858) More Good Proverbs

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

Proverbs 18:9  —  One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

Proverbs 18:13  —  To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.

Proverbs 18:14  —  The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Proverbs  19:1  —  Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.

Proverbs 19:3  —  A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.

Proverbs 19:11  —  A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 19:20  —  Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Proverbs 20:3  —  It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Proverbs 20:4  —  Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

Proverbs 20:19  —  A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.

Proverbs 20:22  —  Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”  Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

Proverbs 21:2  —  A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Proverbs 21:6  —  A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

Proverbs 21:9  —  Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife (or husband).

Proverbs 22:1  —  A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs 23:4-5a  —  Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone.

Proverbs 23:17-18  —  Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 25:28  —  Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.

Proverbs 26:12  —  Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for them.

Proverbs 26:17  —  Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

Proverbs 26:18-19  —  Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”

Proverbs 27:1  —  Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Proverbs 27:4  —  Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

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

Proverbs 28:13  —  Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Proverbs 28:19  —  Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

Proverbs 29:20  —  Do you see someone who speaks in haste?  There is more hope for a fool than for them.

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Our Father, you called us and saved us in order to make us like your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Day by day, change us by the work of your Holy Spirit so that we may grow more like him in all that we think and say and do, to his glory.

–Soren Kierkegaard

857) Good Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is exactly what the name implies, a collection of short sayings gathered from different places and produced over long periods of time.  In general, these sayings represent wisdom derived from practical experience.  Although they contain no profound contributions to theological ideas, they constitute wholesome advice about the way a person should live in order to attain a simple and peaceful life, obedient to God.  Today’s meditation contains a few sample proverbs from the Old Testament book of Proverbs.

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Proverbs 1:1-3  —  (These are) the proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair

Proverbs 1:7  —  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 3:5-7  —  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.

Proverbs 4:14, 23  —  Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers…  Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 5:21-23  —  Your ways are in full view of the Lordand he examines all your paths.  The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast.  For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.

Proverbs 6:6-11a  —  Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!  It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.  How long will you lie there, you sluggard?  When will you get up from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief.

Proverbs 11:2  —  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 11:7  —  Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

Proverbs 11:17  —  Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.

Proverbs 11:29  —  Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.

Proverbs 12:1  —  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 12:11  —  Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

Proverbs 12:16  —  Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.

Proverbs 13:3  —  Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.

Proverbs 14:12  —  There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 14:13  —  Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.

Proverbs 14:29  —  Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

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

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

Proverbs 15:3  —  The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

Proverbs 15:16-17  —  Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.  Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.

Proverbs 16:2  —  All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Proverbs 16:18  —  Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:28  —  A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 17:1  —  Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 17:13-14  —  Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good.  Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

Proverbs 17:17  —  A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 17:22  —  A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:27  —  The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.

Proverbs 17:28  —  Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

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Two things I ask of you, Lorddo not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

 –Proverbs 30:7-9

854) Wisdom from Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom  (1892-1983)

The ten Boom family were Dutch Christians who helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust of WWII.  When their home was raided after an informant tipped off the Nazis of their activities, the entire family was imprisoned.  Corrie and her sister were sent to a Nazi concentration camp.  She was miraculously released from prison just days after her sister had died there.  God brought incredible beauty and healing through her difficult experiences, and her words still have great relevance and impact in our world today.  She authored a number of books and was most famously known for The Hiding Place, the incredible story of her life.  The title refers to the secret place where the family hid countless Jewish people needing help in their home, and is based on this scripture, “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:114).”

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Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength; carrying two days at once.  It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.  Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
 
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
 
When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit still and trust the engineer.
 
Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.
 
The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.
You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.

Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.  There are two things we can do when this happens.  We can kill that love so that it stops hurting.  But then of course part of us dies, too.  Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.  I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work he will give us to do.

Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God has to pry your fingers open.

There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.

Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surrounding; it’s something we make inside ourselves.

Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?

In darkness God’s truth shines most clear.

Faith is like radar that sees through the fog; to the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.

If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed.  If you look within, you’ll be depressed.  But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.

A religion that is small enough for our understanding would not be big enough for our needs.

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Proverbs 3:5-6  —  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Psalm 119:114  —  You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

Philippians 4:7  —  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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God dealt with our whole situation on the cross; there is nothing left for you to settle.  Just say to Him, “Lord, I cannot forgive and I will no longer try to do it; but I trust that You in me will do it.  I can’t forgive and love; but I trust that You will forgive and love in my place and that You will do these things in me.”  –Corrie ten Boom

833) Preacher to the Common People

Moody (with beard) and the boys of the Chicago streets (1860’s).

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     Dwight L. Moody (1837 – 1899) was the most influential evangelist of the nineteenth century.  His work became the benchmark for all revivalists who followed him.  He has been called the father of modern campaign evangelism.  This pushy shoe salesman became a powerful evangelist, refusing to be limited by his lack of education and low social status.

     Born in Northfield, Massachusetts, he had a difficult childhood.  His alcoholic father died when Moody was four, leaving his mother in debt and alone with nine children.  The farm was put into foreclosure, and the older children were sent out to other families to work for their room and board.  Even little Dwight was soon sent to live with another family, working for them more than attending school and barely learning to read.  At seventeen he moved to Boston to work in his uncle’s shoe store.  Moody’s conversion came there in the shoe store at the prompting of his Sunday school teacher.

     Moody was enthusiastic to follow Jesus, and what he lacked in book learning he made up for in street smarts and salesmanship.  He moved to Chicago where he excelled in organized evangelistic outreach, shoddy as it was.

     This work led to the founding of a Sunday school of some six hundred children and sixty volunteers.  It was so noteworthy that on November 25, 1860, President-elect Abraham Lincoln visited and offered remarks to the class.  How did Moody attract so many youth in his ministry outreach?  As a salesman he used the tricks of the trade:  passing out candy and offering free pony rides.  Needing a permanent home for the growing class, he started The Illinois Street Church in Chicago.  The church became a home for poor immigrant families.  He also led the Chicago YMCA.  

     In 1871 Moody teamed up with gospel singer Ira D. Sankey.  Two years after the Great Chicago Fire, he and Sankey set out for England.  As a self-made American rags-to-religion hick, Moody rose to superstar status.  Students flocked to his meetings.  Among his converts were the “Cambridge Seven,” some of which were England’s most celebrated cricket players.  Later, the ‘seven’ went to China as missionaries.

     Moody returned to America in 1875 as an internationally famous revivalist.  He was called the “greatest preacher to the common people since George Whitefield” (1714-1770).  Every city wanted him to hold a campaign.  Reporters jostled each other in getting the lead story.  His self-deprecating style and his quotable quips perfectly suited the hungry press, eager to sell penny-papers.  His lack of education and proper etiquette, his poor grammar and pronunciation made him all the more endearing.

     Moody’s uncle once quipped, “My nephew Dwight is crazy, crazy as a March hare.”  Another observer offered a different slant:  “There was the revivalist Moody, bearded and neckless, with his two hundred and eighty pounds of flesh, every ounce of which belonged to God.”  H. L. Mencken, the wit and satirist of the day wrote,  “When he started out, he had no more dignity and social position among us than a lightening-rod salesman; when he finished, he was friendly with leading merchants, industrialists, and public figures of the day.”

     Moody, however, was more than a charismatic revivalist.  The uneducated shoe salesman became an educator, establishing three schools, all founded in part to train more evangelists.  When Moody died in 1899, it was a time of mourning and homage.  “Chicago at one time claimed this mighty preacher,” a hometown newspaper eulogized.  “But when he died the whole world claimed him.”          

(Adapted from Faithful Through the Ages at:   http://www.BibleGateway.com)

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DWIGHT L. MOODY QUOTES:

I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man.

The thief had nails through both hands, so that he could not work.  He had a nail through each foot, so that he could not run errands for the Lord.  He could not lift a hand or a foot toward his salvation.  Yet, Christ offered him the gift of God, and he took it.

A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian, and most of all, his family should know.

The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.  By God’s help, I aim to be that man.

God never made a promise that was too good to be true.

There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.

Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.

You may find hundreds of faultfinders among professed Christians, but all their criticism will not lead one solitary soul to Christ.

The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.

He who kneels the most, stands the best.

Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.

The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.

We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.

I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel.  God has given me a lifeboat and said, ‘Moody, save all you can.’

Temptations are like tramps.  If you treat them kindly they will return, bringing others with them.

I never preached a sermon yet that I could not pick to pieces, and find fault with.  I feel that Jesus Christ ought to have a far better representative than I am.

A good example is far better than a good precept.

Oh, young man, character is worth more than money, character is worth more than anything else in this wide world.

If we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and self-seeking and pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God; and I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is full already with something else.

A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but a lot of faith will bring heaven to your soul.

Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens.  A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.

Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield, is dead.  Don’t you believe a word of it!  At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.

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I Corinthians 1:26-29  —  Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not— to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

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A REVIVAL MEETING PRAYER BY D. L. MOODY:

Our Heavenly Father, we pray that thy blessing may rest upon all that here assembled; and that every man in this assembly that is without God and without hope in this dark world may be convicted of his sin at this hour.  We pray that the Holy Spirit may do his work; and that there may be many that shall look back, in after years, to this hour and this hall, as the time and place where they became children of God and heirs of eternal life.  We pray that thou wilt bless them; and wilt thou bless the gospel that shall be spoken this afternoon, and may it reach many hearts.  May there be many led by the Spirit of God to the cross of Christ, there to cast their burden and their guilt upon him who came into the world to take away the sins of the world.  May there be many here who shall hear the loving voice of the Good Shepherd saying unto them, “Come unto me all ye that are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest;” and may they find rest in Christ today.  May those that are cast down on account of their sins, this day be lifted up by the gospel of Jesus Christ; and may this be the day that they shall come unto thee.  And thy name shall have the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

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826) Wisdom from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Samuel Johnson was a British author, linguist, and lexicographer.  He produced the first major dictionary of the English language.  He is regarded by many as the greatest man of letters in English history.

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A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he know the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.

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Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.

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The fountain of contentment must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.

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God Himself does not propose to judge a man until his life is over.  Why should you and I?

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He who praises everybody praises nobody.

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The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.

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It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than to never trust.

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You raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument.

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He who waits to do a great deal of good at once will never do anything.

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That we must all die, we always knew; I wish I had remembered it sooner.

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Boswell:  “There are, I am afraid, many people who have no religion at all.”

Seward:  “And sensible people, too.”

Johnson:  “Why, Sir, not sensible in that respect.  There must be either a natural or moral stupidity, if one lives in a total neglect of so very important a concern.”

Life of Johnson by James Boswell

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The great task of him who conducts his life by the precepts of religion is to make the future predominate over the present.

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We shall all by degrees certainly be old; and therefore we ought to inquire what provision can be made against that time of distress? what happiness can be stored up against the winter of life? and how we may pass our latter years with serenity and cheerfulness?…  Faith is the only proper and adequate relief of decaying man.  He that grows old without religious hopes, as he declines into imbecility, and feels pains and sorrows incessantly crowding upon him, falls into a gulf of bottomless misery, in which every reflection must plunge him deeper.

Rambler #69 (November 13, 1750)

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It may be observed in general that the future is purchased by the present.  It is not possible to secure distant or permanent happiness but by the forbearance of some immediate gratification.  This is so evidently true with regard to the whole of our existence that all precepts of theology have no other tendency than to enforce a life of faith; a life regulated not by our senses but by our belief; a life in which pleasures are to be refused for fear of invisible punishments, and calamities are to be  endured in hope of rewards that shall be obtained in another state.

Rambler #178 (November 30, 1751)

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We entangle ourselves in business and immerse ourselves in luxury, until the darkness of old age begins to invade us, and disease and anxiety obstruct our way.  We then look back upon our lives with horror, with sorrow, with repentance; and wish that we had not forsaken the ways of virtue…  Happy are they who shall learn not to despair, but shall remember, that though the day is past, and their strength is wasted, there yet remains one effort to be made; that reformation is never hopeless, nor sincere endeavors ever unassisted; that the wanderer may at length return after all his errors, and that he who implores strength and courage from above shall find danger and difficulty give way before him.

Rambler #65 (October 30, 1750)

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Matthew 7:1-2a  —  (Jesus said), “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.”

Psalm 53:1a  —  The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Psalm 10:4  —  In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Philippians 4:11b-12  —  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

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

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O God, Giver and Preserver of all life, by whose power I was created, and by whose providence I am sustained, look down upon me with tenderness and mercy.  Grant that I may not have been created to be finally destroyed, and that my life may not be preserved only to add wickedness to wickedness.  But may I so repent of my sins, and so order my life to come, that when I shall be called hence, I may die in peace and in thy favor; and be received into thine everlasting kingdom through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thine only Son, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

–Samuel Johnson

795) The Imitation of Christ (i)

From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis  (1380-1471)

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Do not trust in your present feeling, for it will be quickly changed into another.  As long as you live you will be subject to such change in your emotions, even against your will.  You will become merry at one time and sad at another; now peaceful, but then disturbed; at one moment devout and the next vulgar; sometimes diligent while at other times lazy; now grave and then light-hearted.  But the man who is wise and well-instructed in the Spirit stands above these changes.  He pays no attention to what he feels in himself, or which way the wind of fickleness blows.  Rather, the whole intention of his mind is to make progress to his proper and desired end.  Thus, he will be able to stand undivided, unchanged, and unshaken, with his firm intention directed unwaveringly toward Christ, even in the midst of so many changing events and feelings.  And the purer this intention is, so much more the strength and stability he has to pass through many storms. 

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 Trust firmly in the Lord, and do not fear the judgment of men when conscience tells you that you are upright and innocent.  For it is good and blessed to suffer such things, and they will not weigh heavily on the humble heart that trusts in God rather than in itself.  Many men say many different things, and therefore little confidence is to be put in them.  Moreover, it is impossible to satisfy all men.  Although Paul tried to please all in the Lord, and became all things to all men (I Cor. 9:22), yet he made little of their opinions (I Cor. 4:3); and he committed all to God who knows all things.  Who are you, then, that you should be afraid of mortal man (Isaiah 51:12)?  Today he is here, tomorrow he is gone.  Fear God and you will not be afraid of the terrors of men.  What power does anyone over you by words or injuries?  He hurts himself rather than you, and no matter who he may be, he cannot escape the judgment of God.  Therefore, if you suffer undeserved abuse or shame, do not grieve or become impatient.  Look instead to heaven, to the One who has power to deliver you from all disgrace and injury.

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How good and how peaceful it is to be silent about others, to not believe all that is said, and to not report it further.  
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How is a man the better off for being thought greater by men?  The deceiver deceives the deceitful, the vain man deceives the vain, the blind deceives the blind, the weak deceives the weak as often as he extols them, and in truth his foolish praise shames them the more.  As St. Francis said, “Whatever anyone is in God’s sight, that he is and nothing more.” 
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Psalm 91:15  —  (The Lord says), “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
Isaiah 51:12-13a  — (The Lord says), “I, even I, am he who comforts you.  Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth?”

I Corinthians 4:3-5  —  I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.   He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.

Psalm 119:71  —  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

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    To what have we come, Lord?  We bewail a temporal loss, and for a pitiful gain we toil and run; but dangers to the soul pass away into forgetfulness, and scarcely ever come to mind.  That which is of little or no value claims our attention, whereas that which is of highest necessity is neglected; all because we give ourselves so completely to outward things.  Unless we withdraw ourselves, we lie immersed in that which is perishing.  From this preserve us, dear Lord.  Keep us steadfast in our faith in you alone.  Amen.
–Thomas a Kempis
 
My God, the Father of mercies, to you I look, in you I trust.  Listen to the prayer of your poor servant exiled from you in the land of the shadow of death.  Protect and preserve my soul amidst the many dangers of this life, and by your grace, direct me to my native land of everlasting light.  What does it matter how much I suffer, if I eventually come to that haven of safety in your heavenly home?  Grant me a good end, O Lord.  Grant me a happy passage out of this world.  Remember me, my God, and lead me by the right way into your kingdom.  Amen.
–Thomas a Kempis

794) The Imitation of Christ (h)

From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis  (1380-1471)

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     The voice of Christ:  “Let not your heart be troubled, therefore, nor let it be afraid” (John 14:27).  Believe in me and trust in my mercy.  When you think you are far from me, then often I am the nearest.  When you judge that almost all is lost, then oftentimes the greater gain is close at hand.  All is not lost when things go contrary to your wishes.  You ought not judge according to present feelings.  Do not consider yourself forsaken if I send some temporary hardship, or for a time withdraw some desired comfort.  For this is the way to the kingdom of heaven, and it is better for you to be tried in adversities than to have all things as you wish.  I know your secret thoughts, and I know that it is profitable for your salvation to be left sometimes in despondency, lest perhaps you be puffed up by success and fancy yourself to be something you are not.  What I have given, I can take away, and then I can restore it when it pleases me.  What I give remains mine, and thus when I take it away I take nothing that is yours, for every good gift and every perfect gift is mine (James 1:17).  If I send you trouble and adversity of any kind, do not fret or let your heart be downcast.  I can raise you quickly up again and turn all your sorrow into joy.

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  Of what use is anxiety about the future?  Does it bring you anything but trouble upon trouble?  “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34).  It is foolish and useless to be either grieved or happy about future things, which perhaps may never happen.  But it is human to be deluded by such imaginations; and it is the sign of a weak soul to be so easily drawn away by the suggestions of the enemy.  For the devil does not care whether it is by things true or false that he delude and deceive, nor whether he overcomes you by love of the present or by fear of the future. 

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     It is a great obstacle to be satisfied with external things, and to have so little concern for one’s eternal soul.  I know not what it is, or by what spirit we are led, or to what we pretend, that we spend so much labor and anxiety on things that are transitory and trifling, while we seldom or never give full attention to our spiritual concerns. 

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Do not covet what you may not have.  If you seek this or that, if you wish to be in this place or that place, to have more ease and pleasure, you will never be at rest, nor free from anxiety; for in everything there is some defect, and in every place there will be someone to vex you.

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John 16:33  —  (Jesus said), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

Ephesians 3:16  —  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Matthew 6:33-34  —  (Jesus said), “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

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   Keep me, most merciful God, from the cares of this life, lest I be too much entangled in them.  Keep me from many wrongful desires, lest I be ensnared by pleasure.  Keep me from all darkness of mind, lest I be broken by troubles and overcome.  Let not the world and its brief glory deceive me, nor the devil trip me by his craftiness.  Give me courage to resist, patience to endure, and strength to persevere.  Give me the soothing comfort of your spirit rather than all the consolations of the world.  Grant me the grace to use such worldly comforts moderately and not to become entangled in too great a desire for them.  In these matters, let your hand guide and direct me.  Amen.

–Thomas a Kempis

793) The Imitation of Christ (g)

From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis  (1380-1471)

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The wise lover of God regards not so much the gifts of Him who loves, as the love of Him who gives the gifts.  We should esteem the affection of the Giver more than the value of the gift, and love God more than all His gifts.  The child of God should not take comfort and security in the gift, but in the One who is above every gift.

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    “I will speak to my Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27).  This verse shows me to myself–  what I am, what I have been, and what I am coming to.  I am nothing, but I did not know it.  Left to myself, I am nothing, and altogether weak.  But when God looks upon me, I am at once made strong and filled with new joy.  May you be blessed, my God, for although I am unworthy of any benefits, yet your infinite goodness never ceases to do good, even for those who are ungrateful and far from you.  Turn us to you, that we may be thankful, humble, and devout, for you are our salvation, our courage, and our strength.  “How great, O Lord, is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear You, which you bestow on those who take refuge in you” (Psalm 31:19).  You have shown your love to me, O Lord, especially in having made me when I did not exist, in having brought me back to serve you when I had gone far astray from you, and in having commanded me to love you.  How can I forget you who will remember me even after I have wasted away and perished?

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    The Voice of Christ:  My wish is not that you seek that peace which is free from temptations or meets with no opposition, but rather that you can be at peace even when you have been tormented with many tribulations and tried with many adversities.  Do you think that other people in the world have no suffering, or only a little?  Ask even those who enjoy the most delights and you will learn otherwise.  ‘But,’ you will say, ‘they enjoy many pleasures and follow their own wishes; therefore they do not feel their troubles very much.’  Granted, they may seem to have whatever they wish, but how long do you think it will last?  Behold, they who prosper in the world shall perish as smoke, and there shall be no memory of their past joys.  And even in this life they do not find rest in these pleasures without bitterness, weariness, and fear.  For they often receive the penalty of sorrow in the very thing from which they believe their happiness comes.  Oh, how brief, how false, how unreasonable are all these pleasures.  Yet, in their blindness men do not understand this, but they incur the death of their souls for the miserly enjoyment of a brief and corruptible life.

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    Commit all things to God, saying: “Lord, you know what is best for me; let all be done as you please.  Grant what you will, as much as you will, when you will.  Do with me as you know best, as will most please you, and will be for your greater honor.  Place me where you will and deal with me freely in all things.  I am in your hand; turn me about whichever way you will.  Behold, I am your servant, ready to obey in all things.  Not for myself do I desire to live, but for you.”

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    The Voice of Christ:  My child, do not be curious, troubling yourself with idle cares.  Follow Me.  What is it to you if someone you know is a ‘such and such,’ if another does or says ‘this or that?’  You will not have to answer for others, but you will have to give an account of yourself.  Why, then, do you want to meddle in their affairs?  Behold, I know all people.  I see everything that is done under the sun, and I know how matters stand with each; what is in each mind and what is in each heart, and the ends to which each intention is directed.  Commit all things to me, therefore, and keep yourself in good peace.

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Matthew 5:45  —  (Jesus said), “Your Father in heaven… causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

Psalm 116:12  —  How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? 

Job 7:1a  —  Does not man have hard service on earth?

James 1:2-3  —  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

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

Psalm 4:8  —  I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

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Grant me your grace, O merciful Jesus, and grant that your grace may be with me and work within me with me to the very end.  Grant that I may always desire that which is most acceptable and pleasing to you.  Let your will be mine, and let my will always follow yours.  Give me above all my desires the desire to rest in you, and in you, let my heart have peace.  You alone can give me such peace and rest.  Without you, all things are difficult and troubled.  But in the peace that is in you, my Lord, I will sleep and take my rest.  Amen.

–Thomas a Kempis

792) The Imitation of Christ (f)

From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis  (1380-1471)

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Thoughts on Death  (from chapter 23)

    Very soon your life here will end (Job 9:25-26; 14:1-2); consider, then, what may be in store for you elsewhere.  Today we live; tomorrow we die; and when we are taken away from sight, we are quickly forgotten.  Oh, the dullness and hardness of a heart which looks only to the present instead of preparing for that which is to come!

    Therefore, in every deed and every thought, act as though you were to die this very day.  If you had a good conscience you would not fear death very much.  It is better to avoid sin than to fear death.  If you are not prepared today, how will you be prepared tomorrow?  How do you know you if you shall have a tomorrow?

    What good is it to live a long life if we amend that life so little?  Indeed, a long life does not always benefit us, but on the contrary, frequently adds to our guilt.  If it is so terrifying to die, it is nevertheless possible that to live longer is more dangerous.

    Blessed is he who keeps the moment of death ever before his eyes and prepares for it every day.  In the morning consider that you may not live till evening, and when evening comes do not dare to promise yourself the dawn.  Always, therefore, be ready. When that last moment arrives, you will have a far different opinion of the life that is now entirely past, and you will regret very much that you were so careless and remiss.  How wise and happy is he who now labors to be in life as he wishes to be found at his death.

    You can do many good things when in good health, but what can you do when you are ill?  Few are made better by sickness.  Do not put off the care of your soul until later.  Time is very precious.  “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2).  The time will come when you will want just one day, just one hour, in which to make amends; but you do not now know if you will be granted that time then.  Try to live now in such a manner that at the moment of death you may be joyful rather than fearful.

    Ah, fool, why do you think that you have a long life yet to live, when you have not one day that is safe?  How many have been thus deceived and then suddenly snatched away!  Death is the end of everyone and the life of man quickly passes away like a shadow.  Do now what you can, because you do not know when you will die.  Think of nothing so much as your salvation.  Keep your heart free and lifted up to God, for you have here no lasting home.

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

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

1 Peter 2:11  —  Dear friends, I urge you, as pilgrims and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 

Hebrews 13:14  —  Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Acts 16:29-31  —  The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved; you and your household.”

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    Dear Lord Jesus, I feel my sins.  They bite and gnaw and terrify me.  Where shall I go?  I will look to you, Lord Jesus, and believe in you.  Although my faith is weak, I look to you and find assurance, for you have promised, “He that believes in me shall have everlasting life.”  My conscience is burdened and my sins make me tremble, but you have said:  “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven and I will raise you up on the last day and you shall have eternal life.”  I cannot do any of this for myself.  I come to you for help.  Amen.    

–Martin Luther

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May the eternal God bless us and keep us, guard our bodies, save our souls, direct our thoughts, and bring us safe to the heavenly country, our eternal home, where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ever reign, one God for ever and ever.  Amen.

–Sarum Breviary

791) The Imitation of Christ (e)

From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis  (1380-1471)
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Consideration of Oneself  (from chapter 5)
     We must not rely too much upon ourselves (Jeremiah 17:5), for grace and understanding are often lacking in us.  Oftentimes we fail to perceive how great is our inward blindness.  Meanwhile, we do wrong, and then do worse in excusing it.  We take others to task for small mistakes, and overlook greater ones in ourselves (Matt. 7:5).  We are quick enough to feel and brood over the things we suffer from others, but we think nothing of how much others suffer from us.  If a man would weigh his own deeds fully and rightly, he would find little cause to pass severe judgment on others.  The inward Christian keeps watch over himself more than others; and he who attends to himself carefully does not find it hard to hold his tongue about what his neighbor is doing.
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The Joy of a Good Conscience   (from chapter 6)
     The glory of a good man is the testimony of a good conscience.  Therefore, keep your conscience pure and you will enjoy happiness, for a good conscience can bear a great deal, and can bring joy even in the midst of adversity.  But an evil conscience is always restless and fearful, for “there is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).  Even if they say:  “We are at peace, no evil shall befall us and no one dares to hurt us” (Luke 12:19), do not believe them; for the wrath of God will suddenly arise, and their deeds will be brought to naught and their thoughts will perish.
    He has great tranquility of heart who cares neither for the praises nor the fault-finding of men.  Praise adds nothing to your holiness, nor does blame take anything from it.  You are what you are; and not by the words of men can you be made better or worse than what you are in the sight of God.  They look to appearances but God looks to the heart (I Samuel 16:7).
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 Loving Jesus Above All Things   (from chapter 7)
     The love of Jesus is true and enduring.  He who clings to anything else will fall with its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be strengthened.  Love Him, then, and keep Him as a friend.  He will not forsake you as others do, nor suffer you to perish in the end.  Sometime, whether you want to or not, you will have to part with everything.  Cling, therefore, to Jesus in life and death, and commit yourself unto his faithfulness.  He alone can help you when all else fails.  For the man who does not seek Jesus does himself much greater harm than the whole world and all his enemies could ever do.
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Friendship With Jesus (from chapter 8)
    How foolish and vain if you desire anything more than Jesus.  The man who lives without Jesus is the poorest of the poor, whereas no one is so rich as the man who lives in His grace.  If you drive Him away and lose Him, to whom will you go (John 6:68)?  Choose the opposition of the whole world rather than offend Jesus. 
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Loving the Cross of Jesus (from chapter 11)
Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.  He has many who desire consolation, but few who willingly endure trials.  All desire to be happy with Him; but few wish to suffer anything for Him.  Many love Him so long as they encounter no hardship.  Many praise and bless Him, so long as they receive some comfort from Him.  But if Jesus hides Himself for a while, they fall either into complaints or deep dejection.  But they who love Jesus for His own sake, and not for any comfort of their own, bless Him in all tribulation and anguish of heart, as well as in the highest comfort.  What power there is in pure love for Jesus; love that is free from all self-interest and self-love.  Those who always think of their own profit and gain prove that they love themselves rather than Christ (Philip. 2:21).
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Gratitude for the Grace of God  (from chapter 10)
Why seek rest, since you are born to trouble?  Job 5:7 says, “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”  Resign yourself to patience rather than to comfort, to bearing your cross rather than to enjoyment.  God does well in giving the grace of comfort and joy; but man does evil in not returning unto God with thanksgiving and praise.  Thus, the gifts of grace cannot flow in us when we are ungrateful to the Giver.
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Matthew 16:26  —  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
 
John 6:66-68  —  From this time many turned back and no longer followed him.  “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”
Luke 14:27 — (Jesus said), “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
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    O kind and loving Lord, you know the weakness and the necessity which I suffer; in what great evils and vices I am involved; and how often I am depressed, tempted, defiled, and troubled.  To you I come for help, to you I pray for comfort and relief.  I speak to you who knows all things, to whom all my thoughts are open, and who alone can comfort and help me.  Behold I stand before you, asking for your grace and imploring your mercy.  Inflame my coldness with the fire of your love.  Enlighten my blindness with the brightness of your presence.  Turn all grievance and adversity to patience.  Help me to remember that only you are eternal, and all earthly things are passing away.  Raise my heart to you in heaven.  Amen.            
–Thomas a Kempis
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PART TWO:  MORE ON BEARING YOUR CROSS

     To many this seems a hard saying, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me,” (Matt. 16:24).  But it would be much harder to hear that final word: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41).  Those who hear the word of the cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that they will hear the word of eternal damnation on the day of judgment.  Then all the servants of the cross, who in their lifetime conformed themselves unto Christ the crucified, will draw near unto Christ the judge with great confidence.  Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and you shall enter eternal life (Luke 14:27).  He Himself opened the way before you in carrying His cross (John 19:17), and upon it He died for you.  If you die with Him, you shall also live with Him (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:8), and if you share His suffering, you shall also share His glory (II Cor. 1:5).  Behold, in the cross is everything, and on it, everything depends.  There is no other way to life and to true inward peace than the way of the holy cross.  Go where you will, seek what you will; you will not find a higher way, nor a safer way, than the way of the cross.

    Arrange and order everything to suit your will and judgment, and still you will suffer, willingly or unwillingly; and thus you will always find the cross.  Either you will experience bodily pain, or, you will undergo tribulation of spirit in your soul.  At times you will seem to be forsaken by God, at times troubled by those about you and, what is worse, you will often grow weary even of yourself.  The cross, therefore, is always ready; and everywhere awaits you.  No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you.  Turn where you will– above, below, without, or within– you will find a cross in everything, and you must have patience if you would have peace within.

    If you bear the cross cheerfully and willingly, it will bear you, and will lead you to the desired goal where indeed there shall be no more suffering.  But if you carry your cross unwillingly, you create an added burden for yourself and increase the load; and still you have to bear it.  If you cast away one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one.  Do you expect to escape what no mortal man could ever avoid?  Which of the saints was without a cross or trials on this earth?  Not even Jesus Christ, of whom it is written, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26).  How is it that you look for another way than this, the holy cross?

    The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and do you seek rest and enjoyment for yourself?  You deceive yourself if you seek to avoid all suffering, for this mortal life is full of miseries (Job 7:1) and is marked with crosses on all sides.  Indeed, the more spiritual progress a person makes, so much heavier will he find the crosses, because as his love increases, the pain of his exile also increases.

    Yet such a man, though afflicted in so many ways, is not without hope, because he knows that great reward is coming to him for bearing his cross.  For while he willingly puts himself under it, all the burden of tribulation is turned into the confidence of divine comfort.  Besides, the more the flesh is wasted by affliction, so much the more is the spirit strengthened by inward grace (II Cor. 4:16).

     Set yourself, then, like a good and faithful servant of Christ, to bear bravely the cross of your Lord, who out of love for you was crucified.  As for comforts, leave them to God; let Him do for you as shall best please Him.  On your part, be ready to bear the suffering, for even if you alone were to undergo them all, the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come (Romans 8:18).

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Matthew 16:24-26  —  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  

II Corinthians 4:16-18  —  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  

Romans 8:18  —  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.