiens is not simply an improved version of its ancestors — it’s a new concept.”  At the most basic level of this nature is our self-realization, grounded in our self-consciousness, our ability to reason, and our emotions, such as anger and love.  Our consciousness enables us to see that we have inherent value apart from our utility or function.

     Another quality we share with God is the moral ability to recognize good and evil, which God exemplified through Adam and Eve.  We can therefore act freely in a morally good or evil way.  We can choose either to reflect the moral image of God or to reject it, but either way, the ability to make the choice reveals our underlying similarity to our Creator.

     It cannot be overstated just how different humans are from the rest of creation.  The vast chasms separating consciousness from unconsciousness and morality from amorality speak to the strong evidence that we are indeed made in the image of God.

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Genesis 1:26a…27  —  Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…  So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

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PSALM 8:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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.”

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