If you want to know about the depths of God’s love for you, look again at John chapter eleven.This story of Lazarus has haunted me for the past few weeks because it stresses the value Jesus places on human life.
Lazarus was very sick and Jesus got there too late to save him.Oh, how Jesus loved this family!Jesus didn’t want Lazarus to die.He agonized over their grief and mourning.Mary, the sister of Lazarus, wailed to the Lord, "If you had been here…."Jesus saw her weeping, and the others who had come with her were also weeping.The apostle John saw this poignant moment and recorded that Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. (John 11:33) When they led Him to the family burial place, it was more than even God-man could deal with emotionally."Jesus wept!"As our Lord stepped up to the opening of the tomb his emotions showed again:"Jesus, once more (was) deeply moved."
Beloved, when you have reason to doubt that Jesus cares about you; when you wonder if it matters whether you live or die; when you feel as though your prayers do not reach beyond the sound of your own voice, listen to the pain in Jesus’ voice at Bethany!He went where he didn’t have to go.He could have spoken a word without taking the journey, and Lazarus would have been healed.He risked his life and the lives of the disciples by going to Bethany.Our Lord became personally and emotionally involved because he valued the life of one person, just as He values your life.
You are in this world because God uniquely and fabulously created you.He cares about your physical and spiritual well-being.Never doubt the integrity of your Creator, who has snatched you out of the jaws of hell, planted your feet upon holy ground, and guaranteed your security by offering the precious gift of His own Son.Jesus wants you alive, living and loving, going and growing, praising and praying, working and witnessing, until He comes again!
GospeLines Prayer: O, my Holy, Living God, who keeps me going when I want to give up; who heals my broken heart when others disappoint me; who showers me with comfort when my pain has outgrown my capacity to cope; and who carries me through the day when I cannot take another step on my own.I rejoice that you have overcome the mystery of death, yet I am overwhelmed that you care so much about how I live right now.Amen and amen.
The most formidable matchup in tennis history was between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.An article on their “public rivalry, personal struggles and grand slam friendship” appears in a recent edition of Parade magazine.
If the article did one thing, it changed my perception of a rivalry that began in 1975 and continued until 1988.They battled each other 80 times, including 60 finals and each captured 18 grand slam singles trophies.
One was more emotional on the tennis court and the other more controlled.It was surprising to also learn that they were left alone in the locker room after their final matches – one would be crying and the other comforting – no one knew that.Things haven’t changed much; they hold back nothing.They have come into their own and are even more comfortable in their own skin.
Chris and Martina were true champions on and off the court.When asked the attributes they both have that champions need, Chris responded, “The mental part of my game.A lot of players were faster and stronger, but I think being able to just zero in and focus was my strength.”Martina’s outlook was a bit different, stating “I think the ability to fail.Not being afraid to put it all on the line and come up short.Most people don’t have that.”
Both have had their share of ups and downs; Chris’ third marriage to noted golfer Greg Norman recently ended and Martina was diagnosed earlier in the year with breast cancer.
Their friendship has transcended all of the highs and lows, the therapy sessions and they have found a balance in life and will continue to be there for each other “always.”
Prayer:Father, no matter how formidable my opponents are, I find strength in You.While I may have felt a failure in some areas of life, I’m not afraid to put it all on the line.My defeats are few, because I know I will be victorious with You.
Thank You for being my comforter, my friend, my redeemer and ALL that You are to me.May I keep my mind and heart focused on You.
In His Love,
≈ Devotional for Wednesday, October 6, 2010
This true incident happened to Tony Campolo a few years ago. There are at least a dozen variations of this story as different preachers have worked it into their Sunday messages, but this one is pretty close to the original. Tony, who grew up in inner city Philadelphia, is a professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern College in St. Davids, PA.
A few years ago Tony flew to Hawaii to speak at a conference. The way he tells it, he checks into his hotel and tries to get some sleep. Unfortunately, his internal clock wakes him at 3:00 a.m. The night is dark, the streets are silent, the world is asleep, but Tony is wide awake and his stomach is growling.
He gets up and prowls the streets looking for a place to get some bacon and eggs for an early breakfast. Everything is closed except for a grungy dive in an alley. He goes in and sits down at the counter. The fat guy behind the counter comes over and asks, "What d'ya want?"
Well, Tony isn't so hungry anymore so eying some donuts under a plastic cover he says, "I'll have a donut and black coffee."
As he sits there munching on his donut and sipping his coffee at 3:30, in walk eight or nine provocative, loud prostitutes just finished with their night's work. They plop down at the counter and Tony finds himself uncomfortably surrounded by this group of smoking, swearing hookers. He gulps his coffee, planning to make a quick getaway. Then the woman next to him says to her friend, "You know what? Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm gonna be 39." To which her friend nastily replies, "So what d'ya want from me? A birthday party?Huh? You want me to get a cake, and sing happy birthday to you?"
The first woman says, "Aw, come on, why do you have to be so mean? Why do you have to put me down? I'm just sayin' it's my birthday.I don't want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I've never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?"
Well, when Tony Campolo heard that, he said he made a decision. He sat and waited until the women left, and then he asked the fat guy at the counter, "Do they come in here every night?"
"Yeah," he answered.
"The one right next to me," he asked, "she comes in every night?"
"Yeah," he said, "that's Agnes. Yeah, she's here every night. She's been comin' here for years. Why do you want to know?"
"Because she just said that tomorrow is her birthday. What do you think? Do you think we could maybe throw a little birthday party for her right here in the diner?"
A cute kind of smile crept over the fat man's chubby cheeks. "That's great," he says, "yeah, that's great. I like it." He turns to the kitchen and shouts to his wife, "Hey, come on out here. This guy's got a great idea. Tomorrow is Agnes' birthday and he wants to throw a party for her right here."
His wife comes out. "That's terrific," she says. "You know, Agnes is really nice. She's always trying to help other people and nobody does anything nice for her."
So they make their plans. Tony says he'll be back at 2:30 the next morning with some decorations and the man, whose name turns out to be Harry, says he'll make a cake.
At 2:30 the next morning, Tony is back. He has crepe paper and other decorations and a sign made of big pieces of cardboard that says, "Happy Birthday, Agnes!" They decorate the place from one end to the other and get it looking great. Harry had gotten the word out on the streets about the party and by 3:15 it seemed that every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. There were hookers wall to wall.
At 3:30 on the dot, the door swings open and in walks Agnes and her friend. Tony has everybody ready. They all shout and scream "Happy Birthday, Agnes!" Agnes is absolutely flabbergasted. She's stunned, her mouth falls open, her knees started to buckle, and she almost falls over.
And when the birthday cake with all the candles is carried out, that's when she totally loses it. Now she's sobbing and crying.Harry, who's not used to seeing a prostitute cry, gruffly mumbles, "Blow out the candles, Agnes.Cut the cake."
So she pulls herself together and blows them out. Everyone cheers and yells, "Cut the cake, Agnes, cut the cake!"
But Agnes looks down at the cake and, without taking her eyes off it, slowly and softly says, "Look, Harry, is it all right with you if...I mean, if I don't...I mean, what I want to ask, is it OK if I keep the cake a little while? Is it all right if we don't eat it right away?"
Harry doesn't know what to say so he shrugs and says, "Sure, if that's what you want to do. Keep the cake. Take it home if you want."
"Oh, could I?" she asks. Looking at Tony she says, "I live just down the street a couple of doors; I want to take the cake home, is that okay? I'll be right back, honest."
She gets off her stool, picks up the cake, and carries it high in front of her like it was the Holy Grail. Everybody watches in stunned silence and when the door closes behind her, nobody seems to know what to do. They look at each other. They look at Tony.
So Tony gets up on a chair and says, "What do you say that we pray together?"
And there they are in a hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon, half the prostitutes in Honolulu, at 3:30 a.m. listening to Tony Campolo as he prays for Agnes, for her life, her health, and her salvation. Tony recalls, "I prayed that her life would be changed, and that God would be good to her."
When he's finished, Harry leans over, and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he says, "Hey, you never told me you was a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to anyway?"
In one of those moments when just the right words came, Tony answers him quietly, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning."
Harry thinks for a moment, and in a mocking way says, "No you don't. There ain't no church like that. If there was, I'd join it. Yep, I'd join a church like that."
GospeLines Prayer:Father, maybe there “ain’t no church like that” today.And if not, why not?Have we moved so far away from the heart of Christ that sinners are no longer welcome in God’s house?O my Lord and my God, give us more of those moments when we conclude an encounter with our adversaries by saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”Amen and amen.
What causes people - even Christians - to lie?Hundreds (maybe thousands) of books and articles have been written in an attempt to explain why people lie; but, the reasons are still obscured by the psychology of the human mind.Nonetheless, there are three (primary) reasons why we lie; and, those reasons may be forming a chasm between us and our Heavenly Father.
·We lie because we are afraid!
We are afraid of what may happen to us or to someone we love if the truth is known.We fear something we may get (or lose) if the truth is known.We fear rejection, of not being accepted into a desired group or by a specific individual.So, we lie…
·We lie because of greed and pride!
Greed, sometimes driven by pride, produces lies similar to those produced by fear; except, greed and pride are driven by a more sinister emotion.We want something to happen (or not happen) and the truth might prevent it.We want things even when we do not deserve them.Our pride wants us to be accepted regardless of who may be hurt of kept from deserved rewards.So, we lie…
·We lie because we don’t want to be embarrassed or humiliated.
Like fear, embarrassment causes us to want to escape the consequences of less than appropriate actions.We want to spare ourselves (or someone else) from humiliation.So, we lie…
Lying is not for the amateur, it requires skill.Any person who is going to lie must know the “real” truth, imagine an alternate “truth,” and be able to convince someone else that the alternate version is more likely the correct version.And, when it works (When we achieve the desired results) we learn that lying can be very powerful.Unfortunately, lying also has severe consequences.
When our lies are discovered, the results can be devastating.We can lose friends, spouses, jobs, the respect of others, and our social standing in the places we live and work can be irreparable altered.Lies have a way of snowballing - we have to tell more lies to cover previous lies.When we lie to one person, we frequently are forced to lie to many others to perpetuate the (alternate) truth.When our lies become many and multiply among our friends and acquaintances, they become impossible to keep straight.We can easily remember the truth; but, the fabrications become harder and harder to maintain simple because we did not live them - they are fabrications that do not stay straight in our minds.Our lies will always be revealed.It’s a matter of when, not if.
Lying is almost a human pastime.We’ve all lied at one time or another; and, we’ve all been found out and had to pay the consequences.But, what about the biggest lie of them all?Can we recover from lying to ourselves?
When we lie to ourselves, we only deceive ourselves for a short time.We think “Nobody can get to me!Nobody can touch me!”Think again.God says, “Even if, like an eagle, you hang out on a high cliff-face, even if you build your nest in the stars, I'll bring you down to earth."(Obadiah 1:2-4 - The Message)
“Do not deceive yourselves.If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a fool so that he may become wise.For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight.As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’”(1st Corinthians 3:17-20)
That last (complete) quote is: “The Lord knows the thoughts of man; He knows that they are futile.”Lying to ourselves is like trying to lie to God.In our foolishness, we forget that the Lord knows every heart and understands even the motives behind our thoughts (1st Chronicles 28:9; Hebrews 4:13).
God will forgive you; God will change you; God will create in you a clean heart.
GospeLines Prayer:“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”(Psalm 51:1, 9-12 - KJV)
When Marcus Houston was a junior in high school, twelve of the members of his football team were flunking classes and lost their eligibility.He was concerned by their failure and started a program called "Just Say KNOW."
He went to 8th graders and talked to them about success, offering prizes for essays written about doing something with their lives.Now that Marcus is a freshman in college, he has taken his message to the Big XII athletic conference and hopes to see it spread nationally.
He asks in his promotional brochure, "Is your character rich enough so that people will want to invest in your dreams?"(SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and READER'S DIGEST)
How big are your dreams?The most important thing you can pass on to someone is your faith-knowledge.
A mind will be filled with something, whether it is the philosophy of the world or the Truth of the Word.Paul admonished us:"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ" (Colossians 2:8).
Encourage others in the knowledge of Jesus Christ...Just Say KNOW.
GospeLines Prayer:"Father, bind my spirit of timidity; overcome my laziness.Create within my soul an urgency to feed the hungry world with the Bread you have given me."Amen and amen.