1579) Proof That Barbers Do Not Exist (b)

     (…continued)  The little story in yesterday’s meditation provides a simple response to a very complex question.  It is not a complete response, and much more needs to be said; but it does point to at least a part of the answer.  The man on the street had long and messy hair because he did not go to a barber to do anything about it.  In the same way, many of the troubles in our world and in our lives are the result of not coming to God, not obeying his command, not seeking his guidance, and not taking comfort in his promises.  There is a connection between what we believe, and, how we live and what happens to us and how much we suffer.  This is not a direct connection.  The book of Job, many Psalms, the life and words of Jesus, and many other sections of the Bible make it clear that the correlation is not a precise one.  So to say that there is a connection is not to say that those in the hospital are less godly than those who are healthy, or, that the wealthier you are the more faithful you are.  Many times the wicked do prosper and many other times the good and righteous do suffer.

     But the Bible also makes it clear that there definitely is some connection.  Much of the suffering in the world is indeed brought on by people ignoring God and his commands.  Greed leads nations into war and makes individuals lie to and cheat each other.  Lust can break up homes and families and lead to terrible crimes.  Lying destroys the trust necessary for decent public life and personal relationships.  Lack of gratitude makes contentment impossible and destroys peace of mind.  Lack of faith leaves one without hope for the future, without a firm foundation for life, and without the most perfect source of strength to endure life’s inevitable hardships.

     On the other hand, those who do believe in and obey God do avoid of much that could cause them pain, and, at the same time, they do experience many blessings of God because of that obedience.  Honesty leads to better relationships and greater confidence public institutions.  A spirit of unselfish good will leads to the ability for nations and individuals to settle their disputes peacefully.  Mutual forgiveness moves people toward reconciliation instead of unending hate and bitterness.  And faith in God gives one the strength to endure even life’s greatest tragedies with courage, along with an eternal hope that nothing in this life can destroy.  Life is best lived when it is lived with God and in accordance with his commandments.

     In Jeremiah 17 God says: “Cursed is the one … whose heart turns away from the Lord.  He will be like a brush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes.  He will dwell in parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.”   That’s poetic language describing how things will not go well for the one whose heart turns away from the Lord.  “But,” it goes on to say, “Blessed is the man who does trust in the Lord and whose confidence is in Him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and it never fails to bear fruit.”

     Then Jeremiah states his point bluntly when he says, “The Lord searches the heart and examines the mind, in order to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”  Jesus also talks about rewards for righteousness, saying, “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”  We don’t want to leave it at that.  The Bible itself doesn’t leave it at that, but adds some important clarifications and qualifications.   But neither do we want to disregard this message.  These are God’s own words, here, and in many other books of the Bible.  God’s Word says that there are some connections between how we live and the blessings or troubles that we receive.

     God created this life and designed this world.  His commandments are instructions on how our lives can be best lived in this world that he has created for us.  When we sin and break those commandments, we bring trouble onto ourselves and others.  In the same way, trouble and sadness come to us by the sins of others.

     In the early chapters of Genesis we also learn that when sin came into the world, all of creation became tainted.  Now, tragedy can strike randomly by illness, bad weather, or freak accidents.  These tragedies are not the result of anyone’s particular sin, but result from the general presence of sin in the world, as we all together share in the guilt of a fallen creation.

     Both the barber and the customer saw the same sad world.  The barber saw the suffering of the world as proof that God did not exist.  The customer saw that same suffering as the result of a world full of people that have turned away from God and the goodness he had intended for us.  If we had nowhere else to look at other than at the world, we would have no way to decide between the two opinions.   Any solid and true answer to this question has to come from God himself.

     God has given us that answer in the person of Jesus Christ.  In Christ, we believe we have the presence of God.  In Jesus, we see both the suffering of the world that the barber could not ignore, and the restoration of God’s creation to all who will believe.

******************************************

II Corinthians 5:19a  —  God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

Romans 8:18-19  —  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

Psalm 1:1-3a  —  Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water.

******************************************

Image result for psalm 1 images

1578) Proof That Barbers Do Not Exist (a)

     A man went into a barber shop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.  He and the barber had a good conversation on a wide variety of subjects.   After a while, they got on the subject of God.  But as soon as that topic came up, the barber said abruptly and firmly, “I don’t believe God exists.”

     “Why do you say that?” asked the customer.

     “Well, it’s easy,” said the barber, “all you have to do is walk out that door and onto these city streets, and any logical person will come to the conclusion that God does not exist.  Think about the hospital on the other end of this block and all the pain and disease and suffering that goes on there.  Listen to the sirens all day every day.  The police are always on the way to some terrible crime or hideous accident.  Right here I’ve been robbed twice in the six years that I have had this shop.  And look at the beggars out in the street.  Why doesn’t God provide for them?  Then there is our city politics– nothing but greed and corruption there.  And go to that newsstand and buy a newspaper, and what do you think you will read about?  You will read about still more trouble and pain and heartache all over the world; wars and earthquakes and famines all the time.  There is trouble everywhere.  I just can’t believe that if there was a God he would allow all this.  If God existed, there would be no suffering or pain.”

     The customer listened carefully to all that the barber was saying, but did not respond because he did not want to get into an argument.  The barber finished the haircut and the customer paid his bill and left.  As he was walking out the door he bumped into a man in the street with long hair, all dirty and matted, along with a straggly beard with small and large bits of food embedded in it.  You could tell it had been a very long time since a scissors touched his hair.

     The customer went back into the barbershop.  His barber was still standing by the door, and had seen his collision with the long haired man.  The customer said to the barber, “You know what?  I do not believe that barbers exist.”‘

      “What?” asked the surprised barber, “What do you mean?  You were just in here for a haircut.”

      The customer said, “Well you can see that man outside.  That man proves that barbers do not exist, because if there were barbers, there would not be any men with long dirty hair and a straggly beard like that, would there?”

     “How can you think that?” asked the barber.  “You know that barbers exist.  But the problem is that many men, like that man, do not come to us.”

     “That’s exactly right,” said the customer, “and in the same way many people do not come to God or look to God at all; and that is the reason for much of the suffering and pain in the world– not all, but much of it.  And that trouble does not prove that there is no God any more than that unkempt man out in the street proves that barbers do not exist.”  (continued…)

————————-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcFi-MQl32U

OR:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cce-_y8Av8

————————

Related image

This looks like a man who needs a haircut.  Actually, it is actress Cate Blanchett in make-up for her new (weird) movie Manifesto.  (This has nothing to do with proving the existence of barbers, but it does prove there are some really skilled make-up artists in Hollywood.)

**************************************************

Luke 13:34  —  (Jesus said), “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Malachi 2:17  —  You have wearied the Lord with your words.  “How have we wearied him?” you ask.  By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”

Isaiah 29:16  —  You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay.  Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”?  Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?

**************************************************

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled.  My Lord, fill it.  I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.  I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent that my love may go out to my neighbor.  I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you at all.  O Lord, help me.  Strengthen my faith and trust in you.  In you I have sealed all the treasures I have.  I am poor, you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.  I am a sinner, you are upright.  With me there is an abundance of sin, in you is the fullness of righteousness.  Therefore, I will remain with you from whom I can receive, but to whom I can not give.  Amen.

–Martin Luther

1577) C.S.I. and C.S.Lewis

Image result for c. s. lewis images

C. S. Lewis  (1898-1963)

———–

            Some, of the most popular types of books, movies, and television programs have to do with crime.  Within this type of programming there are specific types of shows.  There are the stories that focus on the policemen who are out there pursuing the bad guys.  There are the shows that focus on the courtroom, the judges, and the lawyers, and what they do with the bad guys once they are in custody.  And for many years on television was the popular CSI program– Crime Scene Investigation.  This series focused on those men and women who use the most sophisticated scientific technology to sort through the smallest bits of evidence for clues to what really happened.  From whatever angle the story is told, all of these types of programs have the same central theme and goal– the gathering and evaluating and then judging the evidence in an attempt to get at the truth of ‘who did what.’

            This all makes for interesting television because the viewer is in on the search, able to sift through the evidence as it comes in, and then make their own conclusions.  Science, technology, intuition, knowledge, common sense, experience, a wisdom and justice all play a part in-the investigation and prosecution of a crime.  And good, solid evidence is always essential.

            By any standard, C. S. Lewis was one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century. He wrote with amazing intellect and insight on such varied topics as literature, science, education, theology, politics, culture, and history.  He was a giant among giants at Oxford and Cambridge where he spent his life teaching.  Lewis loved to debate and seldom lost an argument.  His books are still best-sellers a half century years after his death, and still proving challenging to readers who may disagree.  And many who have read what he has written about religion have decided to not disagree, but have become believers in Jesus Christ on the basis of Lewis’s powerful arguments for the truth of the Bible and the Christian faith.

           C. S. Lewis approached religion with the same intellectual rigor that he approached everything else; with the same methods as a detective would approach a crime scene, as a lawyer would approach an investigation and prepare for a trial, or as a jury would approach a case they had to decide. Lewis wanted to look at the evidence, evaluate it on the basis of his logic, knowledge, and wisdom; and, come to a reasonable conclusion. 

            Lewis did all that as a young man.  At that time, he came to the conclusion that there was probably no God, and if there was, God wasn’t good.  The evidence, Lewis then argued, was this whole world, filled as it is with violence, illness, pain, sadness, despair, and death.  This could not be the work of a good God.  The evidence was there.  The verdict was clear.  Case closed.

            When Lewis was a bit older, he was prompted to reconsider the question.  He had some very intelligent friends who were Christians.  Not only that, but in his vast reading Lewis began to notice that most of his favorite writers were also Christians; writers like the novelist George MacDonald and the journalist G. K. Chesterton.  These were smart people; had they not looked at the evidence?  How could they have come to such a different conclusion?  Lewis could still beat anyone in a debate on purely philosophical grounds, but then he began to see that there was perhaps more to the evidence than he first thought.  Maybe there was more to consider than just the world he could see.

            Lewis’s Christian friends and his favorite writers were always pointing to the Bible as evidence.  But Lewis had long ago dismissed the Bible as merely another form of ancient mythology, with no more basis in historical fact than the stories of the Zeus, Hercules, Jupiter, and all the other ancient gods.

            Nudged along by his friends, Lewis took another look at the Bible, reading it with all his critical abilities as an expert in literature, history, mythology, and logic.  As he looked into it deeper, Lewis began to see the Scriptures in an entirely new way.  He later wrote how he came to believe they were true, and provided important additional evidence by which to evaluate the world God created.  Lewis first came to a general belief in the existence of some kind of God, and then, later came to believe in the Christian belief that God had revealed himself to the world in the personal appearance of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Here, Lewis said, was a story like so many ancient stories of a God coming to earth and becoming a man and defeating death.  But only in this case, Lewis would begin to argue so persuasively, the story is true.  From then on C. S. Lewis viewed the world from an entirely different perspective.

            The Bible talks much more about faith than it does about evidence, and faith certainly is the greater part of it.  But it is not just faith for the sake of faith.  Biblical faith is faith in someone who is there, and in something that really happened.  Therefore, it is not out of line to look at the evidence and ask the historical and logical questions.  The answers one finds will only take them so far, but it will take them beyond the ignorance of a girl who wrote a letter to the editor of a magazine I recently read.  The point of this girl’s letter was that Jesus did not ever exist, so no one needs to be concerned about what he really did or did not say.  Well, there are some significant historical realities that she is not aware of, and even a little evidence might remove for her a barrier to faith.  

            Then again, maybe not.  I once read the story of a student in a classroom who was about to lose an argument, but confidently said to his teacher, “Well, just because it’s true, doesn’t mean I have to believe it!”  For many people today, personal opinion matters more than truth.  What chance does faith, reason, or logic have with such confused thinking? 

            Yes, we are saved by faith, and not by proof; but it is faith in something that we believe really happened, and such faith requires a certain amount of clear thinking.  We have in the New Testament a reliable historical document, that tells the story of some people who lived with Jesus, saw him teach and do many miracles, saw him killed, and then saw him alive again.  They tell of what they saw and heard, and they give good reasons for us to have faith in the Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.

—————————

See also:

https://emailmeditations.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/873-a-detective-examines-the-evidence-for-god/

*********************************************

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

Luke 1:1-4  —  Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

I Peter 3:15a  —   In your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

*********************************************

Lord, I believe.  Help Thou my unbelief.

–Mark 9:24

1576) A Real Weirdo

Related image

By Joshua Rogers, August 2, 2017 blog at: http://www.joshuarogers.com

—————————-

     A few years ago, I had this new coworker who came off as weird — really weird, and within a couple of weeks of his arrival, a lot of people in the office were making comments about him behind his back.

     I didn’t gossip about him, but when a coworker told me the guy was getting on everyone’s nerves, it gave me a sense of relief.  He was just as annoying to everyone else as he was to me.

     One day I had to work with him on a short assignment, and with every passing minute, I was increasingly eager to get away.  He kept trying to engage me in scatterbrained chit chat, and even when I tried to keep things focused, he started making all of these awkward observations about his favorite movie.  I just gave a tight-lipped smile and looked down, avoiding eye contact.

     When I finally got away, my previous evaluation was confirmed:  This guy truly was a weirdo.

     A couple of days later, I saw my new coworker walking down the hallway and noticed some things I hadn’t seen before.

     He looked nervous as he briskly walked back to his office.  And when he awkwardly tried to make conversation with other coworkers, he sounded like that kid at school who tries so hard to be cool but just ends up looking desperate.  He kind of reminded me of another guy I know very well who sometimes struggles with awkwardness when he’s in threatening social situations.  That person is me.

     I hate my socially awkward side and I do everything I can to avoid it.  And because I’m so sensitive to my own awkwardness, I’m just as sensitive to it in other people — if not more.  So basically, looking down on my coworker was my way of making myself feel better by thinking, Thank goodness I’m not like that guy, when actually, under the right circumstances, I can be socially awkward as well.

     My attitude towards my coworker began to change as I recognized myself in him and realized he felt just as scared as I do in uncomfortable social situations.  But the biggest change came when I began praying for him.

     If I saw him in the hallway and felt tempted to evaluate him, I instead asked God to give him peace.  When I overheard him nervously talking to another coworker, I prayed that he would be able to find confidence in God’s love for him.

     I gradually started looking him in the eye when I saw him and could say hello to him with an effortless smile.  Compassionate prayer had begun changing me, regardless of whether my coworker was changing yet.

     Sometimes it’s hard for me to grasp how Jesus can love us right now, knowing what He knows about our deep insecurities and darkest thoughts, which are far worse than our occasional bouts with social awkwardness.  I think this is one of His secrets:  “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf” (Hebrews 7:25).

     When we pray for someone it changes the way we see them, and opens chambers of grace for them in our hearts.

*********************************************

Romans 12:3  —  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Philippians 2:3-4  —  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Luke 6:36-37  —  (Jesus said), “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

*********************************************

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

–Source lost

1575) Feeding Your Soul (b)

 Image result for God's promises like the stars images

By Jon Bloom at:  www.desiringgod.org

     (…continued)  This living soul food is more vital to our ultimate health than bodily food.  But learning to eat well for the sake of our body’s well-being has valuable lessons for eating well for our soul’s well-being.  And one of those valuable lessons is that our taste preferences can be changed.

     Our tastes are conditioned by habits and wrong ways of thinking about food.  Like eating healthy food, eating healthy promises requires more work to plan — new habits of discipline that aren’t as convenient and entertaining as junk promises.  And if we’ve become conditioned to heavily processed, sugary, empty-carb promises, artificially engineered to be addictive, we may find the taste and texture of true food less enjoyable at first.

     But these habit and taste preferences will change as we stick with it and increasingly experience the benefits of substantial, hope-sustaining and deepening benefits.

     The only way to break a habit of eating junk food promises is cultivating a taste for rich, nourishing, long-lasting, deeply satisfying, and true promises.  It takes eating real food to develop the taste for real food.  We must be patient.  Old tastes do not diminish and new tastes are not acquired overnight.  We might find it helpful to change some bodily food habits at the same time, and let that experience illustrate the spiritual reality.  But as we press in, God will meet us and help us “taste and see” that he is good (Psalm 34:8).

     “The God of hope” wants us to feast on his promises and be filled “with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

**********************************************

John 6:35…51a  —  Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty….   I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Psalm 34:8  —  Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Romans 15:13  —  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

**********************************************

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

–Methodist hymnal

1574) Feeding Your Soul (a)

Related image

By Jon Bloom (at http://www.desiringgod.org)

     Hope is to our soul what energy is to our body.  Just like our bodies must have energy to keep going, our souls must have hope to keep going.

     When our body needs energy, we eat food.  But when our soul needs hope, what do we feed it?  PROMISES.

     Why do we feed our soul promises?  Because promises have to do with our future, and hope is something we only feel about the future — about ten minutes from now, or ten months, or ten thousand years.

     We’re never hopeful about the past.  We can be grateful for the past.  The past can inspire or even guarantee a hopeful future for us.  But all the wonderful things that have happened to us in the past will not fuel our hope if our future looks bleak.

     However, if our future is promising, our soul will be hopeful even if our present is miserable, because hope is what keeps the soul going.

     So, we “eat” promises, which our soul digests (believes) and converts to hope.

Toxic Soul Food

     When feeding the body, there is “healthy food” and there is “junk food.”  Both will, in the short run, produce energy.  But healthy food provides the right kinds of energy, enhances the operation of the body’s complex systems, strengthens its resilience against disease, and increases its durability and longevity.  Junk food, on the other hand, has essentially the opposite effect in all these areas, and contributes to the breaking down of the body over time.

     Similarly, there are “healthy promises” and “junk promises.”  Both will, in the short run, produce hope.  But healthy promises provide the right kind of hope and promote health throughout the complexities of the human soul.  Junk promises prove ultimately toxic and lead to soul-death.

     Both physical and spiritual nutrition are important, because we always become what we eat.  We must take greater care, though, in what we feed our souls, because so much more is at stake.

     The world and the devil are very aware that we feed our souls promises, which is why, like junk food, junk promises are everywhere.  They are heavily marketed (notice every temptation to sin is a promise of some kind of happiness), attractively packaged, tasty (though not truly rich), convenient, and have a particular allure when you’re running low on hope.  They deliver a fast buzz of false hope and ruin your appetite for truly healthy promises.

     But junk promises always disappoint because their buzz is followed by a hope-plunge into guilt, shame, and emptiness.  They never deliver the happiness they promise because our souls are designed for a far better hope.  And yet, junk promises can be addicting, because our hope-plunge can send us back seeking another fast, false buzz.

Living Food

     “Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Matthew 4:4).  Our souls are designed to be nourished by God’s “precious and very great promises” (II Peter 1:4).

     But these promises are not mere human words; they are living and active (Hebrews 4:12), proceeding directly from the living Word, Jesus Christ (John 1:1).  He is the Word of God and “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (II Corinthians 1:20).

     What could possibly give more hope to our sinful souls than Jesus’s promises to forgive all of our sins completely, to remove all of the Father’s judgment and wrath against us, to always be with us (Matthew 28:20), and to give us eternal life in God’s presence with full joy and pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11)?  Only in him do we find “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

     This is why Jesus called himself the bread of life (John 6:35).  The past grace of his death and resurrection guarantee a never-ending stream of hope-giving future grace for us extending into eternity.  To ‘eat’ these promises is to eat this living bread and live forever (John 6:51).

      And Jesus has made the Bible the storehouse of nourishing, living soul food for his people.  It is stocked full of promises, and he invites us to come eat our fill for free (Isaiah 55:1).  (continued…)

*************************************

Matthew 4:4  —  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  (see also Deuteronomy 8:3)

II Peter 1:4  —  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

John 6:35…51a  —  Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty….   I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Isaiah 55:1  —  Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

**************************************

Heavenly Father: thank you for sending your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Bread of Life for the world.  Forgive us for elevating earthly appetites above devotion to you.  Feed us with the knowledge of Christ so that we recognise our sin and gladly repent in his name.  Amen.

1573) Building Spiritual Strength

by John Piper at:  www.dgm.org

——————–

James 1:2-3  —  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

     Strange as it may seem, one of the primary purposes of being shaken by suffering is to make our faith more unshakable.

     Faith is like muscle tissue:  if you stress it to the limit, it gets stronger, not weaker.  That’s what James means here.  When your faith is threatened and tested and stretched to the breaking point, the result is greater capacity to endure.

     God desires faith so much that he will test it to the breaking point so as to keep it pure and strong.  For example, he did this to Paul according to II Corinthians 1:8-9:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not in ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

     The words “but that was to” show that there was a purpose in this extreme suffering:  it was in order that Paul would not rely on himself and his resources, but on God — specifically the future grace of God in raising the dead.

     God so values our wholehearted faith that he will, graciously, take away everything else in the world that we might be tempted to rely on — even life itself.  His aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence that he himself will be all we need.

     He wants us to be able to say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).

********************************************

confederate soldier prayer

1572) Life Together

Related image 

  In the classic Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes how we should live together as Christians.  In the following selections, he describes how to deal with those difficulties we all face in our relationships: bearing with people who are a burden to us, forgiving those who have wronged us, and praying for others, especially for those we dislike.  His instructions for the Christian community, though difficult, are clearly grounded in the Bible.

——————————————

     We speak of the service involved in bearing with others.  “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  Thus the law of Christ is a law of forbearance.  Forbearance means enduring and suffering.  The other person can be a burden to the Christian, in fact for the Christian most of all.  The other person never becomes a burden at all for the pagans.  They simply stay clear of every burden any other person may create for them.  However, Christians must bear the burden of one another.  Only as a burden is the other really a brother or sister and not just an object to be controlled.

—————————————

     I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me.  When I pray for others, the face that may have been intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner.  That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others.  As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by prayer.

—————————————

     Offering intercessory prayer means nothing other than Christians bringing one another into the presence of God, seeing each other under the cross of Jesus as poor human beings and sinners in need of grace.  Then, everything about other people that repels me falls away.  Then I see them in all their need, hardship, and distress.  Their need and their sin become so heavy and oppressive to me that I feel as if they were my own, and I can do nothing else but bid:  Lord, you yourself, you alone, deal with them according to your firmness and your goodness.

——————————————

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

*********************************

Galatians 6:2  —  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:9-10  —  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Matthew 5:43-47  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?”

*******************************

Dear God, I have been wronged by my neighbor.  I did not deserve this of him.  But I must remember and consider how I stand with you.  Before you, I find a long account against me which convinces me that I have sinned a thousand times more against you, than my neighbor has done to me. Therefore, I must do as you say, by sincerely praying, “O Lord, forgive, and I will also forgive.”  Amen.     –Martin Luther

1571) Prayers of Jane Austen

Image result for Jane austen

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist, famous for six novels, especially Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.  The novels were published anonymously and brought her little attention during her lifetime; but they have rarely been out of print since, and are considered classics.  These prayers (slightly edited) were written by her for evening family devotions.  The sentences evoke the style of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  The language may be difficult to read for those not used to the style, but whoever takes the time to read them slowly and thoughtfully will find in them an expression of deep and sincere faith and devotion.

—————————-

Give us grace, Almighty Father, to pray as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our Hearts, as with our lips.  Thou art everywhere present, from Thee no secret can be hid.  May this knowledge teach us to fix our Thoughts on Thee with Reverence and Devotion, so that we pray not in vain.  Look with Mercy on the Sins we have this day committed, and in Mercy make us feel them deeply, that our Repentance may be sincere, and our resolution steadfast to endeavor against the commission of such in future.  Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own Hearts, and bring to our knowledge every fault of Temper and every evil Habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures and the danger of our own Souls.  May we now, and each night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing Thoughts, Words, and Actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of Evil.  Have we thought irreverently of Thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being?  Incline us to ask our Hearts these questions, and save us from deceiving ourselves by Pride or Vanity.  Give us a thankful sense of the Blessings in which we live, and of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by Discontent or Indifference.  Be gracious to our Necessities, and guard us and all we love from Evil this night.  May the sick and afflicted be now and ever in thy care; and heartily do we pray for the safety of all that travel by Land or by Sea, for the comfort and protection of the Orphan and Widow, and that thy pity may be shewn upon all Captives and Prisoners.  Above all other blessings O God, we implore Thee to quicken our sense of thy Mercy in the redemption of the World, of the Value of that Holy Religion in which we have been brought up, that we may not, by our own neglect, throw away the salvation Thou has given us…  Amen.

—————————–

Almighty God, look down with mercy on thy servants here assembled and accept the petitions now offered up unto thee.  Pardon, O God, the offences of the past day.  We are conscious of many frailties; we remember with shame and contrition our many evil thoughts and neglected duties.  We have perhaps sinned against thee and against our fellow-creatures in many instances of which we have no remembrance.  Pardon whatever thou has seen amiss in us, and give us a stronger desire of resisting every evil inclination and weakening every habit of sin.  Thou knowest the infirmity of our nature, and the temptations which surround us.  Be thou merciful.  We bless thee for every comfort of our past and present existence, for our health of body and of mind, and for every other source of happiness which thou hast bountifully bestowed on us…  May the comforts of every day be thankfully felt by us, and may they prompt a willing obedience of thy commandments and a benevolent spirit toward every fellow-creature.  Have mercy upon all that are now suffering or are in any circumstance of danger or distress.  Give them patience under every affliction; strengthen, comfort, and relieve them.  To thy goodness we commend ourselves this night, beseeching thy protection of us through its darkness and dangers.  We are helpless and dependent; graciously preserve us.  For all whom we love and value, for every friend and connection, we equally pray.  However divided and far asunder, we know that we are alike before thee, and under thine eye.  May we be equally united in thy faith and fear, and in fervent devotion towards thee.  Pardon the imperfections of these our prayers, and accept them in the name of our blessed Savior.

——————————–

Father of Heaven… another day is now gone and added to those for which we were before accountable.  Teach us to consider this solemn truth, that we may feel the importance of every day and every hour as it passes.  May we earnestly strive to make better use of what thy goodness may yet bestow on us than we have done of the time past.  Give us grace to attain that temper of forbearance and patience which, while it prepares us for the spiritual happiness of the life to come, will secure to us the best enjoyment of what this world can give.  Incline us to think humbly of ourselves, and to be severe in the examination of our own conduct; but may we consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves.  We thank thee with all our hearts for all the blessings that have attended our lives, for every hour of safety, health, peace, domestic comfort, and innocent enjoyment.  We have been blessed far beyond anything that we have deserved; and though we cannot but pray for a continuance of all these mercies, we acknowledge our unworthiness of them and implore thee to pardon the presumption of our desires.  Keep us, O Lord, from evil this night…  May thy mercy be extended over all mankind, bringing the ignorant to the knowledge of thy truth, awakening the impenitent, and touching the hardened.  Look with compassion upon the afflicted of every condition and comfort the broken in spirit.  More particularly do we pray for the safety and welfare of our own family and friends, beseeching thee to avert from them all material and lasting evil of body or mind; and may we by the assistance of thy Holy Spirit so conduct ourselves on earth as to secure an eternity of happiness with each other in thy heavenly kingdom.  Grant this most merciful Father, for the sake of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

*****************************************

Philippians 4:6  —  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

1570) Made for China (b)

Image result for eric liddell weihsien internment camp images

Eric Liddell (1902-1945) in China, 1937

——————–

By Albert Mohler at:  www.AlbertMohler.com

     (…continued)  As a student at the University of Edinburgh, Liddell became very well known as both a runner and a preacher.  He was especially powerful as a preacher to young men.  Liddell spoke passionately but conversationally, explaining that the best preaching to young men took the form of a simple talk, in Duncan Hamilton’s words, “as if chatting over a picket fence.”  But Liddell’s clear biblical and evangelical message came through, and powerfully.

     He preached before, during, and after his Olympic glory.  He returned to graduate from the University and Edinburgh shortly after the 1924 Paris games and made preparation to go to China as a missionary, also under the direction of the London Missionary Society.

     He taught school, preached, and eventually found a wife, Florence.  With her he had three daughters, though he was never to see the third.  After decades of internal warfare and turmoil, China was thrown into the horrors of Japanese occupation during World War II.

     Those horrors are still unknown to many Americans, but much of China was submitted to massive rape and murder by the occupying Imperial Japanese forces.  Liddell eventually sent Florence, then pregnant with their third child, and their two daughters to Canada for safety.  It was just in time.

     Along with members of the China Inland Mission and many others, Christians and non-Christians alike, Eric Liddell was forced into a foretaste of hell itself in the Weihsien Internment Camp.  He would die there shortly before the end of the war.  In the concentration camp, Liddell became legendary and his witness for Christ astounded even many of his fellow Christians.

     As Hamilton writes:  “Liddell can sound too virtuous and too honorable to be true, as if those who knew him were either misrepresenting or consciously mythologizing.  Not so.  The evidence is too overwhelming to be dismissed as easily as that.  Amid the myriad moral dilemmas in Weihsien, Liddell’s forbearance was remarkable.”  He became the moral and spiritual leader of the horrifying reality with that camp.

     Chariots of Fire was released when I was a seminary student.  Like so many other young Christians, I saw the movie and was greatly moved by it.  But, even then, I wondered if Liddell could really have been what so many others claimed of him.

     Not long thereafter, a professor assigned me to read Shantung Compound by theologian Langdon Gilkey of the University of Chicago Divinity School.  Gilkey was in many ways the opposite to Liddell.  Gilkey was a theological liberal whose father, famously liberal, had been the first dean of the chapel at the University of Chicago.   Langdon Gilkey had gone to China to teach English after graduating from Harvard.  He found himself interred with Eric Liddell.

     In Shantung Compound, Gilkey analyzed what happens when men and women are put under extraordinary pressure.  He argued that the worst moral dilemmas in Weihsien came not from their Japanese captors, but from the prisoners themselves.  His point was that, for many if not most of the captured, the experience brought out the worst in them, rather than the best.  He changed the names of those inside the camp when he told their stories.

     There were a few moral exceptions.  Gilkey wrote of one exceptional individual, a missionary he named “Eric Ridley.”  Gilkey wrote:  “It is rare indeed when a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known.”  Gilkey described how Liddell had largely single-handedly resolved the crisis of a breakout of teenage sexual activity in the camp.  In the midst of a moral breakdown, with no societal structures to restrain behavior, few even seemed to want to help.

     Gilkey made this observation:  “There was a quality seemingly unique to the missionary group, namely, naturally and without pretense to respond to a need which everyone else recognized only to turn aside.  Much of this went unnoticed, but our camp could scarcely have survived as well as it did without it.  If there were any evidences of the grace of God observable on the surface of our camp existence, they were to be found here.”

     Gilkey had renamed individuals as he wrote about them, but he described “Eric Ridley” as having won the 400 meter race at the Olympics for England before going to China as a missionary.  Eric Ridley was Eric Liddell, and Langdon Gilkey was writing of a man he has observed so closely as a living saint.  I realized that Langdon Gilkey had told the most important part of Eric Liddell’s story long before Chariots of Fire.

     Gilkey closed his words about Erid Liddell with these:  “Shortly before the camp ended, he was stricken with a brain tumor and died the same day.  The entire camp, especially its youth, was stunned for days, so great was the vacuum that Eric’s death had left.”

     Liddell indeed died of a brain tumor, suddenly and unexpectedly.  The cause of his death only became clear after an autopsy.  Eric Liddell died in the nation where he had been born.  Indeed, he has sometimes been listed as China’s first Olympic medalist.  He never saw his third daughter.

     “God made me for China.” Eric Liddell lived his life in answer to that calling and commission.  As Duncan Hamilton explains, Liddell “considered athletics as an addendum to his life rather than his sole reason for living it.”

     Eric Liddell ran for God’s glory, but he was made for China.  He desperately wanted the nation he loved to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and believe.  David J. Michell, director for Canada Overseas Missionary Fellowship, would introduce Liddell’s collected devotional writings, The Disciplines of the Christian Life, by stating simply that “Eric Liddell’s desire was to know God more deeply, and as a missionary, to make him known more fully.”

******************************************

I Corinthians 9:24-25  —  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Philippians 3:13b-14  —  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

******************************************

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.  Amen.

–Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester  (1197-1253)